Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life

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Any group, no matter what kind, has capabilities greater than the sum total of the individual abilities of its members. If each member is given the suitable position according to the principle of itai doshin, the group as a whole will be much more versatile than one would imagine. Think of a family, the smallest unit in society. Human culture and traditions are always created by groups or organizations and passed on down to posterity.

The Soka Gakkai is an organization established with the objective of enabling the individual to revolutionize his own life, attain enlightenment in this lifetime and carry out the great mission for kosen-rufu. That is why the organization is endowed with the powers and abilities of the Buddha, the ultimate law of life flowing through it in ceaseless torrents. You can see this immediately when you study the Soka Gakkai's development and the myriad examples of human revolution attained by the people who have woven its history. We are Mr. Toda's disciples. It is our foremost duty to respect, nurture and protect the organization of life-to-life unity he left us. The Soka Gakkai, the world of itai doshin, is the living organization of Buddhist practice and the training ground for human revolution in our day.

The Daishonin teaches us that the heritage of the ultimate law flows only in a group of people with the same faith, who work together in perfect unity. I think it is important to say a few words about the genuine nature and significance of itai doshin.

We frequently meet in order to encourage the movement for kosen-rufu, study the Gosho or make plans for events. We support and give guidance to each other. All this is itai doshin in miniature, and the Letter from Teradomari states: "Those who have a seeking mind should all gather and read this letter together." People's minds change from moment to moment, so our members meet to keep themselves oriented on the right path of faith. Then they split up and go their various ways, some to create an unshakable foundation in their homes, others to contribute to the prosperity of their respective communities. Then they gather again at a discussion meeting to seek the true way of Buddhism. Repeated meetings and partings are a practical way for the members to manifest the essence of Buddhism in their own lives. This, I believe, is what is meant by the phrase, "If itai doshin prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals." The Soka Gakkai owes what it is today to the countless meetings and partings by members who were many in body but one in mind, firmly united with President Toda at their center.

The objective of our faith lies in the continuous revolution of our own lives. Kosen-rufu is just that revolution, aimed at contributing to the peace and culture of mankind. An organization, no matter what kind, which ceases to strive for continuous revolution --- which is really the accumulation of daily reform --- is but a living corpse with no future. Another thing makes our organization special: Kosen-rufu lies in an entirely different dimension from revolutions carried out solely for a certain class or group of people. Ours IS the crystallization of man's noblest endeavor, a universal, eternal revolution carried on to benefit all people on earth. By now you probably know that it is only the unity of itai doshin that makes such a revolution possible.

Itai doshin contains two important principles. The first, of course, is itai, or many different individuals. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism deeply respects each person's individuality, situation and character and shows the way to display one's particular abilities to the fullest. The Ongi Kuden says, "Cherry, plum, peach, and damson blossoms all have their own qualities, and they manifest the three properties of the life of the original Buddha without changing their own character." People, in other words, should give full play to their unique capabilities as they struggle toward kosen-rufu. Their struggle brings about their own human revolution, and the circle of unity they form is the Soka Gakkai.

Because organizations must maintain internal order, they tend to reject individual differences and make their members conform as much as possible. Perhaps the best examples of such are the military and "in-family" groups. An "in-family" group may appear firmly united, but because in reality it forms an inner core closed to outsiders, it eventually grows unable to respond to the changes of the times. Although it seems to be one body, it usually becomes divided into countless opposing factions. It becomes corrupt and depraved eventually, giving rise to evil among the members. This explains why many religious bodies find themselves at a standstill. They have turned into "in-family" groups so poisoned with the evils of nepotism that they are unable to move. The members of the Soka Gakkai have always maintained mutual respect for each other and each other's special talents. I want you to carry on this noble tradition eternally. Each member has his own mission to accomplish in the land of the Buddha. We aim at a total revolution. In its ideal form, this revolution has people from all walks of life gathering together in the garden of the Soka Gakkai, each blossoming forth in a unique way. An association of fishmongers may be able to effect reform in the fish market, but they cannot achieve a total revolution. The total revolution will be achieved only when people with all sorts of characters and talents fully live up to their abilities as they scale the peak of kosen-rufu on into the coming century.

Gohonzon and Kosen-rufu - Our Foundation

The second principle of itai doshin requires that people different in body (itai) act in one spirit (doshin). This is the more important of the two principles. The phrase "transcending all differences among themselves" does not mean to reject differences. Rather, it repudiates failure of heart-to-heart communication between people. It rejects egotism and actions based only on personal feelings. Such attitudes lead people to emphasize their differences and finally cause them to sever their bonds. No spiritual bond can long exist in such disunited groups of people.

In contrast, fish and water are two totally different things, but fish cannot live for a moment without water. "To become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim" is to realize that our existence flourishes within, and even depends on, the beautiful tapestry of human relationships woven together with the people around us. We must treasure those relationships. "Water" then represents the human relations surrounding us --- the organization --- and "fish" indicates ourselves. Just as fish feel perfectly comfortable in the water they swim in, so must we merge with the group of itai doshin, respecting each and every member. Then we can 'become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim."

Buddhist teaching puts heavy emphasis on a strong sense of gratitude: gratitude to parents, teachers, society and mankind. The Buddhist regards our existence as being inseparably connected to all other forms of life. We learn from Buddhism that we must be as grateful for other people s existence as we are for our own. Realize that the principle of itai doshin is based on this teaching. But look at the society in which we live. It is filled with people who assert only their differences, and it is beset with conflict and selfishness, hostility and hate, discord and destruction. Like so many foxes and wolves, people cunningly, almost hungrily, watch for the chance to pounce on each other. We must see this for exactly what it is. We must not allow ourselves to give in to or be ridiculed by wicked people. This harsh reality totally surrounds us, but there is one remaining force capable of overcoming all viciousness and establishing a society in which true humanism prevails. It is ourselves, members of the Soka Gakkai. Indivisible and united in the spirit of itai doshin, we must advance toward the lofty goal willed to us all, together, by the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.

Doshin (one mind) means to believe in the Gohonzon and to take the supreme goal of kosen-rufu as our own, personal mission. The Gosho tells us to be "of the same mind as Nichiren and says that his disciples should "form your ranks an follow him."

If people follow only their own subjective opinions and personal whims, they will become divided, both in body and mind, and find themselves in a whirlpool of complaints discontent, hatred and jealousy. But when all stand together in the spirit of itai doshin, each one will be able to see how intensely the others are fighting, each in his own capacity. They will clearly see that members are taking the lead in their own spheres of action and work on their own, and helping the whole movement one step at a time. Everyone is living the best way he can, constantly feeling purified and filled with new vigor. If we are aware of their individual efforts and feelings, we sense a new respect for them all, and at the same time try all the harder in our own positions to accomplish our own mission. Ours is a living organization because it is composed of just such people. It is only natural, therefore, that the heritage of the ultimate law flows within it in a broad, clear river of abundant joyful benefits. Until now the Soka Gakkai has continued to support its faith by the purest form of itai doshin --- a purity that is very difficult to appreciate if one is not a part of our organization. Part of my will for all who are members is that you preserve this tradition eternally and never destroy it.

On Itai Doshin, one of the best-known Gosho, states, "King Chou of Yin led 700,000 soldiers into battle against King Wu of Chou and his 800 men. Yet King Chou's army lost because of disunity while King Wu's men defeated him because of perfect unity." This episode took place in China about the eleventh century BC., an incident which marked the passage of one dynasty into the next. Although the age and historical background are far removed from us today, the story contains an eternal truth for human behavior. According to the Shih Chi (Records of the Historian) by Ssu-ma Ch'ien, King Chou of the Yin dynasty was a bloody tyrant. He was infatuated with a woman named Ta Chi and indulged in sensual pleasures day and night. He killed anyone who dared oppose him and sometimes made salted or dried meat of his victims' flesh. When his loyal retainer, Pi Kan, remonstrated with him, the king gouged out his heart. Naturally he cared nothing for the happiness of his people.

Yin had many countries under its control. One of them was Chou. Its king, Wen, was a wise ruler who enjoyed the confidence of the kings of other countries. When he died, his son, Wu, succeeded him. Following his father's last will, Wu took up arms against the tyrannical King Chou. His action was well-timed, as eight hundred lords with the same intent as he came to participate. King Chou commanded 700,000 soldiers in the battle against Wu. Wu's army was a motley group of lords from many different countries, but they were firmly united in the common desire to punish the abominable king for going against Heaven's will. Their morale was very high. In contrast, King Chou's troops way outnumbered King Wu's, but they had no will to fight. Actually, they were secretly glad that Wu was coming. When the expeditionary force arrived, they all rose together in revolt against their king and let Wu into their country without resisting at all. The Yin dynasty fell, and the Chou dynasty was born. Wu had won the hearts of the people and enjoyed their trust. From the very beginning his army had been united in itai doshin, which is why he succeeded so magnificently.

We, too, must advance in the spirit of itai doshin with strong faith in the Gohonzon, holding high the banner of human revolution. All other people will soon find that their only hope lies in our progress, and they will come and join in, one after another. Now is the time. If we are united in itai doshin, "even the great hope for kosen-rufu can be fulfilled without fail."

Kosen-rufu will not come our way if we merely sit and wait or repeat empty phrases like parrots. It can only be realized when we continuously practice our faith in the spirit of itai doshin. In this sense, can any religious body in this age other than Nichiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai be called "the envoy of the Buddha, sent to carry out the Buddha's work" ? Which other group is carrying out "Nichiren's propagation" in our world? I declare that there is absolutely no other. Therefore, Soka Gakkai members will certainly obtain immeasurable benefits, as the Gosho states, "Not even the wisdom of the Buddha can fathom the blessings you will obtain." Our path in life is illuminated by both an important mission and great good fortune. March straight along this road until you finally enter the highest state of happiness and satisfaction.

The Pitfall of Arrogance

But if any of Nichiren's disciples should disrupt the unity of itai doshin, he will destroy his own castle from within.

Here Nichiren Daishonin points out that those disciples whose spirit is not one with his are like parasites in a lion's body and are enemies of true Buddhism. Since they break the unity of itai doshin, and thereby cut themselves off from the heritage of the ultimate law, their sin is extremely grave. In Buddhism the most serious of the five cardinal sins* is "causing disunity in the Buddhist community." Even then, the sin is still more deadly --- "slandering the True Law." They are violating Myoho-renge-kyo --- the heritage of the ultimate law and the core of Buddhism.

*[The five most serious offenses in Buddhism. They are: I) killing one's father; 2) killing one's mother; 3) killing an arhat; 4) injuring a Buddha, and 5) causing disunity among believers.]

In the final analysis, to be of a "different mind" is to go against Nichiren Daishonin's spirit. But those who sometimes seem to turn against the Daishonin do not do so intentionally. Then what makes some people develop strong, intractable opposition? The cause, I believe, is selfishness, personal feelings and conceit. In Shakyamuni's day some people turned traitor and disrupted the flow of Buddhism because of those reasons. Devadatta was one of them. He is said to have been a villain who committed three of the five cardinal sins. He was initially one of Shakyamuni's disciples, but later left the group of Buddhists, taking five hundred monks with him, and began to attack Shakyamuni and his disciples. What made him backslide and eventually caused him to fall into hell? The following passage from The Opening of The Eyes vividly describes the situation:

The World-Honored One scolded Devadatta to his face saying, "You are a fool! You drink the spittle of other people." Devadatta felt as if he had been shot in the heart with a poisoned arrow. In fierce resentment he said, "Gautama cannot be a Buddha. I am the heir to King Dronodana, an elder brother of the revered Ananda and a cousin of Gautama. No matter what evil I might have done, he should have admonished me in private. Instead he scolded me severely in the presence of a large assembly of people and heavenly beings. How can such a man rank among the Buddhas and bodhisattvas? Earlier he took my sweetheart away from me. This time he has humiliated me in the presence of a large assembly. From today on I am his arch enemy, for each and every lifetime I am born."

It is clear that Devadatta disrupted the unity of itai doshin out of rancor, which originated in a personal grudge. The immediate cause of his treachery was Shakyamuni's reproof at a place of Buddhist practice where many other disciples were gathered. There he was called a fool and reproached, and he resented it. How haughty he was, and how keenly he wished the admiration of others! Shakyamuni could see that, given such a nature, Devadatta would not attain enlightenment unless he did away with his arrogance. That is why the Buddha purposely scolded his cousin in front of everyone.

Shakyamuni knew Devadatta's heart inside and out. As the teacher, he sincerely wanted his pupil to grow. He wanted to correct Devadatta's wicked mind and purge the benighted nature in his life, which would otherwise cause him to fall into misery. There was nothing personal involved, he simply had to be severe in his guidance. The Buddha's harsh words were the expression of mercy for a single person. But Devadatta could not see that far. His arrogant mind was already so bent on fame and fortune that he rejected the guidance and help Shakyamuni offered him.

I know of many instances in which people have deviated from the path of human revolution out of pride. There may be times when someone harshly admonishes you or gives you severe, straightforward guidance. At such times tell yourself that you are standing at a crucial point which can decide the success or failure of your human revolution. President Toda often gave me extremely strict guidance. He would even scold me for mistakes other leaders had made. Whenever I look back on those days, I am filled with memories and deep gratitude to my late master. How I wish I could have had his severe guidance for at least ten more years!

We saw that the immediate cause of Devadatta's revolt was Shakyamuni's humiliating treatment in the presence of the large assembly. However, the original cause went back many years earlier, which comes out in Devadatta's remark, "Earlier he (Shakyamuni) took my sweetheart away from me." Devadatta came from a royal family. When he was young, he vied with Prince Siddhartha (Shakyamuni's name as a youth) for the hand of Princess Yashodhara, who was reputed to be the most beautiful woman in India, but he lost. We are told that it was because Siddhartha far excelled his rival. With all that, it might have been hard for Devadatta to accept the Buddha's words with an open heart. But his response was so utterly personal that revolt was completely unjustified. At any rate, we can see that his heart was full of rancor --- jealousy and hatred for his superior cousin, lingering over a lost love.

Now let us turn to Sanmibo, a disciple who turned against Nichiren Daishonin. Sanmibo was one of the leading disciples, but, like Devadatta, he disrupted the unity of the Daishonin's followers and finally died a violent death. About him the Daishonin states:

There was something extremely strange about Sanmibo. However, I felt that whatever I said about it would be taken by the foolish as mere jealousy of his wisdom, and therefore I refrained from speaking out. It was because he had a wicked mind that he met his doom during the great persecution. If I had scolded him more strictly, he might have been saved, but since it was much too mysterious I have not mentioned it before.

In this passage the Daishonin indicates an important point. He wanted to give guidance to Sanmibo and point out his errors, but his surroundings prevented him from doing so. Before he was aware of it, his disciples had created an atmosphere in which it would have caused more harm than good to scold Sanmibo. Sanmibo Nichigyo was an educated priest who had studied at Enryaku-ji temple in Kyoto, then the highest seat of learning in Buddhism. Learned and eloquent, he breezed to a brilliant victory in his debate with Ryuzobo, a famed scholar of the Tendai sect. He had the tendency, however, toward false pride in his talents and, at the same time, obsequiousness to social power. He lacked the true pride and determination to uphold the supreme teaching of Buddhism, no matter what. In his reply to this priest, the Daishonin writes, "In your letter you mentioned the great honor you had to give a lecture at the family temple of a court noble. But it seems very strange for you to say that kind of thing.... by speaking of your 'great honor, are you not in essence expressing your low opinion of me, Nichiren?" It seems that Sanmibo placed the Daishonin's Buddhism below the aristocratic authority of the country's religious center in Kyoto.

During the Atsuhara Persecution, Sanmibo was dispatched to the Fuji area to assist Nikko Shonin, who ranked below him. Then, becoming victim to the scheming of Gyochi, acting chief priest of Ryusen-ji temple of the Tendai sect, he turned against Nikko Shonin. The consequence you know well: "He met his doom," dying a violent death. I suspect he was not pleased about having to go and assist one of his inferiors who was leading the struggle against the persecution. On that struggle hinged the rise or fall of the Daishonin's Buddhist order. Even in such a decisive battle, he was preoccupied with his own resentment that he had not been assigned the leading position. He was completely dominated by egoism, and a desire for fame and fortune.

The Daishonin, of course, had long before discerned this dark tendency in Sanmibo's life. Once, when Sanmibo was in Kyoto propagating true Buddhism, the Daishonin wrote him a letter admonishing his inclination toward selfish pride. The Daishonin highly regarded Sanmibo's learning, but did not want it to go to his head and eventually cause him to backslide. He must have felt it necessary to scold Sanmibo on a number of occasions but, as I said, there was some turn of events which prevented him from doing so. In the final analysis, this brought him to his death. Remember that the principle, "There can be no discontinuity between past, present and future," stands, no matter what the age.

After the Daishonin's demise there were traitorous moves on the part of the five elder priests who had been the closest disciples of the Daishonin. After he had passed away, they tried to identify his teaching with the Tendai school and, shamelessly calling themselves followers of that school, they abandoned true Buddhism. It was not so much because they failed to comprehend the Daishonin's Buddhism, as because they wanted to preserve their authority in the already well-established Tendai sect. But they went about it by altering the Daishonin's teaching. You may know that the Daishonin wrote many of his Gosho in the simple Japanese syllabary. The five elder priests considered any Gosho not written in classical Chinese characters harmful to their sect's prestige. So, on the excuse that such writings were a disgrace to their late master, they either tore them up and made new paper of them or burned them. They were doing nothing less than trampling on the very spirit of Nichiren Daishonin, the original Buddha who consecrated his own life for the sake of all people.

Nichiro, one of the five, had taken part in the propagation campaign, spiritually exalted by his perfect master-disciple relationship with the Daishonin. For his effort he was even imprisoned. In his Letter to the Imprisoned Disciple, the Daishonin extols his strong faith. Then, after Nikko Shonin succeeded the Daishonin, even Nichiro turned against the second high priest and rejected true Buddhism. It is a sad story, but for us, becomes a very important lesson, which believers in generations must remember as they advance toward kosen-rufu. Nichiro was very active during the lifetime of Nichiren Daishonin. But when Nikko Shonin became high priest, Nichiro turned on him. By so doing he violated the teaching, "There can be no discontinuity between past, present and future." This principle should be a mirror for all who propagate Buddhism, both now and in the future.

President Makiguchi, the founder of the Soka Gakkai, was a pioneer who built the foundation for kosen-rufu, propagating the True Law at the cost of his own life. In the face of oppression from the government he resolutely continued on, pitting himself against the persecution in order to spread true Buddhism until he was finally imprisoned. By then he had a large group of followers, but no sooner had he been imprisoned than many of them abandoned their faith. Then, when Mr. Toda became the second president, a number of Mr. Makiguchi's disciples turned away from true Buddhism. The leaders in the early days of the Soka Gakkai, nonetheless, were not swayed a bit by the turncoats. They had unshakable conviction in their faith, and it is through their unity that the Soka Gakkai has been able to move ahead in its unprecedented development. Today their names and their meritorious achievements stand out in the history of kosen-rufu.




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