In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, we learn about taking responsibility for our own lives and for our own happiness, rather than relying on some external factor like a job, car, house or another person. We learn that we should not attempt to change the other person [who we might be having trouble with], but rather work on changing ourselves instead. This is why we chant. By taking responsibility for our own happiness and not relying on others, we gain more control over our lives as well as our immediate environment. It is a matter of winning over ourselves. SGI President Ikeda elaborates:
To take the path of least resistance is human nature. Outstanding individuals didn’t become great overnight. They disciplined themselves to overcome their weaknesses, conquering apathy and inertia to become true victors in life. Those short on willpower or self-motivation should chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with conviction to become people of strong will, who can tackle any problem with real seriousness and determination (Discussions on Youth, p. 98)
There are many troubling, painful, unpleasant, and worrisome things in life. When you face such things, you have two options. You can complain, blame the environment or another person and be defeated. Some may express sympathy for you, but, ultimately, you’re the one to lose out, and anything you say will really be just an excuse. The second option is to live with an invincible spirit, blazing your own way regardless of your environment. The choice is up to you. (You Were Born to Win, p. 23)
Life is a constant struggle with ourselves, “a tug-of-war between moving forward and regressing, between happiness and unhappiness.” This dynamic struggle is the essence of life. That’s why we need goals. They give us something to fight for, to raise the bar in our own lives and to stop us from settling with the attitude of “that’s just the way it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” (World Tribune Dec 8, 2017 p.6)
I joined the SGI-USA in September 1988 when I was 18 years old. I have been chanting, reading and studying this Buddhism ever since. I made my Buddhist practice one of my number one priorities in my life in addition to a college education and a career in the field of international environmental policy. I did not prioritize money, a car, a house or a personal relationship over any of these three aspects of my life. This is what I learned from the SGI-USA since the time I started practicing this Buddhism when I was eighteen. Now, at 47 I still have my Buddhist practice at the center of my life, but this is a constant struggle. It is all too easy to become dependent on another person or something else outside myself.
President Ikeda states “In the realm of faith, this comes down to winning over yourself.” If we are able to do this, we shift the focus inward toward introspection and are able to concentrate more on our own lives and what is best for ourselves, rather looking outside ourselves for the answers or looking for happiness someplace else (money, drugs, car, house, job, partner, etc…). Gandhi states: “You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react.” Ultimately, we become empowered with the ability to control our own lives, rather than living at the mercy of others, and are able to move forward in a much more positive direction.
* Monterey Harbor sunset June, 2016 – Monterey, California