Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to be a Buddha; The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon

SGI study chief Mr. Morinaka for the first time lectured in Seattle, Washington. On August 20th, to a packed auditorium, he talked about "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon" by Nichiren Daishonin. His lecture drew heavily from commentary written by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda.

As background, Mr. Morinaka discussed some of the history of Buddhism and observed that Buddhism branched into two main practices:

1. Meditative
2. Praying to statues

Meditation nowadays, he said, is often thought of as achieving tranquility, peace of mind. Some schools even advocate trying to sever attachments. However, in the past, Tien Tai of China practiced a different type of meditation whose intent was to observe ones innate limitless Buddhahood and to manifest it.

Praying to statues, on the other hand, Mr. Morinaka observed was separating ourselves from Buddhahood. A statue externalizes the Buddha. The greater we imagine the external Buddha to be, the lesser we ourselves feel. We feel tinier and more insignificant.

As I ponder these observations, it brings to mind some oft quoted words of Nichiren Daishonin.

"Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo." ("The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon," Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, page 832)


"Even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching." ("On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime," WND page 3)

So, we can see that even if we are chanting daimoku, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, to the gohonzon, if we think the gohonzon is outside ourself, instead of observing our own innate limitless Buddhahood and manifesting it, we actually can feel tinier and more insignificant -- as if we are praying to a statue of an external Buddha.

This reminds me of a point made by Christopher Small in his book Music, Society, Education. Small observed that Western Industrialized Society has created a type of priesthood called "experts." The more we idolize "experts" and unquestioningly believe what they say, the tinier and more insignificant we feel. "I'm not an expert," is a phrase we often hear and maybe have said ourselves. When we put anyone on a pedestal, be it an Olympic athlete, a rock star, a politician, an economist, a scientist or even an SGI leader, the more we idolize them as "others" outside of ourselves, the tinier and more insignificant we feel.

Of course we admire greatness, beauty and wisdom. We feel deep appreciation for what our mentors and role models teach us. But, if we forget that we are all one, that each of us is a microcosm of the entirety of humanity, all of life and indeed the whole universe, then we are externalizing that person whom we admire, seeing them as outside of ourself. And when we externalize them, the more we worship their greatness, then the tinier and more insignificant we feel. Rather than feeling inspired to achieve greatness ourselves, we can actually lose hope and even succumb to despair.

Despair is rampant because Western Industrialized Society teaches us the false belief that we are all separate from other people, the natural world and the cosmos. It is a new habit we are developing, learning to strengthen our awareness of our innate limitless Buddhahood and to manifest it.

Mr. Morinaka, in his lecture, repeatedly emphasized the importance of faith; it is up to ones faith to elicit the power of the gohonzon. With faith as the foundation of our practice and study we do our human revolution and strengthen our conviction that we each are as limitlessly powerful and indomitable as the entire universe spanning past, present and future and that nothing is impossible.

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