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The Meaning of Work

By Daisaku Ikeda

 

Everyone has a unique mission that only they can fulfill. That doesn't mean, however, that you should sit around and do nothing, waiting for someone to tell you what it is. It is fundamental that you discover your mission on your own.

Precious gems start out buried underground. If no one puts forth any effort to mine them, they'll stay buried. And if they aren't polished once they are dug out, they will remain in the rough.

People should constantly strive to unearth the jewel in their life and polish it. There are countless examples of people who did not stand out during high school but who strike a rich deposit of hidden potential when they enter society and gain life experience. Therefore, getting a job is just the starting point for you to begin uncovering your true ability; it is absolutely not the final goal. There is no need to be impatient. It is important that you make your way up the mountain of life steadily, without rushing or giving up.

You mustn't be halfhearted. When you pursue something with a strong determination, you will have no regrets even should you fail. But if you succeed, you will achieve truly great things. Either way, your unceasing efforts will lead you to the next path you should follow.

For those of you who have not yet decided your future course, please concentrate your energies on the things you need to accomplish right now. You will discover your path as you keep searching, chanting earnestly to find your direction, and seeking advice and guidance from those around you.

There is a saying that everyone has some kind of gift. Being talented doesn't mean just being a good musician, writer or athlete. There are many kinds of talent. You may, for instance, be a great conversationalist, or make friends easily, or be able to put others at ease. Or you may have a gift for nursing, a knack for telling jokes, selling things, or economizing. You may always be punctual, patient, reliable, kind, or optimistic. You may love taking on new challenges, be strongly committed to peace, or have an ability to bring joy to others.

Each of us is as unique as a cherry, plum, peach or apricot blossom, like Nichiren states in the Gosho. Cherry blossoms are cherry blossoms and plum blossoms are plum blossoms. Accordingly, you must bloom in the way that only you can. Without a doubt you possess your own jewel, your own innate talent inside of you. The question is: How can you discover that talent? The only way is to exert yourself to the very limits of your ability. Your true potential will emerge when you give everything you have to your studies or sports or whatever you are engaged in.

The most important thing is that you get into the habit of challenging yourself to the limit in this way. In a sense, the results you obtain are not so important . . . But the efforts put forth by those who make a habit of pushing themselves to the limit will in time bear fruit. They will distinguish themselves from others without fail. They will bring their unique talent to shine.

Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda once said, "It is vital for youth to have the tenacity to become the very best at something." Tenacity is crucial. You cannot make the gem inside your life shine with easygoing efforts.

It is important that you possess the inner strength and common sense to always have the spirit to learn everything you can where you are, to develop the means by which to support your life, to pursue substance rather than surface, and to explore the depths of your potential.

Mr.Toda once said the criteria for selecting a job could be found in "The Theory of Value," a philosophical treatise by his mentor, founding Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.

Mr. Makiguchi taught that there are three kinds of value: beauty, benefit and good. In the realm of employment, the value of beauty means to find a job you like; the value of benefit is to get a job that earns you a salary so that you are able to support your daily life; the value of good means to find a job that helps others and contributes to society.

Mr. Toda once said, "Everyone's ideal is to get a job they like (beauty),that is financially secure (benefit), and where they can contribute to society (good)."

But not many people are able to find the perfect job for them from the start. For example, someone may have a job that they like, but it isn't putting food on the table, or their job pays well, but they hate it. That's the way things go sometimes. Then there are some who discover that they're just not cut out for the career they dreamt of and aspired to.

Mr. Toda said that the most important thing is to first become an indispensable person wherever you are. Instead of moaning over the fact that a job is different from what you'd like to be doing, he said, become a first-class individual at that job. This will open the path leading to the next phase in your life, during which you should also continue doing your best. Such continuous efforts will absolutely land you a job that you like, one that supports your life, and allows you to also contribute to society.

And then, when you look back later, you will be able to see all of your past efforts have become precious assets in your ideal field. You will realize that none of your efforts and hardships have been wasted.

A tree doesn't grow strong and tall within one or two days. In the same way, a successful person doesn't get to where they are in only one or two years. This applies to everything.

There is a saying that urges, "Excel at something!" It is important to become a person who is trusted by others wherever you are, a person who shines with excellence. Sometimes a person may dislike their job at first, but grow to love it once they become serious about doing their best in it. "What one likes, one will do well," goes another saying. Growing to like your job can also enable you to develop your own talent. Once you have made a decision to work at a certain place, it is important that you pursue the path you have chosen without being discouraged or defeated, so that you will have no regrets over making that choice.

The greatest happiness is found by applying yourself with confidence and wisdom in your workplace as an exemplary member of society, working hard for the sake of a fulfilling life and the well-being of your family. A person who does so is a victor in life.

Aspiring to devote oneself to a humanistic cause, to upholding human rights and spreading the ideals of Buddhism out of a desire to work for people's happiness and welfare is a truly laudable ambition.

That does not mean, however, that you cannot contribute to peace unless you're in some special profession. Of course, while I highly commend anyone who wishes to work for the United Nations or become a volunteer worker overseas, there are many people striving for peace right now in their own humble fields of specialty.

The important thing is to be proud of your work and your capacity and to live true to yourself. Activity is another name for happiness. What's important is that you give free and unfettered play to your unique talents, that you live with the full radiance of your being. This is what it means to be truly alive.

Excerpted from Discussions on Youth Vol. 1 (SGI-USA, 1998)

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