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Q: Sometimes, my problems feel overwhelming. What to do?


Combating stress starts by changing how we feel about our problems. SGI President Ikeda calls our inner resolve our “secret weapon.”

He says: “Through the power of strong inner resolve, we can transform ourselves, those around us and the land where we live. Each of you has this tool, this ‘secret weapon.’ There is no greater treasure . . .

“Everything depends on our attitude or inner resolve, on the kind of philosophy and convictions that we cherish. Our environment or circumstances are not the determining factors. When we advance resolutely based on this . . . then all the hardships we experience will pave the golden path of our mission” (July 11, 1997, World Tribune, p. 12).

From the irritations of daily life or serious personal problems to global challenges that threaten humanity, it may seem easier to escape or ignore difficult issues that make us feel stressed, powerless and overwhelmed. Some might wish for a magic cure-all, but no such thing exists.

Dr. Hans Selye, a pioneer researcher on the physiological effects of stress, found that fortifying our ability to view stress as a flavorful “spice of life” can help us savor the good in life and bring forth the vitality needed to move our lives forward.

Similarly, President Ikeda emphasizes that stress serves as an “impetus for growth, for developing our life condition.” He continues: “One of the names of the Buddha is One Who Can Forbear. That strength, that power to survive, is the life state of the Buddha” (July 5, 1996, World Tribune, p. 10).

Based on his own battle with cancer, Dr. Selye offered three ways to build a constructive life: 1) turn feelings of resentment and anger, which lower resistance to stress, into respect and sympathy; 2) set goals for yourself; and 3) live for the benefit of others, for in so doing, you yourself will benefit. (See On Being Human, pp. 79–82.)

These ideas are directly in line with Nichiren Buddhism’s teaching that squarely facing adversity and rooting out negativity is the only way to reveal Buddhahood, our highest potential, which is the aim of our practice.

Nichiren Daishonin, clearly states: “Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse” (“Letter from Sado,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 303).

Since no one can escape hardships, what’s most important is how we use them to become “worthies and sages” of life, and make our lives much richer and more enjoyable.

Determined Prayer Is the Key

To transform how we view our problems and strengthen our resolve, it is vital for us as Nichiren Buddhists to abundantly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren encourages us: “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens” (“Happiness in This World,” WND-1, 681).

At times, we may give in to feelings of defeat due to our struggles. However, when we diligently chant, we can raise our life condition and win over each challenge. President Ikeda says:

The important thing is to continue chanting, no matter what. Whether our prayers are answered right away or not, we must keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, without harboring any doubts. Those who maintain such faith will eventually attain the supreme path and highest pinnacle of value and savor the conviction that everything unfolded in the very best and most meaningful way. They will build immensely fulfilling lives and come to regard everything as a source of joy and a part of their mission. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 1, p. 65)

By Helping Others, We Help Ourselves

The point about living for the benefit of others benefits yourself directly aligns with our “bodhisattva practice,” a vital aspect of Nichiren Buddhism that entails developing ourselves while teaching others about Buddhism. As Nichiren instructs: “You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 386).

Helping those around us leads to breaking through our lesser selves and transforming tendencies such as anger into compassion, greed into generosity and resentment into appreciation. President Ikeda says:

When we look after and care for others—that is, help others draw forth their life force—our own life force increases. When we help people expand their state of life, our state of life also expands. That is the wonderful thing about the bodhisattva way. The practice for benefiting others is one and the same with the practice for benefiting ourselves. (January 2015 Living Buddhism, pp. 55–56)

The transformative teaching of Nichiren Buddhism helps us understand that our hardships are the fuel for revealing our greatest life state of Buddhahood, forging the strength to break through any difficulty, and advancing on the path of our mission to lead all humanity toward peace, harmony and respect.

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