Dec 30, 2010

You Should be Dancing

Singapore Soka Association celebrating Soka Gakkai's 80th Anniversary Commemorative Meeting on the 25th of December 2010.

Soka Youth Dance Crew (SYDC)
Performance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Choreography by:
We're Dancing by P.Y.T - Lester Zhang
Party To Damascus by Wyclef Jean feat. Missy Elliot - Jeremy Tan
Red Alert by Basement Jaxx - Kher Xin + Freddie Ng
You Should Be Dancing by Bee Gees - Kher Xin + Freddie Ng
Song of Indomitable Spirit Instrumental Edit - Marcus Leong

Dec 15, 2010

The Buddha and the Law of Everything

Richard  Moorman

The purpose of science is to seek the truth and to understand the workings of everything. Scientists want to know not only what goes on at subatomic level but also how the universe itself operates. They observe the phenomena around them and develop theories to explain them. Theories are nothing more than possible explanations of things until such time as they can be tested and proved by rigorous experiment.

The purpose of religion is to seek the truth and to understand the workings of everything. Religions have developed in response to mankind’s yearning to know the answers to big questions such as “Why is the universe there? – How does it work? – What is the meaning of life? – How do I fit in? – What am I?” Added to these philosophical questions are those expressing deeply felt concerns such as, “Why is there so much suffering in the world? – How can I be happy? – What happens when I die?  Theories and philosophies have been developed to answer these big questions. Often it is accepted that we can never fully understand everything and that faith is required in order to accept these theories and therefore be happy. Faith might, for example, be in the existence of the supernatural, or of a being or beings living in a realm that is inaccessible to ordinary humans and who have created things the way they are. By their very definition, the existence of such beings cannot be proved by experiment.

These two approaches have traditionally been quite separate and even totally incompatible. Scientific proof is fundamentally different from “blind” religious faith. Modern civilisation, especially in the West, has become increasingly based on Science, which has contributed enormous benefits to mankind, and religion has therefore been in decline.

            The burning desire to understand everything is still the driving force of Science. When Isaac Newton observed an apple falling to the ground, he asked himself why this should happen. He did not rest until he had discovered the force of gravity. His great discovery, together with his deep understanding of other phenomena, such as expressed in his Laws of Motion, are still the basis of the intricate calculations that enable astronomers to predict the orbits of planets and their satellites and military scientists to work out the ballistics of their weapons.

            The scientific world was revolutionised when Albert Einstein showed how matter and energy are related and how the effect of gravity is dependent on time, now seen as a fourth dimension. He explained that gravity can be considered as “curved space” a concept that has enabled astronomers to understand such things as how the earth actually manages to stay in orbit around the sun. Everyone knows of his famous equation e = mc², where e is energy, m is mass and c is the speed of light. Knowledge of this relationship is not the same as really understanding it and only physicists can form a concept of it in their minds.

            Other scientists studying matter at subatomic level have developed theories that seem to explain what is happening there. At this level matter does not really seem to exist at all. Everything seems to boil down to minute particles constantly in motion and related to each other in ways that depend on energy and time and on the probability of certain events occurring. These laws, described in quantum physics, do not seem to tally with Einstein’s theories. And so there is a search for a set of scientific principles that really do explain everything -  a “Law of Everything”. The best modern contender is the “string theory” which postulates that everything in the entire universe is made up of minute “strings” of energy, constantly in motion and relating to each other in different ways to produce different kinds of matter and everything else.

            About 2500 years ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama sat under a tree in Northern India and started meditating. He had decided not to rise until he had answered those same big questions that have always  bothered mankind. He wanted to understand everything as it really was and not as it appeared to be. After a prolonged period he came to a perfect understanding of what reality was. This great event is known as his “enlightenment” and he was thereafter known to all as the “Buddha”, meaning “the enlightened one”.

The Buddha developed theories to explain his understanding. He typically looked at reality from various viewpoints. In examining the nature of existence he said that there is in fact no inherent existence in anything at all. Nothing in the entire universe has existence in its own right. Everything depends upon something else for its own existence which can therefore only ever be “relative” existence. Another of his findings was that even this relative existence is not permanent in any way. It is constantly changing and the prime reason for change is the law  of cause and effect (Karma). The basic “content” of everything is therefore “nothingness” (Shunyata) and only manifests as “something” when a temporary set of conditions, or “energies”, are present. So everything in the universe is the result of a cosmic interplay between the unseen (energy) and the seen (matter). None of these results is constant because the causes themselves are always changing.

With regard to human happiness the Buddha taught that we must learn not to cling onto “things” such as possessions or relationships as sources of happiness because there is no permanent substance or reality to these things. He taught us to regard ourselves as an integral part of everything and everyone in the entire universe. Because we are essentially “one” with everything and everyone we can only be truly happy when we realise that we cannot be so on our own. To be truly happy we have to strive to make everyone happy and we must work on our own minds so that we can see things clearly. The great Buddhist qualities of loving-kindness and compassion are a  natural result of this kind of thinking.

“Oneness” with everything is easy to say but difficult to grasp. It is useful to resort to analogies to help us understand. Analogies can form part of our contemplation of life, part of our meditation. The following is an example of how we may contemplate our oneness with everything.

Imagine that you are a wave, a single wave on the surface of the vast ocean. The ocean represents the universe. You have a separate identity in that you have movement and form and an apparent life of your own. You may be a small ripple or you may be a giant tidal wave with terrible power at your disposal. There are many other waves each having its own characteristics - these represent all the other living beings in the universe. You are not the ocean and yet you only exist because of it. You are made of it and you cannot really distinguish the difference between the water making you up and the water forming the vast ocean itself. You cannot exist without the ocean and the ocean cannot exist without you because it is impossible to distinguish where you end and the ocean begins.

            The Buddha instructed his disciples not to accept anything as true simply because they heard it from a  respected person or simply because it was written in holy scripture. He said that they should test every theory in the laboratory of life and in the light of reason and logic. A teaching should only be accepted it can be proved in this way. This thinking should be applied to the whole of the Buddha’s teaching, collectively referred to as the “Buddha Dharma”. He went on to say that we should base our very lives on the Dharma and not on him as a person.

            The Buddha left behind a huge volume of teachings, recorded in the Buddhist Sutras, and Buddhists of various schools have developed many approaches to “living the Buddha Dharma”. Some of these approaches became so complex over time that only a monastic existence provided any hope of success in following them. Other schools over-simplified the teachings and even brought in an element of “blind faith” to make things simpler for ordinary people.

            In thirteenth century Japan, a reforming monk named Nichiren really wanted to find the Buddhist equivalent of what our present day Scientist’s are seeking – the “Law of Everything”. He wanted to find a way in which ordinary people could follow the Dharma in the midst of their everyday life and achieve the absolute kind of happiness that the Buddha himself had achieved.   After many years of study and contemplation, Nichiren concluded that the culmination of the Buddha’s teachings was to be found in the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra teaches that everyone has the potential to be a Buddha, irrespective of education, social class or gender. All one has to do is to practice the sutra or teachings. The Sutra does not however go on to tell us how this should be done. Nichiren’s enormous contribution to Buddhism was to give the world a method of following the Buddha’s instructions to the letter. He defined his “Law of Everything” as “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”.

            “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” can be translated as “I take refuge in the wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra”. Nichiren taught his followers to recite or chant this phrase over and over again, like a mantra, as a way of concentrating the mind whilst contemplating a special scroll, or “mandala”, upon which is a calligraphic representation of enlightened human life . This practice can be thought of as a “holistic” form of meditation in which attention is paid to sound, sight, breath and posture. Nichiren taught that this practice must be backed up by study of Buddhist philosophy and by right living or self-transformation. A new school of Buddhism evolved from his teachings and is becoming known in the West largely through the efforts of the lay Buddhist society known as the “Soka Gakkai International”, which is striving for world peace based on the propagation of Nichiren’s teachings.

            Nichiren Buddhism, along with other schools like Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, is part of an amazing growth in the number of people practising Buddhism today. One reason for this upsurge in interest is that the mind-training techniques of Buddhism provide a perfect antidote to the stresses of modern living. Everyone wants peace of mind. Other techniques and therapies can provide this of course, but people are still seeking answers to the big questions and Buddhism’s basic “scientific” approach strikes a chord with people who are no longer prepared to take a “leap of faith” in order to make sense of life.  There is no conflict between Buddhism and Science. Both are seeking the truth. Indeed many Buddhists consider Scientific truth as a part of the Dharma.

            At an audience with the Dalai Lama, the respected leader of Tibetan Buddhism, a western student asked him how he would react if science could prove without doubt that a teaching based on Buddhist scripture was untrue. The Dalai Lama thought quietly for a moment and then replied that if this were to be proved then Buddhism would simply have to accept it.
            The following words of Einstein, the father of modern physics, will provide a fitting final thought:

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal god, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity."

Dec 8, 2010

Thank you Blogisattva!

I just wanted to send out a personal thank you to the Blogisattva Blog for choosing my post as a Honorable Mention for Best Achievement with Humor in a Blog or Blog Post for their 2010 Blogisattva Awards!

I thank you and Lionel Richie does too! :D



by Daisaku Ikeda

To fly, a plane needs the extra push it gets by acceleration down a runway. To get good grades in school, you need the extra push of study before a test. 
Whatever you do, to achieve something better, to reach a higher level, you need a push. 
Buddhism teaches practice for oneself and practice for others. If either one is lacking, you cannot practice properly. 
The Gohonzon is the concrete manifestation of the very existence of Nichiren Daishonin, who taught kosen-rufu. Because of that, if you only practice gongyo and chant the daimoku and don’t take any other action for the sake of kosen rufu or improving your own life, the Gohonzon will not have its true, full effect. 
If, however, you take actions to achieve kosen-rufu, they will serve as that extra push for your own life and help you leap to higher and higher states of mind in your gongyo and chanting as well. And it is only natural that the energy you acquire through the gongyo practice for yourself will be channeled back into your activities for others, for kosen-rufu. 
The fact is that the practice of gongyo and your actions in service of kosen-rufu will become one, and together they will unlock the infinite power of the Mystic Law in your life. 
In Buddhism, practice is faith. That means action is faith, and without action there can be no true faith. The action I speak of is the way of practice for oneself and for others that is taught in Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. 
Action is the source of blessings and merits. In propagating the teachings, for example, whether the person you are presenting the teachings to arouses faith or not is his problem. The effects of our action of propagating will vary, depending on the person’s capacities and other conditions. 
There is no need at all to rejoice or lament over each effect. You can be proud that you have practiced the truest, most wonderful law of life in the universe to the best of your ability and go forward with your head held high. One who has acted for the sake of kosen-rufu is already a great victor in life. 
The words "the heads of those who cause affliction will be split in seven pieces" are written on the Gohonzon. 
This is a warning that it is wrong to seek to harm this law of your own being. 
Abandoning the teachings or slandering them are self-destructive actions that are bound to split you apart. 
We also find the words "those who make offerings will acquire blessings surpassing the Buddha’s ten names." 
This forceful statement tells us that the merits of one who make offerings to the Gohonzon and spreads the teaching will be far greater than the magnificent merits of the one who makes offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha. 

This is a promise that our personal microcosm will absorb the nourishment of all the blessings in the macrocosm, the whole universe, and be elevated to a state of existence of the highest happiness itself. 
Thus we know that the children of the Buddha who strive for kosen-rufu are each guaranteed to attain the ultimate degree of happiness. There is no one who will be more blessed.

Nov 30, 2010

Absolute Myoho

“Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment, are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment. There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”

- Deepak Chopra

Nov 28, 2010

A Glass of Water


"When we are upset, it’s easy to blame others. However, the true cause of our feelings is within us. For example, imagine yourself as a glass of water. Now, imagine past negative experiences as sediment at the bottom of your glass. Next, think of others as spoons. When one stirs, the sediment clouds your water. It may appear that the spoon caused the water to cloud – but if there were no sediment, the water would remain clear no matter what. The key, then, is to identify our sediment and actively work to remove it."
[Josei Toda]


Nov 16, 2010

Which Way Are You Practicing?

Vice President Karwei's Guidance, 1996

Prayers need to have a specific focus. Just chanting daimoku does not constitute prayer with desired results. Prayers equal practice. It means to pray specifically for what you want, by when, and by what means. If you chant for specific results, you will achieve them. If you are putting in half-hearted efforts, it is like taking a walk with no objective or destination in mind and returning home with nothing achieved. Just praying and having aimless actions won’t end in results. You must have specific goals in mind and then take action. This is the correct method. 

The clear objectives of desiring to change one’s self, heart, lifestyle, environment, problems, etc., are important. Nichiren Daishonin says one must reflect to see if he or she is advancing or regressing . If one is not aware, then they are lazy and may be considered taiten (not practicing). You could be exerting yourself but if you are not advancing, then you are considered to be in a non-practicing state (taiten). You are practicing to change yourself, not just to practice hard. If you haven’t experienced much change in yourself, you have not made enough effort to do so. If you just logically study and understand this Buddhism, you will not change. Sensei always says, “The heart is the most important. No one says just try hard. You can make a change, depending on the state of your heart.” Determination is the key. A person with no determination to change will not change.

Progressive Practice- people who are practicing with a strong desire to change.

Lateral-moving practice- people who are practicing out of obligation.

Reverse-moving practice- people who are practicing with suspicion, complaint and negativity.

The people who are moving forward will continue to progress and grow. The people who are moving sideways are moving in circles. The people who are moving backwards will continue to regress and eventually quit the practice.

Don’t take action just for the sake of taking action. Participating in SGI activities is not a substitute for sincere practice. The determination or heart behind the action is the most important (ichinen). The type of determination behind the action determines what type of results you get. 

How can we experience actual proof?
If you yourself have experienced benefits, then you will have no doubts. But if conviction is weak, and a problem occurs, faith wavers. Members who have no experience are weak. If you don’t have actual proof in this faith, you are not practicing this faith.

Having the objective to change yourself is important. Make specific goals and then take actions toward those goals. First, entrust your life to the Gohonzon (Nam). Chant specifically about a certain goal or problem. If you have a way out to resolve the problem, you can try it; for something impossible, you have to chant to the Gohonzon. It has to be a pure and strong prayer. This is the correct attitude in this faith. 

An impossible situation is actually a great opportunity. It is a chance to improve and overcome the situation. If you chant with strong determination you will definitely get results. A weak attitude such as, “as long as I practice, I will be okay”, will not produce benefits, but if your determination is strong, you will experience the benefit. 

It may seem to defy logic, but nothing is impossible for the Gohonzon. We chant to the Gohonzon to change the impossible to possible. Don’t think about it too logically or dwell on it! Just direct your desires and prayers to the Gohonzon. This is what faith is all about.

What does the Gohonzon symbolize? What is Nam myoho renge kyo?
The concept of the Ten Worlds, also known as the Ten Life States, forms one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. It teaches that everyone possesses the Ten Worlds within their life, and everyone has the ability to perceive, as well as the potential to manifest these states. Our life state changes from moment to moment, depending on our interaction with the environment. In other words, at any given moment one of the Ten Worlds is visible, while the rest of the Ten Worlds remain hidden. From lowest to highest these are: Hell State, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Tranquility, Rapture, learning and Realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood.

Richard Causton: Buddha in Daily Life

Nov 13, 2010

Buddhism Is The Clear Mirror That Reflects Our Lives

Pablo Picasso, Girl before a Mirror (1932)

by D. Ikeda 

A Japanese proverb has it that the mirror is a women's soul. It is said that, just as warriors will never part with their swords, women will never part with their mirrors. The oldest metallic mirrors to be unearthed were found in China and Egypt. Older still are mirrors made of polished stone surfaces. Suffice it to say that the history of mirrors is as old as that of the human race.

"A bronze mirror may reflect the body, but not the mind. The Lotus Sutra reflects not only our physical form, but out inner being as well. Furthermore, the sutra mirrors, with complete clarity, one's past Karma and it's future effect." [Gosho Zenshu, p.1521]
Even though people may make up their faces, they tend to neglect to polish their lives. Though cosmetics can be applied to the face, one cannot gloss over the face of his soul. The law of cause and effect functioning in the depths of life is strict and impartial. 

Buddhism teaches that unseen virtue brings about visible reward. In the world of Buddhism, one never fails to receive an effect for his actions-whether for good or bad; therefore, it is meaningless to be twofaced, or to try to put on airs.

"A mind which presently is clouded by illusions originating from the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but once it is polished it will become clear, reflecting the enlightenment of immutable truth."[On Attaining Buddhahood]. In this well-known passage, the Daishonin draws parallels between the tradition of mirror polishing and the process of attaining enlightenment. 

Observing one's life means to perceive that one's life contains the Ten Worlds and, in particular, the world of Buddhahood. The Gohonzon is a clear mirror. If you practice faith while doubting its effects, you will get results that are at best, unsatisfactory. This is the reflection of your own weak faith on the mirror of the cosmos. On the other hand, when you stand up with strong confidence, you will accrue limitless blessings. Understanding the subtle workings of one's mind is the key to faith and to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

There is a Russian proverb that says, "It is no use to blame the looking glass if your face is awry." Likewise, your happiness or unhappiness is entirely the reflection of the balance of good and bad causes accumulated in your life. 

People Who Do Not Know About Mirrors
Many people become angry or grieve over phenomena that are actually nothing but a reflection of their own lives-their state of mind and the causes that they have created. Because they are ignorant of Buddhism's mirror of life, such people cannot see themselves as they truly are. This being the case, they cannot guide others along the correct path of life, nor can they discern the true nature of occurrences in society.

With the thought that we are addressing a person's Buddha Nature, we should politely and calmly carry out a dialogue-sometimes, depending on the situation, mercifully correcting him with fatherly strictness. In the course of such human interaction, the Buddha nature in his or her life functions to protect us. On the other hand, if we belittle or regard that person with contempt, as though gazing into our own image reflected in a mirror, we will be disparaged in return. 

In General, the people around us reflect our state of life. Our personal preferences, for example, are mirrored in their attitudes. To the extent that you praise, respect, protect and care for SGI members, who are all children of the Buddha, you will in turn be protected by the Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions and by all heavenly deities. If, on the other hand, you are arrogant or condescending toward members, you will be scolded by the Buddhas in like measures. Leaders, in particular, should be clear on this point and take it deeply to heart. 

We are a gathering of the Buddha's children. Therefore if we respect one another, our good fortune will multiply infinitely, like an image reflected back and forth among mirrors. A person who practices alone cannot experience this tremendous multiplication of benefit. In short, the environment that you find yourself in, whether favorable or not, is the product of your own life. Most people, however, fail to understand this and tend to blame others for their trouble. To a greater or lesser extent, all people tend to see their own reflection in others. 

Say What Must Be Said
We must gain decisive victory over the harsh realities of society and lead a correct and vibrant life. This is the purpose of our faith. We have to become wise and strong. Also, in the organization for Kosen-Rufu, we have to clearly say what must be said. The purpose of Buddhism is not to produce dupes who blindly follow their leaders. Rather, it is to produce people of wisdom who can judge right from wrong on their own in the clear mirror of Buddhism.

The purpose of Buddhism is to attain Buddhahood. In modern terms, this could be explained as realizing absolute happiness - a state of happiness that can never be destroyed or defeated. 

"There is no greater happiness for human beings than chanting Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo"
[The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, p. 161] 

Edit from a 6 page speech given by President Daisaku Ikeda, June 1981 Summer Course

Nov 9, 2010

Never Give up on Your Dreams

Linda Johnson’s speech by Mark A. Grasso (2001) 

This is a brief summary of a speech by Linda Johnson. She is an SGI-USA leader in California and presented this speech to the SQl-USA Arts Division on 29-may-2001. In addition to taking responsibility for several thousand SQl-USA members in Southern California, Linda Johnson is also a practicing criminal lawyer. She supervises nine other lawyers and carries her own case load.

In her talk, she shares her insights regarding the Buddhist principle of’esho funi’, ‘the inseparability of living beings and their environment’, and how to put this principle into practice in order to fulfill one’s dreams.

To state her main point; we practice this Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin in order to fulfill all of our dreams in life. In the process of fulfilling our dreams by practicing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we will have the opportunity to encourage others by sharing our own experiences. We might consider our experiences to be ‘living’ Buddhist ‘parables’ that we use to share Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with others.

In this sense, pursuing our dreams by using Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is ‘jigyo’, or ‘practice for ourselves’ and using our experiences to encourage others is ‘keta’, or ‘practice for others’. Using our experiences to encourage others, gives tremendous power to our own prayers and creates even greater joy and satisfaction in our life.

Whereas most of us see a clear separation between ourselves and our environment [social, natural, etc.], the principle of ‘esho funi’ states that, in fact, there is no separation whatsoever. What we do, the actions that we take with our thoughts, words and deeds, is always reflected in our surroundings.

Often when we chant daimoku and make effort for some goal, it seems like we draw opposition from our surroundings. It is normal to take this negative reaction as a ‘sign’ or an indication that we cannot achieve our goal.

However, as she points out, according to ‘esho funi’, our surroundings are the reflection of our ‘true heart’, our true conviction, not the cause of it. And, if our true heart is, “I cannot do it”, our surroundings are equally going to agree.

Using the principle of ‘esho funi’ means that we recognize that our environment is only and always the reflection of our own true life-state. From that perspective, our environment is showing us exactly the parts of our life that cause us to give up, to give up on ourselves.

Supported by this insight, we return to the Gohonzon and our Buddhist faith, practice and study [‘shin, gyo, gaku’] to challenge our own inherent doubt and replace it with true, unshakeable confidence.

Striving for a dream always means encountering our own ‘doubting’ selves. However, challenging our inherent weakness and pursuing our dream is exactly the action that develops true confidence.

Because we are Buddhas, we inherently possess every resource necessary to achieve our dreams. There is no one any better than we are. Neither is there anyone who is any less than we are. And by striving for our own dream using, as Nichiren Daishonin says, “the mighty sword of the Lotus Sutra”, the Gohonzon, we gain the experience to fullfill our dreams and encourage others.

Thoughts concerning this speech by Mark A. Grasso: We validate the power of our prayer whenever we pull obstacles from our environment in precise opposition to our goal. Everyone can have a dream. However, reaching that dream necessarily means developing one’s capacity to embrace that dream with one’s whole heart, with one’s whole confidence.

Developing the capacity to embrace one’s dream wholeheartedly, comes from the struggle against opposition. In other words, in order to have a dream, we must be equally prepared to face the challenge of fulfilling that dream.

This is where, I believe, most of us hesitate. To paraphrase Nichiren Daishonin: “It is only lack of courage that has prevented us from achieving Buddhahood until now.” What is required, is the courage to overcome our own ‘cowardly’ nature and make the determination to indeed, call forth the opposition that will train us in order to fulfill our goal.

At the level of a Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin declared that unless he could call forth the “Three Powerful Enemies” [as described in the Lotus Sutra who persecute the ‘votary of the Lotus Sutra’], then he was not the true ‘votary of the Lotus Sutra’. First and foremost, Nichiren Daishonin based himself upon the standard of actual proof.

One’s powerful prayer, based on ‘Myoho’, will always call forth opposition as well as support and power in order to fulfill one’s dreams. However, our fundamental posture in prayer or ‘ichinen’ [‘determination’] is important. In “The Opening of the Eyes (II)” Gosho, after raising the question about his apparent lack of protection by the ‘heavenly deities’ who promised in the Lotus Sutra to protect the ‘votary of the Lotus Sutra’, 

Nichiren Daishonin declared:
"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. Here I will make a great vow. Though I may be offered the rulership of Japan if I would only 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 mother and father 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 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!” [The Opening of the Eyes (II), WND, p. 280, written in March 1272 from exile on Sado Island] 

No matter what our dream, the determination to achieve it is in no way different from this.He further stated to Shijo Kingo and his wife and to their infant daughter, Kyo’o: “The mighty sword of the Lotus Sutra [Gohonzon] must be wielded by one courageous in faith. Then one will be as strong as a demon armed with an iron staff.” [Reply to Kyo’o, WND, p. 4121

I believe this expresses a fundamental point of guidance in the Daishonin’s Buddhism for putting faith into practice to fulfill our dreams.

Nov 3, 2010

The Voice Chanting Daimoku

The Voice Chanting Daimoku Reaches the Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions
By Daisaku Ikeda 

Next I would like to reply to the question whether there is any value in chanting daimoku and reciting sutra passages without understanding their meaning. 
Of course it is better if you understand their meaning. That will strengthen your commitment to the Law. But if you understand and yet fail to practice, it’s all of no use. Not only that, but you can’t understand the real depth of the teachings through reason alone. 
Birds, for example, have their own language, their own speech. People don’t understand it, but other birds do. There are many examples among humans as well — codes, abbreviations, or foreign languages are well understood by experts or native speakers but unintelligible to others.
In the same way, the language of gongyo, of chanting daimoku, reaches the Gohonzon and the realms of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three existences and the ten directions. We might call it the language of the realms of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. 
That’s why the voice of gongyo and daimoku directed to the Gohonzon, whether we understand it or not, reaches all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly deities. They hear it and say, "Excellent, excellent!" in response, rejoicing and praising us, and the entire universe envelops us in light.

Oct 26, 2010

Obstacles and Devils (Sansho Shima)

UKE March 1997 by Catherine Cinnnamon 

The three obstacles and four devils is a literal translation of the Japanese term sansho shima. This is a traditional classification of the types of difficulties and obstacles we encounter when we practise Buddhism.

Obstacles usually refers to external problems we may meet, whereas devils refers not to scary demonic spirits, which do not really exist, but rather to our own innermost negative tendencies, or the workings of life's innate deluded nature. We could say that obstacles are anything that functions to obstruct our practice of faith, whereas devils are self-destructive and destroy the quality of life itself.

The two best-known letters in which Nichiren Daishonin explains these obstacles and devils were both written to the Ikegami brothers, whose father threatening to disinherit them because of their refusal to give up their faith. This was a serious matter in those days. In the first of these, 'Letter to the Brothers', Nichiren Daishonin warns:
As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge, vying with one another to interfere (MW-V1 p.145, WND p.501)
Once we start practicing we soon realize that constant effort is necessary to maintain a consistent practice; the same is true of attaining the supreme life-condition of Buddhahood. Even the difficulty of believing we can manifest this condition, or that everyone has it, can in itself be an obstacle.

In 'Letter to Misawa', Nichiren Daishonin writes, "Even if you should manage to overcome the first six (of the three obstacles and four devils), if you are defeated by the seventh, you will not be able to become a Buddha".
(MW-V3 p.252, WND p.894)

It is important, therefore, to recognize sansho shima and overcome it. The support of people who are more experienced in practicing Buddhism is often very helpful in enabling us to identify and overcome this negativity, as President Ikeda points out:
The human mind wavers and changes from moment to moment. Over time, one experiences confusion even regarding things that one has previously decided on. This is an unchanging aspect of life. For precisely this reason, guidance and encouragement in the correct practice of faith are very important.
(Buddhism in Action, Vol.6, p.8)

He also says:
During the past forty years, I have been the target of unjustifiable criticism and faced raging waves of persecution again and again. However I have never been defeated in my struggles for kosen rufu… Time and again, I have transcended the raging waves of the three powerful enemies and the three obstacles and four devils. Each time, I did my utmost to carry out my faith exactly as the Daishonin taught. (ibid., Vol.6, p.360-1)
Nichiren Daishonin wrote: "Where it not for these (obstacles), there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching" (MW-V1, p.145, WND p.501).

It is precisely because the Mystic Law is a great positive force that the negativity inherent within us and our environment resists our attempts to strengthen it through our practice. If chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo had no power to change karma or draw out our Buddha nature, no one would experience any difficulty in practising it!

It is at a crucial time that obstacles or devils are most likely to appear. That is why the Daishonin emphasizes that we should neither fear them nor give in to them. In the second of his letters to the Ikegami brothers, 'The Three Obstacles and Four Devils', he says:
There is definitely something extraordinary in the ebb and flow of the tide, the rising and setting of the moon, and the way in which summer, autumn, winter and spring give way to each other. Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood. At such times, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat. (MW-V2 p.288, WND p.637)

The important thing is to realize that when difficulties appear, they present an opportunity to make renewed efforts in our practice so that we are able to grow further and show proof of the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Obstacles and devils are a natural function of our practice and we should not be afraid of them - as our practice and faith deepens, we come to recognize the form our own particular demons take, tailor-made for each of us, so that we can continue to challenge ourselves in our quest to become really great human beings.

The three obstacles are:
 1. Earthly desires (bonno-sho), or obstacles arising from the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity.
2. Karma (go-sho), or obstacles due to karma created by committing any of the five cardinal sins or ten evil acts (this category is also interpreted as opposition from one's partner or children).
3. Retribution (ho-sho), or obstacles due to painful retribution for actions in the three evil paths (Hell, Hunger and Animality). This category also indicates obstacles caused by one's sovereign, parents or other persons who carry some sort of secular authority.

The four devils are the hindrance of:
1. The five components (on-ma), that is, those hindrances caused by one's physical and mental functions.
2. Earthly desires (bonno-ma), or illusions arising from the three poisons.
3. Death (shima), because the fear and suffering that death entails, whether our own or someone else's can shake our faith and obstruct our practice of Buddhism, especially if death seems untimely.
4. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven (tenji-ma). This is regarded as the most serious hindrance; in Indian cosmology this king of devils represents the fundamental darkness inherent in life itself. This can assume any number of forms to obstruct believers and is often said to take the form of persecution by those in power. It is the most powerful of all the negative forces, and takes the form most likely to trouble us or cause us to suffer from doubt or illusion.

Oct 23, 2010

Be in the Moment

Oct 21, 2010

My Blog's 1st Year Anniversary

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. 
 William Arthur Ward

I cannot begin to express my heartfelt gratitude to all my followers. I created this blog as a home for everyone to experience the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. I started practicing 3 years ago and I wanted to, at the time, use my myspace page in a positive way to spread Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. From there, it moved to the SGI site. I got so much joy out of creating all the graphics that you've seen on this blog that eventually I was asked to give 2 cultural presentations featuring all my artwork and animations. Then in October of last year, I finally moved it to its new home here on blogspot. 

Over the past year, I've received numerous letters of encouragement, thank yous, personal stories and most of all- Inspiration. I've connected with so many members and even non-members from all over the globe. I want to from the bottom of my heart, thank you all. You've all made this first year an experience I will never forget. This blog is for all of you and I didn't expect to get such warm reactions back. That is the GIFT you've all have given to me. I want to say a special thank you those who've helped me along the way and contributed their own experiences. 

With much love and appreciation,

Oct 20, 2010

Winning Over Yourself

Author unknown 

The expressions "triumph" and "victory" are words that are part of a vocabulary that is often used in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism as well in SGI activities and in our own vocabulary as practitioners. In general, in society at present we are constantly confronted with these concepts related to a policy of consumerism. To name just a few examples, phrases like "the woman 10", "Bio Bodies", cars, houses, cigarettes, positions at work and even clothes are associated with success in one's life.

However, quoting President Ikeda, the period of "El Senorito Satisfecho" that worried Ortega and Gasset more than 60 years ago, refers exactly to our days. The truth is that although the average person of a modern industrialized country carries on a life that not even the kings and aristocrats from the past would have dreamed of, in relation to material progress, this has not been enough, of course, to determine "triumph" or "victory" in life.

Even practicing Buddhism we can confuse are idea of "actual proof" with fantasy. We shouldn't expect the triumph over ourselves, for example, to be so striking as to leave everybody shocked and hallucinated. In daily life, even when our basic needs to live are satisfied or when the idea of success is measured by our material satisfaction, whether or not imposed by the environment, it is extremely hard to relate it to a true sense of 'triumph". The victory over oneself in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is related to winning over the fundamental darkness, inherent in human beings themselves.

This fundamental darkness has two aspects: on the one hand it can manifest itself as a feeling of resignation, a low opinion of oneself that leads to seeking happiness in an external power. On the other hand, it manifests itself as a perverse pleasure in controlling others and exerting power over others. This last aspect is what Buddhism calls "the devil of the sixth heaven" 

The Devil of the Sixth Heaven - explains Daisaku Ikeda - can be viewed as lives fundamental tendency to use everything and everybody to attain one's own goals. In a way, this is a natural tendency, common to all human beings, whereas developing our compassion, love for human kind, the spirit of serving others and of improving the environment are great qualities, that are extremely difficult to develop. Whatever the reality of our lives might be at this very moment, as long as we chant Nam-myoho-rengue-kyo in order to find solutions to our problems, we get stronger and are able to see how our own map of the world is.

Little by little we turn the prism and that, which seemed heavy and difficult at the beginning, because we made it dependent on the external world, starts transforming through our own change, into an opportunity to grow in our own life and to create value in our environment. Fundamental darkness is when we do not deeply understand the "inseparability of oneself and the universe". Because of this ignorance about the real nature of life, people try to use any thing and any being in the universe, as a simple tool. This is the function of the "devil of the sixth heaven" of the evil nature of power.

The "me" lacking identification with the "other" is not sensitive to the pain, anguish and suffering of others. In this life state there is a tendency to confine him/herself to his/her own world either by feeling threatened by the smallest provocation and developing violent behavior or by trying to get through situations without taking responsibility or thinking of others. The Lotus Sutra teaches that the "me" equals the universe and its concrete practice is to show compassion, and to respect and honor everybody as if they were the treasure tower, and to make others happy because "me" and the "others" are the same thing.

In the same way that Buddhahood is not a goal but refers to the continuous and daily effort to make our enlightened nature emerge, we should never have a relaxed attitude towards our practice, thinking that we have won definitively over our fundamental darkness because of having many years of practice.

In the final analysis, victory over oneself is to win every day in one's circumstances and in the place where one is and over one's fundamental darkness, one's own negative tendency. The accumulation of each daily victory is what finally will become victory in life, the victory over oneself. 

Gosho Phrase
You must never seek any of Shakyamuni's teachings or the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe outside yourself. Your mastery of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of mortal sufferings in the least unless you perceive the nature of your own life. If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, any discipline or good deed will be meaningless. (On attaining Buddhahood. Main Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, Page 4 )
The accumulation of each daily victory is what finally will represent the victory in life, the victory over oneself. 

The victory over oneself is to win everyday in one's circumstances in the place where I am and to win over my own fundamental darkness

Oct 17, 2010

Stepping Forward with Gratitude

Oct 11, 2010

The Looking-Outside-Oneself Delusion

From "The Buddha in Your Mirror", Woody Hochswender, Greg Martin and Ted Morino 

Hell in relationships comes from trying to change the behavior of anyone other than yourself. When we exercise self-control, beginning with becoming happy within ourselves, we have the ability to move the hearts of others. It is only when we stop trying to control others that we gain the power to actually influence them. For example, have you ever found yourself saying "You're making me angry – stop doing that" to people whose behavior disturbs or frustrates you? The implication of that statement, "You're making me angry", is that somehow you don't have control of your anger, they do. And since you have ceded them the control and power, it is their behavior that must change if your anger is to be eliminated. But, of course, you don't control their behavior, so the more you try to do so, the angrier you get.

Not that all anger is bad. There are, of course, real situations of injustice in which anger is appropriate. Even in such cases, however, self-control is the key to influencing change. Buddhism teaches us that in response to any situation, depending on the choices we make, we find ourselves in one of the Ten Worlds: Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Tranquility, Rapture, Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva or Buddhahood. Recognizing that we are choosing and taking responsibility for those choices empowers us to choose our life state, It give us our control back.

The Downside of Expectations

Expectations are important. Research indicates that children develop only as far as the expectations of the adults around them. But expectations can also destroy good relationships. We have expectations of other people. We expect them to be good husbands, good wives, good children, good friends, good bosses and so on. These expectations are sometimes higher than our expectations of ourselves.

While every situations is unique, there is at least one common but subtle delusion at work here, a delusion that is a challenge to all of us in our relationships with significant others, family, friends. The problem is that although we are motivated by the best intentions, the other person often hears from us a steady stream of criticism and disappointment. This is not encouraging, and in spite of the love in our hearts, the other person becomes unresponsive, even rebellious. The problem here is that although the heart is in the right place, we lack wisdom. Motivated by love but lacking wisdom, we get a response to our efforts that is the opposite of what we expected. Once this downward trend begins, unfortunately, it is difficult to reverse.

People do not respond well to criticism and negativity. Does that mean we simply have to settle for something less? No, it means, once again, that we're trying to change the wrong person. If we want people to do more, we need to praise and appreciate what they are already doing for us. Pay attention to the positives, and not what you feel is missing. People love appreciation and will try very hard to get it. Making these two the basis of all your relationships can have a powerful and encouraging influence. For the gardener of relationships, they are like sunlight and water. People will strive and thrive when they are praised and appreciated. 

Criticism and disappointment create a dark environment, a garden where relationships cannot thrive. It is a major delusion to think that others will be motivated by criticism. Nichiren wrote: "When praised, one does not consider his personal risk, and when criticized, he can recklessly cause his own ruin. Such is the way of common mortals."

In any relationship, we must keep our power, developing a strong self-identity and the ability to be happy on the inside. Standing alone upon the firm foundation of our own happiness, we can then seek out and nurture contributive, sharing relationships, relationships in which we give our love freely without attachments and expectations. We are not needy of the other. Nor are we addicted to the other. A relationship between two such people brings a deep and abiding love.

Before going out to look for a contributive partner, we must first strive to develop that ability within ourselves. Only then will it be possible to draw forth and nurture the same quality in others.

Happiness is not something that someone else can give us.

Oct 7, 2010

Live a Happy Life

                                  Art by Lotus Flower

Oct 1, 2010

Depression and Buddhism Part 2

October is National Depression Awareness Month

Video Created by Loflo 

By Lee Wolfson
World Tribune 02/09/01 n.3332 p.8 WT010209p08

If we recognize that depression is a serious and debilitating illness, then it is only natural
to ask what causes this kind of depression? Common sense tells us that depression is
most often brought on by life events; i.e., death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce,
etc. Life has a way of providing us with an unending supply of difficulties. It is only
natural to think of depression as a reaction to stressful life events, and in many cases,
this is true. If this were the entire story, then one might assume that depression only
afflicts people with “weak character,” or a “low life-condition.” However, there have
been many people of outstanding character and courage who struggled with depression,
such as Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.

So what is the rest of the story? We know that there are numerous risk factors for
predicting who might be more susceptible to depression. Depression can run in families.
Evidence from studies of twins supports the existence of a genetic component. Across six
studies, the average concordance rate in identical twins (40 percent) for unipolar
depression is more than twice the concordance rate in fraternal twins (17 percent). The
rate of depression in women (12 percent) is twice that of men (7 percent). There are
numerous theories about this gender difference, but there is no consensus in the scientific
community about the underlying cause.

Early life experiences also make people more vulnerable to depression. If one of your
parents died when you were a child, or if you are the victim of childhood abuse you have
a higher vulnerability to depression. Chronic medical conditions as well as life-threatening
medical events like stroke and heart attack can also lead to depression.

Medical research has shown that depression may be related to a chemical imbalance of
serotonin, one of the substances called neurotransmitters that transport signals between
nerve cells in the brain. This has led to the introduction of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and
Celexa. These serotonin specific uptake inhibitors have proved effective in treating
depression with minimal side effects but have not come without controversy. Some people worry that the widespread marketing and availability of these medications may be
anesthetizing large segments of our society to the healthy travails of life. This may or may
not be the case, but for those like Jen who have suffered with the torment of a major
depression, these new medications have been a blessing.

Another helpful way of understanding depression is to view it as a spectrum disorder.
In other words, the milder manifestations of depression that we all experience have some
of the same root causes as the more severe forms of clinical depression. Martin Seligman,
Ph.D., in his book What You Can Change and What You Can’t presents a compelling
argument for viewing depression this way: “Mild depression is usually caused by
pessimistic habits of thinking. The pessimist sees the causes of failure and rejection as
permanent (It’s going to last forever), pervasive (It’s going to ruin my everything), and
personal (It’s my fault). These habitual beliefs are just that, mere beliefs. They are often
false, and they are often inaccurate catastrophizing” (p. 115).

Dr. Seligman goes on to argue that optimistic thinking may be a powerful antidote to
pessimism and depression. Contained within the worldview of Nichiren Daishonin’s
Buddhism is a profound capacity to look at the totality of life with all of its travails and
suffering and still find hope and fundamental goodness at the core. In October 1992, I
wrote an essay for the Seikyo Times (now Living Buddhism) in which I demonstrated the
inherent psychological strength of the Daishonin’s Buddhism as reflected in his views of
the self, the world and the future. The purposes of this article do not permit me to
reintroduce the evidence for this. Let me just say that in all three areas, we find robust
examples of the Daishonin encouraging and exhorting his disciples to embrace Buddhism
with optimism and hope, despite the dire social, economic and personal circumstances of
13th-century Japan.

It had been several years since Jen last saw a psychiatrist, and she was not looking forward to seeing one again. The last time was before she began her Buddhist practice, and it had never been a satisfying experience. He prescribed a variety of antidepressant medications,which were only moderately successful, but he never seemed to have time to talk. She eventually stopped the medication and stopped seeing the psychiatrist.
Several months later, an old friend introduced Jen to Buddhism. Jen was drawn to her
friend’s explanation of Buddhist theories and felt that she was hearing a wonderful
explication of her own view of life. However, she was skeptical that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo would somehow change her life. Nevertheless, she sat down with her friend a few days later and tried chanting.

In the short period of 15 minutes, she sensed something shifting in her life, and when
they finished, she felt more relaxed and open than she had in years. Her friend connected
her with the local SGI-USA organization and she began attending meetings. All the
smiling people she encountered initially put her off, that is, until she listened to their
experiences. She came to realize that their smiles were born of great struggles to overcomemany of the same problems she was facing.

She bought a copy of For Today and Tomorrow by SGI President Ikeda, and the words
practically leapt off the page at her. Reading his guidance was like finding an oasis in the
desert. In spite of the many years of having no hope for the future, she found herself
becoming more optimistic and cheerful. Each Nam-myoho-renge-kyo she chanted felt like
a powerful challenge to her deeply held feelings of worthlessness. And her interactions
with other Buddhists reinforced her determination to take responsibility cheerfully for her
own life. The dark curtain of depression had finally begun to lift.

Jen sailed along majestically in her life, thinking that since she had become a Buddhist,
she was impervious to problems. But when her husband became ill, she felt like the world
had come to a crashing halt. She could not understand how this could happen to someone
who practiced sincerely. Rather than resolve her doubts, however, she gradually
succumbed to the darkness of her depression once again.  
Jen’s husband continued to gently, but firmly encourage her in any way that he could.
Mostly, he just chanted with her every chance that he had.
Several weeks went by before she got the courage to call a psychiatrist. She hoped her
Buddhist practice would provide a foundation for a more rapid and full recovery, but she
felt anxious and a little embarrassed when she walked into her new psychiatrist’s office for the first time. Before she knew it, she was crying. The story of her husband’s illness
poured out of her.

After she finished telling her story, her psychiatrist carefully reviewed her symptoms
and their duration. It came as no surprise to her when he told her she was in another
episode of depression, but it was strangely comforting to give this darkness that had
become her constant companion a name. He then explained to her that in the years since
she was last treated for depression, there was important new research on the treatment
of depression. He told her that combining medication with weekly psychotherapy would give her the best chance at a quick and robust recovery.

Jen left the office with a prescription for one of the new antidepressants, and a referral
to see a therapist. When she arrived home, there was a message on her answering machine from her district leader reminding her about the district discussion meeting. She had not taken any calls from her leaders in faith and had not been to a district meeting in months. She began taking her new medication that night. She experienced no immediate
response to the medication, but she realized it might take weeks for the medication to
begin working.

A few days later she went to her first appointment with her therapist, who specialized
in treating depression. Over the next few weeks, Jen explored her interpersonal
relationships with her therapist. He proposed that they focus on her feelings about her
husband’s poor health. He suggested to her that in addition to her genetic predisposition
to depression, this current episode might be about her grieving over the life she would
never have with her husband due to his poor health. His attempts at helping her to find her strengths in the midst of a very difficult situation felt very compatible with her beliefs as a Buddhist.

She also told him about her Buddhist practice and her involvement with the local
community of SGI-USA members. He was keenly interested in her perceptions of how the
practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was helpful to her and about how she got
along with her friends in the organization. Jen appreciated his open-mindedness and was
surprised when he actually encouraged her to be consistent in her practice. He told her that maintaining consistent daily social rhythms would be helpful to her recovery. Even thought he was referring to sleep, diet, exercise, etc., she immediately associated this with a consistent daily Buddhist practice.

When it came time for her next district meeting, Jen decided she was well enough to
attend. Much to her delight, they warmly welcomed her back to the meeting. It was as if
she had never left. The discussion that night was about turning poison into medicine.
Before she knew it, she was sharing her experience of struggling with depression. Jen told
the group that in spite of their encouragement, she still could not see how she could turn
her depression from poison into medicine.
One of the members looked at her very intensely and said softly, “Perhaps your
willingness to share and encourage us through your experience is part of the process of
transforming the poison of your depression into medicine?”

Jen’s favorite part of the meeting was always the lively discussions that ensued “on the
way out the door.” She had a lot of catching up to do. The last person she spoke to was her district leader, Sarah. She apologized for her long absence. She told Sarah that as a
Buddhist, she knows she isn’t supposed to feel guilty, but these feelings of guilt were what kept her from returning to the meetings. She felt like a failure as a Buddhist because she saw her depression as an inability to manifest “actual proof.”

Jen was surprised when Sarah apologized to her. Sarah told her that she felt like she had
let Jen down because she had not realized how much Jen was suffering. “When you
stopped coming to meetings and wouldn’t return my phone calls, I was at a loss,” Sarah
said. “I should have tried harder to reach you. Now that you’re back, I don’t want you to
disappear again. Let’s keep chanting together to overcome your illness.” They hugged and
made plans for Sarah to come over.

A few days later, Sarah came over to chant with Jen. They decided to chant for an hour.
Jen wondered if she had the stamina to sit for that long, but she was determined to do her best. Over the course of the hour, she went from tears of grief to a deep sense of
appreciation. In those precious moments of complete concentration, with her heart fully
open and her voice deep and sonorous, the chattering of her mind quieted and true wisdom appeared. She understood, more with her heart than with her mind, that by embracing this wonderful law, she was severing the roots of her suffering. She knew that finding the right medication and a therapist she could trust and talk to was a benefit from her Buddhist practice.

How swiftly the days passed. The first signs of improvement from the medication were
improved sleep and appetite. Jen felt her therapy was going very well. She noticed that
when she chanted more, her daily life continued to improve and she had better therapy
sessions. She also noticed that the more honestly and openly she engaged in her therapy,
the more motivated she was to return to the Gohonzon and ponder the issues before her.
She was also discovering new and better ways of communicating with her husband. Her
feelings of resentment and grief were giving way to a renewed determination to embrace
her husband and their shared life.

Jen returned to see her psychiatrist several months after her initial visit. She was feeling
much better. So she asked him how long she would need to keep taking the medication.
He told her that she needed to stay on her medication for at least four months if not six
months from the point in time when she really began to feel better because she would be
at significant risk for a relapse if she discontinued her medication sooner. Jen agreed to
meet again in four months and decide then what to do about the medication.

Jen’s depression is now in complete remission. She has decreased the frequency of her
therapy sessions, but has decided to keep seeing her therapist for a few more monthly
sessions to solidify the gains she has made in her interpersonal life. While she would
rather never see the dark cloud of depression in her life ever again, she is appreciative of
the gifts her suffering brought her: a more committed relationship with her husband, a
fresh start with her Buddhist practice, and a deeper and more authentic connection with
the members in her district.

There are many SGI-USA members who have found the optimism, hope and life force
they needed to overcome depression through the practice of Buddhism alone. There are
also members like Jen who may need the help of compassionate professionals, support
from their families and fellow members, and a strong daily practice to return to a healthy

Lee Wolfson is a psychologist at Western Psychiatric Clinic and Institute (WPIC), a
division of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. WPIC is an international leader
in the research and treatment of mood disorders. For the past 11 years, Lee has worked
on several landmark studies in the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder. He has
published several papers on psychotherapy and regularly presents symposia at
professional meetings. He is also a founding member of the International Society of
Interpersonal Psychotherapy. He has practiced Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with the
SGI since 1972.