Ikeda Wisdom Academy: February 2017
Launching the Second Class of the Ikeda Wisdom Academy.
Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA Youth Division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study.
In January 2017, the Ikeda Wisdom Academy completed its First Class, studying each of the six volumes of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, taking Exam I in January 2015 and Exam II in January 2017.
Starting this month, to begin Ikeda Wisdom Academy’s Second Class, we are returning to study of volume 1 of the Lotus Sutra dialogue series. Graduates of the First Class will continue supporting their local Ikeda Wisdom Academy meetings.
While the Ikeda Wisdom Academy is a youth leaders study program, all SGI-USA members are invited to utilize this section of Living Buddhism as a guide for their personal study of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra.
Syllabus – February 2017
The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, Volume 1
PART ONE: “Prologue”
SECTION ONE: Surmounting the Absence of Philosophy in Our Age
Excerpts From The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra,
volume 1, “Prologue”
In February, Ikeda Wisdom Academy participants will be studying the “Prologue” of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra. Based on these excerpts, please use the questions that follow to guide your study of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra or as discussion questions at your meetings. The portions in green indicate comments from SGI President Ikeda’s dialogue partners.
Something is wrong. Something is missing. Scientific developments alone cannot bring happiness. Neither socialism nor capitalism can save us. No matter how many conferences we hold, how we stress ethics and morality or lecture on human psychology or philosophy, something essential is lacking. This, I believe, is a fair description of humanity’s present state of mind.
French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, well known for his book The Little Prince, writes:
We have to understand that somewhere along the way we have taken the wrong road. Humanity as a whole is richer than ever before. We enjoy unsurpassed affluence and leisure time. Yet something more basic, something indefinable, is lacking. The sensation of ourselves as human beings becomes gradually more and more rare. We have lost something that was one of our mysterious prerogatives.
Humanity has taken the wrong road, he says. Where are we going and for what purpose? (WLS-1, pp. 3–4)
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Some say the prevailing mood in the world today is one of powerlessness. Whatever the case may be, we are all aware that things cannot continue as they are. Yet decisions about political, economic and environmental issues all seem to be made somewhere beyond our reach. What can the individual accomplish in the face of the huge institutions that run our world? This feeling of powerlessness fuels a vicious cycle that only worsens the situation and increases people’s sense of futility.
At the opposite extreme of this sense of powerlessness lie the Lotus Sutra’s philosophy of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” and the application of this teaching to our daily lives. This principle teaches us that the inner determination of an individual can transform everything; it gives ultimate expression to the infinite potential and dignity inherent in each human life. (WLS-1, 6–7)
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The roots of racism run deep. Movements to fan racial hatred for political, economic or religious advantage are always with us. The seriousness of this problem lies in that it is so closely tied to people’s spiritual and emotional desires. In other words, we might say the desire for an identity—to know where one came from and where one is going—lies at the root of racism.
People cannot withstand a vacuum of ideas; a philosophical and ideological void drives people to seek their identity in their race. That, of course, is one reason religion is important, but in reality religion often contributes to divisiveness. (WLS-1, 8–9)
I believe Mr. Toda’s realization opened a path out of the deadlock facing humanity.
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Wherever we are, it is necessary to begin with the revitalization of individual human beings. That is what we mean by the reformation of society and the world through human revolution. That is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. And actions directed toward that end, I would like to stress, represent the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra. (WLS-1, 11)
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Very simply, Mr. Toda’s enlightenment should be remembered as the moment that clearly revealed the Soka Gakkai as the true heir to Nichiren Buddhism. That was the starting point of all our propagation activities and our development today, and I firmly believe it was an epoch-making event in the history of Buddhism. Mr. Toda revived Buddhism in contemporary times and made it accessible to all.
When I was younger, Mr. Toda told me about his profound experience in prison. His words left me convinced that his realization formed the religious and philosophical core of the Soka Gakkai. The truth to which he became enlightened is identical to the ultimate teaching of Nichiren Buddhism. I believe Mr. Toda’s realization opened a path out of the deadlock facing humanity. Our mission as his disciples is to extend that path in all directions and on all planes. (p. 21)
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Mr. Toda’s state of life at that time is vividly described through the experience of Mr. Gan, the protagonist of his autobiographical novel, also titled The Human Revolution:
As Mr. Gan read the “Virtuous Practices” chapter of the Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings and reached the verse [containing the thirty-four negations], there, from behind his thick spectacles, a brilliant white light flashed in his eyes. It was no longer his eyes that were moving down the page. Neither was he reading the sutra with his intellect: It was as if he were pounding his robust body against each word and phrase of the verse.
He was truly trying to read the sutra with his whole being. The Lotus Sutra teaches that all people can attain Buddhahood. What, then, is a Buddha? What does it mean to attain Buddhahood? These questions are vital to all Buddhist teachings. Mr. Toda deeply contemplated these questions and sought to resolve them. It was then that the word life suddenly flashed in his mind. He finally perceived that the Buddha is life itself:
Life is neither existing nor not existing,
neither caused nor conditioned, neither self nor other,
neither square nor round, neither short nor long, . . .
neither crimson nor purple nor any other sort of color.
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Life is a straightforward, familiar word we use every day. But at the same time, it can express the most profound essence of the Buddhist Law, a single word that expresses infinite meaning. All humans are endowed with life, so this word has practical, concrete meaning for everyone. In this way, Mr. Toda’s realization made Buddhism comprehensible to all.
Life has enormous diversity. It is rich and filled with energy. At the same time, it operates according to certain laws and has a definite rhythm. The doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” describes this harmony of diversity, and one who has perceived the essence of this principle is a Buddha.
Life is also free and unfettered. It is an open entity in constant communication with the external world, always exchanging matter and energy and information. Yet while open, it maintains its autonomy. Life is characterized by this harmonious freedom and an openness to the entire universe.
The infinite and unbounded state of Buddhahood can be described as a state in which the freedom, openness and harmony of life are maximally realized. Nichiren Daishonin says myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law] has three meanings: “to open,” “to be endowed and perfect” and “to revive.” These are the attributes of life and the attributes of a Buddha, as well. In one sense, we can regard all Buddhist scriptures as presenting a philosophy of life.
T’ien-t’ai Buddhism represents the teaching that the Great Teacher “T’ien-t’ai himself practiced in the depths of his own being.” Furthermore, the Daishonin declares: “The sacred teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime are devoted to explaining this principle. These are what is known as the storehouse of the eighty-four thousand teachings. All these are teachings encompassed within the single entity of an individual. Hence the storehouse of the eighty-four thousand teachings represents a day-to-day record of one’s own existence” (WND-2, 843).
I still remember how Mr. Toda once chuckled and said that he could physically perceive and share “the teaching that the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai himself practiced in the depths of his own being.”
He said to me: “Dai, you have to encounter problems in life. Only when we encounter problems can we understand faith and achieve greatness.” I was 27 at the time, fighting illness, and Mr. Toda was trying to encourage me in this way to bring forth greater life force. I was very moved by his words, and I noted them in my diary. Actually, at the time, Mr. Toda himself was in extremely poor health, his body gaunt and wasted. Despite that, he was always thinking about how to encourage young people, how to enable them to attain the same state of life as his.
This attests to Mr. Toda’s sublime state of life and the noble bonds that exist between mentor and disciple.
Mr. Toda once described his feelings after having attained his realization in prison as follows: “It is like lying on your back in a wide open space looking up at the sky with arms and legs outstretched. All that you wish for immediately appears. No matter how much you may give away, there is always more. It is never exhausted. Try and see if you can attain this state of life. If you really want to, then I suggest you spend a little time in prison for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, for the sake of propagating Nichiren Buddhism!”
He also said, however: “The times are different now, so you don’t need to spend time in prison. Still, you must fight with every ounce of your strength to spread Nichiren Buddhism.” (WLS-1, 23–25)
In contrast to the “pervasive sense of powerlessness” of our age, what does the Lotus Sutra teach? (The
Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, pp. 6–9)
What is the beginning point for the “reformation of society and the world”? (WLS-1, 10–12)
While in prison for his beliefs, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda resolved to master the meaning of the Lotus Sutra completely. Explain his realization and its implications for Buddhism in the modern era. (WLS-1, 21–24)
Ikeda Wisdom Academy Guidelines
Academy members should:
> Be district through national youth leaders.
> Have their own copy of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vols. 1–3
> Read the assigned material prior to each meeting