Sunday, 7 October 2012

Grade 1 Study Exam - 2012. Section B. AKA Shijo Kingo

This is the third installment of a series dedicated to the study exams. 
As for anything in Buddhism, preparing the exam is turning into a great faith - and life - experience.

So, after Section A1 and Section A2, here is section B.

Section B of the exam is based on a Gosho called The Hero of the World. It is Gosho n.102 in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Volume I, (pp 835-841). It was written in 1277 and is one of many Gosho addressed to Shijo Kingo. 

Before moving onto the exam paper, allow me to say a thing or two about Shijo Kingo. 

The vast majority of Nichiren's teachings take the form of letters written to his disciples, most of which have been written during his two exiles, in Izu and in Sado. As much as the exiles were a period of great suffering for Nichiren and a clear threat for his life, if he hadn't been far away from his disciples he wouldn't have had any reason to put his teaching and encouragement into a written form.

The letters were addressed to actual people, and dealt with actual problems. It wasn't just Nichiren sitting at his table musing about Buddhism. His disciples sent him letters and gifts, asked him for guidance, and he provided it. 

So when we study the Gosho, we inevitable become familiar with some of their names, especially the ones that appear more often; we learn more and more details about their lives, their struggles, we sometimes identify with them. The nice thing is that Nichiren's disciples come in many flavours. Men, women, old, young, rich and poor.

As I grew up, one figure was always at the centre of my imagination, and the more I studied and learnt about him, the more I identified with him. Shijo Kingo. 

According to The SGI Library website Shijo Kingo was:

[a] follower of Nichiren who lived in Kamakura, Japan. His full name and title were Shijo Nakatsukasa Saburo Saemon-no-jo Yorimoto. Kingo is an equivalent of the title Saemon-no-jo. His wife was Nichigen-nyo and they had two daughters, Tsukimaro and Kyo'o. 
As a samurai retainer, he served the Ema family, a branch of the ruling Hojo clan. Kingo was well versed in both medicine and the martial arts, and in temperament was straightforward, loyal, and passionate [emphasis mine]. He is said to have converted to Nichiren's teachings around 1256 [...].
When Nichiren was taken to Tatsunokuchi to be beheaded in 1271, Shijo Kingo accompanied him, resolved to die by his side. After Nichiren was exiled to Sado Island, Shijo Kingo sent a messenger to him with various offerings. [...]
Sometime after Nichiren returned from Sado and moved to Minobu in 1274, Shijo Kingo tried to convert his lord, Ema, who was a believer of the Pure Land (Jodo) school and a follower of the priest Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple. Lord Ema did not take kindly to his retainer's belief in the Lotus Sutra or support of Nichiren, whom Ryokan hated, and harassed him on that account. At one point, he ordered Kingo to abandon his faith in Nichiren's teaching, threatening to transfer him to the remote province of Echigo if he did not obey.
In 1277 Shijo Kingo happened to observe a debate at Kuwagayatsu in Kamakura in which Sammi-bo, a disciple of Nichiren, defeated Ryuzo-bo, a Tendai priest and a protege of Ryokan. Fellow samurai jealous of Kingo saw a chance to disgrace him in the eyes of his lord and reported falsely to Lord Ema that Kingo had forcibly disrupted the debate. This led Lord Ema to threaten to confiscate Kingo's fief.
Nichiren drafted a petition to Lord Ema on behalf of Shijo Kingo, which he sent to his loyal disciple. Before long, Lord Ema fell ill, and eventually had to ask Shijo Kingo for treatment. He recovered under Kingo's care and thereafter placed renewed trust in him. In 1278 Kingo received from Ema an estate three times larger than his former one. [...]
This is a really clinical account of the main events in Shijo Kingo's life and his practice. But there is much more to this.

The line I emphasised regarding Shijo Kingo's temperament is the first thing that I felt I had in common with him and one of the main reasons Nichiren's letters to him resonate more with me than others. He was "Straightforward, loyal, and passionate". Moreover, his main 'demon' was anger, and much of Nichiren's guidance to him is related to keep his temper in check in order to achieve absolute victory. 

The Hero of the world, as you might have noticed, was written exactly at the time of the Kuwagayatsu debate, when Shijo Kingo's livelihood was in extreme danger because of false accusations. He had to wait for two years before he could return in his lord's favour and completely win over his opponents. Two years is a long time. But he didn't falter, and never stopped practising. 

His example inspired me during a time of great suffering, when my parents lost their house and I found myself without a home, without livelihood, not knowing how I could possibly help my family or indeed myself. I wrote in my diary: 
I think that the situation I'm in now, I will regard it later on as the mark between childhood and adulthood. The bank has taken my parents' house from them. It's over. The hell my parents lived when I was three has come to its natural epilogue today. So they are left homeless, and I am so scared. Luckily, I have daimoku, I have my faith, and I can regard it as an opportunity. But it just happened, and I'm scared. I won't go insane because I'm a Buddhist, and my father's family is great and close, but I'm scared.
Now it's the time, my friends, hold the banners high.
Sing the song of victory, the roar of the lion.

I am a lion. I am strong and faithful, I will see the end of this trouble and hail to our victory with my family.
Thinking about Shijo Kingo and reading Nichiren's guidance to him meant that I lived through the two years it took me to stabilise my financial situation without consuming myself in worry and anger. It meant that I could achieve absolute victory, victory that wasn't tainted by two years of bitterness and suffering. As a matter of fact, those two years of fighting were the happiest of my life up to that moment.
Thank you Shijo Kingo, and thank you Nichiren.

Now I am facing a new challenge at my work place. Not by any means as dangerous as the threats and unfair accusations Shijo Kingo had to endure, but still a source of suffering. 

Preparing for this exam meant studying this Gosho and going back at my past experiences and my relationship with Shijo Kingo, and I realised that these challenges are nothing compared to what I have achieved so far thanks to my practice. So once again, I will use this situation to become even stronger, even happier, to be a lighthouse of happiness in my work place, same as I strove to be in my family for my whole life.

So, onto the exam paper.

Section B reads: 
All your answers should be based on the material in Section B: 'The Hero of the World'. This lecture is included in thr 2012 Grade One Stury Course MAterrial, and will also appear in the October 2012 issue of thr Art of Living, as the Gosho study for that month.
Write a short paragraph (maximum 200 words) in answer to the following questions.
In the study exam, you will be set three questions from this section.

This time, instead of writing 200 words each, I decided to find the lines I think are relevant in the lecture and the Gosho and copy them under the questions. I would love to see your comments and thoughts about my choice and ideas as to how to develop them.

B1. From the section "Faith in the Mystic Law is the foundation for Victory':

a) explain why the Hero of the World is another name for the Buddha.
Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat [...] for this reason, a Buddha is looked up to as the Hero of the World.
[...] the Daishonin refers to the 'Hero of the World', one of the titles of the Buddha, meaning a champion of peerless wisdom, who has triumphed over suffering and delusion and acquired a state of indestructible happiness.

b) What should we make our fundamental guide and standard amid the realities of daily life and society? What does this mean?
The Daishonin most likely mentions this title [the Hero of the world] to underscore the importance of using the profound wisdom of buddhahood to discern what is of true value and confidently build a life of genuine happiness and victory amid the realities of society.

c) What is meant by 'Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat?'
'Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat', says the Daishonin. This fundamental tenet is at the heart of our commitment to keep striving based on the unsurpassed teaching of Buddhism, come what may. Our determination and actual efforts to show concrete proof of the power of faith, therefore, are crucial.

B2. From the section 'Persevering with unremitting faith':

a) When is 'Unremitting faith' of paramount importance?
It is in times of adversity that the true measure of one's faith is revealed. When it comes to battling the three obstacles and four devils, confronting the three powerful enemies or waging a critical struggle to transform one's karma, unremitting faith is of paramount importance.

b) How should we regard difficulties from viewpoint of our faith?
Difficulties forge our faith and strengthen our character. They are inescapable obstacles that we have to surmount on the road to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. If we persevere in faith and overcome every obstacle, the laurels of victory will definitely await us. The important thing is that we never discard our faith. 

B3. From the section 'Forging inner strength and maintaining resolute faith'

a) What should be our state of mind to achieve victory? How do we develop such a state of mind?
Untempered iron will melt in a blazing fire, but a finely forged sword will not, says the Daishonin. With this admonition, he seeks to forge Kingo's faith and inner resolve.
We cannot achieve victory in a true sense if we are constantly vacillating between hope and fear over what might await us in the future. Buddhism is reason. Only when we approach life with a serene, unclouded state of mind, forget through cultivating inner strength and polishing out faith - can we truly bring forth from within us the wondrous workings of life that put us on a course to victory. 
[...] For us in the SGI today, this entails our regular practice of morning and evening gongyo and carrying out activities for kosen rufu.

b) What is the guideline that the Daishonin gives Shijo Kingo to achieve victory?
"Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your Lord'. Those who live their lives with honesty and integrity based on faith in the Mystic Law will win in all areas as a matter of course. 'Win over your Lord' here means that even Lord Ema [...] would be no match for the lucid principles of Buddhism.

B4. From the section 'The bonds of mentor and disciple in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism':

a) What is required of disciples to ensure the eternal transmission of the Law?
It was through his selfless struggles, carried out in the spirit that Buddhism means winning that the Daishonin opened the way for the eternal transmission of the Law into the eternal future of the Latter Day. It was also in this way that he activated the power of the Law to open the eyes of those blinded by delusion and block off the road to hell of incessant suffering., For this reason, the transmission of the Law can only be undertaken by disciples who struggle with the same selfless dedication of the Daishonin.

b) How did president Makiguchi and president Toda describe winning?
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi declared that showing actual proof of faith through striving sand triumphing ewith the spirit that buddhism means winning is the 'lifeblood of the Daishonin's Buddhism'.

Mr Toda asserted: "Faith is a struggle against deadlock - for the individual, and for humanity. It is a struggle between devilish functions and the Buddha. That is why Buddhism concerns itself with winning in any struggle."
[Also:] "Buddhism is about winning. Let's fight with courage, giving it our all as long as we live. Life is eternal. Proof of our dedicated efforts will definitely appear in this form in this lifetime."
[Moreover] "We are practising the Daishonin's Buddhism in order to achieve absolute victory. It is crucial that we win in our jobs and in all areas of our lives with this resolve."
[Finally] "Buddhism means being victorious. If we are going to engage in a struggle, we must do so with thoroughgoing preparation, determination and passion, and win without fail."


Check out the other sections:
Section A1  
Section A2  
Section B (answers)
Section C
Section D
Grade 1 Wrap-up

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...