Temporary Reception Hall, Head Temple Taisekiji, January 1, 1996
Congratulations on the New Year for the 744th year since the founding of True Buddhism.
About the New Year, the words of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of True Buddhism, teach:
In our joy at the beginning of spring, people one and all rejoice, like the flowers blooming from the trees, and like the grasses growing forth on the hills.
(Gosho, p. 1588)
I am sure that you have already read these words in the Gosho many times.
For flowers to bloom on trees and greenery to grow on the hills when spring comes is the form nature takes based on climatic phenomena, but in this lies a turning point, a great transition in the flow of time in the year. Nichiren Daishonin, as the True Buddha of the Buddhism of Sowing in Mappo, points out that there is truly valuable significance in greeting the New Year, and that it is an occasion for rejoicing and expressing profound respect.
Trees also have growth rings, and each tree changes as the years go by. When I look back at human life from this perspective, it makes me feel that there are a truly wide variety of divergent conditions in life.
Regarding the state of this threefold world, in the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni Buddha taught:
This threefold world is now all my existence, and the living beings within it are all, without exception, my children.
(Kaiketsu, p. 233)
He also taught:
The people are filled with suffering, and it is extremely frightening.
This indicates that there is certain to be suffering in living in this threefold world.
This matter of suffering lies at the origin of the teachings of the Buddha. That is, as viewed by the Buddha, we are tormented within our lives by the four sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death and further by a multitude of other
sufferings, such as the suffering of being separated from those whom we love, the suffering of not receiving what we seek, the suffering of meeting with those whom we despise, and the sufferings arising from the five components. The cause of those sufferings is that we try to obtain enjoyment according to self-centered erroneous desires, since we are unable to enter into the correct path of joy and suffering.
To resolve these sufferings, the Buddha preached a variety of teachings with great compassion. There are many paths taught in the teaching of Buddhism: to resolve suffering by the wisdom that we innately possess, or to transcend all suffering through genuine calming of the mind (which is known as meditation), or to accumulate true virtue by correctly making one’s way along the path of good and evil and making the virtue one gains by upholding the precepts a part of one’s life.
However, since the age known as Mappo began, even if these teachings are practiced strictly in every detail, in actual reality they still are not able to lead people correctly.
For example the Higan-e Ceremony is conducted in each of the schools of Buddhism, both in Japan as well as elsewhere. If possible, people visit the graves of their ancestors during the Higan period. However, the real spirit of Higan-e—that of alms giving, keeping the precepts, forbearance, assiduousness, meditation, wisdom, and the like—has completely disappeared from the minds of the Japanese people today. The virtues explicated in those teachings are extremely valuable, so in past generations our ancestors carried out Buddhist practice taking them deeply to heart to accumulate virtue. Nevertheless the Japanese people today have virtually forgotten all about this. This is one form in which the flourishing of the five impurities clearly appears in Mappo.
(Note: This lecture can be read in its entirety in the book: Sermons 1992-2002 by Sixty-seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin.
For more information, please contact your local temple.)