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Gosho Study

Battle Negative Influences

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“Believers in the Lotus Sutra should fear those who attempt to obstruct their practice more than they fear bandits, burglars, night raiders, tigers, wolves, or lions—even more than invasion now by the Mongols.” (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 495)

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

Who is it that we, as practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, should really fear? Nichiren Daishonin says that rather than fearing bandits, thieves or wild animals, we should fear those who attempt to obstruct our practice. To whom, then, does this specifically refer?

Nichiren cites the examples of respected Chinese T’ang dynasty Buddhist teachers, such as Tz’u-en and Shan-wu-wei, who held fast to the Buddha’s provisional teachings rather than embracing the Lotus Sutra. He notes that each of these learned men had at some point recognized the Lotus Sutra’s superiority but in the end had forgone upholding faith in this sutra. The root cause behind their rejection, he asserts, is their having been led astray by “someone who was an evil influence” (WND-1, 495)—meaning an “evil friend” or “evil teacher.”

“Those who attempt to obstruct one’s practice” are known as “negative influences.” What makes them so frightening is that they can corrupt people’s minds and destroy their faith. If practitioners of the Lotus Sutra allow themselves to be swayed by negative influences, to be deceived by evil teachers, thereby losing their commitment to the correct path of faith, they cannot attain the Buddha way.

Conversely, if practitioners remain steadfast in their commitment, they can eventually, through the power of faith, surmount even the greatest difficulties. It is really true, as Nichiren often says, that the heart is most important. To forge the inner strength to withstand negative influences, we must have the wisdom to discern that they are devilish functions and courageously battle them. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 66–67)

From the April 2023 Living Buddhism

SGI-USA Washington, D.C. Buddhist Center

The Surest Route