Oko July 2011

 

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.

 

Letter to Akimoto

(Gosho 1452~3)

 

If one knows [the severity of slandering the Lotus Sutra], how can one not lament? How sad it is that one must encounter great hardships as a consequence of being born into the land where people slander the true Law. Even if one can avoid committing slander, how can one prevent oneself from being born into a family or land where people slander the sutra? If one wants to escape from the offense of being born into a family that slanders the sutra, one should teach the consequences of such slanders to his parents and siblings, whether they believe him or detest him. If one wants to avoid the consequences of living in a land [of slanderers], he should remonstrate with the ruler of the nation, even if he is sentenced to death or banished to a remote island. The Lotus Sutra states, “I care not for my own life. My only regret would be failing to attain the unsurpassed way.” The same is reflected [in the Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra], which says, “One’s body is insignificant while the Law is supreme,” and “willing to give one’s life to propagate the Law.”

     The reason why one has not attained enlightenment since one’s distant past existences is because one has been afraid to speak out [fearing persecutions as a result of propagating the Lotus Sutra]. This also applies to the future. We are able to understand very well [the difficulty of propagating the Lotus Sutra] from the persecutions that have befallen Nichiren.

     Even among my disciples who are aware [of the consequences], some are afraid of accusations; some begrudge their lives, even though their lives will vanish like the dew; some abandon their faith; some have faith only in their hearts; and others are conflicted. The Lotus Sutra teaches, “it is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.” This statement has been manifested [in reality], which fills me with gratitude. Those who slander the sutra are as numerous as the dust particles on the earth. Those who take faith in it are as few as the grains of sand one can place on a fingernail. Those who slander the Lotus Sutra are like the great ocean, while those who devote themselves to it are like a single drop of water.

 

 

Just now, I have read a passage from the Gosho “Letter to Akimoto.” This gosho was written on the 27th day of the first month of the third year of Kōan (1280), when Nichiren Daishonin was 59 years old. This gosho was a response to Akimoto Rokurobei, a resident in Imba District of Shimōsa Province, who made offerings of thirty cylindrical vessels and sixty sakazuki cups to Nichiren Daishonin.

It is said that Akimoto converted to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism around the fall of 1260. That year was when Nichiren Daishonin submitted the Rissho Ankoku ron to the Kamakura Shogunate government, and would later encounter the Matsubagayatsu Persecution, the persecution where Nichiren Daishonin was attacked by a mob of a few thousand people consisting mainly of followers of the Nembutsu sect in the middle of the night. These people gathered at the home of Nichiren Daishonin at Matsubagayatsu, located in Kamakura City, in an attempt to murder him.

Although the attack was conducted by devoted followers of the Nembutsu sect, it was conspired by their priests and supported by members of the Shogunate government.

Regardless of the attack, Nichiren Daishonin was able to escape and temporarily left Kamakura. Through the invitation of Toki Jonin, a resident of Wakamiya in Shimōsa Province and a believer himself, Nichiren Daishonin moved into the Toki residence. There, He labored very extensively to propagate the Law of True
Buddhism, pointing out the correct path and spreading the Mystic
Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

It was during the aforementioned period Akimoto Rokurobei and others such as Ota Jomyo and Soya
Kyoshin took faith in the
Daishonin’s True Buddhism. Because of this, Akimoto, who would later change his name to Taro Hyoe-no-Jo, befriended Ota and Soya. Akimoto would receive another gosho five years later, “Reply to Akimoto.” Around the same time “Letter to Akimoto” was written, Ota Jomyo would also receive a gosho from Nichiren Daishonin. Knowing of their common friendship, in the gosho addressed to Ota Jomyo and “Reply to Akimoto,” Nichiren Daishonin tells them that He mentioned His letter to the other friend, so please talk to him when you can. You will notice from Nichiren Daishonin’s mentioning them the three were very close to each other, because they converted to His Buddhism at the same time. They also lived close to each other.

 

From this passage the following quote “being born into a family or land where people slander the sutra” will be the focus of my sermon today. I would like to talk about the meaning of this passage through the guidance of 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin.

 

I have opened today’s passage with “If one knows [the severity of slandering the Lotus Sutra], how can one not lament?”  Nichiren Daishonin was residing in Mt. Minobu when He wrote this gosho. By then, Nichiren Daishonin had already inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon, and the Atsuhara Persecution was about to end. Despite the fact at this time Japan was less chaotic then in previous years, the threat of the Mongolian invasion still existed and the government was preparing in case of an invasion. Still the people of Japan continued to adhere to the lesser teachings of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, while at the same time continued to discard the Lotus Sutra.

 

Next, How sad it is that one must encounter great hardships as a consequence of being born into the land where people slander the true Law. Even if one can avoid committing slander, how can one prevent oneself from being born into a family or land where people slander the sutra?

In my translating 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin’s words from the Hokkeko Federation summer study session in July 2006, he tells us: 

When we are born into the land where people slander the true Law, the result is that we receive general punishment. We then find ourselves dragged into famine, epidemics, and war. How sad it is to encounter such great pain.

Looking at the current situations around the world, we cannot allow ourselves to only this practice Buddhism. It is important that we have the strength to propagate true Buddhism in our country, as well as around the world. That is our responsibility.

He then tells us:

Even if we can avoid committing slander, why are we born into a family or land where people slander the sutra?

 

We all should consider ourselves fortunate to be born as human beings and fortunate to encounter this Buddhism, regardless of the circumstances we were born into.

 

The gosho passage continues with If one wants to escape from the offense of being born into a family that slanders the sutra, one should teach the consequences of such slanders to his parents and siblings, whether they believe him or detest him.

In regards to this part, 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin mentions some of us find ourselves as the only ones in a family chanting while our parents or siblings are not. If we want to escape the offense of being born into a family that slanders the sutra, we have to teach the consequences of such slanders. When we do, we clearly teach them that the Lotus Sutra is the only superior teaching to all other teachings, and it is the only path to attain true happiness. Which is clearly to do shakubuku.

 

By doing that, it will lead to the family members responding, whether they believe him or detest him.  These may be people from your family who either took faith in this religion, or went against it. This especially refers to one’s own parents. Why did I express parents here?

High Priest Nichinyo Shonin tells us:

We receive most of the gratitude from our parents. Because of that, we have to shakubuku our parents and it is the best way to repay our debts of gratitude to them. There are many ways to repay our debts of gratitude to our parents but the noblest way of repaying them is to have them devote themselves to the practice of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It will not be a true repayment of gratitude if we do not shakubuku our parents, and have them believe in the Lotus Sutra.

 

As practitioners of Buddhism, there are four debts of gratitude that we must repay. They are to all living beings, to our parents, to one’s sovereign, and to the three treasures. Of these, we are very close to our parents. Children may find it difficult to shakubuku their parents because of their parents long held belief systems, and the children may lose confidence as a result. The shakubuku of one’s parents from the beginning of one’s practice really takes a lot of courage. If you cannot muster the courage to speak directly to them, then show them with your life, your actions, and your devotion to this practice. By so doing, you will gain experience, actual proof, and benefits. Your parents will react to the actual proof and benefits you display and will want to try it themselves.

 

When we avoid “the offense of being born into a family that slanders, we now must find a way to avoid the consequences of living in a land [of slanderers]”. How can we do that? Nichiren Daishonin tells us to “remonstrate with the ruler of the nation, even if he is sentenced to death or banished to a remote island.” Unlike today, during Nichiren Daishonin’s time in Japan, the general population was not involved or able to influence the government or ruling parties. Had Nichiren Daishonin not remonstrated to the Shogunate government, He would not have encountered the various persecutions to prove the validity of the Lotus Sutra. It is our responsibility as Hokkeko members to remonstrate the heretical belief system that permeates throughout society.

The gosho continues with:

“The Lotus Sutra states, ‘I care not for my own life. My only regret would be failing to attain the unsurpassed way.’ The same is reflected [in the Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra], which says, ‘One’s body is insignificant while the Law is supreme,’ and ‘willing to give one’s life to propagate the Law.’”

 

High Priest Nichinyo Shonin tells us:

The passage in the Kanjihon Chapter of the Lotus Sutra has the same meaning as “single-mindedly yearning to see the Buddha, one unbegrudgingly
devotes one’s entire heart and body [to Buddhist faith and practice]” which is in the Juryo Chapter, and is used often.

 

The same can be said for the passage from the Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra. This is the passage that Hokkeko members must try to base their daily life on, centering on their practice.

 

Nichiren Daishonin continues with The reason why one has not attained enlightenment since one’s distant past existences is because one has been afraid to speak out [fearing persecutions as a result of propagating the Lotus Sutra]. This also applies to the future.

He is reminding us that if we were afraid before, we cannot continue to be afraid in the future as well.

 

The gosho continues:

We are able to understand very well [the difficulty of propagating the Lotus Sutra] from the persecutions that have befallen Nichiren. Even among my disciples who are aware [of the consequences], some are afraid of accusations; some begrudge their lives, even though their lives will vanish like the dew; some abandon their faith; some have faith only in their hearts; and others are conflicted.

Through this passage, Nichiren Daishonin tells us that we will gain experience and suffer various difficulties as we propagate this Buddhism. Despite Nichiren Daishonin telling us this, some people abandon their faith, which means they go taiten; some have faith only in their hearts, which means they understand within themselves but do not do shakubuku; and others are conflicted, which means they are in utter confusion.

High Priest Nichinyo Shonin tells us:

In order for us to attain enlightenment, we are certain to run into a roadblock. We must overcome this roadblock. In the process of growing, we are certain to encounter various roadblocks. It is important that we overcome the various roadblocks one by one. The same can be said about our practice. We cannot attain enlightenment if we cannot overcome the roadblocks through refuting slanders.

 

The passage closes with The Lotus Sutra teaches, ‘it is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.’ This statement has been manifested [in reality], which fills me with gratitude. Those who slander the sutra are as numerous as the dust particles on the earth. Those who take faith in it are as few as the grains of sand one can place on a fingernail. Those who slander the Lotus Sutra are like the great ocean, while those who devote themselves to it are like a single drop of water.

 

In the gosho “A Comparison of the Lotus Sutra and Other Sutras”, Nichiren Daishonin quotes:

 The ease of believing and understanding in the one case is due to the fact that the Buddha taught in accordance with the capacity of the people. And the difficulty of believing and understanding in the other case is due to the fact that he taught in accordance with his own enlightenment                                                         (MWND Vol. 3, p. 304)

 

High Priest Nichinyo Shonin tells us:

When doing shakubuku, we are correcting incorrect views of the person. But, we cannot adjust in accordance to the capacity of the person. That is wrong.

The Lotus Sutra is based on the accordance of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It expresses that the only path to happiness is through Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

 

We must be well aware that only through this practice can we attain happiness and enlightenment.

 

It will be almost two years since High Priest Nichinyo Shonin provided us with new goals for every Hokkeko chapter by the years 2015 and 2021. Already, for Myogyoji Temple, we have made great strides to accomplish our shakubuku goals. Yet, some people are discouraged to do shakubuku just because we have set a goal for this year. When High Priest Nichinyo Shonin provided us with the new goals, what went through our minds? These are goals our High Priest wants all of us to accomplish. Let’s accomplish the shakubuku goals we set this year so we can accomplish the goals 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.