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LEARNING FROM ADVERSITY


"Reverend Niwano, you are such an optimist," I am often told. "What is your secret?" I have no special secret. I simply believe that anything can be changed for the good, and I do not waste my time worrying about the things over which I have no control. Problems are bound to arise wherever a lot of people gather together. I have been involved for many years with the World Conference of Religions for Peace (now known as Religions for Peace), an organization of religious leaders from around the world who have united in the hope of achieving world peace.

The group has encountered various obstacles, but the knottier the problem, the more enthusiastic I become about finding a solution.

I believe that there is no human problem that cannot be humanly resolved. How often have you worried about something only to look back later and realize that all your worry was for nothing? And how often have you wanted to shout harsh words at those around you, only to be glad the next day that you did not?


Suppose that things do not turn out the way you want. If you can glean a lesson from the outcome, there is something good to be had after all. The heavens will never burden you with more than you can bear. Many are the difficulties to be encountered on the long road of life, yet every obstacles have been placed with the assurance that you can overcome it and grow in the process. One day you will realize that the person you are now was molded by the trials and tribulations you overcame in the past. When we see things this way, we realize that there is no such thing as an unhappy or unsuccessful life.


To repeat, every trail is an opportunity to progress one step further in our growth.

To take advantage of the opportunity to believe in the compassion and mercy of the Buddha. In testing us, he is drawing out our hidden powers and characteristics.

I have lived by this conviction and surmounted numerous difficulties that way.


In The Miscellany of a Japanese Priest, Yoshida Kenko (who flourished in the fourteenth century) wrote in the section "On Good and Bad Friends" that one type of bad friend consists of "those with lusty constitutions who are never ill." Although it might strike us as odd that someone who is very healthy would not make a good friend, such people cannot understand the suffering that comes with illness, having never experienced it themselves, and therefore tend to make light of the suffering of others. If you yourself have been ill and have experienced suffering, it was when you confronted your pain that you first understood what pain and suffering are all about. And sometimes the very act of becoming ill helps us understand the happiness that we had all along but were unaware of until illness struck.


Whenever I have a problem, I think that if I can overcome it, I will be able to understand and comfort other people when they go through the same kind of pain--that is why the heavens have given me this trial.

Many are the difficulties I have surmounted that way. With this kind of attitude, one stops fretting about this, that , and the other thing. It becomes possible to accept the judgment of the Buddha with good grace.


Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life

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