Autism, Buddhism and Spirituality

Autism, Buddhism and Spirituality

Victor Mendonça

Translation: Camila Feldberg

I have a medical report for Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and I also have coexistent conditions that affect anxiety and humor. My life has always been marked by huge challenges and grand celebrations, but nothing has gotten close to what I’m living in 2017.

I have started 2017 with the channel “Mundo Asperger” (Asperger World), which I perform with my mother, it is a blast. We were on vacation and resting in João Pessoa. In 2016, I traveled a lot as a speaker from North to South of Brazil. I met amazing people, and I my books “Outro Olhar” and “Danielle, Asperger” were well accepted. We discovered my mother’s diagnosis at last, now with a medical report of autism such as mine. This was a good turning point in our lives.

On the day of my twentieth birthday, I was in São Paulo at the Brazilian head office of BSGI (Brazil Soka Gakkai Internacional, a laic Buddhist organization, which I am associated with) because I had made a statement for the university students division on the day before. I left the city with my seigan promise renewed, for my happiness and of others, and with a project rising, since “Mundo Asperger” had been expanding in an amazing way. This also led me to be a citizen of Belo Horizonte blessed with the “Grande Colar do Mérito Legislativo Municipal”, which was an outcome of the indication of the city councilman Leonardo Mattos because of my activism for people with disabilities.

I was deeply grateful for the turns my life was taking, and for my goal of being happy and inspiring people. But as I grew more mature, activism already wore me out, and exposed me, such a young boy, to the human differences that brought confused logic for an Asperger. More than that, I didn’t want to be stigmatized professionally and personally simply as an autistic.

Living with my mother was becoming impracticable. She was also in autistic crisis because she had just received her diagnosis, and people of the autistic community had questioned it.

Although we explain it many times, a neurotypical will never understand the difficulties of an Asperger on his/her every-day life, nor the importance of a diagnosis, even if it comes during adulthood. Hence the importance of a professional accompaniment for all of those that consider that even if they are happy, they have a stuck life for some reason connected to the very behavior and its impact on society.

But, from that day forward, my mother and I got worse and worse, which ended up in my attempt to self-extermination. Mom, with the help of a fellow Buddhist fireman, Leonardo Moutinho, was crucial to act quickly and save my life. While I went through stomach washing, my shakubuku from Florianópolis, the cartoonist (and also autistic) Rodrigo Tramonte, had just decided his conversion to Buddhism from Nichiren Daishonin. The veteran in Buddhist practices, Silvana Vicente, said that we were nipping the bad karma from the bud. I decided to go on with that heart, though my thoughts were dominated by cognitive distortions (a medical term for thought distortion).

This awful situation led me to move abruptly to my father’s house in Minas Gerais’ countryside. I had weeks marked by unslept nights, by nightmares when I could finally fall asleep, by desperate attempts to ask for the help of friends and family that only frustrated me, more because of my expectations rather than because of something effective that they could do, and the rumination that made me dwell on thoughts during every second I was awake. Besides that, there was the fear of not controlling my own impulsivity, that could lead me to drastic consequences, but this fear did not become true.

I started to question my mother’s attitudes when she wanted to protect me from excessive exposure, this brought me a lot of confusion and stress because until that moment she had been my greatest hero. I kept on chanting in front of Gohonzon (the scroll paper of Nichiren Buddhism) consecrated at my father’s house.

With therapy and daimoku (Buddhist chanting – Nam Myoho Renge Kyo), my discourse was no longer tearful or mournful. It was indeed analytical and critical, but there was hope of creating a better future here and now. I continued to talk a lot, but I was getting calmer. I wrote a four-page article for magazine Inclusive.com about the metaphors on terror movies and their relation to the real fears of society, which had a very positive repercussion. My current psychiatrist had said that I had to exercise my intense brain activity. I was satisfied with my work and more confident about how I want to project myself professionally from now on.

I started talking to my mother again in a peaceful and pleasant manner, and I determined that the same way she is an example for me, I will be for her. I also managed to revolutionize the relationship with my stepmother that had been complicated once.

In one of the moments that I was worse, I had a quick, but very productive talk, with João Luiz, a friend from DMJ (Divisão Masculina de Jovens, or Young Male Division, from Soka Gakkai), who quoted Nichirendai Daishonin: “Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbour doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes”.

I said that I had recently read this part of Gosho. During my stay at my father’s house, I created a Word document to which I transcribed parts of Goshos (letters from Buddha Nichiren to his disciples, besides orientations from the president of Gakkai, Daisaku Ikeda). These writings were important to fortify my decision to create hope when it appears not to exist.

These events made me recover the essence of my Buddhist practice, which is to achieve illumination (Buddhahood) in the current form, in the place where I am, and with the work that I am developing, and with this have inner peace, that allows displaying the best of me. And in the way that it is possible for me, it is also for me to be an instrument for other people in search of illumination and full happiness.

My mother, my grandmother and my father are great examples of victorious people for me, and I hope to be an even greater example when I have their age. Today I feel stronger not only with my mission as a communicator or activist for people with disabilities but, above all, as a humanist in every single area of my life.

I keep going with “Mundo Asperger” and I have elaborated several new projects that have been received with enthusiasm. “Mundo Asperger” also won a new agency – Calacata – and an outstanding chairwoman, Deborah Arimura.

I understood why my grandmother started to practice Buddhism in 1981, with the goal of revolutionizing the family karma. I thank the Soka Gakkai family for the daimoku and the welcoming. I thank Ikeda Sensei, my life master, for bringing to Brazil the philosophy I consider to be the foundation of my victory. I thank everyone who accompanies me and cheers for me somehow.

I thank my psychiatrist, Dr. Edson Aquino Brandão, and my psychologist, Júlia Dias, for helping me reveal the best in me. Dr. Edson was referred by Dr. Giovana Mol, my mother’s psychiatrist, and I thank her for aiding in giving a new sense for our lives. I also give thanks to the scholars who studied autism and neurodiversity, such as Dr. Raquel Del Monde, my great reference in this area.

I thank family and educators that marked my life – especially Maurício Guilherme Silva Jr. – and also my closest friends. I thank my Art teacher, Rachel Romano.

Finally, a special thank you for the rock star (and Buddhist) Courtney Love, an example for me, whose soul I believe I can read beyond what is only superficial.

About the internet’s persecutions to which every public person is exposed, I proved in practice Ikeda sensei’s speech: “Even though someone tries to change the truth, the time for it to be proved will certainly come, even better, we must prove the truth at any cost. Similarly, even if evil is disguised in every way, it will be unmasked someday. Then it will find its ruin and vanish”. This also applies to the evil inside us.

I also understood the writings of Nichiren Daishonin: “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone seen or heard of winter turning back to autumn. Nor have we ever heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra who turned into an ordinary person. The sutra reads, ‘If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood'”.

I end my story with a quote from Nichiren: “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever”.

 

Gratitude!

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