In the life philosophy, "the Buddha from the remotest past" signifies "the Buddha" inherent within our own lives- namely, the Tathagata of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are disciples of the Buddha from the remotest past indicates that our life, based on the Buddhahood of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo existing deep within us, manifests the functions of the Four Bodhisattvas-Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo and Anryugyo. I am convinced that if we hold ourselves completely responsible for the great mission of kosen-rufu, rack our minds and drive our bodies to accomplish this mission, the life of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will always give us the power to go on, to live our faith. The Daishonin states in the Totaigi Sho (The Entity of the Mystic Law), "In the final analysis, the entity of the Mystic Law of the Lotus is composed of the bodies, born of father and mother, of the disciples and followers of Nichiren who believe in the Lotus Sutra.... The Buddha of the Lotus, the entity of the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching, is the disciples and followers of Nichiren." He also explains to embrace the Gohonzon is to attain Buddhahood. Therefore, when we continue our mission exactly as the Daishonin directs, his life will surge forth from within us like a spring. I have always maintained this conviction --- even when I had no one to depend on and had to make decisions all by myself I am also firmly convinced that everything the Daishonin taught is perfectly true, as he stated it.
Now let us go on to the next line, "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." Those who spread Myoho-renge-kyo, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws, in this age in the Latter Day are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Those who spontaneously assume the responsibility of devoting themselves to propagating true Buddhism are all equal as they walk the greatest path of life, no matter what their lot or status. Those who "propagate" Buddhism are the most respectworthy of all, as the Fugen chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, "Most certainly you should arise and greet him from afar, and respect him in the same way as you do the Buddha." It is therefore one of the gravest sins to look down upon, censure or slander the Soka Gakkai, the religious organization devoted to spreading true Buddhism.
"There should be no discrimination . . . be they men or women." Men and women are completely equal in that they are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The social differences between male and female arise because of the different roles they play. Certainly there are occupations that are more suitable for men than for women, and vice versa, although it is not impossible to take on an occupation traditionally held by the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sex cannot be justified, and salaries should be fixed according to the occupation and not the sex. However, there are inevitable differences between individuals. The real problem arises when such differences stem not from the type of work but simply on the basis of sex, which violates the human equality of both sexes. The attitudes fostered by religion are often influential in social attitudes toward the respective status of each sex.
Many religions, past and present, assume some kind of male dominance. For example, the Christian and Islamic gods are usually envisioned as male. In Buddhism only men were thought to be able to reach salvation by sects whose doctrines derived from the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. In contrast, Nichiren Daishonin declares that those who propagate the Mystic Law are Bodhisattvas of the Earth, be they men or women. Denying that any difference existed between men and women as far as their religious mission and capability were concerned, Nichiren Daishonin advocated genuine equality between the sexes. I want all of you to know that Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism endorses the dignity of all human beings with this great democratic principle.
"Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku." Only Bodhisattvas of the Earth can chant daimoku. In the eternity of life, to be able to live as a human being is a rare and precious thing when we consider all the other innumerable forms of life. Buddhism defines human as the "correct vessel for the true teaching." Because we are human, we can follow the correct path to the higher states of life, and eventually enlightenment. The correct path is the religious faith which makes people truly human. But when we have no such source of humanity, we lack vitality, become rigid in our ideas and behavior, and become a weak and lifeless fossil. Truly religion is important, but it is very difficult to find a religion with the power to let us attain happiness. How fortunate we are to have faith in the true religion, and proud that we chant the daimoku!
"Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku," states the importance of continuous, wholehearted chanting, no matter what may happen. Only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can save us from all trouble. The original mission of bodhisattvas is to fulfill their vows. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth vowed to propagate the Lotus Sutra to the world. Therefore, we Bodhisattvas of the Earth should pray and chant daimoku mindful of our oath to work for kosen-rufu. Without this thought, we cannot chant daimoku as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
First Man to Stand Alone
Only I, Nichiren, at first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Likewise, propagation will unfold this way in the future. Doesn't this signify "emerging from the earth"? At the time of kosen-rufu, the entire Japanese nation will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target.
In this well-known passage, Nichiren Daishonin teaches us the eternal formula for attaining kosen-rufu and reveals his conviction that kosen-rufu will be achieved. Nichiren Daishonin alone chanted daimoku first, and then he was followed by two, three and then a hundred. When he says, "Propagation will unfold this way in the future," he means that the process of achieving kosen-rufu will not change a bit in the future, either.
This passage has two important points. First, coupled with the preceding sentence, "Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku," it tells us that those who chant daimoku are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth. However, as the next sentence says, "Only I, Nichiren, at first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," there always has to be one who starts chanting and initiates the propagation of the Mystic Law with two, three and then a hundred coming to follow. The propagation of a religion is always started by one person awakened to his mission, followed by a great number of people who come in turn. The initiator is especially important, for his spirit will permeate those who appear later. In our case, the "one" was Nichiren Daishonin, our founder. But as the Daishonin stated, "Propagation will unfold this way in the future," the Soka Gakkai was established by one person, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the first president. He stood up alone and began propagation. Following Mr. Makiguchi, two, three and finally three thousand came to chant.
Immediately after World War II, Josei Toda, who succeeded him, came out of prison only to find the organization utterly defunct and lifeless in the ruins of war-torn Tokyo. He embarked on the propagation and was followed by two, three and a hundred people. Today, the Soka Gakkai has more than ten million members. We must never forget these founders, so that we may transmit their spirit correctly. That the propagation of daimoku starts from one person means that his spirit should be shared by all who come later.
The first person who stands alone is important, for he is the source of growth from then on. I want you to be firm in your conviction of this as an unchanging principle of kosen-rufu. Nichiren Daishonin tells us in his Letter to Niike: "The relation between cause and effect is like that between flower and fruit. When someone lights a fire in a great plain of dry grass, even a spark as faint as a firefly, the fire will burn one, two, ten, a hundred and thousand blades of grass, and finally reach all the trees and grass of the thousand-mile plain." A single match can cause a great conflagration. Each of us must be a match stick of faith.
The phrase, "chanting and teaching others," is also very important. "Chanting" is our own practice (jigyo), while "teaching others" is practice for others (keta). On the Three Great Secret Laws has the following statement: "Now in the Latter Day of the Law, the daimoku which Nichiren chants is different from that of previous ages --- Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the practice both for oneself and for others." If we do not practice both for ourselves and for others, we are not truly following Nichiren Daishonin.
The Ongi Kuden also mentions the significance of jigyo and keta concerning "chanting and teaching others." It reads, "The whole Yujutsu chapter is devoted to the mission of bodhisattvas sent by the original Buddha. The practice of these bodhisattvas is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That is what the sutra means by chanting. Teaching in the sutra means to lead all the people of Japan to the pure land of Eagle Peak." Only those who chant daimoku themselves and teach it to all the people around them are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The Daishonin says, "Propagation will unfold this way in the future," meaning that the principle of chanting and teaching is basic to all ages.
Since you believe in the Gohonzon, the entity of Nichiren Daishonin's life, and live up to the spirit of Makiguchi and Toda, I hope you will stand alone courageously, chanting and propagating daimoku wherever you are. To stand alone means to take total responsibility for kosen-rufu in the home, office or community. Buddhism and kosen-rufu lie in the places closest to you and in steady, continuous activities. We all have to be aware that we are here as envoys from the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.
No matter what our circumstances, each of us has his own set of human relationships. He forms his own associations in his home, office and in his community with many types of people. In the light of the Mystic Law, these are the places to carry out his mission, and the people there are all fellow bodhisattvas. In that group of people you are the one and only person who can assume the responsibility and mission for kosen-rufu. To stand up alone to fight for kosen-rufu in your own place and circumstances is to "emerge from the earth."
In addition, the above passage declares that it is the common people who bear the burden of creating the worldwide tide of true Buddhism. Neither power nor authority will ever help to accelerate the movement for kosen-rufu. Never forget the Daishonin's words, "Propagation will unfold this way in the future." Kosen-rufu begins with a single person to reach all strata of people.
"At the time of kosen-rufu, the entire Japanese nation will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target." Thus we see the Daishonin's conviction --- and prediction --- that all Japanese would come to chant the daimoku, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. "The entire Japanese nation" means everyone, housewives, students, educators, statesmen and all others. As all people study and practice Buddhism, create value in their lives and contribute to society, they will bring about a total revolution in society. This is what is meant by "the entire Japanese nation." However, although the Daishonin mentions only Japan, he does not imply that we should neglect propagation of the Mystic Law in other countries. It is clear from the words, "to achieve kosen-rufu throughout the world," which appear in many parts of the Lotus Sutra and the Gosho. It might be noted, however, that Nichiren Daishonin meant Japan as the land where the people's efforts are especially needed in the first stage of kosen-rufu. Japanese members should realize that kosen-rufu in Japan will be a great example to members throughout the world, and act accordingly.
Buddhism for One and All
But now you must build your reputation as a votary of the Lotus Sutra and devote yourself to it. Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha, seated in the Treasure Tower in the air, surrounded by all other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, nodded in agreement. What they decided upon was solely for the perpetuation of the True Law throughout the Latter Day. Taho Buddha had offered Shakyamuni Buddha a place beside him, and when they unfurled the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo, the two leaders of the entire multitude made their decision together. Could there have been anything false in their decision? Their ultimate purpose in meeting was to provide a way for all of us ordinary people to attain Buddhahood.
The most important goal of faith is to "build your reputation as a votary of the Lotus Sutra and devote yourself to it." We feel the infinite mercy of Nichiren Daishonin, who has experienced the truth of life, when he says, "But now you must build your reputation . . ." He was witness to terrible persecution, but with belief in the coming of kosen-rufu he urged his disciples to do what they should. One of the qualities that impresses me most, that is most compelling to me, is his compassion. I can really feel it when he admonishes us not to discard our faith because of shallow, distorted ideas about Buddhism, not to abandon it through ignorance.
I remember something similar that President Toda once said in an essay called "My Problem": "My problem is that too few people stand up strongly in faith. Some, just converted, do not really believe in the Dai-Gohonzon's power and they soon give up, abandoning their faith. How superficial and impatient people can be! They will go to their deathbeds without ever experiencing the clear, fresh outpouring of blessings from the Gohonzon in their lives. How pitiful they are ! Just to think of them is like putting a knife through myself."
A spaceship follows a fixed orbit when it goes to the moon. If it should veer from that orbit, it might never return to the earth. We, too, have an "orbit" of life in the universe. If we veer from our own orbit, we might end up wandering in utter darkness for aeons without end. It is a terrible feeling to sense defeat in the ups and downs of life. The Daishonin meant to say, "You may have doubts and questions about the Mystic Law, but now trust what I say and devote yourself entirely to the Lotus Sutra."
To "build your reputation as a votary of the Lotus Sutra" is to live up to kosen-rufu with pride and honor. It is of course very important for each of us to be respected and trusted in whatever work we do. But when seen from the deeper level of eternal life, your efforts for and contribution to the goal of kosen-rufu are vastly more important. That is the only honor whose glory will never fade.
To "devote yourself to the Lotus Sutra" means to make the Gohonzon the sole foundation of your life --- the point to which you always return when you need courage and power. It means to keep up your daily practice of gongyo and activities for kosen-rufu to the best of your ability. No other life is stronger or more meaningful than a life devoted to the Lotus Sutra. If we devote ourselves to the Gohonzon, the Lotus Sutra for this day and age, we are rooting our lives in the law and power of the cosmos.
The following part, "Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha . . . ," explains why you have to "build your reputation as a votary of the Lotus Sutra and devote yourself to it." The ceremony and teaching of the Lotus Sutra was given for us, people of the Latter Day of the Law. The Buddhist philosophy exists entirely for our sake. If you do not realize that, Buddhism is just another powerless ideology.
In the first nine chapters of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni attempts to awaken his disciples' understanding to his enlightenment and he predicts that they will eventually attain Buddhahood. From the tenth (Hosshi) chapter the story is developed on the theme of who is to propagate the Lotus Sutra after Shakyamuni's passing. In the next (Hoto) chapter, the Treasure Tower appears, and the ceremony in the air unfolds. In the Hoto and Daiba (12th) chapters, Shakyamuni asks who is willing to propagate the Lotus Sutra after his passing. In the next two (Kanji and Anrakugyo) chapters the bodhisattvas taught by the Buddha respond to his call and pledge to propagate the sutra. However, in the Yujutsu (15th) chapter, Shakyamuni refuses them and at that moment the Bodhisattvas of the Earth appear. All the other bodhisattvas wondered who they are, and Bodhisattva Miroku, on their behalf, asks Shakyamuni about his relationship to them. In the Juryo (16th) chapter the Buddha reveals his aeons of life since gohyaku-jintengo to answer the question. In the Jinriki (21st) chapter Shakyamuni entrusts the mission of propagation to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and in the next (Zokurui) chapter, to all the other bodhisattvas present at the ceremony. Therefore, the ceremony in the air was held to pass to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth the mission of propagating the Mystic Law in the Latter Day. This is one interpretation of what is meant by "what they decided upon was solely for the perpetuation of the True Law throughout the Latter Day."
That is still only a literal interpretation of the sutra. For true Buddhism, the ceremony in the air reveals the true object of worship that is to be propagated in the Latter Day of the Law. The ceremony in the air presents a blueprint for the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws. "The banner of Myoho-renge-kyo" is the essential part of the Gohonzon.
This Gohonzon is the object of worship to be propagated in the Latter Day, for it can lead all people to enlightenment. That is the meaning of "the perpetuation of the True Law throughout the Latter Day" and "their ultimate purpose in meeting was to provide a way for all of us ordinary people to attain Buddhahood." This is saying that the Gohonzon we worship daily is the ultimate of the "eighty thousand doctrines," the Buddha's teachings. It is the entity that embodies the cosmic law of the Lotus Sutra. This passage reconfirms that we will attain Buddhahood if we carefully follow true Buddhism.
In the Gohonzon, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren" written in the center is what is meant by "the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo," while Shakyamuni and Taho on both sides of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are what represent "Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha, seated in the Treasure Tower in the air."
Ceremony in the Air
Although I was not at that ceremony, in looking at the sutra, this is crystal-clear. On the other hand, I may have been at the ceremony, but since I am a common mortal, it is beyond my power to know the past. There is no doubt, however, that in the present life I am the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and that in the future I will therefore reach the seat of enlightenment. Judging the past from this point of view, I must have been at the ceremony in the air. There can be no discontinuity between past, present and future.
Here the Daishonin expresses his certain knowledge of attaining Buddhahood in the future because his behavior fulfills exactly the predictions of the Lotus Sutra. Since he is a common mortal, he has no personal memory of his past existences and cannot know from remembered experience whether he was among those who attended the ceremony in the air. But when he reads the sutra, he can clearly see everything that went on during the ceremony. No one can deny the fact that his actions in this lifetime are those of a Bodhisattva of the Earth, the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, he says, he "must have been at the ceremony in the air."
In the documents the Daishonin transmitted to Nikko Shonin, and a few other Gosho with equally profound meaning --- On the Three Great Secret Laws, for instance -- he definitely states that he was entrusted with the propagation of the Lotus Sutra during the ceremony in the air on Eagle Peak. Nowhere else is he so articulate; in all his other writings he refuses clearly to commit himself, and maintains a detached objectivity. What we were or what we did in a past existence is beyond our power to know, and any dogmatic assertion of what our past was or what it meant could lead nowhere except to misunderstanding on the part of our listeners. We must try to be objective, as the Daishonin does in this Gosho. First he compares the statements in the sutra with what he is actually doing, and based on that he then deduces what must have occurred in the past, just as historians and scientists do today.
"There can be no discontinuity between past, present and future." Past, present and future are closely interrelated. "If you want to know the cause you formed in the past, observe the effect in the present. If you want to know the effect in the future, observe the cause you are forming now." The Buddhist way is to judge the past as well as the future from what we see and experience around us right now. But to recognize the past and future significance in the facts of the present, we must train our minds to develop a clear grasp of the strict law of causality --- the law which determines the effect that a given cause will produce. Because of that ability, a Buddha is said to see through the three existences of life. It requires no mystic or supernatural powers, only the power of true reason. "Buddhism is reason." Remember that always and engrave it in your heart.
Here, let me say a few more words about the ceremony in the air. The ceremony begins in the Hoto (11th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra and ends in the Zokurui (22nd) chapter. The Treasure Tower appears in the air above Eagle Peak, and Shakyamuni seats himself beside Taho Buddha before he begins to preach to the multitude of others also in the air during the ceremony. It is difficult to believe, however, that it actually took place and that it happened in India three thousand years ago. Imagine countless numbers of people airborne without the help of any mechanical device. It is too fantastic to be true. Furthermore, the Treasure Tower is described as having the dimensions 500X250X250 yujun. One yujun varies according to interpretation, but using a moderate estimate, 500 yujun would equal the radius of the earth!
Is everything in the Lotus Sutra no more than a figment of someone's imagination? No, and it would be a gross misunderstanding to think so. But how does one handle this kind of event as it appears in the sutra? First, we must understand that Shakyamuni could not preach the truth of his enlightenment other than by giving a graphic, almost surrealistic account of the ceremony in the air. Thus, when Mr. Josei Toda said that the solemn ceremony of the Lotus Sutra "took place in Shakyamuni's own life," he meant that Shakyamuni chose that way to portray his enlightenment.
The ceremony in the air conveys the substance of Shakyamuni's enlightenment. The ceremony is itself the entity of the Law to which the Buddha was enlightened. That entity was revealed by Shakyamuni as the ceremony in the air, by T'ien-t'ai as the doctrine of ichinen sanzen, and by Nichiren Daishonin as the Gohonzon through which he gave the suffering generations of the Latter Day a means to express their faith and attain enlightenment.
The Daishonin is speaking of Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra in the above passage, so he says, "Judging the past from this point of view, I must have been at the ceremony in the air." But the real meaning of this paragraph is that by embracing the Gohonzon, doing gongyo and chanting daimoku, we actually participate in the ceremony in the air each day. Our life itself is the ceremony in the air --- the manifestation of kutai. Our physical and mental functions are given the power to work by the ultimate entity of life in the state of ku. Ku is not nothingness, but it is the basis of life filled with infinite creativity and power. Again, eternal life is itself the ceremony in the air. The assembly at Eagle Peak took the form of the ceremony in the air only to reveal the eternity of life --- the life itself which continues to exist even after physical death.