FILL THE MISSION TANK
When establishing a Sangha, it is crucial for a leader to keep filling people’s “Mission Tank”. How does a leader motivate people for a mission? By helping people find their place in the big-picture story of that mission.
Imagine owning an old Toyota pickup truck or starter vehicle, like one you may have had during your teenage years. An engine literally held together by a Budweiser beer can and chicken wire keeping the motor running. Perhaps it also had a hole in the floorboard, so you could see the road when you drove, and windshield wipers that didn’t work, making driving in the rain interesting. However, the biggest problem with the truck is that it leaked oil non-stop. Every two days, you’d have to put a quart of oil in the truck, or the motor would blow up along with your teenage dreams.
As leaders of the Temple, we sometimes fail to realize that the motivation for mission is like oil in an old truck. When the practitioners of Buddhism have heads full of the Lotus Sutras words and hearts full of our Founder Nichiren Shonin’s passion for mission, they can drive the mission forward for long distances. However, along the journey people get tired and hit bumps in the road, and their motivation for the mission starts to leak out. When developing a Sangha, it is crucial for a leader to keep filling people’s “mission tank”. How does a leader motivate people for a mission?
SHARE THE BIG-PICTURE STORY...
If you want to motivate people for a mission, they first have to understand what the big-picture story is. What is the big picture of the Lotus Sutra’s mission? As Buddhists, we often have a worldview that puts us at the center of the story. When we do this, we have a warped perspective of reality. The story of the Lotus Sutra includes us, but it is not about us. We are not the main characters. When developing a Sangha, it’s crucial for the pastor to keep filling people’s mission tank. The Lotus Sutra parable, the “Burning House”, is about a father who rescues his children from the preverbal “burning house”. The Eternal Buddha is the hero of this parable. We like the son are the people in need of rescue. The Eternal Buddha’s mission is to save and rescue all sentient beings.
The implications of this story are incredibly important for all Buddhist believers. When we understand that our lives are part of a greater story, we embrace our part as supporting cast members and are freed to participate in the parable being led by the Eternal Buddha.
HELP PEOPLE DEVELOP A PERSONAL, LOTUS SUTRA CONVICTION...
Conviction, a deeply held belief, is an important element in motivating people for the mission. It works primarily in two ways, both brought about by the Lotus Sutra and the Eternal Buddha and Nichiren Shonin’s Spirit:
1.) Conviction that karma leads to atonement.
2.) Conviction that we are Bodhisattva’s given this mission from the Eternal Buddha and that our practice is that of Compassion.
It is the negative karma of omission for Buddhist’s not to participate in the mission of the Lotus Sutra. For Buddhists to understand this requires deep faith and teaching from the Eternal Buddha and our Founder Nichiren Shonin. You as leaders cannot make this work happen, but you can teach people, through the lens of the Lotus Sutra to gain an understanding of the mission and the Eternal Buddha’s requirement for us to join him…Then pray and practice like crazy!
The story of the Lotus Sutra includes us, but it is not about us. We are not the main characters. What we as leaders hope to see in the hearts of people is a process that starts with the conviction of identifying negative karma and the suffering in one’s own life. Conviction, is when the Eternal Buddha gives us a sense of our own ignorance and evil karma. “Because of their evil karmas, these sinful people will not be able to hear even the names of the Three Treasures, during asamkhya kalpas.” (Ch. 16; P.248).
This understanding leads to atonement and purification, a change of mind that leads to a change of heart that results in a change in one’s life. The Eternal Buddha shows us our ignorance and evil karma so that atonement or repentance will happen and shows that we may put an end to suffering.
CONNECT CONVICTION TO MISSION
As leaders, we want to see people grow in faith through atonement of karma, but we also want to see them grow in maturity. A maturity that leads to a personal conviction to serve in the Eternal Buddha and Nichiren Shonin’s mission. Maturity happens as people study the Lotus Sutra, believe what it says, and then align their thoughts and desires to the Eternal Buddha’s teachings and mission as seen in Scripture.
The Lotus Sutra parable, the “Burning House”, is about a father who rescues his children from the preverbal “burning house”. The Eternal Buddha is the hero. Apart from the Eternal Buddha’s teaching (the Lotus Sutra), we can only speculate about what it looks like for us to be personally engaged in this mission. When we study the Lotus Sutra, it changes the way we think about mission, it reshapes our worldview. The Buddha says, “The good men or women who keep, read, recite, expound or copy this Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, will be able to obtain eight hundred merits of the eye, twelve hundred merits of the ear, eight hundred merits of the nose, twelve hundred merits of the tongue, eight hundred merits of the body, and twelve hundred merits of the mind. They will be able to adorn and purify their six sense-organs with these merits.” (Chapter 19, P.269) As our thinking changes so too do the directions of our hearts and minds; when the desires of our hearts and mind change, our values and priorities change. Instead of desiring to do life on our own terms and live for ourselves (valuing autonomy), we desire to live Compassion and to realize our Bodhisattva mission (valuing community).
Leaders help people move through this process of developing conviction for the mission through an understanding of the Lotus Sutra. This is accomplished through preaching, teaching, and modeling of correct behaviors. It starts with the message from the platform, but it doesn’t stop there. Mission also needs to be experienced in the life of the Sangha.