How Do I Figure Out What To Do With My Life?
The Buddhist concept of mission.
This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions about Nichiren Buddhism.
Q: I often hear the word mission at SGI meetings. How do I know what my mission is?
A: When people hear the word mission, they might think of government operatives trying to accomplish a secret task, like in the Mission Impossible movies. Or they might think of religious missionaries who go to various places to spread their teachings.
In the SGI, our mission is not something given to us by an outside force but is developed from within. Simply put, it is to awaken to our greatest potential and contribute to the place where we are right now by bringing forth our unique capabilities.
Shimei, the Japanese word for mission, is made up of two characters: shi, meaning “to use,” and mei, meaning “life.” So, shimei means “to use one’s life.”
Buddhism teaches that because everyone has abilities that cannot be replicated, each person is irreplaceable with an important role, or mission, that only they can fulfill. SGI President Ikeda says:
The fact that we have been born into this world means that we each have a unique purpose to fulfill. If we didn’t, we would not have been born. Nothing in the universe is without value. Everything has meaning . . . Each living thing has a unique identity, role and purpose. (Discussions on Youth, new edition, p. 284)
Essentially, our capabilities shine the brightest when we take action for the happiness of others. We have a fundamental mission to awaken people to their unlimited potential and empower them to become happy through teaching them about the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, or those of us who practice Nichiren Buddhism. President Ikeda also writes:
Awakening to your mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth means coming face to face with the innermost essence of your own life. It is knowing the ultimate meaning of why you were born, why you are alive. There is no greater joy, fulfillment or pride than that which comes from awakening to your eternal mission. (Youth and the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 12)
As Nichiren Buddhists, we share the mission of spreading Buddhism in our communities. But developing this sense of responsibility and learning how to best fulfill it in our own unique way doesn’t come naturally, and we often don’t know if we’re heading down the best path.
President Ikeda often explains that the key to figuring out our mission is to climb the mountain in front of us.
As we continue to do so, we will find ourselves scaling our own unique path. The best way to develop our sense of mission, then, is to wholeheartedly challenge the task in front of us. As President Ikeda puts it: “You won’t find [your mission] by standing still. You must challenge yourself in something, it doesn’t matter what. Then, by your making consistent effort, the direction you should take will open up before you quite naturally” (Discussions on Youth, p. 10).
In Buddhism, our mission isn’t predestined or given to us from on high. Rather, we create it by choosing to challenge the task at hand, using our Buddhist practice to bring forth immeasurable energy, wisdom, courage and conviction to continue advancing. Through such efforts, we cultivate our abilities to contribute to kosen-rufu and establish lives of complete fulfillment and joy.