Mar 30, 2013

Easter & Buddhism


There is a message of rebirth in Buddhism. We are encouraged not to dwell in the past or pine for the future, but to live and love right here in the now.  Nothing is promised us in the future, and nothing can be  resurrected from the past. If you take that message to heart, then rebirth comes with every breath. Every time we meet a stranger's eyes, every time we touch a loved one's hand, every opportunity we have to choose is a new beginning. And that's a blessing.

 Larisser- BeliefNet

Mar 29, 2013

Stay Young

You mustn't allow yourselves to grow old before your time. Please live with a youthful spirit. That is what Buddhism teaches us to do, and it is how life ought to be lived. If you make a commitment to work for the sake of others, you will be rejuvenated. If you devote your life to helping others, you'll stay young. The power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo guarantees that.

~Daisaku Ikeda ( Wisdom for Modern Life, February 4th)

Mar 24, 2013

With Unfaltering Perseverance

"With unfaltering perseverance, let us establish indestructible faith, and thus develop our vital life-force, acquire wisdom and establish a life as solid as a diamond and as genuine as gold. Let's further advance toward the creation of a peaceful and prosperous world of humanity through promoting the propagation of the True Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin".  

(Josei Toda)

Mar 20, 2013

Genuine Springtime

There may be times when life seems gloomy and dull. When we feel stuck in some situation or other, when we are negative toward everything, when we feel lost and bewildered, not sure which way to turn -- at such times we must transform our passive mind-set and determine, "I will proceed along this path," "I will pursue my mission today." When we do so a genuine springtime arrives in our hearts, and flowers start to blossom.

Daisaku Ikeda
from SGI-USA
"For Today & Tomorrow

Only Faith Keeps You Going

Source Unknown

Mar 18, 2013


by ~the-panpiper


There is nothing more fragile than the human heart. At the same time, there is nothing more indestructible.


Mar 13, 2013

Good Friends

Ananda, one of Shakyamuni Buddha's closest disciples, once asked him: "It seems to me that by having good friends and advancing together with them, one has already halfway attained the Buddha way. Is this way of thinking correct?"

Shakyamuni replied, "Ananda, this way of thinking is not correct. Having good friends and advancing together with them is not half the Buddhist way but all the Buddhist way."
This may seem surprising, as Buddhism is often viewed as a solitary discipline in which other people might be seen as more of a hindrance than a help. However, to polish and improve our lives ultimately means to develop the quality of our interpersonal relationships--a far more challenging task than any solitary discipline. Our practice of Buddhism only finds meaning within the context of these relationships.

From another perspective, given that Buddhist practice of polishing and aiming to improve our lives from within is a constant challenge and a difficult process, it is only natural that we need support from others also dedicated to walking a correct path in life, trying also to create value in their lives.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has written, "Having good friends is like being equipped with a powerful auxiliary engine. When we encounter a steep hill or an obstacle, we can encourage each other and find the strength to keep pressing forward." And as Nichiren (1222--1282) wrote: "Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may lose his footing on an uneven path . . ."

In Nichiren Buddhism, good friends are known as zenchishiki or good influences, while akuchishiki refers to bad influences. People affect each other in subtle and complex ways, and it is important to develop the ability to discern the nature of that influence. According to Buddhism, "bad" friends are those who encourage our weaknesses. In Nichiren's words: "Evil friends are those who, speaking sweetly, deceiving, flattering and making skillful use of words, win the hearts of the ignorant and destroy their goodness of mind."

Even when intentions are good, the degree of our positive influence on each other will vary. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, founder of the Soka Gakkai, used the following illustration. Say you have a friend who needs a certain amount of money. Giving your friend the money they need is an act of small good, while helping them find a job is an act of medium good. However, if your friend is really suffering because of a basic tendency toward laziness, then constantly helping him or her out may only perpetuate negative habits. In this case, true friendship is helping that person change the lazy nature that is the deep cause of their suffering.

A truly good friend is someone with the compassion and courage to tell us even those things we would prefer not to hear, which we must confront if we are to develop and grow in our lives.
Ultimately, however, whether people are good or evil influences in our lives is up to us. In Buddhist terms, the best kind of zenchishiki is one who leads us to strengthen our own faith and practice in order to thoroughly transform our karma. To quote Nichiren again, "the best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a zenchishiki, or good friend." Further, Nichiren comments that Devadatta, the cousin of Shakyamuni who tried to kill him and divide the Buddhist order, was "the foremost good friend to Thus Come One Shakyamuni. In this age as well, it is not one's allies, but one's powerful enemies who assist one's progress."

This expresses a key concept in Buddhism. Due to the immense transformative powers of Buddhist practice, even "bad" friends can have a good influence if we make our relationships with them into opportunities to examine, reform and strengthen our lives. The ideal is ultimately to develop the kind of all-encompassing compassion expressed by Nichiren when he wrote that his first desire was to lead to enlightenment the sovereign who had persecuted him, repeatedly exiling and even attempting to behead him.

Source: SGI Quarterly

Mar 8, 2013

The Birds of the Snow Mountains

 by Daisaku Ikeda

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" When I hear these words, my heart warms. Winter indeed never fails to turn into spring. But the word "winter" may remind many people, including me, of the snow-covered mountains of the Alps or the white mountain ranges of the Himalayas.

There is a commentary on the Lotus Sutra called Hokekyo jurin shuyosho, which includes the legendary story of Kankucho (literally, birds tormented by cold). This commentary is a well-known Chinese work on the Lotus Sutra, the highest Buddhist scripture expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha in India.

by ~henripostant

The story is as follows:
In ancient times, there were mountains in India called the Snow Mountains. These mountains were so high that the cold there penetrated to the marrow, and, as their name indicates, snow lay deep on the ground throughout the year. In these mountains lived two homeless birds called Kankucho. When evening fell and darkness gathered, the female bird, unable to bear the cold, would cry, "I'm perishing from the cold!" To which the male bird would reply, "Let's build a nest when the day dawns." But as soon as the sun rose and the birds were bathed in the warm sunshine, they forgot all about the cold which tormented them during the night. They reasoned: "We might be destined to die today or tomorrow; nothing is changeless in this world and we are strangers to eternal peace and tranquility." Thus they spent their entire lives in vain without ever building a nest.

This story may bring to mind "The Ant and the Grasshopper," which appears in Aesop's Fables: "Why should we work assiduously when we never know what tomorrow may bring?" This ostensibly wise attitude makes the birds all the more pitiful.

I believe this story offers a penetrating insight into the darker side of human nature. There are more cases than we imagine where people habitually make great efforts at pretense but betray their true nature at a crucial moment. No matter how serene another's life may appear to be, that person invariably has some suffering or trouble which others are not aware of. Even though human beings may not suffer as often as the Kankucho birds who were tormented every night, we are destined to face great difficulties at least several times or several dozen times in the course of life, with hardly more than a staff to lean on. If we wait till the last moment, however, no matter how frantically we prepare either to retreat or to advance, as time is irreversible, it will be too late. Then all we can do is cry out in agony just as the birds cried in distress from the bitter cold of the Snow Mountains.

What I mean by a staff is some steadfast belief, or a firm mind which remains unperturbed even in the face of the greatest difficulty. I tend to believe that the nest the Kankucho birds kept vowing to build implies more than a warm dwelling place. It implies a foundation on which an unwavering mind and a spirit that will neither be carried away by pleasure nor defeated by suffering can be established. The foolishness of the Kankucho birds represents nothing other than the vulnerability of the human mind to change and fluctuation. It also indicates the human tendency to take the line of least resistance, avoiding immediate tasks that require prompt action.

You can live like rootless grass adrift at the mercy of the waves, or you can live up to your convictions. I firmly believe that this choice will determine whether or not you can make your life worth living. If you choose the latter, I think you will need a deep solid core in your life. In order for you to develop that core, you must make constant efforts to train yourself spiritually.

Mar 5, 2013

Desires and Enlightenment

"The teachings of Nichiren stress the transformation, rather than the elimination, of desire. Desires and attachments are seen as fueling the quest for enlightenment. As he wrote: 'Now Nichiren and others who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo... burn the firewood of earthly desires and behold the fire of enlightened wisdom.'"

People encountering Nichiren Buddhism for the first time are often surprised by the stance taken toward desire which seems to contradict prevailing images of Buddhism. For many, Buddhism is associated with asceticism, and indeed there are many schools and traditions which stress the need to eliminate desire and sever all attachments.

Needless to say, a life controlled by desires is miserable. In Buddhist scriptures, such a way of life is symbolized by "hungry demons" with giant heads and huge mouths, but narrow, constricted throats that make real satisfaction unattainable. The deliberate horror of these images grew from Shakyamuni Buddha's sense of the need to shock people from their attachment to things--including our physical existence--that will eventually change and be lost to us. Real happiness does not lie here, he sought to tell them.
The deeply ingrained tendencies of attachments and desire (Jpn bonno) are often referred to by the English translation "earthly desires." However, since they also include hatred, arrogance, distrust and fear, the translation "deluded impulses" may in some cases be more appropriate.
But can such desires and attachments really be eliminated? Attachments are, after all, natural human feelings, and desires are a vital and necessary aspect of life. The desire, for example, to protect oneself and one's loved ones has been the inspiration for a wide range of advances--from the creation of supportive social groupings to the development of housing and heating. Likewise, the desire to understand humanity's place in the cosmos has driven the development of philosophy, literature and religious thought. Desires are integral to who we are and who we seek to become.
In this sense, the elimination of all desire is neither possible nor, in fact, desirable. Were we to completely rid ourselves of desire, we would end up undermining our individual and collective will to live.

The teachings of Nichiren thus stress the transformation, rather than the elimination, of desire. Desires and attachments are seen as fueling the quest for enlightenment. As he wrote: "Now Nichiren and others who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo...burn the firewood of earthly desires and behold the fire of enlightened wisdom..."

In the same vein, the Universal Worthy Sutra states: "Even without extinguishing their earthly desires or denying the five desires, they can purify all of their senses and eradicate all of their misdeeds."
Nichiren's approach has the effect of popularizing, humanizing and democratizing Buddhism. In other words, by making the aspirations, dreams and frustrations of daily life the "fuel" for the process of enlightenment, Nichiren opens the path of Buddhist practice to those who had traditionally been excluded by the demands of a meditative withdrawal from the world--those, for example, who wish to continue playing an active role in the world.

It is thus not a coincidence that this attitude toward desires should be central to the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, with its emphasis on the role of lay practitioners. For people living in the midst of ever-changing, stressful realities, those challenges are a far more effective spur to committed Buddhist practice than an abstract goal of "enlightenment" through severing of all desires and attachments.

Overcoming problems, realizing long-cherished goals and dreams--this is the stuff of daily life from which we derive our sense of accomplishment and happiness. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has emphasized the importance not of severing our attachments, but of understanding and, ultimately, using them.

Often the faith experiences of SGI members describe events and changes that seem at first glance to be focused on the external, material side of life. But such "benefits" are only part of the story. Buddhism divides the benefits of practice into the "conspicuous" and the "inconspicuous." The new job, the conquest of illness, the successful marriage and so on are not separate from a deep, often painstaking process of self-reflection and inner-driven transformation. And the degree of motivation generated by desires can lend an intensity to our practice which ultimately reaps spiritual rewards. Bonno soku bodai--literally, "Earthly desires are enlightenment"--is a key tenet of Nichiren Buddhism.

Through our Buddhist practice, even the most mundane, deluded impulse can be transformed into something broader and more noble, and our desires quite naturally develop from self-focused ones to broader ones concerning our families, friends, communities and, ultimately, the whole world.
In this way, the nature of desire is steadily transformed--from material and physical desires to the more spiritually oriented desire to live the most fulfilling kind of life.

As President Ikeda says: "I believe in the existence of another kind of human desire: I call it the basic desire, and I believe that it is the force that actively propels all other human desires in the direction of creativity. It is the source of all impelling energy inherent in life; it is also the longing to unite one's life with the life of the universe and to draw vital energy from the universe."

Source: SGI Quarterly 2000