Jul 27, 2014

What is Compassion?

There is a part of us that thinks first of ourselves, and only then of others. It's innate and not necessarily bad. But when self-interest becomes a dominant force, we become insensitive to others and even cause them harm. While people sometimes may have to act out self -interest to protect themselves. Most human problems require cooperation and care from or for others to solve. Buddhism identifies compassion as key to solving most human suffering.

The Chinese Buddhist term for compassion, pronounced jihi in Japanese, comprises two characters. The first ji, comes from the Sanskrit word maitri, meaning "to give happiness," and the second, hi, from Sanskrit karuna, meaning "to remove suffering," Together they mean to relieve people of suffering and give them happiness.

This Buddhist compassion is an expression of the Buddha or Bodhisattva nature innate in all people. Nichiren Daishonin writes: "Even a heartless villain loves his wife and children. He too has the portion of the Bodhisattva world within him. " (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 358). Everyone has the potential of a Bodhisattva-to act with compassion toward another. Naturally, kindness that does not empower people may have little lasting value. But in the Buddhist view, compassion means to lead people to root out the cause of misery in their lives and to create happiness for themselves.

A natural example of compassion is seen in the actions of a mother toward her child. A mother will do anything toward her child. A mother will do anyyhting she can to protect her child, even if it means braving flames or flood.

Nichiren wrote, "I, Nichiren, am sovereign, teacher and father and mother to all people of Japan" (WND-I, 287). He made this statement to convey his state of life as the original Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, capable of embracing all people with the compassion of a parent.

Yet, how do those of us who sometimes lose patience even with our own children develop such compassion? The first step is to expose our lives to the state of compassion manifested by the Buddha. When we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with faith in the Gohonzon, which embodies the compassionate life-state of Buddhahood, we can stimulate and bring forth the source of boundless compassion within us. 

Also, any successful parent or teacher knows the importance of seeing things from the child's perspective. Such people transcend divisions of self and other to view the sufferings and joys of their own children or students as their own. Constant is their concern for the children. The Nobel Prize winning French author Andre Gide puts it clearly: "True kindness presupposes the faculty of imaging as one's own suffering and joys of others."

Compassion therefore includes the willingness to know the sufferings and concerns of others. Also, while we try to recognize their strengths, we can come to appreciate and feel closer to them, and our concern for their well-being naturally increases.

Buddhism involves practice for self and for others. Our thoughts for others' well-being expressed in our daily prayer allows us transcend self centered impulses, and illuminate the fundamental darkness that is the source of suffering with the light of our innate Buddhahood.

-April 2000/Living Buddhism

Jul 15, 2014

Encouragement about Relationships

Love by zhornik

The agonies of love, are many and varied. Each person has his or her own character and personality, background and circumstances. No set rule applies equally to everyone. In addition, everyone is perfectly free to fall in love or be attracted to someone. Whom a person dates is also a matter of personal choice. Essentially, no one has any right to meddle in your private affairs. As one who has many years of experience, however, I want to stress at the outset how important it is to not lose sight of pursuing your own personal development.

Love should be a force that helps expand your lives and bring forth your innate potential with a fresh and dynamic vitality. That is the ideal but, as the saying "love is blind" illustrates, people often lose all objectivity when they fall in love.

If you are neglecting the things you should be doing, forgetting your purpose in life because of the relationship you're in, then you're on the wrong path. A healthy relationship is one in which two people encourage each others hopes and dreams. A relationship should be a source of inspiration, invigoration and hope. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), one of the greatest Western poets, had as his source of inspiration a young woman named Beatrice, whom he loved from afar since childhood. One day, after years spent apart, the eighteen year old Dante ran into her again on the street. He later composed a poem about his joy at that encounter, titled "Revitalization." In his struggle to convey his feelings for this young woman, he created  a new poetic form. Without a doubt, Beatrice unlocked Dante's artistic potential.

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti titled "Beata Beatrix" 1872, using the image of his beloved late wife Elizabeth Siddal as the symbolic embodiment of the death of Beatrice from the "Vita Nuova" by the poet Dante

She would remain, however, an unrequited love, for she married another man and then died at an early age. But Dante never ceased loving her. Ultimately, that love enabled him to strengthen, elevate and deepen the capacity of his heart into something truly noble and sublime. In his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, Dante depicts Beatrice as a gentle, benevolent being who guides him to Heaven.

Of course, Dante lived in a different age and different country from us. But I think many things are to be learned from this great poet who stayed true to his feelings, whether they were reciprocated or not, and transformed them into his guiding inspiration in his life. I truly believe that love must be a positive impetus for our lives, the driving force that rouses us to live courageously.

There are many views on love as there are people. So don't think we can find a blanket policy on love that will win everyone's consensus. Love is a complex matter that reflects each person's attitude and philosophy toward life. That is why I believe people shouldn't get involved in relationships lightly.  

The late Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and his wife, Madame Deng Yingchao, were admired far and wide as a model couple. Though sadly both have died, they always treated my wife and me warmly. When her husband died, Madame Deng placed the words Zhou Enhai, comrade in arms next to his coffin. "comrade in arms"- what profound feelings were infused in that. It speaks volumes about their mutual commitment, the respect that had for each other as comrade, and their side by side struggle for the realization of a great goal. Perhaps for example this will offer those of you who are contemplating love something to think about.

Rather than becoming so love struck that you create a world where only the two of you exist, it is much healthier to learn from those aspects of your partner that you respect and admire and continue to make efforts to improve and develop yourself. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, once wrote, "Love us not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead in the same direction." It follows then that relationships last longer when both partners share similar values and beliefs.

Please don't succumb to the view that love is the be-all and end-all, deluding yourselves that as long as you are in love, nothing else matters. Nor, I hope, nothing else matters.. Nor, I hope, will you buy into the misguided notion that sinking ever deeper into a painful and destructive relationship is somehow cool.

All too often, when a relationship ends, the great passion it once inspired seems nothing more than an illusion. The things learned through studying, on the other hand, are much more permanent. It is important, therefore, that you never extinguish the flame of your intellectual curiosity.

It is demeaning to constantly seek your partner's approval. Such relationships are bereft of real caring, depth ot even love. For those of you who find yourselves in relationships where you are not treated the way your heart says you should be. I hope you will have the courage and dignity to decide that you are better off risking the scorn of your partner than enduring unhappiness with him or her.

Real love is not two people clinging to each other; it can only be fostered between two strong people secure in their individuality. A shallow person will have only shallow relationships. If you want to experience real love, it is important to first sincerely develop a strong self-identity.
True love is not about doing whatever the other person wants you to do or pretending you are something you're not. If someone genuinely loves you, he or she will not force you to do anything against your will nor embroil you in some dangerous activity.

No matter how much you may appear to be enjoying yourselves now, or how serious you think you are about your relationship, if you allow your love life to consume all your time and energy to the detriment of your growth, then you're just playing a game. And if you're playing games, then your life will just be that, a game.
Regardless of how large a number is, if multiplied by zero, it will inevitably come to zero. To have a relationship that wipes out the value in your life is truly sad.

You are only letting yourselves down if you succumb to unhealthy obsessions in your youth or are so blinded by love that you can't see anything else. No matter what, you must always do your best to live courageously. You mustn't be weak-hearted. Youth is a time for advancing bravely into the future. You must not veer off course or fall behind or hide in the shadows.

-from Discussions on Youth, vol.1, pp, 113-35
Living Buddhism, Mar-Apr 2006

Jul 9, 2014

The Truest Happiness


little Lotus girls by hyamei

Some people tend to think happiness hinges on whether they have enough money, a certain level of education, a successful career, healthy relationships, good looks, good physical health or other external circumstances. They may think, If I just has this one thing, then I'd be happy. But even experiencing one favorable circumstance after another doesn't guarantee happiness. Life includes good and bad times, favorable and challenging circumstances.

 The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to help us appreciate every moment of our lives and live bravely, boldly and happily in a world filled with joys, sufferings and everything in between.

 This was Nichiren Daishonin's message in this letter to his disciple Shijo Kingo. Kingo had been discouraged by the downpour of hardships and pressures he faced following his unsuccessful efforts to convert his lord, Ema, to Nichiren's teachings. Lord Ema was a supporter of Ryokan, a powerful priest who held great enmity toward Nichiren.
 Nichiren explained to Kingo that sufferings are a part of life. But he also assured Kingo that, through his efforts to uphold and spread the Mystic Law, he would experience the "boundless joy of the Law."

 In this letter, Nichiren cites a passage from the "Life Span" chapter of the Lotus Sutra: "........where living beings enjoy themselves at ease." This phrase is part of the daily sutra recitation conducted by SGI members, written in the liturgy as shujo sho yu-raku (see Liturgy of Nichiren Buddhism, p. 12). It describes the indestructible life-condition of deep joy and fulfillment we refer to as Buddhahood.

 Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda explained Buddhahood as the state of "absolute happiness." In strictly encouraging a young woman discouraged by the bleak outlook of her future, President Toda said: "What you think faith is? Are you anxious to live in comfort? Do you want to be flattered by others? Did you convert simply to achieve an outward appearance of happiness? The ultimate objective of Nichiren Daishonin' s Buddhism lies in awakening to your eternal life. This is something you yourself must acquire through your own experience. This attainment is called absolute happiness, because it is indestructible and endures for all eternity. To achieve it, we must continue our faith" (The Human Revolution, p. 323).

 He stressed that each person must strive to establish this grand life- state within. In other words, happiness is not dependent on external circumstances or other people. It is solely dependent on our own efforts and awakening. The relative or temporary joy that comes from fulfilling a particular desire is not comparable to the profound state of life achieved through taking actions based on the Mystic Law. Such momentary joy fades with the dimming of the desire and may be called "relative happiness." The "boundless joy of the law" lasts for an eternity and equates to "absolute happiness."

 SGI President Ikeda says: "True happiness is not feeling happiness one moment and then misery the next. Rather, overcoming the tendency to blame our sufferings on others or on the environment enables us to greatly expand our state of life." (Learning from the Gosho: The Eternal Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 237).

 When we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, we fuse our lives with the Mystic Law. At the same time, we are battling the inner darkness that prevents this fusion from taking place. When we overpower this darkness of delusion of ignorance and fuse our lives with the Mystic Law, we can experience its unlimited power in our lives. Chanting is the greatest cause to reveal Buddhahood in our lives. Therefore, Nichiren says, "There is no true happiness for human beings other than chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo."
 President Toda described the expansive state of life we gain through Buddhist practice as follows: "It is like lying sprawled on your back in a wide-open space looking up at the sky. All that you wish for immediately appears. No matter how much you may give away, there is always more. It is never exhausted" (Lectures on "Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime," p. 35).

 Through persisting in our SGI activities to practice and spread Nichiren Buddhism, we can bring forth the wisdom, courage, hope and joy to conquer even the most severe problems. We can feel at "at ease" and find the peace of mind regardless of our circumstances. Buddhism teaches us that experiencing difficulties allows us to treasure happiness. And both suffering and joy are necessary to truly understand the deeper significance of our existence. As long as we continue to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, working for our own happiness and that of others, we establish at fundamental core of our lives the greatest causes for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

World Tribune- Feb 2009

Jul 3, 2014

Source of Victory

Faith is the source of victory for everything. It is the foundation of our Buddhist practice for the happiness of ourselves and others. It is the key to carrying out our human revolution and transforming our karma. It is the sharp sword for cutting through the force for kosen-rufu, and for realizing lasting peace and prosperity based on the humanistic principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

~ Living Buddhism 2012

Jul 1, 2014

Understanding Negative Internal Functions

"The fifth cause of disease is the working of 'devils' from within that manifest in the form of mental illness.....
Devils in Buddhist mythology are personificationsof negative internal functions. They represent selfish attachments of bad influences that hinder people's pursuit of truth and that work to prevent them from cultivating a strong, positive life force. Devliish functions are aspects of our own lives that damage our health and hamper the practice of Buddhist teachings.

"Devils represent the fundmental tendency of an individual's life toward disharmony of body and mind. Unlike the other four causes of illness, this affects the relam of the mind. Its source is located not in external influences but within the individual, so that the person's life is robbed of its brilliance. The result is the emergence of life's fundamental darkness or delusion.

"From darkness and delusion arise the three poisons- greed, anger and foolishness. These poisons are understood as the source of all destructive, selfish desires or attachments, and are essentially devilish"
(Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, pg. 67).

Daisaku Ikeda
Living Buddhism -Nov/Dec 2006

May 11, 2014

People From All Ethnicities Turning To Buddhism For Strength

People From All Ethnicities Turning To Buddhism For Strength

Buddhism is oftentimes viewed as a mysterious Eastern religion. A series circulating on the web is helping to change that perception. Joining us this week on MY Lifestyle Extra is Jeremy Joffee, an award-winning filmmaker who received a student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

His current project, “Buddhist In America,” tells the inspiring stories of people from different ethnicities who have turned to Nichiren Buddhism for strength and to overcome their problems. Watch the video for a peek at one of the touching stories of a woman with Latin roots who turned to the faith during a difficult period in her life.

MY Lifestyle Magazine is a boutique publication for chic bicultural Latinos. From health, beauty, travel, entertainment and fashion, this national publication reveals all the latest cultural styles and trends. It is the first multimedia platform for bicultural readers, as 85 percent of the content is in English and 15 percent in Spanish.

Oct 11, 2013

Science and Buddhism

By Melvin E. Klegerman
Washington, D.C.

The following article is based on a presentation made on August 2, 1996, at the 1996
Conference of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies at DePaul University in
Chicago. The presentation was part of a symposium that featured five SGI-USA
speakers under the theme, ”The Practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in
Modern Society: The Soka Gakkai Approach to the Twenty-first Century.“ 

A CONCEPT that has caught the imaginations of many people in various disciplines
now is that of paradigms. Briefly defined, a paradigm is a world-view or a unifying,
overarching picture of reality governing an aspect of existence. In science, paradigms
are often considered to be universal laws, such as Newton’s laws of motion or the
Second Law of Thermodynamics. They are even referred to as theories, such as
Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Through
Natural Selection, although they are generally accepted as the best descriptions of
phenomena within their purview at this time.

What determines whether a paradigm is accepted as a powerful, useful description
of reality? First, it must have explanatory power. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
Through Natural Selection provides a plausible basis for the emergence of life’s
diversity from the laws of chemistry and physics. Second, it must have predictive
power. Newton’s laws of motion enable one to predict the locations of planets in the
distant future, to the advantage of astrophysicists and astrologers, alike. The history of
paradigms in science has been a progression toward greater explanatory and predictive
power, indicating a convergence with what can be considered to be absolute reality.
Science, by its own admission, however, can never achieve complete convergence with
absolute reality, since it utilizes inductive reasoning from individual cases to
generalities. The prevailing paradigm is tested by scientists using deductive reasoning
to predict the outcome of artificially created cases, or experiments, based on the
paradigm. Because the universe is infinite, all cases can never be examined and,
therefore, the paradigm cannot be proven with absolute certainty.

On the other hand, the systems of beliefs and practices central to a philosophy of
life, which can be considered religious paradigms, are not inferred from individual
cases, but instead are revealed and are, therefore, absolute. Viewed scientifically,
absolute paradigms only permit deductive reasoning. Since religious paradigms
generally govern life experiences, attitudes and conduct, testing them would lead one
to conclude that religions tend to be paradigms in crisis. The philosopher of science
Thomas Kuhn defined a paradigm in crisis as one that has suffered too many failed
tests or anomalies that cannot be resolved without making implausible adjustments to
the paradigm. This, then, is the problem of engaged religion in a scientific age: Why
does religion appear to be incompatible with practical reason?

BOTH theological and secular scholars, such as the mythologist Joseph Campbell, have
argued that mythic elements in religions constitute a set of metaphors that instruct
the spiritual and cultural development of human beings, but an absolute paradigm
must include phenomenal, as well as spiritual, reality. I will argue that two Buddhist
concepts exemplify how religious philosophy can serve as an absolute paradigm
Buddhism community philosophy religion science society values governing both the
 objective and subjective aspects of life.

The Buddhist concept of the oneness of life and its environment refers to the belief
that all life and the environment in which it exists are inseparable, or simply two
aspects of the same entity. Furthermore, the environment reflects the life-conditions
of the people that inhabit it and the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity
inherent in people’s lives manifest the calamities of famine, warfare and pestilence.
The most immediate evidence for the truth of this concept is that humans increasingly
exert a direct influence on the environment. For instance, preoccupation with profit
has led to such effects as deforestation, the greenhouse effect and erosion of the
atmospheric ozone layer, all of which threaten to affect climate and agricultural
production disastrously.

Our age has witnessed a proliferation of wars, both international and civil, in which
intense hatreds have spawned nearly inconceivably brutal atrocities; Cambodia,
Rwanda and Bosnia immediately come to mind, not to mention the enduring lessons
of World War II. AIDS has signaled the reemergence of epidemic infectious diseases
after a brief generation-long hiatus in the West. Stupidities such as failure of
governments and populations to teach and observe safe sex practices, unleashing of
deadly viruses by shortsighted environmental disruptions, disregard of continuing
epidemics in the Third World, and viewing the need to refine antibiotic development
as unprofitable have all led to pestilence.

The whole world is discovering a deeper basis for the view that life and its
environment are one, what Buddhism has long known as dependent origination, the
elaborate interconnectedness of everything, so that every action somehow perturbs the
larger web of life that radiates throughout the entire universe. An example often used
to support chaos theory is that a butterfly fluttering its wings over West Africa can
initiate a cascade of events ultimately producing a hurricane in the Western

At the very frontiers of modern science is the field of quantum physics, which offers
the startling realization that even an objective observation made with instruments is
conditioned by the observer. For instance, light will appear to be made up of waves or
particles, depending on what you use to observe it. Likewise, Buddhism teaches that
life will appear to be the inner reaches of the human mind or a barren mountain,
depending upon how you look at it. The oneness of life and environment is also
appreciated in the biological and behavioral sciences, since it has been learned that
animals, including humans, structure the environment they perceive to enhance their
ability to adapt to it. We sense only a small portion of the sound and light spectrums,
apparently because that best suited our survival in the environment in which humans
arose—the Pleistocene Epoch of two million years ago.

ULTIMATELY, this oneness of life and environment concept depends upon a second
Buddhist concept, that of the inseparability of body and mind. This concept is now
being actively elucidated by the emerging science of psychoneuroimmunology, which
has provided Depak Chopra with much of the basis for his system of mind-body
medicine. A deeper, more profound meaning of this term, however, is the oneness of
the spiritual and material aspects of life or the fundamental equality of the objective
and subjective realms. According to Buddhism, therefore, the subjective aspects of life
are dimensions just like the four objective dimensions of space-time. The three realms
expounded by the Chinese Buddhist sage Chih-i, or Chih-che, indicate that these
number six: form, perception, volition, cognition, consciousness and aggregates of
living beings, for a total of ten dimensions. Interestingly, the most recent attempts to
unify all phenomena in one principle, such as Superstring Theory, require ten
dimensions to make the mathematics come out right.

Here, religious philosophy can act as a true paradigm, leading and explaining
scientific inquiry. One of the most mind-boggling aspects of quantum physics derives
from the fact that light cannot behave as both a particle and a wave at the same time. If
light is shined through two slits in an opaque plate, it will project a wave pattern on a
screen behind it; but, if the experiment is rigged to provide information about which
slit each light particle, or photon, traveled through, the wave pattern will disappear.
One explanation for this finding would be that the photons somehow become
separated in another dimension that keeps them from interfering with each other to
produce the characteristic wave pattern. According to the Buddhist concepts of the
inseparability of body and mind and the three realms, these photons entered the
dimension of cognition when the observer became aware of their exact paths,
separating them and preventing their interference. Needless to say, this possibility
gives rise to exciting experimental prospects.

THE concept of religion as universal paradigm means that each person becomes a
scientist experimenting with his or her own life, over which he or she has total
control. Practice of such a religion would link a positive inner human reformation with
the healing and flourishing of the environment. The phenomenon of transforming the
land through an inner reformation of life is explained in a thesis by Nichiren titled
“On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism.” In
keeping with this spirit, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is dedicated to the
promotion of peace, culture and education throughout the world, based on the
influence of Nichiren’s teachings, both individually and collectively.

SCIENCE and technology, certainly, are central to the achievement of all three goals.
The devastation of two Japanese cities in 1945 by nuclear bombs developed by the
scientific enterprise known as the Manhattan Project is an enduring stain on the
integrity of science and all scientists. The second and third presidents of the Soka
Gakkai, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda, tirelessly excoriated the maintenance of nuclear
arsenals by nations and repeatedly identified this as the major threat to our planet.
This threat remains even now in the post-Soviet age and has acquired an ominous cast
in light of national destabilizations and the steady increase of terrorist activities

Added to the nuclear legacy of misguided science are the dangers of chemical and
biological warfare. The former is being appreciated in the aftermath of the Gulf War
and the latter is particularly chilling when considering that students from all over the
world are learning the relatively cheap and accessible, but extremely powerful,
recombinant DNA technology in Western universities, while viral epidemic diseases of
unprecedented virulence are emerging in the Developing Nations. The potential
threats of these developments are compellingly described by Laurie Garrett in her
book, The Coming Plague. The familiar retreat of scientists into the guiltless and
guileless world of pure science that has permitted dark technological applications to
emerge should become a badge of shame in future years.

Science and the philosophy of modern rationalism that underlies it have had an
indescribably profound impact on the course of Western culture and now all cultures.
The deleterious impact of this development on the human psyche and cultural values
have been described by detractors ranging from Pascal and Rousseau to Nietzsche and
a host of contemporary commentators, including Anthony Burgess and Jeremy Rifkin.
Now, the rise of popularized participatory cybernetics known as the computer age and
the Internet is likely to make even more pervasive the two-dimensionality of the
television age that has contributed so much to the dehumanization of modern society.

The potential benefits of these technologies, however, are undeniable and can
greatly enhance the quality of life if efforts are made to emphasize the supremacy of
penetrating life-to-life dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds. The Soka
Gakkai has done much to promote such dialogue in its own activities and forums such
as this one.

SGI President Ikeda has stated unequivocally that education is the most important
endeavor of the present age. To this end, he has established the Soka school and
university system in Japan and the United States, which is based on the value-creating
educational philosophy of the Soka Gakkai’s first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.
Science instruction especially can benefit from this approach. Youth today increasingly
shun science and mathematics, believing them to be cold, sterile and dehumanizing. In
fact, science, which often requires mathematics to be understood and practiced, is a
philosophy that was created by human beings for the benefit of other human beings. It
is an indispensable tool for teaching people how to think and function capably as
modern world citizens. Not least, it is interesting and a wonderful means for
expressing human creativity when taught properly. I look forward to the realization of
science’s pedagogical role in a humanistic educational setting.

On a personal note, I can say that, as a scientist who practices this Buddhism and as
a member of the SGI, I have become impressed with the importance of fortune in
science, which is so important to the discovery process. Conducting research science is
a good way to monitor the ability of a religion to generate good fortune, from the
behavior of temperamental instrumentation to the progress of the research process
and, most important, contribution to the well-being of people. I can attest that actual
proof can proceed from documentary and theoretical foundations in religion, as it does in science, provided the underlying paradigm is sound and robust.

Melvin Klegerman received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Loyola University of
Chicago in 1984. At the time of this presentation, he was associate director of the
Institute for Tuberculosis Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he
continues to serve as adjunct assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy. He is
now involved in starting a contract research organization, the Mid-Atlantic
Biomedical Research Laboratories, in the Washington, D.C. area. His current
activities focus on the development of anti-cancer drugs that stimulate the immune

 Science and Buddhism
Living Buddhism 03/01/1997 p.16