The following article was written June 3, 2012. As of 2015, I am adding this extra note: Buddhism does not teach that the soul ascends, but that it reincarnates. It is this author’s current thinking that the idea of soul ascension, as Christianity teaches is worth looking into!
Warning: The following article, as most of history, relays the names and activities of men in seemingly greater proportion than women. Please keep in mind, that behind every good-hearted adult there have often been one or more good-hearted people of either gender AND important environmental structures that supported the constructive growth of this person. Therefore, I would like to acknowledge the women and others who helped raise the following good-hearted, sincere men:
Buddhism’s initiator was a man from India known as Shakyamuni or Siddartha Gautama. He was later given the title Buddha, because in Sanskrit, one of the world’s most ancient languages, “Buddha” means “awakened one.” Shakyamuni grew up in a place of luxury, a palace with walls protecting him from noticing the poverty outside his elegant home. When he was a young man he finally looked outside and since he was very good-hearted, he decided to devote his life to see if there was some way he could ease human suffering.
In the mid thirteenth century in Japan, there was a young man named Nicheren who wanted to become the wisest person in Japan and also help elevate humans from poverty and other sufferings. As he studied Shakyamuni’s writings he believed he found a key—a tool—to help each and every individual to elevate his or her “life condition.”
This tool, he believed was a three-step system: faith, practice and study: 1st, have faith; believe with all one’s heart that positive change is possible; 2nd, have an assiduously daily practice that includes chanting the title of the last book, or Lotus Sutra, expounded by Shakyamuni, with a tag at the beginning: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“devotion to the mystic law. cause & effect, sound”) and 3rd study Buddhist teachings. Nicheren spent his life encouraging people to not give up and believe that we as humans have great potential to improve our lives no matter what our circumstances may be.
Several other men carried on and later revived the teaching of Nicheren in Japan until when in post World War II, Josei Toda brought the following from a few to 750,000 households in only a few years. Young Daisaku Ikeda, who was frail at the time, adopted Mr. Toda as his mentor. Now, Mr. Ikeda is alive and well and 84 years of age. He—with the support of many others including his wife—is leading the way forward for a world-wide victory of peace with this “Soka Gakkai” or “Value Creation” Buddhist philosophy—a philosophy of winning over life’s challenges!
The following quotes are some of his words aimed at lifting and strengthening the hearts and resolve of young people from the book, The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense For Handling Life’s Questions. Since his words touch my heart, I was first motivated to share them with my children and now motivated to share them with you. I would love to share the whole book—it makes a great present for teens–but at least I will share with you a sample. Check out more on http://www.ikedaquotes.org, and http://www.daisakuikeda.org. These are rough times as well as times of abundant enlightenment, I wish the best life—a winning life– for all of you, your families, and for all living beings.
…No one can substitute for you, who are more precious than all the treasures in the universe put together. No matter what your present circumstances, you are irreplaceable. Please hold on to that thought, fight to overcome all obstacles and rise out of all suffering and despair.
It is crucial that you become strong. If you are strong, even your sadness will become a source of nourishment, and the things that make you suffer will purify your life. It is precisely because we have experienced great suffering that we can grow strong and become capable adults.
I have heard it said, “If you are sad, cry – cry until your tears have washed away all the pain.” It ‘s like crossing a river of suffering. Those who have done so have a depth and a radiance unknown to those who are strangers to such experience. The thing is not to drown in the river.
What’s important is to keep moving forward. If you use your sadness as a source of growth, you will become a person of greater depth and breadth – an even more wonderful you. This is the harvest of your pain and suffering.
Hold your head high. Because you have lived with all your might, you are a victor.
Working For A Cause
…The main thing is to be proud of the work you do, to live true to yourself. Activity is another name for happiness. What’s important is that you give free, unfettered play to your unique talents, that you live with the full radiance of your being. This is what it means to be truly alive.