Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 1:
What Is True Happiness? [1.6]
1.6 The Six Conditions for Happiness
President Ikeda presents six points for attaining happiness in this speech at an SGI general meeting in the U.S.A., and stresses that all of them are included in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.
In his writings, Nichiren Daishonin states, “You must not spend your lives in vain and regret it for ten thousand years to come” (WND-1, 622).
How should we live our lives? What is the most valuable and worthwhile way to live? A well-known Japanese poem goes: “The life of a flower is short / Sufferings only are there many.”1 The meaning of these lines is that flowers suddenly come into bloom and then, just as suddenly, their petals fall and scatter; ultimately, the only thing that lasts for a long time is suffering. Life, indeed, may be like that in some ways.
A philosopher once remarked that perhaps the only way to determine happiness or unhappiness in life is by adding up, at the end of one’s days, all the joys and all the sorrows one had experienced and basing one’s final evaluation on whichever figure was larger.
Despite having illustrious positions in society or great material wealth, there are many people who fail to become happy. Despite enjoying wonderfully happy marriages or relationships, people must ultimately be parted from the person they love through death. Being separated from loved ones is one of the unavoidable sufferings inherent in the human condition. There are many who, despite gaining great fame and popularity, die after long, agonizing illnesses. Despite being born with exceptional beauty, not a few have been brought to misery by this seeming advantage.
Where is happiness to be found? How can we become happy? These are fundamental questions of life, and human beings are no doubt destined to pursue them eternally. The teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and faith in the Mystic Law provide fundamental answers to these questions.
Ultimately, happiness rests on our establishing a solid sense of self. Happiness based on such externals as possessing a fine house or a good reputation is “relative happiness.” It is not a firm, unchanging “absolute happiness.” Some might seem to be in the most fortunate circumstances, but if they feel only emptiness and pain, then they cannot be considered happy.
Some people live in truly splendid houses yet do nothing but fight in them. Some people work for famous companies and enjoy a prestige that many envy yet are always being shouted at by their superiors, are left exhausted from heavy workloads, and feel no sense of joy or fulfillment in life.
Happiness does not lie in outward appearances or in vanity. It is a matter of what we feel inside; it is a deep resonance in our lives. I would venture, therefore, that the first condition for happiness is fulfillment.
To be filled each day with a rewarding sense of exhilaration and purpose, a sense of tasks accomplished and deep fulfillment—people who feel this way are happy. Those who have this sense of satisfaction even if they are extremely busy are much happier than those who have free time on their hands but feel empty inside.
As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, we get up in the morning and do gongyo. Some perhaps may do so rather reluctantly! Nevertheless, doing gongyo is itself a truly great and noble thing. Gongyo is a solemn ceremony in which we are, in a manner of speaking, gazing out across the universe; it is a dialogue with the universe.
Doing gongyo and chanting daimoku before the Gohonzon represent the dawn, the start of a new day, in our lives; it is the sun rising; it gives us a profound sense of contentment in the depths of our being that nothing can surpass. Even on this point alone, we are truly fortunate.
Some people appear to be happy but actually start off the day feeling depressed. A husband might be admonished by his wife in the morning and begin his day dejected, wondering, “How on earth did I get into such a marriage?” He will savor neither happiness nor contentment. Just by looking at our mornings, it is clear that we in the SGI lead lives of profound worth and satisfaction.
In addition, each of you is striving to do your best in your job or other responsibilities and to win in all areas of life while using your spare time to work for Buddhism, kosen-rufu, people’s happiness, and the welfare of society. In this Latter Day of the Law teeming with perverse individuals, you are exerting yourselves energetically, often amid many hardships and obstacles, chanting daimoku for others’ happiness, traveling long distances to talk with friends and show them warm concern and understanding. You are truly bodhisattvas. There is no nobler life, no life based on a loftier philosophy. Each of you is translating this unsurpassed philosophy into action and spreading its message far and wide. To possess a philosophy of such profound value is itself the greatest fortune. Accordingly, the second condition for happiness is to possess a profound philosophy.
The third condition for happiness is to possess conviction. We live in an age in which people can no longer clearly distinguish what is right or wrong, good or evil. This is a global trend. If things continue in this way, humanity is destined for chaos and moral decay. In the midst of such times, you are upholding and earnestly practicing Nichiren Buddhism, a teaching of the highest good.
In “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin writes: “This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law” (WND-1, 280). In this same letter, he instructs his believers not to be swayed by temptations or threats, however great—such as being offered the rulership of Japan or being told that one’s parents will be beheaded (cf. WND-1, 280).
The important thing is holding on resolutely to one’s convictions, come what may, just as the Daishonin teaches. People who possess such unwavering conviction will definitely become happy. Each of you is such an individual.
The fourth condition is living cheerfully and vibrantly. Those who are always complaining and grumbling make not only themselves but everyone else around them miserable and unhappy. By contrast, those who always live positively and filled with enthusiasm—those who possess a cheerful and sunny disposition that lifts the spirits and brightens the hearts of everyone they meet—are not only happy themselves but are a source of hope and inspiration for others.
Those who are always wearing long, gloomy expressions whenever you meet them and who have lost the ability to rejoice and feel genuine delight or wonder lead dark, cheerless existences.
On the other hand, those who possess good cheer can view even a scolding by a loved one, such as a spouse or partner, as sweet music to their ears, or can greet a child’s poor report card as a sign of great potential for improvement! Viewing events and situations in this kind of positive light is important. The strength, wisdom, and cheerfulness that accompany such an attitude lead to happiness.
To regard everything in a positive light or with a spirit of goodwill, however, does not mean being foolishly gullible and allowing people to take advantage of our good nature. It means having the wisdom and perception to actually move things in a positive direction by seeing things in their best light, while all the time keeping our eyes firmly focused on reality.
Faith and the teachings of Buddhism enable us to develop that kind of character. The acquisition of such character is a more priceless treasure than any other possession in life.
The fifth condition for happiness is courage. Courageous people can overcome anything. The cowardly, on the other hand, because of their lack of courage, fail to savor the true, profound joys of life. This is most unfortunate.
The sixth condition for happiness is tolerance. Those who are tolerant and broad-minded make people feel comfortable and at ease. Narrow and intolerant people who berate others for the slightest thing or who make a great commotion each time some problem arises just exhaust and intimidate everyone. Leaders must be tolerant and have a warm approachability that makes people feel relaxed and comfortable. Not only are those who possess a heart as wide as the ocean happy themselves, but all those around them are happy, too.
The six conditions I have just mentioned are all ultimately encompassed in the single word faith. A life based on faith in the Mystic Law is a life of unsurpassed happiness.
The Daishonin declares, “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the greatest of all joys” (OTT, 212). I hope all of you will savor the truth of these words deep in your lives and show vibrant actual proof of that joy.
From a speech at an SGI general meeting, U.S.A., June 23, 1996.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1By Japanese author Fumiko Hayashi.