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Gosho Study

I often get overwhelmed by things but want to feel more joy and appreciation. What can I do?

Answer: Find one thing you can appreciate, take action to express appreciation for it, and repeat this each day. Every effort will help expand and enrich your heart.

Gratitude—SGI-USA members Sarah Shirley and her mother, Kim, share a moment of appreciation, Santa Clarita, Calif., March 2022. Ms. Shirley shared a video experience for this year’s May Commemorative Contribution activity. Photo by Yvonne Ng.

This study series focuses on Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, who faced challenges we can still relate to today, and his enduring encouragement to them, which we can apply to dynamically transform our lives.

Appreciation is powerful. Buddhism teaches us to appreciate even our problems as opportunities to grow and become stronger and wiser. Of course, that’s often easier said than done, but problems don’t always have to overwhelm us.

As we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and practice Buddhism for self and others, we gain the life force to make this shift in perspective. Then we can conquer that overwhelmed feeling and reclaim our power to transform our circumstances.   

As we look at the lives of Nichiren Daishonin and his disciples, we can learn the power and benefit of having and showing appreciation. 

Though facing severe hardships themselves, many disciples provided Nichiren with food, clothing and other necessities out of their appreciation for his guidance and support. And Nichiren, who often faced intense opposition and harsh living conditions, wrote many letters of deep thanks. 

The mutual appreciation between Nichiren and his disciples, such as Nanjo Tokimitsu, offers us an excellent model of living a fulfilling life. 

“It Is Our Heart That Matters Most”

Tokimitsu, steward of a village near Atsuhara, used his influence to protect fellow disciples during the height of the Atsuhara Persecution—when authorities harassed and oppressed Nichiren’s disciples due to their faith. He even offered his estate as a haven for many persecuted believers. 

In retaliation, authorities kept close watch over him and heavily taxed him. He also fell gravely ill at one point, perhaps from the stress of the Atsuhara Persecution. Nichiren’s frequent encouragement helped him overcome both his sickness and financial difficulties.

Despite his family’s financial struggles, he continued to make offerings of food, clothing and money to support Nichiren and also vigorously led efforts to spread his teachings.

In a 1278 letter, Nichiren responded to offerings of wheat and ginger: 

Just as I was thinking that, even if I remained free from illness, I would surely die of starvation, the wheat that you sent arrived. It is more wonderful than gold and more precious than jewels. … How, then, could Tokimitsu’s wheat fail to turn into the characters of the Lotus Sutra? (“Reply to Tokimitsu,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 926)

Around this time, it seems that Tokimitsu sent offerings every month to the Daishonin on Mount Minobu. Epidemics and famine plagued Japanese society, affecting Nichiren as well. He praises Tokimitsu’s gifts in this letter, using metaphors to illustrate the preciousness of offerings, especially those made in times of famine and rampant disease.

Both Nichiren and Tokimitsu exemplify that, rather than letting our environment control us, our resolve and actions can determine the nature of our environment. Our practice of Nichiren Buddhism enables us to break through our negativity and limitations and come to appreciate all the people and troubles that have shaped us. 

Tokimitsu lived a long, prosperous life with his wife and many children. Records also indicate that his standing in society improved over the years. He remained committed to protecting and spreading Nichiren’s teachings throughout his life.

In The New Human Revolution, Ikeda Sensei writes: “Buddhism teaches that it is our heart that matters most. Those who have a sense of appreciation are happy. Their lives abound with rich vitality and joy. They are dynamic and cheerful, and have tremendous fortune. … Indeed, it is the spirit of gratitude that gives rise to a brilliant life” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 13, revised edition, p. 147).

Take the Initiative to Express Appreciation

A change in our hearts is the key to changing our lives. So, in addition to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, how can we spark our appreciation and help it grow? Here are a few selections from Sensei’s Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace that can help!

When we do something, do we approach it with a negative attitude—grumbling, “Oh, not again! I hate this!”—or a positive attitude—telling ourselves brightly, “All right, here’s a fresh opportunity to gain good fortune!”? This seemingly small, subtle difference in attitude can make a huge difference in our lives. (part 2, p. 33)

Rather than being thankful because we are happy, being thankful itself will make us happy. Also, chanting with gratitude puts us in rhythm with the universe, turning our lives in a positive direction. (part 2, p. 198)

When I meet others, I always make a point of expressing my appreciation to them. I hope you’ll also always sincerely thank the people in your life. When words of gratitude well forth naturally from your heart, all your relationships will develop in a positive direction. It’s up to you, not the other person. (part 2, pp. 195–96)

By actively taking the initiative to express our appreciation, we can continue expanding and enriching our hearts, always finding the strength to use our challenges as opportunities to gain wisdom, fortune and benefit!   

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

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