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A passage in the Six Pāramitās Sutra says to become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you.

Whatever trouble occurs, regard it as no more than a dream, and think only of the Lotus Sutra.


The two brothers to whom this letter is addressed were the sons of Ikegami Saemon no Tayū Yasumitsu, who held an important post in Kamakura in the government’s Office of Construction and Repairs. The older brother, Munenaka (Ikegami Uemon no Tayū Munenaka; d. 1293), was probably converted to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1256, and the younger brother, Munenaga (Ikegami Hyōe no Sakan Munenaga; d. 1283), shortly thereafter.

The father, Yasumitsu, was a loyal follower of Ryōkan, chief priest ofGokuraku-ji temple of the True Word Precepts school, and vehemently opposed the beliefs of his two sons for over twenty years. In fact, he went so far as to disown his elder son on two occasions, in 1275 and 1277. Primogeniture, the right of the eldest son to succeed to the wealth and social prestige of the family, was a vitally important aspect of Japanese society. The individual scarcely existed outside a family context, and centuries of intra-family rivalry, feuding, and even murder attested to the importance of being first in line for inheritance. Virtually insurmountable social and economic sanctions existed against disowned persons.

By disowning Munenaka, their father in effect was provoking rivalry between the two sons by tempting Munenaga to trade his beliefs for the right to his father’s estate. The Daishonin sent letters of encouragementto the two brothers and their wives, urging them all to unite and maintain their faith. In 1278 the brothers finally succeeded in converting their father to the Daishonin’s teachings.

When the Daishonin’s health began to fail in 1282, at the urging of his disciples he set out for the hot springs of Hitachi. Sensing that death was imminent, however, he shunned the hot springs in favor of a trip to Munenaka’s residence in Ikegami in what is present-day Tokyo. There, after having taken measures to ensure the perpetuity of his teachings, he passed away on the thirteenth day of the tenth month, 1282.

In this letter, the Daishonin highlights that the human heart or mind can give supreme dignity and nobility to life. At the same time, it can fall into the depths of depravity if it succumbs to the impulses of fundamental darkness or ignorance. Transforming the human heart is the foundation for all lasting change. If we base ourselves on our own fickle, ever changing hearts, we cannot make our way up steep ridges buffeted by the fierce winds of devilish functions. We must set our sights on the solid and unshakable summit of attaining Buddhahood and continually seek to master our minds. This is the meaning of the passage “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you” . Becoming the master of one’s mind ultimately means basing oneself on the unwavering foundation of the Law. Herein lies the importance of sutras or writings containing the teachings of the Buddha who has awakened to and spreads the Law. For us, as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, mastering our minds means basing ourselves on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s writings. And in Buddhism, it is the teacher or mentor who puts the teachings into practice that helps us connect to the Law. Mastering our minds means having a sincere seeking spirit in faith based on the shared commitment of mentor and disciple, and not being ruled by arrogant egoism or self-centeredness. Nichiren highlights the importance of living with inner mastery—mastery based on the Law—in the following passage: “Whatever trouble occurs, regard it as no more than a dream, and think only of the Lotus Sutra”. When viewed in terms of the infinite scale of eternity, any event or phenomenon is as fleeting as a passing dream. The Law, in contrast, is eternal. Allowing oneself to be defeated by devilish functions and straying from the Law will be a cause for everlasting regret. In this passage, Nichiren urges his followers to “think only of the Lotus Sutra,” to focus only on kosen rufu and to remain steadfast in their faith for the sake of eternal victory. In the present age, we of the Soka Gakkai have been dedicating ourselves to mastering our minds through single-minded commitment to the Lotus Sutra (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo). As a result, we are showing magnificent actual proof of victory. There are now countless heroic members—ordinary people exerting themselves valiantly in their Buddhist practice—in Japan and around the world. They are truly treasures of kosen-rufu and treasures of humanity. Basing themselves on the Law and embodying the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple, they have transformed their karma and established a life-state of unshakable happiness. At the same time, they work tirelessly to contribute to the prosperity of their societies and to world peace, leading lives of unsurpassed meaning dedicated to happiness for both themselves and others. We have entered an age when leading thinkers in Japan and around the globe are praising our noble members’ efforts.

Source: Living Buddhism, March- April, 2010
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