A Present-Day “Ceremony in the Air”
Core principles for improving the district discussion meeting.
Recently, I read a profile in the December 2016 Living Buddhism about River District, which meets in the heart of New Orleans. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 a.m., the district hosts chanting sessions for the unity of the district and to call forth many more Bodhisattvas of the Earth. When the members chant, they do so envisioning each Nam-myoho-renge-kyo penetrating the entire community, spreading ripples of harmony throughout their city.
In the Lotus Sutra, countless Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions assemble around Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Treasures Buddha at the Ceremony in the Air. Their ultimate aim: “To provide a way for all of us living beings to attain Buddhahood” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386).
In the same way, SGI President Ikeda has referred to SGI members as the harmonious community of believers, the network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who have inherited Nichiren Daishonin’s vow to propagate the Mystic Law and lead all people to enlightenment. As such, our discussion meetings, humble as they may at times seem, take on profound significance as present-day manifestations of the Ceremony in the Air (see The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 4, p. 157).
President Ikeda elaborates:
These meeting places—where members seek Buddhism, share stories of gaining benefit and rededicate themselves in faith—are contemporary equivalents of Eagle Peak and the Ceremony in the Air depicted in the Lotus Sutra. These meeting places can be likened to the treasure lands referred to in the sutra, where people go to revitalize their lives. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 21, p. 203)
The district is the place where comrades in faith rally together and reconfirm their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth to advance kosen-rufu. When we come together in friendship, study Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and President Ikeda’s encouragement, brimming with joy and seeking spirit, our meetings become “the assembly on Holy Eagle Peak which continues in solemn state and has not yet disbanded” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 135).
This rhythm of gathering and parting—of coming together in the district and affirming our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and returning to our lives and society to demonstrate the principles of Soka humanism—serves as the dynamic engine propelling the American kosen-rufu movement forward.
With great pride and a renewed sense of mission, let’s start the New Year by holding discussion meetings that illustrate their great significance.
See you on the front lines!
With deepest appreciation,
Adin Strauss, SGI-USA General Director
of the Mystic Law
The following is SGI President Ikeda’s monthly message from the January 2012 issue of Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine.
We who resonantly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the eternal rhythm of renewal, are able to vibrantly bring forth the sun of time without beginning in our hearts morning after morning, year after year. Let’s set forth high-spiritedly, moving forward with bright, dynamic momentum, encouraging and being encouraged by our fellow members throughout the world, comrades from the remote past.
Referring to the Lotus Sutra’s Ceremony in the Air, which saw the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions assemble around Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Treasures Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin states, “Their ultimate purpose in meeting was to provide a way for all of us living beings to attain Buddhahood” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386).
SGI meetings, centering on the discussion meeting, are magnificent assemblies devoted to the propagation of the Mystic Law, in perfect accord with the Buddha’s intent to guide all people to the direct path of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, and enable everyone without exception to lead a happy and victorious life. That is why our meetings have the power to inspire participants to challenge their own human revolution, drawing forth each person’s Buddha nature.
Even if we may feel reluctant to attend a meeting beforehand, once we’re actually there, our spirits are invariably refreshed and invigorated.
From his place of exile on Sado Island, facing terrible privation and lacking even sufficient paper to correspond freely with his followers, Nichiren writes, “Those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood” (“Letter From Sado,” WND-1, 302). And in the postscript to this letter, he says, “I want people with seeking minds to meet and read this letter together” (WND-1, 306). In other words, he calls on his disciples to gather together to study his teachings—rather than only studying them on their own—and to solidly unite together with the “heart of a lion king.” For that way, the boundless power of the Buddha, capable of breaking through any and all obstacles, would come to flow strongly in their lives.
For instance, even if we may feel reluctant to attend a meeting beforehand, once we’re actually there, our spirits are invariably refreshed and invigorated. I’m sure this is something all of you can attest to. I am reminded of the words of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda: “Our meetings are the most cheerful and sublime spiritual havens. Every single person who attends them unfailingly enters the path to eternal happiness.” (Jan. 13, 2012, World Tribune, p. 7)
In the next installment: Personal Guidance in Faith Is the Basis of the Soka Gakkai.