Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 20: Encouragement for Youth [20.16]

20.16 Love as a Source of Growth

In a discussion with young people, President Ikeda explains that the ideal love relationship is one where both parties inspire each other to realize vibrant growth and develop as human beings.

Just as naturally as spring brings flowers and winter brings snow, youth is a time of awakening to feelings of love and attraction. This is one of the stages of life. You are entering a new period in your life, just as the sun marks a new day by rising brightly at dawn.

Everyone’s concerns about love and relationships are different. It depends on your personality, your situation, and your environment. There is no one single approach that will solve everyone’s problems. In addition, everyone is perfectly free to fall in love or be attracted to someone. Who you decide to go out with or have a relationship with is your own choice, and it’s not really anyone else’s business.

The only advice I would like to give you on this subject, as an older friend, is not to let your relationship make you lose sight of pursuing your all-important personal development.

The purpose of your studies and after-school activities, such as team sports and clubs, is to build a foundation for your life, to make you a strong person. Worries about your personality and your relations with friends are also nutrients for building a strong self.

The same is true of love. Love should help you grow as a person; it should invigorate you and help you realize your full potential. This is the basic premise. But as the saying “Love is blind” suggests, when people are in love, they often lose the ability to see themselves objectively.

If you allow your new relationship to worry your parents, to lead you into bad behavior, or to stop you from studying, then you and your partner are acting as negative influences on, or hindrances to, each other. Neither of you will be happy if you just end up hurting one another.

The question is: Does the person you like inspire you to work harder at your studies or distract you from them? Does their presence make you more determined to devote greater energies to after-school activities, be a better friend, a more thoughtful son or daughter? Do they inspire you to realize your future goals and work to achieve them? Or is that person your central focus, overshadowing all else, including your after-school activities, your friends and family, and even your goals for the future?

A relationship in which you both forget what you should be doing now, your goals and aims, is not good for either of you. A healthy relationship is one in which two people encourage each other to reach their respective goals while sharing each other’s hopes and dreams. A relationship should be a source of inspiration, invigoration, and hope to live your lives to the fullest.

Dante Alighieri is one of the greatest poets who ever lived. His great love, Beatrice, was his inspiration in life. He loved her from the time he was a boy, and then happened to meet her again by chance when he was eighteen. He wrote of the deep emotion he felt on that occasion in his poem “La Vita Nuova” (The New Life). As Dante struggled to find a way to express his feelings for Beatrice, he invented a new poetic form. Beatrice opened the door of artistic creation for him.

But his love for Beatrice would never be requited. She married another man, and died young. Yet, Dante kept loving her. His love forged, elevated, and deepened his spirit into something more lofty and noble. In his lifework, The Divine Comedy, Beatrice is depicted as a gentle, benevolent being who guides him to heaven.

Of course, Dante lived in a different age and perhaps a different country from you. But I think there are many things to be learned from this great poet who stayed true to his own feelings, whether they were reciprocated or not, and transformed them into his guiding inspiration in life. I truly believe that love should be a positive impetus for our lives, the driving force for living with strength and courage.

From Discussions on Youth, published in Japanese in March 1999.

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