What then does myō signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality. Myō is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and hō, to its manifestations. Renge, which means lotus flower, is used to symbolize the wonder of this Law. If we understand that our life at this moment is myō, then we will also understand that our life at other moments is the Mystic Law.4 This realization is the mystic kyō, or sutra. The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, the direct path to enlightenment, for it explains that the entity of our life, which manifests either good or evil at each moment, is in fact the entity of the Mystic Law.
If you chant Myoho-renge-kyo with deep faith in this principle, you are certain to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. That is why the sutra states, “After I have passed into extinction, [one] should accept and uphold this sutra. Such a person assuredly and without doubt will attain the Buddha way.”5 Never doubt in the slightest.
This letter was written to Toki Jōnin in the seventh year of Kenchō (1255), two years after Nichiren Daishonin established his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. At the time of this letter, the Daishonin was thirty-four years old and was living in Kamakura, the seat of the military government. Toki was a staunch follower of the Daishonin who lived in Wakamiya in Shimōsa Province.
Of all his writings from the mid-1250s, this letter focuses most clearly on the tenets of the Daishonin’s Buddhism; many of the other works of this period are aimed chiefly at refuting the erroneous doctrines of other schools and discussing theoretical questions. This short essay not only reflects the theories T’ien-t’ai formulated based on the Lotus Sutra, but also reveals the concrete practice for attaining Buddhahood—namely, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—that is missing in T’ien-t’ai’s theoretical framework.
Myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus Sutra, but to theDaishonin it is much more; it is the essence of the sutra, the revelation of the supreme Law itself. Apparent in this work are both the depth of his thought and his conviction that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the only teaching that can lead people to Buddhahood in this lifetime.
The principle of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime is significant in that it offers a source of hope to humanity and opens the way to transforming the destiny of all humankind. This is its collective or universal significance.
Nichiren speaks of “the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality”–in other words, the mystic, inscrutable nature of life, of our hearts and minds, that manifests as Buddhahood. In this way, he indicates that Myoho-renge-kyo is the mystic law of life, of the inner realm of our beings. On that basis, he asserts that when we chant daimoku with deep faith in the Mystic Law, we can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. He explains the meaning of “myo” which is the mysterious nature of our existence.
Without surmounting the fundamental human delusions of greed, anger, and foolishness, we will not be able to solve the many problems that the world faces today, including the preoccupation with economic growth, politics that are devoid of humanism, international conflicts, war, growing disparity between rich and poor, and rampant discrimination. One conclusion from my dialogues with leading thinkers is that the only real solution is for human beings themselves to change, that the sole key lies in “human revolution.”
It could further be said that without establishing a correct view of life and death, it is impossible to conquer inner darkness and delusion at the most fundamental level. Without the view of life and death of the Middle Way . . . true and lasting happiness cannot be achieved.
The only way for human beings to change is for them to conquer their inner darkness and rediscover the eternal sanctity and dignity within their own lives. Cultivating the noble spirit with which all people are originally endowed will directly lead to a change in the destiny of humankind.