It's my hope that everyone will read this from beginning to end. Please discuss any point that comes to mind. Utilize it as you see fit. Share it with others if you like. This presentation is the culmination of my practice of Nichiren Buddhism. There is not doubt in my mind that it will help you or others in some way. This presentation was first given at the Golden Stage annual meeting in Portland, Oregon on November 11, 2007.... Start....
The presentation that I will be giving today is mere food for thought and will take about 20 minutes. I hope nobody comes down with a stomach ache, but I do hope everyone will leave here today with a swelled head and feeling good about themselves.
I want to dedicate this to the Youth Divisions.... and to all those who are Young-at-Heart, to those with a seeking spirit....
I'll call this presentation
"The Aspiration for Enlightenment"
We'll be dealing with faith, benefits, a consistent practice, true self, and other tidbits, like why in the world would someone quit chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I'm hoping to mesh them all together into a logical and meaningful conclusion.
In the Gosho "The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith" the Daishonin writes: "A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads that it is "the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." Many hear about and accept this sutra, but when great obstacles arise, just as they were told would happen, few remember it and bear it firmly in mind. To accept is easy, to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith."
He also says in the Gosho "The One Essential Phrase"
Since the Lotus Sutra defines our life as the Buddha's life, our mind as the Buddha's wisdom and our actions as the Buddha's behavior, all who embrace and believe in even a single phrase or verse of this sutra will be endowed with these three properties. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is only one phrase, but it contains the essence of the entire sutra. You asked whether one can attain Buddhahood only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and this is the most important question of all. It (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) is the heart of the entire sutra and the substance of its eight volumes.... A law this easy to embrace and this easy to practice was taught for the sake of all mankind....
Even though one neither reads nor studies the sutra, chanting the title alone is the source of tremendous good fortune. The sutra teaches that women, evil men, and those in the realms of Anamality and Hell -- in fact, all the people of the Ten Worlds -- can attain Buddhahood....
The lives of human beings are fettered by evil karma, earthly desires and the inborn sufferings of life and death. But due to the three inherent potentials of Buddha nature i.e., innate Buddhahood, the wisdom to become aware of it and the action to manifest it -- our lives can without doubt come to reveal the Buddha's three properties."
Wow, it seems right off that Nichiren wants us to attain Buddhahood.
In the "Expedient Means" chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni reveals to Shariputra that the "one great reason" that Buddhas appear in the world is to open the door to the Buddha wisdom for all people, to show it to them, to cause them to awaken to it and gain entry to it.
The "Expedient Means" chapter states: ....the Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the world for one great reason alone....
I'll say that again, "for one great reason alone...."
....The Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings, to allow them to attain purity. That is why they appear in the world.
They wish to show the Buddha wisdom to living beings, and therefore they appear in the world.
They wish to cause living beings to awaken to the Buddha wisdom, and therefore they appear in the world.
They wish to induce living beings to enter the path of Buddha wisdom, and therefore they appear in the world. (LS2, 31)
Shakyamuni also says that "At the start I took a vow, hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us." (LS2, 36)....
It seems logical at this point to conclude that we all chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo so we can attain Buddhahood. There should be no question about that, right?
Hmmmm, I sometimes wonder about that. I mean, as to why we chant.
In actuality, enlightenment or Buddhahood is not something to be attained, it is what we are at the most fundamental level of our life. We are striving to manifest our innate Buddha Nature through the faith practice and study of the Daishonin's Buddhism.
There's a passage in the Gosho that always used to bug me. It went something like this.... "earnestly seeking to see the Buddha their lives they do not begrudge." Well it bugged me because I had no passion to earnestly seek to see the Buddha. You know, they were dead already and I had matters of my own to tend too. And what did begrudging my life have to do with it.
It hit me later in my practice that the Buddha I should be earnestly seeking to see was myself and that "their lives they do not begrudge" was in reference to not wasting my life on trivial pursuits or matters.
I suppose the next question should be.... What's so great about Buddhahood anyway. Is it better than a new car, a new love in my life, or a great job. I mean, come on, get real....
So what is Buddhahood. What's so great about it. How could it be better than a new car? A fair description of Buddhahood might go something like this: The establishment of....
Selfless Compassion, True Self, Wisdom, and Indestructible Happiness.
Nichiren says that Buddhahood is nothing extraordinary, meaning that we can all attain it, in this lifetime, in our present form. He also says that a Buddha should be judged by their conduct as a human being.
In actuality, there is nothing that isn't contained within Buddhahood. Or, to put it another way, everything is contained within Buddhahood. Again,
Selfless Compassion, True Self, Wisdom, and Indestructible Happiness.
As Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the "true entity of all phenomena", the Buddha is the result. You know, cause and effect....
It strikes me that our practice is so easy that we sometimes fritter it away. Happily deluded into accepting less than we are capable of. Or, on the flip side, so disgruntled at the first sign of trouble that we quit altogether, being unwilling to challenge our karma, and blaming the practice.
Such is the wrath of delusion.
What Nichiren has given us is our life. Or more factually, the ability to discover our true self. To live our life as never before. To bring forth our full potential as a human being. To overcome every obstacle no matter the source, and to establish indestructible happiness. What a great gift, to know thyself. And what is the key, the common denominator? What ACTION needs to be taken to establish this victorious life condition? .... Yes, just to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and to respond with joy. With faith, practice and study being the key. How truly great, joyful, and simple.
The question is, do we passionately seek Buddhahood? We definitely need too. What is the depth of our prayer? Does it contain conviction and desire? Do we take the actions necessary to make manifest our prayer or do we simply chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with our lips and wish for miracles in our heart.
The Daishonin is always entreating us to deepen our faith. Saying that our faith alone will determine everything and that through our faith all our hopes, desires, and prayers will be answered.
Faith seems to be a pretty personal thing i.e., No one can judge the depth of our faith. We are solely responsible for and in control of it.
What then is faith?
The Webster Dictionary says faith is a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
So, do we have a confident belief in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the Gohonzon. Confident that we can, and will, manifest and bring forth our Buddhahood for ourselves, our families, and for future generations. This question needs our utmost attention and honest answer.
President Ikeda says/asks:
What kinds of causes am I making right now?" "What actions am I taking?" The answers to these questions are what will determine our future -- in this life and throughout the three existences. Herein lays the foundation of faith. True glory and victory in life lay in basing oneself on this fundamental principle."
We are also encouraged to establish a consistent practice to ensure our life stays in harmony, in tune, and on course. Then, and this is so important, to pray not out of the fear of losing but out of the anticipation and expectation of victory. Yes, we need to form good habits.... The habit of a consistent joyful practice.
But, hey, due to ignorance or delusion....
Sometimes our practice of faith might become weak or fade in and out like a radio station. We know it's there, but it's hard to find it on a consistent basis. We can ignore the radio station (our faith) for a while and not worry about it too much. But in time though, there's just something about the station, the joy and happiness it brings, that makes us go looking for it again. Nichiren never said life would be easy. So we tweak, we adjust, we tune back in, again and again, until the static is gone and only the clarity remains. Then and only then do we understand what we have been missing. Suddenly we hear the music, our music, and life is beautiful again....
The Greek writer/philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis says that "by believing passionately in which does not exist, we create it. That which is nonexistent has not been sufficiently desired."
For sure, we all get lots of encouragement by reading the testimonials in the World Tribune newspaper. It seems a vast majority of these testimonials are by people who "finally" took their practice seriously after so many months or years of waffling back and forth between practice and non-practice. When the commitment was "finally" made great breakthroughs were obtained. It seemed a combination of passionate prayer and actions were the key in each case.
If someone had never owned a car but obtained one by chance, it's reasonable to assume they would put forth tons of effort to learn how to drive it. This sure beats walking would be their mantra. Conversely, what if they never used it. Just left it parked to collect dust and rust away. What a shame. The benefit the car could bring would never be realized. So it goes....
BENEFITS OF PRAYER
Every one of us, now or in the future, will have a prayer that needs to be answered.
I literally shake my head in sadness when someone quits chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo because they say their prayer wasn't answered or they are not getting any benefits.
I ask myself why, and I can only conclude that they didn't put faith first. That they never developed an Aspiration for Enlightenment.... That it was all about the benefits, the trinkets, and not about Buddhahood.
An analogy would be the old saying "Don't put the cart before the horse."
Our analogy starts with the "horse" being our "faith" and the cart being our "benefits." With faith first the horse can pull and deliver the cart to its ultimate destination with the greatest of ease. Benefits can pile up a mile high and the cart can even overflow with no problem, as our faithful horse can handle the load. But when we put the cart in the lead and our faithful horse in the rear, no progress can be made even when the cart is near empty.
It's just that simple. It's just like our practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we always need to put faith first....
One of my favorite things is going to the beach, looking out and admiring the vast ocean. What beauty and treasures it surely possesses. Walking along the seashore you sometimes get lucky and find one of its many treasures, a trinket so to speak, to take back home with you. What a great feeling it is to find just one trinket, a single gift of the many contained within this vast expansive ocean.
Wouldn't it be great to leave the sandy seashore and enter the vast ocean that lies before us. To be able to explore its natural beauty and find the unrealized treasures of this vast ocean. The potential discoveries would be limitless.
Why then are we so inclined to seek an occasional trinket along the seashore when there is a vast ocean beckoning to us with all its majestic beauty and treasures?
Isn't it reassuring to know that those of us that chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon possess the ability to leave the seashore behind and enter the vast ocean of our own lives. To be able to nurture and bring forth our innate Buddha nature. To see, feel, and reveal those treasures that we all intrinsically possess.
These treasures come in many forms. The Daishonin puts them into three categories saying, "More valuable than the treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all." By "treasures of the heart" Nichiren means the supreme value inherent within the life of all human beings.
It's great that we are not the only ones allowed to experience these treasures contained within our practice of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and through the maturation of "treasures of the heart" we are willing and able to share them with others.
We also need to be "ready", as in ready, willing and able. We become ready, willing and able to share the Daishonin's Buddhism (happiness) by having a consistent practice and sincere faith.
This consistent practice is something we do for ourselves. Our twice-a-day time when we actually do something for ourselves. It seems we spend most of the day working for others in one way or another. So we need to make sure we set aside some time for ourselves.
That reminds me, when we go shopping we don't like to get short-changed by someone. Why then would we short-change ourselves with an inconsistent practice?
I'm further reminded of the Kankucho birds. It's a story that appears in the Lotus Sutra. It goes something like this:
"In ancient times there were mountains in India called the Snow Mountains. These mountains were so high that the cold there penetrated to the marrow, and, as their name indicates, snow lay deep on the ground throughout the year. In these mountains lived two homeless birds called Kankucho. When evening fell and darkness gathered, the female bird, unable to bear the cold would cry, "I'm perishing from the cold!" To which the male bird would reply, "Let's build a nest when the day dawns." But as soon as the sun rose and the birds were bathed in the warm sunshine, they forgot all about the cold which tormented them during the night.... Thus they spent their entire lives in vain without ever building a nest."
President Ikeda says the foolishness of the Kankucho birds represents nothing other than the vulnerability of the human mind to change and fluctuation. It also indicates the human tendency to take the line of least resistance, avoiding immediate tasks that require prompt action.
Like our lives....
President Ikeda also says to.... "Please chant vigorous and resonant daimoku -- daimoku of gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude because it is your problems that have brought you to Gohonzon. Appreciation because it is only the problems in our lives that are helping you to undergo your own human revolution. If everything around us was according to our liking, we would never be able to have our human revolution which is the fundamental force towards our own happiness and for kosen rufu."
My own observation is that we all need to arouse within us a deep desire to attain enlightenment. The reason the Lotus Sutra was expounded, the Gosho written, and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo declared, was for our attainment of enlightenment. When our actions and prayers reflect this desire for enlightenment, then everything else will fall into place.
Yes, everything else will fall into place....
Therein, the need to develop our faith and an Aspiration for Enlightenment -- then, prayers will be answered as never before.
Common sense tells us that it is a mistake to put the cart before the horse....
Follow the Law, not the Person
Yes, yes, yes, follow the Law, not people. The Law is supreme, people are not. The Law will never change, people will. When chanting the Law, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, that change will be for the better and our innate Buddhahood will be manifest.
It is within the utilization of the Law that its profoundness is realized....
In Conclusion (wake up, I'm about done)
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves 'who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous, and filled with compassion?'
Actually, who are you not to be? You are the Buddha's envoy. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
There'll be two dates on your tombstone, and all your friends will read 'em. But all that's gonna matter is that little dash - between 'em....
Ok, a final though.... And then I'll quit talking.... honest!
"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Awe ye Beautiful Lotus' bloom, bloom, bloom. Bring forth and release your life of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo....
Again.... It is within its utilization that its profoundness is realized....
Thank you so much for being here today and.... ....Always-be-Happy....