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Gosho Study

Building an Invincible Self Through Illness

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It is not certain that, because one is ill, one will die. And could not this illness of your husband’s be the Buddha’s design, because the Vimalakirti and Nirvana sutras both teach that sick people will surely attain Buddhahood? Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way. 

—“The Good Medicine for All Ills,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 937

No matter how ill you are, if you put chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo first and value every moment of your life, you will be able to savor the amrita[1] of the boundless joy of the Law[2] and accumulate indestructible treasures of the heart. Moreover, all the treasures of the heart that you have already accrued in your life thus far will endure forever. Whereas the so-called treasures of the storehouse (material wealth) and treasures of the body (physical health and practical abilities)[3] are limited to this existence, the treasures of the heart are never lost or destroyed. They endure eternally. Those who have accumulated such treasures are true victors in life.

No one can escape the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. In one sense, the struggle against illness is an unavoidable and natural part of life. Practitioners of the Nichiren Buddhism can see illness as having some profound meaning. …

“Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way,” Nichiren writes. Falling ill leads us to reflect upon ourselves, become aware of our negative life tendencies or karma, and sincerely seek the correct teaching of Buddhism with all our hearts. …

Through faith in Nichiren Buddhism, we can apprehend the deeper significance of all of life’s sufferings, including illness. This is a way of life of changing karma into mission. It is not a matter of just stoically enduring our karma; nor is it a path of escapism or passive resignation. Rather, we strive to build an invincible self through transforming our lives on the most fundamental level and developing inner fortitude, so that we can face illness or any other adversity without being defeated. This is the strength and greatness of SGI members. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 3, pp. 87–88)

From the July 2024 Living Buddhism


  1. Amrita (Skt): A legendary, ambrosia-like liquid. It is said to remove sufferings and give immortality. The word amrita means immortality and is often translated as sweet dew. ↩︎
  2. Boundless joy of the Law: The supreme and ultimate happiness of the Buddha, the benefit of the Mystic Law. ↩︎
  3. In “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 851). ↩︎

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