Ikeda Wisdom Academy: January 2018
The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Chapter 8 & 9
The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. In May 2017, 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 eighth and ninth chapters 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 – January 2018
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 8 & 9
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Chapter 8: The Six Difficult
and Nine Easy Acts –
To Discard the Shallow and Seek the Profound Is the Way of a Person of Courage
Nichiren Daishonin explains in detail the “five proclamations,” or the Buddha’s will and decree: the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day. The five proclamations consist of the three pronouncements of the “Treasure Tower” chapter, the three viewpoints Shakyamuni expresses on the importance of spreading the Lotus Sutra after his passing, and the two admonitions of the “Devadatta” chapter, Shakyamuni’s disclosure that evil people and women can in fact attain Buddhahood. After hearing the Buddha’s five proclamations, the bodhisattvas at the assembly pledge to widely spread the sutra even if they should encounter intense persecution.
I, Nichiren, am the richest man in all of present-day Japan. I have dedicated my life to the Lotus Sutra, and my name will be handed down in ages to come. If one is lord of the great ocean, then all the gods of the various rivers will obey one. If one is king of Mount Sumeru, then the gods of the various other mountains cannot help but serve one. If a person fulfills the teaching of “the six difficult and nine easy acts” of the Lotus Sutra, then, even though he may not have read the entire body of sutras, all should follow him. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 268)
Struggling for the Law in Accordance
With the Buddha’s Will and Decree
In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren Daishonin establishes that he is the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, the current era, by examining various passages of that sutra. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 78)
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The onslaught of persecutions that befell the Daishonin were certainly not a result of passivity; it was a consequence of the struggle he set into motion by seeking to fulfill the Buddha’s intent. This proactive approach to life is a key point that the Daishonin teaches his followers in “The Opening of the Eyes.”
The SGI has initiated just such a committed struggle in order to realize kosen-rufu, the Buddha’s will and decree. Those who join in this struggle live in accord with the Buddha’s will; they carry out the work of the Thus Come One. Therefore, the infinite benefit of the Mystic Law, the essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment, manifests in the lives of SGI members. (Lecture Series, 79)
The Three Pronouncements of the
“Treasure Tower” Chapter
In the first pronouncement, Shakyamuni declares his wish to entrust the Lotus Sutra to those who will spread it in the strife-filled saha world after his passing, and he exhorts the bodhisattvas present to come forward and vow to carry out this mission . . .
In the second pronouncement, Shakyamuni indicates that the reason all Buddhas of the ten directions—that is to say, throughout the universe—have gathered at the assembly of the Lotus Sutra in the saha world is to “make certain the Law will long endure” (LSOC, 216), and he urges those present to openly state their vow to propagate the sutra after his passing. In other words, the perpetuation of the Law in this troubled world is the will of all Buddhas throughout the universe—that in itself underscores just how important it is that the Law endures . . .
In the third pronouncement, Shakyamuni sets forth the “six difficult and nine easy acts.” Explaining how difficult it will be to propagate the sutra in the age after his passing, he commands the bodhisattvas to arouse a great aspiration and proclaim their vow to undertake this arduous challenge. (Lecture Series, 79–80)
Shakyamuni’s Evaluation of the
Relative Merit of the Sutras
Of these three pronouncements, Nichiren devotes the greatest discussion to the teaching of the six difficult and nine easy acts, focusing on this teaching as a means for judging the relative merits of the different sutras . . .
In short, the reason Shakyamuni expound the six difficult and nine easy acts and urges the bodhisattvas to propagate the Lotus Sutra after his demise is that this sutra constitutes the foremost teaching in that it assures enlightenment for all people of the evil age to come. (Lecture Series, 80)
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The various other sutras are easy to believe and easy to understand because the Buddha expounded them according to the capacity of beings of the nine worlds; a method known as “preaching in accordance with the minds of others.” The Lotus Sutra is difficult to believe and difficult to understand because the Buddha directly revealed his own enlightenment. In other words, he employed “preaching in accordance with his own mind.” Thus Dengyo continues, “To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way of a person of courage.” (Lecture Series, 80)
“The Richest Person in All
of Present-Day Japan”
There is no greater spiritual wealth than to read with one’s life—to put into action—the Lotus Sutra, which is the highest teaching. Through our practice of Nichiren Buddhism, we of the SGI also come to savor this vast state of life.
How remarkable it is that Nichiren, although exiled on Sado Island, can declare himself the richest person in all Japan. In other letters written while on Sado, he also exclaims: “Though we may be exiles, we have cause to be joyful in both body and mind!” (“Reply to Sairen-bo,” WND-1, 312), and “I feel immeasurable delight even though I am now an exile” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 386). (Lecture Series, 82)
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Selfless practice carried out without begrudging one’s life is the key to achieving such a lofty, unhindered state of being, as Nichiren indicates when he writes, “I have dedicated my life to the Lotus Sutra, and my name will be handed down in ages to come” (WND-1, 268). By devoting ourselves to the Lotus Sutra, we can tap Myoho-renge-kyo from within and bring it to bloom in our lives. (Lecture Series, 82)
A Person of Courage
Seeks the Profound
In this way, day after day, with courage and conviction, we have nobly sought to “propagate the Lotus Sutra widely in an evil age,” “teach it even to one person” and “inquire about its meaning”—all of which are described among the six difficult acts. This intrepid spirit to fight for kosen-rufu is itself “the way of a person of
courage,” and becomes the heart of the Buddha. We have succeeded in opening an unprecedented age of worldwide kosen-rufu, thanks to our members’ valiant struggles that resonate with the Buddha’s spirit.
Viewed in terms of human life, “shallow” means inertia, idleness and cowardice. Bravely defeating such inner weakness and seeking deep conviction and profound human greatness is “the way of a person of courage.” To seek the shallow or the profound—this inner battle takes place in our hearts many times each day. (Lecture Series, 83)
Chapter 9: The Two Admonitions
of the “Devadatta” Chapter –
A Call To Lead All People to Enlightenment Based on the Teachings of Changing Poison Into Medicine and Attaining Buddhahood in One’s Present Form
Two Key Teachings: The Enlightenment
of Evil People and the Enlightenment of Women
In addition to the three pronouncements of the Buddha in the “Treasure Tower” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the “Devadatta” chapter contains two enlightening admonitions. [The first reveals that Devadatta will attain Buddhahood.] Devadatta was a man of incorrigible disbelief, of the type called icchantika, and yet it is predicted that he will in the future become a Buddha called the Thus Come One Heavenly King . . . Thus it is revealed that all those who commit the five or the seven cardinal sins or who slander the Law or who are icchantikas inherently opposed to taking faith will become Buddhas like the Thus Come One Heavenly King. Poison turns into sweet dew, the finest of all flavors.
[The second admonition concerns the fact that the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood.] When she attained Buddhahood, this does not mean simply that one person did so. It reveals the fact that all women will attain Buddhahood. In the various Hinayana sutras that were preached before the Lotus Sutra, it is denied that women can ever attain Buddhahood. In the Mahayana sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, it would appear that women can attain Buddhahood or be reborn in the pure land. But they may do so only after they have changed into some other form . . . When the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, it opened up the way to attaining Buddhahood for all women of later ages. (WND-1, 268–69)
The enlightenment of evil people and women was not taught in the provisional pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. Consequently, the fact that it is expounded in the Lotus Sutra underscores again that the sutra is the one supreme teaching by which all people in this defiled age of the Latt er Day of the Law can experience Buddhahood.
This is where we find the Lotus Sutra’s true greatness. If the Lotus Sutra could not open the way to enlightenment for the unfortunate beings denied Buddhahood in the provisional teachings, then it could not possibly enable all people of the Latter Day to attain that state of life either. The hallmark of a votary of the Lotus Sutra in this age is bringing the true greatness of the Lotus Sutra to shine forth, responding to Shakyamuni’s call by actually striving to realize the Buddha’s wish and intent.
It is important that we actively engage in the challenge of guiding those around us to happiness. Without that struggle, any ambition of achieving happiness for all humanity is meaningless. A religion is as good as dead if it cannot provide an answer to the vital question of how we can arouse the joy of living in the hearts of those experiencing the deepest suffering and despair, those who have lost all hope. (Lecture Series, 87)
Opening the Path To Attaining
Buddhahood in an Evil Age
We can identify three main points in Nichiren’s explanation of the two admonitions in this treatise. First, Devadatta—an evil person and icchantika—is predicted to attain Buddhahood. Icchantikas were people of incorrigible disbelief who in the provisional pre-Lotus Sutra teachings were said to have the least possibility of attaining Buddhahood. Then, the dragon girl—a female who suffered discrimination in society and in the religious tenets and customs of Shakyamuni’s time—swiftly gives an actual demonstration of her ability to attain Buddhahood. This highlights the fact that the Lotus Sutra is the scripture that opens the path to enlightenment for all people living in an evil age . . .
Second, as a doctrinal basis for the teaching of universal enlightenment, the Daishonin emphasizes the “immediate attainment of Buddhahood that is based on the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life” (WND-1, 269). This concept of instantly attaining Buddhahood is found only in the Lotus Sutra. Here Nichiren clarifies the transformative power that makes this feat possible. In the case of evil people attaining enlightenment, he explains this power lies in the potential to “change poison into medicine,” that is, to transform even the greatest evil into the greatest good. In the case of women attaining enlightenment, this power, he explains, lies in the actual proof of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form, that is, without having to undergo a physical transformation or rebirth. (Lecture Series, 87–88)
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Third, by expounding that evil people and women can attain Buddhahood—thereby establishing the potential for all human beings in an evil age to become enlightened—Nichiren also opens the way to the “attainment of Buddhahood by all fathers and all mothers” (see WND-1, 269). (Lecture Series, 88)
Believing in the Transformative Power
of the Mystic Law
In “What It means to hear the Buddha Vehicle for the First Time” (WND-2, 741–45), addressed to his lay follower Toki Jonin, Nichiren explains in the depth the meaning of “changing poison into medicine.” He writes that poison refers to the three paths—earthly desires, karma and suffering, while medicine indicates the three virtues—the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation. Changing poison into medicine, he explains, is the principle whereby people living amid the negative causality of the three paths can manifest the positive benefit of the three virtues in their own lives through the power of the Mystic Law. (Lecture Series, 92)
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The life of an ordinary person engaged in a cycle of cause and effect based on the three paths is the seed for attaining the exact opposite state of life, one pervaded by the three virtues. In other words, it is the seed for Buddhahood. The key to changing poison into medicine is to believe in the Lotus Sutra, which elucidates the mystic nature of life whereby the three paths are instantly transformed into the three virtues (see Gosho zenshu, p. 983). Faith, or confidence, in the Mystic Law unlocks this wondrous and unfathomable power inherent in our lives. (Lecture Series, 92)
“The Lotus Sutra Is The Classic of
Filial Piety of Buddhism”
Only with the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, in which the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, did it become evident that the attainment of Buddhahood was a possibility for all mothers. And when it was revealed that even an evil man such as Devadatta could attain Buddhahood, it became evident that Buddhahood was a possibility for all mothers. And when it was revealed that even an evil man such as Devadatta could attain Buddhahood, it became evident that Buddhahood was a possibility for all fathers. The Lotus Sutra is The Classic of Filial Piety of Buddhism. (WND-1, 269)
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Nichiren repeatedly emphasizes the importance of us ourselves manifesting Buddhahood, if we are truly intent on repaying our debt of gratitude to our parents. He also explains that if it weren’t possible to secure our own parents’ enlightenment, there would be no way we could help others gain it. Nichiren taught his followers that only through the Lotus Sutra could they demonstrate true filial devotion and care for their parents. (Lecture Series, 94)
6 DIFFICULT ACTS AND 9 EASY ACTS
A series of comparisons set forth by Shakyamuni in “Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Compared to the six difficult acts, Shakyamuni describes the nine impossible acts as “easy” to emphasize how extremely difficult it will be to embrace the sutra and teach it to others in the evil age after his passing.
6 DIFFICULT ACTS
1. to propagate the Lotus Sutra widely
2. to copy it or cause someone else to copy it
3. to recite it even for a short while
4. to teach it even to one person
5. to hear of and accept it and inquire about its meaning
6. to maintain faith in it.
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9 EASY ACTS
1. to teach innumerable sutras other than the Lotus Sutra
2. to take up Mount Sumeru and hurl it across countless Buddha lands
3. to kick a major world system into a different quarter with one’s toe
4. to stand in the Summit of Being Heaven and preach innumerable sutras other than the Lotus Sutra
5. to grasp the sky with one’s hand and travel around with it
6. to place the earth on one’s toenail and ascend to the Brahma Heaven
7. to carry dry grass on one’s back into the great fires occurring at the end of the kalpa without being burned
8. to preach eighty-four thousand teachings and enable one’s listeners to obtain the six transcendental powers
9. to enable innumerable people to reach the stage of arhat and acquire the six transcendental powers