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Gosho Study

Trials Forge Our Lives

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Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse.

“Letter from Sado,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 303

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this passage in a letter addressed to his disciples in March 1272, five months after surviving an execution attempt and being exiled to Sado Island. 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. 

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.

Making a sword involves forging iron, 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 and bring forth our inherent strength. 

The Daishonin writes in the postscript of this letter, “I want people with seeking minds to meet and read this letter together for encouragement” (WND-1, 306). We can sense in these words the deep concern he has for his disciples. In line with this passage, we can view “Letter from Sado” as a writing Nichiren left behind out of his passionate wish for us to forge the inner fortitude to win in any circumstance and lead lives of unsurpassed happiness.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Ikeda Sensei’s Encouragement

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!

1. Become as Strong as Steel

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)

2. Firm Resolve Polishes Our Lives to Shine as Pure Gold

The process of confronting and challenging our karma enables us to polish and strengthen our faith. When we are tested by the fires of karma, we can show our true mettle. If we are irresolute, we will be like ash and crumble, but if we maintain a firm resolve, we will become pure gold, our lives growing ever more radiant.

The supreme purpose of Buddhism is to forge, polish and strengthen our lives. Without polishing and developing, people with ability and talent will not shine their brightest. Without training, people of genuine commitment will not be fostered. By striving wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu, we can transform our negative karma from past existences and bring our lives to shine with the brilliance of a gleaming, unbreakable sword. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 82–83)

3. Stress is the ‘Spice of Life’

Stress was first recognized in the medical field by Dr. Hans Selye (1907–82), a researcher at the University of Montreal. …

Dr. Selye called stress “the spice of life.” Stress is not something that can be completely eliminated from life and, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. In fact, a moderate amount of stress can actually be useful in allowing us to bring forth and improve our talents and abilities.

This attitude is similar to the Buddhist teaching that earthly desires are the springboard to enlightenment. … Problems lead to growth. Difficulties make us stronger. The Daishonin is teaching us that such challenges enable us to establish a larger, broader state of life. (Nov. 2, 2012, World Tribune, p. 5)

Changing My Destiny

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