The Underlying Cause of Calamities

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Myokyo Magazine – May 2011 (pp. 8-9, 11-14) 

The Daishonin instructs in his most important Gosho, the Rissho ankoku-ron:

What is the cause for this misfortune? What mistakes have been made to bring all of this about?

The host then replied:

I have been agonizing alone, vexed by this very matter. But now that you are here, we can share our sorrow. Let us thoroughly discuss it. To begin, when one abandons the secular world and enters the Buddha way, he aspires to attain enlightenment through the Buddha’s teachings. However, these days, prayers to the gods go unanswered and the Buddhas’ powers are not to be found. When we carefully observe the world, we find that, in our ignorance, we all doubt our future enlightenment. Looking to the heavens, we vent our resentment, and turning earthward, our hearts are empty, save for despair. When I, with my limited knowledge, read the sutras, I find that all people have gone against the correct Law and become wholly devoted to evil doctrines. This is why all the guardian deities have abandoned this country and sages have left this land, not to return. Seizing this opportunity, devils and demons rush in, bringing disasters and calamities. This is most fearful. We must speak out!

(Gosho, p. 234, GND-2, pp. 2-3.)

As one watches the continuous television footage of the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster, one cannot help but be stupefied and consumed with profound sadness and grief from the countless calamitous situations that we are observing.

First of all, I would like to offer my heartfelt prayers for the enlightenment of the countless numbers of victims who lost their lives. Furthermore, I express my deepest sympathy for the multitudes of people who suffered damage or were injured from the disasters.

The colossal earthquake was 1,000 times greater than the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake that struck on January 17, 1995. The energy of the quake was equivalent to 40,000 atomic bombs, such as the one dropped on Hiroshima. It vastly affected the prefectures on the Pacific Ocean side (eastern Japan) including Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaragi and Chiba prefectures. Due to the energy of the massive quake, the foundation of the Japan mainland shifted two to four meters eastward in the Pacific Ocean. The earth was shifted on its axis due to the cataclysmic quake, and it has been reported that the earth’s rotation has sped up [shortening the length of the earth’s day by a fraction]. After the violent earthquake continued for five minutes, a tsunami measuring more than 60 feet hit. It completely demolished towns and cities. In some regions, everything was lost.

This tragic situation was beyond all imagination. Capturing the full extent of the devastation has been challenging; however, by April 17, the number of reported deaths had reached 13,802 people, the number of missing was 14,129, and the number of injured was 4,928. A total of 262,700 homes were damaged. The overall destruction was tremendous. Additionally, a second disaster arose at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, where the nuclear reactor core was melting and the potential effects from radiation were creating increasing fear. Those who lived within a 12-mile radius of the power plant had to evacuate. High levels of radiation were starting to be detected in vegetables, milk, and tap and seawater. On top of a situation where there already was a lack of resources, these vegetables, dairy products, and tap and seawater no longer could be consumed.

An order was imposed on producers to halt production and a ban on imports was put into place from countries around the world. The parts for the trains of the Osaka Kanjo Line, Kosei Line, and the Yamato Line are made in the area affected by the disaster. Supplies could not be delivered. Therefore, up to 30 to 50 percent of the trains in the Kansai region were out of operation. Also, due to the planned electricity outages, numerous inconveniences arose, which affected traffic, corporations, households, and schools. Judging from these conditions, it is expected that there will be immeasurable chaos in every aspect of life throughout Japan, not only in regards to clothing, food, and shelter, but also politically and economically.

Now, why do such earthquakes and disasters occur? Of course, based on current science, earthquakes happen due to the tension caused by the earth’s tectonic plates moving against each other. However, the underlying cause is not revealed truly by this physical or scientific reasoning alone. From the standpoint of Buddhism, especially from the perspective of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, there is a deep causal relationship that exists between common mortals and their immediate environment. It is said that this relationship can cause disasters to arise.

The ultimate reality that is manifested at each moment in the lives of common mortals signifies ichinen. A common mortal is the “self,” that carries on its life activities. This is in contrast to the objective environment. Both the self and the objective environment are integral expressions of the same ultimate reality. They are interrelated. The principle of ichinen sanzen or three thousand realms in a single life-moment demonstrates that this relationship cannot be defined simply as a physical relationship.

Regarding this point, the Twenty-sixth High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, discussed three reasons why calamities arise in his “Annotations on the Rissho ankoku-ron” (“Rissho ankoku-ron Guki”). To summarize, the first reason is that countless numbers of common mortals who all possess karma are born at the same time, inviting disaster. The second reason is due to ignorant statesmen who promulgate laws that go against reason. This causes evil governance, and the guardian deities (shoten zenjin) attempt to make the people recognize this situation and cause disasters to befall the land. The third reason is due to the fact that the people of the entire nation do not believe in the Three Great Secret Laws, the supreme teaching of the Latter Day of the Law. Instead, they slander it, causing numerous disasters to occur.

Nichikan Shonin concludes that countless numbers of people have accumulated negative karma in the past, from time without beginning, by committing slander against the true Law. Ignorant statesmen governing unreasonably are likened to those who go against the correct reason of the Lotus Sutra. In the end, Nichikan Shonin teaches that both the first and second reason also are categorized as slandering the Law.

This guidance by Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin is based on the reason given by the Daishonin in the opening paragraph of the Rissho ankoku-ron:

…all people have gone against the correct Law and become wholly devoted to evil doctrines.


From the standpoint of true Buddhism, the reason why disasters arise is not simply because of physical relationships. Rather, it is due to nations slandering the true Law. Because of the strong causal relationship that common mortals have with their environment, this slander causes disasters and calamities to arise.


(Note: This article can be read in its entirety in the August, 2011 edition of the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly magazine. For more information, please contact your local temple.)