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Buddhist Study

Summon the Invincible Spirit of the Lion King


In SGI President Ikeda’s message to the Nov. 16, 2018, ceremony commemorating the 88th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding on Nov. 18, he cited three passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings (see Dec. 14, 2018, World Tribune, pp. 2–3).

Last month, we studied the first passage from “The Dragon Gate,” which was written during the Atsuhara Persecution (see Dec. 14, 2018, World Tribune, p. 10). This month, we will study the second passage from “On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” which was also written during the same persecution—a time when Nichiren’s disciples demonstrated unwavering faith amid harsh and unjust threats to discard their beliefs.

“Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion king fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like barking foxes, but Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions.” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997)

Nichiren Buddhism teaches us how to boldly take on the most intense circumstances with hope, insight, conviction and grit. Through our Buddhist practice, we can uncover the greatest power within our own lives to triumph over any and all obstacles by awakening to the noble mission of the Buddha to lead everyone, without exception, to enlightenment and absolute happiness.

In the passage above from Nichiren Daishonin’s letter “On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” he urges his disciples facing life-threatening persecution to “summon up the courage of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone.”

In studying this letter that teaches the importance of the mentor-disciple relationship in winning over immense obstacles, we can learn how to engage in our Buddhist practice to not only bring forth our courageous fighting spirit, but to also use our hardships and obstacles as the catalyst for developing our lives and fulfilling our mission to spread Nichiren Buddhism.

This letter was written on Oct. 1, 1279, at the height of the Atsuhara Persecution. Just 10 days prior to this on Sept. 21, 1279, 20 farmers who upheld belief in Nichiren’s teachings were arrested on false charges. They endured cruel torture and interrogations aimed at having them recant their religious beliefs. However, none of them gave in to this persecution. These farmers were recent converts to Nichiren’s teachings and had never met the Daishonin. However, they endured this intense persecution while earnestly seeking their mentor’s guidance and strove until the end to fulfill their shared mission to spread his teaching.

Nichiren teaches in this letter that those who persecute practitioners upholding the Lotus Sutra cannot escape the exacting law of cause and effect. And because the consequences of one’s actions are clearly illuminated in the light of the Mystic Law, there is no need for us to fear persecution.

At the same time, he also points out that in the 27 years since establishing his teaching and enduring a succession of threats and persecutions as he strove to propagate it, many of his disciples gave up their faith.

He names several of those who abandoned their faith, stating that they share four common characteristics of being “cowardly, unreasoning, greedy, and doubting” (WND-1, 998). President Ikeda further explains these characteristics in his lecture (see August 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 47).

Regarding the first characteristic of being cowardly, these disciples claim to have conviction, but when faced with persecution, they soon forget their mentor’s guidance and run away out of fear.

To be unreasoning means that they listen to their mentor’s guidance, thinking it applies to others but not to themselves. In other words, they lack the sincere spirit to seek their mentor’s guidance.

Being greedy means they are consumed with experiencing pleasure, and gaining power and acclaim. They easily forget their vow of mentor and disciple and for kosen-rufu, and, focused on their immediate interests, they stray from correct faith.

Finally, they doubt their mentor’s guidance and fail to understand it.

President Ikeda states: “The common feature of all who abandon their faith is that they do not center their lives on the Law, which should be their foundation, or the teacher who instructs them in that Law. Instead, they are centered on themselves. They are selfishly arrogant and ungrateful. That is the essence of those who abandon faith in the Mystic Law” (August 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 47).

This is why the oneness of mentor and disciple is so vital in bringing forth our utmost courage. Nichiren taught us how to understand the inner workings of our hearts and the best way to lead lives of absolute victory over all our hardships. When we live based on his writings and teaching, we can be certain that we will never stray from the correct path of faith.

In this same letter, Nichiren admonishes: “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage” (WND-1, 997).

The key to battling devilish functions exists within our own hearts. And when we bring forth the “courage of a lion king,” we have no reason to fear any obstacle or hardship and will “never succumb to threats from anyone.”

President Ikeda explains:

The courage of a lion king is the spirit of the mentor who has fearlessly opened the way for kosen-rufu. When we share that spirit as our own, we cannot fail to bring forth the courage of a lion king in our lives. …

When we strive with the same spirit as our mentor, we will never be deadlocked. Asking ourselves what our mentor would do, mustering all our wisdom and strength to respond to our mentor’s hopes—that spirit is what awakens the state of the lion king within us and gives rise to the courage to triumph over every difficulty and challenge. (August 2016 Living Buddhism, pp. 43–44)

Devilish functions cannot infiltrate the lives of those who keep moving forward with invincible courage and tenacity, even if it’s just one small step at a time. When we continue advancing, refusing to give in to defeat, we can bring forth the expansive and indestructible life state of Buddhahood.

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