LETTER FROM SADO

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The persecutions Nichiren has faced are the result of karma formed in previous lifetimes. The “Never Disparaging” chapter reads, “when his offenses had been wiped out,” indicating that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was vilified and beaten by countless slanderers of the correct teaching because of his past karma. How much more true this is of Nichiren, who in this life was born poor and lowly to a chandāla family. In my heart I cherish some faith in the Lotus Sutra, but my body, while outwardly human, is fundamentally that of an animal. It was conceived of the two fluids, one white and one red, of a father and mother who subsisted on fish and fowl. My spirit dwells in this body as the moon is reflected in muddy water, or as gold is wrapped in a filthy bag. Since my heart believes in the Lotus Sutra, I do not fear even Brahmā or Shakra, but my body is still that of an animal. With such disparity between my body and my mind, no wonder the foolish despise me. Without doubt, when compared to my body, my mind shines like the moon or like gold. Who knows what slander I may have committed in the past? I may possess the soul of the monk Superior Intent or the spirit of Mahādeva. Perhaps I am descended from those who contemptuously persecuted Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, or am among those who forgot the seeds of enlightenment sown in their lives.9I may even be related to the five thousand arrogant people,10 or belong to the third group [who failed to take faith in the Lotus Sutra] in the days of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence.11 It is impossible to fathom one’s karma.

Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse. My present exile is not because of any secular crime. It is solely so that I may expiate in this lifetime my past grave offenses and be freed in the next from the three evil paths.


This letter was written on the twentieth day of the third month, 1272, some five months after Nichiren Daishonin had arrived on the island of Sado to begin his exile there. He addressed it to Toki Jōnin, a samurai serving as a leading retainer to Lord Chiba, the constable of Shimōsa Province, to Saburō Saemon (Shijō Kingo) in Kamakura, and to other staunch followers.

In this letter, he gives an elaborate explanation of karma or destiny, stating that his present difficulties arise from the fact that he slandered the Lotus Sutra in a past existence. Using himself as an example, he elucidates to his disciples the kind of spirit and practice by which they can alter their karma. He adds that persons who try to propagate the correct teaching of Buddhism vigorously will invariably face opposition, and that such opposition in reality presents an opportunity for them to change their karma. Those who have given up their faith and instead criticize are admonished that their actions bear the heaviest consequences. He compares their lack of vision to fireflies who laugh at the sun.

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REPLY TO YASABURO

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You must be firmly resolved. Do not begrudge your fief; do not think of your wife and children. And do not depend on others. You must simply make up your mind. Look at the world this year as a mirror. The reason that you have survived until now when so many have died was so that you would meet with this affair. This is where you will cross the Uji River. This is where you will ford the Seta.6 This will determine whether you win honor or disgrace your name. This is what is meant when it is said that it is difficult to be born as a human being, and that it is difficult to believe in the Lotus Sutra. You should pray intently that Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions will all gather and take possession of your body to assist you. If you happen to be summoned before the steward, you should first explain all this thoroughly.


 

This letter was written at Minobu to the believer Yasaburō who had evidently sought the Daishonin’s advice in preparation for an upcoming debate with a priest of the Pure Land school. The Daishonin tells Yasaburo “You must make up your mind”. Once we decie to take up a challenge, we must be determined to win. When faced with an opponent, it is easy to be defeated y our own weakness of spirit. The first step is to overcome the negativity workings within. But at the same time, courage is different from being reckless. True courage is to face reality head-on. That’s the way to see clearly what needs to be done.

Sensei says that our hearts blaze with courage, as we realise that all our efforts up to now had been for the sake of achieving a decisive victory in the present challenge. We are extremely fortunate to take part in a struggle to which we can devote ourselves wholeheartedly, holding nothing back. As individuals, we also face challenges in our daily lives. The effort to carry out our human revolution is by no means separate from our struggle for kosen rufu. As we strive to win in each of the struggles, these struggles help us to develop a life state of unshakable happiness for ourselves and help others to do the same, and to dedicate our lives to creating a peaceful world through the humanistic principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

 

Source: Living Buddhism, March 2017

THE PROOF OF THE LOTUS SUTRA

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How does the mirror of the Lotus Sutra portray the people who, in the evil world of the latter age, believe in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra just as they are set forth in the sutra? Shakyamuni Buddha has left us words from his golden mouth revealing that such people have already made offerings to a hundred thousand million Buddhas in their past existences.1 But ordinary people in the latter age might well doubt the words spoken by just one Buddha. With this in mind, Many Treasures Buddha came expressly all the way from his World of Treasure Purity, many lands to the east. Facing Shakyamuni Buddha, he gave his words of testimony about the Lotus Sutra, saying, “All that you have expounded is the truth!”2 If this is so, then there can be no room for doubt about the matter. Nevertheless, Shakyamuni Buddha may have felt that ordinary people in the latter age would still be skeptical. Hence he summoned the Buddhas of the ten directions to come and join him in the magnificent act of extending their long broad tongues, which had told nothing but the truth for countless kalpas, until they projected into the sky as high as Mount Sumeru.

Since this is the case, when ordinary people in the latter age believe in even one or two words of the Lotus Sutra, they are embracing the teaching to which the Buddhas of the ten directions have given credence. I wonder what karma we created in the past to have been born as such persons, and I am filled with joy. The words of Shakyamuni that I referred to above indicate that the blessings that come from having made offerings to a hundred thousand million Buddhas are so great that, even if one has believed in teachings other than the Lotus Sutra and as a result of this slander been born poor and lowly, one is still able to believe in this sutra in this lifetime. A T’ien-t’ai [school’s] commentary states, “It is like the case of a person who falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground and rises to his feet again.”3 One who has fallen to the ground recovers and rises up from the ground. Those who slander the Lotus Sutra will fall to the ground of the three evil paths, or of the human and heavenly realms, but in the end, through the help of the Lotus Sutra, they will attain Buddhahood.


This letter was written at Minobu to Nanjō Shichirō Jirō, commonly known as Nanjō Tokimitsu, in the second month, 1282. The letter is traditionally called The Proof of the Lotus Sutra because it points out that all the Buddhas gave credence to the truth of the Lotus Sutra. However, it is also known as Prayer for a Return to Life from Fatal Illness because Tokimitsu was then battling a serious illness.

In this letter, the Daishonin explains that those who believe in the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law have extremely profound karmic connection with the Buddha reaching back to previous existence. He states that they are people who have made offerings to the hundred thousand million Buddhas in the past. We are able to uphold the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day because our lives are endowed with great good fortune and benefit beyond imagination. The Daishonin teaches that if we practice the Lotus Sutra with this conviction, we will definitely be able to overcome any hardship and attain the life state of absolute happiness that is Buddhahood.

Nichiren explains that inspite of having vast good fortune to be able to uphold the law, we are born in an evil age and experience sufferings and hardships because of the slander to the Law in the past existences. However, the benefit of making offerings to the untold Buddhas brings the good fortune to be able to uphold the Law in this lifetime.

The Daishonin quotes T’ien-t’ai’s commentary and states “It is like the case of a person who falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground and rises to his feet again”implying that people, who though fall as a result of slander, form a connecting with the correct teaching that will ultimately enable them to find their way to enlightenment. He expalins that those who fall to the ground get back up on their feet using the same ground. Similarly, those who slander the Mystic Law will gain enlightenment through the Lostus Sutra. The Mystic Law embraces even those who form a reverse relationship with it, enabling all to attain Buddhahood. Such is the unfathomale “poison-drum relationship” in Buddhism.

 

 

Source: Living Buddhism, May 2011

REPLY TO A BELIEVER

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If you continue living as you are now, there can be no doubt that you will be practicing the Lotus Sutra twenty-four hours1 a day. Regard your service to your lord as the practice of the Lotus Sutra. This is what is meant by “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality.”2


 

This letter is thought to have been written at Minobu in 1278. The year and recipient of the letter are not certain. Judging from its content, it is probable that it was addressed to Shijō Kingo, one of the Daishonin’s staunch followers in Kamakura. Shijō Kingo, who was then in a precarious situation, must have wished to abandon the secular world to escape from his trouble with his lord and fellow warriors. However, the Daishonin teaches him to regard his service to his lord as the practice of the Lotus Sutra. As a ranking samurai, Shijō Kingo’s service to his lord was his vocation and occupation. In modern terms, therefore, “service to one’s lord” would equate to one’s job.

In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin cites the words of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explaining the meaning of a Lotus Sutra passage that elucidates the benefits enjoyed by those who embrace that sutra: “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality” (WND-1, 905). In other writings, Nichiren states: “All phenomena are manifestations of the Buddhist Law” (The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,”WND-2, 841); and “A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed” (The Kalpa of Decrease,” WND-1, 1121). He is saying that the ideals of Buddhism are the same as the proper aims of government and commerce

The welfare of human beings should be the purpose of both government and business. Human happiness must be the highest and ultimate aim of all social activities.In other writings, Nichiren states: “All phenomena are manifestations of the Buddhist Law” (The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,”WND-2, 841); and “A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed” (The Kalpa of Decrease,” WND-1, 1121). He is saying that the ideals of Buddhism are the same as the proper aims of government and commerce.

The Mystic Law unlocks and draws forth the inner fortitude and strength each person needs to build that happiness. Everyone possesses within them the infinite power of the Buddha. The Mystic Law enables us to manifest that power.

Faith in the Mystic Law is the fundamental source of courage, wisdom and perseverance needed for facing life’s obstacles.

That is why our actions based on faith, all of which are illuminated by the Mystic Law, enable us to create value leading to hope and happiness.

Whatever your job or your workplace, I hope you will strive for the welfare of others and the betterment of society in your own unique way, and earn the praise of those around you for being positive, trustworthy and dependable. This is the epitome of putting faith into practice in daily life and Buddhism into action in society.

 

Source: Living Buddhism, Septemer, 2016

HOW THOSE INITIALLY ASPIRING TO THE WAY CAN ATTAIN BUDDHAHOOD THROUGH THE LOTUS SUTRA

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When we revere Myoho-rengekyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myohorengekyo. This is what is meant by “Buddha.” To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge. The Buddha nature of Brahma and Shakra, being called, will protect us, and the Buddha nature of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, being summoned, will rejoice. This is what the Buddha meant when he said, “If one can uphold it [the Mystic Law] even for a short while I will surely rejoice and so will the other Buddhas.”


This letter is generally thought to have been written in the third year of Kenji (1277), though differing opinions assign it to as early as 1271 or even as late as 1282. Its recipient was a woman called the lay nun Myōhō who lived at Okamiya in Suruga Province. Little is known about her, other than that she was widowed in 1278 and also lost an elder brother. She appears to have maintained steadfast faith throughout her life. She is the same lay nun who received The One Essential Phrase from Nichiren Daishonin in 1278.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “When we revere Myohorenge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion [Gohonzon], the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what is meant by ‘Buddha’” (WND-1, 887). He then proceeds to explain the process by which this great life state of Buddhahood manifests, employing the very accessible metaphor of a bird in a cage: “When a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out” (WND-1, 887). The “bird in the cage” represents the Buddha nature of us ordinary people. The cage represents a state of being shackled by fundamental darkness or ignorance, various deluded impulses or earthly desires, and all kinds of suffering. The “caged bird sings” refers to ordinary people rousing faith in the Mystic Law and chanting Nam-myohorenge-kyo. The “birds who are flying in the sky,” meanwhile, represent the Buddha nature of all living beings. We call forth our Buddha nature—that is, the Myoho-renge-kyo within us—by chanting with our own voices. At the same time, however, the sound of our chanting in fact also calls forth the Buddha nature of diverse living beings. This is because—as we saw in the earlier passage—Myoho-renge-kyo is also the name of the Buddha nature of all Buddhas, bodhi sattvas and other living beings in the Ten Worlds. Once we chant the Mystic Law, therefore, its power is such that it can call forth the Buddha nature of all of them. In other words, our voice chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the powerful sound that awakens and summons forth the Buddha nature of all living beings throughout the universe.

The Daishonin describes the great benefits of chanting Nam-myoho- renge-kyo, the single sound with which we can summon forth the Buddha nature of all living beings. He begins by speaking of revering “Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion”.  The Daishonin revealed the Mystic Law inherent in his own life and manifested it in the concrete form of the Gohonzon, the object of devotion or fundamental respect. Only when our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is based on faith in the Gohonzon does it become a practice for attaining Buddhahood. We revere the Gohonzon bestowed on humanity by Nichiren, taking it as a mirror and guide for our life, and believe that we possess and can manifest within us the same supremely noble state of life as the Daishonin. By doing so, we are revering “Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion”. The Daishonin—embodying the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent— strove with boundless compassion in a dark and evil age to protect and teach people, and help them reveal their highest potential. The way for us to show true reverence and respect for the Gohonzon is to venerate the Daishonin as our fundamental mentor or teacher in faith, learn from his selfless dedication, and carry on his efforts for the happiness and welfare of all people. In other words, to revere the Gohonzon essentially means that, no matter how troubled the times, we strive to make our mentor’s spirit our own, take personal action for kosen-rufu, and become a source of hope, courage and peace of mind for others.

We are not truly revering “Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion” if we seek the assistance of, or put our faith in, some supernatural being or Buddha outside of our own lives to attain salvation—for example, like one of the Buddhas taught in the provisional, pre-Lotus Sutra teachings,3 as is the case in the Nembutsu faith. In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” Nichiren writes: “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”. When the Daishonin embodied his own Buddhahood, “the soul of Nichiren”, in the form of the mandala that is the Gohonzon, his purpose was to enable each of us to reveal the Gohonzon that exists within us. The Gohonzon is the clear mirror that enables us to manifest the Gohonzon in our own life. Chanting with faith in the Gohonzon is the key to manifesting the Gohonzon within us and activating the “Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life” (WND-1, 887). If we were to lose sight of this important point, our Buddhist practice runs the risk of lapsing into the subservient worship of some absolute being outside of us. My mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, often said: “You yourself are Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”; and “How can a Buddha be defeated by illness or economic hardship?”

Once we awaken to our enormous potential, we can face any adversity. The purpose of faith in Nichiren Buddhism is to develop such inner strength. Out of a spirit of profound compassion, Mr. Toda often gave strict guidance to members who lacked conviction in faith and displayed a resigned or defeatist attitude. When those same members later came back to share with him their experiences of overcoming difficulties and achieving victory in their lives, he would smile happily and rejoice together with them on their success. He constantly urged people to awaken to their greater self and to reveal their true potential. The purpose of our Buddhist practice is for each of us to bring forth the “Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life” and establish an inner state of everlasting and indestructible happiness.

 

Source: February 2012 Living Buddhism, pp. 25–28

THE HERITAGE OF THE ULTIMATEAW OF LIFE

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Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another. To chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death. This is a matter of the utmost importance for Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters, and this is what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra.

For one who summons up one’s faith and chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the profound insight that now is the last moment of one’s life, the sutra proclaims: “When the lives of these persons come to an end, they will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas, who will free them from all fear and keep them from falling into the evil paths of existence.”5 How can we possibly hold back our tears at the inexpressible joy of knowing that not just one or two, not just one hundred or two hundred, but as many as a thousand Buddhas will come to greet us with open arms!

Concerning one who disbelieves the Lotus Sutra, because the sutra states, “When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avīchi hell,”6 the wardens of hell will surely come for one and take one away by the hands. How pitiful! The ten kings7 of the world of the dead will then pass judgment, and the heavenly messengers8 who have been with one since birth will berate one for one’s evil deeds.

Think of those thousand Buddhas extending their hands to all of Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as melons or moonflowers extending their slender vines. My followers are now able to accept and uphold the Lotus Sutra because of the strong ties they formed with it in their past existences. They are certain to obtain the fruit of Buddhahood in the future. The heritage of the Lotus Sutra flows within the lives of those who never forsake it in any lifetime whatsoever—whether in the past, the present, or the future. But those who disbelieve and slander the Lotus Sutra will immediately “destroy all the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.”9 Because they cut themselves off from the potential to attain enlightenment, they do not share the heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death.


This letter, dated the eleventh day of the second month in 1272, was sent by Nichiren Daishonin to Sairen-bō Nichijō, a former Tendai priest who, for reasons that are unclear, was also living in exile on Sado Island. He was a highly educated priest to whom the Daishonin sent several important essays, including The True Aspect of All Phenomena and The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life. He had a number of unresolved questions about Buddhist theory, and he addressed them one by one to the Daishonin, who in turn answered these questions in written form. The Daishonin praised him, saying, “How admirable that you have asked about the transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death!” In his reply, the Daishonin offers a look into the wonder of the Buddha’s own enlightenment, as well as the practical means whereby ordinary people may attain the same end.

In the first paragraph, the Daishonin states that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the heritage of the ultimate Law of life and that the transmission of this Law is made from the Buddha to all living beings. Then he refers to the question of how we can inherit the ultimate Law of life and manifest it within ourselves.

This Law flows in the depths of the lives of those who believe in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, practice in exact accord with them, and chant the daimoku. The Daishonin declares that there is no distinction whatsoever between Shakyamuni Buddha, the Lotus Sutra, and us ordinary people.

Viewed from the standpoint of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, this can be taken as a declaration that there is absolutely no difference or separation between Nichiren Daishonin as the Buddha of the Latter Day, the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—or the Gohonzon which embodies that Law—and ourselves, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

In terms of time, the heritage—the mystic relationship between the Law and the lives of the people—courses eternally through the past, present, and future, unbroken in any lifetime. In terms of space, the Daishonin proclaims that the heritage of the ultimate Law flows within the lives of his disciples and lay supporters who work in perfect unity for the realization of a peaceful world and happiness for all humanity.

Having stated that the ultimate Law is within the lives of human beings, Nichiren Daishonin further explains how to inherit the Law. He emphasizes the importance of the attitude, “now is the last moment . . . ,” in order to manifest innate Buddhahood, a state that transcends both life and death.

In discussing the thousand Buddhas and the ten kings of hell, he reveals the continuity of cause and effect spanning past, present, and future. Whatever state of life predominates while one is alive will continue in the next life. Whether one can succeed to the heritage of the Law depends entirely on one’s faith. This is why he strictly warns in his conclusion, “Even embracing the Lotus Sutra would be useless without the heritage of faith.”

LETTER SENT WITH THE PRAYER SUTRA

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I myself, since the day I first took faith [in the Lotus Sutra], have recited these passages every day, making a vow and praying to theBuddhas and the gods, and although I have encountered great difficulties of various kinds, because of the profound influence of the benefits bestowed by the Lotus Sutra and the golden words of Shakyamuni Buddha, I have managed to survive until today.

Thus you should understand that so long as a practitioner of theLotus Sutra remains unwavering in faith, free of all false alliances, entrusting himself wholeheartedly to the Lotus Sutra and practicing in accordance with the Buddha’s golden words, he will without fail be able to prevent disaster and prolong his life in this present existence, to say nothing of in the life to come. Splendid recompense will be his, and he will fulfill his great vow to broadly proclaim and propagate the Lotus Sutra.


Nichiren Daishonin sent this letter to the priest Sairen-bō with a separate scroll attached on which the Daishonin had written out passages from the Lotus Sutra for Sairen-bō to recite as a prayer. Sairen-bō, a scholarly priest originally of the Tendai school, had been in exile on Sado, where he encountered the Daishonin and became his disciple.

Sairen-bō had been suffering from illness and had asked theDaishonin what prayer would be effective in curing his illness and prolonging his life. The Daishonin responded by sending him a scroll known as “the prayer sutra” containing Lotus Sutra passages describing such benefits. But that document has been lost and it is not known what passages were cited therein. In this letter Nichiren Daishonin points out that the key to having this prayer answered is unwavering devotion to the practice and propagation of the Lotus Sutra; hence he states that only those dedicated to this task should offer this prayer.

In the letter, he affirms that the reason he has survived in spite of undergoing one great hardship after another is that he has recited passages from the Lotus Sutra on a daily basis, prayed to the Buddhas and the gods- the protective functions inherent in the universe- and made a vow.

The Daishonin emphasises the regularity of his practice with the phrase “every day”. He notes three characteristics that define the faith and practice of the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra that lead to absolute victory. These are:

  • Remaining unwavering in faith:

This is resolute faith, a great vow to live one’s life solidly based on the Mystic Law. It means not having the slightest doubt, hesitation or fear in one’s heart. As President Toda continuously reminded us- not advancing is retreating. He said, ” The crucial question is whether we are changing for the better or for the worse. When we fail to be aware of this, we give into inertia. Moreover, when we grow apathetic in faith, practicing only out of habit, it’s the same as if we have stopped practicing altogether. Faith in Nichiren Buddhism is an active practice for rapidly changing ourselves for the better.” The important thing is to never allow ourselves to be defeated. Remaining undefeated is being unwavering.

  • Striving in faith with integrity and sincerity:

The second characteristic identified by the Daishonin is “remaining free of all false alliances”. This means not being a false friend but embodying sincerity and integrity.in all our actions and behaviour. It is faithfully following the path of our beliefs and convictions.

  • Believing in the power of the mystic law and practicing as the Buddha teaches:

The third characteristic cited y the Daishonin is “entrusting…  wholeheartedly to the Lotus Sutra and practicing in accordance with the Buddha’s golden words”. This is practicing the Lotus Sutra, the very heart of the Buddha, just as the Buddha teaches. This means persevering in faith, practice, and study, and dedicating our lives to the great vow for kosen-rufu, always based on the gohonzon of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. y making kosen-rufu the guiding purpose of all our prayers and action, we can tap the limitless wisdom, courage and strength of the Buddha that are inherent in our lives. This is what allows to make the impossible possible.

ON THE FIVE SEASONAL FESTIVALS

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First, when we consider the order of the five seasonal festivals, we find that they are festivals corresponding to the order of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.

The festival of the New Year corresponds to the character “myō,” and the Sun Goddess is honored as the guardian deity of the crops. The third day of the third month is the festival corresponding to the character “hō,” and the “dragon” is honored as the guardian deity. The fifth day of the fifth month is the festival corresponding to the character “ren,” and the“horse” is honored as the guardian deity. The seventh day of the seventh month is the festival corresponding to the character “ge,” and the“monkey” is honored as the guardian deity. The ninth day of the ninth month is the festival corresponding to the character “kyō,” and the “dog” is honored as the guardian deity.

Please look upon it in this way and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. There can then be no doubt about the words “peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences.”2

Sutra passages make it perfectly clear that all the heavenly beings are bound to diligently protect practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. The fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra says, “The heavenly beings day and night will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them.”3 Again, it says, “The young sons of heavenly beings will wait on him and serve him. Swords and staves will not touch him and poison will have no power to harm him.”4 The “heavenly beings” refer to Brahmā, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four p.375great heavenly kings, and others like them. The “Law” refers to the Lotus Sutra. The “young sons” refer to the seven luminaries, the twenty-eight constellations, Marīchi, and the like. The words “Those who join the battle are all in the front lines”5 correspond to the passage “Swords and staves will not touch him.”


 

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Hota in Awa Province to Akimoto Tarō in Shimōsa Province on the eleventh day of the first month in 1271. From the Daishonin’s opening remarks in the letter, we can assume that Akimoto Taro had sent a letter to the Daishonin in which he spoke of his joy in encountering the correct teacher and the correct teaching,[2] and then gone on to ask him about the meaning of the five seasonal festivals[3] customarily observed at that time.

The Daishonin explains that the essence of the five seasonal festivals is included within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the Law that pervades all phenomena. When we base our lives on the Mystic Law, we can enjoy and celebrate seasonal events, including the New Year, in the most positive and meaningful way, and naturally come to lead happy, healthy lives. This is the way to fully enjoy our present existence and experience a wonderful life state in the next as well. He promises that those who uphold the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo will always be protected and supported throughout the four seasons, day and night, by such great heavenly deities as the Buddhist gods Brahma and Shakra.Here, he cites two passages from “Peaceful Practices,” the 14th chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

The first is, “The heavenly beings day and night will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them” (LSOC, 245).

This was demonstrated unquestionably during the Daishonin’s lifetime, and is a fact that Soka Gakkai members from the organization’s earliest days on have actually experienced and shown in their own lives.

The second passage is: “The young sons of heavenly beings will wait on him and serve him. Swords and staves will not touch him and poison will have no power to harm him” (LSOC, 249).

These words attest that no matter how practitioners of the Lotus Sutra may be attacked or persecuted, the positive forces of the universe will thoroughly protect them.

In concluding his answer, the Daishonin encourages Akimoto Taro to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on the occasion of each of the five seasonal festivals, as he does at other times, and “strive to attain the way” (WND-2, 375)—in other words, to realize a state of complete fulfillment.

 

Source: World Tribune, May 2016

 

 

ON FOUR STAGES OF FAITH AND FIVE STAGES OF PRACTICE

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The transmission section has two parts. The first is that of the theoretical teaching and consists of the five chapters beginning with the “Teacher of the Law” chapter. The second is that of the essential teaching and consists of the latter part of the “Distinctions in Benefits” chapter through the eleven chapters that comprise the remainder of the sutra. The five chapters from the theoretical teaching and the eleven and a half chapters from the essential teaching combine to make sixteen and a half chapters, and in these it is clearly explained how one should practice the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. If this is not convincing enough, then further examining the matter in light of the Universal Worthy and Nirvana sutras3 will surely leave no doubt.

Within these chapters of transmission, the four stages of faith and the five stages of practice expounded in the “Distinctions in Benefits” chapter refer to what is most important in the practice of the Lotus Sutra, and are a standard for those living in the time of the Buddha and after his passing.

Ching-hsi4 writes, “‘To produce even a single moment of belief and understanding’ represents the beginning in the practice of the essential teaching.”5 Of these various stages, the four stages of faith are intended for those living in the Buddha’s lifetime, and the five stages of practice, for those living after his passing. Among these, the first of the four stages of faith is that of producing even a single moment of belief and understanding, and the first of the five stages of practice is that of rejoicing on hearing the Lotus Sutra. These two stages together are the treasure chest of the hundred worlds and thousand factors and of three thousand realms in a single moment of life; they are the gate from p.784which all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences emerge.

The two sage and worthy teachers T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo established these two initial stages of faith and practice, and put forth three interpretations concerning them. One equates them with the stage of resemblance to enlightenment, the ten stages of faith, and the stage of the iron-wheel-turning king.6 The second equates them with the first of the five stages of practice, which are identified with the stage of perception and action, at which one has not yet severed the illusions of thought and desire. The third equates them with the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth.

In reconciling these differences of interpretation, Great Concentration and Insight states: “The Buddha’s intentions are difficult to determine. He explained things differently according to the differing capacities of his listeners. If only we understand this, then what need is there for troublesome disputes?”

My opinion is that, of the three interpretations, the one that refers to hearing the name and words of the truth accords best with the text of the Lotus Sutra. For, in describing the first of the five stages of practice that apply to the time after the Buddha’s passing, the sutra speaks of those who “[hear this sutra and] do not slander or speak ill of it but feel joy in their hearts.”7 If one equates the stage described here with a level as advanced as the five stages of practice at the stage of resemblance to enlightenment, then the words “do not slander or speak ill of it” would hardly be appropriate.


This work is one of Nichiren Daishonin’s ten major writings. It is thought to have been written on the tenth day of the fourth month in the third year of Kenji (1277). This work is the Daishonin’s reply to Toki Jōnin, one of the Daishonin’s most learned and devout disciples. In it he stresses that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Mystic Law is the correct practice for the Latter Day of the Law and contains the merit of all other practices within it, leading directly to Buddhahood.

In the opening section, the Daishonin takes issue with those of his contemporaries who hold that practitioners of the Lotus Sutra must devote themselves to the three types of learning: precepts, meditation, and wisdom. These three were traditionally said to encompass the whole of Buddhist practice. The Daishonin begins his explanation by discussing the “four stages of faith and the five stages of practice” enumerated by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai on the basis of the “Distinctions in Benefits” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The first stage of faith, that of “producing even a single moment of belief and understanding,” and the first stage of practice, that of “rejoicing on hearing the Lotus Sutra,” correspond to the status of practitioners in the Latter Day of the Law, the Daishonin says. Among various interpretations of these initial stages set forth in the recorded teachings of T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, he designates as most appropriate the view that they correspond to the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth, the stage where one first hears and takes faith in the Lotus Sutra. For people at these initial stages, the Daishonin continues, of the three types of learning, the Buddha restricted the practice of precepts and meditation, emphasizing only wisdom. And, because the wisdom of people in the Latter Day is inadequate, they should substitute faith; faith in the Lotus Sutra becomes the cause for acquiring the Buddha wisdom.

The four stages of faith are for those who embrace the Lotus Sutra during Shakyamuni’s lifetime, and the five stages of practice are for believers in the sutra after Shakyamuni’s death. The four stages of faith are (1) to believe in and understand the sutra even for a moment, (2) to generally understand the import of the words of the sutra, (3) to expound the teaching of the sutra widely for others, and (4) to realize with deep faith the truth expounded by the Buddha.

The five stages of practice are (1) to rejoice on hearing the Lotus Sutra, (2) to read and recite the sutra, (3) to expound the sutra to others, (4) to embrace the sutra and practice the six pāramitās, and (5) to perfect one’s practice of the six pāramitās. The Daishonin defines the correct stage for practitioners in the Latter Day of the Law to be the first of the four stages of faith and the first of the five stages of practice, that is, to believe in and understand the Lotus Sutra even for a moment and to rejoice on hearing the sutra. 

THE TWO KINDS OF FAITH

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Today there are people who have faith in the Lotus Sutra. The belief of some is like fire while that of others is like water. When the former listen to the teachings, their passion flares up like fire, but as time goes on, they tend to discard their faith. To have faith like water means to believe continuously without ever regressing. Since you visit me constantly, regardless of the difficulties, your belief is comparable to flowing water. It is worthy of great respect!


 

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu to Nanjō Tokimitsu, the steward of Ueno Village in Suruga Province, in the second month of the fourth year of Kenji (1278). He introduces the concept of the two kinds of faith: faith like ephemeral fire and faith like ever-flowing water.

One cannot attain Buddhahood if, though practicing eagerly at one point, one later gives into doubt and strays from the path of faith. The Daishonin here puts emphasis on the non-regressing faith that never wavers, no matter what obstacles one encounters.

“Faith like fire” corresponds to the faith of those who, when they listen to the teachings, are inspired to strive actively in their Buddhist practice, just like fire burns brightly when logs are added, but who lose enthusiasm as time passes, just like a fire that eventually burns out. This kind of faith is not self-motivated but stimulated by external influences. Thus, when the fuel or inspiration runs out, the passion is extinguished.

“Faith like water”, on the other hand, corresponds to the faith of those who have an inner generated seeking spirit for attaining the Buddha way. Such people continue to press forward unflaggingly,  remaining steadfast in their Buddhist practice, refusing to be deterred by external influences.

Even when the ship of our lives is sailing smoothly, we must keep our eyes on the compass, courageously taking the helm and vigilantly steer our course. We must always renew our faith, challenge ourselves and win over obstacles, continuing to grow and move forward, just like water flows unwaveringly making its path through all obstacles.