Are Buddhist Prayers Always Answered?

Prayer hands  In the writings of Nichiren Daishonin he states that prayers by a practioner of the Lotus Sutra will always be answered. Yet in many of Daisaku Ikeda’s writing there are cautions that prayers are not always answered immediately and that prayers without action to achieve them will not be answered. How do we resolve these conflicting messages? Does this question have a straightforward black and white answer or are there many shades of gray to the answer? Is there a middle way where Buddhist prayers (chanting) are both always answered and not always answered?

It is important to consider this topic with an open mind and take great care to both strive to understand how it be either true, false or possibly a middle way where it is both true and false. To simply accept without further understanding makes it much more difficult to help others understand and easy for personal delusions about chanting to be manifested, or worse yet, for the practice to be misunderstood by non-practitioners as either fanatical or no different than any other religion as most claim their prayers are always answered one way or another.

The book, The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, is a selection of Ikeda’s perspectives on the practice of the Lotus Sutra/Nichiren Buddhism. On page 59, he states that our prayer cannot be answered if we fail to make efforts to realize them. On page 66 he states that no prayer goes unanswered, but that the benefits that we accrue from chanting and faith in the Gohonzon are some times conspicuous and sometimes inconspicuous. As I read that perspective it seems that Ikeda is expanding the concept of what is meant by the answer to a prayer.

As a tangent, I sometimes struggle with the idea of directly equating the fundamental practice of chanting to a prayer that we in the western world tend to associate with praying to an external deity. That may be why Ikeda emphasizes in many of his teachings that our practice, somewhat inadequately presented as Buddhist prayers, frequently brings about subtle benefits, not clear straight forward answers. In addition, he emphasizes Buddhist prayers lead to benefits, not necessarily answers, to prayers. This is important because it opens the door to a middle way interpretation of whether prayers are always answered or not.

On page 66 he states that there is a difference between wishes and a prayer and that if all of our wishes were granted through prayer it would lead us to becoming lazy, complacent and even to our ruin.   He further states specifically, “In Nichiren Buddhism, prayer by itself isn’t enough.” “ Prayer without action is wishful thinking, and action without prayer will be unproductive.”   I like to soften the last part of that statement as follows – action without prayer frequently is misguided, or does not leverage our Buddha wisdom and as a result is less effective.   In any case, Ikeda emphasizes the need for action to accompany chanting (prayer) to yield results.   This again suggests that Buddhist prayers do go unanswered if the practitioner is not exercising both the physical and spiritual aspects of this practice, which means to both chant and take action. Chanting for a pot of water to boil without turning on the burner will not yield the desired result.  The water will not boil no matter how long you chant. At some point, you need to have the wisdom to turn on the burner.

So far I have pointed out a number of Ikeda’s teaching that suggest that not all prayers from chanting are answered. Those prayers that are not followed with action or that are just wishes he clearly states are not answered.   So how can Nichiren Buddhism teachings convey that our prayers are always answered?

To answer that question it is important to look at the fundamental concepts and teachings of Nichiren Buddhism such as, the simultaneity of cause and effect, the ten worlds/life conditions, oneness of life and the environment (esho funi), and earthly desires equals enlightenment. One of the challenges with understanding Buddhism is that it is important to have some depth of understanding of all of these concepts to truly understand the transformational power of it. Yet amazingly, a person still yields benefit from chanting even before they understand these concepts. This is another topic to be explored at another time.

In Nichiren Buddhism chanting is a cause to transform our self by tapping into our inherent Buddha nature. The effect raises our base life tendency from one of the lower worlds (life conditions) to a higher world such as Buddhahood. The phrase we chant, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is often translated as devotion to the mystic law of the simultaneity of cause and effect that permeates life. So chanting is a cause for awakening our inherent Buddhahood and the change of our perception of the world and our behavior is the effect.  The concept of Esho funi further teaches us that the environment around us at work and at home is a reflection of our inner life condition.  So if we change ourselves, our environment will reflect that change. Ichinen sanzen is another concept that expands on Esho funi and the simultaneity of cause and effect stating that our causes at every moment in time create infinite possibilities for change in our life and environment at that moment and in the future.

So how do the above mention fundaments help resolve the idea that a prayer can both be answered and not answered? The answer lies in the understanding that by chanting to achieve earthly desires it leads us to raise our life condition and raising our life condition leads us to find eternal and indestructible happiness. The goal in Buddhism is not to have all our earthly desired fulfilled, which are influenced by our delusions, but rather to raise our life condition and tap into our Buddha wisdom. This in turn helps us live to our fullest potential. The higher our life condition the more we see the world and operate from our inherent Buddha nature and the more good we can achieve in life.

When referencing the book, Outline of Buddhism, edited by Yasuji Kirimura and printed by Nichiren Shoshu International Center, I found a description of the three paths, which are earthly desires, karma and suffering. Chanting to achieve earthly desires leads to raising our life condition and breaks away from our smaller deluded ego. That changes our karma and reduces our suffering. It further states that we need to transform our realm of earthly desires to breakthrough the cycle of suffering. In other words, somewhat ironically, by chanting for our earthly desires, something that at the surface seems very un-Buddhist, raises our life condition and thus changes the nature of our earthly desires, which in turn reduces our suffering and increases the wisdom of our daily actions.

This may seem convoluted and difficult to follow but it is at the heart of resolving the conflict we are addressing. The Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Buddhism teaches us to leverage the motivating power of earthly desires to chant and tap into our inherent Buddhahood. Tapping into our Buddhahood is the underlying prayer that raises our life condition and leads to our happiness.   We are encouraged to leverage the Buddhahood found in our earthly desires, which is to give us motivation to chant. So earthly desires and wishes are not inherently bad. They are what motivate us to chant and chanting raises our life condition even if the specific prayer is not answered.   The real objective to chanting is not to achieve all of our wishes or all of earthly desires that are typically the result of our own delusions, but to raise our life condition which will lead us to achieve our fullest potential and eternal happiness.   Looking at the concept of prayers always being answered from this perspective gives way to the idea that a specific prayer may not be answered but if you chanted to raise your life condition to achieve it, it is the raising of your life condition that never fails to be answered. That is the true prayer that Nichiren Daishonin, Daisaku Ikeda and the Lotus Sutra refer to that never fails to be answered.


Arrogance – A Buddhist Perspective

In preparation for our monthly Buddhist study meeting I researched the Buddhist perspective of arrogance. Before I started my research I thought to myself What Buddhist teachings are important to understand relative to arrogance? and the following three questions came to mind:

  • How do we experience arrogance in Buddhist terms?
  • How does a Buddhist practice help reduce our risk of becoming arrogant?

Then, while searching books on Nichiren Buddhism, I found an interesting way to refer to Buddhism. In Dialogue on Life, The Buddhist Perspectives on The Eternity of Life, Kitagawa, one of the people Ikeda is exchanging perspectives with in the book, mentions that science deals with how things occur in life and Buddhism deals why. However, in my research on arrogance, I found that Buddhism addresses both how and why we become arrogant. The more I read the more I began to get the sense that knowing what arrogance is from a Buddhist perspective is important, but it is more important to understand why or how our practice and chanting to the Gohonzon makes a difference.

 What is arrogance from the perspective of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism?

First I searched through many Buddhist books and found arrogance is rarely mentioned in any of them. I think it is because it is viewed as an emotional state that is found in all of the ten worlds (life conditions) and is predominantly experienced and manifested in the life conditions (worlds) of Animality, Hunger and Anger. In these worlds, satisfying self-centered earthly desires are the dominant motivating factors of life. Our desires are placed first and foremost and we experience the world through the eyes of a survival of the fittest mentality. We may not be consciously thinking this way, but our natural instincts and behaviors reflect this hellish life condition..

In these life conditions our mental state unconsciously falls back to behaviors such as the strong devouring the weak to survive and sacrificing the weak for the purpose of fulfilling one’s own desires (Why Faith is Necessary, Vol. 2 pg 56). It goes on to say the law of the jungle rules where the strong threaten the weak.

In the life condition of Anger, arrogance is manifested as a result of the constant desire to defeat others and always thinking of oneself in a higher or more favorable position. It also can be experienced in the impatient desire for people to see things our way.

According to Buddhism each of the 10 defined life conditions also contain all the other life conditions within them. So a person could be in the life condition of Buddhahood and could still manifest arrogance; however, when in the higher life conditions, arrogance can be manifested to create positive cause or change.

In summary, Buddhism teaches that arrogance is a behavior manifested from life conditions where we see ourselves superior to those around us.   These are life conditions that are in the lower six worlds: Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Tranquility and Rapture. In those life conditions, instinctive reactions to our environment rule our interpretation of everything we see and everything that happens to us.   Buddhism teaches that to move beyond instinctive reactions to our environment we must make a conscious effort for self-improvement. We need to start mastering our mind.

Mastering our minds is important because according to Daisaku Ikeda in his book, Dialogue on Life; Buddhist Perspectives on Life and the Universe, “ living only under the sway of instinct, one finally ends in ruin. We are, moreover, unaware of that destiny and can do nothing to improve our miserable lives.” (pg164)

In other words, we unconsciously or unwittingly make many negative causes that ultimately lead to an unfulfilled or unhappy life. In Why Faith is Necessary, Volume 2 it states, “When the possibility of defeat arises we naturally feel like resisting in anyway possible. This natural feeling can either lead to self-improvement or to lashing out at others.” (pg 58)  It further states, “If we fail to look at ourselves and instead blame others when something happens, there will be no end to the conflict.” (pg 59) If we are blaming others we are experiencing a lower life-condition that defaults to our deluded jungle survival instincts.

Most people do not recognize when they are being arrogant. They recognize when others are being arrogant, but not themselves.   In general, most people are not very accurately self-aware but rather are deluded.   I think this is where Buddhism makes a difference.

“Buddhism teaches us that to assure desirable effects in the future, we have to learn to accurately perceive our life right now and make out best efforts to reform ourselves. One reason that Buddhism lives as a religion of human revolution is its unique view on causality”  

Dialogue on Life; Buddhist Perspectives on The Eternity of Life, Ikeda, pg 58

 This is why we chant, meditate for those of you unaware of the term chant, to perceive our life and ourselves accurately and achieve self-mastery. This way through chanting we raise our life condition so that we naturally live life through a higher life condition and clearly see how we can continuously improve ourselves, or as we refer to it in Buddhism: continue our human revolution.

We chant facing the Gohonzon, which is the objective of worship for observing the mind. So when we chant to the Gohonzon, it seems that we should be trying to understand our true motivations, intentions, and life condition relative to what we are chanting about. Are we seeing our behaviors and ourselves accurately or are we seeing them through the delusion of our instinctive self-centered and self-protecting lens? A Buddha is someone that can see through the delusions. Our greatest challenge each day is to break through our delusion to see things from our Buddha nature.   To change a bad situation or to live to our fullest potential we need to recognize the impact and influence our life condition, our attitude and our degree of self-awareness has on the outcome. That is what enables us to change our thoughts, our words and our actions that permeate the 3 realms (all aspects of life), but it starts first with prayer, chanting, with the sincere desire to break through the delusion.

So Buddhism views arrogance as a manifestation of our life condition and is the result of our self-delusion. Arrogance can create good if it is manifested in a higher life condition like Bodhisattva or Buddhahood.   But we experience it most often from our lower life conditions. In that case it manifests as a negative and self-destructive force or cause in our lives. However, if we base ourselves with sincere prayer to bring out our Buddhahood and to see through our delusion, chanting becomes a powerful force that prevents us from becoming arrogant.


Why is Faith Necessary” Vol. 2, World Tribune Press

Daisaku Ikeda, Dialogue on Life, Buddhist Perspectives on Life and the Universe

Daisaku Ikeda, Dialogue on Life, Buddhist Perspectives on Life and the Universe

Achieving Your Fullest Potential

Buddhism is the art of living life to the fullest and attaining your personal highest potential.  Maintaining a seeking spirit is not only key to living up to your fullest potential but is also the fountain of youth.  How can that be?   When we have a seeking spirit we are constantly searching for personal growth, knowledge and wisdom.   As our bodies age and begin to show the wear of time, our minds become the source of youthfulness.    As long as we continue to search for growth opportunity when can be seventy or eighty years old and still be youthful in spirit.

In Buddhism we chant Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo morning and evening to summon our youthful spirit and our highest life condition.  We do this to help us tap into our Buddha wisdom and live life to the fullest.  That means that we do not shy away from challenging circumstances but engage them with enthusiasm.  We understand that the little things each day add up with a multiplier affect that have greater impacts that our limited mind can conceive.

While in our youth we take time for granted.  We have lots of time and lots of life to live.  As we get older we start to appreciate how short of time we have to live.  Some people may feel satisfied with what they have accomplished and retire.  Others may start taking college classes at age 50, 60 or even 70.  They maintain a youthful spirit.  They continue to reach out to help people become happy anyway that they can. The keep trying to learn more about life and how to live expertly and to their fullest potential.

Buddhism is about learning to be who you are to fullest and to help people become happy.  It is about maintaining a seeking spirit to tap into our fullest potential.

What does a Nichiren Buddhist Worship?

The title of this blog is might be considered a trick question.  Many people that do not practice Buddhism imagine that all Buddhist worship the founder of Buddhism who is referred to as the Buddha.  However, in Nichiren Buddhism, anyone who is manifesting their life condition of Buddhahood, a life condition where compassion for humanity is first and foremost on their mind and they optimize the wisdom inherent in themselves and in the universe.   In other words, anyone can express Buddhahood in their lives.   Gautama or Shakyamuni Buddha is considered a great teacher and founder but is not considered a deity.

If worship is defined as the expression of reverence to a deity, worship is not a part of Nichiren Buddhism.   We do have an object of devotion, the Gohonzon, which helps us devote our chanting meditation toward tapping into the buddhohoold that already exists within us.  As stated on the inside page of every edition of the magazine, Living Buddhism, we practice to “awaken to the dignity and power the resides within us and transform ourselves to the deepest level.  This is referred to as our human revolution.   By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we reveal our inherent Buddha nature.”

When chanting to the Gohonzon, the Gohonzon is a mirror of our life condition and a symbol of the inherent Buddhahood within us.   Think of it this way, when we look into a mirror we have a tendency to see ourselves through the eyes of self limiting filters.   When we chant facing the Gohonzon we meditate to bring out our Buddhahood and we begin to see the mirror of our Buddhahood.  In other words, we begin to believe in ourselves without limitation.

The Alchemist, Buddhism in Other Words

It never fails to amaze me how much I learn about Buddhism through non Buddhist literature.  I have practiced and studied Buddhism for over thirty years now but a vast majority of the time it has been from one specific school of Buddhism.  While the SGI Buddhist literature has taught me the fundamentals of Buddhism that have changed my life dramatically for the better and has become a core part of my daily life, I am amazed at the new insights on Buddhism and life that I get from reading non Buddhist books about spirituality.  There is something about reading about the universal truths of life in a different vocabulary and a different context that provides new insights and helps me reach a deeper comprehension of Buddhism.

This week I have been reading the old classic book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, which is a story about a shepherd who learns the universal truths through his adventure to the great pyramids.    It talks about the universal language that he discovers along the way, how he needs to make his own decisions and to never to give up on his dreams if he wants to achieve happiness.  During is journey the shepherd discovers a universal language that everyone understands, “It is enthusiasm and of things accomplished with love and purpose.”  That sound like a Buddhist teaching presented in different words and a new enriching context.  In Buddhism we talk about the importance of our attitude.  People are attracted to enthusiastic people and we all feel great when we accomplish something with love and purpose.  This is Buddhism.  This is living with a high life condition and living our mission.

At one part of his journey he runs into a lot of bad luck as of a result of his own ignorance.  The Shepherd is about to give up but then realizes that he is looking at things in the wrong way.  He should not be thinking of himself as a poor victim of theft but rather as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.  Once he changed his perspective, suddenly he was invigorated, even though the circumstances had not changed.  That is as Buddhist as it gets!

One of the universal truths in the book indicates, “When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.”  In Buddhism we believe that when we chant with heart felt, sincerity and determination  we become in synch with the universe and our environment responds in kind.   I like to add one more point here.  We can’t just want and chant for something,  we must  also take action.  Chanting alone does not do it, and wanting alone does not do it.

There are many more wise sayings or “truths” about life that are presented in a creative manner throughout the book.  For example, “Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.”   In Buddhism we refer to this as being in synch with the universe and tapping into our Buddha wisdom.  I could go on for pages drawing parallels but I think you get the point.

Some people may think that it is sacrilegious to study Buddhism through other literature and many people fear that it will lead to the bastardization of the Buddhist teachings.  Those fears are legitimate but then everything we encounter in our lives can impact our understanding of Buddhism.  They also need to keep in mind that not everyone that lectures on Nichiren Buddhism gets the message right either.  Sometimes they interpret things through their own filter of life experience and at times it is wrong or what limited to their own ability to understand the concept.  Lets face it, that is true no matter who is the teacher.  But that is okay.  That is why we have an organization of faith and a large library of literature to guide us.  We cannot stop pth-4eople form misinterpreting or inadvertently teaching the wrong thing.  It happens all the time.  The key is for everyone to maintain a strong seeking spirit and an absolute determination to truly and deeply understand the correct teaching.  That determination along with always going back to the fundamental Buddhist teachings and staying engaged in the SGI Buddhist community will enable you to study and learn from non Buddhist literature without concern for losing your way.   Please do not be insecure about your Buddhist practice.  If you are insecure you may be afraid to explore what others have learned in life and lose out on some enlightening material.    If you are secure about Buddhism and read other literature through the eyes of Buddhism it is an enriching experience.



Buddhism is about Absolute Victory

When most people think of Buddhism they think of the middle way, avoiding conflict and general pacifist behavior.  However, Buddhism is grounded in the everyday realities of life.  It is a life philosophy based on universal truths that we refer to as the Universal Law.  Just as gravity is a law of physics that describes one small aspect of of the universe, Buddhist philosophy teaches us about laws of the universe that apply to the behavior of and interaction between human beings.

So what do Buddhist teachings have to do with absolute victory?  The founder of Nichiren Buddhism wrote, “Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat.”   This was not meant within the context of competing against others but rather our own experience in life, overcoming our self-imposed limitations every day.   Each day we face challenges.  They could be challenges we choose or they could be problems that arise from what seems like out of no where.  Even beyond clearly recognizable challenges and problems, everything we do ends with success or failure.  Another way of looking at it is that we are either moving forward in our lives or we are going backwards.  There is no standing still.  Buddhism is all about raising our life condition, tapping into our inner wisdom to see the universal truth and to be victorious over our weaknesses and keeping moving forward.   So Buddhism really is about victory and defeat.

From a Buddhist perspective, how do we achieve victory in our lives?   We chant daily to purify ourselves and our perceptions of the world around us.  We chant to tap into our Buddha wisdom that we and everyone has within them.   We chant to help others become happy.  We chant for others to realize their Buddhahood.  We chant for our family’s health and happiness.  We chant about living life to the fullest with no regrets.   We chant for absolute victory. We chant to have the courage to take action from a place of wisdom, not from a place of unchecked emotion.

But success and failure on any given day or with any given challenge does not define us.  Victory and happiness in life is what Buddhism is all about.  It is about accepting responsibility for your own happiness no matter what the situation or environment around you.  It is about victory over our self imposed limitations and bringing out our buddhahood and the buddhahood of the people around us. That is victory in life and that is Buddhism.







The Five Components: Our Windows and Doors to the World

The Five Components are an important concept in Buddhism as they are the key to our perception of everything we encounter on a day to day basis.  It is through the five components that we sense and begin interpreting the words that are said to us and others; the actions that others take for us and others; the overall environment we experience every day.   How we interpret our environment leads to the creation of our karma; our thoughts, words and actions in response to it.  For this reason Buddhism teaches the importance of achieving a state of mind, or life, where we sense our environment accurately.  Where we are able to see through our insecurities and baggage that we bring to our five components and not just to avoid creating a chain reaction of negative causes and karma but to also contribute to both our own happiness and that of society.  Essentially the Five Components are the source of delusions in our life when we are not able to see things from our Buddha nature.

If we interpret words or an action as hostile or condescending toward us it typically will lead to defensive responses.  If we interpret something as complimentary or supportive we are apt to respond with warmth and appreciation.  Those are our human tendencies or instinctive responses.    However, if we meditate and actively pursue achieving a higher life condition we will be more apt to respond positively, or at least in a constructive manner, even when we are actually verbally attacked, but more importantly, we will accurately see the situation for what it truly is as opposed to misinterpreting it.  When we do see a situation accurately and if often requires changes in ourselves to effect change.

Before I go on with further explanation of the Five Components, it is important to mention that by meditating/chanting, we tap into our Buddhahood and purify how our five components interpret our environment.  We break through our delusions so that we can optimally experience life and generate happiness for ourselves and society.  The great thing is that we do not need to intellectually fully comprehend and remember the details of the five components for us to breakthrough the delusions they create in our lives.  All we need to do is meditate/chant to overcome a problem, achieve a goal, achieve happiness or whatever else you want in your life.  Through chanting we raise our life condition so that we perceive our environment more clearly.

So what are the Five Components of life?  They are form, perception, conception, volition and consciousness.  For those of you that have studied Nichiren Buddhism extensively, the five components are the elements that constitute a human being and represent “the self” of the three realms of existence.   The other two realms of existence are the society and the land.  (Outline of Buddhism, edited by Yasuji Kirimura). Understanding each of the components better can help understand the role they play in our lives.

Form:  Physical aspects of life and the five sense organs – the eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin through which one perceives the world

Perception:  Receiving external information through our senses and integrating the mind for sensory impressions

Conception:  Forming ideas based on what has been perceived.

Volition:  The will to take action based on conceptions

Consciousness:  Integrates the previous four components to form value judgements, distinguish good from evil.

The first component form, represents the physical aspect of life and the other four represent the spiritual aspect of life.  But what is most important to realize is that we frequently misinterpret our environment and peoples intentions and form opinions and take actions and make judgements based on a delusions verses reality.   If our perceptions are wrong, and worse yet wrong in a negative way, we form opinions and take actions that create negative cause and negative karma.  In other words, our actions work against our own happiness and that of the environment around.   This is why it is essentially to always try to break through our ego and insecurities in all situations.  I recognize that that is a lot easier said than done.  That is why we need to meditate to bring our Buddhahood, our Buddha nature, into our life condition.  By doing so, our five components will naturally, without conscious effort, break through our delusions as we experience our lives.

I find this concept vital to meditation/chanting.   When chanting about anything, I find greater effectiveness when reminding myself that my perceptions of the situation and my interpretations about how to deal with the situation are key to achieving it.   That does not mean that I strategize when I am chanting.  It means that I chant to bring up the wisdom to understand what about me needs to change to achieve the result I desire.  Do I need to change my approach, do I need to change my attitude, do I need to listen to others better, do I need to be more assertive, persuasive and confident?   How I perceive my environment is an essential part of the answer.  Remember, our environment is a reflection of our inner state of life.  If we are paranoid our five components read our environment from that lens.  If we are insecure, our five components read our environment from that lens.  If we are arrogant the same is true.  So raising our life condition through meditation and helping others is essential to breaking through or delusions.   Chanting for others to change or for the environment to change so that you can achieve something is counter to Buddhism. This is why it is so important to understand the essence and importance of the five components.

Achieving Happiness in this Lifetime

“A Buddha is one who, by becoming enlightened to the one truth, acquires eternally indestructible peace and happiness.”

Buddhism is often associated with the idea of eliminating suffering through the practice of asceticisms and meditation to eliminate worldly attachments and suffering.   It is true that Buddhism has always addressed how humanity deals with and over comes suffering, but according to the Lotus Sutra, it is through meditating to attain happiness in this lifetime for ourselves and others we tap into our inherent Buddha nature and attain eternal happiness as opposed to a focus on eliminating suffering.

Buddhism teaches that all people have the inherent potential to achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime which is a life condition of eternal happiness.  At the same time, it does not suggest that suffering can be eliminated, but that it is a fact of life.  This may seem paradoxical until you have experienced an underlying sense of happiness in the midst of heartbreak, sorrow or a sense of loss.  When we raise our life condition by tapping into our inherent Buddhahood through meditation, we achieve a state of self-awareness and contentment within our lives independent of any suffering.  Buddhism further views suffering as essential to achieving enlightenment in this life time.  But when practicing Buddhism the primary focus of our meditation is achieving happiness for ourselves and others, not eliminating our suffering.

No matter what your current life condition you can tap into your Buddhahood immediately and begin building a path toward indestructible happiness in this lifetime.  It does not require years of practice.  Years of practice builds a wealth of positive karma, experience and faith, but it is not a required right of passage to tap into your inherent Buddha nature. People who just begin Buddhist meditation typically experience pleasant unexpected changes in their lives rather quickly.  They breakthrough some suffering or they achieve a highly desired goal.  The effort put into to meditation creates a positive cause in their life the is immediately reflected in their environment.

Buddhahood is only found within ourselves and our environment is a reflection of our life condition.  When we raise our life condition our environment will change without fail.  When we meditate with sincerity and determination to achieve happiness we will break through our sufferings, recognize them for what they are, and not let them become an obstacle to happiness.





Earthly Desires Equal Enlightenment

I need to acknowledge a few of things regarding all content in my blogs.  First of all the process of writing this blog is part of my seeking nature and does not suggest that I have mastered the concepts.  In fact, I do not know that we ever master all the concepts because enlightenment is a never ending daily process and is not an end state, which many people think it is.  For example, over time our understanding of a concept like Earthly Desires Equal Enlightenment evolves.  Our current life condition, life state, has a direct impact on how we interpret it.   So I never feel that I have “now mastered” a particular Nichiren Buddhist teaching but rather I am continuing to learn.  Second, before I write one of these blogs I prepare by studying various material on Nichiren Buddhism.  In many cases I study books written by Daisaku Ikea and other times I study material written by other Nichiren Buddhists.   So what I write is my current perception or understanding of the concepts, which again, is always evolving.  Third, the blogs are intended to stimulate thought and reflection and ideally encourage a spirit to keep seeking a better understanding and not to simply accept what I have written.

When most people think of Buddhism they tend to think about the need to rid oneself from attachments in order to avoid suffering.  Can you imagine what life would be like if a person were able to rid themselves of all desires?   No desire for a relationship.  No desire for family.  No desire to earn enough money to sustain a place to live.  No desire to make others happy.  What kind of life would that be?  How would it prepare you to contribute to society?  What kind of enlightenment is that?

It is true that there are schools of Buddhism that focus on this early pre-Lotus Sutra teaching.  However, the Lotus Sutra recognizes that having desires and emotions are a part of human nature and encourages that we use our desires to fuel our path to enlightenment.  At the same time, it does not suggest that the objects of our desire will lead to enlightenment or provide happiness.  So what is meant by earthly desires equal enlightenment if achieving those desires does not provide enlightenment or happiness?

Earthly desires in and of themselves are neither positive or negative, but rather simply innate to human nature.  It is how you deal with those desires that can turn them into a positive or negative force in your life and your environment.  Remember that your environment is a reflection of your inner state or life condition.  The Lotus Sutra teaches that we can and should transform our desires into wisdom.  In other words, Buddhist practice enables us to see the true nature of our desires through meditation and then use them as a driving force to gain happiness, wisdom and enlightenment into our Buddha nature.    It is through meditation on achieving our desires we gain insights into our life that help us achieve happiness for ourselves and in our environment.  Whether we actually achieve the desire or not is secondary.  Often times when chanting for something we are awaken to the reality that the desire would not make our core life any better and we choose no longer to pursue it or we pursue it from a different perspective that we had not thought of before.  For example, we frequently refer to the idea of someone chanting to complete a large drug deal to make money.  They chant for days, maybe weeks about it.  Then when the opportunity arises,  they do not complete the deal because they realize that selling drugs is not a positive cause for their happiness but rather a negative one that will impact their life negatively.

In theory this sounds practical, but in practice I still find chanting/meditating to achieve my desires can be tricky.   It is easy to get caught up on the desire itself and to forget that the desire is what leads us to chant and the chanting is what leads to awakening our Buddha nature.  For myself, I find it most effective to chant to awaken my Buddha nature/wisdom to help me achieve my desires, rather than chanting directly for the desire blindly so to speak.  After all, for me, more than anything I want to tap into by Buddha nature first and foremost and the desire helps spend more time chanting.  And it is clear to me that if I did not have some strong desires it would be difficult to chant consistently and with vigor.   For other people, chanting specifically to achieve their desire effective for them.

I do not believe that there is only one way to bring out our enlightenment through chanting to achieve our desires.  I think that it varies by person and it may even change day by day depending upon our life condition.  I encourage people to frequently study the concept.  Each time you study it you may see it from a different light and it may help how you chant and even the effectiveness.  The key is to keep a seeking spirit and to keep chanting to tap into your Buddha nature.