Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 8:
Facing Illness [8.4]
8.4 Turning Illness into an Impetus for Growth
Referring to Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, President Ikeda affirms that Buddhism enables us to make illness into a positive value as an opportunity to achieve absolute happiness.
It is said that those who overcome a major illness deeply savor the taste of life. In Nichiren Buddhism, illness is regarded as an impetus for achieving the supreme objective of Buddhahood. The misfortune of a severe illness can become the stepping stone to a state of absolute happiness that endures for all eternity.
A famous passage from the Daishonin’s writings states: “Could not this illness of your husband’s 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). With these words, the Daishonin warmly encourages a female follower whose husband is suffering from illness. This guidance conveys his boundless and freely flowing wisdom and compassion.
It is certainly true that a painful illness can motivate us to begin chanting daimoku more earnestly and abundantly than usual. Such times of suffering are precisely when we need to make the flame of our faith burn higher than ever. What matters is whether we make our illness a starting point for embarking on a course to greater happiness, or the beginning of a decline toward misery.
The power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo not only produces a strong life force to help us overcome illness, but also transforms the karma in the depths of our being. It elevates our inner “self” to the world of Buddhahood and enables us to attain immeasurable good fortune that leads to an indestructible state of absolute happiness.
We can then brilliantly transform the negative condition of illness beyond the neutral condition of health into a more expansive, positive condition—moving our lives in the direction of happiness. What enables us to draw forth that power is indomitable faith—faith that can courageously turn even adversity into a springboard for tremendous growth.
Of course, faith cannot immediately cure every kind of illness. Each person has their own karma, and the strength of each person’s faith also differs. In addition, a struggle with illness can have a variety of profound meanings that cannot be fathomed by ordinary wisdom.
As long as we have strong faith, however, there is not the slightest doubt that we can transform our condition in the direction of health, happiness, and Buddhahood. From the perspective of life existing throughout the three existences of past, present, and future, we can move our life in the best possible direction, in the direction of happiness.
It is important to continue chanting earnestly and to keep our passionate commitment to kosen-rufu burning brightly in our hearts as long as we live. Such strong, thoroughly forged determination in faith is the primary force for serenely overcoming the sufferings of birth and death.
From a speech at a Wakayama Prefecture commemorative general meeting, Wakayama, March 24, 1988.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.