How to Master Time

It starts with transforming our mindset to create the most value at each moment.

Photo by Liravega/ Getty Images

Dear World Tribune: I know 2018 is a very important year, especially with the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival on Sept. 23, but I have so much going on already and the thought of trying to do even more overwhelms me. I don’t want to have any regrets this year but I also don’t have time to maintain a balanced life. Please help. —Busy Bodhisattva

Dear Busy Bodhisattva,

Your concerns are understandable. We face all sorts of demands that pull us in different directions. Finding time amid a hectic schedule is undoubtedly a struggle. But when we talk about mastering time from the Buddhist perspective, it’s not about time management in the traditional sense, where we calculate how much time we allot to each activity.

Rather, mastering time is an attitude and a posture—one based on determination, prayer and effort to make the best use of our time. SGI President Ikeda explains: “Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. However, if you use those hours wisely, you can accomplish a week’s worth of effort in a day, or 10 years’ worth of effort in a year. I have lived my life with that spirit” (Jan. 1, 2016, World Tribune, p. 8).

Let’s learn ways from President Ikeda’s guidance and example to make the most of each moment:

LESSON #1: There’s no such thing as waiting for the right time; we must create it.

Although 2018 has been designated the Year of Brilliant Achievement, the significance of the time is not based on the year itself, but ultimately hinges on our personal determination to make it so. President Ikeda emphasizes:

We have to make a determination, pray and take action. Unless we do so, our environment will not change in the least; though five or ten years may pass, “that time” will never arrive . . . “That time” is the moment you resolve from the depths of your heart, “Now I will stand up and fight!” From that instant, your destiny changes. Your life develops. History begins. (The Heart of the Lotus Sutra, p. 26)

LESSON #2: Everything boils down to making a decision to do our best and determining never to retreat.

In The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda relays a story about a young man who was struggling to strike a balance amid his busy work schedule and participation in SGI activities. President Ikeda addressed his concern, saying:

To get right to the point, it boils down to making a decision to do your best in everything and then having the determination not to retreat a single step. When placed in severe circumstances, people all too easily tend to give up, convinced that the situation is hopeless, before even considering what concrete actions they could take. In their hearts, they have already conceded defeat without even putting up a fight. That, in fact, is the cause of all failure.

The crucial thing is to determine to do your absolute best both at work and in Soka Gakkai activities, and to find time to earnestly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo about your situation. You have to bring forth your wisdom and life force, and then exercise your ingenuity . . .

For instance, leaders who cannot get around to see their members because they have to travel frequently on business can encourage them by writing them letters regularly while on the road. Or, if they have to work overtime until late at night six days a week but have Sundays off, they can do a week’s worth of activities on that day. A hundred people will come up with a hundred different creative ways, but in every case the basic principle is the same. (vol. 4, p. 145)

LESSON #3: Exert 100 percent effort in each moment.

There is a famous line from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings that goes: “If in a single moment of life we exhaust the pains and trials of millions of kalpas, then instant after instant there will arise in us the three Buddha bodies with which we are eternally endowed” (p. 214). With the understanding that the most important time is here and now, when we exert 100 percent effort into whatever task is right in front of us, our life condition and capacity expand.

This was the key to the 28-year-old Daisaku Ikeda’s decisive victory in the Osaka Campaign. In January 1956, he was dispatched by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda to lead kosenrufu activities in Osaka, a relatively small chapter with mostly new members and inexperienced leaders.

Daisaku, indivisible from his mentor’s vow to rid the world of suffering, led intensive efforts to introduce others to Buddhism. This movement triggered a powerful groundswell of propagation throughout Osaka Chapter that culminated in an unprecedented 11,111 families joining the Soka Gakkai in May 1956. Even today, this achievement remains unparalled in the annals of kosen-rufu and serves as the blueprint in faith for making the impossible possible.

President Ikeda writes in an essay on the Osaka Campaign:

There were so many people I had to meet, so many people I wanted to see and encourage, so many people I wanted to contact within the limited time of each 24-hour day. If I let this moment, this opportunity, pass by, I might never be able to see this person again. That is why I was desperate to make the most of every second.

If someone pointed out a member’s house to me while I was traveling from one meeting place to another, I would always try to stop by, even if just for a minute. Whenever a member came to the Kansai Headquarters, I would always try to make time to speak with him or her, even if just a word of greeting or encouragement. At times when I simply could not stop, I would wave or acknowledge people with my eyes, silently chanting for them from my heart. (May 13, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3)

Amid his own extremely busy schedule at that time, President Ikeda taught us through his moment-to-moment battle that we can multiply our ability to create value at each moment.

LESSON #4: Vigorous morning gongyo and daimoku are key.

The ability to master time arises from cultivating a powerful life state, in which we can embrace our challenges and move everything in a positive direction, day after day. Everything then comes down to doing a powerful morning gongyo and chanting Nam-myohorenge-kyo. President Ikeda writes:

First, our practice of morning and evening gongyo is the foundation for advancing on the correct path of life—a path aligned with the Law that pervades the three existences of past, present and future—and leading the most meaningful existence. Especially important, as the phrase “morning after morning we rise up with the Buddha” indicates, is doing an invigorating morning gongyo.

Failing to win in the morning can lead to an unsatisfactory day. And an unending succession of such days can add up to an unsatisfying life. On the other hand, winning in the morning, getting off to a good start, leads to a productive day and puts you on a path to solid progress, ultimately culminating in a life of fulfillment and victory. (Nov. 10, 2017, World Tribune, p. 6)

“This Will Be My Year of Brilliant Achievement!”

In his first essay this year, President Ikeda recalls what second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda would often share at the start of the new year:

When we who embrace the Mystic Law align our lives with the fundamental rhythm of the universe and make a vow with a renewed determination that ‘This will be the year!’ we will definitely be able to show actual proof before the year is out.” (see p. 2 of this issue)

As we advance toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, let’s uphold this same resolve in our hearts, determining that “This will be my Year of Brilliant Achievement!”