Concepts

Bestowal of Prophecy

Core Buddhist Principles

Discussion meeting in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Seikyo Press


Every month SGI discussion meetings take place, providing “oases of humanity” in a society increasingly lacking meaningful, positive interactions. These meetings can be traced back to the Lotus Sutra, which in and of itself could be considered a grand discussion meeting.

The sixth chapter of the sutra, titled “Bestowal of Prophecy,” describes Shakyamuni Buddha predicting the enlightenment of four of his voice-hearer disciples.[1]1. Voice-hearer disciples: Shakyamuni’s disciples who heard his preaching and strove to attain enlightenment. Mahayana sutras criticize them for seeking their own enlightenment without trying to save others, deeming them unable to attain Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra, however, defines voice-hearers as those who “take the voice of the Buddha way and cause it to be heard by all,” teaching that they will attain enlightenment. Through this, he alleviates their worries of not attaining Buddhahood, giving them peace of mind and profound confidence.

In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha ensures that voice-hearers, women and evil people, three groups of people that were deemed in other sutras incapable of attaining enlightenment, can in fact do so. Thus, the prophecy of enlightenment for all people is taught only in the Lotus Sutra.

In The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, SGI President Ikeda discusses the meaning of “prophecy.” The original Sanskrit term for prophecy, vyakarana, is used in the sense of giving a clear reply to a question. In essence, “bestowal of prophecy” in Buddhism means stating clearly that each person has the potential for Buddhahood.

Rather than a specific end or goal, Buddhahood is more of a path. President Ikeda explains: “ ‘Firmly establishing this path’ means solidifying in our lives a spirit of yearning for the happiness of oneself and others, and continuously taking constructive action with that spirit” (WLS-2, 100).

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren says, “The word ‘prophecy’ [of enlightenment] refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (p. 68). To carry out the bestowal of prophecy in this regard means sharing the benefits of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the intent to help those around us understand that they, too, have the boundless potential for Buddhahood in their lives. In addition, by breaking through our own limitations and obstacles, and enacting an inner transformation, we ourselves are also fulfilling the prophecy of enlightenment.

SGI discussion meetings are our modern-day “forums for the bestowal of prophecy” where we share with our friends and with one another our dramas of human revolution and conviction in faith, inspiring hope and vitality to live life to the fullest.

President Ikeda says: “The give-and-take at discussion meetings encourages and reassures people that they can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime and arouses in them a sense of mission for kosen-rufu. In that sense, it has the same effect as the predictions of enlightenment in the Lotus Sutra” (WLS-2, 119).

The widespread propagation of Buddhism is set in motion through meaningful dialogues and small-group discussions— just as Shakyamuni began with five people in spreading his teaching; Nichiren introduced his teaching on April 28, 1253, to a small gathering; and Josei Toda reignited the Soka Gakkai in postwar Japan lecturing on the Lotus Sutra to three friends. The SGI’s great discussion meeting movement—consisting of people from all walks of life joyfully conveying how they overcome problems, reach their goals and progress toward happiness—can steadily propel humanity toward respect for life and peace.

Notes   [ + ]

1. 1. Voice-hearer disciples: Shakyamuni’s disciples who heard his preaching and strove to attain enlightenment. Mahayana sutras criticize them for seeking their own enlightenment without trying to save others, deeming them unable to attain Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra, however, defines voice-hearers as those who “take the voice of the Buddha way and cause it to be heard by all,” teaching that they will attain enlightenment.