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”Akirameru”: A Japanese Word with a Little-Known Positive Meaning

Here's a message for those who are about to give up, thinking “There's no hope for me…” It's the law of happiness from Shakyamuni Buddha.

There is a manufacturer which sells hundreds of thousands of sofas each year nicknamed “sofas to spoil people.” In this case, “sofas to spoil people” is used in a positive sense. However, there is a way of thinking that “spoils” people in a negative sense in their search for happiness. What way of thinking is that? When things do not go well no matter how hard we try, we feel defeated and listlessly shrug, “Well, this is just the fate I was born with.” But Shakyamuni Buddha denounced this fatalistic view, or the mode of thought that our fate is predetermined, as outside the truth. If our fate was predetermined, all of our effort and perseverance would be in vain. Then we would never have any motivation to try hard or exert ourselves. Therefore, Buddhism teaches that to think our fate is predetermined at birth "spoils" people by leaving people feeling powerless.

Your own deeds today change your tomorrows.

On this topic, Buddhism teaches that “Our own deeds can change our destiny.” In fact, even those who complacently say “Our fate is predetermined” study before exams. This is because they believe that the action of studying has the power to change the result of their exams. We take precautions against getting sick. This is because we believe that our daily deeds can prevent us from getting sick. If our destiny truly was predetermined, our efforts would become meaningless. However, nobody wants to live a life of apathy. Everyone lives believing that their actions will bring about a change to their tomorrow. And that is absolutely true.

When you face misfortune

So how should we think and act when we face misfortune? The key to this question lies in the Japanese word akirameru. Akirameru is generally used to mean giving up on and forgetting about a matter. But actually, the word comes from Buddhism and its real meaning is entirely different to this. The word is derived from the phrase akiraka ni miru, which means "to see clearly." As time went by, the pronunciation gradually changed and now it is said as akirameru.

Akiraka ni miru is written with Chinese characters meaning "clarity"/"truth" and "see." The "truth" that the first character refers to is the law of cause and effect, which we have studied previously. Therefore, akiraka ni miru, or "to see clearly," means to see the law of cause and effect clearly.

Those who give up (akirameru) and those who see clearly (akiraka ni miru)

“Seeing the law of cause and effect clearly” means being aware that seeds not sown will never grow, while seeds sown will never fail to grow. Whatever happens to us definitely has a cause, so we must see the cause clearly. This is what the term is telling us. For example, let's say you lost your wallet. If you shrug, "Oh well, it can't be helped," give up and forget about it, then you will not be able to improve your actions. If you don't reflect on your mistakes, you will be prone to repeat them. However, if you look at the cause clearly and make an effort to come up with strategies that help you avoid losing your wallet again, then you can improve yourself unlimitedly. The origin of the word akirameru is the Buddhist teaching of akiraka ni miru, or "seeing things clearly." It has a very positive and empowering meaning; it spurs us to ever greater efforts toward progress and self-improvement.

Lesson Point

“Our destiny is predetermined”…

This way of thinking makes you unhappy.

The true meaning of akirameru is “to see the law of cause and effect clearly.” It has a very positive and empowering meaning that spurs us to always make an effort. When you see the law of cause and effect clearly, reflect on what went wrong and make the necessary efforts, you can overcome any kind of adversity and change your tomorrow for the better.


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