Develop a Strong Inner Core
Words to live by
Here, SGI President Ikeda responds to the concern of a future division member who was failing to make any headway in solving a difficult problem even after having decided to challenge it by earnestly doing gongyo every day. He explains that in Nichiren Buddhism, no prayer goes unanswered, but that the benefits we accrue from faith in the Gohonzon are sometimes conspicuous and sometimes inconspicuous. So even if we do not see concrete results immediately from our practice, it’s important that we continue to persevere in chanting and making efforts. If we do so, he says, we can move in the direction that is the very best for us.
In Nichiren Buddhism, it is said that no prayer goes unanswered. But this is very different from having every wish instantly gratified as if by magic. If you chant to win the lottery tomorrow, or score 100 percent on a test tomorrow without having studied, the odds are small that it will happen. Nonetheless, viewed from a deeper, longer-term perspective, all your prayers serve to propel you in the direction of happiness.
Sometimes our immediate prayers are realized, and sometimes they aren’t. When we look back later, however, we can say with absolute conviction that everything turned out for the best.
Buddhism accords with reason. Our faith is manifested in our daily lives, in our actual circumstances. Our prayers cannot be answered if we fail to make efforts to realize them.
Furthermore, it takes a great deal of time and effort to overcome sufferings of a karmic nature, whose roots lie deep in causes we made in the past. There is a big difference, for example, in the time it takes for a scratch to heal and that required to recover from a serious internal disease.
Some illnesses can be treated with medication, while others require surgery. The same applies to changing our karma through faith and practice.
In addition, each person’s level of faith and individual karma differ. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, however, we can bring forth a powerful sense of hope and move our lives in a positive, beneficial direction without fail.
It’s unrealistic to think we can achieve anything of substance overnight. If we were to have every prayer answered instantly, it would lead to our ruin. We’d grow lazy and complacent.
You may have a passing interest in painting, for example. But if you think you can simply dash off some paintings, suddenly hold an exhibition, and have your work snapped up by art collectors, you are hardly being realistic.
Suppose you spend all your money playing rather than working and are now destitute. Do you think someone giving you a large sum of money would contribute to your happiness in the long term?
It would be like making superficial repairs to a crumbling building without addressing the root problem. To create something fine and solid, it would be better to build anew from the foundation up. The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to transform our lives on a fundamental level, not superficially. It enables us to develop a strong inner core and solidly accumulate indestructible good fortune.
There are two kinds of benefit that derive from faith in the Gohonzon: conspicuous and inconspicuous. Conspicuous benefit is the obvious, visible benefit of being protected or being quickly able to surmount a problem when it arises—be it an illness or a conflict in personal relationships.
Inconspicuous benefit, on the other hand, is less tangible. It is good fortune accumulated slowly but steadily, like the growth of a tree or the rising of the tide, which results in the forging of a rich and expansive state of life. We might not discern any change from day to day, but as the years pass, it will be clear that we’ve become happy, that we’ve grown as individuals. This is inconspicuous benefit.
When you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you will definitely gain the best result, regardless of whether that benefit is conspicuous or inconspicuous.
No matter what happens, the important thing is to continue chanting. If you do so, you’ll become happy without fail. Even if things don’t work out the way you hoped or imagined, when you look back later, you’ll understand on a much more profound level that it was the best possible result. This is tremendous inconspicuous benefit.
Conspicuous benefit, for instance, might allow you to eat your fill today but leave you worrying about your next meal. As an example of inconspicuous benefit, on the other hand, you may have only a meager meal today but you are moving steadily toward a life in which you will never have to worry about having enough to eat. The latter is a far more attractive prospect, I think, and is the essence of practicing Nichiren Buddhism. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, vol. 1, pp. 66–68)