A Ship to cross the Sea of Suffering

"Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realise our goals, in our efforts to move forward." Daisaku Ikeda

The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra

So I’ve had about a month now, to pick at the next Gosho study.  Buddhist study is often a very enlightening, transformational but challenging process. There is no denying that it comes with a weight of responsibility to do it justice, and not to just recap what Sensei has taught in his lectures. The crux is; finding your own truth and value. Truly understanding how it applies to your own life in the present moment.

When I first started being asked to present the study – Please note this is my 4th time, so I still have the training wheels on. I almost died at the weight of the anxiety I was carrying when I began being asked to help out.  My background is in public speaking and people…. Yet my heart almost popped out of my chest because it was beating so fast – Anxiety being one of my many life long obstacles.

And you know it’s funny. When I encounter anxiety when speaking in front of a group. I always receive feedback on how calm and clear I was. Which to me is always a surprise! – Because I spend most of the time trying to breathe and remember what I am saying. Almost always getting to the end, having realized I’ve blacked out in fear – But still completed the task.

It’s just one of those things.  And the SGI is fantastic at presenting opportunities that challenge you! It’s all part of our supportive and loving community. No matter what level you are at, you always have a chance to offer your help with activities and responsibilities. Be it, reading just a single sentence.

This time is different. And heck I may be jumping the gun here, because the meeting is tonight. But I feel confident, and excited to share what I have received from the Gosho and lecture series that Sensei has so brilliantly compiled.

This time I surrendered to the task and request. Accepted without a hint of hesitation! I am practicing my non-begrudging attitude to life.

I relaxed in the realization that Sensei works so hard to write and compile the lecture series, based on the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. There is no need for me to regurgitate. There is no need for me to recreate the wheel and provide a hidden meaning… The words and study that Sensei gifts us are a solid foundation for finding our own hidden meaning. It is fuel for finding our own true value within the teachings and the life state of the Daishonin.

This month’s study is called “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra” – Part 2[of 3].  As the title suggests, we are looking at the ‘actions’ of the Votary (Nichiren Daishonin) of the Lotus Sutra. The Actions and attitudes that Nichiren held during his devotion and propagation of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.  In particular this piece looks at the Tatsunokuchi persecutions held during September 1271. The persecutions facing the Daishonin and his followers were because they upheld that the Lotus Sutra is the Mystic Law and the gateway for ALL to obtain enlightenment. The foundation for the ultimate state of life; buddhahood.

What struck me most, as I have been pondering the meaning in all of this come in three stages.

1- accept that the study’s whole focus is closely looking at the attitude and actions Nichiren took during this time.  We can remind ourselves of the environment but also the historical factors at the time. Rulers of Japan were against this form of Buddhism. There were strong opinions on who can or cannot obtain Buddhahood, which was often reserved for ‘higher priests’ and monks. Meanwhile excluding women and children. Where as Nichiren at the time truly believed that although the sutra teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra hold relevance and great wisdom – The Lotus Sutra becomes the king of all Sutra’s because of it’s clarity on Buddhahood being a state of life that anyone could obtain through the practice of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. The Daishonin was being persecuted for his belief in this teaching. Enemies were never far, the conditions of the mountainous terrain proved challenging to navigate and there were many Samurai out to stop the Daishonin from proving the he was in fact the Votary of the Lotus Sutra. In all of their struggles to stop this teaching being passed on, we can look to the state of life and attitude he has towards the people standing in the way. With great joy he proclaims his faith in the Mystic Law, for the challenges in front of him are proof that he is on the right path. The Lotus Sutra itself states that the Votary of the LS will emerge in the latter day of the law and will face great obstacles and persecutions.”It, the Lotus Sutra will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe” (LSOC14, 246 (LS14, 207). We acknowledge in this study that by looking at the Daishonin’s actions and attitude/state of life we are “taught the nobility and lofty humanity of one who has awakened to this ultimate state of life” to their mission for the sake of Kosen Rufu (world peace).

2 – Second point: After acknowledging the Daishonin’s attitude and state of life we must look at the core statement stressed by all three SGI presidents. “Casting of the transient and revealing the true.” And ask us what does this mean? And as followers of Nichiren Daishonin and members of the SGI – How does this apply to US?

As context and background to this statement. Josei Toda our second SGI president had always expressed the importance of this teaching from his mentor – first president Tsunaburo Makiguchi. Who often said that the Soka Gakkai must “cast off the transient and reveal the true.” There are many variations and interpretations of this understanding. But Makiguchi was referring to the Buddhist concept that means to let go of one’s transient status and aim to show our true identity or highest potential. In other words; to stand up in full awareness that we are disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, striving for Kosen Rufu – Living in our highest potential (state of life Buddhahood) ‘undaunted by the inevitable hardships that will arise along the way”.  This is the vision and ideal as ND practitioners. To emulate the life state Nichiren has role modeled to us. After all, we are ‘practicing’ the liturgy of Nichiren Daishonin morning and night. So we must stop to think about what it means to be a disciple of the Daishonin. It brings me back to the realization that we are Buddhas. All of us are. Even if you aren’t practicing yet, you are still a Buddha and have the inherent potential to accumulate treasures of the heart and to create an unshakeable state of life – Undefeated by obstacles in your path. All it takes is practice and understanding of what we are trying to reflect in our daily lives as disciples of Nichiren Daishonin. Warmth, a caring attitude, Respect of all people regardless of status, the ability to embrace and work with universal power – The mystic law (Myo), Utter freedom, wisdom, compassion, courage, absolute conviction in our mission and faith – Leading to the mutual possession of the ten worlds (all states of life a human can experience), hopefully dominated by a Buddhahood state of life.  Lead in abundance of Joy and happiness.

3 – The importance of  one’s powerful enemies but also to understand the phrase of “the true aspect of all phenomena” and “consistency from beginning to end.” The exert from the Gosho goes like this. “It is the Lord of Sagami above all who has been a good friend to me. Hei no Saemon is to me what Devadatta was to Shakyamuni Buddha. The Nembutsu priests are comparable to the Venerable Kokalika, and the observers of the precepts to the monk Sunakshatra. The age of the Buddha is none other than today, and our present age is none other than that of the Buddha. This is what the Lotus Sutra describes as the “true aspect of all phenomena” and as “consistency from beginning to end.” Devadatta was the foremost good friend to the Thus Come One Shakyamuni. In this age as well, it is not the one’s allies but one’s powerful enemies who assist one’s progress.”

Before I move onto one’s powerful enemies I wanted to acknowledge the importance of understanding “the true aspect of all phenomena” and “consistency from beginning to end.” It is here that we realize that as Buddhists our “lives are eternal” (J.T) Therefore the teaching, practice, but also the struggles we face because of upholding the mystic law is the same as in Shakyamuni’s, or Nichiren’s time. Sensei puts it like this: “The struggle between the forces of Buddha and the forces of evil continued unabated during Shakyamuni and the Daishonin’s lifetimes. And the same still applies today.”

Sensei also says that because the Daishonin “cites the phrase ‘true aspect of all phenomena’ and ‘consistency from beginning to end’. In a way he is asserting that the principle of Kosen-rufu is consistent and exactly the same in Shakyamuni’s time and his time that is, from the beginning right through to the end or the present moment.”

Lastly, and my most favorite part of this study: “It is not the one’s allies but one’s powerful enemies who assist one’s progress.”

Nichiren proclaims this. “For me, Nichiren, my best allies in attaining Buddhahood are [Tojo] Kagenobu, the priests Ryokan, Doryu, and Doamidabutsu, and Hei no Saemon, and the Lora of Sagami. I am grateful when I think that without them I could not have proved myself to be the Votary of the Lotus Sutra.” (WND-1, 770)

Here, Nichiren clearly states his gratitude for the challenges and persecutions committed against him by the key players in ruling Japan 12th Century.

I think this takes the most wind out of me, and gives me absolute faith in this practice. If the Daishonin can give his life for the sake of kosen-rufu/ The Lotus Sutra, and not be daunted by loosing his life in order to open the way for others to obtain buddhahood – Then my ability to practice this teaching is all thanks to this one ordinary man and countless Buddha’s before and after. Who stood up for what was right. Who at the end of all the trial and harsh abuse that he endured could still smile and rejoice in the fact that without those who exiled and tried to kill him, there would be no proof of his mission as the true Votary of the Lotus Sutra.

He welcomes and celebrates those in his life that have caused suffering. He does not tolerate or condone the behaviour of such adversaires. But he stands strong, not willing to compromise his beliefs, or to fall back in defeat.

This is a gem. And one I have been polishing for a while now.

It asks me to take a look at my own actions and behaviour. Not just in the time of behaving good, but by seriously analyzing my own behaviour at times when I have been faced with true challenge. How did I react? What were my thoughts? Did my tongue cut and burn bridges that could have been saved, had I been in a higher state of life?

Although forgiveness is still on the horizon, I have realized that my mission as a Boddhisattva of the Earth is to accept the abuse and trauma I have encountered. I have found value in my suffering, and now have immense gratitude (not forgiveness yet) for the challenges and battles I’ve encountered on my journey so far.

I can look back upon a childhood rife with sexual abuse. And be thankful that I found value in such pain. I can use my experiences, to help others. I can build a state of life that shows others who have experienced similar pain – There is a way out. There is another way of dealing with these feelings. A way to turn your life events into purpose. Into a mission.

We may never forgive completely, but I know – That I can be thankful for ALL of the things that have happened to me. For without them, I would not be here, as I am now. In all my perfection and imperfection combined. Working tirelessly towards world peace, and leading a life that inspires others to take responsibility and action towards their own happiness, and the gifts they have to share with the world.

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One comment on “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra

  1. Vikki
    May 31, 2013

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing Nyx. you are a true gem.xx

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