Ikeda Wisdom Academy: March 2018
The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Chapter 12 & 13
The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study focusing on The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. This month, academy members will study the 12th and 13th 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 – March 2018
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 12 & 13
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Why the Votary Encounters Great Persecutions
The Votary’s Battle Against the Fundamental Evil of Slander of the Law
Nichiren Daishonin composed “The Opening of the Eyes” to address the doubt prevalent among his disciples and the general public: Why does the votary of the Lotus Sutra encounter persecution, and why aren’t the heavenly deities protecting him? Earlier in this work, Nichiren cites various passages from chapters 11 to 13 of the Lotus Sutra to offer “documentary proof” that he was the votary of the Lotus Sutra. He then provides three points of “theoretical proof” for why the votary encounters persecution, followed by the declaration of his vow, or “actual proof,” of his triumphant state of life in order to dispel at its roots the doubts of people.
Someone may raise this question: It would surely appear that the three types of enemies are present today, but there is no votary of the Lotus Sutra. If one were to say that you [Nichiren] are the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the following serious discrepancies would become apparent. The Lotus Sutra states, “The young sons of heavenly beings will wait on him and serve him. Swords and staves will not touch him and poison will have no power to harm him.” It also reads, “If people speak ill of and revile him, their mouths will be closed and stopped up.” And it states, “They [who have heard the Law] will enjoy peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences.” It also states, “[If there are those who . . . trouble and disrupt the preachers of the Law], their heads will split into seven pieces like the branches of the arjaka tree.” Furthermore, it reads, “In this present existence they [the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra] will gain the reward of good fortune.” And it adds: “If anyone sees a person who accepts and upholds this sutra and tries to expose the faults or evils of that person, whether what he speaks is true or not, he will in his present existence be afflicted with white leprosy.” [How do you explain these discrepancies?] (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 278)
True Peace and Security Lie in Strug-gling to Overcome Great Hardships
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin says, “When one practices the Lotus Sutra [in the Latter Day of the Law], difficulties will arise, and these are to be looked on as ‘peaceful’ practices” (OTT, 115). For a votary, in other words, peace and security mean the genuine peace and security that come from establishing the indomitable state of life with which to continue fighting dauntlessly against great persecution.
After citing examples of votaries persecuted, Nichiren writes, “If we consider the second part of your question [that is, the heart of the matter], we must note the following points” (WND-1, 279). He then offers a three-point explanation as to why Lotus Sutra votaries come under fierce attack and do not receive the heavenly deities’ protection and why the perpetrators of the attacks do not suffer immediate punishment. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 115)
The Daishonin emphasizes that no matter what karmic causes we have made in the past, through the causes we make in the present, we can achieve a brilliant future.
The Daishonin explains that even though the Lotus Sutra says that those who harass the sutra’s votaries will incur immediate punishment, it only refers to cases where the votaries have not slandered the Lotus Sutra in past existences. If the votaries have slandered the sutra in previous lifetimes, however, they will meet with persecution as retribution for that offense. (Lecture Series, 117)
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Present effects are due to karmic causes from the past. But the causes we make in the present give rise to the effects we will experience in the future. It is always the present that counts. While the causes we have made in past lifetimes have contributed to shaping our present, what we do in the present moment decides our future. In fact, the Daishonin emphasizes that no matter what karmic causes we have made in the past, through the causes we make in the present, we can achieve a brilliant future. Here we find the true worth of Nichiren Buddhism. In explaining karma, Nichiren’s purpose is always to show that we can definitely transform it. (Lecture Series, 117)
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On the matter of punishment, Nichiren explains that persecutors of those votaries who are free of negative karma will in fact incur immediate retribution. Notably, this punishment is not meted out by some external agent like a deity; rather, it is the natural outcome of a person’s own actions and occurs in accord with the law of cause and effect. The Buddhist concept of punishment is thus retribution based on the Law. (Lecture Series, 118)
Icchantikas Who Are Destined to Fall Into Hell
The Daishonin explains that icchantikas, who are destined to fall into hell in their next lifetime, do not experience immediate punishment. He writes: “We should note that persons who are inevitably destined to fall into hell in their next existence, even though they commit grave offenses in this life, will suffer no immediate punishment. The icchantikas are examples of this” (WND-1, 279). (Lecture Series, 118)
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Icchantikas are people whose lives are so deeply steeped in disbelief and slander of the Law that they have no regret or remorse for their actions. Of course, even icchantikas possess the innate Buddha nature—the direct cause for attaining the state of Buddhahood. Lacking the faith necessary for manifesting it, however, they cannot break through the darkness that shrouds their highest inner potential. As a result, they behave as if they did not possess the Buddha nature at all, evil instead filling their minds and their actions. They are like people who wander around in the dark even though the sun is shining, because their own lives are veiled in heavy clouds that block out any light. (Lecture Series, 118)
The Heavenly Deities Abandon the Land
Third, we have the problem of the departure of the heavenly deities. The Daishonin writes: “It would appear that the guardian deities have deserted this country, and this is probably one reason why offenders do not suffer any immediate punishment. In an age that slanders the Law, guardian deities will take their leave, and the various heavenly gods will cease to lend their protection. That is why the votaries of the correct teaching do not receive any sign of divine favor but, on the contrary, encounter severe difficulties” (WND-1, 280). (Lecture Series, 119)
The Vow and Practice to Dedicate One’s Life to Propagating the Lotus Sutra
The struggle of votaries is a struggle to reform the realm of Buddhism in order to eradicate the evil of slander of the Law. That is why votaries of the sutra are destined to suffer hardships resulting from the attacks that inevitably arise to hinder their efforts. Such difficulties, however, serve to forge and temper the votaries’ lives, enabling them to expiate their slander of the Lotus Sutra in past lifetimes. Moreover, all their trials are for the cause of enabling people of an evil age to establish Buddhahood in their lives. Because the votaries wage such a struggle, they attain a vast state of life in which they can view “difficulties . . . as ‘peaceful’ practices (OTT, 115). (Lecture Series, 120)
Nichiren Buddhism Forges “Fighting Spirit”
When viewed in the light of the Daishonin’s immense state of life as the one who embodies the three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent—of the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Buddhism is not a teaching that laments the absence of protection from the heavenly deities. On the contrary, it seeks to revive the powerful functions of the heavenly deities throughout the country and realize an ideal society by actively working to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land. (Lecture Series, 120–21)
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Nichiren Buddhism forges people’s fighting spirit. This could be described as the essence of “The Opening of the Eyes.”
Accordingly, on the fundamental level, the doubts about persecution and the lack of protection can only be resolved when we each stand up with a great desire and vow for kosen-rufu and dedicate our lives to spreading the Lotus Sutra with the spirit of “not begrudging one’s life” and of “unselfish devotion to the propagation of the Law.” (Lecture Series, 121)
“I Will Be the Pillar of Japan”
Standing Alone and Dedicating One’s Life to the Vow for Kosen-rufu
Dispelling People’s Deep-Seated Doubts
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. . .
Whether tempted by good or threatened by evil, if one casts aside the Lotus Sutra, one destines oneself for hell. Here I will make a great vow. Though I might be offered the rulership of Japan if I would only abandon the Lotus Sutra, accept the teachings of the Meditation Sutra, and look forward to rebirth in the Pure Land, though I might be told that my father and mother will have their heads cut off if I do not recite the Nembutsu—whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as persons of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield! All other troubles are no more to me than dust before the wind.
I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it! (WND-1, 280–81)
Prior to this section, Nichiren addresses people’s doubts through explanations based on documentary and theoretical proof. Here, however, he strives to break through the fundamental delusion in people’s hearts by citing his own way of life, which is based on an unshakable vow. This section is like a compassionate lion’s roar aimed at purifying and elevating the lives of all people. (Lecture Series, 125)
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In [the above] passage, the Daishonin reveals his immense state of life, rising high above the doubts and criticisms held by the general populace, as well as his followers. It shows his profound inner commitment as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, transcending the mundane desire for divine protection or freedom from difficulties. As far as Nichiren is concerned, there is something more important than whether we receive the protection of the heavenly deities—something we must risk our lives to accomplish, no matter how daunting the obstacles. And that is the attainment of Buddhahood by all people, the highest good, which is the great vow Shakyamuni proclaimed in the Lotus Sutra. In other words, it is kosen-rufu, the actualization of that vow. This is what Nichiren fought to achieve, an aspiration beyond the realm of mundane cares and attachments that preoccupied all society, including his followers. (Lecture Series, 125–26)
Nonregression Is the Essence of Faith
The most important thing in faith is a spirit of nonregression. One must not regress in deed, word or thought. Never losing the spirit to keep struggling for as long as we live—this is the spirit of Nichiren Buddhism and the heart of the Soka Gakkai. (Lecture Series, 126)
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Unless we forge the spiritual strength and purity not to be swayed by anything, to stay true to our vow without faltering, the flame of our Buddhist practice will be quickly extinguished by the winds of dark, insidious forces. Cultivating and strengthening such a spirit is the key to nonregression. Without a profound commitment and resolve, we cannot defeat the obstacles caused by negative influences. (Lecture Series, 127)
Living True to One’s Vow for Kosen-rufu Is the Noblest Path
Buddhahood manifests in the lives of people of strong faith who make the Buddha’s vow their own and who dedicate their lives to its fulfillment. The Soka Gakkai has realized resounding victory in every endeavor because we have carried out this vow without begrudging our lives.
Our vow is central to our efforts to spread the Mystic Law in the evil Latter Day. Without a powerful commitment to uphold and spread the correct teaching throughout our lives, we cannot turn back the raging currents of this polluted age; we cannot defeat the destructive and devilish tendencies in human life.
Our vow to work for kosen-rufu serves as a fundamental source of strength, giving us the courage to remain undaunted by even the greatest hardships and trials. When we dedicate ourselves with this vow, then no matter what obstacles and devilish functions arise, our lives will shine with a lofty, invincible spirit. No matter what karma should assail us, our lives will glow with the spirit of invincible champions.
As long as our commitment to this vow remains steadfast, then absolutely no devilish functions or karma can defeat us. Those who abandoned their faith and turned against us in the past were invariably people who grew arrogant, became obsessed with fame and fortune, and lost sight of their commitment. All of them, however, have met with ignominious defeat. As Nichiren writes, “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1000). He teaches that having a nonregressing spirit and remaining true to one’s vow are the essence of victory as a human being. (Lecture Series, 129)
Pillar of the Spirit, Eyes of Wisdom, Ship of Salvation
In Nichiren’s day, Japan was on the verge of collapse, having lost its spiritual moorings. Evil priests spreading the poison of slander of the Law filled the land, and people were left adrift in a sea of suffering.
A house without pillars will collapse. Japan was a society with no spiritual foundation, teeming with negative influences, its people wandering along without purpose. In such a spiritual wasteland, Nichiren stood up alone. We can interpret his resolve as him declaring: “I will become the spiritual pillar of this devastated country. I will become its eyes so that it can distinguish true from false amid the prevailing confusion in Buddhist thought. I will become a great ship that can rescue those who are adrift.” And he held fast to his great vow throughout his life. (Lecture Series, 130)
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In any time and place, a kosen-rufu movement always begins with the stand-alone spirit. With that spirit, we can limitlessly activate the power of the Mystic Law. (Lecture Series, 130)