Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 18: Buddhism Is a Teaching of Dialogue [18.6]
18.6 The Key to Sharing Nichiren Buddhism
President Ikeda discusses the importance of sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others, the essence of such dialogue, and the reason for Nichiren Daishonin refuting erroneous teachings in the realm of Buddhism during his lifetime.
Nichiren Buddhism thoroughly elucidates the essence of the struggle between the devilish nature and the Buddha nature within each person’s life.
For the Daishonin, the four major persecutions1 he encountered during his lifetime were battlefields on which this fundamental struggle unfolded. In each instance, he won a decisive victory. Buddhism is about winning.
Only through this fundamental struggle on the level of life itself can there be a change in the destiny of humankind. In this sense, in today’s world where the characteristics of an “age of conflict” are in ever greater evidence, the engaged humanism of Nichiren Buddhism will be needed more and more.
Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of mentor and disciple. The Daishonin himself first took the lead in shakubuku, sharing the Mystic Law, a practice of profound respect for the Buddha nature of oneself and others. He stood in the vanguard of the struggle for the Law and strove to defeat the workings of the devilish nature so that all people could reveal their Buddha nature. Later, prompted by the events at Tatsunokuchi and his subsequent exile to Sado,2 the Daishonin began to strongly call on his disciples to take part in this great struggle to lead people to enlightenment. The period from the Sado Exile onward marked the time for his disciples to rise into action.
Their struggle was a battle against the devilish nature inherent in life. It was none other than the struggle of shakubuku, propagating the Mystic Law. I am convinced that the Soka Gakkai appeared today as well because the present age is also a decisive moment for this struggle.
Carrying out shakubuku is an expression of our belief in the Buddha nature within ourselves and others. It is an act of profound humanity and the highest respect for others.
Compassion for others and conviction in the principles of Buddhism are the heart of shakubuku, or propagating the Mystic Law. Compassion is the spirit of the Buddha to relieve people from suffering. In terms of our own practice, compassion for others means concern for our friends’ happiness and well-being; specifically, it manifests as tireless perseverance and the courage to talk to people in-depth about the correct teaching of Buddhism. Conviction in the principles of Buddhism means unshakable belief in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, which proclaim that all people can attain Buddhahood and that everyone has the right to become happy.
The essence of shakubuku is the Buddha’s fervent wish to enable all people to realize true happiness. To make this spirit one’s own is the vow of genuine disciples who strive for kosen-rufu in the Latter Day; it is the vow of Bodhisattvas of the Earth.3
The Japanese word for compassion is jihi. Ji means to love and guide people as one would one’s own children, while hi means to feel sorrow for people’s sufferings and share their pain as if it were one’s own.
When children are nurtured with both warm, embracing love and strict, guiding love, they will develop fine character and inner richness. If they’re merely doted upon, they won’t develop a spirit of self-reliance. Similarly, if they are stifled or repressed, they won’t be able to fully express their individuality.
Embodying the virtue of the parent4 in its diverse aspects, the Buddha guides people. The Buddha does not simply stop at relieving suffering, but teaches people the correct way of life and calls on them to transform their inner state of being and actually attain happiness. Shakubuku is none other than this compassionate practice of “removing suffering and imparting joy.”5
Shakubuku means to teach others the universal truth. It is to courageously proclaim and proudly uphold it. Shakubuku is the struggle to establish and actualize the universal value and truth that all people should cherish. It definitely is not, and must not become, narrow-minded sectarianism.
The Lotus Sutra, because it directly expounds the truth of the Buddha’s enlightenment, is generally regarded as the “teaching of shakubuku.”6
Each human being, without exception, is precious and irreplaceable. The Lotus Sutra thoroughly elucidates the truth of the sanctity of life and the supreme practice of respecting all people. Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, demonstrated this fundamental spirit of the Lotus Sutra in his own selfless practice in this troubled world. And he manifested it as “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” which he inscribed as the Gohonzon for us to use as a mirror to reflect our inner lives.
In “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” and other writings, the Daishonin talks about the need to “refute the enemies of the Lotus Sutra” (cf. WND-1, 394). I would like to say something about this point to ensure that there is no misunderstanding.
Sometimes merely telling a person about the essence of Buddhism may put them on the defensive and strengthen their attachment to erroneous views. That’s why it’s important that we patiently pursue dialogue to clarify the truth and help them awaken to it. Of course, when a person’s mistaken beliefs are so entrenched that they respond by berating and maligning us and the Law, then it is important to refute their attachments and explain where they are in error. Someone who neglects refuting that which denigrates the Law is not a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin. Losing the spirit to refute such error is to lose the very soul of the Soka Gakkai.
But “refute” certainly does not mean to engage in a quarrel or a shouting match, or to employ means other than discourse. It is to clarify what is true and what is false; specifically, it means asserting the correct teaching. Just pointing out that something is “mistaken” is not adequate. The person you’re trying to convince will not be persuaded. It is only by explicitly indicating what is correct that we can enable people to take the first step toward changing their lives.
Compassion is key.
In “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin explains the significance of his own practice of shakubuku, that is, his efforts in propagating the Mystic Law and his strict refutation of the other Buddhist schools of his day. He cites a passage of the Great Teacher Chang-an of China that appears in the latter’s annotation on the Nirvana Sutra. [The passage reads: “One who destroys or brings confusion to the Buddha’s teachings is betraying them. If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, one is in fact his enemy. But one who reprimands and corrects an offender is a voice-hearer who defends the Buddha’s teachings, a true disciple of the Buddha. One who rids the offender of evil [or error] is acting as his parent. Those who reproach offenders are disciples of the Buddha. But those who do not oust offenders are betraying the Buddha’s teachings” (WND-1, 286).]
The Daishonin’s practice of shakubuku was thoroughly rooted in his immense compassion to open the eyes of people deceived by erroneous teachings and to lead them to enlightenment. Likewise, our practice of shakubuku, or sharing the Mystic Law, must accord with the Daishonin’s compassionate spirit; it must arise from our desire to lead others to happiness without fail.
The “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” (20th) chapter is the only place in the essential teaching (or latter half) of the Lotus Sutra where Shakyamuni Buddha, after clarifying his actual attainment of enlightenment in the remote past, describes his own practices in a previous life. In view of that, we can conclude that the true cause of his original attainment of Buddhahood lies in the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.7
With regard to this bodhisattva practice of bowing in reverence to others, in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings the Daishonin comments on the statement in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, “Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way” (LSOC16, 268), saying:
“The word ‘I’ here refers to Shakyamuni Buddha when he was carrying out the true cause of his original enlightenment. This passage concerning how the Buddha ‘originally practiced the bodhisattva way’ refers to the practice of the bodhisattva Never Disparaging [who was reborn as Shakyamuni]. Hence it indicates a place where the bow of obeisance [the practice of bowing in reverence to others] is carried out.” (OTT, 161)
We can interpret this as meaning that Shakyamuni, who practiced the bodhisattva way over countless kalpas to attain his original enlightenment, is none other than Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. In the remote past, Shakyamuni awoke to the eternal Mystic Law that is inherent in the lives of all people, practiced it, and attained enlightenment.
Through awakening to the truth that the lives of all are precious as entities of the Mystic Law, he was able to elevate himself to the supreme life state of Buddhahood.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin further says that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of veneration also corresponds to the passage in the “Life Span” chapter: “At all times I think to myself: / How can I cause living beings / to gain entry into the unsurpassed way / and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?” (LSOC16, 273).
Both before and after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha constantly yearns for the enlightenment of all people. For this is the eternal wish originally existing in the depths of the lives of all beings. We can take it that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s determination and this spirit of the Buddha are identical.
From these statements, we understand that the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging—namely, the practice of shakubuku—is the direct path to attaining Buddhahood for ourselves and others, the noble practice that enables us to achieve true and lasting happiness for ourselves and others.
It was the Daishonin who actually conducted himself like Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, telling people about the essence of the Mystic Law and enduring fierce, life-threatening persecution. He showed people what it means to be a votary or practitioner of the Lotus Sutra and to practice the Lotus Sutra exactly as the Buddha teaches.
Rejecting practices that were only empty rhetoric or formality, the Daishonin put into practice the heart of Lotus Sutra and embodied it in his life. Through his noble conduct, he opened the way for all people to achieve eternal happiness.
The foundation of everything is to become one with the spirit of the Buddha, the spirit of the Lotus Sutra. When we become one with the Buddha, when we attune our lives with the Mystic Law, there is no hardship we cannot overcome. The heart of the Buddha is defined by the deeply compassionate vow to lead all people to enlightenment. Through embracing this vow as our own and engaging in the great struggle to accomplish it, we can develop and strengthen our lives.
Our practice of shakubuku has the power to break through the fundamental ignorance8 inherent in our own lives and those of others. Only a diamond can polish a diamond. Similarly, only human beings can help other human beings bring forth the full brilliance of their potential. Sharing the Mystic Law with others is the key to leading a truly great life.
Life, while seemingly long, is in fact brief. There is a limit to what we ourselves can experience in one lifetime. But when we regard the sufferings of others as our own, praying and struggling together with one person after another and achieving victory together with them, then the richness of our lives will expand—twofold, threefold, tenfold, a hundredfold—limitlessly!
Only to the extent that we concern ourselves with the problems and sufferings of others and work for others’ happiness and well-being, can we accumulate “treasures of the heart” (WND-1, 851) and establish a state of happiness in our own lives that no hardship or adversity can undermine.
The act of telling someone about Nichiren Buddhism is supremely noble; it creates the necessary condition for that person to attain enlightenment. That’s why the benefit of doing so is immense.
Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda once commented on this as follows:
“There are two kinds of seed sowing [in Buddhism]: sowing the seeds by letting people hear the teaching and sowing the seeds by leading people to arouse faith in the teaching. Let’s say you meet someone for the first time and tell them about Nichiren Buddhism, but the person does not take faith. This is sowing the seeds by letting people hear the teaching. But suppose that later someone else who practices this Buddhism approaches that person and talks to them about faith in the Mystic Law again, and they decide to receive the Gohonzon. This is sowing the seeds by leading people to arouse faith in the teaching. Both of these are equally sowing the seeds of Buddhahood, and the benefit is the same.”9
Sowing the seeds by letting people hear the teaching and sowing the seeds by leading people to arouse faith in the teaching are both noble actions to teach people about the Mystic Law. In either case, our benefit in acting as an emissary of the Buddha of the Latter Day is boundless.
Having said this, however, the Daishonin particularly emphasizes the importance of sowing the seeds by letting people hear the teaching, which involves telling people about the Mystic Law and thereby enabling them to form a connection with Buddhism. He writes: “One should by all means persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra and causing them to hear it. Those who put their faith in it will surely attain Buddhahood, while those who slander it will establish a ‘poison-drum relationship’ with it and will likewise attain Buddhahood” (WND-1, 882).
A “poison-drum relationship” is also known as a reverse relationship. This refers to the case in which, for instance, upon hearing about the Lotus Sutra, a person does not take faith at the time and instead disparages the teaching. Hearing about the correct teaching causes the person to form a relationship with it, and later on, to be able to attain Buddhahood without fail.
Though someone may be unable to believe in the correct teaching right away, the time will definitely come when that person—in whose life the seed has been sown as a result of hearing about the Mystic Law—embraces faith in it. This is just as a seed once planted, given the right conditions, will eventually sprout.
Therefore, regardless of whether people take faith, the important thing is that we pray for their happiness, sincerely exert ourselves on their behalf, and courageously explain to them the greatness of Buddhism. The Daishonin continued to calmly proclaim the correct teaching without the least hesitation, even to those who treated him with enmity and brought political pressure and brute force to bear on him.
The behavior of the Buddha to thoroughly relieve people of suffering while never giving up on anyone exists in the practice to awaken people to the Mystic Law. The Soka Gakkai carries on this spirit and conduct of the Buddha. All who take part in this struggle are assured of receiving immeasurable benefit.
“Champion truth and your strength will be doubled”—this is a saying that I have engraved in my heart since my youth. No one is a match for a person who has stood up to champion what is right. No one is as strong as a person who upholds the truth.
The Daishonin writes: “[Despite the personal interference of the devil king10 of the sixth heaven,] it is because the heavenly deities came to my aid that I survived even the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and emerged safely from other great persecutions. By now, the devil king must be thoroughly discouraged” (GZ, 843).11
There are no stronger allies than the heavenly deities and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe. When we base ourselves on a steadfast commitment to what is true and right, the power of the vast universe surges through our entire being. Courage and wisdom well forth like a great torrent.
The Daishonin reveals his boundless, joy-filled state of life with the words: “For what I have done, I have been condemned to exile, but it is a small suffering to undergo in this present life and not one worth lamenting. In future lives I will enjoy immense happiness, a thought that gives me great joy” (WND-1, 287).
Likewise, let us be confident that through our own just actions to spread the Mystic Law in accord with the heart of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day, we are creating good fortune and benefit as vast as the universe.
From The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 3,published in Japanese in 2005.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1The four major persecutions are: the Matsubagayatsu Persecution (1260), the Izu Exile (1261), the Komatsubara Persecution (1264), and the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and Sado Exile (1271).
- *2Tatsunokuchi Persecution was the failed attempt, instigated by powerful government figures, to behead the Daishonin under the cover of darkness on the beach at Tatsunokuchi, on the outskirts of Kamakura, on September 12, 1271. Shortly thereafter, he was exiled to Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence. However, when his predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion were fulfilled, the government issued a pardon in March 1274, and he returned to Kamakura.
- *3Bodhisattvas of the Earth: An innumerable host of bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and to whom Shakyamuni Buddha entrusts the propagation of the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Day of the Law
- *4The virtue of the parent is one of the three virtues, or benevolent functions, a Buddha is said to possess. The other two are the virtues of the sovereign and the teacher. The virtue of the sovereign is the power to protect all living beings, the virtue of the teacher is the wisdom to instruct and lead them to enlightenment, and the virtue of the parent is the compassion to nurture and support them
- *5This indicates the supremely compassionate actions of the Buddha. The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom (vol. 27) says: “Great mercy (ji) means giving joy to all living beings. Great empathy (hi) means removing suffering from all living beings.” Also, the Nirvana Sutra (vol. 15) says: “Removing harm and disadvantage from all living beings is called great mercy (ji). Imparting infinite benefit and joy to all people, this is called great empathy (hi).”
- *6In “On Practicing the Buddha’s teaching,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Anyone who practices Buddhism should first understand the two types of practice—shoju and shakubuku. All the sutras and treatises fall into one or the other of these two categories. . . . In this age, the provisional teachings have turned into enemies of the true teaching. When the time is right to propagate the teaching of the one vehicle [the Lotus Sutra], the provisional teachings become enemies. When they are a source of confusion, they must be thoroughly refuted from the standpoint of the true teaching. Of the two types of practice, this is shakubuku, the practice of the Lotus Sutra. With good reason T’ien-t’ai stated, ‘The Lotus Sutra is the teaching of shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines’” (WND-1, 394).
- *7Bodhisattva Never Disparaging: Described in the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” (20th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This bodhisattva—Shakyamuni in a previous lifetime—lived at the end of the Middle Day of the Law, after the death of the Buddha Awesome Sound King. He would bow to everyone he met and say: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (LSOC20, 308). However, he was attacked by arrogant people, who beat him with sticks and staves and threw stones at him. The sutra explains that this practice became the cause for Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to attain Buddhahood.
- *8Fundamental ignorance: The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. The inability to see or recognize the truth, particularly, the true nature of one’s life.
- *9Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989), p. 187.
- *10Devil king: The devil king of the sixth heaven. Also, known as the heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He is also named Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the king who makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure. Served by innumerable minions, he obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings, the manifestation of the fundamental ignorance inherent in life. The devil king is a personification of the negative tendency to force others to one’s will at any cost.
- *11“Oko kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2.