SGI-USA Men's Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for April 2005
The suggested material below is excerpted from the fourth installment of SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series, Lectures on “The Opening of the Eyes,” published in the February, 2005 issue of Living Buddhism. In these excerpts, President Ikeda discusses the hope-filled philosophy of Buddhism from the perspectives of “original cause and original effect”, and “the beginningless world of Buddhahood and the beginningless nine worlds” that exist in each person’s life. Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpts.
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Original Cause and Original Effect (Living Buddhism, February, 2005, pp. 36-37)
The life-state of Buddhahood (original effect) is ever- abiding and eternal, and the life-state of the nine worlds in which one practices the bodhisattva way (the original cause) is inexhaustible and never ending, too. In this way, the causality of enlightenment described in the essential teaching — that is, the doctrine of original cause and original effect — is dramatically different from the view in pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, which asserts that Buddhahood can only be realized by eliminating the life-states of the nine worlds. (p. 36)
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The life-state of unceasing devotion to bodhisattva practice amid the reality of the nine worlds is a life-state of the nine worlds; at the same time, the eternal life-state of Buddhahood provides the fundamental energy for manifesting this commitment to unending bodhisattva practice.
In earlier sutras, it was assumed that Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment for the first time in his present existence would, upon death, be reborn in a pure land in some other world and cease carrying out bodhisattva practice in this mundane world. But for the Buddha who originally attained enlightenment in the remote past, the mundane world is itself a pure land and a land of Tranquil Light.
From the perspective of this Buddha of the “Life Span” chapter, the reality of the nine worlds represents an opportunity to bring forth the eternal inner life force of Buddhahood; it also constitutes the arena for actualizing and expressing the wisdom and compassion of Buddhahood. In addition, this Buddha regards those suffering amid the reality of the nine worlds as children to be taken care of and led to happiness, and as friends with whom to share the limitless freedom of the state of Buddhahood.
The Buddha, who has realized this true, absolute freedom, exercises mastery over his body and mind through the power of Buddhahood and self-reliantly conquers all negativity and other devilish forces. At the same time, the Buddha recognizes that the power of Buddhahood also lies dormant within the lives of others and within the mundane world itself. Thus, in order to unlock and activate this latent power, he continually strives to awaken people to their Buddha nature. He does this by tirelessly pursuing courageous action, manifesting unlimited wisdom, and engaging in sincere dialogue.
In this way, Shakyamuni’s casting off the transient and revealing the true in the “Life Span” chapter radically transforms earlier assumptions about the Buddha and about attaining Buddhahood. (p. 36-7)
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The Beginningless World of Buddhahood and the Beginningless Nine Worlds
(Living Buddhism, February 2005, p. 37)
In terms of the literal meaning of the text, “beginningless Buddhahood” is the eternal and ever-abiding life-state of Buddhahood gained by the Buddha of original attainment in the remote past. As indicated earlier, this Buddha is also endowed with the life-states of the nine worlds. Therefore, Nichiren says, “The nine worlds are all present in beginningless Buddhahood” (WND, 235).
This Buddha, though having secured the life-state of Buddhahood, continues to struggle steadfastly in the reality of the nine worlds to lead living beings to enlightenment. For this Buddha, life-states of the nine worlds that are steeped in suffering and sorrow function to help others attain Buddhahood. Ordinarily, suffering and sorrow tend to lead people to withdraw, to sap their vitality and strength. But when these are experienced in a life-state of the nine worlds endowed with beginningless Buddhahood, they can function as empathy and great compassion to lead others to enlightenment. They can become powerful motivating emotions that arise because the power of Buddhahood is continuously active in our lives and because our lives are open to the world and those around us. (p. 37)
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Suggested discussion questions:
1. Understanding the “Buddha of the ‘Life Span’ chapter” as President Ikeda explains it, how can we realize in our own lives the courage to challenge negativity and take action to help others? How can understanding of and conviction in this view of life affect the way we view our own daily life and the sufferings of the world?
2. In what way can we see our present problems and sufferings as opportunities to bring forth the life force of the Buddha?
3. President Ikeda says, “ordinarily suffering and sorrow tend to lead people to withdraw, to sap vitality and strength.” We have probably all experienced that. In your own experience, how have you been able to put these sufferings in a Buddhist perspective, and bring out the courage to challenge them with your practice?