What Does It Mean to Have a Seeking Spirit?

This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions by those who are interested in Nichiren Buddhism.

Teaneck, New Jersey. Photo: Kevin Miranda.

Q: What Does It Mean to Have a Seeking Spirit?

A: Just as a person with a strong desire to make money puts lots of effort into doing so, a deep desire to attain enlightenment motivates us to make many efforts in faith through our practice and study of Buddhism.

With money, we may attain happiness that lasts momentarily (relative happiness), but in striving to reveal our enlightenment, we gain a deep, abiding sense of fulfillment and joy (absolute happiness)— making it that much more rewarding to strive in faith. In Buddhism, a strong will to achieve enlightenment, or absolute happiness, through faith, practice and study, is referred to as a “seeking spirit” or “seeking mind.”

People generally view enlightenment as an endpoint of long and arduous Buddhist practice, which is not the case.

The Lotus Sutra expresses the principle of “seeking spirit” with the following phrase we recite during gongyo: “single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha” (isshin yokken butsu) (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutra, p. 271).

Does this mean desiring to physically see the Buddha? In the above phrase, the Chinese character ken, means “see.” In addition, ken also means “to reveal.” In this sense, it is important that we reveal the Buddha from within our lives by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and teaching others to do the same.

Because each person possesses the potential for limitless growth, having a seeking spirit also means resolving our doubts and deepening our understanding of Buddhism by continually studying the writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents. This is why we are also encouraged to ask questions and seek guidance from seniors in faith until we resolve our doubts. It is often difficult to continue having a seeking spirit or mind.

President Ikeda explains:

One of the fourteen slanders mentioned in Nichiren Daishonin’s writings is that of shallow, self-satisfied understanding. This does not merely mean possessing shallow knowledge; it indicates the condition of those who have lost their seeking minds and ceased to make efforts to deepen their understanding. This signifies backsliding in faith. (My Dear Friends in America, p. 53)

He points to the importance of having the humility to ask questions about Buddhist practice whether we have been practicing for 50 years or 50 days.

By having a seeking spirit, Nichiren assures us, we will accrue wonderful fortune and attain enlightenment. For example, he says: “Your asking a question about the Lotus Sutra is among the six difficult acts. This is a sure indication that, if you embrace the Lotus Sutra, you will become a Buddha in your present form” (“The One Essential Phrase,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 922). As we strive alongside our SGI friends to drive kosen-rufu forward with the spirit to seek Buddhism, we are guaranteed a life filled with ever-growing confidence and lasting joy.


(pp. 8)