Nichiren alone began to carry out the task of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He may even be one of them. If Nichiren should be a Bodhisattva of the Earth, then so must his disciples. The Hosshi chapter states, "If there is someone, whether man or woman, who secretly teaches to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let it be known that he is the envoy of the Buddha, sent to carry out the Buddha's work." Who else but us can this possibly refer to?
Nichiren Daishonin says that if he is indeed to be included among the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, then, according to the principle of the oneness of master and disciple, his disciples must certainly be Bodhisattvas of the Earth. A Bodhisattva of the Earth does not act only when he is told to. He bases his life entirely on the Mystic Law which is immanent in cosmic life. Therefore, just as grass or a tree grows of itself from the earth, so does he, of his own accord, chant daimoku and contribute toward the well-being of his society and peace in the world.
The Daishonin cites a passage from the Hosshi chapter in order to assure his disciples that they are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Quoted in full, it reads, "Suppose there be a man or woman of devout faith after my passing, who secretly teaches to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra. Let it be known that he or she is the envoy of the Buddha, sent to carry out the Buddha's work. All the more so are those who teach the sutra widely among the people."
As I have already said, Shakyamuni preached the Hosshi chapter to exhort the assembly to propagate the Lotus Sutra after his demise. The above passage is the very one which carries these words of encouragement. Bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching responded to Shakyamuni's call. But he declined their offer, and instead entrusted the Bodhisattvas of the Earth with the propagation of the Lotus Sutra because he knew that only they were able to shoulder the task. Therefore, according to the Hosshi chapter, those now in the Latter Day who teach the Mystic Law and fight for kosen-rufu are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The Daishonin says that this is exactly what his disciples are doing.
To go a step further, the phrase, "he is the envoy of the Buddha, sent to carry out the Buddha's work," implies that he is equal to the Buddha, that he himself is the Buddha from time without beginning. Let me explain why this is so. The word "envoy," as it is used in a general sense, means a person who speaks for and acts in the same capacity as his superior. Suppose two countries want to conclude a peace treaty between them. Each country sends an envoy. When the two parties have reached agreement and the treaty is drawn, the envoys sign it. Although the emissaries write their own personal signatures, they represent the collective will of the people in each nation.
The same is true with Buddhism. One who preaches and propagates the Mystic Law is the envoy of the Buddha; he acts in the capacity of the Buddha. For this reason, in the Lotus Sutra, only the original disciples of the Buddha were entrusted with the task of spreading the Mystic Law. Conversely, those who spread the Mystic Law in the Latter Day --- or those who do shakubuku today --- are the disciples of the original Buddha from time without beginning. The former president Josei Toda proclaimed himself "the teacher of shakubuku in the Latter Day" and defined the Soka Gakkai as being the group of people devoted to shakubuku. This is why the Head Temple bestowed upon the Soka Gakkai the Gohonzon on which is inscribed the prayer, "May the organization attain the supreme goal of kosen-rufu through the merciful practice of shakubuku," to be permanently enshrined in our headquarters. I entreat you to always maintain the proud tradition and lofty spirit of the Soka Gakkai and carry on your mission throughout your life as the original disciples of the Buddha.
The phrase, "secretly teaches to one person," does not in any way mean that we should teach in a surreptitious way. It is simply an illustration by way of one extreme case. Needless to say, the greatest and most desirable practice consists in teaching true Buddhism widely among the masses of people. This is evident from the passage in the Hosshi chapter which I quoted. There may be times when the age or circumstances do not permit us to openly propagate the Law. No matter what, however, we should always maintain the spirit of shakubuku and continue to spread the Law to the limits of our capacities. Only then can we truly be called Bodhisattvas of the Earth --- legitimate disciples of the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. I sincerely hope you will understand and make this part of your lives.
The Highest Praise for the Votaries
When one is praised highly by others, he feels there is no hardship he cannot bear. Such is the courage which springs from words of praise. The votary born in the Latter Day of the Law who propagates the Lotus Sutra will encounter the three powerful enemies, (note) who will cause him to be exiled and even sentence him to death. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha will enfold in his robe of mercy those who nonetheless persevere in propagating. All gods will make them offerings, support them with their shoulders and carry them on their backs. They possess supreme good fortune and qualify as leaders of all mankind. Thus extolled by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all of the other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the seven ranks of heavenly gods and five ranks of earthly gods, Kishimojin and her ten daughters, the Four Heavenly Kings, Bonten, Taishaku, King Enma, the gods of the waters and winds, the gods of the seas and mountains, Dainichi Buddha, Bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju and the gods of the sun and the moon, Nichiren has been able to endure countless harsh trials. When praised, one does not consider his personal risk, and when criticized, he can recklessly cause his own ruin. Such is the way of common mortals.
(note)[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.]
As a common mortal, Nichiren Daishonin was exiled and even sentenced to death. Still, against all odds, he valiantly continued to spread the Law. Why? Here he explains the reason. It was because, in the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni, Taho, all the other Buddhas, and all bodhisattvas and heavenly gods give only the highest praise to those who propagate the sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. In short, the Daishonin was entirely committed to the Lotus Sutra.
"Shakyamuni Buddha will enfold in his robe of mercy those who . . ." means that he will entitle the votaries of the Lotus Sutra to be his true disciples. He will recognize them as his own children and embrace them with his unbounded mercy. "All gods will make them offerings, support them with their shoulders and carry them on their backs" signifies favorable changes in the votaries' surroundings. To become 'the future leaders of mankind" means that they will increase in wisdom and become perceptive, reliable leaders of the people in all areas of society. These suggest the benefits which accrue from doing shakubuku.
Then comes the phrase, "Thus extolled by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha . . ." From the Buddhist standpoint, this means that one who embraces the Mystic Law can set everything in motion --- be it the universe, natural surroundings, or people --- and that rhythm will work to protect him. To be praised "by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all of the other Buddhas" denotes that all the Buddhas in the entire universe will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. How reassuring! Wherever he goes, a bright world of human revolution will always unfold before him, where everything is tuned to the rhythm of the mystic Law.
Specifically, "Shakyamuni Buddha" indicates the enlightened wisdom that wells up in the votary's life. "Taho Buddha" signifies the actual verification of faith by the blessings the votary receives in the objective world, that is, in his life and environment. "All of the other Buddhas" denotes the Buddhahood within all the people he finds around him. To be praised by bodhisattvas means that everything in nature and society will work in such a way as to protect him. Not only will he himself be able to fully manifest the Bodhisattva power inherent in him --- he power to save and give happiness to other people --- but the leaders of society, who base their actions on mercy, will also support him and be willing to work for him. The seven ranks of heavenly gods and five ranks of earthly gods (the latter include the Sun Goddess, Tensho Daijin) are deities of Japan who are said to have existed since before the time of the first emperor. All of these deities in heaven and on earth will function as Buddhist gods, just as an old saying goes, Heaven knows, earth knows, man knows."
I will touch only briefly on Kishimojin and her ten daughters, since they are quite well known. They were vicious demons before meeting the Buddha, but in the Lotus Sutra they rank among those creatures who protect the votary. They used to feed on the lives of people; now they devour the evil in human lives and promote good. For those who embrace the Mystic Law, they appear as functions to remove causes for unhappiness. The Four Heavenly Kings, Bonten, Taishaku and King Enma symbolize the functions that maintain order in the universe, nature and society. With respect to society, for instance, they denote its leaders, and the power to act for social good.
The gods of the waters, winds, seas and mountains are blessings and functions of nature. Waters and winds have their respective uses and powers. Mountains and seas have lives of their own. All of them are manifestations of the life of the Mystic Law. Therefore, they always work to protect those who practice the Mystic Law. No matter how strong the winds of difficulty or how high the waves of hardship, believers in true Buddhism are invariably protected, as countless experiences testify.
Dainichi is one of the Buddhas present in the ceremony of the Lotus Sutra. He represents one aspect of life force. Fugen refers to learning and Monju, wisdom. The votary of the Lotus Sutra will be enveloped in the light of learning and wisdom. The god of the sun signifies the sun's energy, which nurtures all living things and thereby provides human beings with their glowing life force. The god of the moon symbolizes all that is serene. Casting its soft light, it brings calmness and peace to the people's minds. Thus, all things in the universe, both animate and inanimate, help, protect, embrace and work for those who maintain faith in the Mystic Law.
Now to go on to the phrase, "Nichiren has been able to endure countless harsh trials." We live in the saha world, one in which people have to bear all sorts of suffering. It is such a harsh world that whenever we try to do anything at all, we face severe obstacles. Since we must endure anyway, let us do so for the propagation of the Mystic Law. There may be times when we will have to carry out that task even at the cost of our lives. However, when we endure for the sake of the Mystic Law, the Buddhas and Buddhist gods will never fail to come and protect us. This is the Daishonin's conviction that accrued from his enlightenment.
The phrase, "When praised.... Such is the way of common mortals," is an insightful thrust into human psychology. They tend to sacrifice themselves when they are praised as well as when they are slandered. In the former, they gladly take on pain. But if they are condemned or criticized or scorned, they often do something foolish and reckless, not knowing that it will thereby bring about their own ruin.
That phrase teaches us a good lesson we must not forget. In our struggle for kosen-rufu, it is important that we praise other members for their efforts and achievements. Encouragement will make them more courageous and build their confidence to continue their march forward.
No matter what, maintain your faith as a votary of the Lotus Sutra, and forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple.
Beginning with this passage, the Gosho teaches the correct path of faith which the Daishonin's disciples should follow, and describes the practice --- exactly how to go about propagating the faith in the Gohonzon. First, the Daishonin tells us to make a firm resolution --- which is essential to our faith --- to "maintain your faith as a votary of the Lotus Sutra" and "forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple." This is as important a teaching as it is famous. It is not too much to say that this phrase, short as it is, contains the key to attaining Buddhahood as well as the fundamental spirit of the Soka Gakkai.
I can feel the Daishonin's outpouring mercy in the words "no matter what." From the infinite past we have lived and died countless times. We have gone through an endless cycle of life and death wrapped in fundamental ignorance, like persons groping their way through the darkness. Fortunately, in this lifetime we have been able to encounter the Mystic Law and meet the original Buddha from the remotest past. This is the rare opportunity to dispel the darkness that envelops the cycle of life and death and discover the true, eternally unchanging entity of life. It is the one chance in a lifetime to enable ourselves to live a happy and secure life, unfettered and undefiled by anything, strolling in a garden of blossoms in the brilliant sun of the Mystic Law and under the crystal-clear sky of eternal enlightenment. That is why the Daishonin emphasizes that "no matter what" situation we may face, in this lifetime we must always maintain our faith. The phrase "no matter what" is crucially important to all of you, and I want you never to forget it.
"Maintain your faith as a votary of the Lotus Sutra" speaks of the practice of faith according to the Law, and "forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple" speaks of faith in terms of the Person. Specifically, "a votary of the Lotus Sutra" denotes Nichiren Daishonin himself. Actually, the Lotus Sutra was preached exclusively for the Daishonin. He alone read with his entire being everything written in the Lotus Sutra. He is the only person who declared that Shakyamuni's Buddhism had become powerless in the Latter Day of the Law. He is the one who revealed his identity as the original Buddha, emitting a brilliant light and dispelling the darkness throughout the ten thousand years of the Latter Day and on into eternity. And the Gohonzon is the perfect embodiment of the life of the original Buddha. For us to embrace the Gohonzon throughout our life is to "maintain your faith as a votary of the Lotus Sutra." Even understanding this much, we have still only scratched the surface. Our practice must always be underlined by the fundamental awareness that we are "Nichiren's disciples." Without that consciousness, we can never be "votaries of the Lotus Sutra" in the full sense.
Within our daily practice, to be conscious of being "Nichiren's disciples" is to live in the organization where people work together in itai doshin (perfect unity based on the same faith) to realize kosen-rufu. Indeed, the Nichiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai is the organization directly connected to the life of the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, and the group of people devoted to the attainment of kosen-rufu. The continually increasing opposition given us by the three powerful enemies and the three obstacles and the four devils (note) is proof that we are practicing exactly according to the Gosho. Therefore, to "forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple" means to share the same destiny as the Soka Gakkai. Even if we embrace the Gohonzon, we won't be able to achieve anything without a fundamental awareness of being "Nichiren's disciples." The Daishonin clarifies this in the Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life, one of the most important Gosho, as follows. "Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra." Practice derives from faith, as Nichiu Shonin, the ninth High Priest, says, "For one to practice is itself faith."
(note)[The three obstacles are: 1) bonno-sho: obstacles due to the three poisons --- greed, anger and stupidity; 2) go-sho: obstacles due to karma created by committing the five cardinal sins. Go-sho also means opposition from one's wife and children; 3) ho-sho: obstacles due to painful retribution caused by actions in the three evil paths --- Hell, Hunger and Animality. Ho-sho also refers to obstacles caused by one's superiors (sovereign, parents, etc.). The four devils are: 1) bonno-ma: obstructions arising from the three poisons; 2) on-ma: the obstacle of the five components --- form, perception, conception, volition and consciousness. These five components cause men many kinds of suffering; 3) shi-ma: the obstacle of death. The sufferings of death or the untimely death of other believers lead one to doubt Buddhism; and 4) tenji-ma: obstruction by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, which occurs in the form of oppression by men of influence and power and is the most difficult of all to conquer.]
To "forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple" is of utmost importance, for that alone is the direct way to attaining Buddhahood. People tend to think that attaining Buddhahood means to become some ideal personality set apart from ordinary people because they envision Buddhas as having the dignified appearance used to describe Shakyamuni. Nichiren Daishonin is a common mortal and at the same time the original Buddha. Herein lies the source of the supremacy of his teaching and the truth of Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism sheds powerful light on human nature as it is manifested in ordinary people, so even we, common mortals, can relate to it. For us, attaining Buddhahood means to dedicate ourselves to the loftiest mission in the world. This itself is manifesting the Buddhahood inherent in our lives. Going one step further, when you have resolved to "forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple" no matter what, you are already living in the state of Buddhahood.
There is a famous passage from the Gosho which states, "Winter never fails to turn into spring." Now we can see that it means that winter is spring. The phrase "never fails" has considerable significance. It is synonymous with "definite" or "certain." It also means 'equal. The same is true of the passage from The Opening of the Eyes: "Even if the gods desert me and all kinds of difficulties befall me," and another in the same Gosho: "Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubt in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood."
In connection with the phrase, "forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple," let me explain why the faith on which the Soka Gakkai rests produces great benefits. Buddhism expounds the principle of four powers. These are the powers of faith, practice, the Buddha and the Law. In the Daishonin's Buddhism, the powers of the Buddha and the Law indicate those of the Gohonzon, since it embodies both the Person and the Law. Only the powers of faith and practice can bring forth the powers of the Buddha and the Law, the limitless powers of the Gohonzon. Our first president, Mr. Makiguchi, devoted himself to propagating the Law at the cost of his life. The second president, Mr. Toda, exerting magnificent powers of faith and practice, also dedicated his life to spreading true Buddhism. The blessings accumulated through their efforts are so great that now the powers of the Gohonzon brilliantly shine upon those who practice the faith of true Buddhism with the Soka Gakkai. Positive proof lies in the growth of the Soka Gakkai; it has developed into an organization global in scale that walks the Middle Way of Buddhism. It is a truly living religion, and for that, we cannot thank our first two presidents too much.
The True Entity of Life
-Shoho Jisso Sho -
Lecture 3 of 3 from Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1.
In the Same Mind
If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth. And since you are a Bodhisattva of the Earth, there is not the slightest doubt that you have been a disciple of the Buddha from the remotest past. The Yujutsu chapter states, "I have taught these people since the remotest past." There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku.
How are we to become of the same mind as Nichiren Daishonin? It is possible only when you "maintain your faith as a votary of the Lotus Sutra, and forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple," that is, when you practice his teaching with your thoughts, words and deeds. This phrase contains the principle of shitei funi, oneness of master and disciple. Funi is an abbreviation of nini funi, meaning "two and yet not two." Superficially, master and disciple are two; there is clearly a difference in standpoint. But, in the ultimate depths of life, they are one and the same.
The oneness of master and disciple constitutes the essence of the relationship between the two, as it is taught in Buddhism. Therefore, true disciples of Nichiren Daishonin are those who "are of the same mind as Nichiren," that is, those who make his mind their own and stake their life on accomplishing the noble mission he left unfinished. Those who give only lip service or pretend to be carrying out their responsibility will sooner or later be severely reprimanded by the Daishonin.
A passage from Reply to Lord Ueno reads, "Since Nichiren was born, he has not known a day or even a moment of ease. He has concentrated solely on spreading the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra." Those who concentrate on the mission for kosen-rufu and take responsibility for it just as did the Daishonin --- in other words, those who "are of the same mind as Nichiren" --- are undoubtedly Bodhisattvas of the Earth. And if we are definitely Bodhisattvas of the Earth, there is not the slightest doubt that we have been "disciples of the Buddha from the remotest past." Let me explain why. When Shakyamuni preached the Yujutsu chapter of the Lotus Sutra, innumerable Bodhisattvas of the Earth emerged from the ground. Bodhisattva Miroku, on behalf of the astonished assembly, asked the Buddha what and who they were. Thereupon the Buddha answered, "I have taught these people since the remotest past," meaning that Bodhisattvas of the Earth are disciples of the Buddha from the remotest past.
Superficially, "the Buddha" in the above passage indicates Shakyamuni, who expounded the essential teaching or the latter half of the Lotus Sutra. But actually the term denotes the Tathagata --- Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha in the Latter Day --- who embodies the fundamental law by which all Buddhas attain enlightenment. The passage therefore means that Nichiren Daishonin has taught us, Bodhisattvas of the Earth, ever since the remotest past.
We can interpret this to mean that those who are directly connected to the life of Nichiren Daishonin are Bodhisattvas of the Earth and, as such, his true disciples. It was the first president, Mr. Makiguchi, and our mentor, President Toda, who put that into practice in contemporary society. It was especially true for President Toda who, while in prison, attained the realization that he himself was a Bodhisattva of the Earth and a legitimate disciple of the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. From that moment on the Soka Gakkai was destined to become an organization of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, a group of true disciples of Nichiren Daishonin. The Soka Gakkai has advanced and will continue to advance together with Mr. Toda, a leader of unparalleled humanity, as we make his spirit our own. How highly the original Buddha will extol those who belong to this great, vibrant organization! There is nothing that should worry you or cause you fear.