Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life

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These and other episodes, both ancient and recent, make it absolutely certain that those who try to take advantage of the Soka Gakkai in the present age are no better than subversives attempting to break up the spirit of itai doshin. There always have been, are, and will be, people who seek to satisfy their own selfish desires by using our organization. Some may try to use us for financial purposes. Others, completely underestimating the strength or purity of our organization, may try to use us as a means in their pursuit of fame and power. Such people exist both inside and outside the Soka Gakkai. Some also undoubtedly join simply out of curiosity, which can also be damaging.

In a time of trial, those who disrupt the unity of itai doshin "will destroy their own castle from within." As long as everything goes as they wish, they will go along with the organization and praise it to the skies. But if the Gakkai is attacked, or when things do not go as they hoped, it is this kind of person who will betray the Gakkai. I have seen such people become more and more miserable, their lives growing constantly darker. It is a very sad thing, but it is inevitable, a result determined by the law of causality.


Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
- Shoji Ichidaiji Kechimyaku Sho -

Lecture 3 of 3 from Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1.

Mercy for All Mankind

Nichiren has been trying to awaken all the people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the heritage and attain Buddhahood. But instead they attacked me time and again, and finally had me banished to this island. You have followed Nichiren, however, and met with sufferings as a result. It pains me deeply to think of your anguish.

From this passage on, Nichiren Daishonin demonstrates concern for Sairen-bo, giving him deep encouragement and enfolding him with compassion. The heart of the Daishonin was filled with one thing, and one thing alone --- the infinitely merciful wish to let all people "share the heritage and attain Buddhahood." The only reason he so categorically denounced misleading teachings was to bring the heritage within reach of the people. He was especially severe with Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple, to whom many in those days looked up as a great spiritual and philosophical leader. The Daishonin carried through everything he did in righteousness to the end. He fought for the people, courageously, in utter disregard of his own life.

We of the Soka Gakkai carry on the struggle in the same spirit. The Daishonin fought to bring happiness to all the people in the world, and we follow in his footsteps to let them "share the heritage and attain Buddhahood." Being ourselves entities of the Mystic Law, whatever we do to encourage others to join us is a noble endeavor, whether we are aware of it or not. By encouraging them to join, we bring them the chance to inherit the ultimate law and let it take root firmly in their lives.

"But instead they attacked me time and again, and finally had me banished to this island." The country's leaders during the Daishonin's time were easily cajoled by the cunning, villainous priests into persecuting and finally banishing him to Sado Island. Exile on Sado was almost a living death, as the Gosho confirms, "Exiles to this island are seldom able to survive. Even if they do, they can never return home." He was forced to dwell in a small temple called Sanmaido at Tsukahara. It was in a state of utter ruin. The howling wind swept through the wide gaps in the roof and walls. Any other person would have felt as if he were living in hell itself, but the Daishonin's heart was filled with joy. He felt the kind of joy that could only be felt by the original Buddha. In spite of being in such terrible surroundings, or rather, because he found himself there, he could perceive people's misery all the more acutely. That sense made him want to bring them happiness and bring the merciful light of his Buddhism to shine over the whole earth, a Buddhism as bright and powerful as the sun.

The Daishonin's mercy takes on added significance and depth from the fact that he wrote this important Gosho, the Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life, while on Sado Island. In spite of being made to live in the worst environment imaginable, he recharged and polished his life all the further to leave unfading landmarks of true Buddhism that would guide mankind for eternity. Perhaps only the original Buddha could achieve this, but we nonetheless must try to follow suit. The more trying and harsh our circumstances become, the more faith and courage we must call forth.

"You have followed Nichiren, however, and met with sufferings as a result." Nichiren Daishonin was going through persecution that came at him from all over the land. Flames of hatred roared up against him from all quarters. Under these circumstances Sairenbo dared to follow the Daishonin and, as a result, he too met with suffering. We do not know for certain what agonies he underwent, but it is certain that he was a man of great courage. The kind of attacks that caused him such pain were aimed less at him as an individual than they were part of a greater persecution to which the Daishonin's entire Buddhist order was subjected. Sairenbo stood his ground, and continued to follow his master. Such perseverance must have required extraordinary conviction. On the other hand, his faith was undoubtedly put to a real test.

The Ongi Kuden, interpreting the phrase "to follow this master and study," which appears in the tenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, says, "To follow means to believe and accept." In another part it explains that to follow means to devote both mind and body to the Lotus Sutra. Thus, in saying, "You have followed Nichiren...," the Daishonin was offering deep encouragement to Sairenbo, the man who shared the greatest hardship his master ever had to suffer. To me, one of the reasons that the Daishonin was not only a peerless master but a source of warm, human inspiration was his capacity for unbending sternness --- which in itself indicates concern --- combined with a limitless, personal interest in all his followers.

What Nichiren Daishonin went through was no ordinary abuse. It was a fierce attack by sensho zojoman, the third and worst of the three powerful enemies.* The authorities of some of the religious groups had schemed and prevailed upon the government to publicly punish the Daishonin. The entire nation was like a hive of angry bees swarming in hatred around him. Sairenbo made his commitment to follow the Daishonin right at that point, at a peak of his distress and unpopularity. And Sairenbo never faltered, despite the trials he had to face. At the same time, Sairenbo's courage and perseverance made it possible for the Daishonin to place unqualified confidence in him. Josei Toda used to say, "I trust only those people who have stuck to their faith through thick and thin for at least twenty years --- especially those who have overcome hardship after unbearable hardship. I trust them with my very life." I also remember Dr. Toynbee saying during one of our talks, "I can correctly appraise a person's value only when I have reviewed the past twenty years of his life."

*[Three types of people described in the Kanji (13th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra who will persecute those who propagate the sutra in the evil age after the Buddha's death. They are: 1) lay people ignorant of Buddhism who denounce and persecute the votaries of the Lotus Sutra; 2) arrogant and cunning priests who slander them; and 3) influential figures who induce those in power to exile or execute them.]

"It pains me deeply to think of your anguish." This sentence expresses the Daishonin's very personal consideration for his disciple. He knows the terror that must have gripped Sairenbo's heart, and understands the mental conflict and indignation that must have been raging within him. He thinks of this disciple's distress even more than his own suffering, which is possible only from the heart of the original Buddha.

People of "Pure Gold"

Gold can neither be burned by fire nor corroded or swept away by water, but iron is vulnerable to both. A wise person is like gold and a fool like iron. You are like pure gold because you embrace the "gold" of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra reads in part, "Sumeru is the loftiest of all mountains. The Lotus Sutra is likewise the loftiest of all the sutras." It also states, "The good fortune of the believer cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water."

Gold is one metal that will not oxidize even in fire, nor can it be corroded by water. And, because of its density, it is not even budged by a flood. In contrast, iron rusts and eventually disintegrates in either fire or water. A wise person, therefore, is one who, like gold, does not waver the slightest in his faith, no matter what suffering he meets or how difficult his life becomes. A fool, on the other hand, is as vulnerable and corruptible as iron.

Fire and water are like the trials we meet in daily life. The Gosho, The Eight Winds, reads, "A truly wise man will not be carried away by any of the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering and pleasure. He is neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline." Most people lose their integrity when they receive prosperity, honor, praise or pleasure, and they become morose in the face of decline, disgrace, censure or suffering. Fire and water are symbols of the temptations and troubles of this constantly changing world. Unswayed by praise or blame, we must not let them move us, but instead, we must advance straight along our path of faith, making the life we live shine like polished gold.

Because of his faith in true Buddhism, Sairenbo went through suffering as withering as a fire and as relentless as a flood. But he never gave in. He upheld his faith to the end. That is why Nichiren Daishonin praises him, saying, "You are like pure gold." A passage in the "Precepts for Youth" written by President Toda states, "For a wise person it is a shame to be praised by a fool. But for him to be praised by the Buddha is a lifelong honor." I hope each of you will steadily lead your life in your own way and be worthy of praise from the Daishonin.

"Pure gold" is talking about those of unquestionable integrity of faith and practice. The test is whether a person has the insight to get to the core of things, whether he can carry through his faith while living a truly humane life, and whether he can keep on the path of righteousness to the end. I hope all of you will become people with insight and conviction based on Buddhism, who can discern the truth of things and who never falter or doubt, no matter what may happen. When the Daishonin was banished to Sado, quite a few of his disciples began to doubt, wondering whether his Buddhism was really true or not. However, it was precisely because he was exiled to Sado that he could prove in the way he responded to exile that he was the original Buddha and was able to complete so many important works. None who only saw into superficial aspects of what was happening could have anticipated this.

Much, much later, when Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda were imprisoned, once more many followers began to doubt and eventually abandoned their faith. More than thirty years have passed since the Soka Gakkai was fiercely oppressed by the Japanese military authorities, and during this period our organization has achieved phenomenal growth. Looking back, we can see profound significance in Mr. Makiguchi's death in prison. He left us with the spirit of determination to propagate the Law even at the cost of our lives. It was also in prison that Mr. Toda discovered that Buddha is life itself, awakening to his mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth. Thus, even the cruel, wartime oppression had considerable meaning. It was through that persecution that the spiritual core of the Soka Gakkai solidified. It produced the seed which has since blossomed into our organization today. Continue to live as people of "pure gold," no matter what situation you may face. People of pure gold will eventually reveal their inner light and their true ability, no matter where they may be.

"Because you embrace the 'gold' of the Lotus Sutra" means that we are able to walk a golden path only because we embrace the Lotus Sutra, the highest philosophy of life. As the Gosho states, "If the Law is supreme, so is the person who embraces it." Buddhism teaches that the content of one's life is determined by the quality of the belief he upholds, whether it is noble or base, deep or shallow. We have already received the Gohonzon and based our lives on it. This is the supreme teaching of which the Buddha of the Latter Day, Nichiren Daishonin, declared, "So long as men of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, then I will never accept the practices of the other sects !" There is no alternative; we must make the Gohonzon part of us throughout our lives, and it will take us on a golden journey in life.

Both quotations from the Lotus Sutra appear in the twenty-third chapter, Yakuo-hon. "Sumeru is the loftiest of all mountains. The Lotus Sutra is likewise the loftiest of all the sutras," extols the Lotus Sutra. The sentence, "The good fortune of the believer cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water," concerns the good fortune of those who receive and embrace that sutra. President Toda explained that "fire" in this sentence indicates the fire of desire and that "water" denotes the water of suffering. The Ongi Kuden, interpreting the same phrase, states that "fire" represents the flames of the hell of incessant suffering and that "water" signifies the ice of the hell of unspeakable cold. In any case, the second quotation clearly tells us that the life of each person who embraces the Gohonzon will be illuminated by good fortune and he will find absolute happiness. Neither his fortune nor happiness can be disturbed by any of the fires or floods in life.

Bonds in the Depths of Life

It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this. Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas certainly realize this truth. The sutra's statement, "In lifetime after lifetime they were always born together with their masters in the Buddha's lands throughout the universe," cannot be false in any way.

The fact that Sairenbo became Nichiren Daishonin's disciple during the most severe persecution in the Daishonin's lifetime cannot be understood in terms of worldly relationships. That is why the Daishonin states, "It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this."

"Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas certainly realize this truth." Literally, this means that since the Daishonin is an ordinary person, he does not himself realize the fact but that Shakyamuni and Taho, being Buddhas, do. More than that, however, it means that the eternal law of Buddhism reveals that Sairenbo shared the Daishonin's difficulties because of the deep bonds they had formed in the past.

"In lifetime after lifetime they were always born together with their masters in the Buddha's lands throughout the universe." This is a well-known passage from the seventh chapter, Kejoyu-hon, of the Lotus Sutra. According to this chapter, in a distant past called sanzen-jintengo a Buddha by the name of Daitsu expounded the Lotus Sutra. He had sixteen sons, and taught each of them the Law. They in turn preached the Law to as many people as there are grains of sand in six hundred billion Ganges Rivers, forming a master-disciple relationship with all. Since then, in lifetime after lifetime these people were continually born together with their masters in the Buddha's lands throughout the universe. They heard the teaching, and practiced Buddhism together with their masters. Three thousand years ago, the sixteenth of those sons came into the world as Shakyamuni and attained enlightenment. At that time the people he had taught in the past existences were also born into this world, heard him expound the Law, and attained Buddhahood.

In a word, the quotation from the Kejoyu chapter confirms that the master and his disciples are always born in the same world to practice Buddhism together. In Japan, Nichiren Daishonin made his advent in the Kamakura era. So Nikko Shonin and many other disciples and followers appeared during the same period and devoted themselves to spreading the Mystic Law. Therefore, Nichiren Daishonin is the "master" in the Latter Day of the Law.

How, then, should we read the passage from the Kejoyu chapter after the Daishonin's death? By inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon, Nichiren Daishonin provided the answer for us and our future generations. Also, he transmitted the entirety of his teachings to Nikko Shonin, his immediate successor. We live together with Nichiren Daishonin when we worship the Gohonzon enshrined at our own homes with the same attitude we have toward the Dai-Gohonzon. Hence the statement of the Kejoyu chapter. We are now fighting for kosen-rufu because we are brothers and sisters joined by the deep bond of the Mystic Law we have formed in the past. What strengthens our relationship is the prayer that we offer to the Gohonzon, with the same mind, as well as the mental and physical struggle we undergo together to save mankind and attain kosen-rufu.

At times the Soka Gakkai may enjoy smooth sailing; at other times it may face a fierce wind. No matter what, stay firm within the Soka Gakkai and grow together with it. The karmic relationship we have shared since the distant past has destined us to become Soka Gakkai members. Therefore, live your whole life together with me and together with the Soka Gakkai so that, with the Gohonzon's mercy, we may be born again together and enjoy the happiest of possible lives.

The quotation from the Kejoyu chapter is very significant from the viewpoint of faith. Whether we are true disciples of Nichiren Daishonin or not depends on how we display the spirit of that sentence in our practice. There are many kinds of relationships: flesh-and-blood relationships between parents and children or brothers and sisters, work relationships between superior and subordinates, social relationships between friends or teachers and students. These are very important relationships, and the happiness and prosperity of families and society rest on whether those ties remain strong and whether individuals can associate with each other on a constructive basis or not. But of all human relations, that between master and disciple is the deepest and most important. Only through the master-disciple relationship can we learn and teach each other how to develop ourselves as human beings and how best to deal with life. This is the only life-to-life bond which continues for all eternity and which remains firm no matter where we may be.

Ties based on common interests collapse when interests diverge. Relationships forced upon us by external circumstances all change according to the time and place. However, the symphony played by master and disciples in one mind, creating harmony in the depths of their lives, will send forth its echoes throughout the universe and on into eternity. We are all legitimate disciples of Nichiren Daishonin. And now growing numbers with pure faith assemble in perfect harmony in countries around the world. You should have the pride and conviction to know that this is the purest crystallization of human relationships ever achieved in the history of man.

Whenever I read the quotation from the Kejoyu chapter, my heart is rent by the memory of Mr. Toda's words to his late master at the second memorial service on November 17, 1946:

Your mercy was so boundlessly great that you even took me to prison with you. Because you did so, with my very life I was able to read the phrase in the Lotus Sutra which states, "In lifetime after lifetime they were always born together with their masters in the Buddha's lands throughout the universe." The wonderful result was that I awoke to the mission of Bodhisattvas of the Earth and could understand even a little of the meaning of the Lotus Sutra. Nothing could have made me happier.

Even in prison, Mr. Toda visualized the Gohonzon and chanted daimoku to it sincerely. As a result, he discovered himself in perfect fusion with the Gohonzon as the passage from the Kejoyu chapter reads. Also, he realized his deep sense of mission, with which he would devote his remaining years to spreading faith in the Gohonzon. "Your mercy was so boundlessly great" and "Nothing could have made me happier" are the expressions of his pure, genuine faith in the Gohonzon. Mr. Toda's struggle reminds me that every individual can feel the statement of the Kejoyu chapter with his faith in true Buddhism.

"The Buddha's lands throughout the universe" indicate worlds inhabited by human beings. In theory all forms of life are entities of ichinen sanzen, but only the human being can reform and direct himself toward attaining Buddhahood. Therefore, we can be born as humans in world after world and devote ourselves to the construction of a Buddha's land in each lifetime. This is the greatest good fortune. According to the third chapter, Hiyu-hon, of the Lotus Sutra, those who slander the sutra will sometimes be born as stray dogs, emaciated and lean, hated and scorned by others. At other times they will be born as asses, destined to forever carry burdens on their backs, beaten with sticks. At still other times they will receive a serpent's body and wriggle about on their bellies, shunned. In contrast, we will always be born to live a joyful life, strolling, as it were, in the beautiful garden of our hearts, enjoying music that rings from within our lives. We are able to lead the noblest life possible. It is a remarkable achievement that deserves our most grateful thanks. It gives all the more reason to earnestly ponder what we must do in this life.

A Buddha's land is not some particular part of the universe where the Buddha resides. The principle of the oneness of life and its environment teaches that the condition of a land depends on the entities who dwell there. Thus, where we pursue the truths of Buddhism with firm faith in the Gohonzon is transformed into a land of eternal enlightenment. The Buddha's land is a place where master and disciple strive together in perfect unity.

"The Buddha's lands throughout the universe" indicates that such lands exist everywhere in the universe. Mr. Toda used to tell us his grand view of the cosmos in a straight-forward manner: "I'll continue to do shakubuku until we attain kosen-rufu on this Earth. Then I'll go to another planet and do the same thing." According to Buddhism, the Buddha's land is not limited to the Earth; it exists across the universe and throughout time.

Modern astronomy seems to endorse the Buddhist view. Scientists have asserted the possibility of cosmic dust floating between nebulae to form he building blocks of life. We may assume, therefore, that among the myriad stars many are inhabited by beings as advanced as man. This, I believe, is what "the Buddha's lands throughout the universe" indicates. Be convinced that we will always be born in one or another of the Buddha's lands spread throughout the universe and that there we will be able to devote ourselves to building an ideal human society.

No Enlightenment without Practice

How admirable that you have asked about the transmission of the ultimate law of life and death! No one has ever asked me such a question before. I have answered in complete detail in this letter, so I want you to take it deeply to heart. The important point is to carry out your practice, confident that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the very lifeblood which was transferred from Shakyamuni and Taho to Bodhisattva Jogyo.

Nichiren Daishonin praises Sairenbo for having asked this vital question, which no one had ever asked before. Then he stresses that "the important point is to carry out your practice, confident that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the very lifeblood which was transferred from Shakyamuni and Taho to Bodhisattva Jogyo." The Daishonin thus emphasizes the importance of the seeking spirit, and at the same time gives his disciple profound guidance so that he could elevate his state of life and live the life of that spirit.




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