Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / Mentorship & the Transfer of Knowledge

Mentorship & the Transfer of Knowledge

Having a reliable source of information is a necessity for the life, growth and survival of any individual.  During childhood, the source of elementary information about life is usually found in parents’ guidance, and society’s education.  Depending on the reliability and validity of delivered information - one would be able to advance in life. Further sources of knowledge and guidance are needed in one’s journey of life.  This is especially true for learning specific fields  or domains we encounter in daily life, such as sport or music:

“In order to master anything, whether academic learning or sports, we need an instructor or a coach.  Having a good instructor or coach speeds our improvement and mastery.  Trying to learn on our own, in contrast, often leads to much wasted effort - or soon finding ourselves stuck, not knowing how to progress further. 

In the same way, to live our life in the most meaningful and worthwhile fashion, we need a good instructor or coach - a mentor in life - who can teach us basic values and attitudes for life”. 

Daisaku Ikeda, On Historical Personalities and Societies, published August 1988

For the flow of information to take place between a mentor and learner, both must share a common purpose, in a relationship which is based on mutual trust:

“This relationship is not a hierarchical one of superior or inferior…. The disciple must also go on to surpass the mentor”. Daisaku Ikeda, (ibid).

Mentor-disciple relationship in the history of humanity

The progress of human civilizations has been a manifestation of the process of transfer of knowledge and skills from mentors to their disciples in various fields of activity:

“Without the mentor disciple relationship, anything we undertake just ends with our lifetime.              It becomes nothing more than a small drama and a pursuit of our own self-satisfaction.  In contrast, the mentor-disciple relationship enables us to live a life connected to the great flow of humanity, a life like a mighty river, a life like as an unending relay race” Daisaku Ikeda, Seiko Shimbun, 10 August, 2000

The Lotus Sutra and the bond of mentor-disciple

The mentor-disciple bond, which ensures the flow of information and knowledge - has been the traditional way of the propagation of Buddhism.  The Lotus Sutra’s opening phrase: “Thus I heard” - expresses the disciples' purity in recording the teaching of their mentor, the Buddha.

Discussing the meaning of the term “lion roar”, (Jpn. Shi Shi Ku), which appears in the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren states:

“The first Shi, [which means teacher] or “Lion”, is the Wonderful Law that is passed on by the teacher.  The second Shi [which means child] is the Wonderful Law that is received by the disciples.  The ‘roar” [Ku] of the lion - is the sound of the teacher and the disciples chanting in unison”. (cf. Orally Transmitted Teachings , p.111)