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Keep Striving Until the Very End

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A rare blue moon over the Kyoto countryside. Kyoto, home to the old imperial capital, embodies the refined nature of Japanese culture and dining, as well as numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, iconic gardens, imperial palaces and natural beauty. Photo by KUMIKOMINI / GETTY IMAGES.

Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets. For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital? (“Letter to Niike,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1027)

It may be a common tendency for people to give up striving for a goal when it becomes too difficult or the end is nowhere in sight. In the above passage, however, Nichiren Daishonin urges his disciple to continue making efforts until the very end to avoid having any regrets.

He wrote “Letter to Niike” in February 1280, and, as the title suggests, it was addressed to Niike Saemon-no-jo, who was an official in the Kamakura shogunate. In the above passage, he urges Niike to continue carrying out his faith until the end of his life, offering the example of the 12-day journey from Kamakura, the political center of Japan in his day, to Kyoto, the old capital known for its beauty, art and culture. As a government official, perhaps this was a journey with which Niike was familiar.

It is understood that Niike and his wife, the lay nun Niike, were converted to Nichiren’s teachings by Nikko Shonin and, despite government pressure, the two appear to have persisted in their faith and practice.

As ordinary human beings, it is often difficult to foresee the kinds of obstacles and challenges we may face or how long it may take to establish lives of genuine, lasting happiness. Especially when we face unexpected hardships, it is easy to give up—a reaction often rooted in our lack of confidence in our ability to improve and advance in life.

If we continue believing in our limitations rather than our limitless possibilities and give up in our efforts, we may lapse into hopelessness or arrogance and end up with regrets.

Thus, it is vital that we continue developing our abilities to identify, root out and overcome our own negative tendencies and weaknesses, and strengthen our wisdom, courage and compassion. And it is by traversing the sure path of advancing kosen-rufu that we can hone and develop our strengths and bring forth our brightest, happiest selves.

At the same time, it helps to seek out our good friends in faith, who know how to traverse the mountains and valleys of life based on faith, and to also become good friends to those who are just starting out or struggling in their Buddhist practice. By deepening our seeking spirit while offering support to others, we will find the inspiration to continue developing our lives and staying on the path to Buddhahood.

SGI President Ikeda says: “In any struggle, those who keep striving to the very end, firmly resolved to win, will be victorious. By fighting our hardest at a crucial moment, we can put our lives on an imperishable trajectory forever imbued with the four noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity. Chanting powerful daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] that resounds like a lion’s roar, let’s exert ourselves bravely and vigorously each day” (Jan. 11, 2013, World Tribune, p. 3).

The basis for attaining Buddhahood is to always persevere in faith, determining and re-determining to advance no matter the challenges before us. This attitude of never giving up is the ironclad formula for achieving victory after victory.

SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance

Though having had the great good fortune to embrace Nichiren Buddhism, if we stop practicing before we reach the end of our life, we won’t be able to attain the ultimate summit of Buddhahood. Since the flame of Buddhist practice is easily extinguished, Nichiren Daishonin urges us to remain diligent in developing our faith.

Why is the flame of faith easily extinguished? Because people allow themselves to be defeated by the desire for fame and fortune or by onslaughts of the three obstacles and four devils. Nichiren says: “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997). A slackening or wavering in our resolve or faith triggers our fundamental darkness, our negativity. To maintain faith throughout our lives, therefore, rests on our resolve to keep on striving in our Buddhist practice.

Nichiren himself vowed never to retreat or falter on the path of faith. For example, speaking of his resolve immediately before declaring the establishment of his teaching, he says: “I vowed to summon up a powerful and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings and never to falter in my efforts” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 240). And even while in exile on Sado, he was determined never to abandon his vow, declaring: “I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan.
I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 280–81). Nichiren personally demonstrated with his life the paramount importance of remaining steadfast in faith. (The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: SGI President Ikeda’s Study Lecture Series, p. 65) WT

(p. 9)

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