It is said that if a teacher has a good disciple, both will gain the fruit of Buddhahood, but if a teacher fosters a bad disciple, both will fall into hell. If the teacher and disciple are of different minds, they will never accomplish anything.
(Passage from “Flowering and Bearing Gain”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p909)
This letter was written by Nichiren Daishonin at Mount Minobu and was addressed to Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, his former seniors when they were disciples at Seicho-ji.
The Daishonin sent this letter in the fourth month of 1278 for the second memorial service for Dozen-bo, his teacher at Seicho-ji when he entered priesthood at the age of 12.
Although it is accounted that Dozen-bo quietly believed in the Daishonin’s teachings in his heart, unfortunately, he could not bring himself to discard Nembutsu and convert to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism till the last moment in his life.
Even though the Daishonin strictly admonished the erroneous teachings his teacher practiced, he never forgot his debt of gratitude to his teacher throughout his life.
In this passage, we are studying this month, “teacher” refers to Dozen-bo and the Daishonin placed himself in the position of a disciple, thereby elaborating his mission as a disciple to lead his teacher to enlightenment.
The Daishonin stated here that by having a good disciple such as him, Dozen-bo would surely receive immense benefits from the Daishonin’s Buddhism and eventually attain Buddhahood. On the contrary, if the disciple goes astray and is deluded by erroneous teachings, the teacher will not be able to enjoy the benefits that accrue from the Mystic Law. On top of this, due to the bad causes created, both teacher and disciple will fall into the life-state of hell and experience deep suffering.
In any case, “a good disciple” in this passage refers to a disciple who embrace and upholds the teachings of the Mystic Law (Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Buddhism) while “a bad disciple” refers to one who harbours disbelief in the correct teachings of the Mystic Law.
When we read this passage in light of our context, it is a passage of supreme nobility for it contains the ultimate essence of Buddhism, which is the spirit and principle of the oneness of mentor and disciple.
Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda taught us, “The relationship of mentor and disciple is firmly established when you become a good disciple. The relationship of mentor and disciple depends on the commitment of the disciple.”
In this sense, as disciples, it is extremely important for us to read this statement, “If teacher and disciple are of different minds, they will never accomplish anything” with our lives and firmly resolve to practise in accordance with the guidance of our mentor throughout our lives and score complete victories in all our endeavours.
From the time I was a child, I often wondered why my parents, who were Korean, had come to Japan. When I was in secondary three, I learnt about the tragic history between Japan and Korea and the cruelty the Korean people endured under Japanese annexation. The more I uncovered, the greater anger and hatred I felt towards Japan and the Japanese people. Engulfed by terrible rage and repulsion, my life was in agony.
In the autumn when I turned 16, both my lungs were infected by tuberculosis and I had to be hospitalized. It was in the hospital that I met a Soka Gakkai member and converted to the Daishonin’s Buddhism. As I continued chanting daimoku earnestly, my health improved dramatically and I was discharged one-and-a-half years later even though the doctor told me initially that I had to be hospitalised for at least two years.
Subsequently, I moved on to Tokyo to fulfil my dream to go to college. My dreams were realised when I was accepted by Soka University as a member of the first class of students. Just when I thought my life was starting anew as a Soka University student, the deep fog of hatred and resentment that used to haunt me in the past began to cloud my life again.
I began to ask myself, if I continue assimilating my life into the Japanese society practicing a Japanese religion and attending a Japanese university, will this be an act of betrayal to my fellow Koreans? With this growing concern in my life, I continued to chant abundant daimoku.
Around the time when my daimoku reached 10 million, I had an opportunity to meet our university founder, President Ikeda together with several students through the kind arrangement of one of my professors at the university. Even though I was meeting President Ikeda for the first time, he spoke to us with a warm smile and encouraged us wholeheartedly.
He told us, “From the standpoint of our basic humanity, our nationality or ethnicity doesn’t really matter. It’s a very small thing. As a youth, the important thing is to look into the future and strive to contribute to the happiness of others. Just do your best as a human being, in a way that is true to yourself. I’ll be watching over you.”
Hearing my mentor’s kind and compassionate words, I felt the conflicting emotions that had been weighing heavily on my life evaporated in an instant. Tears of joy flowing from my eyes washed away the delusion in my life completely.
On top of this, President Ikeda wrote the following words on a photograph of one of the bronze statues at the university’s main entrance and presented it to me as a token of encouragement, “Originally, national boundaries did not exist. People created them. Let us not forget to live with the awareness that we are linked together as human beings on a profound level that transcends national boundaries.”
These words shook me to the depth of my being.
I though to myself, “How true! Nations are man-made, and even ethnicity does not separate people on the most fundamental level. Perhaps I’ve been too focused on the past that I’ve closed my eyes to the future.”
I was filled with profound gratitude to have such a wonderful mentor in life. There and then I resolved to respond to my mentor’s encouragement with my whole life. From that point on, I studied with even greater diligence and threw myself into the frontlines of our kosen-rufu movement. I had much to learn and gain through the numerous encounters with people from different walks of life and diverse backgrounds.
I am truly humbled that President Ikeda has even written about this episode of mine in his novel, The New Human Revolution Vol 15, chapter 2 “Soka University”.
Both the validity of the Daishonin’s Buddhism that enables all people to attain happiness and the greatness of our mentor can ultimately be proven only through the commitment and achievements of the disciples. Deeply engraving this in my life, I resolve to continue wagging a united struggle with my mentor.
Translated and adapted from an article written by Chubu WD Study Chief Toshiko Umehara published in the July 2005 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal. Ms Umehara became a licensed tax accountant – the first Soka University graduate to do so after she finished her studies at the university.