Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 5:
Transforming Suffering into Joy [5.4]
5.4 Creating the Future with the Buddhism of True Cause
Buddhism teaches the principle of cause and effect in our lives—that our present situation is the effect caused by our past actions. Nichiren Buddhism, however, teaches the “true cause”—that we are not bound by our past but are always embarking from the present moment into the future.
It often seems that people only begin to seriously consider the nature of cause and effect or what it means to lead a happy life when they experience acute suffering themselves. When all is going smoothly, they tend not to give much thought to the truly important things in life. In that sense, difficulties play a crucial role in helping us lead deeper and more meaningful lives. In fact, that’s how we should look at them.
No life is utterly without problems or difficulties. All too often, seemingly happy life circumstances can become a cause of suffering and unhappiness. This is something we come to recognize more and more as we mature in years and experience.
A married couple’s happiness, for instance, may be shattered when their child is born with a serious illness. All sorts of unanticipated events can assail us—a sudden economic downturn, a fire or accident, family discord, divorce, difficult personal relationships. They can even sometimes lead to lifelong suffering. It is truly the case that we never know what tomorrow brings. None can declare with certainty that they will never encounter misfortune.
Even those who enjoy security and tranquillity can come to feel that their lives have no meaning as they age. There are still others who always seem to be busily engaged in purposeful endeavors, but are in reality simply trying to escape loneliness and emptiness by doing so, unwilling to reflect on themselves or their lives.
Behind a smile might lie sadness. After pleasure might come emptiness. Problems and suffering are inescapable realities of life. And yet, we must go on living. How, then, should we live? How can we change suffering into true joy? The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin has the answer to these important and fundamental questions.
The Daishonin’s Buddhism is the Buddhism of true cause.1 It is a great, revolutionary teaching. It reveals that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental cause for attaining enlightenment and that, by simply embracing the Gohonzon, we can acquire in this lifetime all the practices and virtues of the Buddha.2
The Daishonin’s Buddhism focuses on the present and the future. Its essence is for us to always keep advancing while looking toward and brightly illuminating the future.
Practicing this Buddhism doesn’t mean that problems and suffering disappear. The reality of life is that, within any of the Ten Worlds,3 the other nine are always present—hence, the nine worlds characterized by delusion and suffering also exist within the world of Buddhahood. Likewise, the world of Buddhahood can only express itself within the reality of the other nine worlds.
The important thing is to remain undaunted when difficulties arise, to firmly believe that they are expressions of the Buddha’s compassion and forge ahead with even stronger faith.
Some may weakly succumb to doubt and question why they still have problems even though they are practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism. But such a weak way of thinking will—in accord with the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life”4—come to permeate every aspect of their lives and create a state of even greater suffering. This is the opposite of having strong faith.
As ordinary people, we may not be able to fathom why a particular event happens at a particular time, but over the long term we will come to understand its meaning. We will also be able to positively transform the situation, changing poison into medicine. I can say this with complete confidence based on my personal experience of more than four decades of Buddhist practice. We may not understand the significance of a certain event until five or ten years later, or it may even take a lifetime. However, from the perspective of the eternity of life spanning the three existences, everything has meaning as an expression of the Buddha wisdom.
From a speech at a nationwide youth division leaders meeting, Tokyo, April 29, 1988.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1True cause: Also, mystic principle of the true cause. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism directly expounds the true cause for enlightenment as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the Law of life and the universe. It teaches a way of Buddhist practice of always moving forward from this moment on based on this fundamental Law.
- *2Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in these five characters, we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was” (WND-1, 365).
- *3Ten Worlds: The realms of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings, heavenly beings, voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones, bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. They are also referred to as the ten life states of hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity, heaven, learning, realization, bodhisattva, and Buddhahood.
- *4Three thousand realms in a single moment of life: A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world.