Merry Christmas Everyone

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas to all my Christian readers, may you all have a wonderfully peaceful day.

To all other denominations, enjoy the holiday and be nice to one another.

My deepest wish for this holiday, and for the coming year, is that we all learn to live together in peace and harmony. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in 2015, there were no more reports of war, and that governments got together to wipe out disharmony, poverty, famine and injustice. Just imagine what that would mean for mankind.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

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.

All It Needs Is Practice

All It Needs Is PracticeNichiren Buddhists believe that, not only does everyone have the World of Buddhahood within them, but that it can be achieved within this lifetime.

Think about that, everyone you know has the potential to reach Buddhahood, your family, friends, work colleagues, everyone. And not only those people you like, but those you don’t like too.

But how do we achieve this state of Buddhahood? The Daishonin had this to say …

“When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha.  This is similar to a tarnished mirror, that will shine like a jewel when polished.

A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure it become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena, and the true aspect of reality.

Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.”

So there it is, such a simple Practice, so easy to learn, that when applied with faith and diligence, will allow us to reveal the Buddha in each and every one of us.

Life Changes With Time

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Just when you think life is going along smoothly, something, or somebody comes along and upsets the apple cart. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, sometimes, it is exactly what you need to get you out of that rut you feel so comfortable following.

If you research Buddhism, you will find, as with Christianity, that there are many schools or sects, believing much the same basic principles, but with their own embellishments or focus.

When I first became a Buddhist, I was rather naive about the different schools and followed the Kadampa tradition practiced at the Shantideva Buddhist centre in Maidenhead, later moving to Reading.

Kadampa Buddhism focuses on the teachings of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and the centre of the practice is concentrated on clearing the mind through meditation. The cause of much unhappiness and suffering is due to desirous attachment to property, people or situations, according to Kelsang Gyatso. The way to remove suffering is therefore to break the links of desirous attachment and accept the principle of impermanence.

This is all very well in an eastern third world country, where possessions are few, life is lived at a different pace and everyone, or at least the majority, hold the same beliefs. Here in the west, where Judaeo Christianity is the predominant religion, Kadampa Buddhism only works if you can remove yourself from the mainstream society and immerse yourself in study within one of their centres.

I also felt that the worship of gods within the temple was wrong. Shakyamuni was a man, he never proclaimed to be, or to be connected with, any deity. So where did all these gods spring from. I believe they are the manifestation of the metaphorical gods of The Lotus Sutra, made real by man’s need for a focus of worship. Not for me, this went against my atheist beliefs and lost the focus of the practice in my eyes.

Over time I drifted away from the practice, and it was only when I was suffering because of the breakdown of my marriage, that I sought Buddhism once again. This time, I was lucky, or fortunate as we would say in Buddhism (no such thing as luck), to find Jason Jarrett’s podcasts, and through that, William Woollard’s The Reluctant Buddhist and Eddy Canfor-Dumas’ The Buddha, Geoff and Me.

Immediately, the sense that my own life would be put back in my own hands, that belief was in the self and one’s ability to achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime, struck a chord. At last, a Practice that worked with real life, that answered questions instead of posing several more. A Practice that has helped me more over the last few years, than anything else has done in the past sixty.

There is a letter from Nichiren Daishonin to the wife of the late Matsuno, which describes how unlikely, and how difficult it is to meet the Practice in a lifetime, it is well worth reading and explains just how lucky I have been to find my faith at long last.

It’s All A Question Of Eggs

It's All A Question Of EggsThere is the temptation, whilst continuing to practice, to wonder whether we will ever become a Buddha or doubt whether Buddhahood even resides within us. With his usual wisdom, Nichiren showed us the truth of the matter in his simple words.

“A bird’s egg contains nothing but liquid, yet by itself this develops into a beak, two eyes, and all the other parts, and the bird soars into the sky.

We, too, are the eggs of ignorance, which are pitiful things, but when nurtured by the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which is like the warmth of the mother bird, we develop the beak of the thirty-two features and the feathers of the eighty characteristics and are free to soar into the skies of the true aspect of all phenomena and the reality of all things.”

~ Nichiren Daishonin

Remembering War, Working For Peace

A Field Of PoppiesThe two minute silence, in remembrance of those who gave their lives in the service of our country, seemed particularly poignant yesterday.

Being the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI has led to greater emphasis on the event.

But we should not forget the true meaning of the silence and why the sanctity of life is so important.

The sanctity of life is known to everyone. At the same time, there is universal confusion about the essential meaning of life’s sanctity. If the sanctity of life can become a solid touchstone of wisdom for all people, then humankind’s destiny to experience war and misery repeatedly can be transformed.

As Sensei explains it: “Kosen means ‘to widely declare.’ Widely implies speaking out to the world, to an ever-greater number and ever-broader spectrum of people. Declare means ‘to proclaim one’s ideals, principles and philosophy.’ The ru of rufu means ‘a current like that of a great river.’ And fu means ‘to spread out like a roll of cloth.’

“The teaching of the Mystic Law has nothing to do with appearance, form or pride. It flows out freely to all humanity the world over. Like a cloth unfolding, it spreads out and covers all. So rufu means ‘to flow freely, to reach all.’

“Just like a cloth, kosen-rufu is woven from vertical and horizontal threads. The vertical threads represent the passing of Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching from mentor to disciple, parent to child, senior to junior. The horizontal threads represent the impartial spread of this teaching, transcending national borders, social classes and all other distinctions. Simply put, kosen-rufu is the movement to communicate the ultimate way to happiness—to communicate the highest principle of peace to people of all classes and nations through the correct philosophy and teaching of Nichiren”It is toward this end, towards Kosen-Rufu, that we Nichiren Buddhists are struggling.

It is toward this end, towards Kosen-Rufu, that we Nichiren Buddhists are struggling.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

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 Following The Path

Following The PathBuddhism comes down to practice. This means making a personal determination and steadfastly taking action to accomplish it, no matter what obstacles may arise.

If we aren’t striving to open a way forward, what we are doing cannot be called Buddhist practice.

We will only enter the path to Buddhahood by making tireless effort based on the same determination as the Buddha.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

On Remaining Strong

The Reflected MoonSome days we are strong, some days not so strong. Remaining strong requires understanding our faith, Nichiren explains …

When water is clear, the moon is reflected. When the wind blows, the trees shake. Our minds are like the water.

Faith that is weak is like muddy water, while faith that is brave is like clear water. Understand that the trees are like principles, and the wind that shakes them is like the recitation of the sutra.

                                                   ~ Nichiren

Exploring NMRK

Exploring NMRKAfter the initial question “do you chant?” we are then asked “what do you chant?” followed closely by “how long do you chant?” and almost certainly “what does it mean?”.

After a little practice, no pun intended, most people can master the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but explaining why we chant it, and what it means may take a little longer.

Here is how the SGI website describes the meaning of the individual parts …

Nichiren Daishonin established the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the way to awaken one’s Buddha nature and tap into the deepest levels of our existence, on which our own lives and that of the universe are one. He first taught the invocation of the phrase to a small group at Seicho-ji temple in Awa province, Japan, on April 28, 1253.

Myoho-renge-kyo is the name of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese pronunciation of classical Chinese characters, and so the literal meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra.” As the following explanation shows, there are deeper levels of meaning attached to each element of the phrase.


Nam derives from the Sanskrit word namu, meaning “to devote oneself.” Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a means to enable all people to put their lives in harmony or rhythm with the law of life, or Dharma. In the original Sanskrit, namu indicates the elements of action and attitude, and refers therefore to the correct action one needs to take and the attitude one needs to develop in order to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.


Myoho literally means the Mystic Law–the underlying truth or principle which governs the mysterious workings of the universe and our life from moment to moment. Myo refers to the very essence of life, which is “invisible” and beyond intellectual understanding. This essence always expresses itself in a tangible form (ho) that can be apprehended by the senses. Phenomena (ho) are changeable, but pervading all such phenomena is a constant reality known as myo. Myo also means to open, to revive, and to be fully endowed with the qualities we need to develop our lives.


Renge means lotus flower. The lotus blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. The circumstances and quality of our individual lives are determined by the causes and effects, both good and bad, that we accumulate (through our thoughts, words and actions) at each moment. This is called our “karma.” The law of cause and effect affirms that we each have personal responsibility for our own destiny. We create our destiny and we have the power to change it. The most powerful positive cause we can make is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; the effect of Buddhahood is simultaneously created in the depths of our life and will definitely manifest in time.

The lotus flower grows and blooms in a muddy pond, and yet remains pristine and free from any defilement, symbolizing the emergence of Buddhahood from within the life of an ordinary person in the midst of the struggles of day-to-day existence.


Kyo literally means sutra, the voice or teaching of a Buddha. In this sense, it also means sound, rhythm or vibration. In a broad sense, kyo conveys the concept that all things in the universe are a manifestation of the Mystic Law.

Further explanation of the meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can be found here.

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