Clearly, then, the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws is the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary that Nichiren Daishonin inscribed on October 12, I279. As he revealed in Persecutions Befalling the Buddha, that was the purpose of the Daishonin's advent. With the inscription of the Dai-Gohonzon, the great law was established to save all mankind throughout all time.
Nichikan Shonin made the following statement about the greatness of the Dai-Gohonzon:
This is the origin of all Buddhas and sutras and the place to which they return. The blessings of the myriad of Buddhas and sutras throughout space and time, without a single exception, all return to this Gohonzon, which provides the seed of Buddhahood and is hidden in the sutra, just as the tree's hundreds and thousands of branches and leaves all return to the same root. This Gohonzon provides great and boundless benefits. Its mystic functions are vast and profound. so if you take faith in this Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even for a while, no prayer will go unanswered, no sin will remain unforgiven, all good fortune will be bestowed, and all righteousness proven.
Let us all know only the greatest joy in being able to see the Dai-Gohonzon, and never faltering, let us practice our faith all the more intensely until we realize with invincible conviction that to embrace the Gohonzon is to attain Buddhahood. Let us strive to propagate the great law wherever it is in our power to do so, and thus achieve utmost fulfillment in our lives. Deepening our faith this year, let us study harder than ever before and work courageously in our activities for shakubuku so that this year will be one of pride and confidence.
Attitude toward Study
This is one of the most important passages of this treatise, centering on the principle that "embracing the Gohonzon is attaining Buddhahood." First, I urge you to learn the attitude you should take toward reading and studying this writing. Nichiren Daishonin himself discussed this in his cover letter dated April 26, 1273-one day after he wrote The True Object of Worship. I would like to look especially at those passages which relate to this subject.
In the beginning of his letter the Daishonin expressed his thanks for gifts --- summer kimono, sumi inksticks, writing brushes --- and stated: "I have written down some of my thoughts concerning the true object of worship and I am sending the treatise to you (Toki), Ota, Soya and the others." Because he deliberately said "some of my thoughts," one may get the impression that this treatise is relatively insignificant. It is his modesty, however, that made him speak so casually of one of his most vitally important teachings, into which he poured his heart and soul. "It concerns a very important matter, the purpose of my advent. Only those who are strong in faith and open-minded should be allowed to read it." He warns that the content of the treatise demands serious reading, because it is a statement of his own enlightened life-condition.
He knew that Toki, Ota, Soya and the others mentioned in the letter were strong in faith, and therefore he allowed them to read the treatise. Nichiren Daishonin strictly warned them to allow "only those who are strong in faith and open-minded" to share it --- those who thoroughly believe in the Daishonin and persist in faith throughout their lives without faltering, no matter what happens to them.
Let me stress two relevant points in your study: (I) Strengthen your faith so that you can carry it out throughout your life, and (2) sharing the great life force and compassion of the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, develop an unquenchable passion for propagation in this age.
The cover letter also states, "The treatise contains much criticism and few answers. What it reveals, however, has never been heard of before, and it is bound to startle those who read or hear of it. Even if you show it to others, never let three or four persons read it together at a time."
In the history of Buddhism the ultimate truth, the ultimate order, was considered to "beggar all description and defy all imagination," lying beyond the reach of human words and intellect. Even less conceivable was the possibility that it might materialize in a tangible form. But Nichiren Daishonin embodied it as the Gohonzon so that all people could comprehend the truth by chanting daimoku to it. That the Gohonzon actually did become a material reality is so difficult to believe or understand that neither existing knowledge nor human reasoning can explain it. Nichiren Daishonin knew that something so incredible would only create suspicion, and that might develop into disbelief and slander, eventually dooming many to the pit of hell. That is why he warns: "Never let three or four persons read it together at a time."
Saying, "Only those who are strong in faith and open minded should be allowed to read it," the Daishonin stressed that only believers who can discuss it together frankly should be allowed to do so. When Nichikan Shonin lectured on The True Object of Worship, he began by con firming the real meaning of the Daishonin's strict warning. Then he said, sensing the bond among his listeners that united them in the same goal and strong, seeking faith, "I feel as if all of you, more than forty people, were one person.
The same is true of ourselves. We are a body of believers who have single-minded faith in the Gohonzon, and united we are working to achieve the noble goal of kosen-rufu. Moreover, I am convinced that Nichiren Daishonin would feel tremendous joy in knowing that such a great number of people, who have pure faith and unity, read and study a work that reveals his innermost enlightenment.
Nichiren Daishonin closed the letter by saying: "In the twenty-two hundred and twenty odd years since the Buddha's passing, the ideas contained in the heart of this treatise have never been revealed before. Despite all the official persecutions befalling me, I expound it now at the beginning of the fifth half-millennium, when the time is ripe for its propagation. I hope those who read it will remain firm in their faith so that both master and disciples can climb Eagle Peak together to pay their respects to Shakyamuni, Taho, and all the other Buddhas in the universe."
The great compassion in this work, the Daishonin's indomitable efforts to leave this letter to posterity even in the face of such severe trials as a government exile to Sado Island, never fails to move me when I read it. He wrote it even while day and night he was hounded by followers of heretical sects, such as Nembutsu, trying to take his life. The quality of the paper of the original text, which consists of seventeen pages, differs between the first and second halves, and the Daishonin had to use both sides of the paper, testifying to destitution so severe he could not even obtain the necessary brushes and paper. No difficulty was too much, however; he encouraged anyone who read the letter to carry out his faith and attain Buddhahood no matter what, since he was emerging into the very core of Buddhism.
The so-called "three Buddhas" --- Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the other Buddhas in the universe --- also stand for the three properties of the Buddha --- the property of the Law, the property of wisdom, and the property of action. They also represent the Buddha with the three enlightened properties of life. "To pay their respects to the three Buddhas" means to awaken to the truth that you are the Buddha with the three enlightened properties, that is, to attain Buddhahood. To "climb Eagle Peak" means that by attaining Buddhahood, our environment also becomes the Buddha's land, clearly signifying the oneness between human life and its environment.
The text we are studying now is just a part of the whole treatise, Kanjin no Honzon Sho, or The True Object of Worship, but because it is the most essential, we can discover the essence of the entire writing by studying it. It is important to be aware that Nichiren Daishonin wrote this treatise during his exile to Sado Island. The Daishonin revealed the object of worship amidst great persecution, and in so doing he taught us the principle of Buddhism: difficulties or obstacles lead us to enlightenment. To me, the profound meaning contained in the treatise comes through powerfully when I consider the period in his life from the time of this writing to the inscription of the Dai-Gohonzon.
The Gohonzon we revere embodies the original Buddha's life-condition, exalted far above any persecution resulting from the devilish nature hidden in the government authority. When we pray to the Gohonzon, therefore, we are taking our difficulties and making them the cause for human revolution. Studying The True Object of Worship has taught me how inexorably true that is, and that is why I urge you to study it also, and preserve your faith and keep it always strong, no matter what the circumstances, so that you can fill the pages of your life with satisfaction and meaning.
The Seed of Wisdom
Question: You have not yet fully answered my question about the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.
"Embracing the Gohonzon is attaining Buddhahood" is the central principle of true Buddhism, as well as the most important teaching in The True Object of Worship. Nichiren Daishonin uses questions and answers to bring out the meaning of this teaching. In the section that precedes the question quoted above, he posed another question: it is difficult to believe and understand that the sacred life of a Buddha exists within all ordinary people. In summary, the Buddha's benefit, power, wisdom and dignity are so magnificent, vast and profound that it is inconceivable for us, ordinary mortals, to possess the same supreme condition of life.
In answer to this question, Nichiren Daishonin quotes passages from sutras. A passage from the Muryogi Sutra, which opens the Lotus Sutra, states that the king of all Buddhas and the queen of the Lotus Sutra join together to give birth to a bodhisattva. The Fugen Sutra, which closes the Lotus Sutra, states: "This Mahayana sutra is the treasure, the eye and the seed of life for all Buddhas in the universe throughout the past, present and future." They are saying that the fortune and virtue of the Buddha are boundless, his wisdom fathomless, and his power vast, but there is some seed, or cause, which has given birth to them all.
According to the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, attaining each of the Buddha's attributes-fortune, virtue, power, wisdom- requires its own corresponding Buddhist austerity. One had to be born over and over again for an unimaginably long period of time to carry out these austerities. This process is like the growth of a tree. Whereas the provisional sutras attempt to analyze each leaf and branch, the Lotus Sutra looks at the seed, the origin of the branches and the leaves. The statement in the Muryogi Sutra, "Infinite meaning derives from the one Law," is the declaration that the one Law produces infinite fortune and wisdom. The Fugen Sutra states that the fortune, virtue and wisdom of all Buddhas are derived from the one original law, but it is the Lotus Sutra that makes the definitive statement. Furthermore, what the sutra has revealed as the Law, that is, the original seed, is the title of the sutra --- Myoho-renge-kyo, or ultimately Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
To embrace Myoho-renge-kyo is to embrace the seed of all Buddhas. If Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is planted in the life of a common mortal, he will be endowed with all the fortune, virtue and wisdom of the Buddha; and when it is nurtured with care he will eventually reap the fruit of the benefits and wisdom of Buddhahood. This is the meaning of juji soku kanjin: embracing the Gohonzon, the embodiment of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is attaining Buddhahood. In any case, the above quoted passage, "Question: You have not yet . . . ," seeks a definitive answer to the preceding doubt about the possibility of Buddhahood inherent in all people. The questioner demands a full explanation, so that he can dispel all his doubts about the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.
Answer: The Muryogi Sutra states: "[If you embrace this sutra,] you will naturally receive the benefits of the six paramitas without having to practice them."
The sentence quoted in the answer appears in the explanation of the seventh of the ten "mystic powers of benefit contained in this sutra" mentioned in the Muryogi Sutra. Needless to say, because the Muryogi Sutra is an introduction to the Lotus Sutra, "this sutra" means the Lotus Sutra, specifically its title, Myoho-renge-kyo. The passage that includes the quoted sentence reads as follows:
If good people, men and women alike, hearing this sutra either during the Buddha's lifetime or after his departure, rejoice, believe and develop a seeking spirit; if they embrace, read, recite, copy, preach and practice its teaching; if they aspire to Buddhahood, manifest all the good properties of life and foster a spirit of great compassion; and if they wish to save all people from suffering, they will naturally receive the benefits of the six paramitas without having to practice them; they will awaken to the law of eternity in themselves; all their delusions of life and death and earthly desires will be immediately destroyed, and they will rise to the seventh stage of bodhisattva practice.
If you carry out faith for others as well as for yourself with joy, seeking spirit and gratitude, you will naturally develop and manifest the benefits of the six paramitas, even though you do not practice all those that are essential to the bodhisattva austerities. This is because "this sutra" or Myoho-renge-kyo contains the treasures of all the Buddhas.
Let me elaborate on the six paramitas. They are six different kinds of practice which the bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism were required to carry out in order to attain Buddhahood. There is even a whole sutra that specifically deals with them alone, and they have been the essential practice in Mahayana Buddhism since ancient times. Paramita is a transliteration of the Sanskrit and stands for "salvation" or "reaching the other shore." "This shore" is the human life-condition, ridden by suffering and illusion, whereas the other shore is nirvana, or the life-condition of enlightenment. Each of the six paramitas must be practiced in order to cross over to the other shore of enlightenment. Do not overlook this point: this passage of the Muryogi Sutra teaches us that those who embrace the Mystic Law do not have to practice the six paramitas as austerities, but that they will naturally acquire all the benefits which would follow from their practice.
Then, what do the six paramitas stand for? Frankly, I think we can say that they represent the attributes which make human beings truly ''human.'' Throughout the ages men have pondered human attributes, and the pursuit of the truth of humanity has spurred men to think, to probe, to write, and countless minds have groped for answers. I think the six paramitas are, in a sense, a systematic answer to their vital quest. They are also the sure guideline for our movement toward human revolution, toward the reformation and completion of an individual self. In short, they provide us with the goals of our human revolution.
The first of the six paramitas is almsgiving. There are three kinds of almsgiving: the almsgiving of treasure, which means material offerings; the almsgiving of the Law, which means preaching and teaching of the Law; and the almsgiving of fearlessness, which means to remove fear and give peace of mind. I will not go into detail, but let me simply remind you that material offerings are not the only means of giving alms. Buddhists place greater emphasis on preaching and teaching of the Law, or removing fear and giving peace of mind.
Material offerings limit salvation to a short period of time. Since material things are limited, they cannot offer complete salvation. Take a famished person, for example. If you give him bread, he can survive only another day. Instead, if you teach him practical skills, he can work and survive throughout his life without being hungry. This is, in a general sense, the almsgiving of the Law. For those who sink into despair so deep that they lose the will to live even when they can earn a living, it is necessary to give alms in the form of fearlessness, since it removes fear and anxiety and gives them hope and peace of mind.
In Beethoven's talks about "joy through suffering," we can be uplifted. His words become, in effect, the almsgiving of fearlessness. The almsgiving of treasure causes a person to rely on another and tends to deprive him of his spirit of independence, whereas the almsgiving of the Law and of fearlessness brings the spirit and ability of independence. Remember that in Buddhism the almsgiving of the Law and of fearlessness is of utmost importance. As we practice our faith, shakubuku, lectures and guidance to introduce and explain Buddhism to others are the almsgiving of the Law, which includes the almsgiving of fearlessness.
Once you embrace the Mystic Law, the practice of almsgiving requires courage. Of course, the spirit of Buddhism is basically compassion, but the late president Toda used to say, "We are common mortals. Even though you talk about practicing compassion, it is easier said than done. Courage goes hand in hand with compassion. Courage leads to compassion." Your courageous and imperturbable work for propagation, in the face of the rough waves which may assail you, is itself the practice of compassion. Keep in your mind the Daishonin's words, "You cannot be cowards and still be Nichiren's disciples," and advance fearlessly in propagation.
The second of the six paramitas is the keeping of precepts. In Buddhism "precept" is construed as "to stem injustice and to stop evil," meaning to extirpate evil karma created by thought, word and deed, and to interdict Buddhists from all vices. Precepts were originally laid down as norms for those who practiced Buddhism. But since priests who renounced the secular life represented those who practiced Buddhism in its early days, precepts were actually laid down as rules to regulate their collective life. That is why they are generally complicated and cover all aspects of life. As the ages passed and situations changed, people began to find it impossible to carry out the precepts. In fact, they gradually became more harmful to human nature than beneficial. This is why Hinayana Buddhism, which is mainly predicated on precepts, passed into oblivion in the Middle and Latter Days of the Law in China and Japan.
This simply explains the fallacy in thinking that precepts postulated under certain circumstances in a certain society can be applied without revision to people in different circumstances. According to the original purpose of precepts, on the contrary, different precepts should be laid down to fit new circumstances.
As the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds shows, the human mind contains both vice and virtue. A passage of Treatment of Illness reads:
Good and evil have coexisted in human life since time immemorial. According to the provisional teachings and the sects based on them, both good and evil remain in one's life through all the grades of the bodhisattva practice up to the stage of togaku, the one just below Buddhahood. Then only the people at and below togaku have some faults or other. In contrast, the Hokke sect based on the Lotus sutra reveals the principle of ichinen sanzen and shows that both good and evil are inherent even in those at the highest stage of myokaku, or enlightenment. The fundamental nature of enlightenment manifests itself as Bonten and Taishaku, whereas the fundamental darkness manifests itself as the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.*
*Most powerful of the devils, who dwells in the highest of the six realms of the world of desire. He works to prevent believers from practicing Buddhism and delights in dominating people at his will.
The Daishonin says that even a Buddha has all of the Ten Worlds and is the entity of ichinen sanzen. The Buddha possesses the life-conditions of Hell, Hunger, Animality and Anger. Much more so in the case of ordinary people. These evil natures are always trying to manifest themselves. They are linked with the basic instincts of material existence, the fundamental motivation for human survival, and therefore their workings are most likely to dominate. Learning, Realization and Bodhisattva, on the contrary, which represent the good side of life, work to transcend ugly characteristics deeply embedded in our life, and thus they have to work against the instinctive human tendency toward evil. It is like trying to counteract the law of gravitation.
Constant effort and precaution are necessary therefore to prevent yourself from gravitating toward your evil nature, like walking on the edge of a cliff. To keep the precepts is like steering a car safely through on a dangerous road.
Generally speaking, duties which one imposes on himself of his own will can be considered precepts. The French writer Romain Rolland wrote in his Vie de Beethoven: "Often he spoke of the duty which he imposed on himself to act by means of his art 'for poor humanity, for humanity to come,' to help humanity, to restore human courage, and to shake people off from their sleep and cowardice. He wrote to his nephew, 'Our time needs mighty spirits to lash into action these wretched, beggarly human souls.' "* The duty Beethoven imposed on himself was a precept for his own life. In modern terms, a precept is self-restraint or self-control, and in that sense it is a vital requisite of man.
*Translated from Vie de Beethoven (Paris: Librairie Hachette, I920), p. 72.
The third of the six paramitas is perseverance. If you try to scale the highest summit of the human life-condition called Buddhahood, you should naturally be prepared for thorny roads on the way. A proverb says, "It is easy to overcome a robber in the mountains, but difficult to subdue one in the heart." Indeed, the sutras contain innumerable stories about how those who practiced Buddhism had to persevere through great hardships and overcome huge obstacles. The difficulty in perseverance comes out sharply in the story of Shariputra. In his past existence he gave up practicing his faith when he could not bear seeing one of his eyes being thrown away after he had given it to a Brahman as alms.
Shakyamuni Buddha faced and persevered through horrendous persecutions, which are known as "the Nine Great Persecutions." A passage of On Zenmui Sanzo states: "The Buddha, as he made his advent in this world, was named Shakyamuni, which means perseverance. He did not censure but forbore the slanders of all the people." In the Gosho, On Four Kinds of Gratitude, is the passage: "This world is called saha which means 'enduring.' This is why the Buddha [born in this world] is named Shakyamuni (perseverance)." Nichiren Daishonin stressed forbearance as one of Shakyamuni's most important characteristics.
Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day Of the Law, more than anyone else truly and completely epitomized perseverance as he lived through persecutions even greater than anything that befell Shakyamuni Buddha. He made his advent in this evil Latter Day to save the people who slander true Buddhism. Hence the prediction of the Lotus Sutra, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?"
What I have been talking about so far is the discussion of perseverance in relation to the Buddhist austerities and practice. Broadly speaking, life in this world as a human being is always accompanied by experiences which are undesirable, laborious and painful. But how pitiful are those who take their own lives when they find life unbearable!
We must work together to remove the sources of pain and suffering from our society so that people can be happy in life, and much more, we must try to eliminate the stupidity of fighting and abusing each other. Nonetheless, you must realize that despite your efforts, unavoidable suffering will follow you throughout life. It is vital that man persevere through his suffering, and to bear all hardship and pain in order to live the justice he espouses. This vital requirement is what the third of the six paramitas teaches us.