What Does It Mean to Win in Buddhism?
A rock musician once said, “Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try.”
A rock musician once said, “Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try.” In essence, sometimes we’ll achieve our goals and other times we’ll experience setbacks or disappointments. The important thing is that we keep striving toward our goals and dreams without ever giving up.
In Buddhism, winning means never being defeated by our circumstances, and always endeavoring to grow and keep moving forward as we share the wonderful philosophy and teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with those around us.
Our ardent chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo fuels our resolve to keep fighting until we win. And through our Buddhist practice, we learn how to persevere in the most basic challenge of life: the struggle between our Buddha nature and our negativity, or fundamental darkness.
Through his own actions, Nichiren Daishonin taught us how to live a life undefeated by internal and external negative functions that try to sway us from revealing our greatest potential, our Buddhahood.
In April 1253, Nichiren declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is founded on the Lotus Sutra’s belief that everyone, without exception, equally possesses a Buddha nature. In the feudal society of 13th-century Japan—in which wealth, class and family standings and connections formed the existing social hierarchy—this was truly a revolutionary teaching. Because of this, Nichiren faced great resistance and persecution at first from local authorities and priests of established Buddhist schools, and later from the highest authorities of Japan.
Despite increasing animosity, persecution and repeated attempts on his life, Nichiren exhibited astonishing bravery, wisdom, compassion and integrity, and upheld his powerful resolve to continue spreading his teaching. This resolve is reflected in statements such as: “But still I am not discouraged” (“The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 748); and “Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 280).
It was the Daishonin’s immense state of life founded on his conviction in the Lotus Sutra that enabled him to prevail over his circumstances. In “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teaching,” he writes, “Donning the armor of endurance and girding myself with the sword of the wonderful teaching, I have raised the banner of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 392). He goes on to express in this writing his conviction that there will come a day when the Mystic Law will flourish and people throughout the world will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
In other words, despite not seeing in his immediate circumstances the results he aimed to produce, he never gave up and remained committed to his efforts, because he had absolute conviction that the causes he made would surely manifest as effects in the future. The spread of his teaching throughout the world today validates his beliefs.
In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren discusses this using a sutra passage that states: “If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present” (WND-1, 279).
Each moment is connected through the simultaneity of cause and effect. A powerful determination and our actions in this moment pave the way for a victorious future.
SGI President Ikeda states:
Upon reflection, life is nothing more than the accumulation of each present moment. If you are unable to make today fulfilling, you won’t reap any positive results tomorrow. You can make the grandest long-term plans, but if you can’t treasure each moment, those plans will just end as empty pipe dreams. Past causes and future results are all encapsulated in the true aspect of all phenomena in the present moment, and a transformation in that single moment of life can both extinguish karmic impediments from the distant past and ensure good fortune that will continue into the eternal future. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 2, p. 229)
Thus, it is vital to strive to win in each moment. Whether we are praying to the Gohonzon, encouraging our friends or making efforts in each aspect of our daily lives, the challenge is to be wholly engaged in that activity, 100 percent.
And as we do so, because our lives are in a constant state of flux, the most critical battle we wage lies in vanquishing our negativity and bringing forth our best selves at each moment. And even if we were to lose this battle momentarily, as long as we resolve to not give in to self-defeat and keep challenging ourselves, we will in the end win. As President Ikeda encourages us: “The fact that you’re challenging yourself is itself a victory” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, p. 52).
SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance
Life is a succession of struggles, and we experience victories and defeats on various levels along the way. No matter how strong or capable we are, we can’t always win.
That’s the way it is in life’s struggles. My mentor, Josei Toda, composed the following poem as one of his final messages to us:
Winning and losing
part of life,
but I pray to the Buddha
for final victory.
Life is long, and there may be times when things don’t work out as we hope. But we embrace the Mystic Law, the incomparable strategy of the Lotus Sutra. If we uphold the Lotus Sutra and base ourselves on faith throughout our lives, then no matter what successes or setbacks we may experience along the way, we are certain to win in the end. That is the great teaching of Buddhism. Therefore, we have nothing to worry about.
Win or lose, the most important thing is whether we can make that particular result a cause for future victory. Every moment is a fresh start.
Let’s continue advancing together with optimism and confidence toward our next triumph, united solidly in purpose with our fellow members. This epitomizes the practice of the Buddhism of true cause—a teaching of moving ever forward from the present moment. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, pp. 74–75)