A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering – Part 2

October 8th, 2012

Longer than we expected but none the less, here we are again with the second of a two part lecture on a letter written by Nichiren Daishonin to Shiiji Shiro in 1261. The letter is called A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering. This lecture is based on SGI President Ikedas lecture in SGI Newsletter 8518. It was a challenge to get this done and I suspect you may need to listen a couple of times to pick up all the points. Subjects include:

  • a ship to cross the water,
  • five flavours,
  • discarding earlier teachings,
  • unfurling the sail,
  • 3000 realms,
  • middle way,
  • leaving the dock of our karma,
  • tickets of faith,
  • the good ship SGI.

We have shoutouts and a question about chanting for stuff! We play Howard Jones singing Building Our Own Future and courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network we play Let me know by the Fire Apes. Thank you for your constant encouragement, it means so much to us. Click on the link on the left hand side of the website if you want a shout out on the show. Take great care and have a fantastic week. Thank you for listening.


  1. GREAT Show I am going to listen to it again. I am so happy about the news at the end of the show for your self and your family.

    Comment by Simon Daoudi — October 9, 2012 @ 12:36 am

  2. Many thanks again for yet another great podcast – both this one and the previous episode. You are an inspiration to so many of us!
    Hope the move goes smoothly and look forward to hearing about your life over the pond – and hope we’ll still get to occasionally hear from William thanks to the wonders of modern technology?
    All the best x

    Comment by Dianne Flath — October 15, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  3. Thank You… I miss you folks. I find inspiration in your show. I need to raise my life state. I am sitting here looking at my butsudan, Yet I have not chanted in two months. I do not know why. I feel adrift, maybe dead in the water is more appropriate. After listening to your show I know I must put one foot in front of the other… That is how you climb Everest (a quote from Mr. Woolard)
    Thank You
    Robert Lee Allen
    St. Louis Missouri

    Comment by robert allen — October 21, 2012 @ 3:53 am

  4. Just a few words of comfort for Robert Allen. This shows that your faith in the Lotus Sutra is attracting negative forces. You are challenging yourself and changing your life state through your human revolution when you chant to the Gohonzon and it can be daunting. Your current experience should tell you that you are very close to achieving something amazing in your life and the Gohonzon is your path to fulfilling your desires. We are warned that negative forces can impact us at these times. One way to combat this and get back to the Gohonzon is to create activities that help others. Strive to make an exceptional effort to bring others to this Buddhism or maybe take on some role in your District or Chapter that helps others. Take the focus away from your own life state and decide how you can help a fellow member – and chant for them. Also chant for the happiness and well being of those who perhaps you see as obstacles in your life.

    Comment by Ken George — October 31, 2012 @ 7:41 am

  5. What is the SGI Newsletter and how do I get it? I get the Living Buddhism magazine and the World Tribune but apparently this is something different. Thank you for any insight! Excellent podcasts you have here. I love listening to them.


    Comment by Kimberly Walsh — November 5, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

  6. Hullo! I’m a bit slow in listening to this episode and just now responding with my two pennies’ worth. I loved your answer to the listener’s insightful question regarding chanting for very specific material things. I smiled because that’s not an uncommon question and because of the listener’s frustration with what seems like a muddle of answers. In fact I wondered if the listener is maybe from the U.S. because of our history in the SGI-USA–who our pioneers are and “the time” and circumstances in U.S. history when President Ikeda was able to achieve his mentor, Pres. Toda’s goal of bringing Nichiren’s Buddhism to the U.S.A. Together, those circumstances led most early members to equate Buddhism with conspicuous benefits.

    This is an oversimplification, but here, our pioneers arrived from Japan in the early 1960s. They didn’t speak English, drive, or (primarily) work out of the home. The majority were in or near large cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago but many were totally isolated, especially from each other.

    Within a few years, our social circumstances became the maelstrom of the late 1960s (“If you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there”). In that context, our pioneers wanted desperately to respond to the guidance they received from President Ikeda on his visit to the U.S. He admonished them to create the Gakkai and get busy learning to drive and speak English. Early days, new members had no one to explain the subtleties of human revolution to them, no literature in English that wasn’t just translated from Japanese. The pioneers knew a few words, and “benefit!” was one of them.

    So in their enthusiasm to propagate and in the joy of their own benefits (many pulled themselves up from poverty to the middle class and better), wanting to share and not having the English vocabulary, what they were able to convey was the concept of “benefit” as the conspicuous kind. Because they couldn’t explain in English what was actually going on in the depths of the Mystic Law, they had to rely on people getting very conspicuous actual proof. Because they themselves needed these material goods, and because they could see the poor life conditions of the people they met on the streets, they focused new members on the conspicuous because it kept people going. It still does.

    As a result, not everyone grasped the basics of doing their human revolution, especially regarding their behavior as human beings.

    One of the shining brilliant truths of Buddhism is that it contains no morality. Just cause and effect. I even caution about arrogance in that regard: judging what other people chant for may be your own arrogance speaking. When teaching new people, I do my best to perceive what the person really needs and will respond to. This is a tough practice. Some folks need to be able to get a result they can see and touch in order “get” “cause and effect.”

    When that need is getting a job in this economy, getting the resources to pay for cancer treatment, getting out of a violent relationship, that’s what I help them do: formulate a specific goal and go for it with all their guts. Some people tell me their circumstances are fine, they just feel empty, or need a purpose in life, or know they must “forgive” someone they hate, or are tired of being fired and want to know what’s wrong with them, and that’s where we begin.

    So I guess my answer to the listener’s question would be something like, what do you need? It’s a matter of developing our Buddha’s eyes and ears to begin where each individual is and do that utterly without judgement. I have learned to be more attached to my Buddha nature than I am to my own arrogance. Not an easy thing, as we all know who’ve tried it.

    I hope you get many different responses to this question. This practice is not a simple one, “grasshopper.” 🙂

    Loved the second song in this episode. The lecture, another wonderful dish of food for thought on one of my favorite letters from Nichiren. Congrats on your brilliant move to the New World 🙂

    Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,
    Donna in Sacramento

    Comment by Donna — November 14, 2012 @ 3:43 am

  7. Hi Kimberley, in the UK, SGI send out the official SGI Newsletters so that any member can quickly access the latest guidance or writings from President Ikeda. I’m not sure how this is distributed in other countries but you should ask your SGI leaders about how you can get it where you live! I hope this helps. best Jason

    Comment by jason — November 16, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  8. This is a brilliant comment. I’m thinking that perhaps we should read it out on the show and have a discussion about it. I’d just like to highlight that the question was from a listener who was confused/frustrated with a lack of clear answer on whether or not this practice has a belief that just chanting produces benefits, in a similar way to a magic lamp being rubbed to produce genies that grant wishes. Not whether material benefits are good/bad. Its an understandable frustration that results from poor explanations to a clearly intelligent person who is genuinely interested in the practice but would like a rational explanation. We condensed the question from about 2-3 pages.
    Arrogance, yes, thank you, I’m aware and I’m constantly working on it, thanks for highlighting it!

    Comment by jason — November 16, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  9. Keep going Robert. Chant, study, encourage others. Push outwards everyday. Try to think, talk and do something good for yourself, your family and friends and for the world as a whole, even if its a small thing every day and chant, study and encourage others. If you continue, you will break through. This is an opportunity to open up a new part of your life forever.

    Comment by jason — November 16, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  10. Hello I just wanted to say I was almost brought to tears by the closing comment of the lecture regarding the SGI members all as shipmates. It made me think of my favourite anime One Piece which is full of Buddhist references and uses the Japanese work nakama to describe all the shipmates. I think your daughters would probably love the early episodes. More recent ones are fairly violent but the early ones have giants and all sorts of fantasy creatures with super powers. So I’d like to give a shout out to all the Glasgow members and all the soka students who have come to glasgow over the years to say thanks for being my nakama. Also I wanna congratulate you on your decision to move and thank you for the t-shirts me and my sis love them.

    Comment by Suzy Berry — November 21, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

  11. Oh I also forgot to say the line about letting our fears overwhelm our daimoku instead of letting our dreams out really stuck with me and I’ve really started chanting to remove any shred of fear I used to have. So thank you for that.

    Comment by Suzy Berry — November 21, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  12. Thank you a million, but I am in China and I do not know how to contact the nearest center

    Comment by Lynn — December 7, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  13. Hi Jason and Karen,

    Thank you so much for addressing my question in this show. I truly appreciate the time you took to speak to it. It is refreshing and encouraging to know that you are willing to openly address questions like these even if there is no clear answer! I am also grateful for the insightful comment from Donna in Sacramento. Thank you!

    I think I am coming to realize that this and other such questions are symptomatic of how the practice (in my experience) has been oversimplified. This is not helped when such oversimplification is done in a conclusive and absolute manner, which in my experience discourages further exploration of what is a very profound philosophy. As someone who is just starting out, I have found that many of my questions have been dismissed as “intellectualizing” and missing the point. In my humble experience, it is critical for one’s growth in any discipline to be free to ask questions, discuss, and study openly. Unfortunately it seems to me that such sincere, and genuine study is very much an underrepresented ‘pillar’ of the practice (where I practice, at least). As such, I feel an overemphasis on just chanting to fulfill one’s wishes has led to a lot of going in circles without real acknowledgement that the ‘three pillars’ are a collective whole. As Nichiren himself wrote, “Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism.”

    My impression here is that there is very black and white thinking on discussing the philosophy. The options are to agree and go along with the harmonious ‘group think’, or be considered an off-base dissident for questioning based on one’s own investigation and simply longing for dialogue. Is there not room for people, who like Nichiren himself, are interested in informing their practice that Nichiren himself developed through philosophical study?

    I wonder if the priesthood of Nichiren’s time thought Nichiren was off-base for wanting to return to core teachings based on the Lotus Sutra (T’ien-t’ai, Saicho, etc.)?

    I have also been told that discussing the philosophy makes the practice inaccessible to everyone (ie people of diverse mental ability). It seems there is an attitude that because some people might not be able to grasp the concepts that they shouldn’t be discussed at all. To this I completely disagree. I firmly believe that anybody with the desire definitely has the ability to understand the core aspects of this philosophy. Although it is certain that we all apply ourselves differently, if we are dedicated to understanding Nichiren then there is nothing that can stop us, except ourselves. To tell ourselves that we shouldn’t strive towards deeper understanding because we may not have the capability, undermines the respect for all persons and is not something I can get behind. I feel that if we have resolute determination to even try to understand the full scope of Nichiren’s philosophy, then the challenges involved can actually be seen as exciting and enjoyable no matter the pace, as long as we don’t give up on ourselves. Moreover, I cant stress enough how much I believe such a spirit to think, question and learn is essential to our practice. It truly makes such a difference if we can encourage each other in this regard, and never underestimate the capacity of our seeking to understand. I believe that it is through this type of searching that we ignite our passion for deeper understanding and bring our practices even more alive!

    With that being said, I am so grateful that you have considered my question. It has helped me to carry on. I am also grateful that I have not given up yet and instead I am heeding Nichiren’s warning from the Nirvana Sutra to, “rely on the Dharma and not upon the persons.”

    Michael in Canada

    Comment by Michael — December 20, 2012 @ 4:09 am

  14. Hi Jason and Karen,

    Hope you and your family are excellent and that your move went well! Welcome to Canada!

    Since our last dialogue, my partner and I have been looking deeper into the topic of prayer and we’ve been taking the time to explore the questions that I originally sent to your show (covered in the above podcast). The topic of prayer is quite involved as it touches on many aspects of the practice so we hope (without being official authorities on Nichiren Buddhism) that we did it justice. Without the post going into too much detail, we tried to touch on the main components that we’ve come to understand as the essential parts of prayer in Nichiren Buddhism (the Lotus Sutra, faith (Shraddha), chanting, earthly desires (klesha) and the gohonzon). Hopefully we have provided just enough information to keep people interested in reading the post and informative/challenging enough to encourage people to dig deeper into the topic to expand their own practice/understanding, and hopefully join in on the dialogue.

    It was important for me to take the time to address these questions and follow up with you because you kindly read them on your show. Thank you for that! You can read our post below.

    “No Prayer Will Go Unanswered”

    Once again, thank you for all the time you dedicate to opening up Nichiren Buddhism!
    All the very best and keep up the great work!

    Michael in Canada

    Comment by Michael — February 16, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

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