Q:I hear a lot about attaining Buddhahood, but I’m not sure what that actually means?
This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions about Nichiren Buddhism.
Many people have never heard of “attaining Buddhahood” before encountering Buddhism. But we can say that in contemporary terms, it means achieving genuine, lasting happiness.
Nichiren Buddhism clarifies two types of happiness: relative and absolute.
Relative happiness is the feeling of satisfaction or elation from external sources. Many consider gaining things such as wealth, success, beauty and health as being critical components for becoming happy. Though it’s natural to find joy in achieving such goals, even after doing so, people can still feel unfulfilled. What’s more, relative happiness is fleeting and can shatter easily when external conditions change.
Psychologists and researchers have long studied the conditions and causes of unhappiness and happiness. Many have concluded that a lasting sense of happiness has little to do with the absence of problems, having favorable circumstances or gaining material wealth or possessions.
In “Happiness in This World,” Nichiren Daishonin says: “Though worldly troubles may arise, never let them disturb you. No one can avoid problems, not even sages or worthies” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 681).
Research shows that an important indicator of genuine happiness is found in building a solid inner self, which includes self-esteem, self-control, optimism, appreciation and finding meaningful purpose in life. These qualities are the very things that Nichiren Buddhism helps us develop.
The practice of Nichiren Buddhism helps us establish a life state of “absolute happiness,” in which we are never defeated by trials or suffering. Just being alive becomes our greatest joy.
Nichiren also says in “Happiness in This World”: “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law?” (WND-1, 681).
By chanting and taking action for others’ happiness, even in stressful and challenging circumstances, we can experience the deep joy of acting with compassion, wisdom and courage.
True happiness is found in our ability to feel joy no matter the situation.
If our problems are like mountains, then true happiness is found in climbing those mountains, rather than avoiding them. The more mountains we climb, the more we develop our strength, endurance and skills as excellent mountaineers. The more we tackle our problems head-on, the more we develop hardy, stress-resistant vitality and true satisfaction in life.
SGI President Ikeda writes: “Happiness is not a life without worries or struggles. Happiness is the robust sense of fulfillment one feels when bravely
confronting hardship. It is that elevation of the spirit, like an airplane gaining lift from the air resistance against its wings” (Ikedaquotes.org/happiness).
As long as we continue helping others while challenging our problems with our Buddhist practice, we’ll be able to see everything in life as opportunities to expand our capacity and experience immense joy and fulfillment. This is what it means to savor absolute happiness and attain Buddhahood.