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.

THE TRUE ASPECT OF ALL PHENOMENA

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QUESTION: The “Expedient Means” chapter in the first volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “The true aspect of all phenomena [can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature . . . and] their consistency from beginning to end.” What does this passage mean?

Answer: It means that all beings and environments in the Ten Worlds, from hell, the lowest, to Buddhahood, the highest, are without exception manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. If there is an environment, living beings are bound to dwell there. A commentary states, “Living beings and their environments always manifest Myoho-renge-kyo.”1 Another says: “The true aspect invariably manifests in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably manifest in the ten factors. The ten factors invariably manifest in the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably manifest in life and its environment.”2 And “Both the beings and the environment of the Avīchi hell exist entirely within the life of the highest sage [Buddha], and what is more, the life and the environment of Vairochana [Buddha] never transcend the lives of common mortals.”3 These explanations are precise and clear. Who could have doubts? Thus, the entire realm of phenomena is no different than the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.

Even the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Many Treasures, in performing the functions of the benefit of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, manifested themselves as the two Buddhas, and seated together in the treasure tower, nodded in mutual agreement.

No one but Nichiren has ever revealed teachings like these. Though T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo, and Dengyō knew about them in their hearts, they never put them into words. They went about their lives keeping this knowledge to themselves. And there was good reason for this. The Buddha had not entrusted them with the task, the time had not yet come, and they had not been the Buddha’s disciples from the distant past. Only Superior Practices, Boundless Practices, and the other foremost leaders and guiding teachers among the Bodhisattvas of the Earth cannot only appear during the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law and spread the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of all phenomena, but also give concrete form to the ceremony of the two Buddhas seated side by side in the treasure tower. The reason is that what they are to spread and give concrete form to is none other than the teaching of the actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life in the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching.

Therefore, the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Many Treasures, are Buddhas who are functions [of Myoho-renge-kyo]. It is Myoho-renge-kyo that is the true Buddha.4 This is what is described in the sutra as “the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers.”5 The “Thus Come One’s secret” refers to the entity of the Buddha’s three bodies, and it refers to the true Buddha. “His transcendental powers” refers to the functions of the three bodies, and it refers to provisional Buddhas. A common mortal is an entity of the three bodies, and a true Buddha. A Buddha is a function of the three bodies, and a provisional Buddha. In that case, though it is thought that Shakyamuni Buddha possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent for the sake of all of us living beings, that is not so. On the contrary, it is common mortals who endow him with the three virtues.

The “Thus Come One” is explained clearly in T’ien-t’ai’s commentary as follows: “The Thus Come One is a general designation for the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences, for the two Buddhas, the three Buddhas,6 the true Buddha, and provisional Buddhas.”7 The “true Buddha” here means common mortals, whereas “provisional Buddhas” means Buddhas. However, because of the difference between ordinary people and Buddhas that stems from the disparity between delusion and enlightenment, ordinary people are unaware that they are endowed with both the entity and the functions of the three bodies.

“All phenomena” in the sutra refers to the Ten Worlds, and the “true aspect,” to what they actually are. The “true aspect” is another name for Myoho-renge-kyo; hence all phenomena are Myoho-renge-kyo. Hell’s displaying the form of hell is its true aspect. When hell changes into the realm of hungry spirits, that is no longer the true form of hell. A Buddha displays the form of a Buddha, and a common mortal, that of a common mortal. The entities of all phenomena are entities of Myoho-renge-kyo. That is the meaning of “the true aspect of all phenomena.” T’ien-t’aistates that the profound principle of the true aspect is the originally inherent Myoho-renge-kyo.8 This interpretation identifies the phrase “true aspect” with the theoretical teaching and “the originally inherent Myoho-renge-kyo” with the essential teaching. You should ponder this interpretation deep in your heart.


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Sairen-bō Nichijō while at Ichinosawa on Sado Island in the fifth month of the tenth year of Bun’ei (1273). A former Tendai priest, he already knew something about “the true aspect of all phenomena”; it was a fundamental concept in the Tendai school of Buddhism. He could not, however, satisfactorily come to grips with this concept through T’ien-t’ai’s theory alone, so he asked the Daishonin for an explanation. The True Aspect of All Phenomena is the Daishonin’s reply.

This Gosho  begins with a passage from the “Expedient Means” chapter—the heart of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra—that implies that no phenomenon is in any way different from the true aspect, or Myoho-renge-kyo. It also implies that all the innumerable forms and realities that exist, both concrete and abstract, are manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. The Daishonin then explains the essence of the Lotus Sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo, and its embodiment, the Gohonzon. This is the first element—the object of devotion in terms of the Law.

After clarifying the ultimate teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin states that Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, will propagate that teaching, and that he himself is carrying out the mission entrusted to that bodhisattva. In light of his own behavior and his fulfillment of the predictions in the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin suggests that he himself is Bodhisattva Superior Practices. A more profound interpretation, however, identifies him as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, whose purpose was to establish the Gohonzon for the enlightenment of all people in the Latter Day. Thus True Aspect of All Phenomena also explains the object of devotion in terms of the Person. This is the second element. Referring to both the Person and the Law, the Daishonin clarifies the fundamental object of devotion for the people of the Latter Day.

“All phenomena” indicates life in the ten worlds and its environment, or all living beings and the realms in which they dwell. In other words, it refers to all nature, to all things and phenomena.

“True aspect,” just as it sounds, means the true reality just as it is. The true aspect of all phenomena might be thought of as the undisguised truth of all things.

The ultimate truth or reality that permeates all phenomena and is in no way separate from them. A principle expressed in the “Expedient Means” (second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The chapter states: “The true aspect of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and their consistency from beginning to end.” The “Expedient Means” chapter defines the true aspect of all phenomena as the ten factors of life from “appearance” through “their consistency from beginning to end,” which describe the unchanging aspect of life common to all phenomena. Since the ten factors exist in any being of the Ten Worlds, there can be no fundamental distinction between a Buddha and an ordinary person. This revelation of the ten factors of life thus establishes a theoretical basis for the universal attainment of Buddhahood. Based on this passage of the “Expedient Means” chapter, T’ient’ai (538-597) established the philosophical system of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. In his 1273 work titled The True Aspect of All Phenomena, Nichiren defined “all phenomena” as all living beings and their environments in the Ten Worlds, and “the true aspect” as the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate reality permeating all living beings and their environments in any of the Ten Worlds.All phenomena, he stated, are manifestations of this universal Law; phenomena and the ultimate truth are inseparable and non-dual.

On a deeper level, Nichiren explains that the ten factors are in fact a manifestation of the underlying creative and compassionate life of the cosmos. He expressed this as the Mystic Law or Myoho-renge-kyo. To view all things as the manifestations of the Mystic Law of life is thus to perceive what the Lotus Sutra refers to as the “true aspect of all phenomena.”

But this truth does not justify a “laissez-faire” attitude to life. It is not correct to say that someone is a Buddha just as they are, even if they make no effort or carry out no practice. Simply saying that reality, full of suffering and problems, is itself the true entity, manifesting the enlightened life of the cosmos, cannot lead to improvement in people’s lives or society. Rather, the true aspect should be understood as a potential to be realized. Nichiren taught that it is not enough to be aware on a theoretical level of the true aspect of our lives. Rather, he urged his followers to commit themselves to their Buddhist practice in the midst of the realities that confronted them. It is by transforming ourselves and our surroundings, making them shine with the positive potentials they hold, that we reveal the true aspect of all phenomena—the state of Buddhahood—in our own lives.

THE REAL ASPECT OF THE GOHONZON

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How wondrous it is that, around two hundred years and more into the Latter Day of the Law, I was the first to reveal as the banner of propagation of the Lotus Sutra this great mandala that even those such as Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo were unable to express. This mandala is in no way my invention. It is the object of devotion that depicts Shakyamuni Buddha, the World-Honored One, seated in the treasure tower of Many Treasures Buddha, and the Buddhas who were Shakyamuni’s emanations as perfectly as a print matches its woodblock. Thus the five characters of the Lotus Sutra’s title are suspended in the center, while the four heavenly kings are seated at the four corners of the treasure tower. Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are side by side at the top. Seated below them are the bodhisattvas, including Universal Worthy and Manjushrī, and the voice-hearers, including Shāriputra and Maudgalyāyana. [Beside them are] the gods of the sun and moon, the devil king of the sixth heaven, the dragon king, and an asura. In addition,the wisdom kings Immovable and Craving-Filled take up their stations to the south and north. The evil and treacherous Devadatta and the ignorant dragon king’s daughter form a group. Not only the Mother of Demon Children and the ten demon daughters, who are evil demonsthat sap the lives of people throughout the major world system, but also the Sun Goddess, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, and the seven reigns of the heavenly gods and five reigns of the earthly gods, who are the guardian deities of Japan—all the various great and small gods, that is,the main gods, are ranged in rows. How then could the remaining subordinate gods be left out? The “Treasure Tower” chapter states, “[Shakyamuni Buddha used his transcendental powers to] lift all the members of the great assembly up into the air.”

Without exception, all these Buddhas, bodhisattvas, great sages, and, in general, all the various beings of the two worlds and the eight groups2 who appear in the “Introduction” chapter of the Lotus Sutra dwell in this Gohonzon. Illuminated by the light of the five characters of the Mystic Law, they display the dignified attributes that they inherently possess. This is the object of devotion.

This is what is meant when the sutra says “the true aspect of all phenomena.”3 Miao-lo stated: “The true aspect invariably manifests in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably manifest in the ten factors. The ten factors invariably manifest in the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably manifest in life and its environment.”4 It is also stated that the profound principle of the true aspect is the originally inherentMyoho-renge-kyo.5 The Great Teacher Dengyō said, “A single moment of life comprising the three thousand realms is itself the Buddha of limitless joy; this Buddha has forsaken august appearances.”6 Therefore, this Gohonzon shall be called the great mandala never before known; it did not appear until more than 2,220 years after the Buddha’s passing.


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. The exact identity of Nichinyo is unclear. She is thought tohave been either the wife of Ikegami Munenaka, the older of the Ikegami brothers, or a daughter of the lay priest Matsuno Rokurō Saemon, an earnest believer in Suruga Province. Judging from two letters theDaishonin sent her, she seems to have been a woman of good education and considerable affluence. Moreover, as the recipient of a Gohonzon, or object of devotion, she was evidently a sincere believer. 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.

In the first half of the letter, the Daishonin points out the rarity and importance of the Gohonzon. He cites the Lotus Sutra and other worksto show that the Gohonzon is the embodiment of “the true aspect of all phenomena” and “the three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”

Nichiren Daishonin [states]: “This mandala is in no way my invention”. The Gohonzon, he assures us, is not his arbitrary creation. It is the object of devotion depicting the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo —the Law for manifesting Buddhahood, which is inherent within our own life—embodied by Shakyamuni Buddha, seated in the treasure tower of Many Treasures Buddha, and all the Buddhas who were his emanations. In other words, the Gohonzon is a perfect representation of the “true aspect of all phenomena,” and the foundation principles of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds”  and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” all of which were elucidated during the Ceremony in the Air of the Lotus Sutra.

When we look at the layout of the Gohonzon, we see that Nam-myoho-rengekyo—referred to in this letter as “the five characters of the Lotus Sutra’s title”—is written down the center, flanked by representatives of each of the Ten Worlds. This indicates that all living beings of the Ten Worlds, from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas on down, are without exception embodied in the Gohonzon. This accords with the passage from “Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, cited by Nichiren in this letter: “[Shakyamuni Buddha used his transcendental powers to] lift all the members of the great assembly up into the air”. The Gohonzon, therefore, includes without exception “all the various beings” of the Ten Worlds. It is a representation of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” the principle that all living beings, when illuminated by the light of the Mystic Law, can display the “dignified attributes that they inherently possess”. In short, when all of the functions of the Ten Worlds within our lives are enveloped in the light of the wisdom and compassion of the world of Buddhahood, we can give expression to the power of supreme goodness and create enduring value. It also means that each unique individual comes to shine as an entity of the Mystic Law and manifest their inherently dignified nature. The Gohonzon enables us to build what Mr. Toda described as “a joyful, pure and sunny realm of friends living together in harmony and peace.” In such a realm, everyone—irrespective of their circumstances or whether they are still in the process of transforming their karma— shines with the “dignified attributes that they inherently possess.” Those in the world of hell, for instance, manifest the world of hell contained within the world of Buddhahood, and though there may still be suffering, it is not the hopeless suffering of wandering lost in eternal darkness. They can bring forth the courage to face difficult realities head-on, the wisdom to surmount the obstacles and barriers arising from within and from without, and the powerful life force to make new strides forward. Sufferings become challenges that aid one’s personal transformation and growth, becoming springboards to great development. Illuminated by the light of the five characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the noble state of life that is one with the Mystic Law functions vibrantly even in the world of hell. The meaning of the sufferings of hell is thereby turned around completely. While in prison, founding Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi serenely wrote: “Concentrating intently on my faith is my work right now. If I can do that, I am not the least bit anxious . . . Depending on one’s frame of mind, even hell can be enjoyable.”6 Mr. Toda also said that if we base ourselves on the Gohonzon, we can gain a state of being in which we are filled with boundless joy wherever we go. Every person’s life is an entity that inherently embodies the principles of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. In essence, it is perfect and complete—there is nothing extraneous to be subtracted and nothing lacking that needs to be added. No existence is without its joys and sorrows, its ups and downs. And no matter how we might try, we cannot avoid the universal sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. The mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is the true aspect of life, and each of the mutually inclusive Ten Worlds is a manifestation of the Mystic Law. The Gohonzon and faith in the Mystic Law enable us to draw out the supreme life state of Buddhahood and firmly establish it in our being. The layout of the Gohonzon is based on the true aspect of all phenomena elucidated in the Lotus Sutra, clarifying that we as ordinary people can manifest the boundless life state of Buddhahood in our present form. No such object of devotion ever existed in Buddhism prior to this. Though there were many magnificent depictions of Buddhas and bodhisattvas in paintings and sculptures, there was no mandala embodying the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds that enabled ordinary people to attain enlightenment. Nichiren Daishonin was the first to reveal the Gohonzon that illuminates the dignified attributes that we inherently possess, in other words, an object of devotion for the enlightenment of all humanity. This Gohonzon was truly the “great mandala never before known”, depicting the realm of a truly humanistic Buddhism.

FLOWERING AND BEARING GAIN

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It is said that, if a teacher has a good disciple, both will gain the fruit of Buddhahood, but if a teacher fosters a bad disciple, both will fall into hell. If teacher and disciple are of different minds, they will never accomplish anything. I will elaborate on this point later.

 


 

Nichiren Daishonin sent this message from Minobu in the fourth month of 1278 for the second memorial service for Dōzen-bō. Dōzen-bō had been a senior priest at Seichō-ji temple, where the Daishonin entered the priesthood. The Daishonin studied under him from the age of twelve. The letter was addressed to his former seniors at Seichō-ji, Jōken-bō and Gijō-bō.

Although Nichiren Daishonin’s teacher, Dozen-bo, had attempted to return to his faith in the Lotus Sutra after Nichiren had rebuked his slander of the Law, he died without completely giving up his attachment to the Nembutsu practice. But if a disciple such as the Daishonin were to attain Buddhahood through practicing the correct teaching, then through that benefit, it would also be possible for Dozen-bo to attain enlightenment, as well. This is what Nichiren is describing when he writes, “If a teacher has a good disciple, both will gain the fruit of Buddhahood.”

By the same token, however, a “bad disciple,” one who has been led astray by erroneous teachings, will not be able to attain Buddhahood, nor lead the teacher to enlightenment. As a result, as the Daishonin writes, both the disciple and the teacher “will fall into hell” .

In another writing, he also states, “If lay believers and their teacher pray with differing minds, their prayers will be as futile as trying to kindle a fire on water” (“The Eight Winds,”). The unchanging rule for victory in Nichiren Buddhism is for mentor and disciple to unite in spirit and align in purpose, like two interlocking gears. Above all, Nichiren followed the path of a genuine disciple, of a “good disciple” who was also able to guide his teacher to Buddhahood. The victory of the disciple is the victory of the teacher. The disciple is critical in determining the result. In the writing “Flowering and Bearing Grain,” the Daishonin not only describes his own spirit as a disciple, but also seeks to encourage his seniors Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, who shared Dozen-bo as their teacher, to also be good disciples able to lead their teacher to Buddhahood.

As long as he lived, Josei Toda remained a true disciple of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. When he spoke of Mr. Makiguchi, a grave expression came over Mr. Toda’s face. “Disciples have to follow the path of disciples,” he said, stressing that disciples need to put their mentor’s teachings into action in their own lives. He was also uncompromising toward those who tried to destroy this infinitely precious realm of mentor and disciple in Buddhism. He strictly emphasized that we must never allow anyone to harm the pure realm of faith of those dedicated to kosen-rufu. It was his solemn injunction that we protect the realm of mentor and disciple.

The mentor-disciple relationship is the core foundation of Nichiren Buddhism. This is because the profound, powerful and beautiful life-to-life interaction that takes place within the mentor-disciple relationship enables us to break free from our attachments to our small lesser selves and realize a state of life based on our boundless greater selves. When mentor and disciple are united, they can achieve anything and always be victorious. The path of mentor and disciple is the great path for absolute victory.

The Buddha is a teacher who has realized a profound inner transformation. In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni says, “At the start I took a vow, / hoping to make all persons / equal to me, without any distinction between us”. This, in other words, is the great vow to enable all people to attain Buddhahood. The unfolding drama of disciples standing up to realize this vow of the Buddha is indeed the central theme of the Lotus Sutra. The widespread propagation of the Law—the movement for kosen-rufu—is an unceasing, momentous struggle to elevate all humanity to the same life state as the Buddha.

Throughout his writings, Nichiren Daishonin frequently uses the expressions “Nichiren’s disciples” or “my disciples.” The path of kosen-rufu entails standing up with a profound sense of mission as a disciple of the Daishonin. It is the noble spiritual struggle to bring about an inner transformation in the lives of all humanity through the process of human revolution in an age steeped in the three poisons, and racked by endless conflict and tragedy. This struggle will eventually bring about a change in the life state of humanity as a whole and, with it, also a change in the destiny of the world.

LETTER TO GIJO- BO

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Single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha” may be read as follows: single-mindedly observing the Buddha, concentrating one’s mind on seeing the Buddha, and when looking at one’s own mind, perceiving that it is the Buddha. Having attained the fruit of Buddhahood, the eternally inherent three bodies, I may surpass even T’ien-t’ai and Dengyō, and excel even Nāgārjuna and Mahākāshyapa. The Buddha wrote that one should become the master of one’s mind rather than let one’s mind master oneself.4 This is what I mean when I emphatically urge you to give up even your body, and never begrudge even your life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.


 

This letter was written at Ichinosawa on Sado Island in the fifth month, 1273, to Gijō-bō, who had been the Daishonin’s senior at Seichō-ji templein Awa Province. Nearly a month earlier, Nichiren Daishonin had written The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind, in which he had explained both the object of devotion in terms of the Law and the correct practice for attaining enlightenment in the Latter Day. This letter briefly restates the profound contents of The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind.

Nichiren Daishonin says that, of all the chapters of the Lotus Sutra, the “Life Span” chapter is particularly important to him. He quotes a passage, “ . . . single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha . . . ,” and notes, “As a result of this passage, I have revealed the Buddhahood in my own life.” He declares that in his capacity as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law he has realized and embodied Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws, which is implied in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter.

This is one of the earliest references in his writings to the Three Great Secret Laws: the invocation (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo), the object of devotion (the Gohonzon), and the place of worship (the sanctuary).

THE UNIVERSAL SALTY TASTE

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THERE are six kinds of flavors. The first is subtle, the second, salty, the third, pungent, the fourth, sour, the fifth, sweet, and the sixth, bitter. Even if one were to prepare a feast of a hundred flavors, if the single flavor of salt were missing, it would be no feast for a great king. Without salt, even the delicacies of land and sea are tasteless.

The ocean has eight mysterious qualities. First, it gradually becomes deeper. Second, being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom. Third, its salty taste is the same everywhere. Fourth, its ebb and flow follows certain rules. Fifth, it contains various treasure storehouses. Sixth, creatures of great size exist and dwell in it. Seventh, it refuses to house corpses. Eighth, it takes in all rivers and heavy rainfall without either increasing or decreasing.

[The Nirvana Sutra] compares “it gradually becomes deeper” to the Lotus Sutra leading everyone, from ordinary people who lack understanding to sages who possess it, to attain the Buddha way. The reason [the sutra uses the metaphor] “being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom” is that the realm of the Lotus Sutra can only be understood and shared between Buddhas, while those at the stage of near-perfect enlightenment or below are unable to master it. “Its salty taste is the same everywhere” compares all rivers, which contain no salt, to all sutras other than the Lotus, which offer no way to attain enlightenment. [TheNirvana Sutra] compares the water of all the rivers flowing into the sea and becoming salty to the people of different capacities instructed through the various provisional teachings who attain the Buddha way when they take faith in the Lotus Sutra. It compares “its ebb and flow follows certain rules” to upholders of the Mystic Law who even though they were to lose their lives would attain the stage of non-regression. It compares “it contains various treasure storehouses” to the countless practices and good deeds of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the blessings of the various pāramitās being contained in the Mystic Law. The reason for “creatures of great size exist and dwell in it” is that, because the Buddhas and bodhisattvas possess great wisdom, they are called “creatures of great size,” and that their great bodies, great aspiring minds, great distinguishing features, great evil-conquering force, great preaching, great authority, great transcendental powers, great compassion, and great pity all arise naturally from the Lotus Sutra. The reason for “it refuses to house corpses” is that with the Lotus Sutra one can free oneself for all eternity from slander and incorrigible disbelief. The reason for “without either increasing or decreasing” is that the heart of the Lotus Sutra is the universality of the Buddha nature in all living beings.

The brine in a tub or jar of pickled vines ebbs and flows in accordance with the brine of the sea.1 One who upholds the Lotus Sutra and is subjected to imprisonment is like the salt in a tub or jar, while the Thus Come One Shakyamuni who freed himself from the burning house2 is like the salt of the sea. To condemn one who upholds the Lotus is to condemn the Thus Come One Shakyamuni. How astonished BrahmāShakra, and the four heavenly kings must be! If not now, when will the ten demon daughters’ vow to split the head of one who persecutes a follower of the Lotus into seven pieces3 be carried out?

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The date and recipient of this letter are unknown, as are the reasons for its writing. The statements “One who upholds the Lotus Sutra and is subjected to imprisonment” and “To condemn one who upholds the Lotus” indicate that Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at a time when he or his disciples were undergoing persecution. Several views exist concerning the year of its writing. One is that it was written in 1261 when the Daishonin was in exile in Izu; another, in 1271 when he was in exile on Sado Island; and a third, in 1279, during the worst period of the Atsuhara Persecution. Of these, 1261 seems most likely.

In this letter, the Daishonin says that there are six kinds of flavors, of which salt is the most important. Without salt, any food will be bland. In employing this simile, the Daishonin is indicating that none of the sutras assume their true significance unless they are based on the truth revealed in the Lotus Sutra. Then he cites the eight mystic qualities of the ocean enumerated in the Nirvana Sutra. But while the Nirvana Sutra actually applies these qualities to itself, the Daishonin asserts that it is using them to praise the superiority of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren then goes on to use the above passages to explain how the Lotus Sutra leads all people to Budhahood, and is thus superior to all other Sutras. He compares the Lotus Sutra and the Niravana Sutra drawing a simile with the ocean. He states

  • Gradually becomes deeper:

He states that like the ocean, the Lotus Sutra  “gradually becomes deeper” as compared to the older Sutras leading everyone to enlightenment regardless of their capacity for understanding.

  • Being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom

The realm of the Lotus Sutra can only be understood and shared between Buddhas, while those at the stage of near-perfect enlightenment or below are unable to master it. This explains one of the essential aspects of the Lotus Sutra in that it cannot be fully understood by our wakeful consciousness. That is to say, that to believe the Lotus Sutra is not so much an act of studying, consciously assimilating, and benefiting from practices – but one of faith.

  • Its salty taste is the same everywhere

Here, Nichiren compares all rivers, which contain no salt, to all sutras other than the Lotus, which offer no way to attain enlightenment. However, the Nirvana Sutra only refers to the salty taste of the ocean as being uniform – All beings possess the Buddha Nature and ride in one vehicle. That is to say, that there is one Emancipation. It doesn’t come in different flavours. The Nirvana Sutra is not saying that all other teachings are worthless – just that there is only one state of Buddhahood. This vexes me. Also, it is the function of the rivers to carry minerals, including salt, into the oceans. So, without them, there could be no ocean.

  • Its ebb and flow follows certain rules

It compares “its ebb and flow follows certain rules” to upholders of the Mystic Law who even though they were to lose their lives would attain the stage of non-regression. Just as the ocean follows its set pattern and does not come to any person, Buddhahood  too is eternal and unchanging – it does not come to those who do not carry out the practices.

  • It contains various treasure storehouses

 Nichiren cites countless practices and good deeds of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the blessings of the various paramitas being contained in the Mystic Law. Again, the Nirvana Sutra contains a somewhat more verbose list of benefits including the Eightfold Path.

  • Creatures of great size exist and dwell in it

Just as the ocean holds creatures of great size that  dwell in it, the Lotus Sutra too goves rise to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas possess great wisdom, and all great acts of Buddha nature manifest naturally from the Lotus Sutra.

  • It refuses to house corpses

Again, just as the ocean refuses to house corpses, with the Lotus Sutra one can free oneself for all eternity from slander and incorrigible disbelief. The Daishonin implies the Lotus Sutra doesn’t simply remain pure of dead bodies, but also offers one the facility to free oneself from the practices that would otherwise prevent emancipation.

  • Without either increasing or decreasing

The ocean takes within itself all the rivers and rain without changing itself. Similarly, the heart of the Lotus Sutra is the universality of the Buddha nature in all living beings. Buddhahood is boundless. It is this essentially empty nature of Buddhahood that makes it infinite in its reach – thus Universal in nature, encompassing within itself all of the universe without being affected by it.

In the final section, the Daishonin compares the salt in a jar or tub of pickled vines to a follower of the Lotus Sutra, and the salt of the ocean, to Shakyamuni Buddha. The brine in a jar or tub ebbs and flows exactly as the ocean does, and by analogy, to imprison a votary of the Lotus Sutra is to imprison Shakyamuni Buddha.