FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW
Life isn’t always smooth. If it were we would never grow and develop as human beings. If we succeed we are envied;if we fail we re ridiculed and attacked. Sadly, this is how people are. Unexpected grief and suffering may lie ahead of you. But it is precisely when you encounter such trying times that you must not be defeated. Never give up. Never retreat.
Daisaku Ikeda SGI-USA
Lay Nichiren Buddhist organization based on the Lotus Sutra
People often have a phrase or motto that sees them through difficult or important times. A short saying, a few words, can determine the course of one’s entire life. Nam myoho renge kyo Nam nyoho renge kyo
A life lived without purpose or value, the kind in which one doesn’t know the reason why one was born, is joyless and lackluster. To just live eat and die without real sense of purpose surely represents a life pervaded by the world of Animality. On the other hand, to do, create or contribute something that benefits others and to dedicate ourselves as long as we live up to that challenge – that is a life of true satisfaction, a life of value. It is a humanistic and lofty way to live.
Soka Gakkai Int’l
The present, as I am sure you all sense, is an age pervaded by great weariness and apathy. I would like you to be aware that the power and energy to serve humanity in such an enervated age can only be born from a vigorous, indomitable, noble will. Though the times may be rife with petty human conflicts, a pervading sense of hopelessness and all manner of turbulent storms, I hope that all of you will forge ahead boldy with unflagging good cheer.
From the book: Today and Tomorrow, daily encouragement from
. . .and her Buddhist practice. Through many things posts I’ve put up, and conversations I’ve had with people, many people know that I am a Nichiren Buddhist. I don’t slam any other religion because I believe that you can find good teachings in all religions and if someone takes those teachings and applies it to their life and it affects the way they live their life then it is not up to me to say that you are wrong and I am right. I have Christian friends and I post on Christian blogs. We each have to find our path.
Sadly, there are many people who say they are Christian, in the US, and because Christianity is dominant in this country, it makes you feel that it is Christianity is the number one religion in the world. It isn’t. There are many people who are Christian in name only, or only call on God’s help when they are in a dire position, and can still be hateful to the people around them at the same time. What is taught doesn’t change anything about their behavior. They believe in God because it is what they were taught growing up. There wasn’t any choice.
If everyone around you tell you it is true, then you are going to think it is true. I realized at a young age people were told to believe something, but I couldn’t get an answer to the question, “why?” It was always an answer saying because God says so. God says this or that, or wants this or that, and we were to believe something with the credibility of science fiction – in my opinion.
I recently wrote a post https://watchandwhirl.com/2015/02/23/why-do-you-believe-what-you-believe/ I ask people this question a lot, honestly asking why? Is it all you know? Is it what you were taught? Did you follow a different path and then found Christianity? Have you ever seriously looked at any other path with an open mind? If you didn’t, was it because God would punish you for blasphemy? Do you honestly practice the teachings of your faith every day or just sometimes? Is there anyone out there who will answer me?
After searching for years for something that made sense, 27 years ago, when I was 34, I found Nichiren Buddhism. I’m writing about this today because I found 2 minute clip of the Tina Turner movie, “What’s love got to do with it?” If you remember the movie, she turned to Buddhism when her life was at a very low point. She made it out of a very bad and abusive relationship through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
They aren’t magic words that change things – and you aren’t praying/chanting or asking something – out there – to change things for you, or saying that it must be the will of a higher being who wants me to experience this, you realize that it puts you squarely in the drivers seat. You know the only person who can make changes, is yourself. And what your frame of mind is, will directly affect how you respond to things in your life.
I found another clip of Tina Turner, in an interview where she talks about why she is a Buddhist. I thought some of you might find this interesting.
Here’s another one with her as well, and when you listen to her chant, I can do this right along with her word for word because I’ve spoken it thousands of time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOsr_ZOi-Jo
Thank you for coming into my part of the world a short while.
Two African-American sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delaney, were born in the southern United States at the end of the nineteenth century.
Growing up, the sisters experienced great pain because of deep-rooted discrimination against people of African descent. They often shook with anger at the treatment they received. But they refused to be defeated, learning to laugh off discrimination and encouraging each other not to despair. The sisters determined: If society isn’t going to accept us when we have the same ability as white people, then we’re just going to have to become even more capable. They drew strength from their father, who used to say, “Don’t ever give up. Remember, they can segregate you, but they can’t control your mind. Your mind’s still yours.” Through tireless effort, they gained places to study at Columbia University.
Sadie, the elder sister, became the first African-American to teach domestic science at High School level in New York City. Bessie, meanwhile, was only the second African-American woman licensed to practice dentistry there. They were not defeated by discrimination, poverty or criticism. They knocked back obstacles with the attitude, “What! Is that all?”
Bessie summed up her attitude, saying, “However you do it, you’ve just got to fight in this life . . . If there’s one thing you’ve got to hold on to, it’s the courage to fight!” Both sisters outlived their detractors, living to over 100 years old with a deep sense of achievement.
Many people think that it is only those born into fortunate circumstances who can succeed in life. Such people often feel that they, too, could have been successful, if only they had been blessed with this or that, or if only they weren’t hampered by the problems that trouble them now.
When I was young, I had a friend who excelled at everything and whom everyone admired. But recently I heard that he had ended up very unhappy, beset by illness and family problems. How could this happen to someone who had seemed so lucky in his youth? Maybe it was because, having been pampered from an early age, he never learned what hard work was, nor what it meant to struggle to achieve something. Thinking that everything he needed would fall into his lap, he probably avoided making strenuous efforts and was therefore unable to withstand the waves of difficulties which hit him later in life.
As long as we are alive we cannot be free of difficulties nor spared from problems. The question is how to overcome and resolve them. And there is only one answer: to confront and challenge life’s trials head on. In doing so, we can actually change them into sources of joy. Hardship builds character. I firmly believe that one can never become a person of extraordinary character just by leading an ordinary and peaceful life and avoiding difficulties.
Life involves scaling one mountain, then the next, then the one after that. The person who keeps on going, one step at a time, and finally conquers the highest mountain, will have a real sense of victory in life. But someone who avoids challenges and takes the easy route instead, will gradually descend into the valleys and feel no such sense of satisfaction.
Such a person, when faced with a problem, tends to think, “I know I should take action, but it will be very difficult.” When it is time to act, this kind of person tends to turn away. Someone who perseveres will rise to the challenge, however, determining, “It will be very difficult, but I must take action.”
A dear friend who faced every challenge in her life was Mrs. Fang Zhaoling, a painter and calligrapher based in Hong Kong who passed away in 2006 at the age of 92. She grew up during great political instability in China and her father was gunned down before her when she was eleven years old. But her mother was determined not to let this tragedy stand in the way of her daughter’s education, and Mrs. Fang studied hard, also learning to paint.
She married young and bore eight children. Then tragedy struck again when she was 36. Her husband died, leaving her to bring up the children—aged between 3 and 11—alone. Mrs. Fang then ran a small trading company and somehow managed to support and raise her children and provide each of them with a good education. She said, “Experiencing the hardship of being widowed at a young age is perhaps what gave me the strength to go on to study and develop my skill as an artist.”
Her life was evidence that overcoming challenges, triumphing over adversity is what life is all about. Her paintings often show steep cliffs and forbidding crags, but often one can make out a path or road through the rocks. Even in her eighties, Mrs. Fang was always active, always moving forwards. Her life shone like a jewel, forged and polished by hardship. A diamond, the king of jewels, is the hardest and brightest of minerals. Just as diamonds crystallize when carbon buried deep underground is subjected to extremely high pressure and temperatures, so, when we forge our lives under the intense pressure of difficulties and in the severe heat of hardship, we can develop a beautiful and strong sense of self.
Often the biggest obstacle in meeting life’s challenges is actually our own fear of failure. But it is not failure that we should fear. The only real failure comes when we allow our fear to prevent us from taking on new and unknown challenges.
Just about every important figure in history has in fact lived a life marked by one mishap after another. But these individuals rose up again after every setback, prodded on by a spirit that refuses to concede defeat and relishes challenge, to eventually crown their lives with victory.
Even if you have problems, even if you have done things you regret, or have made mistakes, your whole future still lies ahead of you. If you can just keep moving forward, telling yourself, “I’ll start from today,” “I’ll start afresh from now, from this moment,” then a whole new world of possibilities will open up before you.