In 2008, we’ll be studying material drawn from the monthly study in the Living Buddhism magazine, starting with President Ikeda’s lecture series on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law” in the January/February issue (Volume 12, no. 1.) We want to strongly encourage all Men’s Division members to subscribe to Living Buddhism and read the complete material there, as well as to attend and participate actively in the 4-divisional study meetings in your local organization.
Lecture on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life and Death,” Part IX
by SGI President Ikeda
The Oneness of Mentor and Disciple
“Nichiren has been trying to awaken all the people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the heritage and attain Buddhahood….
“It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this. Shakyamuni and Many Treasures certainly realized this truth. The sutra’s statement, ‘Those who had heard the Law / dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, / constantly reborn in company with their teachers’ (LS, 140), cannot be false in any way.” (WND-I, p. 217)
* * * * *
EXCERPTS FROM THE LECTURE
The importance of the oneness of mentor and disciple in Buddhism
(LB 12/1, p. 47)
The oneness, or shared commitment, of mentor and disciple forms the essence of Buddhist practice. If we forget the mentor-disciple relationship, we cannot attain Buddhahood. Nor can we achieve eternal happiness or realize kosen-rufu. It is through the bond of mentor and disciple that the Law is transmitted.
* * * * *
The shared commitment or vow is the foundation of the oneness of mentor and disciple
(LB 12/1, p 54 – 56)
This passage [“It must be ties of karma from the distant past…”] indeed describes the eternal relationship of mentor and disciple who strive together to realize the most profound aspiration of human beings and of all life – the enlightenment and happiness of both self and others. A true mentor in Buddhism is one who enables us to remember this aspiration. True disciples, meanwhile, are ones who follow the mentor’s teaching, who never forget that this most profound aspiration is in fact their own, and who – convinced from the bottom of their hearts that this is so – launch into action in accord with the mentor’s instructions.
The most profound mentor-disciple relationship is that of mentor and disciple who struggle together for kosen-rufu. Their lives are linked on the deepest level. The eternal world of Buddhahood exists in the depths of their lives. Both mentor and disciple then dwell in the immense life-state of the “palace of the ninth consciousness, the unchanging reality that reigns over all of life’s functions” (“The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-I, p. 832).
(LB 12/1, p. 58)
The sutra teaches that the core of Shakyamuni’s being is none other than the “vow of the Buddha.” Shakyamuni explains, “At the start I took a vow, / hoping to make all persons / equal to me, without any distinction between us” (LS, p. 36).
(LB 12/1, p. 60)
The Lotus Sutra reveals that a vow lies at the core of Shakyamuni Buddha’s character. It further clarifies that the Law is transmitted to disciples who make that vow their own and strive in the same spirit. That paves the way for conveying the life-state of the Buddha to living beings even in the age after his passing.
* * * * *
The oneness of mentor and disciple must be manifested in reality, in our behavior, in our victory.
(LB 12/1, p. 58)
Therefore, even if they [the Buddha’s disciples] were given theoretical explanations of the Law or told to practice to overcome sufferings, the life-state of Buddhahood could not be conveyed to them through such words alone. Rather, it was through being inspired by coming into contact with the Buddha’s character, along with these words of instruction, that they awakened to the Law within their lives. This is how the Law was communicated to them….
It follows that Buddhism does not set forth the mentor as a mystical or transcendent superhuman being. Nichiren states, “Outside of the attainment of Buddhahood, there is no ‘secret’ and no ‘transcendental powers’” (Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 125). As this passage suggests, the supreme and only mystery in Buddhism is the ability of human beings to attain Buddhahood in their present form. Moreover, the secret and transcendental powers for attaining Buddhahood are something that can be manifested in the lives of all people.
What, then, were the disciples to do after their teacher Shakyamuni Buddha had passed away? Did it mean that, without the Buddha there to teach the Law through his own example, Buddhism could not be transmitted in a true sense? The Lotus Sutra directly addresses these questions.
(LB 12/1, p. 60)
Looking over the history of Buddhism, the deification of Shakyamuni began when his disciples forgot to strive with the same commitment he had. If Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment in the remote past is turned into a transcendent, superhuman being, then the mentor-disciple relationship cannot function. The point is that when the Buddha’s disciples fail to emulate his spirit and conduct, the Buddha merely becomes an object of veneration or worship. The Buddha therefore can no longer serve as a model for others’ human revolution.
(LB 12/1, p. 62)
As the disciple of Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda, I have won in successive momentous struggles against the three powerful enemies. I have created a history of absolute victory as a disciple. I can proudly report to Mr. Toda that I have won on all fronts. I have no regrets whatsoever.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. President Ikeda writes that the oneness of mentor and disciple is the essence of Buddhist practice, and that without it, we cannot attain Buddhahood, eternal happiness or kosen-rufu. We sometimes hear the view, especially among men, that when it comes to having a mentor in life, we can “take it or leave it.” What are your thoughts about this?
2. Based on the excerpts above concerning “remembering” that the aspiration for kosen-rufu is our own, or making “the vow of the Buddha” our own, how can we realize the oneness of mentor and disciple in our own lives? Is this relationship one of “superior and inferior” or one of fundamental equality?
3. President Ikeda shows that our real behavior, our spirit and conduct, and our ultimate victory as disciples are all essential to being able to correctly transmit the Law to others. What can each of us do as individuals, today and every day, to ensure victory in our collective efforts for the happiness of all humankind?