Lecture in Praise of Nichiren Daishonin

August 2013, Oko Lecture

 

 

 

Sowing the Seed of Buddhahood Through Shakubuku and the Poison-Drum Relationship

 

 

In “The Opening of the Eyes” (“Kaimoku-shō”), Nichiren Daishonin writes the following about Buddhist practice today, in the Latter Day of the Law:

 

          Even if, in a deep forest, a scholar of the Tiantai school concentrates his mind
principle of ichinen sanzen (three thousand realms in a single life-moment); or in quiet surroundings far removed from other people, a scholar of the Shingon sect performs the practices of the three secrets [by concentrating single-mindedly] as if he were carrying a pot full of oil so as not to spill a drop; how can they liberate themselves from the sufferings of life and death, without knowing the time or capacity nor understanding the difference between the two methods of shōju and shakubuku?

 

(Gosho, p. 576)

 

The Daishonin further states in the Gosho, “Attaining Enlightenment at the Initial Stage of Faith through the Lotus Sutra” (“Hokke shoshin jōbutsu-shō”):

 

If people have heard the Lotus Sutra, they will attain enlightenment and become a Buddha, without fail, as they have received the seed [of Buddhahood]….Even if they fallen into hell, they will be able to rise before long and achieve Buddhahood. In any event, the people in the world today have turned their backs on the Lotus Sutra and, for that offense, they undoubtedly will fall into hell. Thus, in any case, one should strongly teach and make people listen to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Those who follow and take faith in it will be able to attain enlightenment, and even those who slander it will likewise attain Buddhahood in the end through their reverse relationship with it.

(Gosho, p. 1316)

 

These passages clearly reveal that the practice of shakubuku is the foremost priority. The practice of shakubuku begins with the sowing of the seed of Buddhism (geshu). There are two types of sowing: sowing the seed of Buddhahood by letting one hear the Law (monpō geshu) and attaining enlightenment by awakening faith in the sown seed (hosshin geshu). In the Annotations on The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke gengi shakusen), Miaole states:

 

Sowing the seed of Buddhahood by letting one hear the Law represents the seed, and attaining enlightenment by awakening faith in the sown seed signifies the seedling.

(Compilation of the Annotations on the Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra [Hokke gengi shakusen ehon], vol. 1, p. 225)

 

Therefore, sowing the seed of Buddhahood by letting one hear the Law (monpō geshu) indicates the fundamental planting, in which the Buddha of the Buddhism of the sowing first sows the seed of Buddhism into the hearts of the people.

Attaining enlightenment by awakening faith in the sown seed (hosshin geshu) refers to those who have forgotten that the seed of Buddhism already has been planted in their hearts. The Buddhas of the Buddhism of the maturing and harvesting expound various doctrines to the people and cause the sown seed to sprout, according to their individual karmic bonds. Ultimately, they are able to gain the benefit of enlightenment.

The people who receive the sowing of the seed of Buddhahood by hearing the Law for the first time are known as those without the seed of Buddhahood (honmi uzen). Those who receive the sowing of the seed to enable them to attain enlightenment by awakening faith in the sown seed are known as those possessing the seed of Buddhahood (honi uzen), since they previously have received the Buddha seed.

Although both represent the sowing of the seed, there is a fundamental difference between them—the sowing of the seed by hearing the Law (monpō) and the sowing to awaken the sown seed (hosshin). There are differences in the capacities of the people; based on whether they are without the seed of Buddhahood, or whether they already possess the seed of Buddhahood.

In short, the sowing of the seed of Buddhahood into the hearts of those hearing the Law for the first time—those without the seed of Buddhahood—is the true form of sowing. The sowing of the seed into the hearts of the people in order to lead them to attain enlightenment by awakening faith in the sown seed—those possessing the seed of Buddhahood—is naturally considered to be in the realm of the Buddhism of the maturing and of the harvesting.

In “The Interpretations Based on the Principle Hidden in the Depths” (“Egihanmon-shō”), Nichikan Shonin explains:

 

The teachings and guidance of Shakyamuni began in the infinite past of kuon-ganjo and ended with the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law.

(Six-Volume Writings [Rokkan-shō], p. 110)

 

Here, Nichikan Shonin definitively states that the teachings expounded by Shakyamuni—for those possessing the seed of Buddhahood, who received the sowing of the seed of Buddhahood in the infinite past of kuon-ganjo—came to an end two thousand years after his demise, after the Former and Middle Days of the Law. Furthermore, in the following excerpt, Nichikan Shonin teaches that all people in the Latter Day of the Law are those without the seed of Buddhahood. They never received the planting of the mystic Law (Myōhō) of the Buddhism of the sowing of the true cause, hidden in the depths of the sutra:

 

All people in the Latter Day of the Law are those without the seed of Buddhahood (honmi uzen), and their capacity is that of those who receive the sowing of the seed of the Buddha for the first time.

(ibid.)

 

Thus, even if the people of the Latter Day of the Law assiduously practice the teachings of the Buddhism of the maturing and the harvesting, such as those practiced during Shakyamuni’s lifetime and during the two-thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law, they will find that they cannot derive any benefits from them. First and foremost, just as in the infinite past of kuon-ganjo, the mystic Law (Myōhō) of the Buddhism of the sowing of the true cause must be planted into the lives of these people, by the True Buddha—the Buddha as a common mortal at the stage of first hearing the name of the Law (myōji-soku). Otherwise, the people cannot achieve their true purpose of attaining enlightenment in their present form (sokushin jobutsu).

This is the reason why the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, made his advent—to do shakubuku, by sowing the seed of the mystic Law (Myōhō) into the hearts of all mankind in the Latter Day of the Law. Earlier, I referred to the following passage from the Gosho, “Attaining Enlightenment at the Initial Stage of Faith through the Lotus Sutra” (“Hokke shoshin jōbutsu-shō”):

 

Thus, in any case, one should strongly teach and make people listen to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Those who follow and take faith in it will be able to attain enlightenment, and even those who slander it will likewise attain Buddhahood in the end through their reverse relationship with it.

 (Gosho, p. 1316)

 

As the Daishonin teaches, we must advance with devotion, day and night, in our shakubuku efforts. This is because both the direct positive relationship (jun en) and the reverse opposing relationship (gyaku en) both are effective in planting the seed of the Buddhism of the mystic Law (Myōhō)—the Buddhism of the sowing of the true cause.

It is only natural that one will form a karmic bond with a positive relationship, but it is also true for those people who form a reverse relationship, because they can use it as a cause for the attainment of enlightenment in the future. The latter is characterized as a poison-drum relationship. This principle is expounded in a passage in nine volume of the Nirvana Sutra (Nehan gyō):

 

It is as though a drum is painted with a poisonous medicine and placed within a large group of people. The drum is struck and it resounds loudly. Even if the people, in their hearts, do not desire to hear the sound, they all hear it and die.

(Kokuyakuž Nehan-bu-1, p. 180)

 

Poison drum is a drum that is applied with poison. It is said that when it is beaten, the people who don’t even have intention to hear will definitely die through listening its sound.

 

The story of the poison drum is used metaphorically to describe a situation in which we can enable people to create a karmic bond with the Law if we persistently teach them about the Lotus Sutra, even if they have no interest in listening to us. Thus, both the positive relationship and the reverse relationship can be the causal factors for the attainment of Buddhahood.

Our High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated the following about the poison-drum relationship:

 

You may all be aware of the principle of the poison-drum relationship….The poison drum is a drum that is smeared with poison. The poison-drum relationship describes a situation in which, when we teach slanderers about the Lotus Sutra, even if they oppose and reject us, they will have made a cause to attain enlightenment without fail, simply by forming a karmic bond with the Lotus Sutra….Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, there are more people who possess a reverse relationship than those who have a positive relationship. Therefore, it is important to enable them to form this reverse relationship—that is, the poison-drum relationship—so that they eventually can attain enlightenment. In other words, it is essential to enable them to hear Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws. As a matter of course, we cannot expect the opponents to be cooperative. They even may inflict venomous slander and insults against us. However, even if they slander us—that is, even if they slander the Lotus Sutra and denounce the Gohonzon—the karmic bond that they form with the Gohonzon is most precious. As a result, they eventually will attain Buddhahood, based on their previous poison-drum relationship.

(Dainichiren, No. 745, pp. 35-36)

 

Our High Priest instructs us to forge ahead with devotion in sowing the seed of the Law and doing shakubuku, regardless of whether or not the people we address are receptive and willing to listen.

Nichiren Shoshu is now entering the final stage of the campaign to achieve our designated shakubuku objectives, as we advance toward the years 2015 and 2021, and The Grand Ceremony Commemorating the Completion of the Major Renovation of the Image Hall (Mieidō), which is just three months away. At a time like this, if our faith is based on inflexible and self-centered views, how can we possibly uphold a practice in true appreciation of Nichiren Daishonin? We must proceed, without ever losing sight of our High Priest’s directions:

 

    It is important to enable them to form this reverse relationship—that is, the poison-drum relationship—so that they eventually can attain enlightenment. In other words, it is essential to enable them to hear Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws.

(ibid.)

 

Let us achieve our shakubuku goals, and attend the Grand Ceremony for the Image Hall (Mieido) with tremendous joy in our lives.

The Daishonin states the following in the “Letter to Chikugobō in the Cave Prison” (“TsuchirŅ-gosho”):

 

When all others practice the Lotus Sutra, they recite or read only its characters without belief. Some of them read it with their mind, but do not put it into action. However, it is most admirable to practice using both mind and body.

(Gosho, p. 483)

 

Let us not lose sight of these golden words and forge ahead, ever more vigorously, with courage and devotion.