Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: May 2019

On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, Chapters 5 and 6

Jennifer Yoshioka


The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. In March, a new cycle of the academy began, focusing on the study of On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. This month, academy members will study chapters 5 and 6 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 the Living Buddhism as a guide for their personal study of “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime.”

 

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Syllabus – May 2019
On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, Chapters 5 and 6
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Chapter 5
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo With a “Brave and Vigorous” Spirit— Polishing Our Lives Through Daily Challenge

When we change, the world changes. The key to all change is a change in our inner heart and mind. Nichiren Buddhism has made this inner transformation accessible to all people by establishing the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as its core practice. Furthermore, this practice allows us to master our mind, which is ever-changing, and base our lives on the Law. The existence of a mentor—one who embodies and lives in complete accord with the Law, and who teaches people about the vast inner potential they possess—is indispensable for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

The Vimalakirti Sutra states that, when one seeks the Buddhas’ emancipation in the minds of ordinary beings, one finds that ordinary beings are the entities of enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. It also states that, if the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.

It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being. When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena [i.e., the Dharma nature] and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4)

The Path for Polishing Our Lives: 1) Brave Challenge

In chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the first important thing is having the challenging spirit to act with courage. This could be described as arousing deep faith from the innermost reaches of our lives in accord with Nichiren’s words, firmly believing that we can summon forth the mystic truth within us, manifest our inherent Buddhahood and attain enlightenment in this lifetime without fail. It also means directly taking on the three obstacles and four devils that seek to obstruct us from chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. We need to have a fearless, tireless and unremitting challenging spirit to confront and overcome the diverse array of obstacles that rise up to assail us. For it is precisely by challenging, battling and defeating ignorance that we can polish our lives. (On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI Preisdent Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 41)

The Path for Polishing Our Lives: 2) Continuing

Next, continuing is vital. It is absolutely essential for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. Nichiren Daishonin says: “To accept is easy; to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith” (“The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith,” WND-1, 471). In “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” we see the paramount importance of continuing from Nichiren’s repeated emphasis on the need to practice “day and night” and “diligently” (WND-1, 4). Maintaining an unflagging practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a crucial requirement for attaining Buddhahood.

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“Continuing” is another way of saying “not regressing.” Throughout the pages of Nichiren’s writings, we can see his emphasis on never regressing or backsliding in faith. To cite but a few passages, Nichiren writes: “One . . . who chants the daimoku is the Thus Come One’s emissary. Also, one who perseveres through great persecutions and embraces the sutra from beginning to end is the Thus Come One’s emissary” (“The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream,” WND-1, 942); “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage” (“On Persecution Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 997); and “Carry through with your faith in the Lotus Sutra. You cannot strike fire from flint if you stop halfway” (“Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment,” WND-1, 319). (Lecture Series, pp. 41–42)

“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Is a Diligent Practice”

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a diligent practice. Arousing deep faith and steadfastly continuing to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo truly requires constant and unflagging exertion. Persevering single-mindedly and consistently in this practice will lead us to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. Through such efforts, our inherent Buddhahood—the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies—wells forth in the form of inexhaustible courage, perseverance, joy, wisdom and compassion. (Lecture Series, p. 43)

Praying for Brave and Vigorous Youth to Appear

Exerting oneself means doing so bravely and vigorously. Without courage and vigor, there is no true exertion. The first Soka Gakkai president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, also led a life of brave and vigorous endeavor. He once said to young people: “Exert yourselves bravely and vigorously! Buddhism means taking action; it means constantly striving. Even at my age, that’s what I’m doing.” (Lecture Series, p. 43)

Chapter 6
The Mystic Nature of Our Lives—“Become the Master of Your Mind Rather Than Let Your Mind Master You”

What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho, to its manifestations [the manifestations of the mind of myo]. Renge, which means lotus flower, is used to symbolize the wonder of this Law. If we understand that our life at this moment is myo, then we will also understand that our life at other moments is the Mystic Law. This realization is the mystic kyo, or sutra. The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, the direct path to enlightenment, for it explains that the entity of our life, which manifests either good or evil at each moment, is in fact the entity of the Mystic Law. (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 4)

The Mind Is the Mystic Entity of the Middle Way That Is the Ultimate Reality

Nichiren describes this unfathomable nature of the mind as the “mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality” (WND-1, 4). The Middle Way does not simply mean the middle course between two extremes; it refers to a more lofty perspective that is swayed by neither extreme but also embraces them both. Shakyamuni set forth a sound philosophy and practice transcending the two then-prevailing extremes of hedonism and asceticism, and he called this the Middle Way. In “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” Nichiren says that the ultimate truth, which transcends the two extremes of existence and nonexistence and yet also manifests both, is the Middle Way, and because this is the pinnacle of truth, he calls it the “ultimate reality.” (Lecture Series, p. 48)

Renge Refers to the Principle of the Simultaneity of Cause and Effect

The provisional teachings other than the Lotus Sutra do not teach that Buddhahood is inherent within the lives of ordinary people, which is regarded as the cause for attaining enlightenment. Rather, they teach that one can only gain the state of Buddhahood after undergoing countless eons of Buddhist practice. Here, cause and effect are non-simultaneous. The teachings of the Lotus Sutra, however, clarify that all people are originally endowed with the state of Buddhahood and can reveal it instantaneously. In other words, the deluded mind of an ordinary person is instantly transformed into the mind of myo (the supreme enlightenment) of a Buddha. The lotus flower symbolizes this simultaneity of cause and effect. (Lecture Series, pp. 48–49)

Maintaining the Mind of Myo Is the Mystic Kyo

As seen in the aforementioned discussion, Myoho-renge-kyo is the Law inherent in our own lives. The ongoing moment-to-moment transformation in our hearts and minds that we achieve through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo not only leads to a fundamental inner change but to a change in the entire way we live our lives, putting us on track to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. And it further creates a groundswell for the great transformation of all humankind that is kosen-rufu. The dynamic force for change on all levels is Myoho-renge-kyo. (Lecture Series, p. 49)

Becoming the Master of One’s Mind

Becoming the master of one’s mind means having a sound compass in life and the bright beacon of faith. We must not be mastered by ordinary people’s inconstant, weak and ever-changing minds of delusion. To master our minds, we must guide them in the right direction. In that sense, the true master of the mind is the Law and the teachings of the Buddha. Shakyamuni vowed to make the Law to which he had become enlightened the master of his mind, and he took pride in living true to that vow. This is the way of life of “taking refuge in the Law” that Shakyamuni emphasized in his final injunction to his disciples before he died. (Lecture Series, p. 50)

The Path of Mentor and Disciple Based on the Law

A teacher or mentor in Buddhism is one who leads and connects people to the Law—teaching them that the Law on which they should depend already exists within their own lives. The disciples in turn seek the mentor, who embodies and is one with the Law. Looking to the mentor as a model, they exert themselves in their Buddhist practice. In this way, they lead lives in which they become masters of their minds.

In other words, the existence of a mentor— one who embodies and lives in complete accord with the Law, and who teaches people about the vast inner potential they possess—is indispensable for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. I had a mentor who practiced as the Buddha taught—our second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda, who dedicated his life to widely propagating Nichiren Buddhism in the modern age—and that has made me what I am today. President Toda is always with me as my spiritual mentor. Even now, day after day, and moment by moment, I am carrying on a dialogue with my mentor in my heart. This is the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple. Those who hold fast to their spiritual mentor as their compass and exert themselves as that mentor teaches are people who live based on the Law. Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching founded on the oneness of mentor and disciple. And the Lotus Sutra is likewise a scripture of the oneness of mentor and disciple. (Lecture Series, p. 51)

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