Faith and Formalities in the Fuji School

The Daishonin’s conduct forms the basis for the formalities of
Nichiren Shoshu, which have been transmitted at the Head Temple in
the tradition of laws and regulations. The formalities represent both
the rituals of substantiation and the manifestation of our faithful
spirit. We must learn these formalities to examine our own behavior.
Before we delve into a detailed study of the required conduct and
the Buddhist ceremonies in this column, we must first explain how
the formalities should be understood.

The Perception of Formalities
What thoughts do we conjure up when we encounter the word
“formalities?” We immediately think of rituals. The Oeshiki
Ceremony at the Head Temple comes to mind. Huge bonfires are lit
on both sides of the main walkway on the temple grounds. As the
light and shadows on the cobblestone path become increasingly faint
with the approach of night, the slow and deliberate procession led by
the High Priest moves towards Mieido Hall. Inside the hall, a lecture
is given based on the ancient traditions, and then, before a full,
attentive audience, the ceremony of exchanging sake cups is
conducted to proclaim the bond between master and disciple.
In terms of tangible elements, we can say that the buildings at the
Head Temple represent the formalities on a grand scale by being
manifestations of the principles of the correct way of True Buddhism
and of the location where Daimoku is chanted. Most important of all
for the believers is the correct structure of doing the morning and
evening prayers and of performing various functions for the
The formalities of Nichiren Shoshu represent in various forms the
determination that the believers must have towards the Mystic Law
and the True Buddha, that is, towards the unity of the person and the
Law. The essential point is that we must become one with the Mystic
Law that was expounded by the Daishonin. This, in short, is the
principle in which the “formalities are in themselves the entities of
the Law.”
In recent years, there has been a tendency to neglect formalities by
considering them to be unnecessary conventions. There are people
who omit them because they feel that they are old-fashioned and
dull. It is important now to reconsider the significance of these
traditional formalities.

The Mind and the Form

“Although I have endured
It is evident in my demeanor
My love for you
People have even said
You are buried in your thoughts.”

The above is the fortieth poem in the 13th century Collection of One
Hundred Poems. Written by Kanemori of the Taira clan, it shows
how the mind and form are intricately connected and inseparable. It
is about a person’s love that is so obvious in his demeanor that it has
caught the attention of the people around him.
The more profound a matter is in the mind of a person, the more
likely that it will take on a manifest form. The mind and the
physical body are deeply connected and interact with each other.
When a person is under strain, for example, he naturally uses a great
deal of energy and his shoulders become tense. His state of mind is
acutely reflected in his physical body.
It is often said that where there is a mind, there is a form.
Conversely, where there is a form, there is a mind. These are both
true. Matters that are held in one’s mind are manifested in a
tangible form. Things that are embraced by a person’s heart are
reflected in his conduct.
The thoughts contained in one’s heart will appear as a tangible form
(shiki/body). This represents the principle of the oneness of body
and mind, which expounds that, although the mind and the body
(physical form) are separate, they function as one. When one sees the
body, he can read the mind. He can influence the mind through the
form. Thus, those who do not take the form seriously are also
making light of the deeper mind.
The thoughts in one’s mind can only be manifested through speech,
writing or conduct. Without these, he cannot communicate. In
Buddhism, there is an additional factor Ñ Buddhist practice Ñ that is
necessary to indicate the form. The essence of Buddhism lies in the
way in which the mind and body naturally unite to function as one.
The fundamental significance of Buddhist practice is “to learn
through repetition.” Buddhism is also explained in terms of the
principle of kaiko kunju, which literally means to scent one’s body
with the fragrant incense of the precepts, to eschew evil acts and
perform good deeds, and to learn to maintain a pure mind.
The most expedient means of controlling our minds is to regulate our
bodies. The same holds true in the understanding of the essence of
the entities of the Law and of the formalities. The entities of the Law
can be truly embraced by comprehending the formalities in their
structured forms.

The Entities of the Law and the Formalities in Nichiren Shoshu
The words “entities of the Law” and “formalities” originally were
concepts of the T’ien-t’ai sect. The formalities refer to the rituals of
the Buddhist teachings. They are the means by which to guide
people. The entities of the Law are the doctrines by which to guide
The principles of T’ien-t’ai expound the four teachings of method (the
sudden, the gradual, the secret and the indeterminate teachings) and
the four teachings of doctrine (the Tripitaka [sutras, rules of
discipline, doctrinal treatises], the connecting, the specific and the
perfect teachings). Altogether, the eight teachings were used in
T’ien-t’ai’s classification of the five periods and eight teachings to
expound the superiority of the Lotus Sutra over the other sutras.
The formalities are often paired with the entities of the Law. They
should not be considered opposing principles, however. If we liken
them to medical treatment, the entities of the Law would be the
medicine, and the formality would refer to the act of taking the
medicine. Both are equally crucial to fight against disease. Correct
faith and practice result only with the combination of the entities of
the Law and the formalities. Both are present when we exert
ourselves in our Buddhist practice.
In Nichiren Shoshu, the word “formalities” appears in the Gosho,
Reply to Lord Uemon:”You, also, are a man who is entrusted with the
formalities of Bodhisattva Jogyo.”
The formalities refer to the conduct of the Daishonin. Thereafter, in
the Twenty-six Warning Articles by Nikko Shonin and the
Formalities of True Buddhism by Nichiu Shonin, the general
principles of the belief and formalities were concretely established.
Based on these two documents, various additional unwritten
directives were incorporated to form the laws and regulations of the
Head Temple Taisekiji that have been transmitted to us to this day.
If one stays at the Head Temple, without knowing it, he would learn
the principles of beliefs and formalities, and by tacit understanding,
he would be practicing them.
Let us now consider the relationship between the entities of the Law
and the formalities in Nichiren Shoshu.
The entities of the Law are the doctrines themselves, and they are
assimilated into the five syllables of the Mystic Law (Myoho-Renge-
Kyo), which represent the essence of Buddhism. We must embrace
the entities of the Law with our hearts and believe in the realm of
our mind.
The formalities are the doctrines that are put into a structured form.
From our standpoint, it means that we have an open attitude towards
faith and perform the entities of the Law by embracing them with
our hearts and acting accordingly. They represent the methods and
structures of our Buddhist practice.
Thus, the entities of the Law transcend the three existences and are
universal. The formalities, however, have a tradition of seven-
hundred years in Nichiren Shoshu. The entities of the Law in the
realm of the Mystic Law and the formalities in the phenomenal
world are united as one. Herein lies the significance of the practice
in which the formalities are in themselves the entities of the Law.
The Gosho states:
“The true purpose of Shakyamuni’s advent in this world is contained
in the conduct of the people.” (Shinpen, p. 1174)
Thus, we must realize that we can fulfill the Buddha’s intent by
correctly performing the formalities. By so doing, we will be able to
achieve the state in which the formalities are in themselves the
entities of the Law. This, in turn, will enable all of us to deepen our
conviction in our faith and practice.

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. All rights reserved