SGI-USA Study Curriculum
Lectures on the Hoben and Juryo Chapters of the Lotus Sutra
by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda
The Buddha is a Great Doctor of Life Who
Guides People Toward Happiness
Sho-i sha ga. Nyorai ho-ben. Chiken hara-mitsu. Kai
Why is this? Because the Thus Come One is fully possessed
of both expedient means and the paramita of wisdom. (LS-2,
In this section, Shakyamuni continues to praise the immense
wisdom of the Buddha. Until this point, he has praised the
Buddha's wisdom from the standpoint of the immeasurable
practices that the Buddha carried out in the past. Here
he discusses the power of wisdom to guide people and the
state of life that the Buddha has attained as a result of
Knowledge and Wisdom Are Not the Same
Continuing from the preceding passage, Shakyamuni now clarifies
why the Buddha has used all manner of causes and similes
to guide people and have them renounce attachments. And
he explains how the Buddha was able to do this.
In the phrase "expedient means and paramita of wisdom,"
the term "paramita of wisdom" means the perfection
of wisdom. The Sanskrit word paramita means to attain or
perfect. Also, the expression "fully possessed"
in the above passage means "endowed with." The
Buddha, having perfected various practices and attained
an extremely profound state of enlightenment, possesses
skillful means for guiding people and is endowed with wisdom.
For this reason, he can guide people in a way that exactly
matches their capacity.
In the section that follows, Shakyamuni explains specifically
what he means by wisdom. There he says that the Buddha possesses
the powers of wisdom of "immeasurable [mercy], unlimited
[eloquence], power, [and] fearlessness" (LS-2, 24).
I will discuss the contents of this passage in detail in
my next lecture. But for the time being, let us suffice
it to say that these powers are specific functions of wisdom
that the Buddha uses to guide people to happiness.
Buddhism is a religion of wisdom. The second Soka Gakkai
president, Josei Toda, would often say: "One cause
of people's misfortune today is that they confuse knowledge
and wisdom.... Knowledge is not wisdom. Knowledge may serve
as a door that opens the way to wisdom, but knowledge itself
is definitely not wisdom."
For example, taking business administration classes in
college doesn't guarantee that you will prosper in the business
world. In fact, many people realize commercial success without
ever having gone to business school.
Reading many books on child rearing doesn't guarantee that
someone will be able to parent well. The truth is that innumerable
factors contribute to children's growth. There are even
accounts of mothers who become neurotic because in raising
their children they encounter situations that completely
contradict what they have read in books.
Knowledge is of course necessary. To know something is
a great strength. In modern society, in particular, it might
be said that knowledge has increasingly come to be used
as a weapon. At the same time, merely having some knowledge
does not produce any value. Happiness cannot be created
by knowledge alone. An increase in knowledge definitely
does not equal an increase in happiness. The important thing
is that people possess the fundamental wisdom to be able
to use their knowledge most fully.
To take one example, theories on childhood education often
stress the importance of talking to children at their eye-level.
Someone with experience in this area comments as follows:
What should you do when a child starts pleading with you
to buy him or her something at a store or somewhere, and
then sits down on the floor and cries, refusing to budge
until you give in? Under such circumstances, no amount of
standing above the child and scolding will do any good.
The best approach is to sit down right there together with
the child. When you do so the child, in amazement, will
stop crying. And if you then quietly admonish the child,
you will find that he or she is surprisingly ready to do
as you say.
This method, of course, will not necessarily work every
time. Still, it doubtless represents individual wisdom arising
from the person's spirit as a parent to connect on a heart-to-heart
level with the child. Knowledge of the importance of talking
at the child's eye-level produced this kernel of practical
"What Purpose Does This Knowledge Serve?'
In any event, unless we continually ask ourselves "What
purpose does this knowledge serve?" we are liable to
fall into the trap of pursuing knowledge for its own sake.
To illustrate, the mission of a teacher is to provide instruction.
The teacher's purpose is to cultivate the character and
wisdom of the pupils and help them acquire skills and abilities
they will need to lead happy lives.
This is the purpose of the teacher's knowledge as an educator.
But unless the teacher also possesses the wisdom necessary
to attain this objective, he or she is not a true educator.
Politicians, as public servants, have the duty to devote
themselves selflessly to the happiness and prosperity of
the people; and toward that end, they must seek the counsel
of many others and work to implement their ideas. If politicians
lack the wisdom and power of action to improve society,
then they are not true politicians.
The purpose of scholars, likewise, is to contribute to
humanity through their academic endeavors. We need to constantly
ask ourselves whether we have realized our fundamental mission,
our purpose. If we should forget this and instead gloat
arrogantly over how much we know, over our standing or access
to information, or over our "vast" knowledge,
then our basic spirit will become distorted.
By rights, education, science, politics, economics and
all fields of human endeavor exist to serve the happiness
of all humanity.
For what purpose, then, did the Buddha appear in the world?
His objective, too, was to enable people to become happy;
specifically, to enable all people to realize a state of
eternal happiness. Thus, there is no contradiction between
Buddhism and other areas of human endeavor. Knowledge in
all areas yields the greatest value when based on the wisdom
In the "Expedient Means" chapter, Shakyamuni
explains that the Buddha's purpose in appearing in this
world is "to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all
living beings," "to show the Buddha wisdom to
living beings," "to cause living beings to awaken
to the Buddha wisdom," and "to induce living beings
to enter the path of Buddha wisdom" (LS-2, 31). These
four aspects of the Buddha wisdom of "opening,"
"showing," "awakening" and "causing
to enter" together are termed the "one great reason"
(Jpn ichidaiji innen) for the Buddha's appearance in the
In short, Shakyamuni taught that the path to happiness
lies in each person developing his or her own wisdom. The
Buddha's wisdom, too, was born of his strong sense of purpose
and awareness of his mission.
Tending the Ills of Humankind With the Medicine
of the Law
Buddhism teaches the supreme way to live.
The question-and-answer sessions President Toda held were
truly "forums of wisdom" for leading people to
happiness. With great confidence of faith, he candidly gave
guidance regarding people's various worries and sufferings
in life --- from sickness and loss of work to debt and marital
problems --- hitting the nail on the head every time. Through
his encouragement, participants recovered their spirits
instantly and became filled with courage and hope.
He would remark: "You know someone from how they walk,
from how they perk up their shoulders, from their voice.
Similarly, from the slightest gesture, from how they open
a door, you can tell what their worries are."
A true leader of Buddhism can discern the state of people's
lives with such deftness and profundity and can explain
the Law to them in a way that is tailored to their situation.
It is difficult to explain Buddhism correctly-that is,
in a manner that accords with the time and people's capacity.
There is an account of how even Shariputra blundered in
expounding the Law.
Shariputra was once explaining Buddhism to a blacksmith
and a laundry man. However, neither was able to grasp the
teaching, and they both developed disbelief.
Shariputra ought to have taught the blacksmith the practice
of breath-counting meditation and the laundry man the practice
of meditating on the vileness of the body.
The reason for this is as follows. A blacksmith's job entails
continually striking hot iron with a hammer while fanning
the fire with a bellows. A smith, therefore, constantly
works to control the rhythm of his breathing. Had Shariputra
explained the breath-counting meditation to the blacksmith,
he could have understood it immediately and advanced in
his Buddhist practice. Likewise, since the work of a laundry
man involves cleaning dirty clothes, had Shariputra taught
him the meditation on the vileness of the body, he without
doubt could have grasped it.
However, Shariputra taught each one the teaching appropriate
to the other. As a result, they failed to gain any result
from their practice. For all of his efforts, Shariputra
succeeded only in causing them suffering.
To expound a teaching appropriate to each person is extremely
difficult. However, Nichiren Daishonin established a method
of practice accessible to all people regardless of their
capacity. Thus he says, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is recommended
for people of all capacities" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 875).
And for precisely this reason, the benefit of telling others
about the Mystic Law is immense.
A physician of rich experience can grasp a patient's malady
accurately and prescribe a treatment that matches the person's
constitution. Such a physician possesses not only medical
knowledge but the wisdom to use that knowledge to the fullest
extent. True knowledge is at one with wisdom.
There probably aren't any physicians who would simply tell
a patient, "You have appendicitis," without doing
anything about it. It might be said that true medical knowledge,
or wisdom, lies in curing people of their conditions and
returning them to a state of health.
The Buddha is a great "physician of life" who
guides all to happiness. The Buddha clearly discerns the
fundamental cause of people's suffering and teaches them
the path to eternal happiness, how to live a boundlessly
fresh and exhilarating life. This is the wisdom of the Buddha.
In this age when it has become natural for people to lack
compassion, no one can match the fellow members of the SGI
in bringing a fresh wind of revitalization to many others.
There is no other popular organization in the world whose
members are so sincere, or who pray and take action as we
do for others. There are many eminent people and intellectuals
in the world, but I believe that the members of the SGI
are even more respectable. You are "doctors" and
"nurses" of wisdom who are worthy of the greatest
Faith Contains the 'Paramita' of Wisdom
How do Shariputra and the others gathered at the assembly
react when they hear Shakyamuni expound the "Expedient
Means" chapter? Do they think, "I couldn't possibly
have even an iota of the perfect wisdom of the Buddha in
No. In fact, they say to themselves: "If this teaching
represents the wonderful Buddha wisdom that can save people,
then I want to learn it, too. I want to make it my own."
The "Expedient Means" chapter says that Shariputra
and the others "wish to hear the teaching of perfect
endowment" (LS-2, 28). In other words, they arouse
a seeking mind for the path leading to the Buddha's state
of life, which is "fully possessed of both expedient
means and the Paramita of wisdom."
Rather than think, "I've heard all I need to hear,"
they become even more high spirited and encouraged.
Opening of the Eyes," Nichiren Daishonin says that
this "teaching of perfect endowment" is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
(MW-2, 116 [137 rev.]).
In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, Shakyamuni expounded
the six paramitas as practices for bodhisattvas to attain
the state of life of the Buddha. The idea was that through
carrying out the six practices of almsgiving, keeping the
precepts, forbearance, assiduousness, meditation and obtaining
wisdom, they could approach the state of life of the Buddha.
Such a practice, carried out in lifetime after lifetime
over a vast period of time, is termed "practicing toward
enlightenment over a period of countless kalpas."
However, the Muryogi Sutra, which serves as an introduction
to the Lotus Sutra, states [as quoted in a Gosho]: "[If
you embrace this sutra,] you will naturally receive the
benefits of the six paramitas without having to practice
them" (MW-1, 63-64). In other words, even though we
do not practice the six paramitas, by embracing the Lotus
Sutra we are naturally endowed with their benefit.
Believe in the Gohonzon and Advance Together
With the SGI
The "Distinctions in Benefits'' (17th) chapter of
the Lotus Sutra explains that the benefit of those who understand
and believe in the Lotus Sutra when they hear it expounded
is great beyond measure. It says that their benefit will
be a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, million times greater
than the benefit of practicing the five paramitas (i.e.,
excluding the paramita of obtaining wisdom) for a period
of "eight hundred thousand million nayutas of kalpas"
The paramita of obtaining wisdom is excluded because this
is the fundamental paramita; it is in a class by itself
in terms of its importance relative to the other five paramitas.
To put it another way, it might be said that the five paramitas
are practiced in order to attain the paramita of wisdom.
Buddhism always places the greatest importance on wisdom.
Therefore, Nichiren Daishonin says that practitioners in
the Latter Day of the Law "who have just aroused aspiration
for enlightenment" need not practice the five paramitas
(MW-6, 218-19). This view of Buddhist practice --- expressed
at a time when making offerings to priests, upholding the
precepts and the other paramitas were being promulgated
in earnest --- represents a great religious revolution.
Moreover, the Daishonin's Buddhism teaches the principle
of "substituting faith for wisdom." Correct faith
itself becomes wisdom. Through believing in the Gohonzon,
we in the Latter Day of the Law can gain the same benefit
as we would by carrying out all of the six paramitas, including
the paramita of obtaining wisdom.
In conclusion, those who now believe in the Gohonzon and
advance toward kosen-rufu together with the SGI can gain
the benefit of the six paramitas. Those who persevere in
carrying out activities for kosen-rufu together with others
are leading lives of the highest wisdom. The examples of
your many seniors in faith attest to this. When we look
back on our lives later on, we can see this clearly. Because
we practice faith, let us strive to live most wisely each
day based on the principles of "faith manifesting itself
in daily life" and "action manifesting itself
in good health."
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