Prometheus Made Us Wise
March 29, 2002 -- No. 128
The Justice Chronicle, provided by Soka Gakkai International-USA, is a free monthly e-mail in support of the Soka Spirit movement. Soka Spirit is the SGI's educational effort to create value and deepen our understanding of Nichiren Buddhism through increased awareness of issues surrounding the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the spiritual foundation of the SGI movement.
1) FILL THE WORLD WITH THE LIGHT OF WISDOM AND CULTURE
This series contains SGI President Ikeda's 1991 message to commemorate
March 16, Kosen-rufu Day, which originally appeared in the May 1991
issue of the Seikyo Times. It was written shortly after the Nichiren
Shoshu priesthood began taking action against the Soka Gakkai at the
end of 1990.
PROMETHEUS MADE HUMAN BEINGS WISE
In Greek mythology, Prometheus, the foresighted, is a child of the earth; he is the son of Gaea (goddess of the earth).
Having incited the wrath of Zeus, the yrant of the heavens, Prometheus is firmly tied with a diamond chain to a rocky pillar in the Caucasus Mountains.
Every day a huge vulture comes and devours his liver. Each night Prometheus' body is restored to normal. But then the next day he must undergo this cruel punishment for as long as 30,000 (some sources say 3,000) years.
What exactly was Prometheus' crime? What did he do that had so enraged Zeus? As it turns out, all he did was give human beings culture.
Prometheus' heart went out to the members of the human race, who, being so young and immature, did not know how to live in comfort. They shivered in the cold and feared the darkness of night. And they were helpless before savage beasts.
Pitying humankind in these circumstances, Prometheus saw fit to give humanity the gift of fire. Putting the fire of the sun into a large stalk of fennel, he carried it back to earth. To humanity whom he loved, he presented the gift of fire.
In ancient Greek, fennel was referred to as marathon. It was given this name because fennel grass once grew abundantly in the area of Marathon, from which the name of the marathon racer derives.
Thanks to the gift of fire, darkness and cold no longer posed any threat to people. They also learned how to stay warm by building huts around a fire.
From fire was born all manner of technologies; it led to making pottery, boiling water, burning wood for heat and cooking food. Also, as people acquired skill in melting down gold and silver ores, this led to the production of various tools and bodily adornments, and to the fashioning of weapons and currency.
Prometheus is also credited with having given language to human beings, from which thought and scholarship was born. And he also gave them music which elevates the spirit. He was thus responsible for humankind's acquisition of skill in the areas of medicine, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, stock-farming and navigation, making possible the eventual establishment of the city (polis). Prometheus was thus truly the father of culture.
The tyrant Zeus, however, found all of these things much to his displeasure. As the father of the gods, Zeus was held in awe by all.
Before Prometheus gave fire to human beings, Zeus said: If you give them fire, the people will gain strength and wisdom, approaching the gods in their ability. Don't you think that this will make it difficult to rule them? He further resolved, It is best to leave people in their state of ignorance!
Going against the will of the tyrant of the heavens, Prometheus, the son of Gaea, made human beings wise. And it was for this that he was so cruelly punished.
He was aware of Zeus's thoughts. Because he had the gift of forethought, he also no doubt knew that if he gave people fire he would likely be punished. Nevertheless, out of his love for humankind, he took the fire of the heavens and spirited it to the earth.
The moral of the story is that people should not have to fight for the sake of the gods, but rather the gods should have to fight for the sake of humankind. The tale of Prometheus best symbolizes the spirit of Greek humanism. And many are the poets who have recounted in verse the story of this champion of humanism. These include the Greek playwright Aeschylus, as well as John Milton and Victor Hugo.
Three in a series.
2) SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA'S GUIDANCE ON PILGRIMAGE
The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood claims that physically seeing the
Dai-Gohonzon is a fundamental practice of Nichiren Buddhism. This
series contains guidance from SGI President Ikeda addressing these
claims in light of Nichiren Daishonin's true teachings. This excerpt
appeared in the Dec. 20, 1993, World Tribune, p. 5.
NICHIREN DAISHONIN EXISTS IN LIVES DEDICATED TO KOSEN-RUFU
The Medicine King chapter of the Lotus Sutra likens the sutra to a clear cool pond [that] can satisfy all those who are thirsty.
In other words, just as the water of a pond can quench people's parched throats, the Lotus Sutra irrigates people's lives, dousing the flame of sufferings of earthly desires.
Interpreting this passage for the present age, we can say that the Dai-Gohonzon is being compared to a clear cool pond. However, the area surrounding this clear cool pond has now become a swamp of slander. To reach the pond, one must travel through the swamp. The pond is still every bit as clear as before, but because of the surrounding swamp, one's life will be defiled when he or she tries to approach it. This is how some people metaphorically describe the current situation.
Continuing with the same analogy, even if one does not go directly to the pond, clear water flowing from the pond wells up from the spring that is in our home. There is no difference at all between the water of the pond and that of the spring.
Nittatsu Shonin gave clear guidance on this point, saying, The Gohonzon enshrined in your altar is, itself, the life of Nichiren Daishonin (Sept. 7, 1962).
The Ongi Kuden (Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings) reads: Nichiren and his disciples who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are 'those who dwell together with the Tathagata.' Fudaishi [a prominent lay Buddhist in 6th century China] interprets this as meaning: 'We awaken with the Buddha every morning, dream with the Buddha every night; at every moment we enter the Way, and at every moment we reveal our true identity' (Gosho Zenshu, p. 737).
Where is the Daishonin? At present, the Daishonin exists in the lives of those who dedicate themselves to kosen-rufu. He is watching over us as we live out our lives based on the principle of faith manifesting itself in daily life.
Two in a series.