We are happy to announce that the SGI has just launched a new website, the Nichiren Buddhism Library. The SGI has made available on-line The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, volumes I and II, The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, and, as a reference to assist with study of these works, The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism. All five of these books can now be found in searchable format at www.nichirenlibrary.org.
This month we look at the relationship between Buddhism and science.
With a seeking mind for finding truth, scientists have raised questions about the validity of religion from the very beginning of their academic research and it often appears that science and religion take diametrically opposing views. Religion is largely requiring a faith-based trust, and science demands actual proof of the stated findings, making it appear that they will never agree or find common ground.
Buddhism is one of my favorite subjects in which to engage in a meaningful, thought provoking, and sometimes heated dialogue. In my almost 30 years of chanting, I have had discussions with so many interesting people from diverse backgrounds. Each person I talked with was shaped by their unique experience in life that gave them a different view and perspective. Based on their culture and religious tradition, they had varying degrees of understanding and openness to views other than their own.
Each individual has different ways of receiving and learning new information. Some, when I tell them that they have the Buddha nature and that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo they can overcome anything, start chanting that very day. Others have been more cautious and skeptical and demand that I “prove it”. So, to demonstrate the validity of chanting I relate one of my many personal experiences of the benefits of this Buddhism, or I share those of others.
There are those who ask me to explain the workings of Buddhism in scientific terms. Some analytical people want to see empirical data and evidence to support the concepts of Buddhist philosophy before they will embrace it. That’s great. I tell them that over 12 million people in 192 countries and territories wouldn’t be chanting if it weren’t beneficial. Faith in this Buddhism is not blind faith. Buddhism encourages a practitioner to have a seeking mind, and based on practice and study, faith develops and deepens with time. But we have to take action and chant ourselves to experience it. Theory alone is not enough. For example, reading the user manual does not give us the experience of what it feels like to drive a car.
The great thing about Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is that it is very logical and practical in its approach. Science is just starting to embrace theories and arrive at the same conclusions that Buddhism has been expounding for thousands of years. From the micro to the macro, from cells to the vastness of the universe, Buddhism covers it all.
As you will read in our special features and viewpoints, Buddhism and science actually do agree on many levels!
Quotes of the Month:
“Science is based on tested proof or empirical evidence. You conduct a test or experiment and then observe the results. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, similarly, teaches that nothing beats actual proof. In this regard, it stands alone among world religions.” —Daisaku Ikeda, FIA p.4
Each year, on November 18th, we celebrate Soka Gakkai Founding Day. We recognize the unwavering commitment and accomplishments of our three funding presidents and the debt of gratitude we owe them.
I wonder if sometimes we don’t take for granted the struggles of these three courageous men, who stood up against all odds for the happiness of our and me.
If it were not for their unselfish dedication to bring hope and happiness to others by sharing of this Buddhism, we would most likely not be practicing Nichiren Buddhism today.
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism would have stayed within the confines of a small number of priests in Japan and would not be practiced today by millions of people around the world, enabling us to experience first hand the magnificent benefits of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. As a result of embracing this philosophy, we can transform our lives and our friends’ lives. When we change, the world will change. This is the formula for our human revolution.
This year, November 18th will be truly historic, as it marks the completion and opening of the new central Soka Gakkai headquarters building in Tokyo. Our cover image is an architectural rendering of this impressive structure. As president Ikeda states: the Soka Gakkai headquarters is a ‘fighting citadel’ from which we direct our efforts for kosen-rufu, while fending off the three powerful enemies and other negative forces. That’s why Mr. Toda insisted that the Headquarters building be functional, sturdy, and simple.”
As you will read in our special features, the foundation for our kosen-rufu movement has been laid. We are now building towards a new future, as evidenced by the realization of president Ikeda’s vow to his mentor, president Toda, to construct a magnificent new castle for kosen-rufu; thus, signifying the SGI’s advance as a world religion.
“Soka Gakkai buildings are golden citadels of mentor and disciple, symbols of our unshakable unity.”
With a renewed spirit, let us courageously, joyfully and wisely advance in all endeavors, as we share the life transforming philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin with those around us.
Quotes of the Month:
“The way to peace is to expand the ranks of capable people who possess a stand-alone spirit. When you encourage one person, you create hope. When you connect with one person, you spread peace.”—Daisaku Ikeda, World tribune, 18 October 2013, p.7
This month we look at what it means to make a vow.
When we hear the word vow, we often think of it as something religious, marital or even political. Simply put, a vow is a pledge, an oath, a promise or a commitment to do something. A vow is made first in thought but then it must be followed up by action, otherwise it is not a vow, it is just wishful thinking.
We can make vows many times a day and they can come in various degrees of intensity and altruism. A vow to get up on time, to be a nicer person at work, to lose weight, or to help a suffering friend become happy.
We may not consciously say to ourselves “I VOW to…” We may word it as “I determine to …” or “I’m going to …”. We reserve the word “vow” for important commitments. But when we set about on a course of action, and work hard not to deviate from it, that is what we are doing, making a vow. If we are not careful to continuously re-determine ourselves, our vows can start to lose their intensity and slip away, becoming empty, meaningless words.
In Buddhism, making a vow for kosen-rufu is the greatest commitment, and I completely changes the way our practice and life unfolds. When we make a vow to help other people become happy, we realize our own potential. We may feel like a house cat, but through making a vow for something as noble as kosen-rufu, we unleash the lion with. We overcome our lesser-self and reveal our greater-self; we become a lion king.
When we look at the lives of the three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai, we can see first hand the power and transformative impact of what making a vow for kosen-rufu means; not only for the individual, but for society as a whole.
We are able to practice this Buddhism because of their vow to share this Buddhism and help people overcome their sufferings and become truly happy. They fully embraced the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple.
Never underestimate the power of a vow by one individual. All it takes is one person to stand side by side with their mentor and work for the happiness and benefit of others; to challenge their own personal situation, win in their life and show others how it is done through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
As we read this month’s issue of Harmony, let’s think about our own vow that what we can do to actualize it.
Quotes of the Month
“One who refuses to seek the advice of others will eventually be led to a path of ruin. A mentor helps you to perceive your own weaknesses and confront them with courage. The bond between mentor and protege enables us to stay true to our chosen path until the very end.” (Daisaku Ikeda, www.ikedaquotes.org)
Like our cover image suggests, in this month’s Harmony we are addressing old baggage, and how to let go of it with the support of a strong Buddhist practice.
We all too often venture on the journey of life weighted down by the baggage we carry with us. We may not even want to, let it go thus lightening our load. Sometimes it can seem so heavy and burdensome that we feel we can go on farther. We may feel that it is all just too much. We are stuck with this load that will stay with us always.
So why don’t we just let go of what is holding us back and make it easier for us to move forward? Easier said then done!
I really like the analogy of the elephant that is tethered to the ground by a rope. This rope could easily be broken by the adult animal, but the elephant has been tied up since a very young age and is now conditioned that this is as far as he can go, and deems it impossible to break free. It might have been the case when he was small, but not now. However, the elephant thinks that what was once true in the past must be true now, so doesn’t even try to break free.
How often do we – just like the elephant – use the past as an excuse, a justification, to hold us back from achieving what we really want?
The choices we make in the present are shaped by our past, our karma, our experiences, and we decide on our action or inaction. Are we letting ourselves be held back like the elephant? Are we stuck in the past and not moving forward because we are carrying around heavy baggage that can be discarded if we just let go?
You can’t move forward if you’re always looking back.
When we let our past dictate our future, we are allowing our fundamental darkness to take hold. We need to recognize this and believe in our own Buddhahood so that we can break through.
By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can push back this critical voice of our fundamental darkness and re-determine ourselves to be victorious. When we raise our life condition by chanting, we can win even in the most adverse conditions. We prove to ourselves and others that our past doesn’t have to control or inhibit our forward movement.
As you will read in this issue, our past does not limit the potential of who we can become in the future. Let’s develop unwavering trust that through our prayers and sincere actions, we will change our karma and make even the seemingly impossible possible.
So let’s drop the bags and break the rope; travel light, and enjoy the journey!
Quote of the month
“Our live are ruled by impermanence. But simply realizing that changes nothing. There is no value in bleak pessimism. The challenge is how to create something of enduring value within the context of our impermanent lives. The lotus sutra teaches us how to do this.” – Daisaku Ikeda FIA p.16
Available at all HKSGI Culture Centres
Whatever your taste in music, one thing is certain, The Beatles were a great band. Their music was popular and insightful. In 1967 they had a number one hit with a message they felt could be understood by all nationalities “all you need is love”. Now the song is playing n your head, isn’t it?
Yes, it is true we all need love. It is an emotion that we all share; it is part of being human. But is that really all that is needed, especially in the context of peace and happiness? Just love? If it were that easy, then why are we living in such troubled times, and if all you need is love, then love for whom? How is that love defined?
Burt Bacharach wrote the song “What the world needs now is love”. Again, good message, but I would take it one step further and add compassion. What the world needs now is love and compassion. Why stop at love?
What we really need is more people being more compassionate toward their fellow human beings. It is sometimes hard to feel compassion for people we don’t know or who aren’t in our immediate environment. But since we are all connected, that doesn’t have to be the case.
What is stopping us from feeling the pain and anguish or even sharing in the joy of the person sitting next to us on the bus? They are no different then we are, are they? They have the Buddha nature just like we do, don’t they?
It is not always easy to love or feel by any means! But as Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once said: “we can substitute courage for compassion. The courage to speak the truth is the equivalent of compassion.”
In our cut-throat, aggressive corporate culture, compassion is sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness. It is something you shouldn’t have if you are to succeed, where they only way to win is at the expense of someone else.
This is a very unfortunate way to approach life. You miss so much by adhering to this way of treating others. From the standpoint of the Ten Worlds, this is the world of Animality, whereas compassion is the life-state of Bodhisattva.
Let’s summon up our courage, increase our compassion and write new lyrics to our own song.
Quote of the Month
“As Buddhist, we need to be sensitive to other people’s situations, to put out the ‘antennas of the heart,’ as it were. Such concern and sensitivity, which the Daishonin teaches by his own example, are essential parts of the makeup of a Buddhist.”
-Daisaku Ikeda FIA p.20
“In essence, everyone is a Buddha. That is our ‘reality’. It is the light of wisdom that causes the world of Buddhahood in our lives to shine. Our Buddhahood starts shining when we develop the wisdom to realize we are Buddhas. This is the fusion of reality and wisdom.” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, Vol V, p.18)
We must ask ourselves:
Do we apply the tenets of this Buddhism to our lives at all times?
Do we really live according to our Buddhist beliefs?
Do our actions match our philosophy?
Do we recognize the inherent Buddhahood in everyone we encourter?
Do we accept everyone as they are, treasuring diversity?
Do we understand our individual mission in life?
How do we behave when we face difficulties?
Are we willing to assume the appropriate karma?
How do we deal with people who are different from us, when we disagree with their views or when we don’t like them?
All of this is easier said than done. Proof of the strength of our Buddhist practice comes not when it is convenient but when things don’t go as planned.
The challenge is to fully understand and consistently embrace the fact that we all possess the Buddha nature and have unlimited potential; to overcome our fundamental darkness, the antagonist of our life.
The beauty of Nichiren Buddhism is the ease with which is can be applied. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we manifest our highest life-state, Buddhahood, allowing us to become happy.
It does not take deep theoretical understanding to begin experiencing the benefits of practicing this Buddhism. It just takes action. The action begins by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to elevate our practice and to grasp the challenges we may face.
To tap into the full benefits of our chanting, we must realize that we are all Buddhas and understand that everything in life is interconnected. The actions of each individual profoundly influence the environment, for better or for worse. If we fail to truly embrace that important reality, we are not practicing Buddhism correctly.
Always remember, our lives are full of unlimited potential and through our practice we can activate our Buddha nature. By doing so, we can overcome our fundamental darkness and win ANY situation. Every human beings has this ability; they just need to realize it, from the bottom of their heart.
“Flint has the potential to produce fire, and gems have intrinsic value. We ordinary people can see neither our own eyelashes, which are so close, nor the heavens in the distance. Likewise, we do not see the Buddha exists in our own hearts” Nichiren (WND1, p.1137).
Thank you for reading this month’s harmony magazine. We have come a long way since our first issue on May 3, 1986, which started as a six-page photocopied newsletter. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who over the years have helped to make Harmony what it is today.
To serve our readers better, we have expanded to 48 pages and made a few changes and additions to the regular features. We have included a basic introduction and explanation of Nichiren Buddhism and the SGI to assist you when sharing this Buddhism and the benefits of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with your family and friends.
Also, we are delighted to feature a new cartoon series titled “Great Buddhist Stories”, courtesy of SGI-USA. They are illustrated by Rob Koo, SGI member and lead storyboard artist at an award-winning animation studio.
In this issue, we look at how each one of us can contribute to world peace.
When I did an Internet search on the phrase “what is world peace?”, it generated 867,000,000 results. No wonder it is easy to feel overwhelmed and disconnected.
Sometimes when we hear people talk about world peace, it just doesn’t resonate. Maybe we feel powerless to do anything about it; it is something out of our control. World peace can mean different things to different people, depending on who you are or whom you are taking to.
There are many aspects that contribute to world peace. Basic human rights, economic and political stability, environmental concerns, personal safety, the ability to navigate life’s challenges, all these are components of world peace.
The desire for peace is a common thread in most world religions, and in Hong Kong, the Interfaith Community holds an annual Day of Peace. The purpose is to share among the various religious traditions what peace means, and how each respective faith goes about contributing to that cause.
One would think that as the world gets “smaller” due to the advancements of technology, more and more people would realize the commonality of their neighbors on the other side of the planet. Hopefully, this increase in awareness will help cure some of the ills of the world. But ultimately, world peace starts with us, not someone else. It is up to us to decide how we can contribute in our own way. As is mentioned in this month’s Special Feature and our Viewpoints, world peace starts with each of us.
The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin allows us to start the process of peace from within to radiate outwards into our families, place of work and the community to create a peaceful and harmonious society.
We hope you enjoy this issue.
Quote of the Month
“No matter what the state of society or the times, each of us can contribute to peace in our immediate environment. We can do this by encouraging even one young person and enabling them to tap into their potential.” (www.ikedaquotes.org)
President Ikeda says: “When we pray and take action with the force of a charging lion to realize the ideals of a teacher of truth and justice, we can shine our brightest and demonstrate our greatest strength” (Daisaku Ikeda, April 2008 Diabyakurenge).
I was watching the movie The Wizard of Oz recently, and thought about the storyline and how it applies to our Buddhist principles.
The main characters, Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion, all were seeking something outside of themselves. They were in search of something they thought they lacked and needed to make them feel happy and complete.
Dorothy was looking for happiness somewhere over the rainbow (the external environment). The Tin Man was looking for someone to give him a heart (compassion). The Scarecrow wanted someone to give him a brain (wisdom) and the Lion wanted someone to infuse him with courage. Throughout their journey, they had to ward off the Wicked Witch of the West, which I viewed as fear and fundamental darkness.
They ventured on, encountering constant attacks from the Witch. It was easy to defeat her once they realized the method, just as we can overcome our fears by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Their goal was to get the Wizard (someone else) to give them the things they felt they lacked. He explained that what they sought he didn’t have to give, as they already possessed the qualities they were searching for. All that was needed was to look inside and bring those qualities out of their lives.
How many of us give in to our fears, our fundamental darkness, and think we lack compassion, wisdom, and courage? Yet, these are the qualities we can manifest when we chant.
When we are able to summon up our courage like the roar of a lion, nothing can stand in our way.
As President Ikeda has said: “Courage is free. Anyone can have it” (FIA, p.221)
Quota of the Month
“You should not have the slightest fear in your heart. It is lack of courage that prevents one from attaining Buddhabood” (WND1, p.637)
The Daishonin writes: “A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (WND1, p.4).
When we hit a deadlock, when we give in to doubt, when we feel we are unable to win… that’s the time that we should summon great courage and realize that we have the Buddha nature, we have the ability to win. It is up to us to make it so.
Self-pity, regrets, and complaints are manifestations of our fundamental darkness and a low life-condition. Succumbing to this inner negativity can only lead to stagnation in faith. With this weak mindset, we will go nowhere. Rebooting gives us a fresh perspective on our practice so we can become victorious.
Quote of the Month
Faith is another name for demonstrating unparalleled courage, the courage to persevere. Faith is reflected in the ability to take action in the face of obstacles. Courage is the ability to take action in the face of our fears. We all have obstacles and fears, so it follows that we also have the ability to demonstrate faith and courage by taking action.
In Buddhism, we learn that everything is interconnected. So, if we want to change the situation, we have to change ourselves first.
Happiness is not found in the absence of problems, although when in the midst of major challenges we may imagine that a problem-free life will bring happiness. The reality is that we all have to face many problems in our daily life, and the secret to happiness is found in facing the situation courageously. Rather than just cope with it, we must challenge ourselves to overcome the problem and move forward step by step. We can then find the strength to win and create an outcome that is best for us and for everyone concerned.
To effectively reboot our faith at crucial times, we need to have an in-depth understanding of this Buddhism and our life. This comprehension develops and deepens through study. Reading the writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the guidance’s of President Ikeda is key to developing a better understanding of this Buddhism and our life.
Quote of the month
“The Gohonzon is neither outside of us, nor in some specific place. It is found within faith. Without faith, we cannot bring forth the life state of Buddhahood. The Gohonzon exists in the lives of all who believe in the Mystic Law, chant daimoku, and work for kosen-rufu; it encompasses all of the treasures of the universe.” (Guidance Today Volume 5, p.294)
This month we look at tomorrow’s Leader Today.
What does it mean to be a leader in today’s world and what does it mean to be a leader for the future? does a leader have to be smarter, richer and more powerful than others? Is leadership a position of authority where you can order people around, control them, have them do your bidding?
The word ‘leader’ has many different meanings. It can be interpreted as the head of a company or organization, like a president, chief, or boss. It can also be used to describe a pioneer, an innovator or front-runner. Whichever your interpretation of leadership is, one thing is clear:for our society to grow and evolve, it is crucial that the new generation, those younger than us, develop further than us, in all possible ways.
The world is rapidly changing and daily life is becoming increasingly challenging and complex. Future leaders must be capable of taking the most appropriate action for victory, but must have the wisdom to do so for the greater good, not at the expense of others. To develop such insight and act in an ethical, fair manner will become even more important as time goes on. Developing the ability and capacity to do so will be vital for any good leader.
So the question becomes: how do we, as individuals, an organization or a society, prepare ourselves and others, to live and develop in the most value-creating way possible? What are some of the key traits that should be developed to become the best person possible for the future?
Having a sound life-philosophy is the essential foundation for this development. It must be a philosophy that recognizes and treasures the true value of each individual and allows everyone, not just a select few, to develop, cultivate and manifest their full potential.
Another key ingredient for developing great leadership skills is choosing a great mentor in life. One with whom we have a shared interest and commitment for the happiness of all as the cornerstone.
We are fortunate that in the Soka Gakkai we have such a mentor in President Ikeda and the previous presidents of the Soka Gakkai. We embrace a philosophy that allows us to manifest our greater self through a sincere Buddhist Practice.
We hope that you enjoy this issue of Harmnoy and find it helpful to identify how we can raise tomorrow’s leaders today.
Quote of the month
“When you think, ‘I can’t do anymore. I need a break,’ that is the time to challenge yourself to keep going another five minutes. Those who persevere for even an extra five minutes will win in life.”
Available at all HKSGI Culture Centres