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.

1 comment:

Artman2112 said...

this part i absolutely disagree with: "There is no one any better than we are. Neither is there anyone who is any less than we are."

there ARE bad people on this earth and i am better than them. there are also extraordinary people who are better than me. they are my heroes

but i certainly agree that one must be prepared to tackle and defeat all obstacles if one wants to fullfill their dreams. its like that saying, 'nothing worth doing is ever easy', and whats more worth doing than pursuing our dreams??? the way i see it the loftier the goal the more obstacles one will have to come up against. without obstacles would we ever really pursue any worthwhile goals anyway???? i'm sure many can relate to the idea and understand the difference of obtaining a goal easily without challenge as opposed to obtaining a goal through great struggle, hard work and determination, which one gives a greater feeling of accomplishment? this is not to say one should choose a goal simply because its difficult but once again the loftier ones aims the more likely one is to run into heavy obstacles, it's pretty much a law of nature! great post!