Nothing Can Take Away Our Dignity

(Photo above by Martin Péchy / Pexels)

No matter what we’ve been through, nothing can take away our inherent worth. 

Somewhere in the back of our mind, there can be a vague doubt that underlies so much of how we see ourselves, i.e., Because I experienced this, I’ll never be a happy, healthy person.

Though our greatest problems may seem like an unchangeable reality, Buddhism teaches that this is simply not true. Each of us, even if we’ve lived through horrific ordeals, can experience real happiness. In fact, we deserve it the most.

Maybe all of us have some event from our past—the betrayal of a close friend, surviving a violent neighborhood—or other things that scar us. Of course, even enduring the mental or physical pain that comes from such an experience is already heroic. But how can we get over the feeling that we are broken or will never be whole?

Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda shares: “Though you may lose trust in others, or feel defiled and broken, please remember that no one can destroy who you are. No matter how badly you have been hurt, you remain as pure as fresh snow. … Nothing, no matter what happens, can change your inherent worth. Please have courage. Please tell yourself that you are not going to let this ordeal defeat you.” (Discussions on Youth, p. 410)

No one can take away our dignity.

Being unjustly treated does not in any way change the beauty of our heart or who we are. As we become deeply confident in this truth, we develop a sense of happiness and worth that can’t be destroyed by anyone or anything.

But what does it take to feel this way each day? Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a Buddhist practice that enables us to see our true worth every day. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the name of the Buddhist principle that we each have infinite courage, compassion and wisdom within. Chanting, therefore, is a battle to open our eyes to the dignity of our lives as well as to win over the self-doubt that blocks our way forward. Also, through studying Buddhism we can learn to more quickly identify our doubt and negativity, and see it for what it is.

In addition to chanting and studying Buddhism, there are also many practical things we can do. Buddhism, after all, is not magic. It’s about taking rational action.

  1. Seek professional help. If we broke our arm, wouldn’t we want to find the best doctor to treat us? Likewise, a mental health expert can help us navigate through our trauma. In fact, having the courage to take this step reflects the hope and confidence we feel as a result of our Buddhist practice.
  2. Find a friend we can talk to. We should not suffer on our own. We just need one person to talk to whose confidentiality we can rely on.

Our experiences can also give us a tremendous sense of purpose to be a friend to others who are suffering. In fact, stories of people who do this work in their career or personal relationships are the most inspiring of all.

Buddhism teaches we can all can become happy and fulfilled, without exception. In fact, those of us who have suffered the most also have the most power to prove this and give hope to all.

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