Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 9: Creating a Brilliant Final Chapter in Life [9.5]
9.5 Building an “Eternal Palace” in Our Lives
President Ikeda teaches the importance of our final years as an opportunity to employ all our accumulated experience to promote the happiness of others as well as continue to advance our own efforts to attain true mastery of life.
While residing at Mount Minobu, Nichiren Daishonin sent letters of encouragement to the elderly lay priest of Ko and his wife, the lay nun of Ko—disciples who lived on faraway Sado Island.
The Daishonin concluded one of his letters to the couple, writing: “No place is secure. Be convinced that Buddhahood is the final abode” (WND-1, 491). Where is our final abode, our sweet home, our safe haven? It is here. It is within us. The state of Buddhahood that we bring forth in our own lives is our eternal safe haven.
External circumstances do not determine our peace of mind. No matter how wonderful a home we may live in, if we are sad and lonely, we cannot be said to be at ease or leading a happy life. Even if our present circumstances are good, there is no guarantee that they will continue that way forever. Only the “palace” of peace and security that we build within our own life through our Buddhist practice is eternal.
The lay priest and lay nun of Ko practiced Buddhism alongside Abutsu-bo and his wife, the lay nun Sennichi, fellow residents of Sado Island. While warmly observing the two couples’ friendship, the Daishonin offered them detailed encouragement so that they could work together in harmonious unity.
There is no doubt that the older one gets, the more one appreciates the good fortune of having supportive and encouraging friends. The members of the Soka Gakkai are extending a network of such treasured friendships throughout their communities and society at large.
Shakyamuni said: “For those who are always courteous and respectful of elders, four things increase: life, beauty, happiness, strength.”1 This certainly makes sense in terms of the law of cause and effect.
A society that respects the elderly is one that respects human life; and such a society will continue to flourish and thrive.
In one of his writings, the Daishonin quotes the Lotus Sutra passage: “We may use our long lives to save living beings” [LSOC17, 280] (GZ, 657).2 “Long life” in this context refers to the immeasurably long life span of the Buddha as presented in the “Life Span of the Thus Come One” (16th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The eternal state of Buddhahood wells up within the lives of those who practice the Lotus Sutra.
Also, based on the Buddhist principle of “prolonging our lives through faith,”3 we can strengthen our life force and extend our lives.
Moreover, bodhisattvas do not strive to live long solely for their own sake. They do so to serve others to the greatest possible extent, using their experience and their seamless blend of compassion and wisdom to do so. This is a subtle but crucial distinction.
In one of his writings, the Daishonin refers to the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth4 as “a venerable old man called Bodhisattva Superior Practices”5 (WND-1, 605). This passage has profound significance from the viewpoint of Buddhism, but what I want to note today is that the expression “old man” here is in no way negative or derogatory. It suggests a venerable majesty, bringing to mind a person possessing qualities indicating a true mastery of life—for instance, firm and unwavering faith; unceasing compassionate action; indomitable courage; superb communication skills; unflagging patience; ineffable nobility and dignity; and a vast, inexhaustible reservoir of wisdom for solving any problem.
We could say that this perfectly describes the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are spreading the principles of humanism in the midst of these troubled times.
From a speech at a nationwide representative leaders training course, Shizuoka, February 1, 1997.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1The Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha, translated by Thomas Cleary (New York: Bantam Books, 1995), p. 40.
- *2Cited in the writing “Shaka ichidai goji keizu” (Outline of the Five Periods of the Shakyamuni’s Lifetime Teachings); not translated in WND, vols. 1 or 2.
- *3Prolonging one’s life through faith: This is based on the passage in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra that reads: “We beg you to cure us and let us live out our lives!” (LSOC16, 269). This is in the section that explains the parable of the outstanding physician, who gives “good medicine” to his children who have “drunk poison” (that is, succumbed to delusion), and who implore him to cure their illness. Through taking this good medicine (that is, embracing faith in the wonderful Law of the Lotus Sutra), they are cured and able to enjoy many more years of life.
- *4Bodhisattvas 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.
- *5When Shakyamuni declares in the “Emerging from the Earth” chapter of the Lotus Sutra that the vast multitudes of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who have emerged are his original disciples, bodhisattva Maitreya expresses doubt, saying that it is as though a young man of 25 were to point to an old man of 100 and say: “This is my son!” (LSOC15, 261).