Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 8:
Facing Illness [8.2]
8.2 Transforming the Sufferings of Birth, Aging, Sickness, and Death
President Ikeda encourages members to resolve never to be defeated by illness and to strive for a life of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity.
Illness is one of the four universal sufferings that no one can escape. In that sense, our entire lives are a battle against illness, so there’s no need to fear it. By the same token, we shouldn’t make light of illness. It’s important to quickly take practical measures to get well.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Could not this illness . . . be the Buddha’s design, because the Vimalakirti and Nirvana sutras both teach that sick people will surely attain Buddhahood? Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way” (WND-1, 937).
We can use the suffering of illness as fuel to strengthen our faith and also to develop a deeper and more expansive state of life. In the light of the Mystic Law and viewed from the perspective of eternity, the struggle against illness is a test to enable us to attain happiness and victory.
True health is found in a positive attitude toward life that refuses to be defeated by anything.
The sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death can be transformed into a winning life imbued with the four noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity. This is the life of Soka, or value creation.
Falling ill is not a form of failure or defeat. It doesn’t happen because our faith is weak. When the suffering of illness occurs amid our efforts for kosen-rufu, it is the working of devilish influences trying to obstruct our attainment of Buddhahood. As such, we mustn’t let illness intimidate us. The Daishonin teaches us how to bring forth courage to face illness and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.
When you experience illness, the important thing is to rouse even stronger faith. Keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the determination to make this illness an opportunity to demonstrate the tremendous power of faith and achieve truly amazing growth as a human being.
The Daishonin writes: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?” (WND-1, 412).
The Mystic Law is the ultimate source of power for overcoming the sufferings of illness. It is the best of all medicines for our life. Mr. Toda often used to say: “The human body is one big pharmaceutical factory.”
If you are suffering from illness, it is important to keep chanting earnestly and persistently for the treatment you are now receiving to yield its greatest possible effectiveness and for the great life force of the Buddha to manifest itself in your body and vanquish the devil of illness. If you base your struggle with illness on faith in the Mystic Law, you can definitely transform all poison into medicine.
The Daishonin teaches: “Myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law] means to revive” (WND-1, 149).
In a letter to a follower with a sick family member, he says: “[This illness] cannot be the work of demons. Probably the ten demon daughters1 [protective deities in Buddhism] are testing the strength of your faith” (WND-1, 899). In other words, the benevolent forces of the universe cannot fail to protect the practitioners of the Mystic Law. He is telling the family: “You can overcome this!”
In another letter, the Daishonin writes: “The sun breaks through the pitch-black dark,” and “The Lotus Sutra is compared to the sun” (WND-1, 315). As Soka Gakkai members who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and base our lives on the Mystic Law, a bright sun of hope shines ever in our hearts. We can dispel all darkness and cast off even the heaviest chains of karma.
In struggling against illness for both ourselves and others, we can attain a state of shining health.
Chant daimoku, trusting in the power of the Gohonzon. Strive fearlessly and patiently. Refuse to accept defeat. Never retreat a single step. In the end, you are certain to triumph!
[Concerning emotional or psychological disorders, such as depression:]
Life is long, and there is no need to rush things. I think it’s prudent in the case of psychological disorders to seek professional advice and take time to get proper care and treatment. Everyone’s situation is different. There is no universal prescription or panacea. But there is one point I wish to emphasize: I can affirm that none of you who uphold the Mystic Law is destined to be unhappy.
We should warmly support and watch over those struggling with mental health issues, keeping their long-term welfare always in mind, and also sincerely encourage their family members. Those caring for others with emotional or psychological disorders face a great challenge, too, and they should try to find creative ways to take a break and refresh themselves.
Showing care and support for those suffering from emotional illnesses will lead to the cultivation of a truly deep spirit of compassion and also to the creation of a richly humanistic society.
Those who have experienced great suffering can develop into outstanding people. Those who have undergone painful trials can help many others. Such individuals have an important mission. This is the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism and the bodhisattva way of life.
Mr. Toda remarked: “Outwardly, we might look like a ‘Bodhisattva Poverty’ or ‘Bodhisattva Sickness,’ but that is merely a role we’re playing in the drama of life. We are in fact bona fide Bodhisattvas of the Earth!2” He also said: “People who have battled serious illness really understand the profundity of life.”
Everything in life has a meaning.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Even the jewels and treasures that fill the major world system are no substitute for life” (WND-1, 1019). Though one may be ill, this has no bearing on the inherent nobility, dignity, and beauty of one’s life. Everyone, without exception, is an infinitely precious and noble treasure.
From “To My Young Friends—Leaders of a New Age,” published in Japanese, July 25–27, 2012.
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 practitioners.
- *2Bodhisattvas of the Earth: An innumerable host of bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and to whom Shakyamuni Buddha entrusts the propagation of the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Day of the Law.