Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: December 2017

The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Chapter 7

Seattle


The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. In May, a new cycle of the academy began, focusing on study of The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. In November, academy members studied chapters six and seven 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 – December 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 7
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The Profound Debt Owed to the
Lotus Sutra and the Protection Received by
Those Who Spread the
Supreme Law of Universal Enlightenment

Nichiren Daishonin made a vow to lead all people to enlightenment through faith in the Mystic Law. While he stood up with the conviction that he was the votary of the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren and his followers struggled with two fundamental doubts arising from the persecutions they faced. To dispel these doubts, Nichiren identified the true nature of protection of the heavenly deities and opened the way to establishing the “object of devotion in terms of the Person.”


 The Doubts of Others and Nichiren
Daishonin’s Own Doubts

And yet the people doubt me, and I too have doubts about myself. Why do the gods not assist me? Heavenly gods and other guardian deities made their vow before the Buddha. Even if the votary of the Lotus Sutra were an ape rather than a man, they should address him as the votary of the Lotus Sutra and rush forward to fulfill the vow they made before the Buddha. Does their failure to do so mean that I am in fact not a votary of the Lotus Sutra? This doubt lies at the heart of this piece I am writing. And because it is the most important concern of my entire life, I will raise it again and again here, and emphasize it more than ever, before I attempt to answer it. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 243)

Many in society scathingly asked why, if Nichiren were truly the votary of the Lotus Sutra as he claimed, he and his followers did not enjoy protection from the heavens. Many of his erstwhile followers may have also entertained the same doubt. His remaining followers, meanwhile, though they continued to put their trust in him and carried on valiantly in their Buddhist practice, did not know how to rebut the criticisms of ex-followers and others in society. Perhaps many of them were bitterly frustrated by this and wished they knew how to respond based on correct Buddhist doctrine. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 68)

 


“This Doubt Is the Most Important
Concern of My Entire Life”

Beyond the thick clouds of doubt that shroud people’s hearts lies a brilliant blue sky of great conviction illuminated by the sun that shines serenely high above those clouds. Dispelling this doubt would also prepare the way for clarifying the “object of devotion in terms of the Person.” Therefore, the Daishonin writes, “I will . . . emphasize it [this doubt] more than ever, before I attempt to answer it” (WND-1, 243). He aims to thoroughly resolve this doubt by first bringing it into sharp focus. (Lecture Series, 69)

• • •

Nichiren then goes on to provide answers to these doubts from various perspectives. For the time being, suffice it to say that the main point he makes in it is that the heavenly deities fail to lend him their protection because they have abandoned the country on account of its being steeped in slander.

However, this is still just a partial answer. The true answer is found in the passage revealing Nichiren’s great vow 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). In other words, the issue is not whether one enjoys the protection of the heavenly deities. The true votary of the Lotus Sutra is someone who maintains the great desire for kosen-rufu, even in the face of enormous obstacles, and ceaselessly struggles to lead people to enlightenment in a land filled with slander of the Law. (Lecture Series, 70)

 


The Profound Debt Owed
to the Lotus Sutra by Persons
of the Two Vehicles

In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, Shakyamuni relentlessly castigates the voice-hearers. To offer a simple illustration of how harsh the Buddha’s condemnation was, Nichiren says that when the voice-hearer Venerable Mahakashyapa was told he would never be able to gain enlightenment, the sound of his weeping and wailing echoed throughout the major world system (see WND-1, 245). Shakyamuni’s rebukes actually arose out of his great compassion as the Buddha. The persons of the two vehicles had forgotten about benefiting others and were only interested in benefiting themselves. Shakyamuni thus wished to help them break free of their inner darkness and delusion. (Lecture Series, 71)

• • •

In the Lotus Sutra, the four great voice-hearers, who each receive a prophecy of attaining enlightenment, make a vow, saying, “Now we have become voice-hearers in truth” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 132). Transcending their earlier selves—that is, of voice-hearers who only listened superficially to the Buddha’s voice and had a shallow understanding of what he was saying—they have now deeply comprehended the Buddha’s true wisdom. They further declare that they will henceforth struggle as genuine voice-hearers to enable all people to hear the voice of the Buddha. This indicates their rebirth as bodhisattvas. (Lecture Series, 71)


The Profound Debt Owed
to the Lotus Sutra
by Bodhisattvas and Heavenly and Human Beings

Through the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, it becomes clear that each of the Ten Worlds manifests its own Buddhahood and that all people therefore equally have the potential to attain enlightenment. With regard to the passage in the “Expedient Means” chapter, “the Buddhas . . . wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings” (LSOC, 64), Nichiren writes: “The term ‘all living beings’ here refers to Shariputra, and it also refers to icchantikas, persons of incorrigible disbelief. It also refers to the nine worlds” (WND-1, 250). Here, the Daishonin clearly points out that it was not only the voice-hearer Shariputra who was able to attain enlightenment through the teaching of perfect endowment, but also all people in the nine worlds, including persons of incorrigible disbelief. (Lecture Series, 72–73)

• • •

Among all of the sutras said to have been expounded by Shakyamuni, the eternal Mystic Law is revealed as the seed of enlightenment for the first time in the form of the teaching of the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra—that is, Shakyamuni’s actual attainment of Buddhahood in the remote past. The Buddha of the “Life Span” chapter means Myoho-renge-kyo, which is the true essence of the Buddha. And Myohorenge-kyo is the law of life inherent within all people, and it is the seed for all people to attain enlightenment. This seed is hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter. That’s why the “Life Span” chapter is the highest teaching among all the sutras . . .

This is the reason why all bodhisattvas who aspire to attain enlightenment should feel a deep debt of gratitude toward the Lotus Sutra. (Lecture Series, 73–74)

 


Those Ignorant of Their
Indebtedness Are Nothing More Than
“Talented Animals”

The various Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly and human beings described in the sutras that preceded the Lotus may seem to have gained enlightenment through the particular sutras in which they appear. But in fact they attained enlightenment only through the Lotus Sutra. The general vow taken by Shakyamuni and the other Buddhas to save countless living beings finds fulfillment through the Lotus Sutra. That is the meaning of the passage of the sutra that states that the vow “has now been fulfilled.”

In view of these facts, I believe that the devotees and followers of the Flower Garland, Meditation, Mahavairochana, and other sutras will undoubtedly be protected by the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings of the respective sutras that they uphold. But if the votaries of the Mahavairochana, Meditation, and other sutras should set themselves up as the enemies of the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings will abandon them and will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra (WND-1, 260–61) . . .

I, Nichiren, think as follows. The gods of the sun and moon and the other deities were present in the two places and three assemblies when the Lotus Sutra was preached. If a votary of the Lotus Sutra should appear, then, like iron drawn to a magnet or the reflection of the moon appearing in the water, they will instantly come forth to take on his sufferings for him and thereby fulfill the vow that they made in the presence of the Buddha. But they have yet to come and inquire of my well-being. Does this mean that I am not a votary of the Lotus Sutra? If that is so, then I must examine the text of the sutra once more in light of my conduct and see where I am at fault. (WND-1, 261)

Chicago

The various Buddhist schools of Nichiren’s day were unaware that among all Shakyamuni’s teachings, the Buddha of the “Life Span” chapter is the Buddha who should be taken as the object of devotion in one’s Buddhist practice for attaining enlightenment. Not only were they ignorant of this, but they made their own arbitrary interpretations that further obscured and distorted the Buddha’s true teaching. (I, 74)

• • •

The Daishonin strictly refutes the views held by the schools of his day about the object of devotion and about attaining enlightenment. He pronounces that they have gone astray, failing to recognize the fundamental Buddha expounded in the “Life Span” chapter who possesses the seed of enlightenment. He compares these misguided schools of Buddhism to the heir of the supreme ruler of a state who, confused about the identity of his own father, disparages him and believes someone else to be the real king (see WND-1, 258). And just like the child who does not know his own father, the adherents of schools who are ignorant of the Buddha of the “Life Span” chapter likewise “do not understand to whom they are obligated” (WND-1, 258). While they might appear to be knowledgeable about Buddhism, Nichiren sharply denounces them as no more than “talented animal[s]” (WND-1, 258). (Lecture Series, 75)

“The Object of Devotion Is the
Entity of the Life of the
Votary of the Lotus Sutra”

No matter how evil the times, the heavenly deities will search out a person who struggles for the sake of Buddhism and will rigorously protect him or her. This is because such a person is embraced by the Mystic Law throughout the three existences of past, present and future, and becomes an entity that is one with the Mystic Law.

In discussing the protection extended by the persons of the two vehicles, bodhisattvas and others, Nichiren proclaims his view that the votary of the Lotus Sutra is a person who practices the Mystic Law, the teaching for attaining Buddhahood, and who fights against slander of the Law. (Lecture Series, 75–76)

• • •

Therefore, in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren says, “The object of devotion is thus the entity of the entire life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra” (p. 142). We can find the object of devotion—which serves as a mirror and guide in our Buddhist practice for attaining enlightenment—in the life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra. That is why Nichiren says of these questions concerning the protection of the heavenly deities and the identity of the votary of the Lotus Sutra: “This doubt lies at the heart of this piece I am writing. And . . . it is the most important concern of my entire life” (WND-1, 243). It is also why “The Opening of the Eyes” is said to reveal the “object of devotion in terms of the Person.” (Lecture Series, 76)

(pp. 8–11)

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