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Daily Life

The Joys of Supporting Others

We strengthen our life force and expand our capacity when we live the bodhisattva way of helping others become happy.

Santa Fe, N.M. Photo by GEORGE NAKAMURA.

Dear World Tribune,

I’m going through many personal struggles at the moment and was just asked to support other members as a leader in my local district. The thought of taking care of others when I can barely take care of myself overwhelms me. Please help.

Dear Overwhelmed,

Your concern is understandable. We face all sorts of challenges in our daily lives that pull us in different directions, so naturally, it may feel counterintuitive to add one more thing to your already full plate. But from the perspective of faith, the more challenges we tackle head-on, the more opportunities we have to expand our capacity and grow as human beings. This is why a strong life condition is crucial.

Specifically, supporting others in their Buddhist practice and making efforts for kosen-rufu through SGI activities is the most direct way to improve your ability to care for yourself. How so?

SGI President Ikeda explains:

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 . . . Our lives and the lives of others are ultimately inseparable. It is vital, therefore, that we follow the bodhisattva way.” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, vol. 1, pp. 104–05)

Leadership is an expedient means to transform your life state, to do your human revolution and to accumulate benefit and good fortune.

In volume 4 of The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda relays a story about a young man who was struggling to strike a balance amid his busy work schedule and participation in Soka Gakkai activities. President Ikeda addresses his concern, saying:

To get right to the point, it boils down to making a decision to do your best in everything and then having the determination not to retreat a single step. When placed in severe circumstances, people all too easily tend to give up, convinced that the situation is hopeless, before even considering what concrete actions they could take. In their hearts, they have already conceded defeat without even putting up a fight. That, in fact, is the cause of all failure.

The crucial thing is to determine to do your absolute best both at work and in Soka Gakkai activities, and to find time to earnestly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo about your situation. You have to bring forth your wisdom and life force, and then exercise your ingenuity . . .

For instance, leaders who cannot get around to see their members because they have to travel frequently on business can encourage them by writing them letters regularly while on the road. Or, if they have to work overtime until late at night six days a week but have Sundays off, they can do a week’s worth of activities on that day. A hundred people will come up with a hundred different creative ways, but in every case the basic principle is the same. (pp. 149–50)

In volume 26 of The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda also emphasizes that, no matter how tough our situation is, through the process of challenging leadership in the SGI and exerting ourselves for the sake of kosen-rufu, “you will be able to develop yourself, transform your state of life and do your human revolution, accumulating benefit and good fortune along the way” (p. 367).

Therefore, taking responsibility in the SGI is the greatest opportunity, in concentrated form, to do human revolution and transform all of your hardships into benefits.

Benefits are always the byproduct of our inner change.

In his writings, Nichiren Daishonin teaches that benefits are always the byproduct of our human revolution, so our inner-directed change will be reflected in our environment. He writes, “When the body bends, so does the shadow” (“A Comparison of the Lotus and Other Sutras,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1039).

Take, for instance, the personal account of Hiroko Harper, the Long Beach Diamond District women’s leader in Long Beach, California. She was a comfortable stay-at-home mother, raising three children in a house in the suburbs. In the last 10 years, she became somewhat complacent in her Buddhist practice.

Two years ago, however, things changed when her husband was laid off from his job after two decades with the same company. He struggled to find work, and their once comfortable family life became unstable. One of Hiroko’s sons also began showing signs of alcohol abuse.

Hiroko started attending SGI meetings on a weekly basis, and soon after, she and her husband took on leadership responsibilities in their district. Hiroko became the district women’s leader, but was hesitant at first because of all that it entailed. Even so, she knew that this was her opportunity to transform her hardships.

When Hiroko decided in her heart to take full responsibility for the victory of her district and family, she awakened to her own personal dreams and summoned the courage to pursue a career after more than 20 years out of the workforce.

Although she faced many rejections after applying for jobs, Hiroko and her husband opened up their home for district meetings and, together with the entire district leadership team, they did their best to support the growth and happiness of the district members. This August, they welcomed 11 new members and became a Soka Victory District.

That month, Hiroko was also hired at her alma mater to support first generation, low-income students, providing them academic support, career guidance and financial assistance—fulfilling her prayer to find a job of “beauty, benefit and good.”[1]

Hiroko says: “As soon as my attitude changed about taking full responsibility in my district, my attitude changed about my daily life. The two were connected; they were not separate. When I realized this point with my whole life, everything started to shift.”

Both her sons have embarked on their own careers and are contributing to society, as well. Her oldest son is now in the top of his class in law school, and Hiroko says she has never seen him so happy and excited about life.

“Taking on leadership has been the greatest opportunity to transform my heart and do my human revolution,” Hiroko says. “My determination now is to take care of all these new members and to raise capable youth for the future!”

“Both ourselves and others matter.”

With 26 days remaining until we usher in 2020, the Year of Advancement and Capable People, each of us has one more opportunity to live our ideals, expressed by President Ikeda in this way:

Both ourselves and others matter. Caring only about one’s own happiness is selfish. Claiming to care only about the happiness of others is hypocritical. Real “joy”[2] lies in both ourselves and others becoming happy together.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda said: “Becoming happy yourself is no great challenge; it’s quite simple. But the essence of Nichiren Buddhism lies in helping others become happy, too.” (January 2015 Living Buddhism, p. 55)


  1. Soka Gakkai Founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi taught that there are three kinds of value: beauty, benefi t and good. In the working world, the value of beauty means to find a job you like; the value of benefi t is to get a job that earns you a salary that can support your daily life; the value of good means to find a job that helps others and contributes to society (Discussions on Youth, p. 76). ↩︎
  2. This is in reference to Nichiren Daishonin’s words in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: “ ‘Joy’ means that oneself and others together experience joy” (p. 146). ↩︎

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