June 2006 Study Material

SGI-USA Men’s Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for June, 2006

Beginning this month, our monthly study will focus around the theme for the Men’s Division for the year, “Building a Foundation for Dynamic Growth: What Does the Oneness of Mentor-Disciple Mean to Me?”

The suggested material below is from SGI President Ikeda’s “Lecture on ‘The Opening of the Eyes’,” installment 15 (published in the March/April issue of Living Buddhism, pp 72-73). It begins with a famous excerpt from “The Opening of the Eyes” itself, and a portion of President Ikeda’s lecture follows. As always, suggested discussion questions follow the excerpts.

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Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes.

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The Heart of the Mentor–Disciple Relationship

…Then, with an indomitable lion’s roar, he makes the powerful pledge: “I will be the pillar of Japan . I will be the eyes of Japan . I will be the great ship of Japan . This is my vow and I will never forsake it.” (WND, 280-81). Here he reveals the core of his own spirit.

While these passages constitute declarations of his personal resolve and commitment, the intent of the passage“I and my disciples…” (WND, 283) is clearly to underscore the importance of having faith that responds to the spirit of the mentor, the Daishonin. It is as if he were saying: “Follow my example! Cast aside your doubts and laments as befits cubs of the lion king! Don’t foolishly discard your faith at the crucial moment!”

The Daishonin indicates that his true disciples are those who, sharing his resolve, stand up to struggle alongside him and work energetically for kosen-rufu. All who become genuine “disciples of Nichiren” (see “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND, 385) by making his spirit and commitment their own — no matter who they are — have in fact already opened wide the path to attaining Buddhahood. And, as long as they follow this path to the end, they will attain Buddhahood “as a matter of course” (WND, 283).

The ultimate teaching expounded by all Buddhas reveals that all living beings possess the life-state of Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra also clearly states that Buddhas fulfill the purpose of their appearance in the world by opening for all living beings the door to the Buddha wisdom lying dormant in their lives, showing it to them, causing them to awaken to it and guiding them to enter its path (see The Lotus Sutra, p. 31) – in other words, enabling all to attain enlightenment. The essence of the ultimate teaching of the Buddhas is to help everyone actualize the same great enlightenment that they have achieved. That is why Buddhism is at all times concerned with raising disciples who will exert themselves in faith and practice with the same spirit as the mentor. Buddhism is none other than a philosophy of mentor and disciple.

And the spirit of this philosophy of mentor and disciple truly comes to life only when the disciples’ hearts blaze with the same bright spiritual flame evinced by Nichiren, who proclaimed: “Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law” (WND, 280).

In that sense, the Daishonin’s focus on “I and my disciples” in this passage can also be read as a call for the emergence of ranks of capable successors who will continue his struggle.

Every time I read this passage, the expression “I and my disciples” stands out vividly with a golden brilliance.

Often, religious leaders address or direct their followers in a unilateral manner, uttering only: “My disciples….” But Nichiren says: “I and my disciples….” Including himself in his instructions to his disciples exemplifies an attitude imbued with the Buddhist spirit of unity of mentor and disciple.

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Questions for Discussion:

1) What does “making his [Nichiren’s] spirit and commitment their own” and “being disciples who exert themselves in faith and practice with the same spirit as the mentor” mean to you in terms of your own life?

2) In talking about the relationship between mentor and disciple, we may often use analogies with relationships with teachers, or fathers, or professional mentors, to name a few examples. Based on the above excerpt, how are these relationships similar to or different from “the Buddhist spirit of unity of mentor and disciple?