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Q: Can Buddhist practice help me change things I don’t like about myself?


In the following excerpt from The New Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda, who appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto, offers guidance to student division members about transforming personality traits through Buddhist practice.

“Unless we bring out the best sides of our character and inner tendencies, they can often become the cause of unhappiness. We can look at our personality as a manifestation of our karma, which can determine our state of mind and happiness in life.” …

“People have many different character traits and personalities. Some are weak-spirited and easily influenced by others, while some are quick to anger. Some always put themselves down, while others sulk all the time. And some are constantly carping and complaining.

“Generally speaking, many factors contribute to the formation of our personalities—genetics and inherited characteristics, as well as family environment and other experiences while we are growing up. But all of them are strongly linked to our karma; that is, the accumulation of our actions, words and thoughts over previous existences.” …

“Faith can enable us to counteract the negative aspects of our personality and bring out the positive aspects,” Shin’ichi replied. “Nichiren Daishonin writes, ‘Each thing—the cherry, the plum, the peach, the damson—in its own entity, without undergoing any change, possesses the eternally endowed three bodies (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 200).

“Buddhism teaches the way that each of us, just as we are—in the same way that the cherry is a cherry, the plum is a plum, the peach is a peach and the damson is a damson—can realize happiness by bringing out the best of our innate disposition and potential. People who become angry quickly are passionate by nature, usually with a strong sense of truth and justice. If such people diligently strive in faith, they will no longer get angry about trivial things but be able to aim that emotion toward fighting against corruption and injustice.

“Those who are easily influenced by people around them have an inherent tendency to be kind to and get along well with others. Faith will help such people tap that gift. The process of doing so is called human revolution. What matters are the practical steps we take in that direction.” …

Shin’ichi continued: “Fundamentally, it means to chant [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] diligently and to give your all to polishing your life. It’s important to look at yourself and become aware of your issues and innate tendencies. Each of us has shortcomings, like blaming our unhappiness on others, lacking perseverance or refusing to listen to others’ opinions. These are basic faults that obstruct our growth and happiness.

“The problem is, most people don’t realize their failings unless they are made aware of them. That’s why it’s crucial to have seniors and friends who care enough to strictly point out our weaknesses and to help us face and overcome them. And we need to pray sincerely in order to challenge them and truly be able to make the change.

“We can also strengthen and improve ourselves through Soka Gakkai activities. Nichiren writes, ‘The flaws in iron come to the surface when it is forged’ (“Letter to Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 497). When we participate in Soka Gakkai activities, our karma is sometimes manifested in the form of such shortcomings as weakness, cowardice and selfishness.

“But as we push ourselves to successfully carry out one activity after another without being defeated, we forge our character and are able to win over our negative tendencies, thus doing our human revolution. Soka Gakkai activities are a kind of training ground on which to strengthen our being. It is by dedicating our lives to the mission of kosen-rufu and developing ourselves that we can transform our karma.” (NHR-16, 9–12)

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