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Buddhist Study

Winter Never Fails to Turn to Spring

During cherry blossom season, many Japanese white-eyes are observed flocking to cherry trees to consume nectar from flowers. Photo by MAGICFLUTE002 / GETTY IMAGES.

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone seen or heard of winter turning back to autumn. Nor have we ever heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra who turned into an ordinary person. The sutra reads, “If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood.” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536)

SGI President Ikeda says, “The key to victory in our lives lies in how hard we struggle when we are in winter, how wisely we use that time and how meaningfully we live each day confident that spring will definitely come” (Learning From the Writings: The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 107).

It is the chill of winter that sparks the development of the buds on a cherry tree and enables them to bloom fully and beautifully with the arrival of spring. In the same way, the seed of Buddhahood is activated when we struggle against adversity, armed with our Buddhist practice. Through such arduous efforts, we strengthen those areas where we are weakest, discover qualities and abilities that we didn’t know we possessed, and grow and blossom in ways we never imagined.

In May 1275, Nichiren Daishonin composed this letter, now famously titled “Winter Always Turns to Spring,” to the lay nun Myoichi. This was about a year after he had returned from exile on Sado Island.

Myoichi and her husband faced various persecutions, culminating in their estate being confiscated. Despite this, they maintained unwavering faith throughout their lives. Before the Daishonin was pardoned from his exile, however, Myoichi’s husband passed away, leaving her to raise their young children, one of whom was quite sickly. She also struggled with her own frail health.

In this letter, Nichiren compassionately encourages Myoichi, striving to rouse in her the fighting spirit to break through her doubts and fears. He assures her that her husband, who persevered in faith until the end of his life, has certainly attained Buddhahood.

He also guarantees that as long as we uphold the Mystic Law and persevere with courage, tenacity and wisdom, we will undoubtedly win over our circumstances and attain Buddhahood.

However, if we slacken in faith, cower at the sight of our obstacles or try to avoid them, we will see mediocre results at best and ultimately lack hope, vitality and genuine happiness in our lives.

President Ikeda reminds us: “Attaining Buddhahood in this life-time entails a fierce struggle to change our karma, as well as to overcome the various challenges posed to our practice . . . The trials of winter are unavoidable if we wish to soar into a brilliant springtime based on faith” (The Hope-filled Teachings, pp. 104–05).

Just as surely as winter will be followed by spring, when we diligently challenge ourselves based on our Buddhist practice and live each day undefeated by our negativity and struggles, we can bring brilliant flowers of happiness to bloom in our lives.

SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance

Those who experience the greatest suffering will come to attain the greatest happiness. Never forget that happiness is a flower that blossoms from the earth of patient endurance.

One of the youthful mottoes of my wife, a member of the first class of the young women’s division was:

Today again don’t be defeated,
Today again bring forth courage,
As you make your way
on the path of your vow,
on the path of victory.

Those who don’t let anything defeat them are victors. In particular, those who lead undefeated lives, following through on the beliefs that they vowed to uphold in their youth, are the strongest and most admirable of all. (A Foundation for Your Life: Essentials of Nichiren’s Writings for Young Women, p. 193)

Re-envisioning Failure

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