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Q: Given that this is the Year of Soka Victory, what does “victory” mean from a Buddhist perspective?

Photo by Wesley Eland / Unsplash.

A: Usually when one scores a “victory,” we can clearly measure it. In sports, for instance, the team that scores the most points wins, and on an exam, a score of 90 or above earns one an A.

In the realm of faith, Nichiren Daishonin teaches, “Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat” (“The Hero of the World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 835). Victory here means to triumph over devilish functions, the negative tendencies within our lives and environment that seek to divide people and cause harm to ourselves and others.

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a vow for kosen-rufu, we wield the “sharp sword” of faith that can cut through any negative attitude or influence, any hopelessness or fear, and establish in our lives the state of Buddhahood filled with joy and vitality that brims with the readiness to rise to every challenge.

Ikeda Sensei describes this process as “a struggle between constructive and destructive forces, between the energy toward order and harmony and the turbulence leading to disorder and chaos, between the power of compassion that unites and the power of hate that sunders, between life and death, light and darkness, happiness and misery, advance and retreat, rise and fall, freedom and constraint, hope and despair, the energy to nurture life and the impulse to kill” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 2, p. 58).

Since the struggle between our Buddha nature and devilish functions is a lifelong one, how do we know we are winning? Here are a few indicators of victory in Buddhism.

Showing actual proof: Sensei stresses the importance of establishing concrete goals, and praying and challenging ourselves to achieve them. “This earnest determination,” he writes, “gives rise to wisdom and resourcefulness, thereby leading to success. In short, to win in life we need determination and prayer, effort and ingenuity” (p. 68). Through such efforts, we put ourselves on the path to constant growth and development, a path for leading the most fulfilling lives.

Never giving up: We often hear the phrases “Never give up” and “Never be defeated,” which remind us that winning means always taking some kind of positive action despite resistance and obstacles. Sensei says: “The fact that you are challenging yourself is itself a victory. To win means to never succumb to self-defeat” (p. 52).

Living with joy: We all experience successes and failures, good times and bad. But our circumstances don’t define our victory or defeat. Rather, when we use our setbacks as opportunities to develop resilience and strengthen our capabilities, everything becomes a source of joy. “Inner joy and true happiness,” Sensei says, “are found in enduring and overcoming adversity” (pp. 171–72).

Always growing and increasingly experiencing such indestructible joy and happiness—this is the goal of our Buddhist practice and the most victorious way of life.

Excerpts From Nichiren’s Writings in Volume 1

Humanism—Action Based on Gratitude Is the Essence of Nichiren Buddhism