February 2011 Oko
I would like to thank you for attending todayfs 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.
The Sutra of True Requital
And that is also the reason why you have remained steadfast throughout, even when you were driven from your place, fined or had your house taken from you. In the Lotus Sutra, it is said that one who in the past has made offerings to tens of billions of Buddha shall, when reborn in a later existence, be unshakable in faith. You, then, must be a woman who has made offerings to tens of billions of Buddhas. In addition, it is easy to sustain our concern for someone who is before our eyes, but quite a different thing when he or she is far away, even though in our hearts we may not forget that person. Nevertheless, in the five years from the eleventh year of the Bun'ei era (1274) until this year, the first year of the Koan era (1278), that I have been living here in the mountains, you have three times sent your husband from the province of Sado to visit me. What profound sincerity! Your faith is weightier than the great earth, deeper than the great sea!
Todayfs ceremony coincides 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 Shakyamunifs Buddhism because Shakyamuni died on February 15. This indicates that the Daishoninfs Buddhism began at the point where the power of Shakyamunifs Buddhism ceased. Shakyamuni was born in India to a royal family as the prince of King Shuddhodana. In contrast, the Daishonin was born to ga fishermanfs familyh or ga common family.h The Daishoninfs 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 gFortitudeh or the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra states the following passages:
@@@@@@@@@ gccurse and speak ill of ush
@@@@@@@@@ gcattack us with swords and stavesh
@@@@@@@@@ gcagain and again we will be banishedh
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 Buddhafs Three Virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent.
3. Nichiren Daishonin quotes in the Gosho gOn the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practiceh:
@@@@@@@@@ gcthe truer the teaching, the lower the capacity.h
And again in the Gosho gThe Person and the Lawh:
@@@@@@@@@ gSince the law is supreme, the person is worthy of respect; since the person is worthy of respect, the place is sacred.h
These passages suggest that the Daishonin manifested the principle of gthe True Buddha is a common mortal.h 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 ga common mortal is equal to the Buddhah and gearthly desires are enlightenment.h
Having taken these factors into consideration, the Daishonin stated:
gI, Nichiren, humble person though I am, have received Shakyamuni Buddhafs royal command and have come to this country of Japan.
gIf 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. cWere it not for me, Nichiren, the words of the Buddha would have been meaningless. (MWND Vol. 5-143)
And in the gOne Hundred and Six Comparisonsh, the Daishonin stated:
gMy 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.h
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 gthe eternal past, which is equal to the age of Mappoh and gthe Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom from the time of the eternal pasth in this age of Mappo. The birth date of Nichiren Daishonin, February 16, 1222, was truly a most significant day. Neither Shakyamuni, Tfian-tfai nor Dengyo could previously reveal the greatest Buddhism in the entire world. The Daishoninfs 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.
Today, I have read a passage from the Gosho gThe Sutra of True Requital.h Nichiren Daishonin wrote this gosho when He was 57 years old, on July 28, 1278, the first year of Kōan. It was directed to Sennichi-ama, the wife of Abutsu-bo. When this gosho was written, Abutsu-bo made his third pilgrimage to Mt. Minobu and had an audience with Nichiren Daishonin. Abutsu-bo brought along with him a letter from his wife, asking Nichiren Daishonin about the enlightenment of female beings, and made an offering for her fatherfs twelfth anniversary of his death. This gosho was His response to this letter.
In this gosho, Nichiren Daishonin first emphasizes the superiority of the Lotus Sutra from the standpoint of its teaching that all female beings can attain Buddhahood. Nichiren Daishonin mentions that the provisional teachings generally deny that female beings can become Buddhas; but only the Lotus Sutra reveals that woman can become Buddhas. The Daishonin declares that the enlightenment of women taught in the Lotus Sutra serves as an example to illustrate that all living beings could attain Buddhahood in their present form.
Nichiren Daishonin then takes up the subject of repaying the debt of gratitude owed to onefs parents, especially to onefs mother. Since the Lotus Sutra is the highest of all sutras and the only one that guarantees the enlightenment of female beings, it is the only sutra that truly enables one to return the favor of onefs motherfs kindness. The women of Japan, however, rejected both the Lotus Sutra and its votary, and chant only Namu Amida Butsu, the invocation of Amida Buddhafs name. But even Amida, the Daishonin says, will not protect an enemy of the Lotus Sutra. In this way, He shows that the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra is the basis of all Buddhist teachings.
And in the final part, where I read todayfs passage, Nichiren Daishonin praises Sennichi-amafs steadfast faith and the devotion she has shown him, not only on Sado but also since His retirement to Minobu, and assures her of the great blessings she will receive. During His exile in Sado, Nichiren Daishonin was harshly treated by many of the islanders. However, Sennichi-ama and Abutsu-bo risked their personal safety to serve him and maintained their faith despite many difficulties.
Today, I would like to talk about the will, the resolution, and the determination one must have.
As long as we live, there are going to be certain things that we do. When we do these things, whether the task is a big one or not, we make a determination to do these things. Once we make that determination, we strive to complete the task. In our case, the task in front of us is to accomplish this yearfs shakubuku goals so we can progress in accomplishing the goals of 2015 and 2021. How can we accomplish this goal? First, we need to believe in our hearts that we can accomplish this. If we do not have this belief, then we will never accomplish anything and therefore must strive to accomplish it. How do we do that? This is a common theme for anyone who wants to accomplish anything in general. For example, if anyone wants to be a politician, then they work hard and strive in their efforts to be a politician. If anyone wants to succeed in sports, they must have that resolution and strive to accomplish it. Whether we strive to be a politician or a sports athlete, one must first make the resolution. No one will accomplish success, even in the easiest tasks, if they say that it is impossible to do even before trying. The examples that I gave are common in this world. It is the same with the practice of Buddhism, as Nichiren Daishonin mentions from various angles on the importance of striving through the practice of faith.
The main reason that we practice is to eradicate our sins and negative karma from infinite past lifetimes, to establish enlightenment through this and future lifetimes, to change the karma and help our family prosper, and to accomplish the propagation of Nichiren Daishoninfs Three Great Secret Laws.
Nichiren Daishonin mentions in the gosho gThe Gift of Riceh,
Yet even common mortals can attain Buddhahood if they cherish one thing: earnest faith.@@@@@ @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ (MWND Vol. 1-268)
How do we do this? We do this by doing our daily Gongyo, Shodai, shakubuku, attending local meetings and all temple activities (including all Sunday ceremonies), making the pilgrimage to the Head Temple, offering Gokuyo, nurturing and raising members, and making an effort to develop themselves and the temple. For example, we find ways to attend the Oko, the Kofu Shodaikai Ceremony, and various activities held at the temple or at another memberfs house. This is especially challenging for those who come to the temple from long distances, and tend to abandon plans their plans because of the time and the distance it takes to get here.
But Nichiren Daishonin mentions in gOto gozen-haha Goshoh
@@@@@@@@@ The further the distance, the greater onefs resolution is.
(Gosho p. 689)
This passage means that however far away we are from the temple, we should take every step and means to finish our journey to the temple. This also means the greater the distance is a reflection, or is equal to our seeking spirit.
It can also be said about the weather here in Chicago this past week. Yet, people made the determination to make the journey to the temple because of their seeking spirit.
Nichiren Daishonin mentions in gHell and Buddhahoodh:
One who practices still more earnestly whenever he hears the teachings of the Lotus Sutra is a true seeker of the Way.
(MWND Vol. 2-241)
This is the kind of appearance a person with seeking spirit should have, such as the seeking spirit Abutsu-bo and Sennichi-ama had.
The two became devout followers of Nichiren Daishonin at a very old age. Abutsu-bo was said to be 83 years old, and made his first pilgrimage when he was 86 years old. His last pilgrimage before he passed away was when he was 90 years old.
When we encourage old people to go on Tozan, some respond they are to old for Tozan. Despite Abutsu-bofs advanced age, he made three pilgrimages to Mt. Minobu and shows us the depth of his tremendous seeking spirit.
Unlike Tozan of today, where we leave the Head Temple when all activities are finished, Abutsu-bo stayed at the Mt. Minobu for one month to serve Nichiren Daishonin with his body. By doing that, he was repaying his debt of gratitude to the Buddha and to his master, Nichiren Daishonin.
Today, the only way we can repay our debt of gratitude to the Buddha is to advance forth in our shakubuku efforts. Following the spirit of Abutsu-bo we know for certain that age should never be an excuse.
As you well know by now, 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin has set up two goals for us to accomplish. The 50% increase of our membership by 2015, the 770th anniversary of the birth of 2nd High Priest Nikko Shonin, and the 800,000 worldwide membership by 2021, the 800th anniversary of the advent of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.
Letfs continue to strive in our practice of conducting shakubuku, daily Gongyo and Shodai, and continue the growth and development of ourselves, as well as the development of Myogyoji Temple.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.