Words of Wisdom by Daisaku Ikeda Appreciation Recognizing that people helped you become who you are is the first step of gratitude and appreciation. Repaying a debt of gratitude completes the circle of appreciation and shows those who helped you that their efforts made a positive influence on you and reflects positively on them. The expression thank you contains the essence of happiness and respect. Those who really appreciate the heart of these two words and use them generously are more eloquent than the most skilled speakers. "Thank you" is a miraculous expression. We feel good when we say it, and we feel good when we hear it. When we speak or hear the words thank you, the armor falls from our hearts and we communicate on the deepest level." Attitude When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success. On the other hand, if you think, "This is never going to work out," then at that instant every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight. Then everything really will move in the direction of failure. The ungrateful feel that it is below them to show any kind of appreciation. They are under the delusion that showing gratitude to others diminishes their own worth. But it is this sense of appreciation that elevates, enriches and expands the human spirit. A lack of gratitude is actually a sign of arrogance. It is senseless to blame others or your environment for your miseries. Change begins from the moment you muster the courage to act. When you change, the environment will change. The power to change the world is found nowhere but within our own life. None of us can exist in isolation. Our lives and existence are supported by others in seen and unseen ways, be it by parents, mentors or society at large. To be aware of these connections, to feel appreciation for them, and to strive to give something back to society in a spirit of gratitude is the proper way for human beings to live. The misfortune of others is our misfortune. Our happiness is the happiness of others. To see ourselves in others and feel an inner sense of unity with them represents a fundamental revolution in the way we view and live our lives. Therefore, discriminating against another person is the same as discriminating
against ourselves. When we hurt another, we are hurting ourselves. And when we respect others, we respect and elevate our own lives as well. Human Revolution The Japanese phrase for human revolution is Ningen Kakumei. Nin means “person” and gen means “between,” kakumei means “revolution.” This tells us that change is initiated in the space between people. It happens within the sphere of our interactions and relationships with others, and not at home alone. The only way to hone and polish our character is through interaction with others.
Courage Courage is the force that creates history. The important thing is to take that first step. Bravely overcoming one small fear gives you the courage to take on the next. It takes courage to become happy -- courage to remain true to one's convictions, courage not to be defeated by one's weaknesses and negativity, courage to take swift action to help those who are suffering. No matter how wonderful our dreams, how noble our ideals, or how high our hopes, ultimately we need courage to make them a reality. Without action, it's as if they never existed. Creativity Music could perhaps be called the most truly human form of dialogue we are capable of. Though people may differ in the color of their skin, the language they speak, their customs and ways, or the material culture which surrounds them, the power of music makes it possible for them to instantly communicate and respond to each other's innermost feelings Culture is an elevated expression of the inner voice which the different peoples of the Earth have heard in the depths of their being, a voice which conveys the vibrant compassion and wisdom of the cosmic life. For different cultures to engage in interaction is to catalyze each other's souls and foster mutual understanding. How aware are we of our own inner life, our spirituality-something so intangible yet so priceless? How much effort do we make to perceive that which is not
obvious, which can neither be seen nor heard? I believe the exploration and enrichment of the human spirit is what determines our very humanity. Such enrichment provides an inner compass that can lead civilizations to greatness. The times when I have most intensely felt and experienced the inner reality of creation have been those times when I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into a task, when I have carried through with that task to the very end. At such times, I experience a dramatically expanded sense of self. I can almost hear the joyous yell of victory issuing from the depths of my being. This sense of fulfillment and joy is the crystallization of all the effort-each drop of sweat, each tear-expended to reach that moment. Life's inherent creativity, its dynamic vitality, is brought to the surface only through the strenuous exertions of a life of consistent action. Such a way of life will meet with storms and heavy rains, times of seeming defeat. But the creative essence of life is never crushed or vanquished by such things. It is sustained by knowledge of the brilliant rainbow whose bright arch will eventually stretch across the inner expanse of your being. Indulgence and indolence produce nothing creative. Complaints and evasions reflect a cowardly spirit; they corrupt and undermine life's natural creative thrust. When life is denuded of the will to struggle creatively, it sinks into a state of hellish destructiveness directed at all that lives. Never for an instant forget the effort to renew your life, to build yourself anew. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself. This is not an easy task. Indeed, it may be the most severely challenging struggle there is. For opening the door to your own life is in the end more difficult than opening the door to all the mysteries of the universe. But to do so is to vindicate your existence as human beings. Even more, it is the mode of existence that is authentically attuned to the innermost truths of life itself; it makes us worthy of the gift of life. There is no way of life more desolate or more pitiful than one of ignorance of the fundamental joy that issues from the struggle to generate and regenerate one's own life from within. To be human is much more than the mere biological facts of standing erect and exercising reason and intelligence. The full and genuine meaning of our humanity is found in tapping the creative fonts of life itself. The struggle to create new life from within is a truly wonderful thing. There is found the brilliant wisdom that guides and directs the workings of reason; the light of insight that penetrates the farthest reaches of the universe; the undaunted will to see justice done that meets and challenges all the assaults of evil; the spirit of unbounded care that embraces all who suffer. When these are fused with that energy of compassion that pours forth from the deepest sources of cosmic life, an ecstatic rhythm arises to color the lives of all people.
As you meet various trials and difficulties, thus polishing all the many facets of the jewel which is life, you will learn to walk that supreme pathway of humanity. Of this, I am confident, and I am confident too that those who embrace life's native creativity now stand and will continue to stand in the vanguard of history. Bringing the creativity of life to its fullest flowering is the work of human revolution. Carrying out this kind of human revolution is your mission now as it will be throughout your lives. Oneness of Mentor and Disciple The relationship between mentor and disciple can be likened to that between needle and thread. The mentor is the needle and the disciple is the thread. When sewing, the needle leads the way through the cloth, but in the end it is unnecessary and it is the thread that remains and holds everything together. All of you have a mission to pass on and keep alive the heritage of kosen-rufu, and the lofty spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple. Buddhism teaches that the person we should look up to as a correct teacher is the one who has experienced persecutions for the sake of the Law and has battled the three powerful enemies one won. The mentor-disciple relationship is the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism. When the mentor and disciple are united in purpose, they can accomplish anything. In both our own human revolution and in the challenge to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land, steadfastly adhering to the path of mentor disciple is the direct path to absolute victory. One profoundly encouraging aspect of the path of mentor and disciple as taught in Buddhism is that the mentors themselves manifest and embody the essence of the Buddhist teachings in their lives as ordinary human beings. By setting a personal example of the dignity and nobility inherent in human life, they inspire others and spur them to walk the same illustrious path. Following the mentor's lead, these awakened disciples proceed in the same spirit to take action to make a difference in the world. Difficulties When we find ourselves facing adversity, we may think we've reached our limit, but actually the more trying the circumstances, the closer we are to making a breakthrough. The darker the night, the nearer the dawn. Victory in life is decided by that last concentrated burst of energy filled with the resolve to win. Life is a constant battle against deadlock. As long as we are alive, as long as we continue challenging ourselves, we are bound to come up against difficult 4
obstacles that need to be overcome. If life were all smooth sailing, if we never encountered setbacks, that in itself would be a sign of stagnation. Rise to the challenges that life presents you. You can't develop genuine character and ability by sidestepping adversity and struggle. The economy is after all driven by people. No matter how dire the situation may be, as long as people are firm, a turnaround, revival and progress can be possible. Reality is harsh. It can be cruel and ugly. Yet no matter how much we grieve over our environment and circumstances nothing will change. What is important is not to be defeated, to forge ahead bravely. If we do this, a path will open before us. A person's true nature is revealed at times of the greatest adversity. Life without hardships may seem more attractive, but it is a shallow, lackluster thing. Even places that have been shrouded in darkness for billions of years can be illuminated. Even a stone from the bottom of a river can be used to produce fire. Our present sufferings, no matter how dark, have certainly not continued for billions of years-nor will they linger forever. The sun will definitely rise. In fact, its ascent has already begun. Anyone can hit a wall. The anguish felt then is proof of one's desire to move forward. But all is for naught if you falter at that moment. Action-that is the key to breaking through an impasse. Why doesn't constant trampling defeat the dandelion? The key to its strength is its long and sturdy root, which extends deep into the earth. The same principle applies to people. The true victors in life are those who, enduring repeated challenges and setbacks, have sent the roots of their being to such a depth that nothing can shake them. No one can better bask in summer's balm than those who have endured winter's bite. Similarly, it is those who have suffered through life's darkest hours who are able to truly savor the bright dawn of happiness. The person who has transformed the worst of fate into the best of fortune is life's champion. There is a saying that the earth upon which we fall is the same ground which enables us to push ourselves up again. There's another which maintains that barley grows better after it has been trampled on. Human relationships are sometimes painful, but there is no such pain from which we cannot recover. It is up to us to decide to live a life free from self-doubt and despair in spite of our failures. Indeed, it is during our most humbling moments that we should show greatest poise and grace. Then the dignity of our lives will truly shine.
Happiness A peaceful life does not mean a life free of toil and suffering, rather it means living without being swayed no matter what happens. This is a state of true peace and happiness. The truth is that devoting ourselves to others' happiness is actually a necessary condition for becoming genuinely happy ourselves. The more happiness we bring to others, the happier we ourselves become. The joy of life is to be found not by evading life's sufferings but by grappling with them to the finish. True happiness is not born of escape; ecstasy based on delusion does not continue. Enlightenment comes from seeing the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. If, as Buddhism teaches, "all is in flux, and there is no permanence," how do we cope with the world around us? Do we flee from it? Do we merely resign ourselves to the fleeting nature of life? Or do we challenge it? In fact, an appreciation of the constantly changing nature of all things is the key to happiness, for it means that no matter how bad a situation is, it will change. No misfortune is permanent; no misfortune insurmountable. Happiness does not exist as an isolated quality, nor does it conform to a single fixed pattern. Happiness is something that breathes and lives in the relationships between one person and another. Leave behind the passive dreaming of a rose-tinted future. The energy of happiness exists in living today with roots sunk firmly in reality's soil. It is impossible to build one's own happiness on the unhappiness of others. This perspective is at the heart of Buddhist teachings. The exclusive pursuit of one's own interests cannot bring true happiness. It is in striving for the sake of others that the great path to genuine happiness is opened. Where is happiness to be found? How can we become happy? Happiness is not a question of how you look to others. Rather it is a matter of what you yourself feel inside; it is a deep answering response in your life. One cannot expect to become happy without hardship or effort. Because we challenge ourselves we become strong. To become strong is to become happy. The purpose of life is to become happy. The purpose of life is to challenge and triumph over the darkness of misery.
There is no happiness without hardship. So often, we strive to reach the destination of happiness without walking the road of struggles and challenges which leads us there.
True happiness means forging a strong spirit that is undefeated, no matter how trying our circumstances. Freedom doesn't mean the absence of all restrictions. It means possessing unshakable conviction in the face of any obstacle. This is true freedom. Genuine happiness is found in courage. Courage is the gateway to happiness. Happiness doesn't exist on the far side of distant mountains. It is within you, yourself. Not you, however, sitting in idle passivity. It is to be found in the vibrant dynamism of your own life as you struggle to challenge and overcome one obstacle after another, as you clamber up a perilous ridge in pursuit of that which lies beyond. Poverty is nothing to be ashamed of. What's disgraceful is to have an impoverished heart or to live dishonestly. Being born in a stately mansion is no guarantee of happiness, any more than being born in a shack dooms one to misery. When seen from the perspective of life's true value, whether a person is rich or poor is a marginal issue at best. The truly impoverished are those who are wealthier than others who take themselves too seriously and look down upon the less affluent. Happiness will never be a handout; it's something we create with our own hands. If you want to build a happy life, you have to give careful thought to the foundations. Happiness certainly cannot be secured on appearances or affectation. Happiness comes down to the inner state of our life at a given moment. When we draw strength from within, our outlook undergoes a dramatic transformation; everything around us looks completely different. To be strongthat is the key to happiness. Where can we find happiness? Happiness is not found in a tranquil life free of storms and tempests. Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realize our goals, in our efforts to move forward.
As long as we are alive we will experience sufferings. But that does not mean we have to be unhappy. Unhappiness comes from allowing ourselves to be controlled by life's ups and downs-from feeling defeated, from losing hope, losing courage, losing the will to advance. We each move forward secure on our own earth, not the earth of others. Happiness is something we must create for ourselves. No one else can give it to us. Health & Illness A critical illness gives one a chance to think of one's death and reflect on one's life. One can use the suffering of illness to face these deepest issues of life and death. Suffering is the fuel of wisdom, and it opens the way to happiness. Illness, for example, can help us gain insight into the meaning of life, develop a deeper appreciation of life's value and dignity and ultimately enjoy a more fulfilling existence. Health is not simply the absence of illness. Real health is the will to overcome every form of adversity and use even the worst of circumstances as a springboard for new growth and development. Simply put, the essence of health is the constant renewal and rejuvenation of life. The key to battling illness lies in summoning a vigorous life-force and a positive fighting spirit. This brings out the full effectiveness of a curative treatment. Life is tenacious; it is endowed with the impulse to survive and the power to heal. Ultimately, it is we ourselves who cure our illness, and the decision to undertake this battle arises from within. Confronting illness can be an opportunity to awaken to the profundity of life. A person who has faced a major illness knows how to deeply savor life. Illness is part of life. From the perspective of Buddhism, the important thing is to summon the courage to fight it with the determination to make a breakthrough. True health is found in a positive and constructive attitude. Is health a state where one's body is simply free of disease? Good health is mustering a robust attitude to aggressively combat any malicious threats to our well-being. It is in this unyielding resolve to fight, challenge, create and ceaselessly advance that we find the basis of true human health.
Sickness and death are unavoidable in life. To experience illness is not itself misfortune, but to be defeated by illness is misfortune. Illness is not something to feel ashamed of. It is not a sign of misfortune or defeat. Suffering is the fuel of wisdom, and it opens the way to happiness. Through illness, human beings can gain insight into the meaning of life, understand its value and dignity, and strive to lead more fulfilling lives. One should take advantage of the power of medical science to regain one's health. But it is the inherent power of life within us that will ultimately bring out the benefit of the treatment. Human life is indeed wondrous. You may be ill physically, but as long as your mental state is strong, it most certainly will exert a positive influence on your body. There may be no better remedy than hope. Human Relationships To the extent that we contemplate ourselves and elevate our state of life, we can deepen our understanding of others. Someone who does so is capable of recognizing and treasuring people's individuality. A person of wisdom tries to invigorate others and bring out the best in them. Words spoken from the heart and filled with a powerful wish for someone's happiness can deeply touch that person's life and revive his or her spirit, becoming a source of lifelong inspiration. Superficial words do not touch other people's lives. It is necessary to pour one's entire being into our words in order to wholeheartedly encourage others.
In order to overcome our prejudices, we must constantly strive to develop the habit of looking at ourselves from the point of view of others. Realizing that all people have both good points and bad, in the end the important thing is to strive to combat our own inner obstinacy and narrow-mindedness. Friendly greetings serve as an opening to heart-to-heart exchange from which we can set out onto the great ocean of friendship. When you are sincere in your consideration for others, in even the most trifling matters, you can bring about a complete change in the world around you.
One who treats others with contempt will eventually find himself shunned and disliked by those around him. Anyone who becomes ensnared in selfishness will discover that in the end he is the one who suffers. On the other hand, a person who shows respect for others will not only come to be respected himself, but will also help spread an attitude of respect for others throughout society. No matter how strong the hostility another person may feel toward you, if you approach them in an attitude of sincerity and truth, they will invariably abandon their ill will and respond with friendliness. A sense of sincerity is the one thing that somehow, in a very subtle way, gets across to others. Human beings perhaps possess some deep inner power that allows them to sense sincerity instinctively. Whatever the case, the degree to which they can do so is almost frightening. To the extent that we love others, we will be loved. To the extent that we work for others' happiness, we will enjoy protection and support. This is the law of cause and effect. To encourage another is an intense task of inspiration, of rekindling their life energy and calling forth their indomitable spirit. Underlying this must be an earnest wish for their happiness. The bamboo groves of autumn are beautiful. Each bamboo tree stands independently, growing straight and tall toward the sky. Yet in the ground, out of sight, their roots are interconnected. In the same way, true friendship is an enduring bond that connects self-reliant individuals. Generosity of spirit to respect those whose character and personality are different from yours is the very foundation of friendship. Buddhism teaches that powerful opponents can actually be our greatest allies, because they enable us to forge strength of character and develop fortitude. I believe friendship is the most genuinely humane relationship of which we are capable. To be understood and appreciated for oneself is a vital experience in life. It is this time and this place that matter--not some other time or place. What matters is here and now--the people here and now.
It is important to keep the promises made to friends. This is the true meaning of friendship. To become people who can do so, however, we must first learn to keep the promises we have made to ourselves. If you remain sincere in your interactions with others, you will naturally come to find yourself surrounded by good friends. Friendship is the most beautiful, most powerful and most valuable treasure in life. It is your true wealth. No matter how much status people may gain or how rich they may become, a life without friends leads to an unbalanced, self-centered existence. There is no true joy in a life lived closed up in the little shell of the self. When you take one step to reach out to people, when you meet with others and share their thoughts and sufferings, infinite compassion and wisdom well up within your heart. Your life is transformed. Friendship is tested and proven in adversity. Perhaps only those who have suffered truly demoralizing blows can fully appreciate the beauty of friendship. Just as a spring breeze awakens tender new shoots of green, sincere encouragement can thaw a frozen heart and instill courage. It is the most powerful means to rejuvenate the human spirit. "Thank you" is a miraculous expression. We feel good when we say it, and we feel good when we hear it. When we speak or hear the words thank you, the armor falls from our hearts and we communicate on the deepest level. Friendship is not a matter of the amount of time you spend with someone. Rather, it is a measure of the strength and depth of the spiritual resonance that arises between you. In Japan, the mountain potatoes known as taros are rough and dirty when harvested, but when they are placed in a basin of running water together and rolled against each other, the skin peels away, leaving the potatoes shining clean and ready for cooking. Similarly, the only way for us to hone and polish our character is through our interactions with others. Genuine sincerity opens people's hearts, while manipulation causes them to close.
A Buddhist scripture states that "the voice does the Buddha's work." The voice has the power to convey one's compassion for another. No matter how much you care, the sentiment alone will not communicate itself. When your feelings are conveyed in words, your voice will have the immense power to move another person's heart. The heart of one person moves another's. ... If one's own heart is closed, then the doors of other people's hearts will also shut tight. On the other hand, someone who makes all those around him or her into allies, bathing them in the sunlight of spring, will be treasured by all. It is much more valuable to look for the strengths in others-you gain nothing by criticizing people's imperfections. To commiserate with, to feel pity for, another falls short of genuine compassion. Understanding is key. People manage to draw the strength to carry on simply knowing that there is someone out there that understands them unconditionally. You cannot judge the quality of another's friendship by superficial appearances, especially when things are going smoothly. It is only when we have experienced the worst, most crushing of times-when we have plumbed the depths of life-that we can experience the joys of genuine friendship. Only a man of principle, a woman of resolve-a person who stays true to their chosen path-can be a trusted and true friend, and have real friends in turn. People who come to your aid in a time of personal crisis are people of genuine compassion and courage. More often than not, people will try to act as though nothing is wrong. Others are either afraid or refuse to get involved, and quietly drift away. Our voice resonates with life. Because this is so, it can touch the lives of others. The caring and compassion imbued in your voice finds passage to the listener's soul, striking his or her heart and causing it to sing out; the human voice summons something profound from deep within, and can even compel a person into action. Hope Our hopes, desires and ambitions are powerful forces existing within us for the shaping of the future. They are the generating forces that create the future. To lose hope or give up one's goals because of the setbacks of the moment is to
diminish one's own life potential. Hopes, dreams, faith and a sense of mission enable us to open up our lives. When we limit ourselves with low expectations, the growth of the tree of happiness ceases. The power of growth, of improvement, the power to overcome all stagnation and break through every obstacle and transform a barren wasteland into a verdant field--that unstoppable power of hope resides right within your own heart. It wells up from the rich earth of your innermost being when you face the future without doubt or fear: "I can do more. I can grow. I can become a bigger and better human being." Life is a never-ending struggle to grow. No matter what kind of difficult situation one may find oneself in, some opening, some opportunity to fight one's way out, can always be found. What's most important is to hold fast to hope, to face the future with courage. Material wealth does not necessarily make for happiness. Nor does fame. Hope is life's greatest treasure. A life without hope is bleak and gray. If you have no hope, create some. Hope transforms pessimism into optimism. Hope is invincible. Hope changes everything. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy. Hope is the sun. It is light. It is passion. It is the fundamental force for life's blossoming.
Leadership An organization that is willing to change will thrive. It all starts from a leader who is willing to change him- or herself. Genuine leadership lies in care and attention to the fine details. To know the circumstances of each and every person and to exercise the utmost care; that is what it means to be a true leader.
Concern for young people is what separates a true leader from a despot. Despots manipulate young people. No matter how noble their messages, they only see youth as resources to exploit to satisfy their own purposes. Fighting spirit spreads like fire from one person to another. A leader's daring spirit will kindle flames of enthusiasm and inspire an entire organization. A true leader fosters young people and spurs them on to greater heights. Rather than judging people as competent or incompetent, it is best to look for each person's positive qualities. We should discover and praise their inherent strengths and abilities. Whether or not capable people are fostered comes down to the resolve and effort of the people who take responsibility for their growth. People who cease to grow can't inspire others. Leadership begins with challenging oneself. There are always able people; the challenge lies in discovering and fostering them. The irresponsible fail to see them and the self-centered cannot raise them. Wisdom doesn't come with position. It arises from one's sense of responsibility. Every person, no matter how accomplished, has shortcomings. Conversely, no matter how bad someone's negative tendencies, that person definitely has strong points. The key is to identify an individual's strengths and give him or her the opportunity to succeed. When one takes full responsibility, one's true greatness will manifest. That is when one's true strength wells forth. The onset of decline begins with the loss of the will to challenge oneself. This is true for both people and organizations. One must remain active. Slacken a bit and momentum is lost. It takes a lifetime of unrelenting struggle to build something worthy, but only a moment to destroy it. A person who cannot genuinely empathize with others can never excel as a leader. So much of what ails society today is the result of too many people in leadership positions who do not or cannot identify with the plight of their fellow men and women. It is in enduring pain and struggles that the earth of our humanity is cultivated. And it is from this earth that a capacity to be genuinely concerned for the welfare of others blossoms.
Fish rots from the head, as the saying goes. Organizations, too, degenerate from the top. Those who assume positions of leadership need to constantly strive to better themselves and to overcome the tendency to become arrogant. Life The voice is a mirror of our being, of our state of life. Our voice forthrightly reveals our true character, our cultivation as a human being. Our voices are ourselves. The voice is the vibration of the whole living entity. A person's being and character are revealed by their voice. The voice is our second face; we may conceal our true appearance but we cannot hide our voice. Life is a struggle, and ultimate victory is only decided in its final chapter. That is why it's important not to grow conceited in victory or become disheartened in defeat. Those who keep pressing onward toward a goal with tireless patience and persistence win in the end. In life, we should not be totally absorbed with only immediate realities. We must have ideals and strive to achieve them, transcending present realities. On the other hand we should not allow ourselves to become alienated from reality. We can change nothing unless our feet are planted firmly on the ground. Life is an ongoing succession of births and deaths. From this perspective, we must seek our goal and mission in something that transcends birth and death, something that we can give our whole life to. Only then can we tap the inexhaustible potential of life. In other words, we must advance beyond the mere struggle to stay alive and be prepared to ask ourselves for what purpose we live our lives. While it is important to win, it's even more important to remain undefeated no matter what happens. If you hope for a peaceful death as the final summation of your life, live each and every day with vitality, never failing to take everything that happens as an opportunity to open and expand your inner life, exerting yourself to the fullest in the place you find yourself now. If you lose today, win tomorrow. In this never-ending spirit of challenge is found the heart of a victor.
Being halfhearted is such a waste. If we go around as if we're half-asleep all the time, we can't hope to savor a life that is free of regret. Enthusiasm and vigor are vital ingredients for a fulfilling life. Whether it be individuals, organizations, nations, civilizations, all forms of life in nature--for all entities in this universe, life is an ongoing challenge. In this struggle we find the essence and unchanging truth of life. When one stops challenging, decline begins. Hardships make us strong. Problems give birth to wisdom. Sorrows cultivate compassion. Those who have suffered the most will become the happiest. The struggle between happiness and unhappiness is the story of human existence. The struggle between peace and war is the history of the human race. The power that leads us to eternal victory amid these struggles is the power of good within us. Life is the blossoming of flowers in the spring, the ripening of fruit in the fall, the rhythm of the earth and of nature. Life is the cry of cicadas signaling the end of summer, migratory birds winging south in a transparent autumn sky, fish frolicking in a stream. Life is the joy beautiful music instills in us, the thrilling sight of a mountain peak reddened by the rising sun, the myriad combinations and permutations of visible and invisible phenomena. Life is all things. Of course, people want to live long. But in the end, what matters more is what we have been able to leave behind -- the value we have created in our lives, the number of people we have made happy and how much we have been able to grow and expand as a person. Buddhism teaches that a single day of life is worth more than all the treasures of the universe. Everyone born in this world has a unique role that only he or she can fulfill. Were this not the case, we would not be here. The universe never acts without cause; everything invariably has a reason for being. Even the weeds people love to loathe serve a purpose. I might add that every cherry blossom has its own personality, a purpose and meaning in life that is unique to it-as do the plum, peach and damson. The course of our lives is determined by how we react--what we decide and what we do--at the darkest of times. The nature of that response determines a person's true worth and greatness. 16
When we are aware that each moment of each day, each gesture and step we take, is truly mystical and full of wonder, we will live our lives with greater thought and care. We will also have greater respect and appreciation for the lives of others. Live in a way that is full of life... for yourself, for your loved ones, for your friends. People who do so will find the courage to transform sufferings into hopes. Not only that, but they will be able to light the lamp of hope in the hearts of many others, as well. It would be pointless for a plum blossom to try to remake itself as a cherry blossom, no matter how deeply the plum yearns to do so. The plum is happiest when it blooms as itself in full glory. How much of the color and wonder of life would be lost if it weren't for our differences. Whether in life or in a specific undertaking, there will undoubtedly be times when you achieve genuine progress, only to come up against a wall or feel yourself regressing. There will be times when you just need to stop and rest. Such are the vicissitudes inherent to any struggle. When you challenge to achieve something, be ready to face the unexpected. Life may be more akin to a series of meets than a single marathon. You can lose a race here or there, as long as you win in one contest, in one area. All the struggles you endured will become a prized investment in your own person. Human society can be full of contradictions. It can be unfair; unforgiving, too. Yet we cannot afford to dismiss it and turn our backs to the world. A person who does loses, and no excuse can gloss that over. Given a choice whether to sink or swim, we must swim to the very end, no matter how the seas around us may rage. Lifeâ€™s Potential Life, in all its forms, possesses a fundamental desire to create value. Value is a relative notion, and in this world that is a tapestry of relationships, life is always seeking to create ever better relationships, that is, ever greater value. Life tries to weave a more beautiful tapestry (the value of beauty), a more useful tapestry (the value of benefit), a better tapestry (the value of good). All life, whatever its present form, is seeking to transcend its present state in pursuit of perfection. Life's natural tendency is toward the flowering of potential, toward limitless advance. And faith is the key that enables us to open up the full realm of possibilities within our lives.
Human life possesses a potential deeper than the great wide ocean and vaster than the sky. We may tend to give up and resign ourselves to present circumstances, thinking "There is no way." But by breaking down these barriers in our minds, we can enjoy vibrant lives, filled with powerful life force like the sun. Life is filled with potential that is truly unfathomable. At last we are coming to see the enormous power it possesses. That is why we must never write anyone off. In particular, we mustn't put boundaries on our own potential. In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves. Each of us must seek to discover the particular theme or motif that will characterize our life. An attitude of intense, undaunted seriousness toward each fleeting moment can open up a whole new life for us. The full realization of one's inner potential can be achieved only through interaction with the world of everyday reality. "What kind of future do I envision for myself? What kind of self am I trying to develop? What do I want to accomplish in my life?" The thing is to paint this vision of your life in your heart as specifically as possible. That "painting" itself becomes the design of your future. The power of the heart enables us to actually create with our lives a wonderful masterpiece in accordance with that design. One thing is certain: That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it. If you really believe you can do something, you can. That is a fact. When you clearly envision the outcome of victory, engrave it upon your heart, and are firmly convinced that you will attain it, your brain makes every effort to realize the mental image you have created. And then, through your unceasing efforts, that victory is finally made a reality. Everything depends on what is in our hearts. If we decide to ourselves that something is impossible, then, consistent with our minds in thinking so, even something that is possible for us will become impossible. On the other hand, if we have the confidence that we can definitely do something, then we are already one step closer to achieving it in reality. One of the fascinating things about human beings is this: Believe for long enough that you are not as smart as others and this will actually lead to intellectual ineptitude. But, confronted with the same doubts, if you choose to believe that
your mind is merely dormant for now, lacking in exercise, once you begin to train it, there are no bounds to what you can achieve. "The heart is what is important." There is nothing more vulnerable, nothing more corruptible than the human mind; nor is there anything as powerful, steadfast and ennobling. Love & Marriage If you are going to fall in love, try to make your relationship one that generates great spiritual creativity, one that is mutually enriching. Even married people were once strangers. Therefore, without patience and the effort to understand one another, things are likely not to go well. We need patience in order to become happy. There are many who dream about experiencing happiness without the patience. But that is a dream. And a dream is just that--a dream, a fairy tale. It is to wish for a childish, easy life. This illusion breaks up many marriages. The pursuit of such happiness can only make one miserable. It is important to make the effort to calmly construct something together. From there, real love develops. Real marriage is when you have been married for twenty-five years and feel an even deeper love than you did when you first met. Love deepens. Love that does not is merely on the level of simple likes and dislikes. True love should be transformative, a process that amplifies our capacity to cherish not just one person but all people. It can make us stronger, lift us higher and deepen us as individuals. Only to the extent that one polishes oneself now can one hope to develop wonderful bonds of the heart in the future. Ideal love is fostered only between two sincere, mature and independent people. It is the inner struggle to polish these attributes that is the key. ... Real love is not two people clinging to each other; it can only be fostered between two strong people secure in their individuality. The important thing is to overcome the sorrow that accompanies any type of separation, such as death or divorce. The vital thing is to continue advancing. Do not look back. Just forge on. There are many reasons why people bid farewell to one another. People have their own thoughts and situations. The deep scars within your heart may not heal quickly. Yet brace yourself so you can look forward. You should strive to move on, cutting through the clouds in your heart. As long as you advance, new hope will be born. The sun will rise. Only when you continue to advance can you encounter an even better, more wonderful you.
WE can lose ourselves in romantic attachment, but the truth is, the euphoria is unlikely to last for long. Indeed, the likelihood of undergoing suffering and sadness only grows over time. As long as we remain unable to redress our own weaknesses, we will be miserable no matter where or to whom we may take flight. We can never become truly happy unless we ourselves undergo a personal transformation. Daily life can seem all too drab and unexciting. Living itself can sometimes seem a strain, and few of us realistically expect what joy we feel to last forever. But when we fall in love, life seems filled with drama and excitement. We feel like the leading character in a novel. But, if you get lost in love just because you are bored, and consequently veer from the path you should be following, then love is nothing more than escapism. What you are doing is retreating into a dream world, believing that what is only an illusion is actually real. If you are neglecting things you should be doing, forgetting your purpose in life because of the relationship you're in, then you're on the wrong path. A healthy relationship is one in which two people encourage each other to reach their respective goals while sharing each other's hopes and dreams. A relationship should be a source of inspiration, invigoration and hope.
Self Mastery The question of how to live one's life and find one's true life purpose can only be solved by making consistent effort to help others win over the miseries that afflict them. This is the way of the bodhisattva--to exert oneself for the sake of others while striving for one's own self-realization. If you become passive, you will find yourself restricted, regardless of how free the environment is in which you live. Conversely, if you maintain a positive, proactive attitude, you will find yourself free, no matter how restricted your environment. True freedom is the caliber or spiritual capacity that enables one to cope with any circumstance. It's not about others; it's about you winning, and winning over yourself. By doing so, you will provide inspiration and encouragement to all around you. 20
It is a human tendency to blame others before reflecting on oneself. But if you do, you will never find the real cause of the problem, and there will be no real improvement. Human integrity is determined by the heart, not by cleverness. There may be times when others seem enviable. But others are others and you are you. Rather than comparing your joys and sorrows to those of others, you should aim to surpass your limits in the situation you are in right now. Those who can do this are the true victors in life. Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength of that determination fades in time. The moment you feel that is when you should make a fresh determination. Tell yourselves, "OK! I will start again from now!" If you fall down seven times, get up the eighth. Don't give up when you feel discouragedjust pick yourselves up and renew your determination each time. Just as a diamond can only be polished by another diamond, it is only through genuine, all-out engagement with others that people can polish their character, and help each other to reach greater heights. People shouldn't hesitate to exert their all, in a way true to themselves. How can you possibly ever know how far or fast you can go if you've never run all-out? To give up even before you've tried is actually arrogance-an affront to the wondrous power of life within you and disrespectful to yourself. The word "character" originated from the Greek words meaning "sculpture" and "impression." Character, then, could be thought of that which is shaped or etched. It may be true from a medical perspective that our psychological and physiological traits are generally predetermined genetically. Knowing this, however, adds little to our lives. All that matters is how we can better ourselves here and now. One who has mastered himself is truly free. Freedom lies in the heart of the sage, servitude in the heart of the fool. So many mistakes are made as the result of that tendency of people to ignore, overlook or disregard those facts that they find inconvenient or unpalatable. An envious person does not look at those more capable than him and aspire to better himself; he plots to drag them down to his own level. Jealousy is simply an unwitting admittance of one's own flaws and failings. On the flip side of arrogance lies cowardice-a lack of courage to face the truth. Likewise, discrimination and envy are also two sides of the same coin.
All great literature, ancient and modern, is a bridge connecting one human being to another, one spirit to another. The quality of our life is determined by how many of those bridges we can cross. Strength Only by overcoming life's problems and obstacles can we become truly strong. If everything always goes smoothly, we will grow complacent and be unable to build a solid foundation for our lives. Only by experiencing suffering ourselves can we understand the suffering of others and deepen our compassion. Even if things don't unfold the way you expected, don't be disheartened or give up. One who continues to advance will win in the end. Just being good-natured is not enough. If you are good-natured but fail to stand up to injustice, you cannot protect anyone. Instead, you will tend to be taken lightly, enabling those who perpetrate injustice to only grow stronger. The deeper the dark, the closer the dawn. However profound the suffering that envelops you, never forget the inner spark of hope and courage. Never lose the capacity to wait with patient enduring. Strength of will is forged by squarely facing the tasks that need to be completed now. Every hardship is an opportunity to strengthen ourselves, to temper our life and make it shine with greater luster. One cannot become a starring player in life if one is easily swayed by one's emotions over every little thing. Strength of character lies in performing the drama of life with courage and confidence, practicing self-reflection and selfcontrol under any circumstances. In life when we feel we have reached a limit, that is when the true battle begins. Just when you despair and think it is impossible to go any further, will you become apathetic, or will you say it's not over and stand up with an unyielding spirit? The battle is decided by this single determination. The human spirit is the strongest force there is. As long as our spirit remains unbroken, there is no defeat. In life, spiritual defeat always precedes actual defeat. Guard against laziness, cowardice, carelessness, impatience, resignation and despair which corrode the human spirit and sow the seeds of defeat. Gold is gold, no matter how muddied it becomes. The truth always wins out in the end. 22
Whether we regard difficulties in life as misfortunes or whether we view them as good fortune depends entirely on how much we have forged our inner determination. It all depends on our attitude or inner state of life. With a dauntless spirit, we can lead a cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable life. We can develop a "self" of such fortitude that we are able to look forward to life's trials and tribulations with a sense of joy. The fortitude to fight on through to the very end-this strength is not only the basis of happiness, it is also the force by which social wrongs can be righted. Success The seeds of firm conviction already contain within them the flowers and fruits of happiness. But if we plant the seeds of self-doubt, naturally, only noxious weeds will sprout. All considerations of position, wealth and reputation aside, the greatest and most enduring triumph as a human being lies in knowing that one is doing one's best. Knowing that to give up is to be defeated by oneself, continue single-mindedly to take small but significant steps in the shaping of your destiny. Though one may seem to have attained success for the moment, one will start to regress the instant one becomes careless and ceases making effort, beginning a slide toward defeat. Those who are continually pressing ahead are genuinely successful. Success, victory and happiness are all to be found in forward motion. People always have many different roles to play. The crucial thing is to be determined to make a wholehearted effort in everything and be fully engaged in what we are doing at any given moment. The secret to successfully fulfilling a variety of roles is to concentrate fully on the task at hand and give it our best effort with enthusiasm, maintaining a positive, forward-looking attitude and not worrying. A pyramid isn't built from the top down. The apex is attained only by laying strong foundation stones, one by one. The same is true of achieving a lofty objective. The crucial thing is to lay the first stone, to take the first step. It is precisely when we have suffered defeat that we can determine to win and open the path to future victory. It takes great effort to build something, but it only takes an instant to destroy it. There are times when a victory or success can actually become the cause for future defeat or failure. Likewise, defeat can become the cause for victory in the future. 23
Do you give up the struggle to overcome your own limitations on the first attempt, or do you keep on with it, trying a second time, a third time, and continuing on in the challenge for the rest of your life? That is the only difference between the genius and the ordinary person. This lifetime will never come again; it is precious and irreplaceable. To live without regret, we must have a concrete purpose, continually setting goals and challenges for ourselves. And we need to keep moving toward those specific targets steadily and tenaciously, one step at a time. What is success in life? Who are the truly successful? There are famous and powerful people who become pitiful figures in their old age. There are people who die alone, feeling empty and desolate inside. Just what is success? The English thinker Walter Pater (1839-94) wrote: "To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life." The person who lives life fully, glowing with life's energy, is the person who lives a successful life. When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination. Human society is made up of people who have met success and those who have not. No one knows for sure whether their life will be blessed by fortune or burdened by fate. The elation of triumph is short-lived, but those who understand that every setback, too, is only temporary and who continue to make steady efforts with confidence and conviction, can achieve truly great things. Ultimately, victory comes from never giving in to defeat. Failure is an instrumental part of every success. Whether our life has been a triumph or tragedy can only be judged at its very end. Youth & Aging To lose heart just because of one or two failures is shortsighted indeed. Life is a long journey. Youth should go forward with courage, realizing that the more often you fail, the firmer the foundation you are building for your future life and happiness. The final years of life are decisive. Unsurpassed happiness belongs to those who have overcome every difficulty, who can savor a genuine sense of fulfillment, and say, "Yes, I lived a good life." 24
Youthfulness is not determined by age. It is determined by one's life force. One who possesses hope is forever young. One who continually advances is forever beautiful. Youthfulness originates from life-force. There are young people who look surprisingly old, and there are elderly people who, no matter how the years pass, always sparkle with the glow of youth, an inner vitality. Our bodies may grow stiffer with the passing of time, but we should not let the same happen to our minds. The older we are, the more willing we should be to listen to others, especially young people. The struggle against aging is a struggle against cowardice, the propensity to shun new challenges. It is a struggle against our complacent belief that we have done enough, an egocentric unwillingness to help younger people develop, and an attachment to our past glory. Aging sneaks in through such chinks of our soul. The life of one who continues to challenge to the end remains youthful, ageless, and victorious. Life loses its dynamism from the moment we lose the passion with which to live it. No matter what our age, we cannot afford to let the flame within our heart grow dim. We do not become unhappy because we grow old. We become unhappy only when we grow ever more unwilling to change as we age.