For years I have been practicing Buddhism with a seeking spirit to understand more. Early in my practice I quickly learned the power of exploring both the meaning of the fundamental Buddhist teachings as well as how people experience them in their life. I could never just blindly accept any of the teachings. I always had to study them and then test them in my life. After all, why should I believe something just because I read it? How could I truly believe a concept without exploring it through questions, learning about how other people experience it and most importantly applying it in my thoughts, words and actions?
I am often times surprised and sometimes envious of people that can read or hear a new teaching and apparently immediately have complete faith in it. While I may immediately agree with a teaching because it follows common sense, it often takes time to build faith in it. Thankfully, in Nichiren Buddhism, as taught by the Soka Gakai, having faith is not a prerequisite for Buddhism to work in your life. After all, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that Nam myoho range kyo is the mystic law of the universe. I will leave it for another blog to explore the meaning of Nam-myoho-range-kyo, for now, think of it as all the Buddha’s teachings encompassed in a single phrase. In essence all the teachings describe how life works, so you do not need to believe or have faith for the teachings to work. The teachings operate in our lives, and everyones’ lives’ everyday. People just are unaware of them.
Of course having faith in the teachings leads to bolder actions and greater results. One with strong faith in their ability to swim jumps into the pool. One with little faith will stick their toe in the pool. For all practical purposes, the same is true when it comes to Buddhist practice. If you have not studied the fundamentals, if you have not challenged them and experienced them in your life, seen them in others and taught others about them, it is difficult to have the faith it takes to make revolutionary changes in your life. Instead, it is easy to stick a toe in, go through the motions of practice but not really understand how to make them become powerfully alive in your life.
Some people consider questioning and doubting as either weak faith or possibly negative skepticism. Both can be true. It is the intent of the questions and what you do with the doubt that makes a difference. If doubt and questions are used to fuel your seeking spirit to better understand they are powerfully good things.
What has lead me to starting this blog is my desire to encourage the seeking spirit in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism to build strong faith in the core Buddhist teachings. To be clear, I am just an ordinary practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism. I do not hold any administrative positions within the SGI and I do not consider myself to have superior ability to comprehend the teachings. I simply have a strong belief in the importance of having a seeking spirit for truly understanding the core teachings and the ichinen to encourage people to have a constant seeking spirit even for the most mundane teachings. Always question, always challenge, always test the teachings in your own life with a desire to understand them better and to build stronger faith.