Nichiren Buddhist Association of America

Nichiren Buddhist Association of America
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Never Disparaging
by Shannon Heimburg

 

In our world, everyone believes that there is a deity, force, being, or something outside of themselves controlling their destiny and watching over them. If we just pray to this being, they believe, the outside force will take care of them in life as well as in death. Even Buddhists believe this for the most part. Despite the fact that nearly everyone on the planet holds this same basic belief, I am so arrogant that I have the audacity to disagree with them all!

I believe that all of the power of the universe, God, life, "the force," Jehovah, Shiva, Vishnu, etceteras, are all within my own body. And, even more arrogantly, I also believe that I can, and have, tapped that power within myself to actually become MORE powerful than the combined powers of the other forces within the universe. I feel that I not only have complete control over my own destiny, but yours as well. In other words, I am God. I rule this world and this universe. I don't limit this power to myself, however. I believe that ALL people have this potential within themselves. All people could be rulers of the universe and change the destiny of the entire planet if only they'd look and see the power within them. How can they do this? Only by practicing the teachings contained in the Lotus Sutra and chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.

Now that I've said all that, people who believe in something greater than themselves existing outside of themselves will be angry. Christians who read this essay will be enraged. Even other Buddhists will be appalled by what I said in the previous paragraph. I can imagine them all shifting uncomfortably in their chairs as they read my words. In fact, I have enraged people in person using similar words. They slander me. They slander my Buddha nature. And they slander their own Buddha nature as well, believing that they could not become like what I described above. Ultimately, they are slandering the Law itself.

I could write an essay for them. But for just this once, I want to write something for my comrades in faith. I am writing to other Buddhas and those earnestly seeking Buddhahood within themselves.

Our beliefs are opposed to the beliefs of all of the people in the world today. You cannot believe that the Law, and ALL of its power, is within you, while also believing in a force outside of yourself that is greater than you and which has control over the world. Because our beliefs are contrary to all other beliefs on the planet, we cannot say to people that Christianity is just the same as Buddhism. Nor can we say to them that Christianity is just as good as Buddhism. The same thing applies to all other religions. And if we say that there could be other paths to enlightenment, we must qualify it by saying the word "theoretically," because if there are, we don't know of such paths. In other words, we have to come out and say that Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Islam, etc. are all incorrect religions. This is shakubuku.

Imagine that you are Christopher Columbus, living in the 18th century. You need to write a letter to obtain funding to sail to India. The only way to convince another person to let you find a new route to India is to convince them that the world is actually round despite the fact that nearly everyone believes it to be unmistakably flat. Can you ride the fence saying, "yes, it's flat, but it's also round as well"?

In Buddhism too, you can't ride the fence. If you're telling people that Christianity is just the same as or just as good as Buddhism, you're not teaching people Buddhism correctly. It would be just as absurd to say that as to say that the world is flat as well as being round.

If a person truly believes that Christianity and Buddhism are the same, they have not fully understood Buddhism. In that case, they should keep quiet. But you who know what a Buddha is -- you who are Buddhas yourselves -- you are the leaders of those other people. You can't be swayed by them. They lack faith in the possibility of their own Buddha nature because they can't see it. And if they can't see their own Buddha nature, how could they see yours? Please, stand up and lead! Even should your leaders or priests tell you not to upset Christians by denouncing their faith, understand that you are in fact their leader and their priest. Have courage. I want you to know that there are other Buddhas out there, in other parts of the world and maybe the country, working together with you to spread enlightenment throughout the universe. Have heart and be bold because you are not alone.

I recently read Dr. Atkins' book after doing some research on diabetes and heart disease. The Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, and many other diets have been become more popular these days. However, the idea that carbohydrates are related to weight gain is by no means a recent discovery. Dr. Atkins published his findings on carbohydrates over thirty years ago. The concept defied everything doctors had been told about nutrition and diet. Akins did not say that carbohydrates were responsible for just weight gain, but also for all kinds of medical conditions, most importantly heart disease. The idea of patients with heart problems eating a high fat, high protein diet was appalling to the other doctors around the country. Atkins, however, pressed on. He didn't just show his own research on how well a low carbohydrate diet works for his patients. He attacked high carbohydrate diets, saying that they hurt people, and ultimately kill people. Because he attacked high carbohydrate diets, he attacked the belief system of thousands of doctors in this country. We'd been taught to eat mostly carbohydrates by our own school system which used the food pyramid published by our government! Today, slowly, our belief system is changing. More and more cardiologists are recommending low carbohydrate diets to their patients. Soon the phrase "meat and potatoes" will be replaced with "meat and green veggies." The spread of the Akins eating approach is taking hold among individuals not only because of the fact that it works. It spreads when people learn that carbohydrates have been causing them some of the mental and most of the physical problems they've been plagued with throughout their lives. In other words, to teach someone that a low carbohydrate diet is good never seems to convince them. It is when you begin to list the reasons why a high carbohydrate diet is harmful to them that they begin to think seriously about it.

Atkins is not the first case of a lone scientist taking on the entire scientific community. However, time and time again, when a scientist confronts the beliefs of other scientists, he has to show why the other beliefs are wrong in order to also prove that he is right. This has been the case over and over again in the history of science and medicine. It's the method any person has to use to convince others of a new, opposing mental paradigm.

Consider also the case of civil rights. Blacks were told that to participate in acts of civil disobedience would only slow the progress toward equal rights. After years of being treated as less than human, new laws were passed within a relatively short period of time after civil disobediences began to take place. It was their action against the status quo that finally created the forward momentum toward real progress.

Think of a person running for President. Imagine that all around you, you begin to see signs and stickers with the slogan, "Just as good as the other candidate." It's really not enough for a candidate to claim that his ideas are equally as good as the other guy's. He must convince the people that he's better than the other guy. He has to convince the people that not only will his ideas make their lives better, but the other candidate's plans will hurt them. The people will not be convinced by someone who's flippant.

Imagine watching a movie about children who live in an abusive household. Suppose they have a favorite aunt in the movie who plays with the children all of the time. When she finds out that the children are being abused, what would make a better heroine action for her? Would it be better if she just talked with the parents over the course of years and tried to convince them to stop hurting the children? Or would it be better if she stormed into the house and grabbed the children away while the parents yelled at her and threatened her? And which do you think would be better for the children?

It sounds very noble to be calm all of the time, but only in theory. In real life we need to take the bull by the horns and get some things done for the sake of others. We can't let the people of the world continue to suffer while we practice our meditation on tranquility, shutting out the pain of others.

For years now Christianity has been spreading through the world like the plague. People feel they need someone upon whom they can rely. They feel lonely and powerless over their lives. They feel unloved. They don't get the sense that they are the heroes and heroines, completely in charge of their own destiny. They're scared, tired, alone, and confused. The simple line, "Jesus loves you," strengthens the conviction of Christians everywhere. They want someone to love them…to look over them…to look after them. It doesn't matter that the religion doesn't make sense, defies reason, and doesn't work. They feel they need something. Christianity plays on people's sense of fear, powerlessness and neediness.

What people really need is to take control of their lives and actions. They need wisdom and courage. They need to realize that they have an enormous impact on the world and can make a difference for humanity. A new religion needs to be spread. The new religion needs to be one capable of injecting people with vitality, hope, compassion, wisdom, confidence, and personal strength.

I know of such a philosophy. It's called Nichiren Buddhism, or the Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra. This is a powerful, yet radical religion. It provides just what people are really looking for in their lives but don't know it yet. Every time I chant determinedly, with conviction for others, and then take action for their sake (shakubuku them), I see the power of this Buddhism. It's at that time that I attain enlightenment myself. The most encouraging thing to me, though, is watching others grow and become happy and strong as they practice. This is the only religion that works equally for all people. It's the only thing that can inspire the hope, compassion, and wisdom that people are searching for in their lives.

I know that some people chant, yet don't know what I'm talking about. They still lack faith. That's okay. They still get benefit from chanting and are still a little wiser than they otherwise would be. But there are a few of you out there who know what it's like to have your life completely altered by chanting. Some of you know a side of yourself that has only ever been seen through the power of Myoho-renge-kyo. You there! It's you I am speaking to.

Why can't those other people see the power of a Buddha within themselves? Because they fail to act for the sake of others. They harbor doubts about whether there even is such a thing as Buddhahood, so rather than taking a risk to find out, they hedge their bet, chanting out of superstition yet failing to act boldly. In the "Life Span" chapter, Shakyamuni says, "When living beings have become truly faithful …single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives, then I…appear." And my favorite quote comes at the end of the "Life Span" chapter. He says, "At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings" to attain enlightenment.

At the times when you would give your life for the sake of the Law, the Buddha will appear within you. At the times when you "single-mindedly" teach the Law to others, then you are a Buddha. The action required in order to be a Buddha is to teach people the Lotus Sutra with fortitude and conviction.

Some people refuse to take this particular action. Unfortunately, they can never know enlightenment until they stop harboring doubts in their hearts, stop hedging their bets, and focus themselves exclusively on teaching Buddhism to others.

You know what I mean, though, because you see it in yourself. Maybe you didn't notice it until I mentioned it, but now you can see it. Every time you attain enlightenment, it's at a time when you have determined to teach Buddhism to everyone you can, no matter what. This is a remarkable thing. Maybe you thought before that many people have done this, even millions of people. But actually it's rare in this time period. You're like a diamond sparkling in the sunlight amongst chunks of glass. It's difficult for a casual observer to see you, but if one were to look closely, they'd see something of tremendous rarity and value.

Nichiren wrote in a letter to a disciple, "The reason you have not succeeded in attaining Buddhahood from countless distant kalpas in the past down to the present is that when a situation such as this has arisen you have been too fearful to speak out. And in the future as well, this principle will prevail.

"Now I, Nichiren, understand these things because of what I myself have undergone. But even if there are those among my disciples who understand them, they fear the accusations of the times; believing that their lives, which are as frail as dew, are in fact to be relied upon, they backslide, keep their beliefs hidden in their hearts, or behave in other such ways.

"A passage in the Lotus Sutra says that the sutra is 'the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand,' and I have learned the value of this passage through my own experience. Slanderers are as numerous as the dust particles of the land; believers are as few as the specks of dirt that can be placed on a fingernail. Slanderers are a huge sea, and upholders, one drop of water." ("Letter to Akimoto", WND pg. 1021)

You and I are the ones to spread this Buddhism. You have to ignore those who would say that Christianity is the same as Buddhism. You've practiced Christianity before. You know it's just a load of crap, just as much as I do. It's an infectious disease, but we have the cure. Let's march past those others that would placate Christians, and let us be the leaders in this cause to bring Buddhism to the people of the world. Let's march together for the most important cause there is, the one that will lead all humanity to enlightenment. What banner should we march together under? The banner of Myoho-renge-kyo, holding it high and allowing it to wave boldly and proudly in the wind. The Buddhas everywhere in the universe will be a cheering crowd as they watch us march into battle for the sake of Buddhism and the happiness of the people.

Yes, those who don't have faith in Buddhism are in the majority and we are but a few people. You may feel alone in your march wherever you are in the world, but chant strong daimoku and summon deep courage. You may question yourself, wondering how you can be the only one who knows what to do next when everyone is saying that you're wrong. It's okay that you're alone, though. It just means that you're on the right track.
"But as the Nirvana Sutra, which is intended to propagate the Lotus Sutra, states: in the defiled times of the latter age, those who slander the correct teaching will be as numerous as the specks of dirt in all the lands of the ten directions, while those who uphold the correct teaching will be as few as the specks of dirt that can be placed on a fingernail." ("Opening of the Eyes", WND p.232) People will say that it's not right to attack other beliefs. The people who say that are not the Buddhas. You're the Buddha. Assume your role. How can we end suffering in the world if the Buddhas are taking instructions from the unenlightened people of the world?

Believe wholeheartedly that you are the one to spread Buddhism and ignore the remarks of others to tone your arguments down. "In the same way, the renegade disciples say, 'Though the priest Nichiren is our teacher, he is too forceful. We will spread the Lotus Sutra in a more peaceful way.' In so asserting, they are being as ridiculous as fireflies laughing at the sun and moon, an anthill belittling Mount Hua, wells and brooks despising the river and the ocean, or a magpie mocking a phoenix." ("Letter from Sado," WND p. 306) The disciples of Nichiren who want to "spread the Lotus Sutra in a more peaceful way" still exist. Don't be one of them.

"For persons of the Tendai Lotus school to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo themselves and yet give their approval when others repeat the Nembutsu would be strange enough. Yet not only do they fail to remonstrate with them, but they criticize one who does confront the Nembutsu school, which is strange indeed!" ("The Third Doctrine", WND p.856) Some may criticize you for remonstrating with people of other faiths, but have heart because you are keeping company with Nichiren while they keep company only with those who never attain enlightenment. You are like the sun. They are like fireflies. You are like a mountain, while they are like anthills. Look past them and fulfill your mission.

Just like in science, politics, and other areas of life, you cannot convince others that what you are saying is true unless you convince them that their previous beliefs are wrong. If it doesn't work in any other walk of life, why would that work in religion? It doesn't. And even if you get people to chant some, they will never be able to grow in their faith unless they get past the idea that some external force or power has control over them. To just let them go through life and never be able to see their potential is completely lacking in compassion, don't you think? Keep Bodhisattva Never Disparaging in mind and let's go full speed ahead!

Shakubuku, shakubuku all the way!!!


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