July Oko 2008

 

          Once there was a traveler who spoke these words in sorrow to his host:

          In recent years, there are unusual disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence, all affecting every corner of the empire and spreading throughout the land.  Oxen and horses lie dead in the streets, the bones of the stricken crowd the highways. Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and in every family someone grieves.

          All the while some put their whole faith in the "sharp sword" of the Buddha Amida and intone this name of the lord of the Western Paradise; others believe that the Buddha Yakushi will "heal all ills," and recite the sutra that describes him as the Tathagata of the Eastern Region. Some, putting their trust in the passage in the Lotus Sutra that says, "Illness will vanish immediately, and he will find perpetual youth and eternal life," pay homage to the wonderful words of that sutra; others, citing the passage in the Ninno Sutra that reads:  "The seven difficulties vanish, the seven blessings at once appear," conduct ceremonies at which a hundred preachers expound the sutra at a hundred places.

  There are those who follow the secret teachings of the Shingon sect and conduct rituals by filling five jars with water; and others who devote themselves entirely to Zen-type meditation and perceive the emptiness of all phenomena as clearly as the moon. Some write out the names of the seven guardian spirits and paste them on a thousand gates, others paint pictures of the five mighty bodhisattvas and hang them over ten thousand thresholds, and still others pray to the gods of heaven and the deities of earth in ceremonies conducted at the four corners of the capital and on the four boundaries of the nation; others, taking pity on the plight of the common people, make certain that government on the national and local levels is carried out in a benevolent manner.

          But despite all these efforts, they merely exhaust themselves in vain.  Famine and disease rage more fiercely than ever, beggars are everywhere in sight, and scenes of death fill our eyes.  Cadavers pile up in mounds like observation platforms, dead bodies lie side by side like planks on a bridge. If we look about, we find that the sun and moon continue to move in their accustomed orbits, and the five planets follow the proper course. The three treasures of Buddhism continue to exist, and the period of a hundred reigns [during which the Bodhisattva Hachiman vowed to protect the nation] has not yet expired. Then why is it that the world has already fallen into decline and that the laws of the state have come to an end? What is wrong? What error has been committed?

 

 

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.

 

Today, I have read the beginning of the “Rissho Ankoku Ron”. It was in the sixteenth day of the seventh month of the first year of Bunno (1260) that Nichiren Daishonin wrote this Gosho and submitted it to the Kamakura shogunate. It is constructed through ten questions given by a traveler and answered by the host of the house the traveler will be staying. The traveler represents Hojo Tokiyori. Although retired, he was the most influential member of the Hojo Clan. The host mentioned here is Nichiren Daishonin. The ten questions the traveler asks to the host are the following:

                  1. Reasons why catastrophes comes.

                  2. Evidence of why catastrophes are created.

                  3. Reasons why the True Law is being slandered.

                  4. The grounds on what the ‘evil doctrine’ is.

                  5. Giving out examples from what happened in China and Japan.

                  6. Necessity of sending out the petition to the government.

                  7. Actual necessary means on rooting out the catastrophe of the country.

                  8. Necessity of beheading.

                  9. Severing all doubts and bringing in faith.

                  10. Understanding and converting to True Buddhism.

 

The title “Rissho Ankoku Ron” has a very deep meaning. “Rissho” means, “establishing the correct doctrine.” To establish the correct doctrine, it is necessary to refute the wrong one. Therefore, establishing the correct doctrine and refuting the wrong one are the two sides of the same coin. The Lotus Sutra states, "honestly discarding the expedient, and solely expounding the supreme way." (Kaiketsu, p.124) The quote "Honestly discarding the expedient" means,  "refuting the wrong doctrine" and, "solely expounding the supreme way" is "establishing the correct doctrine."

But there is a much deeper meaning to this. One is the establishment of the correct doctrine. In order for this to happen, we must refute the wrong doctrine. There is a Buddhist term in Japanese called “Haja kensho.” It means, “Surrender the wrong religion and reveal the true teaching.” But there is a much deeper meaning here. Nichikan Shonin, the 26th High Priest, explains the two Chinese characters used for “rissho” in his “Notes on Rissho Ankoku Ron”,

                  “Both characters of rissho encompass the three secret laws.”

This means that the two characters of “Rissho” contain the meaning of the Three Great Secret Laws. Furthermore, High Priest Nichikan Shonin teaches as follows.

“If we follow the teachings of the object of worship of the Essential Teaching, “shou” means mystic and mystic is “shou.”

Mystic means Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Myoho-Renge-Kyo is in other words the object of worship of the Essential Teaching. “Ritsu” of “rissho” means to uphold this object of worship.”

   As to the relationship between “rissho” and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching, Nichikan Shonin comments in his “Notes on Rissho Ankoku Ron” as follows.

“If we act on the teachings of the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching, the Daimoku has two meanings of faith and practice. The practice starts with faith and faith ends with practice. Because one encounters the true object of worship, his faith is the correct one. Because his faith is correct, his practice is also correct. Thus, the practice of the Daimoku is correct. “Ritsu” means to maintain the practice.”

  Moreover, the relationship between “rissho” and the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is stated in Nichikan Shonin’s “Notes on Rissho Ankoku Ron” as follows.

“If we follow the teachings of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, “shou” means the supreme single vehicle which is the origin of all the teachings in Buddhism. The supreme single vehicle means the object of worship of the Essential Teaching. This is because the object of worship is the supreme one in the entire universe. “Todomaru” means to dwell eternally. The object of worship resides eternally with the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching. “Ritsu” means to establish the High Sanctuary.”

As described, the two characters of “rissho” contain the meanings of the Three Great of Secret Laws - the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching, the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching, and the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching. To establish the doctrine of the Three Great Secret Laws we must weed out all of the erroneous religions first. Without refuting the heretical teachings, there can be no prevalence of True Buddhism (rissho) or realization of a peaceful land.

 Ankoku means simply, "A Peaceful World." When this Gosho was written, the world (koku) pointed here was the country of Japan. But in reality, it points towards the whole world, and The Gosho title expresses that in order to construct a peaceful land, we must not hesitate our efforts to refute the evil doctrine and promote Nichiren Daishonin’s True Buddhism.

 

Today’s passage that I mentioned at the beginning is from the very beginning of Rissho Ankoku Ron.

Once there was a traveler who spoke these words in sorrow to his host:

In recent years, there are unusual disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence, all affecting every corner of the empire and spreading throughout the land.  Oxen and horses lie dead in the streets, the bones of the stricken crowd the highways. Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and in every family someone grieves.

 

In the beginning, the traveler is disgusted at what he is seeing all over the country; famine, plagues, droughts, earthquakes, floods, etc. All of these were happening in a span of four years. And despite the fact the government had ordered the various religious sects to pray for the improvement of the country.

 

All the while some put their whole faith in the "sharp sword" of the Buddha Amida and intone this name of the lord of the Western Paradise; others believe that the Buddha Yakushi will "heal all ills," and recite the sutra that describes him as the Tathagata of the Eastern Region. Some, putting their trust in the passage in the Lotus Sutra that says, "Illness will vanish immediately, and he will find perpetual youth and eternal life," pay homage to the wonderful words of that sutra; others, citing the passage in the Ninno Sutra that reads:  "The seven difficulties vanish, the seven blessings at once appear," conduct ceremonies at which a hundred preachers expound the sutra at a hundred places.

There are those who follow the secret teachings of the Shingon sect and conduct rituals by filling five jars with water; and others who devote themselves entirely to Zen-type meditation and perceive the emptiness of all phenomena as clearly as the moon. Some write out the names of the seven guardian spirits and paste them on a thousand gates, others paint pictures of the five mighty bodhisattvas and hang them over ten thousand thresholds, and still others pray to the gods of heaven and the deities of earth in ceremonies conducted at the four corners of the capital and on the four boundaries of the nation; others, taking pity on the plight of the common people, make certain that government on the national and local levels is carried out in a benevolent manner.

 

This part explains the various prayers carried out by the religions of the time. “All the while some put their whole faith in the "sharp sword" of the Buddha Amida and intone this name of the lord of the Western Paradise” is the prayer of the Nembutsu sect. “others believe that the Buddha Yakushi will "heal all ills," and recite the sutra that describes him as the Tathagata of the Eastern Region” explains the prayer for the T’ientai religion.

The third part “Some, putting their trust in the passage in the Lotus Sutra that says, "Illness will vanish immediately, and he will find perpetual youth and eternal life," pay homage to the wonderful words of that sutra.” Despite the fact that a passage of the Lotus Sutra is being used, Nichiren Daishonin knew that this passage didn’t work because the fact that there was no actual proof that the country improved from the catastrophes by reciting it.

“Others, citing the passage in the Ninno Sutra that reads:  "The seven difficulties vanish, the seven blessings at once appear," conduct ceremonies at which a hundred preachers expound the sutra at a hundred places.” The Ninno Sutra is Provisional Mahayana. Especially in the Latter Day of the Law, it will have little effect even if the practice of hundred preachers expound the sutra at a hundred places is conducted.

There are those who follow the secret teachings of the Shingon sect and conduct rituals by filling five jars with water; and others who devote themselves entirely to Zen-type meditation and perceive the emptiness of all phenomena as clearly as the moon.

These two are prayers conducted by the Shingon sect and the Zen sect. They are, as many of you already know, are part of the four dictums. These prayers will never work.

Some write out the names of the seven guardian spirits and paste them on a thousand gates, others paint pictures of the five mighty bodhisattvas and hang them over ten thousand thresholds.

And still others pray to the gods of heaven and the deities of earth in ceremonies conducted at the four corners of the capital and on the four boundaries of the nation;

These are prayers from various Buddhist prayers. Because they don’t know the principles of Buddhism, they think that bringing up some useful prayers will work. But actually, these go against the Lotus Sutra.

 

Others, taking pity on the plight of the common people, make certain that government on the national and local levels is carried out in a benevolent manner.

This part mentions nothing about religious prayers, but rather political and governmental aspects. There are people thinking politics will lead to eternal happiness. But that can only be limited, because it all depends on the person who makes those decisions. Without declaring True Buddhism, even policies that are great will not work.

 

But despite all these prayers, the result was the following:

          But despite all these efforts, they merely exhaust themselves in vain.  Famine and disease rage more fiercely than ever, beggars are everywhere in sight, and scenes of death fill our eyes.  Cadavers pile up in mounds like observation platforms, dead bodies lie side by side like planks on a bridge. If we look about, we find that the sun and moon continue to move in their accustomed orbits, and the five planets follow the proper course. The three treasures of Buddhism continue to exist, and the period of a hundred reigns [during which the Bodhisattva Hachiman vowed to protect the nation] has not yet expired. Then why is it that the world has already fallen into decline and that the laws of the state have come to an end? What is wrong? What error has been committed?

The traveler seems to think that he has no other options left. But the host actually has such a solution. His answer will follow next time.

 

When the Daishonin admonished the government through the submission of the “Rissho Ankoku Ron”, his cottage in Matsubayagatsu was burned the next month. In the following year the Daishonin was exiled to Izu. He would face various persecutions and hardships. Yet, He knew that He had to speak out about this Buddhism and refute heretical teachings. This Gosho was first aimed at the Nembutsu sect. But in later years, with this Buddhism expanding around the world, it aims towards the various religions that are being practiced right now.

 

Beginning this month, I will offer sermons from the “Rissho Ankoku Ron.” As you know, next year will be the 750th Anniversary of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice through the Submission of the Rissho Ankoku Ron. These kind of specific ceremonies only come once in a lifetime. Once these ceremonies are over, it will never happen again. We must not let this opportunity slip away from us. Also, as we progress with shakubuku, there will be devils that will arise in various shapes and forms. We must be very careful not to be influenced by these.

 

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