Oko-Faith and Practice based on the Principle of Changing Poison Medicine

Lecture in Praise of Nichiren Daishonin
Reverend Shogu Kimura
July, 2017 Oko Lecture

Nichiren Daishonin states the following in the Gosho, Reply to Kyō’ō (Kyō’ō dono gohenji):
Misfortunes will transform into good fortune. Exert yourself, increase your faith, and pray to
this Gohonzon. What is there that you cannot achieve?  (Gosho, p. 685)
Buddhism expounds the principle of “changing poison into medicine” (hendoku iyaku), a
process of transforming misfortunes into fortune through our faith and practice.
In the term “changing poison into medicine”, poison (doku) represents our earthly desires.
Medicine (yaku) refers to benefits. Ordinarily, poison and medicine are polar opposites in
their functions. However, a skilled physician is able to transform poison into medicine and
treat illnesses.
A simple explanation of faith and practice based on the principle of changing poison into
medicine is that, by believing in and practicing to the Dai-Gohonzon, which inherently
possesses the entirety of the Three Great Secret Laws, we can transform our earthly desires
into benefits, and we can cultivate a solid and stable life that cannot be destroyed by any
In the world, there are numerous incredible and mysterious phenomena that are difficult to
prove, even with modern science. The wisdom of the Buddha, who possesses the power to
save all mankind, is incomparably more profound than that of worldly, learned individuals.
Shakyamuni Buddha, in an effort to save various types of people, expounded numerous
sutras for more than forty years. Then, during his last eight years, he preached the Lotus
Sutra, which was the ultimate purpose of his advent into this world. He taught the way for
all people to achieve enlightenment. Furthermore, Shakyamuni Buddha predicted that two
thousand years after his entry into nirvana, the True Buddha would make his advent and
bring fundamental salvation to all types of people throughout the entire world instead of
Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings.
True to Shakyamuni Buddha’s prediction in the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin made his
advent as the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra throughout Jambudvipa. He chanted Nam-
Myoho-Renge- Kyo and furthermore inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of
the Essential Teaching, which inherently contains the entirety of the Three Great Secret
Laws, in order to illuminate the darkness in hearts of the people of the Latter Day of the
The Daishonin teaches us about the benefits of Nam-Myoho- Renge-Kyo in the following
passage from Letter to Gijō-bō (Gijō bō-gosho):
Understanding the benefits of the Lotus Sutra is entirely within the realm of the Buddhas. It
is an inner realization that even the wisdom of all the Buddhas in the ten directions may or
may not be able to comprehend. Thus, the Great Teacher Tiantai interpreted that the single
character “Myo” means inscrutable.   (Gosho, p. 668)

The Daishonin states that, if we single-mindedly believe in the Gohonzon, which will lead all
mankind in the Latter Day of the Law to enlightenment, and chant Daimoku to it, we will be
able to gain tremendous benefits and good fortune. These benefits are impossible for us, as
common mortals, to fathom through our eyes and our knowledge.
Furthermore, Nichiren Daishonin states the following about changing poison into medicine,
a benefit of Myoho-Renge- Kyo, in Reply to Utsubusa nyōbō (Utsubusa nyōbō-gohenji):
Let me briefly describe the virtues of Myoho-Renge- Kyo. The five characters of Myoho-
Renge-Kyo can change evil into good, just like poison changing into medicine. Pristine Spring
is so named because in this spring, stone can change into treasure. In the same manner,
these five characters are able to change common mortals into Buddhas. (Gosho, p. 1492)
The Daishonin presents the polar opposites of poison and medicine, evil and good, stones
and gems, and common mortals and Buddhas. He explains that the Gohonzon of Nam-
Myoho-Renge- Kyo possesses the great benefit of the attainment of enlightenment in one’s
present form, so that this Gohonzon can transform poison into medicine, evil into good,
stones into gems, and common mortals into Buddhas.
The Daishonin expounds the meaning of attaining enlightenment in one’s present form
in On First Hearing the One Vehicle of the Buddha (Shimon butsujō gi):
What is poison? Poison indicates our three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering.
What is medicine? Medicine indicates the three virtues [of the Buddha]: the property of the
Law, wisdom, and emancipation. What is meant by “skillfully turning poison into medicine?”
It means to transform the three paths into the three virtues. The Great Teacher Tiantai
stated: “‘Myo’ means inscrutable…” He also stated, “One’s mind is…an objective reality that
is inscrutable.”  (Gosho, p. 1208)
The Daishonin also teaches the following in the Gosho, On the Meaning of the True Entity of
Myoho-Renge- Kyo (Tōtaigi-shō):
Those who honestly discard the expedient teachings, put faith only in the Lotus Sutra, and
chant Nam-Myoho- Renge-Kyo, will transform the three paths of earthly desires, karma, and
suffering into the three virtues of the property of the Law, wisdom, and emancipation. The
threefold contemplation and the three truths will immediately manifest in their minds, and
the place where they dwell will become the land of eternally tranquil light.   (Gosho, p. 694)
Thus, we, as common mortals, can directly change our three paths of earthly desires, karma,
and suffering, which are poisons into the three virtues of the property of the Law, wisdom,
and emancipation, which refer to medicines. The powerful functions of the Gohonzon only
can be manifested through sincere faith in and practice to the Dai-Gohonzon.
All the people in the Latter Day of the Law, unbeknownst to them, have gradually created
negative karma and are suffering as a result. The only way they can sever themselves from
their negative karma is to believe in and practice Myoho-Renge- Kyo.
Many of our predecessors devoted their entire lives to do shakubuku and propagate the
true Law. As a result, we fortunately have been able to encounter true Buddhism and
become individuals who believe in the Dai-Gohonzon. In order to repay our debts of
gratitude, it is essential for us to exert our utmost efforts in our faith and practice of true

Buddhism. And we must expiate our negative karma from the past, raise ourselves up, and
overcome our suffering.
Nichiren Daishonin states the following in Reply to the Widow of Ueno (Ueno dono
Devadatta transformed the Avichi Hell of incessant suffering into the paradise of eternally
tranquil light, and the Dragon King’s daughter was able to attain enlightenment directly
without changing her form as a dragon. These were possible because the Lotus Sutra
enables even those who initially oppose it to eventually attain enlightenment. These are the
benefits of the single character “Myo.” Bodhisattva Nagarjuna stated, “It is likened to an
excellent physician skillfully turning poison into medicine.”  (Gosho, p. 337)
Thus, the single character Myo of Myoho-Renge- Kyo possesses the powerful function of
enabling those who initially oppose [the Law] to attain enlightenment. By upholding the
practice of this Buddhism with deep faith in the Gohonzon, we are able to reform our lives.
There is a tendency for people to be doubtful in society, and people think that hell remains
hell and would never transform into the enlightened land of eternally tranquil light.
However, the beneficial power of changing poison into medicine is inherent in the
Therefore, regardless of how severe and difficult our circumstances may be at the current
time, if we perform Gongyō and chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon, do shakubuku, and help
others develop their faith, we will be able to purify and strengthen our lives. We will
transform the negative karma that exists deep within ourselves into positive karma, and live
an excellent life in true happiness.
The Honorable Retired High Priest Nikken Shonin stated:
Based on the Daishonin’s teachings, when you experience negative circumstances in your
lives, it is essential to advance with the conviction that the time has come for you to
transform difficulties and suffering into true happiness, through benefits of principle of
changing poison into medicine.  (Dainichiren, No. 529, p. 58)
When we, ourselves, suffer from illness, we can become empathetic towards others who
are sick. When we are harassed or bullied by people, we can understand what it is like to be
kind and caring toward others. Moreover, if we live a modest lifestyle, we will develop an
appreciation for many things.
Our difficult, painful, and sad situations will become the causes for us to develop joy,
happiness, and kindness. Therefore, we must pray for the happiness of as many people as
possible. Let’s teach them and lead them, through the great medicine of Myoho-Renge- Kyo,
which enable them to change poison into medicine.
Nichiren Daishonin states the following in Reply to Shijō Kingo (Shijo kingo dono-gohenji):
Look upon suffering as suffering and understand joy to be joy. Regard both suffering and joy
as what they are and continue chanting Nam-Myoho- Renge-Kyo. This is, indeed the state of
boundless joy from the Law. Strengthen your faith more and more.   (Gosho, p. 991)

Faith and practice in Nichiren Shoshu is not a periodic practice only for when we are
encountering difficulties and suffering. By maintaining strong faith and chanting Daimoku to
the Gohonzon no matter what circumstances we may encounter, we will be able to receive
the benefit of changing poison into medicine and achieve a life state of boundless joy from
the Law.
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated:
In fact, shakubuku is an essential mission with which we have been tasked by our Founder
Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. Furthermore, it is the
most important Buddhist practice that is truly indispensable for us to attain enlightenment in
this lifetime.  (Dainichiren, No. 854, p. 36)
Thus, the High Priest instructs us that our mission is to do shakubuku. We must etch this
guidance from our High Priest deeply into our hearts and make our daily practice of Gongyō
and Shōdai to be the fundamental basis of our lives.
Furthermore, as we advance toward our objective of establishing a Hokkeko organization of
800,000 believers by 2021, the 800th anniversary of the birth of our Founder Nichiren
Daishonin, let us lead as many people as possible to embrace this wonderful true Buddhism
of Nichiren Daishonin. Let’s achieve the life state of boundless joy from the Law and true
peace in society.