TikTok’s Latest Trend: Positive Thinking (Buddhist Edition)

(Photo above by Nuria Navarro / Pexels)

Maybe you’ve been coming across lots of TikTok videos on positive thinking and are wondering what Buddhability has to say about it?  Finding true hope is certainly a benefit of Buddhist practice, but Buddhism draws the line between positive and wishful thinking.  Buddhism is not about suppressing our real feelings when sufferings arise. Or ignoring the reality of our daily lives and trying to find an escape. If anything, Nichiren Buddhism teaches the exact opposite.

Hope is a decision

Creating hope amid situations that otherwise might seem hopeless is one of the great benefits of practicing Buddhism. How do we do this? Buddhism teaches that we are essentially one with our environment. This means that the way we perceive our environment, be it positive or negative, is dictated mainly by our inner state of life. If self-doubt has clouded our outlook, situations like a lengthy job search or a difficult relationship might seem hopeless.

However, Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes:

Where there’s life, there’s hope. Hope only disappears when you decide something is hopeless.

Because the Lotus Sutra teaches that within people exists limitless ability, they are fully empowered to live a life of value. We chant the title of the Lotus Sutra, which is Myoho-renge-kyo, together with the word “Nam,” meaning “to dedicate one’s life.” So, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we are essentially praising our lives and remembering that we inherently possess the necessary wisdom, courage and compassion to build a wonderful future.

This daily self-realization impacts the people around us, opening our eyes to these same qualities in other people. It’s not merely about changing our thought process; chanting takes it a step further by transforming our hearts. Daisaku Ikeda explains it in the following way:

Happiness is not the absence of problems or sufferings. True happiness shines in the lives of those who never give in to defeat, no matter what challenges or hardships they encounter. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day is the ultimate source of strength for living with such resilience.

Buddhism gives us the confidence to face our reality

Though our Buddhist practice empowers us to create real hope in our lives, it is not about ignoring our reality and believing that everything will just work itself.

Many think religion or spirituality and daily life occupy separate spaces.

But Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th-century Buddhist reformer, says, “A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed” (“The Kalpa of Decrease,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1121).

Instead of glossing over our problems or feeling so intimated by them that we ignore them, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we awaken to the fact that we are bigger than our problems. The reality is that we have the Buddhability within to overcome any problem. That’s why finding the courage to face our situation is an expression of our belief in ourselves.

We don’t need to wait for perfect circumstances to be happy. We may dream of being happy one day, that sometime in the future we will have everything we want and be problem-free. That’s totally natural to feel. But Buddhism teaches that we can be happy right now, even amid all the stresses of daily life.

The purpose of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is so, at any moment and regardless of the emotional state we’re in, it’s possible to bring out our Buddha nature. This is characterized by the limitless courage, wisdom and compassion that exists within us.

So, whatever we’re feeling each day, the important thing is to continue to chant. When we do, we can always find a way forward and become happier, just as we are.

For Buddhists, positive thinking isn’t about forcing ourselves into a certain emotional state; rather, by expressing what’s honestly in our hearts when we chant, we can bring out the dignified aspects of everything we’re going through. If you’d like to try chanting yourself and see how it helps, check out our chanting playlist. 

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