Unity Is Key in Widely Propagating Buddhism
The following is study material for the weekly Soka Spirit chanting sessions being held at SGI-USA Buddhist centers across the country.
Q: How do we transcend the differences among us?
A: One of the core tenets of SGI Nichiren Buddhism is to create harmonious unity among fellow practitioners in order to widely spread its humanistic philosophy. In “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” Nichiren Daishonin says: “All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217).
The phrase “many in body” indicates people of diverse backgrounds with different personalities, interests and roles, while “one in mind” refers to cherishing a shared goal or ideal. For Buddhist practitioners, “one mind” means the great vow for kosen-rufu.
Nichiren teaches that to achieve this grand goal, we must “transcend all differences.” The word “differences” in the above passage, SGI President Ikeda says, specifically means “feelings of antagonism, discrimination and selfishness that arise from the tendency to see self and others, or diverse phenomena or events, as separate and disconnected—a tendency that obstructs empathy and understanding” (The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 72).
People who separate themselves from others, cling to self-attachment and are prone to excluding others, are easily tempted by power, position, fame and fortune. They tend to be overrun by emotions like contempt, jealousy, arrogance, stubbornness, impatience and ingratitude, while blaming and criticizing others, and butting heads with everyone.
President Ikeda points out that “faith is ultimately a struggle with our own self-centeredness” (p. 72). Creating unity, therefore, begins with the determination to change oneself first. In order to do so, we must abundantly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon to raise our life force and to find the wisdom, courage and compassion to bring about our inner transformation.
In laying out ways to create a united organization, President Ikeda often encourages us to have a clear purpose, listen to others, be open to dialogue, communicate information quickly and accurately, and support the central figure (see The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, pp. 210–12). This is how to “become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim” and how to work harmoniously in the spirit of mutual respect and understanding.
Q: What is key in creating unity?
A: In “Great Mountain,” the latest chapter in his novel The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda describes how to create unity:
We are living in the realm of faith. Therefore, we must unite based on the Gohonzon, with faith as our foremost guide. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions, jealousy and conflict are bound to arise. That is a sign that the devilish functions within us have taken control and we have strayed from the teachings of Buddhism. Uniting together entails a struggle with these inner devils, and achieving unity of purpose is proof that we have done our human revolution, exercising self-mastery and winning over our own negativity . . .
By battling and triumphing over great adversity, you will gain limitless benefit and build an indestructible foundation for happiness. It will also lead to remarkable progress in the development of kosen-rufu in your respective lands. (March 10, 2017, World Tribune, p. 7)
Q: What inspires unity among Buddhist practitioners?
A: It is the shared purpose, the shared vow for kosen-rufu. And it is the oneness of mentor and disciple through which we strengthen and hone this vow for kosen-rufu.
President Ikeda explains that the harmonious unity of many in body, one in mind, and the oneness of mentor and disciple are like the two wheels of a cart. Aligning our lives with the same vow as the mentor, he says, is like the gears of a machine meshing with the gears of a 10-million-horsepower engine that transmits that energy throughout the entire machine.
In the same way, when we unite our hearts with the vow of the mentor to accomplish kosen-rufu, we are able to vanquish all devilish functions and ignite a tremendous momentum for victory in our own lives as well as for our greater movement for peace.
Q: What did we learn in the battle against the priesthood?
A: “It is vital,” President Ikeda says, “that we take a firm stand against any person or negative influence that seeks to destroy the oneness of mentor and disciple or the unity of many in body, one in mind” (The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 203).
Though SGI members once practiced together with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood (from 1930–91) and went all out to protect and support the priesthood, which flourished as a result, time and time again, the priests belittled, criticized and attacked the SGI and its members. And despite their claim that the SGI was distorting Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and slandering the Law, in reality, it was the priesthood that had deviated from the original intent of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings to enable all people to attain Buddhahood, without any distinction between them. They created false doctrines, becoming corrupt and authoritarian, and tried to sow seeds of confusion and disunity to destroy the Soka Gakkai and obstruct the movement of kosen-rufu.
Nichiren instructs: “Though evils may be numerous, they cannot prevail over a single great truth” (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” WND-1, 618); and “One should understand that, at present, when it comes to teachers, there is a difference between correct teachers and erroneous teachers, between good teachers and bad teachers. One should shun those who are erroneous or evil, and associate with those who are correct and good” (“Reply to Sairen-bo,” WND-1, 310).
Despite the priesthood’s attempt to create the greatest degree of confusion and disunity in 1991 by excommunicating millions of SGI members, we celebrated this as liberation from a corrupt priesthood. In fact, a month after the notice of excommunication was issued, the Soka Gakkai sent a petition on Dec. 27 signed by 16.25 million people demanding Nikken’s resignation as high priest. President Ikeda states, “It was Nikken, on the contrary, who had been ‘excommunicated’ by a global alliance of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, 16.25 million strong” (November 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 17).
SGI members gained true victory, experiencing firsthand how to combat devilish functions and divisiveness while remaining committed and united to fulfilling Nichiren’s vision to widely spread the ideals and principles of Buddhism, growing stronger and flourishing in more than 192 countries and territories.