Reading my friend’s post today got me to study and reflect on my conviction and what it means to be the light and create hope in my life and in the life of those around me.
President Ikeda says,
“There may be times when, confronted by cruel reality, we verge on losing all hope. If we cannot feel hope, it is time to create some. We can do this by digging deeper within, searching for even a small glimmer of light, for the possibility of a way to begin to break through the impasse before us.”
“I believe the ultimate tragedy in life is not physical death. Rather it is the spiritual death of losing hope, giving up our own possibilities for growth.”
– Hope is a Decision, Pages 5-6
Intellectually, I can understand this. In some of my darkest times, I know this is what I need to do. Before I started chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, I had never known this light of hope inside of me. But even now, it doesn’t come about by default. It is far more natural for me to fall into despair than rise into hope.
I question then, how much I create hope for myself? What is the method that continuously works and that I can repeatedly trust and rely on? Is there a winning formula for me to create hope that works by default when I am deadlocked and paralysed with fear and anxiety?
The last few months have helped me unpack some of the variables that go into a winning formula for my life.
President Ikeda says in the conclusion of ‘Hope is a Decision’ (Page 141):
“… a commitment to others’ happiness holds the key to peaceful coexistence among people and between people and the natural world.”
When I read this, it fills me with doubt. I have a tendency to put other people’s happiness before my own. How can I challenge this tendency of not respecting my own dignity and Buddha nature?
President Ikeda continues:
“In the Buddhist tradition, the pursuit of such an ideal is embodied by the bodhisattva. A bodhisattva seeks not simply one’s own release from suffering: a bodhisattva is prepared to risk everything in taking action for those who suffer. For the bodhisattva, the interests of self and other are profoundly harmonized; wholehearted efforts on behalf of others are the greatest source of benefit and joy”
Elsewhere in the Gosho lecture for Wealthy Man Sudatta, President Ikeda says:
Affirming young people’s pure-hearted wish to grow, helping them achieve their full potential, respecting their desire for personal development, and praising and warmly supporting them towards that end – these are the keys to fostering youth.
In this letter, the Daishonin shows that we cannot teach others by trying to coerce or dictate to them from a position of superiority. When one oils the wheels, a cart can go forward in spite of its heavy weight. When one floats a boat on water, it can sail ahead easily. These are both examples of assisting or facilitating smooth forward movement.
In other words, the important point is to make it easy for someone to move forward, while recognizing that it is up to that individual to actually do the moving forward. We don’t take upon ourselves the challenges that are theirs to overcome.
All these together infused with the experience of striving to deepen my understanding and practice finally resolved the hope, self-and-others dilemmas for me this year.
Whenever I felt despair and hopelessness, the key to tune me into hope and tune me out of catastrophising a problem (big or small), was to make the effort to engage with others. It could mean reaching out to a friend to share my suffering, reaching out to a member I didn’t know very well but was struggling, reaching out to a leader for encouragement or reaching out to the SGI General Director for strict guidance.
The ultimate result was somehow one that brought me in front of the Gohonzon to chant. Because no matter how much I turned the problem around and analysed it, from my vast intellectual point of view, it was still a catastrophe. When I chanted about it though, I could see one small thing I could transform within myself or change in my behavior, this gave me a sense of power and, hence, hope.
As I grow this hope in my life, I find the light begets light. If it is a struggle to support myself, then when I try to support someone else, it expands my life and again I zoom out of the problem and it is no longer a hopeless catastrophe. Any which way you approach it, my Buddhist practice offers an armoury to banish hopelessness.
I don’t even need to know which one to use. As a loved one once said to me, “Continue pulling matchsticks from the dam, you don’t know which one breaks the dam and makes the river flow.”
I only need to know to persevere.
In my life, led and supported by my mentor that leads me to chant strong daimoku in front of the Gohonzon, to express my unique self’s greatest potential towards kosen rufu.
For someone like me, who extends herself way beyond her capability to support others, it means finding creative ways to use this to create causes – chant more, study more, engage more. Then I find my inner self that craves deep connection with myself and others ends up being looked after as a effect.
This is the Mystic Law.