Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 15: “Faith for Overcoming Obstacles” [15.1]
15.1 Adversity as a Source of Pride
President Ikeda once said: “Happiness isn’t the absence of problems. A life without problems is empty and uneventful. It offers no opportunity for achieving human revolution or changing one’s karma. Inner joy and true happiness are found in enduring and overcoming adversity. This is the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism. Those who surmount hardships and adversity become Buddhas.”
Encountering adversity in the course of our Buddhist practice—whether a problem in daily life or a challenge in the realm of faith—is proof that we are making significant progress in our human revolution and efforts to transform our karma. As such, hardships are badges of honor for practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.
This chapter features President Ikeda’s guidance relating to “faith for overcoming obstacles,” one of the five eternal guidelines of the Soka Gakkai.1
In this first selection, he explains the significance of hardships we encounter in faith, especially in our youth.
My mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, always encouraged young people to read books, especially famous works of literature. He sternly reprimanded those who didn’t. If he discovered us reading magazines of no positive value, he would erupt in anger.
I remember eagerly reading in my youth the writings of Eiji Yoshikawa, author of such historical novels as The Three Kingdoms and Miyamoto Musashi.
Yoshikawa once said to a young man of privilege: “You are an unfortunate youth. For there is no greater misfortune than seeing too much beauty and partaking of too much fine cuisine from an early age. It is sad to see a young person’s sensitivity––his ability to perceive joy as joy––become dulled.”2 These words have remained with me all my life.
Those who, in the all-important years for laying the foundation of their lives, are blessed with every possible comfort, are coddled and pampered, lack nothing, or never experience any hardships, are not by any means happy or fortunate. They are in fact the most unfortunate. There is no way they will grow into great individuals.
The absence of hardship is not happiness. True happiness and joy in life are found in not being defeated by hardship, by picking ourselves up again when we fall down, by weathering and triumphing over adversity.
Life is a battle.
Life is a challenge.
Life is training.
Difficulties are an inescapable part of life. Our practice of Nichiren Buddhism empowers us to build a strong self that can bravely face every trial we encounter, enabling us to challenge the situation with a positive spirit and see it as a chance for growth. Those who have this fighting spirit win in the end.
From a speech at a joint training session for SGI-Brazil women’s division leaders and Tohoku, Hokuriku, and Shin’etsu representatives, Nagano, August 21, 2004.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Five eternal guidelines for the Soka Gakkai: President Ikeda has set forth five eternal guidelines for the Soka Gakkai: (1) Faith for a harmonious family, (2) Faith for achieving happiness, (3) Faith for overcoming obstacles, (4) Faith for health and long life, and (5) Faith for absolute victory. An excerpt from the 2003 speech in which he presented these guidelines appears in the Supplementary Reading section at the end of chapter 13.
- *2Translated from Japanese. Yoshikawa Eiji to watashi (Eiji Yoshikawa and Me [A Compilation of Tributes from Various Luminaries]), (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1992), p. 248.