The Benefits of Responding With Joy

Core Buddhist Principles

Raleigh Chapter. RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA. Photo: Yasuhiro Aihara.

The purpose of our Buddhist practice might be described as enabling one person to become truly happy, and giving that person the ability to enable another person to become truly happy.

Through each of us naturally sharing the great sense of joy and fulfillment we gain through our practice, we can ultimately elevate the state of all humanity.

In the Lotus Sutra’s 18th chapter, titled “The Benefits of Responding with Joy,” Shakyamuni illustrates the benefit that a person accrues from simply hearing about and sharing the Mystic Law. Early in the chapter, the Buddha states, “One person, having heard, responds with joy and spreads the teachings, and the teachings in this way continue to be handed along from one to another until they reach a fiftieth person” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 286–87). In other words, the benefit of joyfully enabling another person to hear the Lotus Sutra, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is so far-reaching it remains forever undiluted. Its benefit is fully enjoyed by anyone who hears it and responds with joy even after being passed on 50 times.

Regarding this passage about the “fiftieth person,” President Ikeda says:

This means that just hearing about the Gohonzon and thinking, “How wonderful!” “I am so fortunate to learn of this teaching!” produces enormous benefit. Those who respond this way and then embrace faith and share it with others according to their ability will have all their prayers answered, gain tremendous good fortune, and attain the state in which all desires are fulfilled without fail. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 5, p. 35)

The Law spreading to the fiftieth person symbolizes the dynamic transmission of joy from one person to another, and ultimately to all people, by those who spread the Mystic Law.

So what does it mean to “respond with joy”? It is to take life’s challenges and struggles head-on and to develop the inner strength to always move forward.

President Ikeda writes, “Through faith we can establish a state of life where, no matter what happens, we experience joy, hope and confidence in the depths of our being” (WLS-5, 44).

The Lotus Sutra explains four types of benefits enjoyed by those who hear about and share the Mystic Law. They will: 1) gain material happiness; 2) acquire the merit to become a leader in society; 3) acquire abundant wisdom and enjoy excellent health in both body and mind; and 4) enjoy a state of life in which all desires are fulfilled (see WLS-5, 48–49).

Throughout his writings, Nichiren Daishonin expresses great joy despite the intense challenges and circumstances he faces. For example, he writes, “I am so overwhelmed with joy that I find it difficult to restrain myself” (“Choosing the Heart of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 485).

Life is a succession of moments. As exemplified by Nichiren Daishonin, every moment we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a sense of appreciation and joy, and take action to share that joy with others, we are securing a life of deep and indestructible happiness.