One of the most powerful, yet most challenging concepts taught in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is the idea that each individual must take responsibility not only for their own happiness, but for their own life. It is human nature to look outside ourselves for the solution to our problems, the answer to our suffering, or the source of our happiness. This is incorrect. We must look within for the answers we seek.
Learning how to take responsibility for our own lives, particularly our own happiness (i.e. not allowing anything or anyone to be the source of our happiness) is empowering, particularly for women. When we take more responsibility, we have more power and more control over our destiny. For example, many women (especially young women) tend to believe that they need a boyfriend (or husband/partner) to feel complete. For others, it might be a job or career. It’s easy to let our external circumstances dictate how we feel about ourselves, and determine our happiness or unhappiness in life.
The great thing about this Buddhism is we are taught that our happiness does not depend on our external life circumstances. The challenge is learning how to bring forth happiness from within. I’ve struggled for years with a severe psychiatric diagnosis I didn’t believe, in addition to the people who were (and still are) persecuting, threatening me and harassing me for no reason. I’ve always thought, If these people would just go away and leave me alone, I’ll be happy. If I let my happiness depend on these malicious external circumstances, I would still be waiting!
Instead, I turned to my Buddhist practice and many other activities for support, and learned that I can still enjoy my life in spite of whatever might be going on around me. I chant at least one hour a day, I visit and encourage my Buddhist friends, I keep up my writing, I talk to my parents once or twice a week, I find new dishes to cook, I play soccer on the weekends, I have a wonderful husband whom I love very much, I exercise regularly, I give myself pep talks to stay positive, and I spend a lot of time with my dog, Savannah.
These might seem like little things, but it’s a good idea to have a variety of activities to turn to so I don’t get down. Nowadays, I have more of a tendency to get angry than depressed, so I also make an effort to refocus my thoughts when it seems like I’m dwelling too much on something that has upset me. I also found a great quote by SGI President Ikeda’s wife, SGI Honorary Women’s Leader Kaneko Ikeda:
A woman’s victory in life, which flows into the lives of her entire family, relatives and descendants, like the power of the sun, can impart benefit and good fortune to every person with whom she has developed a bond in this lifetime.
– January 2005 Living Buddhism p. 11