Men's Division: Study: March 2004 Study Material

SGI-USA Men's Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for March 2004

Opening a Powerful Path to Peace from Within:
Changing Karma into Mission

The suggested material for the men's meetings in March is the following excerpt from The Wisdom of The Lotus Sutra (Volume 1, chapter 5, pages 99-101). You might also want to read pages 91-95 as a background to this material. In this section, SGI President Ikeda and Mr. Saito continue their discussion of the subject known as the "three ceremonies in two places," the movement in the Lotus Sutra from Eagle Peak to the Ceremony in the Air and back to Eagle Peak.

Ikeda:

Shakyamuni's Buddhism, if anything, emphasizes the movement from Eagle Peak to the Ceremony in the Air -- in other words, leaving this world in search of the realm of the Buddha's wisdom. The goal of this search, in a nutshell, is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the teaching implicit in the depths of the "Life Span" chapter expounded during the Ceremony in the Air.

In contrast, the Daishonin's Buddhism emphasizes the progression from the depths of "Life Span" expounded during the Ceremony in the Air back to Eagle Peak - that is, from Nam-myoho-renge-kyo back to real life. It is a Buddhism that aims for the transformation of reality, and the practice of this Buddhism is to undertake compassionate actions among the people.

Saito:

Perhaps we could say that of the two types of bodhisattva practices, 'seeking enlightenment above' and 'guiding sentient beings below,' Shakyamuni's Buddhism emphasizes the former while the Daishonin's Buddhism emphasizes the latter.

Ikeda:

That's precisely it. Of course, tireless efforts to seek enlightenment above are essential in any efforts to it guide sentient beings below. Another way of describing the difference in emphasis is to say that the dynamic of Shakyamuni's Buddhism is 'from the cause to the effect,' while that of the Daishonin's Buddhism is 'from the effect to the cause.'

This is a somewhat difficult subject, but basically the principle 'from the cause to the effect' refers to people of the nine worlds (the cause) practicing in order to attain Buddhahood (the effect). In contrast, the principle 'from the effect to the cause' indicates people who, based on the state of Buddhahood (the effect) they have attained instantly through chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon, pursue and challenge the reality of the nine worlds (the cause) in daily life.

You might say Shakyamuni's Buddhism is like climbing a mountain, starting at the foot and heading for the summit. During the ascent, we are given explanations of how wonderful the peak is, but we ourselves cannot fully appreciate or comprehend it. Nor is there any guarantee we will eventually reach the top. We may get lost or meet with an accident on the way. In contrast, the Daishonin's Buddhism reveals the way to the direct and immediate attainment of enlightenment, so in an instant we find ourselves standing on the mountain peak. There, we personally savor the marvelous view with our whole beings and, out of our desire to share that joy with others, we descend and go out into society.

Saito:

In the Lotus Sutra, propagation of the teachings after the Buddha's death is entrusted not to the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching who climbed the mountain but to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who already stood on the peak (evidencing proof of their Buddhahood) and have returned to work in the realm of actual society.

Ikeda:

In terms of our faith and practice, our daily practice of gongyo and daimoku may be viewed in a general sense as a practice that leads us from the nine worlds to Buddhahood. As such, it could be called a practice that leads from the cause to the effect. On a more profound level, however, our practice of gongyo and daimoku itself directly connects us to the state of Buddhahood. This daily practice serves as a starting point for activities that lead from the effect to the cause -- in other words, activities that spread the wisdom and compassion of the Mystic Law into daily life.

The faith of those who chant daimoku with devotion to the Gohonzon simultaneously encompasses the two directions -- from the cause to the effect and from the effect to the cause. This is what sets the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin in a class of its own.

Saito:

Nam (dedicating our lives) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo means both to return to and take action based on Myoho-renge-kyo, the Mystic Law. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, therefore, encompasses the two directions in this activity.

Both directions, I feel, are found in the state of the Buddha's enlightenment itself. Unless both directions are present, it could not be called true enlightenment. This may be one of the reasons why the Lotus Sutra strives to communicate the totality of the Buddha's enlightenment through the format of the 'three assemblies in two places.'

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Suggested questions for discussion:

1) President Ikeda describes our daily practice to the Gohonzon in terms of "encompassing the two directions." In your own practice, do you think this perspective might help you get more from your daily efforts? If so, how?

2) Based on this excerpt, what are the differences in the concept of "mission" or goal between Shakyamuni's and the Daishonin's Buddhism? How might you apply this understanding in your own life?

3) Mr. Saito points out that the mission of propagating the Law is clearly entrusted to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, whose "direction" is from enlightenment to daily life. What does this mean in terms of our mission and identity as SGI members, and for you personally?