Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: September 2017

The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Chapter 4

White Plains, New York.


The Fivefold Comparison— Clarifying the Causality of Life and the Fundamental Direction for Human Existence 

Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. A new cycle of the academy began in May, focusing on The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. This month, academy members will study the second 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 – September 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 4
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Nichiren Daishonin evaluated the relative depth of major philosophies and religion at the time through the fivefold comparison, which determines how the different teachings explain the workings of cause and effect in life—in other words, the causality behind happiness or unhappiness. The fivefold comparison is as follows:

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.
5. The Buddhism of sowing is superior to the Buddhism of the harvest. 

 

 


The Heart of Philosophy or Religion Lies in Clarifying Cause and Effect

The purpose of the fivefold comparison is to clarify which religion or philosophy can actually enable people to overcome their sufferings and attain a state of unshakable happiness. This comparison involves evaluating the different teachings in terms of how they explain the workings of cause and effect in life—in other words, the causality of life, which refers to the causality behind happiness or unhappiness. Ultimately, it is the same as the causality of the Ten Worlds—and, therefore, importantly, of attaining Buddhahood— which we discussed last time.

Stated another way, the fivefold comparison examines the relative superiority and depth of each teaching, assessing how much each pursues and fundamentally recognizes the causality behind happiness or unhappiness.

For example, when a physician treats an illness, unless that treatment is based on a thorough understanding of the cause, it may only intensify the patient’s condition. Similarly, unless the fundamental causes are thoroughly understood, efforts to solve human suffering and misery will end up only worsening the situation.The heart of a religion or philosophy lies in clarifying cause and effect.

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The teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo propagated by Nichiren consists of the ultimate Mystic Law (myoho) and the cause and effect that it is based on (renge). We can regard this single phrase, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as expressing the ultimate law of cause and effect for attaining Buddhahood. Therefore, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even one time, we can realize the cause and effect of enlightenment in our lives at that very moment. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 43–44)


Carving Out Our Destiny Through Our Own Will and Action

1. Buddhism is superior to non-Buddhist teachings.

[A] closer look at the non-Buddhist religions and philosophies reveals, first, that some do not recognize the principle of causality as it concerns individual fortune or misfortune. While some expound doctrines of accidentalism or indeterminism, according to which everything is coincidence or chance, others expound doctrines of determinism or fatalism, which hold that regardless of one’s own efforts or actions everything is predetermined or predestined. There are also those who strike a middle ground between these two perspectives. This refers to the teachings of the three ascetics, who are regarded as the founders of the non-Buddhist philosophies of India. Similar doctrines can also be found in various philosophies and currents of thought prevalent today. (Lecture Series, p. 45)

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The reason we can calmly accept the concept of the strict law of cause and effect operating in our lives is that we apprehend the truth that we inherently possess within us the boundless transformative power and potential that is the Buddha nature. For us to keep making efforts to become happy, we need to know that the possibility for happiness exists within our lives. (Lecture Series, p. 46)

The fivefold comparison examines the relative superiority and depth of each teaching, assessing how much each pursues and fundamentally recognizes the causality behind happiness or unhappiness.


Mahayana Buddhism Seeks to Clarify the Cause for Attaining Happiness

2. Mahayana Buddhism is superior to Hinayana Buddhism.

Santa Ana, California.

Buddhism is referred to as the “internal way”; nevertheless, it encompasses a wide variety of teachings. Among these, the Hinayana teachings aim to enable people to free themselves from earthly desires, which are the cause of suffering, and attain nirvana—a state of supreme peace and tranquillity—through carrying out practices such as upholding precepts and engaging in meditation. But the happiness to which the Hinayana teachings aspire is passive, as they merely focus on eliminating the cause of unhappiness rather than actively seeking to enable people to open the path to their own happiness, much less open the way to happiness for others.

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In contrast, the Mahayana teachings, instead of urging the elimination of earthly desires, state that by opening up and manifesting the wisdom of enlightenment in our lives, which are filled with earthly desires, we can properly control those desires and construct a pure, strong, self-motivated life. This is the principle of “earthly desires are enlightenment.” Rather than merely helping people eliminate the causes of their unhappiness, the Mahayana teachings actively focus on enabling people to transform those causes into the causes for happiness, as well as to lead others to enlightenment. (Lecture Series, pp. 46–47)

 


True Mahayana Reveals That All People Are Endowed With Buddhahood

3. True Mahayana is superior to provisional Mahayana.

The Lotus Sutra, which constitutes true Mahayana, elucidates that the lives of all people are originally endowed with the world of Buddhahood, the fundamental cause of happiness. (“All living beings alike possess the Buddha nature.”) The Lotus Sutra also clarifies the truth of life that all people can tap and reveal that Buddha nature. (In “Expedient
Means,” the 2nd chapter, it sets forth the four aspects of Buddha wisdom—opening, showing, awakening and helping people enter the path of Buddha wisdom.)

The pre-Lotus Sutra Mahayana teachings, which make up the provisional Mahayana, insist that the people of the two vehicles, who are despised because they only seek their own enlightenment, as well as evil people and women, who are believed incapable of becoming happy, are not originally endowed with the Buddha nature. In this way, these teachings limit the causes of happiness. They are not true Mahayana but rather teachings expounded as an expedient
means to accommodate the popular beliefs of the time. They are merely provisional teachings. (Lecture Series, p. 47)


The Essential Teaching Overcomes the Fault of the Earlier Teachings

4. The essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is superior to the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

Viewed in terms of the eternity of life and the principle of cause and effect operating over past, present and future, the life state we experience in the present is due to our actions (karma) from countless former existences. The earlier sutras, including the theoretical teaching (first half) of the Lotus Sutra, teach that in order to change that karma, we need to steadfastly carry out good actions over an extremely long period of time and accumulate the positive benefits of those actions in our lives. According to this view, attaining enlightenment requires countless kalpas of Buddhist practice.

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By contrast, the essential teaching (latter half) of the Lotus Sutra explains that Shakyamuni actually attained Buddhahood in the remote past, numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago and, because his life as a bodhisattva has endured unceasingly ever since, he has continually appeared in various forms to teach living beings.
This reveals the true image of the Buddha. In other words, the nine worlds and the world of Buddhahood are also inherent and ever abiding in the life of the Buddha, Shakyamuni.

By explaining this fact, the essential teaching reveals that we can manifest the world of Buddhahood in our lives of the nine worlds, just as we are, thereby opening the way to attaining Buddhahood in our present form. (Lecture Series, pp. 47–48)

 


Making the Gohonzon Our Mirror and Nichiren Our Model

5. The Buddhism of sowing is superior to the Buddhism of the harvest.

But the teaching implicit in the Lotus Sutra’s depths—namely, Nichiren Buddhism—directly reveals Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is both the driving force behind Shakyamuni’s bodhisattva practice in attaining the first stage of security in the remote past, as well as the fundamental Law he perceived at that time. By seeking and faithfully embracing this Law, an ordinary person can immediately gain the fruit of Buddhahood.

Nichiren left us the Gohonzon, in which he faithfully depicts the world of Buddhahood he realized in his own life through Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while remaining an ordinary person. With the Gohonzon as our mirror and Nichiren
as our model, we can instantly bring forth that enlightened state from within our own lives, through our deep faith and confidence that we, too, possess Buddhahood. (Lecture Series, pp. 48–49)

The Teaching of Cause and Effect in a Single Life Moment

 

In contrast to these, Nichiren’s unique essential teaching (that is, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws) hidden in the depths of “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, elucidates that both the nine worlds and the world of Buddhahood are contained in the ordinary person’s mind of faith. It also expounds that, through faith, one can manifest the world of Buddhahood at any time and attain enlightenment in his or her present form. That is why it is called a “teaching of cause and effect in a single moment of life.”

In Nichiren Buddhism, one’s mind or heart is certainly key. As Nichiren says, “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1000). (Lecture Series, p. 49)

A Self That Embodies the Fundamental Purpose of Life

By contrast, in Nichiren Buddhism, Nichiren himself serves as the example of an ordinary person becoming a Buddha through the power of faith or strong inner resolve. Nichiren’s struggles, his selfless practice, his vows, his heart of a lion king, as detailed in his writings, all show us the single-minded determination or spirit necessary for an ordinary person to attain Buddhahood. This is clear from such statements as: “Like Nichiren, for example” (“Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 302), or “You need not seek far for an example” (“The Supremacy of the Law,” WND-1, 614). (Lecture Series, p. 50)

 

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