The Benefit of Buddhism
Sermon by Chief Priest Reverend Taishin Takano

There are numerous religions in the world today. Among the world’s religions, two of the most significant types are monotheism and Buddhism. Christianity teaches that God and humans are distinct and separate beings. It draws a dividing line between God and humanity. Buddhism, however, teaches that the essential natures of the Buddha and the people are the same and equal. Therefore, it is possible for all people to attain the highest life state.

In the Buddhist sutras we can find many names of Buddhas, such as Amida Buddha, Yakushi Buddha, and Dainichi Buddha. But these are names used as expedients according to the content and level of doctrines being taught by Shakyamuni. An originalBuddha possesses all three of the Three Enlightened Properties:

1.The Buddha in his property of the Law aspect
2.The Buddha in his property of wisdom aspect
3.The Buddha in his property of action aspect

In Buddhism it is spelled out when and where a Buddha made his advent and how he taught and led the people. If the Three Enlightened Properties possessed by a Buddha existed separately, there would be no Buddha function. The true value of a Buddha exists in his teaching and leading us directly. So a Buddha cannot be an imaginary figure. He must be born into this world and teach and lead living beings.

Christianity uses words such as “miracle” and “blessing.”In our daily lives, we use the word “miracle” when we encounter surprising and wondrous events, or things that are beyond our understanding. In Christianity the word “miracle” indicates the wonderful power of God to intervene in the affairs of the world on behalf of someone in particular. This “miracle” or “blessing” is said to be a revelation from God shown to humanity as a sign of his love or grace. They teach that salvation and grace are gifts from God.

Buddhism emphasizes that a good cause produces a good effect and a bad cause produces a bad effect. We can see this in any situation. One’s actions in the past have shaped one’s reality in the present, and the actions in the present in turn determine one’s future. For example, everyone knows that if we sow good seeds in good soil, spread good fertilizer and properly tend the field, it will bear good fruit, which in turn becomes good seeds.
In this way, if we sow the seed of Buddhahood in our hearts and tenderly raise it with the good teachings of Buddhism, the good fruit of enlightenment will be born and it will become the good seed of Buddhahood, the cause for attaining Buddhahood in the future.

There are three categories of action:mental, verbal, and physical; that is, thoughts, words and deeds. Such activities in our daily lives determine our environment and surroundings because we ourselves decide how we live and where we go. This is the Buddhist way of thinking.

Furthermore, Buddhism teaches that this principle of cause and effect relates not only to the present lifetime but also to past and future lifetimes. The Shinjikan Sutra states:

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present.
(Gosho, p. 571, MW-2, pp.197-198)

In this context, the causes are our behavior within the three categories of action. Our lives are not created by the will of an absolute being. We are not drifting through life tossed back and forth at the mercy of the waves of coincidence. We exist due to causes and effects, which we ourselves have created.

However, we must not think that the path of our present life has already been completely determined by the causes that we created in our past lives. Buddhism does not teach this kind of deterministic fatalism. Our state of life is, indeed, determined by karma, but we can change our karma by creating new causes. Buddhism teaches that human life is dynamic, not passive.

Nichiren Daishonin teaches that we can change our difficulties as the cause to live more vigorously and positively in the future. For example, if we learn that a serious disease afflicts us, we are shocked and driven to despair. If we were to shift the responsibility for these problems to our parents or society, the problems would never be solved. However, when we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, we realize that the cause of our difficulties lies in our own negative karma, which we ourselves accumulated in past lives. These problems are actually coming from within our very own lives. We then gain the insight and power necessary to begin to solve our problems and establish happy lives.

Thus, no matter how negative our present condition may be, sincerely chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon will produce strong vitality and wisdom and will give us fundamental support. This is the state of Buddhahood welling up inside us when we chant Daimoku. This is benefit of Buddhism.

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