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Gongyo Series

A Brave and Vigorous Spirit

Learning From The Heart of the Lotus Sutra

Photo by Yvonne Ng

In his book The Heart of the Lotus Sutra, Ikeda Sensei details the significance and meaning of “Expedient Means” and “Life Span of the Thus Come One,” the 2nd and 16th chapters of the Lotus Sutra, which we recite in our daily practice of gongyo. This month, let’s study what Sensei says about the following passage:

Yumyo shojin.
They have exerted themselves bravely and vigorously.
(The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 56)

Buddhist practice has to be carried out with determination and courage. When we challenge ourselves bravely with the spirit to accomplish more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today, we are truly practicing. Without such a brave and vigorous spirit, we cannot break the iron shackles of destiny, nor can we defeat obstacles and devils. Our daily prayers are dramas of challenging and creating something new in our lives. When we bravely stand up with faith, the darkness of despair and anxiety vanishes from our hearts and in pours the light of hope and growth. This spirit to stand up courageously is the spirit of faith.

The Buddha Nature Manifests When We Practice With Sincerity and Consistency

From the standpoint of Nichiren Buddhism, “exert” means to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo diligently for the happiness of oneself and others. We can exert ourselves in this fashion only if we possess a brave and vigorous spirit.

Nichikan, citing Miao-lo’s interpretation of the term “exert” as meaning “pure” and “continuous,” teaches the proper attitude to have in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He explains that “pure” means unalloyed and that “continuous” means to practice continuously and unceasingly. In other words, the important thing is that we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day with sincerity and consistency. Only then does it become the practice for polishing our lives and attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Nichiren Daishonin says: “If in a single moment of life we exhaust the pains and trials of millions of kalpas, then instant after instant there will arise in us the three Buddha bodies with which we are eternally endowed. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is just such a ‘diligent’ practice” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 214).

In chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we are carrying out “diligent” practice; that is, we are exerting ourselves as the sutra describes. Therefore, the three Buddha bodies, the immeasurable wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, manifest in our lives at each moment when we are earnestly concerned for the Law and bravely and tenaciously struggle for its sake. When we have a brave and vigorous spirit of faith, we instantaneously manifest the life state of the Buddha. This is what “embracing the Gohonzon is in itself observing one’s own mind” means.

Put another way, Nichiren says that those who bravely and vigorously exert themselves in faith are all Buddhas.

A Life of Continuous Self-Improvement

Let us remember that the SGI has greatly developed precisely because we have bravely and vigorously exerted ourselves in faith—that is, with true earnestness.

Once when asked by a foreign journalist to explain the reason for our great development, I said, “It’s because of our wholehearted dedication.” The present tremendous progress of kosen-rufu has come about because we have earnestly and wholeheartedly taken action for the sake of friends, society and peace. …

Exerting oneself bravely and vigorously truly is the wellspring of the Soka Gakkai spirit. When we bravely challenge ourselves through faith, our lives stir, wisdom is born, our beings overflow with joy and hope.

A person of bravery and vigor who continually, moment by moment, makes causes for self-improvement is an eternal victor. Those who struggle with earnestness and broad-mindedness, with the spirit of a lion king, are certainly exerting brave and vigorous effort. (The Heart of the Lotus Sutra, pp. 43–45)


To learn more about gongyo, check out this title by Ikeda Sensei, available at bookstore.sgi-usa.org for $11.99 (e-book) and $14.95 (hard copy).

Happy Just as I Am