Ikeda Wisdom Academy: November 2017
Study for November.
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 – November 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 6
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THE VOTARY OF THE LOTUS SUTRA
One Who Practices the Correct Teaching With Outstanding
Perseverance and Compassion
Nichiren Daishonin stood up as a votary of the Lotus Sutra knowing that he would face severe persecution as a result. Following the establishment of his teaching, Nichiren names four major persecutions: the Matsubagayatsu Persecution (1260), the Izu Exile (1261), the Komatsubara Persecution (1264) and the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and Sado Exile (1271) and states that the minor persecutions are too many to count. He was able to persevere in the face of all persecution due to his profound compassion to free all people from suffering.
Fierce and Relentless Persecutions
Arise From Hatred and Jealousy
After the overview of his hardships to that point, the Daishonin goes on to cite various sutras and commentaries that clarify the true nature of those persecuting him.
These people are essentially driven by hatred and jealousy, a deep hostility arising from a swirling cauldron of complex negative emotions. The priests and lay followers of other Buddhist schools of the time bore strong feelings of resentment and jealousy because of Nichiren’s pure and unswerving commitment to practicing the correct teaching as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. They also openly hated him for having refuted the errors of their schools. ( The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 60)
An Age When Fundamental
When a little boy is given moxibustion treatment, he will invariably resent his mother; when a seriously ill person is given good medicine, he will complain without fail about its bitterness. And we meet with similar complaints about the Lotus Sutra, even in the lifetime of the Buddha. How much more severe is the opposition after his passing, especially in the Middle and Latter Days of the Law and in a faroff country like Japan? As mountains pile upon mountains and waves follow waves, so do persecutions add to persecutions and criticisms augment criticisms . . .
It is now over two hundred years since the Latter Day of the Law began. The Buddha predicted that conditions would be much worse after his passing, and we see the portents of this in the quarrels and wranglings that go on today because unreasonable doctrines are prevalent. And as proof of the fact that we are living in a muddied age, I was not summoned for a doctrinal debate with my opponents, but instead I was sent into exile and my very life imperiled. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 241–42)
The Latter Day is characterized by a world rampant with disbelief in the correct teaching and with slander of the Law. When the votary of the Lotus Sutra expounds the correct teaching, the fundamental darkness in people’s lives functions as a devilish force. Society in this defiled age mirrors the description in the Lotus Sutra of evil demons entering people’s lives to persecute the sutra’s practitioners. (Lecture Series, 61)
In the Latter Day, when society abounds with slander of the Law, the three obstacles and four devils appear with even greater intensity than in the Middle Day of the Law during which T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo lived. This is because the prevalence of such slander stimulates the function of fundamental darkness and intensifies the three poisons—greed, anger and foolishness. Consequently, there is great hatred and jealousy toward the votary of the Lotus Sutra who expounds and spreads the correct teaching.
The Daishonin explains this in “The Opening of the Eyes,” using the following allegory: “When a little boy is given moxibustion treatment, he will invariably resent his mother; when a seriously ill person is given good medicine, he will complain without fail about its bitterness” (WND-1, 241).
The fact that one is a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra unerringly spreading the Mystic Law stirs fierce resentment in those filled with disbelief toward it. As the Daishonin asserts, “[If devils did not arise], there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching” (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 501). ( Lecture Series, 61–62)
Though Having Committed No Wrong,
the Votary Is Assailed by Repeated Persecution
Defamatory attacks are the means by which people of great arrogance try to discredit the just. Wishing to avoid dialogue or debate, and also seeking to preserve their own prestige, such people resort to the base means of spreading slander and lies about their enemies. They malign the just by branding them as villains. (Lecture Series, 62)
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In a sound society, there will naturally be leaders who can see through such lies. The Daishonin notes that T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo initially encountered various persecutions in the Middle Day of the Law but that their rulers ultimately discerned and clarified what was true, thus putting an end to their harassment. (Lecture Series, 62)
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If lies and misrepresentations are allowed to go unchecked, people will store them in their minds as facts. A society that fails to combat such distortions is sure to suffer spiritual corruption and decline. Therefore, in advancing kosen-rufu in the Latter Day, it is absolutely vital for us to engage in energetic and insightful debate and discourse in order to ward off the fundamental darkness in people’s lives and confront slander of the Law, which is so spiritually destructive. This is the only way we can restore society’s spiritual health.
While I have been focusing specifically on false accusations and lies used to attack the votary of the Lotus Sutra, it is no simple matter in any circumstance to speak out and proclaim the truth in a corrupt society where right and wrong, good and evil, are confused. Rather, the more one champions the truth, the fiercer the storms of persecution will grow. It is like one person standing up in olden times to explain that the earth revolves around the sun, while everyone is firmly convinced of the opposite. Those who champion the truth will encounter persistent and incomprehensible persecution. This, indeed, is a mark of their veracity and integrity.
Discussing the qualifications of a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, the Daishonin writes, “If persecutions greater than those that arose during the Buddha’s lifetime keep occurring again and again to someone who is not guilty of the slightest fault, then one should realize that that person is a true votary of the Lotus Sutra in the age after the Buddha’s passing” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 696). (Lecture Series, 62–63)
Upholding the Law Through
Perseverance and Compassion
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 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) Naturally, to spread the Mystic Law in the Latter Day, it is important to talk to others based on a profound understanding of the Lotus Sutra—in other words, to present the sutra’s teaching and doctrines logically and coherently . . .
More important, however, are perseverance (that is, the ability to endure persecution) and compassion, which are indispensable to actually spreading the Law in the evil Latter Day and to helping even those experiencing the greatest suffering attain genuine happiness.
Perseverance and compassion are like two sides of the same coin. Profound compassion based on a wish to free all people from suffering gives one incomparable strength to endure persecution and spread the Law.
To endure persecution, to persevere amid obstacles, does not mean passive acceptance. The Latter Day is an age when evil is rampant. Those aware of their mission to defeat this evil and awaken others to life’s ultimate truth must be prepared to fight continually through any obstacle or difficulty. Their actions are essentially motivated by a solemn, rigorous compassion not to let anyone in the Latter Day fall into the unfortunate trap of slandering the Law. This unwavering compassion leads directly to all people’s enlightenment in the Latter Day. (Lecture Series, 63–64)
The Joy of Faith Based on the Principle of
“Voluntarily Assuming the Appropriate Karma”
With this body of mine, I have fulfilled the prophecies of the sutra. The more the government authorities rage against me, the greater is my joy. For instance, there are certain Hinayana bodhisattvas, not yet freed from delusion, who draw evil karma to themselves by their own compassionate vow. If they see that their father and mother have fallen into hell and are suffering greatly, they will deliberately create the appropriate karma in hopes that they too may fall into hell and share in and take their suffering upon themselves. Thus suffering is a joy to them. It is the same with me [in fulfilling the prophecies]. Though at present I must face trials that I can scarcely endure, I rejoice when I think that in the future I will escape being born into the evil paths. (WND-1, 243)
Everything that happens in our lives has meaning. Moreover, the Buddhist way of life is to find and discover meaning in all things. Nothing is futile or meaningless. Whatever a person’s karma may be, it definitely has some profound significance.
This is not just a matter of mere outlook. Changing the world starts by changing our fundamental state of mind, which is a key Buddhist principle. A powerful determination to transform even negative karma into mission can dramatically transform the real world. By changing our inner state of mind, we can change any suffering or hardship into a source of joy, regarding it as a means for forging and developing our lives. To turn even sorrow into a source of creativity—that is the way of life of a Buddhist. (Lecture Series, 65)
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Viewed from such a lofty state of life, all difficulties become the genuine foundation for our personal development and growth. Practitioners of the correct teaching who endure obstacles with the awareness, “[If devils did not arise], there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching” (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 501), come to embody the Mystic Law without fail. They attain the expansive state of life in which they can regard all difficulties as “peace and comfort” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 115), and rejoice at them with the spirit conveyed when Nichiren writes, “The greater the hardships befalling him, the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith” (“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” WND-1, 33).
By clearly revealing this state of life to his followers and everyone throughout the land in “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren Daishonin sought to open the eyes of all people shrouded in fundamental darkness. He also strove to convey the quintessential joy experienced by the votary of the Lotus Sutra. (Lecture Series, 65)