The Greater the Resistance, the Stronger We Become
—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department
The World Tribune
This series highlights how Buddhism can enhance daily living. As Nichiren Daishonin says: “When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs.” 1 The greater the resistance waves meet, the stronger they grow”—Ikeda Sensei has long cherished these words, having written them in his July 9, 1950, diary entry at 22.2 In discussing these words, he once referenced the poet Dante Alighieri, a pioneering figure in Italian Renaissance literature most known for his magnum opus, Divina Commedia, or The Divine Comedy. Hardships came one after another for Dante. Beatrice, the woman he loved, died young, and religious and secular powers unjustly exiled him from his beloved hometown of Florence, Italy. Rather than let these trials defeat him, however, he used them as catalysts for his creativity. For instance, in his Vita Nuova (New Life), he created a new poetic form to express his love for Beatrice. Later in life, he turned the tragedy of being forced to leave Florence into The Divine Comedy, an epic drama of triumph. Sensei says: The more Dante’s spirit was tested, the stronger it became. He waited for the right time; he created the right time. And he learned—wherever he traveled, he learned all he could. Learning became his life.3 British historian Arnold J. Toynbee said that if Dante, one of his favorite poets, “had not suffered these two severe afflictions, his Vita Nuova and his Divina Commedia might never have come to birth.”4 Be Neither Frightened Nor Influenced by Obstacles Dante was born 43 years after Nichiren Daishonin. Both endured intense, life-threatening persecutions from those in power. They also shared a passionate sense of justice and equality. Nichiren wrote letters to his disciples in phonetic kana script (considered lowbrow by the elite class) so that anyone could understand them. Dante also penned his masterpiece not in Latin, the language of the highly educated, but in Italian, the spoken language of the time, so that ordinary people could read it. In explaining his purpose, Dante wrote: The goal is to move the living away from the state of misery in which they find themselves and lead them to a state of happiness.5 These two contemporaries believed in working for the greatest good—the happiness of all people. This compassionate belief spurred them to remain stalwart in overcoming all difficulties and open a way forward for those around them. Rich with the experience of triumphing over all manner of obstacles, Nichiren calls on us to likewise remain unafraid: [T’ien-t’ai writes:] “As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere. … One should be neither influenced nor frightened by them. If one falls under their influence, one will be led into the paths of evil. If one is frightened by them, one will be prevented from practicing the correct teaching.” This statement not only applies to me, but also is a guide for my followers. Reverently make this teaching your own, and transmit it as an axiom of faith for future generations.6 Practicing Buddhism, resolved to overcome hardships to open the way for future generations, we can be confident that the greater the resistance we face, the stronger we will grow.