The True Entity of Life Shoho Jisso Sho


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The Daishonin next cites a passage in the Juryo chapter, "the Tathagata's secret and his mystic power." He defines the Tathagata's secret as the entity of the three properties of life, or the true Buddha. Furthermore, he defines "the Tathagata's mystic power" as the function, or a provisional Buddha. T'ien-t'ai defines the "secret" as the truth that the Buddha's life manifests the three enlightened properties, and that these are always inherent in the Buddha's life. The Daishonin used the term "the Buddha's three properties" in that sense. On the deepest level, "the Tathagata" in the sutra is the Buddha of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the word "secret" is not just something that the Buddha keeps to himself. Here, as in On the Three Great Secret Laws, it indicates the Dai-Gohonzon which is hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter. The "mystic power" is the function of the Gohonzon --- the Buddha of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. T'ien-t'ai defines the "mystic power" as the function of the entity of the three properties of life. He says in the Hokke Mongu (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra), "Jinzu shi riki (the mystic power) indicates the function of the three properties of life. Jin indicates the unchangeable law in the universe and corresponds to hosshin or the body of the Law. Zu indicates the boundless mystic wisdom or hoshin, the body of wisdom. Riki means unlimited power or ojin, the physical body." Jinzu shi riki then indicates the function of all three properties of life.

Man Is the True Buddha

The common mortal is the entity of the three properties, or the true Buddha. The Buddha is the function of the three properties, or a provisional Buddha. Shakyamuni is thought to have possessed the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent for the sake of us common mortals, but on the contrary, it is the common mortal who endowed him with the three virtues.

The entity of life and its environment in the Ten Worlds is Myoho-renge-kyo, which in turn is "the true Buddha." The common mortal in the Ten Worlds of life is therefore "the true Buddha." In contrast, all the Buddhas mentioned in the sutras, including Shakyamuni, are "provisional Buddhas." This conclusion is derived from the principle of "the true entity of all phenomena" and the other teachings of the Lotus Sutra. No one but Nichiren Daishonin, however, so clearly declared that it is the common mortal who is the true Buddha. Because of this his teaching possesses the never-fading power to benefit mankind in the Latter Day, for ten thousand years and on into eternity.

"The common mortal" specifically refers to Nichiren Daishonin as the original Buddha. This is endorsed by the Ongi Kuden, which states, "The Buddha in the Latter Day is the common mortal, the common priest.... He is called a Buddha, and he is called a common priest." In more general terms, "the common mortal" refers to each one of us. Nichiren Daishonin taught us that the common mortal is the greatest and most valuable existence by his own appearance and behavior as a common mortal.

Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, from beginning to end, focuses on man. In explaining the true purpose of the Buddha's advent as described in the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Ongi Kuden quotes the following passage from T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu: "People develop the seeking spirit to aspire to the Buddha's advent; that is the inherent cause [for the Buddha's advent]. The Buddha perceives that spirit and responds to it; that is the external cause." Thus it is clear that because there were suffering people the Daishonin came into the world. The power and blessings of the Gohonzon are all intended for the benefit of common mortals. The Daishonin's Buddhism, furthermore, is propagated through the efforts of courageous people fighting through storms of life.

All religions in the past regarded God or Buddha as a sacred, superhuman being. Man's dignity was recognized only as long as he was enveloped in God's grace or the Buddha's mercy. Therefore, most of these religions considered those who directly served God or Buddha to be a privileged class, and regarded laymen --- the general public --- as contemptible. People in power, however, were considered to have God's special grace, which justified, for example, the so-called divine right of kings. Under this theory different classes of people were accorded different degrees of religious authority, and this eventually became a fixed system.

In every society, therefore, democratization could only be accomplished by denying the secular authority of religious institutions and rendering them politically powerless. However, the weakening of religious bodies and loss of faith in some established sects only upset the balance of the human spirit and rotted the bonds of human trust. As it is voices are rising, calling for the people to regain spiritual richness in life. However, it is clear that a revival of past religions will not answer current needs. I believe Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism --- the religion which teaches that man himself is the entity of the Mystic Law and as such is innately endowed with ultimate sanctity --- can provide a clear-cut answer to the questions man asks himself.

The Bible states that God created man. But how many heretical souls have cried that man created God? Nichiren Daishonin declared, "Shakyamuni is thought to have possessed the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent for the sake of us common mortals, but on the contrary, it is the common mortal who endowed him with the three virtues." Isn't this declaration much more to the point than the remark, "man created God" ? Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is a humanistic religion that clearly stands out from such theistic religions. Whereas many religions lapsed to hierarchies, Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism binds all people together in equality. It is therefore the very religion that man has been seeking for his spiritual renaissance.

T'ien-t'ai explains the Tathagata as follows: "Nyorai is the title of the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences, of the two Buddhas and the three Buddhas, and of all the Buddhas, true and provisional."

Here the "true Buddha" is the common mortal, whereas "provisional Buddhas" means the Buddha. Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between a Buddha and a common mortal, in that a common mortal is deluded while a Buddha is enlightened. The common mortal fails to realize that he himself possesses both the entity and the function of the Buddha's three properties.

Here the Daishonin quotes a passage from T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu which interprets nyorai (tathagata) of Nyorai-juryo-hon, the title of the sixteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. "The two Buddhas" indicate a Buddha in his true and original state and a Buddha in a form he assumes when he comes into the world to save the people. "The three Buddhas" are the Buddha of hosshin (the essential property of his life), the Buddha of hoshin (the spiritual property of his life), and the Buddha of ojin (the physical property of his life).

Nyorai indicates Buddha. Philosophically, nyorai means to "appear from the truth moment by moment." The state of life at each passing moment is called either nyorai, tathagata, or Buddha. Tathagata is neither a statue nor a picture of the Buddha. Life that is fully active, the rhythm of cosmic life condensed into a single entity-this is tathagata. The Tathagata of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the Buddha who, at each and every moment, brings forth the life of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the life that has existed since time without beginning.

Tathagata is the common title of all Buddhas; it is not limited to Shakyamuni alone. The sutras mention a number of Buddhas, such as Kasho Buddha and Ashuku Buddha. But specifically it indicates jijuyushin nyorai of kuon ganjo, the tathagata who embodies the fundamental law by which all Buddhas attain enlightenment.

The Daishonin quoted T'ien-t'ai's interpretation principally in order to explain the difference between the true Buddha and a provisional Buddha. As the passage says, the common mortal is the true Buddha, whereas the Buddhas mentioned in the scriptures are nothing but provisional Buddhas. The meaning of this line is self-explanatory when we consider the true Buddha and a provisional Buddha in the light of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

The Juryo chapter dispels the belief that Shakyamuni attained enlightenment for the first time in India, and reveals that in reality he had become a Buddha much earlier --- in the remote past called gohyaku-jintengo. As you know, this Buddha of gohyaku-jintengo is considered "the true Buddha" in the Juryo chapter. This means that Shakyamuni had been a Buddha since long before he was born in India and attained enlightenment at the age of thirty. He was a Buddha even while he lived as a common mortal. It follows, therefore, that the Buddhahood he attained when he was thirty was tentative or "provisional" Buddhahood. Furthermore, according to the deepest meaning of the Juryo chapter, even a Buddha who attained enlightenment in gohyaku-jintengo is a provisional Buddha.

In the section "On Chapter Sixteen, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Nyorai-juryo-hon," the Ongi Kuden states: "All in all, the deepest significance of the Juryo chapter does not lie in subjugating delusions one by one and attaining enlightenment. You should realize that this significance is to gain enlightenment as you are, remaining as the entity of a common mortal. What is the behavior of the Buddha enlightened in the three properties of life? It is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo." As this teaching says, the true Buddha is the one who, without changing his entity as a common mortal, manifests himself as the Tathagata of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That is why the Daishonin says, "The 'true Buddha' is the common mortal, whereas 'provisional Buddhas' means the Buddha."

Both the Buddha and man are common mortals, but there is a distinct difference. It lies in whether one is enlightened or deluded. As the Gosho states, "One who is enlightened is a Buddha; one who is deluded is a common mortal." A common mortal who is enlightened is a Buddha; a common mortal who is deluded is a human. Nichiren Daishonin is enlightened to the truth that he himself is the entity of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. We are common mortals still bound by delusion. What is it that can transform delusion into enlightenment? It is faith, and faith alone.

The sentence, "the common mortal fails to realize that he himself possesses both the entity and the function of the Buddha's three properties," relates to the earlier statement, "The entity is the true Buddha and the function, a provisional Buddha. The common mortal is the entity of the three properties, or the true Buddha. The Buddha is the function of the three properties, or a provisional Buddha." A deluded common mortal does not realize that he himself is a true Buddha; he believes only that the Buddhas mentioned in the scriptures are true Buddhas. Therefore, he understands neither that it is the common mortal who is the entity and the true Buddha, nor that a Buddha is the function, a provisional Buddha. He cannot understand, therefore, that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the entity and that Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas are the function.

Let me briefly explain the relation between entity and function. The entity is always accompanied by its function, and the function manifests itself wherever and whenever there is an entity.

"Entity," as the term is used in Buddhism, does not exist by itself. It is always accompanied by its "function." The two are impossible to separate. For instance, we can perceive the "entity" of General Director Hiroshi Hojo only in his behavior; all of his behavior is the function of his "entity."

The "entity" of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is accompanied by the "function" of all phenomena. Therefore, when we manifest the life of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in ourselves, we will be able to make everything in the universe function for our benefit. In the phrase, "the true entity of all phenomena," "the true entity" indicates the entity and "all phenomena" the function.

All Are Manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo

"All phenomena" in the sutra refers to the Ten Worlds, and the "true entity" is what permeates the Ten Worlds. Reality is another expression for Myoho-renge-kyo; hence Myoho-renge-kyo is manifest in all phenomena.

The entity of a common mortal is Myoho-renge-kyo. Miao-lo uses the words "all phenomena" to indicate the Ten Worlds and explains that all phenomena --- all life and its environment in the Ten Worlds --- are themselves the true entity. The true entity is another expression for Myoho-renge-kyo. It follows, therefore, that all life and its environment in any of the Ten Worlds is without exception the manifestation of Myoho-renge-kyo.

Hell appears hellish; that is the reality of Hell. When Hunger emerges, the reality of Hell is no longer present. A Buddha exhibits the reality of a Buddha, and a common mortal, that of a common mortal. All phenomena are themselves manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. This is the meaning of "all phenomena reveal the true entity."

The entity of Myoho-renge-kyo is found in all phenomena, whether of Hell, Hunger, a common mortal or a Buddha. This is what "the true entity of all phenomena" signifies. This teaching refutes all the views previously held in Buddhism. According to conventional Buddhist thought, only Buddhas, bodhisattvas and those in the two vehicles (Learning and Realization) were considered respectable. All other people, especially those in Hell, Hunger and Animality, were regarded as despicable and detestable. This is exactly why the Japanese words meaning Hunger and Animality have been used to insult and abuse others. The conventional Buddhist concepts exerted an even more harmful influence upon society: they gave rise to the cruel tendency to despise and shun people who are forced to live in poverty and suffering.

The principle of "the true entity of all phenomena" completely demolished such concepts. It declared that all people, whether in the world of Hell, Hunger or Animality, are just as much entities of the Mystic Law as are Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and that all are equally worthy of respect. Furthermore, in Buddhist teaching life in the nine worlds can transform itself into the highest of life-states, Buddhahood. In the Gohonzon all beings in the nine worlds are bathed in the brilliant light of the Mystic Law and manifest their intrinsic enlightened nature. When our lives become one and in perfect harmony with the Gohonzon, even Hell and Hunger will come to reveal their inherent Buddhahood. We will therefore be able to direct our lives in the nine worlds toward any goal we wish. Of course we will have sorrows, agonies and desires, but all these will be as but the waves rising and falling on the surface of the great sea of Buddhahood; they will work to give spice to the highest state of life man can live. The principle of "the true entity of all phenomena" can only be put into action through the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha who established the Gohonzon.

The Ultimate Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

T'ien-t'ai states, "The profound principle of 'true entity' is the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo," thus identifying the phrase "true entity" with the theoretical teaching and "the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo" with the essential teaching. You should ponder this passage deep in your heart.

What is the substance of the "true entity" as expounded in the Hoben chapter, one of the theoretical teachings? The Daishonin teaches us that it is Myoho-renge-kyo itself, and corroborates this with T'ien-t'ai's interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. He says, "You should ponder this passage deep in your heart," because it is a profound teaching that concerns the fundamental principle of the Lotus Sutra. T'ien-t'ai does not make his statement explicit enough, but from the Daishonin's perspective, the true entity ultimately means Nam-myoho-renge-kyo concealed in the depths of the Juryo chapter.

Now let us look over the whole system of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra aims at clarifying the Law to which all Buddhas are enlightened and which is the key to all people attaining Buddhahood. It is the Law suggested by the phrase, "The wisdom of all Buddhas is infinitely profound and immeasurable," in the beginning of the Hoben chapter. The description of the Law is revealed in the same chapter as the true entity of all phenomena and the Ten Factors of Life. Shariputra, one of Shakyamuni's ten major disciples who was reputed to have the highest wisdom, was immediately able to attain enlightenment when he heard this teaching about the true entity of all phenomena. The other major disciples, who understood only some or little of what they were taught, also attained enlightenment one after another when, as stated in the chapters that followed, they heard the parables or learned of their past relationship with Shakyamuni.

When Shakyamuni finished preaching for his disciples, he began to expound the Hosshi (tenth), Hoto (eleventh) and other chapters. In these chapters, he first asks if there are any who are willing to propagate Myoho-renge-kyo after his death. The bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching respond to his call and volunteer for the task. But Shakyamuni turns them down, summons the Bodhisattvas of the Earth from underground and entrusts them with the propagation of the Law. It is evident from the sentences in the Hosshi chapter and those which follow that Shakyamuni was selecting those who would propagate the Law after his death. But that is not all; within those sentences is revealed the Law itself --- the Law to be propagated after Shakyamuni's passing. This is the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo.

Shakyamuni's disciples received the seed of Buddhahood and formed a relationship with him in the past. They were therefore able to understand that the seed actually existed in them when, in the ceremony of the Lotus Sutra, they heard Shakyamuni's preaching of the true entity of all phenomena, the parable of the three carts and the burning mansion, or of the relationship they had formed with him in the distant past called sanzen-jintengo.

Each of them could be likened to a man who has gotten lost on a road he has walked before because his memory has grown dim. He remembers most of the way except the corner where he should turn. If someone tells him where to turn, he can get to his destination without any trouble. Thus Shariputra immediately attained enlightenment when he heard the teaching of the true entity of all phenomena.

On the other hand, the people in the ages after Shakyamuni's demise, especially those in the Latter Day, have neither received the seed of Buddhahood nor formed a relationship with him in the past. They are like travelers who find themselves on a road they have never traveled before. Even if someone tells them where to turn, they will be lost because they don't know what their destination is. They need to be directed to the destination itself This destination is the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo.

The Hoto chapter and the chapters that follow describe the ceremony in the air. First, the Treasure Tower appears. Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas seat themselves side by side in the tower. All the Buddhas in the universe then come and assemble around the two. Next, the bodhisattvas who were taught by the original Buddha emerge from underground. The ceremony in the air, given its finishing touches in the Juryo chapter, depicts the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo. However, all twenty-eight chapters of Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra, even the essential teaching in the latter half, are only a map showing the road to the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo. It is Nichiren Daishonin who gave concrete form to the original Mystic Law that the benighted common mortals in the Latter Day would need to embrace.

So "the true entity of all phenomena" takes on different meaning according to how it is seen: in light of the theoretical teaching, the essential teaching, or Nichiren Daishonin's standpoint. From the Daishonin's standpoint, the true entity of all phenomena is the Gohonzon itself. Therefore, when we dedicate ourselves heart and soul to the Gohonzon, the life of the Mystic Law will well up within us. The principle of the true entity of all phenomena will manifest itself as our happiness and human revolution in a process that continually strengthens our lives.

Inscribe the Gohonzon

Although not worthy of the honor, Nichiren was nevertheless the first to spread the Mystic Law entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo for propagation in the Latter Day of the Law. Nichiren was also the first to inscribe the Gohonzon, which is the embodiment of the Buddha from the remote past as revealed in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching, of Taho Buddha who appeared when the Hoto chapter of the theoretical teaching was preached, and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who emerged with the Yujutsu chapter. No matter how people may hate Nichiren, they cannot possibly alter the fact of his enlightenment.

The core of this passage is that Nichiren Daishonin spread faith in the daimoku and the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which are to be propagated in the Latter Day. According to the Lotus Sutra, this task was entrusted to BodhisattvaJogyo, leader of the Buddha's original disciples, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. However, since the Daishonin was a common priest, he dared not state that he was the incarnation of Jogyo. Instead, he used the phrases "Nichiren was . . . the first to spread. . ." and "[he] was also the first to inscribe . . . " The meaning of this passage becomes clear when we compare it with the previous statement that T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo could neither spread the daimoku nor establish the Gohonzon because they were not Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Although the Daishonin qualified his statement with the phrase, "Nichiren was the first. . . ," he could have neither spread the daimoku nor inscribed the Gohonzon if he had not been eligible. With respect to the Lotus Sutra, therefore, the Daishonin is the incarnation of Jogyo, leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who appeared in the Latter Day and established the supreme Buddhism. But this still is not the true identity of Nichiren Daishonin. To know his true identity, we must delve into the Daishonin's inscription of the Gohonzon, which the above passage says "is the embodiment of the Buddha from the remote past." If he embodies the Buddhahood attained by Shakyamuni and Taho as well as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the life of the original Buddha from time without beginning, he must possess that Buddhahood within himselœ In fact, he himself states in the Gosho, "I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart." Since the Law he taught was embodied in his own existence, Nichiren Daishonin was able to inscribe the Gohonzon, the crystallization of the Person and the Law in a single entity. This is, as the passage says, "his enlightenment." "No matter how people may hate Nichiren, they cannot possibly alter the fact of his enlightenment." This means that no matter how people hated and persecuted the Daishonin, they could in no way affect his enlightenment as the Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law.

To have exiled Nichiren to this remote island is therefore a sin that can never be expiated, even with the passing of countless aeons. A passage from the Hiyu chapter reads, "Not even an aeon would be time enough to explain the full gravity of this sin." On the other hand, not even the wisdom of the Buddha can fathom the blessings one will obtain by giving alms to Nichiren and by becoming his disciple. The Yakuo chapter reads, "Not even with the Buddha's wisdom can one measure these benefits."

Here the Daishonin contrasts the terrible effects of hating or persecuting him with the blessings one obtains by giving him support and becoming his disciple. The passage brings out his conviction that he is the original Buddha and the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. "A passage from the Hiyu chapter" refers to the sentence which reads, "If a person slanders this sutra, not even an aeon would be time enough to explain the full gravity of this sin." The passage in the Yakuo chapter describing the immeasurable benefits reads, "Suppose a person has had the opportunity to hear this sutra, and copies it himself or lets others copy it. The benefits he thus obtains cannot be measured even with the Buddha's wisdom."

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