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How do I encourage others while trying to remain hopeful during this pandemic?

A monument in Howick, South Africa, paying tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned from 1962–90 for leading the apartheid resistance. Mandela said it was his conviction in his beliefs that enabled him to sustain hope. Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / getty images.

Amid the stay-at-home orders to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic, we may feel restricted by what we are unable to do.

Buddhism, however, teaches that regardless of our circumstances, our hearts can remain free. When we offer hope to others, we break through the narrow confines of our personal concerns and expand our state of life.

Here are some ways that we can support others based on our Buddhist practice.

1) Let’s begin with resolute prayer.

While Nichiren Daishonin was exiled on Sado Island, his disciples were being persecuted in distant Kamakura for upholding their faith. Although he could not always confirm their whereabouts or safety, he expressed deep conviction in his prayer for their protection, writing:

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,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 444)

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with earnest determination to ensure the safety and happiness of our friends and loved ones, our heartfelt prayers will reach them without fail.

By challenging ourselves to give hope to others, we can also find hope ourselves.

SGI President Ikeda explains: “Nichiren’s prayer is based on a vow—a vow grounded in the belief that his inner determination could transform any circumstance. He was firmly resolved to break through every difficulty and protect all his disciples through his prayer” (November 2015 Living Buddhism, p. 42).

With such conviction in prayer, we can carry out the most effective practice for oneself and for others.

2) Let’s use our ingenuity to create the greatest value each day.

Buddhism teaches that any struggle requires wisdom and creativity. No matter the restrictions placed on us, as long as our commitment to spreading Buddhism remains firm, nothing can keep us from moving forward.

President Ikeda has repeatedly exemplified this point. For instance, when he had to step down as Soka Gakkai president on April 24, 1979, to shield the members from the corruption of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, many saw this as a grave setback. The priesthood tried to restrict his actions by not allowing him to attend Soka Gakkai meetings or have his encouragement published in the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

Despite such obstacles, President Ikeda viewed this time as a golden opportunity to wage a new battle. He writes of his determination:

Nothing will change if one just sits by in silence. The right opportunity will never arrive unless one creates it. … If I couldn’t attend meetings, I would visit individual members, one home at a time! If I couldn’t participate in large gatherings, I would hold countless individual meetings! This was my firm resolve, my burning fighting spirit. (Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 106)

He also used this time to travel overseas to encourage the members and develop SGI organizations throughout the world.

Our external circumstances do not determine whether we can support others or share Buddhism. It all comes down to our own fighting spirit, our compassionate desire to ensure that our family, friends and fellow members continue to feel hopeful, no matter the situation. In The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda expresses his resolve to advance kosen-rufu, stating:

I … am resolved to keep striving as long as I live … I will keep speaking, keep writing, keep calling out for justice. If I am no longer able to walk, I will still be able to write. And if I can’t use my hands, I’ll still be able to talk about Buddhism. I’ll still be able to chant to the Gohonzon and read Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. (vol. 16, p. 56)

By challenging ourselves to give hope to others, we can also find hope ourselves. Our commitment to helping others moves us to carry out our human revolution and elevate our life.

At this time, as SGI-USA members strive to expand the forces of good by helping 6,000 youth start chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, let’s pray fervently for the protection of our friends, family, community and the world, and joyfully tackle the challenge of finding new ways to offer hope and encouragement now more than ever!

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