Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 5:
Transforming Suffering into Joy [5.9]
5.9 Winter Always Turns to Spring
President Ikeda encourages us to look to the future with confidence and determination.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Winter always turns to spring” (WND-1, 536). Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra may seem to be in winter, he says, but winter will definitely give way to spring.
These words of the Daishonin have enabled countless individuals to find their way forward to a springtime of rebirth, a springtime in life. It is one of our eternal guidelines, and its message, without a doubt, will continue to impart boundless hope to billions of people around the world who are searching for true happiness. Let us then consider the infinite compassion of the Daishonin that is embodied in these words.
He wrote them to encourage the lay nun Myoichi. Her husband had been a person of strong faith. After the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, he was stripped of his estate because of his faith in the Daishonin’s teachings. Those who are in the right are often persecuted—that is the unfortunate way of our corrupt world, a constant we can observe in every country and every age. While the Daishonin was in exile on Sado, Myoichi’s husband died, remaining steadfast in faith to the end of his life. He left behind his wife who was elderly and frail, a son who was ill, and also a daughter.
The Daishonin was very aware of the lay nun’s situation. In his letter, he imagined how grieved her husband must have been to leave her and their children behind, worried about what would become of them when he was no longer there, and how he would also have been anxious about the fate of the Daishonin (cf. WND-1, 535–36).
As I mentioned, Myoichi’s husband died while the Daishonin was still in exile on Sado, an island of freezing winters from which few exiles returned alive. His heart must have been filled with sorrow and concern for the Daishonin.
Thinking of his courageous disciple who had passed away amid severe hardship, the Daishonin writes:
“Perhaps your husband felt that certainly something would happen and this priest [Nichiren] would become highly respected. When I was exiled [to Sado] contrary to his expectations, he must have wondered how the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters1 could possibly have allowed it to happen. Were he still living, how delighted he would be to see Nichiren pardoned!”2 (WND-1, 536)
As this passage and other letters indicate, many of the Daishonin’s disciples had expected that he would achieve a position of acclaim and honor. In reality, however, his life was filled with endless persecution. He was defamed and ridiculed throughout the land and subjected to unrelenting harassment. Among his followers were some who had expected their own reputations to rise along with the Daishonin’s, but when their hopes in this regard were dashed they abandoned their Buddhist practice or joined the ranks of the Daishonin’s opponents. They conspired with the authorities and began to maneuver behind the scenes to harm their former teacher and fellow practitioners.
Yet even amid all this, Myoichi’s husband remained true and steadfast in his convictions. He must have dreamed of the Daishonin’s triumphant return and been angered and pained at the mean-spirited betrayal by some of his followers.
The Daishonin knew what was going on in his disciples’ minds. He was fully aware of everything. He refused to compromise in the slightest degree with evil and injustice and confronted persecution head-on.
That is why the Daishonin writes that Myoichi’s deceased husband would surely have been delighted and overjoyed at the Daishonin’s safe return from Sado—an outcome that no one at the time had expected. This passage powerfully communicates his wish that his faithful follower, who had stood by him through great hardships, could witness his victory and rejoice along with him.
In the same letter, the Daishonin writes that Myoichi’s late husband would also have been glad to see that the Daishonin’s prediction of a Mongol invasion had come true, affirming the correctness of his assertions. Though foreign invasion, of course, was a tragic event for the country, such a reaction from a disciple was simply a matter of human nature, he points out, “the feelings of ordinary people” (WND-1, 536).
No doubt upon reading this, the lay nun Myoichi felt she could hear the Daishonin’s voice saying: “We are united in our joys and sufferings.”
The Daishonin’s words “winter always turns to spring” are written with regard to the circumstances just described. He is telling her, in effect: “Your husband died in ‘winter.’ But ‘spring’ has now arrived. Winter always turns to spring. Live out your life to the fullest. Those who remain true to their convictions are sure to attain Buddhahood. You cannot fail to become happy. Your husband is most certainly watching over you and your family.”
In addition, with deep care and compassion, the Daishonin assures Myoichi that he stands ready to look after her children if the time ever arises (cf. WND-1, 536). Such limitless kindness and warm humanity are the lifeblood of the compassionate Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. There is not the slightest trace of authoritarianism. How wonderful!
The words “Winter always turns to spring” can also be read as an expression of the Daishonin’s own conviction and actual proof, having experienced the spring of victory after weathering the bleakest circumstances during his exile on Sado.
The Daishonin faced persecution after persecution, trials that could not be surmounted without the power of Buddhahood. Ordinarily, someone subject to such ongoing persecution would most likely fall ill, have a nervous breakdown, commit suicide, or end up being killed. The Daishonin, however, triumphed over every adversity. He survived and lived on. For the sake of all humankind, he transmitted the Buddhism of the Three Great Secret Laws for the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law. We must be deeply aware of his immense compassion in doing so.
The lay nun Myoichi was no doubt profoundly moved by the Daishonin’s message calling on his followers to observe his victory of “winter turning into spring” and to adopt it as a model in their own lives.
We also need to attain our own “spring of happiness”—not only for ourselves but also for the sake of our fellow members who have striven alongside us for many long years. It is important for us to set an example so that those coming after us can look at us, rejoice, and say: “How wonderful! Those who continue practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism become outstanding people and attain happiness!”
Over the past decade, I have attained a “spring of victory” that no one could have imagined. It is all due to my single-minded commitment to do this for the sake of kosen-rufu and for my fellow members.
Seniors in faith have a responsibility to demonstrate victory, for the sake of their fellow members who have been striving valiantly for kosen-rufu. By victory, of course, I do not mean the external trappings of worldly success or superficial honors. True victory exists in realizing the great uncrowned state of having joyfully and confidently fulfilled one’s mission in life, as a human being and as a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.
Spring is the time when flowers bloom. But in order to bloom, flowers need the cold of winter. What would happen if there was no winter?
In autumn, plants that bloom in spring prepare to enter a period of dormancy, or recharging. They start saving energy for the coming spring. If there is a sudden warm spell during their dormancy in winter and they are awakened, the buds waiting for spring’s arrival start to open before they are ready, and when the winter cold returns, they wither and die. To prevent that from happening, plants will not bloom unless they have fully experienced the cold of winter. This is the “wisdom” of plants that enables them to bloom in spring.
Life and Buddhist practice also follow this principle. A winter of adversity is the time to recharge our batteries and temper ourselves for the arrival of a wonderful spring. In life’s winters, the eternal and indestructible energy for attaining Buddhahood is stored up, and life force as vast as the universe is forged. This energy, in addition, grows in response to adversity and hardship. And all who practice the correct teaching of Buddhism will without fail experience the coming of spring.
But if, in the difficult times of life’s winters, we try to avoid or doubt the realm in which we strengthen our faith, and as a result we fail to accumulate enough strength and good fortune, we will never get anywhere, nor be able to lead a truly satisfying life. The crucial thing is how we challenge ourselves and how meaningfully we spend our time during life’s winters. What matters is how deeply we live with the conviction that spring will definitely arrive. In the realm of nature, the flowering springtime always comes when the time is right. That is the rhythm of life and the universe. But far too many people in the world are still in the midst of winter when they reach the end of their lives. To avoid that fate, we need to align our lives with the rhythm of the universe that calls forth spring. And our Buddhist practice based on faith in the Mystic Law is what enables us to do that.
In that sense, faith in the Mystic Law functions as our wings to eternal happiness. Every time we overcome difficulties, we accumulate good fortune and elevate our state of life. By attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, we are able to soar serenely through the vast skies of life in a state of supreme happiness and fulfillment throughout eternity. This is the teaching of Buddhism and the rhythm of life.
From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, April 29, 1990.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under 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 votaries.
- *2The Daishonin had been pardoned the previous year, in March 1274, and was residing at Minobu when he wrote this letter, “Winter Always Turns to Spring,” dated May 1275.