Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 17: Making the Most of Each Day [17.6]

17.6 “Strengthen Your Faith Day by Day and Month after Month”

President Ikeda teaches that to live each day valuably, we need to banish the inertia that can all too easily take root in our hearts.

Faith is a constant struggle against inertia.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage” (WND-1, 997). He also says: “Be ever diligent in your faith so that your desire will be fulfilled” (WND-1, 452).

Not advancing is retreating. Mr. Toda also constantly warned against having a lax attitude in our faith and practice. He said:

“Everything in the universe, from the stars and planets to the smallest insect, is constantly changing. Nothing remains the same for a single moment. The crucial question, therefore, is whether we are changing for the better or changing for the worse. When we fail to realize this, we give in to inertia. In other words, the frightening thing about succumbing to inertia is that we are completely oblivious and indifferent to whether we are changing for the better or the worse. Moreover, when we grow apathetic in faith, practicing only out of force of habit, it’s the same as if we have stopped practicing altogether. Faith in Nichiren Buddhism is an active practice for rapidly changing ourselves for the better.”

Not advancing is not just stagnating; it is regressing. There is no “this will do” in the realm of faith. Complacence gives rise to inertia and can lead one to stop practicing.

In a letter of encouragement to Sage Nichimyo, a female follower who had made the perilous journey to visit him on Sado Island, the Daishonin writes: “I know your faith has always been admirable, but now you must strengthen it more than ever. Only then will the ten demon daughters1 [guardian deities of Buddhism] lend you even greater protection” (WND-1, 614).

No matter how unsparingly we may have exerted ourselves in faith in the past, if our commitment grows lax or apathetic, the protection of the heavenly deities—the positive forces of the universe—will weaken. Not only that, but we run the risk of erasing all the good fortune we have thus far accumulated. That’s why the Daishonin urged Sage Nichimyo to keep on strengthening her resolve in faith even more.

Throughout his writings, the Daishonin often uses the phrase “more than ever” in encouraging his followers in their Buddhist practice. Encouraging Shijo Kingo, who demonstrated his selfless commitment to faith at the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution,2 the Daishonin writes: “Strengthen your power of faith more than ever” (WND-1, 681), and “You must strengthen your faith more than ever” (WND-1, 953). The passage I quoted earlier, “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month” (WND-1, 997), was also addressed as encouragement to Shijo Kingo and other disciples.

Inertia, however, is often difficult to recognize in ourselves. Being unaware of it is perhaps one of its defining characteristics and causes.

Someone once came up with a list of “symptoms” for stagnation in faith, which included such things as: having only vague goals and determinations; doing gongyo, but having no specific prayers while chanting; doing gongyo and Soka Gakkai activities passively, out of a sense of obligation; being prone to complain; feeling no joy, enthusiasm, or gratitude; having a weak seeking spirit; being lax at one’s job and forgetting the importance of putting one’s faith into practice in daily life.

I think we can all no doubt identify with these tendencies to some extent. We are only human, after all, and therefore not perfect. But the Daishonin warns us: “If your faith weakens and you do not attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, do not reproach me” (WND-1, 1030).

Our Buddhist practice is not an obligation, but a right that enables us to attain happiness. We will gain benefit in direct proportion to our own determination and efforts in faith.

From a speech at a representatives conference, Tokyo, March 15, 1992.

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

  • *1Ten demon daughters: The ten female protective deities who appear in the “Dharani” (26th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra as the “daughters of rakshasa demons” or the “ten rakshasa daughters.” They vow to the Buddha to guard and protect the sutra’s practitioners.
  • *2Tatsunokuchi Persecution: The failed attempt, instigated by powerful government figures, to behead the Daishonin under the cover of darkness on the beach at Tatsunokuchi, on the outskirts of Kamakura, on September 12, 1271.