Good and Bad Times!
“The Odaimoku A Guide Through the Good and Bad Times”
I decided to write this article, to start the New Year! Because as many of us do, we hope this year will be better than the last.
Well, as you know good and bad in Buddhism are considered illusionary standards, because they are based on simplistic dualistic categorizing in our mind of reality. This means simply, how we think things should be as apposed to what they really are, essentially empty and impermanent. But the human mind of our nature uses the tool of dualism for comparison and explanation. Such as hugs good, drugs bad, or at least we should think so. But as we know in our profound ignorance our minds are upside down. I have a favorite Confucian saying that alludes to this confusion, “What the common man considers good, the wise man considers evil and what the wise man considers evil, the common man consider good.” Meaning that our standards and interpretation are flawed and inverted. The Five Skandhas (Five Aggregates; Form, Sensation, Perception, Mental Formation and Consciousness) as taught by the Buddha, gives rise to the ego or the “I” that we filter all of our experiences through and then judge based on this ignorance. The Buddha taught that all this was empty and was the cause of our suffering.
When we experience our faith and practice in Buddhism, being in the Human Realm we want results to show that we have gained or loss something, this is how we can simply understand such a profound teaching. So even though we reach for perfect enlightenment, we still judge each moment if we are on the right path with the immediate benefit to our lives. There are many expedient teachings of the Buddha that offer benefit to the practitioner, so as to give motivation, even if it is illusionary for the time being, to move closer to the enlightened realm (See the Parable of the Magic City in the Lotus Sutra) and ultimately develop boundless compassion, where we are truly able to bow to the Buddha in ourselves as well as others (Tangyo-Raihai).
All religious systems offer benefit, that is their advertisement to the human mind that this is the best and most important investment for your future. Only the Lotus Sutra and the example of our Founder Nichiren Shonin offer a balanced view in-line with reality to allow us to see what is the meaning of our lives is and what we should invest in. To see this we must look at the other systems in a dualistic comparison. Nichiren Shonin does this very well in his work of the Kaimoku-Sho, where he states the flawed and narrow views of the religious systems of the East.
As we are most familiar in the West with the forms of Salvation found in the Monotheistic God of the Bible, in the promise of eternal life and salvation in the hereafter. Almost all teachings deal with simply the afterlife, as I like to say “Real Estate in the next world”. This reminds me of the old adage, “Trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.” You are not able to see the benefits until after your life and so therefor you must accept it by blind faith that you will receive as promised, you cannot be reassured in this life or be given actual proof. We have similar ideas in Buddhism, such as the Pure Land practice, in which you go to meet the Buddha of the Western Pure Land Amitabha Buddha by praying to this Buddha to receive the benefit of his compassionate vows. However, we know these to simply be expedient practices, eventually leading the person to the vow to attain Buddhahood, the true hidden core of the Eternal Buddha’s teaching.
The Lotus Sutra, is different in the fact that we are able to see the manifested benefits of our practice in this life, daily. It also is the only teaching that can give us proper perspective into the reality of this life in order to shine the light of boundless wisdom on the suffering both in our lives as well as that of others by putting our minds into true perspective and not seeing it through only our ignorant narrow views.
In my own practice, I admit I enjoy the benefit and merits I receive, such as the calmness and improvement in my life situation. But I always remember the teaching of my Sensei Tsukamoto Shonin in that practitioners of the Lotus Sutra will have just enough and not too much, but will find true contentment in whatever life situation they find themselves and to be able to see the truth in all challenges (Teachings) that come to them.
In Chapter 10 (The Teacher of the Dharma) in the Lotus Sutra it says of the person who read, recites and upholds this Sutra, “I will shoulder him” P.173, “Will be covered by my robe” P. 176 and “He will live with me. I will pat him on the head”.
This tells us that when we abide in the mind of the Buddha expressed most effectively in “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo”, the Buddha is truly guiding us and protecting us. This I have experienced to be the way to find true happiness and contentment.
This can be further understood to show us that when we have faith in the Lotus Sutra both the Good and Bad as we interpret them, is a path of teaching in our life, guided by the Eternal Buddha of our true minds. This means we must experience a totally different value system in our lives, based in the Lotus Sutra, letting go of the old ways and truly reestablishing our life base. As we know the mud that the Lotus sits in provides the nutrition for it to bloom into the most beautiful and fragrant flower. Some forms of Nichiren Buddhism speak of only the benefit. But if we look to our Founders life, he experienced benefits in many ways including persecution.
“By giving my life for the Lotus Sutra I am able to repay the kindness of my parents and Ancestors.”
So all that comes before a votary of the Lotus Sutra is a benefit of their practice and that we have replaced the human value system with the value system of the true hidden core of the Eternal Buddha, the Lotus Sutra. For believers of the Louts Sutra challenges come incessantly, but the happiness ones attains is true freedom and bliss. That is why our Founders life is so important to showing the true reality of this teaching manifested in action.
In summation if you are practicing and still suffering with challenges in your life the waves of good and bad rolling in and out, up and down, crashing on you. I encourage you to reestablish yourself in the way of the Lotus Sutra. Throw away all preconceptions and attachments and live your life not in the whims of the egos illusion of good and bad, but in the truth of the Eternal Buddha set forth in the Lotus Sutra, this is upholding the Lotus Sutra above all else.
As Nichiren Shonin stated, “For attaining Buddhahood quickly, one must lay down the banner of arrogance, cast away the club of prejudice, and chant “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo!”
Additionally, I offer this gem of wisdom that I keep with me in the face of all of my life challenges, in the simple statement Tsukamoto Shonin would always share with me as I would complain of my life’s ups and downs, “Enjoy Kanjin!”
Truly the power of the Lotus Sutra is found in this simple statement!