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Peace, Culture and Education: The Purpose of Buddhist Study—Part 3

Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace—The Purpose of Buddhist Study

“The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” is a three-part series that features key selections from SGI President Ikeda’s collected works, which thus far have been compiled into 150 volumes in Japanese. These selections introduce core concepts expressing the wisdom and universal message of Nichiren Buddhism. Through this series, SGI members throughout the world are able to simultaneously study the SGI president’s thought and philosophy.

It has been a Soka Gakkai tradition since the time of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi to strive in the “two ways of practice and study” as taught by Nichiren Daishonin. In this selection, SGI President Ikeda reviews this noble history and stresses that practice and study are the heart of the bright path of mentor and disciple.

Engaging in Buddhist Study Is Itself a Victory

Intermediate study exams were held throughout Japan in September 2002, and SGI President Ikeda visited an examination site in Hachioji, Tokyo, to warmly encourage participants before the start of the exam. Words of encouragement to intermediate study exam participants, Hachioji, Tokyo, September 29, 2002.

Thank you all for coming here today, on the weekend, to take this study exam.

Nichiren Buddhism is humanity’s supreme philosophy, revealing the fundamental source of all things in the universe. It is a universal and enduring philosophy beyond compare.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386). Without the two ways of practice and study, Buddhism would cease to exist, and no one could attain Buddhahood.

I’m sure some of you have traveled long distances today, and some of you may be quite tired. Yet in spite of that, you’ve gathered here out of your determination to study Buddhism. All of your efforts will bring you benefit and are the way to accumulate immense good fortune. In lifetime after lifetime, you will be people who are admired as great philosophers who surpass even the most learned scholars.

The important thing is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Don’t worry about whether you’re able to answer all the exam questions—simply try your hardest and know that the efforts you have made to challenge yourself for the sake of kosen-rufu will become a source of eternal good fortune and remain as cherished memories in your lives.

Nichiren, more than anyone, is surely praising you most highly for exerting yourselves in the two ways of practice and study.

He alone awakened to the ultimate Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. None of the powerful or famous were aware of the correct teaching of Buddhism.

The Buddhist Law is the eternal principle that pervades the universe and all life. It is the key for building a happy life. Neither happiness nor peace will ever be attainable if we disparage or turn our backs on the correct teaching of Buddhism.

On the vast stage of human history, you are all noble pioneers in the great undertaking of spreading Nichiren Buddhism. Please take the exam with strong confidence in yourselves. The fact that you have gathered for this occasion to study Buddhism is itself a victory and an achievement. It will become a powerful driving force for your faith all your life. Thank you for your dedicated efforts!

A People-Centered Study Movement

In SGI President Ikeda’s novel The New Human Revolution, Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) talks about the importance of upcoming study examinations at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting held in February 1961, and on the day of the examination, he shows his profound concern and care for the participants. Adapted from The New Human Revolution, volume 4, “Spring Storm” chapter.

Speaking about the Study Department examination scheduled for early March, Shin’ichi Yamamoto remarked: “With the exam not far off, I’m sure your brains are all very busy trying to remember countless details!

“What I’d like to stress today is that those who pass the exams should not be smug about it, and those who do not pass should not be hard on themselves.

“Soka Gakkai study exams are held as a way to spur ourselves on and mark our progress in our lifelong study of Nichiren Daishonin’s great philosophy of life. So, even if you should pass the exam but let it go to your head and lord it over others, you will have failed in the realm of faith.

On the other hand, if you do not pass, that can become an incentive for you to make greater efforts to study Buddhism and thereby come to excel as a person of faith, something far more important than simply passing the exam.

“In addition, I hope you will engrave the writings of Nichiren Daishonin deeply in your hearts and develop strong, solid faith so that you will remain undaunted by any obstacle that might assail you.”

Study exams were held on Sunday, March 5, at more than 180 sites in 125 cities nationwide. At 9 a.m., exams were held for Study Department assistant instructors who wished to advance to the next level of instructor and instructors who wished to become assistant professors. Then at 2 p.m., the entrance exam was held for those seeking to become members of the Study Department for the first time.

That day, more than 110,000 people took these exams around the country. This was roughly 3.3 times the number who had taken the previous series of exams in 1959, less than two years earlier, a further demonstration of the phenomenal growth the Soka Gakkai had achieved since Shin’ichi became its president.

Those taking the exams ranged from housewives to company presidents, from students to educators. They were of all ages, from teenagers to senior citizens. Making use of the little spare time they had with their work commitments or school studies, not to mention Soka Gakkai activities, all of them had earnestly studied Nichiren’s writings, striving to deepen their understanding of the profound teachings and philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. There were even stories from around the country of individuals, previously illiterate, learning to read and write as a result of the efforts they made for the exam.

The creation of a new era and new society begins when people have a solid philosophy of life and a clear awareness of their personal mission. The Soka Gakkai’s study program represented an unprecedented philosophical and educational movement centered on ordinary people.

• • •

The study exams were over. That evening at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, Shin’ichi spoke to Study Department Leader Chuhei Yamadaira and inquired about the progress in grading test papers from around the country.

When Yamadaira affirmed that everything was going smoothly, Shin’ichi said in a low voice, as if to himself: “Those who took the exams worked very hard. I’d like to give them all a passing grade.”

“We can’t do that!” exclaimed Yamadaira.

Shin’ichi couldn’t help grinning at the Study Department leader’s emphatic response. He said: “I know that, of course. It’s an exam, after all; I was only voicing my personal sentiment.

“But just think how difficult it is for, say, a women’s division member who is busy as a mother and a homemaker. Simply doing Soka Gakkai activities is challenging enough, not to mention finding time to study the Daishonin’s writings. With crying children and having to clean the house and prepare meals, it’s almost impossible for her to find time to study quietly even if she wants to. It’s like trying to read the Gosho [the writings of Nichiren Daishonin] in the middle of a battlefield!

“Granted, such challenges may be part of our Buddhist practice, but I don’t want such members to be discouraged and disheartened because of their exam results. Those who pass will be fine. My thoughts are constantly with those who don’t pass and what we can do to encourage them.”

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the February 2018 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

With President Ikeda’s permission, some minor edits and revisions have been made to the original Japanese, and excerpts of remarks originally in dialogue format have been recast as monologues for ease of reading.

—Selected Excerpts Editorial Committee

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