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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

February 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!


Shining ‘Like a Jewel When Polished’

Writings for Discussion Meetings

Passage

When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

—“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4

Finding the Buddha Within

In comparing a Buddha with an ordinary person, the two may be seen as worlds apart. However, Nichiren Daishonin teaches that there is no separation between them, except that one is enlightened while the other is deluded.

How, then, can we go from being deluded to enlightened, from an ordinary person to a Buddha? The key to this transition is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

In the passage above, the Daishonin likens people who suffer from core delusions, or fundamental ignorance, to a tarnished mirror. He then compares a Buddha to a mirror that shines like a polished jewel, able to reflect the “essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality.”

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is vital to perceiving ourselves, the people around us and our circumstances from enlightened perspectives. Chanting helps us drive away fundamental ignorance and awaken our Buddha nature, which has always resided within us. Our lives, originally and inherently, are like bright, shining mirrors.

True Champions Put Daimoku First

Nichiren makes this point through the analogy of a mirror, which in his day were made of brass and tarnished easily. It’s not enough to polish such a mirror only once. Likewise, we need to keep chanting to polish our lives. Thus, Nichiren urges us, “Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night” (WND-1, 4).

In his lecture on this writing, Ikeda Sensei explains:

This practice of polishing our lives may be seen as having two aspects. One is to “arouse deep faith,” as Nichiren exhorts (WND-1, 4). This could also be articulated as summoning the fighting spirit to battle our inner darkness. The other aspect is to continue making steadfast efforts, in accord with Nichiren’s admonition that we should “diligently polish our mirror day and night” (see WND-1, 4).[1]

We chant to the Gohonzon to win over doubt, negativity and fear and to bring forth the powerful conviction that we embody the Mystic Law. Moreover, doing gongyo every morning and evening is indispensable to maintaining a high life condition and taking action that brings us benefit, fortune and happiness. Sensei says:

If you practice faith while doubting its effects, you will get results that are, at best, unsatisfactory. This is the reflection of your own weak faith on the mirror of the cosmos.

On the other hand, when you stand up with strong confidence, you will accrue limitless blessings. While controlling your mind, which is at once both extremely subtle and solemnly profound, you should strive to elevate your faith with freshness and vigor. When you do so, both your life and your surroundings will open wide before you, and every action you take will become a source of benefit. Understanding the subtle workings of one’s mind is the key to faith and to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.[2]

Sensei describes a true champion as “someone who puts prayer first.”[3] Let’s always remain true champions by polishing our lives “day and night” as we engage in meaningful, heartfelt dialogues that create happiness for ourselves and others.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department, and adapted from the February 2022  Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine.

Suggested Questions:

1) What does the process of “summoning the fighting spirit to battle our inner
ignorance” look like for you?

2) How has chanting opened your life and surroundings “wide before you”?


Changing Karma Into Mission: Inspiring Hope in Others

Buddhist Concepts

When we hear the word karma, we may think, “What goes around comes around.” In other words, what we do or say (positive or negative) always has a way of coming back to us. The Buddhist principle of karma—a Sanskrit word meaning “action”—posits three kinds of actions through which we create causes that bring about effects: our thoughts, words and behavior. These actions become “latent effects” that emerge as results under the right conditions.

Buddhism explains that our lives are not limited to this life alone but span past, present and future existences. Effects we see in the present result from causes we made in previous lives, and what we do in the present impacts our future lives.

In the general view of causality, people have to accumulate enough positive causes to cancel out the effects of past negative causes while trying to avoid making even more negative causes. The work of transforming karma becomes impossible in this lifetime and amounts to an “endless, painful austerity” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4).

Fortunately, the Lotus Sutra teaches how to transform our karma in this lifetime based on the reality that all people inherently possess the limitless courage, wisdom and compassion of Buddhahood.

The most fundamental negative cause we can make is to slander the Lotus Sutra, which means to deny the dignity of life and inherent potential, or Buddhahood, within all life.

Changing karma means transforming our inner tendencies that cause us to denigrate ourselves and others and instead strive for the happiness of others. Rather than worrying about negative causes that might emerge later as bad effects, we can make the most fundamental good cause in the present by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and helping others do the same. Ikeda Sensei writes:

The moment we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the life state of Buddhahood of time without beginning is activated. At that very instant, we have overcome any misfortune or unhappiness caused by past karma. The power of the Mystic Law to “change poison into medicine” is absolute. The purpose of faith is to transform our karma and enjoy a life of unparalleled happiness. (October 1, 2021, World Tribune, p. 3)

Our Mission: To Find Meaning in Everything

When confronted with recurring issues, we can feel discouraged or even doubt whether we can transform our karma. From the perspective of Buddhism, our sufferings are not just our “karma” but the realm of our “mission.” Our victory can become the fuel for encouraging others. The successes we achieve through faith effectively declare: This is how I won, and you can win too! Sensei says:

The difficulties you may now be facing are, from the perspective of faith in Nichiren Buddhism, part of your chosen mission. Forging ahead with that conviction is proof that your prayers are infused with the vow for kosen-rufu.

If you have some pressing problem—be it work, money, health, a relationship or some other challenge—it is important that you chant earnestly to triumph over it. Your own clear proof of victory will become a source of hope and inspiration for others experiencing the same kind of problems. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, revised edition, p. 35)

Practicing Nichiren Buddhism helps us become people whom nothing can defeat, who possess a life condition powerful enough to transform our environment. Finding meaning, genuine fulfillment and joy while facing difficulties proves that we are transforming our karma into our mission. Our sufferings become the impetus for making positive causes that alter the trajectory of our lives. Sensei says:

Everything that happens in our lives has meaning. Moreover, the way of life of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism is to find and discover meaning in all things. Nothing is insignificant. Whatever a person’s karma may be, it definitely has profound meaning. This is not just a matter of outlook. Changing the world starts by changing our fundamental state of mind. This is a key Buddhist principle. A powerful determination to transform even negative karma into mission can dramatically transform the real world. By changing our inner state of mind, we can change any suffering or hardship into a source of joy, regarding it as a means for forging and developing our lives. To turn even sorrow into a source of creativity—that is the way of life of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, revised edition, pp. 43–44)

Having a youthful spirit comes down to seeking new encounters. This February, in this Year of Youth and Triumph, we can win in making our karma our mission by meeting with and inspiring as many people as possible to become true victors in life!

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) What problems have you overcome using your Buddhist practice?

2) What does “changing karma into mission” look like for you?

References

  1. On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 40. ↩︎
  2. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, pp. 99–100. ↩︎
  3. The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, p. 276. ↩︎

District Study Meeting Material

Songs of Kosen-rufu