"You who have embraced this great Law are millionaires rich in life force who possess good fortune surpassing the wealth of even the world’s richest people. Material possessions cannot be enjoyed after death. But millionaires rich in life force are able to freely make use of the treasures of the universe in lifetime after lifetime and enjoy a journey of eternal happiness."The following is a summary of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s speech on Sunday, February 18, at an SGI joint training session held in the auditorium of the Soka University, Los Angeles, campus.
I am delighted to meet with all of you who are so dear to me. Among you are many graduates of Soka University and other Soka schools. Nothing fills my heart with more hope than knowing that Soka school alumni are vigorous and active here in America.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Soyukai (a group of former Soka Gakkai Headquarters staff members) in the women’s division for gathering here in high spirits; you look as lovely and youthful as ever. Also participating in this session are SGI-USA Culture Department and Pioneer Group members and friends from Canada and Latin America. Students of the Soka Women’s Junior College visiting for a language training course are listening to today’s proceedings in another room. My sincerest appreciation goes to all of you who have taken the trouble to come here on a Sunday.
We are gathered at a university, a seat of wisdom. Therefore, let me first speak about the significance of the university.
When the British poet John Masefield (1878-1967) wrote "There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university," he was not admiring the beauty of a university’s buildings or its appearance. Rather, its beauty lies in the fact that it is "a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see."
In other words, the university is a place for the liberation of humankind. It leads people from the darkness of ignorance to the light of intelligence, from spiritual blindness to awakening, from barbarous chaos to civilized order, and from slavery of the soul to its independence. To put it another way, the university is a fortress where, led by the light of reason, human beings achieve spiritual development; it is also a castle for defending civilization against barbarism, a castle founded on the love of truth. A university no doubt is in the vanguard of the effort to expel ignorance, the basic cause for all miseries — from the earth. It is therefore aptly said that nothing in this world is more beautiful than a university. President John F. Kennedy once cited these impressive words of Masefield in an address.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), a renowned twentieth-century philosopher who taught at Harvard University, remarked that "the task of a university is the creation of the future." He meant that universities, in the name of reason and civilization, determine the future of humanity, that they in fact shape the future course of history.
In this sense, because we have founded a university we have participated in the creation of a future. A university in the present is the epitome of society in the future. Therefore, please be convinced that the victory of our university will contribute to the victory of humankind.
One of the mottoes of the Soka University, Los Angeles, campus is: "Be a dynamic force in developing a Pan-Pacific culture." Soka University will host the second Pacific Basin Symposium on the campus this coming summer, with the participation of representatives from the United Nations University. It is argued from various angles that the twenty-first century will be an age in which Pan-Pacific nations flourish.
I hope that you study these viewpoints at school or on your own, but I would like to touch briefly on one aspect of the issue so as to give you food for thought.
A Soviet anthropologist, Serghei Aleksandrovich Arutiunov, once said: "It would not be an exaggeration to call the Pacific Ocean the inland sea of Ameraustralasia (the term he coined for the North and South American continents combined with the Asian-Pacific region). And the Pacific Ocean has played a pivotal role in this ‘super-continent’ . . . . Albeit on a different scale, the role of the Pacific could be compared to that of the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Afroeurasia (the combination of Africa and Eurasia), which shares a common destiny."
As scholars have recently pointed out, historically oceans are not great yawning abysses of division that separate people and civilizations from each other; rather oceans are zones that connect people and cultures. Northern Africa and southern Europe, for instance, were linked by the Mediterranean. This is clear from the deep relationships that existed between the civilization of Egypt and those of Greece and Rome. The Mediterranean was the mother of the civilizations of the regions surrounding it. It has continued to stimulate the development of various civilizations by facilitating the transmission of culture, people and information.
In the same way, those scholars assert, the Pacific Ocean, which links the North and South American continents, Asia and Oceania, has contributed to the development of civilizations in these regions. Although this hypothesis is largely yet to be verified, the concept that the Pacific Ocean is like an inland seas is an idea of tremendous scale, one that is well suited to the dawning era of global civilization
The "eastern capital" of this inland sea would be Los Angeles. On a broader scale, we could say that the entire state of California is the "eastern capital."
The Soka University campus founded in this eastern capital is still in its stage of infancy. However, we must remember that a huge tree does not immediately sprout from a seed. The question, then, is what is contained within that seed. Although the Soka University, Los Angeles, campus is still young, it has a tremendous mission and significance. I hope that all of you will help carefully nurture the growth of the seed of this school into a truly great tree.
Now I would like to talk about the meaning of success from the standpoint of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.
America is the country of the success story. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "America is another name for opportunity." Many people came to this country in pursuit of the American dream — the dream of success. At present, the society is growing more static and constrained than it was in the past. Be that as it may, the American dream still draws to your shores many who seem to believe that, so long as one has wits and good luck, he can easily become a millionaire.
The word for millionaire in Japanese is choja. In Buddhist scriptures, however, the word has a different connotation, that of a person of virtue and influence. Based on the formulation and terminology of T'ien-t'ai, Nichiren Daishonin distinguishes three types of choja in interpreting the parable of the three carts and the burning house that appears in the Hiyu (third) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
The first of the three categories consists of the choja of the secular world — or "secular choja" — those people, such as millionaires, who are highly successful in society. Second come choja who renounce the secular world, or "supraworldly choja." These are Buddhist Choja, specifically, the Buddha Shakyamuni. The third is the "mind-observing choja, by which Nichiren Daishonin means common mortals who embrace the Mystic Law. The first group might be characterized as people of external achievement, while the second and third groups are people of internal achievement. There are profound differences between these two types of achievement.
Buddhist scriptures describe "secular choja" as being of a good family, possessing wealth, having dignity, possessing profound wisdom, being pure in their actions, exhibiting proper manners and enjoying great prestige. In accordance with the teaching that "all laws are the Buddhist Law," it is worthwhile for us to strive to acquire the virtues of these choja. I hope that, basing yourself on faith, you will become wealthy people of virtue and influence who are widely respected.
I would like to add, however, that worldly success is not equivalent to true happiness. Achieving this requires that we have a profound understanding of the nature of life. There is much truth to the words of Benjamin Franklin that "Success has ruined many a man." If a person has wealth, he may become the target of robbers. A beautiful woman may arouse others’ jealousy and suffer on this account. A person with public status may exploit his authority and end up in misery.
A person of success in the true sense is one who can enjoy a free and unrestrained state of life. One who clings to the transient splendor of the world of Heaven or Rapture is not such a person of success. As is taught in Buddhism, those in the realm of Heaven experience the five signs of decay. The joy and success in the world of Heaven will inevitably fade and wither just as the leaves of a tree scatter in autumn.
The "supraworldly choja" is the Buddha. Attaining Buddhahood is true success; the Buddha is the eternal choja. The Buddha possesses the treasure of the Law, as well as all good qualities and all virtues. He defeats all obstacles and attains all kinds of wisdom. His heart is as vast as the ocean, he always abides in a state of limitless freedom and bliss.
In other words, the Buddha, or "supraworldly choja, is characterized by abundant and strong life force. However, it was generally thought that becoming a Buddha required an incredibly long and difficult practice. Shakyamuni’s teachings do not set forth a practice that anyone would be able to fulfill. This is a problem.
Third, the "mind-observing choja" are "Buddhas who are at the same time common mortals," that is, they are the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. This term "votary of the Lotus Sutra" specifically refers to Nichiren Daishonin, but in general it includes us followers of the Daishonin who are dedicating our lives to kosen-rufu.
Put simply, "mind-observing" means to observe one’s own mind and find the world of Buddhahood inherent within oneself, or to realize that in our lives we possess the limitless treasure house of all riches gathered from throughout the universe. When we open and make free use of this treasure house, we can lead a proud and joyful life with the composure of a great choja. Like the lion king, we fear nothing and are unaffected by fleeting joys and sorrows. This is what it means to be a "mind-observing choja." In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, to observe one’s own mind means faith in the Gohonzon. Therefore, a "mind-observing choja is a "choja of faith." Such a choja is one who perceives and believes that his life is itself the supreme treasure house and who opens this treasure-house.
In Shakyamuni’s Buddhism, it was in fact only special people who could become choja, it was a goal beyond the reach of ordinary people. In contrast, Nichiren Daishonin taught the principle that "embracing the Gohonzon is itself enlightenment." Thus, by believing in and embracing the Gohonzon, which embodies the state of Buddhahood and the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, one can observe, and manifest, the world of Buddhahood existing in his own life.
Some scholars compare Shakyamuni’s Buddhism to aristocracy or elitism in Buddhism, and Nichiren Daishonin’s to democracy, because where the former can lead only a select few to attain Buddhahood, the latter addressed the needs of all. The practice of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism might be compared to climbing step by step toward the summit of Buddhahood, as though attempting to reach the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains. What’s more, though people of the most advanced ability may attain the summit in this way, they will end their lives before attempting to save others or contribute to society.
Nichiren Daishonin’s Bddhism, however, teaches how in one’s present circumstances, one can open up the great earth of one’s life and excavate the jewel of Buddhahood existing therein. Daimoku and one’s ichinen of faith are the key to opening the treasure house of Buddhahood. Or, to employ the metaphor of mountain climbing, the Daishonin’s Buddhism could be likened to a helicopter that brings one directly to the summit of Buddhahood, from where, gazing with composure down upon the other realms of life, one can channel the invigorating breeze of Buddhahood into society.
Nichiren Daishonin teaches that whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, the Buddha’s children who dwell on the great earth of the true entity of life, or the world of Buddhahood, perform the actions of the Buddha. Since these are all actions of the Buddha, they are naturally carried out with supreme wisdom and virtue.
This is what Nichiren Daishonin means when he states: "The behavior of people (who base themselves on the land of the Mystic Law as children of the Buddha) is the same as the behavior of the Buddha. It is also the behavior of people of great virtue and influence (choja)" (GoshoZenshu, p. 819). Neither the splendid residence of a "secular choja" nor the special powers of a "supraworldly choja" is proof of one’s being a true person of wealth and integrity, or "mind-observing choja." The everyday actions that we carry out as children of the Buddha who embrace the mystic Law and advance kosen-rufu are in themselves the supremely blissful actions of a great choja.
While accumulating in our lives the treasures of the Law as well as the treasures of material wealth, we dedicate ourselves to sowing the seeds of enlightenment in others’ lives, thereby creating the fundamental rhythm of peace and prosperity in society. Each day in our life becomes a golden day, a rich and precious day of value. Such is the life of a "mind-observing choja."
Nichiren Daishonin also states: "Such a person (the votary of the Lotus Sutra) shall be called a Buddha. How can he not be called a person of wealth and integrity?" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 819). "Such a person" here refers to Nichiren Daishonin himself, but from a broader perspective it also indicates all who embrace the Gohonzon. In other words, he is saying that those who persevere in the practice of Buddhism and dedicate themselves to the struggle for kosen-rufu are Buddhas; they are people of wealth and integrity.
The Daishonin concludes his teaching, "Nichiren and his followers who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are the people of great virtue and influence (of whom the sutra speaks) who have gained the supreme cluster of jewels when they least expected it." (Gosho Zenshu, p. 819)
Therefore, you who have embraced this great Law are millionaires rich in life force who possess good fortune surpassing the wealth of even the world’s richest people. Material possessions can not be enjoyed after death. But "millionaires rich in life force" are able to freely make use of the treasures of the universe in lifetime after lifetime and enjoy a journey of eternal happiness. That is what constitutes proof of true victory in life.
Of course, in order to accumulate such great good fortune, you have to persevere in the Buddhist practice. However, when you cultivate your life in this way, you will tap an inexhaustible source of good fortune within your life. It is as though, by unlocking and opening a magical treasure chest, you gain access to infinite treasures.
Therefore, you should never discard faith or slacken in your practice. You should never allow any obstacle to hinder your advance. Otherwise, you will ruin the seed of Buddhahood which is the source of all good fortune.
I earnestly hope that each of you, firmly upholding the Mystic Law, strives to produce a new success story in this country. Please be confident that we who dwell in the world of the mystic Law will be the main players in the true story of success. With this I conclude my speech.