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.