This is the last in series of dialogues about the mentor-disciple relationship between A MEMBER (AM) who represents the doubts and concerns I’ve had about the mentor-disciple relationship over the years, and a DISTRICT LEADER (DL) who represents my understanding of the mentor-disciple relationship today.
The previous five parts of this dialogue were: “Mentor-Disciple in The Lotus Sutra”, “The Lion King”, “Following the Path”, “Taking Action” and “Spreading Far and Wide”.
TWO PIECES OF THE PUZZLEAM: So have you benefitted from the mentor-disciple relationship?
DL: Definitely, It’s really helped me to connect with my mission as a votary of the Lotus Sutra, and Sensei’s words and example in faith, have given me both the confidence to carry out my human revolution, support other members and share this Buddhism with co-workers and friends, as well as the motivation to stand up and take responsibility for myself and my district.
AM: So how can I make the mentor’s vision shine in my life and district?
DL: Basically, by continuing to deepen your understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, by chanting, and by using the wisdom of your daimoku to stand up and take action imbued with the mentor-disciple spirit for the happiness of ourselves and others.
In “The New Human Revolution – Vol. 17”, President Ikeda writes “The mentor-disciple relationship in Buddhism starts with the compassion of Shakyamuni Buddha to teach his followers the path to enlightenment on the one hand, and the seeking spirit of his followers to grasp the Law on the other. In short, it is a unity of spirit that is only possible through the disciple’s voluntary act of will” (p9-10).
AM: Okay, so what Sensei is saying here is that this is a two-way relationship. The mentor teaches the Law and embodies the Law in his daily life, and the seeking spirit of the disciple deepens their understanding of the Law which they embody in their life and actions.
DL: That’s right, but it’s also important to remember that while Sensei models the attitude and behaviour of someone who has made the Mystic Law their standard, Nichiren reminds us that people who “forget the original teacher who had brought [us] the water of wisdom from the great ocean of the Lotus Sutra and instead follow another would surely cause [us] to sink into the endless sufferings of birth and death.” (WND-1, 747)
AM: So, while we may credit President Ikeda as someone who has inspired us in our practice, we don’t need to put him on a pedestal, or sit around talking about how great he is, we just need to stand up and share with others how great the Mystic Law is.
DL: Exactly. The vow of Shakyamuni’s disciples in the Lotus Sutra is to “roar the lion’s roar” (Watson, LSOC, p232) and President Ikeda encourages us to ensure that this vow “embodying the Soka Gakkai spirit and directly connected to the spirit of the Daishonin, is transmitted to the future and endures for all eternity.” (April 2014 Newsletter 8982)
If we want to follow the path of mentor and disciple, and practice with the oneness of mentor and disciple, we just need to put into action the “essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit ... [which 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” (Josei Toda’s words at the May 3, 1954 Soka Gakkai General Meeting repeated by Daisaku Ikeda at the Soka Gakkai HQ Leaders Meeting in April 2014 - Newsletter 8982)
AM: Wow. Thank you so much for coming today. I was nervous that I still wouldn’t understand the mentor-disciple relationship after last week’s Chapter Study, but you’ve really opened my eyes today and shown me that this oneness of mentor and disciple is not just about our connection with President Ikeda, but also about deepening our connection with the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin, deepening our understanding of Shakyamuni Buddha’s Lotus Sutra and taking action to share our hope-filled practice and the wonderful benefits of embracing the Mystic Law with others.