Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 20: Encouragement for Youth [20.7]
20.7 Live with an Invincible Spirit
Youth can be a time of emotional ups and downs, of being overly swayed by circumstances and feeling a sense of hopelessness and despair. For that reason, in this guidance for junior high school division members, President Ikeda stresses the importance of young people forging ahead with an invincible spirit.
Fortunate circumstances don’t guarantee happiness, and, conversely, hard circumstances don’t guarantee that one will be unhappy.
Our environment doesn’t decide our happiness; we do. We are either defeated by our environment or we triumph over it. That’s what determines our happiness.
This doesn’t just apply to school. There are many troubling, painful, unpleasant, and worrisome things in life.
When you face such things, you have two options. You can complain, blame the environment, and be defeated. Some may express sympathy for you, but, ultimately, you’re the one to lose out, and anything you say will really be just an excuse. The second option is to live with an invincible spirit, blazing your own way regardless of your environment. The choice is up to you.
In India, the caste system remains a deeply rooted social custom. It divides people into different social roles and ranks from birth. But there is someone who, though born into the lowest caste, rose to become president of India.
That is the current president [in 2000], Mr. K. R. Narayanan, with whom I have been friends for some time. Mr. Narayanan was the fourth of seven children. The family was destitute. Their home had no bath, and he was always hungry. Going to school each day meant walking seven kilometers there and back. During the rainy season, the mud came up to his ankles. On those long walks, he was always reading. He couldn’t afford to buy books, so he would eagerly read any newspapers or books he came across and take detailed notes.
Recognizing his love of study, Mr. Narayanan’s elder siblings gave up their chance to go to elementary school so that he could get an education. But even then, the family often could not afford to pay his tuition. He was punished for this by being forced to stand outside the classroom, but he refused to let this get him down. He would simply strain to hear every word of instruction going on inside. Eventually, he was awarded a scholarship, one that had been established by Mahatma Gandhi, and was able to continue his studies. He graduated from university at the top of his class and became a diplomat. He recalls his youthful hardships with a smile. Because a diplomat had to be thick-skinned, he says, being forced to stand outside where all of his classmates could see him was good training.
He is a strong person. Strong people are happy. Happiness is found in a strong, resilient spirit.
It’s possible for us to open a great path of hope so long as we don’t succumb to the weakness of blaming others for everything that happens to us. We have to decide, “It’s all up to me! I have to be strong.” Complaining and making excuses is very unattractive. Blaming everything on your teachers, your parents, your friends—blaming others is not a very admirable way to live.
Napoleon Bonaparte declared that the environment was his to make. Decide never to blame your environment, but instead to create the environment you desire.
I have always believed that, as young people with a mission, you cannot be defeated. Because you were born to win! Therefore, take aim at your dreams and strive your hardest to make them come true.
Even if you take a long, roundabout way to get there, what matters is that you succeed in crossing the finish line in the end. Become strong. Strong people are happy people.
Those who respond to painful circumstances by gritting their teeth and trying their hardest can obtain a rare and elusive treasure. In contrast, weak people, no matter how favorable their circumstances, will somehow turn those circumstances into a negative influence in their lives.
The way of life you choose determines your future. No one else makes the decision. No one else is to blame. It’s entirely up to you, to how you live your life.
If you just let your environment control you, it becomes the main actor in your life. That is a regrettable way to live. You are the main actor, the one who determines the course of your own life.
From Dialogue of Hope, published in Japanese in June 2003.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.