Regional Member of the EBU
Reiyukai was founded in Japan by Kakutaro Kubo in 1920. In the years following the World War I, Kakutaro Kubo sensed that the world was moving towards destruction and believed that each individual had to stand firmly on their feet or the world would be swept into war and disorder by the changing times. Therefore he worked tirelessly to establish Reiyukai, prompted by a fervent belief in the need for a society to be made up of members who strove to better their lives by applying the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. He believed that the Lotus Sutra showed humans a path out of spiritual and social confusion. When he talked to others, he emphasized the importance of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra because it teaches that the path to enlightenment can be followed by all, even without joining the priesthood. It teaches that the opportunity to develop one’s spiritual potential lies within the actions of everyday life.
Because of the improvement in education and the new recognition of the worth of the individual that came with the influx of Western ideas, Kubo believed that the egalitarian intent of the Lotus Sutra could finally become reality. Kubo believed that the independant approach to self-develpment and enlightenment that he advocated was closer to Shakyamuni Buddha’s belief that one must find the path oneself, using methods appropriate to one’s experience and one’s situation.
Kubo relied on his brother Yasukichi and his sister-in-law, Kimi Kotani, to help establish a firm base for Reiyukai and began to groom Kimi as a future leader of Reiyukai. Kubo hoped that she would realize that self improvement is gained by improving the quality of one’s world and relations with others, and by working to leave a positive legacy for the generations to come.
Lay Buddhism is, by its very nature, an involvement with Buddhist teachings which does not interfere with one’s job and lifestyle, but serves to heighten one’s awareness of what one is doing and why, of what is best for oneself and why, and of one’s appreciation for the forces and people who contribute to one’s life.
Although Reiyukai has gone through many changes since Kimi Kotani’s time, the fundamental ideas remain the same : a belief that through lay Buddhism –an interest in self-improvement, a concern for others, and interaction with a spirit of learning and adventure- one can achieve a lifestyle of continual self-discovery, personal development, and ever-deepening compassion for others.
Besides its genuine Buddhist activities, Reiyukai has worked on numerous social, educational, cultural, and humanitarian issues in cooperation with international organisations like UNESCO, the Red Cross etc.
In Japan, Reiyukai is a religious congregation registered in the Ministry of Education as promoting the public interest.
Reiyukai has developed in Europe since 1975, in France, Italy, Spain, Austria.
Reiyukai is based on the teachings of the Threefold Lotus Sutra, including the Lotus Sutra, the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra and the Sutra of mindfulness through the Method of Practice of bodhisattva Samanthabadra.
The fundamental philosophy of Reiyukai is that people from all walks of life should carry out bodhisattva practice – the basic act of development and progress, in accordance with the teachings of Buddha. The basic concept on which this bodhisattva practice lies is that people should always try to view their immediate situation in the context of “dependent origination”. Reiyukai posits that an effective way to do so is through a process of positive interpersonal exchange among family members, friends, and acquaintances and a personal relationship with one’s own ancestors. Through those relationships, and the mind and the spirit of a bodhisattva, one learns to explore and understand oneself, comes to realize how people influence and affect each other and understand where one belongs on the axis of human existence, in time (the vertical axis from one’s ancestors to oneself to one’s children) and in space (among friends and acquaintances). Through this awareness, one can acquire a stronger sense of treasuring the life of others as well as one’s own. One can also gain a serene insight into one’s real nature and create a deeper aspiration towards buddhahood.Thus, Reiyukai has consistently advanced towards its goal, the establishment of a better society through the improvement of each individual.
When the first president of Reiyukai, Kimi Kotani referred to lay Buddhism, she used to quote Kakutaro Kubo as follows : “It is written in the Sutra that the teaching originally comes from the place of the Buddhas, reaches the aspiration for buddhahood of all sentient beings, and exists at the place where all bodhisattva practices are done.“ This is a direct quotation of a passage from the Innumerable Meanings Sutra. By reading this sutra, the founder of Reiyukai understood that everybody could realise the teachings by accomplishing various bodhisattva practices, provided that they aspired to bodhi. That’s why he advocated bodhisattva practice for lay people.
Such passages as “either laity or ordained, who practice the bodhisattva path…”, which is a quotation from the Lotus Sutra or as “without eliminating the five desires” at the beginning of the Sutra of mindfulness through the method of practice of bodhisattva Samanthabadra, established basis for bodhisattva practice by lay people. Furthermore, lots of tales of the Lotus Sutra, which do not directly advocate the principle of lay Buddhism, contain the idea of laicism. When lay practitioners read those stories, they can naturally identify with bodhisattvas appearing in various forms including manifestations of the actual conditions of human beings in their daily lives. Throughout the entire Lotus Sutra, we can detect the desire to make its teachings available to everyone. Chapter Two “Skilful Means” describes actions which can be easily undertaken by the laity as being the actions for attaining the Buddha path. The description, in Chapter Ten, of the so-called five kinds of practices for “The Expounder of the Dharma” makes the reader become aware that the laity is included when the Buddha says in the Sutra “O men or women of good families” which is constantly repeated in the Sutra.
Kakutaro Kubo used to expound the teachings of the Lotus Sutra simply and clearly. He explained:
"In Chapter Two ‘Skilful Means’ of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddhas, the Bhagavats, appear in this world to make sentient beings aspire towards purity and the wisdom and insight of the Buddhas”. The Sutra continues : “They appear in this world to manifest the wisdom and insight of the Buddhas to sentient beings. They appear in this world to make sentient beings attain the wisdom and insight of a Buddha’s enlightenment. They appear in this world in order to make sentient beings enter the path of the wisdom and insight of a Buddha.” In other words, the sutra’s teaching is that the Buddha shows each individual their karmic hindrances, makes them realise where they came from and what they are made of, and allows them to enter the path on which karmic hindrances may be cleansed. This was Buddha’s long cherished aim when he appeared on the earth…"
Kakutaro Kubo also taught that karmic hindrances originated in one’s way of life and also from accumulation of wrong deeds by one’s ancestors. “The Buddha described this as the “impurity of sentient beings”. When everyone completely cleanses the impurity of negative karma, our hearts become pure and we may find a way of life which leads to happiness. Through the teaching and guidance in the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha shows us the way to purification.”
How did the Reiyukai practices helped to fulfil the original vow of Shakyamuni Buddha and all others Buddhas?
The main practices advocated by the Reiyukai to bring about this realisation are the recitation of the Sutra and the bodhisattva practices, carried out with the earnest search for enlightenment both for oneself and others.
To help them develop intuition and awareness about themselves and their relationships with others, members recite, as a kind of meditation, a sutra composed by the Founders to enable lay people a daily recitation. This sutra is mainly taken from the Threefold Lotus Sutra. Advanced practitioners can recite the entire Threefold Lotus Sutra. Recitation helps one to achieve peace of mind and an active use of the subconscious, and also involves absorbing and learning from the wisdom of the text. It is the time to become aware of our potential and strengthen our aspiration to buddhahood, for ourselves and every people around us, time to remind our vow to help and support others in their development. This recitation, offered to our ancestors, whose names are written in front of our altar, is also a practice designed to enrich our appreciation of life through understanding more deeply the connection that we have with our ancestors. The purpose and significance of celebrating the relationship with our ancestors is to recognize that they are the source of life from whom, through dependent origination, we have inherited karma. Furthermore, it is our responsibility to resolve the negative karma by our own efforts, and to create a positive one not only for our own well-being, but for the contentment of our ancestors as well as the future happiness of our descendants. Reiyukai practice believes that a relationship with one’s ancestors is personal in exactly the same way as a relationship with members of one’s family who are now living. Naturally, because this is a matter which involves the full participation of each individual, it is vital that it is carried out by that individual and not through another person such as a priest.
When a practitioner of Buddhism subjectively grasp the law of dependent origination, this will come to mean to him the fundamental principle that his life is originally dependent on others. Therefore, the existence of his parents and ancestors as the ultimate starting point of his existence becomes a matter of utmost importance. If a practitioner thinks of this relationship subjectively, and not as a mere connection between parents and child, his thought should lead him to the idea of gratefulness, to the desire to take care of them, and, as I said before, to improve himself by resolving the hindrances inherited from them.
Bodhisattva’s practices, carried out in the field of our daily interpersonal relationship, will enable us to walk positively towards improvement and to purify our heart and mind.
In the Lotus Sutra, there are many actions which its practitioners are supposed to carry out in the midst of their relationship with others which are described as bodhisattva practice or as something relevant to it. The two typical and important types of practices are the practice of a Dharmabanaka ( the Expounder of the Dharma) or the practice of Sadaparibhuta (Never-belittling-others) which is the practice done by Shakyamuni Buddha in his previous life, approaching all people without discrimination and saying to them : “I will not belittle you”. But this is not restricted to those practices. There are many allegories in the Sutra. And when the reader reaches Chapter Ten, “The Expounder of the Dharma” and is urged to carry out the task of the Buddha, those parables and stories become guidelines, or examples for the reader of Buddha’s conduct towards human beings. Furthermore, the conducts of well-known bodhisattvas in the Lotus Sutra are examples for practitioners executing the bodhisattva practices related to expounding the dharma amidst the network of human relationship.
Through these actions, it is expected that practitioners become more considerate of those who have connection with them, and that their reflection about the meaning of their own existence within these relationships, the meaning of their conduct within these relationships, and the significance of what results from their conduct within these relationships, etc, deepens. The attitude that the Lotus Sutra transmits to its readers is thus one in which their perspective of dependent origination functions subjectively and practically.
As one does theses actions, reciting the sutra can play an important part in enhancing the learning and growing process. In addition, through the development of one’s relationships with others one become aware of one’s unique abilities and shortcomings. As an integral part of this process of growth and learning, Reiyukai encourages developing one’s good points and confronting and overcoming one’s shortcomings by doing the practice of Buddhist repentance. This involves recognizing that something is wrong or lacking in oneself, reciting the Sutra to analyse and achieve insight into precisely what is wrong and how it should be corrected, and finally, making the subsequent efforts to improve. The recitation of the Sutra of mindfulness through the method of practice of the bodhisattva Samanthabadra enlighten practitioners about the dynamic and joyful meaning of Buddhist repentance.
Reiyukai members are invited to believe that all people have the potential to attain the complete highest enlightenment, to create deeper dialogue and establish places of communication with others. Assertively interacting with people, basing one’s actions on the recognition that this potential exists in others, will cause a new awareness in oneself that this is a bodhisattva practice which purifies one’s own six sense faculties, and leads oneself to the path of the complete highest enlightenment.
Reiyukai membership is built through the one-to-one relationship created by inspiring others through one’s own example and accompany them on the bodhisattva path. The relationships created through bodhisattva practice are strengthened and expanded in informal ‘gatherings’, the content and frequency of which are up to the members.
In order to share their experiences and comprehension of the Dharma, to hear the Dharma and learn from more experienced practitioners, members usually attend a monthly meeting of ten to twenty members in the house of the ‘leader’ of the “circle of practice”, as well as a monthly larger meeting at the Centre.
Bi-annual seminar opened to everybody as well as different types of training sessions for experienced practitioners enable a right transmission of the Dharma.
Besides those specific practices concentrated in learning and sharing the Dharma, Reiyukai members are involved in different social and cultural activities, except politics, because Reiyukai believes that religion should remain separate from politics.
The monthly membership fee of Reiyukai is 6 euros, equal for everybody. Donations are not allowed. In Europe, there are 1500 individual members, most of them in France.