“A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads that it is “the most difficult tobelieve and the most difficult to understand.”4 Many hear about and accept this sutra, but when great obstacles arise, just as they were told would happen, few remember it and bear it firmly in mind. To accept is easy; to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith. Those who uphold this sutra should be prepared to meet difficulties. It is certain, however, that they will “quickly attain the unsurpassed Buddha way.”5 To “continue” means to cherish Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the most important principle for all the Buddhas of the three existences. The sutra reads, “We will protect and uphold what the Buddha has entrusted tous.”6 The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai stated, “One accepts because of one’s power of faith and continues because of one’s power of constant thought.”7 Another part of the sutra reads, “This sutra is hard to uphold; if one can uphold it even for a short while I will surely rejoice and so will the other Buddhas.”8
A fire burns higher when logs are added, and a strong wind makes akālakula grow larger. The pine tree lives for ten thousand years, and therefore its boughs become bent and twisted. The votary of the Lotus Sutra is like the fire and the kālakula , while his persecutions are like the logs and the wind. The votary of the Lotus Sutra is the Thus Come Onewhose life span is immeasurable; no wonder his practice is hindered, just as the pine tree’s branches are bent or broken. From now on, always remember the words “This sutra is hard to uphold”.”
This short letter is one of thirty-seven still extant writings addressed by Nichiren Daishonin to his faithful disciple Shijō Kingo. Kingo was under great pressure from his lord, Ema, and other fellow warriors to renounce his support for the Daishonin. This letter was written to encourage Kingo and to strengthen his resolve. Nichiren reminded him that difficulties were predicted in the Lotus Sutra – that he must bear this firmly in mind and remain steadfast.
As human beings, we can’t control our environment, our circumstances or the timing of things. The only thing we can control in a given moment is our ichinen – our single-minded determination. For various reasons we might not be able to run the marathon we intended. But we can still run a marathon.
Choosing to strive again another day, even to start all over if circumstances warrant – that’s continuing faith. It may seem more than merely difficult – it may seem Herculean. But the decision to keep moving toward your goal, undaunted by the inevitable setbacks; to keep believing in yourself even in dark times, that, that is enlightenment.