Three Keys to Mastering Our Minds
Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you. (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 502)
As 2020 comes to a close, we continue to face uncertainties amid the unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic. For many people, each day might be likened to an internal boxing match between despair and hope.
In the passage above, Nichiren Daishonin urges his disciples facing grave challenges and uncertainties to remain strong by becoming the master of their minds.
To “let your mind master you” means to allow our fluctuating thoughts that arise from our baser impulses to influence us. This gives rise to words, decisions and actions that lead to unhappy results for ourselves and others.
We practice Buddhism to combat these tendencies and gain control of our lives. To master our minds, Ikeda Sensei says, “We must set our sights on the solid and unshakable summit of attaining Buddhahood” (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 107).
Here are some key points for mastering our minds based on our Buddhist practice.
1. Make a pledge to accomplish a goal.
Our minds change so easily and frequently. Thus, Sensei says:
That’s why it’s so important to make a pledge to accomplish a goal. Those who cherish a pledge and strive to fulfill it are strong, genuine and true, and they can achieve lives of profound satisfaction and fulfillment. (Aug. 10, 2007, World Tribune, p. 7)
As Buddhists, our most cherished goal is the advancement of kosen-rufu, the aim to realize happiness for all humanity. When we strive in our daily Buddhist practice, we come to feel a genuine desire to work for the well-being of others and to contribute to kosen-rufu. Our resolve, prayer and actions to support others help us limitlessly bring forth the wisdom and power of our inherent Buddhahood to steer our lives forward.
2. Base ourselves on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s writings.
When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, we experience a fundamental change in how we live our lives, putting us on track to attain Buddhahood. Studying Nichiren’s writings and Sensei’s guidance also helps us understand the expansive view of life taught in Buddhism.
Becoming the master of one’s mind ultimately means basing oneself on the unwavering foundation of the [Mystic] Law. Herein lies the importance of sutras or writings containing the teachings of the Buddha who has awakened to and spreads the Law. For us, as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, mastering our minds means basing ourselves on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s writings. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 107)
When we have faith in the Gohonzon and are grounded in Buddhist study, we can move everything in our lives in the best direction.
3. Seek out a mentor in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, having a mentor is essential to revealing our Buddhahood. The mentor is like a sound compass, guiding the disciples in living a life that is in accord with the Buddha’s vow to lead all living beings to happiness and peace. By seeking a mentor, we can transcend egoism and selfish tendencies, and develop our greater self.
Alone, people become weak. And when they encounter an attack, they tend to become fearful, succumb to their own weakness and start to slacken in their faith. In other words, cowardice becomes their master.
That’s why Nichiren … [stresses] the importance of being the master of our mind, and further, following the teachings of a mentor who can guide us on the path of correct faith. Having a mentor in faith and fellow practitioners is indispensable in our Buddhist practice. (December 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 49)
No matter the uncertainties of life, by striving in our Buddhist practice, seeking our mentor and uniting with fellow members to advance kosen-rufu, we can become masterful in leading the most fulfilling lives that we envision for ourselves.
—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department