North America and Oceania SGI Leaders Study Conference
From August 17-19, SGI representatives from North America and Oceania attended an SGI Leaders Study Conference at the World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. More than 190 members from Barbados, Canada, Palau, New Zealand and the United States including Hawaii, studied Buddhism based on SGI President Ikeda's lecture series "Learning From the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin: The Teachings for Victory." Soka Gakkai Study Department Leader Masaaki Morinaka attended as the guest lecturer.
In a message to the participants, President Ikeda encouraged them to continue to advance in their study and their daily lives, and to shine “as doctors of philosophy, doctors of happiness and doctors of peace . . ."
During the three-day conference, Mr. Morinaka lectured on three writings by Nichiren--"The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon," "The Four Virtues and the Four Debts of Gratitude" and "Flowering and Bearing Grain."
In his lecture on "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon," Mr. Morinaka explained Nichiren's philosophical underpinnings for the Gohonzon as the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren explains in this letter written to Nichinyo, an educated woman and strong believer in his teachings, that the Gohonzon actually exists within the lives of people, saying "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo . . ." (WND-1, 832).
In his second lecture, Mr. Morinaka focused on "The Four Virtues and the Four Debts of Gratitude," a letter in which Nichiren imparts to his young disciple Nanjo Tokimitsu valuable principles for winning in life and in society, stressing that the essence of Buddhism lies in one's behavior as a human being. Drawing on the existing wisdom of the times, as well as the teachings of Buddhism, Nichiren also described to Tokimitsu the four virtues: 1) filial piety toward one's father and mother; 2) loyalty to one's lord; 3) courtesy toward one's friends; and 4) pity and kindness (compassion) toward those less fortunate than oneself.
Mr. Morinaka stated that while Nichiren Buddhism has no commandments, the spirit to respect the Buddhahood in others and ourselves might be considered the sole commandment.
In his final lecture, on "Flowering and Bearing Grain," written by Nichiren in 1278, Mr. Morinaka emphasized that the principle of the oneness of mentor and disciple is the essence of Buddhism. He quoted an excerpt from SGI President Ikeda's lecture on this writing, in which he says, “[The] life-to-life interaction that takes place within the mentor-disciple relationship enables us to break free from our attachment to our small lesser self and realize a state of life based on our boundless greater self." In conclusion Mr. Morinaka expressed, “To have a mentor and live as a disciple is the key to continual growth and development.
[Adapted from an article in the September 7, 2012, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photos courtesy of Leticia Rey]