What is the fundamental purpose of winning in our lives? Of course it is partly to achieve our own goals, overcome our limitations and become happier. But I feel that the biggest impact when we win is that we encourage others who are struggling. If we win today in our lives, if we defeat our darkness, our lesser self and our illusions, then people on the verge of victory will have a final breakthrough, people who are fighting will keep going, people who have given up will find the strength to start again and people who have never fought will discover the spark of hope. This is what happens when the Buddha in Me meets the Buddha in You.
Of course personal development books are full of wonderful examples of determined people who never gave up. For example, Thomas Edison’s 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb and James Dyson’s 5,127 failures before his bagless vacuum cleaner worked. And I was inspired to hear a speech by former Team GB rower Steve Williams OBE, winner of two Olympic gold medals, who quoted the words of his coach Jurgen Grobler before the Athens 2004 final: “It will get so dark and hurt so much that you will cry out for your mother and your father, but you will win on the last stroke.” (And they did, by 0.08 of a second.) I love this image and often quote these words to my clients when they feel like giving up on their goals. And when I have a setback or failure myself, the first question I ask when I look in the mirror is: “How badly did you really really want it?”
Changing the karma of humanity
So, can Buddhism add anything useful to the much-discussed topic of determination? I would argue that it can – in five ways:
- It acknowledges the power and cleverness of your Fundamental Darkness, the fact that there will always be some negative thinking in your mind. Nichiren Buddhism is intensely pragmatic, there are no false promises of a ‘la-la land’ where challenges do not exist.
- Because we are each connected to the universal Mystic Law, chanting consistently with sufficient determination will, sooner or later, produce a change in your circumstances that reflects the change in your heart.
- Determination and perseverance can be joyful experiences rather than painful ordeals (we choose).
- The power of prayer. The challenge is, for an hour or so per day, to let go of our limited rational minds that want to work out solutions just based on previous conditioning and instead trust that the three principles above (especially no.2) are true. This is known as the ‘strategy of the Lotus Sutra’ or connecting with your ninth consciousness.
- When each individual becomes more determined to reveal Buddhahood, the world will inevitably change for the better. A Nichiren Buddhist facing a personal problem therefore believes their situation is part of a collective mission to change the karma of humanity at its very core and this is a powerful driving force when the going gets tough.
To me, the fifth difference is the most significant one between determination with and without Buddhism. It requires a wider, deeper will to succeed and a bigger heart in which the ‘small ego’ has no place. It means remembering that Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is “a we prayer, not just a me prayer”. It is a vow to change the destiny of the planet and it can attract opposition at its most vicious and determined as surely as the moon is reflected on water.
Nichiren Daishonin famously wrote: “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone heard or seen of winter turning back to autumn. Nor have we ever heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra who turned into an ordinary person.”
So, let’s all keep going, let’s always encourage each other. After all, Nichiren Daishonin spent his whole life encouraging other people.