Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 15: “Faith for Overcoming Obstacles” [15.11]

15.11 Difficulties Are Opportunities for Transforming Our Karma

President Ikeda explains the Buddhist principle of “changing poison into medicine” and urges us to view difficulties as opportunities for transforming our karma.

Do we allow difficulties to overwhelm us, or do we fight back and triumph over them? That is the crux of our struggle both as individuals and societies.

The Buddhist principle of “changing poison into medicine”1 opened the way for all people to enact joyous dramas of inner transformation. Not only could they surmount the hardships confronting them, but also dramatically transform adverse circumstances and elevate their life state to new heights.

Referring to The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom and T’ien-t’ai’s Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin declared for the sake of all people living in the corrupt age of the Latter Day of the Law: “What does it mean to change poison into medicine? It means to transform the three paths [of earthly desires, karma, and suffering]2 into the three virtues: the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation”3 (WND-2, 743). In other words, the supreme power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to transform any deluded impulse, any karma, and any suffering into Buddhahood, wisdom, and benefit. There is no negative karma that we cannot change. This fact is a brilliant source of hope, so we need not lament or despair.

The two Ikegami brothers endured their father disinheriting the elder brother on account of their faith in the Lotus Sutra. Shijo Kingo, meanwhile, faced the prospect of having his estates confiscated by his lord. The lies and scheming of malicious priests lay behind both these developments, which, in the feudal society of the day, threatened the very livelihoods of these disciples.

The Daishonin, however, advised the Ikegami brothers: “You must persevere through this trial and see for yourselves the blessings of the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 498). And he encouraged Shijo Kingo: “Great disaster without fail changes into great fortune” (WND-1, 824).

Moving beyond questions of whether the disinheritance would be rescinded or the estates restored, the Daishonin revealed the path leading directly from the worst possible situation to the highest peak of victory.

The Ikegami brothers followed the Daishonin’s advice, and in the end, they succeeded in overcoming their father’s fierce opposition. They eventually even converted him to the Daishonin’s teachings and managed to establish family harmony that would lead to lasting prosperity.

Shijo Kingo, too, demonstrated undeniable proof of the power of faith. He overcame his lord’s prejudice and won his support and understanding. In addition, he came to earn praise throughout Kamakura, with people declaring: “No one can compare to Nakatsukasa Saemon-no-jo [Shijo Kingo]” and “Ah, there’s a fine fellow . . . !” (WND-2, 730).

In the northern regions of Japan, after the bitter cold of winter, spring explodes onto the scene. Similarly, disciples who persevere through the harshest winters of life with courageous faith, in the same spirit as their mentor, will savor a bright springtime of victory beyond their imagination. That is the ultimate meaning of “changing poison into medicine.”

President Toda encouraged a member who was struggling with problems: “Rejoice when you encounter hardships! It is the time to demonstrate the power of faith. It is an opportunity to transform your karma. Buddhism teaches the infallible Law of ‘changing poison into medicine.’ You can regain any losses tenfold or a hundredfold in the form of great benefit.”

It has been the painful fate of human society, plagued and terrorized by the world’s many poisons, to be trapped in an endless cycle of misfortune and confusion. Our Soka movement is dedicated to spreading the humanistic principles of Nichiren Buddhism for the peace and prosperity of all humanity. As such, it is engaged in a fearless struggle to change all poison into medicine, freely creating value out of everything for the sake of human happiness, protecting the sanctity of life, and world peace.

From an editorial titled “The Joyous Drama of Changing Poison into Medicine,” published in Japanese in the Daibyakurenge, April 2010.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.

  • *1Changing poison into medicine: The principle that earthly desires and suffering can be transformed into benefit and enlightenment by virtue of the power of the Mystic Law. This phrase is found in a passage from The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, which mentions “a great physician who can change poison into medicine.”
  • *2Three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering: They are called “paths” because one leads to the other. Earthly desires, which include greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance, and doubt, give rise to actions that create evil karma. The effect of this evil karma then manifests itself as suffering. Suffering aggravates earthly desires, leading to further misguided action, which in turn brings on more evil karma and suffering. In this way, the three paths function to prevent a person from attaining Buddhahood.
  • *3Three virtues of the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation: Three attributes of a Buddha. The Dharma body means the truth that the Buddha has realized, or the true aspect of all phenomena; wisdom is the capacity to realize this truth; and emancipation means the state of being free from the sufferings of birth and death.