Life as a Mirror

“A tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality.” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Part I, p 4)

Daisaku Ikeda, the president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist organization, has written many letters, essays, and given many speeches around the world. He often makes references to the many writings of Nichiren Daishonin, who practiced Buddhism in the 13th century Japan. An essay Daisaku Ikeda wrote on February 27th, 1990 connects life to the concept of a mirror. Your environment is a direct reflection of you. By incorporating Buddhism into your life, he says, you can polish the mirror of your life to reflect the depths of your being; the past, present, and future. By looking at this reflection of your life, you are able to fundamentally change and grow, leading you to live a happier, beautiful existence.

Mirrors in ancient times were usually made of polished metal alloys such as nickel, steel, and bronze. These ancient mirrors could only produce blurred reflections, unlike today’s mirrors that are made of glass. The oldest glass mirror dates back to 1551, found in China and Egypt. “Suffice it to say that the history of mirrors is as old as that of the human race. It is perhaps an inborn human instinct to want to look at one’s face.” Even though people tend to focus on the outside appearance of their face, they tend to neglect what is on the inside. While people may put make up on to make themselves look better or wash a stain off their face, they choose to ignore the stains in their lives.

In Buddhism, a person never fails to receive the effects of their actions, whether good or bad. The law of cause and effect, which functions deeply in our lives, stresses that “the unseen virtue brings about visible reward”. Although one can conceal blemishes upon their face, they cannot conceal their soul, and the causes they’ve made in their lives that reveal their true nature. If one is ignorant of this fact, they cannot perceive themselves as they truly are, and therefore cannot change and grow in their lives.

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My Horizon of Influence: A Lotus Flower

Life is a constant series of ups and downs. A cliché, I know. The importance of grasping this cliché is to accept it and learn how to manifest a constant, stable attitude despite the constant blunders of life. Shit happens. Your car breaks down on the freeway, your boyfriend breaks up with you, you get fired from your job. Suffering is a constant, inevitable part of life. How we deal with it is what is important. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of struggles in that life problems are essential for human growth. “It is not ones allies that make one stronger, but ones powerful enemies that assist in the growth of oneself” Nichiren Daishonin, 1270 AD. This concept of Buddhism explains that hardships are valuable and that the larger the hardship, the stronger we become as people and the more wisdom we will accrue by overcoming it.

If we view our hardships as an opportunity for growth and winning, we will be victorious in our lives no matter what. However, if we view our obstacles as something we constantly want to avoid and just complain, we will never win or become strong, wise people. If we live with the confidence that we can overcome anything, no matter what happens in our lives, we can turn unfortunate experiences into a valued experiences; a concept referred to as changing poison into medicine. The most beautiful lotus flower blooms from the murkiest, muddiest waters. This principle can apply to human lives as well.

Through my Buddhist practice as well as the Eastern Concepts of Health and Healing course I took last semester, I have also learned that it is important to recognize that the self and the environment are interrelated. Thoughts and attitudes can significantly impact your environment as well as your own perception of your life. This can have either a positive or negative affect your environment. Scenario: you wake up and tell yourself that it will be an amazing day. Most likely, because your attitude is confident that today will be a good day, not only will events most likely unfold as so, but no matter what happens, your perception of your day will be positive. On the flipside, if you wake up and declare that is it going to be a horrible day, it will appear as so, even if nothing tragic happens.

Since I’ve found great confidence in this way of the universe, I have made a powerful effort to think and act positively. I have seen proof that your perception of your reality can in fact, change your reality. After viewing the film ‘What the Bleep Do We Know?’ I better understood the concept that your world is exactly what you make it. It explains this concept of distorted perception versus accurate perception of reality in terms of psychology and relates it to laws of physics as well. It seems as though Eastern countries grasp this concept well, but Western cultures fail to do so. I have confidence that if these kind of principles were understood by the American culture, we would live happier, more fulfilling lives.