The fourth of the six paramitas is assiduity. It means to give utmost effort, both physical and spiritual, in practicing ceaselessly the five paramitas, including the following two, meditation and wisdom. Assiduity here means to practice ceaselessly.
I would like to expand on this subject in terms of the way we live. Since we are heir to joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure, all of us are naturally imperfect. A true religion does not suppress and mold these subtle human emotions into a fixed pattern, but cherishes each emotion as it sends the courage and vitality to live directly into the heart, the mother of emotions. Imperfection can even be a positive attribute. Since the human being is imperfect, he needs a progressive spirit, and progress gives meaning to existence. If human beings do not make efforts to advance, human society will be plagued by Animality and Anger. That is why assiduity is so crucial. A top can stand on its tip because it spins rapidly; a bicycle maintains balance when it moves ahead. The same is true of human beings. Have you ever noticed the vibrant voice and fresh, glowing complexion of those who are trying to advance and progress?
The fifth of the six paramitas is meditation, implying concentration on the contemplation of truth. Shakyamuni Buddha gives us a typical example of this paramita of meditation or mental concentration. Abandoning severe ascetic practices, bathing in the Nairanjana River and having gruel offered by Sujata, Shakyamuni was purified both physically and spiritually and entered meditation under the Bodhi tree. Later on, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai of China established the idea of isshin sangan (the wisdom to see the Three Truths in views of the momentary existence of life) and ichinen sanzen (three thousand conditions in a momentary existence of life), stressing specifically the practice of meditation. That is why his teachings are generally referred to as "the Buddhism of the meditation of the mind and the Law."
As has been stated so far, meditation is a vital form of practice which is the final stage of Buddhist austerities. It is also one of the vital requirements for human existence. What is meditation? In a broad sense it is having goals and ideals to achieve, something fundamental to use as a guide for life. Without clear goals and a secure foundation, both the "perseverance" and "assiduity" will eventually be frustrated. Even if "perseverance" survives frustration, a person will eventually end up feeling a sense of aimlessness and futility. First President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi maintained imperturbable mental and spiritual calm even when he was in prison. His exalted life-condition shines through a passage in a letter he sent to his family from prison:
Unlike the time when I was in the custody of the Metropolitan Police Department, I now live alone in a three-tatami-mat room, and as long as I can read, I feel comfortable and satisfied. Please keep our home secure without worrying about me.... In this solitary prison cell, which I feel is for the better, I am able to dedicate myself to contemplation. I strictly observe morning and evening gongyo, and I never neglect making a special prayer.... Faith is first and foremost for both you and me. Even though this is an ordeal it pales into insignificance before Nichiren Daishonin's. Forge your faith all the more strongly. I think it totally inappropriate to lament the present hardship, for we live bathed in vast and boundless blessings. As the sutras and the Gosho teach us, we will certainly see later on through experience that "poison never fails to turn into medicine."
President Makiguchi's clear mind and sublime attitude are a good example of the meditative spirit that comes of living the cause of Buddhism, despite persecution.
People's minds are unstable, and vulnerable to changing situations and groundless rumors, because of their lack of the fundamental guidelines --- the composure of "meditation." As a result, entire societies lose sight of the humanistic way of life and end up hurting and killing one another. The history of humankind has demonstrated the deplorable propensities of man, confirming my belief that we can best contribute to lasting peace through propagation of true Buddhism, the only faith that gives human beings a fundamental support from within.
The last of the six paramitas is wisdom, wisdom which enables one to master all the laws, remove deluded views and perceive truth as it is. The ultimate goal of Buddhist practice is to achieve Buddhahood. Buddha means an awakened or enlightened one, that is, a person who has awakened and attained wisdom. This is made clear by the original Sanskrit word Buddha which derives from budh, meaning enlightenment or perfect wisdom. Hence, another title of the Buddha is the Enlightened One.
Enlightenment or wisdom in contemporary language is often used to mean specific knowledge in physics, economics, mathematics, or any other field. In contrast to that kind of wisdom, which differs according to the field, the ultimate wisdom that is the source of and embraces them all, is the wisdom the Buddha possesses. That is why the Buddha's wisdom is called anuttara-samyak-sambodhi in Sanskrit. Anuttara means to be supreme, the highest; samyak stands for equity and impartiality as well as purity and all-inclusiveness, and sambodhi connotes full awakening or unsurpassed wisdom. The Sanskrit phrase as a whole means "the supreme and all-inclusive wisdom and the supreme and impartial awakening."
Wisdom, as the last of the six paramitas, means then the ultimate awakening or wisdom in Buddhism. Generally applied to ways of living, however, wisdom has also been considered a fundamental attribute for man in all times and places. In the contemporary Western world, human beings are categorized as Homo Sapiens, to distinguish them from the earlier Pithecanthropus and Homo erectus. While Homo Sapiens means one who has sagacity, intelligence and wisdom, in ancient India people called human beings manusha or "thinking human," for they regarded wisdom as the characteristic of man.
By means of wisdom human beings have been able to grasp myriad's of phenomena and have understood the law of causality which governs them. This understanding has enabled them to foresee what will ensue from a given phenomenon and how to prepare for it. Thus, wisdom has enabled human beings to gain the power necessary to protect themselves from the menaces of nature and to harness those forces for constructive purposes. In fact, biologically speaking, human beings, feeble and fragile as they are, have continued to survive until the present age by virtue of their wisdom.
On the other hand, man, who has conquered all other living beings with his powerful intellect, now sets about to destroy nature and even jeopardize his own existence. At this crucial point our lives depend on controlling and reorienting the destructive power of knowledge by the wisdom of the internal self, which springs from the depths of life. It is Buddhism which gives us the wisdom of the innermost self That is why I cannot overstress the need to recognize that Buddhist wisdom is the highest requirement for contemporary mankind.
The True Object of Worship
- Kanjin no Honzon Sho -
Lecture 2 of 3 from Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1.
To Embrace Is to Attain
We have seen so far that the six paramitas deal specifically with the requirements necessary for human beings to live as "humans." Other philosophies and religions have merely preached them separately, but the six paramitas must be expounded as a whole. Stressing only one or two of them will lead to an impasse, or to partiality and dogmatism. Following only the paramita of almsgiving or altruism, most people, since they live in the realities of life, will give in to resignation. The practice of keeping precepts alone will kill a progressive spirit, lead to stagnation and spiritual distortion. The attachment to forbearance alone will open the way to evil and vice, and assiduity alone will lead one to trample on others. Meditation alone will remove one from the realities of life and might lead to self-righteousness. Similarly, wisdom independent of the other paramitas will allow a person to grow crafty and sly.
In order for human beings to live as "humans," therefore, these requirements must be fulfilled at the right time and in the right place. In this sense, the fact that the six paramitas were given together is truly significant; but what is vitally important is the phrase of the Muryogi Sutra, ". . . you will naturally receive the benefits of the six paramitas." To paraphrase that, when you embrace the Mystic Law, you will naturally receive the benefits of the six paramitas in their entirety. And Myoho-renge-kyo is the entity which harmoniously manifests all the requirements revealed in the six paramitas.
The six paramitas as taught in this context originally mean the practice of bodhisattvas who aspire for Buddhahood, but more fundamentally, they mean that the Ten Worlds and the three thousand conditions are all contained in the single law of Myoho-renge-kyo, and that each of them manifests itself in the right place and time. Anyone can experience all of the Ten Worlds and the three thousand conditions, and in order for human beings to live in the ideal human condition, every one of them is necessary. When the integration of the Ten Worlds breaks down, one's existence becomes restrictive and discordant, giving rise to sorrow and pain.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the power that contains and integrates all things. A passage of this True Object of Worship states:
The true object of worship is described in the ceremony of the transmission as follows: "In the air above the saha world [which the Buddha of the essential teaching identified as the pure and eternal land], Nam-myoho-renge-kyo appears in the center of the Treasure Tower with Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas seated to the right and left, and the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth, led by Jogyo, flank them...."
Without Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, every one of the Ten Worlds, which originally possesses the Ten Worlds within itself, becomes disintegrated from the others, causing people to suffer from pain and solitude. As described above, however, once it is predicated on the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, all the workings of human life, from Hell to Buddhahood, are oriented so they can manifest their original qualities and naturally work for the well-being of humanity. That is why Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is called "the perfect and full teaching."
When you base your life on the Gohonzon, your life will be neither frustrated nor led into an impasse, and you will naturally receive all the benefits which would ensue from the practice of the six paramitas. A human life which becomes one with the Mystic Law through chanting also simultaneously comes into perfect harmony with the great cosmic life, and this invigorated life will turn all obstacles into springboards for growth and dynamically change negative situations into positive ones.
All our behaviors are oriented in the right direction so that they can manifest themselves as the intrinsic workings of our essential life --- Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. A passage of the Gosho reads: "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle? . . . Wherever your daughter may frolic or play, no harm will come to her; she will be free from fear like the lion king." This passage implies the life-condition of the original Buddha, but even we ordinary people will eventually be able to attain the same state of mind if we continue to practice faith on the basis of the Gohonzon. This is what is meant by "you will naturally receive the benefits of the six paramitas."
The late president Josei Toda said, "In order to help people achieve the unrestricted state of mind that will allow them to live as they wish in the great ocean of benefits, I will fight, donning the robe of forbearance and wielding the sword of compassion." I pray that you will all construct your lives so that you can derive great benefits and deep satisfaction.
The Teaching of Perfect Endowment
The Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra says: "They wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment." The Nirvana Sutra states: "Sad indicates perfect endowment." Bodhisattva Nagarjuna comments: "Sad signifies six." The Daijo Shiron Gengi Ki (Annotation of the Four Mahayana Theses) states: "Sad connotes six. In India the number six implies perfect endowment." In his annotation of the Lotus Sutra, Chia-hsiang writes, "Sad means perfect endowment." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai remarks: "Sad is a Sanskrit word, which is translated as myo."
In this passage Nichiren Daishonin expands on the preceding sentence quoted from the Muryogi Sutra. Here he refers to sentences from sutras, treatises and annotations to demonstrate how the Gohonzon, the embodiment of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, possesses in itself all practices and their resulting virtuous effects.
The quotation from the Lotus Sutra refers to the question which Shariputra, representing the audience, asked the Buddha. In answer, the Buddha explained the purpose of a Buddha's advent in this world --- to open and reveal the Buddha-wisdom, for the sake of all people, and then to let them realize that wisdom and enter the state of Buddhahood. This means precisely to let people attain the law of the supreme vehicle. The Lotus Sutra in its entirety reveals this law, which is Myoho-renge-kyo. The entity of "the teaching of perfect endowment" Shariputra asked about is, therefore, Myoho-renge-kyo.
The Daishonin devotes the rest of the passage to the Sanskrit word sad, translated as myo of Myoho-renge-kyo, meaning endowment and the number six. The title of the Lotus Sutra reads Saddharma-pundarika-sutra in Sanskrit, and Kumarajiva translated it as Myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren Daishonin interprets Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his Ongi Kuden: "In Sanskrit it reads Saddharma-pundarika-sutra, which is translated here as Myoho-renge-kyo. Sad is myo, dharma ho, pundarika renge, and sutra kyo."
The annotation, rendered by the Chinese Buddhist scholar Hui-chun, explains why the same Sanskrit word sad assumes the dual meaning of "endowment" in the Nirvana Sutra, and "six" by Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. In ancient India the number six was considered synonymous with perfect endowment. This was probably because the people in ancient India used the number six as the basis of their numerical notation. Even now many numerical systems throughout the world are based on the senary system, including the duodecimal demarcation of the day, the twenty-four hours of the day, the twelve months of the year, the three hundred and sixty degrees of the circle, the zodiac, the dozen and so forth. The enduring prevalence of these traditions testifies to the profound significance of the number six.
The Mystic Law is inherent in all things because it embodies the law of life present in all phenomena of the universe. The Gosho, On the Mongol Emissary, reads: "The texts of non-Buddhist philosophies and the Hinayana or provisional Mahayana scriptures of Buddhism explain but parts of the law of life. They do not elucidate it as does the Lotus Sutra." The Lotus Sutra brings out "life" in its totality, while the other sutras and non-Buddhist scriptures explain life only in its individual aspects. All philosophies, whatever their sources may be, are explanations of some part of the Mystic Law, and they are therefore infused with new life when their practice is based on the Mystic Law. The six paramitas symbolize the causes and the beneficial effects of Shakyamuni's Buddhism. They are incorporated into Myoho-renge-kyo, which establishes the totality of life, of which nothing is independent.
Boundless Benefits of the Gohonzon
An arbitrary interpretation of these quotations may distort their meaning, but in essence they mean that Shakyamuni's practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the single phrase, Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in that phrase, we shall naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.
Here the Daishonin concludes that embracing Myoho-renge-kyo is attaining Buddhahood. This is by far the most important part of this treatise. He was reserved in his personal interpretation and gave priority to sutras, treatises and annotations. This passage tells us the ultimate truth of Buddhism, the way by which all human beings can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. Thus he lets us see the vast powers and virtues of the Gohonzon which we worship every morning and evening. That is why Nichikan Shonin, the twenty-sixth High Priest, explains the Gohonzon in The Exegesis of The True Object of Worship:
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.
President Josei Toda quoted this passage at every opportunity to give encouragement to those who struggled with sickness and poverty.
"An arbitrary interpretation of these quotations may distort their meaning" applies, more than anyone else, to me, for I am lecturing on the treatise. If I ineptly interpret it, I might incur the Daishonin's rebuke. I sincerely hope you will burn this passage into your hearts and that you will repay Nichiren Daishonin for his great compassion in embodying Myoho-renge-kyo as the Gohonzon for us to worship.
This passage has profound significance, but first let me explain it literally. It means that all the virtues Shakyamuni Buddha attained through practices in past existences and all the benefits he acquired through his efforts to save people after attaining Buddhahood in this life are contained in Myoho-renge-kyo. By embracing this Mystic Law, therefore, we will naturally receive all his virtues and benefits.
"Shakyamuni" and "his practices and the virtues he consequently attained" in the above-quoted passage can both be interpreted in many ways and contain various meanings, however. Nichikan Shonin classifies them into six categories in The Exegesis of The True Object of Worship. "Shakyamuni" here refers to the six types of the Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha revealed himself in different ways according to the depth of his teachings, as he expounded zokyo (Hinayana teachings), tsugyo (lower provisional Mahayana teachings), bekkyo (higher provisional Mahayana teachings) and engyo (true Mahayana). Engyo indicates the Lotus Sutra which consists of the theoretical and the essential teachings. The Buddha's five appearances in the zokyo, tsugyo, bekkyo and the two halves of the Lotus Sutra fall under the category of Shakyamuni's Buddhism, while Nichiren Daishonin reveals his identity as the Buddha of the Latter Day who expounds Nam-myoho-renge-kyo- the ultimate law of life hidden in the depths of the Juryo (sixteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. In this connection, the Daishonin is also called "Shakyamuni," expounded in the in-depth interpretation of the Lotus Sutra.
"Shakyamuni's practices and the virtues he consequently attained" in the Gosho text not only refers to the aspects of Shakyamuni mentioned above, but also any other Buddha. That is why Nichikan Shonin states in his Exegesis of The True Object of Worship:
The practices of all Buddhas and all their resultant virtues are contained in the five characters of the Mystic Law. The benefits of the Gohonzon are therefore vast and boundless. Its mystic functions are vast and profound. Any mention of Shakyamuni in the passage therefore represents all Buddhas and the virtues they attained.
The Gohonzon, then, is the treasure into which the practices and virtues of all Buddhas throughout space and time are condensed. Its mystic function envelops the universe.
How Shakyamuni Buddha practiced Buddhism and how he attained Buddhahood is explained in the question posed in the passage preceding the text. Though Shakyamuni is thought to have attained enlightenment in India at the age of thirty, his practice of Buddhism spanned the period of sanzen-jintengo, during which he practiced Buddhism as Prince Nose, Bodhisattva Judo, King Shibi and Prince Satta, and made offerings to many other Buddhas. The joy he felt after he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree defies description.
In the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha said that his enlightenment occurred during the time of gohyaku-jintengo, proving that he practiced the bodhisattva austerities before that time. The virtues he attained are incomparably greater than those he enjoyed after attaining Buddhahood in his life in India, as he describes: "Appearing in the worlds throughout space, I expounded all of the sacred teachings and enlightened myriad's of people." Even in the capacity of the Buddha who attained Buddhahood in this life, his past practices were extremely severe, as are shown in the examples of Sessen Doji and Gyobo Bonji.
I would like to say something about Makasatta (Prince Satta), who is mentioned elsewhere in this Gosho. An unimaginably long time ago there lived a king named Makarada, who had three princes, Makahanara, Makadaiba and Makasatta. One day the king took them to the countryside, and while walking in a great bamboo grove they met an injured tigress. She seemed seriously hurt and unable to hunt, though famished. Seven baby tigers, about a week old, surrounded her. Makahanara said, "The tigress bore seven babies and is now so hungry that she will probably even devour her babies before long." Whereupon Makadaiba grew sad, saying, "The poor tigress will die. I wonder if we could do anything to save her." Listening to his elders, Makasatta thought, "My flesh and blood is destined to perish, even though it is reborn a hundred and thousand times. It will simply perish without benefiting anything. Therefore I will discard my life this moment."
After his father and elder brothers left, he took off his clothes and threw himself before the famished tigress. Undoubtedly frightened by his bold attitude, the tigress did nothing but growl. Then, he climbed up to the top of a nearby cliff and again he threw himself down before the tigress. But the tigress was too emaciated to prey upon him. Finally he used his last ounce of energy to stab a decayed bamboo stalk into his carotid artery. Sucking the fresh blood which gushed out, the famished tigress quickly regained her vitality and devoured the prince, leaving nothing but his bones.
Telling the story to his disciple Ananda, Shakyamuni Buddha identified the prince as himself in a past existence dedicated to the Buddhist practice of almsgiving. The story is known as "Discarding Life for the Tiger." The Konkomyo Sutra describes the scene as the prince gave up his life at that moment:
All of a sudden the earth jolted in six different ways, rising and falling like waters fanned by a gale; the sun lost its brilliance as if in a total eclipse; the heaven showered all kinds of flowers and fragrances, which, falling in mixture filled the forest, and the heavenly beings all extolled him in chorus.
This is one of the stories which testify to the extreme severity of practice Shakyamuni carried out before he attained enlightenment. All these practices, however, constitute only a part of the vast and boundless benefit of the Mystic Law.
The benefit Shakyamuni attained through his practices shows clearly the working of the law of cause and effect expounded in his Buddhism, and how the present effect is always the result of a past cause. President Toda often drew an analogy to the Johari Mirror when he talked about this subject. The mirror hung in the palace of King Enma, and was also called the Mirror of Karma. When King Enma interviewed the deceased he said, "You have done this much wrong while you were alive, haven't you?" But the deceased tried to deny it, "I have done nothing of the sort, I can assure you, sir." The king retorted, saying, "Take a look in the Mirror of Karma over there!" Much to his surprise, the deceased could see all the evils he committed when he was alive in the mirror.