Another Change For The Better

Another Change For The BetterOn the day that signalled more a important change than my leaving, this seemed poignant …

In today’s world where global issues are so important, many people feel a sense of powerlessness and resignation; a feeling that no individual’s efforts can change the way things are.

But the Buddhist viewpoint is that the world should be seen from the perspective of the individual, and that the human life contains the entire universe.

That is why changing our own lives one by one will bring a change in our family, our community, and the society in which we live. It will change the age we live in, our history, and indeed all aspects of our world.

If we look for the true causes of war, we see that it is essentially caused by the human mind. War stems from the desire to control and conquer others, to have power, and from hatred and antipathy. Such is a human being in the grip of the negative force of life. World peace starts with the inner transformation of the individual, and the struggle to elevate our state of life, and free ourselves from the domination of the negative force of life.

A single sunflower contains the seeds for more than a thousand new plants. Similarly, when one brave person stands up for peace, his or her resolve spreads out into the environment in thousands of ways. Courage always brings a response. One person’s human revolution can therefore eventually change the destiny of the entire human race.

The Spirit of Human Revolution

In his writing On Attaining Buddhahood, Nichiren Daishonin conveys the basic spirit of human revolution: “You must never think that any of the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Shakyamuni’s lifetime or any of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences are outside yourself. Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your own life.” [WND p3]

We could summarise the spirit of this teaching as being, “It’s not up to others; nor can I blame anyone else. I have to change myself first.” It is a viewpoint which says, everything in life is part of our own training; it is for our benefit and development. Human revolution takes place right now, in the situation we find ourselves at this moment.

World peace starts with this inner transformation of the individual. And yes it is a struggle to develop and elevate our state of life but human revolution is the foundation for world peace and also for individual peace and happiness. It is at the heart of our Buddhist practise. It is about changing our heart and drawing out our humanity.

It is the most amazing feeling as you discover that if the cause of your suffering is within the realms of your own life then you and only you can change that aspect of your life. This is the most freeing feeling. This is human revolution and the door to your Buddhahood.

Human revolution brings into play all the principles and processes that make up the Buddhist teachings of life. Learning to be able to live our lives on the basis of correct teachings is part of our human revolution. The process is a transformation of the heart.

Transforming the Self, Living the Teachings

When we commit our lives to chanting we embark on a journey of self-discovery and challenge. By taking responsibility for our feelings and emotions, especially those we most dislike, we come to realise we have the ability to transform our lives from within. As we broaden our experiences of chanting daimoku we get experiences of our environment reflecting the transformation of our inner lives. This could be in our family relationships, at work or in other aspects of life.

It is usually within one of these arenas that we find life can be difficult or cause us to suffer. As we continue chanting, the more we start to see our lives very differently. At first this process may seem a little uncomfortable because it is quite unique and new to us. We may or may not like what we see. Perhaps we realise we have set attitudes or opinions about others or various issues that make us suffer. It may seem that others have a problem with us. This can draw out all sorts of feelings and emotions that can make us uneasy, or uncomfortable.

Getting this kind of reaction does not mean that chanting is not working or that it is working in a negative way. On the contrary you are actually in the process of transforming exactly that which has always led you to suffer in that particular area of your life. Your chanting is illuminating an area of your life that needs to change for your own happiness. The realisation that this opinion or attitude stems from our own lives and not from others opinions of us, leads us to uncover the Buddha nature inherent in our lives. The quickest way to transform these feelings or attitude is to keep chanting until you realise the cause of these uncomfortable feelings.

However, it may be that is exactly when you find it the most difficult time to chant. You are on the brink of changing a part of your life that always stops you from progressing or being happy. It will probably feel like walking up a hill backwards. At such times obstacles and devils arise. You will probably be able to justify why it is more beneficial to watch TV than do gongyo or chant or tell a friend about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or study some of Nichiren Daishonin`s writings. But this is exactly the time to do these things in order to break through and win over something that has always held you back. This is the time to muster a fighting spirit and to be courageous.

In his book Seven Paths to Peace, Daisaku Ikeda talks about human revolution in terms of self-mastery. Simply put, this means winning control over oneself, overcoming the small self that is dominated by narrow self-interest and awakening to the larger self that works for the good of all humanity. From this standpoint a major obstacle to developing ourselves is to pursue a way of life bound by our small ego or self. Expanding from the lesser self to the greater self is the path of human revolution.

Through our practice of introducing others to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, and through efforts to share Buddhism with others, we ourselves grow immensely, we can carry out our human revolution, and transform our karma. Therefore by guiding another individual towards happiness, we also guide ourselves towards happiness. The act of introducing others to Buddhism, which enables us to profoundly benefit both ourselves and others, is the formula of hope for humanity.

At a time when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood, or at a time when a person is at a turning point in doing their human revolution, the negative aspect of life will always appear in some form. This is an unavoidable fact of life! Nichiren Daishonin assures us of this and asks us to transmit it as an axiom or principle of faith so that it is understood by all those who practise.

Taken from the SGI-UK study notes, this encapsulates the meaning of Human Revolution. It beautifully explains the way that self discipline through practice makes us examine our own thoughts and deeds and promotes an inner change by increasing our self awareness.

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (at least) twice a day, every day may seem a mindless practice, but it enables us to devote our whole lives to changing for the better.

Just Seek Within

Nichiren DaishoninThere is an expansive life-state of profound, secure happiness, that transcends any material or social advantage.

It is called faith; it is called the life-state of Buddhahood.

As Nichiren reminds us:

“It is the heart that is important.”

It is in the heart of faith that Buddhahood resides and boundless and immeasurable happiness shines forth. Happiness is not something located far away.

We must realise that it exists within our own lives. Nichiren Buddhism teaches this and shows us how to attain indestructible happiness.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Finding Unity

Nichiren DaishoninTo start the process of Human Revolution you must meet the right teaching. The best and easiest way to do this is to have a mentor.

Nichiren Daishonin was the ultimate in mentors and his successors, right through to Daisaku Ikeda have followed his teachings, been his disciples and, in turn, become amazing mentors in their own right.

Find the right mentor and follow the right teaching.

‘Many in Body – One in Mind’ and the ‘Oneness of Mentor and Disciple’

In many of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, the principle of unity is stressed again and again. Unity starts with the individual. He writes: ‘Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure.’ (1)

We all know what it is like to be ‘at cross purposes’ – those feelings of indecision, confusion or vagueness. Maybe we have also experienced the opposite feeling when we are focused on a goal and confident that we will not deviate from our path towards it, and ready for any problem that may appear to try to hinder us.

Truly fulfilling our potential, however, is dependent on more than not being ‘at cross purposes’ with our self. Although practising Nichiren Buddhism brings happiness to each of us as individuals, this alone is not enough. As Nichiren Daishonin explains:

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled. But if any of Nichiren’s disciples disrupt the unity of many in body but one in mind, they would be like warriors who destroy their own castle from within. (2)

Many in Body, One in Mind

When we look at our neighbours, our colleagues, even members of our family, we can see that while there are clearly similarities between some groups of people, there are also enormous differences. Around the world, cultural and language differences can appear insurmountable.

Nichiren Daishonin accepts that we are all very different; in fact we are each unique. He asks us to learn to respect other people’s unique characteristics and differences. This becomes much easier to do when we look beneath the surface and recall that everyone has the qualities of a Buddha deep in their lives, even if it is not yet apparent.

Although we are all different (‘many in body’), it is possible for us to share a common goal, or ‘one mind’. This does not mean that we all have to ‘think the same’, as past experience of totalitarian regimes may indicate. Indeed, it is essential for us to develop our own unique qualities to the full. As Nichiren Daishonin pointed out, different sorts of fruit are perfect in themselves. A pear, for example, should not try to be, or to taste like, a plum. All of our own individual talents and characteristics are necessary for us to realise our goal of a harmonious peaceful world. The essence of ‘many in body – one in mind’ (Japanese. itai doshin) is for us to learn how to transcend the differences between us; to develop respect for each person in our environment.

The concept of many in body, one in mind is based on the vow of Shakyamuni Buddha, which is contained in the Lotus Sutra, ‘to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us.’ (3) Therefore true enlightenment only comes from helping others to achieve the same state of life. This vow is at the heart of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

Consequently, those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo share the same ideal of basing their actions on the qualities of courage, compassion and wisdom, which is in fact ‘attaining Buddhahood’. When we see a positive change in our self, we naturally want to encourage others to reveal their potential in the same way. This leads to a desire for the widespread propagation of Buddhist philosophy throughout the world so that society becomes based on fundamental respect for life, rather than on greed, anger or foolishness.

This leads to another important principle – that of the ‘oneness of mentor and disciple’, or as it is sometimes referred to – ‘the mentor and disciple relationship’.

The Oneness of Mentor and Disciple

The ‘oneness of mentor and disciple’ is a principle which has profound significance in Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin re-confirmed Shakyamuni’s plea to his followers to: ‘Rely on the Law and not upon persons’(4). Therefore, we do not worship or pray to statues of the Daishonin or Shakyamuni. Rather we have an object of devotion – the Gohonzon – which is a representation of Nichiren Daishonin’s enlightened life state. However, the Daishonin also stated that we should ‘seek out the votary of the Lotus Sutra and make him our teacher.’ (5)

There are many examples in society of the relationship between a teacher and student, or a master and apprentice. Generally this relationship occurs when a mentor or teacher has some knowledge or skill which they want to pass on to someone else. In the case of Nichiren Buddhism it is the essence of the teachings that the mentor is communicating. Both mentor and disciple are therefore equal and united in their desire to become enlightened. A true mentor desires that the disciples will eventually surpass them in understanding whilst a true disciple shares the same sense of responsibility and commitment to the Law as the mentor.

We may come to a time when we think we understand everything about Nichiren Buddhism. At this point we can stop making as much effort in our practice as we previously did. Then, without being aware of it, start to stagnate in faith and stop seeing positive changes in our life. In order to continue developing our self and speaking with sincerity to others about the teachings, it is vital for us to remain close to the heart of Nichiren Buddhism so that we are able to maintain a strong life state.

We consider that Nichiren Daishonin is our mentor because he provided us with a profound teaching. He first expounded Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and inscribed his enlightened life-condition in the Gohonzon, which enables us to reveal our own inherent Buddha nature. His life is an inspiring example of the potential an ordinary human being has to single-mindedly achieve all their goals. We are able to read about his extraordinary life in the many letters of encouragement he wrote to his followers. Consequently, Nichiren Daishonin has been called the ‘mentor of life’ (6).

Daisaku Ikeda was born in 1928 and began practising this Buddhism just after the Second World War, when he was 19 years old. He became the third President of the Soka Gakkai in 1960. His example has shown us how to practise and spread Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings in twenty-first century. Therefore, he has been described as the ‘mentor for kosen-rufu [widespread propagation]’ (7). SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s guidance and activities are thoroughly based on his profound understanding of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.

Studying any of Daisaku Ikeda’s guidance we can see how he has continually applied the principles of Nichiren Buddhism in order to achieve wonderful victories in all areas of his life. Yet he does not proclaim himself to be our ‘mentor’. His great pride is to be the disciple of his predecessor second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda (1900 – 1958), who in turn was the disciple of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871 -1944).

The mentor-disciple relationship in Nichiren Buddhism depends upon the disciple or how the disciple responds. We choose the mentor, not the other way round. If we look at this from another angle, we can see that it is the activities and achievements of the disciple that validates the mentor. This concept is very different from a traditional understanding of the function of religious leaders, such as guru’s, saviours or saints, to give security and reassurance to their disciples.

President Ikeda clarifies this as follows:

“The Daishonin urges his followers to practise ‘just as Nichiren’ and to ‘spread the Lotus Sutra as he does’. Disciples who wait for the mentor to do something for them are disciples of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. True disciples of the Lotus Sutra are those who struggle just as the mentor does.”(8)

The oneness of mentor and disciple in Nichiren Buddhism is not a passive relationship, where the disciple waits for instructions from the mentor. It is an active two-way process based on a vow or pledge that both disciple and mentor make to continuously develop their characters for the sake of the happiness of other people.

President Ikeda has likened the concepts of ‘many in body, one in mind’ and the ‘oneness of mentor and disciple’ to the process of making a beautiful cloth or carpet:

The warp represents the bond of mentor and disciple, and the weft to the bond of fellow members. When these are interlaced, a splendid brocade of kosen-rufu is created. (9)

The mentor-disciple relationship provides the vertical ‘structure’ and the members are like the individual multi-coloured strands of thread that bonded together form the ‘pattern or design’. This principle applies to people chanting together in small local groups as well as to the world wide organisation.

If we wish to see a change in the core values of our society, then learning how to work in harmonious co-operation with our fellow human beings is crucial. Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings are rooted in a humanistic belief that each person is deeply worthy of respect. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo gives each person the ability to reveal their highest life condition. President Ikeda’s guidance and actions for peace becomes a model for us to transform our society.

  1. Nichiren Daishonin, ‘Many in Body, One in Mind’ (WND p. 618).
  2. Nichiren Daishonin, ‘The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life’ (WND p. 217).
  3. Burton Watson, The Lotus Sutra (Columbia University Press, 1993) p. 36.
  4. Nirvana Sutra
  5. Nichiren Daishonin, ‘The Opening of the Eyes’ (WND p. 278).
  6. See Suzanne Pritchard’s article ‘The Oneness of Mentor and Disciple’ in the Art of Living, September 2004.
  7. ibid
  8. Daisaku Ikeda, The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings (SGI-Malaysia, 2004) Vol. 1, pp. 164-165. See also ‘The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings’ No. 8 (SGI Newsletter No. 5290, 2 October 2002).
  9. Daisaku Ikeda, The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings (SGI-Malaysia, 2004) Vol. 1, p. 135. See also ‘The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings’ No. 7 (SGI Newsletter No. 5251 22 August 2002).

On Inner Happiness

develop within ourselves a brilliant inner palaceSuch things as money, fame, and material possessions offer a fleeting satisfaction, something that can be called relative happiness.

However, when we transform our lives internally, when we develop within ourselves a brilliant inner palace, then we can be said to have established absolute happiness.

If we develop a state of mind as vast and resplendent as a magnificent palace, then nothing—no matter where we go or what we may encounter in life-can undermine or destroy our happiness.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Cohesive Thinking

Cohesive ThinkingIt’s amazing how we and the rest of the Universe are so closely connected. The shoots of progress are suddenly showing through a fog of uncertainty, and I find myself running dozens of ‘what if’ scenarios through my head.

And as if to focus my own thoughts on just what situations might be possible, I stumble across this Thought For Today from Sensei …

“When we plant the seeds of self-doubt, only noxious weeds sprout. When we limit ourselves with low expectations, the growth of the tree of happiness immediately ceases.

The power of growth, of improvement, the power to overcome all stagnation and break through every obstacle and transform a barren wasteland into a verdant field—that unstoppable power of hope resides right there in your own heart.

It will well up from the rich earth of your innermost being when you face the future without doubt or fear: “I can do more. I can grow. I can become a bigger and better human being”—life and faith are a never-ending struggle to grow.”

This is my last day before I set of with Jacqui for a week afloat. The posts may be delayed due to the lack of connectivity, but rest assured, they will be worth the wait once they arrive.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Staying Connected

Staying ConnectedBeing in a fantastic relationship is just the best thing. But we all know that even the smoothest mill pond has the occasional ripple.

It’s these ripples that teach us how to navigate more effectively through the problems they represent.

Relationship problems are opportunities to grow and mature. Such problems can be character building if you don’t let them defeat you.

That’s why it’s important not to isolate yourself. No one can exist apart from others. Remaining aloof from others cultivates selfishness, which accomplishes nothing.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

On Cultivating A State Of Mind

The Lotus SutraWe only have to watch the news on TV, listen to the radio, or even simply talk to the people around us, to be aware of the challenges and sadness that can accompany the process of living our daily lives.

Buddhism has at it’s very core, the ultimate goal of removing suffering and promoting a state of happiness in all those with whom it comes in contact. Many may think that this is an unachievable target, and that those who strive towards it are deluded.

But the principles and method for attaining such a state are encompassed by teachings contained in The Lotus Sutra. That is not to say that there is any magic bullet or instant fix to alleviate our suffering, but striving to do so is surely a task worth undertaking.

Daisaku Ikeda summarised it thus:

What is true joy in life?

This is a difficult question – and one that has occupied a great many thinkers and philosophers.

Joy can quickly give way to suffering. Joy is short and suffering long.

Also what passes for joy in society is superficial. It cannot compare with the joy derived from the Mystic Law.

The key then lies in cultivating a state of mind where we can declare without reservation that life is a joy.

This is the purpose of our Buddhist Practice.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

On Self Improvement

The Struggle For Self ImprovementThere is no self-improvement without effort.

Without taking action, happiness will never come, no matter how long you wait.

A life without peaks and valleys is a fairy tale. Reality is strict, because it is a win or lose struggle.

This is the way it is for human beings. Therefore, you should not allow yourselves to be battered about by reality but rather willingly rise to its challenges and use them as opportunities to train and strengthen yourselves.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

On Good Friends

Good FriendsWhat Buddhism terms ‘good friends’, are sincere, honest people without a trace of deceit, who guide others toward the correct path, toward good. It also refers to people who lend their assistance or support to us so that we can practice Buddhism with full assurance.

If you become close to a person who makes you feel “that person is always glowing and animated” or “When I’m with that person I feel strong and secure,” then your faith will naturally deepen, and you will develop bountiful wisdom. In carrying out this Buddhist practice, encountering good friends is the key to attaining Buddhahood.

– Daisaku Ikeda

On Individual Pride

Cherry Blossom

Pride can be a double edged sword. We should take pride in our achievements and our proper conduct, but we must take care that our pride does not turn into false vanity.

As Sensei observed …

Wildflowers are neither vain nor haughty, neither jealous nor servile.

Living in accord with their unique mission, characterizing the Buddhist principle of the equality of cherry, peach, plum, and damson blossoms, they neither envy other flowers nor belittle themselves.

They take pride in their individuality, knowing that each is a flower with a bloom like no other. Even the prettiest and most delicate wildflowers are by no means weak. They may seem fragile, but they are strong, unperturbed by rain or wind.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: