March 2011 Oko
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.
On the Buddha’s Prophecy
Twenty-one years ago I, Nichiren, understood what was to come. Since then I have suffered persecution day after day and month after month. In the last two or three years, among other things, I was almost put to death. The chances are one in ten thousand that I will survive the year or even the month. If anyone questions these things, let him ask my disciples for details. What joy is ours to expiate in one lifetime our slanders from the eternal past! How fortunate to serve the Buddha who has never been known until now! I pray that before anything else I can guide to the truth the sovereign and those others who persecuted me. I will tell the Buddha about all the disciples who have aided me, and before they die, I will share the great blessings of this faith with my parents who gave me life.
This quote is from the gosho “On the Buddha’s Prophecy.” This gosho was written on May 11, 1273, when Nichiren Daishonin was 52 years old in Ichinosawa located on Sado Island where He was exiled in October 1271. This was addressed to His disciples, whose faith was shaken after Nichiren Daishonin was exiled.
There are three significant factors to this gosho:
1. Shakyamuni's prediction: “In the fifth five hundred years after my death, accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease,” which is noted in the Yakuo (twenty-third) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
2. Nichiren Daishonin’s own prophecy indicating that despite various obstacles befalling the votary of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin's teachings, true Buddhism, will spread throughout the world to benefit the people in the Latter Day of the Law and into the future.
3. The gosho states :“What do you yourself predict?” and expresses Nichiren Daishonin’s standpoint about the aspects of the prosperity of true Buddhism in the Latter Day of the Law.
These points mean that during the Latter Day of the Law, Buddhism will move from the east, return westward and spread across the world. A sage who is like a Buddha will appear to propagate this Buddhism. Earthquakes will exceed in number those of the Former and Middle days of the Law, and thereby reveal the rise of true Buddhism and the fall of all provisional teachings.
At the end of this gosho, Nichiren Daishonin states the following:
“ ‘Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound requires courage.’ The Great Teacher T'ian-t'ai practiced in a manner true to Shakyamuni's teachings and spread the Hokke sect throughout China. Dengyo and his followers received the doctrine from T'ian-t'ai and disseminated it throughout Japan.”
This indicates that Shakyamuni, T’ian-t’ai, and Dengyo propagated True Buddhism throughout India, China, and Japan. Nichiren Daishonin states that He inherited the lineage of Buddhism from these three teachers and propagated the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. He calls them, including himself, “the four masters of Buddhism in the three countries.”
This gosho, "On the Buddha's Prophesy," reveals that coinciding with the rise of true Buddhism in the Latter Day of the Law, earthquakes display signs that a new master will appear. Nichiren Daishonin encountered countless successive obstacles, and overcame them. He experienced the joy of propagating the true teachings hidden in the depths of the Juryo Chapter, and expressed appreciation for the merits gained.
As we continue to advance in this “Year of Taking Action to do Shakubuku,” let us look at obstacles that we will face and what we must do to overcome them.
As we move forward through this “Year of Taking Action to do Shakubuku”, everyone is certain to encounter the three obstacles and four devils, or sansho-shima that occur to hinder our practicing true Buddhism.
The three obstacles are the obstacles of earthly desires, karma, and retribution.
The obstacle of earthly desires is an impediment to Buddhist practice because of earthly desires that arise from the three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity. The obstacle of karma is a barrier created by committing the five cardinal sins and the ten evil acts. Karma is the accumulation of causes made through our words thoughts and deeds, the effects of which can be seen as our life current situations. One’s spouse or children may become obstacles to one's practice and an example of hindrances caused by karmic action. An obstruction that comes from power or national authority, including one’s parents is an obstacle resulting from retribution. This retribution manifests as a result of evil acts committed in one’s past lives.
The four devils comprise earthly desires, the five components, death, and the sixth heaven. The devil of earthly desires is an evil function that reinforces earthly desires stemming from greed, anger, and stupidity and deprives a Buddhist practitioner of wisdom. The devil of the five components is a disruption of the harmony or balance of the five components (form, perception, conception, volition, and consciousness), which constitute a human’s mind. This is a devil that obstructs one in performing Buddhist practice. The devil of death signifies the interruption of Buddhist practice due to the practitioner’s death. It also functions to provoke doubt about the validity of Buddhism in the minds of others due to this death. Finally, the devil of the sixth heaven signifies the king devil who lives in the sixth heaven of the world of desire. This devil finds pleasure in interfering with Buddhist practice and sapping the practitioner’s energy. This is the most powerful devilish function.
I often hear people expressing they are having difficulty practicing because of sansho-shima. We must first realize this is actual proof we are developing an understanding of the practice, are accumulating merits, and advancing overall as an organization. On the other hand, if these difficulties are not coming out, then it becomes actual proof that we are not doing something right.
Why do these obstacles and devils emerge when we are progressing towards our enlightenment, as well as progressing as an organization?
Nichiren Daishonin’s states in the gosho “Letter to the Brothers”:
“This world is the province of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. All of its people have been related to him since time without beginning.”
(MWND Vol. 1 p. 135~6)
This passage indicates that the world we live in is also where the devil of the sixth heaven resides.
When we read the writings of Nichiren Daishonin about the devil of the sixth heaven, it mentions that if there is anyone who attains happiness and enlightenment within the six paths of the threefold world, or someone who will lead the people to enlightenment, the devil of the sixth heaven will maneuver his minions to take away that person’s merit, take away his/her life, and prevent them from attaining enlightenment.
Nichiren Daishonin warns us with the following words in “Letter to the Brothers”:
“…. You should be neither influenced nor frightened by them. If you fall under their influence, you will be led into the paths of evil. If you are frightened by them, you will be prevented from practicing true Buddhism." This quotation not only applies to Nichiren but also is the guide for his disciples. Reverently make this teaching your own and transmit it as an axiom of faith for future generations.”
(MWND Vol. 1 p. 145)
This means that whatever the circumstance, we should not let any obstacle or devil prevent us from our development as Buddhists. If we fall under their influence, we will be lead towards the three evil paths of hell, hunger, and animality.
This warning doesn’t apply to Nichiren Daishonin, but to his disciples and those in later generations. Let’s keep these words in our heart as we continue to strive in our Buddhist practice and Kosen-rufu.
Nichiren Daishonin tells us another example of why sansho-shima arises around us. This is deeply related to Shijo Kingo and the tremendous persecution he received from his colleagues and his master.
“You may be certain that it is a retribution in this present life for the hatred that you manifested in some previous existence toward a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Retribution of that kind can never be avoided, no matter how deep one may be within the mountains or how far away at sea.” (MWND Vol. 6 p. 168)
This is a passage from the gosho “Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha Made by Shijo Kingo”. This gosho addressed to Shijo Kingo, teaches us that it is unavoidable to run away from the karma we created, even if we are on a mountaintop, or deep under the sea. Despite whatever heavy karma we created, because we practice this Buddhism, we will gain the benefit of lessening our karmic retribution, or in Buddhist terms, tenjū kyōju.
Last year, the “Year of Advancing towards Kosen-rufu", Myogyoji Chapter took tremendous strides and 32 people received either Gojukai or Kankaishiki. This number easily exceeds the number of people who received Gojukai or Kankaishiki the past two years before. This year, as of today, we have 9 people who received Gojukai. I am certain that we can have more people receiving Gojukai or Kankaishiki during this “Year of Taking Action to do Shakubuku.”
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.