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Ikeda Sensei

Battle Cowardice, Conquer Arrogance!

Part 1 of 2

MarinaZakharova / Getty Images.

This essay from Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution” series in the April 11, 2000, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun. It was also previously published in the June 16, 2000, World Tribune.

May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, is a day that SGI members around the world greet proudly and joyfully. The day is bright and clear, as if we have realized all our dreams, as if 10 million tiny suns shine forth with the pride of victory.

We know that Buddhism is an eternal struggle between the Buddha and devilish functions—between positive and negative forces. We know that, on one level, the history of kosen-rufu has been one of relentless struggle against those who have abandoned their faith and come to oppose the Buddha’s teachings.

As disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, we must solemnly recognize this fact, never allowing ourselves to forget it.

To those cowardly individuals who are steeped in the world of animality: Beware the strict workings of the Buddhist law of cause and effect!

Let us turn to Nichiren’s times. He had many disciples who received close, compassionate instruction from him, only to betray him and abandon their faith in the end. I am talking of people like Sho-bo, Noto-bo, Sammi-bo, Ota Chikamasa and Nagasaki Tokitsuna. In contemporary terms, all of them could be described as “top leaders” of the lay community.

These individuals, whose actions ultimately accorded with the function of lowly “parasites in the lion’s bowel” did not initially intend to abandon their faith and betray the Daishonin when they first embraced the Mystic Law. Why, then, did they lose their faith? Why did they turn on their mentor and repay their debt of gratitude with enmity? I want to briefly discuss this as a lesson and guide for future generations.

Let’s look at the case of Sammi-bo, one of the most accomplished disciples of Nichiren. He was very intelligent and articulate and had a superior understanding of the Buddhist teachings. He was comparable to a graduate of a leading university today.

But while he was studying at Mount Hiei (the center of Japan’s Tendai School of Buddhism), he was invited to give lectures on Buddhism to the nobility, which he enjoyed doing. This, however, went to his head—to the point where he bragged about it to the Daishonin, displaying the tendency to get caught up and swept away by worldly ambitions and cares. In other words, he was conceited, a showoff.

Nichiren sternly rebuked him for his vanity, saying to the effect: “The Mystic Law is the foremost teaching in all the world. We should fear nothing, yet here you are all puffed up just because you have preached to the nobility. Do you now look down on Nichiren?” (see “On the Proper Way to Preach the Doctrine,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, pp. 342–43). The Daishonin’s anger was due in part to the high hopes he held for his disciple.

At the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, Sammi-bo, knowing that it might cost him his life, accompanied Nichiren to the execution ground. And when the Daishonin was exiled to Sado Island, Sammi-bo became one of the central disciples of Nichiren in Kamakura.

However, the real motive behind Sammi-bo’s actions was simply a desire to look good in the eyes of others. Ultimately, he forsook his faith. He did so right at the time of greatest crisis—during the Atsuhara Persecution that led to a number of the Daishonin’s peasant followers laying down their lives for their faith.

Sammi-bo had been sent by Nichiren to assist Nikko Shonin, who was engaged in remarkably successful propagation activities in the Atsuhara area. Swayed by the flattery of the opposing forces, though, Sammi-bo tumbled down a path that led to his discarding his faith. This is exactly what happened to several top Soka Gakkai leaders in more recent times.

The tragedy of Sammi-bo’s fall is also a story of jealousy. With pride in himself as an intellectual, he bridled at the prospect of merely assisting Nikko Shonin, whom he looked upon as his inferior. That dissatisfaction and jealousy ate away at him, permitting devilish functions to take the advantage. Nichiko, the 59th high priest, a very learned scholar of Buddhism, reached this conclusion about Sammi-bo’s downfall.

Ultimately, it is such ugly states of mind as arrogance, vanity and envy that can destroy something so noble and precious as faith. Behind all of these ugly states lies the weakness called cowardice. The Daishonin’s famous admonition “Nichiren’s disciples cannot accomplish anything if they are cowardly” (“The Teaching, Practice, and Proof,” WND-1, 481) was, after all, written to Sammi-bo.

Lamenting the weakness of Sammi-bo and others like him, and harshly condemning their actions, Nichiren writes that on those “who are cowardly, unreasoning, greedy, and doubting, my words have no more effect than pouring water on lacquer ware or slicing through air” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 998).

No matter how much one attempts to guide such “unreasoning” people, they will not understand one’s true meaning. And no matter how such people may try to teach Buddhism to others, acting as if they understand it fully, they in fact do not have a true grasp of its teachings. In the above passage, the Daishonin is telling us that such cowardly foolishness is simply the flipside of fearsome arrogance.

At the crucial moment, the people of this bent are bound to completely forget and abandon their faith. They fall away from the correct path of faith because of their cowardice, foolishness, greed and doubt.

Nichiren exhorts his followers: “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 997). Weak individuals who do not engage in a personal spiritual struggle to strengthen their faith will be corrupted, become twisted and be washed away by the angry waves of suffering. This underscores the importance of our SGI activities, our daily efforts to realize kosen-rufu.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Victory Is Certain!

Those With Lionhearted Faith Fear Nothing! (Abutsu-bo and the Lay Nun Sennichi Part 2)