Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 12: Transforming Karma into Mission [12.3]
12.3 The Great Drama of Human Revolution
In the novel The New Human Revolution, at a question-and-answer session in Brazil with members who had emigrated there from Japan, the novel’s protagonist Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) encourages a woman who is filled with despair over her situation.
Toward the end of the question-and-answer session, Shin’ichi noticed a woman in the back row who had been hesitantly raising her hand and putting it down again throughout the session. Somewhere in her mid-30s, her face was gaunt and tired-looking.
“You have a question, don’t you? Please go ahead,” he encouraged her.
She stood up listlessly and said: “Um, you see, my husband died from illness. I just don’t know how I’m going to survive from now on.”
The woman and her husband had emigrated from Japan to Brazil as contract laborers with their children and had been working the land. Deprived of her husband’s crucial involvement, however, she was unable to keep farming, as she still had several small children to look after.
Just as thoughts of suicide began to cross her mind, she learned about Nichiren Buddhism from a Soka Gakkai member living nearby. She had started her practice only one week before the meeting, and in that short period had found a job at a factory in São Paulo, which also provided her lodging.
“But,” she continued, “when I think of living here in a foreign country I know nothing about, struggling to provide for my children, I can’t help feeling anxious. I think I must have awfully heavy karma. And I have no idea what may happen in the future. Just thinking about it is unbearable.”
Shin’ichi smiled at her and said: “Please don’t worry. As long as you continue exerting yourself in faith, you can definitely become happy. That’s what Buddhism is for. Also, your current suffering and misfortune exist so that you may fulfill your own unique and noble mission. Everything will turn to defeat if all you do is worry about your karma and let it make you miserable.”
The woman gazed at Shin’ichi with a puzzled look. The member who had introduced her to the practice had told her that the reason she had to suffer the loss of her husband was because of negative karma she had accumulated from offenses committed in past lifetimes.
It is true that Buddhism teaches that one who commits evil deeds against others will receive the negative effects of those actions and live an unhappy life. Were it the entire teaching on karma, however, then people would be doomed to live under a cloud of guilt and pervasive anxiety, not knowing what offenses they might have committed in past lives. It would also mean that people’s destiny was fixed—a concept that could easily rob them of their energy and passion.
The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin goes far beyond the framework of superficial causality. It elucidates the most fundamental cause and shows us the way to return to the pure life within that has existed since time without beginning. The means it shows is to awaken to our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth1 and dedicate our lives to the widespread propagation of the Law.
Shin’ichi said: “Buddhism teaches the principle of ‘voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.’2 This means that although through Buddhist practice we had accumulated the benefit to be born in favorable circumstances, we purposely chose to be born in the midst of those who are suffering and there propagate the Mystic Law.
“For example, if someone who had always lived like a queen and enjoyed every luxury were to say, ‘I became happy as a result of my Buddhist practice,’ no one would bat an eye. But if a person who is sick, whose family is poor, and who is shunned by people because of these things becomes happy through her Buddhist practice and goes on to become a leader in society, this will be splendid proof of the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism. Don’t you agree that this would make others want to start practicing, too?
“By triumphing over great poverty, a person who has been poor can give hope to others who are struggling with financial hardship. By regaining vitality and good health, someone who has been battling illness can light a flame of courage in the hearts of those in similar straits. By creating a happy and harmonious family, a person who has suffered great anguish over discord in the home can become a model for others plagued by family problems.
“Similarly, if you—a woman who has been left widowed in a foreign land where she does not speak the language—become happy and raise your children to be fine adults, you’ll be a shining example for all women who have lost their partners. Even those who don’t practice Nichiren Buddhism will admire you and come to seek your advice.
“So you see, the deeper and greater the suffering, the more magnificently one can show proof of the powerful benefit of Buddhism. You could say that karma is another name for mission.
“I myself am the son of a poor seaweed farmer. I worked by Mr. Toda’s side throughout the bitter trials of his company’s bankruptcy, even though I was frail in health and afflicted with tuberculosis. Because I have experienced hardship and suffering, I can take the lead for kosen-rufu in this way as a representative of the common people.”
Shin’ichi continued with even greater emphasis: “Each of you may think you have just happened to come to Brazil because of various personal circumstances. But this is not the case. You have been born as a Bodhisattva of the Earth in order to achieve kosen-rufu in Brazil, to lead the people of this country to happiness and to create an eternal realm of peace and harmony in this land. Indeed, you have been called here by Nichiren Daishonin. When you realize your great mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and dedicate yourself to kosen-rufu, the sun that has existed within you since time without beginning will start to shine forth. All offenses you have committed in past lifetimes will vanish like dew, and you will open the way to a wonderful life filled with deep joy and happiness.”
Addressing the woman who had lost her husband, Shin’ichi went on: “Viewed from the profound perspective of Buddhism, your suffering is like that portrayed by a brilliant, highly successful stage actress cast in the role of a tragic heroine. When the play is finished, the actress goes home to a life of ease and comfort. Your life is the same. Moreover, the play you are performing on the stage of life’s theater is one that will have a happy ending. There is no need to worry. You will definitely become happy. I say this with absolute certainty. Just as a great actress relishes performing her tragic role, please enact a magnificent drama of human revolution in which you rise triumphantly from the depths of your sorrow.
“All people are pioneers traveling the frontiers of life. Therefore, it is up to you alone to cultivate and develop your own life. You must wield the hoe of faith, sow the seeds of happiness, and persevere tenaciously. The sweat of your efforts for kosen-rufu will become precious gems of good fortune, forever dignifying your life. Please become the happiest person in Brazil!”
From The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, “Pioneers” chapter.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Bodhisattvas of the Earth: An innumerable host of bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and to whom Shakyamuni Buddha entrusts the propagation of the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Day of the Law.
- *2Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings. They spread the Mystic Law, while undergoing the same sufferings as those born in the evil world due to karma. This term derives from Miao-lo’s interpretation of relevant passages in “The Teacher of the Law” (10th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.