The Pope is Coming and the Dalai Lama is Pissed

No, the Dalai Lama isn’t mad at the Pope; that was just to grab your attention. The Pope is visiting America–Washington, DC in fact. The Dalai Lama is upset with China at it’s treatment of Tibet. But they do have something in common. They were both chosen by adherents to lead major religions. The Pope is chosen by Cardinals. The Dalai Lama is more complicated, but suffice it to say that leaders within Tibetan Buddhism determine to their satisfaction that a child is the reincarnation of a some lama that should in the future become the leader of the religion. Once so anointed, these mortals are similarly viewed in their respective religious sects as the authority to whom believers should look for revelations on faith and guidance. The Church of Latter Day Saints has a similar process, choosing a Prophet, to carry on in the tradition of the founder of its faith. On and on, in one religious sect, denomination or another, individuals are first selected and then, seemingly miraculously, become endowed with special knowledge. There is one stream of religious belief which has a strikingly different perspective. Mahayana Buddhism in general and Nichiren Buddhism in particular do not find it either necessary or appropriate to exalt an individual as an authority figure or an intermediary to enlightenment or a connection to the divine.

Anyone can become a buddha through their own efforts. A buddha sees the world as it really is. A buddha is not a divine or supernatural being, simply a common mortal who recognizes his or her own potential to overcome difficulties, to make appropriate or effective choices in life, to achieve what he or she desires and to be absolutely happy without regard to present circumstances. One does not attain or maintain enlightenment through rigid adherence to doctrine espoused by another common mortal, but by one’s own compassionate action as a bodhisattva to help others reach the state of buddhahood. Along the way, learning from a mentor may be essential, but a mentor is not a Pope, a Prophet or a Dalai Lama. I mean no offense to those who choose to follow those faiths, just to explain the difference and to supply a broader understanding. In my case, as an adherent of Nichiren Buddhism, I have chosen Daisaku Ikeda, leader of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist lay organization as a mentor. I do so because I believe he has and continues to very effectively demonstrate a profound understanding of compassionate Buddhism that will make the world a better place.