SGI-USA Men's Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for July 2004
Opening a Powerful Path to Peace from Within:
Changing Karma into Mission
The suggested material for the men’s meetings in July is the following excerpts from The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings (from the November 2003 issue of Living Buddhism). In this section, SGI President Ikeda, Mr. Saito, and Mr. Morinaka discuss the spirit of respect for others as the basis of shakubuku, and the challenges of carrying out this spirit. Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpted material.
Shakubuku is about respecting others and leading them to enlightenment based on the philosophy and compassionate spirit of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches that all people have the potential for Buddhahood. However, as long as shakubuku is viewed in contrast to shoju – the primary method of propagation during the Former and Middle Days of the Law – there is a tendency to emphasize the aspect of refutation, that is, to challenge and defeat the devilish nature in oneself and others.
Nichiren Daishonin indicates that respecting others, as exemplified by the actions of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, constitutes the foundation of the practice of the Lotus Sutra, and that to conduct shakubuku is to carry on the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. Hence, the fundamental significance of shakubuku naturally lies in respecting others. On that premise, the Daishonin teaches us that treating others with respect in everything we do, not just while practicing shakubuku, is the correct way for human beings to behave.
A reader comments that while it’s easy to understand theoretically the importance of respecting others, actually practicing respect for others is far more difficult. What, then, should we do, he asks.
That’s an honest question.
I doubt there is anyone who would take issue with respecting others as a general principle. But when it comes to specific individuals we know, emotions often rise to the fore, challenging us to put this principle into practice.
This is one of the fundamental problems that should be taken up by religion and ethics. Buddhism regards ignorance or delusion as underlying the heart of this problem. Probably everyone, at some point and to some extent, has succumbed to doing the very opposite of what is good, despite knowing that it was wrong.
Buddhism elucidates that fundamental ignorance or delusion, which is the force that gives rise to evil, exists in human life. It also teaches that people can break free of this ignorance and manifest their Dharma nature, or inherent enlightenment.
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Ikeda: In the evil age of the Latter Day, we cannot break free of ignorance or live based on the Dharma nature if we lack the resolute faith to boldly challenge devilish functions, as exemplified by the practice of shakubuku. But when we persevere in practicing with such determined faith, every area of our lives quite naturally becomes a venue for living based on the Dharma nature.
That's the meaning of "faith equals daily life" and "Buddhism manifests itself in society."
Yes. Living our daily lives constitutes our Buddhist practice.
Shakubuku is, of course, an activity based on an unwavering belief in the Buddha nature in ourselves and others. It occurs to me, however, that not only shakubuku but also SGI activities such as fostering capable people and building friendship through dialogue contribute to developing the inherent Buddha nature in ourselves and others.
Yes, we of the SGI have spread Buddhism by showing utmost respect for each individual based on our belief that all people possess the potential for Buddhahood.
Today, with society’s many distortions and the deep alienation felt by many, humanity is needed now more than ever. Our practice of respecting others will become increasingly important. The actions of those who believe in the Buddha nature in themselves and others will shine brightly.
The need for us to develop our humanity, of course, doesn’t mean we have to become models of perfection.
That's right. Our activities all start from a belief in the Buddha nature in all people. Still this is not something extraordinary. We can just be ourselves. The important thing is that we believe in our potential, strive to reveal our Buddha nature, grow as human beings and become happy without fail – and that we help others do the same.
If someone offends us or treats us unpleasantly, we may harbor anger toward that person. That may be natural. And if we see someone whose behavior leaves much to be desired, it may be a normal human reaction to feel, "I don’t want to become like that person."
We have to say what must be said. Even so, we do not simply cut people off and discard them. Through chanting daimoku, we can develop the capacity to embrace anyone. That is the wisdom of Buddhism.
No matter what happens, the important thing is to pray with unwavering belief in people’s Buddha nature. To take action based on such a state is proof of one’s humanity as a Buddhist.
This is the magnificent history that we of the SGI have created, transcending barriers of nationality and ethnicity. We have entered an age when the outstanding conduct of our members – their behavior as human beings – is winning high praise from people and communities around the world.
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Suggested questions for discussion:
1. Have you encountered a situation in which you found it difficult to respect someone else, in spite of your ideals? How did you deal with it then? What are the key points from this discussion that might help you challenge such situations in the future?
2. Mr. Morinaka states that other SGI activities (in addition to shakubuku) "such as fostering capable people" are also based on "the unwavering belief in the Buddha nature in ourselves and others." At a practical level, how can we further put this spirit into action in our local organizations to care for our members and friends and expand the SGI movement of humanism?
3. While the dialogue participants don’t specifically refer to "changing karma into mission" in this excerpt, does their discussion tell you anything about your mission and daily life? And if so, what?