Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 16: Buddhism Is about Winning [16.5]

16.5 Challenge and Response

Referring to Professor Toynbee’s theory of history as a process of challenge and response, President Ikeda says that, on both the level of society and the individual, the strength and vitality to keep rising to difficult challenges opens the way to victory.

Since my youth, my motto has been “The greater the resistance waves meet, the stronger they grow.”

As a matter of fact, this is very similar to one of Arnold Toynbee’s theories of history—that is, the principle of challenge and response.

Professor Toynbee maintained that a civilization would continue to develop as long as people had the energy and vitality to accept various problems and obstacles as challenges and respond to them by growing stronger themselves.

Conversely, when people lost the energy and vitality to respond positively to challenges, a civilization would begin to decline. Professor Toynbee explains this by citing a passage from Goethe’s drama Faust. Faust declares to Mephistopheles, the devil personified, who represents the obstacle he must challenge: “If on a bed of sloth I ever lie contented, / may I be done for then and there!”1

The moment we assume the attitude: “There’s no need to continue making effort. I can just take it easy and relax. I don’t need to expand my activities or challenge myself any further”—from that instant, our downhill decline begins. This, Professor Toynbee argues, is an unchanging rule of history.

This rule holds true for individuals and for organizations as well. No matter how great the problems or obstacles that beset us, by challenging them and turning them to our advantage, we can become stronger and develop further.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? . . . Were it not for the flowing rivers, there would be no sea” (WND-1, 33).2

Just like these examples, practitioners of the Mystic Law grow stronger and more resilient with each obstacle they encounter. Those who advance with such powerful energy and life force are history’s victors, are winners in life. The important thing is for us to become strong and to make our organization strong.

The Daishonin cites the words: “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the [Buddhist] gods”3 (WND-1, 614). It is an admonition, in one respect, to not depend on others.

This passage attests that we should abandon the indulgent tendency to assume that someone will naturally come to our aid or take our side. It conveys the message that we ourselves need to become stronger, for only then can we activate the protective functions of the universe and win in life.

From a message to a Yamanashi Prefecture women’s division leaders meeting, September 30, 1997.

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

  • *1Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust I & II, edited and translated by Stuart Atkins, in Goethe’s Collected Works, vol. 2 (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 44.
  • *2The full quote reads: “Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers flow into the sea, but does the sea turn back their waters? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; nor does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers, there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 33; “A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering”).
  • *3Miao-lo, The Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight.”