June Oko 2010
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 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.
How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra
(MW, v.6, p.193)
To illustrate, in kindling a fire, three things are needed: a good piece of steel, a good flint and good tinder. The same is true of prayer. Three things are required--a good teacher, a good believer and a good doctrine--before the prayers can be effective and disasters banished from the land. A "good teacher" is a priest who is innocent of any wrongdoing in secular affairs, who never fawns upon others even in the slightest, who has few desires and is satisfied with little, and who is compassionate, a priest who trusts to the scriptures, reads and upholds the Lotus Sutra and also encourages others to embrace it. Such a priest the Buddha has praised by calling him, among all priests, the finest teacher of the Dharma. A "good believer" is one who does not depend upon persons of eminence nor despise persons of humble station, who does not rely on the backing of his superiors nor look down on his inferiors, who, not relying upon the opinions of others, upholds the Lotus Sutra among all the various sutras. Such a person the Buddha has called the best of all people. As for a "good doctrine," the Buddha has told us that this sutra, the Lotus, represents the foremost among all doctrines. Among all the sutras the Buddha "has preached," among those he "now preaches," and among those he "will preach," this sutra is designated as foremost, and therefore it is a "good doctrine."
This month, I would like to talk about a passage from the Gosho gHow Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra.h This Gosho was written on the first year of Koan, 1278, when Nichiren Daishonin was 57 years old, at Mt. Minobu.
This gosho was written as a letter addressed to Myoho-ama, a nun living in Okamiya, inside the province of Suruga. We do not know much of Myoho-amafs disposition, but it is said that she lost her husband around the time she received this gosho, lost her brother a little later, and four years later, on February 22, 1282, she passed away as well. Through this gosho, we find out that she is a very strong willed person, has a deep knowledge of the practice, and despite being a woman, was willing to conduct the practice of shakubuku.
Like the gRissho Ankoku ronh, this gosho is formed through a question and answer format. There are thirteen questions in this gosho, focusing on the shakubuku of people who worship various religions, and their misconceptions about the Lotus Sutra. In order to clarify their misconceptions, this question and answer format is used to help people understand more readily and continues to be relevant to the lives of people now.
For example the following question from the Gosho:
gObserving Japan at the present time, one can see that the obstacles presented by the five impurities are very grave, that quarrels and disputes occur incessantly, and that peoplefs minds are consumed with anger and their thoughts filled with jealousy. In such a country and at such a time as this, what sutra ought to be propagated?h@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ (MW, v. 6, p. 177)
This passage gives a clear example of how the lives of people in Japan then as well as now gain benefit from the Lotus Sutra based on the similarities of our lives.
The title of this Gosho means disclosing the reason of enlightenment by first time practitioners who uphold the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. It is stated in this Gosho:
gcthe seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo--the heart of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutrac.will alone spread throughout this country, bringing advantage and benefit to all persons, and the blessings of Bodhisattva Jogyo will flourish greatly.h
(MW. v 6, p. 187~8)
This means that the people in the Latter Day of the Law can attain enlightenment through the True Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the soul of the Juryo Chapter of the Essential Teachings possessed by the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin, the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo.
Through this passage, I will explain what a good teacher and a good believer mean, and what is necessary for our prayers to be answered.
In order to make progress in our advancement towards Kosen-rufu, it is very important that we create a strong unity between priesthood and the laity. This unity must be based on respect and consideration towards each other. Through this, we will cultivate character and become an ideal practitioner with a sense of fulfillment who can be looked up to, others stating, gI want to be like him or her.h
Here are a few points to explain ga good teacher.h First, a good teacher does not cause unpleasant incidents or commit crimes. People will have a hard time following and trusting in such a teacher. A person who tries to manipulate or seek out favor and attention will not make a good teacher. Showing signs of greed, or not showing any kind of compassion will also not make a good teacher.@ A person expressing humility and consideration for others is a "good teacher".
A "good teacher" relies on the correct doctrine and encourages others to study and practice correctly as taught by Nichiren Daishonin.
Finally, in setting a good example to members, the chief priest must lead by example in shakubuku.@ Leading by a positive example is a sign of a good teacher.
Next, here are a few points that make ga good believer.h@ First to express respect and accept everyone without judgment regardless of whom they are. We tend to try to get on the good side of people who appear nobler than us, trying to improve our images, and despise people who are seemingly weaker. But as a practitioner of this Buddhism, this is not a behavior we should be emulating. Any signs of arrogance and looking down on other people will also not make a good believer.
Second, make your decisions based on the words of the Buddha. In our case, it is the words of Nichiren Daishonin that we must put into practice. We cannot make decisions based on other peoplefs advice. The people that we tend to refer to in this regard are those who think they are smarter, educated, and are slanderous towards the Lotus Sutra. What is important for us is what the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin teaches us. A "good believer" is not influenced by those outside Nichiren Shoshu when we talk about True Buddhism.
Finally, based on the phrase in the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra, gHonestly discarding the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme Way,h refers to good believers who honestly embrace the Lotus Sutra, the foremost teachings among the various sutras.
If we want to be a good teacher and believer, we must strive in our faith, practice, and study, and improve together by encouraging each other. Especially to develop as a good believer, it is absolutely unacceptable to utter even a single word of hatred, jealousy, words that will lead to grudges towards fellow members, or any one of the fourteen slanders. Respect for each other is for the sake of propagation and the endurance of this Buddhism within the seventeen states of Myogyoji Temple.
As we continue our practice, whether confronting big or small situations, personal and family problems, or efforts towards accomplishing Kosen-rufu, we are going to be praying for something. It is very important that we earnestly pray in front of the Gohonzon. We must also remember to put into action the practice of jigyo-keta, the practice for oneself and others as priesthood and laity in order to propagate this Buddhism correctly and have our prayers answered.
Nichiren Daishonin tells us in the Gosho gThe Eight Windsh:
If master and disciple pray with differing minds, their prayers will be as futile as trying to kindle a fire on water. Even if they pray with one mind, their prayers will go unanswered if they have long slandered true Buddhism by adhering to inferior teachings. Eventually, both will be ruined.@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ (MW v. 1, p. 206)
This passage is of tremendous significance to the relationship between chief priest and lay believers and further exemplifies the practice of jigyo-keta. The prayers offered by the priest and the believers must be in unison, or it will be like starting a fire on a watery surface. Nichiren Daishonin admonishes that eventually these prayers will not be answered.
It is also significant from the point of comparison between the correct and incorrect Buddhist teachings. If prayers are made following the lesser teachings, not only will they go unanswered, but it will also lead the teacher and the believer to the path of ruins.
It is essential that the teacher and the believer be in unison for the prayers to be answered. Nichiren Daishonin states in gLetter to Ben Ajarih:
We must realize someone has changed his or her mind when we are seriously praying because the sign shows that the prayers are not answered. If there is, then it is like starting a fire on a sheet of water, or trying to build a house in the middle of the sky.@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ (Gosho p. 998)
Nichiren Daishonin admonishes that even if we gather together and chant Daimoku for our prayers to be answered, if there is a person who goes against this, then just as trying to start a fire on a sheet of water, or trying to build a house in the middle of the sky, it is certain that our prayers will not be answered.
We must strive hard together to try to become a good believer, and focus on uniting with each other for the sake of Kosen-rufu. Just as Nichiren Daishonin states in the gosho gOn Itai Doshin,h
I believe that although Nichiren and his followers are few in number, because they act in itai doshin, they will accomplish their great mission of propagating the Lotus Sutra.@@
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ @(MW v. 1, p. 154)
Even if we are small in number, with our hard work and compassion, it is certain that we can accomplish shakubuku.
It is only through a good doctrine, a good teacher, and a good believer that our prayers are truly answered. With all three together, our ultimate goal of shakubuku will be answered. Our prayers, whether big or small, will certainly be answered as long as we, the good teacher and the good believer, are devoted to practice the good doctrine, which is the True Law, the Lotus Sutra.
We are now close to the halfway point of this gYear of Advancing towards Kosen-rufu.h Since the start of this year, I believe each and everyone of you are striving towards the accomplishment of shakubuku. I fully understand that it is not an easy task. But as I mentioned, as long as we are devoted to this practice of the True Law, we are certain to accomplish our goals. Here at Myogyoji Temple, we have set up activities for the second half of this year. The Overseas Believers Summer Study Tozan will be held from August 25 to August 31. The 4th Myogyoji Chapter Tozan will be from September 23 to September 29. I am looking forward to many of you participating in one of these Tozans.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.