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Buddhist Study

Never Give Up!

This series highlights how Buddhism can enhance daily living. As Nichiren Daishonin says: “When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs.” [1]

This summer, the movie Barbie broke box office records. Released the same day as another blockbuster, Oppenheimer, the two films caused quite a stir. Dubbed “Barbenheimer” online, people created countless memes and videos, generating excitement and drawing crowds of people to theaters for the first time since the pandemic. 

The two films dealing with starkly different subjects and protagonists share an underlying theme: to persevere amid overwhelming obstacles. 

This theme of perseverance is at the heart of most great stories. Among them is the true story of one who made possible these movies we enjoy so much. Thomas Edison (1847-1931) invented hundreds, if not thousands, of things that sparked the development of modern-day conveniences, like electricity, mobile phones, cameras and much more, that help us lead richer, more efficient lives.  

Edison exuded the spirit to never be defeated. He transformed his hearing loss into a boon—he felt it helped him think without being distracted and easily take naps when he wanted. Despite doing poorly in school, Edison became a successful inventor and entrepreneur. And with his inventions, he would try thousands of approaches until things clicked. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,”[2] he said.

Ikeda Sensei noted two defining aspects of Edison’s incredible success: He never gave up and didn’t brood or fret over things.[3]

When he was 67, Edison’s lab and manufacturing plant went up in flames. He told a reporter, “Although I am 67 years old, I will start all over again tomorrow.” He added: “We’ll build up bigger and better than ever. Why should I be downhearted?”[4]

His unbeatable spirit and unshakable confidence spurred him to overcome setbacks at every turn. 

Bringing Forth Our Full Ability

Nichiren Daishonin, too, exuded the spirit to never give up, no matter the circumstances, and passed this same spirit on to his disciples. For instance, he wrote to Niike Saemon-no-jo: 

Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets. For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?[5]

Where do we find the courage to press forward when we are on the “eleventh day” and ready to throw in the towel? By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. Sensei writes:

I want to encourage those of you facing serious difficulties to pray to the Gohonzon earnestly and diligently, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo five hundred thousand, one million or two million times to overcome them. The Gohonzon is the embodiment of the great fundamental Law of the universe. There is no reason that our problems should go unresolved.[6]

Faith is not about just getting by or even doing as much as we think possible. It’s about bringing forth limitless ability from within for a cause greater than ourselves. Sensei says: 

Edison worked to invent things that were of practical benefit to humanity. He was clear about his purpose. He wasn’t simply interested in personal acclaim or riches. And he pursued his endeavors with a never-give-up spirit.

We, likewise, are living with conviction, determined never to give up in our efforts to help even a single person become happy. We are working for the noblest of all causes, kosen-rufu. With the electric light, Edison lit up the world. Today, we are illuminating the hearts of humankind with the brilliant teaching of hope that is the Daishonin’s Buddhism.[7]

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

September 8, 2023, World Tribune, p. 9


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. Thomas Edison, <accessed on August 31, 2023>. ↩︎
  3. See March 27, 1998, World Tribune, pp. 8–9. ↩︎
  4. Neil Baldwin, Edison: Inventing the Century (New York: Hyperion, 1995), p. 336.  ↩︎
  5. “Letter to Niike,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1027. ↩︎
  6. The New Human Revolution, vol. 10, revised edition, pp. 139–140. ↩︎
  7. March 27, 1998, World Tribune, p. 9.  ↩︎

Each District One Precious Youth

Our Attitude Toward Life Makes Us Young