Archive | August, 2016

#Ikeda on #Friendship: “be like the sun!”… #LivingBuddhism #SGIUSA #SGI

31 Aug

Message for Youth
Living Buddhism, August 2016

17.13 Personal Relationships
Responding to questions from high school students, SGI President Ikeda discusses friendship and relationships from various perspectives.
President Ikeda’s Guidance
Adapted from the dialogue Discussions on Youth, published in Japanese in March 1999.
Friendship is the most beautiful, powerful and precious thing in life. It is your greatest treasure. No matter how successful or wealthy a person is, without friends life is sad and lonely. A lack of friends can also lead to a narrow, self-centered existence.
In this vast universe, we have been born together at the same time on this tiny planet. And how rare is it to find, among the 5.8 billion1 members of the human race, truly caring and honest friends who understand our thoughts and feelings without the need for a lot of words, and with whom we can relax and be ourselves.
Even being in the same class at school with someone is the result of a profound connection. Some of you may have found genuine friends among your classmates. If you have, please treasure them. But if you feel you don’t have any close friends right now, please don’t worry. Just decide that the reason you don’t have any now is so you’ll be able to make the most wonderful friends later on. Concentrate your energies now on becoming the best person you can. In the future, you might even make friends all over the world.
In any event, friendship is up to you, not the other person. It all depends on you. I hope you will be loyal and true friends, not fair-weather friends who are there when all is well, but disappear when something bad happens.
And when you graduate from school, I hope you will have grown to be generous, warmhearted people who can say to your friends with all honesty: “I will never forget you. If you ever have a problem or something you want to talk about, don’t hesitate to come to me. And I hope I can go to you, too.”
What kind of advice would you give someone who feels that a friend has suddenly started to treat them coldly, but has no idea why?
I think the best thing to do at such times is to gather your courage and ask what’s wrong. In many cases, you’ll probably be surprised to find that what you imagined wasn’t your friend’s intention at all. Quite often, when you distance yourself from a friend because you’re too afraid to ask what’s wrong, the other person may in fact also be feeling hurt and lonely.
Human relationships are like a mirror. Often when you are thinking, “If my friend were only a bit nicer to me, I’d be more open with her,” your friend may well be thinking, “If only she were more open with me, I’d be nicer to her.”
That’s why it’s important to be the one who starts the conversation. If you still get a cold response, then you know that the problem lies with your friend, not with you.
Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do about the way others feel. People’s hearts change. What do you do when that happens? Adopt the attitude, “Though others may change, I never will.” If you are treated coldly or someone lets you down, resolve not to do the same to others. Those who
betray others’ trust only hurt themselves, as if they are driving a spike into their own hearts, without even being aware of it.
Shakyamuni is described as a person who always made the effort to reach out and speak to others— something that you need to be strong in order to do.
There may be times in life when others let you down or disappoint you. Nichiren Daishonin was betrayed by many of his followers, even though he was the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. I’ve had people turn against me, too—people for whom I’d done a great deal. But I was never surprised at all; rather, it’s something I came to expect.
At such times, you need to be brave. You haven’t done anything wrong, so just go on living with self-confidence and assurance. Those who betray or bully others are in the wrong. They are to be pitied.
If a friend betrays your trust, just forge new friendships. Don’t lose your trust in everyone just because someone has hurt you. If you don’t trust anyone you may avoid being hurt or disappointed, but you’ll become a closed, narrow person. In truth, those who have suffered deeply are able to be kinder to others. You have to be strong.
Be like the sun. Not all of the light of the sun falls on planets that will reflect it back. The sun’s rays also spread out into empty space, seemingly wasted. Yet, the sun still goes on shining brightly.
You may find that those who reject the radiant light of your friendship will naturally fade out of your lives. But the more you shine your light, the more brilliant your own lives will become. Follow the path that you believe in, no matter what others think or do. If you remain constant and stay true to yourselves, others will definitely one day come to understand your sincere intent.
You are also fortunate in that you can chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I know of many people who suffered from bullying, but when they challenged their situations through earnestly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they suddenly found one day that the bullying had stopped. Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo when you are suffering, you can quite naturally overcome that suffering, almost without being aware of it. Often it’s only when you look back that you realize it.
I hope you will also chant for your friends. That is the greatest expression of friendship.
You may have friends who are sick, who cannot attend school or who are struggling to cope with problems at home. Whatever the case may be, the best thing you can do is to chant for them. Your prayers, like radio waves, though invisible, will definitely reach them. It is also important to chant for those you don’t like, find hard to get along with or feel resentful toward. It may be difficult and perhaps even impossible for you to do so at first. But if you keep trying and chant for them, the situation will change. Perhaps you will change, or they will change. Either way, the situation will move in a more positive direction. Many people have experienced this first hand. Above all, becoming a person who is able to chant for the happiness of such challenging individuals will be your greatest fortune.
The influence of friends is sometimes stronger than that of parents or anyone else. If you have good friends, friends who are trying to improve and develop themselves, you’ll improve and grow, too. Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), the American steel magnate, modestly attributed his success to having gathered around him people who were far more talented and capable than he. This was his philosophy of life. The only way to make good friends is to be a good friend yourself. Good people gather around other good people.
I hope you will be accepting and supportive of others. Please become people with hearts as broad as a great river, as wide as the ocean and as vast as the blue sky. Wonderful friendships will unfold from such big hearts.
17.14 Love as a Source of Growth
President Ikeda explains that the ideal love relationship is one where both parties inspire each other to realize vibrant growth and develop as human beings.
President Ikeda’s Guidance
Adapted from the dialogue Discussions on Youth, published in Japanese in March 1999.
Just as naturally as spring brings flowers and winter brings snow, youth is a time of awakening to feelings of love and attraction. This is one of the stages of life. You are entering a new period in your life, just as the sun marks a new day by rising brightly at dawn.
Everyone’s concerns about love and relationships are different. It depends on your personality, your situation and your environment. There is no one single approach that will solve everyone’s problems. In addition, everyone is perfectly free to fall in love or be attracted to someone. Who you decide to go out with or have a relationship with is your own choice, and it’s not really anyone else’s business.
The only advice I would like to give you on this subject, as an older friend, is not to let your relationship make you lose sight of pursuing your allimportant personal development.
The purpose of your studies and after-school activities, such as team sports and clubs, is to build a foundation for your life, to make you a strong person. Worries about your personality and your relations with friends are also nutrients for building a strong self.
The same is true of love. Love should help you grow as a person; it should invigorate you and help you realize your full potential. This is the basic premise. But as the saying “Love is blind” suggests, when people are in love they often lose the ability to see themselves objectively.
If you allow your new relationship to worry your parents, to lead you into bad behavior or to stop you from studying, then you and your partner are acting as negative influences on, or hindrances to, each other. Neither of you will be happy if you just end up hurting one another.
The question is: Does the person you like inspire you to work harder at your studies or distract you from them? Does their presence make you more determined to devote greater energies to after-school activities, be a better friend, a more thoughtful son or daughter? Do they inspire you to realize your future goals and work to achieve them? Or is that person your central focus, overshadowing all else, including your after-school activities, your friends and family, and even your goals for the future?
A relationship in which you both forget what you should be doing now, your goals and aims, is not good for either of you. A healthy relationship is one in which two people encourage each other to reach their respective goals while sharing each other’s hopes and dreams. A relationship should be a source of inspiration, invigoration and hope to live your lives to the fullest.
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) is one of the greatest poets who ever lived. His great love, Beatrice, was his inspiration in life. He loved her from the time he was a boy, and then he happened to meet her again by chance when he was 18. He wrote of the deep emotion he felt on that occasion in his poem “La Vita Nuova” (The New Life). As Dante struggled to find a way to express his feelings for Beatrice, he invented a new poetic form. Beatrice opened the door of artistic creation for him.
But his love for Beatrice would never be requited. She married another man and died young. Yet, Dante kept loving her. His love forged, elevated and deepened his spirit into something more lofty and noble. In his lifework, The Divine Comedy, Beatrice is depicted as a gentle, benevolent being who guides him to heaven.
Of course, Dante lived in a different age and perhaps a different country from you. But I think there are many things to be learned from this great poet who stayed true to his own feelings, whether they were reciprocated or not, and transformed them into his guiding inspiration in life. I truly believe that love should be a positive impetus for our lives, the driving force for living with strength and courage.
17.15 Learning Is Light, Ignorance Is Darkness
Those who keep learning throughout life remain youthful. President Ikeda discusses the importance of cultivating the habit of learning while we are young.
President Ikeda’s Guidance
Adapted from an essay compiled in Kokoronoshiki (Seasons of the Heart), published in Japanese in May 1993.
There is a Russian saying: “Learning is light, ignorance is darkness.” Of course, “learning” here does not refer only to studying at a university. In a broader sense, learning is self-improvement, while ignorance is stagnation. The spirit of learning leads to peace, progress and prosperity, while ignorance leads to misery, misfortune and impoverishment.
In my youth, I studied while working. Around 1950, when Mr. Toda’s businesses were in serious trouble, was the most difficult period for me, as I was also in poor health. Yet, I never felt unhappy. Spending my days working alongside the person I had chosen as my mentor, I hadn’t the slightest regret. My only frustration was that I couldn’t study as much as I wanted to.
As if he knew my thoughts, Mr. Toda said to me: “Don’t worry. I will teach you everything you would learn at a university. Just be patient. Leave your education to me.”
From that time, I spent every Sunday at Mr. Toda’s home, receiving private instruction from
him. With his wide-ranging scholarship—encompassing government, economics, literature, physics, astronomy and other fields of science—he became a perfect tutor, imparting to me all of the knowledge he had acquired in his lifetime.
Eventually, in addition to Sundays, the classes expanded to weekday mornings before work. Mr. Toda’s classes were extremely demanding. Through this training by my mentor in the midst of our arduous struggles, I built the foundation for my life.
Mr. Toda was always studying. Two weeks before he died, he sternly asked me what I had been reading, adding: “Never forget to keep reading. I’m presently up to volume three of the [ancient Chinese classic] Compendium of Eighteen Histories.” At that time, he was extremely weak, to the extent that he could no longer stand or walk unaided. The intense resonance of his voice, however, still reverberates in my ears.
Those who continue learning, who stay active and engaged, remain forever young. Lives that continue improving are like the water of a ceaselessly flowing river, always fresh and pure.
Of the many people I have met, it was the eminent British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) who impressed me most deeply with his unwavering devotion to learning.
After repeated invitations from Dr. Toynbee, I had the opportunity to meet and engage in discussion with him for a total of 40 hours over 10 days in 1972 and 1973. The content of our dialogue was published in 1975. Since then it has been translated into English under the title of Choose Life, as well as into French, German and many other languages, and has been well received around the world. I am delighted at the result, hoping it might repay in some small way the sincerity of Dr. Toynbee, who took the time to engage in those lengthy discussions with me, someone many years his junior.
The year after our dialogue ended, Dr. Toynbee was incapacitated by illness. Unfortunately, the outlook for his recovery was not good, and it appears that he never fully regained his faculties. In a letter I received from his wife, Veronica, she wrote that even in that condition her husband asked for books, and although it was doubtful that he could actually read, he turned the pages as if he could.
I was deeply moved to read this. Even when illness deprived him of his full awareness, Dr. Toynbee’s dedicated efforts in scholarly research had become an expression of his life itself, always seeking to learn and aiming higher. I felt he was the model of a great individual, fully deserved of the recognition he had gained as one of the leading thinkers of the 20th century.
It is easy to pay lip service to lifelong learning. With Japan’s emergence as an economic superpower, people have more free time. They engage in a wide range of hobbies. But simply having time and attending classes somewhere won’t guarantee inner enrichment. The key is whether one has a vibrant desire to improve and grow.
Dr. Toynbee kept books beside him even when he was bedridden. Learning had become a habit, a good habit, for him. Those who acquire that habit when they are young are fortunate.
In the workplace and the home, as well as in the events of daily life, we can always find precious opportunities to learn. There are those who use five spare minutes to read a newspaper, open a book, listen to the news or gain something from an encounter with another person. Though they may seem busy, such people are able to transform that very busyness into learning. Laziness is the first step toward stagnation. Let us lead lives nourished by the rich wellspring of a desire for self-improvement, maintaining a lively interest and curiosity about everything.
17.16 Be Suns Illuminating a New World
President Ikeda offers advice to SGI-USA youth division members on life and faith
President Ikeda’s Guidance
From a speech delivered at an SGI-USA youth training session, Malibu, California, February 26, 1990.
Youth is a time full of worries and problems. Young people’s hearts are constantly vacillating. You are worried about your future, your personality, relationships, social issues and life in general. You are confused and anxious. You are troubled by the gap between ideals and reality, and may sometimes fall into self-hatred and become consumed with insecurity and fear.
Youth is a season of emotional turmoil and suffering. This is the reality of youth, no matter what the country. In a certain sense, that’s how it should be. You are not the only ones suffering like this, and in this period of change and growth, these feelings probably can’t be helped.
The important thing is not to be impatient. You can’t attain peace of mind nor social stability all at once. It takes time.
If a plane tries to take off without taxiing down the runway and gradually building up speed, it won’t succeed. And even if it takes off, if it lacks sufficient fuel and good maintenance, it won’t stay in the air long. It may even crash.
Life and Buddhist practice are like a marathon. You may at times run out front and at times fall behind. But what matters is the final moment at the finish line.
The training you undergo in your youth is all for that final, true victory. That’s why you need to study as hard as you can now. Keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and build up a reservoir of life force.
Steadily move ahead on the fundamental path of putting your faith into practice in life, in your own distinct way.
The sun rises every day. It never takes a break. If you do the same, persistently pressing ahead in accord with the Mystic Law, the ultimate Law of the universe, you will come to enjoy a wonderful life of complete satisfaction and fulfillment, far surpassing anything you imagined. Please be assured that this is the most certain and valuable way to spend your youth.
We are pioneers embracing this great philosophy, of which so much of humankind is still unaware. It is, therefore, extremely important to demonstrate just how wonderful Nichiren Buddhism truly is by showing actual proof of its benefit in our lives. Seeing such proof will enable people to realize the greatness and originality of this Buddhism and see that it is different from anything they have encountered before.
Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Even more valuable than reason and documentary proof is the proof of actual fact” (“Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 599).
Of course, you shouldn’t overreach yourselves just trying to show proof. All you need do is present an example of steadily seeking to improve and develop yourselves in the way most natural for you—in your daily lives, in your families, your workplaces, your communities and in your character.
Just carry out your human revolution in your own way. In doing so, you will naturally come to impress others with your vitality, hope, conviction and reassuring presence. That, in itself, will build the foundation for sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others, without any need for words.
There’s no need to rush in our efforts to share Buddhism. I feel it’s better to be strict and uphold sound standards for membership, rather than just increase our numbers.
All people have a fabulous “new world”—a yet-undiscovered realm—within them. It is called the world of Buddhahood. But most of humanity is still not aware of its existence.
Our Buddhist practice is the effort to fully tap and activate this “new world” of Buddhahood, a realm of infinite power and potential.
Once we awaken to the world of Buddhahood within us, our lives are filled with unsurpassed joy. An entirely “new world” also opens up in our lives and in society. Communicating this to others is our mission.
17.17 Cherish High Ideals
Through the guidance of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, President Ikeda calls on young people to strive with all their might to realize high ideals.
President Ikeda’s Guidance
From a speech delivered at the first Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting, Tokyo, January 20, 1988.
Naturally, there are many different ways to live your youth, and there is no need to suggest a single approach for everyone. But whatever path you choose, what will play a decisive role in the direction your life takes into the future is whether you live the days of your youth to the fullest or let them slip by without making any real effort.
Mr. Toda often gave us guidance to the effect: “If you’re going to do something big, it’s important that you have the determination to achieve it in your 20s and 30s. If you wait until you’re in your 40s, and then suddenly decide to embark on some great venture, it becomes that much more difficult to succeed.”
He also advised: “Young people should cherish dreams that seem almost too big to accomplish. Inevitably in life, we’re only able to achieve a fraction of what we’d like to. So if your dreams are too small to begin with, you’ll end up not being able to accomplish anything. What good, then, will you have created with your life?”
Striving to realize a high ideal in your 20s and 30s is the key to enjoying unsurpassed satisfaction and fulfillment in this seemingly long yet short existence.
You’re only young once. How unfortunate it would be to reach your 40s and 50s, and be filled with sadness and regret. A life of discontent—a life unfulfilled and half-realized like a sputtering, smoldering fire that never leaps into bright flames—is also a terrible waste.
That’s why you should burn your brightest and strive your hardest in your youth when you are at the height of your powers and your health. It is all for your own benefit.
Mr. Toda taught that young people should cherish high ideals and advance with bright, burning energy. The higher the summit you aim for, the greater the satisfaction you will savor when you reach the peak. This is a way of life filled with passion and growth, brimming with the limitless power of faith in the Mystic Law.
Kosen-rufu is the supreme summit for humankind,
the most meaningful and noble ideal. It is also the most realistic ideal and one that is most urgently needed by society and the times. Dedicate your youth and your life, fully and without reservation, to the great ideal of kosen-rufu. Such a life accords with the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and embodies the essence of the unchanging Soka Gakkai spirit.
Translated from the April 2016 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.
This concludes Part 2 of “The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace.”
With President Ikeda’s permission, some minor edits and revisions have been made to the original Japanese, and excerpts of remarks originally in dialogue format have been recast as monologues for ease of reading.
—Selected Excerpts Editorial Committee—
1. The world’s population was estimated to be around 5.8 billion in 1996. Today, the figure is 7.1 billion.