March 2005 Study Material

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

Developing Courage and Wisdom to Attain Victory

The suggested material below is excerpted from the third installment of SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series, Lectures on “The Opening of the Eyes,” published in the January 2005 issue of Living Buddhism. In these excerpts, President Ikeda discusses the principle of “mutual possession of the ten worlds,” and “maintaining the all important religious spirit” as well as the key to transforming our lives. Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpts.

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The Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds (Living Buddhism, January 2005, p. 47)

The reason for focusing on the mutually inherent aspect of the nine worlds and Buddhahood is that it lays the groundwork for the idea of ordinary people attaining enlightenment. It clarifies that the pure and limitless life force of eternal Buddhahood can function dynamically within the lives of ordinary people wracked by earthly desires, karma, and suffering. Given that in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings the lives of beings of the lower nine worlds were depicted as impermanent, this represents a dramatic transformation of the Buddhist view of life, which is analogous to "changing poison into medicine."

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Faith in the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as well as prayer and action based on that faith are key to transforming a life-state in the nine worlds — steeped in earthly desires, karma, and suffering—into Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra describes how Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, while remaining an ordinary person, could transform his karma, attain the benefit of purifying his six sense organs, and finally attain Buddhahood, as a result of dauntlessly maintaining his belief in the Buddha nature inherent in his own life and others and continuing to treat everyone with respect based on that belief (See The Lotus Sutra, pp. 266-271).

With pure, strong faith in our own Buddha nature and that of others, we can break through fundamental ignorance and illusion. With deep, earnest prayer, we can tap the life force of Buddhahood that is one with the Mystic Law. And through continuing to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can ceaselessly manifest the power of Buddhahood in our lives and set ourselves on a course toward attaining enlightenment in this lifetime.

The Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon, an embodiment of the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo inherent in his own life, as a means to help us cultivate our own faith and belief in our own and others' Buddha natures, which are indiscernible to the eye.

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Maintaining the All-Important Religious Spirit (Living Buddhism, January 2005, pp. 48-49)

It could be said that the enlightenment of ordinary people by means of the true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the true three thousand realms teaching implicit in "Life Span" represents the heart of the Lotus Sutra and the essence of Buddhism, and at the same time, the quintessential aim of religion.

In dialogues with noted thinkers and in lectures given around the world, I have frequently emphasized the importance of "the religious spirit" and of "the religious." The religious spirit refers to the inner spiritual power to create courage from nihilism, hope from despair; it is a spirit to look for this spiritual power in oneself and others and in all universal phenomena. The religious spirit is to believe that the power to overcome any hardship or deadlock lies within us, and to take positive action to create new value. All religions, one might say, were born from this innate human spirit. The religious spirit of humanity could be described as the starting point and wellspring of religion.

The Latter Day of the Law, the current era, is an age when people become attached to the fleeting and ephemeral; are at the mercy of greed, anger, and foolishness; and are divided by mistrust and hatred. Nichiren also saw it as a time when religions would lose sight of their essential religious spirit and become alienated from people, an age when clerics would spend all their time quarreling among themselves about the superiority of their teachings—which had in reality become ossified, empty of meaning — and be ever more obsessed with doctrinal minutiae. The Great Collection Sutra describes the Latter Day as "an age of conflict when the pure Law will become obscured and lost."

Nichiren Daishonin clearly felt that unless this fundamental religious spirit was revived, neither the people nor the age could be saved. This led him to delve into the depths of the Lotus Sutra and therein find the true mutual possession and the true three thousand realms teachings, which make it possible for us to open the world of Buddhahood in our own lives. And that is why he could ultimately establish the three thousand realms doctrine implicit in the "Life Span" chapter as an actual practice whereby people could grasp the eternity of their own lives and, through their actions, bring their lives to shine with everlasting brilliance.

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The religious spirit is to see the eternal and absolute in human beings and to wish to make people's lives shine. Nichiren's Buddhism of sowing, based on the supreme Law hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra, is a teaching directly founded on this religious spirit.

Josei Toda, the second Soka Gakkai president, said: "When all people manifest the life-state of Buddhahood, that is to say, when they reveal the supreme value of their character, there will be neither war nor hunger in the world. There will be neither illness nor poverty. Enabling all people to become Buddhas, elevating the character of all people to something of supreme value — this is what it means to carry out 'the Thus Come One's work' (Lotus Sutra, Ch 10, p. 163)."

Just as President Toda urged, we of the SGI, directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin and giving free expression to the religious spirit, have spread our humanistic religion, the Buddhism of the people, throughout the world.

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Suggested discussion questions:

1. President Ikeda describes the profound impact of the teaching of the mutual possession of the ten worlds as being “analogous to changing poison into medicine,” because it opens the way for all to attain enlightenment. What does this mean to you in your own life as you challenge problems and suffering?

2. With “pure strong faith in our own Buddha nature and that of others” and continuing prayer and action based on that faith, he writes, “we can ceaselessly manifest the power of Buddhahood in our lives.” How can we achieve that kind of faith? What specific actions or behavior towards others reflect that faith?

3. The universal religious spirit President Ikeda describes is the belief that the fundamental power to overcome suffering lies within us, the spirit to look for that power in oneself and others, and the power to create courage from nihilism and hope from despair. In your own life, has your practice of Nichiren Buddhism enabled you to experience these things? How can we apply this understanding to our efforts to courageously spread this Buddhism?