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Decide to Be Victorious

Portrait of the author Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910). Found in the Collection of State Museum of Leo Tolstoy, Moscow. Photo by Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images.

There is an anecdote about a son of the eminent Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, Ilya, that goes like this:

“One day, the boy was given a cup and saucer that he had wanted for a long time. Overjoyed, he wished to show it to everyone. He rushed around the house almost beside himself with excitement. But between one room and the next there was a high doorsill. Ilya tripped over it; the cup went flying and was smashed to pieces. …

“When his mother scolded him, telling him that it was his fault for being careless, he got angry and tearfully retorted: ‘It’s not my fault. It’s the builder’s fault! Why did he put a doorsill there?’”[1]

Tolstoy, who overheard this exchange, always remembered these words. Whenever a family member blamed their mistakes on others, he would smile and say, “It’s the builder’s fault, right?”[2]

We might find this story humorous, but truth be told, when we face a setback or failure, are we quick to blame the “builder”? For instance, if there is someone with whom we can’t see eye to eye, do we think, If they would just change, I would be better off? Or, if things aren’t going well at work, do we focus on how the actions of others are the source of our problems?

Ikeda Sensei explains that no matter how many justifications one may have, those who make a habit of blaming others will always be controlled by their environment, which will spell only certain defeat.

As Nichiren Buddhists, we don’t need to make excuses. This is because our Buddhist practice teaches the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” which holds that everything is determined by our heart or spirit in each moment. Sensei says, “Through daimoku, there is no situation we cannot change, no obstacle we cannot surmount, no battle in kosen-rufu or daily life we cannot win.”[3]

We, in fact, are the “builders,” and when we decide to be victorious where we are right now, we are empowered to do and be better.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff


  1. April 18, 1997, World Tribune, p. 9.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.

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