THE MYSTIC NATURE OF OUR LIVES – “BECOME THE MASTER OF YOUR MIND RATHER THAN LET YOUR MIND MASTER YOU”
It is the heart that is important, writes Nichiren Daishonin. Our heart, our mind, is truly wondrous and unfathomable. We can expand and deepen the inner realm of our spirit infinitely and boundlessly.
Like the elation of soaring freely through the vast blue heavens, the heart can feel immense and untrammeled joy. Like the clear, bright sunshine illuminating all things, the heart can embrace those who are suffering with warmth and compassion. And like a lion of justice, the heart can also at times tremble with righteous anger and defeat evil. Indeed, our heart or mind is constantly changing, like scenes in a drama or like an unfolding panorama. And nothing is more wondrous than its ability to manifest the world of Buddhahood. Even people weighed down by delusion and suffering can bring forth in the depths of their lives the state of buddhahood that is one with the universe. This momentous drama of transformation is the greatest of all wonders.
Buddhism finds supreme nobility and the potential for great change in all human beings. In “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime”, the Daishonin therefore concludes that when we thoroughly polish our lives through chanting the daimoku of Myoho-renge-kyo, it is possible for us to tap the life-state of Buddhahood no matter how steeped in delusion we may be, and to transform even the most impure and evil into a pure land.
Myoho-renge-kyo is the name of the “Mystic truth originally inherent in all living beings”. Accordingly, through the practice chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can reveal our inner Buddhahood – polishing “the tarnished mirror of a mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life” into “a clear mirror reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality”. In other words by manifesting the mystic truth that resides within us, we can tap our infinite inner potential. Buddhahood is the state of life that is one with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the originally inherent mystic truth. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is also the name of this ultimate state of life.
The passage I will discuss this time explains the relation between myoho-renge-kyo and the mind of living beings in terms of the element of myo, ho, renge and kyo. This explanation may be seen as a description of how our lives become one with myoho-renge-kyo and manifest the state of Buddhahood.
The mind is the mystic entity of the middle way that is the ultimate reality :
To begin with, the Daishonin says that myo of myoho-renge-kyo signifies the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment. And he uses the concepts of existence and non-existence to describe this wondrous and unfathomable nature.
Our mind is in a state of constant flux, moving with the ebb and flow of countless thoughts and emotions. The Daishonin notes : “When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither colour nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and non-existence. It is neither existence nor non-existence, yet exhibits the qualities of both”.
The Daishonin describes, this mysterious form that the mind takes as the “mystic entity of the Middle way that is the ultimate reality”. The Middle Way means the middle course between two extremes; it refers to a more lofty perspective that is swayed by neither extremes; it refers to a more lofty perspective that is swayed by neither extreme but also embraces them both. Shakyamuni set forth a sound philosophy and practice transcending the two then prevailing extremes of hedonism and asceticism, and he called this the Middle way. In “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime”, the Daishonin says that the ultimate truth, which transcends the two extremes of existence and non-existence and yet also manifests both, is the middle way, and because this is the pinnacle of truth, he calls it the “ultimate reality”.
Transcending existence and non-existence can be taken to mean transcending impermanent phenomena that alternate ceaselessly between existence and non-existence. Further, exhibiting the qualities of both existence and non-existence while transcending both does not refer to a transcendent or absolute being that is divorced from impermanent phenomena, but indicates the truly eternal that encompasses and resides within impermanent phenomena.
Although the Daishonin explains the mysterious nature of our life or mind in terms of the concepts of existence and non-existence in this writing, what he says here is comparable to Nagarjuna’s concept of non-substantiality, and to T’en-t’ai’s concepts of the unification of the three truths and the three fold contemplation in a single mind. Essentially, the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality” of which Daishonin speaks refers to our life or mind that is one with the ultimate truth – a concept that is expressed variously as non-substantiality, the unification of the three truths, or threefold contemplation in single mind.
Renge refers to the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect
The Daishonin next states that ho, meaning Law or phenomena, is the name given to the manifestations of the mystic nature of our line or mind – a term that can also be expressed as the wondrous mind or “mind of Myo“. The myo is itself the Mystic Law. Abstract words and theories alone- be they the concepts of non-substantiality or unification of the three truths – cannot be called the Mystic Law. For only when the Mystic Law is expressed as the highest human wisdom based on the Middle Way can it spread as a guide and compass and as a teaching or Law (ho) for people to follow.
In addition, the Daishonin says, “Renge, which means lotus flower, is used to symbolize the wonder of this law”. The mystic law is not visible to the human eye. Therefore, the Buddha uses a concrete metaphor in order to help people understand the Law’s wondrous and mystic nature. This is renge, meaning “lotus flower”.
Why does he employ the lotus flower ? usually plants flower first and then bear fruit – a relationship that is used to illustrate linear or sequential causality, with the flowers representing the cause and the fruit the effect. In Buddhism, this is referred to as the non-simultaneity of cause and effect. By contrast, the lotus flower puts forth its petals and its receptacle ( which contain its fruit) simultaneously – in other words, its fruit is produced at the same time as its petals open. The lotus thus symbolizes the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect.
The provisional pre-lotus Sutra teachings do not teach that the cause for attaining enlightenment is the Buddhahood that is inherent in the lives of all people; rather they teach that one can only gain the life-state of Buddha after undergoing countless eons of Buddhist practice. Here, cause and effect are non-simultaneous. The teachings of Lotus Sutra, however clarify that all people are originally endowed with the state of Buddhahood and can reveal it instantaneously. In other words, the mind of delusion of an originally endowed with the state of Buddhahood and can reveal it instantaneously. In other words, the mind of delusion of an ordinary person is instantly transformed into the mind of Myo (the supreme enlightenment) of Buddha. The lotus flower symbolizes this simultaneity of cause and effect.
Maintaining the mind of myo is the Mystic kyo
The Daishonin explains that kyo, meaning sutra, of Myoho-renge-kyo also refers to realizing the mystic nature of life. He says: “If we understand that our life at this moment is myo, then we will also understand that our life at other moments is the Mystic Law. This realization is the Mystic KYO or SUTRA “
Kyo is written with Chinese charater meaning the vertical thread or wrap in a loom or fabric, and it is also used to refer to the passage of time. It is in this respect that the daishonin speaks of our life or mind at this moment and our life or mind at other moments. Our life or mind is constantly changing, but when we defeat our inner darkness or ignorance through strong faith manifested in chanting daimoku, the innate mystic truth appears within us, and the life of Myoho-renge(lit. lotus of the Mystic Law) blooms within our heart.
Day by day, through consistently chanting daimoku, we can accumulate the causes and effects for attaining Buddhahood that make it possible to transform a mind clouded by innate darkness of life into a mind reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. The virtues of these causes and effects over time become the bone and marrow of our beings, with flowers of benefit blossoming in our characters and actual lives. This is the mystic kyo in terms of our individual lives.
Also, we can regard this mystic kyo as the spread of the Mystic law form ourselves to others. When the mind at other moment is taken to mean the minds of all living beings, then kyo refers to the Buddha’s teachings that expound aspects of his enlightenment regarding the mystic nature of life, or the mind of myo. And the king of sutras that directly elucidates the mind of myo itself is the lotus Sutra, the essence of which is Myoho-renge-kyo. In that sense, the development of kosen-rufu, with people propagating the Mystic Law and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo unstintingly for the happiness of themselves and others and teaching others to do the same, could be said to correspond to the mystic kyo.
As seen in the aforementioned discussion, Myoho-renge-kyo is the Law inherent in our own lives. The ongoing moment-to-moment transformation in our hearts and minds that we achieve through chanting daimoku not only leads to a fundamental inner change but to a change in the entire way we live our lives, putting us on track to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, and it further creates a groundswell for the great transformation of all humankind that is kosen-rufu. The dynamic force for change on all levels is Myoho-renge-kyo.
Becoming the master of our Mind
Since Myoho-renge-kyo is the Law inherent in our lives, there is another topic I must touch on. Namely the relation between the mind of delusion that is clouded by innate darkness and the mind of myo that is illuminated by the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspects of reality.
If we follow the minds of delusion of ordinary people—a mind that tends to be weak and easily swayed- our inner potential can rapidly wither or, even worse, we may succumb to negative and destructive impulses. This is a problem stemming from the subtlety of the mind. Because our mind is the key to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, we must overcome our own inner weakness. This is what our Buddhist practice is all about. The mind of delusion of ordinary people is constantly wavering. We must not make this wavering mind our basis or guide.
The Daishonin stresses this by citing the following well-known passage, “ … become the master of your mind rather let your mind master you”. This passage is from the Six Paramitas Sutra, which states to the effect : “our mind may suddenly run out of control. Therefore, we must tame it like a wild elephant, not allowing our mind to become our master, but rather seeking to master our mind.”. The Nirvana Sutra contains a similar passage : “I pray you will become the master of your mind, and not let your mind master you”. The Daishonin cites this admonition many times, making it a guideline for his followers.
Becoming the master of one’s mind means having a sound compass in life and the bright beacon of faith. We must not be mastered by the inconstant, week an ever-changing mind of delusion of ordinary people. To master our mind, we must guide it in the right direction. In that sense, the true master of the mind is the Law and the teaching of the Buddha. Shakyamuni vowed to make the law to which he had become enlightened the master of his mind, and he took pride in living true to that vow. This is the way of life of “taking refuge in the Law” that Shakyamuni emphasized in his final injunction to his disciples before he died.
The priests of the various Buddhist schools in Daishonin’s lifetime forget this spirit of Shakyamuni. Following their own arbitrary mind of thinking, they lost sight of Buddha’s teachings, denigrated the Lotus sutra and succumbed to arrogance. By contrast, ‘the Daishonin taught that the true master of the mind is Myoho-regne- kyo – the heart of the Lotus sutra and the fundamental Law of all Buddhas – and set forth the concrete practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo for mastering one’s mind. Also, he frequently stressed to his followers the important spirits of faith of seeking this true master of the mind (ie the mystic law).
For example, when one of the two Ikegami brothers was disowned by their father on account of his faith, the Daishonin encouraged them both saying that this was precisely the time for them to unite and overcome the situation based on faith. He offers them this guidance : “A passage in the Six Paramitas 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.”
No matter what difficult circumstances we may face, we can break through them without fail as long as our faith does not waver. Faith is a battle against our own inner weakness. The Daishonin teaches that to win in this battle, we must base our lives wholeheartedly on the Lotus Sutra (the mystic law), without being swayed by our own weak-heartedness.
The path of mentor and disciple based on the Law
From the story of the Ikegami Brothers’ triumph, we also need to learn the faith of oneness of mentor and disciple. Because the brothers conducted themselves exactly as the Daishonin instructed, they were able to overcome their ordeal, discern the scheming of Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple behind their father’s actions, and in the end winning the dramatic victory of their father taking faith.
To allow oneself to be mastered by one’s mind is to lead a self-centered existence. Ultimately, one will be pulled this way and that by one’s constantly wavering mind, succumb to egoism and sink into the depths of darkness and ignorance. Conversely, to become the master of one’s mind is to live based on the Law.
A teacher or mentor in Buddhism is one who leads and connects people to the law – teaching them that the law on which they should depend exists within their own lives. The disciples in turn seek mentor, who embodies and is one with the law. Looking to the mentor as a model, they exert themselves in their Buddhist practice. In this way they lead a life that allows them to become the master of their mind.
In other words, the existence of a mentor who embodies and lives in complete accord with the law and who teaches people about the vast inner potential they posses, is indispensible for attaining Budhhahood in this lifetime. I had a mentor who practiced as the Buddha taught – second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who dedicated his life to widely propagating the Daishonin’s Buddhism in the modern age – and that has made me what I am today. President Toda is always with me as my spiritual mentor. Even now, day by days, and moment by moment, I am carrying on a dialogue with my mentor in my heart. This is the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple. Those who hold fast to their spiritual as their compass and exert themselves as that mentor teaches are people who live based on the law. The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is a teaching founded on the oneness of mentor and disciple and the Lotus Sutra is likewise a scripture of the oneness of mentor and disciple.
At the end of this writing, to convey the importance of the mentor-disciple relationship in walking the great path of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, the Daishonin cites a passage from the “Supernatural Power” (21st) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. I would like to discuss the profound meaning of this passage next time, but suffice it to say here that the path to attaining Buddhahood is found in the practice of Bodhisattvas of the earth who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Law inherent in their lives, for the happiness of themselves and others and teach others to do the same.
Above all, the great path to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime lies practicing faith with the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple, making our minds one with the lofty mind of Budhha and not being swayed by our inner darkness or the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness. Faith based on the mentor-disciple spirit is the key to opening the treasure within our lives which is as vast as the universe. Moreover, courageously exerting ourselves in chanting daimoku and taking action for kosen-rufu is the direct path to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.