Men's Division: Study: September 2004 Study Material

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

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

The suggested material for the men’s meetings in September is the following excerpts from "The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings" (continuing from the November 2003 issue of Living Buddhism). In this section, SGI President Ikeda and Mr. Morinaka discuss the Gosho passage below written to Shijo Kingo, focusing on the “heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra.” Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpted material.

“The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of the teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being…. The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals.” (WND, 851-52)

Ikeda: While the point hardly needs repeating, the Lotus Sutra is a teaching that enables all people to attain Buddhahood. The fundamental purpose for Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in the world was “to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings” (LS, p.31) – in other words, to enable all people to manifest their Buddha nature and attain the same enlightened state of Buddhahood as he.

Morinaka: This is the Buddha’s vow “to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us.” (LS2, 36).

Ikeda: Very simply, the Lotus Sutra embodies the philosophy that everyone is a Buddha and urges its practitioners to enable everyone to reveal their inherent Buddhahood. By extension, it teaches a way of life guided by profound respect for others.

Morinaka: In contrast, the provisional teachings that preceded the Lotus Sutra do not fully elucidate a way of life that shows respect for others. This is mainly because they retain a degree of discrimination by asserting that persons of the two vehicles (that is, voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones), evil people and women cannot attain Buddhahood.

Ikeda: Next, the Daishonin refers to the essence of the practice of the Lotus Sutra, the scripture of universal enlightenment. He writes: “The heart of the practice of the Louts Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter.”
Whereas the heart of the teaching of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Expedient Means” (2nd) and “Life Span” (16th) chapters, the heart of the practice of the twenty-eight-chapter Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin declares, is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. This, I believe, is profoundly significant.
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Morinaka: The twenty-four character Lotus Sutra that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging recited is as follows: “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, 266-7).

Ikeda: In other words, respecting others is the central thought of the Lotus Sutra and must comprise the core of our Buddhist practice. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s words of veneration might be called the authority for our efforts to practice shakubuku and share the Mystic Law with others.
Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s universal reverence for others indicates that all people, without exception, can attain Buddhahood. Ignorance functions to prevent us from understanding this. In such a deluded state, even if told that all people are endowed with the Buddha nature, the potential for Buddhahood, one cannot believe it.

Morinaka: While professing to respect others in an abstract sense, people may often be guilty of unconsciously belittling and disrespecting others in some way.

Ikeda: Such is the fearfulness of the ignorance and delusion lurking deep in people’s lives. That’s why profound conviction and resolute courage are essential. Dauntless courage is vital to our struggle to free one precious person after another from evil and guide them toward good. SGI members summon such courage daily and carry on this struggle in all kinds of situations, including in their activities to conduct shakubuku. That’s why they are strong….

To lead people to good in a world enveloped in the darkness of ignorance, actively confronting and refuting evil without being contaminated by it, is an enormous challenge. It is like walking along a perilous steep path atop a towering ridge while struggling to win over various worldly temptations and distractions that would plunge us into the valley of profound disregard and disrespect for other human beings. Having the resolute conviction that we are “like the lotus flower in the water” (LS15, 222), blooming serenely without being tainted by the mud from which it grows, is indispensable.

The firm conviction to break free of all temptations and distractions that ultimately cause us to disrespect others is the hallmark of the universal enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra.
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Suggested questions for discussion:

1. In your own words, what does it mean to you that the “heart of practice” is found in the spirit of the Never Disparaging chapter?

2. It seems clear from President Ikeda’s discussion that “never disparaging spirit” is different from “turning the other cheek,” or passively accepting evil or destructive behavior. Explain what the difference is and how to correctly implement this spirit in your practice.

3. For you personally, what enables (or at least helps) you to manifest the “profound conviction and resolute courage” needed to carry out your practice according to this guidance?