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Gosho Study

Either We Advance or We Retreat

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When an ordinary person of the latter age is ready to attain Buddhahood … this devil [the devil king of the sixth heaven] is greatly surprised. … The devil king then summons all his underlings from the threefold world of desire, form, and formlessness and tells them: “Each of you now go and harass that votary, according to your respective skills. If you should fail to make him abandon his Buddhist practice, then enter into the minds of his disciples, lay supporters, and the people of his land and thus try to persuade or threaten him. If these attempts are also unsuccessful, I myself will go down and possess the mind and body of his sovereign to persecute that votary. Together, how can we fail to prevent him from attaining Buddhahood?”

I, Nichiren, have long been aware of all this and therefore know how difficult it is for an ordinary person of the latter age to become a Buddha in this lifetime. (“Letter to Misawa,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 894–95)

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often used to remark: “When it comes to battling serious karma and undergoing our human revolution, huge obstacles and hardships can in fact serve as a powerful impetus, propelling us forward. Just ambling along a level road won’t help us change our karma.” The greater the difficulties and challenges we encounter, the greater the life state we can develop. Therefore, we mustn’t be intimidated by the three obstacles and four devils—that is, the obstacles and hindrances that invariably arise in the course of our Buddhist practice. Our wisdom derived from faith allows us to see through such phenomena, recognizing them for what they are, based on Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, and regarding their occurrence as an opportunity to change our karma. We can then stand up with even deeper conviction and courage, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with unwavering resolve and forging boldly ahead.

Nichiren writes, “The three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat” (“The Three Obstacles and Four Devils,” WND-1, 637). Either we advance or we retreat; there is no middle ground. Either we cringe in fear and surrender to the devilish functions—the negativity in our own lives or in the lives of others—or we challenge this negativity and deepen our conviction in faith. This difference in resolve determines everything. Nichiren himself faced the major ordeals of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and the Sado Exile with supreme confidence and composure.

Through battling great hardships, individuals can establish an inner state of indestructible happiness. And their example can open the way for countless others to similarly free themselves from suffering. (The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 167)

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