Happiness

People are yearning for happiness and world peace, yet both seem as elusive as ever. Morality is past its sell-by-date. Science and politics do not have all the answers. And ‘EQ’ (emotional intelligence) teachings are enlightening but self-centred.  In these confused times, with global consciousness at a crucial turning point, the philosophy of 13th century Japanese Buddha Nichiren Daishonin is sparking new hope, both for individuals and society. Nichiren taught that the world will only change for  the better when individuals transform their hearts. Buddhists call this ‘human revolution’.    light thru window

Nichiren’s radical, practical and inclusive teachings are now the fastest growing form of Buddhism in the West and are the inspiration for this blog. You can read it as a self-help guide or as a blueprint for social change, or ideally both.

Well-known practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism include Roberto Baggio, Orlando Bloom, Kate Bosworth, Stella Duffy, Miranda Kerr, Herbie Hancock, Tina Turner and Maxi Jazz.

Here are 7 principles of Nichiren Buddhism:

  1. Life itself is precious. Its essence, its energy. My life, your life, all life. And, on a level that even our subconscious cannot perceive, it is interconnected.
  2. Buddhahood is not some superhuman state, but something very real and practical that is attainable by all of us. It includes profound feelings of joy, wisdom, courage, compassion, gratitude and optimism.
  3. All the answers you’ll ever need are inside you, none of them require prayers of supplication to a God or Buddha. Because you yourself are a Buddha.
  4. Becoming truly happy and overcoming our suffering requires great effort and gritty determination.
  5. There is no heaven. There is no hell. Neither is a physical place that you go to. Both exist in your heart. Your heart counts most of all.
  6. You do not need faith to start practising. Buddhism is empirical, you test it out and chant to see ‘actual proof’ in your life.
  7. Life is eternal. You get to come back over and over again, with some periods in between to enjoy a refreshing nap – usually known as ‘death’.

If you’re wondering why there’s no mention in the above of vegetarianism, Nirvana, the Dalai Lama or meditation, it’s because Nichiren Buddhism is very different to the Tibetan and Zen traditions more commonly encountered in the West. For example, it has no rules. Yet it is very strict in terms of personal accountability. More of this another time…

9 thoughts on “Happiness

  1. Thank you David for your wonderful writings. Yes compassion and kindness too for all living beings is the most important thing I think also nothing is more importaant then to chant for your own happiness, in that we find our peace, contentment, love, joy and laughter. And that goes out to the environment to all the world, to concentrate on your own happiness is of most importance. But we differ about heaven and hell. I believe goodness is heaven and evil hell. Also I believe that we meet up with our loved ones after death in a state of only heaven. Even if this life is the end of ME? I would still hope and pray and chant that this world will become a more loving happier place for all. Heaven on earth. For the moment it is an extremely suffering world, mainly because how so many human beings treat others, look at the slaughter house for example, it’s unacceptable and unforgivable. I am a Christian but I think your practice is the most honourable of all. You do it for KOSEN RUFU. If there is a God I believe He would be most pleased with you lot. I also believe (like to think) that Jesus and Buddha is the same, inside and outside of as. Thanks again David and I wish you all happiness and success.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words 🙂 and lovely to hear from someone so sincere of a different faith. And yes, I would like to think that if there was a God S/He would be very happy to see so many Bodhisattvas emerging from the earth to accomplish Kosen Rufu. Take care, warm wishes, David

  2. Hi David,

    I have been chanting for a month for the recovery of a loved one in our family . Its been a really tough time for us. Can I chant for someone’s else’s recovery. The only reason I started chanting was to offer my sincere prayers to the universe to help that person overcome illness . Do you think it will work ?

    Thanks
    JR

    1. Hi JR, first of all my apologies for the delay replying to your comment. I hope your loved one is on the road to recovery. You certainly can chant for other people’s happiness, though of course it is best if they themselves chant! You will certainly make a difference with your prayer, either to yourself or/and to the other person. As for whether your loved one will recover, I cannot give you an answer, as individual karma is impossible to fathom. I hope you will continue to chant whatever happens. Very best wishes, David

  3. How is a belief in eternal life where life returns for humans empirical? This is where I believe Buddhism unnecessarily goes from philosophy to religion. It may be arguable that life appears to be never ending, but there is no empirical grounding to assert that human life returns in human form after death. And to assert this undermines the validity and value of the nichiren practice of chanting nam myo renge kyo. For those of us that want true salvation from life’s sufferings and worldly answers to life’s most difficult challenges… Having unverifiable claims mixed in to the philosophy only serves to undermine the value of the other aspects of the philosophy. Please explain why you think this is a central component of nichiren Buddhism, and how it fits in with empirical practices, because to me it is nonsensical and unnecessary.

    1. Hi Gabe
      Thank you for your very big question 🙂 It is one I have wrestled with a lot in my Buddhist practice. I am not sure where in the world you are writing from but my experience is that people in the West are much more sceptical about the possibility of reincarnation than people in Asia. If you live anywhere east of Turkey you are pretty much brought up assuming that life is eternal, – a lot of our beliefs are the product of our cultural conditioning. Growing up in England I therefore approached this concept with deep scepticism. Having said that, I did not let my head get in the way of my heart and I chanted for many years achieving loads of benefits without believing in the eternity of life.

      Specifically on the points you raise: Buddhism does not state that we necessarily return in human form, just that you cannot destroy life force or energy. Energy can only be transformed – science agrees with this. There is nothing nonsensical about that theory, IMO. The oft-used analogy is that of a wave on the surface of the ocean – this equates to us being alive in a ‘manifest way’ – walking, talking, breathing etc…. Death is seen as the wave disappearing from view but the energy continuing in a ‘latent’ state under the surface, ready to re-appear when the conditions are right. As Robert Ludlum pointed out in one of his thrillers, we are born looking for answers and have to make do with analogies! To me, death is just a refreshing nap between lifetimes. BTW, the mantra Nam Myoho Renge Kyo absolutely includes eternal life within its many-layered meanings – Kyo specifically means ‘flow, thread, eternity’.

      Buddhists also believe that reincarnation would explain, for example, why children as young as three or four can turn out to be mathematical or musical geniuses (even though their parents are tone deaf). It would explain why some people, when learning a ‘foreign’ language feel as if they are actually remembering it or have a perfect accent in that language but are unable to mimic any other accent. Yes the claims are unverifiable, the evidence is at best circumstantial, there is a point at which faith takes over from empiricism. But just because scientists haven’t yet proved that life is eternal, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. They haven’t yet explained how life began, for example. I have had enough knocks to my ego over the years (from thinking that I knew it all; but didn’t…) to take some teachings on trust.

      And finally, even though I cannot prove the truth of this teaching, I do find it very valuable. It makes me feel more accountable and I think people become very unhappy and materialistic when they are scared of dying.

      I will write about this at more length in my book, however you may like to read ‘Space and Eternal Life’ by Chandra Wickramasinghe & Daisaku Ikeda. The former is an internationally renowned astronomer whose knowledge is far deeper than mine and who points out that many scientists are now taking seriously many theories previously considered ‘too far out’. The book has a foreword by Sir Fred Hoyle. Also ‘The Reluctant Buddhist’ by William Woollard – a former BBC TV presenter and scientist who has been chanting over 25 years.

      All best wishes and hopefully we will meet one day to discuss these matters. (If not in this lifetime then perhaps in the next… 🙂 )

      David

    2. Hi Gabe/ whoever else is reading this with a zillion questions popping in the mind 🙂

      To add to what David has explained with seemingly effortless ease… though I have been born and raised in Asia, I have pondered (if not struggled with) for years, the idea of the eternity of life. And this contemplation took a lot of time and mindspace, especially because I am someone who questions everything first.

      Over time, I had a better understanding of how to approach something as significant as this. Whether there is empirical evidence of this or not, for me the takeaway has been…interesting, to say the least 🙂 –

      Being open to an idea (even if not believing in it right away) helps understand mind boggling concepts like this.

      The idea of life being eternal also encourages us to be more responsible for our own actions and to transform our life here and now so we can have a happier future (in this life or the next 🙂 )

      The whole idea of wishing for nirvana/ worldly answers to life’s challenges/ true salvation from sufferings needs a deeper examination. What do we even mean by these? What are we expecting? Why do we want to achieve any of these? I believe, answers to these questions would lead us to a reasonable conclusion. In my experience, expecting ‘answers to life’s challenges/ freedom from sufferings’ is married to ‘taking responsibility for the good and not-so-good in our lives’.

      And the unique promise of Nichiren Buddhism (to my mind) is that ‘worldly’ answers are to be found by living/fighting (our inner negativity) in this very world (not desiring nirvana from the place that allows us opportunities to transform it (by transforming our own lives).

      My two cents 🙂

      Shalini

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