Around 1277, Nichiren Daishonin wrote a letter to one of his followers, Shijo Kingo, who was upset with his lord when his lord, threatened to move Shijo Kingo and his family to a distant province.
In a writing titled “The Eight Winds,” he encouraged his disciple Shijo Kingo not to succumb to eight influences that obstruct our Buddhist practice, called “the eight winds”. More often than not, we get swayed by external circumstances and get trapped in the web of these “eight influences”
The eight winds consist of four favourable and four adverse winds. This concept teaches that both favourable and adverse conditions can sway us from advancing in faith.
The first four, which people generally tend to favour and seek, are:
1) Prosperity: prospering through gain or advantage
2) Honour: receiving honour or accolades by the public
3) Praise: being praised or admired by those around us
4) Pleasure: enjoying physical and spiritual gratification
The remaining four, which people tend to avoid and detest, are:
5) Decline: suffering loss of various kinds and disadvantage
6) Disgrace: being dishonoured and humiliated by the public
7) Censure: being criticised or disparaged by those around us
8) Suffering: experiencing physical or mental suffering
While people naturally welcome the four favourable winds, they represent only temporary forms of happiness that could disappear with changing circumstances. Becoming overly attached to them will ultimately bring about as much suffering as the adverse winds. In addition, people tend to want to avoid the four adverse winds because they can easily make us feel defeated.
“Worthy [wise] persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honour, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds”
(“The Eight Winds,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 794).
In life, it is easy to be swept up into our immediate, short-term considerations of gain or loss. And we often get caught up in public opinion or what those around us may think of us or our decisions. But if we allow our thoughts and actions to be controlled by what others think or focus only on the superficial, we lose sight of what really matters. We have to remember that the most important point is to never be defeated by anything and to always advance in our inner transformation based on Nichiren’s teachings.
Shijo Kingo was a sincere disciple of strong faith, who at the time of this letter was facing great adversity that threatened his livelihood as a samurai. His efforts to introduce his lord, Ema Mitsutoki, to the teachings of Nichiren had created a rift between him and Lord Ema. And his fellow samurai retainers used this rift as an opportunity to falsely discredit and malign him. Kingo was so angered by this injustice and unfair treatment that he considered retaliating by taking legal action against his lord.
The Daishonin, however, recognized the true nature of his disciple’s persecution. His envious colleagues had roused Kingo’s indignant self-righteousness.
Reminding Kingo of the debt of gratitude he owed his lord for protecting him in previous years, Nichiren advised him against making rash decisions. He assures Kingo that as long as he is not “carried away by the eight winds” and remains “unbending before the eight winds,” the heavenly gods will protect him and he will emerge victorious.
As for Shijo Kingo, by following his mentor’s guidance and defeating his own tendency toward anger, he regained his lord’s trust and, as a demonstration of this trust, was given three times more land than he had previously owned.
SGI President Ikeda writes: “Just as Shijo Kingo was encouraged to do by the Daishonin, each of us needs to become a wise person who wins the trust of others in our community and society. That is the practical means for making worldwide kosen-rufu a reality. The key lies with one person—with the individual” (September 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 32).
Through a consistent practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and uniting in spirit with our mentor and fellow members, let us each carry out our own human revolution, establishing lives of unshakable happiness that is impervious to the eight winds, while helping others do the same.
President Ikeda’s Guidance:
The wise are those who remain unswayed by the eight winds—those who pursue absolute happiness with an unwavering spirit. This is the epitome of a genuine practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.
A wise person is one who has the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, a person with the ability to grasp the essence of the matter.
Indispensable to building a solid self that remains unshaken by the eight winds are the correct teaching and the correct teacher that guide us to distinguish between right and wrong, and explain the causes of happiness and misfortune.
The way of the wise is to practice in exact accord with the correct teaching and follow the guidance of the correct teacher. The Daishonin assures us that, by steadfastly walking that path and always leading a life based on the Mystic Law, we are certain to receive the protection of the heavenly deities. In contrast, those who turn their backs on reason or wisdom will not receive such protection. Buddhism is a realm of reason grounded in the ultimate Law of life (see “The Eight Winds,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 794). (September 2014 Living Buddhism, pp. 26–27) WT
Adapted from article in World Tribune https://www.worldtribune.org/2019/01/the-eight-winds/
In Nichiren’s teachings, the four powers are known as the four powers of the Mystic Law, whose interaction enables one to have one’s prayers answered and attain Buddhahood.
- the power of faith
- the power of practice
- the power of the Buddha and
- the power of the Law.
The power of the Buddha is the Buddha’s compassion in saving all people.
The power of the Law indicates the boundless capacity of the Mystic Law which leads all people to enlightenment.
The power of faith is to believe single-mindedly in the Gohonzon, the object of devotion that embodies the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law. It means the strong belief that nothing other than this Gohonzon can lead one to enlightenment
The power of practice is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo oneself and teach others to do the same.
Even though the boundless powers of the Buddha and the Law are embodied in the Gohonzon, they will not set to work to benefit us of their own accord. Rather, these powers of the Buddha and the Law are manifested through our own powers of faith and practice.
To the extent that one brings forth one’s powers of faith and practice, one can manifest the powers of the Buddha and the Law within one’s own life.
On The Power of Four, excerpt from Toda Josei Zenshu (collected writings of Josei Toda; Tokyo; Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989, vol. 4, p.42 )
“The power of the Buddha and the power of the Law increase in proportion to the strength of the power of faith and the power of practice. Therefore, bringing forth the powers of the Buddha and the Mystic Law in your life depends on the powers of your own faith and practice. The latter merge to become the powers of the Buddha and the Law, resulting in benefits that seem miraculous, defying comprehension”
“Consciousness,” in the Buddhist context, is a translation of vijnana, a Sanskrit word meaning “perception.” It refers not only to waking awareness but also to internal capacities and energies that direct our lives.
The first five levels of consciousness correspond to our five sensory organs—eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin.
They are: 1) sight- consciousness, 2) hearing-consciousness, 3) smell-consciousness, 4) taste-consciousness and 5) touch-consciousness.
These gather and perceive information about the world and pass it to the sixth consciousness, the ‘mind-consciousness’, which integrates the information into coherent images, assesses it and forms responses. Suppose someone is yelling at you. You perceive this information through your five senses, and your sixth consciousness interprets it, con- cludes the person is angry and considers and initiates a response.
The sixth consciousness is always at work in support of our day-to-day activities.
Memory, imagination and dreams also take place on this level, so the mind-consciousness can be at work even without immediate input from the five senses.
These first six levels are strongly influenced by deeper levels of consciousness. Impulses arising from the seventh and eighth levels of consciousness affect the way the five senses perceive information and how the mind interprets it. Emotions, deep-seated attitudes and self-attachment can change or skew our perception. By purifying the first six levels of consciousness, we are able to perceive all things in their true light. This is why Nichiren describes “purification of the six sense organs” as an important benefit of Buddhist practice.
Unlike the first six levels, the seventh,‘manas– consciousness’, does not depend directly on the external world. It is the internal, spiritual, intuitive realm of life where self-attachment and the ability to distinguish oneself from others, capacities necessary for survival, reside. This subconscious drive to differentiate self from others, however, if too strong, gives rise to arrogance, insecurity, conflict and misery. So while the sixth consciousness enables you to decide that your friend is angry, the seventh determines how that makes you feel and how it affects your sense of identity. If that sense is unbalanced, this might lead you to act in a way that compounds the problem. The seventh level also includes one’s sense of right and wrong, which if healthy can overpower the impulse to act selfishly or rashly.
The eighth level is the alaya-consciousness— the Sanskrit word alaya meaning “storehouse.” It is the “karmic storehouse” where latent causes and effects resulting from all one’s thoughts, words and deeds throughout time reside. Your reaction to your friend’s anger will be influenced by all your past causes and effects. The first seven levels of consciousness cease upon death, but the eighth persists eternally, carrying with it the distinct nature of one’s being throughout the cycle of birth and death.
SGI President Ikeda states: “The term storehouse conjures the image of an actual structure into which things of substance can be placed. But in fact it may be more accurate to say that the life current of kar- mic energy itself constitutes the eighth consciousness . . . Moreover, the eighth consciousness transcends the boundaries of the individual and interacts with the karmic energy of others. On the inner dimension of life, this latent karmic energy merges with the latent energy of one’s family, one’s ethnic group and humankind, and also with that of animals and plants” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, pp. 262–63).
This is why one person’s inner transformation, or “human revolution,” can change the destiny of a family, society and even of all humankind.
The traditional Buddhist view holds that changing negative karma for the better involves countering every past bad cause with a good cause. This process was thought to take countless lifetimes and require that no new bad causes be made—unlikely in a world filled with impure and negative influences.
In contrast, Nichiren taught that we can fundamentally transform our karma and create supreme value and happiness in this life by tapping into an even deeper, more powerful level of consciousness. This is the ninth consciousness, also called the ‘amala– consciousnes’—the Sanskrit word amala meaning “pure” or “stainless.” It is the “fundamental pure consciousness” existing at a depth of life free from all karmic impurity and is synonymous with the world of Buddhahood.
President Ikeda explains, “Just as the light of the stars and the moon seems to vanish when the sun rises, when we bring forth the state of Buddhahood in our lives we cease to suffer negative effects for each individual past offense committed” (August 2003 Living Bud- dhism, p. 47).
When we tap into our amala-consciousness by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can positively transform our karmic tendencies and reactions, and create value from every situation—even being yelled at by a friend. For instance, instead of taking offense, we can see the situation more clearly, perhaps even appreciating that person’s anger as a sign of concern.
Nichiren identifies the ninth consciousness as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which he embodied in the form of the Gohonzon. He teaches, “You should base your mind on the ninth consciousness, and carry out your practice in the six consciousnesses” (“Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,” The Writing of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 458). This means that those who practice Nichiren Buddhism reveal the qualities of a Buddha (the ninth consciousness) in their everyday behavior (the first six levels of consciousness).
Nichiren also states: “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohon- zon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The body is the palace of the ninth consciousness, the unchanging reality that reigns over all of life’s functions” (“The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 832). Chanting Nam- myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with faith in our innate Buddha nature enables us to access this “palace of the ninth conscious- ness,” causing all other levels of consciousness to glow with the compassion, wisdom and courage of Buddhahood.
The Treasures of the Heart are the Most Valuable of All
“Fortune comes from one’s mind (heart) and makes one worthy of respect.” [“Mind” or ‘Heart’ here refers to the “mind of faith”]
This is the probably one of the most important and profound teachings of Nichiren Daishonin
In a letter written to his most trusted disciple Shijo Kingo, at a time when Shijo Kingo was in the midst of a tough struggle against mistreatement by the lord of his clan and his colleagues, Nichiren Daishonin cautions and instructs him to stay on the best course of behavior. Shijo Kingo was facing dire circumstances, where he had lost his income and was on the verge of losing his land. He had also lost the trust of his lord and his reputation amongst colleagues.
Daishonin urged him to remain steadfast in preserving the “Treasure of the Heart”, reminding him that ultimately it is the Treasure of the Heart that will win.
Let’s try to understand what each of these treasures are and why is the ‘Treasure of Heart’ so important.
We value many things in life, particularly those which enhance the quality of our lives. According to Nichiren Daishonin, “life’s treasures” can be bundled into three main categories: (i) the Treasures of the Storehouse (ii) the Treasures of the Body (iii) the Treasures of the Heart.
“Treasures of the storehouse” are material treasures – money / financial wealth; assets like land, buildings, and jewelry.
“Treasures of the body” mean attributes one possesses as a person. i.e. things like physical health, educational background, personality, knowledge, skills, and talents, position at work and social standing etc.
Though “treasures of the body” are generally considered to be on a higher level than “treasures of the storehouse”, people usually desire fulfillment in both these respects and feel happy when these desires are satisfied. And many of us spend our whole lifetime trying to obtain such treasures. And why not! Isn’t it better to have enough treasures of the storehouse and body than to have none or too little. However, when we go in pursuit of the treasures of storehouse and body and ignore to cultivate the treasures of our heart, we drift away from enlightenment. One must remember that the treasures of storehouse and body are transient and without exception, will make us fall into the three evil paths (greed, anger, and delusion) and make us wander from one condition to another. On the other hand, “the treasures of the heart” are permanent and stay with us across several eons.
“More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. Strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1 p. 1170)
How do we expand and accumulate “the treasures of the heart”?
Regularly doing Gongyo and chanting Daimoku with a mind and heart filled with belief in the Gohonzon is the way to accumulate the treasures of the heart and this is the way to go.
We should be aware that we can attain Buddhahood in our present form through this practice of chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with a resolve (ichinen) of faith and belief in the Gohonzon and aligning one’s life with the universe. This is what makes our “mind of faith” expand and leads to accumulation of “the Treasures of the Heart”.
In our practice, we often refer to the phrase – “Changing Poison into Medicine”.
What is Poison? ‘Anything that harms or destroys’
And medicine is ‘Something that treats or prevents or alleviates a disease’
In Buddhism, the three poisons are Greed, Anger and Foolishness. They are fundamental evils inherent in our lives, which give rise to human suffering.
Buddhism teaches us that suffering derives from karma, the causes that we ourselves have created. The Buddhist teaching of karma is one of personal responsibility. And the strong belief is that even the most deeply entrenched karmic patterns can be transformed.
Any unfavourable situation can be changed into a source of value, by challenging and overcoming that circumstance. And thus grow as human beings.
We need to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY – To transform sufferings or obstacles into value-creating experiences
The process of changing poison into medicine begins when we approach difficult experiences as an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and to strengthen and develop our courage & compassion
The more we are able to do this the more we grow in our vitality and wisdom => Expansive life state
SUFFERING can thus serve as a SPRINGBOARD for deeper experience of HAPPINESS
Daishonin’s Philosophy declares that Infinite Potential of Buddhahood exists within every person and every moment and leads us on to the path to bring forth that potential.
By Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo we manifest our Buddhahood and in times of hardships and difficulties instead of basing our actions on the three poisons or karmic tendencies, we base it on our Buddha Nature that comprises of Wisdom, Courage and Compassion and thus continue joyfully on the path of human revolution.
If in times of hardship we are defeated by suffering or respond to challenging circumstances with actions arising from our fundamental darkness the original poison shall never be transformed and remains a poison.
The battle we must ultimately win, is that between our Buddha Nature and our Fundamental Darkness. Buddhism teaches that self-knowledge ultimately is awareness of our own infinite potential, and our capacity for inner strength, wisdom and compassion.
To summarise – How we respond to life’s inevitable sufferings is the key even if we face the most difficult problems or obstacles in our lives
In its most fundamental sense, “changing poison into medicine” refers to the transformation of ‘Deluded impulses’ into ‘Enlightenment’
Some religions place primary emphasis on faith. Others strongly stress practice or acts of kindness. Some promote philosophical inquiry, while others discourage it, leaving such pursuits to religious professionals. Nichiren Buddhism encourages a dynamic balance of faith, practice and study.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386).
Faith in Buddhism is belief in our own vast potential and the limitless potential of all people to establish lives of unshakable happiness. This belief is expressed in the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Mystic Law, the fundamental Law permeating our lives and the universe.
Nichiren Daishonin faced numerous persecutions and hardships in the course of establishing his teaching and triumphed in every instance. He inscribed the Gohonzon as an expression of his winning state of life, so that future generations could bring forth the same life condition (see pages 31–35). He writes, “I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412).
The basis of Nichiren Buddhist practice is believing deeply that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon enables all people to reveal their innate Buddhahood. When we chant to the Gohonzon with faith, we fuse our lives with the Mystic Law and reveal the wisdom, courage, compassion and all that is necessary to overcome any hardship and to help those around us do the same. Nichiren tells us never to seek the Gohonzon or enlightenment outside our own lives (see “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 832, and “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 3). Faith in the Gohonzon, therefore, means faith in the tremendous power and nobility inherent in our lives and the lives of others. Buddhist practice and study strengthen our faith. And the stronger our faith, the more benefit and growth will result from practice and study.
Practice for Oneself and Others
Faith often begins as a simple expectation of how Buddhism can help improve one’s life. With consistent practice, this expectation develops into conviction. Nichiren Buddhist practice consists of practice for oneself and practice for others. These are compared to the two wheels of a cart; both are necessary for the cart to move ahead properly.
Practice for oneself refers to chanting and reciting the sutra on a daily basis. We do this to bring about and maintain the high life
condition necessary to establish enduring happiness. Practice for others constitutes teaching people about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and helping them establish their Buddhist practice and thereby create fulfilling lives. SGI activities aimed at further spreading Nichiren Buddhism and its humanistic philosophy are also part of this practice for others.
Nichiren writes, “Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world” (“Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 64). The happiness we create through chanting is eternal, transcending the boundaries of birth and death.
By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and teaching others, we break through the negativity that keeps us from becoming absolutely happy. When we practice consistently, we continue to strengthen and develop ourselves, paving the way for a joyful and rewarding life.
Study in Nichiren Buddhism means reading Nichiren’s writings in order to correctly understand the Buddhist teachings and apply them more effectively in our lives. By deepening our knowledge of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, we strengthen our confidence and conviction and learn what it means to practice correctly. Nichiren states: “Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 386). By continually studying and seeking the correct Buddhist teaching, we can avoid the pitfall of forming shallow views based on personal opinion or the incorrect interpretations of others. To be misled by such things will prevent us from fully bringing forth our Buddha nature and enjoying the true benefit of our practice. Therefore, we also study the words and examples of the three
Soka Gakkai presidents—Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda—who have fully applied and validated the teachings of the Daishonin in this modern age.
Second president Josei Toda once remarked, “Reason gives rise to faith; faith, in turn, seeks reason; reason thus gained elevates faith; and faith thus elevated further deepens reason.” In other words, as we deepen our understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, we can establish stronger faith. And with stronger faith, we will seek further understanding of Nichiren Buddhism.
In the course of our lives, we will certainly experience difficulties and at times may wonder, If I’m practicing Buddhism, why do I have this problem? As we deepen our faith through study, we come to see the opportunity within problems and obstacles and fortify our ability to overcome them. “Buddhist study,” President Ikeda says, “provides us with a great philosophy that serves as a compass to traverse the stormy and perilous seas of life. The more solid our foundation in Buddhist study, the stronger our faith will grow” (December 9, 2005, World Tribune, p. 2).
Through deepening our understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, we can resolve our doubts and continue toward establishing a state of unshakable happiness.
(Source: SGI-USA website)
Who is a Buddha?
“The Lotus Sutra explains that Buddhahood is already present in all life. It teaches absolute equality and emphasizes that even within the life of a person apparently dominated by evil, there exists the unpolished jewel of the Buddha nature. No one else gives it to us or judges whether we ‘deserve’ it.”
The literal meaning of Buddha is “enlightened one.” Enlightenment is a fully awakened state of vast wisdom through which reality in all its complexity can be fully understood and enjoyed. Any human being who is awakened to the fundamental truth about life can be called a Buddha.
As with gold hidden in a dirty bag, or lotus flowers emerging from a muddy pond, we have first to believe our Buddha nature is there, then awaken and develop or “polish” it. In Nichiren Buddhism this can be done through devotion to the law contained in the Lotus Sutra and the chanting of the phrase “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”
But Buddhahood is not a static condition or a state in which one can rest complacently. Rather, it is a dynamic experience and a journey of continual development and discovery.
When we continually reinforce the Buddhahood in our lives, we come to be ruled less and less by selfishness (or greed), anger and foolishness–what Buddhism terms the three poisons. As we fuse our lives with the enlightened life-state of the Buddha, we can tap the potential within us and change ourselves in a fundamental way.
As this inner state of Buddhahood is strengthened, we also develop a fortitude which enables us to ride even the wildest storms. If we are enlightened to the true, unchanging nature of life, we can joyfully surf the waves of difficulty which wash against us in life, creating something of value out of any situation. In this way our “true self” blossoms, and we find vast reserves of courage, compassion, wisdom and energy or life-force inside us. We find ourselves becoming more active and feeling deep inner freedom. And as we experience a growing sense of oneness with the universe, the isolation and alienation that cause so much suffering evaporate. We lessen our attachment to our smaller egotistical self, to difference, and become aware instead of the interconnectedness of all life. Gradually we find our lives opening up to those of others, desiring their happiness as much as our own.
However, while it is easy to believe that we all possess the lower life-states outlined in Buddhist teachings (hell, hunger, animality, anger and so on), believing that we possess Buddhahood is much more difficult. But the struggle to develop and constantly strengthen this state within our lives is well worthwhile.
In the words of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, “Buddhahood is the joy of joys. Birth, old age, illness and death are no longer suffering, but part of the joy of living. The light of wisdom illuminates the entire universe, casting back the innate darkness of life. The life-space of the Buddha becomes united and fused with the universe. The self becomes the cosmos, and in a single instant the life-flow stretches out to encompass all that is past and all that is future. In each moment of the present, the eternal life-force of the cosmos pours forth as a gigantic fountain of energy.”
(Source: SGI Website)