We Are Each “the Blacksmith of Our Own Happiness”
Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. (“Letter from Sado,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 303)
Making a sword involves forging iron, and tempering and folding it repeatedly to eliminate internal voids, weaknesses and impurities, increasing its structural strength.
In the same way, when we repeatedly challenge ourselves and prevail over our problems through our Buddhist practice, we can overcome our weaknesses, become stronger and bring forth our full potential. Developing the inner fortitude to win in any circumstance is the greatest benefit of practicing Nichiren Buddhism and the key to a life of unsurpassed happiness.
In March 1272, five months after surviving an execution attempt and being exiled to Sado Island, Nichiren Daishonin wrote the above passage in a letter addressed to his disciples. He had spent the bitter, cold winter in a dilapidated hut that did not keep out the snow or wind. Nevertheless, Nichiren remained resolute in his mission to uphold and spread the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while conveying deep concern for his disciples.
His resolve is expressed in the statement “Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse” (“Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 303).
He goes on to state, “My present exile is not because of any secular crime” (WND-1, 303), explaining that while it is impossible to fully understand the causes he had made in past existences, his current hardships exist so that he can transform all his negative karma in this lifetime.
Ikeda Sensei explains:
We practice Buddhism to forge and transform our lives. Indeed, as the Russian author Mikhail Sholokhov states, each of us is “the blacksmith of our own happiness.” My disciples, become as strong as steel, as strong as finely tempered swords! Stand up as true worthies and sages! (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 32)
We Can Change Our Karma
When experiencing problems, we may feel frustrated and upset, or simply sad and miserable. But it is vital that we not give in to such emotions.
In another writing, Nichiren advises a believer:
Untempered iron quickly melts in a blazing fire, like ice put in hot water. But a sword, even when exposed to a great fire, withstands the heat for a while, because it has been well forged. In admonishing you in this way, I am trying to forge your faith. (“The Hero of the World,” WND-1, 839)
We can face our hardships and change our negative tendencies by abundantly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, engaging in SGI activities and sharing with others the hope-filled philosophy of Buddhism. These actions awaken and bring forth our inherent wisdom, courage and compassion, our Buddhahood, to take the most effective actions for transforming our circumstances.
Should we lose confidence during this process, we can seek encouragement from our seniors in faith who have persevered and won over various difficulties.
What’s paramount is to learn from the Daishonin how to maintain our resolve to win, no matter what.
“It is when we are tested by the fires of karma,” Sensei says, “that we can show our true mettle” (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 82–83).
Difficulties Exist to Help Us Deepen Our Humanity
Conveying the spirit with which the Daishonin encourages his disciples to persevere, Sensei states:
Nichiren vigorously encourages his embattled followers as if shaking them by the shoulders: “You have to change your karma! The power to do so exists within you! Don’t run away from hardships! True victory means winning over your own weaknesses! Great suffering produces great character! Become an enduring victor!” (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 32)
By fighting through the pains and problems of life, we overcome
our selfishness, negativity and fear, and we develop our humanity and deepen our compassion and empathy for others. We can become people of “great character” and “enduring victors” who show the positive results of our Buddhist practice while working for the happiness of ourselves and others, and the betterment of the world.
—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department