Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 1:
What Is True Happiness? [1.1]
1.1 Leading the Happiest of Lives
President Ikeda’s conception of happiness is an inspiring teaching for all, imparting courage to those overwhelmed by suffering and hope to those shrouded in despair.
This first chapter introduces this all-embracing concept of happiness.
In this selection, President Ikeda responds to questions from members in Thailand about the purpose of life and how we should live our lives.
“How do I live my life?” “How can I live the very best life?”—these are fundamental questions. How to live is an inescapable issue that confronts all who are born in this world, one that has been pursued by countless philosophies, ideologies, and religions. At the most basic level, politics, economics, and science, too, are inseparable from this issue. Their original purpose is to help people live the happiest of lives. None of these areas of human endeavor, however, can provide an answer to the question “What constitutes the best life?” They have no clear or conclusive answer that is rationally convincing.
Buddhism supplies a coherent answer to this question. Shakyamuni Buddha, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, and Nichiren Daishonin each set forth a clear response. In particular, the conclusions of Shakyamuni and the Daishonin are exactly the same.
Moreover, based on his conclusion, Nichiren Daishonin left behind a concrete “tool” that all people can use to become happy. He bestowed the Gohonzon—which second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda referred to as a “happiness-producing device”—upon all humankind.
What is the definition of human happiness? There is a Thai saying, “False happiness makes people become haughty and arrogant. Real happiness makes people joyful and fills them with wisdom and compassion.”1
Is one happy just because one is wealthy? All too many people have allowed money to ruin their lives.
President Toda stressed the importance of absolute happiness over relative happiness. Absolute happiness is not how one stands compared with others, nor is it a transitory, illusory happiness that fades with the passing of time. Mr. Toda taught that we practice Nichiren Buddhism to attain a state of life where, no matter what circumstances we may encounter, we can feel that life itself is a joy. When we attain that state of life, our lives overflow with unsurpassed joy, wisdom, and compassion—just as the Thai proverb says: “Real happiness makes people joyful and fills them with wisdom and compassion.”
The Daishonin states: “Both oneself and others together will take joy in their possession of wisdom and compassion” (OTT, 146). Our practice of Nichiren Buddhism and our organization for kosen-rufu exist so that we, and also others, may attain absolute happiness.
All kinds of things happen in life. There is sorrow, there is suffering. Every day, there are things we may find unpleasant or annoying. Married couples may sometimes quarrel. Even if a couple does get on well, they may have a sick child, or one of them may suffer illness. We face all kinds of sufferings and problems. How formidable are the challenges of living!
Faith is the engine that enables us to persevere in life to the very end. Our Buddhist practice serves as the propulsive force for piercing through the clouds of suffering like a rocket and powerfully ascending higher and higher, without limit, to fly serenely through the skies of happiness.
When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, hope and the strength to always live positively surge within us. Buddhism teaches that earthly desires—deluded impulses that are a cause of suffering—can be a springboard to enlightenment. Through faith in the Mystic Law, we can develop the ability to change all that is negative in our lives into something positive. We can transform all problems into happiness, sufferings into joy, anxiety into hope, and worry into peace of mind. We will always be able to find a way forward.
The Daishonin writes: “Myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law] means to revive, that is, to return to life” (WND-1, 149). It is the immense power of the Mystic Law that gives vitality to and breathes fresh life into all things, including individuals, organizations, societies, and nations.
As human beings, we also possess our own unique karma. You may wish you could have been born into a wealthier family, but the reality is that you weren’t. There are many areas in life where karma comes into play. Essentially, the concept of karma can only be understood when viewed from the perspective of life’s eternity over the three existences of past, present, and future. There are past existences and the law of cause and effect to take into account.
And these past existences may not necessarily all have been on this planet. Many in astronomy and related fields today think that, given the enormously vast numbers of stars and planets in the known universe, other intelligent life forms similar to human beings must exist.
In any case, our present reality is that we have been born here on Earth. This is an inalterable fact. How can we discover our true path? How can we change our karma and build a truly wonderful and meaningful existence? The answer is, in short, by embracing faith in the Mystic Law. Through our practice of Nichiren Buddhism, we can change any negative karma and transform the place where we are into the Land of Tranquil Light2, a place overflowing with happiness.
Moreover, Nichiren Buddhism focuses on the present and the future. By always moving forward from this moment on, we can develop our lives boundlessly. We can also open up infinite possibilities for our next life and lifetimes after that. We can reveal the immeasurable treasures within us and make our lives shine with the full brilliance of those treasures. Such is the power of practicing Nichiren Buddhism.
From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Thailand general meeting, Thailand, February 6, 1994.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Translated from Thai. Ngeakhit khamkhom lea khamuayphon (Thai Proverbs and Maxims), compiled and edited by Anusorn (Bangkok: Ruamsan, 1993), p. 207.
- *2Land of Eternally Tranquil Light: Also, Land of Tranquil Light. The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity. In many sutras, the actual saha world in which human beings dwell is described as an impure land filled with delusions and sufferings, while the Buddha land is described as a pure land free from these and far removed from this saha world. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals the saha world to be the Buddha land, or the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, and explains that the nature of a land is determined by the minds of its inhabitants.