February Oko 2009

 

The guest, growing more indignant than ever, said: A wise monarch, by acting in accord with heaven and earth, perfects his rule; a sage, by distinguishing between right and wrong, brings order to the world. The monks and priests of the world today enjoy the confidence of the entire empire. If they were in fact evil monks, then the wise ruler would put no trust in them. If they were not true sages, then men of worth and understanding would not look up to them. But now, since worthies and sages do in fact honor and respect them, they must be nothing less than paragons of their kind. Why then do you pour out these wild accusations and dare to slander them? To whom are you referring when you speak of "evil monks"? I would like an explanation!

The host said: In the reign of Emperor Gotoba there was a priest named Honen who wrote a work entitled the Senchaku Shu. He contradicted the sacred teachings of Shakyamuni and brought confusion to people in every direction.

 

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 of your 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 Tobas, I have offered my sincere prayers to the Gohonzon for the peace and happiness of your late relatives, friends, and ancestors.

 

Today’s ceremony is coincided with the Otanjo-e Ceremony, commemorating the birth of Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiren Daishonin was born on February 16, 1222, as the son of a fisherman named Mikuni no Taifu Shigetada, and his wife Umegiku-nyo, in the fishing village of Kominato, Province of Awa (presently the southern part of Chiba Prefecture).

His birthdate has a mystic connection with Shakyamuni’s Buddhism because Shakyamuni died on February 15. This indicates that the Daishonin’s Buddhism began at the point where the power of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism ceased. Shakyamuni was born in India to a royal family as the prince of King Shuddhodana. In contrast, the Daishonin was born to “a fisherman’s family” or “a common family.” The Daishonin’s humble origin has three profound and significant points in Buddhism.

 

1. The Daishonin went through various persecutions to fulfill the predictions about the practice of the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in the world. The “Fortitude” or the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra states the following passages:

                    “…curse and speak ill of us”

                    “…attack us with swords and staves”

                    “…again and again we will be banished”

If the Daishonin had been born to a royal, noble or shogun family, He could not have fulfilled the prophecies of the Lotus Sutra. In other words, had this been the case, it would have been impossible for Him to overcome the persecutions and to reveal Himself as the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

 

2. The people in the age of Mappo, the Latter Day of the Law, do not have any past relationship with Shakyamuni. Therefore, the Daishonin, as the True Buddha of Sowing, made His advent as a common person in this world so we could receive the benefit of the relationship we have with Him as the True Buddha who sows in our lives the seed of the True Cause of original enlightenment. We can thus concretely form a relationship with the True Buddha’s Three Virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent.

 

3. Nichiren Daishonin quotes in the Gosho “On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice”:

                    “…the truer the teaching, the lower the capacity.”

 

And again in the Gosho “The Person and the Law”:

                    “Since the law is supreme, the person is worthy of respect; since the person is worthy of respect, the place is sacred.”

 

These passages suggest that the Daishonin manifested the principle of “the True Buddha is a common mortal.” He was born in a low and humble social status so that He could lead all the people in the defiled age of Mappo, who possess low faculties and low capacities, and whose lives are tainted with the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity. Thus the Daishonin actually manifested the great benefit of showing that “a common mortal is equal to the Buddha” and “earthly desires are enlightenment.”

 

Having taken these factors into consideration, the Daishonin stated:

“I, Nichiren, humble person though I am, have received Shakyamuni Buddha’s royal command and have come to this country of Japan.

“If I, Nichiren, had not appeared in this country of Japan, the golden words of the Buddha would have been in vain, and the proof demonstrated by Taho Buddha would have been worthless. …Were it not for me, Nichiren, the words of the Buddha would have been meaningless.

And in the “One Hundred and Six Comparisons”, the Daishonin stated:

“My true identity is the Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom. My provisional identity is the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo, Nichiren, the present Great Master of the Essential Teaching.”

This reveals that Bodhisattva Jogyo is still His provisional identity. The true, ultimate identity is the Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom who has existed from the very beginning of the remotest past.

 

The birth of Nichiren Daishonin signifies the advent of the True Buddha of “the eternal past, which is equal to the age of Mappo” and “the Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom from the time of the eternal past” in this age of Mappo. The birth date of Nichiren Daishonin, February 16, 1222, was truly the most significant day. Neither Shakyamuni, T’ien-t’ai nor Dengyo could previously reveal the greatest Buddhism in the entire world. The Daishonin’s mission originated at the time of His birth as a human being.

We should well understand the significance of the advent of Nichiren Daishonin deep in our hearts, and appreciate the great debt of gratitude we owe to Him. Let us make further efforts to propagate True Buddhism at this time.

 

Nichiren Daishonin had left many writings for His disciples and believers. The most notable among them was the Rissho Ankoku-ron. Today, I will continue to pick up from this Major Writing, with the fourth question “What are the evil doctrines?”

 

The traveler (Hojo Tokiyori, the most influential member of the Hojo Clan that ruled Japan) is totally furious after hearing the response of the third question, “If we do not admonish the evil monks, how can we hope to do good?

He starts off the fourth question with the following: “A wise monarch, by acting in accord with heaven and earth, perfects his rule; a sage, by distinguishing between right and wrong, brings order to the world.

The part “by acting in accord with heaven and earth” means to rule without self-interest, a ruler who doesn’t put self-interest first. This is what perfects his rule. The next part “a sage, by distinguishing between right and wrong, brings order to the world”. The “sage” mentioned here is a sage amongst the public. This means one who has innate grace and knowledge, a modern day saint. In other words, the traveler is telling to the host “you are saying that the country has fallen into chaos, but I don’t think so.”

The traveler further says, “The monks and priests of the world today enjoy the confidence of the entire empire.” “The monks and priests of the world today” point towards the monks and priests of various religions. Everyone from the emperor down to the common people embrace these monks and priests, which is why he answers, “If they were in fact evil monks, then the wise ruler would put no trust in them.” This is followed by “If they were not true sages, then men of worth and understanding would not look up to them.” The word “sages” here refers to the sage admist the Buddhist Law. If these priests and monks are not what they’re supposed to be, then men of wisdom and knowledge shouldn’t look up to these people.

Next, “But now, since worthies and sages do in fact honor and respect them, they must be nothing less than paragons of their kind.” In using paragons, the Daishonin used the Kanji character “ryu” and “zo”. These mean “dragon” and “elephant”. The elephant, which is the strongest among the animals on the land, and the dragon, the strongest among the animals of the sea.

The traveler closes the question with the following, “Why then do you pour out these wild accusations and dare to slander them? To whom are you referring when you speak of "evil monks"? I would like an explanation!

 

In response to the fourth question, the Daishonin gives a very deep explanation about this Buddhism. The host starts off with the following, “In the reign of Emperor Gotoba there was a priest named Honen who wrote a work entitled the Senchaku Shu.” During the time when Emperor Gotoba was ruling Japan, there was a priest called Honen. In his writing Senchaku Shu, not only does Honen contradict Shakyamuni’s Teachings, but also he says to dispose, close, disregard, and leave the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren Daishonin continuously refuted the Nembutsu sect, especially Honen, for completely leading the people into confusion. “He contradicted the sacred teachings of Shakyamuni and brought confusion to people in every direction.

 

Nichiren Daishonin refutes what Honen wrote in the Senchaku Shu. But I will talk about this next time.

 

Finally, during this meaningful Otanjo-e Ceremony, it is appropriate that we joyfully celebrate the birthday of the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin on the 16th day of February, which we call Nichiren Shoshu Founder’s Day. Whether at home with your family, at a Hokkeko meeting or at Myogyoji Temple, let’s express our gratitude to the True Buddha by meeting together, doing Evening Gongyo and chanting Daimoku. Here at Myogyoji Temple, I will conduct Evening Gongyo and a 1-hour Shodai beginning at 7 p.m.

 

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