4 Ways Your Buddhist Practice Combats Powerlessness

(Photo above by Steve Chai / Pexels)

Merriam-Webster defines powerlessness as lacking the capacity or authority to act. To be sure, modern psychology suggests that when confronting a problem, lacking a defined role can make us feel less in control of a situation.

Considering the nature of the pandemic and world events, it may seem like many of society’s most significant problems are beyond our control. But that’s not the case.

Here are four ways that your Buddhist practice combats feelings of powerlessness.

1. Decide to make an impact.

For Buddhists, we are not separate from the universe. Making an impact is the first step in refusing to believe that we are powerless.

The Buddhist philosopher and peacebuilder Daisaku Ikeda puts it this way:

Some say the prevailing mood in the world today is one of powerlessness. Whatever the case may be, we are all aware that things cannot continue as they are. Yet decisions about political, economic and environmental issues all seem to be made somewhere beyond our reach. ... This feeling of powerlessness fuels a vicious cycle that only worsens the situation and increases people’s sense of futility.

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, pp. 6–7

He continues:

At the opposite extreme of this sense of powerlessness lie the Lotus Sutra’s philosophy of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” and the application of this teaching to our daily lives. This principle teaches us that the inner determination of an individual can transform everything; it gives ultimate expression to the infinite potential and dignity inherent in each human life.

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, pp. 6–7

The Lotus Sutra, as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, or Siddhartha as he is sometimes referred to, is a philosophy of empowerment. And that’s why we practice it.

Myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus Sutra, and the 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin added “Nam,” meaning “to dedicate one’s life” to this truth of the Lotus Sutra, that just as we are, we can attain enlightenment.

The Lotus Sutra, as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, or Siddhartha as he is sometimes referred to, is a philosophy of empowerment. And that’s why we practice it.

So, each time we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we are reaffirming that we can make an impact because the power of the universe exists in us.

2. Our inner change will transform our environment.

The Buddhist principle of “dependent origination” explains that no living beings or phenomena exist in isolation. Rather, they exist because of a relationship to other beings and phenomena.

When we talk about one person changing the world, this is not just a catch phrase or an abstract concept. By the nature of our existence, we are interlinked with all of humanity and nature even though we can’t visibly perceive it.

3. Awaken to the interconnectedness of all living beings.

How can we have confidence in this fact of us all being connected? It’s one thing to theoretically agree and another to believe it. Rather than us explaining it, take a second to listen to the following explanation:


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4. Sharing Buddhism with people creates momentum for social change.

And why wouldn’t we want other people to feel empowered too? That’s why we share about Buddhism with the people in our lives to not only to help them find happiness but ourselves too.

As Ikeda shares:

We must realize that we are not powerless, not merely lumps of physical matter, not slaves to our genes. We need to awaken to the fact that we are much more, that we possess within us enormous, limitless potential. Human beings are one with the universe, and the power we each possess is equal to all the power of the universe—this is the message of the Lotus Sutra.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, vol. 3, p. 28

We each have limitless power. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we use the wisdom, courage and compassion we gain in the process to create change in our neighborhoods and the world.

And you’re not alone in this effort. You can email us to connect with your local Buddhability community anytime.

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