“Whether We Win or Lose Is Determined From Now”
A Buddhist perspective on financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
by Tariq Hasan
SGI-USA Senior Vice General Director
To the most courageous and noble members of SGI-USA,
I offer my deepest appreciation for your efforts to take such precious care of all our members amid the difficult times that everyone is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is taking a heavy toll on human life.
As SGI-USA members, I believe this is the time for us to view the crisis as our mission. In The New Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda encourages members who had faced major devastation in a natural disaster:
The important thing is what you do from now. Are you going to be discouraged and allow yourselves to fall into despair? Or will you regard this as an opportunity to show actual proof of our faith and rise up again courageously, determined not to be beaten? Your inner resolve is what decides your happiness or unhappiness. …
Over the course of our lives, we are bound to face all kinds of adversity, not only natural disasters but things like bankruptcy, unemployment, illness, accidents and the deaths of loved ones. …
Unhappiness is not caused by adverse circumstances; it is caused by our own despair and negativity. …
If all of you who have been adversely affected by this natural disaster are able to splendidly rebuild your lives, you will have turned poison into medicine and demonstrated the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism to society. That is the purpose of the struggle you are now encountering. (vol. 16, pp. 201–02)
While many people have been infected during this pandemic, with the infection rate continuing to rise each day, it is also troubling that millions have lost their jobs and livelihoods, including SGI-USA members. Sensei addresses this issue in The New Human Revolution:
When you lose your livelihood, the common tendency is to feel depressed, and if you have no apparent future prospects, you can easily become apathetic and despairing.
If you’re able at such a time to remain filled with life force, energized, and ready to face the challenges before you, you can impart tremendous courage to others. Courage spreads with a ripple effect. In addition, when Soka Gakkai members are positive and energetic, actively taking on life’s challenges, they demonstrate proof of the power of Buddhism to others. The power of religion is manifested in the way people live their lives. …
Adversity is a magnificent opportunity for each of us to demonstrate the greatness of our Buddhist faith and practice. Whether we win or lose is determined from now. All that matters is winning in the end. And our Buddhist practice ensures that we can win. (vol. 25, pp. 73–74)
Sensei himself experienced financial difficulties in his youth and has emphasized his absolute conviction that financial struggles, like any other challenge in life, can be overcome. He discusses this point in his essay “Men: Champions of Kosen-rufu,” which was written during the 2008–09 financial crisis:
I am sure that many of our members are urgently grappling with problems brought on by the “once-in-a-century” financial crisis we are now facing. I am painfully aware of how difficult this is. The anguish felt by members who are fighting with all their might to survive these hard times strikes to the very depths of my own heart. My empathy comes from the experiences I had working for second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda when his businesses fell into dire financial straits, a time when I valiantly strove alone to support my mentor and resolve that desperate situation.
Nichiren [Daishonin] writes, “I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (“On Rebuking Slander of the Law and Eradicating Sins,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 444). With this passage firmly in mind, my wife and I are earnestly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the sake of all our precious members. (Men Shining With Youthful Brilliance, vol. 2, pp. 29–30; March 13, 2009, World Tribune, insert, p. B)
This has to be the conviction and strength of our prayer—to bring forth the power of the Buddha and the Law from the Gohonzon (see “The Four Powers,” p. 10). and to show our friends and fellow members the absolute power of our practice.
Let’s remain ever vigilant and safe.
Thank you very much.