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Buddhist Study

Freedom From Resentment

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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]

Few of us are immune to holding grudges. A grudge might start as irritation with someone’s behavior and lead to avoiding that person. Though familiar enough, we might do well to ask some questions: How long do we hold a grudge? Do we want our grudges to grow into resentment?

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is credited with saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”[2] During his 27 years in prison, he could have easily resented his jailers, but he learned to move away from hate and embrace people with compassion.

Resentment is persistent, bitter anger from feeling mistreated—not getting due respect, appreciation, apology, praise or reward.[3]

While grudges are a natural reaction to feeling wronged, resentment forms when they become entrenched in our hearts. That, like other longstanding stressors, can negatively impact our health, increasing the risk of things like depression, heart disease or cancer.[4] It can also destroy trust and intimacy and lead to contempt, making it hard to appreciate others.

Overcoming resentment can be tricky. We wouldn’t feel that way if we didn’t believe it was justified, after all. However, chronic resentment clouds our perception of others or harms our view of the future. It’s also a highly contagious emotion.[5]

Nichiren Buddhism offers concrete means for overcoming resentment. In Nichiren’s writings, “bearing grudges” is one of the fourteen slanders, negative attitudes that Buddhist practitioners should avoid harboring toward the Law and fellow practitioners.[6] Nichiren considers them serious offenses because they go against the Lotus Sutra’s intent of respecting all people, leading to disbelief in the Mystic Law and our own and others’ Buddha nature. As such, they could keep us from deepening our ties with others and attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. 

When negativity controls us, we will find it hard to make efforts to bring forth our Buddhahood. Thus, Nichiren warns, “You must be on guard against [the fourteen slanders].”[7]

How can we “guard against” resentment? Sure, we can’t just flip a switch and suddenly drop all our grudges. 

The first step might be honestly acknowledging our feelings as we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. Or it might start by resolving to overcome a grudge.

The long-term goal is to, like Mandela, develop our compassion. Nichiren teaches that because we’re all respectworthy Buddhas there’s no need to hold on to ill will, compare ourselves to others or be swayed by others’ actions. 

As we chant and challenge our circumstances, we can find the wisdom and compassion to transform the poison of resentment into the fuel for tapping our Buddhahood and creating lasting value. 

All this doesn’t mean we become doormats and simply let people mistreat us. Through chanting and engaging in Buddhist practice, we learn the importance of treasuring ourselves, finding our voice and standing up for ourselves, as well as having the courage and humility to admit when we’re wrong. 

Ikeda Sensei urges: 

Believe that the boundless life state of Buddhahood resides within you, earnestly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and polish your life—this, the Daishonin teaches, is the only way to free ourselves from suffering and delusion. You are all originally Buddhas. Believe in yourself. … 

If you can’t believe you embody the Mystic Law, you’ll never have self-confidence in the truest sense of the word, and you’ll always be searching for the path to happiness outside yourself.[8]

No matter the situation, we can’t allow ourselves to become defeated, apathetic or bitter. Anytime we fall, we can use the ground to push ourselves up again. Buddhist faith, practice and study are like the muscles needed to pick ourselves up. 

Luckily, we have many ways to do so. We can chant, talk to our friends and fellow Buddhists, study our mentor’s guidance and Nichiren’s writings, support SGI activities or share Buddhism with others. 

Our Buddhist practice helps us spend less time bearing grudges and more time developing the wisdom and strength to turn relationship challenges into the powerful driving force for believing in the Buddhahood of all people. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

March 1, 2024, World Tribune, p. 11


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. <accessed on Feb. 22, 2024>. ↩︎
  3. <accessed on Feb. 22, 2024>. ↩︎
  4. <accessed on Feb. 22, 2024>. ↩︎
  5. See footnote 3. ↩︎
  6. Fourteen slanders: Based on the Lotus Sutra’s third chapter, offenses against the Buddha’s teachings and the people who believe in and practice it. They are: 1) arrogance, 2) negligence, 3) wrong views of the self, 4) shallow understanding, 5) attachment to earthly desires, 6) not understanding, 7) not believing, 8) scowling with knitted brows, 9) harboring doubts, 10) slandering, 11) despising, 12) hating, 13) envying and 14) bearing grudges. ↩︎
  7. “The Fourteen Slanders,” WND-1, 756. ↩︎
  8. 8. The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, revised edition, p. 51. ↩︎

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