Ikeda Wisdom Academy: June 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series
Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. Starting in May, a new cycle of the academy began, focusing on study of The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. This month, academy members will study the first chapter of this lecture series. 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 – June 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 1
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The Three Virtues—Sovereign, Teacher and Parent
Establishing the Buddhism of the People Through Compassion and Enduring Persecution
Nichiren Daishonin begins “The Opening of the Eyes” discussing the three virtues—the benevolent functions of sovereign, teacher and parent that a Buddha is said to possess. The virtue of sovereign is the power to protect all living beings, the virtue of teacher is the wisdom to instruct and lead them to enlightenment and the virtue of parent is the compassion to nurture and support them. The following are excerpts from Chapter 1 of The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series.
The True Sovereign, Teacher and Parent,
and the True Causality of Attaining Buddhahood
The main theme running throughout “The Opening of the Eyes” is that of the three virtues. This is clearly indicated in the Daishonin’s opening lines: “There are three categories of people that all human beings should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent. There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 220). He thus identifies the three virtues—those of sovereign, teacher and parent—as qualities that all people should respect . . .
The underlying focus of this treatise is to evaluate the world’s major schools of thought and religion as known by Nichiren Daishonin and to clarify who should genuinely be revered by all humanity as the person possessing the three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent . . .
Because the three virtues are characteristics exhibited by Buddhas, bodhisattvas and various honored ones in relation to the people, it goes without saying that gauging who truly possesses these three virtues becomes extremely important in terms of what the people are taught and the type of practice they are urged to carry out . . .
In the first half of “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin concludes that, in terms of the teachings of Confucianism, Brahmanism and Buddhism that have been transmitted to Japan thus far, only Shakyamuni appears to fully function as sovereign, teacher and parent to all living beings. And the Daishonin also clarifies, in terms of Shakyamuni’s entire body of teachings, that the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra is the true teaching for attaining Buddhahood and the great Law for liberating all people of the Latter Day from suffering. The reason he says Shakyamuni embodies all three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent—is that Shakyamuni became enlightened to the true causality of attaining Buddhahood, manifested it in his own life and then expounded it in the form of the Lotus Sutra. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 17–19)
The Practice of the Votary of the Lotus
Sutra Embodies the Functions of
Sovereign, Teacher and Parent
In the latter half of “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren details his struggles as the votary of the Lotus Sutra enlightened to this true causality of attaining Buddhahood and striving to make it accessible to all people of the Latter Day.
He alone has awakened to the great Law for attaining Buddhahood hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra, and he alone recognizes the deplorable prevalence throughout the land of erroneous teachings that hinder the propagation of this Law. He writes, “I, Nichiren, am the only person in all Japan who understands this” (WND-1, 239) . . .
In a time of conflict, in a polluted age, Nichiren nevertheless surmounts the daunting persecutions of exile and near execution, and wages an unceasing spiritual struggle for the enlightenment of all people. He reveals his expansive state of life in the following passage: “When it comes to understanding the Lotus Sutra, I have only a minute fraction of the vast ability that T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo [the great teachers of Buddhism of China and Japan, respectively] possessed. But as regards my ability to endure persecution and the wealth of my compassion for others, I believe they would hold me in awe” (WND-1, 242) . . .
The Daishonin then makes his own powerful vow to free people from suffering after minutely examining his conduct based on the Lotus Sutra passages. This is none other than the great lion’s roar that begins: “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” (WND-1, 280).
Here, the Daishonin, from an unsurpassed spiritual height, gazes down calmly on the meaningless maneuvers of his persecutors and hostile ex-followers in league with them. This immortal passage resonates with Nichiren’s pure, unadulterated spirit and his determination to fight on and break through people’s ignorance, disbelief and delusion . . .
Lastly, the Daishonin indicates that the essence of propagation is compassion. Because of the immense compassion he feels for all people, he can unflinchingly battle evil, endure persecution and spread the Law.
Based on this compassion, Nichiren Daishonin unequivocally declares that he is the person who embodies the three virtues in the Latter Day of the Law. He says, “I, Nichiren, am sovereign, teacher, and father and mother to all the people of Japan” (WND-1, 287). (Lecture Series, pp. 19–20)
The Sovereign, Teacher and Parent of the
Buddhism of Sowing of the Latter Day
The Daishonin did not merely awaken to Myoho-renge-kyo, the seed for attaining Buddhahood; he steadfastly upheld this great Law while taking on the shared sufferings of all living beings of the Latter Day as his own personal sufferings.In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin cites the Nirvana Sutra passage, “The varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are the Thus Come One’s own sufferings,” and says, “the varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (p. 138). The Daishonin is saying that he takes both the varied and diverse sufferings that people individually experience and the suffering experienced by society as a whole as his own suffering and seeks to overcome them. And, without begrudging his life, he also expounded and spread the Law for their sake. Evident in his selfless dedication are the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent of the Buddhism of sowing of the Latter Day for awakening all people of this evil age and enabling them to attain Buddhahood.
First, Myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental Law of the universe. Not only did Nichiren awaken to this Law, but he also persevered in upholding it while overcoming relentless persecutions. This conduct proves that his life was completely one with Myoho-renge-kyo, and that he manifested a state of being in which he was one with the universe itself.
We can view this vast and noble state of life as the virtue of sovereign . . .
Next, the Daishonin developed a form of practice to make the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo, which he had revealed in his own life, accessible to all people. He guided people to the path of Buddhahood with the clear mirror of the Gohonzon and with the daimoku of faith and practice.Daimoku of faith and practice: The daimoku of faith and the daimoku of practice are two aspects of the daimoku of the essential teaching (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo). In “Letter to Horen,” the Daishonin writes, “If you try to practice the teachings of the sutra [the Lotus Sutra] without faith, it would be like trying to enter a jeweled mountain without hands [to pick up its treasures], or like trying to make a thousand mile journey without feet” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 511). Thus the daimoku of the essential teaching requires both faith and practice. This can be viewed as a manifestation of the virtue of teacher.
And in order to free people from suffering, the Daishonin tirelessly continued teaching that ordinary people of the Latter Day could reveal the world of Buddhahood in their own lives. At the same time, he warned of the ills that arose from a mind of slander characterized by disbelief in the existence of the Buddha nature in oneself and others, and he denounced teachings that exerted a negative influence on people and drew them into slandering the Law. And though the Daishonin’s castigation of slander provoked wave upon wave of persecution, he endured every onslaught. This is entirely due to his immense compassion.
Again, in “Simile and Parable,” Shakyamuni’s virtue of parent is indicated by the passage: “All living beings [in the threefold world] are my children”(The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 105). Similarly, in Nichiren’s conduct of spreading the teaching while enduring all hardship, we can discern the virtue of parent, characterized by a spirit of caring and concern for the well-being of the people of the Latter Day as if they were his own children. (Lecture Series, pp. 21–22)
A Pioneer and Example of Ordinary
People Attaining Buddhahood
As the initiator and pioneer of kosen-rufu in the Latter Day, the Daishonin spread the great Law for the enlightenment of all people. And through that struggle, he naturally became endowed with the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent.
From the standpoint of the disciples who follow in his footsteps, Nichiren’s pioneering struggle can be regarded as the model of an ordinary person attaining Buddhahood in the Latter Day of the Law . . .
Most respectworthy is a person who can serve as a model for those whose lives are steeped in suffering. (Lecture Series, pp. 22–23)
A Revolutionary New View of Religion
In “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” Nichiren writes: “A common mortal is an entity of the three bodies, and a true Buddha. A Buddha [such as Shakyamuni or Many Treasures] is a function of the three bodies, and a provisional Buddha. In that case, though it is thought that Shakyamuni Buddha possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent for the sake of all of us living beings, that is not so. On the contrary, it is common mortals who endow him with the three virtues” (WND-1, 384) . . .
Here we see a radical new approach to thethree virtues, and to the very nature of religion. In the conventional view, sovereigns rule and reign over their subjects, teachers instruct and educate their students, and parents give birth to and are honored by their children. Seen strictly in terms of such relationships, sovereign, teacher and parent are authority figures. Thus, when the Buddha is likened to sovereign, teacher and parent based on that model, what will inevitably result is an authoritarian Buddhism.
But genuine sovereigns help their subjects become happy; genuine teachers enable their students to grow and develop; and genuine parents raise children into fine adults. Based on this model, sovereigns can manifest their power as sovereigns only because their subjects have the potential to become happy, teachers can function as teachers only because their students have the potential for wonderful development, and parents can fulfill their role as parents only because their children have the potential to grow into capable men and women . . .
This statement by the Daishonin indicates a dramatic move away from an authoritarian religion characterized by obedient worship of Buddhas and deities, and a reliance on priestly prayers for good fortune and protection to a humanistic, peoplecentered religion that exists for the happiness of all human beings. (Lecture Series, pp. 23–24)
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin cites the Nirvana Sutra passage, “The varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are the Thus Come One’s own sufferings,” and says, “the varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (p. 138). The Daishonin is saying that he takes both the varied and diverse sufferings that people individually experience and the suffering experienced by society as a whole as his own suffering and seeks to overcome them.|
|2.||↑||Daimoku of faith and practice: The daimoku of faith and the daimoku of practice are two aspects of the daimoku of the essential teaching (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo). In “Letter to Horen,” the Daishonin writes, “If you try to practice the teachings of the sutra [the Lotus Sutra] without faith, it would be like trying to enter a jeweled mountain without hands [to pick up its treasures], or like trying to make a thousand mile journey without feet” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 511). Thus the daimoku of the essential teaching requires both faith and practice.|