The immediate answer would be that we want to achieve this or that specific goal. But looking at the immediate goal is only is a limited, short term view. Long term, as we win over one goal and then another, we are inconspicuously forging the characteristics and life state of a Buddha.
“The benefit we receive when we initially take faith is like a small mountain. The boundless life force of Buddhahood is like a large mountain. On the way from the small mountain to the large one, we have to pass through a valley. This indicates the three obstacles and the four devils and other obstacles of all kinds. Only by passing through this valley can we ascend the great mountain of Buddhahood.” Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, Vol V1, p.88
We’ve all seen the great life state of Nichiren Daishonin, (link) the founder of this practice. In the direst of circumstances he remained positive and strong. Even when being taken to his execution he didn’t falter but rather took Hachiman, a protective deity of Buddhism, to task, for not protecting him. On Sado island he faced life threatening conditions. He lived in a graveyard, in a hut in the snow without heat. He remained steadfastly positive, always supportive of his disciples. He produced some of his most important letters to his followers while on Sado. He persevered, remained patient and strong, while sustaining his compassionate vision of eliminating suffering. Even amidst these dire circumstances, he considered himself the happiest man alive.
Obstacles, the Stepping Stones to Buddhahood
This is the kind of life state we are building as we engage with obstacles. They become our stepping stones to Buddhahood. You might say we are under construction.
Engaging with them builds the muscles of faith and character. In the same way that weight lifting builds our physical muscles.
As we challenge each obstacle or challenge we are tested. Will we give up or persevere? Every time we keep on keeping on no matter what, we become stronger and our muscle of perseverance is strengthened.
Our internal strength is tested. Will we be blown over by the ups and downs of life? Or will we ground ourselves firmly in faith and remain internally stable, unperturbed. When we find that bedrock at the core of our lives, then life can no longer toss us around.
Over time as we chant, we experience being able to surmount one obstacle and then another, when it seems impossible. As time goes on we come to trust Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and develop the faith that, no matter what, we can win.
We develop patience, knowing that the universe works things out at the right time.
As faith grows, happiness grows. We expand our lives, becoming ourselves, taking on and achieving greater and greater challenges.
We are under construction.
What to Do When Facing a Difficult Obstacle
When facing a particularly difficult obstacle:
Remind yourself that obstacles are your friends, the stepping stones to Buddhahood.
Set the determination you are going to achieve this goal no matter what.
Set a time limit and then chant and take action to the very last day.
Remember, the only way you can lose is by giving up.
Resolve doubts through study and guidance.
When you keep on keeping on in this way, one day you will look back and be astonished by how much your life has changed and how much stronger you have become.