August Oko 2008
The host then spoke: I have been brooding alone upon this matter, indignant in my heart, but now that you have come, we can lament together. Let us discuss the question at length.
When a man leaves family life and enters the Buddhist way, it is because he hopes to attain Buddhahood through the teachings of the Dharma. But attempts now to move the gods fail to have any effect, and appeals to the power of the Buddhas produce no results. When I observe carefully the state of the world today, I see ignorant people who give way to doubts because of their naiveté. Therefore they look up at the heavens and mouth their resentment, or gaze down at the earth and sink deep into anxiety.
I have pondered the matter carefully with what limited resources I possess, and have searched rather widely in the scriptures for an answer. 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. I cannot keep silent on this matter. I cannot suppress my fears.
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 a portion of the Rissho Ankoku Ron. This is a continuation from last month, where I explained the first question given from a traveler that was visiting a house, where he talks with the host of the house. The traveler represents Hojo Tokiyori, the most influential member of the Hojo clan. The host represents Nichiren Daishonin.
The question that was given from the traveler to the host, after mentioning the many prayers that supposed to work didn’t, was the following:
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?
To this question, the host (Nichiren Daishonin) replied the portion that I read. In this reply, He mentions three major points of the process of why these disasters would come.
1. The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right; to a man, they give their allegiance to evil.
2. The reason why the benevolent deities have abandoned the nation, why sages leave and do not return.
3. In their stead come devils and demons, disasters and calamities that arise one after another.
The first part that I mentioned expresses the fact that the people, without exception turned their back on the correct teaching, and instead put faith towards the heretical teachings. Because of this action, the second part is mentioned. The benevolent deities that were supposed to protect this country, instead abandoned it, and in its place demons and devils reside to create havoc one after another. The disasters are occurring because of these.
This remark will startle anybody who doesn’t have any knowledge of Buddhism. But this is what Nichiren Daishonin wanted to mention through the principle of Ichinen Sanzen in order to save this country.
The host, Nichiren Daishonin, was very concerned with what was happening to the country through these disasters and calamities. He had those in his mind but was irritated that he couldn’t talk about it with someone. With the appearance of this traveler, the host finally addressed these concerns and wanted to talk to the traveler at length.
Nichiren Daishonin had been pondering issues that involved the country even before he entered the priesthood. Priests from various sects assembled and prayed to the gods for the peace of the country. The result of this, as we would know, was anything but.
It can be said about what is going on in the world. There is a quote from Yuri Gagarin. He was a cosmonaut, and in 1961, became the first human in space and first to orbit around this earth. During this mission, he said the following: “The Earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing.” The Earth seen from outer space may have been beautiful, but during this time, I believe, on the surface of the Earth, it was very uneasy. The world was in the midst of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was built, and tensions between the United States and the U.S.S.R. were at a boiling point. It got much worse with the Cuban Missle Crisis, bringing the world close to another war. Meanwhile, here in the states, the Civil Rights movement was starting to make its mark.
It can also be said in today’s world as well. The world around us is dealt with disasters and calamities, whether it is natural or man-made. Three months has passed since a cyclone-hit Myanmar, but the country currently fears famine and disease. There are conflicts all over the world despite the fact the Olympics, which are supposed to be known as the festival of peace. Not only are these things happening all over the world, it is happening here in the states as well. Violence, especially among the youth, is an issue we cannot avoid.
Yet it seems that we can’t learn from these past mistakes. Why is that? This is because they continue to ignore the fact that heretical teachings are the cause of these.
The important part of Nichiren Daishonin’s reply to the first question is the three major parts that I mentioned earlier. Among them, 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin mentioned that the first point,
“The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right” is the origin of this. Which is why Nichiren Daishonin mentions “I cannot keep silent on this matter. I cannot suppress my fears.”
This means that currently the fundamental reason for the disasters clearly is the poison of the heretical teachings, Nichiren Daishonin cannot keep quiet without saying this, and we must fear the poisons of the heretical teachings, which He strongly mentions.
Then, using the phrase “ If we hope to bring order and tranquility to the world without further delay, we must put an end to these slanders of the Law that fill our country!” in the “ Rissho Ankoku Ron”, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin quoted,
“To bring in peace, it is important that we must sever our ties from heretical teachings. We must further realize and understand that the root cause of the world’s unhappiness, chaos, and agony are all coming from the poison of the heretical teachings, that we must be cautious of the heretical teachings. If we have this understanding to ourselves, we must strongly tell this to other people as well.”
Furthermore, in the Gosho “Admonitions Against Slander”, “To seek enlightenment without repudiating slander is as futile as trying to find water in the midst of fire or fire in the midst of water. No matter how sincerely one believes in the Lotus Sutra, any violation of its teachings will surely cause him to fall into hell, just as one crab leg will ruin a thousand pots of lacquer”, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin quoted,
“By accepting the fact that the heretical teachings will lead to unhappiness to ourselves as individuals and to the country, we must be very cautious of these heretical teachings from the bottom of our heart. By subduing the heretical teachings and saving the people from the agonies, is our shakubuku practice. Shakubuku is the greatest practice of compassion to save the people, and the greatest Buddhist practice.”
We must deeply put these in our minds, and never back down from doing shakubuku.
Upon hearing the host’s reply, the traveler is startled, and he would ask the host this question.
The guest said: These disasters that befall the empire, these calamities of the nation--I am not the only one pained by them; the whole populace is weighed down with sorrow. Now I have been privileged to enter your home and to listen to these enlightening words of yours. You speak of the gods and sages taking leave and of disasters and calamities arising side by side--upon what sutras do you base your views? Could you describe for me the passages of proof?
This part is the second question that the traveler asks to the host in response to the reply the host gave to him about the first question. The response from the host regarding the second question and its explanation will come next time.
Beginning last month, I have started the sequence of sermons from the Rissho Ankoku Ron. Through these sermons, I hope that we get a better understanding of what is written in it, and must never forget Nichiren Daishonin’s intentions, which lead Him to write this Gosho. As you know, Nichiren Daishonin faced various and numerous persecutions throughout his life. He never let any of these persecutions discourage Him from propagating this True Buddhism.
As we are fast approaching 2009, the 750th Anniversary of Upholding Justice and Revealing the Truth through the Submission of the Rissho Ankoku Ron, we are also approaching the end of the “Year of Great Advancement.” We must further devote ourselves to our shakubuku efforts, with the determination we made to the Gohonzon during the Kick-off meeting this past June. In order to further develop our Hokkeko chapter, we must also respect one another, and welcome next year with great joy.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.