GOKUYO TO THE MANDALA OF MYOHO (Part 1)

By Revernd Shotsu Nomura, September 2016 Oko Ceremony

From today onwards, I would like to conduct the Oko lectures on "Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho".
Today's lecture focuses on the following part of the Gosho:
"I have received your Gokuyo for the Gohonzon of Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Though this mandala is written in but five or seven characters, it is the master of all Buddhas throughout the three existences and the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women. It will be a lamp in the darkness of the netherworld and a fine horse to carry you over the mountains of death. It is like the sun and the moon in the heavens or Mount Sumeru on earth. It is a ship to ferry people over the sea of birth and death. It is the guiding master who leads all people to enlightenment."
This Gosho passage is one of many famous passages so l believe many of you are familiar with it.
This Gosho, "Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho", written by Nichiren Daishonin in 1273, was meant for Abutsu-bo's wife, Sen-Nichi-Ama.
Previously, we learned about "Reply to Kyo'o", which mentioned the Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo:
"I, Nichiren, with sumi ink, have infused my life into the Gohonzon. So believe in it. The will of the Buddha is the Lotus Sutra, but the spirit of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo."
The Gosho, "Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho", was written in the same year as "Reply to Kyo'o" and it refers to the great beneficial power of the Gohonzon.
During the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, which occurred on 12 September 1271, Nichiren Daishonin was almost killed at the execution site in Tatsunokuchi. At the very moment when the executioner drew his sword from its scabbard and positioned himself behind the Daishonin, a shining object as large as the moon suddenly darted across the sky from the direction of Enoshima Island, from the southeast to the northeast. The executioner was dazed by the dazzling light and fell to the ground. The warriors who were surrounding the Daishonin ran terrified and some lay face down on the ground. As a result, they were unable to behead the Daishonin.
The Tatsunokuchi Persecution that befell Nichiren Daishonin signified Hosshaku Kempon-Discarding the Provisional Identity and Revealing the True Identity. During this persecution, the Daishonin discarded his provisional identity as the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo and revealed his true identity as the True Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom of the Infinite Past of Kuon Ganjo.
This month, September, was the month of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and that is why this Oko Ceremony contains the significance of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. It is important for us to repay our debt of gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin by attending this ceremony and conducting shakubuku.
After Hosshaku Kempon, Nichiren Daishonin started to inscribe the Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
Nichiren Daishonin was exiled to Sado Island after the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and He stayed at San-mai-do in Tsukahara. Sen-Nichi-Ama, who received this Gosho, 'Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho', and her husband Abutsu-bo met Nichiren Daishonin for the first time at San-mai-do in Tsukahara.
In the beginning, Abutsu-bo was a strong Nembutsu believer so he went to San- mai-do to confront Nichiren Daishonin in a debate, but He shakubukued him and his wife instead. As a result, Abutsu-bo discarded his Nembutsu faith and, together with his wife Sennichi-ama, embraced True Buddhism and believed in the Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Thereafter, for approximately two years, until Nichiren Daishonin was released and returned to Kamakura, they served Him diligently.
Nichiren Daishonin states in 'Reply to Sen-Nichi-Ama': "...(You, Sen-Nichi-Ama) with Abutsu-bo, carrying a wooden container of food on his back, again and again came in the night to bring me aid." (Gosho, p. 1253)
Supporting and helping Nichiren Daishonin was prohibited by the Government at that time, but the couple sincerely helped Him anyway. We can understand their strong faith through the above Gosho passage.
Nichiren Daishonin moved to lchino-sawa from Tsukahara about five months after arriving at Tsukahara, and in 1273 He wrote this Gosho, 'Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho'.
Now I would like to explain each sentence of this Gosho. The first is the title of this Gosho, 'Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho'.
This Gosho is called 'Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho' because the following is stated at the beginning of this Gosho:
"I have received your Gokuyo for the Gohonzon of Myoho-Renge-Kyo."
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter because Sen-Nichi-Ama offered Gokuyo to the Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. This is the reason why this Gosho is called 'Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho'.
You may realise that the title, 'Mandala of Myoho', refer to "Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo." So 'Mandala' means 'the Gohonzon'.
The word 'mandala' also has the significance of 'perfectly endowed' and 'cluster of blessings'. The Daishonin states in 'The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon':
"To be 'endowed with the Ten Worlds' means that all the Ten Worlds without exception are contained in the one world of Buddhahood. That is why the Gohonzon is called a mandala.
Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning 'perfectly endowed' or 'cluster of blessings'." (Gosho, p. 1388)

Why did Nichiren Daishonin use the term 'Mandala of Myoho' in the title? I think this is because in those days the Shingon sect used Taizo-kai Mandala and kongo-kai Mandala that were pictures of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. These mandalas came from the Pre-Lotus Sutra teachings so it can be said that these are not perfect mandalas. On the other hand, Nichiren Daishonin's mandala was the supreme mandala, and in order to differentiate it from the other mandalas. Nichiren Daishonin used 'Mandala of Myoho' in the title.

At the beginning of this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin states:
"I have received your Gokuyo for the Gohonzon of Myoho-Renge-Kyo."

It is said that Nichiren Daishonin started to inscribe Gohonzons from 1271 and this Gosho was written two years after that time. Hence, it can be said that it was still at the beginning when the Daishonin started inscribing Gohonzons. It was also true that no one else inscribed this Gohonzon of Myoho before Nichiren Daishonin, just like 'The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon' states: "Therefore this Gohonzon is the supreme mandala never before known, for it has not appeared until more than twenty-two hundred and twenty years after the Buddha's death." (Gosho, p. 1388)

This means there were few people who could offer Gokuyo to the Gohonzon of Myoho-Renge-Kyo at that time, but Sen-Nichi-Ama did. Her behaviour was admirable.

In relation to this, when we hear the term 'Gohonzon', we should remember not only the meaning of the object of worship but also the following three significances:

1. It must be the object of worship that is fundamentally revered by all common mortals.
2. It should appear in its true and original state. It does not take the form of a solemnly adorned statue, or an object that was created for an expedient purpose.
3. It must be respected and worshipped with faith.

You may understand that the term 'Gohonzon' has a deeper meaning than the object of Worship. Next, Nichiren Daishonin states in 'Gokuyo to the Mandala of Myoho':
"Though this mandala is written in but five or seven characters, it is the master of all Buddhas throughout the three existences and the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women."

When you look at the Gohonzon, you can understand that the Gohonzon contains not only the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo but the seven characters of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo . All Gohonzons contain seven characters and there is no Gohonzon which has only five characters.

Some of you may wonder if there is any difference between the five characters and the seven characters. All Gohonzons contain seven characters so when you find the sentence consisting of "five or seven characters" in the Goshos, please understand that this means the Gohonzon which contains the seven characters of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

There is a deeper meaning in the phrase. "five or seven characters", and even though this sentence seems to be a simple one, it actually expresses the doctrine of the Fusion of objective Reality and subjective wisdom in Kuon Ganjo.

Nichiren Daishonin states the following about the Fusion of objective Reality and subjective Wisdom in Kuon Ganjo in 'Totaigi Sho':
"The ultimate principle did not have its name. When the sage observed the principle and gave name to all existences, there was the single marvellous law of the simultaneous cause and effect. He named this Myoho-Renge. This single law of Myoho-Renge is endowed with the various phenomena of the ten worlds and three thousand realms, and has no defect and no decline. A person who practices this simultaneously acquires the causes of the Buddha and the effects of the Buddha. Because the sage practiced and was awakened by having this law as his master, he was simultaneously enlightened to the mystic cause and the mystic effect. Therefore, he became the Thus-Come-One of Mystic Awakening with perfect effect." (Gosho, p. 695)

When we consider the Fusion of Objective Reality and subjective Wisdom in Kuon Ganjo, Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the objective Reality and the Subjective Wisdom is Nam-Myo-Renge-kyo, but the Gohonzon contains the significance of the fusion of objective Reality and Subjective Wisdom so there are no differences between Myoho-Renge-Kyo and Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Nichiren Daishonin's Gohonzon contains deep significances. For example, the Gohonzon is the entity of the manifestation of the Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom in kuon Ganjo. The Gohonzon also contains the significance of actual ichinen sanzen. It is the Gohonzon of the oneness of the Person and the Law. Though Nichiren Daishonin's Gohonzon is written in but five or seven characters, it contains deep significances.

In this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin states:
"Though this mandala is written in but five or seven characters, it is the master of all Buddhas throughout the three existences and the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women."

This Gohonzon is the master of all Buddhas throughout the three existences. This is a short passage but it also has deep significance. Buddhist teachings teach that many Buddhas exist in the three existences and ten directions.

Nichiren Daishonin states in 'Letter to Akimoto':
"All the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions have invariably attained Buddhahood through the seeds represented by the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo." (Gosho, p. 1448)

The Daishonin also states in 'Earthly Desires Enlightenment':
"The teaching which I, Nichiren, am now The propagating may seem limited, but it is actually most profound. This is because it goes even deeper than the teachings expounded by T'ient'ai and Dengyo. It reveals the three important matters contained in the Juryo chapter essential teaching. To practice only the seven characters of Num-Myoho-Renge-Kyo may appear limited, yet since this Law is the master all of Buddhas of the past, present and future, the teacher of all bodhisattvas universe, and the guide that enables all human beings to attain Buddhahood, its practice is incomparably profound."(Gosho, p. 597)

This Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the master of all Buddhas, and all Buddhas believe in this Gohonzon which is the meaning hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Shakyamuni Buddha stated in the ' Sutra of Infinite Meaning ':
"Infinite Meanings come from the one law." (Kaiketsu, p.19)

This, so to speak, means infinite Buddhas come from the Gohonzon of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

T'ien-t'ai stated in the 'Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra' (Hokke Gengi):
"The origin is called fundamental. Even though the time period (of the past, present, and future) is different, Vairochana Buddha remains unchanged throughout the three periods-- just like the hundreds and thousands of branches and leaves all return to the same root."

Though this Gohonzon is written in but five or seven characters, all Buddhas believe in this Gohonzon which is the meaning hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Next is about 'the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women' in "Though this mandala is written in but five or seven characters, it is the master of all Buddhas throughout the three existences and the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women."

First, I will talk about 'the seal' of "the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women".

The 26th High Priest Nichikan shonin stated:
" '…..the seal' means single seal of the true entity of all phenomena…. 'true entity' refers to the ultimate truths. The ultimate truths of the Lotus Sutra means Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo." (Mondan, p. 710)
So we can understand that the meaning of 'the seal' is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. All women can attain Buddhahood through the power of the Gohonzon.

In this passage, it seems that Nichiren Daishonin was only talking about women's enlightenment. This is because this letter was written for a woman, Sen-Nichi-Ama. In addition, it was the attainment of Buddhahood by women which was revealed only in the Lotus Sutra. Other sutras never taught about women's enlightenment. It was the most difficult subject in the Pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. This meant if women could attain Buddhahood, all other people in the world could. Although Nichiren Daishonin used the example of women, He implied all people in the world.

In the next Gosho passage, Nichiren Daishonin was talking about the great benefits from the Gohonzon in the world after our death. First, I would like to read the Gosho passage:
"It will be a lamp in the darkness of the netherworld and a fine horse to carry you over the mountains of death. It is like the sun and the moon in the heavens or Mount Sumeru on earth. It is a ship to ferry people over the sea of birth and death. It is the guiding master who leads all people to enlightenment."

Some of you might wonder "what is the netherworld?" or "What happens after our death?" The image of one's death varies depending on the person.

One person might think of the netherworld as follows:
- Without passing away, one cannot realise the netherworld.
- The netherworld ought to be a paradise
- It may be a fearful place.
- There is no netherworld after our death.

As we do not have memory in world of death, it is difficult to explain what happens after our death.

On this occasion, l would like to take this opportunity to talk about 'The Three Existences of Life' and 'The Netherworld' based on the Buddhist teaching, I hope that you understand more and have conviction and strong faith in the Daishonin's Buddhism.

In order to understand the existence of the netherworld, first, it is important to understand 'The Three Existences of Life' since the netherworld is located between the present lifetime and the future lifetime. So after discussing our eternal life through three existences of life, I will mention a little about the netherworld.

I will start the next Oko lecture from this passage:
"It will be a lamp in the darkness of the netherworld and a fine horse to carry you over the mountains of death."

When we learn about death, we can understand the importance of what Nicharen Daishonin states in the following Gosho passage:
"I believe that embracing Myoho-Renge-Kyo, which ensures 'peace and security in this lifetime and good circumstances in the next', is the only honour to pursue in this lifetime and is the guide to maintaining enlightenment in the future. Single-mindedly chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-kyo and encourage others to do the same. This will remain as your only memory from this present, human life." (Questions and Answers on Embracing e Lotus Sutra Gosho, p 300)

I would like to conclude my lecture by praying for your continued good health, happiness and kosen-rufu in Singapore.

Thank you very much.

Kaimyo, issu85, Oct-Nov 2016, p.25-26 and 31-33.