I love this quote by SGI-UK Buddhist leader Kazuo Fujii (pictured here in 1993) who outlines the huge difference it makes when we learn to challenge ourselves instead of just coping with life’s difficulties:

Kazuo Fujii (1993) cropped

“There are two ways of approaching life. The first is coping and the second is challenging to change a situation. The situation is the same but the results are different. Coping is linked to the past and our past knowledge and experiences. It is a conservative attitude, limited, restricted, passive, defensive, dependent. There is no vision and no hope. This is not Buddhism. Buddhism is about change. Changing ourselves, society and humanity for good. The way to change is determination based on wisdom. Change is a projection towards the future. It is positive, creative, independent, attacking and seeking. It is an attitude of great hope and vision. Coping is the past projecting to the present. Changing is the present projecting to the future. We can choose. The difference between ordinary and great lives is up to us.”

I have read and re-read this advice dozens of times over the last 16 years because when I am struggling it helps me develop the big-hearted winning attitude that a sustained Buddhist practice brings.  So, what does a ‘challenging’ mindset look and feel like – feel free to tick any of these if they apply to you…

On the days when I manage to embrace my bigger awakened self and challenge instead of just coping and surviving, I:

  1. am strong enough to know that it’s OK to feel vulnerable
  2. take risks without needing to know exactly what will happen next
  3. trust the Universe to give me just what I need, just when I need it, rather than trying to ‘force’ things to happen
  4. understand that life is eternal, so there is no need to worry and no need to hurry
  5. am as happy about other people’s success as I am about my own
  6. have the courage to be myself
  7. have the compassion to share others’ suffering
  8. am able to graciously accept defeat in an argument and feel secure enough to change my point of view
  9. systematically and instinctively look for the best in everyone else, all of the time
  10. realise that we all share the same life force

I am not saying that coping in itself is always bad – at the darkest times in our lives (such as loss of a loved one), coping might genuinely be the best we can do, for a while at least. And the 10 point list above is not a code of conduct or a list of behaviours to copy. Nichiren Buddhism doesn’t do commandments. They are just examples of my own feelings when I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and of insights my fellow Buddhists have taught me as they learn to challenge instead of just coping and in doing so make huge breakthroughs in their lives.

So, as Kazuo said: “We can choose. The difference between ordinary and great lives is up to us.”