5088254388_3a32e61ab8_b (1)The semester has begun, and many students have cracked open new textbooks, opened boxes of pens and put the finishing touches on dorm rooms. It’s an exciting time on college campuses, bustling with the chatter of philosophy or computer science; politics or medicine. What, though, constitutes true education from a Buddhist standpoint?

It is self-education, in which one uses challenges, seeks hardships, and gains self-mastery. In other words, we cannot truly grow and become people of outstanding character and ability, without initiating our own inner transformation. In a 1995 meeting with the student and youth divisions, commemorating the founding of the student division (June 30, 1957), SGI President Ikeda spoke about this saying, “These days people actively try to avoid hard work. They seem to feel that working hard is old-fashioned or a waste of energy. However, this is certainly not the case. In essence, all of our efforts are for our own sake.

This is an age without discipline – a time when, if you are inclined to depend on others, there is no limit to how dependent you can become. Because of this prevailing climate, those who actively seek out hard work will gain great reward and benefit. Those who thoroughly forge themselves and develop an undefeatable self will be victorious.”

Where else but in the SGI can you find such a precious world of self-education?” (10/10/2014 World Tribue, pp. 4-5).

As student division, we use our Buddhist practice to advance forward. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo morning and evening and introducing others to Buddhism, we tackle academics, jobs, family, social circles, extra-curriculars – shirking not the slightest responsibility. In this way, we train ourselves to become individuals and leaders who will solve the challenges facing mankind. We don’t have to be “great” right now, but we can use this time to become great individuals. How do we become great? By holding fast to powerful and noble ideals. In other words, by living true – thought, word and action – to the philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin.

Later in his essay, SGI President Ikeda illustrates the trials of young Chuko K’ung-ming, of Romance of the Three Kingdoms: “He struggled against the wind and rain. He endured hunger. This was the environment in which he studied. He did not study seated in a quiet atmosphere at a beautiful desk in a well-furnished home. Had that been the case, then in all likelihood he never would have left his mark in history as the “invincible General K’ung-ming.” He continues, “I think it would be fitting to say that ‘hardship’ was his teacher” (10/10/2014 WT, 5).

As the semester continues and changing seasons sweep through the air, we can also think about our own changing lives. How will we take control and become the people who embody, in our actions, the change we wish to see in the world? How can we take on the challenge of self-education from a Buddhist perspective? Though it may seem at times that we our efforts are unnoticed, President Ikeda assures us that from a karmic perspective, this is not the case. “It is my wish that each of you will stand resolved to work and become a person of true greatness. Since all of you embrace the Mystic Law, none of your efforts will be wasted or in vain” (10/10/2014 WT, 5).