Soka Spirit

“Become the Master of Your Mind”

Buddhism teaches that rather than our circumstances or the people in our environment, it is our attitude or mindset that truly determines whether we experience happiness or misery.

Photo by SMARTBOY10 / GETTY IMAGES.


“A passage in the Six Paramitas Sutra says to become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you. Whatever trouble occurs, regard it as no more than a dream, and think only of the Lotus Sutra. (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 502)

What determines how we experience life?

Buddhism teaches that rather than our circumstances or the people in our environment, it is our attitude or mindset that truly determines whether we experience happiness or misery.

In the passage above from “Letter to the Brothers,” Nichiren Daishonin cites a sutra that instructs, “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 502). As is often the case when discussing passages written by Nichiren, mind, here, also means “heart.”

As we all have experienced, our hearts and minds can easily fluctuate in response to shifting circumstances. At the same time, however, the Daishonin teaches that key to attaining Buddhahood is our heart and mind.

SGI President Ikeda writes: “The human heart or mind can give supreme dignity and nobility to life. At the same time, it can fall into the depths of depravity if it succumbs to the impulses of fundamental darkness or ignorance. Transforming the human heart is the foundation for all lasting change” (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 107).

If we base ourselves on our ever-changing hearts and minds, we can easily be overtaken by our negativity and self-centeredness, becoming “mastered by our minds.” Some signs that we are making our fluctuating minds our foundation are: giving in to selfish or destructive impulses; and easily being overpowered by things like resentment, envy, malice, hopelessness, apathy and other forms of negativity. Our unchecked impulses, desires and doubts can lead us to regretful actions that create suffering for ourselves and others.
In his lecture on “Letter to the Brothers,” President Ikeda explains how we can master our minds to overcome these negative tendencies and reveal our highest state of Buddhahood. He states:

Becoming the master of one’s mind ultimately means basing oneself on the unwavering foundation of the Law. Herein lies the importance of sutras or writings containing the teachings of the Buddha who has awakened to and spreads the Law. For us, as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, mastering our minds means basing ourselves on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s writings. And in Buddhism, it is the teacher or mentor who puts the teachings into practice that helps us connect to the Law. Mastering our minds means having a sincere seeking spirit in faith based on the oneness of mentor and disciple, and not being ruled by arrogant egoism or self-centeredness. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 107)

Here, he offers three keys to mastering our minds: 1) making the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo our foundation; 2) basing ourselves on study of Nichiren’s writings; and 3) having a mentor in faith.

Regarding the first point: In contrast to the fleeting nature of our hearts and minds, the Mystic Law is constant and eternal. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we fuse our lives with this constant and eternal Law and reveal our innate Buddhahood, opening the vast potential inherent in our lives.

President Ikeda says, “Nichiren Daishonin taught that by thoroughly polishing their lives through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, all people—no matter how steeped in ignorance and delusion—can reveal their Buddhahood and transform even the most evil and defiled land into a pure land” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, p. 38).

In addition, by studying Nichiren’s writings, we make the principles of Buddhism our guide. “Study,” President Ikeda writes, “is like a beacon illuminating our course toward realizing kosen-rufu and attaining Buddhahood in this existence, undeterred by the three obstacles and four devils that attempt to obstruct Buddhist practice” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, p. 140). Once we understand that all people have a Buddha nature and that the strict law of cause and effect governs our lives, it changes the morals we uphold, the actions we take and how we live our lives.

Finally, indispensable to “mastering our mind” and vanquishing our negativity and devilish functions is having a good teacher or mentor whose actions embody Buddhist wisdom, courage and compassion. A mentor in Buddhism exemplifies a life that is based on the Law, helps us understand that the Law exists within our own lives and teaches us how to reveal our own innate potential.

President Ikeda says: “No matter how determined we are to live according to the highest ideals, it is easy to be defeated by the fear or doubt, complacence or arrogance arising in our minds . . . As long as we are able to keep the example of our mentor alive in our hearts, we can triumph over our personal weaknesses” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 16, pp. 5–6).

In the opening passage above, Nichiren also urges, “Whatever trouble occurs, regard it as no more than a dream, and think only of the Lotus Sutra” (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 502). Thus, he encourages us to never be swayed or defeated by devilish functions and to forge ahead in spreading Buddhism for the happiness of ourselves and others.

As we improve our lives through our Buddhist practice and increasingly bring forth our innate Buddhahood, we are contributing to the fundamental transformation of all humanity. This is what it means to master our minds.

(p. 8)