Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: May 2017

The Second Class begins with the study of The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series “Introduction.”


The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series

the_opening_of_the_eyes_usaIkeda 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, and taking Exam I in January 2015 and Exam II in January 2017.

This month, we are kicking off Ikeda Wisdom Academy’s Second Class with the study of the “Introduction” section of SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series on “The Opening of the Eyes.”

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 Opening of the Eyes.”

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Syllabus – May 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Introduction
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Background to “The Opening of the Eyes”

Nichiren Daishonin completed writing “The Opening of the Eyes” in February 1272. He started to work on this treatise in November 1271, immediately after surviving the persecution at Tatsunokuchi and arriving at Sado Island where he was exiled and sent to die. Facing the reality of his imminent death, Nichiren wrote this treatise to encourage his disciples as if it were his last will and testament.

In another writing, “Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” he explains why he composed “The Opening of the Eyes,” stating: “I wanted to record the wonder of Nichiren, in case I should be beheaded. The essential message in this work is that the destiny of Japan depends solely upon Nichiren. A house without pillars collapses, and a person without a soul is dead. Nichiren is the soul of the people of this country” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 772).

Nichiren faced extreme conditions on Sado. He lived in a small, dilapidated hut with patchy walls that did little to keep out icy winds, rain and snow. He lacked food, clothing and writing materials, and described his experience as having “fallen alive into one of the cold hells” (“Letter to Horen,” WND-1, 519).

Despite these deplorable conditions, Nichiren set out to write this treatise, wanting to dispel the doubts from the hearts of his followers and to reaffirm his vow for the enlightenment of all people.

Weston, Florida. Photo: Mary D’Elia.
Weston, Florida. Photo: Mary D’Elia.

Below are excerpts from the “Introduction” to The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series.

The flame of Nichiren Daishonin’s struggle as the votary of the Lotus Sutra—a struggle aimed at leading humanity to enlightenment and actualizing the principle of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” while battling against all manner of devilish functions—only burned even more brightly when he was exiled to snowbound Sado Island. We can discern his unyielding resolve from the following well-known passage of “The Opening of the Eyes”: “This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law . . . Here I will make a great vow . . . I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 280–81).

From the standpoint of society, he was an exile. Though he was the victim of persecution by the powerful and was innocent of the charges brought against him, he found himself sentenced to exile, a penalty second in severity only to execution,[1]The punishments meted out at the time, in order of increasing severity, were as follows: whipping, caning, imprisonment, exile and execution. However, sentences of execution were avoided in the case of monks and nuns, so, from a practical standpoint, exile was the highest punishment imposed on such persons. and placed in a veritable prison of nature. As was to be expected, however, no chains of any form could ever shackle his spirit.

Throughout the pages of human history, there are many wise people and sages who bravely endured attack and oppression. The Daishonin stands out among them for having declared his intent to save all humankind and secured the path to do so while exiled under the harshest of conditions. “I will be the pillar of Japan,” he cried invincibly. No persecution or devilish force could hinder the Daishonin, who had stood up to fulfill his vow to lead all people to enlightenment. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 3–4).

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In the passage from “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra” that I cited earlier, Nichiren says that his purpose in writing “The Opening of the Eyes” was to leave a record for posterity of the “wonder of Nichiren.” We can surmise that the greatest “wonder of Nichiren” that he seeks to record here is his casting off his transient status and revealing his true identity at the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.

On the occasion of his near-execution at Tatsunokuchi, the Daishonin discarded his transient aspect as “an ordinary person at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth” (that is, someone who has taken faith in the Lotus Sutra) and revealed his true state of life as “the Buddha of limitless joy enlightened from time without beginning,” a state of complete freedom that is one with the eternal Mystic Law.

As a result of the Daishonin casting off the transient and revealing the true, the path to attaining enlightenment in one’s present form—whereby we can manifest Buddhahood in our ordinary mortal lives, just as we are—was opened to all people.

As he describes in detail in “The Opening of the Eyes,” he won this fundamental victory of life—the victory of casting off the transient and revealing the true—in the course of his relentless struggle to surmount persecution after persecution and triumph over all obstacles. In the same way, when we maintain courageous faith, unafraid of any obstacles, then, no matter what happens, we, too, can defeat the darkness of ignorance and establish a self that manifests our enlightened Dharma nature. This is how we cast off our own transient aspect and reveal our true selves. Casting off the transient and revealing the true is essential to our attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime.

As Nichiren indicates when he says, “Here a single individual has been used as an example, but the same thing applies equally to all living beings” (Gosho zenshu, p. 564), his casting off the transient and revealing the true elucidates the basic principle for attaining Buddhahood that applies to all people of the Latter Day of the Law; it is also proof of this principle and an example for others.

All people, if they possess unwavering faith in the Mystic Law, can develop a state of being as vast as the universe in their flesh-and-blood lives as ordinary people. You could say that Nichiren Daishonin was the very first person to demonstrate the truth that all people of the Latter Day could cast off the transient and reveal the true. To verify his casting off the transient and revealing the true and to provide a “clear mirror” or means so that others could do the same, Nichiren manifested the Gohonzon in a concrete graphic form. (Lecture Series, p. 7)

Weston, Florida. Photo: Debra Williams.
Weston, Florida. Photo: Debra Williams.

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The only way to liberate the people of the Latter Day of the Law from fundamental suffering is to firmly establish the means by which the Buddha nature inherent in all human beings can be manifested in each individual’s life and in society. This great path can be opened only by those who are able to establish the deep, strong faith necessary to defeat the fundamental darkness[2]Fundamental darkness: Also, fundamental ignorance or primal ignorance. The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. Fundamental darkness means the inability to see or recognize the truth, particularly the true nature of one’s life. Nichiren interprets fundamental darkness as ignorance of the ultimate Law, or ignorance of the fact that one’s life is essentially a manifestation of the Law, which he identifies as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. inherent in human life. That is because all obstacles and devilish functions are in essence manifestations of fundamental darkness. A teaching that does not indicate the importance of battling fundamental darkness cannot be called the correct teaching for the Latter Day of the Law, nor can a person espousing such a teaching be regarded as the teacher of the Latter Day of the Law.

Fundamental darkness originally referred to the fundamental delusion or doubt toward the Mystic Law that assails bodhisattvas who have advanced to the final stage of practice. Even bodhisattvas at the stage of near-perfect enlightenment could stray from the correct path on account of this illusion or doubt.

The Latter Day, during which the Buddha predicts “the pure Law will become obscured and lost,”[3]An expression used in the Great Collection Sutra. is indeed a time when the correct teaching is obscured and evil intensifies. Battling fundamental darkness is an indispensable part of practicing the correct teaching in this latter age. Hence in “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren emphasizes two points.

First of all, through the fivefold comparison,[4]Fivefold comparison: Five successive levels of comparison set forth by Nichiren in “The Opening of the Eyes” to demonstrate the superiority of his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo over all other teachings. They are 1) Buddhism is superior to non-Buddhist teachings; 2) Mahayana Buddhism is superior to Hinayana Buddhism; 3) true Mahayana is superior to provisional Mahayana; 4) the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is superior to the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra; and 5) the Buddhism of sowing is superior to the Buddhism of the harvest. In this way, Nichiren explains that the doctrine of the “actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life” found in the depths of “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is the fundamental teaching that people should believe and practice. he clarifies what is the correct teaching of the Latter Day of the Law. The correct teaching is the doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra and the doctrine of “the original cause and original effect” expounded in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra’s essential teaching. Expressed more simply, it is the principle of the “true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” (WND-1, 235), whereby in defeating our fundamental darkness through pure and strong faith, we can bring the eternal state of the world of Buddhahood to manifest in the other nine worlds within our lives . . .

Secondly, he emphasizes the importance of making and maintaining a vow. The correct teaching of the Latter Day hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is “difficult to believe and difficult to understand” (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 356). However, by making the Buddha’s great wish for the enlightenment of all people our own and vowing to undertake the struggle for kosen-rufu with a steadfast, unremitting spirit, we can forge and strengthen our faith . . .

While I already quoted the passage indicating the Daishonin’s vow at the start of my lecture, I would like to cite it here again more fully: “This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law . . .

“Whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as persons of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield! All other troubles are no more to me than dust before the wind.

“I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (WND-1, 280–81).

The above two points—the clarification of the correct teaching and the importance of making a vow—comprise the backbone of “The Opening of the Eyes.” (Lecture Series, pp. 9–11)

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In “The Opening of the Eyes,” as I noted earlier, Nichiren reveals the supreme wisdom to grasp the essential Law that enables all people of the Latter Day to attain enlightenment. This essential Law is the ultimate teaching for actualizing the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and manifesting the world of Buddhahood in one’s own life. While explaining this teaching is itself difficult, sharing it with others and enabling them to demonstrate it in their own lives are even more so.

What we have, then, is a struggle that no one had ever undertaken before: an evil age, the difficult-to-believe essential Law and an ordinary person who was determined to propagate that Law. It was inevitable therefore that persecution would follow. Nichiren, while enduring one intense persecution after another, revealed the world of Buddhahood in his own life as an ordinary human being. He offered his own life and practice as an example, and established the means by which to spread this essential Law to all people.

The driving force that enabled him to carry through and complete this struggle was his vow and, on an even deeper level, his boundless compassion for all living beings. It is because of this immense compassion that we regard the Daishonin as the Buddha of the Latter Day.

Nichiren himself indicates that compassion lies at the very heart of shakubuku, the struggle to propagate the correct teaching in order to liberate people from fundamental suffering. He thus declares, “I, Nichiren, am sovereign, teacher, and father and mother to all the people of Japan” (WND-1, 287). This is the conclusion of “The Opening of the Eyes,” and also a call urging us to “Open your eyes to Nichiren’s compassion.” (Lecture Series, p. 11)

 

(pp. 8–11)

Notes   [ + ]

1. The punishments meted out at the time, in order of increasing severity, were as follows: whipping, caning, imprisonment, exile and execution. However, sentences of execution were avoided in the case of monks and nuns, so, from a practical standpoint, exile was the highest punishment imposed on such persons.
2. Fundamental darkness: Also, fundamental ignorance or primal ignorance. The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. Fundamental darkness means the inability to see or recognize the truth, particularly the true nature of one’s life. Nichiren interprets fundamental darkness as ignorance of the ultimate Law, or ignorance of the fact that one’s life is essentially a manifestation of the Law, which he identifies as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
3. An expression used in the Great Collection Sutra.
4. Fivefold comparison: Five successive levels of comparison set forth by Nichiren in “The Opening of the Eyes” to demonstrate the superiority of his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo over all other teachings. They are 1) Buddhism is superior to non-Buddhist teachings; 2) Mahayana Buddhism is superior to Hinayana Buddhism; 3) true Mahayana is superior to provisional Mahayana; 4) the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is superior to the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra; and 5) the Buddhism of sowing is superior to the Buddhism of the harvest. In this way, Nichiren explains that the doctrine of the “actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life” found in the depths of “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is the fundamental teaching that people should believe and practice.