Thoughts on “The Two Kinds of Illness”

The priest Nichiren Daishonin frequently traded correspondence with practitioners in 13th century Japan, and we’re lucky enough to have translated compilations to study. One letter I read today is, “The Two Kinds of Illness” with this excerpt:

However, if one tries to use the Hinayana teachings to cure the three poisons and eighty thousand illnesses that arise from slandering the Mahayana sutras, such as the Flower Garland, Wisdom, and Mahāvairochana sutras, these illnesses will merely become worse and never be cured. They can be treated only with the Mahayana teachings. Moreover, if one attempts to use the Flower Garland, Wisdom, and Mahāvairochana sutras, or the teachings of the True Word and Three Treatises schools to cure the three poisons and eighty thousand illnesses that arise when the practitioners of the various Mahayana sutras oppose the Lotus Sutra, those sicknesses will become all the more serious. To illustrate, the flames emitted by burning wood or coal can easily be extinguished by water, but if one pours water over a fire produced by burning oil, it will only burn more intensely, the flames mounting still higher.

Having already written about physical illnesses as the first kind of illness, Nichiren dove into the second, illnesses of the mind. While I anticipated that this referred to mental illness, it may be more aptly referred to as illness of the heart. In particular, Nichiren speaks to the results of false sages of ritual and institutional Buddhism misleading innocent practitioners and leading them away from their own Buddhahood. Because the original Buddha, Shakyamuni, delivered Buddhism through Expedient Means, the depth and essence of Buddhism was revealed gradually.

Shakyamuni determined that at the time of awakening to his enlightenment, and his many lifetimes of enlightenment, the people were not ready to absorb the full extent of this nirvana state. Revealing Buddhism beyond the capacity and the time would only drive people away from their own Buddhahood. So he gave oral sermons which were later compiled into the different Sutras by his disciples.

Concepts like “the middle way” are therefore useful because they point to an effect of Buddhist practice, but there is not a true practice of “the middle way” so it is limiting to the practitioner. Ultimately, if all you are attempting to do is practice the middle way as you read about in Tibetan Buddhism, you’re ignoring the true teachings that the Buddha revealed long after this one.

Buddhist sages and great teachers, of course, couldn’t be ignorant to Expedient Means as they’re not a secret in Buddhist practice. Rather, for their own vanity and the gain of their temples, they declared that the later teachings were either too difficult to practice, or they ignored this truth. This causes great suffering, and ultimately, this “illness of the mind” that Nichiren writes about here.

So if this illness is caused by fake sages, how could they possibly cure this? In actuality, their attempts would only aggravate the issue, because disciples would sincerely practice ineffective Buddhism even when the truth is available.

If you believe that Buddhism is just a philosophy to respect others, then you miss the fact that in order to truly respect others, it takes great effort and you also need to respect yourself. The true Buddhism of today is such a practice – it is chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.


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Buddhism and the Environment

I’m reading a fascinating book called, The Buddha in Your Mirror, and came across this passage regarding Buddhism and the environment:

Buddhism is a way of life that makes no distinction between the individual human being and the environment in which that person lives. In its concept of the interrelatedness of all life forms in a complex web beyond complete human understanding, Buddhism has provided a spiritual and intellectual framework for environmental awareness… views human kind as a part of nature, supporting and giving rise to the notion of bioethics. Since every individual is connected to everything on earth, the destiny of our planet is influenced by the individual’s actions.

One way to look at this is to say that I have influence on all living beings around me, including the vast environment. That does not entitle me to control the environment, but rather there’s a synergy there. Oftentimes I’ll come across something in the environment that is clearly a response to my own Buddha nature. For example, my efforts to support and encourage other living beings in a hopeful way can manifest in my environment as someone helping me in the time of need. This is a form of Buddhist protection based on the strict law of cause and effect.

The other interesting point from this passage is the general interrelatedness of all living beings. In the case of friends and family in particular, there are karmic bonds from lifetimes past that bring us together. It’s natural to think that a new person you meet has links to you from the infinite past, and even if you may not get along (you may despise this person), given those links you should fundamentally respect him or her. In fact, if we’re all related and inter-dependent, then I should consider the far-ranging consequences of my actions even beyond the normal nexus of my life and that of my family. I should even take the opportunity in trivial encounters to be respectful, be hopeful, and put my Buddhism practice to work in daily life.


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Thoughts on “The Gem in the Robe”

Parables have been a well-established method of sharing faith stories, and having recently read “The Gem in the Robe,” I wanted to share some thoughts.

First, the text:

The house was a very prosperous one

and the poor man was served many trays of delicacies.

The friend took a priceless jewel,

sewed it in the lining of the poor man’s robe,

gave it without a word and then went away,

and the man, being asleep, knew nothing of it.

After the man had gotten up,

he journeyed here and there to other countries,

seeking food and clothing to keep himself alive,

finding it very difficult to provide for his livelihood.

He made do with what little he could get

and never hoped for anything finer,

unaware that in the lining of his robe

he had a priceless jewel.

Later the close friend who had given him the jewel

happened to meet the poor man

and after sharply rebuking him,

showed him the jewel sewed in the robe.

When the poor man saw the jewel,

his heart was filled with great joy,

for he was rich, possessed of wealth and goods

sufficient to satisfy the five desires.

We are like that man.


In the beginning of the parable, I felt like I was in the shoes of the poor man. I’ve been to friend’s homes that are larger and have been fed delicacies (mmm, pizza).

But from there, my thoughts turned to the jewel? What was it that the rich man was able to give the poor man? In my opinion, the jewel was the absolute happiness of one’s Buddha nature. Just as we are unable to see our own eyebrows without having a mirror, without the help of another, we can’t truly believe that we possess ultimate potential.

I also was surprised that the rich man rebuked the poor man. After all, the poor man unassumingly was just trying to get by in life, moving from country to country. He had a difficult life, and who was the rich man to get all uppity about the jewel he sewed in his friend’s robe?

But from the perspective of Buddhism, if the “rich man” knew that the best way to reach the “poor man”‘s heart was to rebuke him, then this was the ultimate manifestation of compassion. How compassionate of the rich man to care enough to point out to his friend that he had this jewel the entire time. And most importantly, it worked, the poor man saw the jewel and could now spend his life doing other things.

In the spirit of Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni) or Nichiren Daishonin, I’d like to believe that the poor man would then do the same thing for someone else, that the rich man had done for him. As for the rich man? Surely, he had many other friends that were also unaware of this deep treasure in their lives.


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Thoughts on “12 Ways Nichiren (SGI) Buddhism is Different”

My  thoughts on “12 Ways Nichiren (SGI) Buddhism is Different“.

To put this list in pure bulleted form:

  • You do not have to convert to Buddhism to chant
  • The goal of this practice is results
  • In this practice, each person is a Buddha
  • We have a living mentor
  • There are no lifestyle, diets, rules of behavior or “paths” to memorize or carefully trod
  • Desire is not the enemy
  • There are no clergy, no robes, no temples
  • We are changing our karma every time we chant
  • The main practice is reciting the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo over and over
  • The SGI does not discriminate for any reason
  • There is no guilt

I agree with this list for the most part, and I’ve decided to take a deep dive into each bullet point in future posts. Stay tuned!


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Thoughts on “10 Things I Love About Practicing Buddhism With The SGI”

Another day – another opportunity to read an exciting blog post by a fellow SGI Buddhist member enjoying life!

Full article is here.

My thoughts, when reading it, were that I could very easily write my own list of 5 reasons, even 10 or 20. That’s not to say that practicing Buddhism is perfect (it’s not for the normally lazy lesser self I am battling), and the SGI isn’t always perfect either (you can’t get along with everyone you meet, even in a world peace organization). But I never take for granted my appreciation at having come across an answer to my questions and needs while I’m still young. And I believe one of my responsibilities is to help others that are looking for something similar.

I’m not saying it’s for everyone. Nothing is for everyone. But if I could turn back time and change some mistakes I made in the past, I wouldn’t, for a second, go back to the beginning of my Buddhist practice.


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Thoughts on “Why I Started Chanting”

One of my joys is reading the experiences of SGI members around the world and how struggles and obstacles are transformed into victories through Buddhist practice.

I came across this powerful excerpt from a member in Canada:

I looked into various spiritual practices, but none of them answered the questions that I had. One night, it got to boiling point where my past demons were haunt­ing me. I couldn’t seem to break the cycle. Suddenly, I found myself saying Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It just came out of my mouth. The more I said it, the more the feeling of desperation and depression went away. So I just kept saying it.

The full experience with Q&A is here.

What I find most encouraging is that this is someone who encountered Buddhism previously and has siblings that practice, but personally there was not an interest to ever engage in chanting. But in the midst of a very difficult time with stress and struggle, he found his own answer, which became a turning point for the rest of his life.

If I can plant the seed so that even one person can find the answer that works for them, even when they’re struggling with dark times, I’ll have no regrets in my life.


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Daily Encouragement January 31

January 31 – from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda

Youth should not seek an easy comfortable path. No one develops in a pampered environment. Youth should instead actively seek out challenges and hardships, transforming them all into valuable assets as they strive to become individuals of outstanding character and ability.

Rightly or not, this reminds me of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
We’re lucky in so many ways to live in the current time with all the modern conveniences. And while technology has made many things easier and more convenient, it doesn’t always make things better. In the long run, the easy way usually isn’t the most fruitful or rewarding.
Isn’t the act of taking the road less traveled (the challenging one) the whole point?
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Demographics of Buddhism

It looks like Wikipedia needs to update their numbers! The last time I checked the estimate on the number of practicing Buddhists around the world was 200-250 million people.

But according to Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, the number is actually 470 million!!

Now that’s of course the big tent of Buddhism including Theravada (Hinayana) and Mahayana schools as well as Tibetan Buddhists and every other variety you can think of. And here I thought that the SGI with 12 million members worldwide was a big organization!

It’ll be interesting to see during my lifetime how that number changes and if Buddhism will continue to provide answers and clarity for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Wouldn’t it be something in this time of marches and protests for all the Buddhists to stand up and chant/meditate/pray for world peace together?


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