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Q: I feel overwhelmed by all the problems I see in the world today. What can I do?

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A: Humanity today faces a whirlwind of complex issues and divisiveness for which there may not be quick or clear solutions.

Buddhism teaches valuable principles for broadening our perspectives and creating the greatest value and results amid complicated challenges and hardships.

For instance, in his writings, Nichiren Daishonin teaches the foundational concepts of the “three paths” and “three virtues,” which describe the web of causation within our lives (see “What It Means to Hear the Buddha Vehicle for the First Time,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 741).

The three paths refer to a cycle in which earthly desires (fueled by greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt) create negative karma (actions based on delusion) that lead to suffering. And that suffering further drives our deluded desires, leading to actions that draw us deeper into the cycle of misery.

However, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can tap our inherent Buddhahood and bring forth the power to transform the three paths into the three virtues, which are the Dharma body (enlightenment) that gives rise to wisdom (the capacity to perceive the truth of life), which then enables us to gain emancipation (freedom from the causes of suffering).

In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, it was thought that the three paths and three virtues were complete opposites. Essentially, evil was seen as the sole outcome of evil, and good could only come from good. Perceiving good and evil as distinct and separate, however, makes it impossible to bring forth hope amid adversity.

Nichiren viewed good and evil as inherent in all phenomena, teaching that myo of the phrase myoho is “like a great physician who can change poison into medicine” (WND-2, 743).

Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can activate our inherent power to transform “poison,” the undesirable three paths, into the “medicine” of the three virtues, enabling us to create utmost value in our lives.

Ikeda Sensei says:

The quintessential teaching of Nichiren Buddhism does not view life and its phenomena as fixed or static, but elucidates life’s dynamism, in which everything is changing and open to change … It also perceives the potential for Buddhahood in the depths of the life of each suffering human being, and teaches the way to awaken and manifest that life state—in other words, the supreme positive potential, creativity and autonomy of human beings. (March 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 17)

The pioneering members of the Soka Gakkai witnessed the horrors of war, struggled with poverty and sickness, and faced persecutions because of their Buddhist practice. Through chanting, they turned their bitter experiences into fuel for developing their strength, resilience and genuine wish for the happiness of all people.

They exemplified that it is precisely because of our struggles that we chant all the more seriously. Through our earnest prayers, we can bring forth our inherent power to turn poison into medicine, suffering into strength and joy. And, as we transform our lives, we also contribute to the transformation of all of humanity.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Excerpts From Nichiren’s Writings in Volume 20

Democracy and Buddhism