Skip to main content


Bringing Out Our Best Selves

A clip art of a river circling its way around a mountain
Aini Malibu Barbie / Getty Images

People’s personalities are infinitely diverse; the English language is said to have as many as 18,000 words to describe the different kinds of character traits that people have.[1]

Surely everyone has struggled with some aspect of their own personality. Regarding this Ikeda Sensei writes: “No one’s personality is flawless. … Inevitably, there will be aspects of your personality you don’t like. But it would be foolish to become obsessed with such things, which could lead to feelings of self-hatred and unworthiness and consequently hinder your growth.”[2]

Buddhism teaches that our essential nature never really changes, and even goes so far as to say that it remains the same throughout the three existences of past, present and future. So how do we bring forth the positive aspects of our character?

Likening our personality to a river, Sensei explains: “At a certain point, the river’s banks are pretty much fixed. In the same way, the identity of a person doesn’t change much. But the quality of the water in the river can vary. It may be deep or shallow, polluted or clean, have an abundance of fish or none at all. The content, in other words, is different. It is the same with people.”[3]

Even though we can’t alter the “river banks” of our personalities, by steadfastly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and making efforts to improve ourselves, we can gradually purify the “water”; naturally our negative characteristics disappear and we can bring out the best of our own unique qualities. Enhancing the quality of our lives in this way is what actually determines our happiness or unhappiness, not our personalities.

Like “a river [that] meanders but never stops,”[4] when we persist in our daily Buddhist practice and in our efforts to grow, we cleanse the wonderful river of our lives and enable many fish to happily swim in its depths.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff


  1. See Discussions on Youth, pp. 95–96.
  2. Ibid., p. 97
  3. Ibid., p. 96
  4. Ibid., p. 97

LISTEN: How to Get Unstuck From a Monotonous Daily Life

White Sands National Park, New Mexico