Sunday, December 17, 2017
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Like the poor son, many of us limit our potential or become complacent, unwilling or afraid to strive in our personal development. In this parable, the poor son represents ordinary people who wander around in spiritual poverty, unaware of their true inheritance—the boundless possibilities of their Buddha nature. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda states: "Satisfaction with one's accomplishments might seem like humility, but to underestimate life's potential is actually great arrogance."The wealthy man represents Shakyamuni, whose sole desire is to awaken people to the wealth of their inherent Buddhahood. As an expedient means, the Buddha first expounds lesser teachings in order to prepare his disciples' minds to grasp the complete truth of his message expressed in the Lotus Sutra. SGI President Ikeda explains: "Everyone alike possesses this unsurpassed jewel of life. This most precious of all things 'has come to us unsought.' It comes down to whether we can recognize it as such. And the Lotus Sutra enables us to most profoundly perceive and recognize the treasure of our lives."This parable stresses the need to always have a seeking spirit for continual self-development, regardless of our age, achievements or present circumstances. The Lotus Sutra teaches a dynamic way to live amidst life's challenges; it emphasizes a lifelong seeking spirit for self-development—to challenge our limitations, break through deadlocks and expect to experience the boundless potential of our lives. As SGI President Ikeda succinctly states, "Not advancing is retreating."
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Buddhahood seems like a goal; but it is not," clarifies SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. "It is a clear path. It is hope itself—hope to advance eternally toward self-improvement, greater fulfillment and increased peace of mind and enjoyment in life." In other words, the road to the treasure land is in fact the treasure land itself. The process is, in actuality, the end goal. Buddhahood does not exist in some far-off place, but amidst the reality of our daily efforts and struggles to expand our potential, overcome obstacles and help lead others to happiness—the same fundamental aspiration as the Buddha.Like the travelers seeking the treasure land, many of us, when pursuing a goal or a dream, become deadlocked and experience the waning of our initial passion and enthusiasm. Being satisfied with our achievements thus far is like never leaving the phantom city—an illusion of comfort that creates boundaries which limit our potential. This is why it is crucial that we find as much value and joy in the process of pursuing our goals as in achieving them. Even if our goals alter and change, by earnestly pursuing them, we embark on a journey through which our growth and potential are realized. As President Ikeda states, "Happiness is not found in a tranquil life free of storms and tempests. Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realize our goals, in our efforts to move forward."
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It is when we are mindful of death that we begin to earnestly seek 'something eternal' and resolve to make the most valuable use of each moment of life," writes SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. This seeking spirit, the willingness to strive, is the basic condition for awakening to the eternal Buddha nature that exists within one's own life. In the parable, this awakening is represented by the father's return after the children take the medicine.Coming to believe in our Buddhahood, however, does not magically elevate us above life's challenges or alter the fact of life's impermanence. Rather, with confidence in our Buddha nature—this vast, untapped internal reservoir of hope, courage, wisdom and compassion—we are able to squarely face up to the challenges of life and meaningfully transform them. What drives this dynamic process is the spirit of earnestly desiring to "see" the Buddha. In President Ikeda's words, "The mind of an ordinary person who seeks the Buddha becomes the mind of the Buddha itself."
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The jewel in his topknot, meanwhile, represents the "difficult to believe" Lotus Sutra—a revolutionary teaching that enables all people to live truly empowered and peaceful lives. The Lotus Sutra teaches that making a vow to help others become truly happy is in fact the key to attaining a peaceful state of life free of worry and anxiety. While one may think it makes sense to help others only after one has mastered all one's own problems, rather, as Daisaku Ikeda points out, it is by setting aside our own worries and concerns to help those who are suffering that we are able to develop a powerful, expansive state of life. And in developing such a vast life condition, we are also able to overcome our own challenges. Nichiren further states: "If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one's own way." When blinded by fear and unable to see the greater purpose of our lives, we may easily lose our way and fall into greater suffering. However, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that we can always find the path of happiness by fearlessly confronting our problems head-on while helping others do the same. As President Ikeda confidently states: "It's not a matter of leading a timid and weak existence, seeking to avoid obstacles and difficulties. Rather, we should have the spirit: 'Come what may, I will survive! I will climb another mountain! And the more I climb, the more I can enjoy my life, and the more people I can help become happy.'" Nichiren Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra aim to impart to all people the art of revolutionizing their inner state of life
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1uddhist teachings are recorded in a vast body of texts called sutras. For Nichiren Buddhists, the Lotus Sutra is considered Shakyamuni's highest teaching, revealing that all people possess the potential to attain enlightenment. However, this revolutionary teaching was not conveyed in the form of a dense theoretical doctrine. Rather, the sutra overflows with fantastic imagery and grand descriptions of the Buddha's enlightened state of life. The parables it contains—the three carts and the burning house; the wealthy man and his poor son; the three kinds of medicinal herbs and two kinds of trees; the phantom city and the treasure land; the gem in the robe; the priceless gem in the topknot; and the excellent physician and his sick children—play a key role in conveying the various aspects of the Buddha's profound realization."The infinitely profound Law [dharma] to which the Buddha has awakened is very difficult to put into words," SGI President Daisaku Ikeda explains. "Yet if that enlightenment remained locked in the Buddha's heart, the road to Buddhahood for all living beings would stay closed." These parables are an ingenious educational tool and embody the Buddha's wisdom, vast compassion and desire to relieve people of suffering and awaken them to the great potential of their Buddha nature. As we can observe in cultures throughout the world, storytelling is one of humanity's most beloved pastimes. It is also one of the most accessible means of teaching and communicating ideas that can transcend age, status or education. In such stories we recognize aspects of our own hopes, desires, fears and struggles. When listeners are able to personally relate to a story, they are also then able to easily recall the story and share it with others.Being able to utilize our imagination is vital in order to expand our often limited perception of reality and begin imagining greater possibilities. The narrative form of parables stimulates listeners with vivid fantasy-like images that stretch their imagination and enables them to actively process profound concepts. As SGI President Ikeda points out, when Shakyamuni Buddha was describing the fact that he had been enlightened since the infinitely distant past, if he had simply said, "I became a Buddha ten-to-the-x-hundredth-power years ago," the weight of this unfathomable span of time would just remain a number. In contrast, when this span of time is expressed as a narrative—five hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million, a hundred billion worlds are pulverized to dust, and then, traveling through the universe, one speck of the dust is dropped every five hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million, hundred billion worlds—the listeners are invited to actively participate in creating a visual image and develop their own understanding as they assimilate this information. True understanding is more than being able to grasp a concept intellectually. When the Buddha's disciples genuinely understood these parables, they did not say, "Yes, I understand," but instead responded with their own parables to demonstrate their realization. Many educators, including founding Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, have concluded that memorizing facts and having knowledge alone does not constitute genuine learning or understanding. Genuine understanding is developed through a learning process that relates to one's own personal experience and is expressed through an inner transformation of one's life. For SGI members around the world today, sharing their own personal histories of transforming negative situations in their lives through their Buddhist practice is an expression of their understanding of the Buddhist Law and a vital component of their practice. Makiguchi, who started the Soka Gakkai's discussion meeting movement in a form that centers on members sharing their testimonies with others, believed that Buddhism should not be taught in the form of abstract theories. When people hear real stories of their peers triumphing over hardships and succeeding in life, this can empower them to imagine greater possibilities and help them break free of the often self-imposed limitations of their reality.❖From the October 2013 issue, the SGI Quarterly will begin a series introducing the seven parables of the Lotus Sutra
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