Oct 11, 2013

Science and Buddhism

By Melvin E. Klegerman
Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 24, 2013

Learning from Bodhisattva Never Disparaging

By Shin Yatomi
SGI-USA Vice Study Department Leader
August 01, 1999


“I would never dare disparage you, for you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!” (The Lotus Sutra, trans. Burton Watson, p. 267).With these words, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Jpn Fukyo) goes among the people, trying to awaken them to their innate potential for enlightenment. In return, he is met with hostility and abuse, both verbal and physical. In spite of this, however, the bodhisattva perseveres in his practice of showing respect to all people. He eventually attains enlightenment, not only for himself, but also leading everyone he has come in contact with toward happiness.

As we live in society where intolerance and abuse are increasingly the norm, the behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, described in the Lotus Sutra, offers a concrete guide for our daily living. How can we develop our humanity in an increasingly inhuman society? How can we respond to and transform a hostile environment? The “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter of the Lotus Sutra sheds light on these important questions.

Background: The “heart” of our Buddhist practice

The Lotus Sutra's twentieth chapter, titled “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” is in the closing section of the Lotus Sutra, known as the “transmission” portion. Sutras are often interpreted as having three parts: preparation, revelation and transmission. Preparation points to the introductory passages in which the reason for expounding the sutra is clarified. Revelation is the discussion of the sutra's main teaching. Transmission, the concluding portion, explains the benefit of the sutra and encourages its transmission into the future. The Lotus Sutra's transmission section is said to begin with the latter half of the “Distinction in Benefits” (17th) chapter and extend through the last chapter “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” (28th), and through the Sutra of Meditation of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy, which is considered an epilogue to the Lotus Sutra. A part of the sutra's transmission section, the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter explains both the benefit that accrues from spreading the Lotus Sutra and the retribution that befalls those who abuse its practitioners.The significance of the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter, however, lies not merely in its belonging to the sutra's transmission section. Its portrayal of the attitude and behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging contains the chapter's real message in that these serve as a model for practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. His spirit and actions embody the essence of the sutra—humanism based on an absolute respect for the inherent dignity of all people. In this regard, Nichiren Daishonin explains: “The heart of the Buddha's lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is expounded in the Fukyo [“Never Disparaging”] chapter. What does Bodhisattva Fukyo's profound respect for people signify? The real meaning of Shakyamuni Buddha's appearance in this world lay in his behavior as a human being. How profound!” (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2 [2nd ed], p. 240).

Who is Bodhisattva Never Disparaging?

The following is a brief synopsis of the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter: In the distant past, when the teaching of the Buddha Awesome Sound King was beginning to fall into formality and decline, a certain bodhisattva appeared and started to practice the Buddha's teaching. At that time, people practiced Buddhism, but they had lost sight of its purpose and meaning. Furthermore, “monks of overbearing arrogance exercised great authority and power” (LS20, 266). The bodhisattva, unswayed by these circumstances, firmly believed that all people have the Buddha nature. So whenever he saw people, he said to them: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood” (LS20, 266-67). Because the bodhisattva always repeated those words, people mockingly called him “Never Disparaging” (LS20, 267). They “spoke ill of him and cursed him, saying, 'This ignorant monk—where does he come from, presuming to declare that he does not disparage us and bestowing on us a prediction that we will attain Buddhahood? We have no use for such vain and irresponsible predictions!'” (LS20, 267). Some “would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him” (LS20, 267). But Bodhisattva Never Disparaging did not quit his practice and attained enlightenment, receiving the benefit of purifying the six senses. Those who persecuted him invited hellish suffering for lifetime after lifetime. But after eradicating their past offenses through eons of suffering, they eventually met the bodhisattva once again and, with his instruction, attained Buddhahood.

Practicing humanism in the real world

The circumstances surrounding Bodhisattva Never Disparaging are similar to our present circumstances in some significant respects. Furthermore, the bodhisattva's ideas and actions provide us with valuable insights into how we can practice Buddhism today. I would like to discuss nine key points in this regard:

1. In a time of corrupt religious authority, true Buddhist practice means directly and forthrightly speaking the truth.

One reason why the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter is useful as a guide to our practice today is that the circumstances under which the bodhisattva practiced are strikingly similar to ours. The sutra describes the time in which the story is set as follows: “After the original Awesome Sound King Thus Come One had passed into extinction, and after his Correct Law had also passed away, in the period of his Counterfeit Law, monks of overbearing arrogance exercised great authority and power” (LS20, 266).

It was a time long after the Buddha's passing; it was a time of confusion with regard to the teachings of Buddhism. The Buddha's correct teaching was obscured, and instead, people practiced a “Counterfeit Law,” that is, a formalistic or ritualistic remnant of the Buddha's teaching. The sutra explains that it was “monks of overbearing arrogance” who contributed to the decline of Buddhism. Ignorant of the purpose and intent of Buddhism and manipulated by the religious authorities, people were unable to grasp the essence of Buddhist practice and devoted themselves to it in vain. In such a time of confusion and corruption, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging appeared and declared the ultimate truth of Buddhism—the existence of Buddhahood in all people, and thus the equality and dignity of all people.

Ours is a time when the “Correct Law” of the Daishonin's Buddhism is obscured and “monks of overbearing arrogance” exert their influence. The Daishonin, therefore, explains that we should spread Buddhism in the present Latter Day of the Law following the example set by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, saying “The method of propagation is also exactly the same both at the end of the Buddha Ionno's [Awesome Sound King] Middle Day and now at the beginning of the Latter Day” (“On the Buddha's Prophesy,” MW-1, 113). The Daishonin encourages us to do the same as Bodhisattva Never Disparaging did in his day—to speak the truth of Buddhism against the wishes of corrupt religious authority.

2. Self-identity is defined by action

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging's real name is not known. His was a nickname given by those who held him in contempt because he always repeated the words, “I would never dare disparage you, for you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!” (LS20, 267). His name is significant in this regard. In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni asks the assembly: “For what reason was he named Never Disparaging?” (ibid., p. 266). Our name identifies us. Here the sutra indicates that the identity of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra is ultimately determined by that person's actions. This is consistent with the long tradition of Buddhism emphasizing one's actions, rather than one's status or wealth, as the essence of his or her identity.

One of the earliest Buddhist verses attributed to Shakyamuni reads: “A man becomes not a Brahmin by long hair or family or birth. The man in whom there is truth and holiness, he is in joy and he is a Brahmin” (The Dhammapada, Penguin 1973, p. 90). A Brahmin is a member of the highest or priestly caste among the Hindus. Brahmins, or Brahmans, were considered the noblest class of Indian society. Shakyamuni's message here is that a person becomes noble not because of status or image, but because of action. Similarly, if we wish to identify ourselves with Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, we may do so only in terms of our actions—recognizing and respecting the Buddha nature inherent in all people. Our actions—thoughts, speech and deeds—determine who we are. After all, what we consider “self” is nothing other than the totality of our accumulated karma. And karma means “action”—our thoughts words and deeds. We are therefore fundamentally free to shape our identity exactly in the way we want to. Our Buddhist practice provides a powerful tool for creating and defining our self. We refer to the process though which we accomplish this as our “human revolution.”

3. The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to attain Buddhahood

Why do we practice Buddhism? The simplest questions are often the most important and the most difficult to answer. When Bodhisattva Never Disparaging appeared in the time of the “Counterfeit Law” of Buddha Awesome Sound King, though Buddhism was widely known, people had completely lost a sense of purpose in their Buddhist practice. People's confusion about Buddhism is aptly demonstrated in their remarks to the bodhisattva: “This ignorant monk—where does he come from, presuming to declare that he does not disparage us and bestowing on us a prediction that we will attain Buddhahood? We have no use for such vain and irresponsible predictions!” (LS20, 267). Their responses are absurd in the sense that they are the very antithesis of the purpose of Buddhism.

People were deluded by clerical authority to believe that they should practice without ever expecting to attain enlightenment. Not attaining Buddhahood (or remaining dependent upon religious authority), therefore, became their goal or their accustomed state of Buddhist practice. The bodhisattva's notion of practicing Buddhism to become a Buddha appeared strange or even blasphemous enough to persecute him for uttering such an idea. We practice Buddhism to reveal ourselves as Buddhas, that is, to be absolutely happy, unswayed by any circumstances. When people become confused about this fundamental purpose of Buddhism, they inevitably fall into a state of spiritual slavery.

From one perspective, the struggle of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was to free people from such confusion and awaken them to the true purpose of Buddhism. The Lotus Sutra teaches us that in a time of confusion, we must first clarify what all Buddhists must ask when they start practicing: Why do I practice? Without answering this question correctly, our practice will become what the Daishonin describes as “an endless, painful austerity” (“On Attaining Buddhahood,”MW-1, 4).

4. Respecting others is a cause to reveal our own Buddhahood

From the actions of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging we find a key to realizing our happiness. The bodhisattva demonstrates that if we wish to see our own Buddhahood and reveal it, we must see it in the lives of others as well. There is no such thing as attaining our own enlightenment while remaining blind to the same potential in others. In fact, attaining enlightenment means, in one sense, to recognize the universality of Buddhahood. In this regard, the Daishonin, through skillful analogy, explains: “There is a fundamental oneness of self and others. Therefore when Bodhisattva Never Disparaging makes his bow of obeisance to the four groups of people, the Buddha nature inherent in the lives of the four groups of arrogant people bowed toward Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. This is the same as how when one bows facing a mirror, the reflected image bows back” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 769).

If our attitude is “I will treat people right when everybody starts treating me right,” then we will be more likely to lose people's respect and trust and drive them further away. Or it may be said that such an attitude is in itself the cause for disrespect and mistrust. Similarly, if we try our utmost to see Buddhahood in the lives of others and even start treating them on that premise, we will see a remarkable change both within our lives and in others' lives. Taking the initiative to respect those around us for their Buddhahood is mutually beneficial. In this sense, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging carried out his practice not only for the sake of others, but also for his own sake.

To believe in Buddhahood—our own and someone else's—is difficult. This is why the action of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is so noble and rare. But at the same time, it is within anybody's grasp. Everyone is capable of respecting others; it is certainly not as difficult as levitating an assembly of people and suspending a gigantic tower in midair—the acts portrayed elsewhere in the sutra. Unlike these, the action of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging can be emulated by all of us. In this sense, the Daishonin explains: “To believe that Buddhahood exists within Humanity is the most difficult thing of all—as difficult as believing that fire exists in water or water in fire. . . . Bodhisattva Fukyo saw the Buddha in everyone he met, and Prince Siddhartha was a man who became a Buddha. These examples should help you to believe” (“The True Object of Worship,” MW-1, 54-55). What enables us to act in the way that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging did, the Daishonin teaches here, is nothing other than our faith in the universality of Buddhahood.And to continue our work we need strong faith—strong enough not to be discouraged by superficial reactions from others. Whenever we recognize and respect others' Buddha nature, their Buddhahood is bowing back in return, no matter how they react to us on the surface. The Daishonin, therefore, urges us to have courage to take the first step ourselves and not to wait vainly for the image in the mirror to bow first.

5. True tolerance stems from faith in humanity

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, despite the relentless abuses he was subjected to, never lost his temper or quit his practice. The sutra describes his perseverance as follows: “Many years passed in this way, during which this monk was constantly subjected to curses and abuse. He did not give way to anger, however, but each time spoke the same words, 'You are certain to attain Buddhahood'” (LS20, 267). In the verse section of the “Never Disparaging” chapter, the sutra reiterates the point: “When the people heard this, / they gibed at him, cursed and reviled him, / but the bodhisattva Never Disparaging / bore all this with patience” (LS20, 269-70).

His tolerance and tenacity stand in sharp contrast to that displayed in an episode about Shariputra.According to this account, in a past existence, Shariputra renounced his bodhisattva practice because of the abuse and disrespect shown him by a certain Brahman. The Brahman had begged for Shariputra's eye, which the latter provided him. Upon receiving it, however, the Brahman expressed disgust, tossed the eye on the ground and stepped on it, complaining of its foul odor. After renouncing the Bodhisattva practice and deciding to focus on his own enlightenment, Shariputra suffered for a long time.No longer able to recognize and respect the Brahman's Buddha nature, Shariputra renounced his bodhisattva practice. But in doing so, he not only denied others' Buddhahood, but his own as well.

The source of Bodhisttva Never Disparaging's tolerance for people lay in his profound faith in humanity. No matter what cruel reactions he received from those he met, his faith in their potential Buddhahood never wavered. He was so surely convinced of this truth expounded by Buddhism that he had no use for resentment or impatience. He was confident that he stood on the side of truth, and this helped him transcend any ordinary emotionalism that he may have felt from time to time. The kind of tolerance demonstrated by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is not ordinary. His was not passive tolerance—that of accepting what one thinks is wrong just to protect one's own tranquil space and avoid conflict or confrontation. He sought interaction with people and freely expressed his belief. His persistence in communicating his message to people annoyed them greatly. No doubt his contemporaries viewed him as an intolerant man who would not leave them alone. To leave people in confusion, however, is not an act of tolerance; it actually constitutes a lack of compassion. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging unconditionally accepted everyone on the basis of their inherent Buddhahood. His was active tolerance—a kind that brings about a real change in the world.

6. To practice non-violence is to be wise and strong

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is a model for non-violence. He demonstrated his commitment to dialogue as the only means to address differences among people.He never resorted to violence of any kind because his abusers were never his enemies; he viewed them as extensions of himself who shared the supreme potential that he recognized in his own life.

It is important, however, to ask how he could remain committed to non-violence in a violent society without falling victim to violence.He was able to do so because he was wise and strong enough to avoid violent attacks, yet maintained a close enough contact with his abusers to continue to communicate his faith in their Buddhahood. The sutra explains: “When he spoke in this manner, some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him. But even as he ran away and took up his stance at a distance, he continued to call out in a loud voice, 'I would never dare disparage you, for you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!,” (LS20, 267).

He was not so meek or careless as to allow himself to be victimized by violent people. Presumably, he had the capacity to outrun anyone and to speak in a clear, loud voice. He was shrewd enough to protect himself. Here, the Lotus Sutra teaches us that to practice non-violence in the real world, we must exercise wisdom. His ability to run fast may be seen as the care and resourcefulness one must exercise to avoid being victimized in an abusive society. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging seems to tell us not to be anyone's doormat in practicing tolerance and non-violence in today's world.

7. Purifying our six senses through helping others

As a result of his consistent practice, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging gained numerous benefits. Besides vastly extending his life, for example, he was able to purify his senses to perceive the world correctly. The sutra explains: “Immediately he gained the kind of purity of vision and purity of the faculties of the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind . . .” (LS20, 267).

From one perspective, what we call benefit in Buddhism comes from the positive relationships we create with our environment and with the people and events we encounter in life. To create such relationships, we must perceive things correctly so that we may act wisely. If our perception and grasp of our surroundings is clear,we can exercise wisdom and create positive value, happiness and joy.

But if our perception is clouded, we are more likely to bring suffering upon ourselves. This is why the Daishonin states: “'Benefit? means the result and recompense of purifying the six sense organs. . . . Benefit is attaining Buddhahood in one?s present form and the purification of the six sense organs” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 762).

8. Sincerity is true eloquence

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging also gained eloquence, goodness and tranquility as the sutra here explains: “At that time, when the four kinds of believers who were overbearingly arrogant, the monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen who had looked with contempt on this monk and given him the name Never Disparaging—when they saw that he had gained great transcendental powers, the power to preach pleasingly and eloquently, the power of great goodness and tranquility, and when they heard his preaching, they all took faith in him and willingly became his followers” (LS20, 267-8).

In one sense, it seems that he suddenly gained those wonderful qualities of eloquence, goodness and tranquility. It may be more natural, however, to conclude that his persistent sincerity to communicate the universality of Buddhahood finally reached the hearts of those people who had long been abusing him. His sincerity opened their eyes, and for the first time they saw the greatness of the man they had despised. Here the sutra suggests that true eloquence comes from sincerity, which ultimately transcends arrogance and prejudice.

9. The “poison-drum relationship” and “lessening one?s karmic retribution”

Through experiencing numerous persecutions on account of his faith in the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was also able to change his negative karma, as the sutra describes: “His offences had been wiped out” (LS20, 270).

Here the sutra explains the principle of “lessening one?s karmic retribution,” which the Daishonin describes in the following passage: “Bodhisattva Fukyo was not abused and vilified, stoned and beaten with staves without reason. He had probably slandered the True Law in the past. The phrase ?after expiating his sins?, indicates that because Bodhisattva Fukyo met persecution, he could eradicate his sins from previous lifetimes” (“Lessening One?s Karmic Retribution,” MW-1, 17). Here the Daishonin teaches us that all the hardships we undergo for the spread of Buddhism are never wasted; they are proof that we are positively transforming our negative karma and solidifying the foundation for lasting happiness.

The sutra states that those who vilified and abused Bodhisattva Never Disparaging had to suffer for a long time before they finally attained enlightenment: “At that time the four kinds of believers, . . . because anger arose in their minds and they treated me [Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, that is, Shakyamuni in a past existence] with disparagement and contempt, were for two hundred million kalpas never able to encounter a Buddha, to hear the Law, or to see the community of monks. For a thousand kalpas they underwent great suffering in the Avichi hell. After they had finished paying for their offences, they once more encountered the bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who instructed them in anuttarasamyak- sambodhi” (LS20, 268-9).

Thus, even those who abused the bodhisattva were able to form connections with the Lotus Sutra and eventually awaken to their Buddhahood, which they themselves had denied so vehemently. In regard to the power of the Lotus Sutra to save even those who oppose it, the Daishonin comments: “One should by all means persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra and causing them [the people of the age] to hear it. Those who put their faith in it will surely attain Buddha- hood, while those who slander it will establish a ?poisondrum relationship? with it and will likewise attain Buddhahood” (“How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra,”MW-6, 197). The Daishonin here stresses the importance of communicating the benefit of the Mystic Law to all people.

Nichiren Daishonin and Bodhisattva Never Disparaging

Throughout his writings, the Daishonin repeatedly identifies himself with Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. The twentieth chapter of the Lotus Sutra has particular bearing to his life since his entire life, in one sense, was dedicated to validating the message of this chapter. Here are some significant passages from the Daishonin?s writings regarding Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Bodhisattva Fukyo):

• “The Lotus Sutra invariably concludes the Dharma preaching of all Buddhas of the three existences. The past events described in the Fukyo chapter I am now experiencing as predicted in the Kanji chapter; thus the present foretold in the Kanji chapter corresponds to the past of the Fukyo chapter. The Kanji chapter of the present will be the Fukyo chapter of the future, and at that time, I, Nichiren, will be its Bodhisattva Fukyo” (“Letter from Teradomari,”MW-4, 105-6).

• “The words of the twenty-four characters1 of Fukyo are different from the five characters of Nichiren, but their spirit is the same. The method of propagation is also exactly the same both at the end of the Buddha Ionno?s [Awesome Sound King] Middle Day and now at the beginning of the Latter Day” (“On the Buddha?s Prophesy,”MW-1, 113).

• “In the past, I was struck several times in the face with the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra, but I felt no resentment at it. In fact, I was actually delighted. For to be attacked in the manner described in the Fukyo chapter, to suffer assault as predicted in the Kanji chapter, is a great honor indeed” (“Letter to Myomitsu Shonin,”MW-5, 202). As those passages indicate, it is clear that the Daishonin used the action of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to guide his own life. So as practitioners of the Daishonin?s Buddhism we also have much to learn from the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Conclusion: Courage to respect all people

Although there are many important points in the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter to be stressed, when we compare the life of this bodhisattva with that of the Daishonin, one quality that both shared clearly stands out—that is courage. Both had courage to speak the truth and to respect all people. Courage indeed was what enabled them to do what they set out to accomplish despite the abuses they underwent. The Lotus Sutra explains this point as follows: “Among the four kinds of believers he preached the Law with no fear in his mind” (LS20, 268). The Daishonin also stresses the importance of courage in our Buddhist practice in numerous passages. For example, to his disciples he states: “Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like howling jackals, but Nichiren?s followers are like roaring lions” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Buddha,”MW-1, 241). To use the action of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging as a guide to our daily practice, our first step may be to develop the courage to look for the brilliance of Buddhahood in the lives of others as well as our own.
1. The phrase repeated by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging consists of twenty-four characters in Kumarajiva's Chinese translation.

Aug 29, 2013

The Art of Listening with the Eyes of the Buddha

I think the ability to hear ourselves, and the ability to see everything from the viewpoint of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, means to be able to view all of life from the standpoint of the law of causality.

I find that so many people still chant to the Gohonzon as if it were some God or some force outside of themselves. The attitude with which we chant, and the attitude with which we view the Gohonzon is most important, because if we have a distorted view, we will have a distorted practice, and it is that distorted practice and view, that we will teach to others.

We know from study that the characters on the Gohonzon represent the two sides of life and all of the positive/negative attributes that exist within life, including that fundamental darkness that coexists within every human life. Nichiren Daishonin says that there is no life that has one without the other. The characters representing both aspects of life are written on the Gohonzon. For me what is exciting is to know, that even without my being able to read it, Nichiren Daishonin wrote all of these characters on the Gohonzon, which represent every aspect of life, in such a way that every character is looking at the centre just like you and me. Every character is looking at Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Think about the Ceremony in the Air. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the axis of the universe and we're forming a circle around that axis.

All of us are looking at Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It is the centre that every character is looking at. Why? It is because Nichiren Daishonin is giving us a continual message every time we look at the Gohonzon. The message is that we must base our life on the Law and never on the person. It is the mystic law that has enabled every Buddha throughout eternity to be able to manifest their fullest potential, and that it is the key, which is the centre, for everything. We have to make Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo the center of our life and we have to base our life on Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It means being able to see and to hear ourselves. It means that whenever we are facing a problem, we don't just try to use our brain to figure it out, or strategise how to fix it. Many members still do this, and after they have racked their brain as to what to do in order to get from Point A to Point B or to fix the problem, they then chant the solution to the Gohonzon to make it work! (laughter). I think that this is practicing incorrectly. Let me tell you why.

When we talk about the nine levels of consciousness, the first five are our senses. Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch. The sixth level is the conscious mind. The seventh is the unconscious mind. The eighth level is what we call the karma storage area, which is that area in our life that has accumulated every cause we have ever made throughout all existences. Below that is the ninth level of consciousness, which Buddhism says, is the one pure, unchanging reality of our life.

Every single one of us has fortune and lack of fortune in our life. In the areas in which we have fortune, we can do the same things we see other people do and we can achieve our goals but in the areas of your life where you lack fortune, you can do the identical thing you see your neighbour doing, but the object of your desire seems to move further and further away (laughter), right?

When we are dealing with problems in our lives, they have a causal connection to us. Many times they come from that place in our life where we lack fortune. And so, if we use our brain to strategize how to fix things, our brain can only go to the eighth level of consciousness, which is the karma storage. That is the area which stores up and accumulates all of the causes we have ever made, and it's seems to be the place in which; WE DO NOT SEEM TO HAVE FORTUNE (laughter). Our brain then devises a solution based on lack of fortune. By following this "mental" solution, we will keep reinforcing the same pattern of karmic tendencies over and over in our lives.
But what Nichiren teaches is that by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo you can pierce through the eighth level of karma storage. Pierce through it, be unaffected by it, and you can reach the pure unchanging reality and infinite wisdom of your life that is unaffected by karma storage. That answer is the correct answer for your life. It's not affected by your karma in the area in which you lack fortune. And this is why I believe Nichiren Daishonin says we must become the master of our mind rather than allowing our mind to master us.

My point is this; when we pray, we need to start from a determination such as: "I will accomplish X," (whatever X is). We also have to understand from Buddhism that we create our life every moment through our thoughts, our words, and our behavior.

Prayer in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is profoundly different from prayer in other religions. We are not praying to something outside of ourselves to bestow something on us. Instead, our prayer here is the determination that; "I will create the object or thing that I am praying for through my causes of thought, words, and actions. I am the creator of my life and I will take the responsibility to create the thing that I am praying for, and that after I have chanted this kind of determined daimoku, I will accomplish X." I then must come to a realization... "How in the world am I going to do this? That answer only exists inside of my life. I can tap my wisdom for the answer when I have the belief and conviction, that the answer exists inside of me." And I start chanting with the determination to pull that wisdom up from within my life to clearly see what it is that I need to do in order to create the thing that I'm praying for. That is why 
President Ikeda says:

"Benefit comes from you. Nobody gives you benefit."

Source: THE ART OF LISTENING WITH THE EYES OF THE BUDDHA - By Linda Johnson, SGI-USA WD Leader, Nov 2003 (Abridged), Edited by Adrian Mollica April 6th 2004

Aug 22, 2013

What Happens When We Die

By Akemi Baynes

We live and then we die. Many think of death as something dark, like ‘THE END’. Buddhism asserts that whilst all physical manifestations of life must decline and disintegrate, life itself cannot be destroyed. Death is the unseen state of life. It is the time when a person’s entity gathers energy to take on a new visible form. This continual rhythm of physical appearance, followed by death, is the very rhythm of life itself. Indeed the characters Myo-ho (of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or Mystic Law) mean just this. How does Buddhism view death? One starting point in answering this question lies in recent evidence in medical research.

Professor Raymond Moody, an American philosopher and psychologist, has run a clinic for ten years. During this time more than 200 people who in clinical terms have died, have started to breathe again and returned to life. His book ‘Life After Life’, includes many of these experiences. Some can be classed as hallucinations but many of the stories seem to be true. With the numerous examples there are many similar factors. Firstly, at death, life leaves the physical body and floats above it and, regardless of the condition of the body, there is still consciousness, sight and hearing. There, as if on a screen in front of you, you see what you did, what you felt, and what you thought throughout the whole of your life. All this happens very fast and as you see it, you are able to feel joy for the good things and deep suffering for the things you want to hide. Thirdly, in this place, you feel you meet other people who have died. However, there exists some line between this world and the unknown world and before you cross over, you can sometimes, according to the experiences, be pulled back.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross originally did not believe in life after death. She made a special study based on the experiences of the dying and her conclusions are similar to Raymond Moody’s. She mentions particularly the part where the dead person sees everything that they did during their life time. She concludes that there is no such thing as a god to judge you; you judge yourself. She is convinced that death is only leaving matter and that life continues.

There are of course theories about ‘this thing’ that leaves the body at the time of death, which can see, hear and feel. Professor Okabe, a Japanese scientist, thinks that life after death is a form of energy, because energy is never destroyed:
“I think the main part of being is this particular energy and the physical body is a secondary factor. All physical matter changes in each person completely over seven years. If you think that it is the body that is the primary factor of life, then you are completely different person to the one you were seven years ago. But this ‘energy’ is constant, therefore everyone knows that they are the same person as when they were a child. This energy is able to function only because of the physical body. Death is only changing the form of energy. When you are alive, the energy is very active but when you die it becomes passive. It continues in a cycle between the two states forever.”

Okabe’s idea is very close to Buddhist thought. Buddhism says quite simply that this energy is life itself. Being alive or being dead are just different manifestations of life itself. This not only applies to human beings, but to everything throughout the universe.

The body, alive or dead, is also a part of universal life. It is like the rain that we see falling, which then disappears into the earth. The water drains underground, eventually flowing into a river and onwards to the sea. When this water evaporates from the surface of the sea it loses its physical form, until it again forms clouds and then rain. Because of our knowledge of science we know that the water itself does not change, only its physical form. From this example you could say that water as a liquid is like visible life and that the evaporated water is like death. The liquid and the evaporated water are just two cycles of the same substance. Similarly, life itself does not change, but it shows itself in two different forms, life and death, and just like the water, it will move in the cycle continually.

Despite the experiences of people who have died and then returned to life, it is impossible to know where life went to. This question is in the realm of philosophy and religion. It is something you cannot physically or scientifically prove. A famous Buddhist teaching by Vasubandhu (approximately 5th Century AD) describes the experience of death and birth:
“At death, the body is separated in two, the seen body and the unseen body. This unseen body is called sai-shin which means ‘very small body’ that cannot be seen by the physical eye. It is so small that it can move through any physical matter. The eyes, ears, nose and tongue keep perfect sense, not as a body, but as ability. This small body is able to float and fly any distance instantly. Every life in this condition has the potential to be born again, but it cannot be born when and where it likes, it is decided by what the person did while he was alive. He is born in a situation or place which is most suitable for the causes he made. At the moment when the female egg is fertilized by the male, if it is suitable for someone’s new life, this ‘very small body’ arrives there instantly, and a new physical form starts. When the physical body dies, it is impossible to change either the good or bad effects contained within its life. There is also no fixed time when it will be born again. For some it will be a very long time. It is all decided by what that person did during his life.”
This teaching very clearly describes karma.

Buddhism goes deeper than psychology in asserting nine consciousnesses. The ability to hear, see, feel, smell and taste are the first five. The sixth consciousness is our conscious mind. The seventh is active both when we are awake and sleeping. This is the realm of abstract thought and judgment. All the latent feelings or the six consciousnesses appear in our dreams through this seventh consciousness. Near to death, the six consciousnesses become latent and the seventh consciousness appears very strongly. Within this seventh consciousness is the deep desire to live. At death, the eighth consciousness becomes the strongest, with the first seven consciousnesses becoming latent. At the time of death all the seven consciousnesses, though latent, still exist or are stored within the eighth. The eighth level is where karma is stored during life. When life separates from the physical body, these seven consciousnesses continue to exist dormantly. The desire to live life again is still contained within the seventh consciousness. This will be the force to return to life again, but this will only be achieved in accord with the karma created by the causes made during the previous life through these seven consciousnesses, now stored in the eighth. When physical life starts once more, the seven consciousnesses again become strong, and the eighth level becomes latent.

Karma is every function of our lives, our thoughts, words and deeds (i.e. the workings of the seven consciousnesses) which are then carved into our lives. Our thoughts, words and deeds, whether good or bad, are not judged in the end by morals or the laws of society. Those based on the protection and development of life will be stored as good karma and those causing destruction, hurt or harm to life, as bad karma. This karma created within the seven consciousnesses is stored at the eighth level. Therefore, when you die, your life will be latent in the universe exactly as it was at the point of death and, since the seven consciousnesses are latent, they are unable to react to any environmental influence to change your life state.

We might imagine that life after death will be peaceful and a time of resting, but just as you can have a happy or unhappy dream, after death you can also feel joy or suffering. It is important, therefore, to look at one’s present life very strictly. The Buddhist theory of the nine consciousnesses is concerned with how we can be sure to build up good and valuable causes with our seven consciousnesses so that there are plenty in store at the eighth level at the point of death. In this respect the importance of the ninth consciousness becomes clear. The ninth consciousness is described as the essence of universal and eternal life (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo), which can, if we choose to make the effort, permeate all the other eight consciousnesses.

The process of dying brings to the fore the main tendency of our lives. As one approaches the moment of death, one’s life centers on one of the ten states, the one which relates most strongly to his karma. After physical death we will remain in this state, latent in the universe, exactly as we were at the point of death.

If our lives are inclined towards suffering in the six lower worlds then we can expect to experience these in the latent state. The aim of Buddhism is to enable us to change the fixed direction which we have built up over many lifetimes. Buddhism is concerned with allowing us to bring forth the ninth consciousness, which is unaffected by this karma. Having done this in life, the ninth consciousness will remain predominant while dead. What happens when we die depends on what we do now to reveal the Buddha state.
Source: The Buddhism of the Sun (Pg. 42 – 45) 


Aug 16, 2013

Buddhism and a Healthy Life

Health is a universal desire of human beings. No matter how wealthy or powerful one is, health, after all, is the most precious thing. 

Buddhism recognizes illness as one of the most basic sufferings that human beings experience--as we can see from its inclusion in the four sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. In seeking to free people from this suffering, both Buddhism and medicine share a common goal.
The links between the mind and disease, the mind and health, are points where Buddhism and medicine converge.

Buddhism is not simply a kind of spiritualism or an abstract theory. Buddhists throughout the ages have focused squarely on the reality of physical and mental illnesses and sought to relieve the suffering of illness from the dual perspective of Buddhism and medicine.

Still, it is only natural that Buddhism concern itself primarily with the role of the mind. And as stress-related illnesses increase in the future, the relationship between the mind and health in general will be spotlighted all the more.

Health is not simply a matter of absence of illness. Health means constant challenge. Constant creativity. A prolific life always moving forward, opening up fresh new vistas--that is a life of true health. An unbeatable spirit is what supplies the power to keep pressing ahead.

Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda once said that there are two fundamental problems with people today. One is the confusion of knowledge with wisdom, and the other is the confusion of sickness with death.

Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. There is much that can be said about the relationship between the two. With regard to Buddhism and medical science, we can say, very generally, that medicine fights illness with scientific knowledge. Buddhism, on the other hand, develops human wisdom, so that we may find our own rhythm and strengthen our life force. This assists the efficacy of medical treatment and also helps us conquer illness through our own natural healing powers.
But it is foolish to ignore or deny the contribution of medicine. Otherwise faith descends into fanaticism. We must use medical resources wisely in fighting illness. Buddhism gives us the wisdom to use medicine properly.

Wisdom is the basic ingredient to health, to long life, and to happiness. 

Sickness does not necessarily lead to death. Sickness can force us to examine ourselves, our existence and our lives. It can be a very important and precious motivator. Someone has said that a person who has never been ill only understands half of life.

The Swiss philosopher Carl Hilty (1833-1909) writes: "Just as the flooding river stirs the soil and enriches the fields, sickness stirs and enriches all people's hearts. One who truly understands illness and endures it is made deeper, stronger and greater, and grasps ideas and beliefs that were incomprehensible before."

The struggle with illness leads us to understand human life fully and forges in us an indomitable spirit. I myself suffered from a weak constitution from the time I was a child. I had tuberculosis and, for that and other reasons, I was not expected to live past 30.
But that experience helped me understand others who are ill. And that is why every single moment is so valuable to me, why I have determined to accomplish what I can while I am alive without wasting a minute, and why I have lived full-out all these years.
There are many whose bodies are healthy but whose inner being is ill. And there are also those who suffer some physical disease but whose inner life force is very healthy. All of us will experience some sickness during our lives. That is why it is important to acquire the wisdom to deal with illness properly.

Though it may seem contradictory, from the Buddhist perspective health and illness are not separate. Nor are life and death. They are part of a single whole. For that reason, the Buddhist perspective on health is not limited to this single life. Its basic focus is a healthy life throughout the three existences of past, present and future.

Source: Daisaku Ikeda- A New Century of Health: Buddhism and the Art of Medicine originally carried in the Soka Gakkai's Seikyo Shimbun newspaper in 1996 

Aug 8, 2013

The Simultaneity of Cause and Effect

Buddhism teaches that the law of cause and effect underlies the workings of all phenomena. Positive thoughts, words and actions create positive effects in the lives of individuals, leading to happiness. Negative thoughts, words and actions on the other hand--those that in some way undermine the dignity of life--lead to unhappiness. This is the general principle of karma.

In Buddhist teachings other than the Lotus Sutra, Buddhist practice is understood as a gradual journey of transformation. This is a process in which, over the course of many lifetimes, the essentially flawed and imperfect common mortal gradually molds and transforms him- or herself into a state of perfection--Buddhahood--through painstaking efforts to accumulate positive causes while avoiding negative ones. 

In Nichiren Buddhism, however, the attainment of Buddhahood is governed by a more profound principle of causality revealed in the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra offers a radically different view of the human being and of the attainment of Buddhahood. In the perspective of the Lotus Sutra, delusion and enlightenment--the common mortal and the Buddha--are the two equally inherent aspects of life, which itself is neutral. While the "default" condition of humanity may be that of delusion, manifesting our Buddhahood does not require a fundamental change in our nature. In fact, the idea that Buddhahood is somehow remote from our ordinary reality is itself a delusion.

This difference between the pre-Lotus Sutra and Lotus Sutra views of enlightenment can also be explained with reference to the concept of the Ten Worlds. This concept describes our inner state of life at any moment in terms of ten "worlds," from hell to Buddhahood, that we move between constantly depending on how we direct our life and respond to our environment. In the pre-Lotus Sutra view, common mortals carry out Buddhist practice in the nine worlds (cause) and eventually attain Buddhahood (effect). The nine worlds disappear, replaced by the world of Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra, on the other hand, clarifies that Buddhahood and the other nine worlds are both eternally inherent possibilities of life at each moment, and that the world of Buddhahood is brought forth by faith and practice. 

The difference between these two views of Buddhahood could be described using the analogy of a video game. The conventional view of the process of enlightenment is like a game character who gradually accumulates various powers and useful tools while successfully passing through to the advanced stages of the game. In the Lotus Sutra's view of enlightenment, the game character is from the beginning already in possession of all the full powers possible, and only requires a means to unlock them.

The practice of Nichiren Buddhism is one of manifesting the potential of Buddhahood here and now. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in one's inherent Buddhahood could be compared to activating the "code" that unlocks this potential. 

Bringing forth one's enlightened nature--characterized by courage, wisdom, compassion and life force--one is then equipped to engage fully with the problems of life, change reality for the better and make enlightenment an actuality. 

Problems and challenges, in this sense, serve as a means for us to demonstrate the strength and reality of our enlightened nature and to inspire others to do the same. Buddhism is about living confidently and expansively here and now. The key component in this is faith in our inherently enlightened nature.

This revolutionary perspective on "attaining" Buddhahood is expressed in the concept of the simultaneity of cause and effect. The nine worlds, representing cause, and the world of Buddhahood, representing effect, exist simultaneously in our lives. This is symbolized by the lotus plant, which bears flowers (symbolizing the common mortal) and fruit (symbolizing Buddhahood) at the same time. 

When we have full confidence in our Buddha nature and our ability to transform and triumph over any kind of suffering, problems become challenges to be welcomed rather than avoided. This sustained sense of confidence and determination in the face of difficulties is itself a manifestation of our Buddha nature and, in accordance with the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect, assures our success in life.

Source: SGI Quarterly April 2013

Aug 3, 2013

Learning from the Gosho - The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra

Question: Is it possible, without understanding the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but merely by chanting the five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day, once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths, and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression?

Answer: Yes, it is.

Question: You may talk about fire, but unless you put your hand in a flame, you will never burn yourself. You may say “water, water!” but unless you actually drink it, you will never satisfy your thirst. Then how, just by chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo without understanding what it means, can you escape from the evil paths of existence?

Answer: They say that, if you play a koto strung with a lion’s sinews, then all the other kinds of strings will snap. And if you so much as hear the words “pickled plum,” your mouth will begin to water. Even in everyday life there are such wonders, so how much greater are the wonders of the Lotus Sutra!

We are told that parrots, simply by twittering the four noble truths of the Hinayana teachings, were able to be reborn in heaven, and that men, simply by respecting the three treasures, were able to escape being swallowed by a huge fish. How much more effective, then, is the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, which is the very heart of all the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Buddhism and the eye of all the Buddhas! How can you doubt that by chanting it you can escape from the four evil paths?

The Lotus Sutra, wherein the Buddha honestly discarded expedient means, says that one can “gain entrance through faith alone.” And the Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the grove of sal trees on the last day of his life, states, “Although there are innumerable practices that lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith, then that includes all those practices.”

Thus faith is the basic requirement for entering the way of the Buddha. In the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice, the first ten stages, dealing with faith, are basic, and the first of these ten stages is that of arousing pure faith. Though lacking in knowledge of Buddhism, a person of faith, even if dull witted, is to be reckoned as a person of correct views. But even though one has some knowledge of Buddhism, if one is without faith, then one is to be Nichiren, follower of the Great Teacher Kompon [Dengyo] considered a slanderer and an icchantika, or person of incorrigible disbelief.

Source: Writings of Nichiren Daishonin - I (Pg. 141 - 142)

Jul 21, 2013

Animated Children's Stories by Ikeda

Daisaku Ikeda is the author of a number of children’s stories, some of which have been illustrated by the celebrated children’s book illustrator Brian Wildsmith and translated into several languages. The stories convey the importance of courage, hope, friendship and peace through the vivid adventures of children in different parts of the world. Twelve of the stories have been adapted and animated for television and broadcast in 25 countries. 

Three friends climb a treacherous mountain to find out what is glittering at its summit. Faced with unexpected challenges, they learn the power of creativity and imagination, which will help them in their quest. 

The unhappy Sachiko can’t stand the sight of food and is becoming more and more frail and ill. The Moon, who watches over all the world’s children, sends a magical rabbit to intervene. 

The haughty young prince of Jambe learns from a humble village boy what a true prince is. 

A story about the friendship between a lonely boy and a magical deer he saves from hunters. 

In devastated postwar Japan, hope and courage are found in unsuspected places. Amidst burnt out buildings and blackened fields, a young boy discovers an aged man tending an old, apparently dead cherry tree. A story about the power of hope. 

A princess and her animal companions venture into the formidable desert in search of a water source to save their ailing kingdom. In the course of their difficult journey, they discover the key to reviving their land.

Source: http://www.daisakuikeda.org/

Jul 10, 2013

5 Buddhist Thoughts on Bringing Out Your Best Self


by Jihii Jolly

Almost half a year ago many of us made resolutions for the new year.  Perhaps we resolved to do more or less of something, depending on if we were in a glass half full or empty kind of mood. For most, resolutions are born of the desire improve the quality of our lives and kick the habits that prevent us from being healthy, productive, and enjoying great relationships.
But to sustain these resolutions is no small feat; we may not even remember what our resolutions were. Bringing out your best self can be terribly challenging when faced with the daily grind of work, or school, topped with the endless cycle of negative media about tragedy, corruption, and war.
Can Buddhism help? Nichiren Buddhism is centered on the lifelong practice of human revolution or bringing forth our inner reserves of courage, wisdom, and compassion to all of our daily actions and interactions.

Here are five Buddhist resolutions (for any time of year!) on bringing out your best self in a very fundamental way, as explained by philosopher Daisaku Ikeda.

1. Find the strength in your weaknesses.
We often lament our weaknesses. Every day we go over our laundry lists of things we’d like to change about ourselves: “I’m too quiet, slow, careless,” etc. What we don’t realize is that each of these shortcomings are actually also indicative of our strengths. “For example,” explains Ikeda, “a person’s shyness can be transformed into valuable qualities such as prudence and discretion, while someone’s impatience might be transformed into a knack for getting things done quickly and efficiently.” (Discussions on Youth pg. 97) What’s most important is that we don’t begrudge ourselves (or anyone around us) for seemingly undesirable characteristics, but instead, focus our energy and intention on making the best use of those characteristics.

2. Face the things that make you unhappy or uncomfortable.
Running away from the things that make us unhappy is actually what causes suffering. We have to “look unflinchingly at the people and things in our lives that are making us unhappy,” writes Ikeda (Discussions on Youth pg. 100). Anxiety, for example, often comes from uncertainty about our future. If we don’t look squarely at what is making us feel this way, our anxiety only grows. Looking at the source of our fears, which are often smaller and more manageable than we think, makes them easier to conquer.

3. Take the first step now, even if it’s a small one.
Buddhism is a philosophy of action. Getting into the habit of immediately taking the first step toward our goals or tasks, even if it’s uncomfortable, propels us toward the next one, and the next one after that. “Life is a struggle with ourselves,” writes Ikeda. “It is a tug-of-war between moving forward and regressing, between happiness and unhappiness.” (Discussions on Youth pg. 98) He encourages young people to try challenging some task--anything at all--and keep at it until they are certain they have done their best. This helps develop the habit of taking action, which is strengthened by the belief we gain in our capacity to actually get things done.

4. See people and situations for what they really are.
According to Buddhism, every person is endowed with the same limitless potential for enlightenment and happiness no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Their worth isn’t determined by social status, success or wealth. If we strive to view people in this manner, we free ourselves from the delusions of hate or jealousy, because we don’t evaluate the people around us as better as or worse than us based on superficial criteria. “[Buddhism] teaches us to look at a person through the eyes of the Law and the eyes of the Buddha,” writes Ikeda. “In other words, to focus on a person’s life, state of being and what is inside, just as it is, free of external embellishments... Truly respectable are those who based their lives on the truth--on the reality of things.” (Discussions on Youth pg. 30)

5. Courage is the key to developing compassion.
What we typically think of as an act of compassion- simply feeling bad for someone or writing a check to a favorite charity-appear not to require courage.  However, everyday forms of compassion such as checking in on a friend who hasn’t seemed like themselves lately or speaking out when you see someone being manipulated or used, require tremendous courage. As Ikeda shares, “Courage and compassion are two sides of the same coin. Compassion without courage is not genuine. You may have a compassionate thought or impulse, but if you don’t do or say anything, it’s not real compassion.” By mustering the courage to take action to relieve the sufferings of others, we manifest true compassion. In this way, Ikeda explains, “if we act with courage, we find that our compassion for others grows deeper.” (Discussions on Youth pg. 336)