By Linda Johnson, SGI-USA WD Leader
Nov 2003 (Abridged)
Edited by Adrian Mollica April 6th 2004
I think the ability to hear ourselves, and the ability to see everything from the viewpoint of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, means to be able to view all of life from the standpoint of the law of causality.
In order to really hear ourselves, our true selves, and see our limitless capacity for wisdom of what is the correct answer to a problem, I think we have to learn how to practice correctly. I feel that many people practice this Buddhism in what I call a “Christian” Buddhist kind of way. The problem with that is, when you are not practising this Buddhism correctly, the results you get may be minimal in comparison to the results you will get when practising correctly.
THE GOHONZON IS NOT OUTSIDE US
I find that so many people still chant to the Gohonzon as if it were some God or some force outside of themselves. The attitude with which we chant, and the attitude with which we view the Gohonzon is most important, because if we have a distorted view, we will have a distorted practice, and it is that distorted practice and view, that we will teach to others.
We know from study that the characters on the Gohonzon represent the two sides of life and all of the positive/negative attributes that exist within life, including that fundamental darkness that coexists within every human life. Nichiren Daishonin says that there is no life that has one without the other. The characters representing both aspects of life are written on the Gohonzon. For me what is exciting is to know, that even without my being able to read it, Nichiren Daishonin wrote all of these characters on the Gohonzon, which represent every aspect of life, in such a way that every character is looking at the centre just like you and me. Every character is looking at Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Think about the Ceremony in the Air. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the axis of the universe and we’re forming a circle around that axis.
All of us are looking at Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It is the centre that every character is looking at. Why? It is because Nichiren Daishonin is giving us a continual message every time we look at the Gohonzon. The message is that we must base our life on the Law and never on the person. It is the mystic law that has enabled every Buddha throughout eternity to be able to manifest their fullest potential, and that it is the key, which is the centre, for everything. We have to make Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo the centre of our life and we have to base our life on Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It means being able to see and to hear ourselves. It means that whenever we are facing a problem, we don’t just try to use our brain to figure it out, or strategise how to fix it. Many members still do this, and after they have racked their brain as to what to do in order to get from Point A to Point B or to fix the problem, they then chant the solution to the Gohonzon to make it work! (laughter). I think that this is practising incorrectly. Let me tell you why.
When we talk about the nine levels of consciousness, the first five are our senses. Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch. The sixth level is the conscious mind. The seventh is the unconscious mind. The eighth level is what we call the karma storage area, which is that area in our life that has accumulated every cause we have ever made throughout all existences. Below that is the ninth level of consciousness, which Buddhism says, is the one pure, unchanging reality of our life.
Every single one of us has fortune and lack of fortune in our life. In the areas in which we have fortune, we can do the same things we see other people do and we can achieve our goals but in the areas of your life where you lack fortune, you can do the identical thing you see your neighbour doing, but the object of your desire seems to move further and further away (laughter), right?
EXCHANGING MISFORTUNE FOR FORTUNE
When we are dealing with problems in our lives, they have a causal connection to us. Many times they come from that place in our life where we lack fortune. And so, if we use our brain to strategize how to fix things, our brain can only go to the eighth level of consciousness, which is the karma storage. That is the area which stores up and accumulates all of the causes we have ever made, and it’s seems to be the place in which; WE DO NOT SEEM TO HAVE FORTUNE (laughter). Our brain then devises a solution based on lack of fortune. By following this “mental” solution, we will keep reinforcing the same pattern of karmic tendencies over and over in our lives.
But what Nichiren teaches is that by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo you can pierce through the eighth level of karma storage. Pierce through it, be unaffected by it, and you can reach the pure unchanging reality and infinite wisdom of your life that is unaffected by karma storage. That answer is the correct answer for your life. It’s not affected by your karma in the area in which you lack fortune. And this is why I believe Nichiren Daishonin says we must become the master of our mind rather than allowing our mind to master us.
My point is this; when we pray, we need to start from a determination such as: “I will accomplish X,” (whatever X is). We also have to understand from Buddhism that we create our life every moment through our thoughts, our words, and our behavior. Prayer in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is profoundly different from prayer in other religions. We are not praying to something outside of ourselves to bestow something on us. Instead, our prayer here is the determination that; “I will create the object or thing that I am praying for through my causes of thought, words, and actions. I am the creator of my life and I will take the responsibility to create the thing that I am praying for, and that after I have chanted this kind of determined daimoku, I will accomplish X.” I then must come to a realization… “How in the world am I going to do this? That answer only exists inside of my life. I can tap my wisdom for the answer when I have the belief and conviction, that the answer exists inside of me.” And I start chanting with the determination to pull that wisdom up from within my life to clearly see what it is that I need to do in order to create the thing that I’m praying for. That is why President Ikeda says:
“Benefit comes from you. Nobody gives you benefit.”
CHANGE OUR DESTINY IN THIS LIFETIME
I want to talk about another thing in regard to this. We have to understand that one of the reasons we practice this Buddhism is to profoundly change our destiny in this lifetime. And what I mean is this; parents naturally want to give their children better opportunities than they had so that their lives can be better. And generally, in order to do that, one of the things that we feel, in this society, is that it is imperative that you get a good education. Because we know that hopefully, from getting a good education you will more likely earn more money and be more successful in life. But if we look at this and we look at life from the fundamental point of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, we will come to understand this point; there is no amount of education in the world that will ever allow you to change your karma. Now let’s get a little bit deeper.
Every single one of us chose to be born into the family in which we were born, and we practice in that family because we share karma with every individual in that family, whether we like it or not (laughter). Me too. You grow up and you think… ” my father was an alcoholic and my mother left him when I was three years old because of his alcoholism. He continued to live within a fifteen-mile radius of us. But because of my Dad’s alcoholism he never came through on any of his promises that he made to me.” As a child I internalized that there must be something wrong with me. “Otherwise Daddy would love me.” I hated what I saw alcoholism do to him. I hated it passionately. I made a vow that I would never grow up to be like him. And I really meant it.
And so, I don’t drink. I don’t like being around anybody who does. They scare me to death. I watched what it did to my father. I may have an occasional glass of wine once or twice a year, but that’s about it. I’ve never been drunk in my life. People tried to get me drunk when I was in college and I just fed it to the plants (laughter), because I didn’t find it attractive. I found it disgusting. Again because of my own personal experience.
As I got older, I felt superior to my father. I used to think, “Look at me, I don’t drink, I’m not like you.” I felt superior. I am being honest, but what I have come to understand is that it was no coincidence that I was born into that family. What I’m starting to see is that I share this addictive kind of nature. Many of us don’t always see a difference, because we think our addiction has to manifest itself in an identical way in which it manifested in our parents.
It does not! Mine manifested in terms of food. My father used alcohol to sedate himself. Alcohol was something he used to celebrate. Alcohol was something to escape from the pain and the frustration; I use food for the same thing. I celebrate with food. When I’m frustrated, I use food. When I’m depressed, I eat too much. I use food for the same purpose he used alcohol. And so, what I’ve come to understand is, no matter how much love you have for your children, and no matter how much love your parents had for you, they cannot prevent you from living out your own karma.
OUR LIVES MIRROR WHAT WE BELIEVE
The promise of Nichiren Daishonin is that we can change any karma in this lifetime. But again, people have misunderstandings about the practice. Many people tend to think that merely because they chant that they will not have to experience karma. No such thing. Instead, this practice is based on Human Revolution. It is based on demystifying life and really, it explains to us, why things happen to people from a causal perspective. Nichiren Daishonin says we must get the point that everything from skin out is not separate from us even though visually it appears to be. Everything we experience has a causal connection with our life from both the negative and the positive sides. We must understand that we create our lives everyday with our thoughts, our words, and our behavior. Therefore, practising correctly means more than the amount of daimoku you chant everyday. How many of us take the responsibility during the day for the causes we make? How many of us take the responsibility during the day for the thoughts that we have? We are taught that we create our lives through our thoughts, our words, and our behavior. By not taking responsibility, we are living unconsciously. I find many people are very sincere in front of the Gohonzon, then go away and use this practice as if this force was something outside of themselves.
It’s as if we’re saying “If we’re sincere enough when we pray, benefit will be bestowed on us and take care of us ” and so when we get up from chanting we might feel that we don’t have to be responsible for the things that we think, say or do (laughter) Some people live like that, right? We do, we live that. And then we wonder…” I’ve chanted a million daimoku so how come I’ve had no breakthrough?” But this thinking misses the point. This practice is much deeper than the act of merely chanting. You chant a million daimoku, but inside, your life does not believe that you can accomplish the thing that is your sincere prayer to the universe. The universe is this wonderful movie screen that projects back to us exactly what we ask for in its most positive and negative sense.
We must understand that the Mystic Law, inscribed on the Gohonzon, is both positive and negative. It encompasses everything in the universe. And everything in the universe at every moment has two potentials existing side by side. The circumstances in which we find ourselves never define us. And problems never define who we are or our potential in terms of what we can be. Instead, our circumstances at this moment, I believe, have a cause and effect relationship with us and our beliefs. They mirror what we believe.
Let me give you an example. I know many people, particularly in LA where there are many people wanting to be actors and that sort of thing. They’re really chanting to be successful actors. They are chanting and going to lots of auditions and nothing is happening. And this goes on for a while and they come to me and they will say, “I chanted this much and I’ve gone to this many auditions but nothing is happening. Maybe “reality” is telling me that I need to think of doing something else with my life? I hate the word reality when people use it in that way. I look at them and say, “NO I DON’T THINK SO! Instead, I think your ‘reality’ is reflecting back to you something about yourself. Something about the profound belief system in your life. I suggest you start chanting again for that Buddha wisdom, tapping that ninth level of consciousness for the clarity to see life from its true perspective of causality. That ability always exists inside of you when you realize it and you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with that kind of conviction.”
Chant strongly to see how cause and effect is operating in your life right now. Chant to see what the lack of results in your life have to do with you in terms of your thoughts, your words and your behavior. Most often, this lack of results mirrors the fact that, deep inside of our lives, we do not believe we can achieve what we have set out to achieve. The law of cause and effect is so strict; it is the one thing in life you can never ever escape from. Our life at every moment absolutely reflects back to us what we truly believe and practice. I mean I’ve done this. I chanted sincerely for something in front of the Gohonzon and then I’ve gotten up from there and realized that the reality of life is that every single human being on the planet, whether they chant or not, battles with the deepest negativity every single moment of their lives.
OUR EVIL TWIN CAN BE OUR BEST FRIEND
I say it jokingly, but very seriously, that our evil twin exists inside of us. And that evil twin never goes on vacation and never shuts up (laughter). You can chant sincerely about that when you’re in front of the Gohonzon. When I say in front of, it’s on the understanding that the Gohonzon is inside of your life. So there we are going through life, maybe driving to work, and as you’re driving the evil twin is working overtime. You start thinking about the thing you’ve been chanting about, and the evil twin gives you a list of twenty-one reasons why you cannot do it. Right? Have you ever had this happen? Of course you have! How do you react when your evil twin determines the effects that you produce in your life?
The negative thought does not produce the results, your response to the negative thought does. (claps and laughter) We talk about positive thinking. Hmmmm, I’m like, give it up! I don’t believe any person can think positively twenty-four hours a day. It’s not natural and it does not change reality. Nichiren Daishonin explains that all life at every moment is composed of these two opposing forces. These two forces of the Buddha and the fundamental darkness are constantly battling each other both inside and outside our life.
This is the nature of life that we must accept. Rather than thinking, “When I become enlightened, the evil twin will shut up. I will never ever have to experience that again,” when we study the ten worlds, we learn that the world of Buddhahood exists inside every other world. So there is another duality that is going on, which means that even with the evil twin, there is both an enlightened and an unenlightened side. There is an opportunity with negative thought that, by challenging it, it becomes the motivation and the drive for us to change our life, but it is wholly dependant upon how we respond to negative thoughts. This can function as our greatest Shoten Zenjin in this life. But there is danger too, because it also has a disruptive side, and whichever way we choose to view it and use it in our life, determines the results that we produce from it.
It is not the obstacle itself that determines our result. It is how we respond to the obstacle. Now by understanding that, let’s talk about how it is consistent with the word “responsibility.” We hear this word a lot, and we are told that we have to take 100% responsibility for our own lives. Most of us refuse to do that, and we may even ask, “How come? If I’m having an argument with Eric. Why do I have to take 100% responsibility? He’s here too. I think our responsibility should at least be 50/50”!
I got real excited when I finally decided to pull out Webster’s Dictionary. I learned that in English, the word responsibility is comprised of two words, ‘respond and ability*. And I think that that more accurately captures what Nichiren Daishonin means by 100% responsibility. It means a change of karma and therefore a change of destiny, and a change of destiny always conies down to our ability to respond to the problem.
This Buddhism is called the The Buddhism of The True Cause. This teaches us that none of us can change yesterday. But here in this moment, through our thoughts, words, and actions we can transform anything. However, what is vitally important is the ability to be 100% in the moment and to have the determination to use our LIVE’S CREATIVELY. Learn to lean towards the Buddha, not towards your Karma. By living creatively, through creative thoughts, creative words and creative actions, we can respond to the problems in a manner that is consistent with the direction that we want to go, rather than responding in a manner in which things appear to be. Do you follow me?
This is called the Buddhism of The True Cause, because it means that in this moment we, through our thoughts, words and actions, can change absolutely anything. And this is the point that most people don’t get. When you’re chanting, you may be thinking, “I want to have the most harmonious relationship with Eric but we just had this fight. That may be a fact, but then you decide to chant with this thought; “I am going to take responsibility that we can develop a great relationship, and I’m going to take the responsibility to overcome this obstacle I am experiencing, and create something wonderful out of it so that we have a better relationship than before the argument occurred”. That thought alone creates value.
But often when we chant in that powerful way, maybe what happens is that Eric and I get into another fight. “I was chanting so creatively, so how come we got into another fight? This was not what I was chanting for.” The point we’re missing here is that the fight provides us with the opportunity to transform our relationship in a way in which we prayed to transform it. But we can only transform it by how we respond within that moment of the argument. We sometimes talk about the crucial moment in Buddhism…….Well that isjhe crucial moment. It’s when the
obstacle is appearing that we have to decide which twin is in control. That moment is providing us with the opportunity to transform our destiny through the way in which we choose to respond. In the middle of the argument with Eric, the more I slide into a negative place and start responding negatively, the more I have been swayed by the negative side of the problem, and it has sucked me into making more and more negative causes which repeat the pattern that keeps re-emerging from within my life.
That moment also says, “Here is my opportunity, and this is what I’ve been praying for.” The point here is: Benefit comes from you. You create benefit through your thoughts, your words, and your behavior. This is the essence of Human Revolution. Human Revolution means we must face our problems and our weaknesses, and this time respond differently.
Every time we respond differently, consistently with the direction we want our lives to go in, we have made a new cause in that moment to transform our life. We transform it a moment at a time, an hour at a time, and a day at a time. But the beautiful part about this is, that when we learn how to view everything from the perspective of causality and use Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism properly. Then we are not just leaving it to a theoretical understanding of the reality of our daily life. Life takes on a whole new meaning at times like these, because rather than being depressed by problems… rather than viewing problems as a sign that you are doing something “wrong”, try to begin to see all problems as opportunities to uncover more and more beauty and power from your life.
Problems are only problems because we get sucked into the negative side of them. When we can learn how to use every problem from its enlightened side and move our life forward constructively, then even amidst the process of transforming our destiny, we can have joy. Joy then, is no longer defined as only the moment when you completely overcome a hardship. Joy happens each and every moment that we win over problems. When we no longer suffer on account of the problem, we have won.
When I can take control of the problem and use it positively for my life, then I’m in charge. Life becomes exciting, and I can start to view all of my problems as my mission. It is my mission to win over everything. The reason that Nichiren Daishonin left this Buddhism is to teach us how to become masters at problem solving in this lifetime. Every human being has problems, including us, and problems will be a fact of life for as long as we live. In fact, we need problems, because problems are the pains that force us to keep on trying to rid ourselves of bad habits, and remember this, bad habits can be our comfort zone. Problems force us to keep challenging ourselves a little bit beyond what we think we can do. And so, they are the impetus and the motivation that keeps forcing us day by day to go a little bit beyond what we think we can do. They are necessary in order for us to grow, and therefore, become happier.
Our life inside is what Nichiren Daishonin calls the Mystic Law, what he calls the Gohonzon, and what he calls Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, he says it is limitless. That potential exists right now inside each and every one of our lives. It is there without us even changing one thing about ourselves, but we have to learn how to call it out and use it creatively as a force for change for the better.
There’s a limitless life force inside of us, a strong life condition… but we have to learn to call it out. Calling it out is very similar to developing muscles in the body. We all understand that… if we want to develop more muscles I must do resistance training (laughter). I must do resistance training, which means I have to take on some weights and resist them as I’m lifting. That weight to an undeveloped muscle is a problem, it may not necessarily feel very good as you’re continuing to do the repetitions. But the result of continuing is that we develop more and more muscles. My point is this… that potential always existed inside of the muscle. We couldn’t call it out until we made the right cause in order to do so.
WE DEVELOP OUR STRENGTH BY RESISTING SOMETHING.
The muscle of our life force and our life condition is the same, and it is by resisting negativity, rather than going with it that strengthens it. By resisting negativity, taking it on, challenging it, and changing it, that it then functions like the weight. It becomes the catalyst by which we pray more sincerely……and more deeply. By chanting and living this way we can become motivated
to take more action, and it also becomes the means by which we are able to call out more and more of our potential. And it has always existed. Think about this. Every major turning point in your life has come from suffering. Not one of them has come from when things are going great. It is in our ability to face reality and to take on our problems with Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, with the determination that… “I am going to defeat this! It’s not going to defeat me!” that helps us win. Chanting with that kind of determination allows us to call up still more of the strength, the muscle, and the limitless potential that exists inside of our lives. But it needs that catalyst… and again, the catalyst by which we call out our potential is: fighting against every obstacle and every negative situation, and changing it.
“REPLY TO KYO,”
I want to move on to the Gosho, “Reply to Kyo,” because I feel that in this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin is basically telling us everything we need to know. He starts off by saying; “Believe in this mandala with your whole heart.” The first thing is, you have to believe. And then he talks about how powerful Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is. “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is like the roar of a lion, what sickness can therefore be an obstacle.” He’s making a declaration here, that Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is so powerful, that there is no problem you cannot overcome. But then he warns us. The personal results that you get, all depend upon the power, depth and consistency of your faith. Then he says, “A coward can not have any of his prayers answered. The mighty sword of the Lotus Sutra must be wielded by one courageous in faith.” And what I see in myself, as well as in others, is that we allow fear and doubt to influence us to such a degree that we run away from our problems. My experience is that we cannot change anything if we do not face it with 100% responsibility.
While we think in some way that we may be protecting ourselves, I find that when we separate ourselves from our environment, from people and from problems, it is an avoidance strategy. That’s right, I’ve done it, I mean I can look good in front of the Gohonzon, but inside I have left the premises (laughter). When I do that, is it any surprise that I don’t get great results? If I avoid difficulties, I’m not taking on the problem at all. I’m running away from it. My experience again is that when I do that…no matter how many activities I do… no matter how much I chant… I can’t break through it. I cannot break through until I resolve to face it with 100% responsibility no whatever the problem is…I have to be willing to face the reality in my life. Nichiren Daishonin tells us that we must have the courage, the guts, to use our practice for the things we think we can’t do, then ‘ he says, one will be as strong as a demon armed with an iron staff. He says “I, Nichiren have inscribed my life in sumi ink so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart. Muster your faith and pray to this Gohonzon, then what is there that cannot be achieved?”
THE JAPANESE LADY EXPERIENCE
This reminds me of an experience, I call this my Japanese lady experience because it really recalls this point. This lady was born in Japan into a family that already practised. She too practised this Buddhism all of her life, but when she was into her late 70s, she developed a very painful rudimentary arthritis. So painful in fact, that just normal daily routine became exceedingly difficult for her. She went to her doctor seeking a cure, but her journey took her from one doctor to another, on and on until finally all of the doctors she consulted threw up their hands and said; “I’m sorry, but there is nothing we can do for you”. And needless to say, when you’ve practised your whole life and you are now in your late 70s, you’d be pretty discouraged to hear that.
But fortunately for her, and for us, we have this organization of fellow believers, so she went to one of her seniors in faith for encouragement and guidance. After listening to her he said: “You know, I think the reason this has not changed for you, is because you have “bought” into what the doctors have said. You have “bought” into the idea that you have an incurable disease. But Nichiren Daishonin says that Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is so powerful that it can change even that karma you think is unchangeable. So it’s okay that medical science doesn’t have the solution, because you do. You have always had the solution and now you can prove it through chanting. The issue is how much do you believe Nichiren Daishonin when he tells you how powerful Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is. You must start to believe him, and you have to start chanting with a deeper conviction that you already have that solution. And that solution is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo “.
“You have to start directing Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo into your body, with such intensity, with such belief, with such conviction and power, that you will scrape out this disease with your prayer, with your determination”. She thanked him. She went home. She called him back 15 days later to thank him again because she was pain free. The reason I love that experience is because I believe no matter how long or how short a period of time we practice, every single one of us concedes defeat a multitude of times everyday. We separate ourselves from our karmic environment. We look at it, not through the eyes of the Buddha, or through the law of causality, but instead we look at it with separate eyes and we convince ourselves that some how it has nothing to do with us, and therefore that we can’t change it.
Even though Nichiren Daishonin tells us how powerful Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is, how many of us don’t ever bother to really use our faith to test and challenge our belief systems? I don’t think any of us took faith to do what you could already do through your own efforts. And yet we practice that way. We take faith to enable ourselves to go way beyond our human effort. But we can’t possibly make the impossible possible, unless we have the courage to go for it big time.
Now let me share one of my own experience, because I want to talk not only about seeing myself through the eyes of the Buddha, through the law of causality, but my ability to see the same in all other people.
TRANSFORMING OUR RELATIONSHIPS
A few years ago, we had a local Women’s division leader that I judged terribly. I thought she did things to hurt the members and given that I am a lawyer, and I live in a world of facts, I persuasively convinced myself that I was right. She did do things to hurt other people and because I thought I was her clean up lady, I had to go behind her after she had talked to somebody, and try to make it right. After she was done with someone, I was so mad at the stuff she did that I simply judged her. I became self-righteous because, I was right. I could prove it (laughter). What happened was my life went into pain because of my judgment of her. It was this dull pain that was with me every single day. And I have to tell you that although I chanted, I couldn’t change the pain. I did activities like a crazed person but I still couldn’t change the pain. That pain went everywhere with me every single day, and if that woman walked into a room, it was like she suddenly had the remote control to my judgment. She walked into the room and all this stuff would involuntarily come out of my life and I couldn’t control myself to save my life (laughter). All this anger, and all this judgment would come pouring out of me. How I suffered… I suffered for 2 long years with this before I finally saw it, with the eyes of the Buddha, and changed it. And it’s one of the best lessons I have ever learned because I have a highly evolved judgmental nature (laughter).
When I’m judging somebody it goes something like this… “You’re not doing your best because if you were you wouldn’t be like that.” What I had yet to understand was that my view was a very superficial understanding of karma, and of course, karma is so much deeper than that. I had to learn, that through suffering with pain for two years, nothing is that simple. You can do your best of course, but because of the depth of your karma in your problem areas, it will take a while of fighting and human revolution in order for you to fundamentally change it. Part of the problem is that none of us can really see how deep our karma is. Maybe it is going to take another year. Maybe it’s going to take another day. Maybe it’s even going to take fifteen years, but the promise of Nichiren Daishonin is that we can change any karma in this lifetime. And so finally, after I had suffered enough, I decided that maybe I should apply some guidance I had been given in 1996.1 now realize that this is the sort of guidance that can change any relationship problem that you will ever have. This guidance was given to me by Vice President Hasagawa, one of President Ikeda’s personal secretaries, when Sensei was last in the United States. This in fact was guidance that President Toda first gave to Sensei.
EXAMPLE OF HOW NOT TO BE
When Sensei went to President Toda for his guidance, he was completely frustrated by the behavior of some leaders in the organization. President Toda was very strict with Sensei and told him that he needed to take the responsibility to create the kind of organization he wanted it to be. And then he said that;” Every pain, every hurt, every frustration you ever feel on account of another human being should be engraved in your heart. Never ever forget them. Then make sure you never, ever do the same to a single human being. We all want to grow and be happy and creative, but the point we most often miss, is that some people’s mission in our life is to teach us how to be a better human being through their negative example of how not to be. They are as powerful a teacher of how not to be, as the person who is the greatest example of how to be.” The issue here is; do we get the lesson or do we instead turn around and do the same thing to other people that we accuse others of doing to us?
He didn’t stop there, President Toda went on to say that we must understand that the reason we are here in this moment, in this lifetime, experiencing this problem, in this environment, with these people is because it is our mission, and our mission alone, to find the solution to the problem. The solution to the problem is never, ever waiting to see if the other person will change. Every time we wait for the other person to change we have missed our opportunity to do human revolution, to change and therefore to become happier. I too had to see the cause and effect connection with and within my life and my environment. There was a causal reason that my leader was in my life pulling out all my judgmental negativity. And so then, I started chanting with this thought: THIS IS MY MISSION, I HAVE TO FIND THE SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM.
It was clear that waiting for her to change was not the answer, it had been two years, so I was sure about it. I sincerely started chanting for the wisdom to see what it was that I needed to do to change this. And it put me on a journey towards serious self-reflection. What I saw was this: That even though I do my best, I’m not always proud of myself every day when I return home, in terms of the way I handle certain situations in my life. I also had to realize that although I had been doing my best but for two years, I had not been able to win over my judgmental self and my negativity towards this woman. When I could, I asked myself; “what makes me think that I have the right to hold another human being to certain standards?” I started to see that what I was observing in her was nothing other than a human being who, just like me, was battling with her own weaknesses, and again who, just like me had not yet been able to win over them because it is a process that takes time and it has to begin with self realisation, human revolution, challenge and change.
The moment I understood that.., really understood, not intellectually, but with my life,… a prayer came out of my life that I had never prayed before. That prayer was this… I decided that I would take total responsibility for her to have a victory over her weakness, and it meant that I was going to start sending daimoku to her life with the determination that through my daimoku alone, I was going to start battling that negativity in her. That weakness in her that I was judging so unmercifully, I was going to send daimoku to and I was going to battle within her life with my daimoku. With the determination that through my daimoku alone I would ensure that she had a breakthrough in her life. The minute I was able to chant that way, my relationship with her life changed just like that. What I realize now, is it was not her that had to change, it was me.
I chanted myself from a person of judgment, to a person of compassion for another human being’s life. When I judged her, that became my prayer and my expectation towards her, and she was my big movie screen that was projected back to me exactly what I expected of her. When I was able to take the responsibility to help her have a victory over her weakness, I found that I could have true compassion for her. My prayer and expectation towards her life became profoundly different because I had connected to another part of her life. I was able to open up to her for the first time. I then discovered that this type of sincere and deep prayer is a prayer that will allow us to speed up our human revolution and become strong powerful assets for Kosen Rufu. What I came to understand is that because there is no separation between myself and my environment, the weakness that we all experience in other people – carry the best possible messages for us to change.
THE SOKA SPIRIT
All the people within my environment have a causal connection with my life. There is a reason they are in my life and a reason that I am experiencing this problem. When I can take it on with the determination that: “I am going to do battle with the manifestations of negativity that is in their life and which is affecting me.” Because this manifestation is my karma too, and when I can take it on with the determination that: ” through my Daimoku, I am going to battle my own negativity. I’m going to battle my own fundamental darkness. I’m going to battle the weakness that I see in all other people,” With the determination that “I will ensure that through sending theirllfe my daimoku, they will have a victory with their own negativity”. And that is how we can all work together. This is The Soka Spirit. When you fight the evil, which seems to be outside of you, it will change the evil that concurrently exists within you. When you fight the evil or negativity that exists outside of your own life with the determination that you are going to help another human being win, it simultaneously becomes a great cause to change the same thing that exists inside of you. And it does exist inside of you; otherwise, neither you, nor I would be experiencing it.
This is one of the greatest causes I can make to change my life. It also enables me to practice this Buddhism correctly. Because it enables me to use my life to help another human being win. Whenever I can help another human being to win, I am never sacrificing myself; I am just helping to create even more value. And what I get back is quadrupled. It is one of the fastest ways to change my own karma. Let me explain it in another way.
I gave guidance to a woman last month who came to see me… she is married with two sons and she was frustrated and in pain because both of her sons are addicted to drugs and alcohol. She then proceeded to tell me about her husband’s background. She related how her husband grew up in an alcoholic and abusive family. She continued to weave the story, explaining to me that the problems they were having with their sons was because of her husband and his record. I looked at her and I said, “Okay, now let’s talk about your background” (laughter). In asking her questions, I found that she also grew up in a verbally and physically abusive home. Her father too had had problems with alcohol. The abuse became so great that her mother finally left her Dad. After listening to this I looked at her and said, “Forget your husband and your husband’s background. I want you to understand that the problems you are experiencing with your sons are nothing other than a manifestation of your family destiny.” Are you following me? Because she grew up in an alcoholic and an abusive family, she was now in a marriage where her husband verbally abused her and the children. And now her children were manifesting that same addictive karmic behaviour, by both of them being addicted to drugs and alcoholic. So I said to her, “You could have married to the Prince of Japan and you would still have a marriage like the one you have now with your two children”. But the greatness of this practice is that Nichiren Daishonin has given us the tool by which we can transform anything that continues to be a problem. What she, and we all have to realize, is that we have this tool, and this tool is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and we simply have to start using it properly. When we learn how to use Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to respond properly to every obstacle that arises, we begin to turn everything that is a problem into something of value and growth for our lives. So much so, that during the process of changing karma on a fundamental level, we can still have joyful times during the process.
There is a book called “The Flow” by a Professor at the University of Chicago. It’s been around for some time, and is now in paperback. In essence, this professor over many years studied the one thing that is common to all of us human beings when we are in a state of true joy. What is the common denominator that we experience as true joy? His conclusion was this; we always experience true joy whenever we are challenging our limitations. And I think that that’s exactly consistent with Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism when you think about it. Most times, we may think that joy means the absence of problems, but the reality of life means that we will always have to face problems.
A CHALLENGE MOMENT
Say you are runner, you’re running the 25-mile marathon and you’re in the last quarter mile stretch of that run. You are not experiencing a lack of problems at that moment. Your lungs feel like they are about to explode, your feet are pounding, your body is in pain, and your brain is screaming for you to STOP! But still you keep going in spite of all the stuff going on inside your head and body. The moment that you cross the finishing line, you get a feeling that you did it against all odds. Isn’t that joy, isn’t that a feeling that nobody else can ever give you? You will always experience this joy, whenever you challenge your limitations and win over them, rather than having them win over you.
Nichiren Daishonin”s Buddhism is the study of life, your own and that of others. It is the study of learning how to master problems. When we learn how to master problems, problems are no longer a problem. We can view them as opportunities for growth, as signs we are doing something right, and that we now have another opportunity to grow more and to experience more, and to have greater capacity as human beings. The moment a problem arises is a challenge moment, and it provides us with an opportunity. When it comes to the art of listening with the ears of the Buddha, seeing with the eyes of the Buddha, and chanting with the heart of the Buddha, we have to start to understand that all human beings, whether they chant or not, are often experiencing a constant, and sometimes very painful internal battle with a fundamental darkness. When we are caught up with our own weaknesses, it is almost like we are possessed by the same darkness.
When I was caught up in my judgment of the leader I mentioned earlier, it was like I was possessed by it. And although I knew intellectually that it was not a good thing to do, and I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, I couldn’t stop myself. That’s what it is like when we are battling with our own weaknesses. You can intellectually know, “I should shut up right now because, if I am not creating value in order to solve this problem, why am I not doing so?” That is not the way of the Buddha. My point is this; whether that person is your parent, your lover, your boss, or whoever, and while I am not justifying bad behavior, we must come to see that through the eyes of the Buddha, what we are experiencing is that person battling with their own darkness. And right now, they are unable to win over it. They are possessed by it. And therefore, the reason they are in our lives is that they are an environmental mirror of our own karma.
THE KEY TO UNLOCKING OUR POTENTIAL
Please understand that our karma is both positive and negative. We need to recognize all our positive karma and embrace ourselves for that too. At least we don’t suffer from that stuff. Understand that there is a causal thread between us and everyone we meet and everything we experience. In other words, each one of us has the most fortune in the world because we have been given the greatest gift by Nichiren Daishonin. And here we are in the most perfect environment in which to prove it. That gift is the key to unlock our potential to tap into the Mystic Law that exists inside and outside of us. And by unlocking it we can direct it to anywhere in the universe. Through using it with the conviction and the belief that it has limitless power, it can enable us to do anything.
So try to see, that those people in our life that cause us pain and suffering, are also part of the gifts to allow us to fundamentally transform our destiny. If only we can find the compassion to send our daimoku to them with the determination that, through our chanting, we are going to battle their weakness with them. They may be unable to win over their weaknesses at this moment, but now they are in my life to provide me with the opportunity to battle negativity in theirs. And through battling the manifestation of negativity or weakness in another person, I simultaneously change it in myself. All of the people in our life that bring us suffering are our greatest gift. They are the ones that provide us with the opportunity to change in the most fundamental way. Instead of seeing everything as separate from skin out, we have to chant to see cause and effect in our life. To see that there is a causal connection between me and everything I experience in thought, in words, and in action. When we get that point, it is empowering. When we see that there is a causal connection between all of us, our problems and our environment, it means that we have the ability to change it there and then. If however, we separate the environment from ourselves we become powerless to change it.
When we perceive things from such a deep perspective, although we cannot see it with our eyes, that inner connectiveness between ourselves and everything else is always present. We have to challenge all of the little problems, as well as the big ones because the big problems are usually composed of lots of little ones. And we must believe, that no matter what it is we pray for, whatever happens during the day, every little challenge that comes up is the answer to our prayer. Each challenge is there to get us to take on that weakness in our life that holds us back. And it is only by taking them on and winning, that we make the causes to move our lives, and kosen rufu, forward.
Life is this journey of discovering, sometimes after many, many years of practice, that what we have always been in search of in our lives, we have always had. It’s always been inside of us. With Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo there is no limit to what we can achieve…what we can be…and what we can do. Our experience of growth can then be limitless. If we have but the guts and the courage to use the mighty sword of the Lotus Sutra, we can win. Use the strategy of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo first, rather than using your head. If we can use the strategy of understanding no matter what the problem, fundamentally we will always have the solution. And chanting with that conviction that Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo will awaken the wisdom in us to see life correctly, we can make the necessary causes to change our lives.
That joy, that new sense of joy we’ve been talking about, is the direct affect of the willingness to take on our greatest and deepest insecurities, fears, and doubts. On the other side of that is everything we’ve always been waiting for, always been wanting, but we can only get to the other side by fighting through the problems and challenges of the present reality