Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 19: Making the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Our Foundation [19.2]
19.2 Buddhist Study to Deepen Understanding Based on Faith
Referring to President Toda’s insight that one can either focus on an academic approach to studying Nichiren Buddhism or strive to deepen understanding of the teachings based on faith, President Ikeda stresses the importance of reading the Daishonin’s writings within the context of our own lives and engraving their lessons in our innermost beings.
To open the writings of Nichiren Daishonin each day, to read them and study them—this is the way for us to always live and strive together with the Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
In a letter to Nanjo Tokimitsu’s mother—the lay nun Ueno, who was left to raise her children on her own after her husband’s untimely death—the Daishonin writes:
“Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside oneself; both lie only within one’s own heart. Awakened to this, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, one is called an ordinary person. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth, and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra will realize that hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light.1” (WND-1, 456)
One of the truly great things about the Daishonin’s Buddhism is that it presents life’s most profound principles in clear and simple terms.
No matter what hellish suffering we may be experiencing, we can still bring forth the life state of Buddhahood from within us. When we resolutely chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we are able to create a “Capital of Tranquil Light”—a realm pervaded with Buddhahood—right where we are, in the midst of the reality in which we presently find ourselves. Each of us without exception can develop an eternal and indestructible state of happiness for ourselves and help others do the same.
That is the purpose of faith and also Buddhist study.
Through the example of Shakyamuni’s disciples Chudapanthaka and Devadatta, the Daishonin offers a solemn warning:
“Chudapanthaka was unable to memorize a teaching of fourteen characters even in the space of three years, and yet he attained Buddhahood. Devadatta, on the other hand, had committed to memory sixty thousand teachings but fell into the hell of incessant suffering.” (WND-1, 602)
Chudapanthaka, who was regarded as slow-witted, persevered with sincere devotion as a disciple of the Buddha and ultimately attained enlightenment, whereas Devadatta, who was acquainted with a vast number of Shakyamuni’s teachings, eventually betrayed the Buddha and fell into the hell of incessant suffering.
In other words, just because one is good at Buddhist study doesn’t make one superior or special. After all, being knowledgeable about Buddhism is no different from being knowledgeable about any other subject and is not the same as having faith. Unfortunately, there have in the past been foolish and arrogant leaders in the Soka Gakkai who, though making a great display of their knowledge of Buddhist doctrine, ended up discarding their faith and turning against the organization and their fellow members.
As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, our ultimate goals are attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime and realizing kosen-rufu. The only way to achieve those goals is to employ the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 1001) and navigate our way through the stormy seas of life with an unwavering commitment to faith.
The purpose of Buddhist study is so that we can develop into truly exemplary practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, courageous champions of faith and practice. We must never err on this point.
Mr. Toda said that there are two kinds of Buddhist study—one that focuses on an academic approach and the other in which we strive to deepen our understanding of the teachings through faith. United together in spirit as mentor and disciple, Mr. Toda and I based all our activities for kosen-rufu on the latter kind. This is why the Soka Gakkai has triumphed. Through studying the Daishonin’s teachings while actively putting them into action, our members have achieved one brilliant victory after another.
In the Daishonin’s writings, we can find boundless hope, courage, and promise. They help us bring forth our inner wisdom for winning in life, deepen our conviction in the power of the Mystic Law, and ignite our fighting spirit. Applying the Daishonin’s writings to our daily lives—“reading” them with our lives—enables us to wield the “sharp sword” of faith that can cut through all obstacles and make the impossible possible.
At the kickoff for the Osaka Campaign2 of 1956—which led to achieving the seemingly impossible—the Kansai members and I read the following passage from the Daishonin’s writings together:
“I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters3 [guardian deities of Buddhism] will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground.” (WND-1, 444)
Engraving these golden words in our lives, we embarked on our propagation campaign amid turbulent times with strong faith and confident prayer.
To encourage members who were struggling with work or financial hardship, I would share the Daishonin’s words: “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring” (WND-1, 536). I assured them that, even though it might seem that their lives were in the dead of winter, a wonderful springtime was certain to arrive as long as they remained steadfast in their Buddhist practice.
By sharing passages that spoke to the members’ individual situations and circumstances, I tried to convey to them the importance of putting Buddhist study into practice. Their passionate seeking spirit in faith and our engaged study of the Daishonin’s teachings based on the shared commitment of mentor and disciple opened the way to victory.
We also held study examinations that year. Their aim was not to check knowledge, but to enable each person to become happy and victorious in life and help them develop into outstanding champions of kosen-rufu.
Referring to the Chinese characters that comprise the text of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin writes:
“To the eyes of ordinary people, they look like characters. Persons of the two vehicles [i.e., voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones] perceive them as the void. Bodhisattvas look on them as innumerable doctrines. Buddhas recognize each character as a golden Shakyamuni. This is what is meant by the passage that says, ‘[If one can uphold this sutra], one will be upholding the Buddha’s body’ [LSOC11, 220].” (WND-1, 486)
Similarly, the words of a passage in the Daishonin’s writings can take on a different depth of meaning depending on our life state or mind-set.
Those who engage in Buddhist study with the firm resolve to always base their efforts in any endeavor on the Daishonin’s writings can bring forth limitless power.
From an essay series “Our Brilliant Path to Victory,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, September 10, 2011.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Land of Tranquil Light: Also, Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity. In many sutras, the actual saha world in which human beings dwell is described as an impure land filled with delusions and sufferings, while the Buddha land is described as a pure land free from these and far removed from this saha world. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals the saha world to be the Buddha land, or the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, and explains that the nature of a land is determined by the minds of its inhabitants.
- *2Osaka Campaign: In May 1956, the Kansai members, uniting around a young Daisaku Ikeda, who had been dispatched by second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda to support them, introduced 11,111 households to the practice of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. In elections held two months later, the Soka Gakkai–backed candidate in Kansai won a seat in the Upper House, an accomplishment that was thought all but impossible at the time.
- *3Ten demon daughters: The ten female protective deities who appear in the “Dharani” (26th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra as the “daughters of rakshasa demons” or the “ten rakshasa daughters.” They vow to the Buddha to guard and protect the sutra’s practitioners.