The third element of the basic practices of our faith is the practice of learning and understanding the Dharma (Shugaku of the Dharma or Dharma Study). This means to understand the Buddha’s teachings correctly, to think about them in the light of our daily lives, and to repeat this process. In other words, it is nothing less than walking the Buddha Way.
This page describes the study and education programme as well. If you are in a hurry, please jump to the bottom section.
Studying the Dharma as part of daily life
In Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra ‘Skilful Means’, we see the passage as follows:
‘[T]he Dharma of all buddhas is like this:
Employing thousands of millions of skilful means,
They teach the Dharma in whatever manner is appropriate.
Without sufficient study,
It cannot be fully comprehended.’
The buddhas use many means to expound the teaching appropriately to the people listening, but those ‘without sufficient study’ cannot realise it. Conversely stated, through study, we should be able to realise, by ourselves, whatever lesson is necessary at that time.
That the Buddha teaches the Dharma to each and every one of us in a manner appropriate to the time and circumstances is like a beautiful tree blooming in full glory, producing ‘voices’ that tell some people to realise the principle of impermanence (which states that all things change unceasingly in the cycle of birth and death) while telling other people about the importance of living to the fullest in the present moment.
When we feel the workings of Truth within the natural world and in all sorts of happenings around us and we try to hear the voice of the Buddha therein, we become able to reflect upon our own arrogant or calculating minds, gain the courage to live honestly and take a new step forward.
The repetition of this process is ‘study’. We can improve ourselves through it.
Practice of the faith is itself ‘study’
The things that happen around us every day are none other than the Dharma, which the Buddha is teaching us by employing ‘thousands of millions of skilful means’. Anyone who makes the effort to accept this fact can realise this.
However, rather than being merely something by which you gain knowledge, study is, through repetition of the practice, something that helps you make your own life one that aligns with the Buddha’s teaching. For example, let’s say that you are at odds with someone close to you. Before you blame that person, if you instead feel that he or she is teaching you that you have not been considerate enough, then you can make a sincere apology. Similarly, when facing a difficult situation, ask yourself, what is this situation teaching me right now? This leads to practising a positive outlook and making it part of your way of life.
Even so, we cannot say that our minds are at peace at all times or capable of accepting whatever might happen as a lesson from the Buddha. Sometimes a realisation comes quickly to our minds, but other times we are disturbed by doubt and uncertainty.
As members of Rissho Kosei-kai (RK), what turns our doubting minds back toward the Buddha’s teaching are ‘sutra recitation’ and ‘reaching out and participating in Dharma circles (hoza)’. These two practices, along with ‘studying and practising the Dharma’, are called the three basic practices of the faith. ‘Sutra recitation’ and ‘participating in hoza’ fall within the sphere of study, and therefore we could say that a life firmly rooted in the faith can be summed up with this single word, study.
As bodhisattvas, no one should think that things are all right just because he or she alone has happiness. In this sense, another important element of our study is to share the Dharma with other people because we want them to be happy, which brings with it the great joy and happiness of feeling united with others.
Study and education programme ― know the Way, walk the Way
This Study and Education Programme is one of the ways to learn and understand the Dharma, by which we open the Buddha’s teachings (such as the Threefold Lotus Sutra) and study the profound spirit.
The teaching of Buddhism can be understood by ordinary human reasoning. It is not a sort of teaching that we have no choice but to believe. By understanding the significance of each practice in terms of doctrines, we can diligently practise with joy without stepping aside. Most important is putting the knowledge we get into practice as taught, enabling us to understand what we studied in the truest sense.
Some examples of topics of the Study and Education Programme are as follows:
- Basic Buddhism related teachings: Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures; Be a Light unto Yourselves, Taking the Dharma as Your Light; Dependent Origination; the Three Seals of the Dharma; the Four Noble Truths; the Eightfold Paths; and the Twelve Causes and Conditions.
- Mahayana Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra related teachings: The Six Paramitas; the Ten Suchnesses (Jpn., Ju Nyoze); and the Three Thousand Elements of Reality in a Single Thought (Jpn., Ichinen Sanzen).
- Interpretation and practice of the Threefold Lotus Sutra.
- Application of teachings in daily life and social activities such as romance, marriage, job, philanthropy, peace activities and interreligious cooperation.
- Explanation on RK related things: the members’ vow; our approach to Dharma practices; our view of Gohonzon (Focus of Devotion); rituals; history; and organisation.
- Other lectures such as on Shakyamuni Buddha and on Buddhism in general.
RKUK has both classes open to anyone and limited to members. For further information, please read Events.