This month, we continue our study of 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.
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Lecture on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life and Death,” Part 10
by SGI President Ikeda
The Cluster Of Blessings Brought By The Bodhisattvas Of The Earth
“The important point is to carry out your practice confident that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo alone is the heritage that was transferred from Shakyamuni and Many Treasures to Bodhisattva Superior Practices.”
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“The function of fire is to burn and give light. The function of water is to wash away filth. The winds blow away dust and breathe life into plants, animals and human beings. The earth produces the grasses and trees, and heaven provides nourishing moisture. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are also like that. They are the cluster of blessings brought by the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, disciples of the Buddha in his true identity. The Lotus Sutra says that Bodhisattva Superior Practices will appear now, in the Latter Day of the Law, to propagate this teaching, but has this happened? Whether or not Bodhisattva Superior Practices has appeared in this world, Nichiren has already made a start in propagating this teaching.” (WND-1, pp. 217-218)
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EXCERPTS FROM THE LECTURE
Bodhisattvas of the Earth bring forth the beneficial powers of life in themselves and others
* * * (LB 12/1, p. 63) * * *
In the defiled age of the Latter Day of the Law, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth impart the light of hope to those who are suffering, tirelessly reaching out to each individual with compassion and courage until fresh life-force wells forth.
* * * (LB 12/1, p. 64) * * *
The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are experts in the art of life who help people transform themselves on the most fundamental level and gain true inner happiness. Their wisdom and actions are based on the profound philosophy that both they and others possess the Buddha nature. This belief enables them to overcome self-centeredness and negative karma, and bring the power of compassion inherent in the universe to flow forth abundantly. This is the source of their shining and infinitely inspiring character as well as their unceasing efforts to lead others to enlightenment.
* * * (LB 12/1, p. 67-68) * * *
After indicating the innate value-creative functions of the five elements, Nichiren says: “The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are also like that. They are the cluster of blessings brought by the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, disciples of the Buddha in his true identity” (WND-1, 218). He is declaring that the functions of the five elements are themselves the functions of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo and that they constitute the blessings, or the beneficial workings, of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
In other words, the compassionate workings inherent in the universe itself are the essence of the functions of Myoho-renge-kyo, and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth benefit others by means of these inherent functions of the Mystic Law.
From Nichiren’s words we can conclude that the true nature of the benefit of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth is to enable people to substantively express, in their own character and behavior, the compassionate functions that are innate in life.
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Practice, in the same spirit as Bodhisattva Superior Practices, is essential
* * * (LB 12/1, p. 66-67) * * *
Nichiren goes on to allude that he himself is Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the first to carry out these practices and manifest the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. By doing so, he is urging Sairen-bo to practice Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the same spirit as himself and in accord with his teachings.
Practice is the lifeline of Buddhism. A religion that lacks practice becomes nothing but an intellectual pastime.
Nichiren indicates that in order to partake of the heritage for attaining Buddhahood, it is essential to practice Nam-myoho-renge-kyo — the Law entrusted to Bodhisattva Superior Practices. There is no such heritage outside of this.
* * * (LB 12/1, p. 70) * * *
In short, these characteristics express the transformative functions within people’s own lives, which underlie the principles of “earthly desires are enlightenment” and “the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.” Indeed, the word “practices” in the names of the four bodhisattvas alludes to efforts that are directed toward inner transformation.
* * * (LB 12/1, p. 73) * * *
Soka Gakkai founding president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, once remarked: “We must clearly distinguish between believers and practitioners. While there is no dispute about the fact that someone who believes [in the Mystic Law] will have their prayers answered and realize benefit, this alone does not constitute bodhisattva practice. There is no such thing as a self-centered Buddha who simply accumulates personal benefit and does not work for the well-being of others. Unless we carry out bodhisattva practice, we cannot attain Buddhahood.”
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The SGI is a global gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth
(LB 12/1, p. 73)
Today, countless intrepid bodhisattvas have emerged from “the great earth of the Dharma nature” in 190 countries and territories around the world in order to realize kosen-rufu. The emergence of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth as expounded in the Lotus Sutra is being reenacted in the present age by none other than the SGI.
Bodhisattvas of the Earth are unhindered by such distinctions as nationality, culture, or race. In fact, our global network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth is today forging deep mutual understanding and sympathy transcending differences of ideology, creed, and religion. All people are equal, and everyone is worthy of respect. When we awaken to the incredible power that lies within us, we can change our world.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. For many members who have joined the organization primarily for personal benefit or because of dire circumstances, the idea of practicing for others may seem like a burden or obstacle. Based on the Gosho passage and the first group of excerpts from the lecture above, how would you encourage someone to share this Buddhism with others? Have you experienced the benefits described there?
2. Nichiren emphasizes his own actions and practice as evidence of his true identity, and Pres. Ikeda points out that “practice” is part of the name of each of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. What does this mean to you?
3. How can we, together with all our fellow members, practice joyfully and transcend divisiveness in a world polarized “nationality, culture and race” and by “differences of ideology, creed and religion?