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Peace Through Prayer: A Buddhist View
By M. LaVora Perry

Dear Reader, This commentary was written from my Buddhist point of view. However, I hope that whatever your belief, these words will inspire you to keep thoughts of peace on your mind.—LaVora

A Time For Deeper Faith

It seems that the possibility of a United States' led war against the nation of Iraq is before us. Therefore, I believe I need to deepen my faith that my prayers for peace will work. It's hard to have faith when news reports and other people seem to say that war is unstoppable. But I must overcome my doubts about the power of my life and strengthen my prayer for peace.

I am reminded of what the 13th century Japanese Buddhist teacher, Nichiren, once wrote for a believer named Nichigen-nyo:

“As for [Nichigen-nyo's] prayers, I suspect that her faith may be weak, even though she does not doubt the Lotus Sutra. I have found that even those who appear to believe just as the sutra teaches may not actually have strong faith...The fact that her prayers have gone unanswered is like a strong bow with a weak bowstring, or a fine sword in the hands of a coward. It is in no sense the fault of the Lotus Sutra.” (from The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 489).

Buddhist Teachings

The Lotus Sutra that Nichiren wrote of is a teaching that was preached in India about 3,000 years ago. The man who preached it was Siddhartha, who is also known as Shakyamuni, or simply, the Buddha.

Buddha means "one who is awakened to the truth of life." A Buddha is totally free, happy, loving, courageous and all-powerful. The main idea of the Lotus Sutra is that all people, animals and things are Buddhas.

The Lotus Sutra that Nichiren wrote of in the quoted passage is not only the ancient Indian Lotus Sutra. It is also Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the Gohonzon that Nichiren taught about. Nichiren's teaching made the Lotus Sutra easy for ordinary people to practice.

"Nam" is a word from the ancient Indian Sanskrit language. It means "I devote myself to." "Myoho-renge-kyo" is a Japanese way of pronouncing the title of the Lotus Sutra.

The Gohonzon is the scroll that Nichiren Buddhists focus on while chanting (saying) the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo over and over again. This scroll has Nam-myoho-renge-kyo written down the center in Chinese letters. The Gohonzon is a type of mirror that helps anyone see that she or he is a wonderful Buddha.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while looking at the Gohonzon is how Nichiren Buddhists pray each day. When praying, a Nichiren Buddhist is praising the Buddha that is her or his own life and all life.

Encouraging Words

I don't think Nichiren’s hard words for Nichigen-nyo were meant to scold her for having weak faith. Instead, his words were meant to encourage her to strengthen her faith in her own Buddha nature. With strong faith and prayer Nichigen-nyo could make what seemed impossible come true.

Another passage from Nichiren’s writings states the same idea more simply: “It could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 345)

Ordinary People Are Leaders

Daisaku Ikeda is the leader of the modern-day Nichiren Buddhist organization called the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Mr. Ikeda has said that ordinary people should feel as responsible for creating world peace as world leaders. In addition, in many public statements over the years he has remarked that he prays for each person's happiness.

Buddhism teaches that every life is sacred and worthy of the highest respect. Yet, today there is heated talk of a war that could cause great suffering and lead to many people's deaths.

I believe that now is a time when I really need to take Mr. Ikeda's advice and follow his example. I need to take responsibility for what's happening to all of us who call planet earth home. An important way for me to do so is to deeply pray.

So no matter what seems to be happening, I’m going to keep peace on the top of my prayer list. I won't give up until, through my strong prayer and sincere actions, peace is the leading news of the day.

In 1995 M. LaVora Perry became American Greetings'® (AG's) first African- American greeting card writer. Since then, her words have appeared on gift items worldwide. Today LaVora writes a column for the children's section of the World Tribune—the U.S.A's leading Buddhist weekly. http://www.fortunechildbooks.com

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