Because I view things this way, I feel immeasurable delight even though I am now an exile. Joy as well as sorrow brings us to tears. Tears express our feeling for both blessings and misfortune.
Here is an expression of the absolute happiness experienced by Nichiren Daishonin after he had read the Lotus Sutra and absorbed it with his entire being. All of Nichiren Daishonin's writings are beautiful prose. Whenever we read them, our hearts are quickened by the voice of a merciful father, and fill with a stronger determination to move ahead for kosen-rufu. The sentences of the Gosho are fundamentally different from the flowery sentences of other writers that are based on mere theory. By reading the Gosho, we can come to see that the Gosho is a living testimony to the Daishonin's state of life --- it clearly depicts the inner being of the author. Confined to Sado Island and forced to endure conditions as bitter as one of the eight cold hells, Nichiren Daishonin reflected in his letters a state of life that encompassed the entire universe. No words are adequate to describe his great courage and mercy.
Countless people were exiled to Sado during the years between the Tempyo era (710-794) and the Edo era (1603-1867) . Their despair, indignation, pain and resignation seemed to have soaked into the very soil of the island. Who else but the Daishonin could have remained as serene as the clear autumn sky and as vast and mild as the sea under a warm spring sun, so that he was able to say that he felt "immeasurable delight" in such an oppressive, forbidding place? Philosophers and sages, forced to live in misery, invariably look to the heavens for solace against their frustration or give themselves up to unbearable grief. But Nichiren Daishonin lived through the deepest suffering with unmatched courage, leaving a singularly brilliant example of a personal revolution. Never forget this passage. Make it part of you so that your lives will reverberate with the sound of his voice.
"Because I view things this way" indicates that in the final analysis, the Lotus Sutra was expounded exclusively for Nichiren Daishonin. The magnificent ceremony in the air, Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas seated side by side, Buddhas throughout the universe coming to attend the ceremony --- all was directed toward "perpetuating the True Law throughout the Latter Day" and "providing a way for all of us ordinary people to attain Buddhahood." The ceremony was held, and the Buddhas assembled, solely to entrust the True Law to Nichiren Daishonin --- in a superficial sense the incarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo, but in a deeper sense the original Buddha since time without beginning. This, he says, is a thing wonderful beyond words. Tears are the expression of sublime, irrepressible feelings that surge forth against all efforts to contain them. They reveal a tremendous emotion that breaks through to the surface, regardless of circumstances.
"Even though I am now an exile" bespeaks the difficult and painful life of an exile on Sado Island. It is a relative state of unhappiness, which places the Daishonin in a situation with what would appear to be the least security and happiness. However, because of the absolute joy in his heart, his happiness is greater, more effluent and more solid than that of anyone else in the world. Absolute happiness lies on a completely different plane from relative happiness. It is not something that is attained through wealth, good health, and having people close by who care for you.
A person can establish absolute happiness, no matter how dogged he may be by conditions of relative unhappiness. It is also possible to have everything one needs for relative happiness, and still be nowhere near attaining absolute happiness. There are many around us who possess all the conditions for relative happiness and, although they do not believe in Buddhism, they look much happier than we. But they do not have absolute happiness. The happiness of Buddhahood was something completely different from theirs, contingent upon nothing in his objective surroundings and never to be eradicated.
Relative happiness, no matter how great, cannot become absolute. Even a man who is fabulously wealthy or famous throughout the world can tumble into utter poverty and ignominy overnight, and with the disappearance of his fortune, his happiness vanishes also. A man in the prime of life may be badly injured in an accident. Even if he does not meet with any such mishaps, he will suffer from disease and physical frailty as he gets older, as well as many other problems we must all encounter. For most people, happiness mistakenly depends on relative circumstances.
Relative happiness depends totally on the precarious relationship between a person and his environment. Suppose you are hungry, and someone takes you for a sumptuous meal. Your hunger is satisfied by something in your environment --- in this case, food --- and you feel a momentary sense of relative happiness in your life. In contrast, absolute happiness depends on the relationship between the mission or objective to which you have pledged yourself and the fact of whether or not you are actually carrying it out. This is a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that you can feel in the depths of your life. It is a state that is unaffected by constant change in your surroundings, a state that you firmly establish by your own will. It can, therefore, become absolute. But first, the mission or objective which you have taken on yourself must be in accord with a law that is as immutable and eternal as the universe itself. That is what makes absolute happiness possible.
A true state of absolute happiness can be established by linking yourself directly to the Mystic Law --- the Law that remains immutable since time without beginning --- and devoting yourself heart and soul to fulfilling the great wish for kosen-rufu. This is the objective which you have set for yourself. Please be firmly convinced of this, and take the greatest pride in your individual lives, as you follow the noblest course in life that any human being can travel.
"Thus I Heard"
The one thousand arhats shed tears in memory of the Buddha, and in tears Bodhisattva Monju chanted Myoho-renge-kyo. From among those one thousand arhats, the venerable Ananda replied in tears, "Thus I heard." Thereupon the tears of all the others fell, wetting their inkstones, and they wrote "Myoho-renge-kyo" followed by "Thus I heard." I, Nichiren, now feel exactly as they did. I am now in exile because I spread the teaching of Myoho-renge-kyo. I spread this teaching because I, too, "heard thus": Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha left Myoho-renge-kyo for the Japanese and all people in the future.
Here we see the meeting held to compile the Buddhist scriptures. Notice in particular the phrase, "Thus I heard." It appears at the beginning of all the sutras, following a title that encapsulates the essence of each sutra. Literally, it means that "I have personally heard Shakyamuni speak these words."
"Monju chanted Myoho-renge-kyo.... Ananda replied in tears, 'Thus I heard.' . . . all the others . . . wrote 'Myoho-renge-kyo' followed by 'Thus I heard.'" This means that all the participants had heard Myoho-renge-kyo and agreed it was the ultimate of Shakyamuni's teaching.
"Thus I heard" does not mean simply to listen to something. It is a much stronger declaration. In his Hokke Mongu, T'ien-t'ai states that "I heard" indicates a person who upholds [the True Law]. In other words, it implies the believer's affirmation that the sutra he "heard" is the essence of the Buddha's teaching and his resolution to practice Buddhism precisely as the sutra says, devoting himself to showing its validity through his behavior.
Nichiren Daishonin, too, "heard that Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha left Myoho-renge-kyo for the Japanese and all people in the future." That is why he fought so valiantly to propagate the Mystic Law, endured persecution to prove the validity of the Lotus Sutra, and at last left the Gohonzon for generations to come in the ten thousand years of the Latter Day and on into eternity.
Our first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, and second president, Josei Toda, were the contemporary masters who "had heard" that the Buddhism Nichiren Daishonin left for us is the fundamental law of human revolution and world peace. Since they "had heard thus," one became a martyr for kosen-rufu, and the other gave his life, also, to the same lofty mission. The conduct of our two presidents exemplifies the Soka Gakkai spirit, and the way of life we, too, should strive for.
After Shakyamuni's passing, Monju, Ananda and the other disciples shed tears in his memory, called his teachings to mind, and in tears wrote them into the Buddhist scriptures. This was the expression of their infinite gratitude for the Buddha's mercy. In short, they could not contain their deep emotion toward Shakyamuni and left his teachings in sutra form, which paved the way for the spread of Buddhism into the future.
Nichiren Daishonin felt "exactly as they did." With gratitude for Shakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra, and with tears of boundless mercy for all mankind, he revealed the supreme law to be propagated throughout the Latter Day and on into eternity. This is what he means when he says in Requital for the Buddha's Favor, "If Nichiren's mercy is truly great, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity."
We, too, must thank the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, for the treasury he left for us, despite his hardships. With the great joy we have in our faith in true Buddhism, let us tell everyone we can about it and get them as involved and excited as we are, until it spreads to all mankind in future generations.
Persecution and Enlightenment
I cannot hold back my tears when I think of the great persecution confronting me now, or when I think of the joy of attaining Buddhahood in the future. Birds cry, but never shed tears. I, Nichiren, do not cry, but my tears flow ceaselessly. I shed my tears not for worldly affairs but solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. So indeed, they must be tears of amrita. The Nirvana Sutra states that while the tears one sheds throughout his many existences on the death of his parents, brothers, sisters, wives, children and followers may surpass the quantity of water in all the seas, he weeps not a drop for Buddhism.
"The great persecution confronting me now," of course, is his exile to Sado. It was indeed a bitter experience, but he underwent this persecution as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Because he was the votary then, he knew for certain that he would "attain Buddhahood in the future." Whichever way he thought about it, he could not hold back his tears.
Important here is his teaching that "the great persecution" at the moment leads directly to "attaining Buddhahood in the future." To overcome great persecution is to attain enlightenment. A long succession of hardships lies ahead on our way to the human revolution. But only by facing and overcoming them can you attain Buddhahood.
The history of the Soka Gakkai is filled with huge and painful trials, but that is only further proof that it is an organization of "envoys of the Buddha, sent to carry out the Buddha's work." What other person or group in this age has ever suffered so much for the sake of the Lotus Sutra? Some religious bodies are hopelessly degraded, concerned only to deceive their believers and preserve themselves. The single teaching quoted above makes one realize that the Soka Gakkai is an organization that echoes the Daishonin's life, carrying out the Buddha's work exactly as he has willed.
The Gosho states, "Those who overcome hardships and embrace the Lotus Sutra from beginning to end are the envoys of the Buddha." This means that those who endure persecution and oppression and overcome them are equal to Buddhas. Whenever I read this passage I feel renewed enthusiasm for our mission. Ours is a true revolution, not some game played under the cover of religion. Watched by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout time and space, we are waging a decisive battle with the devil that pervades the universe, showing whether or not we can prove Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism to be true. We cannot allow ourselves to weaken or retreat even a bit. Continue to advance cheerfully and valiantly together with me, fighting as the original Buddha commands, deceived or swayed by no one. Make this noble campaign a record of your own achievement --- one that will be remembered forever.
Tears express the feelings deepest within our hearts. The brief passage above gives a sense of the profound mercy and emotion Nichiren Daishonin felt every moment of his life. "Birds cry, but never shed tears." Birds sing. Some of them are well known for their beautiful calls. But their cries come from instinct, not feeling. "1, Nichiren, do not cry, but my tears flow ceaselessly." This famous phrase seems to show forth the boundless compassion of Nichiren Daishonin.
"I shed my tears not for worldly affairs," he says, "but solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra." He does not shed tears just because he feels pain, hardship or sadness. His tears are shed as he tries to propagate the Lotus Sutra in order to save people from suffering for all time. "So indeed, they must be tears of amrita." Amrita (also known as ambrosia), according to ancient legends, is the sweet-tasting drink of immortality. The Chinese believed that the heavens let it rain down on paradise, to relieve human beings of all their sufferings and bring them perpetual youth and immortality. Nichiren Daishonin's tears were crystallized into the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws to enrich human life, remove suffering and give people unfading youth and eternal life. We can taste the amrita of the Dai-Gohonzon's blessings through our own experience.
The passage of the Nirvana Sutra talks of human life in the past, present and future. It says that we shed more than enough tears for mundane things during the countless lifetimes we live, but not a single tear for Buddhism. It is saying how difficult it is for people to encounter Buddhism and, even when they happen to do so, how rarely they truly have faith in it. Nichiren Daishonin shed tears throughout his life for the sake of Buddhism. In the same spirit let us dedicate our own lives to this noble mission, letting our tears flow for the sake of the True Law.
One becomes a votary of the Lotus Sutra by virtue of his practice in past existences. It is karmic relationships that determine which among so many of the same kind of trees are made into images of Buddha. It is also because of karma that some Buddhas are born as provisional ones.
Nichiren Daishonin became a votary of the Lotus Sutra, not because of his relation with the Lotus Sutra in this lifetime, but because of past karma --- because he practiced the sutra in his past existences. Trees are insentient, but some of them "are made into images of Buddha" --- for example, the Gohonzon. Others become bars in a prison. The Daishonin says that "it is karmic relationships that determine" their fate because plants cannot think or act on their own will. What they are made into depends on their inherent karma, and that decides who will use them.
For every effect, there is always a cause that produced it. The law of causality unites past, present and future. There are Buddhas and Buddhas. Some are the Buddhas of Hinayana teachings, others of provisional Mahayana teachings. Each has a different task and a different power, and all of this derives from their karma, from their acts in past existences.
We are engaged in the propagation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as true disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, but what about those who have no firm basis for their lives? What they consider to be happiness is as ephemeral as a thin blanket of snow in the noonday sun, as fleeting as a mirage, and as rootless as duckweed floating at the mercy of waves. How fragile, illusionary and empty their way of living is, engulfed in the constant changes of life ! Think of the misery a man feels when stripped of a reputation that once intoxicated him. Or of the petty, short-lived "haughtiness of ashura" --- those who were in some position of authority yesterday, but are removed from power today.
Such people are to be pitied for the weakness and shallowness of their foundation in life. For I know that in the depths of all that flux and phenomenal impermanence, unaffected by anything, lies the ultimate foundation --- the Mystic Law. You must be convinced that people who make that foundation their own have the most meaningful lives of all. My mentor, Josei Toda, was awakened to the fact that his true entity was that of a Bodhisattva of the Earth. When we are awakened to our mission and our true entity, we, too, will feel infinite power welling forth from within. Toda's words, filled with a thousand emotions, still ring in my heart, as in his poem written for me:
Now in bud is the mystic bond
Which we formed of old.
Let it come into full bloom
Stout-hearted and magnificent.
Our predecessors, who developed the Soka Gakkai into what it is today, were always aware of "the mystic bond which we formed of old" as they continued their struggle. You are now fighting as members of the Soka Gakkai, the group of Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Believe that it is because of your past karma, and fight courageously on to accomplish your mission. Attain your ultimate purpose in this life, for only by so doing can you lead a life of complete fulfillment.
Faith, Practice and Study
In this letter, I have written my most important teachings. Grasp their meaning and make them part of your life. Believe in the Gohonzon, the supreme object of worship in the world. Forge strong faith and receive the protection of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas. Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
With my deep respect, Nichiren
The seventeenth day of the fifth month
I touched on the meaning of "my most important teachings" earlier. This Gosho contains the essence of all of Nichiren Daishonin's teachings: the supreme law and core of Buddhism that must be spread in the Latter Day; the revelation of the Buddha of the Latter Day; the way the Daishonin's disciples should practice their faith. Here he tells us again to understand them deeply and make them part of our lives.
"Make them part of your life" means for us to engrave his teachings in our hearts and practice exactly as this Gosho directs. Our Gohonzon is "the supreme object of worship in the world." I believe that the Daishonin's Buddhism is the very religion that can bring peace to humankind and that the Dai-Gohonzon is the crystallization of its essence. The rest depends entirely on our faith. He therefore urges us to "forge strong faith and receive the protection of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas."
Faith is not something that will someday deepen of itself. We must progress positively, with confidence, and no matter what obstacle may hinder us, we must resolve to turn it around and use it to advance another step, with the Gohonzon as our pillar. This requires courage, but if we continue in courageous faith, Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas will always protect us.
Shakyamuni's protection is the welling up of Buddha nature --- the most fundamental change that can occur in our lives. Taho's protection appears as a life filled with benefits. The protection of all the other Buddhas means that all those around us will be awakened to the True Law and will, together with us, build an ideal, harmonious human society where peace, equality and justice are at last attained.
"Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism." I hope you have memorized this and all the sentences that follow. I have talked about "practice and study" as stressed in this Gosho on many occasions, so here I will go into the teaching, "Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism." Buddhism exists in practice and study, in the efforts of living people who practice and study it. Buddhism is not contained in sutras, books, or the characters with which they are written. Nor is it found in the temples or other buildings. Buddhism exists and manifests itself only in the life of each person who studies the Gosho and practices his faith strictly according to the Daishonin's teachings. The Soka Gakkai is carrying out a global movement to propagate Buddhism. Its members remain in close contact with each other and concentrate upon developing the faith of others as well as their own. Remember that the true stream of Buddhism only lives and breathes in the association and mutual encouragement of us believers.
"You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others." This is the principle of jigyo and keta: to practice Buddhism for ourselves and also teach it to other people. We must become happy ourselves, and at the same time make others happy.
"Both practice and study arise from faith." Faith is the basis of both practice and study, and faith is always manifested as practice and study. These three --- faith, practice and study --- become the most important objective of the Soka Gakkai.
"Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase." This tells us to do shakubuku to the full extent of our capabilities and to the degree that our circumstances allow, even if we can only teach others a single sentence or phrase of Buddhism.
Eternally Master and Disciple
I have already passed on to you many of my important teachings. Those I have revealed to you in this letter are especially important. Is there not a mystic bond between us ? Are you not the embodiment of one of the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth headed by Jogyo who led bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands of the sixty thousand Ganges Rivers? There must be some profound reason for our relationship. I have given you some of the most important teachings relating to my own life and practice. Nichiren may be one of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth, for I have been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo out of my desire to guide all the men and women in Japan. Hence the phrase of the sutra: "Among the bodhisattvas are four who led the entire multitude: The first is called Jogyo; [the second, Muhengyo; the third, Jyogyo; and the fourth, Anryugyo.] They are the four highest leaders." Our deep relationship in the past has made you one of my disciples. By all means keep these matters to yourself. Nichiren has herein committed to writing the teachings of his own enlightenment. I will end here.
"Those I have revealed to you in this letter are especially important." I discussed this sentence at the beginning of this lecture. Nichiren Daishonin gave several very important Gosho to Sairenbo, including Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life, Enlightenment of Plants, and On Prayer. Here he says that this Gosho, The True Entity of Life, contains the most important of all the teachings he has ever conveyed to Sairenbo. He asks if there is not a mystic bond between the two of them, master and disciple. This Gosho carries "the main teachings" concerning Nichiren Daishonin himself --- those on the enlightenment and practice of the Buddha of the Latter Day. Sairenbo, the Daishonin declares, must be one of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, born with a vital mission for kosen-rufu in the Latter Day.
The Daishonin is using strong- understatement when he says, "Nichiren may be one of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth," but it implies that in a transient sense he is Jogyo, the foremost of the four greatest leaders of those bodhisattvas, and that his true entity is the original Buddha from time without beginning. In a word, it expresses his conviction that he is the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
"For I have been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo out of my desire to guide all the men and women in Japan." He says "all the men and women in Japan," but what he really means is "all the people in the world for all eternity." No one other than Nichiren Daishonin ever strove to save all mankind with the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day. He is therefore the supreme leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth and the Buddha of the Latter Day.
"Our deep relationship in the past has made you one of my disciples." Here again he stresses the mystic bond and reminds Sairenbo of his mission. A passage from Reply to Sairenbo reads, "In your letter you say, 'From now on I will forsake all the heretical teachers I have hitherto followed, and regard you, and you alone, as the teacher of the True Law.' But I do not understand this." Why does he say he doesn't understand it? He gives the reason in a fairly long paragraph that follows, but the heart of it is this: "We have been master and disciple ever since the infinite past. This is not a relationship which we just happened to form for the first time in this life. It is not an accidental encounter."
From the Buddhist viewpoint, "I do not understand this" has profound meaning. Sairenbo's words are fitting from a superficial standard. But the Daishonin delved much deeper into the Buddhist master-disciple relationship because he knew of the three existences of life.
This applies to us as well. We did not "just happen" to encounter the Daishonin's Buddhism in this lifetime. Nichiren Daishonin and we have been master and disciples since the infinite past. The members of the Soka Gakkai have always been brothers, sisters and friends. And now we have again come together in this world, assuming new personalities and positions, and are marching onward to accomplish our mission for kosen-rufu.
The infinite past is here and now. Let us always remember that we, united by bonds we established in the infinite past, must advance hand in hand as brothers and sisters of Buddhism. As we learned earlier, "There can be no discontinuity between past, present and future." Our togetherness at this moment is a mirror of life reflecting both the remote past and the distant future. Believing this, let us continue to enlarge our circle of itai doshin (many in body, one in mind), studying together, respecting and encouraging one another.
To borrow the Daishonin's words, "our deep relationship in the past has made" us members of the Soka Gakkai. You have great capabilities accruing from that relationship, and your responsibilities are equally great. As a line in the "Song of Human Revolution" goes, "You have a mission to accomplish in this world."
"By all means keep these matters to yourself. Nichiren has herein committed to writing the teachings of his own enlightenment." The people in the Daishonin's day could not grasp the ultimate essence of his Buddhism. Out of consideration for the unthinking doubts they might harbor, he told Sairenbo to keep the letter to himself. But it also means that we must imprint his teachings indelibly on our lives. He concludes by saying that this, The True Entity of Life, is an important writing which consists of "the teachings of his own enlightenment."