As I said, I lapped up a lot of the reading material we received at BSG, whether they where lectures by Sensei, or Sensei’s guidance’s or on the Buddhist concepts & experiences. Here are snippets from Sensei’s lecture at Harvard University, some thing I poured over in the early days of my practice.
He commenced his lecture with an elucidation of life and death and spoke of the need to understand that life was a continuum and that we need to have a balance between dependence on our selves vs. dependence on the external. He was taking a position counter to the rationalist view here.
‘Death weighs heavily on the human heart as an inescapable reminder of the finite nature of our existence .However seemly limitless the wealth and power one might attain, the reality of ones eventual demise cannot be avoided. Awakened to its own mortality, humanity has sought to conquer the fear and apprehension surrounding death by finding means by which to participate in, and partake of, the external …….
“For modern humanity, death is the mere absence of life, blankness and void. Life is identified with all that is good , with being , the rational ,with light ; death is only evil , nothingness , the dark and irrational .In all regards , the solely negative perception of death prevails ……..
“Humanity seems finally to be on the verge of realizing the fundamental error of our view of life and death, to understand that death is more than an absence of life, that death together with active life is necessary to the formation of a larger, more essential, whole.
Another important point Sensei made was the need to focus efforts on an inward revolution, the human revolution, rather than on reforms of social systems.
“If the tragedies of this century of war and revolution have taught us any thing, it is the folly of viewing the reforms of the external factors such as social systems, as the sole determinant of human happiness. I am convinced that in the coming century, foremost importance must and will be placed on an inward-directed reformation, inspired by a new understanding of life and death.
‘ It is important to examine the balance different belief systems accord to reliance on our own powers and reliance on powers external to ourselves , ideas corresponding roughly to free will and grace in Christian terminology.
“If we paint in the broadest strokes the movement from the medieval to the modern in Europe, we observe a steady progress away from a God- centered determinism, towards an ever greater emphasis on free will and human responsibility. The powers of the human beings have been stressed, while those external to us have been steadily de-emphasized. And while none would deny the great achievements of science and technology in the modern era , a misplaced faith in the omnipotence of reason has led humanity to believe that there is nothing beyond our power , thus bringing civilization to its present , apparently inextricable impasse .If the past reliance on an external force led humanity to underestimate the full dimensions of our possibilities and responsibility , excessive faith in our own powers has produced a dangerous over inflation of the human ego….
“Nicherin presents the subtle and richly suggestive Mahayana perspective on attaining enlightenment in the following passage: “Neither solely through ones effort … nor solely through the power of others.” The persuasive power of Buddhism is that the greatest benefit is derived from the dynamic fusion and balancing of these two forces.”
The thoughts and concepts presented in this lecture by Sensei were the early planks and believes I incorporated into my own spiritual journey and the journey towards an inner revolution of my own.