Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 1:
What Is True Happiness? [1.7]
1.7 Confronting Life’s Fundamental Sufferings Head-On
In this selection, President Ikeda stresses that the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Buddhism directly tackle the universal and inescapable issues of birth, aging, sickness, and death, and clarifies that the path to true happiness is to be found in that pursuit.
What is the purpose of life? It is to become happy. What, then, is true happiness? Can fame, wealth, or social status, no matter how immense, bring us true happiness?
Such things alone do not create lasting happiness at life’s deepest level. Nor can they solve the most fundamental sufferings of existence—birth, aging, sickness, and death. It is for this very reason that Nichiren Daishonin expounded his teaching.
Birth—the pain of being born and of living. There are innumerable sufferings in life. And there is also our karma to deal with. There are accidents that we cannot anticipate. There are such problems as divorce, difficulties with our children, and frustrations at work. The question is how do we overcome all of these and other sufferings?
Aging—the suffering of growing older. Right now, you are all young; you are all healthy and possess the beauty of youth. But you will invariably age and grow old. There’s no inoculation against this, and the most expensive medicine will not cure you of old age.
Sickness—the suffering of illness. Some suffer from cancer. Others suffer from mental or spiritual illnesses. Life is a battle against myriad diseases and disorders. Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda often said that there is an illness called poverty, just as there is an illness called meanness of spirit. He also asserted that the karma of being hated by others and ending life in defeat can also be termed a kind of illness. It is the power of the Mystic Law that cures these kinds of illness that afflict the body and mind at a fundamental level.
Death—this is the most uncompromising of the four sufferings. None of us here today will be alive in 100 years. As the French literary giant Victor Hugo declared: “We are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.”1
There are many ways of dying as well. Some die by their own hand, others are murdered. Some suffer unspeakable agony before they die. How should we view our inexorable fate of death? How can we overcome the suffering it causes? These are crucial questions. And what happens after death? Do we still exist? Or is there nothing? If we do exist, in what state do we exist? Such things are beyond ordinary human understanding.
The sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death are universal to humankind. They are the basic issues we face in our unending search for happiness. Yet almost all of society’s leaders sidestep them. They furtively avert their eyes from the very issues that any leader who feels a sense of responsibility for the welfare of the people cannot possibly neglect. This is a great misfortune for the people.
The Soka Gakkai confronts these fundamental problems head-on. And Nichiren Daishonin reveals the means for resolving them completely.
He elucidates the Mystic Law, which enables us to serenely overcome the four sufferings and all other kinds of hardships and obstacles, and in fact even use our sufferings as an impetus to propel us forward as we lead lives pervaded by the four virtues of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity.
Life is a struggle. Reality is a struggle. Nichiren Daishonin teaches that Buddhism is about winning. He exhorts us to be victorious. So we must win in life. To embrace the Mystic Law is to grasp the sword of victory. We can triumph over all. We can triumph and enjoy our lives. A “person of faith” is synonymous with “a person of victory.”
Therefore, I hope all of you will be victorious in your lives. Live your lives so that you can declare: “I have no regrets. I enjoyed my life. I encouraged many others and gave them hope. It was a good life.”
From a speech at an SGI-USA youth division general meeting, U.S.A., March 14, 1993.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Walter Pater, The Renaissance (New York: Random House, 1873), p. 198.