January 2005 Study Material

SGI-USA Men's Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for January 2005

Developing Courage and Wisdom to Attain Victory

Happy New Year to all SGI-USA Men’s Division Members!!! Our theme for this year (above) is based on the installment of “The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings” published in the June 2004 issue of Living Buddhism. In this portion of their dialog, SGI President Ikeda, Katsuji Saito and Masaaki Morinaka discuss primarily one of the letters written to Shijo Kingo, “The Hero of the World” (WND, p 835). We present below some excerpts from this dialog related to our theme, with some suggested discussion questions following.

VICTORY

Ikeda: Buddhism is a win-or-lose struggle. So is life. It is no exaggeration to say that Buddhism was expounded to make it possible for all people to triumph in the fundamental struggle in the realm of life itself – the struggle between the Buddha and devilish functions. Will we defeat the devilish functions and attain enlightenment? Or will we succumb to them and lead a life blighted by darkness and illusion? The ultimate purpose of our Buddhist practice is to realize victory in this elemental struggle.

Morinaka: That makes the meaning of the Daishonin’s statement, “Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat,” very clear.

Ikeda: This ultimate way of life of Buddhism views all phases and aspects of our existence as a succession of battles that must be fought and won. That, indeed, is the reality of our existence. For those who earnestly take on these battles, everything that happens in life, even on the level of society, becomes part of their Buddhist practice. That is, everything eventually accords with the concept that Buddhism is about winning.


Ikeda: Faith leads to victory; disbelief and arrogance lead to defeat. We say that Buddhism is concerned with winning, but what exactly is it that enables us to triumph? It is our hearts, our minds. It all comes down to whether our hearts are on the side of the correct Law or on the side of error and wrong action. The Daishonin points to this struggle in the depths of our hearts when he says that Buddhism concerns itself with victory. We must therefore strictly guard against succumbing to disbelief and wrong action. The fundamental path to victory lies in maintaining resolute faith in the Mystic Law; it also lies in a rational way of life and rational conduct based on faith.

COURAGE AND WISDOM

Ikeda: Faith in the Lotus Sutra is not some empty theory or abstraction. Faith must enable us to actively bring forth practical wisdom for winning in real life.


Ikeda: The emphasis on Buddhism being concerned with winning means that we must possess the fortitude – the strength of spirit – to stand up to any hardship. That is because, with a fainthearted spirit, we cannot overcome the devilish functions in our own lives or in the world around us.

“A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra, WND, 1001). The Daishonin seems to call out to us in heartfelt encouragement: “My disciples, do not be defeated by the raging waves of society! Do not be defeated by base, devilish forces!” This is also the sentiment behind his assertion that nothing surpasses the strategy of the Lotus Sutra.


Ikeda: In this passage [from “The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra” (WND, 1000)], the Daishonin also lauds Kingo’s courage, his bravery at a crucial moment. Without courage, even the most outstanding wisdom or brilliant stroke of genius will come to naught. The foundation of everything is firm faith, strong faith. Only through faith can we tap the boundless power of the Mystic Law and bring it to manifest in our lives in the form of wisdom, courage, life force, and the protection of the benevolent functions of the universe. Wisdom, courage, and faith – the Daishonin teaches that these are the cornerstones of victory.

With the heart of a lion king, Nichiren Daishonin fought one momentous battle after another, emerging triumphant each time. An unwavering determination also spurs the protective functions of the universe to action. The Daishonin writes: “[Despite the personal interference of the devil king of the sixth heaven,] it is because the heavenly deities came to my aid that I survived even the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and emerged safely from other great persecutions” (Gosho Zenshu, 843).

OUR STRUGGLE FOR HUMANKIND

Morinaka: Nichiren Daishonin declares: “In the final analysis, unless we succeed [in our struggle], these disasters will continue unabated” (“The Treatment of Illness,” WND 1114). According to the Daishonin, the only solution to the three calamities and seven disasters – including the epidemics that were then rampant – is to vanquish the fundamental darkness or ignorance that is their root cause by carrying out the practice of the votary of the Lotus Sutra and manifesting in society the power of the Mystic Law.

Saito: This passage indicates that it falls to the votaries of the Lotus Sutra to carry out the crucial win-or-lose struggle of Buddhism in society.

Ikeda: Our existence, daily lives, and society are all subject to unceasing change. Things change either for the better of the worse; there’s no in-between. Therefore, faith is a win-or-lose spiritual struggle, religion is a win-or-lose struggle – a struggle that we must win. In the words of British philosopher Thomas Carlyle: “Man is created to fight.”

There is a famous scene in Charlie Chaplin’s movie, Limelight, in which his aging character encourages a young woman who has lost all hope to go on living. He tells her that she has to fight for her life itself. “Think of the power that’s in the universe – moving the earth, growing the trees. And that’s the same power within you, if you’ll only have courage – and the will to use it!”

The spiritual battle between good and evil in each person’s heart will become an increasingly important issue for humanity. To change human destiny, we of the SGI have initiated a struggle to defeat ignorance and cultivate the inherent goodness in all people.

Suggested questions for discussion:

1. President Ikeda clearly emphasizes the “elemental struggle” which must be won in our hearts in order to ensure victory in every aspect of our existence. What does this struggle mean to you? Have you experienced winning this kind of struggle and seeing results in different aspects of your life?

2. The courage to challenge obstacles and hardships, to not be defeated by devilish functions, to be able to draw out the protection of the benevolent forces of the universe, and to win: Have you acted with such courage? How can we strengthen or develop this kind of courage?

3. Do you have an experience of gaining the “practical wisdom to win in real life” where you didn’t seem to have it before? How did you bring out such wisdom?

4. In the closing excerpt, the dialog participants remind us of our mission, the ultimate victory we are seeking. How can we apply “Developing Courage and Wisdom to Attain Victory” in our movement to propagate Nichiren Buddhism and help all humankind?