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Buddhism of the Sun

Expanding Our Inspiring Network of Human Harmony in the ‘Treasure Realms’ of Our Mission

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series—Installment 86

Celebrating the New Year in San Francisco, January 1, 2023. Photo by Sanya Lu.

Progress in kosen-rufu always comes from creating ties of mutual trust and friendship.

Shining in our own unique way as we respect and encourage one another, we vibrantly expand our network of solidarity to enable all people to fully realize their inherent dignity, thereby building a Buddha land.

Kosen-rufu is the challenge to make the realm of the Ceremony in the Air[1] described in the Lotus Sutra—which depicts the nobility of the state of Buddhahood within all people and the magnificent solidarity of bodhisattvas—a reality in the here and now. It is a realm of compassion, of respect for the dignity of each person, free of discrimination and division, in which everyone’s unique qualities can shine. Let us continue to advance steadily toward the realization of this lofty ideal.

• • •

‘First Here and Then There’

I am reminded of the novel The Eternal City by the British author Hall Caine (1853–1931), which I studied with my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, in my youth. The novel’s protagonist, the youthful revolutionary David Rossi, calls out to his compatriots: “If they ask us when our Republic [of Humanity] is to come to practical results, we say when the world is ready for it, until first here and then there, as this or that country is ripe for it, it will govern the powers that govern the world.”[2]

• • •

A Religious Revolution Powered by Human Revolution

Through such great literary works, Mr. Toda taught us how the bonds of like-minded friends and a dauntless commitment are vital to realize kosen-rufu, an endeavor unprecedented in human history.

He emphasized, however, that the religious revolution the Soka Gakkai aims to achieve is not a revolution accomplished by violent or coercive means. It can only be attained, he asserted, through the inner human revolution of each individual.[3]

Our noble members have steadfastly walked the great path of human revolution leading directly to kosen-rufu. They have contributed to the betterment of society by bringing people together and fostering mutual understanding in their communities, the places of their mission. This beautiful solidarity is emerging “first here and then there” all over the world.

Our precious members have built an “eternal city,” a republic of human harmony, in modern times. The treasures of the heart they have accumulated day after day through their ever sincere and heartfelt actions are certain to shine forever.

• • •

Contributing to Our Local Communities

In Japan, the members of the Soka Gakkai’s Community Department—especially, the housing complex division, which celebrates its founding day on June 25—have led our efforts for kosen-rufu at the community level.

On June 25, 1978, the first national housing complex division meetings were held in Tokyo and Kansai to commemorate the division’s fifth anniversary. At the gathering at the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo, I said: “I fervently hope that you will strive spiritedly on society’s front lines with the conviction that you are the protagonists in creating an ideal society of human harmony and cooperation, while also making life in your residential communities more enjoyable.”

Our members of the Community Department—which comprises the housing complex, community, outlying islands and farming and fishing divisions—have put the Daishonin’s words “I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province” (“The Properties of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1117) into practice as they have advanced kosen-rufu and widened their circles of trust and friendship in society.

In this installment, let us study Nichiren Daishonin’s words and reaffirm our admirable mission, as well as the importance of our efforts to expand our movement in our communities.

• • •

A Religion for Transforming the Real World

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “this person” [in the passage “Before long this person will proceed to the place of enlightenment”[4] (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 364)] refer to the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. The place where the person upholds and honors the Lotus Sutra is the “place of practice [place of enlightenment]” to which the person proceeds. It is not that he leaves his present place and goes to some other place. The “place of practice [place of enlightenment]” is the place where the living beings of the Ten Worlds reside. And now the place where Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge- kyo, “whether … in mountain valleys or the wide wilderness” [LSOC, 316], these places are all the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light.[5] This is what is meant by “the place of practice [place of enlightenment].” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 192)[6]

First, let us begin with a passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings referring to a line in the “Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” chapter, the final chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren states that wherever a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra—a person who upholds and practices the Mystic Law—resides at any given moment is the supreme “place of practice” or “place of enlightenment.” In other words, where we are right now is the place where we practice the Mystic Law and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. We do not seek a Buddha land or realm of bliss separate from the society in which we live.

Nichiren Buddhism is a religion for transforming the real world. It has the power to enable individuals to demonstrate clear proof of benefit in their diverse daily lives, making it possible for all people to lead lives of supreme fulfillment and happiness.

Nichiren declares that any place that is home to his disciples who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—“whether … in mountain valleys or the wide wilderness”—is the Land of Tranquil Light, and that this is what is meant by the “place of practice” or “place of enlightenment.”

This means that the communities where we have chosen to carry out our vow—where we strive for worldwide kosen-rufu and exert ourselves in our Buddhist practice as Soka Gakkai members—are our places of practice for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

During the Kamakura period, when the Daishonin lived, the Pure Land (Nembutsu) teachings gained wide popularity. They taught that this world is an impure land that should be abandoned in favor of seeking rebirth in the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss in the west by reciting the Nembutsu, the name of Amida Buddha. In other words, the idea that one “leaves his present place and goes to some other place” (OTT, 192) was widespread throughout Japan.

The Daishonin sharply criticized the “melancholy drone of the Nembutsu” (Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 931 [Gosho zenshu, p. 96]) as the key culprit in sapping people’s life force. He repudiated the Nembutsu doctrine, declaring: “Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” WND-1, 15).

• • •

When We Change Our Mindset, Our Environment Changes

We can without fail change the world we live in (the saha world),[7] which is filled with suffering, into an ideal Land of Tranquil Light. That is the message of transformation and philosophy of hope found in the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren writes: “There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 4). Whether a land is pure or impure is not something fixed or unchangeable.

In a letter to Shijo Kingo, Nichiren advises his disciple to regard the new estates given to him by his lord, even if they are inferior to his previous ones, as “excellent, excellent lands.”[8] The important thing, he is saying, is one’s own mind or attitude.

The Daishonin repeatedly makes the point that “wherever we dwell and practice the single vehicle [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], that place will be the Capital of Eternally Tranquil Light” (“Reply to Sairen-bo,” WND-1, 313). The key to building that Capital of Eternally Tranquil Light is the transformation of our minds, our mindsets, through our practice of the Mystic Law.

Mr. Toda said: “Kosen-rufu is an arduous struggle that takes place in society. The more our movement spreads its roots in society, the more all kinds of obstacles will arise to obstruct our progress. Such obstacles attest to the validity of the Daishonin’s teachings, and there is absolutely no escaping them. Whatever difficulties may arise, therefore, we have no choice but to overcome them.”

The members of the Soka Gakkai have lived their lives with the conviction that the place they are now is their “treasure realm”—the place for fulfilling their vow.

The world is harsh. Challenges and difficulties abound. No place or situation is easy. Nevertheless, our members have persevered with grit and determination, boldly taking one step after another out of a wish to transform the place where they are into a Buddha land. They have opened the way forward by standing up in faith with a powerful commitment to be agents of change, irrespective of their circumstances.

• • •

‘Base Yourself on Deep and Powerful Faith’

Mr. Toda said: “No matter what situation you find yourself in, when you base yourself on deep and powerful faith, you’ll be able to overcome everything. When you change, grow and take responsibility, you can win in all things. It all comes down to you.”

Such courageous individuals across the globe have been taking initiative as good citizens in the communities and lands where they live. Thanks to them, we have spread Nichiren Buddhism to 192 countries and territories and built a magnificent worldwide movement. I hope that you, our young people, the leaders of the future, will always remember this and carry on the legacy of creating a realm of human harmony on a global scale. This is the wish of all Soka Gakkai members.

• • •

Nichiren Daishonin’s Heartfelt Encouragement

… should be regarded as a reverse relationship.[9] How was your journey? I am deeply concerned. Please reply as quickly as you can and set my mind at ease. (“Letter to the Lay Nun Izumo,” Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 1268)[10]

Next, let us examine a passage from “Letter to the Lay Nun Izumo,” a writing included for the first time in the new edition of the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin).[11]

The lay nun Izumo resided in Awa Province [part of present-day southern Chiba Prefecture]. Concerned about her journey, Nichiren hopes she will write to him soon so that he can be assured of her safety.

Since this is just a fragment of the letter, it is unknown what preceded “should be regarded as a reverse relationship,” but a reverse relationship refers to a bond formed with the Lotus Sutra by those who oppose or reject it. Perhaps there had been some incident in which the lay nun or a fellow practitioner had tried to share the Daishonin’s teachings with someone and the interaction had not gone as hoped. It might be that the Daishonin is praising her courageous effort in dialogue and assuring her that this is a case of sowing the seeds of Buddhahood by enabling someone to form a reverse relationship.

Reading Nichiren’s writings, we cannot help being struck by his earnest wish to encourage every one of his disciples, expressed in words full of compassion and concern.

• • •

Embraced in Nichiren’s Great Compassion

While enduring his life-threatening persecution of exile on Sado,[12] Nichiren wrote a letter of heartfelt encouragement to Shijo Kingo and his wife, Nichigen-nyo, conveying his care and concern for them and their daughter, Kyo’o, who was ill.

In it, he says: “When I am pardoned from exile in this province [of Sado], I will hasten to Kamakura where we will meet. If we consider the power of the Lotus Sutra, we will find perpetual youth and eternal life before our eyes” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 413).

These words vividly convey the Daishonin’s warmth of heart as he assures the couple that as soon as he is freed from exile, he will rush to their side. They are always in his heart, he says, and he urges them to defeat the devil of illness assailing their child.

Despite his own uncertain future as an exile, the Daishonin was far more concerned for the welfare of his disciples who were facing hardship. Here we see his great compassion. He reassures his disciples of the unbreakable bond they share with him and that his thoughts are always with them, no matter what physical distance might separate them.

Such continuous, sincere encouragement is the key to opening people’s hearts and instilling them with courage. It is the essence of the humanistic teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and the cornerstone of the steadfast efforts for kosen-rufu of Soka mentors and disciples over the years.

• • •

Sincere Actions to Prevent Isolation

Today, as human connections and community ties continue to weaken, Soka Gakkai members upholding the humane principles of Nichiren Buddhism play an incalculably vital role. Their actions in greeting and encouraging those around them with unfailing respect lead to warmhearted community relations and contribute greatly to the safety and security of society.

With the further social isolation and separation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our members’ sincere efforts shine with special brilliance around the world.

This is always founded on prayers and actions arising from concern for others. Through their Buddhist practice, Soka Gakkai members naturally come to embody the spirit to treasure each person, expressed as actions that build networks of trust and friendship.

Nichiren cites the words “Since the Law is wonderful, the person is worthy of respect; since the person is worthy of respect, the land is sacred”[13] (“The Person and the Law,” WND-1, 1097). The Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe, enables us to reveal the nobility of our and others’ lives, and make the lands where we dwell prosper. Soka Gakkai activities are the power source for imparting joy and courage to everyone around us and advancing together toward happiness and victory.

• • •

‘Show Utmost Courtesy and Patience’

I am reminded of something Mr. Toda said: “Never forget that incredible changes can occur in people’s hearts if you interact with them based on deep compassion. It is essential above all to show utmost courtesy and patience in your dealings with others.”

Our daily actions are important. Our “behavior as a human being” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 852) is the essence of what the Buddha aimed to teach us through his own example.

As I noted in my second lecture at Harvard University,[14] a Buddhist scripture describes Shakyamuni as meeting others with joy, approaching them with a bright and welcoming countenance.[15] Let us also pay close attention to our daily behavior, greeting people cheerfully and speaking in a friendly manner.

Mr. Toda said: “No one in this saha world is free of problems or worries. That is why the Buddha is compelled to encourage others and lead them to enlightenment. This is the spirit of propagation.”

The life state of Buddhahood pulses vibrantly within us when we talk to and encourage friends, thinking of and praying for their happiness.

• • •

Bringing Down the Barriers in People’s Hearts

I met with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1944-91) at the State Guesthouse in Moto-Akasaka, Tokyo, in the fall of 1985. I will never forget how we pledged then to work together to bring down the barriers in people’s hearts for the sake of peace.

Twelve years later [on October 21, 1997], when I delivered an address titled “A New Humanism for the Coming Century” at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies in New Delhi, I referred to my discussions with the prime minister and said: “When those walls fall, we see before us the vast expanses of life itself. It is on the great earth of symbiosis that the broad rivers of peace flow, flower gardens of culture bloom and the great trees of education stretch toward the heavens.”[16]

Today, a magnificent gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth dedicated to working for world peace continues to flourish and grow in India.

Indeed, Soka global citizens everywhere are breaking down the walls in people’s hearts and creating a growing solidarity of human harmony. Their efforts are attracting attention from all spheres and giving hope to thinking people the world over.

• • •

Think Globally, Act Locally

Nichiren Daishonin had a clear vision of worldwide kosen-rufu. At the same time, while discussing the flow of the Buddhist teachings from India and China to Japan, he expressed pride in his own birthplace, calling himself, “I, Nichiren of Awa Province” (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 402).[17] He valued and treasured his home region, his local community.

I am reminded of the words of the eminent historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) in his foreword to the English translation of my novel The Human Revolution: “Nichiren … loved his country, but his horizon and his concern were not bounded by Japan’s coasts. Nichiren held that Buddhism, as he conceived it, was a means of salvation for his fellow human beings everywhere.”[18]

Professor Toynbee hailed the Soka Gakkai, whose members practice the Daishonin’s teachings, as accomplishing a remarkable “spiritual achievement”[19] in Japan, and with deep insight noted that the “Soka Gakkai is a world affair”[20] as it continued to develop around the globe.

Today, with love for our communities, we are making the places and lands where we are right now the foundation for our practical efforts to better our societies, while at the same time considering affairs from a global perspective and seeking to contribute to peace. We also open our hearts to those far away from us and whom we’ve never met. Our network of human harmony based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism—growing boundlessly through exchanges for peace, culture and education—is certain to bring us closer to world peace.

• • •

World Peace and Human Security

Be positive and confident! Our steadfast, seemingly modest steps for change are actually the direct path to world peace and human security.

Let’s forge ahead in our noble and courageous efforts to contribute to our communities and societies with even greater energy, wisdom and optimism. Let’s set our sights on July, the month of mentor and disciple and the month in which Nichiren Daishonin submitted his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”!

Translated from the June 2022 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

From the March 2023 Living Buddhism

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