The hell of incessant suffering IS the land of tranquil light

By realising the mystic law inherent in all living beings, we escape the confines of the physical and realise the unlimited potential of the human spirit. Just as the sun dries the newly hatched butterfly’s wings, the compassion and warmth of the Lotus Sutra allows us all to soar from our pitiful cocoons and look out over a landscape of infinite possibilities.

The potential for enlightenment exists within all human beings. An ungainly chick has the potential to become a great eagle, the single roe egg to become a great salmon, and the young cheetah to become faster even than antelope. Why then do human beings endowed with the capacity for intelligence and great understanding constantly fail to fulfil their potential and create the causes for suffering in their lives?

Confinement refers not only to tangible barriers, like walls, or borders, but also to barriers caused by our own individual fundamental darkness. Our negative tendencies blind us to our true potential, making us feel trapped within the lower life states of hell, hunger, animality and anger. We constantly fall into the three evil paths of greed, anger and foolishness, and we commit the ten evil acts – the causes we make in these states deepen our suffering and create further desires based on our bad karma – it is a vicious cycle.

Josei Toda, the second president of the SGI, through his physical confinement in prison during the second world war, was able to summon the wisdom to read the Lotus Sutra and realised that Buddhahood is manifest in life itself.

This one moment of insight transformed Mr Toda’s life, and catalysed the growth of the SGI in post war Japan. This subsequently revitalised the cause for Kosen Rufu throughout the world.

Despite his inability to directly influence affairs outside his cell, the causes made when Mr Toda experienced the Lotus Sutra led to profound effects upon many around the world.

A prison cell, however, is a relative confinement. The insects that occupied Josei Toda’s prison cell were most likely unaware of the rest of the prison, and even less aware of the country of Japan, it’s people’s anguish, or the needless suffering being experienced by countless millions of people due to the Second World War. Those insects surely went about their daily business, oblivious to these facts.

In many ways, one can draw a parallel between the prison walls and our subjective view of reality – or more precisely, where we imagine the limits of our potential to be. Unenlightened people are like the insects in the prison – vaguely aware of boundaries in their life, but spending most of their time comfortable in having “just enough” space to avoid feeling trapped by what they see as their limitations. However, when challenges arise, it is these perceived boundaries that cause us to suffer.

When people are amused by meaningless trinkets, misled by the poisonous machinations of corrupt rulers, or deluded by jealous and vengeful doctrines, their lives are diminished and their Buddha nature is denied – they experience the hell of incessant suffering.

Josei Toda’s imprisonment, on the other hand, despite it’s stark physical reality, provided him with the opportunity to transcend his own difficulties, and thus realise his Buddha nature. This in turn blessed him with the vision that all life has the potential for Buddhahood – The land of tranquil light existed in Mr Toda’s life, despite his confinement.

In prison, despite losing his mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda went on to foster the growth of the SGI and to begin the process of transforming this world into the land of tranquil light. Let us follow his lead in revealing our own Buddha nature. Let us build multi layered networks of friendship and support that will overcome the forces that promote foolish desires and the suffering they cause. Just as Josei Toda transformed his prison cell, let us transform our homes, societies and countries into great lands of tranquil light.

Nichiren Daishonin said

First of all, as to the question of where exactly hell and the Buddha exist, one sutra states that hell exists underground, and another sutra says that the Buddha is in the west. Closer examination, however, reveals that both exist in our five-foot body. This must be true because hell is in the heart of a person who inwardly despises his father and disregards his mother. It is like the lotus seed, which contains both blossom and fruit. In the same way, the Buddha dwells within our hearts.

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