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Gosho Study

What It Means to ‘Become the Master of Your Mind’

Photo by Yvonne Ng.

A passage in the Six Paramitas Sutra says to become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you. 

“Letter to the Brothers,”
The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 502

The Ikegami brothers, Munenaka and Munenaga, received this letter from Nichiren Daishonin in 1276 at a critical juncture in their lives. 

Their father, Ikegami Yasumitsu, was an official in the Kamakura government and a loyal follower of Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple, a True Word Precepts priest who was hostile toward the Daishonin. Yasumitsu vehemently opposed his sons’ faith and disowned Munenaka, the eldest. In feudal Japanese society, being disowned was tantamount to destroying Munenaka’s financial and social standing.

The father, instigated by Ryokan, tried to stoke rivalry between the brothers, tempting the younger Munenaga to forsake his faith to gain the full inheritance of the family estate. This predicament prompted Nichiren to write “Letter to the Brothers.”

In the letter, he outlines how to overcome hardship through Buddhist practice, urging the brothers and their wives to unite and maintain faith, to “master their minds” and secure victory. 

Following the Daishonin’s guidance, the Ikegami brothers won at this critical juncture and converted their father to Nichiren’s teachings in 1278. 

Today, “Letter to the Brothers” serves as a blueprint for victory, teaching us how to unite and persevere in faith to overcome any hardship.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Ikeda Sensei’s Encouragement

1. Make the Principles of Buddhism Our Guide

What does it mean to be a human being? What is life? What is the self? What is the purpose of life? What is true happiness? Why are we born? Why do we die? Buddhism is a philosophy of life that provides the fundamental answers to all these questions. Therefore, studying Buddhism and mastering its teachings is exploring the meaning of our own lives, and opening the door to a storeroom of the richest spiritual treasures. …

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda noted, “Faith seeks understanding, and understanding deepens faith.” He also said, “Study strengthens and deepens faith, which brings benefit.”

In citing the scriptural passage, “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you” (WND-1, 486), the Daishonin confirmed the path of Buddhists. To be “the master of your mind” means to make the principles of Buddhism our guide, and we achieve this through study. Study is also a measure to indicate whether our behavior and way of life as Buddhist practitioners is correct or not. It is a mirror that shows us who we are. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, pp. 139–40)

2. Sincerely Seek the Teachings of a Mentor in Faith

Alone, people become weak. And when they encounter attack, they tend to become fearful, succumb to their own weakness, and start to slacken in their faith. In other words, cowardice becomes their master.

That’s why the Daishonin … [stresses] the importance of being the master of our mind and, further, following the teachings of a mentor who can guide us on the path of correct faith. Having a mentor in faith and fellow practitioners is indispensable in our Buddhist practice. (NHR-27, 245–46)

3. Base Ourselves on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s Writings

If we base ourselves on our own fickle, ever-changing hearts, we cannot make our way up steep ridges buffeted by the fierce winds of devilish functions. We must set our sights on the solid and unshakable summit of attaining Buddhahood and continually seek to master our minds. This is the meaning of the passage “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you.”

Becoming the master of one’s mind ultimately means basing oneself on the unwavering foundation of the Law. Herein lies the importance of sutras or writings containing the teachings of the Buddha who has awakened to and spreads the Law. For us, as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, mastering our minds means basing ourselves on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s writings. And in Buddhism, it is the teacher or mentor who puts the teachings into practice that helps us connect to the Law. Mastering our minds means having a sincere seeking spirit in faith based on the oneness of mentor and disciple, and not being ruled by arrogant egoism or self-centeredness. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 107)

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