Guidance from Sixty-eighth High Priest Nichinyo Shonin – May 3, 2009

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On the Occasion of the May Kosen-rufu Shodai Ceremony
May 3, 2009
Reception Hall, Head Temple Taisekiji

Good Morning, everyone!

On the occasion of the May Kosen-rufu Shodai Ceremony, conducted today at the Head Temple, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the large number of participants in attendance.

During this “Year of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice,” I imagine you must be devoting yourselves to the practice day and night, aiming toward the achievement of our goals.

The “twenty-line verse” in the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reveals that eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas vow to Shakyamuni that they will propagate the Law throughout the ten directions after his death by perfecting their practice of the three rules of preaching: the robe, the throne, and the room. They will do so, even if the three powerful enemies appear. They proclaim:

“We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way.”

(Hokekyo, p.377; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, pp. 194-195)

In other words, the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law will, without fail, encounter the three powerful enemies. They are: 1) extremely arrogant lay people (zokushū zōjōman); 2) extremely arrogant priests (dōmon zōjōman); and 3) extremely arrogant false sages (senshō zōjōman).

Extremely arrogant lay people refer to the lay people who are ignorant of Buddhism and denounce and attack the votary of the Lotus Sutra with swords and staves.

Extremely arrogant priests refer to conceited and cunning monks who claim to have reached what they have not yet attained and persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

Extremely arrogant false sages refer to respected priests and persons of influence who pretend to be saints, but internally, they are driven by selfish greed. They have evil minds and induce the secular authorities to slander and persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra, in some cases, condemning him to exile or death.

The Daishonin teaches in the “Opening of the Eyes” (“Kaimoku-sho”):

“I alone have been able to live these words.”

(Gosho, p. 541; MW-2, p. 119)

As he teaches in this passage, the Daishonin endured great persecutions by the three powerful enemies through all three categories of action: thoughts, words, and deeds. The Daishonin revealed his true identity as the True Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law, while going through unprecedented great persecutions, including the Matsubagayatsu Persecution, Banishment to Izu and Ito, the Komatsubara Persecution, and the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.

When we look at the twenty lines of verse in the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which the appearance of the three powerful enemies is stated, we can see many important points we need to be aware of while conducting shakubuku. Thus, I would like to elucidate the important elements taught in the twenty-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion chapter.

At the beginning of this chapter, the bodhisattvas make a vow before Shakyamuni Buddha to widely propagate the Lotus Sutra in this world after his death, if that is the Buddha’s wish. Then, each bodhisattva shares his resolution. This is what has been referred to as the twenty-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion chapter. It reads:

After the Buddha has passed into extinction in an age of fear and evil, we will preach far and wide. There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us and will attack us with swords and staves, but we will endure all these things. [This refers to extremely arrogant lay people.]

In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart. [This refers to extremely arrogant priests.]

Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement, who will claim they are practicing the true way, despising and looking down on all humankind. [This refers to extremely arrogant false sages.]

Because in the midst of the great assembly they constantly try to defame us, they will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, as well as other monks, slandering and speaking evil of us.

In a muddied kalpa, in an evil age there will be many things to fear. Evil demons will take possession of others and through them curse, revile and heap shame on us. But we, reverently trusting in the Buddha, will put on the armor of perseverance. In order to preach this sutra we will bear these difficult things. We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way. In ages to come we will protect and uphold what the Buddha has entrusted to us.

The evil monks of that muddied age, that is, the people of extreme arrogance, failing to understand the Buddha’s expedient means, how he preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; again and again we will be banished to a place far removed from towers and temples.

“Because we keep in mind the Buddha’s orders, we will endure all these various evils. If in the settlements and towns of those who seek the Law, we will go to wherever they are and preach the Law entrusted by the Buddha. We will be envoys of the World-Honored One, facing the assembly without fear. We will preach the law with skill, for we desire the Buddha to rest in tranquility.”

(Hokekyo, pp. 375-378; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, pp. 193-195)

This is the so-called twenty-line verse.

It is true that when we try to do shakubuku, we are often criticized by a large crowd. In some cases, those whom are described as having had “the devils enter one’s body” hurl abuse at us, criticize us, and let us down. Furthermore, we are spoken ill of, harassed, slandered and persecuted, and sometimes, violence is directed our way.

However, as the sutra indicates, overcoming these slanders and persecutions will lead us to attain Buddhahood in our present form.

The sutra teaches that it is important to stand up and fulfill the mission to propagate the true Law, enduring every obstacle. We must don the amour of perseverance, caring nothing for our bodies and minds, anxious only for the unsurpassed way, no matter what difficulties may confront us.

Near the end of the twenty-line verse, it states:

“We will be envoys of the World-Honored One, facing the assembly without fear. We will preach the law with skill.”

(Hokekyo, p.378; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, p.195)

Just like the Daishonin, who faced the three powerful enemies with his own body, we must do shakubuku as envoys of the Buddha without any fear, and resolutely live up to the mission of propagating the true Law.

Needless to say, if we take no action, neither the three powerful enemies nor the devilish functions will emerge. However, if this is the case, we will not be able to eradicate our negative karma, attain Buddhahood, or accomplish kosen-rufu.

This is the significant year commemorating the 750th Anniversary of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice through the Submission of the Rissho ankoku-ron. If we devote ourselves to the practice with unity between priesthood and laity, aiming toward the achievement of our goals of the General Meeting of the Great Assembly of 75,000 believers and Doubling the number of the Bodhisattva of the Earth, then every obstacle, including the three powerful enemies, is destined to appear.

The Daishonin teaches in “Letter to the Brothers” (“Kyōdai-shō”):

“Were it not for these devils arising, there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching.”

(Gosho, p. 986; MW-1, p. 145)

Furthermore, the “Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”) states:

“In the Latter Day of the Law, the followers of Nichiren must be prepared to meet adversity when they practice Myoho-Renge-Kyo, but they should rejoice and consider it to be peace and tranquility.”

(Gosho, p. 1762)

In the Latter Day of the Law, those who correctly practice Buddhism are sure to confront various difficulties. However, when hardships and obstacles arise, we must be aware that this is the time when our faith is being tested. At that time, keeping in our hearts the golden words, “rejoice over adversity, considering it to be peace and tranquility,” we must put our hearts and souls into our practice and uphold firm faith. That is, we should have the spirit that, “We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way.”

“The Lotus Sutra is both the teaching of the Buddha and the embodiment of the Buddha wisdom. If one puts sincere faith in each character and brushstroke in it, then one will become a Buddha in one’s present form.”

(Gosho, p. 1365; MW-7, p. 153)

Deeply taking faith in these golden words, we must chant Daimoku with absolute faith in the Dai-Gohonzon and overcome every obstacle and devil by devoting ourselves to the practice for oneself and for others. This will lead us to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. The “Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”) reads:

“Those who embrace this sutra should be prepared to meet difficulties. The attainment of Buddhahood through “quickly attaining the unsurpassed Buddha way” (sokui shitsutoku mujyō butsudō) is the Daimoku of Myoho-Renge-Kyo chanted by the followers of Nichiren.”

(Gosho, p. 1755)

The phrase, “one will quickly attain the unsurpassed Buddha way” is a passage in the Treasure Tower (Ken hōtō; eleventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

After the Buddha’s passing, in the Latter Day of the Law, receiving and taking faith in Myoho-Renge-Kyo will quickly lead one to attain Buddhahood. “One will quickly attain Buddhahood” (shitsutoku or sokushitsu-tonjō) is a synonym for “attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form (sokushin-jōbutsu).”

In other words, the Daishonin expounds that if we, the priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu, chant the mystic Law in a dignified manner and fearlessly and unflinchingly devote ourselves to the practice for oneself and for others without yielding to any obstacle, then we, common mortals, are sure to achieve our long-cherished ambition of attaining Buddhahood in our present form.

“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering” (“Shiichi shiro dono-gosho”) reads:

“The greater the hardships befalling him, the greater the delight he feels because of his strong faith. Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers run to the sea, but does its fullness make the rivers flow backward? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; neither does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra.”

(Gosho, p. 1555; MW-1, p. 9)

It is my strong wish that you will engrave these golden words into your hearts and make further advancements in your practice, aiming toward the achievement of the goals of Doubling the number of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth and the General Meeting of the Great Assembly of 75,000 believers.

During April, some chapters already achieved their shakubuku goals for this year. Shōgiko Chapter of Kakuninji Temple in Moriguchi City in Osaka Prefecture, Myōkenji Chapter in Toyama City, Saikyoji Chapter in Hakusan City in Ishikawa Prefecture, and Honmyōji Chapter in Tsuchiura City in Ibaraki Prefecture all achieved their shakubuku goals for this year before the anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism on April 28th.

If everyone unites toward the same objective and does shakubuku, unafraid of any difficulties, the goals will be achieved without fail. These chapters have something in common. Each one of them is constantly moving. None of them is spending time discussing theoretical objectives. They are physically moving to achieve their goals. The chapters that have produced good results are all like this, without exception.

In other words, Buddhism is practice. We can obtain benefits through our experiences and practices. Thus, I hope you will emulate these chapters and definitely achieve the goals for this year.

I would like to conclude my address today with my sincere prayer that each of you will participate in the General Meeting of the Great Assembly of 75,000 believers in July, together with your fellow members.