“Why Always Me?” Finding Wisdom in Hardship

“Why Always Me?” Finding Wisdom in Hardship

By virtue of one’s knowledge one can analyse and distinguish various phenomena. However, in order to fathom and perceive the truth lying in the depths of these phenomena, one can only turn to wisdom...

Nichiren Daishonin explains that the present is a manifestation of causes laid in our past. Both suffering and joy are facts of life. No one can avoid problems, not even saints nor sages. When hardships disturb us, "suffer what there is to suffer", and the manifested karma is definitely within our power to accept and overcome.

In fact, in trying our best to deepen our faith and practice, we lay good causes that will lighten the consequences of our past negative causes. When we continue to devote our lives and chant Daimoku, our life condition will be elevated to the higher worlds. We will be able to notice and appreciate the changes in our environment.

On the flip side, if we wallow in misery, we may lament over others and the environment, believing that we are never at fault. Our life condition will fall into the lower worlds and we will remain caught in bad circumstances.

In times of difficulty, the state of Buddhahood can still prevail – if only we allow it to emerge, even at our lowest. If our faith remains sincere and pure, and we persist in our daily practice, our prayers will be answered. We can find our way out of any impasse.

According to how we perceive or understand hardships, the outcome will be different. We can accept this as a challenge to advance and break through negative cycles. We can have the composure to face all of life's unavoidable adversities, both in the present and the future, and courageously battle our earthly desires and ugly influences.

After all, wisdom is only gained by intensive living and profiting from the struggles of each day. Even hardships can be turned into value through wisdom.

We found this guidance on the Buddhist concept of "Ishin Dai-e" to be especially meaningful in explaining how we could gain wisdom through sincere faith. We hope it will serve as a guide, in helping you develop a deeper appreciation for Nichiren Daishonin's teachings in your Buddhist practice.

“Ishin Dai-e” | Gaining Wisdom through Faith
Kaimyo Magazine Issue 1

In one of the Goshos, “The Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice”, Nichiren Daishonin states:

“However, since one’s wisdom is inadequate, he substitutes it with faith. Faith is of fundamental importance. Doubt is the cause for slander or incorrigible disbelief. Faith is the cause for wisdom; hence it is the stage of myoji-soku.”

Wisdom in this context means the mental function that enables one to clearly perceive the true nature of all phenomena. Knowledge is clearly distinct from wisdom in Buddhism, The Nirvana Sutra admonishes that one should depend upon wisdom, not knowledge, in one’s aspiration to enlightenment. By virtue of one’s knowledge one can analyse and distinguish various phenomena. However, in order to fathom and perceive the truth lying in the depths of these phenomena, one can only turn to wisdom. When one fails to develop wisdom, one substitutes faith for wisdom and this is the principle of ishin taie which literally means gaining wisdom through faith.

Faith is a springboard for action. In part, it is the confidence people gain which is based on their personal experience. The wall switch is reached for upon entering a dark room because through experience, one learns that this brightens the room. Experience in this scenario is analogous to faith.

Strong faith in the life philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin actually means not doubting the Gohonzon and this amounts to having a seeking mind for continual self-improvement.

Nichiren Daishonin’s Gosho states:

“Practising this sutra without faith is like entering a treasure mountain without hands or trying to walk a thousand miles without legs.”

Aristotle, a great philosopher of ancient Greece, said that no people are wise simply by nature or by natural instinct. Wisdom is gained by intensive living. In other words, by profiting from the struggles of each day, one knows better how to live tomorrow. Even adversity can be turned into value through wisdom. It is something more valuable than knowledge alone. If knowledge could enlighten a man, all educated men would be happy; and in a society, scientists and academics would be leading the public to a peaceful and fulfilling existence right now. Knowledge is comparable to goods in storage; wisdom puts the goods to beneficial use.

At a given moment and under any circumstance, there are two directions in which to act: one towards happiness and the other towards unhappiness. The ultimate degree of wisdom to invariably choose the right way and maintain it comes from practice and faith in the Gohonzon. This has little bearing on an individual’s intelligence or education.

The original Buddha, who appeared in the Latter Day of the Law as Nichiren Daishonin, inscribed the essence of the enlightenment Shakyamuni Buddha had attained in the form of a mandala. By establishing faith in this mandala one can acquire the Buddha’s wisdom and manifest it in one’s life. Through establishing the principle of gaining wisdom through faith in the mandala, Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism has gone beyond the confines of the intellectual pursuit and gained ground as a religion capable of saving all human beings.

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