In response to my previous blog More Questions, one of my friends who works for the SGI-USA publications sent me some writings from Daisaku Ikeda, the official mentor of the SGI membership whether they know it or not (remember this is Joe Isuzu’s Daily Slander). Even though these statements are taken out of context, they were given to me as a conclusive answer and therefore must be considered complete and self contained, which may not be fair to Daisaku Ikeda but the SGI publications take Ikeda out of context all the time in a redacted form, so tough.

“Natural disasters arise when the relationship between human society and the natural environment is discordant.  When contention and hatred abound among people and society is rife with conflict, even the smallest disturbance in the natural world can result in a major calamity.  In that sense, any natural disaster can actually be viewed as a man made disaster.  On one level, it is the collective life force of human beings and society that determines the scope and magnitude of disasters.

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra

Enlightenment is not simply a matter of recognition or awareness of eternal life. This is very important. The eternity of life is not something to be recognized intellectually; it is something that we have to experience with our own lives. And only if we practice a correct teaching can we do so.

The difficulty is that even if one consciously makes an effort to become aware of the eternity of life, ultimately it is life that supports the self that is trying to achieve this awareness. One cannot comprehend what is large with what is small; by analogy, a wave cannot comprehend the ocean over whose surface it passes. What, then, are we to do?

The only way to awaken to life’s eternity is to cause the greater, eternal self to “emerge” in the small self. And to do this, we need to undertake the task of self-purification wholeheartedly, with our entire being. This is the purpose of Buddhist practice.

Originally our lives are in harmony with the Mystic Law. However, because we live in a strife-ridden world, we tend to base ourselves on egoism. As a result, our hearts become clouded by illusion and karma, and we grow befuddled and confused. This prevents the brilliant light of the eternal world of Buddhahood from illuminating our lives. (Vol. III, p. 258)

———————

The universe itself is one great living entity. It is a vast ocean of life. It nurtures all things, gives all things life and enables them to function. When things die, they return to its embrace and receive new vitality.

There is a boundless and overflowing ocean of life that is always in motion. As it moves and changes, it enacts the rhythm of life and death. Our individual lives are like waves in the great ocean that is the universe; the emergence of a wave is “life,” and its abatement is “death.” This rhythm repeats eternally. (Vol. IV, pp.249–250)

Search for a New Humanity, Ikeda/Derbolav

The Buddhist view is that humankind is hindered from self-knowledge by the so-called Three Poisons, or greed, anger and folly. Buddhist teachings explain an essential level of pure life force on a deeper plane than the one contaminated by these poisons. The main goal of Buddhist training is to teach practical ways to evoke this pure life force….The Buddhist goal is to transcend the intellectual and reach a deeper level of reality. (p. 58)


We have a tendency to let down our critical capacities when confronted with a message that conforms to our religious beliefs. Amen!  So, let’s take a critical look at what’s actually being said and I’m going to approach each statement as a secularist.


I’ll start with my own redaction from one of my favorite observers of the nature natures, George Carlin:

The earth is going to be fine. People are fucked.


In the first statement Ikeda uses the phrase “natural disaster” and it’s only “natural” to assume something is a disaster if it involves human suffering or adversely effects an environment that humans either thrive in or appreciate on some level. Otherwise it would be called a “natural event”. According to Pat Robertson, Jerry Farwell and others who have their particular bigoted worldview, when mankind does not live in a proper way, the external deity that they believe created everything is causing the disaster as a punishment to the humans.


In Ikeda’s statement although not based on bigotry, he too chooses mankind as attracting disaster by incorrect behavior. I’m not sure if this worldview is just silly or is in serious denial. The planet has been in a constant state of “natural” internal and external turmoil for 4.5 billion years. If you take a stack of dimes as tall as the Empire State Building in NYC, the top third of the last dime is how long we humans have existed here on this planet in relationship to the amount of time since its formation. To say that the events that take place are now suddenly caused by the presence of a new species, homo sapien, is ludicrous. Ninety plus percent of all species of life that have ever existed on this planet are now extinct. Was that bad karma or as in some pseudo science mistaken assumptions, was the cosmos making space for us? Either of those answers is arrogant and a form of cognitive bias. I’m not trying to diminish what a marvelous thing it is for the cosmos to somehow attain consciousness through a life form that can appreciate it. Yes we are part of an environment and yes we depend upon it. But this attitude of attracting disaster, however, goes back to a time when anything that didn’t have an obvious material cause, was assigned to a deity. This can be best summed up in the biblical statement:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

In other words, we evolved in conflict as being part of an environment and the need to control it in order to survive. That becomes an ideology; we get dominion.


His second statement is problematic. Ikeda makes a “Catch 22” argument by using the tools of his conscious mind, appealing with some reason but mostly metaphor, to stimulate the conscious minds of his readers into the action of achieving something that cannot be understood with the conscious mind. That, of course, is the eternity of life, for which there is no empirical data. To be fair, there isn’t yet a scientific definition of what constitutes consciousness or what it means to be sentient. The argument continues between materialists who theorize that consciousness originates with the physical brain, and dualists who separate the conscious mind with an eternal spirit. But the materialists are using the scientific method by making observations and predictions using new technologies to either verify or disprove a theory. The dualists are filling gaps with nothing testable. Next Ikeda contradicts himself in a sort of reverse “original sin” statement saying that our lives were once in a harmonious state “originally”. That’s using infinite regression and reason, about something, which he had just stated was eternal, and if it is eternal there is no origin.


The next section is very flowery and comforting to those who need to be reassured that what ever it is about the “self” they have come to believe in is going to continue on for eternity. It’s what every worldview does. That is why it very difficult to argue logically against a person’s worldview because it is a threat to not just what they believe, which is usually not falsifiable nor based upon anything but subjective and anecdotal reasons, but you’re attacking their sense of an eternal self. People will get very defensive if reasoning threatens eternal existence. They may retreat and take comfort in a reinforcing group of likeminded people. Or they may even feel obliged and even justified in killing you because you are looked upon as a serious threat.


I do, however, agree with the concept of enabling a “greater” or “dormant” or “potential” self to “emerge” and that being the purpose of a Buddhist practice, not to be confused with a Buddhist religion.  But I repel at the term “self-purification” because the manner in which it is presented creates a duality which can only be filled with a morality judgement bringing to mind passages in the Bible and the Qu’ran where women in many cultures are still considered “impure” and “adulterated” during menstruation.


The last statement about self-knowledge I totally agree with. Well, I totally agree with it as long as “transcend” isn’t interpreted as “relinquish” and “self” is composed of the multi dimensional and the infinite causalities that make up the transitory “self” that I have come to think of as “me”.


In conclusion, as a species we have evolved the capacity to plan for the future. It might just be that we have evolved to project that future into eternity. One of the aspects of that projection is hope and one of the ways we plan is through our internal dialogue which part of our consciousness. Even when feeling despair it is working. It takes only about two-seconds of sitting and chanting for my mind to start an internal dialogue. I find this effort to concentrate healthy. I cannot deny the fact that my lesser self as Mr. Ikeda phrases it, when motivated by my intellectual capacity to take an action, will stir within myself a feeling of hope where before there was despair. Not only is it rejuvenating, it is joyful. This is my subjective, anecdotal positive response.

MORE QUESTIONS

1. Okay,…if there is no duality in Buddhism as in other world views, no separation between mind and body or body and environment where everything is codependent stemming from mutual causality, how can the mind or essence continue when the physical ceases to exist?

2. Speaking of the environment, during planet Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, there have been earthquakes, global weather changes, volcanic upheavals and several mass extinctions before the advent and evolution of homo sapiens. So if life and it’s environment are inseparable, what did the life forms in the Ordovician-Silurian, Late Devonian, Permian-Triassic, Triassic-Jurrasic, and Cretaceous-Tetiary time periods do to attract devastation as the following three statements imply will happen to mankind? Are these statements from one enlightened individual and several arrogant bigots, or are they all just people with a common agenda; upholding the doctrines of their belief systems and pointing to the environment as proof of being correct?

The Postscript to On Establishing the Correct

Teaching for the Peace of the Land

I COMPILED the above work in the first year of the Bunno era (1260),

with the cyclical sign kanoe-saru. That is, I began the work during the Shoka era (1257–1259) and completed it in the first year of Bunno.

In the first year of the Shoka era, cyclical sign hinoto-mi, on the twenty- third day of the eighth month, at the time when the hour of the dog gives way to the hour of the boar (around :00 P.M.), there was a severe earthquake. Observing this event, I conceived the work. Later, in the first year of Bunno, cyclical sign kanoe-saru, on the sixteenth day of the seventh month, I presented it to His Lordship, the lay priest of Saimyo-ji,1 who is now deceased, by way of the lay priest Yadoya.2 Still later, in the first year of the Bun’ei era (1264), cyclical sign kinoe-ne, on the fifth day of the seventh month, when a great comet appeared, I became even more certain of the origins of these disasters. Then, on the eighteenth day of the intercalary first month of the fifth year of Bun’ei, cyclical sign tsuchinoe-tatsu, nine years after the first year of Bunno [when I submitted On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land ], an official letter came from the great kingdom of the Mongols that lies to the west, threatening to attack our country. Again, in the sixth year of the same era (1269), a second letter arrived. Thus the prediction that I made in my memorial [On Establishing the Correct Teaching] has already proved to be true. In view of this, we may suppose that the predictions I made will continue to come true in the future as well.

This work of mine has now been substantiated by fact. But this is not solely due to Nichiren’s power. Rather it has come about as a response to the true words of the Lotus Sutra.

I copied this work on the eighth day of the twelfth month in the sixth year of Bun’ei (1269), cyclical sign tsuchinoto-mi.

Nichiren

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you, This is not a message of hate — this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”

–Pat Robertson, on “gay days” at Disneyworld

Pat Robertson says Haiti paying for ‘pact to the devil’ – CNN.com

Hurricane Katrina: Wrath of God?

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of Reverend Billy

Graham, suggests the city was targeted because of the

city’s sinful reputation. At a speech in Virginia, he said,

“This is one wicked city, OK?  It’s known for Mardi Gras,

for Satan worship.  It’s known for sex perversion.  It’s

known for every type of drugs and alcohol and the orgies

and all of these things that go on down there in New

Orleans.  Reverend Graham continued, “There’s been a

black spiritual cloud over New Orleans for years.  They

believe God is going to use that storm to bring revival.

“AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals;

it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates

homosexuals”

Jerry Falwell


SHOUTING FIRE vs iGONGYO

The most stringent protection
of free speech
would not protect a man
in falsely shouting fire in a theatre
and causing a panic.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
Schenck v United States
March 3, 1919

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I was watching the NBA playoffs on network TV and the camera was focused close up on the Celtic bench when they went up in points for what turned out to be a winning lead. A time out was called and the network was about to break away for a commercial while the Celtic bench of players rose to their feet to greet the players on court. The camera shot stayed down low so I really didn’t see who said it, but I heard as clear as day the greeting of “MY NIGGER!”

Lenny Bruce, in referring to all ethnic slurs, joked that we should use them until they lost their meaning. Then he would go on a tirade and say the word “nigger” twenty times. Indeed, it seems that he was right in a sense because Black Americans have recaptured the word “nigger” for their “soul” use. Someone should have told Michael Richards. After his unfortunate lapse of common sense, comedian Paul Rodriguez was interviewed because he happened to be there and he said, and I am paraphrasing, that “you shouldn’t use the “N” word unless you’re…” he paused. You could tell he had to catch himself. He almost said “unless you’re one.” Which actually would have been funny. That’s the way a comedian’s mind works. But he didn’t and instead he said, “…of that persuasion.”

Down in San Diego County a Poway High School student wore in protest against the gay students in school who had organized against homophobia, a tee shirt that read on the front “Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned” and on the back, “Homosexuality Is Shameful”. He was sequestered for the day in the principal’s office to keep him safe because of the inflammatory nature of the statement. It’s the same reasoning for why you can’t falsely shout, “FIRE!” in a public building: public safety. A court ruled that he could not wear it to school based on the 1919 interpretation. A later court overturned the ruling because his lawyer also invoked the 1st Amendment but used freedom of religious expression. Good ole Liviticus. I can’t, or should not, wear a tee shirt that says “Don’t Used The Word Nigger” on the front and “Unless You’re One” on the back legally in a public place because of the inflammatory nature (and common sense if I want to make it home in one piece). But technically, I can wear one that says “Stone The Adulteress To Her Death” because it is in the Bible, or “Kill The Infidels Wherever You Find Them” from the Qur’an. I think I’ll get one each of those tee shirts and wear them around the house just for fun.

With all of the previous as food for thought, I’m going to address only one of the questions in the last blog:

Why, according to some, one should not take a picture of a Nichiren Gohonzon and if you do even by accident, you should destroy it. This must be problematic now for the SGI with the addition of the new iPhone app iGongyo, which comes with a written liturgy you can read, an audible recitation of the liturgy you can recite along with, a recitation of the Diamoku which you can chant along with, and a picture of the same Gohonzon issued by the SGI that, if you want to and if you don’t see an ethical difference between a computer generated pixel image and an image reproduced by a different computer which is then mass printed on paper, you can chant to. All that for only 99 cents. Interestingly, the gongyo ends with NAMU, which the SGI doesn’t do any longer so I’m guessing it’s from a Nichiren Shoshu gathering, in an ironic ecumenical blending of formats  and someone’s marketing idea.

I know several people in who work for the SGI publications including the former chief editor. I consider them friends even though we disagree on, well, we disagree on a great many things. I’m fairly sure they have an IKEDA ALARM when anything about Ikeda is written. Barbara of Barbara’s Buddhism Blog was writing about the incongruity of including Ikeda into the Gandhi/King exhibit

Gandhi, King, and … Ikeda?

(the reason being that two have been recognized independently by the world at large as changing a world view in society and martyred for their efforts, while the other simply has not) when heavy weight apologists for the SGI, Ian McIlriath and Bill Aiken, actually responded in print on her blog. I wrote about Ikeda and received an email from one of the principle writers from the publications. (They have only contacted me in critical defense of something I’ve written but never when I have written something positive: negative reinforcement.) This is what they wrote to me in private, and I will respect their anonymity as requested:

“As far as the Gohozon policy goes:
The SGI has policies and beliefs regarding the Gohonzon. Among those are policies related to the reproduction of the Gohonzon image. We don’t claim any legal justification for opposing downloading Gohonzon from the Internet or photographing it. The SGI position is based on our understanding of the attitude expressed by Nichiren himself to not treat the Gohonzon lightly. To treat it with utmost respect—to treasure it.
People who have no knowledge of the Gohonzon’s origin or meaning may download it, but it doesn’t mean they will receive benefit. Benefit is the result of faith in the Gohonzon, not possession of it. Faith is something one learns through practice with a good teacher and a community of believers who share the vow to fulfillthe Buddha’s mandate—kosen-rufu. We consider the image of the Gohonzon, as the true object of devotion, to be sacred or holy and feel that its reproduction should be done with the purest of intent and under the auspices of those who practice as the Daishonin intended. It is offensive to those of us who have faith in the Gohonzon to see its image reproduced haphazardly or frivolously. It is just good taste or bad taste. If people don’t believe in it or respect it, we simple ask that they at least respect our beliefs.

Nichiren was very strict in even allowing the Gohonzon to be shown to non-believers: “Faith like yours is so extremely rare that I will inscribe the treasure tower especially for you. You must never transfer it to anyone but your son. You must never show it to others unless they have steadfast faith. This is the reason for my advent in this world.” (On theTreasure Tower, p. 300, 1272)

The Gohonzon was inscribed for the sake of the widespread propagation of the Law—kosen-rufu. In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,”Nichiren Daishonin thus states, “How wondrous it is that, around two hundred years and more into the Latter Day of the Law, I was the first to reveal as the banner of propagation of the Lotus Sutra this great mandala that even those such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo were unable to express.” (WND, 831)

One of the functions of the Buddhist community to ensure the correct transmission of the teachings. This also applies to the responsibility to confer the Gohonzon. As the community of believers in the Daishonin’s Buddhism that has consistently demonstrated proof of the Gohonzon’s significance and propagated it widely, the SGI has assumed that responsibility.”

Okay, there is a lot here to discuss because mixed in with what seems reasonable and common sense are unreasonable and arbitrary assertions. But I’ll just touch a couple of points:
1. Quoting Nichiren in defense of your point is problematic because it’s already translated from antiquity and one needs to take into account whom he’s writing to and why as much as to what he wrote. Most of Nichiren’s letters are extremely subjective and personable. Taking everything as a literal blanket to be thrown over what someone wants it to mean is oblique.
2. Why do I need to respect someone’s beliefs just because they believe I should? Sorry, respecting beliefs because they are beliefs is syllogistic. You need to earn my respect and the best way to do that is common sense and logic.
3. The words “Holy” and “Sacred” go along with “Sacrosanct” and “Infallible” and that’s exactly what the Vatican and the Islamic nations invoke constantly in defense of their beliefs that fly in the face of modernity.

One comment said that the photographing of the Gohonzon reminded them of the controversy surrounding  the published pictures of Mohammed. I could not agree more. Here is another article I wrote on…

BLASPHEMY

The idea of a United Nations or a United Nations Council on Human Rights has always struck me as filled with potential even if merely as an arena for dialogue. But dialogue seems rather a paper tiger when faced with actual genocidal mass murder or sociologically sanctioned bludgeoning of it’s own strata.

The only condemnations of recent history I have discovered have been against Israel and the ones against Iran have been blocked by China, which has an oil deal with them. (If anyone has more info about what is being done, please feel free. I had a hard time finding out much.) Recently I was listening to a podcast called Reasonable Doubts with a guest speaker Austin Dacey
http://www.austindacey.com/abo…
who is a NGO representative to the UN for the Center for Inquiry.
He was taking about the USA’s reengaging to the revamped UN Council on Human Rights

http://www.washingtonpost.com/…

and that the UN passed a resolution that went virtually unreported. It was proposed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, OIC, which consists of about 50 or so Islamic nations:

http://www.oicun.org/oic_at_un…

where they put into effect, and again it was passed by the UN, which
condemns the “defamation of religion” as a violation of human rights”.
The older term for this is “blasphemy”. In the Constitution of the United States of America, we have the right to be blasphemous because of the 1st amendment. The resolution by the OIC, which some of its constituency is guilty of human rights violations decried by individual nations but could not be passed by the UN because they themselves can vote to block the action, came after the maelstrom of controversy surrounding Danish cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Of course the argument of what constitutes freedom of speech can only be argued when you have the freedom to talk about it. The UN resolution leaves the power to define the “defamation” to those who take umbrage. This resolution by the UN making religion a sacrosanct topic has kept many nations from joining the Council on Human Rights because it has further hobbled what is looked upon by many as an already powerless body to take any positive action in rectifying miscarriages to human rights.
This whole thing led me to an interesting discovery; The Institution for the Secularization of Islamic Society. 
You can read their charter here:

http://www.centerforinquiry.ne…

which is now condemnable for blasphemy by the UN!