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Buddhism of the Sun

Be Victors in the Journey of Life and Kosen-rufu

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series

Be Victors in the Journey of Life and Kosen-rufu

[68]

LECTURE

I have my mission, which is mine alone
You too
have a mission, which only you can fulfill[1]

These are lines from “Song of Youth,” a poem I presented to our successors in the youth division 50 years ago, in December 1970.

As Soka Gakkai members upholding the wonderful teaching of the Mystic Law, we have a noble mission to transform society through our human revolution. Our purpose is to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land—that is, realize happiness and peace for all humanity. That was the message I wished to impart to my young friends who would shoulder the future of our movement.

A Gradual Inner Revolution

The poem continues:

What the people long for
to carry them through the twenty-first century
is no reorganization of external forms alone
They desire a sound revolution
carried out within themselves
gradually and in an atmosphere of peace
founded upon the philosophy and beliefs of each individual[2]

■ ■ ■

A Magnificent Epic of Ordinary People

A HOMS visit in Washington, D.C., July 2021. To keep everyone safe, the SGI-USA encourages HOMS visits that take place outdoors and where each person is healthy, masked and socially distanced.

Five decades have passed since I composed this poem. My fellow members—from those who have worked alongside me over those years to our present dependable successors in the youth division—have carried out their Buddhist practice and proudly striven to fulfill their unique missions in their respective spheres. Now, our steady, unflagging people’s movement has developed on a global scale. The wonderful “song of youth” each of our members has created over the past half-century forms a magnificent epic of ordinary people, giving rise to a powerful tide of worldwide kosen-rufu.

Rather than seek a “reorganization of external forms alone,” it’s important that we take a gradualist approach, steadily cultivating the spiritual earth of the people to produce a rich harvest of happiness. As the great Indian champion of nonviolence Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) said, “Good travels at a snail’s pace.”[3]

■ ■ ■

The Unchanging Spirit of the Soka Gakkai

The time has come when the true worth of our people’s movement will shine with increasing brilliance. Therefore, we must keep pressing forward, ever forward, come what may, on our journey to realize victory in life and our eternal journey in the shared struggle for kosen-rufu as mentor and disciple, hearts united as one.

As we prepare to make a fresh start, let us study Nichiren Daishonin’s words and reaffirm the importance of maintaining steady, solid and unwavering faith. The Soka Gakkai spirit remains unchanged even amid the challenges and new approaches to daily living resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

■ ■ ■

Continuous Encouragement and Support

The [Chinese] character myo [of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], like flowers that become fruit and the half moon that waxes full, is one that changes into a Buddha.

Thus it says in the [Lotus Sutra], “If one can uphold this sutra, one will be upholding the Buddha’s body” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 220]. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai[4]says, “[The Lotus Sutra …] is in each and every one of its characters the true Buddha.[5]

The character myo is the Thus Come One Shakyamuni perfectly endowed with the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics,[6] but because our vision is poor we see only a character. For example, it is similar to an elderly person whose eyesight is dim and therefore fails to see that the lotus flowers in the pond have produced seeds. And at night, because of the darkness, one fails to see the forms of things. Nonetheless, this character myo is itself a Buddha.

Furthermore, this character myo is the moon, it is the sun, it is the stars, it is a mirror, it is garments, it is food, it is flowers, it is the great earth, it is the great sea. All benefits clustered together make up the character myo. Also, it is the wish-granting jewel.[7] (“Reply to the Lay Nun Myoshin,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, pp. 879–80)[8]

In this letter titled “Reply to the Lay Nun Myoshin,” Nichiren explains that the single character myo of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which we chant, contains immeasurable benefit.

The lay nun Myoshin was a disciple who resided in Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka prefecture). It is thought that she became a lay nun out of her wish that her husband, the lay priest Takahashi Rokuro, recover from his illness. The Daishonin later bestowed on her another Buddhist name Jimyo (Upholder of Myo). She was also known as the lay nun of Kubo, named after the place to which she moved following her husband’s death.

Nichiren sent this disciple many letters and continued to encourage and support her wholeheartedly during her grief. In response to his warm concern and care, Myoshin maintained strong and purehearted faith. Her sincere attitude toward her Buddhist practice, which the Daishonin praised as extremely admirable (see WND-2, 877),[9] calls to mind the women of Soka.

All the infinite benefits of the universe, nature and human beings are contained in the single character myo.

■ ■ ■

“Our Bodies Are the Buddha’s Body”

Ikeda Sensei engages in discussion with new friends in Iraq, February 1962. Photo by Seikyo Press.

In “Reply to the Lay Nun Myoshin,” Nichiren writes: “The character myo, like flowers that become fruit and the half moon that waxes full, is one that changes into a Buddha” (WND-2, 879). He asserts that those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will attain Buddhahood without fail. The lay priest Takahashi remained steadfast in faith until his death, and Myoshin, too, continued to strive earnestly in faith even after being widowed and left to care for her young child alone. Because she and her husband chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Daishonin assures her they are both certain to attain Buddhahood.

Explaining his assertion that the character myo changes into a Buddha, Nichiren refers to “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower” chapter of the Lotus Sutra and the writings of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai. They state, respectively, that upholding the Lotus Sutra is the same as upholding the Buddha’s body and that each word and phrase of the Lotus Sutra is the true Buddha (see WND-2, 879).

Ordinary people, however, he says, see nothing but the words. He likens this to being unable to see a person’s form in the darkness. “Nonetheless, this character myo is itself a Buddha” (WND-2, 879), Nichiren reiterates. In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, too, he states, “To uphold the Lotus Sutra is to uphold belief in the fact that our bodies are the Buddha’s body” (p. 96). The body of each of us ordinary people is the body of the Buddha—that is the benefit of upholding the Mystic Law.

In the same letter, Nichiren says: “This character myo is the moon, it is the sun, it is the stars, it is a mirror, it is garments, it is food, it is flowers, it is the great earth, it is the great sea” (WND-2, 879–80). All the infinite benefits of the universe, nature and human beings are contained in the single character myo.

Myo is also described as the wish-granting jewel, meaning that we can bring forth immeasurable treasures at will. The benefit enjoyed by those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and remain steadfast in faith is truly immense. This is something we come to appreciate over time, because the true benefit of faith in the Mystic Law is inconspicuous.

A sapling puts down solid roots in the earth, growing gradually over time into a mighty tree that is unbowed by raging winds or storms. Similarly, through steadfast faith in the Mystic Law, we each gradually come to blossom splendidly, in our own unique way, producing branches of good fortune and benefit, and causing wonderful flowers of happiness to bloom for ourselves and others.

Mr. Toda also described inconspicuous benefit as attaining a state of absolute happiness. That means to gain a vast and boundless state in which being alive itself is a joy.

■ ■ ■

Maintaining Steadfast Faith Means Challenging Ourselves Each Day

After the passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings that I cited earlier, Nichiren goes on to say: “To uphold the body of the Buddha means to uphold the belief that outside of our own bodies there is no Buddha” (OTT, 97).

It is essential that we “uphold the character myo” with the conviction that we each possess the supremely respectworthy life state of Buddhahood. “Uphold” here means to maintain steadfast faith until the very end.

“Steadfast” means making a new determination each day, challenging ourselves each day, and advancing, growing and triumphing each day.

The Daishonin teaches, “To have faith like water means to believe continuously without ever regressing” (“The Two Kinds of Faith,” WND-1, 899). He is saying that we must keep polishing and forging ourselves based on faith in the Mystic Law.

He also writes: “Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets” (“Letter to Niike,” WND-1, 1027). No matter what happens, we need to rouse ever-stronger faith and move ahead tenaciously and positively so we have no regrets. Those who make earnest, steadfast efforts in faith will never succumb to despair. Faith is the ultimate source of hope, for it enables us to find meaning in every situation and bring forth the wisdom and strength to take a step forward.

The true benefit of faith in Nichiren Buddhism is this inconspicuous benefit of building an unshakable, indestructible life state.

While in exile on Sado Island,[10] Nichiren declared: “I, Nichiren, am the richest man in all of present-day Japan” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 268). This is the life state of the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. Not even the harshest persecution could stifle his spirit.

We of the Soka Gakkai, who practice the Daishonin’s teachings and dedicate ourselves to kosen-rufu, are carrying on this spirit.

Nichiren Buddhism is a religion that fosters wise and strong individuals—people of integrity and outstanding character. It is a religion of human revolution. Through helping people transform their lives, the Soka Gakkai has developed a network of peace, culture and education throughout the world.

■ ■ ■

Boundless and Immeasurable Benefit

Now in the minds of Nichiren and his followers, what is unsurpassed is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Among all the things that are unsurpassed, it holds the highest position of all.

It is the Wonderful Law [Mystic Law] that is described … as a “cluster of unsurpassed jewels,” a cluster of jewels that represents all the paramitas,[11] the ten thousand religious practices and ten thousand good deeds of all the Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future.

And without labor or trouble, without religious practices or good deeds, this cluster of unsurpassed jewels can come into our possession through the single word “faith” [i.e., through chanting the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith]. That is why the passage says that it has “come to us (jitoku) unsought.” The word ji in the phrase jitoku (come to us of itself) refers to the Ten Worlds, that is, the cluster comes into the possession of each and every one in the Ten Worlds. This is what is known as the true aspect of all phenomena.[12]

Therefore this passage is saying that the Shakyamuni Buddha of perfect enlightenment[13] is none other than the flesh and blood of us living beings. You should ponder this very carefully. (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 59)[14]

Let us now study this passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings affirming that those who remain steadfast in faith will attain boundless and immeasurable benefit.

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi underlined this passage heavily in his copy of the Daishonin’s writings that was confiscated by the authorities during World War II.

In the “Belief and Understanding” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, we find the words: “This cluster of unsurpassed jewels / has come to us unsought” (LSOC, 124). The Lotus Sutra teaches for the first time that the practitioners of the two vehicles—voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones—can attain Buddhahood.[15] Previous sutras had sternly denounced them and denied that possibility. Hearing this teaching, the disciples of the two vehicles, having all but abandoned hope of attaining Buddhahood, rejoice, prompting Mahakashyapa to exclaim on their behalf: “This cluster of unsurpassed jewels / has come to us unsought.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings states that this “cluster of unsurpassed jewels” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which contains the benefits of all the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences. This is because the Mystic Law stands at the pinnacle of all unsurpassed things (see OTT, 59).

The “cluster of unsurpassed jewels” also refers to the life state of Buddhahood and our own lives, which possess that potential. All of us, therefore, equally possess the supreme and unsurpassed jewel that is the Buddha nature.

Faith is the ultimate source of hope, for it enables us to find meaning in every situation and bring forth the wisdom and strength to take a step forward.

■ ■ ■

Establishing a Lofty State of Happiness During This Lifetime

A HOMS visit in Rahway, New Jersey, July 2021.

Nichiren then explains the meaning of the phrase “come to us unsought”: “Without labor or trouble, without religious practices or good deeds, this cluster of unsurpassed jewels can come into our possession through the single word ‘faith’ [i.e., through chanting the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith]” (OTT, 59).

“Without labor or trouble, without religious practices or good deeds” does not simply mean without any effort or exertion in practice.

The pre-Lotus Sutra teachings taught that enlightenment could be attained only by undergoing countless eons of Buddhist practice. Nichiren Daishonin, in contrast, in revealing the essence of the Lotus Sutra, taught that anyone can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. By upholding the Mystic Law, in which both cause and effect are present simultaneously (see “Establishing the Correct Method of Contemplation,” WND-2, 517),[16] we can readily obtain these unsurpassed jewels “without labor or trouble, without religious practices or good deeds” carried out over countless eons of seeking enlightenment. We can instantly attain the life state of Buddhahood.

In addition, he says, “This cluster of unsurpassed jewels can come into our possession through the single word ‘faith’ [i.e., through chanting the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith]” (OTT, 59). Nichiren Buddhism teaches that, for ordinary people in the Latter Day of the Law, embracing the Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is in itself the practice for observing one’s mind, or attaining enlightenment.

By embracing faith in the Gohonzon and steadfastly carrying out our Buddhist practice, we can place ourselves on a sure path to happiness and attain the unsurpassed treasure of enlightenment even without consciously seeking it.

This treasure “comes to us unsought,” meaning it is not given to us by anyone. We attain it ourselves. That is why we must never abandon our faith. Doubt, laziness and arrogance are our greatest enemies. We need to strive steadfastly and consistently in our Buddhist practice. By so doing, we can attain a vast state of life beyond our imagination in which we can “enjoy ourselves at ease” (see LSOC, 272)[17] and savor the “boundless joy of the Law.”[18]

The experiences of countless Soka Gakkai members around the world attest to this truth. Looking back on their lives, many report that through carrying out their practice in earnest, they have naturally come to gain solid benefit overcoming all kinds of hardships and enjoying a serene and unhindered state of life.

■ ■ ■

“All That I Need Comes to Me Naturally”

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda said: “My inner state of life at this moment is as if I am sprawled on an endless expanse of fluffy white clouds high in the sky. All that I need comes to me naturally. It comes to me unsought. Where did I obtain this benefit? In jail, where I spent two years. But the times are different now, and you don’t have to go to jail. All you need to do is devote your young lives to your noble mission for kosen-rufu, working tirelessly to realize that goal.”

By dedicating ourselves to kosen-rufu, we can savor a life state of supreme happiness without fail.

■ ■ ■

Spreading the Philosophy of Respect for the Dignity of Life

Ultimately, enabling an inner transformation in people’s lives through one-to-one dialogue is the foundation for transforming the karma of humankind.

When people change one by one, the spiritual basis of society will change, too. Our movement of human revolution means establishing the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life in society through “a sound revolution carried out within [people] themselves / gradually and in an atmosphere of peace.”[19]

Dr. Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, commented on the Soka Gakkai’s activities to spread the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life. She observed that the SGI shared many of the values that guided Gandhi’s actions, including his nonviolence, conscience and spirit of self-discipline.[20]

Thoughtful people around the world have high expectations for our movement dedicated to developing the positive potential in each person and solidarity among all people.

By dedicating ourselves to kosen-rufu, we can savor a life state of supreme happiness without fail.

■ ■ ■

Setting Forth Boldly Toward the Soka Gakkai’s 100th Anniversary

Young people are vibrantly emerging everywhere to take on this challenge of transforming society through individual transformation. The “sun of youth, today again is rising.”[21] It is brightly illuminating the world with the compassionate light of Buddhist humanism.

Our goal is to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s ideal of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land and the world through each person’s human revolution. As we set forth boldly toward the Soka Gakkai’s 100th anniversary, our mission is greater than ever.

I will share the closing lines from the “Song of Youth” with my dear young friends of the youth division, who are charged with the mission of blazing the way forward for kosen-rufu in the 21st century:

Young people!
you must go on living
Above all, you must go on living

As chief figures in the brilliant total revolution
resolutely you will achieve your victory in history

The 8 a.m. sun of youth
today again is rising!
It is rising in time to the beat of youth![22]

Translated from the December 2020 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

References

  1. Daisaku Ikeda, The Sun of Youth, p. 6.
  2. Ibid., p. 11.
  3. Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1992), vol. 10 (November 1909–March 1911), p. 27.
  4. T’ien-t’ai (538–97): Also known as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai or Chih-i. The founder of the T’ien-t’ai school in China. His lectures were compiled in such works as The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra and Great Concentration and Insight.
  5. Source unknown.
  6. Thirty-two features and eighty characteristics: Extraordinary features attributed to Buddhas and bodhisattvas. In most cases, the term “thirty-two features and eighty characteristics” refers to the distinguishing qualities of a Buddha.
  7. Wish-granting jewel: A jewel said to have the power to produce whatever one desires. It symbolizes the virtue and power of the Buddha and the Buddhist scriptures.
  8. Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in May 1280, in response to sincere offerings he received from the lay nun Myoshin. In addition to sharing memories of her late husband, the Daishonin explains that the Mystic Law is the seed for attaining Buddhahood and, as the source of all benefits, is also described as the “wish-granting jewel.”
  9. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Your ever-strengthening faith is admirable, admirable indeed!” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 877).
  10. Sado Exile: The Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island off the central west coast of Japan from October 1271 through March 1274. After the failed attempt to take his life at Tatsunokuchi, the authorities sent him to exile on Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence. However, when the Daishonin’s predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion were fulfilled, the government issued a pardon in March 1274, and the Daishonin returned to Kamakura.
  11. Paramitas: Practices required of Mahayana bodhisattvas in order to attain enlightenment. The Sanskrit word paramita is interpreted as “perfection” or “having reached the opposite shore,” i.e., to cross from the shore of delusion to the shore of enlightenment. They are usually divided into six or ten.
  12. True aspect of all phenomena: The ultimate truth or reality that permeates all phenomena and is in no way separate from them. Through the explanation of the ten factors, the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra teaches that all people are inherently endowed with the potential to become Buddhas, and clarifies the truth that they can tap and manifest this potential.
  13. Perfect enlightenment constitutes the last and highest of the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice, or Buddhahood. It is the stage at which one eradicates fundamental ignorance.
  14. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: A record of lectures that Nichiren Daishonin gave on key passages of the Lotus Sutra while he was residing on Mount Minobu. It was recorded by Nikko Shonin.
  15. Attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles: In the first half of the Lotus Sutra, persons of the two vehicles—voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones—receive a prophecy from Shakyamuni Buddha that they will attain Buddhahood in the future. This prophecy refutes the view of the provisional Mahayana teachings, which deny persons of the two vehicles the attainment of Buddhahood, for they seek only personal salvation and do not strive to save others. The Lotus Sutra says that they will practice the bodhisattva way and attain Buddhahood.
  16. Simultaneity of cause and effect: The principle that both cause and effect exist together simultaneously in a single moment of life. “Cause” here refers to the practice for attaining Buddhahood, and “effect,” the attainment of Buddhahood. The simultaneity of cause and effect means that both the nine worlds from hell through bodhisattva and the world of Buddhahood are inherent in life.
  17. In the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the world in which we dwell is described as a place “where living beings enjoy themselves at ease” (LSOC, 272). This indicates that the saha world, normally regarded as a realm of suffering, is actually the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, or a Buddha realm, where all living beings can experience the greatest enjoyment.
  18. Boundless joy of the Law: The supreme and ultimate happiness of the Buddha, the benefit of the Mystic Law. Nichiren says: “There is no true happiness for human beings other than chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The sutra reads, ‘ … where living beings enjoy themselves at ease’ [LSOC, 272]. How could this passage mean anything but the boundless joy of the Law?” (“Happiness in This World,” WND-1, 681).
  19. Daisaku Ikeda, The Sun of Youth, p. 15.
  20. Translated from Japanese. From an interview article in Seikyo Shimbun, August 14, 2020.
  21. Daisaku Ikeda, The Sun of Youth, p. 19.
  22. Ibid.

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