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It All Comes Down to Our Behavior

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Photo by Susan Forner.

The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being. (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 852)

People begin practicing Nichiren Buddhism for various reasons. But the ultimate purpose of Buddhist practice is to enable each person to become a better person by learning to respect all people, thereby creating a better world.

The passage above is the concluding statement in Nichiren Daishonin’s letter titled “The Three Kinds of Trea-
sure.” In it, he explains the Buddhist teaching that fundamental changes within oneself revealed through our behavior inevitably result in changes in the environment.

Here, he says that the Lotus Sutra is the most important teaching of Buddhism. And the concrete practice of the Lotus Sutra is explained in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” its 20th chapter. He further states that Shakyamuni appeared in the world and expounded his teachings to show people the most meaningful and fulfilling way to conduct themselves as human beings. He suggests that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is the example of such conduct that practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism should strive to follow.

So who was Never Disparaging and how did he conduct himself? He was a bodhisattva who lived in the remote past, at a time when arrogant monks held great authority and power. Never Disparaging venerated all people, repeating the phrase: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308). Because the teaching of the entire sutra is condensed into this brief statement, it is referred to as “the abbreviated Lotus Sutra.”

Despite being mocked and attacked, Never Disparaging persevered in his practice of respecting all people. As
a result, he attained Buddhahood. And seeing what he had achieved, many who had once slandered him became his followers and took faith in the sutra.

Striving with the same conviction as Never Disparaging, Nichiren persevered amid intense persecution to awaken all people to their inherent Buddha nature and help them establish absolute happiness through the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

We, too, can learn important lessons from Never Disparaging and Nichiren: belief in the dignity and unlimited potential of all people; living based on the vow to lead all people to happiness; and the spirit to persevere in faith.

Though the term Buddha nature does not appear in the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice and behavior embody the teaching that all living beings possess this enlightened nature. Rather than using theory to explain belief in the sanctity of life, it is through Never Disparaging’s actions that we learn this unparalleled philosophy.

Naturally, it may be easy to be respectful to some people, but it is very challenging to be respectful to every person in our environment. As Buddhists, however, it is important to strengthen our faith and conviction that all people inherently possess Buddhahood and act accordingly.

SGI President Ikeda firmly advises us:

No matter how much we talk about the correct teaching and doctrines of Nichiren Buddhism, if we slander and malign one another, in our hearts we are betraying the spirit of the Daishonin. That’s a grave offense. Please do not forget this point.

Humans are emotional beings. And there will invariably be times when we have to engage in activities with someone we may not like or get along with. At such times, you should chant earnestly to be able to unite, get along with and respect that person. In the process, you will be able to transform your own life condition. And when you change, you’ll be able to unite with anyone.

The important thing is to get along. That’s the key to friendship and camaraderie. That’s where you’ll find the joy of faith and victory in life. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, p. 146)

Essentially, no matter how others may treat us or what they may say, our challenge is to be the ones who generate and inspire unity, hope and happiness wherever we are. It is through such effort and behavior that we can effectively convey the true value of Nichiren Buddhist practice.

The example of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging teaches us that when we act with respect for the Buddha nature in others, the Buddha nature in others responds in kind (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 165). This is why the ultimate respectful behavior is to share Nichiren Buddhism with others and encourage them to reveal the unlimited potential they possess. It is through such compassionate and earnest actions that we gain good fortune in our lives, and establish the foundation for respect and peace in our families and our society.




The following are excerpts from The New Human Revolution, vol. 25, in which SGI President Ikeda encourages those not seeing results despite working hard to introduce their friends to Nichiren Buddhism.

You all know about Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. Our propagation efforts to plant the seeds of Bud-
dhism are the modern-day equivalent of his practice. Isn’t that amazing? . . .

Those who hear the teaching of the Mystic Law may not accept it immediately. They may reject it, stirring greed, anger and foolishness in their hearts, leading them to persecute the person who taught them. Through having heard the Law, though, a connection to Buddhism has been forged in their lives, and the seed for attaining Buddhahood has been sown within them . . .

Our goal is for each person to find true happiness through practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Therefore, it goes without saying that it’s very important for you to have a strong desire that they begin practicing this faith for themselves. But even if they don’t practice Buddhism, there’s no need to be disillusioned or disappointed.

Try talking to one person. If it doesn’t go well, try talking to two more people. If that still doesn’t work out, try three, five, 10, and if 10 are unfruitful, then try 20. If 20 doesn’t work out, then try 30 and 40. The point is just to keep sharing Buddhism, with conviction and in high spirits. All those efforts will be transformed into benefit and good fortune, a force for transforming your karma. We are all “Bodhisattvas Never Disparaging” of the modern day. (pp. 110–13)

(p. 9)

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