Thursday, 3 July 2014

Building Our Own Future

MASTERS, APPRENTICES and SUCCESSORS

Do you know the name of this famous church?  It’s the Sagrada Família by Gaudi.  How long do you think it took to build?  Would you be surprised to know it’s still not finished! 

Initially it was someone else’s project and was started in 1882, but a year later Gaudi took over and improved the design.  When he died 45 years later it was still only 25% finished, and it isn’t expected to be completed until 2026!

Since his death, senior architects and project managers have overseen the continuation of this construction in accordance with Gaudi’s designs, and, even after a fire destroyed the plans during World War 2, his successors managed to redraw the designs from memory.

New and Old Construction
This cathedral is a very ambitious project which is one of the reasons it has taking so long, and without funding from the government, the speed of construction is dependent on the voluntary donations of visitors to the cathedral and private individuals.


But, whereas this cathedral could well have been left as an unfinished monument to Gaudi and remained 25% complete, the spirit of Gaudi’s apprentices, and their successors, to fulfil their mentor’s vision has maintained the momentum of construction.

THIS is the spirit of July 3rd


MAKING A VOW

July 3rd is not just about how great Mr. Makiguchi, Josei Toda or President Ikeda are as individuals, but it’s about recognizing their shared determination to see Buddhism spread throughout Japan and the world. 

July 3rd 1944 was the day that Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, was released from prison and on his way home he saw the state of Tokyo at that time – a city that had been bombed with many people suffering.  That evening he sat before his Gohonzon and vowed:

“Gohonzon and Nichiren Daishonin!  I, Josei Toda, swear to work to achieve kosen-rufu”


But making a vow for kosen-rufu is not exclusive to the Soka Gakkai, it originates with, and is a continuation of, the vows of Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin.

In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni talks about why buddhas appear in the world:

“The buddhas, the world-honoured ones, wish to open the door of buddha wisdom to all living beings, to allow them to attain purity.  This is why they appear in the world.”  (LSOC2, 64)


He mentions his own vows:

“Shariputra, you should know that at the start I took a vow hoping to make all persons equal to me, without distinction between us.” (LSOC2, 70)

“At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a buddha?”  (LSOC16, 273)


And he asks us to do the same:

“Now I entrust it to you.  You must single-mindedly propagate this Law abroad, causing its benefits to spread far and wide. … You must accept, uphold, read, recite, and broadly propagate this Law, causing all living beings everywhere to hear and understand it.”  (LSOC22, 319)

“After I have passed into extinction, who can guard and uphold, read and recite this sutra?  Now in the presence of the Buddha let him come forward and speak his vow” (LSOC11, 217)


Nichiren began his own spiritual journey of enlightenment by making a vow to become the wisest person in Japan, and later, after nearly being beheaded at Tatsunokuchi Beach, he declared his great vow in “The Opening of the Eyes”:

“This I will state.  Let the gods forsake me.  Let all persecutions assail me.  Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law”  (WND-1, p280)

“Here I will make a great vow.  Though I might be offered the rulership of Japan if I would abandon the Lotus Sutra, accept the teachings of the Meditation Sutra, and look forward to rebirth in the Pure Land, though I might be told that my father and mother will have their heads cut off if I do not recite the Nembutsu – whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as persons of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield!  All other troubles are no more to me than dust before the wind.  I will be the pillar of Japan.  I will be the eyes of Japan.  I will be the great ship of Japan.  This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!”  (WND-1, p280)


In another letter he warns followers of Shakyamuni’s earlier teachings of the vow of a bodhisattva:

 “It is the nature of bodhisattvas to put off their own nirvana until they fulfil the vow to save all others.  If persons of the two vehicles cannot attain Buddhahood, then how can bodhisattvas fulfil their vow to save all people?  With this vow unfulfilled, they too cannot attain Buddhahood.” (WND-2, 278)


And in two other letters, he encourages his followers to make a great vow:

“Now you should make a great vow and pray for your next life”  (WND-1, p626)

“My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (WND-1, p1002)


BUILDING OUR OWN FUTURE

We are the architects of our own future - a future that shines with Shakyamuni and Nichiren’s vision of kosen-rufu and based on the foundation of a great vow to reveal our Buddhahood and to teach others to reveal their Buddhahood.

Shakyamuni had the vision of kosen-rufu when he awoke to the ultimate reality of life and all phenomena and explained that the Lotus Sutra should be taught far and wide, but many people couldn’t see his idea clearly.

Nichiren Daishonin grasped the meaning of the Lotus Sutra and, as well as ensuring he taught others how great it was, he created a blueprint for a daily practice that made The Lotus Sutra more accessible to everyday people.

Seven hundred years later, Mr. Makiguchi, Josei Toda and President Ikeda are the project managers of kosen-rufu within the Soka Gakkai.  Times may have changed, but the way to spread this Buddhism, one-to-one with our friends and by shining in our daily lives within our families, workplaces and communities is the same.


THE FOUNDATION OF THE S.G.I.

Mr. Makiguchi started the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai and established an organisation of 3000 members around the Tokyo area.

After the war, Josei Toda, stood alone, but tried to gather some of these former members together to share his great vow and his vision of kosen rufu.  And, through his encouragement, organisation and faith spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout Japan with a total of 800,000 households before he died.

President Ikeda has gone on to build upon this by continuing to inspire members in Japan and overseas to enable the SGI to be established and to expand through 193 countries.


THE SPIRIT OF JULY 3

We are now entrusted with the spread of Buddhism within our own countries and communities, and on July 3rd – “Mentor-Disciple Day” - we are the ones that make a vow to stand up and share Nichiren Buddhism with others.  The great vow of a single individual committed to advancing kosen-rufu with the same passion, intention and spirit as Shakyamuni, Nichiren Daishonin and the three founding presidents of the SGI.


Previously... On Mentor-Disciple Day


Over the last few years I have written several posts on the significance of the SGI’s Mentor-Disciple Day and the mentor-disciple relationship.

Please click on the links below to go to previous posts:



Leaders of the Park (see Part IV)



“Only one person can make a breakthrough,
the second and a third will follow.
This is the formula for victory! 
Become a pioneer of the new era
and shine in your community.”
               Daisaku Ikeda, "To My Friends", 3 July 2014

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Spirit of May 3

"May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, is the eternal starting point for making our lives and those of others shine even more brightly"

(President Ikeda, Newsletter 8982, 3 May 2014)


It is the day that Josei Toda became the second president of the Soka Gakkai in 1951 announcing his determination to achieve a membership of 750,000 households during his lifetime (which he achieved).  It is also the day that Daisaku Ikeda became the third president in 1960, and vowed to march boldly on a journey for worldwide kosen-rufu in which he would ensure Buddhism spread to the farthest reaches of the earth.


"3 May is a day infused with commitment, action, unity, gratitude, hope, victory, fresh departure and new progress.  Each 3 May is a day when we strengthen and deepen our commitment to kosen-rufu more than the year before."
  (President Ikeda, Newsletter 8538, 13 June 2012)


"[At] the Soka Gakkai General Meeting held on May 3, 1954, ... President Toda declared that the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit is "to return to the time of the Daishonin."  What he meant by this, he said, is for each of us to take the Daishonin's spirit as his own and strive to help others embrace faith in the Mystic Law and realize genuine happiness."
(Daisaku Ikeda, Newsletter 8982, 3 May 2014)



"Our goal is to actualize the vision of Nichiren Daishonin and bring about lasting peace and prosperity for all humanity.  I therefore hope you will become champions of faith who never retreat a single step, and that you will continue to struggle valiantly together with me as we advance into the future."
(Daisaku Ikeda, NHR12, p7, 3 May 1967)




"Nichiren Daishonin constantly called out to his disciples:

You must summon up the great power of faith more than ever.  (WND-1, p1000)

Strengthen your resolve more than ever. (WND-1, 615)

You should therefore strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra"  (WND-1, 33)

Our courage is limitless and our efforts know no bounds.  As long as we have that spirit and continue to press forward, cherishing the great ideal of kosen-rufu in our hearts, the path to victory will open up endlessly before us."
(Daisaku Ikeda, Newsletter 8759, 7 May 2013)



"To dedicate our lives to the great vow of kosen-rufu, just like the Daishonin - this is the very heart of 3 May."
(Daisaku Ikeda, Newsletter 8538, 13 June 2012)


"Let us ensure that this vow of May 3 - embodying the Soka Gakkai spirit and directly connected to the spirit of the Daishonin - is transmitted to the future and endures for all eternity."
 (Daisaku Ikeda, Newsletter 8982, 3 May 2014)



In April 1988 at the first national Soka Gakkai Women's Division meeting held in Tokyo, President Ikeda also proposed that in recognition of their sincere efforts and their contribution to the growth of the organisation, May 3 should also be celebrated as "Soka Gakkai's Mother's Day" in honour of the "mothers of kosen-rufu".


I

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Benefit of Human Revolution

In the "Ten Benefits" chapter of the "Immeasurable Meanings Sutra" (The Prologue to the Lotus Sutra) Shakyamuni responds to the audience’s questions, explaining that this sutra comes “from the dwelling and abode of the Buddha.  It’s aim is to lead all living beings to conceive the desire for enlightenment.  And it abides in the practices carried out by bodhisattvas” (LSOC, p21) and then he starts to explain the ten benefits of following the sutra. 

This post focuses on the first of these ten benefits and is one of my favourite sections of the Lotus Sutra.  This extensive list of benefits, all of which make up only the FIRST of the ten benefits, reveals human revolution in action, and explains that negative tendancies and fundamental darkness can be changed into positive traits through this practice.

“Good men, the first [great benefit] is that this sutra can cause bodhisattvas who have not yet conceived the desire for enlightenment to conceive such a desire.

It can cause those who are without compassion or benevolence to nurture compassionate minds.

It can cause those who delight in killing and slaughter to nurture minds of great pity.

It can cause those filled with envy and jealousy to nurture minds of joyful acceptance.

It can cause those who are begrudging and attached to things to nurture minds capable of relinquishing.

It can cause those who are close-fisted and greedy to nurture minds of almsgiving.

It can cause those of abundant arrogance and pride to nurture minds that uphold the precepts.

It can cause those much given to wrath and anger to nurture forbearing minds.

It can cause those who are indolent and lazy to nurture minds of diligence.

It can cause those who are scatterbrained and disordered to nurture minds devoted to meditation.

It can cause those with much ignorance and folly to nurture minds of wisdom.

It can cause those who are not yet capable of saving others to nurture minds set upon saving others.

It can cause those who practice the ten evil acts to nurture minds devoted to the ten good acts.

It can cause those who delight too much in the conditioned to strive for minds fixed on the unconditioned.

It can cause those whose minds are given to regression to cultivate minds of non-regression.

It can cause those given to outflows to nurture minds free of outflows.

It can cause those with many earthly desires to nurture minds that cleanse and extinguish such desires. 


Good men, this is called the first benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra”  (LSOC, p21-22)

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Shakyamuni's Shakubuku Style

In one of my previous posts “The Teacher of the Law” I looked at the various stages of the Buddha’s teachings and how he chose to break down the true aspect of all phenomena into smaller stages to fulfil his vow “to make all persons equal to [him], without any distinction between us” (The Lotus Sutra & Its Opening and Closing Sutras (2000), p70).  Over the last few posts I’ve looked at some of these earlier practices, but this time we continue with Shakyamuni’s journey and how he introduced this path to enlightenment to his first followers.  These early teachings (including the Pali Canon) are part of the Agama Period which Shakyamuni taught for 12 years and formed the basis of the Therevadan and Vinaya schools of Buddhism.




After becoming enlightened and thinking through how he could teach this wisdom to others, Shakyamuni returned to Varanasi and Deer Park to reveal the first stage of the Mystic Law to the five ascetics that he had practiced with before.
Æ
When we awaken to the wonder of the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra, we want to share this joy and knowledge with the people around us that we know, such as our friends, family, classmates, etc.



At first, they weren’t very excited to see him and doubted his enlightenment because he had previously turned his back on these austere practices.
Æ
The people we talk to may not initially be interested in what we have to say and may even be disparaging of our faith. 



But when they noticed his confident attitude and his demeanour, they realised that there was something different about their old friend and wanted to know what his secret was.
Æ
Often it’s our attitude and behaviour as Buddhists, especially how we react when facing sickness, challenges and negativity in our lives, which make people want to know more about our practice.



Hearing these early teachings, they decided to become followers of Shakyamuni and the Buddhist Order was born.  Shakyamuni’s first disciples is thought to have been Ajnata Kaudinya.

Æ
The people we introduce to Nichiren Buddhism may initially show an interest and decide to come along to a discussion meeting, but after a period of study and practice they may decide to join our Buddhist Order – the SGI. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Chain Reaction

In addition to the topics already covered (Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, Five Precepts, etc.)  another one of the early Buddhist teachings was the twelve-linked chain of causation, and Shakyamuni is thought to have taught this twelve step program to explain the causal relationship between ignorance and the sufferings of aging and death.

Shakyamuni introduces these twelve links in the Assutava Sutra :

"When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises." 


These twelve links are:

(1)  ignorance, which results in
(2)  action, which causes
(3)  consciousness or the function to discern, which causes
(4)  name and form (or spiritual and material objects of discernment) which consist of 
(5)  the six sense organs, which interpret
(6)  contact , which arouses
(7)  sensation (visual, aural, intellectual, etc.), which leads to
(8)  desire (or cravings for sights, sounds, smells, ideas, etc.) which precedes
(9)  attachment, which causes
(10) existence (a karmic force of becoming), which manifests in
(11)  birth (a new status/position, a born again identity, etc.) which begins the process of 
(12) aging and death.

These twelve links can be viewed pessimistically as "the way things are" and that we are doomed to a perpetual existence stuck in this cycle of suffering, or it can be interpreted optimistically, reasoning that through wisdom, ignorance (the source of our delusion) can be eliminated freeing us from this chain of suffering and leading to Shakyamuni's initial teachings on nirvana.  Returning to the Assutava Sutra:

"When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases."

The Great Commentary on the Abhidharma, a text of the Sarvāstivāda school, views the twelve-linked chain of causation as operating over the three existences of life, such that "aging and death" in this life are the results of causes formed in a previous life:




1

IGNORANCE

CAUSES CREATED IN THE PAST

2

ACTION

3

CONSCIOUSNESS

EFFECTS MANIFESTED IN THE PRESENT

4

NAME AND FORM

5

SIX SENSE ORGANS

6

CONTACT

7

SENSATION

8

DESIRE

CAUSES CREATED IN THE PRESENT

9

ATTACHMENT

10

EXISTENCE

11

BIRTH

EFFECTS MANIFESTED IN THE FUTURE

12

AGING AND DEATH


From a Nichiren Buddhist perspective, we can see that the cause of all our suffering is ignorance, and especially ignorance of the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra, and therefore, the only way to break this chain and achieve our own emancipation is through our faith in the Lotus Sutra and our practice of Nichiren Buddhism.  In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni also reveals for the first time, the rarest and most-difficult-to-understand Law, the true entity of all phenomena ...