April 2006 Study Material

GI-USA Men’s Division Monthly Meetings

Suggested study material for April, 2006

The suggested material below is again excerpted from SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series, Lectures on ‘The Opening of the Eyes,’ installment 17, published in the March/April, 2006 issue of Living Buddhism, pages 85 and 89. In this excerpt, President Ikeda discusses shakubuku in terms of strengthening our own and others’ lives, as well as the importance of a fundamental spirit of respect in carrying out this practice. Suggested discussion questions follow the excerpts.

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Genuine Buddhism does not promote a Utopia existing in some imaginary realm. On the contrary, it is a philosophy that seeks to enable us to transform reality and live an ideal life right here in this troubled saha world. It seeks to empower us, to help us develop the spiritual strength and inner fortitude with which to overcome all storms as we struggle amid the reality of our daily lives.

The essence of Buddhism, in a sense, is not to seek the placid existence of a still pond but to establish a towering state of happiness that not even the stormiest seas can destroy. Though we might wish for a humble happiness where nothing untoward ever occurs, it is impossible to avoid being buffeted by life's winds and waves when storms howl. Indeed, it is only by bringing forth our inherent strength to make our way dauntlessly through the maelstrom of fundamental darkness and karma that we can secure true happiness. In that respect, happiness is found only amid struggle.

Building genuine happiness for oneself and others necessarily entails battling erroneous thinking and mistaken beliefs that lead people to misery. This is what the practice of shakubuku is all about.

In response to the criticism that shakubuku involves “a contentious heart" and leads to one falling into “the realm of asuras," Nichiren explains that shakubuku is an expression of compassion and the will to fight evil. This in turn is the spirit of the Buddha. Therefore, shakubuku is a practice at one with the Buddha's heart and intent, and represents the way of bodhisattva practice for the Latter Day of the Law.

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To conduct shakubuku is to carry out the Buddha's practice of compassion—to remove suffering and impart joy. Above all, shakubuku is founded on a profound and embracing respect for all people. Consequently, our efforts in this sphere will not be successful unless we have deep respect for those we seek to guide toward the correct teaching, as all of us who have earnestly undertaken this challenge keenly recognize.

In view of this, shakubuku is definitely not motivated by a “contentious heart" or other aggressive, negative emotions. Because of this, it is not in any way exclusivist or self-righteous. The heart of shakubuku is compassion; it is also the spirit to refute error because of the suffering it causes—a spirit that transforms our compassion into the courage to fight against that which is wrong.

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Questions for discussion:

1) President Ikeda explains that true, indestructible happiness is found only amid struggle against our own fundamental darkness, and that the practice of shakubuku is the ideal way to carry out this struggle. In your own experience, how has doing shakubuku helped you change your life for the better?

2) In the second excerpt, President Ikeda explains that in order to be successful, shakubuku must be based on respect for the other person, rather than “aggressive, negative emotions.” But this is not always easy to put into practice! What has been your experience with the spirit underlying your own practice of shakubuku? How can we strengthen the correct spirit in ourselves at this critical time in our history?

3) Based on these passages, what is your own determination concerning shakubuku?