Suffering Turns to Joy
by Bita Asakura
(Toyama City, Japan)
Since I was a child, I was always sensitive to anger in myself and in others. I wondered if there was any way to overcome this demon within. I imagined if no one would ever get angry, what a peaceful world we could live in! When I came across the word Eutopia, I was inspired by the word, but still not sure how to turn anger into a positive emotion.
While a student at university, I got introduced to the school of True Pure Land Buddhism. (Jodo Shin Shu in Japanese) There I was just amazed to learn that the purpose of Buddhism is to have our blind passions such as greed and anger turn to joy. This Buddhist truth is called ten’aku jozen (“unhappiness changes to happiness”) or bonno soku bodai (“passions turn to joy”). In this way, suffering transforms into delight, without any change in quality or quantity.
To explain this wondrous reality, Shinran, the founder of the school of True Pure Land Buddhism, uses the following analogy. (from the book You Were Born For a Reason, page 164):
Hindrances of sin become the substance of merit.
It is just as with ice and water:
The greater the ice, the greater the water.
The greater the hindrance, the greater the virtue.
A great block of ice melts to form a great amount of water. In the same way, when darkness of mind is dispelled, the greater the intenstiy of one’s desire, anger, and other blind passions, and the greater the joy of salvation. The very Shinran who is the vilest and most depraved of sinners is indeed the happiest and most blessed being alive.
Just as a bitter persimmon turns sweet, so a plentitude of blind passions (suffering) becomes a plentitude of virtue (happiness). On this point Shinran is full of certainty.
In this way, since I realized the possibility of experiencing such a great unhindered world, I moved to Japan in 2003 and since then have been studying the doctrines of Pure Land Buddhism. It is my dream to share what I have learned with the world and help people realize how wonderful it is that we have been born humans. Only as humans, can we listen to the dharma and realize our full potential, the joy that continues to live within.
You can follow Bita at her blog.