June Oko 2009

 

 

This time the guest was truly enraged and said: In the ages since our original teacher, the Buddha Shakyamuni, preached the three Pure Land sutras, the priest T'an-luan had originally studied the four treatises but abandoned them and put all his faith in the Pure Land teachings. Similarly, the priest Tao-ch'o ceased to spread the multifarious doctrines of the Nirvana Sutra and devoted all his attention to the practices of the Western Region. The priest Shan-tao discarded the incorrect practices and concentrated on the single practice of the Pure Land, and the Priest Eshin collected passages from various sutras to form his work, stressing the importance of a single practice, the Nembutsu. Such was the manner in which these men honored and respected the Buddha Amida, and uncountable numbers of people as a result were able to gain rebirth in the Pure Land.

Of particular note was the venerable Honen, who as a child entered the monastery on Mt. Hiei. By the time he was seventeen, he had worked his way through all sixty volumes of Tendai literature and had investigated all the eight sects and mastered their essentials. In addition, he had read through the entire body of sutras and treatises seven times, and exhausted all the works of exegesis and biography. His wisdom shone like the sun and moon, and his virtue exceeded that of the earlier teachers.

In spite of all this, he was in doubt as to the proper path to salvation and could not make out the true meaning of nirvana. Therefore he read and examined all the texts he could, pondered deeply and considered every possibility, and in the end put aside all the sutras and concentrated on the single practice of the Nembutsu. In addition, he received confirmation of his decision when Shan-tao miraculously appeared to him in a dream, and he proceeded to spread his doctrines among friends and strangers in all four corners of the land. Thereafter, he was hailed as a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Seishi, or was revered as Shan-tao reborn. In every quarter people of eminent and lowly birth alike bowed their heads in respect, and men and women from all over Japan sought him.

Since that time, the springs and autumns have succeeded each other and the years have accumulated. And yet you insist upon putting aside the venerable teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha contained in the Pure Land sutras and willfully speak evil of the writings concerning the Buddha Amida. Why do you try to blame the sacred age of Honen for the disasters of recent years, going out of your way to slander the former teachers of Pure Land doctrine and to heap abuse on a sage like Honen? You are, as the saying goes, deliberately blowing back the fur and hunting for flaws in the leather, deliberately piercing the skin in hopes of drawing blood.

From ancient times to the present, the world has never seen such a speaker of evil! You had better learn a little caution and restraint. When you pile up such grave offenses, how can you hope to escape punishment? I am afraid even to sit here in your company. I must take up my staff and be on my way!

 

 

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

 

For this month’s Oko sermon, I am continuing with the Rissho Ankoku ron and the fifth question from the traveler (Hojo Tokiyori). Before going into the sermon, I would like to recap the past four questions given by the traveler and the response given by the host (Nichiren Daishonin).

 

The first question given by the traveler focused on why catastrophes or disasters occur. The host responds, saying “The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right; to a man, they give their allegiance to evil. That is the reason why the benevolent deities have abandoned the nation, why sages leave and do not return. And in their stead come devils and demons, disasters and calamities that arise one after another.

Then the traveler asks to the host why these catastrophes are created. The host responds, citing various sutras and proclaiming “The passages I have quoted from these four sutras are perfectly clear--what person in ten thousand could possibly doubt their meaning? And yet the blind and the deluded trust to heretical doctrines and fail to recognize the correct teachings. Therefore, throughout the empire these days people are inclined to turn away from the Buddhas and the sutras and no longer endeavor to protect them. In turn, the benevolent deities and sages abandon the nation and leave their accustomed places. As a result, demons and followers of heretical doctrines create disaster and inflict calamity upon the populace.

Again, the traveler asks why people are slandering the True Law. The host, citing various sutras again, responds, “When we look at the world in the light of these passages of scripture, we see that the situation is just as they describe it. If we do not admonish the evil monks, how can we hope to do good?”

The traveler again asks to the host, what is the evil doctrine? The host responds that Honen, priest of the Pure Land Sect, is the evil doctrine.

After hearing those responses, the traveler was clearly enraged.

 

The traveler was further raged after hearing the host’s response calling Honen, the teacher he most respects, the evil teacher. Then he proceeds his question with the following: “In the ages since our original teacher, the Buddha Shakyamuni, preached the three Pure Land sutras, the priest T'an-luan had originally studied the four treatises but abandoned them and put all his faith in the Pure Land teachings. Similarly, the priest Tao-ch'o ceased to spread the multifarious doctrines of the Nirvana Sutra and devoted all his attention to the practices of the Western Region. The priest Shan-tao discarded the incorrect practices and concentrated on the single practice of the Pure Land, and the Priest Eshin collected passages from various sutras to form his work, stressing the importance of a single practice, the Nembutsu. Such was the manner in which these men honored and respected the Buddha Amida, and uncountable numbers of people as a result were able to gain rebirth in the Pure Land.

The traveler first mentions various priests who abandoned their previous teachings and devoted themselves to the Pure Land teaching. As a result of these priests devoting to the Pure Land teaching, people start to put their devotion to this Pure Land teaching.

 

Then, the traveler continues,

Of particular note was the venerable Honen, who as a child entered the monastery on Mt. Hiei. By the time he was seventeen, he had worked his way through all sixty volumes of Tendai literature and had investigated all the eight sects and mastered their essentials. In addition, he had read through the entire body of sutras and treatises seven times, and exhausted all the works of exegesis and biography. His wisdom shone like the sun and moon, and his virtue exceeded that of the earlier teachers.

The traveler starts to praise Honen as a hard worker and one with tremendous talent. He continues his praise with the following:

In spite of all this, he was in doubt as to the proper path to salvation and could not make out the true meaning of nirvana. Therefore he read and examined all the texts he could, pondered deeply and considered every possibility, and in the end put aside all the sutras and concentrated on the single practice of the Nembutsu. In addition, he received confirmation of his decision when Shan-tao miraculously appeared to him in a dream, and he proceeded to spread his doctrines among friends and strangers in all four corners of the land. Thereafter, he was hailed as a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Seishi, or was revered as Shan-tao reborn. In every quarter people of eminent and lowly birth alike bowed their heads in respect, and men and women from all over Japan sought him.

 

Finally, he closes his question by saying:

Since that time, the springs and autumns have succeeded each other and the years have accumulated. And yet you insist upon putting aside the venerable teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha contained in the Pure Land sutras and willfully speak evil of the writings concerning the Buddha Amida. Why do you try to blame the sacred age of Honen for the disasters of recent years, going out of your way to slander the former teachers of Pure Land doctrine and to heap abuse on a sage like Honen? You are, as the saying goes, deliberately blowing back the fur and hunting for flaws in the leather, deliberately piercing the skin in hopes of drawing blood.

From ancient times to the present, the world has never seen such a speaker of evil! You had better learn a little caution and restraint. When you pile up such grave offenses, how can you hope to escape punishment? I am afraid even to sit here in your company. I must take up my staff and be on my way!

The traveler questions the quotes the host gives in regards to Honen, and is very afraid to be near the host because of the slander he creates towards Honen. But the host, clearly knowing what He is saying, is preparing to refute the traveler, and offers incidents that happened in China and Japan. I will explain that next month.

 

 

We have gone through this many times, but when we are doing shakubuku, we are certain to get a negative response. Who in the world today would raise both hands in joy and convert after telling that person they are practicing the wrong religion based on the correct teachings. This is the kind of response anyone should be getting when they do shakubuku.

Then, there are people who believe that we should not make them angry, trying to avoid such a response, and try to convert them in the most polite way. By doing this, instead of doing shakubuku by refuting the delusional beliefs, they tell them it is OK to do this, do that, etc., and approve some of these delusional beliefs. This only means the membership number grows but will lack any understanding of this Buddhism, or lack the compassion towards the people they will shakubuku. They will not understand the fear these delusional beliefs bring. Not only that, Nichiren Daishonin mentions in “Letter from Sado” the following:

“The renegade disciples say that although Priest Nichiren is their teacher, he is too rigid, and they will spread the Lotus Sutra in a more flexible way. In so asserting, they are being as ridiculous as fireflies laughing at the sun and moon, an anthill belittling Mount Hua, small inlets despising the boundless sea, or a magpie mocking the Chinese phoenix”

He is warning us that we will be disciples of those extremely arrogant. We must embody the true spirit of shakubuku, where we remember the saying Nichiren Daishonin wrote at the beginning of today’s portion.

 

As you know, we are in the midst of the 750th Anniversary of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice through the Submission of the Rissho Ankoku-ron during the “Year of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice.” We must continue our efforts not only in shakubuku, but to maintain our daily practice of Gongyo and Shodai, and to participate in the General Tozans that will be conducted in August, September, October, and December. This year is a very significant year to be participating in Tozan. This will only happen once in our lifetimes. If you miss this opportunity, you won’t experience this kind of Tozan ever again. If there is anyone who has not made their determination to participate in these Tozans, now is the time to make that determination.

 

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