Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: October 2017

Study for October.

Oakland, California. Photo: Carmen Davis.


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 – October 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 5
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A Vow for the Enlightenment
of All People—
The Power Deep Within Our Lives
That Can Overcome All Obstacles

This section underscores how Nichiren Daishonin’s vow for the enlightenment of all people served as the power source that enabled him to overcome the onslaughts of persecution. For each of us as well, making a vow enables us to bring forth the limitless power of Buddhahood from our lives.

I, Nichiren, am the only person in all Japan who understands this [that the other Buddhist schools proffer slanderous teachings and cause people to fall into the evil paths of existence]. But if I utter so much as a word concerning it, then parents, brothers, and teachers will surely censure me, and the ruler of the nation will take steps against me. On the other hand, I am fully aware that if I do not speak out I will be lacking in compassion. I have considered which course to take in the light of the teachings of the Lotus and Nirvana sutras. If I remain silent, I may escape persecutions in this lifetime, but in my next life I will most certainly fall into the hell of incessant suffering. If I speak out, I am fully aware that I will have to contend with the three obstacles and four devils. But of these two courses, surely the latter is the one to choose . . .

I vowed to summon up a powerful and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings and never to falter in my efforts. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 239–40)

 

 


The Fundamental Darkness That Denies Human Potential for Buddhahood

The Latter Day of the Law is described as a defiled age, a time when people are said to have inferior capacity to understand Buddhism, and when monks and nuns of various Buddhist schools become increasingly decadent. While these are obviously important factors, the true essence of why propagation in the Latter Day is far more difficult than during the Former or Middle Days of the Law[1]The Former Day of the Law is an age after the Buddha’s passing when people correctly transmit and practice the Buddha’s teaching. The Middle Day is a time when the teaching grows formalized and rigid. The ensuing period, known as the Latter Day, is a time when people lose sight of the correct teaching, and when society is rife with confusion and conflict. cannot be fully understood without addressing the subject of slander of the Law.

Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Slander of the Law means denigrating the correct teaching, and it arises from disbelief in that teaching. “Correct teaching” indicates the Lotus Sutra, which expounds the enlightenment of all people. The sutra teaches that each of us, without exception, can attain Buddhahood. But this is difficult for many people to accept because they think of Buddhas as transcendent, otherworldly beings, somehow separate or different from mere mortals. This long-standing belief, derived from an authoritarian view of Buddhist faith and religion in general, had so influenced people that they could not believe in the Lotus Sutra or its teaching of universal enlightenment.

People’s actual life experiences have also made it difficult to believe in their potential for Buddhahood. Amid trying circumstances, they can scarcely imagine that anyone suffering as much asthey are could possibly become a Buddha. When things are going smoothly, however, and people seem already happy, they tend to think there’s no need to seek enlightenment or attain Buddhahood. Either way, it is rare for people to actually embrace faith in the correct teaching.

Orlando, Florida.

Consequently, because the idea of universal enlightenment is so difficult to believe, many lean toward authoritarian religions that promote the concept of transcendent, otherworldly gods or Buddhas. These religions often interpose a clergy as a necessary intermediary between the practitioners and these distant, transcendent beings.

When a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra striving to enable all people to attain enlightenment appears in a society where such religious views predominate, many who are stubbornly attached to their existing beliefs will resent and persecute that person—the very one actually practicing the correct teaching. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 52–53)

 

 


The Root Cause of
Slander of the Law

As the Daishonin indicates when he says, “Fundamental darkness manifests itself as the devil king of the sixth heaven” (“The Treatment of Illness,” WND-1, 1113), the true nature of the devil king is the fundamental darkness or illusion in the lives of all people. Dispelling the innate ignorance in people’s hearts requires us to resolutely stand against and defeat evil influences and what Buddhism calls “bad friends.” That is why correct Buddhist teaching has always stressed the importance of remaining constantly on guard against such negative influences, recognizing them for what they are and battling against them.

Some two hundred years into the Latter Day of the Law, only Nichiren Daishonin could see these priests’ true inner reality of being “possessed by evil demons.”

If a votary of the Lotus Sutra loudly proclaims the truth when everyone else has lost sight of the correct teaching, evil priests who have been deceiving the people will fear exposure and therefore attack that person. Meanwhile, those in the thrall of priestly deception, not willing to recognize their own folly in being deceived, will shun the practitioner of the correct teaching. They will regard him with hatred and jealousy, speak ill of him and ultimately persecute him.

A society where slander of the Law is rife will inevitably become one that represses the votary of the Lotus Sutra who proclaims the truth.

Nichiren Daishonin was well aware of this. Even so, he resolved to stand up alone for the sake of the people. His awareness of the obstacles ahead of him is evident from the unflinching consideration he gave this matter and the momentous struggle he waged in his heart before declaring the establishment of his teaching. (Lecture Series, 54–55)


Standing Up Alone
Based on a Vow

The propagation of the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha’s passing is the wish of all Buddhas throughout past, present and future. The Buddha,while thoroughly recognizing the difficulty of this undertaking, urges the bodhisattvas who will succeed him to boldly take on this challenge.

The six difficult and nine easy acts express the Buddha’s intent. The Buddha, while plainly indicating the immense difficulty of spreading the Lotus Sutra after his passing, solemnly urges his disciples to make a vow. This can be regarded as a clear message to the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day that, if they make a vow and establish solid faith in the Lotus Sutra, there is no hardship or obstacle that they cannot overcome. (Lecture Series, 56)

 


What It Means to Make a Vow in
Buddhism

A vow in Buddhism can be likened to the power with which to sever the chains of karma, to free oneself from the fetters of the past and to forge a self that can look with hope to a new future. In other words, the power of a vow enables us to develop ourselves through the Buddha’s teachings, to take charge of our own future direction based on a solid sense of self and to keep on making efforts toward that end.

Making a vow, then, is the fundamental principle of change. While it naturally entails trying to change oneself, it is also the impetus for transforming the lives of all people, as seen in the Buddha’s vow in the “Medicinal Herbs” chapter [of the Lotus Sutra].

In fulfilling the vow for the enlightenment of all people in the Latter Day, the Daishonin above all emphasizes the power of faith.

Believing in the boundless potential of human beings as entities of the Mystic Law may be considered the essence of the Lotus Sutra. Not only is this an expression of deep faith in the Mystic Law but also of profound trust and respect for human beings. (Lecture Series, 57)

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Understandably, we might feel upset at being hated and attacked by the very individuals we are trying to lead to happiness. But, remaining true to one’s profound conviction, like Bodhisattva Never Disparaging who continued to declare, “Even so, I respect you,” is the hallmark of genuine Buddhist practitioners in the Latter Day of the Law. In a sense, the power of the vow or commitment to lead all people to enlightenment sustains an unswerving belief in the innate goodness of human beings, as well as the deep optimism that arises from that belief.

Nichiren Daishonin, through his profound vow, boldly stood up alone as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. He steadfastly persevered out of a desire to save all people who were being led by evil influences to commit slander of the Law. Consequently, as the Daishonin himself foresaw, he incurred the hatred of people throughout the land and brought a great storm of persecution upon himself.

Nevertheless, with the spirit, “I rejoiced, saying that I had long expected it to come to this” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 764), he struggled on with the resolute spirit expressed by the lines: “But still I am not discouraged” (“The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 748), “Not once have I thought of retreat” (“The Great Battle,” WND-2, 465) and “So the battle goes on even today” (“On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” WND-1, 392).

We can take it that the sole driving force that sustained the Daishonin’s momentous lifelong struggle was the power of his vow. His example teaches us how, by maintaining our own vow, we can become one with the heart of the Buddha and bring forth the limitless power of Buddhahood from our lives.

In a defiled age, it is only through the power of a vow for the enlightenment of all people that we can defeat the evil functions that seek to incite
distrust and doubt. (Lecture Series, 58)

 

(pp. 6–11)

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Former Day of the Law is an age after the Buddha’s passing when people correctly transmit and practice the Buddha’s teaching. The Middle Day is a time when the teaching grows formalized and rigid. The ensuing period, known as the Latter Day, is a time when people lose sight of the correct teaching, and when society is rife with confusion and conflict.

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