Lecture in Praise of Nichiren Daishonin
February, 2018 Oko Lecture
This is the "Year of Action." "Action" refers to the things people do and their behavior. The behavior of an individual clearly reveals one's mental state and personality.
For example, what happens when a short-tempered and selfish person drives a car? Something minor will irritate him, and in an outburst of anger, he may take it out on the car in front of him. Such a person may drag others into accidents and may even take precious lives. The selfish behavior of one individual can transform a car-a convenient machine-into a deadly weapon. By contrast, when a driver is even slightly kind and considerate, this person will prioritize safety, first and foremost, and his or her actions will be gentle on the car as well. The other drivers to whom he or she yields the right of way will probably feel a sense of warm appreciation. The slightest difference in our behavior can cause ourselves and others to feel either happiness or sadness, or appreciation or hatred.
When we go to the Head Temple, we often see people stopping and joining their hands in prayer when they walk by the Mieidō, the Kyakuden, and the Mutsubo. This behavior is the manifestation of the faith that those people have in the Gohonzon.
When individuals uphold true faith, they will find that their actions in their daily lives will become considerate and compassionate. However, when people uphold erroneous beliefs, their conduct tends to become selfish and self-serving, caring only about themselves.
Nichiren Daishonin states the following about the behavior of people in the On Emperor Sushun (Sushun tennō-gosho):
The heart of Shakyamuni's entire lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is revealed in the Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Fukyō; twentieth) chapter. What is meant by the reverence shown towards people by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging? The significance of the true purpose of the Great Master Shakyamuni's advent into this world was manifested in his behavior as a human. How wise and how profound! Those who are wise are called human, while those who are foolish are none other than animals. (Gosho, p. 1174)
The Lotus Sutra is the teaching that represents the true purpose of Shakyamuni Buddha's advent into this world. The various earlier teachings were expedient doctrines for expounding the Lotus Sutra. Only when Shakyamuni preached the Lotus Sutra did he finally teach the possibility of enlightenment for the people of the two vehicles, for evil people, and for women.
Furthermore, the essential core of the practice of the Lotus Sutra was the behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Fukyō), described in the Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Fukyō; twentieth) chapter, as follows:
I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparaging and arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood. (Hokekyo, p. 500; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, pp. 266-267)
Thus, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging constantly recited this twenty-four character passage of this sutra, focused on it in his heart, and practiced it. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging exerted tremendous efforts into profoundly revering people and worshipping them, since they all possessed the Buddha nature and were able to attain Buddhahood. However, those whom he revered in this way, with his palms joined together in prayer, misunderstood what he was doing and thought that he was making fun of them. They were unable to sincerely receive the compassionate words of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. Not only that, they criticized him and committed acts of violence by throwing rocks at him and beating him with canes.
However, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging made a determination never to regress or give up. He lived his entire life with the conviction that he would save all people-even those who persecuted him, since they ultimately would be able to achieve Buddhahood through a reverse karmic relationship.
Nichiren Daishonin states the following in the Gosho, The Sage Knows the Three Existences of Life (Shōnin chisanze ji):
I, Nichiren, am the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Because I follow in the footsteps of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, those who despise and slander me shall have their heads broken into seven pieces. In contrast, the fortune of those who believe in me will grow to the heights of Mount Sumeru. (Gosho, p. 748)
Thus, the Daishonin explains that we must not abandon even those who persecute us. Throughout his life, Nichiren Daishonin worked to save all people-those who believed in him and even those who slandered him-since they all possessed either a positive or reverse relationship with him. He states that his behavior follows that of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.
When we do shakubuku, we must be particularly mindful of our own behavior. In doing shakubuku, we tend to be criticized or despised more than we are appreciated by others. It is important for us to deal with such situations with compassionate words and actions.
The following is a passage from the Gosho, Establishing the Four Leaders of the Bodhisattvas as the Object of Worship (Shibosatsu zōryū-shō):
Those who claim to be the disciples of Nichiren and practice the Lotus Sutra must do as I do. (Gosho, p. 1370)
As disciples and followers of Nichiren Daishonin, we should try our utmost to always emulate the behavior of Nichiren Daishonin. High Priest Nichinyo Shonin states the following about the conduct that we should maintain in our daily lives:
It must not be a matter of mere lip service. Our words must always be accompanied by action. In other words, our ordinary behavior in our daily lives is truly important. In fact, our ordinary behavior is itself propagation….To correctly lead as many people as possible, we must exert our utmost efforts in upholding strong faith, encompassing the three categories of action-thoughts, words, and deeds. Furthermore, we need to master the power to convince people, just like Bodhisattva Never Disparaging did. In order to accomplish this, we must be thoroughly convinced of the importance of upholding an ordinary day-to-day Buddhist practice without ever regressing, and also to demonstrate excellent behavior in our daily lives. (Dainichiren, No. 739, p. 40)
Nichiren Daishonin states:
The great aspiration is the propagation of the Lotus Sutra. (Gosho, 1749)
And our ultimate aspiration should be the Buddha land. (Gosho, p. 488)
This means that we must propagate true Buddhism through shakubuku. Furthermore, we must come together and be of one mind in order to achieve the great aspiration of kōsen-rufu, the establishment of the Buddha land. The Daishonin writes:
If your mind is one with Nichiren, you must be one of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. (Gosho, p. 666)
The Daishonin explains that our behavior to stand up and do shakubuku as much as possible is truly the behavior of the followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are one in mind with Nichiren Daishonin. We must carry out this behavior as we aspire to achieve happiness for all mankind and establish a peaceful Buddha land.
In 1990, on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the establishment of Taisekiji, we held the great general tozan pilgrimage of 30,000 Hokkeko believers at the Head Temple. At the time, Sixty-seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin explained the following to us:
All of you, the Hokkeko believers, are the karmic associates of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
It is critically important for us to develop the conviction that each one of us is a follower of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Based on this conviction, let's advance with devotion and carry out sincere Gongyo, Shodai, and compassionate shakubuku.
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated:
Shakubuku is an important mission given to us as the priests and lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu. In other words, it is a critical mission that we must achieve, as followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth….When we look at the confusion and delusion in the world around us today, we must understand that it is most essential for each and every one of us to steadfastly do shakubuku at this time. Then, shakubuku will lead us to achieve our individual joy and secure true happiness in our nation and in the entire world, without fail, based on the principle of the oneness of life and its environment (eshō funi). (Dainichiren, No. 769, p. 39)
The principle of the three rules of preaching: the robe, the throne, and the room is expounded in the Teachers of the Law (Hosshi; tenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This principle expounds on the correct attitude that we must nurture in our performance of shakubuku.
In the Orally Transmitted Teachings (Ongi kuden), Nichiren Daishonin states:
The robe refers to wearing the clothing of gentleness and forbearance. This is the meaning of "donning the armor of forbearance." The throne signifies devoting oneself to the practice without begrudging one's life. This means to reside in the seat of emptiness, liberating oneself from all illusions. The room denotes propagating the true Law with great compassion. (Gosho, p. 1750)
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin gave us the following guidance on having a compassionate heart; maintaining behavior that is gentle and patient; and cultivating a life condition in which we never slacken and never remain attached to earthly desires:
Let me summarize the principle of the three rules of preaching: the robe, the throne, and the room. "The Buddha's entry into the room" refers to great compassion. In other words, it is to cultivate a heart of compassion in our individual lives to save all mankind. "To don the robe of the Buddha" means to wear the garb of gentleness and forbearance. Gentleness refers to receiving true Buddhism into our hearts with sincerity and honesty. Forbearance signifies endurance against insults, persecution, and all torments. It is to remain absolutely uninfluenced by any criticism, insult, condemnation, and slander, and it refers to overcoming the worst adversities. "To sit on the throne of the Buddha" is to calmly remain unattached to all earthly desires, never to be seized by obsessive attachments, and to propagate the Daishonin's teachings. This is none other than the practice based on the principle of not begrudging one's life to propagate the Law (fuji shaku shinmyō). Accordingly, when we exert our utmost efforts to do shakubuku, being mindful of the three rules of preaching for the propagation of the Law, as the emissaries of the Buddha, we will receive the benefits of the practice for ourselves and for others. Then, we will be able to live a most valuable life. (Dainichiren, No. 800, p. 62)
Based on the Gosho passages of Nichiren Daishonin and the words of High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, we have discussed the practice of shakubuku and the behavior of people, from the perspectives of:
The behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging;
Our pride of being the followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth; and
Actual practice based on the three rules of preaching-the robe, the throne, and the room.
Let us savor the joy of having the fortune to encounter the 800th anniversary of the advent of our Founder Nichiren Daishonin in 2021 and the establishment of a Hokkeko organization of 800,000 believers. Furthermore, let us advance with devotion in our faith and practice with compassionate behavior, in order to bring salvation to the people, who are confused and lost. Let us amass great joy, day after day, as we achieve without fail, our shakubuku objective for this year-the Year of Action.