Tribute to Nelson Mandela (extracts from essay by Daisaku Ikeda)

A victory of hope over despair, of shared humanity over hatred, and of justice over inequality… these are my thoughts reflecting on the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who passed away this evening. My admiration for Mandela comes mostly from reading essays by Daisaku Ikeda, leader of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist movement that I belong to.

Mandela heard about Ikeda’s humanistic writings while in prison and after his release requested a meeting with him during a visit to Japan. Here are some extracts from an essay written by Daisaku Ikeda, reflecting on the two dialogues he had with South Africa’s first black President:

Nelson Mandela & Daisaku Ikeda

“There is something very special about Nelson Mandela’s smile. It is honest and pure, full of gentle composure. There isn’t a single line on his face that would suggest anything cold and harsh. And yet it embodies the conviction and strength of character of a man who has led his people to freedom. It is a smile like the purest gold, from which all impurities have been burned and driven in the furnace of great suffering.

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How to choose the best mentor for your life – 10 top tips

How can we become happy in life and carry on growing?  One of the best ways is to choose an inspirational mentor. Here are 10 tips on how to choose a great mentor, based on my experience of both business and Buddhism. Choose someone who:

Toda & Ikeda

1. has been and remains a brilliant pupil / follower himself
2. sees your brilliance when you cannot find it any more
3. has strong enough self-esteem and humility to celebrate your successes rather than feel threatened by them
4. will stretch you to your limits (and beyond) while supporting you to the max
5. will hold you accountable when you can’t quite find the courage or honesty to do so

 [pic shows SGI’s Daisaku Ikeda with his late mentor Josei Toda]

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7 ways to make the most of your problems – Buddha style

John Delnevo cropped

22 years ago when I first went to a senior Buddhist to ask for advice, I said to him: “I have a very big problem,” and he, the late John Delnevo of SGI UK (pictured), replied with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye: “Congratulations.” I thought he must have misheard me so I repeated that I really was struggling with something (can’t remember what but it would’ve felt massive at the time – money / job / girlfriend / studies… or possibly all four…)

Again he smiled broadly and said, “that’s great news, well done!” Seeing my perplexed face, he made seven points over the next hour’s conversation that have stayed with me ever since:

  1. Happiness is not the absence of problems
  2. Problems are a fact of life “suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy” – this is what Nichiren Daishonin taught
  3. The problem is never the problem, it’s the life state from which you approach the problem that’s the problem
  4. The lotus flower of enlightenment only grows in the muddy pond of daily life – your challenge is a sign that your life is asking to grow. So, are you going to say Yes or No?
  5. You’ve made the cause / karma for this situation (otherwise it couldn’t happen), so therefore you (and only you) have the power to change it. (This is the principle of personal responsibility behind the name ‘Thanking the Spoon’)
  6. Any problem is a gift in disguise – it might be very heavily disguised sometimes, but it’s a gift all the same
  7. When you change for the better, the world around you does too, as surely as a shadow follows a body, that’s how, one by one, we create world peace.

‘John D’, as we called him, was an incredibly wise, strict and compassionate man and it is hard in a list of 7 points to convey the warm encouragement that always shone from his life, earning the trust of people all around him. In fact it has taken me 21 years to really understand with my whole life what he said to me on that day in 1991. And some days I still forget.

The advice he gave was born of his own heartfelt personal struggles or ‘human revolution’ as we say in Buddhism, he lived what he taught, it was never about theory with John D.  And looking back I realise he treated me with the deepest appreciation, seeing past my whingeing self-centredness and talking to the person I might one day become.  I believe this is the mark of a great mentor.

So, as this wise man repeated at the end of our little chat: “You have a problem? Congratulations…”

Davidx

PS.  When I began writing this post, I didn’t intend it to become a tribute to John Delnevo, it was just going to be a list of 7 hopefully helpful points. Now I realise that it is the profound human connection that counted even more than what he actually said.   ‘John D’, you rocked. Still in my daimoku. Thank you.

The difference between arrogance and confidence

I was coaching a company director recently who was struggling to get the best from his team. In conversation he revealed that he was worried about appearing ‘too successful’, adding that there was a “very fine line between confidence and arrogance.” Image

But Buddhism explains that they come from completely different places. Confident leaders want other people to reveal their talents and ultimately outperform them, whereas arrogant leaders need others to continuously feel ‘inferior’ so that they can protect their own low self-esteem (fragile ego) and hide their own deep anxiety.

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