How do I want my health to be?
Am I living with dignity? Am I relieving myself of the anxiety and the pain of illness?
I recently went to a lecture based on philosopher Daisaku Ikeda’s views on health. I heard that the problem with illness is not only physical symptoms, but the fact that it can even rob people of the hope to live, destroy their livelihoods and sense of wellbeing and put their future on hold.
I think back to the determinations I made at the start of 2020 and I must admit, with the health crisis the world is still facing, my sense of wellbeing feels robbed and my future put on hold.
That’s one way of looking at it.
Another way of looking at it is that maybe the vision I had for my future isn’t truly on hold, it’ll just appear differently. This period of “hold” is when I can hone my skills or develop new ones, create more ideas. Maybe it feels my future is on hold because of my attachment to what I want it to look like, and what I have now, and can be building is my future.
“What counts is how we face illness, our attitude in dealing with it” I heard, so what is my attitude to illness? I think about the times I’ve had a minor illness, for instance a flu that has knocked me out for two weeks. The times when I’ve chanted with the determination not to be defeated by it I have achieved so much. I remember waking up everyday with the physical symptoms of flu ravaging my body, but determining to chant for a full hour before I went about my day.
Sitting in front of the Gohonzon, sneezing and with streaming nostrils, (sorry for the mental picture) I felt so lethargic and just wanted to lie in bed with my hot water bottle and sleep. Part of me was thinking, am I being disrespectful facing my Gohonzon looking a hot mess? Can I even focus on doing gongyo? However when I’d completed my hour I felt victorious; I had battled in front of my Gohonzon with daimoku and I didn’t give in to the flu.
Just that one hour of fighting daimoku gave me so much strength for the rest of the day. Any time during the course of the day the symptoms started to pick up, and I wanted to abandon my plans for the day, I remembered how strong I was in the morning and it allowed me to carry on with my tasks. I continued with my one hour daimoku everyday in addition to flu medicine until I recovered.
In the lecture we were reminded of a quote by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) “a person can fulfil his purpose in life equally as well in illness as in health”. As illness is an inherent part of life which all of us go through, if we decide to see our illness as an opportunity to understand ourselves in a deeper way, the journey we take to surmount our ill health (human revolution) will expand our lives and enable us to fulfil our mission.
Leo Tolstoy, A calendar of Wisdom, translated by Peter Sekirin (New York: Scribner, 1997) p. 292.