Skip to main content

Buddhist Study

How to Master Time

Photo by Stockbyte / Getty Images.

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]

Sometimes, we might feel like, “I have all the time in the world,” while at other times we are so busy that we think, “I have no time at all!”

According to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, time is perceived differently according to one’s frame of reference or relative motion. Since time is relative, he suggests, how we use time as it passes is most important.

At an SGI-USA district discussion meeting, a men’s division member recalled his experience as a youth: “I’d been practicing Buddhism a couple years when I asked a senior in faith how to change my bad financial karma.” 

“Do you have a job?” the senior asked. 

“No,” he answered. He’d been fired for being late too often. 

“It seems, then, that your real problem isn’t your financial karma,” the leader said. “It’s being on time.” 

The senior then shared Nichiren Daishonin’s encouragement to his disciple Shijo Kingo about the importance of winning the trust of colleagues and Ikeda Sensei’s guidance about becoming valued at work.

This man earnestly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and pondered how to change his habit of being late. He also encouraged another young man with work problems to use his Buddhist practice to break through. 

Gradually, the man began to wake up earlier feeling refreshed. He found a job beyond his qualifications, and he stuck with it. To ensure he was on time, he pretended his work began at 8 a.m. even though it started at 9 a.m. In the decades since, he’s never been late, unemployed or experienced serious financial problems. 

While being punctual is important, learning how to master time is the key to a fulfilling life. 

‘Time equals life. It is a priceless treasure.’

Just as time flies when we’re having fun, or it feels like an eternity when we are suffering, how we experience time is relative to our life condition. 

Many people agree that time is valuable, and it’s vital that we strive to make the most of each moment. 

The Buddhist principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life[2] teaches that time is the dynamic process by which each moment of life—rich with boundless potential—gives way to the next, equally filled with possibility. It explains that past, present and future exist in the present and that eternity exists in the moment.

Sensei writes: 

An individual lifetime is an accumulation of such minuscule moments that flow from the past through the present into the future. Because eternity is an unbroken string of these moments—and because each moment is considered the condensation of an entire lifetime—our condition of life at each moment is of supreme importance as it determines the overall course of our lives. Learning to master each moment, then, becomes of paramount concern.[3]

From the Buddhist perspective, we master time by mastering the moment. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we tap our wisdom and learn how to create the best causes from moment to moment. As Sensei says above, chanting helps us elevate our life condition so that we can respond in the best way at each moment. 

As we continue to chant and practice Buddhism, part of the inner transformation we undergo includes a shift from lamenting a lack of time to making full use of the time we have. Sensei says:

Nichiren Daishonin writes that one day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the universe.[4]

Time equals life. It is a priceless treasure. Those who value time, value life. Those who value life are the ones who will create peace in the world.[5]

We learn to master time by valuing each moment of life and using what time we have for noble causes—for spreading the hope-filled philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and for the peace and happiness of self and others. That’s how we can savor a life of utmost joy and satisfaction. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

January 12, 2024, World Tribune, p. 9


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. Three thousand realms in a single moment of life (Jpn ichinen-sanzen): A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects and phases that life assumes at each moment. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world. ↩︎
  3. Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, p. 109. ↩︎
  4. Nichiren Daishonin writes, “One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system, so first you must muster sincere faith” (“On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” WND-1, 955 ↩︎
  5. The Victorious Teen, p. 28. ↩︎

‘Proud Architects of Happiness’ in Our Communities

Toward a Youthful Soka Gakkai