Jun 25, 2013

Differing Views on the Mentor/Disciple Relationship

"The purpose of Buddhism is not to produce dupes who blindly follow their leader. It is to produce people of wisdom who can judge right from wrong on their own in the clear mirror of Buddhism." (SGI President Ikeda, My Dear Friends in America, p. 103)

The importance of the mentor–disciple relationship is clearly stated in the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. He writes: “If there is someone who knows which of the Buddhist teachings are true and which are false, then I must seek him out, make him my teacher, and treat him with appropriate respect.” (WND-1, 105) Both Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai teach the way of mentor and disciple. But their teachings are quite different. They can’t both be right, can they?
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another. To chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death. This is a matter of the utmost importance for Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters, and this is what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra.” (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 216,)
There is no distinction or separation between the Buddha, the Law and ordinary people. They are equal. They are one. This is the essence of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. As he says this is the essence of what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra. It is the basis for the heritage of the lifeblood of the ultimate Law of life and death. 
He also states: “Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death, and manifest it in your life. Only then will you realize that earthly desires are enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Even embracing the Lotus Sutra would be useless without the heritage of faith.” (WND-1, 218)
In stark contrast with what the Daishonin says are the teachings of Nichiren Shoshu:"Concerning the relation between the priesthood and the laity, according to the lineage of the Master and disciple, a difference does exist between a priest and a lay person. More specifically, while this difference is a matter of course to members of the faith in regards to the High Priest, who possesses the Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law, as regards a member’s local temple head priest, the Master to whom the Living Essence of the Law had been passed on by hand, it is only when members of the faith persevere in the practice of their faith through the Master and disciple relationship that the Daishonin’s Living Essence of the Law begins to flow in their lives, with the priest and lay members together fusing with the Body of the Law of the Gohonzon, becoming the one Buddha of the True Buddha of the Mystic Law of the Lotus. In this way, through the True Body and True Appearance of attained faith, although the priest and lay believer become one equal body, because one reaches that stage through the actual aspect of the observance of faith, an absolute difference between priest and lay person exists in the lineage of the Master and disciple. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition III, Nichiren Shoshu Bureau of Religious Affairs)
No matter how lofty and noble they try to make it sound, Nichiren Shoshu teaches, in fact, that the Buddha, the Law and we ordinary people are indeed different and separate from one another. They teach “an absolute difference between priest and lay person exists in the lineage of the Master and disciple.”There is no oneness or equality in their understanding of mentor and disciple. There is no oneness or equality in Nichiren Shoshu. If, as they say, there is an   absolute distinction between us several questions arise: Is it, according to Nichiren Shoshu, even possible for lay believers to attain Buddhahood in their present form? Would the enlightenment of lay believers be somehow different or diminished from the enlightenment of priests? If our enlightenment is not the equal of the priests, it is certainly much different from the enlightenment of the High Priest who is the Master who possesses the Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law. What does that mean? In what way are we different?It seems clear that Nichiren Shoshu misrepresents what the Daishonin means when he says we “are in no way different or separate from one another”. 
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The Buddha is like a person awake and living beings are like persons dreaming. Therefore when the latter wake from their empty dreams of birth and death and return to their waking state of original enlightenment, they are said to attain Buddhahood in their present form, to gain the great wisdom of equality, the Law that is without distinctions, and to understand that all are able to achieve the Buddha way, for there is only this one doctrine.” (WND-2, 841)
In his “Reply to the Lay Believers in the Province of Sado,” Nikko Shonin states: “The Daishonin teaches following the correct path of mentor and disciple to attain Buddhahood. If one makes even the slightest mistake in the way of mentor and disciple, then even though one upholds the Lotus Sutra one will fall into the hell of incessant suffering” (Nichiko Hori, Fuji Nikko Shonin Shoden, Detailed Biography of Nikko Shonin, p. 429).  
Nikko Shonin, which Nichiren Shoshu professes to follow, was clear about this point. I don’t know how one could reach any other conclusion than that Nichiren Shoshu has made more than “the slightest mistake.” They seem to be leading others along the certain path to the hell of incessant suffering.
In sharp contrast, we should look at what Josei Toda experienced in prison after pondering a passage from the Lotus Sutra that confused him; and had confused Buddhist scholars for more than 2000 years. What Toda realized is ‘the Buddha’ is ‘my life’! The Buddha, the Law and the ordinary person, Josei Toda, are in no way different or separate, but one and the same. He realized the ‘oneness of mentor and disciple’. 
This realization revitalized Buddhism in the modern world. Toda realized the oneness of Buddha and ordinary people. And as a result, members of the SGI can chant to the Gohonzon with this realization and inherit the ultimate Law of life and death for ourselves, as we are, in our present form—exactly as the Daishonin intended.
SGI President Ikeda writes: “When a movement imagines it can assume absolute, inviolable authority, it has stagnated. Then, though some of the original ideals may linger, the movement no longer has the vibrant power to realize them.
“Some people incorrectly interpret the mentor-disciple relationship as one of formalized superiority and submission. But, according to the Buddhist teachings, this should not be the case. The Buddhist philosophy that all are equally worthy of respect is no abstract doctrine. It must become the core of one’s own way of life.
“To truly achieve this in Buddhist practice, the disciple needs a mentor who is both a great teacher and a fellow pursuer of self-improvement. Herein lies the true mentor-disciple way. In the simplest terms, it is a relationship of equality between companions who share the will for self-improvement.” 

Greg Martin, SGI-USA Vice General Director
 (March 26, 2010 World Tribune, p. 8)

1 comment:

Artman2112 said...

this makes me think of something that i experienced several years ago. i was relating to a friend about my guitar teacher, explaining some of the lessons and the things i was learning, like the families of music, the modes, the scales, the theoretical concepts etc etc and my friend was like dude i just learned more from what you told me than in all the guitar lessons i had with MY old teacher! he then went on to tell me how his teacher would just show him licks and riffs from songs but never explain to him the why and how. my teacher was a master guitarist and he gave me the knowledge and the tools to think and create freely on my own whereas my friends teacher simply taught him to copy. i think thats sort of the same idea SGI president Ikeda speaks of in your post.