How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put at the mercy of petty troubles, or intended to be crushed by obstacles? Are we not endowed with inner force to fight successfully against obstacles and difficulties, and to wrest trophies of glory from hardships? Are we to be slaves to the vicissitudes of fortune? Are we doomed to be victims for the jaws of the environment? It is not external obstacles themselves, but our inner fear and doubt that prove to be the stumbling-blocks in the path to success; not material loss, but timidity and hesitation that ruin us for ever.
Difficulties are no match for the optimist, who does not fly from them, but welcomes them. He has a mental prism which can separate the insipid white light of existence into bright hues. He has a mental alchemy by which he can produce golden instruction out of the dross of failure. He has a spiritual magic which makes the nectar of joy out of the tears of sorrow. He has a clairvoyant eye that can perceive the existence of hope through the iron walls of despair. Prosperity tends to make one forget the grace of Buddha, but adversity brings forth one’s religious conviction. Christ on the cross was more Christ than Jesus at the table. Luther at war with the Pope was more Luther than he at peace. Nichi-ren laid the foundation of his church when sword and scepter threatened him with death. Shin-ran and Hen-en established their respective faiths when they were exiled. When they were exiled, they complained not, resented not, regretted not, repented not, lamented not, but contentedly and joyously they met with their inevitable calamity and conquered it. Ho-nen is said to have been still more joyous and contented when he had suffered from a serious disease, because he had the conviction that his desired end was at hand.
A Chinese monk, E Kwai by name, one day seated himself in a quiet place among hills and practiced Dhyana, a form of meditation. No one was there to disturb the calm enjoyment of his meditation. The spirit inhabiting the hill was so much stung by envy that he made up his mind to break by surprise the mental serenity of the monk. Having supposed nothing ordinary would be effective, he appeared all on a sudden before the man, assuming the frightful form of a headless monster. E Kwai being disturbed not a whit, calmly eyed the monster, and observed with a smile: “Thou hast no head, monster! How happy thou shouldst be, for thou art in no danger of losing thy head, nor of suffering from headache!”
Were we born headless, should we not be happy, as we have to suffer from no headache? Were we born eyeless, should we not be happy, as we are in no danger of suffering from eye disease? Ho Ki Ichi, a great blind scholar, was one evening giving a lecture, without knowing that the light had been put out by the wind. When his pupils requested him to stop for a moment, he remarked with a smile: “Why, how inconvenient are your eyes!” Where there is contentment, there is Paradise.
Some other thoughts on optimism:
"Optimism is the foundation of courage." --Nicholas Murray Butler
"An optimist is the human personification of spring." --Susan J. Bissonette
"I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else." --Winston Churchill
"I am glad I am an optimist. The pessimist is half-licked before he starts." --Thomas A. Buckner
Excerpt from Kaiten Nukariya's Religion of the Samurai, originally published in 1913. This edited text revised 2005. Please note: all applicable material on this website is protected by law and may not be copied without express written permission.
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