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Remaining Undaunted by Devilish Functions

Photo by Geneva Lewis.

If you propagate it [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], devils will arise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching. 

“Letter to the Brothers,”
The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin
, vol. 1, p. 501

Ikegami Munenaka and Munenaga were brothers who had begun practicing Nichiren Buddhism around 1256. Their father, Yasumitsu, a staunch supporter of the True Word Precepts priest Ryokan, opposed his sons’ beliefs. 

In 1276, attempting to sow disunity between his sons, Yasumitsu disowned the elder Munenaka for not renouncing his faith in Nichiren’s teachings. And he enticed the younger Munenaga to abandon his faith to inherit the family estate. 

Nichiren wrote “Letter to the Brothers” that same year, encouraging the brothers to unite and persevere in faith. In the passage above, he also encourages them to view their challenges as proof that they are practicing the correct teaching. After two decades, their father converted to Nichiren Buddhism in 1278.

The word devils in this passage does not refer to literal demonic entities but to the negative functions in life that hinder our Buddhist practice and cause us to doubt our own and others’ innate enlightened nature. “Letter to the Brothers” contains Nichiren’s invaluable guidance for recognizing obstacles and provides strategies in faith that allow us to live with an indomitable spirit, undefeated by hardship.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department 

Ikeda Sensei’s Encouragement

1. Defeat Devilish Functions With Wisdom and Courage 

Obstacles and devilish functions naturally arise to assail those who practice the correct teaching. Here, Nichiren teaches an important point for victory in our Buddhist practice—for only by recognizing this truth and courageously confronting and triumphing over such obstacles will it be possible for us to realize our own inner transformation. … 

Those who let themselves be influenced by devilish functions will be drawn toward the evil paths of existence, while those who are intimidated by them will be prevented from practicing the correct teaching. In short, wisdom and courage are the foundation for victory in this struggle—the wisdom to see devilish functions for what they are and not be swayed by them and the courage to stand up to them without fear. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 100)

2. The Only Way to Liberate People From Suffering

As the Daishonin indicates when he says, “If they [devils] did not [arise], there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching,” those who rigorously uphold and practice the correct teaching in this evil latter age will be assailed by storms of obstacles and devilish functions without fail.

The only way to liberate the people of the Latter Day of the Law from fundamental suffering is to firmly establish the means by which the Buddha nature inherent in all human beings can be manifested in each individual’s life and in society. This great path can be opened only by those who are able to establish the deep, strong faith necessary to defeat the fundamental darkness inherent in human life. That is because all obstacles and devilish functions are in essence manifestations of fundamental darkness. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 9–10)

3. Faith for Overcoming Obstacles

The mentors and disciples who practice in accord with the Buddha’s teachings and carry out kosen-rufu are certain to be beset by the three powerful enemies[1] and even greater hatred and jealousy than was experienced during Shakyamuni’s lifetime.

Encountering such obstacles is proof that we are faithfully practicing the correct teaching of Buddhism. Moreover, it is through overcoming obstacles that we can attain the indestructible life state of Buddhahood.

That is why the Daishonin declares: “At such a time, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat” (“The Three Obstacles and Four Devils,” WND-1, 637) and “The greater the hardships befalling him [the votary of the Lotus Sutra], the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith” (“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” WND-1, 33). This is the very essence of Nichiren Buddhism and the heart of the Soka Gakkai. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, revised edition, pp. 89–90)

References

  1. The three powerful enemies: Three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, described in the concluding verse section of “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China summarizes them as arrogant lay people, arrogant priests and arrogant false sages. ↩︎

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