The Women of SGI-USA, Theme for 2008 – Living Buddhism, January ‘08 By Linda Johnson, SGI-USA Women’s Leader
Happy New Year! Happy 2008!
I want to take this opportunity to express my most heartfelt appreciation to the Myoho Sisterhood, an ever-expanding group of women and young women dedicated to supporting each other while working together for the happiness of all people through the spread of Nichiren Buddhism. Your tireless efforts have created a momentum of steady growth that is establishing a solid foundation for the advancement of kosen-rufu in the United States. Thank you very much!
I would like to introduce the women's theme for this year: "Today, I will not be defeated. Today, I courageously advance."
We practice Nichiren Buddhism to become human beings of outstanding character who contribute to the betterment of humankind and to achieve an inner life-state of indestructible happiness that is unaffected by our changing circumstances. These, of course, are lifelong objectives that are obtained through a relentless challenging spirit.
During the journey of our lives, there are many hardships and struggles we must encounter. Overcoming each one is a necessary step in our development. Everything that happens to us has profound meaning. Lately, I have been talking to many women who, after years of undeniable proof that this practice works in their lives, are confronting a feeling of unhappiness or a lack of fulfillment. Everyone wants to know why this is happening, especially when they have been practicing for years.
I, too, recently experienced the same thing. It is no secret that I want to lose weight, yet I don't seem to be able to muster the willpower to eat properly or to exercise on a consistent basis. At a point of total frustration, I again resolved to pray with determination about this problem. After chanting a lot, I began to see very clearly how this was an area of my life in which, for a number of years, I have continually conceded defeat. I believed I could not lose weight.
Where did this belief come from? It was not a rational one because I have dramatically changed my life during the more than three decades of my practice. I decided that this core negative belief was the root cause of my suffering over my weight, and that there would not be any long-term change unless I launched a full frontal assault on this belief with my faith. It has to be—and now is—my daily challenge, not something that I choose to look at for a limited period of time.
In "Reply to the Mother of Ueno," Nichiren Daishonin relates that when one is building a great pagoda, one must construct temporary scaffolding. However, when the pagoda is completed, one removes and discards the scaffolding. Nichiren says, "Though the scaffolding is necessary to complete the pagoda, no one would ever dream of discarding the pagoda and worshipping the scaffolding" (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1074).
Through our practice of Nichiren Buddhism, we are constructing the magnificent life-state of Buddhahood from within; it is our great pagoda. Challenging our negative beliefs is the direct means by which we can build that noble state of life. These negative beliefs are the root cause of our suffering and the scaffolding we have constructed since we were small children to validate our failures.
There is usually one core negative belief that manifests itself in many ways in our lives. For example, I chose to believe that there was something wrong with me, and that was why my father, who was an alcoholic, continually broke promises to me as a young child. Another woman might believe that she does not deserve to be happy. Someone else might feel that no matter what she does, nothing ever works out for her.
These core negative beliefs are the scaffolds that obstruct our view of our enlightened state of life that we have been developing day by day through our Buddhist practice. By holding on to these beliefs, and nurturing them on a daily basis, we are clinging onto the scaffolding while discarding or refusing to believe that we have the seed of Buddhahood within our lives. By continuing to believe that I could not lose weight, for example, I have been denying the unlimited potential that exists within me, and I have manifested precisely what I believe—the inability to lose weight.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is more powerful than the negative belief we are attacking.
This year I would like to invite all of the Myoho sisters to join me in deconstructing the scaffolding of our negative core beliefs. It is time to uproot these beliefs so that the beauty of the Mystic Law can fully blossom in our lives. This requires that we, first of all, challenge our belief every day in front of the Gohonzon with a "fighting daimoku" spirit. This means we must chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with our most sincere conviction that Nam-myohorenge-kyo is more powerful than the negative belief we are attacking.
To do this on a consistent basis requires courage, the courage to face our deepest fear and insecurity and not retreat. According to SGI President Daisaku Ikeda:
"Our daily realities are filled with an endless succession of problems. But with the firm belief that our lives are Myoho-renge-kyo, we should strive to boldly challenge everything with the unwavering conviction that we can overcome all hardships and become happy without fail. When we maintain deep faith based on the foundation that `I am Myoho-renge-kyo,' we can take on any problem with courage. The key to victory in life lies in whether we can bring forth courage. Not a shrinking timidity but a challenging courage—this is what we need to have! Irrespective of the obstacles we may encounter in the course of our practice, we must not retreat a single step. We must not be alarmed or startled by them. The power of the Mystic Law (Myoho-renge-kyo) can triumph over anything. To become deeply confident of this is most important" (Nov.–Dec. 2006 Living Buddhism, p. 93).
In addition to our courageous, determined efforts to challenge our negativity through prayer, we must continue to use our lives to fulfill our vow; that is, we must share Buddhism with others so that they can have the key to uncovering their full potential. How much can we extend ourselves to reach out to another? How much can we pray for others to win in their lives with the same level of sincerity that we pray for ourselves? How much can we wholeheartedly give of ourselves to encourage another person in faith? These sincere actions praise the unlimited potential of each human life, and become a causal factor in deepening our own belief that "I am Myoho-renge-kyo."
"By embarking on this compassionate struggle," President Ikeda says, "we can rid our own lives of the rust of inertia, carelessness and cowardice—the dull patina that prevents our true brilliance from shining forth. Those who tap the depths of their wisdom and persevere in their efforts to lead even one person to happiness can break through the binding chains of all kinds of preconceived ideas and prejudices and defeat the alienating ignorance of disbelief and disrespect. Those who battle negativity and delusions can cleanse their lives with a purifying stream that washes away spiritual decay; they can develop an infinitely vast and expansive state of life that desires the happiness of all humanity" (March–April 2006 Living Buddhism, pp. 91-92).
Through the combination of our daily, focused prayers and actions to help others overcome the root causes of their suffering, we will dismantle the scaffolding of our negative beliefs. They will no longer rule our life. There, instead, in full view will be our great pagoda—our life-state of Buddhahood—shining brilliantly. We will be able to experience boundless joy and fulfillment.
The upcoming February women's commemorative meetings provide us with the perfect opportunity to put our courage to the test. Let's use these meetings as one milestone to measure our growth both individually and organizationally. Please plan the best Buddhist meeting ever, and through dialogue set goals for attendance, for guests and for Gohonzon conferrals at the meeting (if it is feasible in your locale).
Let's set a dynamic pace for victory during the remainder of 2008 through our women's meetings. We must be victorious so that the "Sunflowers of Hope" can be the catalyst for positive change from every corner of the United States and welcome President and Mrs. Ikeda to Soka University of America, the school he founded.
I can't wait to hear all of your experiences.