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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Highlights of the November 2023 Study Material

Santa Monica, California. Photo by Yvonne Ng.

Academy members should:
• be district through national youth leaders.
• have their own copy of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2.
• read the assigned material prior to each meeting.


The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, pp. 44–89

Part Two: “Belief and Understanding” Chapter
• Belief and Understanding: The Dynamic Relationship of Faith and Wisdom (starting from “The Meaning of ‘Belief and Understanding’”)
Part Three: “The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs” Chapter
• The Buddha’s Compassionate Wisdom Fosters Individuality

Supplementary Materials:

The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 117–43
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, pp. 54–67


Parable of the Medicinal Herbs

In “The Parable of Medicinal Herbs,” the Lotus Sutra’s fifth chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha conveys this parable to teach Buddhist compassion for all living beings. To summarize:

A great cloud envelops the world and sends down life-giving rain equally everywhere. All trees, bushes, grasses and medicinal herbs receive the same amount of moisture regardless of stature. Each plant, regardless of its diversity, benefits equally from the rain. Though the rain is the same, the myriad plants absorb moisture differently and grow to varying heights according to their individual natures.

• The great cloud = the Buddha
• The great cloud’s rising = the Buddha’s appearance in the world
• Rain = the Buddha’s preaching, called the “Dharma rain”
• Plants and trees = all living beings
• Receiving rainfall = hearing the Law
• Growth and flowering = practice and benefit

The Buddha compassionately preaches the Law, recognizing diversity and embracing all living beings. As Sensei explains:

Since the Buddha knows the true entity of his own life, when he directs his heart toward an individual, he understands the person’s thoughts and sufferings as well as everything necessary to lead him or her to enlightenment—including the teaching through which the person can advance toward Buddhahood.

Because of his compassion, the Buddha directs his heart toward the people. His spirit is to lead all suffering beings to happiness without fail. In this spirit of affection and concern for others, the Buddha is like a parent desperately trying to protect his children. (WLS-2, 77)

Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


Substituting Faith for Wisdom

“Substituting faith for wisdom” is the principle that faith is the true cause for gaining supreme wisdom, and faith alone leads to enlightenment. In general, Buddhism describes supreme wisdom as the cause of enlightenment. According to the Lotus Sutra, however, even Shariputra, who was revered as foremost in wisdom, could attain enlightenment only through faith, not through wisdom. “Simile and Parable,” the sutra’s third chapter, states: “Even you, Shariputra, in the case of this sutra were able to gain entrance through faith alone. How much more so, then, the other voice-hearers. Those other voice-hearers—it is because they have faith in the Buddha’s words that they can comply with this sutra, not because of any wisdom of their own” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 109–10). 

In Great Concentration and Insight, T’ien-t’ai (538–97) says, “Buddhism is like an ocean that one can only enter with faith.” 

And Nichiren Daishonin states, “Because our wisdom is inadequate, he [Shakyamuni Buddha] teaches us to substitute faith for wisdom, making this single word ‘faith’ the foundation” (“On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 785).

Ikeda Sensei explains:

Faith in Buddhism is definitely not fanaticism or blind faith that rejects the criteria of reason. It is in fact a rational function, a process of cultivating wisdom that begins with a spirit of reverent searching. …

The proper function of faith is to cleanse the mind and make it pure. Only when the mind is pure can our inherent wisdom shine forth. …

The impulse of true reason is to continuously and eternally transcend the confines of the present self. It aims to reach beyond its grasp, always improving, always surpassing itself. The source of energy and foundation for that constant search is faith in something larger than oneself. Faith purifies reason, strengthens it and elevates it. “Pure faith” is at once thoroughly polished faith and rigorously tested reason. (WLS-2, 51–52)

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


Jackie Alexander

Q: What is your biggest takeaway so far from studying The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra?

Buddhist study is what empowers our wisdom, courage and compassion. When I read, I try to think, What does Sensei want me to know about my life?

I’m learning that everything exists for the sake of people’s happiness. Everything in our lives has a purpose. We can create immense value no matter what our lives look like, which is the exact opposite of what my lesser self tells me when I’m going through obstacles. Learning as a young person that our challenges are opportunities to bring out a higher state of being is so important for our future.

I’ve been trying to apply what I’m learning in the Ikeda Wisdom Academy to my job. I work in a research lab for cancer survivors, where I interact with people, answer their questions and ask them how they’re doing. I work directly with people. They’re not always happy, and it can be hard for me to maintain a high life condition. Even between me and my co-workers it can be a struggle sometimes to unite. But when I base myself on knowing that I am there for the happiness of people, it makes it so much easier to unite.

Studying in the Ikeda Wisdom Academy helps me maintain a better perspective on my problems. It’s easy to try to tackle things with my own strategy, but studying together with everyone helps me re-center on the strategy of the Lotus Sutra. 

Looking Forward: December Syllabus

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, pp. 93–122

Part Four: “Bestowal of Prophecy” Chapter
• The Purpose of “Bestowal of Prophecy” Is to Enable All People to Enter the Path of Absolute Happiness

From the November 2023 Living Buddhism

Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion

District Study Meeting Material