SGI-USA Men's Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for December 2004
Opening a Powerful Path to Peace from Within:
Changing Karma into Mission
The suggested materials for the men’s meetings in December are the following excerpts from the final installment of "The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings" (printed in the October 2004 issue of Living Buddhism). In this section, SGI President Ikeda, Mr. Saito and Mr. Morinaka discuss “Fulfilling the Buddha’s Eternal Vow.” Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpted material.
IKEDA: The next important thing, in terms of practice, is correct faith. The Daishonin consistently emphasizes faith that embodies the spirit of not begrudging our lives, the willingness to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the Law.
SAITO: Because people regard their lives as precious, they tend to become preoccupied with furthering and protecting their own interests. They let themselves be ruled by fear and cowardice, growing terrified of losing their prestige or position or of becoming the target of criticism or censure.
In "Letter from Sado," the Daishonin compares this human folly to the way that fish or birds, though seeking to guard their lives from peril, in the end are tricked by bait and caught. He says: "Human beings are equally vulnerable. They give their lives for shallow, worldly matters but rarely for the Buddha's precious teachings. Small wonder they do not attain Buddhahood" (WND, 301).
MORINAKA: I don't think there is anyone who doesn't treasure his or her life. But if we become too self- absorbed, we'll find ourselves living out our days focused on only "shallow, worldly matters."
IKEDA: Although people naturally desire happiness, they become attached to shallow matters and drift far from "the Buddha's precious teachings," the path leading to true happiness. That is the fearful thing about fundamental ignorance or darkness, which we could also term basic human folly. No matter how intelligent, if people are defeated by ignorance or delusion, they cannot carry their Buddhist practice through to completion, and their lives will wind up in failure. Such people may even disparage and turn their backs on the Buddha's important teachings and finally become enemies of the Law.
That's why the Daishonin consistently calls on us to exert ourselves in faith with the spirit of not begrudging our lives and the attitude that "one's body is insignificant while the Law is supreme." Selfless devotion to the Law is the hallmark of the Daishonin's life. He also taught his followers that only by striving in faith with this spirit could they attain Buddhahood. There are many passages in his writings where he says this.
MORINAKA: "Not begrudging our lives" does not mean recklessly throwing our lives away out of some misguided notion of gaining glory.
IKEDA: That's right. To treasure the Law means to fight with the heart of a lion king against those who harass and torment its practitioners and who seek to destroy the Law itself. It also means tirelessly striving, as the Daishonin did, to defeat devilish forces, which go against the spirit of the Law. You could say that, by its very nature, a life devoted to the Law entails a ceaseless struggle to triumph over dark and iniquitous forces inherent in life.
SAITO: So faith that embodies the spirit of not begrudging our lives for the sake of the Law means having the strong, resolute faith to summon forth our courage and battle evil.
SAITO: In other words, when we dedicate our lives to the great vow for kosen-rufu and to the struggle to lead all people to enlightenment, we can acquire a profound inner conviction in the originally inherent nature of birth and death.
IKEDA: When both mentor and disciple share this same vow and fighting spirit, they become one. This is the essence of the oneness of mentor and disciple in Nichiren Buddhism.
When the mentor shows disciples the life he has forged through unwavering commitment to this great vow and fighting spirit, it becomes a model and foundation for their own lives. We can see that this is precisely what Shakyamuni did through his conduct described in the Lotus Sutra, and what the Daishonin carried out throughout his actions in life.
The oneness of mentor and disciple is actualized when the disciples steadfastly uphold the same great vow and fighting spirit as their mentor. Those who follow this life path can establish the same state of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity as the Buddha. This is a life enlightened to birth and death in the world of Buddhahood, awakened to their originally inherent nature.
SAITO: In other words, by dedicating ourselves to the struggle for kosen-rufu, we, too, can establish the way of life of the Buddha, which is based on the eternal Mystic Law. Isn't this what we gain through pursuing the Soka Gakkai path of mentor and disciple for the sake of kosen-rufu?
IKEDA: As President Toda carried out his activities, his thoughts were always on his mentor, President Makiguchi, who launched the kosen-rufu movement of the modern age through his selfless efforts to propagate the Law. In his later years, President Toda poignantly remarked: "Without President Makiguchi, I feel lonely. I would like to return to his side."
April 2 of this year marked the forty-sixth anniversary of President Toda's passing. While he was alive and after his death -- to this very day -- I have always striven to advance along the great path of the oneness of mentor and disciple. That is my supreme pride in life.
Persevering in the way of mentor and disciple is the path to attaining a state of life eternally indestructible over past, present, and future. The great path of mentor and disciple is the ultimate essence of humanistic religion.
Among all the Buddhist scriptures, the Lotus Sutra is the only scripture of the oneness of mentor and disciple. Likewise, among world religions, Nichiren Buddhism is the only religion of the oneness of mentor and disciple, dedicated to enabling all people to attain enlightenment. And the great path of oneness of mentor and disciple is found in the Soka Gakkai's activities, its practical efforts to realize kosen-rufu.
Through these efforts based on the oneness of mentor and disciple, the Soka Gakkai, which seeks to elevate the state of life of all people on our planet and enable each to become a lion king, will undoubtedly come to shine with lasting brilliance as a pioneering humanistic religion of the twenty-first century.
Suggested questions for discussion:
1) As men in modern society, it seems we often are motivated by “prestige or position” or “shallow worldly affairs.” Has having a strong sense of mission helped you stay on track, and if so, how?
2) Thinking in terms of karma and mission, how do you reconcile the spirit to win in daily life – health, family, work, etc. – with the spirit to “not begrudge your life?”
3) This concluding passage of the dialog returns to the subject of the great vow shared by mentor and disciple in Buddhism. What does this mean to you in your own life?