Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbour doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbour doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes.
The Opening of the Eyes is a treatise that revealed the essence of Nichiren Buddhism. It was written under harsh conditions of the bitter cold winter in Tsukahara on Sado island where the Daishonin was still in exile on the second month of 1272 and addressed to Shijo Kingo, one of his leading disciples in Kamakura, on behalf of all his followers.
During this period of time, the Daishonin’s disciples were also experiencing intense oppression from the authorities because of their faith. On 12 Sep the previous year, the Daishonin was almost beheaded at Tatsunokuchi and on the following month, he was sentenced to exile on Sado island.
His disciples were either imprisoned, banished or had their lands confiscated. The Daishonin described the situation in one of his writings in this manner: “…in Kamakura, among 999 out of 1,000 people who gave up their faith when I was arrested…”
Many in society and shaken disciples scathingly asked why, if the Daishonin was truly the votary of the Lotus Sutra as he claimed, he did not enjoy protection from the heavens.
In order to dispel people’s negativity and doubt and instill them with confidence and conviction, the Daishonin wrote this treatise to “open the eyes” of the people to the truth of a “votary of the Lotus Sutra” whose mission is to lead all people in the Latter Day to happiness.
Nichiren Daishonin described what he had written in The Opening of the Eyes as “the most important concern of my entire life” (WND, p243). The passage we are studying this month is the concluding portion of this important treatise and it is the very passage that the mentor and disciple of three successive presidents of the Soka Gakkai practiced with their words, thoughts and deeds.
Right at the outset of this passage, the Daishonin called forth to his disciples impassionately, “I and my disciples”.
By appearing in this defiled age of the Latter Day as an ordinary being amongst people who slander the Lotus Sutra and wagging a struggle against persecutions from the three powerful enemies, thus eradicating his negative karma, the Daishonin demonstrated through his own life what it means to attain Buddhahood, that is to achieve ultimate victory in life.
This struggle that demonstrated the principle of “enduring hardship on account of faith equals attaining BUddhahood” was waged by the Daishonin for the sake of the people in the Latter Day to open the path for the universal enlightenment of all people – enable all people to gain access to the path of Buddhahood.
For this reason, the Daishonin used the phrase, “I and my disciples” here in this passage, to call forth to his disciples to prevail over all difficulties by practicing faith in the same mind as their mentor and attain Buddhahood.
In our journey of faith in attaining Buddhahood, difficulties cannot be avoided. We may experience adversities that are so harsh that we wonder why the heavens did not lend their protection.
However, that is the moment we must remind ourselves not to harbour doubts nor be discouraged. Instead, we should regard that moment as the best opportunity to transform our karma and courageously stand up to confront and overcome that adversity.
The Daishonin said in this passage that that is exactly what he had been teaching to his disciples so that they know what to do during such crucial moments in their lives.
Yet, when these crucial moments come, his disciples began to harbour doubts and abandon their faith. The Daishonin emphasized the point that one should never forget the promise one had made with one’s mentor when the crucial moment comes.
Now, when should we regard as “crucial moments”? Who is to decide when is one’s “crucial moment”?
No one can decide this except oneself. We are the ones who should be deciding that now is the “crucial moment” and wage a struggle to overcome the hardship based on one’s own resolve. It all boils down to one’s own will. It is important to remember this point.
SGI President Ikeda said, “In our own journey of life, we will encounter valleys of problems and mountains of adversities, but there is no trial that we can’t overcome through our faith and practice. When we dedicate ourselves to the Mystic Law, everything will become nurturing sustenance for our lives, a great treasure, and we will definitely be able to win in the end.”
Adapted from the April 2010 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.