Challenging Adversity With Hope
The English National Opera’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel” at The London Coliseum, London, April 11, 2017. The song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has become a global anthem during the coronavirus pandemic.
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 [unenlightened] 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)
A song that has become a global anthem of support to first responders and all those struggling under restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic is the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The song urges us to face obstacles with hope, because, “At the end of the storm is a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.”
Nichiren Daishonin teaches the importance of maintaining hope and forging ahead, no matter the situation, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. When we continue striving based on faith, we can find the wisdom to turn the poison of adversity into the medicine for growth and happiness.
Nichiren wrote the above passage to the lay nun Myoichi in a letter that exudes the heart of appreciation shared by mentor and disciple.
Myoichi had lost her husband and was struggling on her own to care for two children, one of whom was ill. After her husband’s death, despite her own struggles, she continued supporting Nichiren by making offerings even when he was exiled to Sado Island.
“Winter Always Turns to Spring”
The storms of winter symbolize harsh periods of difficulty, and the warm, fragrant breezes of spring, a time of joy and resurgence.
Nichiren taught Myoichi that her resolute determination to overcome her “wintry” hardships would without fail give way to a springtime of joy of revealing her Buddhahood.
The statement “those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter” is both strict and compassionate. Because Buddhist practice constitutes the highest path of development, it is always accompanied by challenges. When we face hardships with faith and determination, we can bring forth our Buddhahood.
Keep Moving Forward
Ikeda Sensei says: “Feelings of regret, complaint and discontent can very well lead to stagnation in faith. It is essential that we maintain a pure and courageous spirit to keep moving forward” (The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 104).
In 1951, when he was 23, he also wrote the following in his diary:
Although it is the dead of winter, my heart races to think of spring close at hand. Whatever hardships I must face, I must never give up hope. I once heard of a certain man, who, in the midst of a series of hardships, kept a painting of a springtime scene that he looked at day and night in order to encourage himself. When “spring” finally did come to his family he kept the painting, which became a cherished family treasure. How much more does this principle hold true for one who embraces the Mystic Law, not to mention for youth who devote themselves to upholding and protecting the Daishonin’s Buddhism! (A Youthful Diary, p. 79)
However difficult our circumstances, striving to maintain a consistent Buddhist practice assures that our good fortune and potential will blossom. Even amid the difficulties of winter, the brisk air of challenge refreshes us, enabling us to make a powerful start in the next stage of our progress.