Perhaps because our eyes are directed outwards, we human beings usually look to our environment as the source of our happiness or unhappiness. “Because of x I feel y.” “You made me…” “When I do or get this, then I’ll feel okay.”
In other words, in our unenlightened state we have a knee-jerk reaction to circumstances, and we believe we are at their mercy. The thought, “How can I feel happy when I have this trouble, or this problem?” seems like completely reasonable, common sense.
However, the uncommon sense – wisdom – that Buddhist practice and study bring forth is that those very same troubles and problems possess a hidden potential for benefit. The ultimate benefit of indestructible happiness – self-generated happiness that doesn’t depend on outer circumstances.
Buddhism turns our gaze inwards to plumb the inner realms of life, the ultimate source of our good fortune (a happy and fulfilling life) and our bad fortune (an unhappy and unfulfilling life).
Nichiren Buddhism differs from other forms of Buddhism because it doesn’t involve worshipping a Buddha. It teaches the revolutionary truth that all living beings, without exception, are inherently endowed with a Buddha nature that we can bring to fruition just as we are.
So prayers in Nichiren Buddhism are not about beseeching a higher power to fix things or to change other people. It’s about changing yourself. Changing your inner environment (your perception, essentially) which triggers a change in your behaviour and a corresponding change in your outer environment.
Because, inner or outer, it’s all your life. You’re at the centre of every condition or circumstance you encounter.
We live in two worlds… The world into which we were born, and the otherworld that was born within us. Both may be a blessing or a curse. We choose. ~ Druid homily
Determined, appreciative prayer puts you firmly in the driver’s seat. You’re no longer a helpless and hapless passenger on the journey of your life.
Speaking personally, I found this donning of self-reliance hard to do because the trauma I lived through in earlier years conditioned me to live in fear. Also, the strict upbringing I had as a child taught me that I had no power, no choice, other than to obey or rebel.
Nowadays, although sometimes I still start to fall into the habit of blaming, I can correct this delusion pretty quickly. And I no longer wallow in self-pity because I recognise how disempowering and life-sapping it is.
So rather than succumbing to life’s troubles and sinking into depression and despair (been there, done that; got so many t-shirts, and hated them all!) we can chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which activates our Buddha consciousness and strengthens our life force.
Now we can use those troubles to expand and grow within. We start winning.
And each one of us who wins in this way encourages others to do so, too. 🙂