Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 4:
“It Is the Heart That Is Important” [4.6]
4.6 Remaining True to One’s Commitment in Faith
President Ikeda stresses the importance of maintaining a sincere spirit in faith, citing the example of the priest Sammi-bo, who though well-versed in Buddhist doctrine succumbed to arrogance and abandoned Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.
Among the Daishonin’s disciples was a priest named Sammi-bo, who abandoned his faith during the Daishonin’s lifetime.
With his mentor’s warm support and understanding, Sammi-bo went to study at Mount Hiei.1 During his time there, Sammi-bo wrote to the Daishonin, boastfully reporting that he had been asked to deliver a lecture for court nobles at a private Buddha hall in the imperial capital, Kyoto, and that he had “conducted himself fittingly”2 (cf. WND-2, 342). The Daishonin responded with a stern rebuke:
“The ruler of Japan is simply the chief of this island country. To speak as you do of being ‘summoned’ by persons who serve that ruler, of appearing before those ‘in high position,’ and of conducting yourself ‘fittingly’ is, however I consider it, in the end an insult to me, Nichiren!” (WND-2, 342–43)
The account that Sammi-bo relayed to his mentor evinced no pride in being his disciple or practicing the supreme teaching of Buddhism. While making a superficial gesture of respecting the Daishonin, in his heart Sammi-bo fawned upon the powerful and, filled with self-importance, looked down on his mentor. He was arrogant, and the Daishonin keenly discerned this.
This is how Sammi-bo acted toward his mentor, who had done so much for him and taught him about the true essence of Buddhism. Sammi-bo was guided by self-interest, not by the teachings of his mentor. He was self-centered.
Arrogance is a form of ingratitude, and ingratitude is an ignorance of life’s basic principles. Without such basic understanding, one cannot understand Buddhism. Arrogance, cowardice, and dishonesty—these were Sammi-bo’s essential qualities.
The Daishonin added even more sternly:
“It would seem that Nichiren’s disciples, after journeying to the capital [Kyoto], at first were careful not to forget their purpose, but later, led astray by the heavenly devil,3 they lost their senses completely. . . .
“So you [Sammi-bo] have gone to the capital, and before much time has passed you are changing your name [to sound more aristocratic], a piece of utter nonsense.” (WND-2, 343)
The Daishonin laments over the vanity and foolishness of his disciple in moving in court circles, forgetting his original aspiration to seek the Buddha way, adopting a pretentious new name, and even changing his accent:
“No doubt you have also changed your way of speaking and acquired the accent of the capital. Like a mouse that has changed into a bat but in fact is neither bird nor mouse, you are now neither a country priest nor a priest of the capital. You are behaving just like Sho-bo.4
“You should just go on speaking like a country person—otherwise you will only sound ridiculous.” (WND-2, 343)
With this one phrase about acquiring “the accent of the capital,” the Daishonin exposed Sammi-bo’s inner condition: enthralled by the glamour of the capital, he had been defeated by devilish functions.
Eventually, Sammi-bo renounced faith in the Daishonin’s teachings, stopped practicing, and came to a sad end.
The Daishonin’s great compassion led him to reflect later: “If I had scolded him [Sammi-bo] more strictly, he might have been saved” (WND-1, 998). As this shows, sternly reprimanding those who succumb to arrogance is the proper approach, which requires firm compassion and accords precisely with the Daishonin’s spirit.
The Daishonin boldly declared of himself: “I am merely the son of a commoner from a remote province” (WND-1, 1006). He affirmed that he was not of privileged birth or lineage, but of common birth. He was not ashamed of this, but proud.
Because he was born among the common people, he understood their hearts. If he had been born to privilege or high rank, he would have been shielded by the authorities and never experienced the harsh persecutions that marked his life. As a child of the common people, the Daishonin lived his life among them. He understood their sufferings as if they were his own and propagated his great teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to relieve those sufferings. Through his own life, he taught and exemplified the true way to realize kosen-rufu for future generations.
Mr. Toda declared that academic background has nothing to do with faith. Of course, he valued learning, but he warned that if individuals who think their education makes them better than others were to become Soka Gakkai leaders, people wouldn’t follow them. With such leaders, members would only suffer.
The Daishonin’s teachings are just and impartial. He cites the words, “Since the Law is wonderful, the person is worthy of respect”5 (WND-1, 1097). And he writes: “If the Law that one embraces is supreme, then the person who embraces it must accordingly be foremost among all others” (WND-1, 61).
Important are individuals who work for kosen-rufu. Those who persevere wholeheartedly to spread the Mystic Law in even the most trying times are truly admirable. Graduating from a famous university or having high social status has absolutely nothing to do with faith.
Academic credentials do not define greatness or intelligence. The eyes of Buddhism focus on the people themselves.
From a speech at a Tokyo metropolitan area representatives conference, Tokyo, May 19, 2007.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Mount Hiei: The site of Enryaku-ji, the main temple of the Tendai (T’ien-t’ai) school and leading center of Buddhist studies in Japan at the time. It is located northeast of Kyoto, which was then the imperial capital.
- *2The phrase translated as “conducted himself fittingly” here suggests a self-congratulatory note of having done a good job and enhancing his reputation as a result.
- *3Heavenly devil: Also, devil king of the sixth heaven. 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 darkness or ignorance inherent in life. The devil king is a personification of the negative tendency to force others to one’s will at any cost.
- *4 Sho-bo: Though originally a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin, he abandoned his faith in the Daishonin’s teachings around the time of the Izu Exile in 1261 and eventually turned against his mentor. According to one account, he died around 1269.
- *5 T’ien-t’ai, The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra.