Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 12: Transforming Karma into Mission [12.4]
12.4 All Karma Has Profound Meaning
In his lecture on Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The Opening of the Eyes,” President Ikeda explains that when we strive with the determination to “transform karma into mission,” we can turn any adversity into the impetus for our human revolution.
Nichiren Daishonin states that his experiencing great persecutions corresponds with the Buddhist teaching that bodhisattvas voluntarily assume the appropriate karma1 and choose to take on suffering out of a desire to lead living beings to enlightenment. And just as bodhisattvas regard undergoing suffering on behalf of living beings as a source of joy, the Daishonin says he also views experiencing pain and hardship resulting from these present persecutions as a cause for rejoicing, because it will enable him to escape falling into the evil paths in future existences.
The Daishonin’s assertion that voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma is a source of joy echoes the final lines of “The Opening of the Eyes,” where he states: “For what I have done, I have been condemned to exile, but it is a small suffering to undergo in this present life and not one worth lamenting. In future lives I will enjoy immense happiness, a thought that gives me great joy” (WND-1, 287).
The principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma” is the logical conclusion of the Buddhist concept of changing one’s karma. Simply put, it represents a way of life in which we transform karma into mission.
Everything that happens in our lives has meaning. Moreover, the way of life of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism is to find and discover meaning in all things. Nothing is insignificant. Whatever a person’s karma may be, it definitely has profound meaning. This is not just a matter of outlook. Changing the world starts by changing our fundamental state of mind. This is a key Buddhist principle. A powerful determination to transform even negative karma into mission can dramatically transform the real world. By changing our inner state of mind, we can change any suffering or hardship into a source of joy, regarding it as a means for forging and developing our lives. To turn even sorrow into a source of creativity—that is the way of life of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.
The Daishonin teaches us this essential path through his own life and actions as the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
To have a fighting spirit is itself the direct path to happiness. Only through struggles and challenges can we develop inner strength and truly creative lives. Also, by maintaining unwavering faith in the correct teaching of Buddhism no matter what obstacles or hardships arise, we can enter the path of happiness for all eternity. Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime means securing this path in our daily lives during our present existence.
I therefore believe that practitioners of the correct teaching who strive ceaselessly to spread the Law exemplify the highest expression of humanity taught by the Daishonin based on the Lotus Sutra.
Viewed from this perspective, all difficulties become the genuine foundation for our personal development and growth. Practitioners of the correct teaching who endure obstacles with the awareness, “[If devils did not arise], there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching” (WND-1, 501), come to embody the Mystic Law without fail. They attain the expansive state of life in which they can “regard all difficulties as peace and comfort” (cf. OTT, 115), and rejoice at them with the spirit conveyed when Nichiren Daishonin writes, “The greater the hardships befalling him, the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith” (WND-1, 33).
In “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin says: “When iron is heated, if it is not strenuously forged, the impurities in it will not become apparent. Only when it is subjected to the tempering process again and again will the flaws appear. When pressing hemp seeds, if one does not press very hard, one will not get much oil from them” (WND-1, 281–82).
In “Letter from Sado,” the Daishonin also observes: “It is impossible to fathom one’s karma. Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse” (WND-1, 303). And in “Letter to the Brothers,” he writes: “Both of you have continued believing in the Lotus Sutra; thus you are now ridding yourselves of your grave offenses from the past. For example, the flaws in iron come to the surface when it is forged” (WND-1, 497).
A life that is forged through efforts to protect the Law drives out the impurities of the negative karma created through slander and endures eternally over the three existences—past, present, and future. From time without beginning, we have repeated the cycle of birth and death. In this lifetime, however, we have had the good fortune to encounter Nichiren Buddhism. Because we practice the correct teaching, denounce slander of the Law, and forge inner strength, we can change our karma and establish the eternally indestructible state of Buddhahood in our lives. This is the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime.
Pure and committed practice of Nichiren Buddhism entirely changes the meaning of hardships in our lives. We no longer view challenges and trials as negatives to be avoided but as things which, when overcome, bring us closer to our attainment of Buddhahood. Of course, it may not be easy for those in the midst of painful challenges to appreciate this fact. No one wishes to experience hardships. It’s human nature to prefer to avoid them.
But if we understand the ultimate transformative teaching of the Mystic Law, we can recognize that our hardships have arisen because we are struggling against negative functions, and we can be confident that by overcoming those hardships, we can attain the supreme life state of Buddhahood. With this positive approach, we can live with fundamental strength and resilience in the face of any difficulty.
Members of the Soka Gakkai understand this ultimate Buddhist truth in the depths of their beings. As proof of this, when our members encounter hardships, they are strong and, above all, positive. That’s because they have already experienced in their own lives the rhythm of fundamental good that accompanies the process of changing karma. Or even if they haven’t yet experienced it themselves, they are constantly in contact with others who have.
Those who strive in faith for kosen-rufu while battling their karma embody the quintessential Buddhist principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.” Our members, comrades from the distant past, summon forth the heart of the lion king—the spirit to bravely take on challenges, never fearing hardships or lamenting painful trials—as they struggle valiantly to transform their karma into their mission and enact the victorious drama of a great human revolution. They possess a truly lofty state of life.
Accordingly, defeat for a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism lies not in encountering difficulties but rather in not challenging them. Difficulties only truly become our destiny if we run away from them. We must fight as long as we live. We must live and struggle tenaciously to the end. The Daishonin’s philosophy of changing karma, which teaches this important essence of life, is also a revolutionary teaching, in that it represents a radical departure from the way religion has tended to view difficulties.
To practice Nichiren Buddhism is to live with the unshakable conviction that the most painful and trying times are opportunities for changing karma, for carrying out our human revolution, and that no matter how difficult the situation, we can ultimately, and without fail, transform it into something positive.
And it is the Soka Gakkai, an organization directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin, that puts this teaching of changing karma into practice in reality and takes this revolutionary philosophy to the world. With this pride and joy, let us continue our efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism with others.
From Lectures on “The Opening of the Eyes,” published in Japanese in June 2006.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Voluntarily 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.