July Oko 2010
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.
Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution
The Nirvana Sutra teaches the principle of lessening karmic retribution. If one's heavy karma from the past is not expiated within this lifetime, he must undergo the sufferings of hell in the future, but if he experiences extreme hardship in this life, the sufferings of hell will vanish instantly. When he dies, he will obtain the blessings of Rapture and Tranquility, as well as those of the three vehicles and the supreme vehicle. Bodhisattva Fukyo was not abused and vilified, stoned and beaten with staves without reason. He had probably slandered the True Law in the past. The phrase "after expiating his sins" indicates that because Bodhisattva Fukyo met persecution, he could eradicate his sins from previous lifetimes.
This month, I would like to talk about a passage from the Gosho “Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution.” This Gosho was written on the October 5, 1271, when Nichiren Daishonin was 51 years old. It was written about a month after the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, while the Daishonin was detained at the residence of Lord Honma Shigetsura in Echi located in Sagami Province. It was addressed to three of His disciples, Ota Saemon, Soya Nyudo, and Kimbara Hokkyo. Whether addressing all three together or just one “When any one of you comes, I feel as though all three of you were here with me”, they visited the Daishonin at Lord Honma’s residence.
During this time, Nichiren Daishonin encountered two major persecutions. His execution at the Tatsunokuchi Beach, was certainly going to happen had it not been for the bright light that appeared at the execution site. Surviving the execution, the shogunate government decided to send Him to Sado Island. Being sent to Sado Island in exile only applied to atrocious criminals who created grave offenses, or anyone who plotted treason against the country. The fact that Nichiren Daishonin was almost executed, then sent into exile to Sado Island, was enough to plant doubts among His disciples and believers. “Why is such a tremendous persecution happening to Nichiren Daishonin?” “Are Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings the true teachings?” “Is Nichiren Daishonin really the votary of the Lotus Sutra?”
Even the three disciples, Ota, Soya, and Kimbara were believed to have these doubts. Because of their doubt, Nichiren Daishonin addressed this Gosho to them directly, but was referring to the general membership as well. This gosho describes why Nichiren Daishonin encountered these persecutions and to clear any doubts harbored by His disciples. Nichiren Daishonin’s intent in writing this gosho was to unite the laity, urging them to further strive in their faith and practice during such a serious matter.
In the “Basic Terminology of Nichiren Shoshu” to Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution “…indicates changing one’s heavy karma and lessening the negative effects one will receive.” The origin of this phrase is found in the Nirvana Sutra as follows:
The Nirvana Sutra states:
“Men of wisdom eradicate their severely heavy karma by receiving lighter karmic retribution in this lifetime. Men of ignorance suffer lightly in this lifetime but [after death] must suffer in hell.”
(Taisho Tripitaka, Vol. 31, p. 550)
‘Men of wisdom’ described in this passage refer to people who exert themselves in the faith and practice of true Buddhism. People who embrace and believe in the Gohonzon will gain the benefit of lessening their karmic retribution.”
(Basic Terminology p. 73)
Through embracing the Lotus Sutra, we can lessen and eradicate in this lifetime our heavy karma accumulated through past slanders against the Lotus Sutra. We can also lessen the retribution we would otherwise receive in future lifetimes.
“Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution” is deeply related to the law of cause and effect. People who create good causes, such as propagating and protecting the true Law, will receive benefits for their actions. On the other hand, people who create negative causes, especially those who doesn’t believe in the true Law, or slander it, will be getting retribution for their actions.
People generally living in the Latter Day of the Law will accept benefits gladly, but find it more difficult to accept retribution for causes the created. This is not just the evil karma that has been accumulated during this lifetime but also includes the karma that was accumulated prior to our birth in this world. Eradicating karma is important, but it is also important for us to accept retribution for the causes we created, whether we were directly involved or not.
A good example in explaining “Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution” is Bodhisattva Fukyo, or the Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. In His guidance during the Kofu Shodaikai in May” High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated:
“The people of the Latter Day of the Law do not possess the seed of Buddhahood. ”In other words, they have not accumulated virtue through practicing for countless kalpas. We must steadfastly instruct the people and let them hear the teaching of Myoho-Renge-Kyo, so they can form a relationship with Buddhism. Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke mongu) states:
Those without the seed of Buddhahood do not seek the true Law by themselves. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Fukyo) will allow them to arouse the delusion of the three poisons [so they can form a reverse relationship with true Buddhism].”
(Hokke mongu, Vol. 2, p. 452)
Bodhisattva Fukyo appeared during the Middle Day of the Law, and preached to every priest, nun, lay men and women “I will never despise or look down upon you, as you are all people who will [someday] become Buddhas.” The people were astonished at first. But later, they would feel that he was ridiculing them, so the people started to gossip or speak ill of him. There would be people throwing stones or attacking him with staves. But Bodhisattva Fukyo continued with his practice.
When Bodhisattva Fukyo’s time of death approached, his past offenses against the Law of Buddhism were dissipated. At that time, Bodhisattva Fukyo realized that he had embraced an entire prose section from the Lotus Sutra that Ionno Buddha had preached. Through his faith in this section of the Lotus Sutra, he was able to receive the benefit of the purification of the six sense organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. This means that purification comes about through carrying out consistent faith and practice in True Buddhism.
Because Bodhisattva Fukyo was able encounter various persecutions while he was alive, he was able to eradicate the past sins against the Lotus Sutra. As a result, Bodhisattva Fukyo was able to attain enlightenment.
At the end of the passage, Nichiren Daishonin cites a verse from the Fukyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra “after expiating his sins.” The sutra cites that it applies to the people (priests, nuns, lay men and women), but Nichiren Daishonin points out that Bodhisattva Fukyo is included here as well.
Since the declaration of True Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin knew from the very beginning that He would encounter various persecutions. As I said in the beginning, Nichiren Daishonin encountered two major persecutions before writing this Gosho. I also said that the persecutions He encountered were impossible for an ordinary person to have lived through, yet Nichiren Daishonin survived and continued His propagation of True Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism has been propagated all over the world for more than 750 years.
As people fortunate to practice this Buddhism, not only do we gain wisdom, but we also accumulate merit by practicing the True Law, and lessen retribution from the grave offenses we created from the beginningless past. We possess and protect the Three Great Secret Laws hidden within the depths of the Juryo Chapter. We also gain tremendous merit by censuring the people who slander against Nichiren Daishonin’s True Buddhism. High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated during the Kofu Shodaikai in August 2006:
“I believe that the behavior of Bodhisattva Fukyo clearly shows us, the priests and lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu, about important matters regarding how we should perform shakubuku.
The first important point is that Bodhisattva Fukyo never gave up the practice of the austerity of bowing in reverence to the people, persevering through various persecutions of being cursed and vilified, criticized and slandered, being attacked with wooden sticks and stones, and thus was able to gain the virtue of the purification of the six sense organs.
The same also can be applied to our shakubuku practice. Even if we encounter persecutions similar to those of Bodhisattva Fukyo, it is of vital importance that we persevere, have a never-give-up spirit, and continue in our propagation efforts. We must especially keep in mind that shakubuku is the most supreme of all Buddhist practices. It is an act of compassion and of saving others, and this act will eradicate our offenses of slandering the Law that we have accumulated from the infinite past, so that we can attain the path to enlightenment.”
(NSM January 2007 p.4)
We have just passed the halfway point of the “Year of Advancing towards Kosen-rufu.” During the Kofu Shodaikai in June, 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated:
“It is most essential that each and every priest and lay member of our denomination become aware of one’s responsibility and have pride as an 'envoy of the Buddha.' Then, we should strive to conduct shakubuku in high spirits....There is an expression that says, “Unless you take action on your own initiative, you can never achieve anything.” It is important to have the desire to take action and carry through with everything you do. Each individual must take the initiative to pray for the achievement of worldwide kosen-rufu, as well as for one’s own attainment of Buddhahood. One should earnestly chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon and wholeheartedly fulfill one’s responsibility as an “emissary of the Buddha.”
It is crucial for us to take the initiative not just in our shakubuku practice, but for the accomplishment of the goals that our local area groups set up at the beginning of the year, as well as the overall goal for this year. This is a crucial step for us to accomplish the goals High Priest Nichinyo Shonin provided for 2015 and 2021.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.