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.”

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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.

GREAT EVIL AND GREAT GOOD

Great events never have minor omens. When great evil occurs, great good follows. Since great slander already exists in our land, the great correct Law will spread without fail. What could any of you have to lament? Even if you are not the Venerable Mahākāshyapa, you should all perform a dance. Even if you are not Shāriputra, you should leap up and dance. When Bodhisattva Superior Practices emerged from the earth, did he not emerge dancing? And when Bodhisattva Universal Worthy arrived, the ground shook in six different ways. There is much to say, but as I am pressed for time, I will close. I will write again on another occasion.


It is not certain whether this is the text of a short letter or a fragment of a longer piece. Neither its date nor its recipient is known. Judging from the content, it may have been sent to some of the Daishonin’s believers who were facing difficulties on account of their faith. With the assurance “When great evil occurs, great good follows,” the Daishonin encourages his disciples to regard the hostility they face as an omen of great good, that is, the eventual spreading of the correct teaching. It, however, does no mean that great good automatically comes after great evil; it means that, by regarding difficulties as opportunities and possessing the firm resolve to take courageous action to transform them into springboards for growth, we can realize great good. For this reason, the Daishonin said, “What could any of you have to lament?” If one is absolutely convinced that great good will follow great evil, one should rejoice when difficulties arise, instead of lamenting about it. He also urges them to rejoice like Mahākāshyapa and Shāriputra, who danced with joy in the Lotus Sutra when they heard the Buddha’s teaching of universal enlightenment, and realized that they, too, could become Buddhas.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “Faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism enables us to change poison into medicine, no matter what the circumstances. It is precisely when some terrible misfortune or catastrophe occurs that we are presented with an opportunity to receive tremendous benefit – or, in the Daishonin’s words, that ‘great good follows’.  The lion king brings forth the greatest strength when the situation is most dire.”

THE REAL ASPECT OF THE GOHONZON

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A woman who makes offerings to such a Gohonzon invites happiness in this life, and in the next, the Gohonzon will be with her and protect her always. Like a lantern in the dark, like a strong guide and porter on a treacherous mountain path, the Gohonzon will guard and protect you, Nichinyo, wherever you go. Therefore, you should take every care to ward off slanderers of the Law in the same way that you would never wish a courtesan even to come near your home. This is the meaning of “Thrust aside evil friends and associate with good companions.”7

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. The body is the palace of the ninth consciousness,8 the unchanging reality that reigns over all of life’s functions. To be endowed with the Ten Worlds means that all ten, without a single exception, exist in one world. Because of this it is called a mandala. Mandala is a Sanskrit word that is translated as “perfectly endowed” or “a cluster of blessings.” This Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith.9 This is what the sutra means when it states that one can “gain entrance through faith alone.”10


 

In this reply to Nichinyo, Nichiren Daishonin expresses his gratitude for her offerings to the Gohonzon and explains the significance of the object of devotion. This letter contains a description of the Gohonzon that details the figures represented therein and their significance. The Daishonin also underscores the importance of faith in the Gohonzon. Describing the great benefit of faith in the Gohonzon, the Daishonin declares, “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself,” adding that the Gohonzon is also found only in faith. Sharing two examples from secular tradition, the Daishonin reminds Nichinyo that faith is by far the most important element in manifesting “the Gohonzon” in one’s life. He concludes by stressing that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith is the most complete form of Buddhist practice.

The fundamental Law of life exists within ourselves. Thus there is no essential difference between the Buddha’s life and the life of common mortals. There is, however, a definite difference ‘in terms of life-condition. The Buddha realizes that one’s own life is the Mystic Law, while common mortals, blinded by delusion, do not. As the Buddha of the Latter Day, Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon so that we, common mortals, could awaken to the Mystic Law within ourselves and attain the same life-condition as himself. Because his aim was to awaken us to the entity of our own lives, he admonishes, “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself.” If we thought of the Gohonzon as some external or supernatural power that we must beseech for help, that would hinder us from discovering the ultimate truth within ourselves. The Daishonin, therefore cautions us against this attitude.

To give an analogy, no matter how perfect our eyesight, we cannot see our own faces. Only when we look into a mirror can we see what we look like. Similarly, being common mortals of limited wisdom, we cannot see our own Buddha nature. However, when we face the mirror of the Gohonzon, we can discover the treasure of Buddhahood (the Gohonzon) within.

ON PERSECUTIONS BEFALLING THE SAGE

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The Lotus Sutra reads, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?”1 The Thus Come One Shakyamuni suffered innumerable persecutions: For ninety days he was forced to eat horse fodder; a huge boulder was dropped on him, and though it missed him, his toe was injured and bled; a group of eight monks led by Sunakshatra, in their conduct appearing to be the Buddha’s disciples, but in spirit siding with the non-Buddhist teachers, watched every moment of the day and night for a chance to kill him; King Virūdhaka killed countless members of the Shākya clan; and King Ajātashatru had innumerable disciples of the Buddha trampled to death by mad elephants and subjected the Buddha to a series of severe trials. Such are the minor persecutions that correspond to the time “when the Thus Come One is in the world.”

Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion king fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like barking foxes, but Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions. The lay priest of Saimyō-ji, now deceased, and the present ruler3 permitted my return from my exiles when they found that I was innocent of the accusations against me. The present ruler shall no longer take action on any charge without confirming its truth. You may rest assured that nothing, not even a person possessed by a powerful demon, can harm Nichiren, because Brahmā, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, the Sun Goddess, and Hachiman are safeguarding him. Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage.


 

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu in 1279 to his followers in general. It reviews some of the outstanding incidents in his life.

Around 1275, the number of new believers increased, with that did official pressures. In Atsuhara, a village in Fuji District of Suruga Province, believers were subjected to a series of threats and harassments known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. Twenty believers, all farmers, were arrested on the 21st September 1279, on false charges, and three of them were later beheaded. In spite of these persecutions, not one of the twenty farmers abandoned their faith. Seeing that his followers were now ready to give their lives if necessary to protect the Law, the Daishonin realized that he had now fulfilled the purpose of his life. “Twenty-seven years” is the time since he had declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in 1253, during which he had endeavored to spread that teaching while enduring severe persecutions. He had done so solely to save people from suffering and establish Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws as his ultimate teaching.

The phrase “Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king” captures the essence of Nichiren Buddhism. “Each of you” refers to the fact that each person possesses within the courage of a lion king. Faith grounded in the spirit of oneness with our mentor is the basis for summoning forth this courage. The courage of a lion king is the spirit of the mentor who has fearlessly opened the way for kosen-rufu. When we share that spirit as our own, we cannot fail to bring forth the courage of a lion king in our lives. When we strive with the same spirit as our mentor, we will never be deadlocked. Asking ourselves what our mentor would do, mustering all our wisdom and strength to respond to our mentor’s hopes—that spirit is what awakens the state of a lion king within us and gives rise to the courage to triumph over every difficulty and challenge. The spirit of a lion king: unwavering commitment; invincible spirit; courageous; undefeated; sincerely persevering in Buddhist practice; fearless. President Ikeda explains faith is another name for the courage to always keep moving forward.Disciples who embrace the great aim of kosen-rufu and follow the example of a great mentor who is filled with compassion, courage and wisdom will never be defeated. The lion king is always victorious. The lion cubs must resolve to become lion kings, too. Now is the time for them to do so. Nichiren’s disciples should all encourage one another that the time to stand up resolutely as lion kings has arrived. This is the Daishonin’s message to his disciples.

 

 

REPLY TO LAY NUN NICHIGON

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“Whether or not your prayer is answered will depend on your faith; [if it is not] I will in no way be to blame.

When water is clear, the moon is reflected. When the wind blows, the trees shake. Our minds are like the water. Faith that is weak is like muddy water, while faith that is brave is like clear water. Understand that the trees are like principles, and the wind that shakes them is like the recitation of the sutra.”


This letter was written at Minobu in 1280 in response to a petition from the lay nun Nichigon who is believed to have been either a relative of the lay priest Takahashi, a central figure among the believers in Fuji District of Suruga Province, or the mother of Nichigen, a priest of Jissō-ji temple in the same province who converted to Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

In this short letter to the lay nun, the Daishonin emphasises on the importance of deepening of one’s faith. Fulfillment of prayers is based on the faith one has on the Lotus Sutra and while chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. A weakening faith in the Sutra is like murky water that is filled with doubt (mud). As we strengthen our faith, we cleanse this water which ultimately becomes crystal clear- a faith that is brave and unshakable devoid of doubt.

ON CONSECRATING AN IMAGE OF SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA

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You should understand, therefore, that it is the power of the Buddhist Law that enables the deities of the sun and moon to make their rounds of the four continents. The Golden Light and Sovereign Kings sutras are mere expedient teachings leading to the Lotus Sutra. When compared with the Lotus Sutra, they are like milk compared with ghee, or metal compared with precious gems. And yet, inferior as these sutras are, they enable the heavenly deities to circle the four continents. How much more power can these deities gain, then, by tasting the sweet ghee of the Lotus Sutra.


 

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu to Shijō Kingo in 1276, when he was fifty-five. Evidently Shijō Kingo had made a wooden image of Shakyamuni Buddha for the benefit of his deceased parents and asked the Daishonin to perform the eye-opening ceremony to consecrate it. This letter is the Daishonin’s reply.

In the opening section, the Daishonin says that only when the Lotus Sutra is used at the eye-opening ceremony to consecrate a Buddha image will that image become endowed with the five types of vision and the Buddha’s three bodies. He states that while the sun and the moon deities gained vitality from hearing the Golden Light Sutra, which is inferior to the Lotus Sutra, the benefits would be manifold even to deities if the heard the Lotus Sutra.

Making Buddha images was a widespread practice, and, in an age when most people revered the Buddha Amida, the Daishonin was tolerant of the making of images of Shakyamuni as an act leading toward correct understanding. Emphasising on the superiority of the Lotus Sutra, he says that it can infuse such paintings and statues with a “soul” or spiritual property.