A SHIP TO CROSS THE SEA OF SUFFERING

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The Lotus Sutra speaks of “someone finding a ship in which to cross the water.” This “ship” might be described as follows: As a shipbuilder of infinitely profound wisdom, the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment, the lord of teachings, gathered the lumber of the four flavors and eight teachings, planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and assembled the planks, forming a perfect unity of both right and wrong, and completed the craft by driving home the spikes of the one true teaching that is comparable to the flavor of ghee. Thus he launched the ship upon the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. Unfurling its sails of the three thousand realms on the mast of the one true teaching of the Middle Way, driven by the fair wind of “the true aspect of all phenomena,” the vessel surges ahead, carrying aboard all people who can “gain entrance through faith alone.” The Thus Come One Shakyamuni is at the helm, the Thus Come One Many Treasures takes up the mooring rope, and the four bodhisattvas led by Superior Practices row quickly, matching one another as perfectly as a box and its lid. This is the ship in “a ship in which to cross the water.” Those who are able to board it are the disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly.

WND I: 3, p. 33

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Kamakura in the first year of Kōchō (1261), about two weeks before he was exiled to Itō in Izu. Virtually nothing is known about the recipient, Shiiji Shirō, other than that he lived in the province of Suruga and was acquainted with two of the Daishonin’s leading disciples, Shijō Kingo and Toki Jōnin.

The title of this letter is drawn from a passage in the “Medicine King” chapter of the Lotus Sutra that speaks of “a ship in which to cross the water.” In this letter, the Daishonin teaches that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is the “ship” that can unfailingly transport one across the sea of life’s inevitable sufferings to the distant shore of enlightenment.

ON PRAYER

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Therefore, we know that the prayers offered by a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will be answered just as an echo answers a sound, as a shadow follows a form, as the reflection of the moon appears in clear water, as a mirror collects dewdrops,14 as a magnet attracts iron, as amber attracts particles of dust, or as a clear mirror reflects the color of an object.

WND I: 38, p. 340

Prayers based upon the Lotus Sutra will definitely be answered, writes Nichiren Daishonin. This is the theme of On Prayer, written by Nichiren Daishonin in the ninth year of Bun’ei (1272), when he was in exile on Sado Island. The writing is thought to be a reply to questions raised by Sairen-bō, a disciple of the Daishonin and former priest of the Mountain [Jikaku] branch of the Tendai school, who at the time was also living in exile on Sado Island.

In this passage, the Daishonin states that the prayers of the votary of the Lotus Sutra are always answered. His use of natural principles and phenomena as analogies demonstrates his strong confidence in what he is saying. Wherever practitioners of the Lotus Sutra chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, just as an echo answers a sound and a shadow follows a form, their prayers will unfailingly produce positive results there. Nichiren teaches that our lives are transformed— both spiritually and physically—by prayer, which in turn exerts a positive influence on our environment.

Sensei says that prayer is not something abstract. It is the penetrating insight of Buddhism, which discerns the Law of life in the depths of chaos, and apprehends it as the force that supports and activates all phenomena from within. “Sound,” “form” and “clear water” referred to in this passage correspond to our attitude in prayer, while “echo,” “shadow” and “reflection of the moon” correspond to the natural way in which prayers are answered. Just as these three analogies refer to phenomena that arise in accord with natural principles, the prayers of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will also definitely be answered in accord with the inexorable Law of life and in accord with reason. Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is free of all arrogance and conceit. The very act of sitting before the Gohonzon and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo pulses with the humble spirit to transcend attachment to one’s own shallow wisdom and limited experience to become one with the Law of life and the fundamental rhythm of nature and the universe, which were revealed through the Buddha’s enlightened wisdom. Without being self-abasing, we concentrate all our actions into a single life moment—into our determined prayer— while recharging our lives to prepare for boundless, vibrant growth. That is the healthiest and most fulfilling state of life.

THREE TRIPITAKA MASTERS PRAY FOR RAIN

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In judging the relative merit of Buddhist doctrines, I, Nichiren, believe that the best standards are those of reason and documentary proof. And even more valuable than reason and documentary proof is the proof of actual fact.

WND I: 68, p 598

Documentary proof, theoretical proof, and actual proof are the three standards set forth by Nichiren for judging the validity of a given teaching. Documentary proof means that the doctrine of a particular Buddhist school is based upon or in accord with the sutras. Theoretical proof means that a doctrine is compatible with reason and logic. Actual proof means that the content of a doctrine is borne out by actual result when put into practice.

Mr. Makiguchi explained the three kinds of proof in an accessible manner, comparing them to the three criteria for choosing a physician. In this instance, considering the physician’s academic history, title and medical specialty is equivalent to documentary proof. Actual proof, meanwhile, is whether the physician has successfully treated many patients, which is an even more important criterion. Moreover, theoretical proof, or proof by reason, is whether the physician’s methods are reasonable from the perspective of the science of medicine. If you are satisfied with this aspect of the physician’s qualifications, then you will have no worries. 27

Mr. Makiguchi went on to stress that proof by actual fact is most important, and that both our lives and our efforts at value creation should be based on it. 28

Mr. Toda, meanwhile, asserted that “the correct evaluation of actual proof is that it agrees with documentary proof and theoretical proof, and can be demonstrated in actual life.” 29 Any occurrence in the realm of Buddhism, if not borne out by documentary or theoretical proof, is nothing more than coincidence or a strained interpretation of the facts.

The three proofs are the criteria for judging whether a teaching enables us to create value in our daily lives and to create happiness and peace for all people.

THE RECORD OF THE ORALLY TRANSMITTED TEACHINGS- THE IMMEASURABLE MEANINGS SUTRA

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The character ryō, “to measure” or “to estimate,” pertains to the essential teaching, because ryō has the meaning of “to weigh” and “to include.” The heart of the essential teaching is the exposition of the eternally endowed three bodies of the Buddha. This concept of the eternally endowed three bodies does not refer to the Buddha alone. It explains that all the ten thousand things of the universe are themselves revealed to have Buddha bodies of limitless joy. Therefore, while the theoretical teaching makes clear the theoretical perfection of the unchanging truth, the essential teaching takes over this explanation without change and deals with the eternally endowed three bodies present in each individual thing itself, setting forth the actual perfection of three thousand realms in a single moment of life as it is revealed in the essential teaching. When one comes to realize and see that each thing—the cherry, the plum, the peach, the damson—in its own entity, without undergoing any change, possesses the eternally endowed three bodies, then this is what is meant by the word ryō, “to include” or all-inclusive.

Recordings of Orally Transmitted Teachings p.200

Nichiren in his orally transmitted teachings while explaining The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra (or Muryōgi-kyō) highlights six vital points, one of which is the significance of the character ryō. The character ryō symbolizes great respects the dignity of all life. He says that realizing that we possess the eternally endowed three bodies is what is meant by the word ryō (“to measure and include all things”) in the three characters mu-ryo-gi (“immeasurable meanings”) in the title of Immeasurable Meanings Sutra. Through the workings of the eternally endowed three bodies of the Buddha in our lives, the individual differences we possess as human beings are turned into our unique positive characteristics.

Nichiren Daishonin explains human uniqueness in the principle of “cherry, plum, peach and damson.” Flowering fruit trees endure the harsh cold of winter and, as spring approaches, each blossoms in their own time, with their own unique and beautiful flowers. This is a metaphor for the diversity of human beings, expressing the unique mission and personal qualities of each individual. The universe does nothing in vain; everything has meaning. Even plants we spurn as “weeds” serve a function. Each living thing has its own unique identity, role and purpose—the cherry as a cherry, the plum as a plum, the peach as a peach, the damson as a damson. There are some who, when things don’t go the way they’d planned, blame and criticize themselves as being hopeless. But everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. President Ikeda assures us that we each have a unique mission to fulfill. These confident words spring from his continued efforts to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for others’ happiness and support them in bringing their life’s mission into flower.

Source: Living Buddhism, Jan 2018

LETTER FROM SADO

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It is the nature of beasts to threaten the weak and fear the strong. Our contemporary scholars of the various schools are just like them. They despise a wise man without power, but fear evil rulers. They are no more than fawning retainers. Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove one’s real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with priests of erroneous teachings tries to destroy the correct teaching and do away with a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood. Like Nichiren, for example. I say this not out of arrogance, but because I am deeply committed to the correct teaching. An arrogant person will always be overcome with fear when meeting a strong enemy, as was the haughty asura who shrank in size and hid himself in a lotus blossom in Heat-Free Lake when reproached by Shakra.

WND I: 32, p. 302

Nichiren Daishonin states, “Buddhism should be spread by the method of either shoju or shakubuku, depending on the age”. After clarifying that shakubuku (strict refutation), not shoju (gentle persuasion), is the appropriate method of propagation for the Latter Day of the Law, he explains that such efforts, when carried out with unstinting dedication, will inevitably face great opposition and obstacles.

In the passage, he highlights the underlying circumstances of his Sado Exile and the true nature of the authorities and slanderous priests who are attacking him. In doing so, he reveals the pattern of persecution that invariably befalls genuine practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.

The three powerful enemies (secular authorities, priests and lay believers of erroneous teachings) join forces to attack the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. Those who stand alone and forge ahead with the “heart of a lion king” in the midst of this intense onslaught are Buddhas.

Nichiren Daishonin is calling on his disciples to look at his example. Amid life-threatening persecution, he stands calmly with the towering life state of Buddhahood. Through his own example, he urges his disciples to follow him on this great path of a lion king.

We have persevered straight ahead on this path. Seeing through the chaotic upsurge of the “three obstacles and four devils” for what it is, we have roused strong faith. When faced with difficulties, we have immediately tackled the situation with the firm determination to change poison into medicine. Summoning the “heart of a lion king,” we have fearlessly confronted adversity, ready to take on any challenge. We have also transformed opponents into allies, and turned headwinds into tailwinds that lift us higher. In each struggle, we have practiced in accord with the Buddha’s teachings and read Nichiren’s writings with our lives.

Source: Living Buddhism, April 2017, p. 45

THREE TRIPITAKA MASTERS PRAY FOR RAIN

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When a tree has been transplanted, though fierce winds may blow, it will not topple if it has a firm stake to hold it up. But even a tree that has grown up in place may fall over if its roots are weak. Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path.

WND-I p 598

This letter was written at Minobu in the first year of Kenji (1275) and sent to the lay priest Nishiyama, who lived in Nishiyama Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province. Nishiyama appears to have been the steward of that village and a sincere believer who often visited the Daishonin at Minobu, bringing offerings and provisions.

In the opening of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin explains the importance of “good friends” who assist or encourage one in one’s Buddhist practice. Stating that good friends are rare and “evil companions”—those who hinder one’s quest for enlightenment—are too numerous to count, he goes on to point out the distortions of the True Word school, to which Nishiyama had previously belonged. He then declares that, while documentary and doctrinal evidence is important in considering the efficacy of a Buddhist teaching, far more important is “the proof of actual fact,” that is, the power of a religion to positively affect the human condition.

Sensei in his lecture on this passage says- “In Buddhism, a “good friend” is someone who leads others in a positive direction and to the correct path of Buddhism. Nichiren says that even a freshly planted tree will remain standing in a powerful storm if it is firmly staked. Likewise, when traveling along a perilous, uneven road, one will not stumble and fall if one has a strong friend for support. In the same way, “good friends” in Buddhism support and assist us so that we can advance in our Buddhist practice and not fall into the evil paths of existence” (Living Buddhism, December 2013, p 23). He urges us to be good friends as understood in Buddhism to people around us. This sets a path for us and others to attain enlightenment.

ON REPAYING DEBTS OF GRATITUDE

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“The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was born; the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from Mao Pao. If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how much more should human beings! . . . What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country”

 


 

This lengthy treatise is one of Nichiren Daishonin’s five major writings. It was prompted by the news of the death of Dōzen-bō, a priest of Seichō-ji temple in Awa Province, who had been the Daishonin’s teacher when he first entered the temple as a boy of twelve. Nichiren Daishonin wrote this treatise to express his gratitude to Dōzen-bō.

Nichiren Daishonin begins this treatise by emphasizing the need to repay one’s obligations to one’s parents, teacher, the three treasures of Buddhism, and one’s sovereign. He teaches the importance of repaying debts of gratitude as a fundamental aspect of human behavior. Of these four debts of gratitude, this work stresses specifically repaying the debt owed to one’s teacher. Next, the Daishonin states that to repay such debts one must master the truth of Buddhism and attain enlightenment. To accomplish this goal, one must dedicate oneself single-mindedly to the Buddhist practice. However, to attain enlightenment, one must also practice the correct Buddhist teaching.

He refers to the story of when the young Mao Pao was walking along the Yangtze River when he saw a fisherman about to kill a white turtle. Out of pity, Mao Pao exchanged his clothing for the white turtle and then set it free. It is said that, later in life, Mao Pao rushed to the banks of the Yangtze to evade enemy capture. The white turtle appeared and ferried him safely to the opposite shore.

He then goes on to explain that, as people who devote themselves to Buddhism, we should extend our sense of gratitude to our parents, our mentor, society and all living beings. Buddhism emphasizes that through expressing gratitude, we reveal and develop our humanity. SGI President Ikeda emphasizes that recognizing and repaying our debts of gratitude is the highest good, while neglecting to show appreciation reflects a life heavily influenced by fundamental darkness—the inability to recognize the enlightened nature in ourselves and others. He elaborates: “As we each deepen our faith in the Mystic Law, break through our fundamental darkness and live true to our greater self, we will come to feel boundless appreciation for all those around us, and for all who have nurtured us and helped us become who we are. And we will confidently make our way along the invigorating path of recognizing and repaying our debts of gratitude. Ultimately, President Ikeda stresses, the direction our lives take depends on whether we choose to live based on our lesser self or our greater self.

Practicing Buddhism—a teaching that honors all life and challenges its practitioners to overcome selfishness and replace it with compassion and appreciation—and sharing it with others is in itself the ultimate way of repaying debts of gratitude. What’s more, it becomes the power source to break through all limitations.

 

 

Source: World Tribune, March 30 2012

ON THE BUDDHA’S PROPHECY

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The moon appears in the west1 and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west. The same is true of Buddhism. It spread from west to east in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, but will travel from east to west in the Latter Day. The Great Teacher Miao-lo says, “Does this not mean that Buddhism has been lost in India, the country of its origin, and must now be sought in the surrounding regions?”2 Thus, no Buddhism is found in India anymore. During the 150 years or so since barbarians from the north invaded the Eastern Capital in the time of Emperor Kao-tsung,3 both Buddhism and imperial authority became extinct in China. Concerning the collection of scriptures kept in China, not one Hinayanasutra remains, and most Mahayana sutras have also been lost. Even when Jakushō and other priests set out from Japan to take some sutras to China,4 no one was found there who could embrace these sutras and teach them to others. It was as though there were only wooden or stone statues garbed in priests’ robes and carrying begging bowls. That is why Tsun-shih said, “It [Buddhism] came first from the west, like the moon appearing. Now it is returning from the east, like the sun rising.”5 These remarks make it clear that Buddhism is lost in both India and China.

WND I: 43, p 398

Nichiren Daishonin was fifty-two years old when he wrote this letter during his exile at Ichinosawa on the island of Sado in 1273. It is addressed to his disciples and lay supporters in general.

The title, On the Buddha’s Prophecy, points to two prophecies: One is Shakyamuni Buddha’s prediction that the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law and spread the sutra’s teachings despite great persecutions. The other is the Daishonin’s own prophecy that in the Latter Day and on into the eternal future his teachings will spread throughout the world to benefit humankind.

The Buddhism of the Former and Middle Days of the Law essentially had personal peace of mind as an objective. By the time of the Latter Day of the Law, Buddhism had developed into a self-absorbed practice in which individuals simply sought peace of their minds. Nichiren struggled to establish a religion with the power to bring security and peace of mind to all people and to accomplish world peace based on the philosophy of inner transformation. In this passage, he compares Buddhism that spread eastward from the west in the Former and Middle Days of the Law as the moon, and likens the spread of Buddhism in the Latter Day of the Law, from east to west, as the sun.

Source: Living Buddhism, Sept, 2012

ON ESTABLISHING THE CORRECT TEACHING FOR THE PEACE OF THE LAND

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When we examine this wide variety of sutras, we find that they all stress how grave a matter it is to slander the correct teaching. How pitiful that people should all go out of the gate of the correct teaching and enter so deep into the prison of these distorted doctrines! How stupid that they should fall one after another into the snares of these evil doctrines and remain for so long entangled in this net of slanderous teachings! They lose their way in these mists and miasmas, and sink down amid the raging flames of hell. How could one not grieve? How could one not suffer?

Therefore, you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? The regions in the ten directions will all become treasure realms, and how could a treasure realm ever suffer harm? If you live in a country that knows no decline or diminution, in a land that suffers no harm or disruption, then your body will find peace and security, and your mind will be calm and untroubled. You must believe my words; heed what I say!

WND I: 2, p. 6

This work was originally written in classical Chinese and submitted to Hōjō Tokiyori through the offices of high-ranking government official Yadoya Mitsunori on the sixteenth day of the seventh month in the first year of Bunnō (1260). Tokiyori was then living in retirement, but was still the most influential member of the ruling Hōjō clan. The work occasioned no immediate reaction, and no official response was made to the Daishonin. But the members of the government were incensed at the rational but unrelenting attack that the work made on the Pure Land teachings of Hōnen and his followers. Government officials who were Pure Land followers apparently encouraged an attack made on the Daishonin’s dwelling at Nagoe in Kamakura on the twenty-seventh day of the eighth month. The Daishonin narrowly escaped and made his way to the province of Shimōsa to stay at the home of a follower. He returned to Kamakura early in the following year, 1261. He remained continually under the threat of persecution and was summarily banished to Izu on the twelfth day of the fifth month of the same year.

The work consists of a dialogue between a host and a visitor. The host represents Nichiren Daishonin, and the visitor, it is thought, represents Hōjō Tokiyori. At the outset, the host lays the blame for the disasters that have befallen the country on the belief in an erroneous religion, the Pure Land teachings of Hōnen. Presented are numerous scriptural references to disasters that will befall a nation that follows false teachings.

The Daishonin’s efforts to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land was a struggle against fundamental evils that rejected fundamental good. Speaking as a host, in this section, he admonishes the guest to prevent him from falling prey to the evil doctrines that entangle people in slandering the law. He teaches that by transforming the tenets we hold in our hearts- a fundamental revolution of our innermost state of mind- we can free ourselves from the chains of misfortune and bring peace and security to the society. What we have faith in indicates what we hold precious. Thus, the focus of the transformation is of our mind, heart and values, without which the correct teaching for the peace of the land cannot be achieved.

The Daishonin speaks of the “single good doctrine” referring to the good taught by the Lotus Sutra- the principle that all people can bring forth their Buddha nature and attain enlightenment. Dedicating to the single good doctrine of the Lotus Sutra is the sure way to transform the karma of all humankind.

ON PRACTICING THE BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS

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Understand then that the votary who practices the Lotus Sutra exactly as the Buddha teaches will without fail be attacked by the three powerful enemies.

… …

What a great pity it is that all the Japanese people are delighted to see Nichiren and his disciples and lay believers suffer at the hands of the three powerful enemies!  What befell another yesterday may befall oneself today. Nichiren and his followers have but a short time to endure—merely the time it takes for frost or dew to vanish in the morning sun. When our prayers for Buddhahood are answered and we are dwelling in the true land of Tranquil Light where we will experience the boundless joy of the Law, what pity we will feel for those who sink to the bottom of the great citadel of the Avīchi hell and meet extreme suffering there! How they will envy us then!

Life flashes by in but a moment. No matter how many terrible enemies you may encounter, banish all fears and never think of backsliding.

WND I: 42, p. 391

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to all his followers in the fifth month of 1273, while he was still enduring the severe privations of exile on Sado Island. The title, On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings, indicates practicing in exact accordance with what the Buddha taught.

In this letter the question is raised: Why must believers experience hardships when the Lotus Sutra promises “peace and security in their present existence”? Nichiren Daishonin answers that those who practice the Lotus Sutra exactly according to the Buddha’s teachings are bound to face the three powerful enemies, whose appearance was predicted in the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter of the sutra. In other words, one proves oneself to be a true votary only by facing and overcoming great obstacles for the sake of the Buddha’s teachings. In essence, this means to forthrightly make clear what is the correct teaching of Buddhism and to mercifully transmit the teaching to others.

The three powerful enemies refers to the types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra In the sutra text, the first type is described as follows: “There will be many ignorant people / who will curse and speak ill of us / and will attack us with swords and staves.”

The second type: “In that evil age there will be monks / with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked / who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, / being proud and boastful in heart.”

And the third type: “Or there will be forest-dwelling monks / wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement, / who will claim they are practicing the true way, / despising and looking down on all humankind. / Greedy for profit and support, / they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen / and will be respected and revered by the world / as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers. . . .”

It is explained that of these three, the first can be endured. The second exceeds the first, and the third is the most formidable of all. This is because the second and third ones are increasingly harder to recognize for what they really are.