Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Ikeda Speaks Plainly Regarding Foolish Leaders

"...nothing is more terrible than a thoughtless or foolish leader in the organization. I burn with rage when I hear of inconsiderate leaders who try to lord it over their pure-hearted and sincere members." - Daisaku Ikeda, from A Youthful Diary (June 16, 1954, p. 178)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

On Lip Service and Formality

In the excerpt of The New Human Revolution found in the May 11th issue of the World Tribune, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda surrogate Shinichi Yamamoto asserted: "Standing up with the awareness that we are disciples of Nichiren, in terms of our concrete practice, is committing ourselves to the Soka Gakkai, striving for kosen-rufu and living out our lives in the spirit of 'many in body, one in mind.'"

Nichiren Daishonin states: "If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth." Yamamoto further expounds, "'The same mind as Nichiren' means the same heart and spirit as the Daishonin."

What does the spirit of the Daishonin mean? This is the same as asking "what is the spirit of Presidents Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda?" In gosho after gosho, and lecture after lecture, we see that this means more than simply providing organizational structure to the members; it means making a sincere effort to connect one on one with them, supporting them, providing guidance to them, and helping them understand that whatever fortunes and misfortunes they encounter is tied back to deep Buddhist principles in a caring manner.

Ikeda also states: "Those who, in the same spirit [of the Daishonin, or mentor/disciple], dedicate their life to the mission of kosen-rufu, exert themselves in their Buddhist practice with all their being and strive with a sense of responsibility for our movement, are true disciples of the Daishonin and Bodhisattvas of the Earth. It would be an affront to the Daishonin to merely give lip service to this spirit or take action out of formality alone."

Ikeda, in his other writings, spends a lot of time talking about the twin evils of lip service and formality. This is especially true in his Youthful Diary, where he worries that the Soka Gakkai of the early fifties was entirely too driven by shakubuku drives without ensuring that new members are truly connected to the Mystic Law; he also spends a fair amount of time ranting against meetings becoming too formal. 

Using this as our basis, we can see that the spirit of the Daishonin, Presidents Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda, and the spirit of mentor and disciple is defined by a desire to talk and spread this Buddhism through sincere efforts to connect with the person/member/buddha in front of you. As a chapter leader, being anything but sincere, whether it's a lazy approach to presentations, or an authoritative attitude with the district leaders or the members is to rely on formality, and giving lip service to the beneficial aspects of this practice.

I personally believe that these twin evils of lip service and formality leads to a facile practice within the leader and the members, it creates what I like to call Cheerleader Buddhism. Where surface efforts are made, but no real understanding of the practice is imparted. As Men's Division, I fight against this tendency by striving to connect with the members; when conflict arises, doing my best to ensure that all parties are heard before discussion of a resolution begins; and most importantly by encouraging lively debate and discourse at all district meeting functions, because there is nothing deadlier to our organization than boring, surface meetings, where items are checked off the same tired monthly agenda.

And so I engage the members, and ask them to connect the things we talk about back to a deeper Buddhist truth. I further ask that instead of merely relying on the publications to do the talking for us, to also risk sharing our understanding of these Buddhist principles--whether that understanding is deep or shallow--because it is in that fusion of our knowledge with the wisdom of our leaders, from Ikeda back to Shakyamuni, that the foundation of mentor/disciple resides. It in the sharing and the connecting that the spirit of mentor and disciple grows and spreads.

This is where I place my sincere efforts of spreading this Buddhism with the mind and spirit of the Daishonin.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Describing The Proof-Based-Faith Process Using The Scientific Method pt. 2

(TBO's Note - For an explanation of these two posts, read my note for part one. From that departure point, KTC went from "what you describe has nothing to do with the scientific process, and everything to do with the Big Questions. Science isn't about the Big Questions yet"* to the following...)

KTC - You said “- What would be the point of life if not for the journey and struggle to get the things you want out of it?”

To which I say, “There *is* no “point” to life. None. It’s just something that happened. There’s no guiding principle. None. We can try to make our own meaning up as we go along, and we do – we all do – but there’s actually no point. No endgame. No Big Reason we’re all here.”

And that’s a pretty fundamental difference. It’s way beyond arguments about who is “rational” and whatnot. I mean, we’re all rational folks. We just have a HUGE fundamental difference in the way we see the world.

It's funny that you picked one answer out of the three I gave. Here, let me cut/paste that bit for further parsing:

Why? So many different answers, and I'll give a few:

- What would be the point of life if not for the journey and struggle to get the things you want out of it? It'd be pointless if it was all just easy wish fulfillment.

- Just like birth and death, cause and effect, light and dark, yin and yang are all part of their same individual coins, so is victory and struggle.

- In an answer that ought to sound familiar to the rational among us: It just is that way.

Note that I didn't say that there was any one answer that's more valid than another. Frankly, all three are valid and applicable to the question of why the universe supplies both a path and obstacles to your desired goal(s).

Also note I said nothing about an "End Point." I don't mention heaven, because there is none. Nirvana exists in this place, in this state, in our current lives, at this exact moment, right now; but so does hell, so does rapture, so does hunger, etc.

I don't mention reincarnation, because I can't prove it, though as a theory it has both merit, logic and its own attractiveness, and I believe it to be quite likely...I can't prove it, though, so when I die, my particles dissipate back into NMRK or star stuff or what have you. What happens after that, I simply don't know.

Similarly with "Big Reason." "To live a fulfilled life and to emerge victorious over your obstacles and circumstances in this crazy fucked up world," while a massive paraphrasing that leaves out huge amounts of Buddhist philosophy, it is about as Big as it gets in Nichiren Buddhism, along with "help others do the same."

Nichiren Buddhism is a philosophy that's focused on the individual and in the here and now...

But let's take this to a secular level...Even if there is no capital 'p' Point to life, and happiness, sadness, fear, courage, ambition, goals, etc., are just human constructs, then we should do something with these constructs, shouldn't we? If for no other reason, we could at least give our lives purpose (not "Purpose," but purpose). Otherwise, it's a recipe for stagnation, and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, lack of compassion and empathy...

"If we're only on this trip once, and it all means nothing, may as well make it count in some way," is not the approach to life I take, but I don't see anything wrong with that general approach, do you?

*In response to this, I mentioned Ikeda's dialogues with prominent scientists, the title of which now escapes me and can't find in the SGI Bookstore.

Describing The Proof-Based-Faith Process Using The Scientific Method pt. 1

(TBO's Note - The following was written during the course of an email conversation with a couple of secular co-workers, SC an agnostic, and KTC, an avowed atheist. The three of us have the habit of getting into heated discussions on a regular basis that end with an understanding if not necessarily an agreement.

How we get to this point in this conversation is pretty convoluted (involving Sandra Bullock/Jesse James, a digression into astrology, whether science was a faith-based ideology, and finally the scientific process itself); but ultimately, not important.

It's important to note that what follows is my own opinion, especially regarding the matter of reincarnation.

The content has been edited to eliminate personal material.)

KTC - Just a question – what experiments are done in Nichiren Buddism? I don’t get how you equate that with the scientific process. What is being hypothesized about? Are we talking thought experiments? What’s the matter under discussion?

I'm going to try to keep this focused, to the point, salient and simple; if only to try to curb my propensity for heading off into tangents.

First, while looking for the possibly apocryphal Sagan quote I mentioned earlier*, ran into this one instead: "I'm not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they're called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation."**

I could argue that the difference between hypotheses and inspritation/revelation is pretty thin, but instead I'll laud the thought being expressed as one that is necessary in matters of faith and science both.

Now, some basic truths about Buddhism in general:

Buddhism = Philosophy concerning matters of birth and death.

Nichiren Buddhism = Hypothesis that the universe functions according to the Law of the Simultaneity of Cause and Effect, as espoused in the Lotus Sutra. To use the most obvious and basic example of cause and effect, "because of the cause of your being born, you will inevitably die."

Seeing as that is the case, the theory goes, then every action/cause you take/create will have an effect; not necessarily a predictable effect, but not exactly a random one either. A further hypothesis is that the phenomena is observable, and that it is possible, with wisdom gained from experience, to achieve a desired effect by producing the appropriate cause.

A corollary goes that, using all of the above, the moment you set your mind to a specific goal/effect, two things will happen: 1) the law governing the universe will align itself to provide a path to the desired effect, and 2) it will also provide obstacles along that path.

Why? So many different answers, and I'll give a few:

- What would be the point of life if not for the journey and struggle to get the things you want out of it? It'd be pointless if it was all just easy wish fulfillment.

- Just like birth and death, cause and effect, light and dark, yin and yang are all part of their same individual coins, so is victory and struggle.

- In an answer that ought to sound familiar to the rational among us: It just is that way.

Okay, that was a tangent. Backing up.

Right. Another further hypothesis is that by chanting NMRK (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - literally "I adhere to the Mystic Law of Cause and Effect as Described in the Lotus Sutra," but broken down to an abstract is the same as saying "I align with the law that governs Sagan's star stuff"***), by aligning with the law that governs the universe, you gain wisdom and increase your ability to make the proper choice that will lead to a desired effect.

These are some of the basic theories and hypotheses that are unique to the Nichiren School and particularly to the SGI, the organization of Buddhist lay people I belong to. These are the approaches to life that we test everyday with the mind toward proving them correct or incorrect. And if after exhausting every possible method of practice, we find that it is incorrect, the father of this school, Nichiren Daishonin, tells us to yell from the mountaintops that this practice does not work.

These may not be experiments in the strictest scientific sense, but they are more than mere thought experiments. I can't just think this stuff and then suddenly *poof* everything I want is mine. The legwork of taking action in everyday life needs to happen, I have to apply this thinking in every action I take, in every move I make, every thirst I slake, every cake I bake (I'll be watching me), because I need to collect proof that this is not a waste of my (and other people's) time.

These are experiments in living life successfully.

(continued here.)

*I mentioned a quote by Carl Sagan that supported Eastern religions. Alas, Mr. Sagan has never said such a thing.

**Full quote: "The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right. You can't all be correct. And what if all of you are wrong? It's a possibility, you know. You must care about the truth, right? Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical. I'm not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about. But in my line of work, they're called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation." - Carl Sagan surrogate Dr. Arroway in Sagan's Contact

***Earlier in the email conversation, KTC, asked whether she believed in the interconnectedness of all things, replied by quoting Carl Sagan (for the record, she quoted him first): "We are all star stuff."

Thursday, April 12, 2007


All right, how long has it been, really?

Yeah, too long. Way too long.

But, you know how that is, right? It's not that you care any less about the forum, or the format, or the topic being discussed, it's just that the rest of your reality starts demanding your attention, and what you'd thought would only be a couple of days away from the project turns into...well, months, in this instance.

Oh well. I noted some visitors to the site during the hiatus, thanks for coming. Hopefully you'll come out this way again. And feel free to drop a line of interest...thebeigeone(at)gmail.com

That said, I wanna open up the gates to anyone who'd like to see their SGI-Buddhist-related stuff posted on here, contact me at the address given above.

Currently, I'm looking to post (whether by me, or someone else) entries with the following themes:

*On Benefit
*The Three Powerful Enemies
*The Three Obstacles & The Four Devils

Hopefully, I will be seeing/hearing from you soon.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Daisaku Ikeda's Proposal to the UN

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ke, Ku & Chu (The 3 Truths)

So lately, I've been thinking and reading a lot about the above concept in Nichiren Buddhism. I've been taking an inventory, of sorts, of many things in my life, and figuring out how each item/thing/idea fits into these three truths.

For starters, let me define some terms. Ke(ketai) is defined as the truth of temporary, physical or material existence. Ku(kutai) is defined as the truth of non-substantiality or the spiritual aspect of life. Chu(chutai) is defined as the Middle Way, or that force or energy which binds and harmonizes ketai and kutai. Ke and Ku are two different but inseparable aspects of chu.

In the book I am reading The Buddha in Daily Life - Richard Causton, it states that the three truths are not three separate things but, rather, a means of looking at the entirety of life from three different, though interrelated perspectives. He gives the example of comparing a piece of paper to "our friend John". Side A would represent John's physical appearance which corresponds to ke, Side B would represent John's character which corresponds to ku. However, John's character is only known to you by way of his physical actions, which include: his speech, his gestures, his eyes, and facial expressions etc. So in a sense, you can say that one can only discover the ku of John as it becomes his ke. Each of these, in turn, represent the whole of John's life, which corresponds to chu. Chu is the "essential self" aspect of our life which keeps our physical and spiritual aspects consistent with each other through time. Another way to put it, is Chu is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, or the rhythm and Law of life itself.

So basically, the important point I took from reading this, is in realizing that there is no fundamental distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects of life. And we, as humans, are representations of the entire process as it was/is/and will be.

From a bodywork perspective, this has intense implications. If my ku is manifest through my ke, then what does that say about what my mind contains? In what ways do I, or don't I reside in a state of chu - or the essential self/Middle Way? How is my spirit manifesting in my body? The book then goes on to tell the story of a woman who basically, after many months of intense chanting and study, made herself asymptomatic from severe epilepsy. At the end of her "treatment" there were no physical manifestations of epilepsy. In the two years I have been practicing, I have read many stories such as this, as well as experienced variations in my own life.

So back to labeling, sorting, and naming things. I started to think about these processes, and how they are showing up in my daily thoughts, actions, and activities.

I started to wonder about pain. Specifically physical pain, but keep in mind, stress can manifest as physical pain, one can be "worried sick", depression has numerious documented physical manifestations. Therefore, where is the line drawn? Is my neck pain, whose onset was a knarly car accident, and made worse by 4 or 5 surgeries, any different than the types of pain I mention in the previous sentence? Does pain exist on a continuum, or is all pain ke? Or is all pain ku? Pain is felt along neural pathways. This pain impulse can be measured, and quantified. If the types of pain I mention, are indeed, pain, then will we come up with different measurements of this pain based on it's root cause?

I'm not sure if I'm come up with any answers or solutions, but it's very fascinating to think about. I've chanted and cried myself out of intense physical pain, on more than one occasion. Is this me attempting to reside in chu? Or is this a placebo and am I still as deluded as ever? Ultimately, it doesn't matter. I've decided that the more I can observe the transitions, and manifestations of each of these truths in my life, the more capable I will become of letting them move on to whatever dynamic form they will take next.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The One and the Many: Binary vs. Manifold

So I have this trouble: I can't seem to stop trying to debate Christians. Not just Christians, but Calvinists, which can make for some pretty heated argument, given that my primary experience with Christianity was through Catholicism, and that I'm now a vaguely pantheistic, gnostic Buddhist doing my best to understand and apply the still new (for me) concepts in the Lotus Sutra, and in Nichiren Daishonin's interpretation thereof. Kind as the Calvinists have been (and seriously, they've been awfully hospitable), it's pretty clear that I represent something insidious.

Anyway, through a series of meetings and digressions, I ended up in this side debate. While the principle I'm defending, in large measure, is pantheism, my relation of that to the doctrines of reincarnation, the ten worlds, and other Buddhist concepts make this argument relevant. Moreover, as Protestant Christianity has, as you can see from the argument, actually taken steps to ensure that the debate can be shut down by a seductive but specious assertion that only the existence of an anthropomorphic, triune deity can create the necessary preconditions for rationality--therefore operating on the assumption that our having the debate at all is proof that God is a scold and Christ is the Messiah--I think it's useful for us Buddhists to at least contemplate throwing a few rhetorical elbows to ensure that our theology is defensible on an intellectual, as well as spiritual, level (though the latter is obviously more urgent).

Some schools of Buddhism posit themselves as atheistic or agnostic; others do acknowledge some sort of deity; most place themselves as squarely pantheistic. Since Nichiren Buddhism holds forth no specific assertions on the matter of deity--or, I should say, since I've yet to encounter any such assertion--it seems to me that the question is fairly elastic, provided that principles like Ichinen Sanzen, mutual possession, kosen rofu and the Law are respected. Were you to quiz the three contributors to this blog on the matter of deity, I guarantee you'd get three different answers. But when we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, those differences matter not at all.

My differences with Christianity are a little more difficult to navigate. There are many sects of Buddhism that hold that Christ was a boddhisatva; I'm more than willing to hold to that. On the other hand, Calvinists insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible; look at the clever-but-tortured reasoning by which they reconcile the idea of a young (less than 10,000-year-old) universe with the fact that we see the light from stars whose light couldn't possibly have reached us in that time. Now, at root, most of them will tell you that belief in a six-day creation isn't as important as belief in the singular divine status of Christ and the resurrection. Fair enough, but that "singular divine status" becomes something of a sticking point. If the important part to Christians is, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me", then there's clearly a point at which their truth, as expressed, specifically excludes all other paths to truth.

It's a tough puzzle, from this end, because I try--per JJisaFool's reasoned directive--to stick to what's truth, rather than focusing on what's not. But when trying to elucidate my truth, I often runs into opponents who will insist that their truth both excludes and rationally trumps mine. Inevitably, to assert my truth, I must reject at least some part of theirs, and become mired in a hermeneutic battle with those for whom the conclusion is what guides the process of reaching one.

Anyway, take a look at those links. Interesting stuff.