Ikeda Wisdom Academy: June 2018
The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Chapter 19
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 19th 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 – July 2018
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapters 19th
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Enjoying Infinite Benefit Throughout Eternity
The Boundless Joy of a Life of Unceasing Challenge Based on the Mystic Law
The essence of Nichiren Buddhism is having a fighting spirit. Without a fighting spirit, we cannot truly win over the darkness of ignorance inherent in our lives. Nichiren Daishonin revealed the state of life he had acquired through battling unrelenting persecutions and left behind the compassionate practice of shakubuku. What is the true benefit of practicing in this way? It is advancing on the path of indestructible happiness across the three existences—past, present and future.
Those Lacking a Desire for the Way Become Mired in the Sufferings of Birth and Death
I, Nichiren, am sovereign, teacher, and father and mother to all the people of Japan. But the men of the Tendai school [who do not refute misleading teachings] are all great enemies of the people. [As Chang-an has noted,] “One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.”
One who has not conceived a desire for the way can never free oneself from the sufferings of birth and death. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, was cursed by all the followers of non-Buddhist teachings and labeled as a man of great evil . . . But all of these abuses were incurred because of the Lotus Sutra, and they are therefore no shame to the men who suffered them. To be praised by fools—that is the greatest shame. Now that I, Nichiren, have incurred the wrath of the authorities, the priests of the Tendai and True Word schools are no doubt delighted. They are strange and shameless men.
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T’ien-t’ai has said that “the method chosen should be that which accords with the time.” The propagation of the Buddhist teachings should follow the time. For what I have done, I have been condemned to exile, but it is a small suffering to undergo in this present life and not one worth lamenting. In future lives I will enjoy
immense happiness, a thought that gives me great joy. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 287
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The Tendai school, in whose halls of learning Nichiren Daishonin had also studied in his youth, could be described as the leading Buddhist school in Japan at the time. Yet, no matter how magnificent its temples or how actively it engaged in scholarship, religious ceremonies or prayers, it could not be said to uphold the correct teaching of Buddhism if it failed to inspire ordinary people to embrace faith that would lead to genuine enlightenment.
Furthermore, even though they professed belief in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra—the underlying spirit of which is to enable all people to attain Buddhahood—the practitioners of the Tendai school not only failed to denounce misleading teachings that obstructed people from attaining enlightenment, but some among their ranks also joined in ridiculing and attacking Nichiren, who was doing his utmost to propagate the Lotus Sutra. This is why Nichiren sternly rebukes them, going so far as to call them “great enemies” of all the people of Japan. He declares that such individuals, bereft of any desire to seek the Buddha way, cannot possibly free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death.
In contrast, Nichiren is dedicated to actively refuting slander of the Law. He declares that the momentous persecutions he is now undergoing as a result of those efforts are merely a minor suffering to be borne in this life, and that he feels tremendous joy in the knowledge that he will experience immense happiness throughout countless future lifetimes. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 177–78)
Buddhahood: A Life State in Which Struggles Themselves Are a Source of Joy
Genuine, wholehearted struggles in the realm of faith abound with joy. Those who battle tenaciously against obstacles and negative functions can polish themselves and attain an expansive state of life. The Nirvana Sutra says that those who continually exert themselves for the sake of Buddhism can attain a “diamond-like body.” (Lecture Series, 178)
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Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is an activity whereby, through faith, we align our lives with Myoho-renge-kyo—the essential nature of phenomena, or Dharma nature; it is a struggle to dispel the darkness of ignorance and illusion and bring forth our enlightened nature. Our efforts each day to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and advance kosen-rufu solidify within us the fundamental struggle to defeat negative functions and imbue our lives with the Mystic Law; they are the means by which we forge and polish ourselves at the deepest level. (Lecture Series, 179)
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Any position, honor or wealth we may gain we will possess only during our present existence. But the unshakable state of life we develop through faith in the Mystic Law represents our greatest spiritual treasure and manifests the eternity of Myoho-renge-kyo. Through faith, we can establish an invincible state of being that enables us to fight on undaunted whenever or whatever the occasion.
Those who have forged such an imperturbable spirit to fight continually can live confidently, recognizing that birth and death are an innate part of life. This awareness that our lives are eternal over the three existences doesn’t mean, however, we can somehow see, with telescopic vision, specific scenes or events from our past or future existences. Those who continue making efforts for the sake of Buddhism are awakened in the depths of their beings to the eternal and indestructible nature of their lives. Those who have valiantly carried out the struggle of compassion to refute error and proclaim the truth in this lifetime know that they can rejoin that great struggle once more in their next existence. (Lecture Series, 179)
To Be Praised by Fools Is the Greatest Shame
As Buddhists, what matters most is not how we are judged by society, but whether we are actively waging a struggle to spread the correct teaching of Buddhism in a manner that accords with the time.
In the passage from “The Opening of the Eyes” that we are studying, Nichiren explains the way various practitioners devoted themselves to Buddhism at different times . . .
While the form of practice in each of these cases is different, they are all actions that accord with the respective times in terms of selfless dedication to Buddhism. Their actions arise from a spiritual struggle committed to steadfastly protecting and perpetuating the correct teaching. When these Buddhist practitioners win in this spiritual struggle and act to spread the teaching in a way most suited to the times, boundless joy wells forth in their lives.
Therefore, Nichiren says that the persecutions he has encountered as a result of confronting the devilish nature inherent in life are no more than “a small suffering to undergo in this present life” (WND-1, 287). He also clarifies that the eternally indestructible happiness he has attained through practicing in accord with the time in the Latter Day of the Law is the great benefit he has derived from his struggle as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. (Lecture Series, 180–81)
A Movement “Opening the Eyes” of People Around the Globe
It is evident that Nichiren Daishonin was trying to convey to his followers, who were then facing various persecutions in Kamakura, the vast and towering state of life he had attained. By describing his own imperturbable spirit, he undoubtedly sought to encourage them from the depths of his being, reassuring them to the effect: “You don’t have anything to worry about! We can become eternal victors. My disciples, follow my example!” Here we find the true meaning of “opening the eyes,” through which Nichiren sought to free all of his followers from the darkness of ignorance and awaken them from delusion.
The fighting spirit of one person who takes up the challenge to battle negative forces can inspire a stand-alone spirit in the heart of another and then another in an unending chain reaction. As the number of such courageous individuals steadily spreads, people throughout the land will come “to open their eyes.” Today, Nichiren Buddhism is “opening the eyes” of multitudes around the globe. There is no greater act of compassion than conveying this spirit of unceasing challenge to others.
Nichiren writes, “Though we may suffer for a while, ultimately delight awaits us” (“Protecting the Atsuhara Believers,” WND-2, 882). He felt it imperative at this juncture to teach his followers the fighting spirit in which struggles themselves are viewed as a source of great joy. Hence we find Nichiren closing “The Opening of the Eyes” with the cry to his followers that now, when they are facing harsh persecution, is the very time that they can make the cause for attaining Buddhahood. (Lecture Series, 181–82)
Opening the Way to the Enlightenment of All People in the Latter Day
When the seeds of Buddhahood are planted in this way, people’s hearts can be instantly transformed from delusion to enlightenment. To illustrate, as long as heavy clouds block the sunlight, the land will be dark, but once the clouds clear and the sun shines through, the land will be instantly illuminated. The land itself has not changed. Rather, a place that had been submerged in deep darkness is transformed into a bright land of hope. (Lecture Series, 172)
The Eternity and Universality of the Three Virtues of the Buddhism of Sowing
The eternity of the three virtues derives from the universality of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but the universality of the Law alone does not assure its eternal perpetuation. Another indispensable element is people who strive to propagate the Law. Through people’s tenacious, committed efforts, the universality of the Law shines and the Law itself spreads. This is as Nichiren indicates when he says: “The Law does not spread by itself; because people propagate it, both the people and the Law are worthy of respect” (Gosho zenshu, p. 856).
Nichiren’s conduct naturally shines with the three virtues because he waged a great struggle, based on his profound compassion for all humankind, to ensure that the Law would be transmitted on into the eternal future.
In the age after Nichiren’s passing, the teaching that “both the people and the Law are worthy of respect” is given true meaning when disciples propagate the Law with the spirit of faith of “not begrudging one’s life” exactly as Nichiren instructs. When disciples in a defiled age devote themselves to spreading the Law with the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple, Nichiren’s three virtues will also shine forth in their lives. At the same time, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Law that they spread, manifests its original power to activate the Buddha nature in others’ lives. As a result, those who embrace faith in the Mystic Law gain the immeasurable benefit of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. (Lecture Series, 172–73)
The Three Virtues of Nichiren Live On in the SGI
Everything depends on human beings. When people change for the better, thereby inspiring fresh hope, the world will also change for the better. That is the cornerstone of the Buddhism of sowing. I have been sharing this message through the philosophy of human revolution—which is based on the conviction that “a great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.” (Lecture Series, 174)