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Q: The SGI’s theme for 2020 is the Year of Advancement and Capable People. What does it mean to be “capable” in Buddhism?


A: People may associate being capable with having special abilities or talents.

From the perspective of Buddhism, everyone is capable.

That is, our Buddhist practice enables anyone and everyone to bring forth and develop their inherent qualities to enhance their lives and to elevate those around them, as well as all of humanity.

Capable individuals are strong people of character who exude qualities such as tolerance, self-discipline, sincerity, appreciation and conviction. SGI President Ikeda says: “Forging character requires spiritual struggle. This means polishing your life by challenging your weaknesses and overcoming hardship after hardship” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 13, p. 318).

As Nichiren Buddhists, hardships are opportunities to develop our character and strengths. We take on challenges by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, studying Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and President Ikeda’s guidance, and seeking encouragement from seniors in faith.

However, regardless of our capabilities, if we are only concerned with personal success, we cannot contribute to society at large. President Ikeda says, “Without a basic goal or an understanding of the purpose of life, people cannot demonstrate their full potential” (NHR-13, 317).

As Buddhists, we take on the Buddha’s magnanimous wish for kosen-rufu to enable “all living beings to attain Buddhahood in the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 41). Yet, this may seem like quite a challenge amid the challenges of daily life.

President Ikeda offers this practical guidance: “What matters is that your heart is directed toward kosen-rufu. The key is to have the attitude: ‘Even though I can’t attend the meeting today, I’ll do my utmost at work, regarding everything as part of my Buddhist practice’; or ‘I’m going to knuckle down today so that I can finish up all my work and have time on the weekend for activities’; or ‘No matter how busy or tired I am, I’ll chant some daimoku to support everyone’s efforts, even if only a minute or two.’ If you have this outlook, you have already won” (Youth and the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 27).

Another vital aspect of being capable in Buddhism is helping those around us not only to grow and develop, but also to surpass us in ability. “Those who nurture the growth of others are themselves capable people in the truest sense,” says President Ikeda.

He continues: “‘Together!’ is the byword for fostering capable people. Chant together, study together, talk together, do activities together, and sometimes have coffee or a meal together—it’s important to advance together enjoyably in this way” (February 1, 2013, World Tribune, p. 3).

Capable individuals are strong people of upstanding character, dedicated to a noble mission and to helping those around them. Our Buddhist practice helps us become such capable people who savor unsurpassed joy and fulfillment while striving to bring peace and happiness to the world.

Excerpts From Nichiren’s Writings in Volume 12