Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life


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I am always ready to clear up any further questions you may have.

"Be resolved" indicates the tremendous importance of the guidance which follows. At that time Sairenbo found himself in the worst hardship imaginable, at a crucial juncture which would determine whether he would attain enlightenment or not. The phrase "be resolved" carries with it the Daishonin's fervent wish for him to somehow inherit true Buddhism's lifeblood. The heritage of the ultimate law flows only in the lives of those who summon forth the great power of their faith and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. "Summon forth the great power of your faith" is the way the Daishonin, with his entire being, encouraged the faith of this one person.

For faith to "be steadfast and correct at the moment of your death," you must have an undisturbed faith in the Mystic Law at that final moment, feel the greatest joy to have been able to embrace the Law, and end your life with the deepest satisfaction that you have nothing whatsoever to regret. Therefore, the passage as a whole urges us to pray sincerely now, while we are alive, so that everything within us centers completely on Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at the moment of our death. It also teaches us to pray with the awareness that each moment is the last moment of our life.

When we pray with such awareness, the Mystic Law will well forth from the depths of our life and merge with the Mystic Law pervading the entire universe. In this bond the ultimate law flows ceaselessly. I want you to know that there is no other way to inherit and manifest the ultimate law in your life. Only then can you, even though common mortals, be able to reveal yourselves as entities of the Mystic Law who transform earthly desires into enlightenment and change the sufferings of life and death into nirvana.

The heritage of Buddhism flows within the faith of individuals --- the belief of those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that their faith will be firm and true at the moment of their death. In Buddhism the Law is the foundation of everything. However, the Law cannot produce any value by itself. There must be people who embrace the Law and make the truth it contains part of their lives. It takes people to discover the Law, and people to convey it to others. That is why the emphasis in Buddhism on how to transmit the Law from one person to another is so strong, and that is why people are given the highest value.

Hyaku-rokka Sho (The One Hundred and Six Comparisons) states, "The Law does not spread by itself; because people propagate it, both the people and the Law are worthy of respect." On Taking Faith in the Lotus Sutra reads, "All the teachings of the Buddha are propagated by people. Hence T'ien-t'ai's statement, 'A person represented the Law even during the Buddha's lifetime. How, then, is it possible in the Latter Day for the Law to be worthy of respect if the person who spreads it is not?' If the Law is supreme, so is the person who embraces it. To slander that person, therefore, is to slander the Law." Here we can see the great value the Daishonin attached to people, as individuals and together.

Only one life can activate another life. The spirit of Buddhism flows in life-to-life communication, in the course of mutual help and guidance among or between people. Earlier we studied the phrase, "Thus I heard," in The True Entity of Life.* "I" in the phrase is Ananda, one of Shakyamuni's ten major disciples who listened to more of his master's teachings than any other disciple. In another sense, "I" denotes life. Otherwise, T'ien-t'ai would not have stated that "I heard" indicates a person who upholds the True Law. "I heard" in no way signifies the simple act of listening with one's ears. It means to accept, believe and practice the Buddha's teaching with one's entire being.

Faith's Lifeblood

In conclusion, I would like to briefly retrace the development of this Gosho to see how painstakingly the Daishonin expounded the true heritage of the lifeblood to Sairenbo. Nichiren Daishonin states at the beginning, "To reply, the ultimate law of life and death as transmitted from the Buddha to all living beings is Myoho-renge-kyo. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo were transferred from the two Buddhas inside the Treasure Tower, Shakyamuni and Taho, to Bodhisattva Jogyo, carrying on a heritage unbroken since the infinite past." Here he declares conclusively that the Law --- the Gohonzon --- is itself the heritage of the ultimate law.

This is the Law which flows in the depths of the people's lives. Those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are themselves the living heritage of the ultimate law. The Daishonin declares this in the statement, "Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment countless aeons ago, the Lotus Sutra which leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from each other. Therefore, to chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate law of life and death."

In terms of time, the lifeblood --- the mystic relationship between the Law and the lives of the people --- continues eternally throughout past, present and future. "The heritage of the Lotus Sutra flows within the lives of those who never forsake it in any lifetime whatsoever --- whether in the past, the present or the future." In terms of space, the heritage of the ultimate law flows within the lives of the Daishonin's disciples who, in perfect unity, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and advance together toward kosen-rufu. He says, "All disciples and believers of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with one mind (itai doshin), transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate law of life and death."

In a word, the heritage of the ultimate law flows forever within the people's lives, from the infinite past to the eternal future. It lives vibrantly in the fusion between the Law --- the Gohonzon --- and the people's lives, and in the mutual recognition and encouragement of those who uphold the Law. Thus the lifeblood of Buddhism is always focused on the people, and this is the heart of Nichiren Daishonin's very being and of Buddhism for the people. It embodies a depth of compassion, therefore, which only the original Buddha could bring into being. I believe that no one, before or since, has taught anything greater.

However, whether we can inherit the lifeblood of the Daishonin's Buddhism or not depends entirely on our faith. This is why he warns us in the Gosho's conclusion: "With out the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra." Everything depends on faith. Without faith, the heritage of the ultimate law, which was taught in such length from four viewpoints as outlined earlier, would prove to be totally false. On the other hand, with faith, everything the Daishonin says can be achieved. "Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra." We cannot attain true enlightenment by the Law --- the Lotus Sutra --- alone. We must have the lifeblood of faith, faith which is directly handed down from the Daishonin, who knew the Lotus Sutra with his entire being and manifested the oneness of the Person and the Law. Without this faith, which establishes the living connection between the Person and the Law, it is useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra. The sentence, "Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless. . . ," also tells us that only through faith can we bring forth the Gohonzon's powers of Buddha and Law.

The Japanese title of The True Object of Worship is Kanjin no Honzon Sho, which means "the object of worship for attaining Buddhahood." The twenty-sixth High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, put particular emphasis on the phrase, "for attaining Buddhahood." According to the records of his lecture on this subject written by his disciples, he stated, "Engrave this phrase in your hearts as a will from me." Why did Nichikan Shonin go so far as to say that it was his will? This is because to embrace the Gohonzon is itself to attain Buddhahood, and therefore the most important practice of all. What Nichikan Shonin wanted to convey was that embracing the Gohonzon is faith. "The object of worship for attaining Buddhahood" can also be called "the object of worship for continuing one's faith."

A well-known passage in The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon goes, "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.... The Gohonzon is found in faith alone." This is the Daishonin's declaration that the Gohonzon is contained only in faith. In his Exegesis on The True Object of Worship, Nichikan Shonin states, "If we believe and embrace this Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our flesh and blood is the Gohonzon of ichinen sanzen the life of the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin." He concludes by saying, "Therefore, aspire solely to the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law, and devote yourselves to faith and practice. Do not pass your entire life in idleness and regret it for all eternity."

Thus, the sentence, "Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra," is a stern reminder. Without faith and practice, we can bring forth neither the power of the Buddha nor the power of the Law, let alone manifest the object of worship of ichinen sanzen within ourselves. Everything boils down to the fact that the heritage is faith itself.

The ninth High Priest, Nichiu Shonin, speaks on the heritage of faith in his Kegi Sho (On the Formalities of Nichiren Shoshu):

Faith, heritage and the water of the Law are [ultimately] one and the same.... If we do not depart from the faith upheld since Nichiren Daishonin's day, our mind and body will become Myoho-renge-kyo itself. If we act contrary to it, our mind and body will remain those of an ordinary person. If we remain so, it is impossible to receive the lifeblood which enables us to attain Buddhahood in the flesh.

In his Commentary on the Kegi Sho, the fifty-ninth High Priest, Nichiko Hori, explains the above passage as follows:

In the final analysis, faith, heritage and the water of the Law are one and the same. Through faith the believer receives the water of the Law from the original Buddha. The water of the Law thus received flows within the believer's life, just as blood circulates within the human body. For this reason, to convey the water of the Law through faith is to transmit the heritage. Therefore, faith should never be disturbed or shaken. If it is disturbed, the water of the Law will cease to flow. Or, even if it continues to run, it will become defiled and irregular, thus cutting off the flow of Buddhism itself. As long as faith remains unshaken, the pure and immaculate heritage of Buddhism will continue to flow with vigor, no matter how many ages may pass.

Nichiko Shonin solemnly states:

Ours is the faith which has been upheld since the day of the supreme teacher of Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin, and the founder of the Head Temple, Nikko Shonin. Although we are disciples far removed from their time, if we follow this faith truly, our defiled minds and bodies are purified, becoming the mind and body of Myoho-renge-kyo. The two essentials of pure faith and devoted practice change our entire being. If we ignore these two and disobey the Buddha's will by following heretical or blind belief, the river of the Law will become blocked, and we will be pushed back, in mind and body, to the state of benightedness that we were in before. We will lose our right to the lifeblood which enables us to attain Buddhahood in the flesh. How pitiful that would be!

As is clear from this, the lifeblood of faith is transmitted only within the faith which has been upheld since the day of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. Herein lies the vital position of the successive high priests, as the envoy of the original Buddha, who have inherited the ultimate law of life. As Nichiko Shonin stated, "the pure and immaculate heritage of Buddhism will continue to flow with vigor," the sacred life of Nichiren Daishonin flows through the lives of us, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, as long as we maintain the correct faith and carry out activities for kosen-rufu, the goal given by Nichiren Daishonin. If we lose sight of this goal, not only will the Daishonin's Buddhism be reduced to formalism, but his teachings will prove to be false.

In any event, the Gohonzon is the fundamental object of worship, the basis of everything. If one forgets that and gives more veneration to something or someone else, he is committing serious slander. It is impossible to bring the powers of Buddha and the Law forth from the Gohonzon without the lifeblood of faith. In President Toda's day there were members who overly prided themselves on having received the Gohonzon. Mr. Toda would say to them, "Without faith it is but a useless treasure.... You must try very hard to bind your faith directly to the Gohonzon. Otherwise you will only invite great misery." Just as he had warned, quite a few of those members were later very sorry that they had not had stronger faith.

Nichiko Shonin implies that we should learn about faith through the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. We of the Soka Gakkai study the Daishonin's Gosho, engrave Nikko Shonin's Twenty-six Precepts in our hearts, and work to attain kosen-rufu under the guidance of the High Priest, never begrudging even our lives. Only within such faith can the lifeblood of the original Buddha flow strongly.

The Original Buddha's Conviction

With my deep respect,

Nichiren, the Shramana of Japan

The eleventh day of the second month in the ninth year of Bun'ei (1272)

I want to say a few words about the date on which the Daishonin wrote this Gosho. On the same day, as if by coincidence, internal strife broke out. He had predicted this and warned the government about it in Rissho Ankoku Ron (The Security of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism) in 1260, and again during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271. The prophecy came true, as the Daishonin states in the Letter from Sado written on March 20 the same year:

Now, twenty-six years since the battle of Hoji, the Kamakura government is again plagued by internal strife. Rebellions have already broken out twice on the eleventh and the seventeenth day of the second month of this year.... The current rebellion is what the Yakushi Sutra means by "the disaster of internal strife." The Ninno Sutra states, "When the sage departs, the seven types of calamity will invariably arise.".... Nichiren is the pillar, sun, moon, mirror and eyes of the ruling clan of Kanto. On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year when I was arrested, I boldly declared that if the country should lose Nichiren, the seven disasters would occur without fail. Didn't this prophecy come true just sixty and then one hundred fifty days later?

The rebellion was engineered by Hojo Tokisuke against his half-brother, Regent Hojo Tokimune. Tokisuke headed the Rokuhara government in Kyoto, an agency of the Kamakura shogunate. He attempted to usurp the regency from his brother, but Tokimune discovered the plot before-hand. Taking the initiative, the regent sent troops and killed Noritoki, Morinao and the other suspected plotters. Mortal combat continued between the members of the same clan until Tokisuke's faction was totally annihilated. The incident is called the February Disturbance.

The Daishonin had sensed that internal strife was imminent about a month before the incident. Immediately after the Tsukahara Debate on January 16, he pointed this out to Honma Rokurozaemon and warned him about it. Therefore the Daishonin, while writing this Gosho, must have had a premonition that the whole country was being jolted by the terrible strife. Nevertheless, looking out over the future, he calmly wrote this Gosho in order to leave his heritage for the perpetuation of the Law. His deed also demonstrates that the more agitated the world is, the more important it becomes to establish an unshakable foundation.

Shramana is a Sanskrit word meaning a humble seeker of the Way or one who masters the true law and denounces evil laws. Thus, it means a person who leaves his family to practice Buddhism. When the Daishonin wrote The True Object of Worship in April 1273, he signed it, "Nichiren, the Shramana of this country." At the end of On the Buddha's Prophecy, written in intercalary May 1273, he wrote, "Written by Nichiren, the Shramana of Japan."

"The Shramana of this country" stands in contrast to "Shramana of T'ien-t'ai," which the monks of the Tendai sect in Japan called themselves. It expresses the Daishonin's conviction and indicates that Japan was the country in which the original Buddha made his advent to save mankind for all eternity. The original Buddha was Nichiren Daishonin himself, for he mastered the Law of supreme righteousness in the Latter Day, and dedicated himself to refuting all evil laws. The Shramana of Japan, as he called himself, is synonymous with the Buddha of the Latter Day, as he states in the Ongi Kuden, "The Buddha of the Latter Day is the common mortal, the common priest.... He is called a Buddha, and he is called a common priest."

I close here. But my eternal friends, have faith and know that what our organization is doing, each hour, each day, each decade, and the activities of all members toward the goal of kosen-rufu are together the heritage of the ultimate law of life and death. Always with this conviction, let us move forward together along the path of faith toward the glorious twenty-first century.

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