What is the best way to navigate through the turmoil we see today?
Q & A
Looking at what’s happening in our society today may stir up a vast spectrum of emotions—from pain, anger, disgust and confusion to righteousness, compassion, optimism and determination.
Nichiren Buddhism teaches that rather than being swayed by the ups and downs of life, we can become strong, resilient individuals driven by the desire to improve our lives and society at large.
One possibly underrated yet vital quality of a strong, resilient person is the ability to bring forth hope amid even the most turbulent times. Ikeda Sensei says that hope is a decision—the most important decision we can make. And as long as we have hope, regardless of the circumstances, we can realize all our dreams (see Hope Is a Decision, p. 5). Hope, he says, is based on the belief in the inherent goodness of all people. He continues:
Keeping faith in people’s essential goodness and the consistent effort to cultivate this goodness in ourselves: These are the twin keys … to unleashing the great power of hope. Believing in ourselves and in others in this way—continuing to wage the difficult inner struggle to make this the basis for our actions—can transform a society that sometimes seems to be plummeting toward darkness into a humane, enlightened world, where all people are treated with respect. (Hope Is a Decision, pp. 5–6)
Here are some ways to generate hope and advance amid turbulent times.
Ways to Create Hope
1) Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
We all inherently embody hope. Our practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the Lotus Sutra, is the driving force that allows us to create hope. That is because the power of [chanting] is limitless. From the moment we start chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can transform our state of mind and open the way to a new, hopeful tomorrow. (March 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 45)
By chanting just as we are, right where we are, we can tap the vast reservoir of “supreme hope,” which Sensei equates to enlightenment. Our Buddhahood guides us along “a solid, ascending path of optimism and hope,” fortifying us with “the power to transform that which is negative into something positive” (see The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 67 and p. 141).
2) Engage in dialogues based on the belief in people’s inherent goodness.
Genuine hope is found in reaching out to others and having heartfelt exchanges with them. As Buddhists, this includes earnestly chanting for the happiness of others, and listening and talking with them based on our belief in their Buddha nature. Sensei states:
Dialogue brings people together. And Buddhism—a philosophy of respect for the sanctity of life—is spread through such dialogue. Dialogue requires courage, as well as genuine human warmth that accepts and respects others. It also calls for the wisdom and passion necessary to create understanding and sympathy. … Through striving to carry out dialogue, we are able to polish and elevate our lives. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 21, p. 87)
Such compassionate dialogue enables us to positively engage with people who have differing views, to confront our prejudices, to polish our humanity and to connect people to Buddhism.
3) Resolve to live cheerfully and vibrantly.
In his discussion on the six conditions for happiness, Sensei says that those who live cheerfully and vibrantly are not only able to lead fulfilling lives but can also spread hope to others. He also points out:
To regard everything in a positive light or with a spirit of goodwill, however, does not mean being foolishly gullible and allowing people to take advantage of our good nature. It means having the wisdom and perception to actually move things in a positive direction by seeing things in their best light, while all the time keeping our eyes firmly focused on reality. Faith and the teachings of Buddhism enable us to develop that kind of character. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, p. 17)
4) Cherish grand ideals and strive to realize them.
Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once said:
In looking at great people of the past, we find that they remained undefeated by life’s hardships, by life’s pounding waves. They held fast to hopes that seemed mere fantastic dreams to other people. They let nothing stop or discourage them from realizing their aspirations. The reason for this, I feel certain, is that their hopes themselves were not directed toward the fulfillment of personal desires or self-interest but based on a wish for all people’s happiness, and this filled them with extraordinary conviction and confidence. (Hope Is a Decision, pp. 6–7)
At this time when deep-seated issues of discrimination and inequality are being directly addressed and uprooted, many are urging long overdue reforms in policing and other areas of society. In addition to such reforms, Buddhism teaches that the most effective way to create lasting change is for people to enact a transformation in their hearts and minds.
Creating a society rooted in the Buddhist ideals of equality and respect for everyone requires each of us to surmount the prejudices we hold in our own hearts. We can strive with unbounded hope toward this grand vision by strengthening our Buddhist practice and engaging in dialogues that help deepen our belief in the Buddha nature of all people.