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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Leading a Life of Principle and Conviction Together With One’s Mentor

Ikeda Wisdom Academy—Advanced Study for SGI-USA Youth Division

Young men’s division members encourage each other through their studies in Dallas, August 2021.

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth leaders advanced study movement. While this material is for this youth leaders study program, all SGI-USA members can read the following excerpts as part of their personal study of The Teachings for Victory, volume 1, by Ikeda Sensei.

Chapter 8

“The Supremacy of the Law” —Part 2 of 3

Nichiren Daishonin wrote “The Supremacy of the Law” to urge the recipient to strengthen their faith at a time when society was in great confusion with a prevalence of misguided beliefs and erroneous teachings. In this lecture, Sensei uncovers the “important essentials of faith[1] that Nichiren outlines in this writing.

Through the power of faith in the Mystic Law, those who have suffered the most can attain the greatest happiness. Nichiren Buddhism enables those who have triumphed over hardship and adversity to become inspiring leaders who can help many others. …

This letter, “The Supremacy of the Law,” is infused throughout with his compassionate wish that its recipient, Nichimyo, and her daughter, Oto, lead truly happy lives and, toward that end, develop the strong faith that would allow them to resiliently weather any challenge presented by the evil times in which they lived. …

For Nichimyo, and many of Nichiren’s other women followers, the answer to such fundamental questions as “What is a correct way of life?” and “How can I lead a truly meaningful existence?” was to advance together with this great teacher of Buddhism who, despite momentous obstacles, remained steadfast in his principles and convictions. In this and numerous other writings, he unstintingly commends the faith of his female disciples. Such praise is no doubt inspired by his fervent hope that each without exception would enjoy a happy and victorious life.[2]

Victory Lies in Striving With the Same Commitment as Our Mentor

Women regard their husband as their soul. Without their husband, they lack a soul. Nowadays, even married women find it difficult to get along in the world. Though you have lost your soul, you lead your life more courageously than those who have one. Furthermore, because you maintain your faith in the gods and you revere the Buddha, you are indeed a woman who surpasses others. (“The Supremacy of the Law,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 613–14)

“Soul” here can be interpreted as meaning support, mainstay or sustenance.

Epidemics and famines were rampant throughout the land, and the threat of a second Mongol invasion loomed over the populace. It must have been arduous for Nichimyo to survive amid these troubled times without a husband to support and protect her. Yet, she did not give in to self-pity or despair. Undaunted by circumstances, she applied herself steadfastly to her Buddhist practice, just as Nichiren instructed. …

Not only did Nichimyo travel to Sado, but, because of her seeking spirit and desire to repay her gratitude, after Nichiren was pardoned from exile and subsequently took up residence at Mount Minobu, she also visited him there. Nichiren warmly confirms that because of her sincere devotion, the protective forces of the universe will safeguard her and compassionately watch over her without fail.

The depth of our commitment to faith is revealed at a crucial moment. The touchstone is whether, when it really counts, we continue taking action in the same spirit as our mentor.

Viewed from the perspective of Buddhism, Nichiren’s exile to Sado was simply a devious plot by hostile forces to drive a wedge between him and his followers. Devilish functions always seek to divide the forces of the Buddha.

The Soka Gakkai is the community of believers accomplishing the Buddha’s intent and decree in the modern day. Throughout our history, we have faced countless schemes by malevolent forces bent on breaking the unity of mentor and disciple. But such onslaughts, in fact, ultimately served to show who genuinely shared the mentor’s commitment. …

It would seem evident from Nichimyo’s dedicated commitment to practicing the Mystic Law alongside Nichiren that she placed complete trust in him as a true teacher of Buddhism and a person genuinely fighting for the welfare and happiness of all humankind. …

Nichiren says, “Though no one else came to visit me, you, a woman, not only sent me various offerings, but personally made the journey to see me” (WND-1, 614). In terms of our activities today, this is comparable to solidly uniting our hearts with our mentor and realizing victorious achievements on the grand stage of kosen-rufu. The mentor-disciple relationship is not defined by physical distance. It ultimately comes down to the commitment and actions of the disciple.[3]

‘Buddhism Is About Winning’

The Buddha promised in the Lotus Sutra that, for women, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness, as a ship when they cross the sea, and as a protector when they travel through dangerous places. (WND-1, 614)

The law of cause and effect is strict and impartial. Cunning and deviousness do not get one far in the realm of Buddhism. Sincere, honest efforts, on the other hand, will all return to us in the form of good fortune and benefit. Those who have striven earnestly for kosen-rufu will absolutely be protected. Responsible, dedicated people will certainly be rewarded. This is my conclusion based on more than 60 years of practice.

Throughout his writings, Nichiren emphasizes that inconspicuous efforts, or struggles of which no one else is aware, will definitely produce benefit. For instance, he says: “Unseen virtue brings about visible reward,”[4] “What is hidden turns into manifest virtue”[5] and “Though one’s trustworthiness may at first go unnoticed, in time it will be openly rewarded.”[6]

During the years I spent working for Mr. Toda, I devoted myself to countless behind-the-scenes struggles. When he faced the greatest adversity, I supported him in ways of which no one else was ever aware. Because of those efforts, I often couldn’t attend Soka Gakkai meetings or activities. Some top leaders callously remarked, “Ikeda’s quit practicing.” But I wasn’t swayed in the least, because I was confident that supporting and assisting Mr. Toda would lead to the advance of kosen-rufu. …

The causes for the tremendous actual proof manifested as the present global spread of kosen-rufu can be found in my selfless struggles as a youth to develop our movement. And I can state unequivocally that everything I am or have achieved today is the good fortune and benefit resulting from having done my utmost to support and protect Mr. Toda. Such is the realm of Buddhism.

The teachings of the Lotus Sutra constitute a direct path by which ordinary people of deep seeking spirit can attain absolute happiness. How inspiring Nichimyo must have found Nichiren’s explanation of the great and unmistakable benefits of practicing this sutra.[7]

The Spirit of Always Moving Forward From the Present Moment

That is why the Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the gods.” So long as one maintains firm faith, one is certain to receive the great protection of the gods. I say this for your sake. I know your faith has always been admirable, but now you must strengthen it more than ever. Only then will the ten demon daughters lend you even greater protection. (WND-1, 614)

We cannot move the heavenly deities to action with a weak or passive attitude in faith. The protective workings of these benevolent universal forces arise in response to prayers and actions infused with an unwavering determination to win and never be defeated by hardship. …

[Nichiren] urges [Nichimyo] to strengthen her faith even more in order to teach her a cornerstone of Buddhist practice. This, in other words, is the spirit of always moving forward and continually growing—further today than yesterday, further tomorrow than today.

Nichiren Buddhism teaches the mystic principle of the true cause—meaning that a fresh cause can be made at each moment—and emphasizes the present and the future. No matter how admirably we may have exerted ourselves in our Buddhist practice in the past, if we allow our efforts to grind to a halt in the present, we will eventually stop growing in faith. As the saying goes, “Not advancing is regressing.”

Of course, people sometimes cannot be as active as they’d like due to illness or the infirmities of old age. And circumstances sometimes place restrictions on people’s efforts for kosen-rufu. But irrespective of our situations, the important thing is not to slacken in our resolve; if we do, we cannot be said to have the firm faith that Nichiren proclaims is so necessary. No matter how hard we might have struggled in the past, if we stop practicing, then all our efforts will have been in vain. …

Having firm faith means bravely confronting adversity, not retreating under any circumstance. Those who are weak and indecisive at a crucial moment cannot hope to bring forth the protection of the heavenly deities.[8]

Having firm faith means bravely confronting adversity, not retreating under any circumstance.

Self-Reliant Disciples Taking Initiative to Spread the Correct Teaching

You need not seek far for an example. Everyone in Japan, from the sovereign on down to the common people, without exception has tried to do me harm, but I have survived until this day. You should realize that this is because, although I am alone, I have firm faith. (WND-1, 614)

Ever since submitting “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” to the country’s most powerful figure (in July 1260), Nichiren had encountered life-threatening persecution. He had written this treatise of remonstration out of the wish to relieve the suffering and misery of all people of the Latter Day of the Law. … The entire populace was turned against him and clamored for his death. Nevertheless, he managed to survive. What is the reason for this? He clearly explains, “Because, although I am alone, I have firm faith.” This passage deeply resonates in my heart.

The Daishonin stood entirely alone, outnumbered by hostile and antagonistic forces. Yet he declared that victory is not decided by numbers but by one’s own heart or resolve. His statement “Because … I have firm faith,” which was backed by the conviction of his experience, encapsulates several key ingredients of faith. These include an unwavering commitment to the great vow for kosen-rufu, the courageous and vigorous determination to fight against evil and wrongdoing, and the spirit of compassion to lead others to enlightenment. Because of his strong faith in the Lotus Sutra and his dauntless, lionlike courage, Nichiren could emerge triumphant over all obstacles. …

One reason he describes his own struggles in his writings, I believe, is his wish for the emergence of genuine disciples of unwavering resolve. Throughout, he calls on followers to strive in the same spirit as he has. In sharing details of his own struggles, Nichiren shows us that if we emulate his spirit and efforts, we can develop the same dauntless state of life.

The Buddha’s great wish is to “make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 70)—that is, to help everyone gain the same enlightened state of being he has attained. This reflects the Buddhist view that all people possess the same boundless potential as the Buddha. …

To share the same spirit as our mentor means to take action and strive in our Buddhist practice with the same stand-alone spirit. This constitutes true oneness of mentor and disciple.

Nichiren sought to foster admirable, self-reliant disciples who would persevere in spreading the Mystic Law, whether or not others joined them. …

[He] exemplifies how our inner resolve or determination at each moment plays a powerful role in bringing about victory. A courageous, resolute spirit is contagious. Courageous people awaken courage within others.[9]

The Central Role of Women in Building Peace

If a boat is handled by an unskilled steersman, it may capsize and drown everyone aboard. Likewise, though someone may have great physical strength, if he lacks a resolute spirit, even his many abilities will be of no use. In this country, there may be many wise people, but they cannot utilize their wisdom because they are governed by foolish leaders. (WND-1, 614)

Faced with an imminent second Mongol invasion, the land was filled with despair and fear. How could Japan steer clear of this impending disaster? First, Nichiren says that if the person at the ship’s helm is unskilled at sailing, everyone on board may lose their lives. Next, he says that if people are fainthearted, then no matter how strong they may be physically, they cannot make full use of their abilities. In this way, he seeks to drive home that the country’s problems can only be overcome if its leaders have proper wisdom and dauntless courage. …

Amid these circumstances, Nichiren deliberately conveyed to his followers his unshakable confidence that kosen-rufu can definitely be achieved. Even while living at Minobu, he wrote tirelessly, proclaiming the correct teaching with an indomitable lion’s roar. …

The foremost duty of Buddhists is to create a safe and peaceful world for mothers and children everywhere. Toward that end, we have to change the fundamental nature of human society, moving away from a culture of war and greed to a culture of building peace.

And women can play a central role in this process. When women of great courage, optimism and wisdom join together, society will change profoundly. When a united force of fearless women emerges, the times will change dramatically. When women with the rich sensitivity and deep compassion of nurturers and protectors of life rise into action, human society will be transformed on a fundamental level.

Buddhism is a teaching for fostering genuinely awakened people—men and women, young and old—who are capable of translating ideals into reality for the happiness of themselves and others.[10]


The Teachings for Victory, vols. 1 & 2 are available here.

References

  1. The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 116.
  2. Ibid., p. 131.
  3. Ibid., pp. 132–33.
  4. “The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 940.
  5. “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 848.
  6. “The Four Virtues and the Four Debts of Gratitude,” WND-2, 636.
  7. The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 134–35.
  8. Ibid., pp. 135–37.
  9. Ibid., pp. 137–38.
  10. Ibid., pp. 139–40.

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