Learning from the teachers and their mistakes — Diary of a Heterodox Buddhist

Most Buddhists don’t actively seek converts. If the Buddhist is a missionary for example, he or she might establish a temple or school for people to come and go as they please. If you tell a Buddhist that you’re a Christian or Muslim or an atheist, he or she won’t care nor will threaten you […]

via Learning from the teachers and their mistakes — Diary of a Heterodox Buddhist

I absolutely agree with you. Soka Gokkai discusses kosen-rufu, the proclaiming of the law, as a vendor believing in their product or a school administrator believing in the rightness of their educational methods, both wanting to spread their message or product.

But I’m not really digging most of that, until we get to the last paragraph, where Ikeda says: “Kosen-rufu means sharing with our fellow human beings through heart-to-heart dialogue and friendship, striving together with them to find the way to become better and happier people. That alliance of individuals working for the happiness of all constitutes kosen-rufu.

This speaks more to the Buddhism that I know and love, which doesn’t pressure, doesn’t demand, doesn’t proselytize, but encourages by doing. Buddhists live their truth and walk a path that inspires others to follow. Kosen-rufu isn’t about conversion but about helping others be their best, sharing with them what we have learned and working to make the world a better and happier place. Soka Gokkai is about celebrating the diversity of the human spirit and how our individual talents make the world a better place. Why, then, would kosen-rufu demand an extinction of all this diversity by making everyone a Buddhist? That goes against the very spirit of cherishing the uniqueness of human experience.

The Buddha says, “Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it; Do not believe in traditions, because they been handed down for many generations; Do not believe in anything, because it is spoken and rumoured by many; Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books; But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Yes, Nichiren believed that the Lotus Sutra was the one and only Buddhist teaching that mattered, and so, in Nichiren Buddhism, whatever else Buddha says pre-Lotus is improper Buddhist teaching, not actually what he meant to say. But how would that truly make sense? Wouldn’t the Lotus Sutra actually simply be the refinement of all of Buddha’s teachings? The jewel is in the lotus, so to speak.

Regardless of these philosophical arguments, the repetition of “replacing wisdom with faith” always makes me a little queasy, and it’s something that I refuse to believe. I have always read Buddhist texts with an open mind and a critical eye and I will continue to do so throughout my life, including considering the texts within the Soka Gokkai sect and in the greater sect of Nichiren Buddhism. Though they bring me great comfort and I find daimoku incredibly soothing, it doesn’t mean that I believe Soka Gokkai is the solution for every person, and I don’t think that kosen-rufu means that I should force others to believe as I do.

The Daishonen had some incredible views that were absolutely mind-blowing for his time. But it’s also telling that when he wanted to debate the other great Buddhist minds of his time, they all declined to meet with him. We have to consider that we have only his narrative and those of his followers to tell us about the creation of Nichiren Buddhism, and, given his belief that only his sect had the true answers to Buddhism, it’s likely that we are examining a biased account. Understanding and appreciating this can help us realize that though the teacher had many great lessons, we as students can move beyond these and find new solutions for today’s world.

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