December Oko 2010
I would like to thank you for attending today’s Oko ceremony despite your busy schedule. I have offered your sincere Gokuyo to the Gohonzon, and sincerely prayed to the Gohonzon for the further development in faith; eradication of your sins and negative karma from this and infinite past lifetimes; to enjoy a safe and long life; for peace and harmony to reign in your home; for all matters to proceed forth smoothly; and for the successful achievement of all your great objectives in this and future existences.
For those who have requested for Toba, I have offered my sincere prayers to the Gohonzon for the peace and happiness of your late relatives, friends, and ancestors.
Two Kinds of Faith
Among contemporary believers in the Lotus Sutra, there are some who have faith like fire and others who have faith like flowing water. Those with faith like fire, fervently burn with passion when they listen to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, but when alone, are apt to forsake their faith. On the other hand, those with faith like flowing water always persist in their practice of the Lotus Sutra, never discarding their faith. Because you continue to visit me, regardless of your circumstances, it can be said that your faith resembles flowing water. This deserves my genuine respect.
This month, I would like to talk about the passage that I just read from the gosho “Two Kinds of Faith” This gosho was written to Nanjo Tokimitsu (Lord Ueno) on February 25, 1278, when Nichiren Daishonin was 57 years old. This gosho was written as a letter to Lord Ueno in response to the offerings he provided to Nichiren Daishonin. The timing of this Gosho was crucial, because it was written before the Atsuhara Persecution, when the believers of the local heretical temples were slandering the disciples and followers of Nichiren Daishonin. Even during the tense situation, Lord Ueno continued to provide Nichiren Daishonin with offerings of taro, skewered-dried persimmons, roasted rice, chestnuts, bamboo sprouts and bamboo containers of vinegar.
Although the letter was short, Nichiren Daishonin praises Lord Ueno for his continuous offerings to Him. He provides Lord Ueno an example in the form of Ashoka the Great, a King in India. Nichiren Daishonin mentions, in the King’s previous lifetime, when he was a child named Tokusho Doji, along with his brother Musho Doji, he offered the Buddha a mud pie that they had made. Because of this offering, Tokusho Doji was reborn as the Great King Ashoka, and Musho Doji being reborn as his wife. This part expresses the importance of offering Gokuyo and its tremendous benefits.
Next, comes the part that I just read today. Nichiren Daishonin mentions that there are two kinds of faith: faith like fire and faith like water. Nichiren Daishonin mentions to Lord Ueno he has a personality that burns feverously but can easily die down, so he needs to move continuously without stopping or retreating, and continue on steadily.
Today, I would like to talk about the importance of devoting ourselves to the practice on our way to accomplishing our goals for 2015 and 2021.
There is a saying, “perseverance prevails”. It is not easy to devote ourselves for a long period of time. Whether it is in sports or studies, it is important that we never give up, constantly striving in our practice. Even though we understand this, it is difficult to maintain a consistent practice.
In Japan, sumo wrestling is widely popular, with six tournaments being held in a calendar year. Each tournament is held for 15 days, with divisions from the bottom, Jonokuchi, to the top division, makuuchi, and in between, there are other divisions, jonidan, sandanme, makushita, and juryo. All sumo wrestlers go through these divisions. If the wrestler is ranked inside the makushita or below, they must wrestle seven times within the 15-day period. If they win four of them, then they move up. But if they lose four of them, then they move down. As for the wrestlers in the juryo and makuuchi divisions, they wrestle throughout the whole 15-day period. If they win eight, they move up. Lose eight, and they move down. If the wrestlers keep winning, they are promoted to higher rankings, such as Champion, Ozeki, or the Grand Champion, Yokozuna.
The majority of sumo wrestlers are from Japan. But in recent years, many wrestlers come from foreign countries, like Eastern Europe, or Mongolia.
One of the wrestlers who came from Mongolia is Hakuho. When he came to Japan in 2000, he weighed only 140 pounds, which is considered skinny. No sumo-training stable accepted him. But there was one stable that did, and he made his professional debut in March 2001. Since then, the more weight he gained, the further he moved up in the rankings. He made it into the juryo division in January 2004, and the makuuchi division four months later. When he made it to the makuuchi division, he continued moving up the ranks. He reached Ozeki in March 2006, and Yokozuna the next year.
Hakuho ascent to the top was strictly based on his continuous devotion to be the best. He ate a lot, currently weighing at 340 pounds, and practiced a lot as well. His hard work has led him to the following accomplishments: he is tied for second in the present era for the longest run of consecutive victories with 63 wins. He has won the tournament 17 times, and finished unbeaten in the tournament eight times. He only lost four times in this calendar year alone, and has won the tournament five times in a row, and counting. And he accomplished all of this at a very young age of 25. I am sure that he will hold a vast number of records by the time he retires.
Hakuho’s accomplishments have all come from the accumulation of his hard work over the years. He believed in his mind that all of the hard work would come to fruition.
Anyone who has achieved greatness in his or her field always believed the same thing, and worked tirelessly to see it happen, never giving up along the way. Whether it be literally, such as being a best selling author, or physically, being involved in sports or physical action. That can be said about our practice. When we begin our practice, we do our best to follow our sponsor, fellow members, even the priest. We go to the temple, go on tozan, go to local meetings. But time passes by, and we find people inactive. Why is that? Some are discouraged because of things said by fellow members, or worried about petty things with their sponsor, officers, or members senior to them. Some have doubts towards Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Some even doubts the power of the Gohonzon.
Every person wants to find an easy way out, and avoid troublesome things altogether. Even in the Buddhist practice, such as offerings to the Gohonzon, daily Gongyo and Shodai, attending meetings, some find it troublesome, and distance themselves from the practice.
In the gosho “The Fourteen Slanders”, Nichiren Daishonin mentions the following:
In like manner, there are many people who set their hearts on enlightenment, but only a few who continue their practice and in fact attain the true Way. The aspiration for enlightenment in common mortals is often hindered by evil influences and easily swayed by circumstances. (MWND Vol.3, p. 211~2)
There are those who strive in their Buddhist practice for enlightenment, who are determined to propagate this Buddhism, who want to serve the Gohonzon. Yet their burning desire easily dies down, and before they know it, they find themselves distanced from the practice. I hear people who are encouraged with the guidance of High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, and my guidance as well. But the next thing you know, these people go back to their old habits. These are the type of people who possess faith like fire. It is also the same type of people Nichiren Daishonin mentions us to admonish.
At first sight, people with faith like fire easily light up a torch inside them, and appear to be great from the outside. But in reality, these people are easily encouraged if they hear something positive and easily discouraged if they hear something negative.
These people must be aware of their tendencies, make up for their shortcomings, and strive to develop indomitable faith.
Unlike people with faith like fire, people with faith like flowing water are determined people who will advance forward without going back, regardless of the circumstances they are in. These people won’t be upset, nor influenced by what is happening around them. And they will not stop their development. Water flows forward even if it were a small stream, a big river, or a huge ocean. It flows regardless of night and day, and it flows toward the huge ocean ahead, never backing down. This is the type of faith that we must possess if we are to move forward.
The Head Office of Nichiren Shoshu has designated next year to be the “Year of Taking Action to do Shakubuku.” During the Grand Ceremony to Commemorate the 750th Anniversary of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice through the Submission of the Rissho Ankoku-ron, 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin presented us with goals for every chapter in the world to accomplish: every Hokkeko chapter to increase 50% of the membership by 2015, and 800,000 total members worldwide by 2021. The attitude that we must always have is to be able to do shakubuku anytime, anywhere, like a person with faith like flowing water. Each of us should be able to sow 50 seeds if we are to accomplish not just the goals for 2015 and 2021, but also for this year, and next year as well. Let us continue striving in our shakubuku efforts until the very end.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.