Browse Month

November 2011

SGI President Ikeda: Compassion is the very soul of Buddhism

SGI President Ikeda’s Daily Encouragement:

Compassion is the very soul of Buddhism. To pray for others, making their problems and anguish our own; to embrace those who are suffering, becoming their greatest ally; to continue giving them our support and encouragement until they become truly happy—it is in such humanistic actions that the Daishonin’s Buddhism lives and breathes.

SGI President Ikeda: A Life Free of Work?

SGI President Ikeda’s Daily Encouragement:

Nichiren Daishonin discusses the meaning of the Chinese characters for the word benefit (Jpn Kudoku) as follows: “The ku of kudoku means to extinguish evil and doku means to bring forth good” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 762). We fight against those who try to destroy the True Law. That struggle purifies us and brings forth benefits in our lives. Justice or happiness without a battle is just an illusion. Thinking that happiness means a life free of hard work and effort is fantasy.

from SGI-USA
“For Today & Tomorrow”

Socialist | Occupy’s Next Struggle

If you think the Occupy crackdowns we’re seeing across the country are really about keeping order, cleaning up ‘unsanitary conditions’ or any of the other weak excuses from the empowered elite, think again.

The raids, the arrests and the police violence are about trying to silence a movement that is giving voice to the accumulated discontent of the working-class majority in U.S. society. They’re also about showing who’s the boss–the political and business establishment.

What we’re seeing is as old as the rise of the moneyed elite itself. A working-class, populist movement gives voice to widespread discontent with the status quo, and after a few perfunctory claims to respecting ‘free speech,’ the reaction from the elite is swift and violent. This is the way the elite maintain power: they do not respect the needs of the working class (that’s a given), and any talk of respecting the rights of that class is ultimately for show.

Nichiren Daishonin: The blessings are the same

On the benefits of chanting all or part of the Lotus Sutra (the Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin):

First of all, when it comes to the Lotus Sutra, you should understand that, whether one recites all eight volumes, or only one volume, one chapter, one verse, one phrase, or simply the daimoku, or title, the blessings are the same. It is like the water of the great ocean, a single drop of which contains water from all the countless streams and rivers…

More Fundamental Than Religion

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama:

More fundamental than religion is our basic human spirituality. We have a basic human disposition towards love, kindness and affection, irrespective of whether we have a religious framework or not. When we nurture this most basic human resource – when we set about cultivating those basic inner values which we all appreciate in others, then we start to live spiritually.

I’m boycotting a half a dozen products! I’m buying my way out of capitalism!

There’s a meme growing on Twitter that unless Occupy starts calling for boycotts “against the 1%” it will be doomed to failure.

No, it’s the idea that a few consumer product boycotts will actually accomplish anything that’s a failed idea.

The ridiculously tiny minority that control a majority of the wealth in the US, and most of the rest of the world, do not simply control raw wealth. They also control the means of wealth production. That won’t change because you switch to a different brand of toothpaste for the length of a boycott; sure folks would feel like they’re “supporting” Occupy, but it ends there; buying brand Z instead of brand X speaks to the 1% in what particular ways? It fundamentally says we’re sheep and can be marketed to. The current status quo will only change if the political body – the state – that’s empowered to actually redistribute wealth through progressive taxation actually taxes the super-wealthy and funnels that resulting revenue not into yet another series of wars as security theater, but to actual progressive domestic spending. Boycotts may feel good, but in this case, they’re just feel-good consumerism.

The folks promoting this idea are well-intentioned, I truly believe, but utterly utterly naive. Do you know which companies Bill Gates is long on? How about Carlos Slim? How much of the rest of the 1% – and every single company they hold stock in – are you willing to boycott? If you’re only interested in symbolic boycotts against one or two individuals of the 1%, then my criticism of this strategy is all the more certain. Even if you could get them to disclose every company they hold significant positions in, you’re planning on boycotting every single one of those companies? If not (and, be realistic, in the real world, you’re not going to be able to do this as a practical matter unless you simply stop buying everything), which ‘targeted’ boycotts do you suppose will materially affect the 1%?

It’s just a meaningless attempt to buy one’s way around the flaws of capitalism. You can’t undermine and support capitalism at the same time. You might think your boycotts are meaningful, but in this case, this smacks of an awful lot of magical thinking.

Who should Occupy or its supporters boycott? What products? For how long? How will any of this – any of it – materially affect the 1%? If anyone can actually make a case for it, I’d support such a boycott, but thus far, I’m just seeing an awful lot of wishful thinking about the efficacy of boycotts in theory. Occupy’s real power – and real opportunity – is not to get the 1% to change in response to some consumer boycotts that won’t affect wealth concentration even a whit. The real opportunity at hand is to make the government more afraid of the 99% than they are of the ridiculously wealthy minority they presently serve. That won’t come because you switch brands of detergent.

If Occupy and its allies – and I’m an ally, I hope it’s clear I want Occupy to succeed  really believe that “Another world is possible,” which I hope they do – I hope that’s not just a nice, but ultimately meaningless chant – the opportunity here is to really critique capitalism while the general population is listening. Feel-good consumer boycotts aren’t going to do that.

On Changing One’s Karma

Folks often confuse the doctrine of karma with fatalism, as if karma is unchangeable and as though folks who accept karma are ‘blaming the victim’ for their misfortunes. This isn’t actually what karma really says. Nichiren is specifically addressing a woman questioner, here (bearing in mind the culture of Japan in the middle ages, this is an amazingly egalitarian perspective), but it applies to everyone.

In this age, it is as natural for a woman to change her fixed karma by practicing the Lotus Sutra as it is for rice to ripen in fall or chrysanthemums to bloom in winter. When I prayed for my mother, not only was her illness cured, but her life was prolonged by four years. Now you too have fallen ill, and as a woman, it is all the more timely for you to establish steadfast faith in the Lotus Sutra and see what it will do for you. 

The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, page 955
On Prolonging One’s Life Span
Written to the lay nun Myojo in 1279

Gosho | How Long Does a Lifetime Last

How long does a lifetime last? If one stops to consider, it is like a single night’s lodging at a wayside inn. Should one forget that fact and seek some measure of worldly fame and profit? Though you may gain them, they will be mere prosperity in a dream, a delight scarcely to be prized. You would do better simply to leave such matters to the karma formed in your previous existences.

The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, page 63
Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra
Recipient unknown; written in March 1263