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. 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.
“It is not ones allies that make one stronger, but ones powerful enemies that assist in the growth of oneself” Nichiren Daishonin, 1270 AD.
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.
A Japanese entrepreneur and author, Masaru Emoto, closely examined the effect of thought on the crystallized molecular structure of water. He would think certain thoughts or emotions in the presence of a water sample, such as love, ‘thank you’, truth, anger, or ‘you make me sick’. Then, he would freeze the water and examine the crystallized structure, in which he found that positive thought and emotions would create beautiful, symmetrical crystals. If he thought negative emotions in the presence of the water, the crystallized structure would be deformed and ugly. This finding posed the question- since humans are composed mostly of water, how do our own thoughts and emotions affect the molecular composition of our bodies?
“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)
The specific teaching of Buddhism that I practice is called Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism, which originated from the Lotus Sutra, a writing of Shakyamuni Buddha who lived about 3000 years ago. Shakyamuni Buddha created a powerful, life-affirming, humanistic teaching which expounded that any person can attain a Buddhist state of life in their lifetime, not just the priests of the temple. Eventually, this teaching spread throughout Asia and gained prominence overtime. It was Nichiren Daishonin in Japan that took the final step to transform this theory into a simple day-to-day practice to enable ordinary people to reveal their highest state of life and their full potential.
Buddhism often connects life to the concept of a mirror in that your environment is a direct reflection of you. 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 explains that by incorporating Buddhism into your life, 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” Daisaku Ikeda. 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.
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.
Overtime, this Buddhist practice has been transferred through various disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, who have spread it to over 192 countries. The final disciple lived through the WWII, and experienced the war-stricken world of hell that Japan had become as a result of the various bombs America used to attack. It was at this time that Josei Toda decided that not only Japan, but the world, needed a practice in which people could transform their immense pain and sorrow into hope for the future. With this teaching, Japan could regain a sense of peace and spread it to other countries in hopes to one day accomplish world peace.
Once we are able to accomplish this understanding of Buddhist principles, we can fundamentally change the innate negative tendencies we have as humans. Buddhism constantly stresses that happiness is inside each of us, not found outside ourselves. This concept goes for anything we may seek in our lives. When we encounter an obstacle for instance, we must look internally at what we need to change in our lives instead of looking externally for an answer or happiness; towards money, fame, and power. By doing so, we can accomplish ‘human revolution’, in which one reforms their way of life and negative tendencies one may have throughout a lifetime.
No one person is continually happy, no matter how good things may seem. Happiness in society is usually relative; a deeper and more lasting happiness depends on oneself. Happiness is positively correlated with one’s determination to stay strong through any situation and the amount of hope they have for future circumstances. While most religions teach their believers that a mystic force will come to take away their problems, Buddhism encourages people to wage undefeatable lives, inspired to challenge any hardships they may face in their life. It is their courage to face the problem head on and surmount pain instead of trying to avoid it, that leads to lasting happiness.
With this teaching, I am confident that humanity can create lasting peace. Instead of focusing on empty commodities such as money or power, we need to focus on revolutionizing ourselves- human revolution. By doing so, we can revolutionize an entire society and thus, the world. A revolution of the world can change the destiny of humanity and lead to the lack of war and the enhancement of tolerance between countries and the people in them. It is essential that we not only take on this way of life ourselves, but also spread this teaching to many others. If we assist others in living their lives with the strength to face insurmountable challenges with wisdom and hope that allows them to fundamentally change and grow, imagine how much we could change the world.
Imagine the result; world peace.