The True Object of Worship Kanjin no Honzon Sho


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Thirdly, it is important to firmly protect the precious organization of Buddhists wherein you encourage and teach each other. Nichiren Daishonin states in The Three Priests' Prayers for Rain: "There is no better way to attain Buddhahood than to have good friends (zenchishiki). What good will one's own wisdom do? If one has sense enough to distinguish between hot and cold, he should treasure his good friends. However, the most difficult thing of all is to meet a good friend." In order for us common mortals to attain Buddhahood, there is no way but to meet good friends, and the Daishonin therefore urges us to seek them out.

I want you to understand that each one of you is a good friend to everyone else. The Nichiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai consists of individuals gathered to encourage and polish each other under the common goal of attaining Buddhahood and kosen-rufu. We must treasure and respect our Buddhist association and our Buddhist friends, for they are part of the most valuable treasure we have. To protect them is to protect the sutra.

Our association still has a long way to go toward worldwide propagation. But the dignity of the original Buddha running deeply within it will brighten the future of mankind in the decades to come. My conviction comes from an unshakable belief in the Daishonin's words in The True Entity of Life: "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'?" To protect yourself and your Buddhist organization dedicated to justice is to protect the future of all mankind.

To Hear the Sutra Is to Live It

To "hear" in the quote from Chapter Ten means to embrace the Gohonzon. In the Ongi Kuden, Nichiren Daishonin interprets "hearing" in terms of faith and practice. The section concerning "Thus I heard" reads, ". . . according to T'ien-t'ai, 'I heard' symbolizes those who strongly embrace the sutra.... People who do not believe in the sutra never hear the sutra in this sense. Those who practice the Lotus Sutra hear the essence of this phrase."

"To hear the Law for even a single moment" means that even if you only embrace the Gohonzon and practice for a moment, you are able to manifest the supreme enlightenment of the Buddha at that moment. Every moment that we believe in the Gohonzon and chant daimoku, the life-condition of Buddhahood wells up from within us. If you begin the day with a sincere recitation of gongyo, praying to achieve your goals, and conclude it with evening gongyo, chanting daimoku with gratitude to the Gohonzon, you will attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, and in all future existences.

Let me quote a relevant passage from T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra) which clarifies the meaning of "Thus I heard." "Question: You should say, 'My ears hear., Why do you instead say, 'I hear,? Answer: 'I, indicates the master of the ears. It receives all perceptions. This is how the world is understood." The true meaning of "hearing" is not merely the auditory function but perception with all the power of one's life itself. In other words, all human perceptions, including consciousness, work collectively at the same time. "I" thus signifies life in its totality.

Elsewhere in the same work, T'ien-t'ai quotes Bodhisattva Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra which reads, "There are three kinds of self in common mortals: the deluded self, the arrogant self and the original self." "Self" can be interpreted in many ways, but it is vital to grasp the nature of self. If it is a deluded or arrogant self, then the true spirit of Buddhism cannot enter into one's life. To be exact, "I" of "Thus I heard" is Ananda, one of the ten major disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, and the treatise says about him, "Ananda is a man of pursuing spirit who, free from his deluded self, firmly subdued his arrogant self. Thus he well deserves to be called a man of the original self." When you eliminate arrogance and illusion and seek Buddhism with a pure seeking spirit, you can, like him, say that you "hear" Buddhism in the deepest sense of the word.

T'ien-t'ai also says, "To expand on the meaning of 'hearing" Ananda was born the very night the Buddha attained enlightenment. He served the Buddha for more than twenty years, but he did not 'hear' the Buddha's teachings before he served the Buddha." T'ien-t'ai meant that to "serve" the Buddha is to "hear" the teachings. "Hearing" in this context is not merely listening to words; it means a life-to-life interchange. Onshitsu (hatred and jealousy) critically impedes this life-to-life contact of faith. To define onshitsu, Nichiren Daishonin quotes Miao-lo in the Gosho: "On indicates having ill feelings, and shitsu means unwillingness to listen [to the Buddha's teaching]."

Think hard about what he means by "unwillingness to listen." "Good advice sounds harsh to ears" and "Good medicine tastes bitter" are common proverbs. Common mortals remain common mortals exactly because they do not like hearing what is disagreeable and painful. On the contrary, they are all too easily swayed by flattery and adulation. As long as you take the line of least resistance, you cannot expect to grow. Worse, you are creating the cause for your own ruin, since you surround yourself with people who do not help build inner strength, but rather, serve to tear it down.

In a story from Taikoki (The Life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi) by Eiji Yoshikawa, a character named Menju Iyeteru appears. He was mentor to the attendants of Shibata Katsuiye, one of the powerful feudal lords of sixteenth century Japan. He was also a man of considerable insight, in spite of his youth. He felt that Shibata was behaving wildly, so one day he turned down a page in a book his lord wanted to borrow so he would notice it. Seeing the corner folded over, Shibata looked at that page and what he read there was an implicit remonstration against his behavior. Reading on, he felt displeasure sweep through him. From that time on the lord always kept Menju away from him.

Who was a faithful subject? Later on, when Shibata's troops were almost wiped out by Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the battle of Shizuga-take, it was Menju who saved Shibata's life. As their forces began to retreat, Menju repeatedly implored Shibata to hand over the banner that would identify him as the leader. Shibata gave in, and no sooner had Menju taken it than he turned his horse around and, together with a small number of soldiers, rode straight back into the enemy's ranks, dying a heroic death. At that, Shibata realized immediately Menju's deep loyalty. He was pierced by remorse that he had given the banner to him, but it was too late. The victor, Toyotomi Hidoyoshi, is said to have reverently buried Menju's severed head and then sought out his mother to give her his personal condolences. This episode was originally written down to illustrate the loyalty of a subject to his lord, vaunting the values of the age of warring lords, but I think that we can glean another precious lesson from it. Shibata Katsuiye was unwilling to listen to Menju Iyeteru. His arrogance and negligence led him to take the line of least resistance, which caused his defeat at the battle, and ultimately, his death.

We must plunge in among our fellow members, speaking and carefully listening to everything they have to say. The horrible aspect about onshitsu is that it creates a wall between the hearts of members, destroying the unity. Once fenced off by these walls, our hearts become victim to the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity. Then we unconsciously destroy all of our own good fortune. This is why individual guidance and sincere person-to-person encouragement are so significant. In the long run, an organization can live up to its purpose only when it can nourish each individual member. True, it requires tremendous life force to listen to your troubled and grieved friends and it also takes tremendous courage to open your hearts to those who are hard to get along with. But the very difficulty involved is a valuable thing in attaining your own human revolution and awakening souls that have long lain dormant in the lives of those friends. I urge you to muster up your courage, to move, listen and speak to them all. The Daishonin says in the Gosho, "When you split one joint in the bamboo, all the others follow." So, no matter how harsh your situation may be, when you face it directly and break through it, like splitting one joint in the bamboo, you can create a new, much better situation. Above all, pray to the Gohonzon with this conviction in your heart, for every prayer allows your inner, true self to shine.

All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas Within

The Juryo chapter reads: "The time is limitless and boundless a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand nayuta aeons* since I in fact attained Buddhahood." Present within our lives is the Lord Shakyamuni who obtained the three enlightened properties of life before gohyaku-jintengo, the original Buddha since time without beginning. The Juryo chapter states: "Once I also practiced the bodhisattva austerities, and the life which I then acquired has yet to be exhausted. My life will last yet twice as many aeons from now." He was speaking of the world of Bodhisattva within ourselves. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are the followers of Lord Shakyamuni in our lives. They follow the Buddha just as T'ai-kung and Tan, the Duke of Chou, served as ministers to King Wu of the Chou dynasty and later assisted his son and successor, the infant King Ch'eng; or just as Takeshinchi served Empress Jingu and later her grandson Crown Prince Nintoku as a highly valued minister. Bodhisattvas Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo and Anryugyo represent the world of Bodhisattva within our lives.

Nichikan Shonin states that this passage establishes the oneness of subject and lord in terms of kuon ganjo* time without beginning or end. In other words, the Buddha (lord) and bodhisattvas (subjects) are one in our single entity of life. Both the Buddha of kuon ganjo and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth exist within ourselves when we develop the inner life of kuon ganjo.

The first quote in the passage reveals the time of gokyaku-jintengo when Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood. The Daishonin refers to the Buddha of beginningless time who attained Buddhahood "before gohyaku-jintengo." The word "before" indicates that he is shifting time reference from the temporal framework of gohyaku-jintengo to that of kuon ganjo, time without beginning or end. Nichiren Daishonin said in The Entity of the Mystic Law, "Before gohyaku-jintengo Shakyamuni attained the entity of the Lotus Flower of the Mystic Law and then appeared in various worlds to show how to attain Buddhahood, revealing the ultimate principle to which the people are yet to be enlightened." This passage and the text given above point to the same frame* that of kuon ganjo or "before gohyaku-jintengo." According to The Exegesis of The True Object of Worship by Nichikan Shonin, ga jitsu jobutsu irai (since I attained Buddhahood) refers to the three enlightened properties of life as an entirety: ga (self) signifies the enlightened property of the Law, jobutsu (attaining enlightenment) the enlightened property of wisdom, and irai (the time since enlightenment) the enlightened property of action.

The second quote in the text reveals the practice through which Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood. The practice represents the True Cause, the nine worlds that have existed in our lives since time without beginning --- kuon ganjo. The first quote refers to the True Effect which symbolizes the Buddhahood of kuon ganjo. The two quotes reveal that both the True Cause and the True Effect exist in our own lives.

Nichikan Shonin interprets the second quote in the text as "a natural flow," and as he puts it, "just as all rivers flow into the ocean," so all your activities based on true Buddhism will always lead to the ocean of resulting virtues (Buddhahood). This principle bears profound significance to our practice. In the ordinary world, in spite of all your efforts and pains you do not necessarily attain your objectives. In many cases you may end up a miserable failure. In real life the same causes do not necessarily bring about the same results, and efforts often turn out to be futile, or even become tragedies.

In Buddhism, however, no cause ever fails to produce its effect; all causes lead toward a greater effect. Dedication to the Gohonzon and efforts to teach it to others are never wasted, becoming the source of blessings. It is a stream which begins in the recesses of the mountain and at first is too small to notice, but it eventually finds its way onto the plains and finally reaches the ocean. Similarly, efforts in the world of Buddhism, no matter how inconspicuous, will inexorably flow into the great ocean of nirvana. This is what "a natural flow" means. Never forget that your painstaking efforts to propagate the Mystic Law will secure you benefits which last forever.

"The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are the followers of Lord Shakyamuni in our lives." The life-conditions of the nine worlds are represented by the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who maintain support of the life-condition of Buddhahood and help to manifest it. They are the followers of the Buddha within ourselves. Thus, the Daishonin assures us that both the Buddha of kuon ganjo and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth exist within our lives. To make the relationship between these two life-conditions easier for his contemporaries to grasp, Nichiren Daishonin used the example of subjects and lords. Ordinarily, one thinks first of feudalistic customs when mention of subjects and lords comes up, but what the Daishonin is stressing is the function of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth to help manifest the life of Buddhahood. He spoke of the oneness of subject and lord in terms of the internal development of human life.

Another important point is implied by the analogy drawn in the text. T'ai-kung was a historical figure in ancient China who was met and singled out by King Wen of the Chou dynasty as an indispensable minister. After the king's death he served his successor, King Wu. After King Wu passed away, T'ai-kung even served his successor, the infant King Ch'eng. Tan, the Duke of Chou, was one of King Wu's younger brothers and therefore an uncle of the infant king. He handled state affairs as regent until the young king reached adulthood. Similarly, in Japan Takeshiuchi no Sukune served the infant Crown Prince Nintoku. These mature and experienced ministers all served infant kings. The analogy is meant to show that though the life-condition of Buddhahood emerges when we first embrace the Gohonzon, it is still weak and underdeveloped. So what is necessary to make the Buddha's life-condition unshakable? The essential factor is the workings of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. They are the single factor that can activate the life-condition of Buddhahood.

The Mission of Propagation

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth represent the life-condition that works to propagate the Mystic Law. They are all bodhisattvas who emerged from the ground in the ceremony of the Lotus Sutra to take on the mission to spread the True Law in the evil Latter Day of the Law. In other words, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth find their raison d'ˆtre in single-minded devotion to the propagation of true Buddhism. They attain their original life-condition when they carry out their mission. Nichiren Daishonin teaches us through this analogy that vigorous practice based on a profound awakening to our mission of kosen-rufu is necessary, for without it we cannot support, protect and foster the life-condition of Buddhahood which exists in the depths of our lives.

In retrospect, the Soka Gakkai owes what it is today to the life-or-death struggle President Makiguchi and President Toda waged in prison to protect true Buddhism. President Josei Toda often told young men's division members: "A man should struggle with the harsh realities of life which confront him, no matter who or where he is, and no matter what task he may shoulder. When I was in prison I made the firm vow: 'Now I am in prison. So long as I am in prison, I will wage my battle right here.' " It was there that President Toda one day suddenly realized his profound mission and attained the supreme life-condition. Later on he said, "On the eve of the day I was released from prison I was able to pledge to the late president, Mr. Makiguchi, 'Our lives are eternal; they have neither beginning nor end. I have realized that we were born with the great mission to propagate the seven characters of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. Judging our capacity from what I now understand, we are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.' "

We can find our own original pledge and mission in the declaration of our revered teacher Toda, and his ceaseless efforts, supported by this conviction and carried out because of his realization, have brought about the unprecedented prosperity of true Buddhism we enjoy today. I ask you, therefore, to understand deeply that as a Bodhisattva of the Earth you can protect, develop and display the vigorous life force as the Daishonin teaches us, when you dedicate yourself to the activities for propagation and work courageously for your own growth.

The Daishonin said, "Bodhisattvas Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo and Anryugyo represent the world of Bodhisattva within our lives." The Four Great Bodhisattvas appear in the Yujutsu (15th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. As numerous as the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers, bodhisattvas emerged rank after rank from the ground led by these four. Our lives contain all of their functions. The innumerable Bodhisattvas of the Earth, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas preached in other sutras, and the living beings in the Ten Worlds all exist within our own lives. That is why Change an wrote in his preface: "The Maka Shikan reveals the teaching that T'ien-t'ai himself practiced in the depths of his being." The Gohonzon, the object of worship for observing one s own mind, is the objective entity that allows the great life-condition existing in one's life to become manifest. "To observe one's own mind" (kanjin) means that embracing the Gohonzon makes that life-condition manifest.

Society fluctuates, and so do human minds. But the great pulsing rhythm that throbs between the universe and the innermost self remains steady with our firm faith in the Gohonzon. For this reason nothing can bolster your existence more strongly than unshakable faith in the Gohonzon, which is that ultimate reality. Those who live up to their belief at times face slander and criticism. As they go forward unperturbed, they may seem obtuse, but their spirit of forbearance is forged all the more strongly in the process. As Goethe said, "The hammer probably seems more active and devoted than an anvil. But it is the quiet anvil that endures endless pounding."

Who will eventually win the victory, a man of belief or those who drift along with the times like flotsam on the waves? Time will answer the question. Having faith provides the greatest and most enduring strength. I ask you to proudly advance in your mission and, as you do, to cherish the words of President Toda: "There are countless successes and failures in life, but for the final victory we must pray to the Buddha."

The oneness of master and disciple, the oneness of parent and child and the oneness of lord and subject, so deeply and clearly shown to us by Nichikan Shonin through the Gosho, also indicate the vital import of The Opening of the Eyes. This text reveals the object of worship in terms of the Person who embodies the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent. The life of Nichiren Daishonin, the original Buddha --- the object of worship in terms of the Person in the Latter Day --- is manifest in its entirety in the Gohonzon. Nichiren Daishonin is the Gohonzon, and the Gohonzon is the original Buddha with the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent; to know this fact is to feel all the more profound gratitude for being able to worship the Gohonzon.

Life Pervades the Universe

The Great Teacher Miao-lo declares: "You should realize that our life and its environment are the entity of ichinen sanzen. When we attain Buddhahood, according to this principle, our life pervades the entire universe, physically and spiritually."

This is an excerpt from the Guketsu (Annotation of the Maka Shikan) by Miao-lo. I will conclude my lecture with some thoughts about this quote, for, while it is extremely difficult to understand, it is indispensable for understanding the life-condition of Buddhahood. I will, therefore, discuss it in considerable detail according to Nichikan Shonin's Exegesis.

First of all, "our life and its environment" means the life and environment of the original Buddha. The entity of ichinen sanzen, therefore, is the Gohonzon, which embodies the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the three thousand conditions of life. But ichinen of ichinen sanzen means single-minded faith, and so, when we take faith in the Gohonzon, our life and its environment both become the entity of ichinen sanzen.

The last sentence in the quote, "When we attain Buddhahood . . ." describes the life-condition we manifest when we attain Buddhahood. "This principle" indicates the Mystic Law of kuon ganjo, the most difficult to comprehend. "Physically" here means the physical aspect of our life, the combination of the five elements-earth, water, fire, wind and ku. It is an objective truth to be realized. "Spiritually" refers to the subjective wisdom to realize that truth, the wisdom that comes from strong faith in the Gohonzon.

As a whole the above-quoted passage tells us that when we embrace the Gohonzon, our life manifests itself as the Buddha of kuon ganjo --- that perfect union of objective reality and subjective wisdom. In other words, because the Gohonzon is the entity of ichinen sanzen embodying the oneness of life and its environment, when we take faith in it, our life becomes the same entity of ichinen sanzen. This is what is meant by juji soku kanjin (to embrace the Gohonzon is to attain Buddhahood).

The pervasiveness of life, both physical and spiritual, throughout the entire universe is a sign of the boundlessly vast life of Buddhahood and of the common people as well It not only confirms that the world of humanity contains all the Ten Worlds, but also demonstrates how vast and sublime is the life of ordinary people. To me, this particular sentence also reveals true freedom.

To say that life pervades the entire universe may sound groundless and utterly inconceivable, but even natural science has come to recognize the potential of life through the gradual discovery of just what a highly complicated structure human life has. Take just the physical body Each organ has its own highly sophisticated mechanism. The liver works to detoxify the body, and so far, over two hundred specific functions have been identified. According to some estimates, the liver may perform as many as a thousand functions in all. The chemical reactions the liver carries out, moreover, are highly complex, and not one so far has ever been successfully simulated in a laboratory. The liver is actually an enormous chemical plant. Not even a huge complex of factories would be sufficient to artificially duplicate all the chemical functions of the liver. Therefore, when the liver starts to malfunction, wide-ranging effects are experienced. One becomes spiritually disturbed, sometimes suddenly waking at night, or walking in his sleep.

Then again, look at the lungs. The total area of all the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs is roughly the same as that of four large rooms. The lungs work to purify blood. The total length of all blood vessels in the body is 96,000 kilometers --- enough to circle the earth twice. Our brain weighs just a little over one kilogram, yet it contains some twenty billion brain cells. Each of its nerve cells has an axon and branches, and intelligence develops as the axons interweave. Personality is determined by the particular pattern in which they interweave, but the total possible combinations of nerve axons are almost incalculable --- they out-number even the atoms in the island universe that surrounds our planet. That is why it is virtually inconceivable that any two personalities would be exactly alike.

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