“The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was born; the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from Mao Pao. If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how much more should human beings! . . . What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country”
This lengthy treatise is one of Nichiren Daishonin’s five major writings. It was prompted by the news of the death of Dōzen-bō, a priest of Seichō-ji temple in Awa Province, who had been the Daishonin’s teacher when he first entered the temple as a boy of twelve. Nichiren Daishonin wrote this treatise to express his gratitude to Dōzen-bō.
Nichiren Daishonin begins this treatise by emphasizing the need to repay one’s obligations to one’s parents, teacher, the three treasures of Buddhism, and one’s sovereign. He teaches the importance of repaying debts of gratitude as a fundamental aspect of human behavior. Of these four debts of gratitude, this work stresses specifically repaying the debt owed to one’s teacher. Next, the Daishonin states that to repay such debts one must master the truth of Buddhism and attain enlightenment. To accomplish this goal, one must dedicate oneself single-mindedly to the Buddhist practice. However, to attain enlightenment, one must also practice the correct Buddhist teaching.
He refers to the story of when the young Mao Pao was walking along the Yangtze River when he saw a fisherman about to kill a white turtle. Out of pity, Mao Pao exchanged his clothing for the white turtle and then set it free. It is said that, later in life, Mao Pao rushed to the banks of the Yangtze to evade enemy capture. The white turtle appeared and ferried him safely to the opposite shore.
He then goes on to explain that, as people who devote themselves to Buddhism, we should extend our sense of gratitude to our parents, our mentor, society and all living beings. Buddhism emphasizes that through expressing gratitude, we reveal and develop our humanity. SGI President Ikeda emphasizes that recognizing and repaying our debts of gratitude is the highest good, while neglecting to show appreciation reflects a life heavily influenced by fundamental darkness—the inability to recognize the enlightened nature in ourselves and others. He elaborates: “As we each deepen our faith in the Mystic Law, break through our fundamental darkness and live true to our greater self, we will come to feel boundless appreciation for all those around us, and for all who have nurtured us and helped us become who we are. And we will confidently make our way along the invigorating path of recognizing and repaying our debts of gratitude. Ultimately, President Ikeda stresses, the direction our lives take depends on whether we choose to live based on our lesser self or our greater self.
Practicing Buddhism—a teaching that honors all life and challenges its practitioners to overcome selfishness and replace it with compassion and appreciation—and sharing it with others is in itself the ultimate way of repaying debts of gratitude. What’s more, it becomes the power source to break through all limitations.
Source: World Tribune, March 30 2012