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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: July 2020

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. This month, academy members will study chapter 13 of The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: SGI President Ikeda’s 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 Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life.”

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Syllabus – July 2020
The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, Chapter 13
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Chapter 13
“Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment” and “the Sufferings of Birth and Death Are Nirvana”—Transforming Illusion and Suffering Into Confidence, Joy and Hope

In the final installment of this lecture series, Ikeda Sensei explains that the heritage of the heart of Buddhism and the ultimate Law to surmount the sufferings of birth and death are found in the oneness of mentor and disciple.

Be resolved to summon forth the great power of faith, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of death. Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death, and manifest it in your life. Only then will you realize that earthly desires are enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Even embracing the Lotus Sutra would be useless without the heritage of faith.

I will go into particulars again on another occasion.
With my deep respect,

Nichiren,

the shramana of Japan

The eleventh day of the second month in the ninth year of Bun’ei (1272), cyclical sign mizunoe-saru.

Reply to the Honorable Sairen-bo

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 218)

The Mystic Law is the fundamental principle that allows us to draw forth the limitless power we inherently possess. It enables us to change earthly desires, or deluded impulses, into wisdom, just as a fire burns firewood to produce light. This conclusion addresses the very heart of Buddhism. The question of life and death is a fundamental source of human suffering, and the transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death is a means for resolving that suffering. No matter how wonderful a teaching may seem, unless it explains to individuals the key to surmounting the sufferings of birth and death, it has no real substance. (The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 144–45)

The Heritage of Faith in All Its Aspects

The best and surest way to convey the supreme Law to others is through faith. The Law cannot be transmitted by such transitory and illusory phenomena as priestly authority or religious rituals and ceremonies. Faith is of foremost importance in transmitting the true, supreme Law.

Only faith can break through the darkness of ignorance shrouding our lives and enable us to tap the infinite power of the Mystic Law we inherently possess. To share in the heritage of the Law means to bring forth within us this boundless power of the Law.

That is why in this writing Nichiren has gone to great lengths to offer a full, multidimensional explanation of the heritage of faith, which we have discussed in detail over the course of this series. In this final installment, let us reconfirm the main points.

First, correct faith is grounded in the realization that “Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlighten-ment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another” (WND-1, 216). This is a crucial point concerning the substance of faith in the Mystic Law. In this writing, Nichiren states that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with this belief is a “matter of the utmost importance” for his disciples (WND-1, 216). The core message of this statement is to believe that our present self is an entity of Myoho-renge-kyo and that we can attain Buddhahood in our present form in this lifetime.

Second is the aspect of striving fully in faith so that we have no regrets, based on the spirit that “now is the last moment of one’s life” (WND-1, 216), and achieving “a correct and steadfast mind at the moment of death” (see WND-1, 218). Wholeheartedly practicing faith day after day and month after month, and continuing to do so throughout our lives, assures us of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. Here, Nichiren explains the heritage of faith in terms of one’s own depth of faith and the continuing of one’s Buddhist practice.

Moreover, when we attain Buddhahood in this existence, the life-and-death cycle we continually undergo throughout past, present and future becomes “life and death as functions of Myoho-renge-kyo” and follows the rhythm of birth and death in the realm of Buddhahood. This present lifetime in which we have been born as human beings is an irreplaceable existence; it will determine the direction of our lives throughout the eternal cycle of birth and death.

Third is the importance of unity in faith, a commitment to the widespread propagation of the Law in the spirit of “many in body but one in mind” (WND-1, 217). The heritage of Myoho-renge-kyo is not just there for us alone. All people are entities of Myoho-renge-kyo and as such can partake in the heritage for attaining Buddhahood. Actions to help others gain access to this heritage is the way of kosen-rufu, the great wish or vow of the Buddha. And kosen-rufu is made a reality by the harmonious community of practitioners united in faith toward that shared objective. Here, Nichiren clarifies the heritage of faith in terms of kosen-rufu and the harmonious community of practitioners. (Lecture Series, 145–47)

Sharing the Same Commitment as the Teacher Is the Key

The multifaceted meaning of the heritage of faith has been explained in words, but if many people are to actually share in this heritage in their own lives, it is necessary to have a teacher who embodies it in its entirety. Whereas words merely explain each aspect of the heritage of faith separately, a teacher whose character and behavior embody the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo can convey and awaken people to this heritage in one stroke. (Lecture Series, 147)

The View of Life and Death in Nichiren Buddhism: A Wellspring of Hope for Humankind

In his work The System of Value-Creating Education, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi makes the following observation: “With reference to our life activities as they relate to the universe as a whole, when we directly confront the problem of life and death—even if we are a person of great wisdom or scholarship, or a person of great heroism or enterprise—we realize how miniscule our own power is in comparison. At that time, we have to face up to the power of the universe itself, which is truly awesome in its immensity. Our activities on a religious or spiritual sphere arise from this recognition. Our life activities as they relate to society, too, can in fact be regarded as part of such activities.”

He is saying that if we wish to resolve the problem of life and death, we must acknowledge the immense power of the universe and open up our lives to the spiritual or religious impulse within. His point that our activities in society are part of our spiritual or religious activities also bears close consideration.

As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, the powerful life force we develop through our activities in the spiritual realm serves as the engine that enables us to lead positive and valuable lives in society. Here, the heritage of faith is the key to a spiritual life in which we are in tune with the vast power of the universe that encompasses both life and death. (Lecture Series, 149)

Abutsu-bo’s Seeking Spirit Toward Nichiren

Here, based on guidance Nichiren gave to his followers, I will highlight the decisive importance of the heritage of faith in overcoming the sufferings of birth and death, especially the aspect of striving with the same commitment as the mentor.

Abutsu-bo can be considered a leading repre-sentative of the followers, one who shared in the heritage of faith during Nichiren’s day and thereby overcame the sufferings of birth and death and attained Buddhahood in his lifetime. In a letter to the lay nun Sennichi about her deceased husband, Abutsu-bo, Nichiren writes: “Some may wonder where the spirit of the late Abutsu-bo may be at this moment. But by using the clear mirror of the Lotus Sutra to reflect his image, I, Nichiren, can see him among the assembly on Eagle Peak, seated within the treasure tower of Many Treasures Buddha and facing toward the east” (“The Treasure of a Filial Child,” WND-1, 1042).

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The deceased Abutsu-bo, we are told, now resides in the pure land of Eagle Peak and is facing the Buddhas inside the treasure tower with the same earnest spirit with which he sought out Nichiren during his life. We can take this to mean that disciples are certain to attain Buddhahood if they strive in faith with a seeking spirit toward the teacher who expounds and practices the Mystic Law. (Lecture Series, 150–51)

Guidance to Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro

Next, I’ll cite a passage from “Encouragement to a Sick Person,” a letter Nichiren Daishonin wrote in 1264 to Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, the father of Nanjo Tokimitsu—both of whom embraced faith in the Mystic Law. Shichiro had fallen ill and died the following year. This writing can be viewed as Nichiren’s heartfelt guidance to a disciple who was approaching death, clarifying the essential path for attaining Buddhahood.

Nichiren writes: “Should you depart from this life before I do, you must report to Brahma, Shakra, the four heavenly kings, and King Yama. Declare yourself to be a disciple of the priest Nichiren, the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. Then they cannot possibly treat you discourteously. But if you should be of two minds, alternately chanting the Nembutsu and reciting the Lotus Sutra, and fear what others may say about you, then even though you identify yourself as Nichiren’s disciple, they will never accept your word. Do not resent me later” (WND-1, 82). …

Through this letter, he is trying to explain to Shichiro, who has fallen ill and is facing death, the importance of striving in faith with the same spirit that Nichiren has. This illustrates how practicing faith with the same commitment as the teacher who is the votary of the Lotus Sutra can assist us enormously in overcoming the sufferings of birth and death, and in attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. (Lecture Series, 151–53)

The Pride of Leading a Life of Unsurpassed Value

On the evening of August 14, 1947, some 60 years ago, I first met second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda at a discussion meeting in the Kojiya area of Kamata in Tokyo. The man who was to become my mentor was 47 at the time, and I was 19. When I entered the room on that fateful day, President Toda was giving a lecture on Nichiren Daishonin’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” He declared: “I want to rid the world of all suffering and misery. Won’t you join me?” That was the first time I heard him speak. I believe his words were also a cry heralding the dawn of a great new people’s movement. On that day, I asked him what was the true way of life for a human being. President Toda’s response was entirely free of any intellectual game-playing or deceit. Each of his answers shone with genuine humanity. He was truly a person grounded in the Lotus Sutra and had risen above the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death.

That day marked the start of my journey of shared commitment with my mentor. Mr. Toda taught me about the true nature of life and death. And as time went by, I felt it was my duty as a disciple to clarify and show actual proof of overcoming the sufferings of birth and death.

When disciples strive in a spirit of oneness with the mentor, sharing the same commitment to kosen-rufu, they can summon infinite strength. The mentor, based on a profound understanding of the fundamental question of life and death, ponders deeply and takes action to help all people manifest their innate potential and lead happy and successful lives.

I learned the way of faith in Nichiren Buddhism, the key to absolute victory, from Mr. Toda. Mr. Toda learned it from Mr. Makiguchi. And Mr. Makiguchi learned it from Nichiren and from chanting to the Gohonzon. This is the heritage of mentor and disciple in the Soka Gakkai.

When disciples unite in spirit with the mentor, they can overcome the sufferings of birth and death and, in this lifetime, attain a state in which they savor the boundless joy of the Law that continues eternally throughout past, present and future. That is the purpose of Buddhism.

Accordingly, the key to inheriting the ultimate Law of life and death lies in faith that embodies the spirit of not begrudging one’s life in striving for kosen-rufu and the happiness of others, united in spirit with the mentor.

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There is no nobler or more valuable way of life than to enable people across the globe to share in this supreme heritage and to savor a state of being in which they can feel joy in both life and death.

The world is waiting for the advance of Soka humanism, which has the power to elevate people’s lives to a state pervaded by eternity, happiness, true self and purity. The world is closely watching the victorious achievements of mentor and disciple in the SGI. (Lecture Series, 153–55)

This concludes The Heritage of the Ultimate Lawof Life: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series.

Sharing the Same Commitment as the Mentor

Will there ever be an end point to our efforts to “establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land”?