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District Study Meeting Material

April 2023

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Please base your study on either the material provided here or on any study material from a recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism. Have a great study meeting!

Obstacles Enable Us to Polish Our Lives [15.7]

Chapter 15: Faith for Overcoming Obstacles

The study material below is excerpted from The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace. You can purchase the revised editions of parts 1 and 2 at The following is from an address Ikeda Sensei gave at a women’s division representatives conference in Tokyo on January 25, 1998.

Ikeda Sensei: Obstacles enable us to polish our lives.

In one of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin employs the following simile: “It will only be like a boar rubbing against the golden mountain” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 770).

The story behind this simile goes something like this: Once there was a golden mountain. A boar came upon it and didn’t like the fact that the mountain glittered brightly. It tried to erase the golden mountain’s brilliance by rubbing against it. The boar’s coat was stiff, and he rubbed very hard. But what was the result? The harder the boar rubbed against the mountain, the brighter it shone.

This simile appears in The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom and in Great Concentration and Insight.

The Daishonin refers to it to teach us that the more that practitioners of the Lotus Sutra encounter obstacles, the brighter their lives shine.

The obstacles in question are the three obstacles and four devils.[1] We cannot attain enlightenment without struggling against them. We cannot become Buddhas without experiencing and overcoming difficulties—just as we cannot graduate from university without taking examinations and passing them.

Nichiren writes, “This world is the domain of the devil king of the sixth heaven”[2] (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 495). As a result, good people are harassed and evil people do what they like. Kosen-rufu is a movement to fundamentally transform this upside-down state of affairs.

To shine ever more brightly the more obstacles we face—this also provides an important lesson in the area of human relations.

An organization is a gathering of all kinds of individuals. There may be some who are not easy to work with. Sometimes, the behavior of others may really annoy or upset us.

But such things make the golden mountain of our lives shine.

If everyone in our lives was perfect, we would never grow. Working together with people we may not get along well with is a way to polish our “golden mountain.”

Quite frankly, we ourselves may not always behave as admirably as we’d like, so how can we expect others to behave just as we want them to? Getting upset at each little incident doesn’t improve anything, nor does it change the other person. Sometimes you just have to sigh and think, “Well, that’s the way he is,” and accept the other person with compassion.

The Daishonin writes: “The fifth volume of [T’ien-t’ai’s] Great Concentration and Insight states, ‘ … like the various rivers flowing into the sea; like logs making a fire burn more briskly’” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 770).

T’ien-t’ai is saying that the reason the sea is so vast is that many different rivers flow into it, and the sea accepts them all.

If the sea rejected one river or another, it wouldn’t be the great, vast sea it is. If we reject and avoid people we don’t like, we can’t develop a self that is as vast and expansive as the ocean.

T’ien-t’ai also says that the more logs we add to a fire, the more briskly it burns.

The logs of unhappiness fuel the flames of happiness. Because we experience hardships, we can know joy. Buddhism teaches that the sufferings of earthly desires lead to enlightenment. Problems enable us to grow. That’s why there is no such thing as unalloyed or unremitting happiness.

The Daishonin even says that Hei no Saemon-no-jo and others who had persecuted him are his “foremost good friends” and “best allies” (see WND-1, 770). Those who give us the hardest time are those who, more than anyone else, help us attain Buddhahood.

Suggested Questions:

1) Ikeda Sensei says, “Because we experience hardships, we can know joy.” Has there been a time when your struggles enabled you to enjoy happiness?

2) How has overcoming difficulties with others helped you polish your “golden mountain”?

From the April 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are the obstacles of 1) earthly desires, 2) karma and 3) retribution. The four devils are the hindrances of 1) the five components, 2) earthly desires, 3) death and 4) the devil king. ↩︎
  2. Devil king of the sixth heaven: Also, devil king or heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure, obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings. He is the manifestation of the fundamental ignorance inherent in life and a personification of the negative tendency to force others to one’s will at any cost. ↩︎

Highlights of the April 2023 Study Material

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