Transforming Our Fundamental Attitude
Directly engaging the gears of our human revolution.
The following is an excerpt of On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 31–34.
When difficulties beset us, no matter how trying they may be, we must clearly see them for the obstacles or devilish functions they are and battle against them without retreating. This is the way of life of those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and dedicate their lives to the Mystic Law.
The true lineage of faith we inherit in the SGI is what opens up this infinite and boundless power of the Gohonzon. Faith as practiced by the SGI entails an active struggle to manifest the Mystic Law in our lives; it also produces clear actual proof of benefit. When we advance together with the SGI, we naturally come to internalize the correct practice of faith as taught by Nichiren Daishonin.
Therefore, those who sincerely chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon and practice and participate in activities with the SGI cannot fail to become Buddhas. The purpose of faith is to freely realize our full potential and shine in our own unique way. That’s why it’s important to keep advancing and challenging ourselves, to have the spirit: “I will exert myself in my practice! I will deepen my faith! I will do my best as a member of the SGI.” This is the certain path to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.
With this understanding, let’s concretely and strictly apply to our daily practice Nichiren’s admonition, “If you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 3). To seek the Mystic Law somewhere outside ourselves essentially amounts to evading responsibility for our own lives.
Construct a self that is solid and resolute like towering Mount Fuji.
Practicing Nichiren Buddhism means not being swayed this way and that; it means constructing a self that is solid and resolute like towering Mount Fuji. But if we neglect this task and focus our energies somewhere else, before we’re even aware of it, we can end up veering onto the path of externally seeking the Law.
For example, if we chant to the Gohonzon but always blame other people or our environment for our circumstances, we are avoiding the challenge of tackling our inner darkness or ignorance. By doing so, we are seeking enlightenment outside ourselves. By changing on a more profound level, we can begin to improve our situation. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the driving force for that change.
It is also important that we don’t fall into the trap of practicing “dependent faith,” where we pin our hopes on having our prayers answered through the divine or transcendent powers of gods or Buddhas. This is a typical example of viewing the Law as outside oneself. The provisional Buddhas of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings readily lend themselves to this kind of faith, the essence of which is escapism.
Even when they’re obviously suffering, people of dependent faith avoid looking at their problems. They don’t have the courage or make any actual effort to challenge their situation. In such cases, quite frankly, faith is simply something people hide behind as they avoid dealing with reality. Without a struggle, however, we cannot directly engage the gears of our human revolution.
Because our practice of faith is aimed at attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, it is essential that we have a solidly focused attitude when chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is like trying to shoot an arrow: without a clear target, we won’t draw the bow with any real force or determination.
To use the analogy of mountain climbing, if we just walk around the base of the mountain and never actually attempt to ascend its slopes, we’ll never reach the summit, no matter how much time passes. If we avoid challenging our own issues, we can never strengthen and develop ourselves, and we won’t be able to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.
In addition, it is important that we try to rid our lives of ambiguous, elusive doubt and disbelief as well as grumbling and complaining. The erroneous belief that Myoho-renge-kyo (the Mystic Law) exists outside our
lives has at its core an inability to believe that all people—ourselves and others—possess the Buddha nature. And this disbelief stems from fundamental darkness.
In terms of attitude in faith, this tendency to skeptically regard the Buddha nature as “a nice ideal but one that doesn’t really change reality” will manifest itself as prayer that is vague and lacking in conviction. If our efforts in faith are halfhearted, we cannot change our attitude or fundamentally transform our lives.
“Have a solidly focused attitude when chanting.”
As Nichiren indicates when he says, “You must summon up deep faith” (WND-1, 3), if we hope to make our inherent Buddha nature the basis of our lives—or as Nichiren terms it, to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime—we must continue striving to deepen our faith, our conviction in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And as our faith deepens, it will manifest as confident and concrete prayer.
Because our practice of faith is aimed at attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, it is essential that we have a solidly focused attitude when chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is like trying to shoot an arrow: without a clear target, we won’t draw the bow with any real force or determination. In the same way, when we replace vague yearnings with concrete determinations and confident prayer, we can definitely accomplish what we hope to achieve.
Grumbling and complaining are the principal gateways to ambiguous, elusive doubt and disbelief. Even if we know it is wrong, we may find ourselves grumbling and complaining in spite of ourselves. Should such behavior become habitual, it will act as a constant brake on our growth and cause us to forget about advancing and improving ourselves. We will then effectively close off our own potential, falling into the path of seeking the Law outside ourselves. While it might be a real challenge to stop grumbling and complaining, we can derive from the Mystic Law the wisdom to control these tendencies and use them as a springboard for positive growth and development.
“Each person has the potential to become a Buddha.”
Let’s also strictly guard against slandering our fellow members. Slandering and harboring resentment and jealousy toward others results in denying their Buddha nature. The inability to believe in others’ Buddha nature—just like not believing in our own—causes us to stray off course and seek the Law externally. Our Buddha nature is what fundamentally spurs us to realize happiness for ourselves and others. Not to believe in the Buddha nature is to deny the spirit of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches that all people have the potential for Buddhahood. Consequently, Nichiren sternly warns that if we go against the spirit of the sutra, not only will we not be able to accomplish our desire to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, but we will also end up committing slander of the Law.
Also, unless we practice together united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind,” the great desire for kosen-rufu cannot be fulfilled.
Let us confirm once again that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of ourselves and others is the true means for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. Each person has the potential to become a Buddha. (pp. 31–33)
Firmly believing that “I am Myoho-renge-kyo.”
Our daily realities are filled with an endless succession of problems. But with the firm belief that our lives are Myoho-renge-kyo, we should strive to boldly challenge everything with the unwavering conviction that we can overcome all hardships and become happy without fail. When we maintain deep faith based on the foundation that “I am Myoho-renge-kyo,” we can take on any problem with courage. The key to victory in life lies in whether we can bring forth courage. Not a shrinking timidity but a challenging courage— this is what we need to have!
Irrespective of the obstacles we may encounter in the course of our practice, we must not retreat a single step. We must not be alarmed or startled by them. The power of the Mystic Law can triumph over anything. To become deeply confident of this is most important.
Fearing hardships and bemoaning and resenting our environment are to believe that the Law is outside our own lives. So is losing confidence in our ability to overcome our circumstances and turning to others in the hope that they will save us, or blaming others for our problems, or giving in to hopelessness and resignation.
“Courageous faith can break through the dark clouds of fear.”
When difficulties beset us, no matter how trying they may be, we must clearly see them for the obstacles or devilish functions they are and battle against them without retreating. This is the way of life of those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and dedicate their lives to the Mystic Law. Nichiren says, “[My] disciples cannot accomplish anything if they are cowardly” (“The Teaching, Practice, and Proof,” WND-1, 481). In accord with these words, let’s cast aside cowardice and make courage our foremost attribute.
People of courageous faith can break through the dark clouds of fear, ignorance and delusion to bring the sun of the Mystic Law to shine and beautiful flowers of Myoho-renge—the lotus of the Mystic Law—to bloom in their lives.
President Toda gave the following guidance to young women’s division members in the pioneering days of our movement: “You should take pride in possessing the same life as the Buddha of the Latter Day. Win in life with a noble spirit. You must absolutely never depreciate yourselves.”
Nichiren Buddhism starts from the realization that the supreme lifecondition of Buddhahood exists in each of us. It is a teaching that makes it possible for us to achieve the profoundest inner transformation—a transformation of our fundamental attitude or mindset. That’s why Nichiren emphasizes the importance of our minds, of what’s in our hearts. (p. 34)