Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 12: Transforming Karma into Mission [12.8]

12.8 Those Who Suffer the Most Can Attain Buddhahood without Fail

Explaining that Buddhism views the suffering we experience in this life as karma we have assumed as part of our vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, President Ikeda stresses the importance of changing the way we see sufferings and taking the stance of “transforming karma into mission.”

Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda said: “If we were too perfect to begin with, others would find it hard to relate to us. That’s why we specifically chose to be born as ordinary people, experiencing sickness and poverty, so that we could widely spread Buddhism in society. . . . Life is like playing a part in a drama.” He often gave guidance in this vein.

He also said: “I lost my wife and also my daughter. My businesses failed. Because I have known such sufferings, I was able to become the president of the Soka Gakkai.”

Those who haven’t experienced hardships and sufferings can’t be expected to understand others’ feelings. Only those who have gone through painful struggles and trials can truly help others.

To simply regard all our sufferings as karma is passive and defeatist. Instead, we should view them as sufferings we have voluntarily taken on as part of our mission, and which we have vowed to overcome through our Buddhist practice.

The principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma”1 teaches this fundamental transformation of attitude, or mind-set. We can definitely transform our karma into our mission. Since all our problems and struggles are expressions of our own vow, there is no way that we will not be able to surmount them.

Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement, declared: “If I have to be reborn I should be reborn an untouchable, so that I may share their sorrows, sufferings, and the affronts leveled against them, in order that I may endeavor to free myself and them from that miserable condition.”2

This attitude is an expression of the teaching of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma”—of compassion, of sharing our lives with others.

We [as Bodhisattvas of the Earth3] are born among those suffering the most.

The Buddha resides among those who are suffering the most.

Buddhism exists to enable those suffering the most to attain the greatest happiness.

From The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, published in Japanese in November 1996.

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.
  • *2Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 19 (November 1920–April 1921), (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1990), p. 573.
  • *3Bodhisattvas 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.