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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

January 2023

Illustration by ArdeaA / Getty images

Please base your study for your monthly discussion meetings on:

1) Writings for Discussion Meetings (pp. 36–37)
2) Buddhist Concepts (pp. 38–39)
3) Material from any recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism

Have a great discussion meeting!


Boosting Our Powers of Faith and Practice Leads to Limitless Benefit

Writings for Discussion Meetings

Passage

The benefit of the Lotus Sutra is such that even a single word of it embodies the threefold blessings of Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions.

To illustrate, it is like a wish-granting jewel. One such jewel is the same as a hundred such jewels. One wish-granting jewel can rain down countless treasures, and a hundred jewels can likewise produce inexhaustible treasures.

—“The Pure and Far-Reaching Voice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 331–32

Gathering Infinite Treasures

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can obtain limitless benefits and develop into strong, compassionate, wise people.

In the passage above, Nichiren Daishonin says, “The benefit of the Lotus Sutra is such that even a single word of it embodies the threefold blessings of Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions.”

He teaches us that because Shakyamuni, Many Treasures and the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences of past, present and future all attained enlightenment through practicing the true teaching of the Lotus Sutra, it possesses the benefits of all Buddhas. And the essence of this true teaching is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren likens the boundless benefit of the Mystic Law to a “wish-granting jewel,” a mysterious jewel thought to allow one who holds this gem to produce infinite treasures at will.

He explains that the inexhaustible treasures we can obtain are the same whether we possess only a single jewel or a hundred.

Immediately after this passage, Nichiren employs other analogies. He says, for instance, that the medicine produced from a hundred plants can cure illness equally, whether via a single pill or a hundred, and that a single drop of the ocean contains water from all streams that flow into it (see WND-1, 331).

Through these examples, the Daishonin tells us that the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the daimoku of the Mystic Law, can bring immeasurable benefit.

By Chanting We Can Break Through Any Deadlock

Anyone who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with solid faith will have all their prayers answered and receive protection. Ikeda Sensei says:

As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, we possess the greatest treasure in all the world. We possess the “wish-granting jewel” that enables us to fulfill our every dream and desire. Of key importance are [the four powers,] the power of our faith and the power of our practice, which draw forth the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law. Our prayers will never go unanswered. Whatever may happen, there is no way that we will be defeated. This is the essence of faith. As such, we have nothing to worry about. As long as we persevere in our faith in the Mystic Law, in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and in our efforts to translate Buddhism into action, we will never reach a deadlock that we cannot break through. (January 20, 2006, World Tribune, p. 3)

Sensei emphasizes that when all four powers of the Mystic Law are activated, we gain limitless benefits.

To offer a brief description of the four powers: The power of faith is our belief in the Gohonzon, which embodies the two powers of the Buddha and the Law. The power of practice is our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and our efforts to teach others to do the same. The power of the Buddha equates to the Buddha’s compassion for all people. And the power of the Law indicates the Mystic Law’s capacity to lead all people to enlightenment.

How much we bring forth our powers of faith and practice, determines the powers of the Buddha and the Law.

Thus, our own prayer, resolve and effort are key. Sensei says:

Just as an arrow flying toward its target contains the full power and strength of the archer who shot it, our prayer contains all of our efforts and actions. … Those who take responsibility for every part of their lives and give their all in every endeavor will make a habit of prayer. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, revised edition, p. 121)

Keeping all this in mind, let’s start 2023—the Year of Youth and Triumph—praying and taking action with the resolve to share Buddhism with all those around us, to raise and support our youth and fellow members, and to achieve victories in our lives and our efforts for kosen-rufu!

—Adapted from the January 2021 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine.

Suggested Questions:

1) What benefits have you recently experienced based on your Buddhist practice?

2) What are some of your goals for 2023?


What Is the ‘Great Vow’ of the Buddha?

Buddhist Concepts

In Buddhism, the Buddha’s “great vow” signifies the ultimate wish and aim to lead all people to enlightenment and absolute happiness. Ikeda Sensei explains:

“I want to become happy and for everyone else to become happy too.” This is the original mind, the pure wish, functioning in the depths of life since beginningless time. Those who totally embrace this spirit are Buddhas. Because it is the Buddha’s all-encompassing wish, it is the great vow.[1]

The Lotus Sutra’s “Expedient Means” chapter refers to this vow as the “one great reason for which the Buddhas appear in the world.”[2] Traditionally, at the start of their practice, Mahayana Buddhists make “four universal vows”: 1) to save innumerable living beings; 2) to eradicate countless earthly desires; 3) to master immeasurable Buddhist teachings; and 4) to attain supreme enlightenment.

In modern terms, these vows can be expressed as:

1) working for the happiness of all people;

2) winning over the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness, freeing ourselves from egoism, and bringing forth wisdom, courage and compassion; 

3) seeking the truth of life through studying and applying Buddhist principles to resolve our personal and societal issues; and 

4) demonstrating our Buddhahood by developing ourselves throughout our lives while helping others do the same.

The first vow, to help all people become happy, is the most important because our desires and actions to fulfill it move us to achieve the remaining three.

Nichiren Daishonin writes:

All bodhisattvas invariably take the four universal vows. And if they do not fulfill the first of those four vows, which says, “Living beings are numberless: I vow to save them,” then they can hardly claim to have fulfilled the fourth vow, which says, “Enlightenment is supreme: I vow to attain it.”[3]

Simply put, we bolster and further enrich our lives by striving to support and share Buddhism with those around us.

Who Are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth?

In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha urges his disciples to spread the sutra in the evil age after his passing. Then, in the “Emerging from the Earth” chapter, he summons from beneath the earth countless bodhisattvas ready to take on this mission. These Bodhisattvas of the Earth vow to spread the sutra’s message and lead all people to enlightenment. Taking on illness, loneliness, anxiety, family discord and all manner of struggles, they set out in these troubled times to demonstrate the power of the Mystic Law, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Thirty years ago, on January 27, 1993, following the heartrending 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, Sensei penned the poem “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land,” calling on SGI-USA members to draw forth from within the vast life state of jiyu, or Bodhisattvas of the Earth. One stanza reads:

As each group seeks its separate
roots and origins,
society fractures along a thousand fissure lines.
When neighbors distance themselves
from neighbors, continue your
uncompromising quest
for your truer roots
in the deepest regions of your life.
Seek out the primordial “roots” of humankind.
Then you will without fail discover
the stately expanse of jiyu
unfolding in the depths of your life.[4]

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the great vow to spread Buddhism, we tap our true identity as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and bring forth our Buddhahood.

In addition, upon the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu 10 years ago in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, Ikeda Sensei conveyed in his commemorative message:

The heart of the great vow for kosen-rufu and the life state of Buddhahood are one and the same. Therefore, when we dedicate our lives to this vow, we can bring forth the supreme nobility, strength and greatness of our lives. When we remain true to this vow, the limitless courage, wisdom and compassion of the Buddha flow forth from within us. When we wholeheartedly strive to realize this vow, the “poison” of even the most difficult challenge can be transformed into “medicine,” and karma transformed into mission.[5]

In this Year of Youth and Triumph, to contribute to a better, more peaceful world, let’s chant, continue our uncompromising quest for our truer roots and share the greatness of Buddhism.

Suggested Questions:

1) How has your Buddhist practice deepened your empathy for others?

2) What goals do you have for this year that relate to helping others?

References

  1. The Heart of the Lotus Sutra, p. 380. ↩︎
  2. The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 64. ↩︎
  3. “Persons of the Two Vehicles and Bodhisattvas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 175. ↩︎
  4. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 208. ↩︎
  5. November 29, 2013, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎

District Study Meeting Material

Living True to Our Vow to Awaken the Buddha Nature inAll People