This month we are pleased to present you with a great special features regarding the long awaited upcoming exhibition “The Lotus Sutra – A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence” that will be held in May of this year at the HKSGI Culture Center.
This exhibition, organized by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy and the HKSGI, highlights the history of the importance given to the Lotus Sutra and explains why it has been widely accepted by various cultures over time.
In addition to the texts, visitors will be able to see reproductions and replicas of various artifacts related to the transmission of the Lotus Sutra.
As explained on page 26 in this months Buddhist Concepts column, “A core theme of the sutra is the idea that all people equally and without exception possess the ‘Buddha nature.’ The message of the Lotus Sutra is to encourage people’s faith in their own Buddha nature, their own inherent capacity for wisdom, courage and compassion.”
We hope that everyone, members and non-members alike, will have a chance to visit the Lotus Sutra Exhibition.
Also this month we celebrate the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism. On April 28, 1253 Nichiren Daishonin first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Having widely studied all the Buddhist sutras, Nichiren concluded that the Lotus Sutra contains the ultimate truth of Buddhism: that everyone without exception has the potential to attain Buddhahood.
The title of the Lotus Sutra in its Japanese translation is Myoho-renge-kyo. But to Nichiren, Myoho-renge-kyo was far more that the title of a Buddhist text, is was the expression, in words, of the Law of life which all Buddhist teachings in one way or another seek to clarify.
Because of his compassion for all humanity, Nichiren provided a means by which all people could fundamentally change their lives, that of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
As President Ikeda reminds us: “Life is an everlasting struggle with ourselves. It is a tug of war between moving forward and regressing, between happiness and unhappiness. Outstanding individuals didn’t become great overnight. They disciplined themselves to overcome their weaknesses, to conquer their lack of caring and motivation until they became true victories in life. One reason Buddhist chat Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day is to develop strong will and discipline and, along with those, the ability to tackle any problem seriously with the determination to overcome it.”
We hope that you will enjoy this issue of Harmony as you deepen your faith and understanding of this great Buddhism.
Quotes of the Month:
“Metal has the power to cut down trees and plants, and water has the power to extinguish any kind of fire. In like manner, the Lotus Sutra has the power to bring all living beings to the state of Buddhahood.” –WND, p.512
You will also find within our pages a number of excellent lectures and guidance’s by President Ikeda.
Our Special Features this month is a great address he gave at the First SGI-USA Youth General Meeting held in San Francisco, titled “The Key to Humanity’s Fundamental Problems”. In it you will find some inspiring words on how to cultivate a never give up spirit, be victorious in life and raise the next generation.
Also in this issue we continue with the sixth chapter of the fantastic series “The Widom for Creating Happiness and Peace”, in which President Ikeda talks about “The Path to Absolute Happiness”.
Our Youth Study Session continues this month with the second part of “Youth and the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-Advancing with the Spirit of Many in Body, One in Mind”. In this dialogue, President Ikeda talks with some Youth Division Leaders in Japan about our organization, promoting worldwide kosen-rufu and how to overcome all obstacles. This is a very insightful discussion that should be read by all members, not just the youth division.
In the SGI, youth is not exclusive to the young. We are constantly encouraged to develop and maintain a youthful spirit in our daily life and Buddhist practice, no matter what our age. Keeping curious and open to new experiences, continuously studying and making sure that we are not set in our ways are all qualities of being a youthful person.
Fostering the youth is an idea that is held not just by the Soka Gakkai.
President Ikeda reminds us of this when he says: “Rosa Parks, the highly respected civil rights activist, said that she derived her greatest pleasure from working with and for youth. Let us, too, joyfully and wholeheartedly exert ourselves in the task of nurturing the messengers of the future, our precious youth.”
We hope that your find this issue of Harmony inspiring as we all cultivate a youthful spirit.
Quotes of the Month:
“What is youth? It is the inner strength not to stagnate or grow resistant to change but to stay open to new possibilities. It is the power of the spirit that refuses to succumb to complacency and strives ever forward.”
This month we look at the Buddhist concept of The Eight Winds.
All too often we can be swayed by our environment. After all, we are only human. If we are not careful, external influences can become the only thing that determines how we act and feel. Quite frequently, our happiness is based on what is happening to and around us. But as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, we realize that we have the means to become absolutely happy, regardless of the circumstances we might find ourselves in. We don’t have to succumb to the turbulent winds of our environment or let someone else determine our happiness. We should not to be swayed by our attachment to prosperity, honor, praise, or pleasure (the four favorable winds), or by our aversion to decline, disgrace, censure, or suffering (the four adverse winds).
Regardless of our circumstances, we should not have any doubt in he power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (daimoku) or in our prayers.
Nichiren Daishonin states:
“Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples moning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith.”
Our Buddhist practice has the power to transform any suffering of disappointment into joy. It can also help prevent a victory from becoming the source for a defeat.
As President Ikeda reminds us in this month’s editorial, “That’s why we must always put daimoku first, whatever the situation. A person who chants strong and consistent daimoku will never be deadlocked.”
Let’s challenge each day with abundant daimoku that is like the roar of a lion king!
Quotes of the Month:
“Never conduct yourself in a shameful manner. Be unmoved by greed, by the desire for fame, or by anger.”
Happy New Year in the “Year of Dynamic Development in the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu”! On behalf of the Harmony Team we wish you a wonderful 2015 and look forward to your continuing patronage in the coming year.
The beginning of the year is traditionally a time when people the world over set new goals and renew their determinations for the coming year.
As members of the SGI, we are encouraged to set lofty goals for our lives. At the same time, not just focusing on ourselves, we also include the well-being of others when making our resolutions. As Buddhists, we recognize and embrace the concept of the interconnectedness of all things. Thus, it is not simply a wish for the environment and all those in it to thrive, but it is a crucial part of our own well-being and happiness.
Members of SGI strive to spread the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, which places the highest priority on respect for the dignity of human beings and indeed, all life. And as we strive in our human revolution, such inner transformations will lead to absolute happiness for ourselves and ultimately for society, far and wide.
As President Ikeda says in his New Year’s Message, we are “committed to spreading the SGI’s hope-filled philosophy of respect for the dignity of life even more widely throughout our blue planet, the grand stage of our endeavors.”
As members of the SGI, we speak again and again about the great mission of kosen-rufu. We have dedicated this issue of Harmony to explain this concept in greater depth and to help clarify what it is and is not.
President Ikeda has written:”Kosen-rufu means sharing with our fellow human beings through heart-to-heart dialogue and friendship, striving together with them to find the way to become better and happier people. That alliance of individuals working for the happiness of all constitutes kosen-rufu.”
We have a daily practice, which effectively makes every day like New Year’s Day – an opportunity to start afresh with hope and determination. In light of that, I would like to close with the following two quotes.
“Be bold, Be bold, and everywhere, be bold.”
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Quotes of the Month:
“In Buddhism, we either win or lose-there is no middle ground. Now and in the future, let us advance, determined to win in every sphere of our lives. By winning in our lives, we advance kosen-rufu; and by advancing kosen-rufu, we win in our lives.” - Daisaku Ikeda FIA p.74
This month we look at Earthly Desires and how, when viewed correctly, they can help us become happy.
“When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our problems and sufferings all turn into energy for our happiness, into fuel for our enlightenment.”
Growing up in the US, my exposure to Buddhism was limited and shaped by what I saw on TV, in the movies, and what little I read. I thought that “being a Buddhist” meant you had to change your diet, how you dress, live a monastic lifestyle, and give up all worldly possessions and desires. But after I started to practice and study Nichiren Buddhism, I came to realize that this common view was incorrect. It is possible to be a Buddhist and want things in life. We are, after all, human. I can’t tell you the number of times that someone has said to me “funny, you don’t look like a Buddhist”.
As President Ikeda mentions:
“Buddhism teaches the principle that ‘earthly desires are enlightenment.’ To explain this very simply, ‘earthly desires’ refers to suffering and to the desires and cravings that cause suffering, while ‘enlightenment’ refers to attaining a vast and expansive state of absolute happiness.
“Normally, one would assume that earthly desires and enlightenment are separate and distinct-especially since suffering would seem to be the exact opposite of happiness. But this is not the case in Nichiren Buddhism, which teaches that only by igniting the firewood of earthly desires can the flame of happiness be attained.
“As a result, our lives are infused with the light and energy of happiness. Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we burn the firewood of our earthly desires.”
It is important that we really grasp and understand this principal.
Nichiren Daishonin wrote a letter titled “Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment” in order to emphasize the importance of this core principle to all of us and to ensure that, through strong faith, we are able to view Earthly Desires in the correct light and lead lives of absolute happiness and freedom based on this awareness.
We hope you enjoy this issue of Harmony.
Quotes of the Month:
“Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weakness and lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the act of impressing in the very depths of our being the conviction that we can change the situation without fail.” –www.ikedaquotes.org
Cultivating and maintaining an attitude of gratitude is a lifelong process. It appears that our brains are programmed to have much deeper memory and faster recollection for negative experiences than happy ones. Scientific research shows this again and again as a basic and wide-ranging principle of psychology. It is perhaps meant as an evolutionary protective mechanism to remind and stop us from repeating some situations.
Other research shows that happy people are those who have the ability to set aside negative experiences and recall more of their positive experiences. So what marks the difference between a happy and an unhappy person is not the amount of either positive or negative situations they experience, but the way they focus their attention on the positive rather than the negative.
In Buddhism we do not judge events as either positive or negative; we look at situations from the perspective of the Ten Worlds, and depending in which life-state we dwell, we regard our circumstances accordingly. Our life-state is ever changing and without a solid Buddhist practice, we can easily be swayed from a state of perfect bliss and happiness into a deep and dark depression triggered by our thoughts and circumstances.
So how do we get out of the negativity loop and develop this “Attitude of Gratitude”? President Ikeda says: “Viewing events and situations in a positive light is important. The strength, wisdom and cheerfulness that accompany such an attitude lead to happiness. To regard everything in a positive light or with a spirit of goodwill, however, does not mean being foolishly gullible and allowing people to take advantage of our good nature. It means having the wisdom and perception to move things in a positive direction by seeing things in their best light while all the time keeping our eyes firmly focused on reality.”
We need wisdom and a strong Buddhist practice fueled with both study and abundant chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to lift our life condition to the point where we truly appreciate everything about ourselves and around us. When we see the world with the Buddha’s eyes, we cannot help but be filled with absolute gratitude for our life and the great mission we have.
Quotes of the Month:
“What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country. But if one intends to repay these great debts of gratitude, one can hope to do so only if one learns and masters Buddhism, becoming a person of wisdom.”
(WND1 On Repaying Debts of Gratitude p.690)
We often associate the setting of goals, determinations, and making a fresh start to coincide with New Year celebrations – the big time to reset the clocks and our life. In reality, every day and every moment is an opportunity for a fresh start.
We get up in the morning , brush our teeth and wash our faces, making a clean, fresh start to the day for our body. We make our beds and tidy the house, to ensure it is all nice and fresh. We even reboot our electronics on a regular basis to ensure the best performance.
But what do we do about our mind? Are our thoughts fresh? Is our mind open to approach each new day with vigor and joy, or does it remain dull and cluttered with thoughts and worries about yesterday, tomorrow and beyond? Even though we know that dwelling on the past does not resolve any problems of the future, human nature is such that we ignore all the positive opportunities ahead and instead look back and frequently ask ourselves why this, why that, why me?
Nichiren Buddhism teaches that no matter what our situation, no matter how deep and dark our despair, we are reassured, that the moment we chant Nan-myoho-renge-kyo, our life expands and we infuse our life with the wisdom of the Buddha and move forward in a positive direction. Buddhism is reason and manifests in daily life, so let’s celebrate our life with vibrant gongyo and chanting of Nam-myoho-regnge-kyo so that all our actions become the Buddha’s work.
Our daily gongyo is the point of starting afresh. As President Ikeda says:
“When we do gongyo and chant daimoku, we conduct a ceremony in which we praise Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the law of the universe, and the Buddha. We also praise the eternal life of the universe, and the world of Buddhahood in our own lives.
[When we chant to the Gohonzon] right then and there the doors of the microcosm within us open completely to the macrocosm, and we can experience a great and serene sense of happiness, as though gazing out over the entire universe. We savor tremendous fulfillment and joy, and gain access to a great and all-embracing wisdom. The microcosm of our lives that is encompassed by the universe in turn encompasses the entire universe.”
We sincerely hope that the contributions and articles in this issue will inspire you to re-determine your goals and focus on positive changes in your life.
Let’s make it a fresh start, every day to create value!
Quotes of the Month:
“Gongyo revitalizes us from the very depths of our being. Therefore, the important thing is to do gongyo each day filled with a feeling of rhythm and cadence—like a white horse galloping through the heavens. I hope you will do the kind of satisfying gongyo that leaves you refreshed and revitalized in both body and mind.”
The heart of the matter in Buddhism is that our heart matters most. This philosophy of life is based on the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, who through sincere dialogue with his followers, enabled them to understand the concepts of Buddhism and the meaning of their lives. Following this way, the members of SGI engage in discussion meetings and have open dialogue to support each other in the journey of faith. President Ikeda keeps reminding us that sincere dialogue is the way to understand each other better, and ultimately is the key to world peace.
Dialogue requires us not just to be able to speak eloquently – but also to hone our listening skills. Those wanting to grow in their Buddhist practice will have a seeking spirit and will have many questions. Therefore, it is crucial that we study to deepen our understanding and knowledge of this wonderful philosophy of life.
What matters most when we engage in dialogue is our intent. Are we really caring and compassionate towards our friends, and sincere in our effort to help, or are we just talking for the sake of talking and pushing our personal views upon others? Are we listening to the other person, or are we thinking of what we will say next? Words once spoken cannot be taken back, and one careless hurtful remark can break the trust and friendship between people. At the same time, an endless stream of complaints under the guise of dialogue will not bring any benefit at all – in fact it is one of the major slanders we risk committing in our daily lives. Once we start complaining, we are undoing good causes we have assiduously made in our life.
Let’s be mindful of the effect our words have on ourselves and others before we speak, and strive to be positive, encouraging and supportive.
Let’s also include those thoughts we have in our hearts and heads, as that is where the cause is initially made. We cannot reach someone’s heart, even with the sweetest words, if our mind and our heart does not really think and feel the words we speak. Our thinking is also crucial to our own inner dialogue. How can we be compassionate towards ourselves and others if we allow our own inner voice to keep putting us down?
The best foundation for a heart-to-heart dialogue is to chant sincerely to lift our life condition and really be open to absorb and understand the situation clearly. With the life state of the Buddha, we will be able to master our minds and communicate through the smallest word, or even silence.
Everything begins with prayer.
Quotes of the Month:
“To lead a life in which we are inspired and can inspire others, our hearts have to be alive; they have to be filled with passion and enthusiasm. To achieve that, we need the courage to live true to ourselves. Rather than borrowing from or imitating others, we need the conviction to be able to think for ourselves and to take action out of our own sense of responsibility.” -Daisaku Ikeda (Ikedaquotes-power of the heart)
This month of August holds great significance in the SGI for a number of reasons. August is the month that the men’s division, the golden pillars of kosen-rufu, was established. August is also the month that the third president of the Soka Gakkai, Daisaku Ikeda, first took faith in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, an event that has had far reaching implications. Were is not for the bond of mentor and disciple formed between Mr. Toda and Mr. Ikeda, the Soka Gakkai organization would not be what it is today.
In this issue we look at Revealing the True. The concept of “casting off the transient and revealing the true” can be hard to comprehend. But as you will read in our Special Features, it is really quite easy to grasp and understand, though sometimes challenging to accept and embrace. President Ikeda gave a great example when he said:
“A classical Japanese comedy tells the following story: Once there was a country village where no one had a mirror. In those days, mirrors were priceless. A man, returning from his trip to the capital, handed his wife a mirror as a souvenir. That was the first time for her to see a mirror. Looking into it, she exclaimed: “Who on earth is this woman? You must’ve brought a girl back with you from the capital.” And so began a big fight.
“Though this story is fictitious, many people become angry or grieve over phenomena that are actually nothing but the reflection of their own lives – their state of mind and the causes that they have created. Like the wife in the story who exclaims, “Who on earth is this woman?” they do not realize the folly of their ways.
“Because they are ignorant of Buddhism’s mirror of life, such people cannot see themselves as they truly are. This being the case, they cannot guide others along the correct path of life nor can they discern the true nature of occurrences in society.”
We would also like to draw your attention to a new series that we are very happy to present entitled The Wisdom For Creating Happiness And Peace. We hope that our readers will find this series to be both illuminating and inspiring, and as you continue to polish the mirror of your own lives through your Buddhist practice, that happiness and contentment fill your every day!
Quotes of the Month:
“In commenting on this passage, I have this to say: Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way of a person of courage.” (WND1, p.558)
Although people appear very different, we are fundamentally the same. That is the main principle of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Buddhism.
People are born into various social, economic, geographical and ethnic situations. Out of the billions that inhabit the Earth, no two people are exactly the same. Everyone is unique, with his or her own distinctive characteristics and qualities.
We inhabit the same planet and breathe the same air. The traits of being human remain the same in spite of different geographic locations, gender, race, color, creed or sexual orientation. No matter what our status in society, we are subject to the four sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. Nichiren Buddhism teaches we have a shared humanity and all of us, without exception, possess the Buddha nature.
Technology has helped us to become closer and less isolated, gaining global perspective. While the high dependence on the latest gadgets has some drawbacks, technology and social media have increased our awareness of what is happening in other parts of the world. It makes it easier for us to be sympathetic to the challenges people in other countries are facing. Feeling empathy for others’ plight is what our shared humanity is all about.
When we are preoccupied with our own issues, it’s not easy to feel care and compassion for anyone in our immediate environment, let alone strangers in some faraway place. People are judgmental and can find it easy to dismiss anyone they cannot relate to, failing to recognize that the person has the same basic needs, wants and desires as all of us.
President Toda once said: ”At the root of various injustices and discrimination in society lie fear and insecurity; such prejudice is the product of human cowardice and weakness.”
Overcoming this discrimination can be accomplished with the recognition of our interconnectedness and shared humanity.
This concept is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN, which states: ”Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”
By recognizing the inherent Buddhahood in others, by understanding our shared humanity, we can change our perspective and the way we approach people and situations. We will be less likely to be driven by the destructive impulses of the three poisons of Greed, Anger and Ignorance. We will be less likely to be dominated by the Four Evil Paths (Hell, Hunger, Animality and Anger), the four lower life states that are characterized by suffering. We will be more likely to treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve, regardless of the circumstances. It will be easier to find common ground to move things forward in a positive manner, a win-win scenario. After all, we are all in this together.
For more on this subject, please visit:
Quotes of the Month:
“Human dignity does not shine in isolation. It comes to full brilliance through our efforts to cast a bridge connecting the opposing banks of self and other. In the teachings of Buddhism we find these words: ‘If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way.’ (GZ1598) Actions taken to illuminate the dignity of others inevitably generate the light that reveals our own highest aspects.”-Daisaku Ikeda 2014 Peace Proposal