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Ikeda Sensei

Hardships Create the Inspiring Music of the Heart

Photo by Jason Sung / Unsplash.

All of us at times in our journey of life may experience painful challenges with no end in sight, as though trapped in a long, dark tunnel. When that happens, our faith in the Mystic Law illuminates the way forward ever more brightly with the light of hope and renewal.

After caring for her ailing, elderly mother-in-law, the lay nun Toki found herself battling with her own illness. Nichiren Daishonin praises her sincere spirit of devotion to others and also urges her to persevere in her course of treatment with patience and firm resolve: “Fully convinced that you will recover your health, you should continue [your] treatment for three years, as regularly as if you had just begun” (“The Bow and Arrow,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 656).

He assures her: “You … are a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. … Be deeply convinced, then, that your illness cannot possibly persist, and that your life cannot fail to be extended!” (WND-1, 656). He also encourages her to take care of herself and refrain from worrying needlessly.

When we read Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, we encounter a whole array of practitioners of the Lotus Sutra who, following the Daishonin’s instructions and supported by their fellow practitioners, have overcome all kinds of troubles—from illness and parting with loved ones to poverty and unjust persecution—successfully changing poison into medicine.

In a letter to the lay nun Toki’s husband, Toki Jonin, the Daishonin asserts that we should take forebodings of trouble as “a sign that difficulties can be averted and that good fortune is on the way.” He also declares, “Though calamities may come, they can be changed into good fortune” (“How Gods Protect the Place of Practice,” WND-2, 669).

We of the Soka Gakkai chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a vow for the happiness of ourselves and others and live for kosen-rufu. We see everything that happens in our lives as according with the principles of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma”[1] and “lessening karmic retribution.”[2] Therefore, with the spirit “I’m ready for anything!” let’s calmly tackle whatever life throws at us and keep chanting wholeheartedly with unwavering faith.

Our story of achieving victory over misfortune through carrying out our human revolution and changing our karma will give unending courage to many others who are struggling. Once we emerge from the tunnel of adversity, a dazzling ocean of good fortune and wisdom will stretch before us.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, once said to our sincere pioneer Kansai women members: “The deeper the swamp, the bigger and more beautiful the lotus blooms. Similarly, the greater the hardships we experience, the bigger and more beautifully the lotus blossoms of happiness will bloom and spread.”

Indeed, today, ever-victorious “human flowers” are blooming cheerfully and proudly to their fullest.

My wife, Kaneko, who has just celebrated her 82nd anniversary of joining the Soka Gakkai [with her family on July 12, 1941], has long treasured these three guidelines with her precious comrades in faith: “Hope is the sunshine of the heart.” “Effort is the noble path of the spirit.” “Hardships create the inspiring music of the heart.”

Challenging as it may be,
surmount this hill
and make the pure gold
of your life shine
in our shared and united struggle!

Originally published in the August 2023 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

From the September 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings. They spread the Mystic Law while undergoing the same sufferings as those born in the evil world due to karma. This term derives from Miao-lo’s interpretation of relevant passages in “The Teacher of the Law,” the 10th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. ↩︎
  2. Lessening karmic retribution: This term, which literally means, “transforming the heavy and receiving it lightly,” appears in the Nirvana Sutra. “Heavy” indicates negative karma accumulated over countless lifetimes in the past. As a benefit of protecting the correct teaching of Buddhism, we can experience relatively light karmic retribution in this lifetime, thereby expiating heavy karma that ordinarily would adversely affect us not only in this lifetime, but over many lifetimes to come. ↩︎

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