Dec 21, 2009

I Wish I had a River

I feel a lot more secure about the directions I take, than I might have, had I not practiced Buddhism.
- Herbie Hancock 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL~ Love & Peace for the New Year!
Lotus Flower



Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae - River live on Abbey Road featuring Wayne Shorter (Nichiren Buddhist) and (Sax), Tal Wilkenfeld (Bass), and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)   





Dec 18, 2009

Palms Together

Why Do We Chant with Our Palms Together?

(Living Buddhism- Jan| Feb 10. pg. 103)

Most of the world's major religions use hand positions in prayer. One of the most common positions used by Buddhists, Hindus and Christians is the pressing of one's palms together at chest or head level. When combined with a bow, it is known as namaskar or namaste, an ancient reverential greeting that is common throughout central and southeastern Asia to this day. Nam, or devotion, in Nam Myoho renge kyo derives from the same root as namas in namaste.  The Lotus Sutra makes numerous reference to bowing with palms together as a sign of deep respect for the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. For example, "Teacher of the Law," the 10th chapter, reads: "Wherever {practitioners of the Lotus Sutra} may go, one should greet them with bows, with palms pressed single-mindedly together, with reverence and alms, with respect and praise" (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p.201).

                                         (Source: Elliot de Picciotto and Bob Swingle)

Pressing palms together while chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a Nichiren Buddhist tradition, imparting a sense of respect, seriousness and determination. It should be noted, however, that Nichiren placed the greatest emphasis on faith and dedication rather than on peripheral details.  SGI President Ikeda states in The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra: "Regarding the oneness of Buddhahood and the nine worlds, putting our palms together when we pray symbolizes this. It also represents the Mystic Law.
  


In The Record of the  Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin says: '[In the term pressing palms together,]  'pressing' means myo, or wonderful, while 'palms' refers to ho or the Law....Or again, 'pressing' is the world of Buddhahood, and 'palms' are the nine worlds' (p.45).

                                             (My Palms and Myoho Beads)


"In other worlds, Buddhahood lies in chanting [Nam myoho renge kyo] based on faith no matter what happens. Whatever sufferings of the nine worlds  we may be undergoing, through strong faith we can lead lives in which the nine worlds manifest the world of Buddhahood, and the world of Buddhahood manifests the nine worlds") vol. 4, pp. 194-95).















Dec 17, 2009

How does Buddhism View Sickness?

By Ted Morino SGI-USA Study Dept Leader
What does Buddhism have to say when Buddhist practitioners become ill?




First, Buddhism views sickness as something inherent in life and therefore unavoidable. Its is a part of the cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death. Yet Buddhism urges us to awaken to the fact that illness is not something permanent in life- it is a temporary phenomenon- and that is can be a meaningful event in one's eternal life. When we fall ill, we tend to see the current sickness as the only thing that matters and therefore we can become its slave perceiving it as an immovable wall or foreboding obstacle separating us from happiness. Some people who are ill may even lose the will to live out their existence joyfully.




However, when  we realize that becoming ill is only a natural phase of our lives -and that it can be an opportunity to build an even more solid foundation of happiness in ourselves-then, we can tap the courageous spirit to face the illness and battle it, as Nichiren Daishonin states, "From illness arises the mind that seeks the way" (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 5. 280). Therefore, the important thing when it comes to this problem is to have strong will to triumph over the "devil of sickness." This is the faith with which you can say to yourself: "I will defeat my sickness! I will change poison into medicine!" In order words, often times, sickness itself is not the real problem. If we are defeated in our life-condition by sickness, that is the problem.

SGI Pres. Ikeda says: "In life, you may, by rights, become sick from time to time. However, as you practice to the Gohonzon, you will come to realize that you are now sick because being sick now is the most natural thing  for your life at this moment. In other words, you can consider your sickness to be the sickness of hon'nu [a natural illness that accords with the rhythm of the Law]. Put another way, if your life condition remains healthy through the practice of faith, you will never be swayed by your sickness. You will never fall into painful agony due to your illness. Rather, as you go through your current sickness, you will find your true self or absolute happiness solidifying."

Pres. Toda gave the following encouragement to a person struggling with a serious illness, "A human being had a body that has the potential of developing all kinds of disease, including to cure sickness in the body. Curing our own illness is just like the person who has climbed a slope and will surely climb down it. I can say this with conviction based upon the philosophy of Buddhism. Faith is not something we practice out of formality. Chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with all your heart- with a burning desire in you your heart to overcome your sickness. No sickness will remain uncured if you chant with the type of determination to offer your entire life from now on for the cause of the Gohonzon, that is, for kosen-rufu, for the peace and happiness of all humanity."

Source: World Tribune.11/27/98.n.3219.p.2.WT981127p02

Dec 14, 2009

Dec 7, 2009

Tina Turner rocking Daimoku

 In Tina Turner's autobiography, I, Tina (basis of the film What's Love got to do with it?), she describes  her inability to summon the inner strength to escape the long-term abuse and brutality of her husband.  This is a well known story and analogous to situations in our own lives in which we feel totally trapped. Nothing seems to work; there is no apparent way out of the suffering and circumstances. But after an acquaintance teaches Tina to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, she immediately begins to battle back. Conquering her own timidity, Tina strike out to gain her freedom. Eventually, of course, she launches a fabulously successful independent career. In this instance, chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo galvanized her into action, giving her the impetus to change her destiny for the better. Her overriding need was not for inner peace  but for outward determination.

Source: the Buddha in your Mirror.pg 42

Disclaimer: I have recently come across members who are against me posting this video here and over at sgibuddhism.org- I just want to make sure that everyone knows that we do not chant in front of statues. I believe we can own statues or own anything we like. Its all about the power you give to them. If your chanting is sincere and your determination strong, then all is well. But I do not slander those who own statues. Its judgmental to do so and to believe that they are not practicing correctly because they have one is wrong.  I personally own statues but I don' t chant to them.  But just because there is one in my room does not mean I haven't received benefits and actual proof. Because I have. I will defend Tina and won't stand for slander or assumptions. She has been a huge force in our practice and we do not know the circumstances surrounding the production of this video. I really believe we have the responsibility to set the record straight on this but not to do it in a way that's going to alienate new members and slander existing ones. Give the people more credit than that. Thank you and Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!

 Tina chants Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and parts of the Lotus Sutra (Gongyo)




Dec 5, 2009

Gift Ideas from the Treasure Tower

I came across a wonderful gift site called The Treasure Tower.  Its own by a fellow SGI Buddhist. Here you will find inspirational Buddhist gifts from this beautiful   Under Her Charm Nam Myoho Renge Kyo & Lotus Silver & Gold Disc Necklace 








There are also gifts for your home, small accessories and more. So if you're ready to gift to a friend, family or treat yourself. Stop on by.  

Use the code SELEUS and they will give you 15% off! until Feb 14, 2010!

10% of the profits from this site are donated to the Buddhist World Peace organization Soka Gakkai International 

Happy Gifting!




Dec 1, 2009

Time of the Season

Buddhism has been called the "first world religion". This was not only because it was a religion (in fact, it owes its continued existence to its dissemination outside India). It is also a world religion because it tolerates and embraces other faiths, often absorbing some of their best points, then moving on to a new synthesis.

There is neither creation nor a Creator. The Universe always existed and always will. Your life is eternal and one with the eternal universe. Most of us who live in the U.S. were raised to believe in God. Polls consistently show more than 90% of Americans believe in God or a supreme being, usually as articulated in some form of Christianity or Judaism. This does not mean that Americans can never practice Buddhism wholeheartedly or that we must give up our faith in order to learn more about Buddhism. Actually, most Buddhists practicing today in American are former Christians or Jews. You can begin your study and practice while you continue to attend church or synagogue.

So now how does this pertain to that time of the season- Christmas?

Buddhism highly values each country's traditions and culture. There is a Buddhist concept of  "Zuiho bini" which says that so long as no seriously offensive act is involved, then even if one were to depart to some slight degree from the teachings of Buddhism, it would be better to avoid going against the manners and customs of the country. Although Buddhists do not believe in a God, as stated here, and I will later post about Jesus and Buddha- many Nichiren Buddhists I know, celebrate the Christmas Holiday. Its a joyous time to be with the ones you love or appreciate for the past year and all that you have accomplished. Christmas or New Year's can also be wonderful opportunity for Human Revolution.

I was originally brought up Catholic, but that doesn't stop me from putting a tree up, gift giving, singing Christmas carols, etc. The bigger message here is,

Peace is the noblest goal of Human beings. Our practice is always about the peace movement, everywhere it exists. The collective goal of Nichiren Buddhists is World Peace, or kosen-rufu in Japanese. Kosen-rufu means to widely teach Buddhism, thereby allowing peaceful principles to transform the lives of the people from within. In other words, world peace through individual enlightenment.

Its all begins with you, peace within yourself. How can be teach Peace on Earth when we don't practice peace within ourselves or in our environment? If people cannot see the dignity, creativity and potential of their own lives, they wont value it in others.

For this holiday season, I chant that we each learn to treasure the value of our own lives, our family, friends and the world. Celebrate with one another and most importantly with yourself. Trim a tree, laugh, sing, give a gift of gratitude, go sleigh riding, smile and be merry!




Sources- (sgi-usa
            The Buddha in your Rearview Mirror 
            Loflo 
            deviantart)


Obstacles

Animation by Seleus


Nov 30, 2009

Do Nichiren Buddhists Believe in God?

by Greg Martin-World Tribune

The answer to this question depends heavily on how one envisions God. One survey reports that ninety-nine percent of Americans claim to believe in God. Yet, in spite of the prevalence of religiosity in America, the escalating crime rate, rampant drug addiction, epidemic mental illness, and revival of the death penalty, to name just a few symptoms, are not signs of a spiritually healthy society. Europeans report a growing blankness -- a god-shaped hole -- where God once existed in the human consciousness.[1]

What also seems clear is that individual conceptualizations of God are not
uniform. There may be as many versions of God as there are people, for the concept of God has never been a static thing. 
As Karen Armstrong writes in “A
History of God,” “Yet it seems that creating gods is something that human beings have always done. When one religious idea ceases to work for them, it is simply replaced. These ideas disappear quietly, like the Sky God, with no great fanfare. In our own day, many people would say that the God worshiped for centuries by Jews, Christians, and Muslims has become as remote as the Sky God.”[2]

Armstrong concludes, “Human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation; they will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning. The idols of fundamentalism are not good substitutes for God; if we are to create a vibrant new faith for the twenty-first century, we should, perhaps ponder the history of God for some lessons and warnings.”[3]

When asked if we believe in God, we find ourselves responding to the question
with one of our own: What God are you referring to?

Is it Abraham’s God, the God of the Old Testament? This god was a strict father, a creator, protector and punisher, a giver of law. This god also required the sacrifice by Abraham of his son Isaac and authorized the conquering and killing of many thousands of people.

Is it Augustine’s God, the God of the early Christian Church? This is the god of a powerful church, inheritor of the remnants of the Roman Empire. This god judged all humanity based on Adam’s original sin. The religion based on this god will have us view ourselves as fundamentally flawed -- originally sinful.[5]

Is it Michelangelo’s God, a personal God, as painted on the ceiling of the
Sistine Chapel? This concept of God helped develop the liberal humanism valued so highly in the West. It fit well with an awakening and expanding Europe. This god loves, judges, punishes, sees, hears, creates, and destroys as we do. This god inspires. However, this can also be a liability when one assumes that this god loves what we love and hates what we hate, thereby endorsing our prejudices instead of compelling us to transcend them. The fact is that this “personal” God is male (and usually white) has raised deep existential problems for women and non-whites.[6]

Is it the omnipotent God that some theologians believe died at Auschwitz? The
idea of an all-knowing and all-powerful god is hard for some to reconcile with the evil of the Holocaust. For, if God is truly omnipotent, he could have prevented it. If, they say, he was unable to stop it, he is impotent; if he could have stopped it and chose not to, he is not compassionate.[7]

Our rapidly expanding scientific knowledge about the universe is also making it apparent that God is no longer “up there” or “out there.” The heavens seem empty of the protecting, judging, and caring divine presence envisioned by the ancient world. The result is, according to John Shelby Spong, Episcopal bishop and author of “Why Christianity Must Change or Die,” that tens of millions of people are “believers in exile,” who have lost touch with these God images as taught from traditional pulpits, but are not prepared to abandon the concept of God entirely.[8]

As a snake sloughs its skin as it grows, are we now witnessing the growth of our collective conceptualization of God, leaving behind the old, and for some now inadequate one even as a new one, not yet clear, is born?

Some believe that there is a new view of God emerging in this post-modern age. It abandons the external height images of the historic theistic God and is being replaced with internal depth image of a god that is not apart, but is integral and fundamental part of us. It is a perspective quite consistent with the Buddhist concept of the Mystic Law.

This Mystic Law is the ultimate entity or truth that permeates all phenomena in the universe, but it is not a personified being. There is an ultimate oneness of the human and this ultimate Law -- there is no separation between human beings (all human beings) and this idea of God as a Mystic Law.

This eternal and unchanging truth that resides within us is the source from
which we can draw the compassionate wisdom that accords with changing
circumstances, and the courage and confidence to live according to that wisdom. It is mystical, not magical, because its totality is beyond human conceptualization; and efforts to compartmentalize it, say in human form, only restrict and limit it. It is a law because it is experientially true in the daily lives of individual human beings.

This ultimate reality, ultimate truth, ultimate purity exists in the depths of every human being. Because of this, Buddhists view all people as sacred and perfectly endowed with potential to be wonderfully happy and enlightened individuals. There is no us and them, no godly and ungodly -- all are children of God, entities of the Mystic Law.

Where others looked to the heavens, Buddha looked within and found the priceless jewel of human wonder and possibility. He recognized that we, too, are made of the divine “stuff” of the universe. We’ve simply forgotten who we are.

So do we believe in God? By most traditional definitions, no. But in terms of
how increasing numbers of Christians understand God, yes, we do believe in God. Our name for God is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Mystic Law. We believe it exists both “in here” and “out there,” and that this inner light can shine forth from within when we awaken to it and open our hearts through the act of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

There will, of course, be many people for whom this understanding of God will be unacceptable. That is fine. But there will be many -- according to one study, as many as twenty-five percent of all adults in America -- for whom it will resonate. People who will find that they also no longer really embrace these earlier versions of God; that they’ve already begun to envision the universe differently, and that the concept of God as Mystic Law matches the understanding that they have reached on their own. They’ll discover, as most SGI-USA members can attest, that the Mystic Law will, quite nicely indeed, fill the god-shaped hole in their spiritual selves.

Artwork Source: Deviantart by bemyunintended

1. Karen Armstrong, “A History of God”, (Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1993) pp. 397-398
2. Ibid., p. 4.
3. Ibid., p. 398.
4. Ibid., pp. 18-19.
5. Ibid., pp. 123-24.
6. Ibid., pp. 209-10.
7. Ibid., pp. 346.
8. John Shelby Spong, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” (HarperCollins
Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, 1998) p. 33.
9. Phillip Hammond and David W. Machacck, “Soka Gakkai in America,” (Oxford
University Press Inc., New York 1999).

Nov 24, 2009

What Does Tina Turner Have to Do with it?

From November 2009- Tina Turner explains the effect chanting has had on her life, what motivated her toward Buddhism and her Beyond Project.

Thankful

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it would be enough- Meister Eckhart

I want to thank all of my SGI family, friends and new subscribers- for your love, appreciation and support.
Best wishes to everyone this thanksgiving- xoxo Lotus Flower



Appreciation is what makes people truly human. The Japanese word for thankful originally indicated a rare or unusual condition and later came to denote a sense of joyful appreciation for an uncommon occurrence- Faith into Action 

Nov 23, 2009

What Really Matters

I recently came across the Rob Thomas song "Little Wonders".  Its message is a very beautiful one and I could not help but hear in the lyrics - 'It's the heart that really matters in the end'. I knew I heard or read that expression before. Whether it be in the end or the most, the message is still the same.


From Faith into Action (Daisaku Ikeda):

"Our heart is what matters most.  A heart that praises the Mystic law brings forth boundless benefit. And the heart that praises those who spread the Mystic Law elicits still greater benefit."
"Everything is determined by our attitude, by our resolve. Our heart is what matters the most."
"Those who exert themselves  for the sake of the Law are ever young. Our heart is what matters the most."


Written by Rob Thomas

Let it go
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know
The hardest part is over
Let it in
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels



Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours
These small hours
Still remain

Let it slide
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine,
Till you feel it all around you
And I don't mind
If it's me you need to turn to
We'll get by
It's the heart that really matters in the end

                                                      Source: deviantart-by allexallex



Nov 20, 2009

Try and Get Me!

By Seleus Blelis 2007

I visualize my devilish functions as gangsters in a 40's style film-noir. They linger in the shadows, in dark corners, up on rooftops, sitting in cars- awaiting for the very moment to make their move on you. So when you experience just a bit or slither of happiness- you can bet - they will appear, right on schedule, on time..ringing your doorbell, jumping out from those shadows, flying down from those rooftops, jumping you and wrestling you to the ground. Not a word is spoken because you know what they want. They're holding a gun to your head or any weapon of their choice- because you got them ANGRY.

Who are you to be happy? You have pissed them off. And because they know you so well, they say to themselves 'hmm let's see, how can we mess you up, hit you where you live, destroy your life condition?'

They hit you in places they know is going to get you down, stop you from your mission, stand in the way of your human revolution- (i.e. unresolved anger, resentment, relationship, financial, personal problems).


 "In Buddhism, demons represent functions of human nature and the environment that bring misery and suffering.  These demons and devils- the robbers of life and benefit-are actually the negativity inherent in our lives.  They can appear as negative internal feelings and as external influences that try to obstruct our Buddhist practice."- sgi.org

In the beginning of my practice. I knew the one area I had to address right away. It wasn't the thing that brought me to the practice (or so I thought- but that's another discussion..lol)


I was abused when I was child and when I began my practice- the first thing I did was forgive that person and chanted for their happiness. You see for me..as long as you hold on to whoever it was that wronged you- you will never be free. Its not about vengeance or the fact that you think by letting this go the person will think its OK what they did to you. Its how this is affecting you, not them. Whoever hurts you- because they made a bad cause, will eventually suffer a bad effect.

Knowing this, you slowly learn to let this go. Have faith in the practice, that things of this nature take care of themselves on their own in due time. Its not your responsibility. Your only responsibility is to be happy and for you to create it. Don't you owe yourself that much?

In other words, its like you've been taking poison all along hoping they get sick. They wont, your just wasting valuable time. Because all this time, you've been the one whose slowly been poisoning yourself.
The number one thing I chant for the most is to be a woman of unlimited self-esteem. I believe it all starts there, for all of us.

When we take back our power- those gangsters (the robbers of your life) will get the picture. You turn the gun back on them, shoot them all down one by one. And I think that's what this practice means to me. Its not easy, it takes time..but we learn and grow from it. Blossoming, emerging from the muddy waters as a survivor.

And when we find ourselves outnumbered- call a member..they certainly have enough ammunition to give you. :D


Artwork by www.impawards.com

Nov 19, 2009

Karmic Paycheck


Comic by Boxbrown

Nichiren’s Buddhism is a profound teaching and by practicing it we are able to achieve our goals in life, control the manifestations and circumstances in our environment, and acquire the life-condition of Buddhahood, or unshakable happiness. It is important to understand, however, the practical application of this practice in our daily lives. It is incorrect to think that chanting by itself, that is chanting without making serious efforts to bring about our own human revolution, will be effective. To use a well-known metaphor, that is like expecting a paycheck without working. We must make the causes to reach our goals, not simply wait for them to appear. Nichiren teaches us that though we may have experienced frustration in our lives when our efforts seemingly do not produce the desired effect, summoning faith in the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will definitely yield great benefit.

 Source: -->
“On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime”
June 2006 Gosho Study

Nov 16, 2009

Nov 14, 2009

The 9 Consciousnesses

The first five`consciousnesses' are our basic senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, which we use to take in information from outside ourselves in order to understand what is going on in the world. Imagine the moment of birth. The baby, at that moment is aware of sound, of smell, touch,taste, and sight. Like the baby we become attached to the world to such a degree that, for many, the world in all its complexities continues to hold our attention and we remain ignorant of the working of the deeper `layers` of consciousness.


Eventually the baby grows and learns that what it is seeing is, say `blue` or what it is feeling is `hot`. This is the sixth consciousness or the mind as we are used to thinking of it, which functions to enable us to make sense of what is coming to us through our senses. It is primarily through the interaction of these first 6 consciousnesses that we perform our daily activities. The seventh consciousness is directed towards our inner, spiritual world. It is in the 7 consciousness that the conditioning we experience as we grow up is stored. It is through this consciousness that we have our sense of who we are, our gender, our national identity and so on.

Attachment to a self distinct and separate from others has its basis in this consciousness as does our sense of right and wrong. We might see the appearance of various therapies and counseling in the West as a response to the desire on the part of many to free themselves from some of the conditioning that has taken place in life and which is stored in the 7 consciousness. Western culture really only has an understanding of the first 7 consciousnesses. The concept of an eighth consciousness storing all our internal causes and internal effects (our karma) is generally not in use in daily life. And the concept of a ninth consciousness being the fundamental workings of life itself throughout the universe is definitely not part of our culture! The ninth consciousness in Buddhism is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or the Law of life. 1 to 5 is sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. 6 is Conscious Mind, 7 is Sub-Conscious/Egoistical Limited Self, 8 is Karma and 9 is Law of Life.


The eighth and ninth consciousnesses are operating at the level of the fundamental interconnectedness of all of life. If our eyes could see our karma and the 9 consciousness we would see all of life as deeply interconnected. The perception created in the 7 consciousness of a fixed and isolated self is thus false. This is one of the deep seated delusions regarding the nature of the self.  The narrow ego of the 7 consciousness resists life expansion. A human life which is`touching` the eighth consciousness is cracking the shell of the limited ego and becoming open to its greater self.  The seventh consciousness is also the seat of the fear of death. Locked in the 7 consciousness the narrow ego assumes it will perish and cease to exist at death. Such a life is unable to see that the eighth consciousness is an enduring flow of life energy that will migrate between life times. The delusion that the 7 consciousness is ones true self is fundamental ignorance, a turning away from the interconnectedness of all being. It is this sense of oneself as  separate that gives rise to discrimination, destructive arrogance, and the acquisition of material possessions and wealth that far surpass what any one human being could possibly need.

The eighth consciousness is a vast storehouse of all the causes and effects which affect the way that the world comes to us. It is where we accumulate our karma, both  positive and negative. It accounts for our looks, our circumstances, our reactions, our good or bad fortune, our work, our relationships, our health, in fact, every aspect of living. As causes are made in thought or word or deed, so internal effects are stored in this level of consciousness. Because the internal cause and effect exists deep inside, on a level of life which is interconnecting with all of life, eventually external causes and effects appear in response to the karma in the eighth consciousness. It is the existence of the eighth consciousness that explains the great differences which exist between say `identical` twins in their experiences of life. It explains how things that happen to a young child appear to have no cause in this lifetime.

It is this eighth consciousness or karma which migrates between lifetimes. It is our karma from previous lifetimes which we are born with and which then causes the world to come to us on the basis of our internal causes in all the different aspects of life. If life were only these eight consciousnesses things would be fatalistic and bleak. One cause would create its effect which would condition all future causes and their effects and so on, leaving us stuck on a particular path with particular tendencies. We cannot gain access to this 8th karmic consciousness with our minds, which are too shallow. Will-power and effort alone will not enable us to change deep seated karmic tendencies.

Buddhism teaches that there is a ninth consciousness which Nichiren Daishonin identified as the Buddha nature, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is the basis of all life's functions and is known as the 'amala' or 'fundamentally pure' consciousness, shared at the most profound level with all life. As we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, so life force comes from the ninth consciousness, purifying the internal causes and effects that lie in the eighth, and improving the way our sixth and seventh consciousnesses function. We start to create new causes in the eighth consciousness, based not on the tendencies that we have developed after making many different causes, but on the life state of the Buddha, and therefore filled with courage, compassion and wisdom. Another benefit of this process is that we start to see our lives with the eyes of the Buddha, enabling us to see our karma in its true light. As we see it, so it becomes easier to challenge it and change it.

To use an analogy, the emergence of the world of Buddhahood is like the rising of the sun. When the sun dawns in the east, the stars that had shone so vividly in the night sky immediately fade into seeming non-existence. If they disappeared, it would go against the principle of causality. But just as the light of the stars and the moon seems to vanish when the sun rises, when we bring forth the state of Buddhahood in our lives we cease to suffer negative effects for each individual past negative cause made. In other words,this does not deny or contradict general causality. General causality remains an underlying premise of Buddhism. But it is subsumed by what might be termed a 'greater causality'. This greater causality is the causality of attaining Buddhahood. It is the causality of the Lotus Sutra and the Mystic Law. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo then liberates us from our negative or unhappy karma, and enables us to make causes and create lives that accord with our greatest dreams both for ourselves and for the society in which we live. The best causes we can make are those that contribute to kosen-rufu, and help people to establish  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in their own lives, enabling them to reveal their own Buddha nature.

(Article from SGI-UK)
(Image sources: Deviantart)

Cause & Effect

  
As we go about our daily lives, in every single moment, we make causes in the things that we think and say and do. Buddhism teaches the existence of a law of cause and effect which explains that when we make a cause, the anticipated effect of that cause is stored deep in our lives, and when the right circumstances appear then we experience the effect.

This concept of cause and effect is at the heart of Buddhism, and the characters for 'renge' in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo mean the simultaneity of the internal cause and the internal effect. This means that, through chanting, we have made the cause for our Buddhahood, and the effect of it exists simultaneously with that cause. By chanting we are directly causing our Buddhahood to appear.

Renge literally means 'lotus flower', which is a beautiful plant that floats on the surface of water and its beauty is nourished through its roots in the mud. This is a metaphor for our lives. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo uses the `mud` in our lives to enable us to reveal our highest life state.But the Lotus flower is significant for a second reason. It is a plant that flowers and seeds at the same time. It beautifully illustrates the profound working of life where the effect is simultaneous with the cause.




An example of the way Buddhism views cause and effect might be of a young person going home to spend a weekend with their parents. They have a blazing row before the end of the weekend and the young person leaves. In Western society we tend to see the blazing row as the cause and the young person leaving the effect. But Buddhism focuses attention on the internal cause and effect. So it may be that the internal cause turns out to be that the young person disrespects their parents,at quite a deep level, perhaps without realising it. The effect which is simultaneous with this cause is the state of hell, and it is this that is triggering the arguing. This example could equally be the other way round,with the parents doing the disrespecting. It is the internal cause and effect which a person who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can change,replacing their internal feelings with respect.


Through the simultaneity of cause and effect we can cause our Buddhahood to appear. To help us gain a clearer understanding of what Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is we need to appreciate the nine consciousnesses. The nine consciousnesses can be thought of as different layers of consciousness which are constantly operating together to create our lives.And as we progress through explanations of these consciousnesses the significance of the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect should become apparent.

(SGI-UK Study)

Treasures of the Heart


From a presentation by SGI-USA Vice General Director, Mr. Greg Martin:



  • 1. Today I'm excited to talk about my new discoveries concerning Treasures of the Heart.
  • 2. Today I will speak about one point only. There are others in the material, and you may choose one of them, but I want to speak only about Treasures of the Heart.
  • 3. We teach people how to become happy based on the correct practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism as taught by the SGI, especially President Ikeda. As a presenter I have a responsibility to be accurate. I will strive to do so today.
  • 4. Nichiren Buddhism is not rocket science-if it were it would not be for everyone and thus, not the great vehicle for attaining Buddhahood. Ultimately Buddhism is for all people and thus cannot require a great intellect.
  • 5. When we study Buddhism we are actually studying the true nature of our own lives. This is what Josei Toda realized in prison that became the source for the rebirth of Buddhism in this age. Whatever we are studying we are studying how our life works.
  • 6. Finally, my goal is that each and every member who hears what I say will have a changed prayer that is stronger, clearer and correct-and as a result each person will experience a breakthrough. As a result then study has power.
  • With this as a preamble let's begin.

Treasures of the Heart-what are they?

I began by reading the material thoroughly. I've studied and presented on the three treasures many times. As I read I asked myself what can I learn new? I was struck by question #2 of For Dialogue and Reflection: "What are the ‘treasures of the heart'? Although it may seem a simple question when I referred back to the text I learned that they are important and can be developed through Buddhist practice but could only find them specifically described as ‘the spiritual richness we cultivate within." But what does that mean?



I conducted an Informal Survey of Buddhist friends to determine if perhaps it was clearer to others than if was to me with the following Responses:
  • Human relationships-genuine and natural communication with others; genuine friendships; happiness for others.
  • Enjoying the moment with people, nature and yourself
  • Wonderful memories, victory over weaknesses, joy, appreciation; feeling free to create and explore
  • Living as a disciple
  • A heart of faith
  • Lucky in love.

While everyone was clear that treasures of the heart are important they were less clear about exactly what treasures of the heart are. As a result, one wonders, how can one strive to accumulate something if you don't know what you're looking for?

Like happiness. A core principle of our country is the right to freely pursue one's happiness. However, failing to understand the true nature of happiness, that pursuit will lead only to dissatisfaction and disappointment. Therefore, to have any reasonable expectation of achieving happiness one must understand what it is, what it is not and how to achieve it.

The same is true to treasures of the heart. I, of course, had my own ideas about what they were, but was I correct? Thus, I focused on trying to clarify for myself more precisely what they are, what they are not and how to accumulate treasures of the heart.

Shijo Kingo was faced with threats to his life, family and property. Shijo Kingo was a man of justice, but with a temper as well. This letter is the Daishonin's guidance to him.
  • p. 848: "when the Buddha nature manifests itself from within, it will receive protection from without." SHIJO KINGO, MANIFEST YOUR BUDDHA NATURE IF YOU WANT TO BE PROTECTED.
  • P. 849: "worthy persons (a Buddha) will advocate the five constant virtues." THE FIVE CONSTANT VIRTUES, ALSO CALLED THE FIVE GREAT PRINCIPLES OF HUMANITY, ARE: BENEVOLENCE, RIGHTEOUSNESS, PROPRIETY, WISDOM, AND GOOD FAITH-ARE PRINCIPLES BY WHICH YOU (SHIJO KINGO) SHOULD ABIDE IF YOU WANT PROTECTION. Found in the glossary of the Gosho.
  • P. 852: "The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being. The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals." IF YOU BEHAVE WISELY-CONTROL YOUR ANGER, SHIJO KINGO-BASED ON THESE VIRTUES YOU WILL SURVIVE AND THRIVE.

Treasures of the Heart then has to do with behavior based on inner qualities or virtues. These qualities or virtues manifest from within and guide one's thoughts, words and behavior. As a result one receives protection, good fortune and benefit. Good relationships, a fulfilling life-such things are side-effects of manifesting treasures of the heart not treasures of the heart themselves. Everything is determined by how one lives, not by what one has.

Another perspective is that the Daishonin equates treasures of the heart with the virtues of the life state of Buddhahood and, as we know, these can also be seen as the qualities of absolute happiness. The Buddha's three virtues of parent, teacher and sovereign are the qualities we should strive to accumulate.

How do we accumulate these treasures or virtues?

The Gosho says: "Live with honor. Be diligent in the service to your lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in one's concern for other people."

p. 56-7: Noteworthy in this passage is Nichiren's encouragement to Kingo to become outstanding ‘in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people.' We can take this as Nichiren also urging us to fully develop our personalities.... The true meaning of actual proof in Nichiren Buddhism lies in developing our character as we develop our faith...The practice of leading people to the correct Buddhist teaching by refuting their erroneous views is the well-known practice of Bodhisattvas of the Earth as expounded by Nichiren"

To be a Bodhisattva of the Earth is to have the same mind as Nichiren-to walk the path of mentor and disciple. Carrying out the practice based on the way of mentor and disciple is the source from which the treasures of the heart flow. Further, since the treasures of the heart constitute the virtues of absolute happiness and Buddhahood, sharing them with others-allowing those treasures and virtues to flow out from us to others-makes room for more treasures to gush forth within. In that sense, treasures of the heart flow through us to others in an unceasing flow.

SGI President Ikeda explains: "The Daishonin's statement, ‘More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all' sums up a vital philosophy. In the twenty-first century, this will doubtless come to be recognized as a preeminent theory of value. For us, ‘treasures of the heart' means cherishing a vow to work for kosen-rufu (world peace). There is no greater treasure of the heart. " (LB, 11/03, 36)

Why? Because the vow to carry out the Buddha's work activates the state of Buddhahood within-after all, only a Buddha can do the Buddha's work-manifesting the Buddha's virtues within. This triggers the protection of the protective functions and the actualization of good fortune. Thus, the most fundamental treasure from which the other treasures of the heart arise is the vow of kosen-rufu.

In Lectures on the Expedient Means and Life Span Chapters of the Lotus Sutra (pp. 29-32) you will find more about the path of mentor and disciple and the development of one's character. I urge you to read it. Time does not permit much comment here except to say that President Ikeda explains the purpose of the mentor and disciple relationship-of two people sharing the same vow-is the development of people's character. To neither become arrogant and independent nor lacking in self-respect and dependent. Another way then to define treasures of the heart is the ability to sustain self-respect and respect for others at the same time. As President Ikeda writes: "The great mission of Buddhism lies in this-cultivating and developing character."

By accumulating treasures of the heart that arise through our efforts to widely share the Daishonin's teachings with others, we can lead an unsurpassed life of infinite value. Countless millions of tens of millions of people have walked this path and solidified it for those who follow. We have entered an age when the great actual proof we have shown through the power of our faith will be applauded by people throughout the world" (LB, 11/03, 36).

Treasures of the heart according to Buddhist Concepts for Today's Living

The human heart, left to its own devices, tends to lean toward the exclusive pursuit of wants and desires. When, spurred on by this ‘hungry heart,' people focus their energies on obtaining treasures of the storehouse and treasures of the body, they are never satisfied.... Psychological research is finding more and more that people whose primary focus in life is the attainment of ‘extrinsic goals'-externals such a wealth, property, fame and status-tend to be less happy. In general, they are said to experience higher levels of anxiety, suffer more from illness, and have less of a sense of fulfillment....
 

In this light, it is easy to see why the ability to win over ourselves-over our weakness that makes us vulnerable to defeat by our own desires-is the most important treasure we can possess. This is the treasure of the heart. We can define ‘treasures of the heart' as the mental and spiritual capacities to achieve mastery over oneself and to have genuine fulfillment, a brightness of spirit, a warm and attractive personality, self-control, conviction, a sense of justice, courage, empathy and compassion. Or, it may be viewed as an indestructible spiritual state-the state of absolute happiness-that allows a person to surmount even life's most fundamental sufferings. A winner in life is a person who amasses treasures of the heart" (LB, 07/99, 5).

Image Sources: deviantart

Words Of Wisdom

  1. No matter what happens, don’t betray your dreams.
  2. No matter what happens, don’t become judgmental about yourself.
  3. No matter what the situation in your life, you must turn it around.
Daisaku Ikeda


The Invisible Reflection

From, "Buddhism in New Light": Chapter 8: The Invisible Reflection;
                     by Shin Yatomi - SGI-USA Study Department Leader


Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish religious philosopher,knew the importance of seeing oneself in order tobuild a secure foundation for authentic happiness. So he suggested three requirements for his fellow Christians to see themselves in the "mirror" of "God's Word" (For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself!, Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, trans., p. 25).

Kierkegaard's insight into how to gain self-knowledge may be valuable not only for Christians but also for the practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, since Nichiren Daishonin also stressed the importance of self-knowledge and inscribed the Gohonzon-the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism-as a mirror to reflect our true self, our innate Buddhahood.

Nichiren, for example, states: "The five characters Myoho-renge-kyo similarly reflect the ten thousand phenomena, not overlooking a single one of them.... A mirror that allows us to see our own image and reflection-such is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" (ott, 51-52). The "five characters Myoho-renge-kyo" and "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" in this passage are synonymous with the Gohonzon, which embodies Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or the essential Law of life and the universe.

A profound awareness that our lives are originally endowed with the Buddha's infinite wisdom and compassion is so crucial for our happiness that Nichiren goes so far as to say, "No other knowledge is purposeful."

The philosophical distance between Kierkegaard and Nichiren, therefore, is closer in their emphasis on self knowledge than one might expect from their religious difference. The following are Kierkegaard's three requirements as applied to how we may better see ourselves in the mirror of the Gohonzon.


Why Don't We See Ourselves in the Mirror?

"The first requirement is that you must not look at the mirror, observe the mirror, but must see yourself in the mirror" (For Self-Examination, p. 25).




Here, Kierkegaard warns us against "the error of observing the mirror instead of seeing oneself in the mirror" (ibid, 25). One may ask how this could be possible. How can we look at the mirror and not see ourselves?

Kierkegaard's first requirement, however, points to the subtlety of self-awareness.

Self-awareness is said to develop during the early years of life. In one psychological study, infants who had had a red spot applied to their nose were held up to a mirror. Those who recognized their own reflection and so reached for their own nose rather than the nose in the mirror were said to show at least some self-awareness. In this study, practically no infants in the first year of life showed clear evidence of self-awareness, whereas about 70 percent of infants between twenty-one and twenty-four months did so (see Simply Psychology, Michael W. Eysenck, p. 278).

Clearly those infants under one year observed the mirror but failed to see themselves. Their failure to see themselves in the mirror is their failure to connect what is reflected on the mirror to themselves. For those babies, the mirror served no purpose and became useless. This illustrates what essentially makes a mirror so valuable that we use it everyday; it is our self-awareness or our ability to understand that what is reflected in the mirror is our own image.

Any adult of sound mind would not make the same mistake as those babies. When it comes to the Gohonzon, however, Kierkegaard's concern often becomes our reality. Although we revere the Gohonzon as Nichiren's enlightened life, we often fail to reflect the same respect back to our own lives. Or worse-some people may disparage their lives while admiring the Gohonzon's beneficial power.

They might glorify the Gohonzon to the extent that they humble themselves. Still others may see the Gohonzon as life's mysterious truth beyond their grasp, accessible only for select priests. Those who view the Gohonzon as an external deity or someone else's enlightenment may be compared to those infants reaching for the mirror instead of their own nose.

When we pray to the Gohonzon, we must reach into our own lives for the hidden gem of Buddhahood rather than reach out to the Gohonzon as an external source of salvation.

Our Invisible Self

"The second requirement is that in order to see yourself in the mirror...you must...remember to say to yourself incessantly: It is I to whom it is speaking; it is I about whom it is speaking" (For Self-Examination, p. 35).




Down the center of the Gohonzon is inscribed "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren," indicating that the potential for absolute happiness exists within the lives of all people as represented by Nichiren, who was born to a fisherman's family, the lowest class in Japan's feudal society. So the
Gohonzon speaks to each of us: "It is you who embodies the wonderful Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo just as Nichiren did!"

In this sense, our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo becomes our repeated affirmation of this message from the Gohonzon. As Kierkegaard's statement suggests, when we pray to the Gohonzon, we must remind ourselves that with each invocation we are manifesting our highest potential, full of strength and hope, no matter how our lives may appear on the surface.

Believing Is Seeing

"Finally, if you want to look at yourself in the mirror. you must not promptly forget how you looked" (ibid., 44).

Kierkegaard's final advice is his warning against our forgetfulness. When we study Nichiren's writings, we may intellectually understand that we are potentially Buddhas full of courage and compassion. While chanting, we may feel confident that our lives are essentially no different from
that of Nichiren.

But minutes after we leave our homes for work or school, we often start acting in a manner unbefitting Buddhas. In the course of a day, we may also face one situation after another in which others disregard us as if we had not even an iota of Buddhahood.

This is why our consistent Buddhist practice and study become important as powerful reminders of our innate Buddhahood, especially when our environment seems to suggest its non-existence. Our diligent, conscious efforts steadily transform our intellectual idea of Buddhahood into our action as Buddhas and our fleeting awareness of Buddhahood into our unmovable conviction in the face of great hardship. In this sense, seeing ourselves in the Gohonzon is often a process of gradual transformation rather than an epiphany to attain once and for all.

Kierkegaard's vision of an ideal Christian was a "doer of the Word" (ibid, 25). To this end, he set down those three requirements for Christians to see themselves in the "mirror of God's Word." By the same token, genuine Nichiren Buddhists must not simply be admirers of the Gohonzon who see it with awe yet fail to see themselves in it. Indeed, what those admirers think of as their pious respect for the Gohonzon is a kind of fundamental disrespect that perverts its purpose.

Nichiren wished us to become practitioners of the Gohonzon who uphold this mirror of ultimate self-knowledge and appreciate our reflections. To this end, he stressed the importance of faith, urging us "to summon up deep faith that Myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself."  So the true value of this wonderful mirror lies in the heart of the beholder-the heart that knows believing is seeing.


Image sources: Deviantart

Nov 12, 2009

Martin Short seizes the Moment

Psyche yourself up Jack
with Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!

Nov 10, 2009

Rehearse in your mind


 

"Buddhism teaches us that the individual writes and performs the script for his
or her own life.  Neither chance nor a divine being writes the script for us. 
We write it, and we are the actors who play it.  This is an extremely positive
philosophy, inherent in the teaching of 3,000 realms in a single moment of life. 
You are the author and the hero.  To perform your play well, it is important to
pound the script into your head so thoroughly that you can see it vividly before
your eyes.  You may need to rehearse in your mind.  Sometimes it helps to write
down your goals, copying them over and over until they are inscribed in your
heart."

3/3/93 (Daisaku Ikeda)
Photo by Lara Hartley