Sunday, 30 November 2014

Buddhist quotes - November

Another month has gone. Today I went for a lilac activity at the Ikeda Peace Centre, where I knew I was going to be a team of one lilac.
I didn't mind it though. I am going through so much stuff at the moment, that having to sit in the Butsuma to chant for three solid hours was pretty much the one thing I needed.

I need to be kind to myself, I need to chant to fully appreciate myself, and I need to do it now.

It only took me about fifteen minutes of chanting to understand that the searing hot pain in my heart has very little to do with what happened to me in the past year, and everything to do with my karma. That one realisation made it all better, made me believe that I can transform it, because it is inside me, not outside.

It still hurts, like a pride of lions devouring me from the inside, but I can now see the contingency as a distraction from the real problem.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

You must rise and greet [them] from afar...

I wrote this experience for an Education Division meeting. Once again, I ended up not sharing it, but hey. The experience proper happened in the last three-four years, as in, my first years in the teaching profession, however in order to understand where I am coming from, I have to, once again, start with my childhood. There will be some overlap with other experiences, since the childhood was the same!

Here we go!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Buddhist quotes - October

Soooo, my journey to hell is coming real soon.

In the meantime, here is a little quote from The Opening of the Eyes Gosho.

I recently went through all my Buddhist books and wrote inside the front cover when I read them and, if applicable, as part of what study programme.

Lectures on the Opening of the Eyes is one of the books I am studying as part of my LIPC Dedicated Lilac training.

Last Committee meeting (a study/feedback meeting with all the team leaders), I was asked to feedback on Chapter 14 of this book.

This little quote stuck with me:

Monday, 6 October 2014

Grade 2 Study exam - 2014. Section A. Q7

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November.

From ‘Encountering persecution by sword and staff as predicted in the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter’:

How did Nichiren Daishonin react to these attacks by swords and staves? What function can hardships have in our lives?

Nichiren's immediate reaction was, quite naturally, of outrage. He writes:
‘Though I knew it was for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, being an ordinary person, I felt... [that had] I had the strength, I would have wrested it from him, trampled on and broken it, and thrown it away. However, it was in fact the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra.’
However, wearing the ‘armour of perseverance', the Daishonin forbore his anger, behaved with self‐assurance, and spoke out with dignity for his beliefs. He didn’t display even the slightest trace of violence, hatred, or the desire for revenge.

If we look at them from a broader perspective, the hardships that assail us can function to strengthen us and spur our growth as human beings. As long as we do not allow ourselves to be defeated by suffering, even the most painful experiences can be turned into something positive. Nothing is ever wasted in Buddhism.
The profound teachings of the Lotus Sutra enable us to turn suffering into the driving force for transforming our karma.

Wrod count: 176

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Grade 2 Study exam - 2014. Section A. Q6

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November. 

Section A

From ‘Changing conflict and division into cooperation and harmony’:
A6 - How can humanity attain harmony and prosperity, and what is the key to this transformation?

Humanity can only attain harmony and prosperity by pursuing a path of coexistence and cooperation based on the universal and eternal values of respect for life and human dignity, while recognising and affirming cultural diversity.
The key to this transformation is wisdom and compassion, as highlighted in this Gosho.

Through sincere actions and dialogue that promotes mutual understanding, we must together reaffirm the ideal of building a peaceful and happy society.

Word count: 71

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Buddhist quotes - September

This month's quote is very short, and comes from the Gosho The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra.
To give a little background, this Gosho was written in 1276 and addressed to the lay nun Kōnichi, a widow who lived in Awa, the Daishonin’s native province. Her son had earlier converted to the Daishonin’s teachings, and through him she herself became a convert. Some time after this, her son died. But she overcame her deep sorrow and remained a sincere believer in the Daishonin’s Buddhism to the end of her life.
Here is a very little quote:
Nothing is more joyful to me than to have been born in the Latter Day of the Law and to suffer persecution because I propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.
I really need to etch these words in my heart.
I have been to hell and back recently, and on top of that I have not been able to write literally anything as I am ridiculously busy with school and activities.

After a fairly long stay in the world of Hell, I am now much better and happier and am not staring at a black hole where my faith used to be. Also, which is completely unrelated, I am enjoying my dancing like never before.

I have several posts coming, mainly concerning my journey to Hell, the Grade 2 exam preparation, my Gratitude diary, my dancing and my recent redoubled efforts in studying the New Human Revolution.

But for now, bye September,  you have really tried me, and I have won.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Buddhist quotes - August

I just could not end the month of August without at least my quote post.
I have had a great Summer and I am looking forward to going back to work.

We just recently had our general Kayo Kai meeting, where the force of all my negativity slammed into me, leaving me in a sobbing pool of tears. Ah, well.

I am challenging the deepest of my deep-seated karma, my fundamental sense of worthlessness, which is at the core of my tendency to always experience bullying and aggressive behaviour in my environment. So, of course, the brown and sticky is hitting the fan. Hard.

One aspect of this karma is my pathological need for praise and external approval. I keep coming back to the Eight Winds Gosho for guidance and I try to read it with my life, even though sometimes it is really hard and painful.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Buddhist quotes - July

After the most stressful three weeks to date, I am finally on holiday and in the island of the three promontories. This, for me, is the land of endless sleep and lazy days, of sirocco and drinking books one after the other, and, incidentally, the land of absolutely crap internet connection.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Devil King of the Sixth Heaven

This is another study point I prepared for a Discussion meeting. I ended up not sharing it at the meeting, but I had made this text into a handout which I circulated at the end.


Devil King of the Sixth Heaven (Jpn dairokuten-no-mao)
AKA, Devil King, Heavenly Devil, Demon of the Sixth Heaven.

The Devil King of the 6th Heaven is #19. 
You can easily Google this map or you could look here.

To understand this concept we must talk about Fundamental Darkness, the negative aspect of life, which is bound to appear in some form when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood.
This negative aspect is often referred to as the 'three obstacles and four devils' (in Japanese, sansho shima).

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Buddhist quotes - June

This month, I once again left my quote until quite late in the day.
I have been studying a lot, mostly "The opening of the eyes", but for some reason when I started thinking about a suitable quote for this month, I could only think about that Gosho where Nichiren tells Shijo Kingo not to wear fancy clothes (yes, really). Only I could not remember what Gosho it was.

So, a bit of Google-fu later, I found The Three Kinds of Treasure. And reread it.

In recent times, I am really striving to put Nichiren at the centre of my life, and to strengthen my bond with my Mentor in order to reach the heart of Nichiren. And I am discovering Nichiren as a truly incredible guy. The wonderful thing about him is that he was a real person. He didn't pretend to be perfect, and since we can study what he actually wrote to his disciples, we can see what his heart was like. I strongly recommend reading this Gosho right now. I had a really hard time not copying the whole thing in here as my June quote. I love how there is so much practical advice in it. For example:

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Grade 2 Study Exam - 2014. Section A. Q5

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November. 

This question is quite interesting and I am finding it a bit more challenging to answer, partly because the principle I am asked to explain is, well, self-explanatory, and partly because I love the story of the Dragon King's daughter and I know more about it than it is explained in the exam materials.
(btw about the pic below, I know that the Dragon King's daughter is supposed to be a child, but I like the picture).

Section A

From ‘The significance of the Devadatta chapter’:
A5 - Referring to the spiritual and physical aspects of enlightenment, explain the principle of ‘attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form’.

The principles of ‘the spiritual aspect of enlightenment’ and ‘the physical aspect of enlightenment’ in the Lotus Sutra teach that no matter what difficulties or challenges we may face, from the perspective of the most fundamental level of life, we have the right and the underlying power to attain the highest possible state of happiness.

The Daishonin continues that only the Lotus Sutra teaches the principle of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form. This principle is showed through the story of an evil man (Devadatta, representing the Spiritual aspect of enlightenment) who is predicted to reach enlightenment and a female (the Dragon King's daughter, who also is part animal and representing the physical aspect of enlightenment) reaching enlightenment in her present form. 

Word count: 122

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Grade 2 Study Exam - 2014. Section A. Q4

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November. 

Section A

From ‘Teaching a young disciple the essence of faith’:
A4 - What is the significance of the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra with which Nichiren Daishonin was beaten by Sho‐bo? In the Gosho passage describing the fifth scroll, which particular Buddhist principle does Nichiren Daishonin explain that it contains?

The fifth scroll – the one with which Sho‐bo struck Nichiren – has special significance, because it presents the crucial elements involved in propagating the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law – including:
1. the actual proof of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form;
2. the great persecutions that will be encountered when attempting to spread the sutra;
3. the emergence of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth;

The Daishonin stresses that encountering persecution as a result of propagating the Lotus Sutra means that one is reading the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra with one’s life and is on the path to attaining Buddhahood. He points out the importance of ‘committing oneself to the Lotus Sutra and having faith in its teachings’, and of spreading the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, Nam‐myoho‐renge‐kyo.

Word count: 136

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Grade 2 Study Exam - 2014. Section A. Q3

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November. 

Sidenote: I read the question before I read the corresponding chapter. I immediately thought about the anecdote of the woman who trampled the Lotus Sutra. I feel like a complete smartypants now!

Section A

From ‘The benefit arising from forming a reverse relationship’:
A3 - Explain the principle of gaining benefit through forming a ‘reverse relationship’ with the Lotus Sutra.

The principle of Reverse relationship is also called "poison‐drum relationship". It indicates a bond formed with the correct teaching by opposing or slandering it. When people hear the correct teaching, some may reject and slander it and fall into the state of hell as a consequence. However, the act of rejecting and slandering the correct teaching is a cause to establish a connection with it and receive the seeds of Buddhahood. Because of this connection, even slanderous people will eventually attain Buddhahood.

The Daishonin illustrates this principle citing an Indian anecdote of a jealous woman who trampled the Fifth scroll under her feet in a fit of rage. She fell into hell but her feet didn't. He then refers to Sho‐bo, who struck him with the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra because ‘Sho‐bo hated both the Lotus Sutra and me, Nichiren.’ (WND‐1, p. 962) Although Sho‐bo’s actions mean that he cannot avoid falling into the hell of incessant suffering, the Daishonin says, through the benefit of forming a reverse relationship with the Lotus Sutra, Sho‐bo will eventually attain Buddhahood.

Word count: 186

Saturday, 31 May 2014

My graduation experience

I wrote this experience for my Graduation Day.

As things stand now, I don't know if I will share it on that day, I but I am scheduling the post so that it will go live on the 31st anyway. People who know me already know parts of it. If you read my blog I speak about different parts of it in other posts, so some things will look familiar. I will put some links at the bottom for people who are interested in reading more about my journey.

Here is the experience: 

My name is Ewa, I am 28 and I come from Italy. I am the vice team leader for team S and I will graduate today.

In this experience, I will try to talk about how much lilacing has changed my life.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Grade 2 Study Exam - 2014. Section A. Q2

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November. 

Section A

From ‘An increasingly tense situation in Atsuhara’:

A2 - Why did Nichiren Daishonin refer to the two persecutions at Tatsunokuchi and Komatsubara, and what impact must this have had on Tokimitsu?

First of all, let's point out some details about the three persecutions mentioned:

Komatsubara Persecution: 11 November, 1264 - an attempt by Tojo Kagenobu (a Nembutsu believer) to kill the Daishonin at Komatsubara in Awa Province.

Tatsunokuchi Persecution: 12 September, 1271, the authorities arrested Nichiren Daishonin and took him to the execution grounds of Tatsunokuchi on the outskirts of Kamakura. After the execution attempt failed, he was eventually exiled to Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence.

Atsuhara Persecution: A series of threats and acts of violence (which included the execution of three men) against followers of Nichiren Daishonin in Atsuhara Village in Fuji District, starting in around 1275 and continuing until around 1283.

This letter was written in 1279, right when the Atsuhara Persecution began to intensify in earnest.

It is probably because the Daishonin had received news of the increasingly tense situation in Atsuhara that, from the outset of this letter, he discusses the various persecutions he has undergone, and especially two in which direct attempts were made on his life.

Both of these were violent attacks with swords, and must have made a strong impression on Tokimitsu, in whose area a similar incident had taken place. Although he had personal experience of overcoming pressure and criticism for his faith in the Daishonin’s teachings, this time there was a chance that his very life was in danger.

The Daishonin explains the significance of the persecutions he has undergone and showing his invincible fighting spirit urges Tokimitsu to be prepared to overcome such obstacles in the same way he has. The example of someone who has fought and won against similar threats must have been of great encouragement to him.

Word count: 230

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Buddhist Quotes - May

This month's quote comes from the Gosho "The fourteen slanders". It was written near the end of 1276, in reply to the lay priest Matsuno Rokurō Saemon.

I am currently at home with the mother of all colds. I seriously just sneezed hard enough to make my whole bed tremble. I feel so fortunate that I have a job that allows me sick days and still pays me even if I am sneezing in bed. That might have something to do with the fact that teachers have to work even when they are ill. I have to set cover work and I still check my emails and do work related stuff in bed, but since I have a rule never to bring any work at home, I can't do any planning or marking, and it's ok.

I feel a bit guilty for not being there to teach my students, but then again the kids deserve the best teacher they can have, and at the moment I am not at my best by a long shot.

So, in my neverending boredness I was browsing Facebook and one of my Buddhist friends put this question up on a Buddhist page, about what slander actually is. I immediately thought about the 14 slanders, so I looked it up, and before linking it to her I re-read it, mostly out loud (my throat is in pretty bad shape, I can barely do gongyo).

There is something to be said about reading Gosho out loud. It's something one of my leaders encouraged me to do a few years back, so I tried. I would say it always gives me new insight into the Gosho, it makes me feel like I am reading it with my life, and also makes me feel closer to Nichiren. He was a pretty awesome guy, if you think about it. A far cry from the uber-calm buddhist monk of Hollywood, he was strong, feisty and could even come across as arrogant. He looked at the demons head on and never faltered, but also made sure to always show respect and gratitude to his disciples.

That Gosho is awesome, it's really difficult to choose a quote from it, so there:

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Grade 2 Study Exam - 2014. Section A. Q1

This is part of a series of posts to share my preparation for the Grade 2 Study Exam that I will sit this coming November.

Section A

From the ‘Introduction’:
A1- How did Mr Toda express his unwavering commitment to kosen‐rufu, and what impact did this have on the young Daisaku Ikeda? What does this teach us about how to practise Nichiren Buddhism?

Mr Toda said, ‘No matter how great the hardships I might face, [...] I wish to continue advancing toward kosen‐rufu with all of you [...], even should I be reduced to surviving on water and wild roots or be forced to lay down my life for the sake of that cause.’

Toda's unwavering commitment to Kosen Rufu and his readiness to face any hardship that might lie ahead, filled young Daisaku Ikeda with fresh courage and a determination to support and strive alongside Mr Toda just as he had supported and striven alongside his own mentor in his youth.

The essence of what it means to practise Nichiren Buddhism is the shared struggle of mentor and disciple. This means to strive and overcome adversity together with our mentor, as we advance along the great path of kosen‐rufu. In order to do so, we must first of all understand our mentor’s struggles. It is important that we try to engrave our mentor’s fighting spirit, conduct, and wisdom in our life through our own efforts for kosen‐rufu and achieve actual victory.

Word Count: 180

Monday, 12 May 2014

Grade 2 Study Exam - 2014. The journey commences.

Finally, after two years, I can start preparing the Grade 2 exams!

I am so very excited to be starting this journey and to share it on the blog.

Since I passed Grade 1 in 2012, last year I had to take a gap as per SGI-UK regulations. In that occasion, I was the lilac chief for my local exams and I trained next year's lilac chief, who will be supporting me this time around. During the activity I also met an Italian Young Woman who has since then moved into my district and become an absolute lighthouse of joy for the district and especially the other young women.

Here is part of the message Sensei wrote last year to members who decided to take the exam last year.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Buddhist quotes - April

So, I am lying in bed after the most incredible month ever, and I want to quickly post my quote for April, just before the month will gloriously end.

I am dead tired and only have 32 minutes before midnight, so I will leave the account of this crazy April for another post.

In the meantime, here is a picture of a cat. Because, you know, cats.

I'm feeling a bit feminist (and cheeky) tonight, so here is my quote:
Since I have realized that only the Lotus Sutra teaches the attainment of Buddhahood by women, and that only the Lotus is the sutra of true requital for repaying the kindness of our mother, in order to repay my debt to my mother, I have vowed to enable all women to chant the daimoku of this sutra. (The Sutra of True Requital, WND, pp.930–931)
If you want to know more about the role of women in Nichiren Buddhism, please have a look at this post, where you will also find some further reading suggestions. (that was the cheeky bit, btw).

Adieu, month of April!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Buddhist quotes - March

Here is my quote for March.

The picture was taken by a good friend of mine and put on Facebook. What you see is a card that I made as a gift for the 16th of March celebration meeting in my HQ.

I chose a few different quotes, but all came from a Dedicated Lilac training I attended at the start of March.

This particular quote was mentioned by a senior WD leader during her lecture, and it immediately carved itself a safe place in my heart. When I was asked to create the gifts for the meeting, the first quote I thought about was this one. It took me longer to find the little shiny flower thingies than to think up the quotes. (I got the shiny stuff from here if anybody is interested, btw, it's sticky, too!)

Now, onto some background info:

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