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Buddhist Study

Our Brains Are Surprisingly Resilient

Photo by Hendra Su/ Getty Images.

This new 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]

People commonly believe that memory and other cognitive faculties deteriorate with age. But growing research suggests that, while its functions change as we age, the brain is surprisingly resilient and pliable. Our brains adapt and work in ways that best serve our needs at each life stage. 

Evidence shows that as we age, having a sense of purpose, clear goals and supportive social connections can extend our health and life span[2] and protect our brain from physical decline. Living with purpose helps increase and strengthen our brain connectivity.[3]

Moreover, other studies suggest that if we believe our memory will deteriorate with age, that belief itself may contribute significantly to memory loss.[4]

It’s Never Too Late

At a recent SokaGakkai discussion meeting, a 63-year-old men’s division member sang while playing the guitar. He sounded as if he’d been performing for decades, but he picked up the guitar for the first time three years ago and taught himself to play. 

He said he is spurred on by the thought “If I can bring even a little joy to my fellow members…” 

The founder of our Soka Buddhist movement, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, began his Buddhist practice at 57. 

Regarding the incredible transformation he experienced, he wrote: 

With an indescribable joy, I completely changed the way I had lived for almost 60 years.[5]

It’s never too late to start something new. Regardless of our age, we can grow limitlessly as long as we keep our hearts and minds fully engaged toward our goals. 

‘You Will Grow Younger’

Nichiren Daishonin writes: 

You will grow younger, and your good fortune will accumulate.[6]

Here, to “grow younger” refers to an internal orientation of body and mind. 

Ikeda Sensei addresses this point in his dialogue with Canadian professors Guy Bourgeault and René Simard:

The real meaning of youth has nothing to do with physical age. In Buddhist terms, youth means the open-mindedness—pliability and tolerance—of the life-moment (ichinen). …

Many older people are enthusiastically active in society, do creative work or perform social services. They demonstrate acute powers of observation and broad judgment based on a rich store of experience, and they continue to study and to learn. They constantly absorb new knowledge and have minds that are truly open to society and life. … Their lives are founded on creativity, hope and joy.[7]

Another way to stay youthful, no matter our age, is to connect with young people. We can flex our mental muscles and live with youthful vigor when we pray for and support their growth and victory. What an incredible way to accumulate good fortune and lead a fulfilling life.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

August 18, 2023, World Tribune, p. 10


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. “What’s Your Purpose? Finding a Sense of Meaning in Life Is Linked to Health,” 05/25/726695968/, <accessed on Aug. 9, 2023>. ↩︎
  3. “Mind Over White Matter: Purpose in Life is Associated with Cognitive Resilience as We Age,”, <accessed on Aug. 9, 2023>.  ↩︎
  4. “Reducing the Burden of Stereotype Threat Eliminates Age Differences in Memory Distortion,”, <accessed on Aug. 10, 2023>. ↩︎
  5. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1984), vol. 8, p. 406. ↩︎
  6. “The Unity of Husband and Wife,” WND-1, 464 ↩︎
  7. Daisaku Ikeda, René Simard, Guy Bourgeault, On Being Human (Montreal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2002), pp. 73–74. ↩︎

It’s the Way to Go

Each District One Precious Youth