By Reverend Shotsu Nomura, March 2016 Oko Ceremony
Today I would like to continue the lecture on “Reply to Kyo’o”. this is the second lecture on this Gosho letter and I would like to start from the following passage:
“Cocerning th matter about Kyo’o Gozen, I have been praying to the gods of the sun and moon for him through the day and night. Please always keep with you and hold on to the Omamori Gohonzon that I bestowed upon you on the other Former and Middle Day of the Law, moreover the inscription of the had vanished.”
At the beginning of the passage, the original Gosho states, “Concerning the matter about Kyo’o Gozen”, What does “the matter” mean? This “matter” is important in order to understand NIchiren Daishonin’s intention and the “matter” refers to the contents of the letter from Shijo Kingo and his wife.
Shijo Kingo sent a messenger to Sado Island and Nichiren Daishonin received the Gokuyo money as can be seen from the previous passage of “the messenger, whom you kindly sent, arrive”. This messenger also btought a message or a letter from Shijo Kingo and his wife to Nichiren Daishonin. As you know, Nichiren Daishonin named the title of his Gosho “Reply to Kyo’o”. Since NIchiren Daishonin received a letter from the couple, He then wrote his letter a a reply. If this part was “Concerning the contents of your letter about Kyo’o Gozen” then we can understand Nichiren Daishonin’s intention more clearly.
SHijo Kingo was a Samurai, so his work would havetaken him away from the family the whole day. Thus, throughout the day his wife, Nichigen-nyo, had to take care of Kyo’o Gozen, who was then a one-year-old baby boy afflicted with a serious illness and a two-year ole baby girl, Getsumaro Gozen, at the same time. Nichigen-nyo probably did not have enough sleep at that time with the many problems she had to overcome.
This letter mentioned Nichigen-nyo’s efforts as a mother and a wife even though the main topic was aout the severe illness of her son, Kyo’o Gozen. At the conclusion of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin gave her guidance the she, Nichigen-nyo, must support her husband, Shijo Kingo, and attain Buddhahood by believing in the Lotus Sutra.
“I have been praying to the gods of the sun and moon for him through the day and night.”
Here, in the original Gosho of this part “through the day and night”, it is stated as “through the two six hours.” “Through the two six hours” has the meaning of “through the day and nght”. In ancient Japan, people divined the daytime into six hours, and the nighttime was also divided into six hours, thus there were two kinds o six hours in a day, one was daytime and the other was nighttime. So the meaning of “through the two six hours” should be through the day and night.”
In reference to the sentence, “I have been praying to the gods of the sun and moon for him through the day and night”, without thinking deeply about its meaning, we may think that Nichiren Daishonin prayed to the sun god in the daytime and prayed to the moon god at the nighttime for Kyo’o Gozen.
If you read all the Gosho letters to Shijo Kingo or his wife, it is noted that Nichiren Daishonin mentioned the sun god and the moon god in many of these letters. This is because SHijo Kingo was the special believer who had witnessed the Tatsunokuchi Persecution when Nichiren Daishonin was protected by Shoten Zenjin, especially by the moon god. Those who had witnessed this great trong protection would not haave forgotten what happened at that time as an actual proof and could understand the strong protection by the Shoten Zenjin without doubts.
When we think about the deeper meaning of this passage, we can understand that Nichiren Daishonin prayed to the Gohonzon for Kyo’o Gozen to e protected by the gods of the sun and moon. We should also try to comprehend that the protection of Shoten Zenjin is one of the functions of the Gohonzon.
“Please always keep with you and hold on to the Omamori Gohonzon tht I bestowed upon you on the other day.”
How many Gohonzons was Nichiren Daishonin referring to in this passage? If we read in English sentence of this part we can immediately understand that it is not a plural number. How about the original Japanese sentence? In the case of Japanese grammar, we cannot clearly understand the number of Gohonzons that Nichiren Daishonin was referring to but the next sentence states “sono Gohonzon”, which refers to “this Gohonzon” so we can understand the Nichiren Daishonin did not mention a number of Gohonzons but a singl Gohonzon. This means that Nichiren Daishonin gave this guidance: “Please always keep with you and hold on to the Omamori Gohonzon that I bestowed upon you on the other day” to one person who needed protection from the Gohonzon. Who do you think this person is? If you think that this person should be the mother of Kyo’o Gozen, you are right.
If your son is in a critical condition or is going to die, you cannot imagine how much you will struggle for yur son or how many times you will pray intensely in a day. It is difficult to fathom how parents worr, especially a mother. So, Nichiren Dishonin gave her the following guidance “Please always keep with you and hold on to the Omarmori Gohonzon that I bestowed you on the other day”. Here, the Omamori Gohonzon means the Gohonzon for one’s Omamori Gohonzon for one’s protection.
The twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin taught that a person who cares for the infirmed should understand the following five points, which he called the Five Virtues of the Nurse. (From Yakuo-bon Lecture on the Eradication of illness, Research Text 10-582)
1. Knowledge of which foods the patient may and may not eat.
2. Not being repulsed by faeces, urine, expectoration or vomit, and not revealing emotion.
3. Nursing with compassion, and with no motice of being compensated with moneny, clothing or food.
4. Possession of wisdom about correct medicinal tinctures.
5. Teaching the Law to the patients and giving them inspiration and courage.
Even though Nichikan Shonin taught the above guidance about 350 years ago, these principles are still applicable in present day. It is sure that not only Kyo’o Gozen’s mother but also all mothers possess deep virtues towards their children.
Next, Nichiren Daishonin mentioned this Gohonzon and said, “No one learned about this Gohonzon in the Former and Middle Day of the Law, moreover the inscription of this had vanished.”
In this part, Nichiren Daishonin revealed that no one knew about this Gohonzon in the Former and Middle Day of the Law and no one had inscribed this Gohonzon before. When you hear “the inscription of this had vanished”, some of you might think that was the inscription of the Gohonzon in olden time but then it had vanished, the meaning is that no one had inscribed this Gohonzon before.
Nichiren Daishonin actually had researched all documents and records that talked about objects of worship in India, China and Japan and said in the “Reply to Nil-ama”:
“This Gohonzon had never been listed among them. (Gosho page 763)
Nichiren Daishonin also sttes in “The True Object of Worship”:
“This object of worship has never appeared in India or China.” (Gosho page 661)
So there was no person other than Nichiren Daishonin, who inscribed this Gohonzon eventhough there were many high-rankinng priests during the Former, Middle and Latter Day of the Law.
Nichiren Daishonin stated the reason why even T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, who were specialist in the Lotus Sutra, did not reveal and propagate the Daimoku in “The Treatment of Illness”:
“Tiantai and Dengyo perceived it in their hearts but did not reveal it for three reasons: first, the proper time had not yet come; second, the people had no entrusted with the mission of expounding it. It is today, in the Latter Day of the Law, that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth will appear and propagate it.” (Gosho page 1236)
We must understand mission of Bodhisattvas of the Earth and we are the people who can do shakubuku in the Latter Day of the Law.
Next Nichiren Daishonin stated that He had put all his powers into the omamori Gohonzon by using the example of lion king:
“The lion, king of beasts, is said to advance three steps, then gather himself to spring, unleashing the same power whether he traps a tiny ant or attacks a fierce animal. In inscribing this Gohonzon for the protection, Nichiren is equal to the lion king. This is what the sutra means by “the power of an attacking lion.”
In this part, Nichiren Daishonin explaind about His posture, spirit and powers in inscribing her Omamori Gohonzon by using the example of the lion king. In this passage, “the sutra” means the 15th Chapter, Emerging from the Earth of the Lotus Sutra. It stats: “The Thus Come One wishes now to summon forth and declare the wisdom of the Buddhas, the freely exercised transcendental power of the Buddhas, the Buddhas’ power of an attacking lion, the fierce and greatly forceful power of the Buddhas.” (Kaiketsu page 418)
We can understand Nichiren Daishonin inscribed Nichigen-nyo’s omamori Gohonzon in this way. Her Omamori Gohonzon was probably not a large Gohonzon according to the sentence, “please always keep with you andhold on to the Omamori Gohonzon.” I believe that the size of that Gohonzon was such that it could be kept always close to her no matter what she was doing, especially for her children. So there is a possibility that it was small so that she could keep it with her and hold on to it always.
However, there may be people who might think that a large Gohozon has great benefits and a small Gohonzon contains small benefits. Through this Gosho passage, we can understand that a Gohonzon of any size contains great benefits.
Next, Nichiren Daishonin states:
“Believe in this mandala with all your heart. Nam-Myoho-renge-Kyo is like the roar of lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?”
We can understand that Gohonzon contains the strong power of Buddha. So it can be said that “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is like the roar of a lion.” Then Nichiren Daishonin encouraged Kyo’o’s mother, Nichigen-nyo, with these words: “What sickness, Nichigen-nyo, with these words: “What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?”
It is true that we can overcome various illness by chanting Daimoku to the Gohonzon and there are many believers who have recover by chanting Daimoku. Of course, we need to see a doctor and receive appropriate treatment from him, but chanting Daimoku is necessary to change the negative karma that contains the factor of illness.
Tiantai stated the six kinds of causes of illness in “Maka shikan” that is “the Great Concentration and insight”:
“To clarify the causes of illnesses, there are six categories. First, are illnesses caused by an imbalance of the four elements. Second, are illnesses caused by one’s inability to control one’s appetite. Third, are illnesses caused by an imperfect practice of meditation. Fourth, are illnesses causes by demons entering one’s body. Fifth, are illnesses caused by the work of devils. Sixth, are illnesses caused by the manifestation of one’s karma.” (Shikan page 473)
I would like to briefly explain about these six causes of illness.
1. Illness caused by an imbalance of the four elements
This is illness which results from an imbalance of the four major elements which make up the human body, i.e. earth, fire, water and wind. Imbalance of the earth element includes maladies of the muscles, nerves, skeleton, hair, vascular tract, skin, teeth and the like. Imbalance of the water element includes disorders of the blood, hormones, secretions of enzymes, perspiration and digestive organs. Sicknesses involving the fire element include maladies which derive from fever, blood pressure, the scorching heat of summer and the like. Illness of the wind element pertains to the respiratory and circulatory organs, and includes ailments which result from cold weather and exhaust fumes.
2. Illnesses caused by one’s inability to control one’s appetite
The reason for this illness is immoderate or reckless eating or drinking habits, and such maladies include afflictions of the stomach and intestines, liver ailments, malnutrition, physical debility. More concretely, we can become ill from the intake of too much ice. Alcochol, cola, coffee or madicines, or from overeating on a daily basis. On the other hand, ailments can also arise from not enough calorie intake, from malnutrition, contaminated foods, an unbalanced diet, or from such substances as tobacco or narcotics.
3. Illness caused by an imperfect practice of meditation
It might be said that these maladies arise because of such psycho-emotional neglect as irregular daily habits, poor spinal posture, and lack of physical exercise, sleep deprivation, overwork or emotional insecurity. It should further be said that in our present day and age, there are many other ailments which come about due to a lax mind or other chinks in our psychological armour, such as sudden traffic accidents and injures, which we should always be careful to avoid.
4. Illnesses caused by demons entering one’s body
This simply refers to maladies which occur when the pathogenic bacteria (germs) that cause infectious diseases multiply. Viral influenza and other contagious diseases would fall under this category.
5. Illnesses caused by the work of devils
According to Buddhism, these infirmities are said to destroy a practitioner’s seeking spirit and wisdom based on Buddhism and rob the person maintains faith falls ill as a result of the acts of these devils, he begins to entertain doubts about his faith, and in the end, discards his faith (wisdom based on Buddhism) and loses the desire to chant. Medically speaking these are maladies of the mind, such as mental illness and emotional disorders. Furthermore, incessant warfare, which springs from insatiable foolish greed and anger, and which costs many lives, is also the work of devils.
6. Illnesses caused by the manifestation of one’s karma
These illnesses, resulting from the karma of past existences, cannot be fathomed by human intelligence. One might venture to say that they include hereditary diseases, congenital abnormalities, inborn constitutional weakness, blindness, deafness and dumbness, as well as senility. Even with today’s medical science, there are no remedies for these afflictions. When all is aid and done, there is no other way for us to resolve them than by taking faith in the past karma and strive to purity our lives.
When we consider the six kins of causes of illness, even a medical docor can try to cure nowadays “1. Illnesses caused by an imbalance of the four elements.” “2. Illnesses caused by one’s inability to control one’s appetite” and “3. Illnesses caused by an imperfect practice of meditation” but a strong life force, benefits of purification of six sense organs and benefits of eradication of the six sense organs and benefits of eradication of negative karma by chanting abundant Daimoku to the Gohonzon are needed in the case of “4. Illnesses caused by demons entering one’s body.” “5. Illnesses caused by the work of devils” and “6. Illnesses caused by the manifestation of one’s karma.
I think when one becomes severly ill, one may feel very sad and think, “Why me?” or Why no one can help me?” one may feel as if one is standing in the darkness alone for a long time. This is just like the world of hell. If one falls into a lower life condition, one will lose the strong life force to overcome one’s illness. Therefore, during such times, it is important to have strong spirit to overcome the illness without falling into a low life condition.
I hope you will remember the golden words of Nichiren Daishonin’s Gosho “Reply yo Myoshin ama” and chant abundant Daimoku to the Gohonzon:
“Your illness must be the work of the Buddha, just as described in the Vimalakirti Sutra and Nirvana Sutra. These sutra describe the reason why those who are ill should be able to attain the Buddhahood. Illness can motivate one to pursue the path to supreme enlightenment.” (Gosho page 900)
When we become ill, it is also important for us to uphold the passage of “Reply to Kyo’o”, which is “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is like the roar of lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?” by strongly believing in the Gohonzon without doubt and chanting Daimoku assiduously. When we become ill, let us have the strong spirit like a lion to overcome the illness.
I would like to conclude my lecture with my prayers for your continued progress in faith and practice.
Thank you very much!