Difficulties Are No Match For The Optimist


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 them
elves, 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[FN#225] laid

the foundation of his church when sword and sceptre threatened him

with death. Shin-ran[FN#226] and Hen-en[FN#227] 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 be bad suffered from a serious disease,

because he had the conviction that his desired end was at hand.

[FN#225] The founder (1222-1282) of the Nichi Ren Sect, who was

exiled in 1271 to the Island of Sado. For the history and doctrine

of the Sect, see I A Short History of the Twelve Japanese Buddhist

Sects,' by B. Nanjo, pp. 132-147.

[FN#226] The founder (1173-1262) of the Shin Sect, who was banished

to the province of Eechigo in 1207. See Nanjo's 'History,' pp.


[FN#227] The founder (1131 1212) of the Jo Do Sect, who was exiled

to the Island of Tosa in 1207. See Nanjo's 'History,' pp. 104-113.

A Chinese monk, E Kwai by name, one day seated himself in a quiet

place among hills and practised Dhyana. None was there to disturb

the calm enjoyment of his meditation. The genius of the hill was so

much stung by his 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


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,[FN#228] 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.

[FN#228] Hanawa (1746-1821), who published Gun-sho-rui-zu in 1782.