5th June 19:36
THE DAIGOHONZON (entity possession enlightenment hell faith)
THE ESSENCE OF THE LOTUS SUTRA -- THE GREAT LAW
THE ESSENCE AND FORM OF THE GREAT LAW IN THE LATTER DAY --
REVEREND YOSAI YAMADA
JANUARY 12, 1986
An important question for all humanity is: "How, for the duration of
this lifetime, can we live to bring happiness to ourselves, our children
and future generations?"
To find an answer to that question, we do many things. We go to
school to learn many subjects and acquire many skills that we hope will
bring happiness. We may read many ideologies and practice many philosophies,
and end up changing our ideologies and philosophies like the man who puts
on many hats, or goes without, depending upon the weather. Perhaps we prac-
tice a religion, although there are many people who do not. But although
there is universal agreement that everyone wants to be happy, there is no
agreement on how to achieve it.
Some 3,000 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha preached Buddhism in India.
He did this not only for the people of India, but for all of anguished
humanity so that suffering could be eliminated during their lifetimes.
However, on the whole, his teachings have not been successful. In fact,
I think we would probably agree that all religions have failed miserably
on this score. Is there any nation whose people have not been touched
by war, civil strife and other personal and national tragedies? I think we
will find that there have been none. Why did these teachings fail?
I would like to generally talk about Buddhism this morning, as well
as predict a new day for all of us through the practice of True Buddhism.
Let me begin by urging you to keep in mind that to be Buddha means
to be one truly awakened to the nature of life. He is one who understands
and knows the past through what he sees in the present, and he has the
capability of seeing into the infinite future. But not only that, if he
is a True Buddha, he can teach each man the cause to make amid the suffering
and folly visited upon him because of his past mistakes so that the next
day, the next week, the next year and the next lifetime are infinitely
Shakyamuni Buddha of India left behind many teachings. Eighty or
eighty-four thousand teachings have been attributed to him. This number
should not be taken literally, but used to indicate the large number of
Shakyamuni Buddha of India is, of course, the first historically
When he began teaching, he preached from the content of his awakening.
But finding that people could not understand, he began again - and through-
out 42 years of his life, gradually raised the ability of his followers
so they could approach and in essence, achieve his own awakening.
These 42 years of effort culminated in the preaching of the Lotus
Sutra -- a sutra he indicated as complete and final.
The Lotus Sutra is a very optimistic teaching. It predicts Buddhahood
for every kind of person. But how this is to happen and through what
practice is not clarified. Nor is the entity of the Buddha's life and
its potential in all beings elucidated.
Shakyamuni predicted the decline of his teachings as well as the
ascendancy of the Great Law through which one becomes Buddha. But the
time would be in the distant future -- in the fifth five hundred years
after his death.
This is not to say that people gained no benefit from the volumes
of teachings he left behind outside of the difficult to understand and
difficult to practice Lotus Sutra. They did.
The most famous example is Maghda, which became a civilization known
as the "Cradle of Buddhism". Two hundred years after Shakyamuni's death,
underlying the civil law through which the empire carried out its daily
affairs was the Buddha's teachings. Throughout the empire, the civil
law and Buddhist cannon were carved on 40 foot pillars so that the people
could read and know them.
However, fifty years later, in 250 B.C., King Pushamitra destroyed
Buddhism in Magdha. So, perhaps we should ask, "What happened to Buddhism
and to the teaching Shakyamuni Buddha considered final and complete?"
As you know, Buddhism is divided into three time periods. These time
periods accommodate the rise and decline of various aspects of Buddhist
The first 1000 years after Shakyamuni's death are known as the Former
Day of the Law. During this period there is the power of Shakyamuni's
teachings to help people. The people enjoy a close association with this
Buddha and his teachings.
In terms of the Lotus Sutra, the Former Day of the Law, also indicates
the nature of the highest teaching and the Buddha who preached it. Shakya-
muni Buddha is the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra -- the scripture that bears
his name. This scripture contains an accurate picture of enlightenment,
but no definition of the entity through which it is achieved, or the pract-
ice upon which universal enlightenment can be based.
The second 1000 years are called the Middle Day of the Law. The person
or Buddha enlightened to the nature of the universal law of life during
this period is T'ien-t'ai of China.
When Buddhism moved along the Silk Route into China, Shakyamuni was
not there to guide its spread. Over a thousand years had passed since
his death. Few could say which teachings were provisional and which
final and complete.
T'ien-t'ai is said to have awakened to his own Buddhahood through
the 23rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Thereafter, he put the sutras in
which one becomes a Buddha. The theory of 3,000 worlds and their mutual
possession demonstrated in theory how everyone comes to possess the
potential for Buddhahood.
However, although the T'ien-t'ai school became established in China,
this school which teaches meditation to find the Buddha within one's own
mind, practiced a way to Buddahood that common people could not undertake.
This is also a period of temple building and other development as well
as the decline in practice.
But Shakyamuni's predictions proved correct. He said the Great Law
would rise in the fifth five hundred years after his death. the period
of T'ien-t'ai is a little more than a thousand. And although T'ien-t'ai
greatly contributed to the clarification of the Great Law through which
one becomes a Buddha, in 575 A.D., he retired, despairing of the lack of
human capacity to understand the teaching.
You should not be surprised. The Lotus Sutra illuminates the essential
nature of universal life. What is amazing is that it was expounded 3,000
years ago and that another could begin clarification of it a little over
a thousand years later without such words as molecules, atoms and element-
ary particles. It is not surprising that we should have to wait for the
developing capacity of humanity and for someone else to establish it in
a form every man can practice.
But the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni is a very important scripture for
other reasons. It is important, first of all, because this sutra is not
transferred to any of his immediate disciples. After this sutra is preached,
he summons another group of bodhisattvas from, as the sutra says, "under
the earth" and transferred the essence of the sutra to them.
It is interesting to note that the sutra says, "from under the earth".
What could this possibly mean?
It could mean that they came from a place far away.
It could also mean that they were not yet of this earth, but because
the essence of the sutra was transferred to them, it indicated their future
The Lotus Sutra also indicates the appearance of another's advent.
This person would also appear in the future. The sutra says that this
man, knowing the teachings of this sutra, together with its reason and
process would expound it according to its true meaning. The Jinriki
chapter of the Lotus Sutra states:
"This man, working in the world, can dispel the darkness of the living,
just as the light of the sun and moon in the sky dispel the darkness."
Shakyamuni also predicted what conditions would exist in the world
at the time of this advent. These prophecies indicate that this votary
would have a difficult time. The sutra indicates:
"Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the
Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing."
The sutra also states: "The people will be full of hostility and it
will be extremely difficult to believe."
It also predicts ignorant people who will vilify and attack the votary
with swords and staves, and indicates that he will be banished again and
again. The world would be plagued with all kinds of impurities and pesti-
lence, disasters and internal strife would characterize the time when the
teachings and practice of the Buddhism of the Former Day of the Law reached
It was into these kind of conditions in 13th Century Japan that
Nichiren Daishonin was born. The year was 1222. He entered the priesthood
at 12 and as he grew into full manhood, the conditions in Japan worsened.
Soon after his ordination at 16, he expressed his earnest desire to
study Buddhism in Kamakura, then the nation's political center. From his
writings, we can understand that he also obtained a deep knowledge of the
social and political conditions existing in the country.
His studies took him to other Buddhist centers and he reached the
conclusion that the essence of Buddhism was lost in Japan. He declared
the essence of the Great Law, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo on April 28, 1253 at
the age of 32 and as was customary, he gave his first sermon on the
same day at the temple he had entered at 12.
His first sermon was a serious Shakubuku effort. He told his audience
they were practicing the wrong teachings of Buddhism. This event was the
beginning of his fulfillment of the predictions in the Lotus Sutra. The
people were full of hostility and his teaching was difficult to believe.
Later, he would be beaten with swords and staves, and banished again and
Nichiren Daishonin approached government three times. This, and his
activities after the second time nearly ended in his execution. Banished
to Sado Island after the execution attempt failed, he later wrote his
own thoughts about what he should further do. At age 51, he wrote in
the "Opening of the Eyes":
"But if I utter so much as a word concerning it...."
....meaning the true practice of Buddhism....
"...then parents, brothers and teachers will surely criticize me
and the government authorities will take steps against me. On the other
hand, I am fully aware that if I do not speak out, I will be lacking in
compassion. I have considered which course to take in the light of the
teachings of the Lotus and Nirvana Sutras. If I remain silent, I may
escape harm in this lifetime, but in my next life, I will most certainly
fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
"If I were to falter in my determination in the face of government
persecutions, however, I would not be able to fulfill my course. In that
case, perhaps it would be better not to speak out...while thinking this over,
I recalled the teachings of the Hoto Chapter on the six difficult and nine
easy acts. Persons like myself who are of paltry strength might still be
able to lift Mt. Sumeru and toss it about; persons like myself who are
lacking in spiritual powers might still shoulder a load of dry grass and
yet remain unburned in the fire at the end of the kalpa of decline; and
persons like myself who are without wisdom might still read and memorize as
many sutras as there are sands in the Ganges.
But such acts are not difficult, we are told, when compared to the
difficulty of embracing even one phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra in
the Latter Day of the Law. Nevertheless, I vowed to summon up a powerful
and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings, and never to
falter in my effort.
It is already over twenty years since I began proclaiming my doctrine.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, I have been subjected
to repeated persecutions...the most recent one has come near to costing
me my life.
"The Opening of the Eyes" is a long and carefully written refutation
of provisional teachings. With his resolve firm, and fully determined that
he would teach as the True Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law, in the
middle of Tart Two of this do***ent, he acknowledges his full Buddhahood
with these words:
"On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year, between the hours
of the Rat and Ox (11:00 p.m. to 3:00 A.M ) this person named Nichiren was
beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado and, in the
second month of the following year, snowbound, is writing this to send
to his close followers."
This is one way of saying that the personal concern for the body of
Nichiren, the man, no longer existed. Of course the body remains, and
although snowbound and in exile, it is the life of the Original Buddha
from Kuon Ganjo his close followers continue to hear beyond the snow and
After this banishment, Nichiren Daishonin did not stop his shakubuku
effort. He approached the Kamakura Government again. Being repulsed a
third time, he withdrew and left shakubuku to his disciples.
In 1279, he inscribed the Great Law in the Dai-Gohonzon and the practice
through which all past Buddhas, all future Buddhas and all present Buddhas
awakened, is established so all humanity can achieve the same state. It
is the same Great Law Shakyamuni practiced but could not establish for
eternity. It is the same Great Law that T'ien-t'ai theoretically clarified
but which caused him to despair because the capacity of people to under-
stand it was not enough.
One becomes a Buddha through the practice of this Law established
Because humanity still suffers because the promise of Buddhism is not
theirs, we take quite seriously Shakyamuni's exhortation in the Lotus
"In the fifth five hundred years after my death accomplish worldwide
Kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease."
And because the Great Law has been established in this form, we
truly understand the great compassion of the True Buddha who said:
"When it comes to understanding the Lotus Sutra, I have only a minute
fraction of the vast ability that T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo possessed. But in
my ability to endure persecution and in my compassion for others, I believe
that I would put them to shame."
But do we have to endure what the Daishonin experienced?
As I mentioned in the new Year's address, your task is to consider
your work the practice of Buddhism, your study the practice of Buddhism
and your family life the practice of Buddhism in terms of the causes you
make. The affairs of the mundane world are itself Buddhism, and when
the cause and effect of the mundane world are illuminated through the
power of faith and practice, all things will become quite clear.
So, if you have to ask, "Where is the Buddha, and you cannot find him
in the mirror when you shave or comb your hair, you must try again. But
in truth, I know how difficult it is to find the Buddha reflected in the
mirror the first thing in the morning. I have experienced the same thing.
But that is why we have the Gohonzon and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
But most of all, you must acquire for yourself the joys of practice
and quickly share them with others. That too is shakubuku.
Finally, Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is represented by the seven
characters of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, which includes the Law of the Universe
and, of course, all the 84,000 teachings expounded by Shakyamuni. But
there is a radical difference.
In reply to Kyo-o" the Daishonin wrote:
"I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the
Gohonzon with your whole heart. The Buddha's will is the Lotus Sutra,
but the soul of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo."
This is perhaps another way of saying that Shakyamuni willed into
existence the content of his enlightenment through eighty-four thousand
teachings; but the Daishonin left behind the essence of enlightenment as
Person and Law -- -- the actual state of Buddha, as well as the invocation
and practice of the Law through which this state is achieved by all people.
No, I cannot promise you a life free of hardships because you practice
Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. But because we can practice true Buddhism, in
the words of T'ien-t'ai, the Buddha of the Middle Day of the Law, when
hardships arise, we find that:
"A wild boar scraping a gold mountain, only makes it glitter; rivers
flowing to the sea increase its volume, fuel added to fire only makes it
burn higher, and the wind inflates the body of a gura."