February 2006 Study Material

SGI-USA Men’s Division Monthly Meetings

Suggested study material for February, 2006

The suggested material below is excerpted from the fifteenth installment of SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series, Lectures on “The Opening of the Eyes,” published in the Jan/Feb, 2006 issue of Living Buddhism (pp 83-84). In this excerpt, President Ikeda discusses the principle of lessening karmic retribution and the understanding of encountering hardships in our lives and practice. Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpt.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Opening of the Eyes [15]: Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution

- The Principle of Changing Karma That Frees People from Suffering

“[As practice progresses and understanding grows], the three obstacles and four devils [will] emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere.”

Great persecutions that arise as a result of denouncing slander of the Law are not so much hardships as opportunities for forging and strengthening our lives. In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren writes: “When iron is heated, if it is not strenuously forged, the impurities in it will not become apparent. Only when it is subjected to the tempering process again and again will the flaws appear.” (WND, 281-282)

In “Letter from Sado,” he observes, “It is impossible to fathom one’s karma. Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse.”(WND, 303)…

A life forged through efforts to protect the Law drives out the impurities of the negative karma created through slander and endures eternally over the three existences- past, present, and future… Because we practice the correct teaching, denounce slander of the Law and forge inner strength, we can change our karma and establish the eternally indestructible state of Buddhahood in our lives. This is the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Pure and committed practice of Nichiren Buddhism entirely changes the meaning of hardships in our lives. We no longer view challenges and trials as negatives to be avoided but as things which, when overcome, bring us closer to our attainment of Buddhahood. Of course, it may not be easy for those in the midst of painful challenges to appreciate this fact. No one wishes to experience hardships. It’s human nature to avoid them.

But if we understand the ultimate, transformative teaching of the Mystic Law, we can recognize that our hardships have arisen from our efforts to combat evil and be confident that by overcoming those hardships we can attain the supreme life-state of Buddhahood. With this positive approach, we can live with fundamental strength and resilience in the face of any difficulty…

Those who strive in faith for kosen-rufu while battling their karma embody the quintessential Buddhist principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.” Our members, comrades from the distant past, summon forth the heart of the lion king -- the spirit to bravely take on challenges, never fearing hardships or lamenting painful trials -- as they struggle valiantly to transform their karma into their mission and enact the victorious drama of a great human revolution. They possess a truly lofty state of life.

Accordingly, defeat for a Buddhist lies not in encountering difficulties but rather in not challenging them. Difficulties only truly become our destiny if we run away from them. We must fight as long as we live. We must live and struggle tenaciously to the end.

To practice Nichiren Buddhism is to live with the unshakeable conviction that the most painful and trying times are opportunities for changing karma, for carrying out our human revolution, and that no matter how difficult the situation, we can ultimately, and without fail, transform it into something positive.

* * * * * * * * * *

Questions for Discussion:

1) “When iron is heated, if it is not strenuously forged, the impurities in it will not become apparent. Only when it is subjected to the tempering process again and again will the flaws appear.” What does this passage mean in terms of our own lives?

2) “Those who strive in faith for kosen-rufu while battling their karma embody the quintessential Buddhist principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.” How can we transform our karma into our mission?

3) “Defeat for a Buddhist lies not in encountering difficulties but rather in not challenging them. Difficulties only truly become our destiny if we run away from them.” What does this passage mean to you?