The Buddhist Cure for “Perfect Moment Syndrome”

(Photo above by Ali Ramazan Ciftçi / Pexels)

You’ve prepared all month for the perfect holiday party. When the day comes, though, three friends have flaked, you burned the cookies and your decorations look nothing like you imagined. Instead of enjoying the day with your friends, you’re consumed by the things that haven’t gone to plan. If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing “perfect moment syndrome,” a term coined by writer Sarah Wilson that is now spreading to TikTok.

The effects of this “syndrome” are the result of unrealistic expectations for perfection. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda spoke with a woman about her struggles living in a new place that didn’t meet her expectations, saying:

Nobody’s perfect. Nor is there a perfect living environment where everything will be just the way you want it. It seems to me that you may be setting impossibly high standards for yourself. … You are then trying to make everything measure up to these unrealistic standards. But reality invariably never quite matches our ideal vision or image. So you end up finding fault with everything, adding to your despair and amplifying your discontent.

The New Human Revolution, vol. 6, pp. 22–23

Kamran Eshtehardi, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, says the same about perfect moment syndrome: “The reason why perfect moment syndrome so consistently leads to hurt and distress is because it’s literally impossible for everything to go perfectly all the time.”

Buddhism teaches us that our inner state of life determines how we experience each moment—whether the moment is “perfect” or not. Ikeda writes:

The same circumstances may be perceived as utter bliss by one person and unbearable misfortune by another. And while some people may love the place where they live, thinking it’s the best place ever, others may hate it and constantly seek to find happiness somewhere else. Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching that enables us to elevate our inner state of life, realizing genuinely happy lives for ourselves as well as prosperity for society.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, pp. 35–36

We elevate our state of life by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and tapping into the enlightened nature of our lives. Developing a daily rhythm of chanting allows us to forge the state of Buddhahood in our lives. The reality of our lives can be difficult, so we chant daily to ensure we feel confident and ready to face the day—no matter what happens. When thinking about the attitude to take toward our “perfect moment,” Ikeda challenges us to have a flexible mind:

It’s kind of like looking at a plum tree expecting it to be a cherry tree. You say, “What a strange-looking cherry tree!” and end up being disappointed. Instead, you should try to see things more flexibly. Don’t get caught up in the rigid idea that things must be just the way that you have painted in your mind. … Rather than being attached to and constrained by your own idealistic standards, you should look hard at reality just as it is. Then try to discover some positive or enjoyable aspects and use them for your own benefit.

The New Human Revolution, vol. 6, p. 23

Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching that enables us to elevate our inner state of life, realizing genuinely happy lives for ourselves as well as prosperity for society.

- Daisaku Ikeda

Chanting also helps us develop the courage to see reality as it is and pull the most positive aspects out of it. Fortunately for us, the impacts of chanting don’t vanish in a day. We accumulate lasting good fortune as we chant over the course of our lives. Ikeda writes:

Moreover, the good fortune, benefit, and joy we gain through living in accord with the eternal Law [of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] are not temporary. In the same way that trees steadily add growth rings with each passing year, our lives accumulate good fortune that will endure throughout the three existences of past, present and future. In contrast, worldly wealth and fame as well as various amusements and pleasures—no matter how glamorous or exciting they may seem for a time—are fleeting and insubstantial.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, p. 36

With the consistent Buddhist practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can develop strong selves that can enjoy each moment, however imperfect it may be.

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