Friday, June 7, 2013

Buddhist Concept: Changing Poison into Medicine

UKE January 1995 by Nicko Vince

In a play I saw recently, one of the characters tells how she once found a butterfly struggling to emerge from the cocoon. Pitying the creature, she gently released it from its prison. The butterfly unfurled its wings and fell to the ground. What she hadn’t known was that it is the fight to break free of the cocoon which builds the strength that enables the butterfly to fly.

The same lesson can be applied to people. A man’s business fails and he is left by his wife and children. He blames the economy for the failure of his business and the government for the state of the economy. He blames his wife for not supporting him. He puts his misfortune down to bad luck, or fate, or the displeasure of a deity.

The man goes on to start a new business and a new relationship. Eventually, these too fail. This time he looks harder at himself and realizes some of the mistakes he’s made in business, and the relationships, which caused their failures. However, having resolved to reform his attitude when similar problems arise, he finds himself reacting as he was before. Soon he’s back where he started, cursing his own stupidity and feeling frustrated and angry at his inability to change his life and his habitual attitudes. His attitudes have become his cocoon. Nichiren Daishonin taught us how to reveal the wisdom, courage, compassion and life-force necessary to change the deep-seated attitudes which cause us to repeat suffering in our life. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we can reveal our Buddhahood and make this the dominant state in our life, through consistent daily practice.

What’s more, when looked at from the perspective of our Buddhahood we come to see problems and obstacles as opportunities for growth, growth that will lead us to greater happiness than before. This principle is called ‘turning poison into medicine’

This process is not a matter of putting a brave face on things or simply ignoring our problems, but a vigorous philosophy of challenging problems and using our struggles to strengthen us. For example, fellow workers can react very differently to the news of their redundancy. Some will see it as the end of their working life and fall into despair; others will see it as an opportunity to start again or take early and active retirement. When confronted with problems our usual reaction might be to shrivel up and waste our energies on blaming others, or to start trying to work out a solution. The latter attitude is more positive but still may not lead to the best result. As with the man whose business failed in the example earlier, our solution might have the appearance of action but deal only with the immediate situation. Without acknowledging the underlying causes that created it, we rise simply repeating our mistakes in different form.

However, just as we have made those underlying causes ourselves the answers to our problems also lie within us. Viewed this way problems can be seen as opportunities to deepen our understanding of ourselves and our circumstances, and used as a springboard to greater happiness. Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI, has written:

Some may suffer sickness even though they practice to the Gohonzon. Others may be under trying circumstances in business. Still others may go through difficulties for the sake of their activities for kosen-rufu. There are many kinds of difficulties and sufferings in life. However, when you are going through a difficult situation, you are actually in the best position to change your destiny and open a road to great benefit.

As our practice continues, we will inevitably have failures, but as long as we continue to practice correctly, these setbacks can be likened to the valleys encountered by a traveller crossing foot-hills towards a mountain. Although the traveller may occasionally move downwards, the overall journey is upwards.
Through focusing our minds on seeking the Buddhahood within us while we chant, we can reveal the qualities of wisdom, courage and compassion. These in turn will help us come to the solutions to our problems that are best both for us and those around us.

Keeping your mind concentrated on that thought can be a problem in itself! However, by winning that battle you gradually train yourself to win others in daily life. These battles may be small, but just succeeding in completing the minor, irksome tasks of daily life strengthens us for more major challenges. The challenge of sticking to a budget, returning a difficult phone call, or simply keeping our space tidy, can all be conquered and help change our attitudes and direction.

It is in the moment-to-moment living of your life that you turn poison into medicine. As you face each new obstacle and decide to challenge it, you will find new strengths you didn’t suspect you possessed. Strength enough to break free of the tightest of ‘cocoons.’


Anonymous said...

Thanks its useful

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting such a beautiful article. Bless you