Oko Lecture

December 2011

 

Reply to Shijo Kingo

(Gosho p. 775)

 

Ben Ajari (Nisshō) reported to me: “He (Shijō Kingo) stated that he has been dedicating his life to practicing this faith since last year, and had heard from me that those who embrace the Louts Sutra will ‘enjoy peace and security in this lifetime and good circumstances in the next.’  However, contrary to these words, great hardships have been pouring down on him like rain.” 

Is this what you truly said, or has Ben Ajari made a false statement?  In any case, since this is a good opportunity, let me dispel your doubts. 

This is what the Lotus Sutra refers to in the passage, “difficult to believe and difficult to understand.”  Many people accept the Lotus Sutra upon hearing it. However, it is rare to find those who “remember and never forget [what they have been taught]” when the great hardships that they have heard about actually befall them.

Accepting is easy, but continuing is difficult. But one must maintain one’s faith in order to attain Buddhahood. Those who uphold this sutra must be prepared to undergo hardships. However, there is no doubt that, “they will be able to instantly attain the unsurpassed Buddha way.”

To uphold this sutra means to indelibly etch into one’s heart Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, which is the fundamental point of all the Buddhas of the three existences.

 

 

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.

 

This month marks the final Oko ceremony of this year, the ‘ Year of Taking Action to do shakubuku.’ Throughout this year, I have offered sermons regarding shakubuku and taking action. This month is no different. Today, I have read a passage from the Gosho “Reply to Shijo Kingo.” This gosho was written on the sixth day of the third month of the twelfth year of Bunnei (1275), when Nichiren Daishonin was 54 years old, four years after the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and His exile to Sado, and a year after His pardoning. As you will know from the title, this gosho was addressed to Shijo Kingo. Because Shijo Kingo upheld Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, at a time when the Hojo regime was totally against Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, Shijo Kingo faced tremendous hardships from his peers, as well as his master. Shijo Kingo presented his concerns to Ben Ajari Nissho, one of Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, who relayed it to Nichiren Daishonin, who was residing in Mt. Minobu, after returning from Sado Islands.

 

Prior to the passage that I read, Nichiren Daishonin lead off the Gosho with a passage from the Treasure Tower (eleventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

                “The sutra is hard to uphold.”

‘The sutra’ refers to the Lotus Sutra. It is difficult to sustain faith in the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. Why is it difficult to sustain faith in the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law? It is mentioned in the Teachers of the Law (tenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra,

                “… difficult to believe and difficult to understand”

 

During the Kofu Shodaikai Ceremony in September 2010, 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin offers the following guidance regarding this passage:

This verse was expounded after the six difficult and nine easy acts were taught in the Treasure Tower (Ken hōtō; eleventh) chapter. It shows how difficult it will be to embrace the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha’s passing.

Through comparison, the six difficult and nine easy acts show the extreme difficulty of maintaining faith in the Lotus Sutra after Shakyamuni’s death. The nine easy acts are impossible achievements under normal circumstances. By citing these impossible feats, the extreme difficulty of embracing the Lotus Sutra is emphasized.

 

The six difficult acts are like this.

                1. To preach the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing.

                2. To write, or have a person write the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha’s passing.

                3. Even for a brief time, read the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing.

                4. Preach the Lotus Sutra, even to one person after the Buddha’s passing.

                5. Listen to the Lotus Sutra and ask about its true meaning after the Buddha’s passing.

                6. Uphold the teaching of the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha’s passing.

 

On the other hand, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin told parts of the nine easy acts:

1) Kicking a major world system to other distant regions with one’s toe is an extremely difficult thing to do. However, it would not be as difficult as upholding the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law.

2) Standing at the summit of the highest heaven and preaching countless other sutras for the sake of the assembly is an extremely difficult thing to do. However, it would not be as difficult as teaching the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after the Buddha’s death.

3) Walking through a raging fire and carrying a bundle of dried grass on one’s back without getting burned is an extremely difficult thing to do. However, upholding the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing and teaching it to even a single person is the most difficult thing to do.

 

Observing the six difficult acts and portions of the nine easy acts, you can easily understand how impossible it is to accomplish the easy acts, while the difficult acts are easily accomplishable. Despite being easy on the surface, we all know how difficult it is, especially the sixth and final act.

Before the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and His exile to Sado, Shijo Kingo encountered many persecutions and hardships, mostly from his peers and from his master, Lord Ema Mitsutoki, because he upheld Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Despite being moved with Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, Shijo Kingo felt that his prayers wasn’t being answered, that the difficulties that he is facing is because he is going against his master and his beliefs, starting to have doubts about this practice.

You will notice that Nichiren Daishonin wrote this gosho to clear any doubts Shijo Kingo had, and the passage that Nichiren Daishonin refers to Shijo Kingo is “difficult to believe and difficult to understand”. Why is it “difficult to believe and difficult to understand”?

At first, people who hear about Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo for the first time are deeply impressed, and want to start this practice. But after a few days, or a few months, they see changes around them. Sometimes they maybe positive, but most of the time those changes can be negative. The negative changes are the result of the person cleansing their six senses. Until they encounter this Buddhism and devote themselves to this practice, they have gone through various belief systems and their senses deluded because of those systems and the effects it has on society overall. While they are cleansing their senses, the karma they had accumulated from the past, including some they have never noticed, is making its way to the outside. Some will be able to grasp it, while others are overwhelmed, and never take the task of how to eradicate it.

Then, they realize that the karma they had accumulated is through their causes they made in the past. People would think that the past is the past. What they fail to realize is that the effects they are getting right now is because of causes created in the past. Nichiren Daishonin referred to the Shinjikan Sutra and explains:

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present. (M.W., Vol. 2, pp. 197-198)


Through this passage, Nichiren Daishonin tells us that the effects we are getting right now are the results from the causes and decisions we made in the past. Also, if we want to know what will happen in the future, we should look into the causes we make right now. We don’t know what kind of future awaits us. But if we base our livelihood to Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, we can attain ‘peace and security in this lifetime.’ But in reality, this is not easy, as Shijo Kingo would find out.

 

So, we go back to the question, why is it “difficult to believe and difficult to understand”? Nichiren Daishonin mentions the following:

Many people accept the Lotus Sutra upon hearing it. However, it is rare to find those who “remember and never forget [what they have been taught]” when the great hardships that they have heard about actually befall them. Accepting is easy, but continuing is difficult. But one must maintain one’s faith in order to attain Buddhahood.

This is a rarity for anyone who encounters this Buddhism, and then truly devotes themselves for the rest of their lives. The reality of this is that people try to adjust to their own understanding. But that is not how Buddhism, especially Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism functions. High Priest Nichinyo Shonin mentions:

As the Lotus Sutra is the teaching expounded based on the Buddha's own mind, it is difficult to believe and difficult to understand. In contrast, the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings are those expounded based on the minds of the people, so they are easy to believe and easy to understand. The Daishonin teaches in “Letter to Lord Ni’ike” (“Ni’ike dono-goshōsoku”):

 

The Buddha taught two kinds of teachings: the teaching expounded by the Buddha according to the capacity of the people and the teaching expounded by the Buddha according to his own mind. The Buddha’s teaching according to the minds of the people is like parents following the minds of their children. Making the children follow the minds of their parents represents the Buddha’s teaching based on his own mind. The Buddha taught various sutras, taking into account the people’s capacity. However, when the Buddha expounded the Lotus Sutra, he expounded the teaching according to his own mind [revealing the truth of his own enlightenment], making all people follow the will of the Buddha. Though the Buddha taught various sutras, they are the teachings based on the minds of the people. Thus, one will never be able to attain enlightenment despite one’s faith in these sutras. The Lotus Sutra is the Buddha’s true teaching as well as his wisdom. If one sincerely believes in a single character or a single stroke of it, one will immediately attain Buddhahood.

 (Gosho, p. 1365)

 

The Lotus Sutra is difficult to believe and difficult to understand, as it is the true teaching the Buddha taught based on his own enlightenment, regardless of the capacities of the people. On the other hand, the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings are easy to believe and easy to understand, as they are the expedient teachings the Buddha taught according to the capacities and preferences of the people, in order to induce them to follow the true teaching.

If we compare the Lotus Sutra, which is difficult to believe and difficult to understand, with the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, which are easy to believe and easy to understand, the difference between the two is like night and day. The former enables one to attain Buddhahood, while the latter will not. This is indicated in the Gosho passage, “Thus, one will never be able to attain enlightenment despite one’s faith in these sutras. The Lotus Sutra is the Buddha’s true teaching as well as his wisdom. If one sincerely believes in a single character or a single stroke of it, one will immediately attain Buddhahood.”

 

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is vast and deep. Trying to adjust this Buddhism to our understanding is absolutely impossible. So the only way to approach this is only through the guidance of High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, the Overseas Department, and the Chief Priest of your local temple. Trying to find a guidance that is convenient to you is inappropriate. That approach will only narrow your development not only as Buddhists, but also as a person too. We should be aware of that.

Next year, Nichiren Shoshu has designated 2012 as the “Year of advancing Kosen-rufu through Shakubuku.” The practical points for next year are as follows:

1. To consistently do Gongyo and Shodai together with our families.

2. To accomplish our individual shakubuku goals through consistent shakubuku.

3. To encourage all believers to make a pilgrimage to the Head Temple.

 

We are continuously making every effort to strive in our practice of shakubuku, but we can only accomplish our goals if everyone strives in unison. Because only through the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching of true Buddhism, the supreme object of worship on this earth, can we be able to attain enlightenment.

 

In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.