Shodai

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Shodai (chanting of daimoku or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the

Gohonzon) is the essential practice in Nichiren Shoshu faith.
However, most people do the practice of prayer (thinking about what
they want or need, instead of concentrating on offering daimoku to
the Gohonzon) instead of the original shodai. There is confusion
about what is the difference between shodai and prayer. When one
chants daimoku to fulfill one’s own desire, he/she believes this to be
shodai. However, this is nothing but the practice of prayer.

When you face the Honmon no Gohonzon of the Three Great
Secret Laws’, with faith in the Gohonzon, then chant – this is called
Honmon no Daimoku. The important thing is this precise moment of
ichinen.

The Daishonin states in the Gosho, Questions and Answers on
Embracing the Lotus Sutra. “Moreover, as life does not go beyond the
moment…” (Major Writings, Vol. 5, pg. 34).

Life is the accumulation of moment to moment. Whenever you do
shodai, for ten minutes (or whatever time), each single moment of
shodai is extremely important. Your ichinen2 must be the ichinen of
faith.

There are three credences which comprise the ichinen of faith

1. Place credence in the fact that the Gohonzon is the Buddha of
limitless joy and the original Buddha of the Three Properties3 . The
Gohonzon is the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. In fact, if you look
carefully at the Gohonzon, you will notice that down the center of the
Gohonzon there is written not only “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” but
“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo – Nichiren.” This has great significance.

2. Place credence in the fact that the Gohonzon is the realization of
the Daishonin’s enlightenment.

3. Place credence in the fact that the Gohonzon is the only path to
enlightenment for us, as common mortals.

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1. The Three Great Secret Laws: The object of worship of True
Buddhism (“Honmon no Honzon” in Japanese) which is the Dai-
Gohonzon the invocation or daimoku of True Buddhism (“Honmon no
Daimoku” in Japanese) which is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the
high sanctuary of True Buddhism which is the place where the Dai-
Gohonzon is enshrined (“Honmon no Kaidan” in Japanese). 2 Ichinen:
Literally, “one mind The life moment, or ultimate reality, that is
manifested at each moment of all common mortals.
3 The Three Properties: (“Sanjin” in Japanese, “Trikaya” in Sanskrit)
Also called the three properties or three enlightened properties.
Three kinds of body which a Buddha may possess: 1) The Dharma
body or body of the Law (“Hosshin” in Japanese, “Dharma-kaya” in
Sanskrit). The fundamental truth to which the Buddha is enlightened.
2) The bliss body (“Hoshin” in Japanese, “Sambhoga-jaya: in
Sanskrit), sometimes called the reward body, which is obtained as
the reward of completing bodhisattva practice and having
understood the Buddha wisdom. Unlike the Dharma body, which is
immaterial, the bliss body is conceived of as an actual body, although
one that is transcendent and imperceptible to common mortals. 3)
The manifested body (“Ojin” in Japanese, “Nirmana-kaya” in
Sanskrit), or the physical form in which the Buddha appears in this
world in order to save the people.
When we common mortals, living in the illusion of the six lower
worlds’, chant only to have our desires fulfilled, we are engaged in
the practice of prayer. The ichinen of prayer and the ichinen of faith
are totally different, like night and day. The original purpose of
chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon is Kyochi-myogo2 with the
Gohonzon which activates one’s Buddha nature; this is what is meant
by the Daishonin when he refers to “Kanjin no Honzon” (The object of
worship to observe one’s heart and mine). However, it must be
emphasized that it is not wrong to pray about your problems or for
what you want and need. Ultimately, these explanations regarding
the differences between the practice of prayer and the practice of
faith are guidelines to help us to have a correct spirit and
concentrate to the fullest when we chant daimoku or recite the sutra
to the Gohonzon.

The Daishonin states in the Letter to Gijo-bo: “The Jigage, the verse
section of the chapter (in the Lotus Sutra) states, single-mindedly
yearning to see the Buddha, I do not begrudge my life.” This inner
core itself is the Buddha of limitless joy and the original Buddha of
the Three Properties. Moment by moment our behavior must solely
be ‘single-mindedly yearning to see the Buddha, I do not begrudge
my life.’

This clarifies the direct path to grasp the Buddha nature as a
common mortal. The correct ichinen of shodai is “single-mindedly
yearning to see the Buddha, I do not begrudge my life.” In The True
Object of Worship, Nichiren Daishonin said: “Kanjin means to observe
one’s own heart and mind and to find the Ten Worlds within it.”
(Major Writings, Vol. 1, pg. 49)

The 26th High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, explains about this passage as
follows: “To observe one’s heart and mind means to place credence in
the Gohonzon. To ‘find the ten worlds within’ means chanting Nam-
myoho-renge-kyo. When you place credence in the Gohonzon and
chant daimoku, the ten worlds within the Gohonzon become the ten
worlds within ‘to observe one’s own mind.”

‘Shin-gyo-gushoku’ means faith and practice are mutually inclusive;
faith is contained in practice and practice is contained in faith. That is
called Honmon no Daimoku. This kind of daimoku brings you kyochi-
myogo with the Gohonzon.”
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1.Six Lower Worlds: “Rokudo” in Japanese, part of the Ten Worlds or
life conditions which a single entity of life manifests. The Six Lower
Worlds comprise: 1) “Jigoku” or the state of Hell; 2) “Gaki” or the state
of Hunger; 3) “Chikusho” or the state of Animality; 4) “Shura” or the
state of Anger; 5) “Nin” or the state of Humanity or Tranquillity; 6)
“Ten” or the state of Heaven or Rapture. In the six states from Hell to
Heaven, the majority of people throughout the world spend most of
their time moving back and forth among these six paths. In these
states one is governed totally by his reactions to external influences
and is therefore vulnerable to changing circumstances. Those states
in which one transcends the uncertainty of the Six Lower Worlds and
which comprise the remaining 4 states of the Ten Worlds are called
“The Four Noble Worlds.” They are 7) :Shomon” or the state of
Learning; 8) “Engaku” or the state of Realization” – these two states
refer to listening, learning, comprehending and realizing the
teachings of the Buddha; 9) “Bosatsu” or the state of Bodhisattva, a
state in which not only does one aspire for his/her own
enlightenment, but one also devotes himself to compassionate acts;
and finally, 10) “Butsu” or the state of Buddhahood or Enlightenment.
2.Kyochi-myogo (The fusion of reality and wisdom): The fusion of
the objective reality or truth of the Buddha nature inherent within
one’s life and the subjective wisdom to realize that truth. This fusion
is itself the attainment of Buddhahood. Nichiren Daishonin defined
the Law, which underlies the fusion of reality and wisdom as Nam-
myoho-renge-kyo. He embodied his own enlightenment in the
Gohonzon – the fusion of reality and wisdom – in the form of the
Gohonzon, the object of worship. In terms of Buddhist practice for
people in the Latter Day of the Law, reality corresponds to the
Gohonzon, and wisdom is one’s faith in the Gohonzon. When one
chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with deep faith in the object of
worship, he fuses his life with the Gohonzon and attains Buddhahood.
When one is chanting daimoku verbally and one’s ichinen is only to
fulfill one’s own desires (to the point that one cannot concentrate in
his offering of the daimoku to the Gohonzon), then one is deeply
embedded in the illusion of the six lower worlds. That is totally
different from “yearning to see the Buddha.”: When you chant solely
with the ichinen of prayer to the point that you cannot even
concentrate on your daimoku or even see the Gohonzon, then your
ichinen of faith is diminished. Therefore, when your ichinen at that
precise moment is to fulfill your desire, you cannot have kyochi-
myogo with the Gohonzon. Thus, in this manner the practice of
prayer cannot become the practice of Honmon no Daimoku.

The Daishonin never actually said in any Gosho that we should
engage solely in the practice of prayer. However, the Daishonin never
denies prayer either. He states in the Gosho, On Prayer: “When you
pray with the Lotus Sutra, your prayers will never fail to be
answered. ” When the Daishonin talks about prayer he always
declares the subject of his intention. The following examples make
this clear:

1. “My only worry is that she may die young; therefore, I’m praying
with all my might for the Gods’ to protect her.” (Reply to Kvo’o, Major
Writings, Vol. 1, pg. 120)
2. “I am praying that no matter how troubled the times may
become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters2 will protect
all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp
wood or to obtain water from parched ground. ” (Rebuking Slander of
the Law and Eradicating Sins. Major Writings Vol. 6, pg. 74)
3. “If you pray earnestly to benefit others, how could your prayer go
unanswered?” (On Prayer, Gosho Zenshu, pg. 1352).
4. “Under the circumstances, I feel great pity for persons such as you
and the others, but there is little I can do to help. Nevertheless, I
pray day and night to the Lotus Sutra. You, too, must spare no effort
in offering up prayers with firm faith. ” (The Story of Ohashi no Taro,
Major Writings, Vol. 6, pg. 155).
These quotes indicate the difference between shodai and prayer. In
Nichiren Shoshu, traditionally as a general rule, you offer personal
prayers in the fourth silent prayer during morning Gongyo each day.
Day by day, month after month, we need to deepen our faith and our
understanding of the practice. The most important thing is to chant
as sincerely and as much daimoku as possible to the point that you
feel satisfied. In this way you will enjoy your practice, receive
infinite benefits and joy from the Gohonzon and receive protection
from the Shoten Zenjin.3 In Reply to Lord Matsuno, Nichiren
Daishonin states: “As a layman, you should single-mindedly chant
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo morning and evening, day and night, and
then witness the results at the last moment of your life” (Major
Writings, Vol. 5, pg. 237).
In this phrase, emphasis is placed on the importance of “single-
mindedly.” When you have this kind of faith, other distractions or
thoughts will diminish. The most important point regarding “single-
mindedly” is to strive to chant daimoku in this manner. When you
chant in this manner, you will accomplish kyochi-myogo with the
Gohonzon and as a result you are able to spring forth life force,
change your karma and receive the protection from the Shoten
Zenjin. You must have confidence in this.

For the past 700 years, Nichiren Shoshu has conducted shodai in this
manner. Shodai is a profound Buddhist practice. Therefore, you must
practice correctly, strictly and seriously and, above all, sincerely. The
Gohonzon’s power of the Buddha and the power of the Law are
unlimited. The extent of this power is unfathomable.

Let’s enjoy our practice and receive lots of benefit from the
Gohonzon.

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1 Gods: Forces in the environment that protect the people who
correctly practice the Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra (Nichiren
Daishonin’s True Buddhism). See also “Shoten Zenjin” in the footnote
below.

2 The ten demon daughters: Also known as “Kishimonjin” in
Japanese and ”hariti” in Sanskrit. A female demon, said to have been
a daughter of a yaksha demon in Rajagriha. She had five hundred
children (some sources say one thousand or ten thousand). According
to the Kishimo Sutra (Kishimojin Sutra) and the Binaya Zoji (Monastic
Rules with Respect to Various Matters), she killed the babies of other
people to feed her children, and the terrified populace begged
Shakyamuni for help. The Buddha then hid Kishimojin’s youngest
son, Binkara. She sought him throughout the world for seven days,
but to no avail. In despair she finally asked the Buddha where he
was. Shakyamuni rebuked her for her evil conduct and made her
vow never to kill another child. then he returned her son to her.
According to the Hankai Kiki Naiho Den, Kishimojin was revered in
India as a goddess who could bestow the blessings of children and
easy delivery. Kishimojin worship was later introduced into Japan. In
the Dharani (twenty-sixth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, she and her
ten daughters pledged before the Buddha to safeguard the votaries
of the Lotus Sutra. These stories hold an important message for us in
our practice of True Buddhism. If we practice correctly and
earnestly, then these and all other demons (negative functions or
influences which work to destroy one’s correct practice and obstruct
one’s correct judgment, thus depriving people of happiness) will and
must, by their vow to the Buddha, transform themselves into
Buddhist Gods or protective forces that safeguard the believers of
True Buddhism.

3 Shoten Zenjin: Signifies the Buddhist Gods, or protective forces,
functions, influences and workings of all life throughout the entire
universe which safeguard all of those who correctly and earnestly
practice True Buddhism. The manifested life and substance of the
Shoten Zenjin originate from the enlightened life of the True Buddha,
and perform enlightened beneficial functions through their own
fusion with the Mystic Law.

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. All rights reserved