August 2010 Oko
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.
Myogyoji Temple Oko Lecture August 2010
Children are Treasures
A daughter opens the door to new family relations; a son inherits the family line. Even if one were to become the ruler of Japan but had no child of his own, to whom could he pass on his legacy? If one possessed treasure enough to fill an entire major world system but had no children, to whom could his treasure be left? Thus it is said in the more than three thousand volumes of non-Buddhist teachings that a person who has a child is wealthy. In the more than five thousand volumes of Buddhist teachings, it is written that a person who is childless is poor. Now you have two children, one girl and one boy. They are the sun and the moon in the sky, and the east and the west on earth. They are the two wings of a bird and the two wheels of a cart. For this reason, I give your newborn son the name, Hiwaka-gozen. I will write more on another occasion.
This month, I would like to talk about the Gosho “Children are Treasures.” This is one of the many Goshos that was originally titled “Reply to Lord Ueno”, and is located on page 73 of Volume I of the “Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin.” This particular gosho was written on August 26, 1280, when Nichiren Daishonin was 59 years old. This gosho was written as a response to news that Nanjo Tokimitsu, landowner of the Ueno district, became the father of a newborn son. Tokimitsu already had a daughter, making him the father of two children. Nichiren Daishonin was truly pleased, and tells him “They are the sun and the moon in the sky, and the east and the west on earth. They are the two wings of a bird and the two wheels of a cart.” Later, Tokimitsu would be blessed with eleven more children, and built a happy family based on faith. In all, there would be a total of thirteen children in Tokimitsu’s family.
This gosho can be summarized as a guideline for family members on passing down the practice to their later generations. There is a Buddhist term for this, and it is called Hotto Sozoku. I would like to explain how important it is to teach your children or grandchildren about this practice.
Nanjo Tokimitsu was born as the second son to Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, landowner of the Ueno district, in 1259. Hyoe Shichiro first served as an official for the shogunate government in Kamakura. It is said that he converted to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism through Nichiren Daishonin. Late in 1264, Hyoe Shichiro became ill and strove to recuperate at his home in Ueno. After hearing this, Nichiren Daishonin wrote a letter to Hyoe Shichiro, which is the gosho “Encouragement to a Sick Person.” In that letter, Nichiren Daishonin encourages the bed-ridden Hyoe Shichiro:
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the core of the Lotus Sutra. This teaching is the absolute teaching of this age for all people in Mappo. As long as one firmly holds this faith with sheer confidence in the Law, he shall never fail to attain Buddhahood. (Gosho p. 321)
He teaches that it is most important for one to maintain faith at the last moment of one’s life. Hyoe Shichiro believed in the Daishonin’s Buddhism, yet he was still influenced by prevailing societal views and had a difficult time giving up his attachment to Nembutsu. However, after reading this Gosho repeatedly, he was able to completely cut off his relationship to Nembutsu. Because he chanted Daimoku sincerely, he was able to overcome his illness.
On March 8 1265, Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro passed away exhibiting the peaceful, gentle countenance of one who had embraced correct and steady faith at the moment of death.
Tokimitsu was seven years old when Hyoe Shichiro died. To see your father die at a very young age can be excruciating for anyone. Yet, it was through his mother’s discipline that helped Tokimitsu deepen his faith. It also helped Tokimitsu that he had an audience with Nichiren Daishonin when He visited the grave of Tokimitsu’s father from Kamakura. Tokimitsu would also strive in his faith and practice by learning from Nikko Shonin, his direct master.
Unlike the children of today, it was rare for anyone to encounter the Daishonin at such a young age. It was also very rare for any children to practice His Buddhism directly as well. Despite this, Tokimitsu lead by example through his mother’s discipline, and the compassion of both Nichiren Daishonin, and Nikko Shonin.
Everyone has their own problems when trying to teach, or discipline their children. An ideal environment is that both mother and father are strongly devoted to this practice, and are able to have their children succeed at it. This is common in Japan, but this is the U.S., the land of freedom and choice. It is especially not easy doing it on your own and where the temple and the Hokkeko Chapter come in. The temple is where the believers are taught and guided for the sake of Kosen-rufu. The chief priest teaches and guides the believers in the formalities of Nichiren Shoshu. Hotto Sozoku within the temple appears when the priesthood and laity protect the temple and the Gohonzon enshrined in the temple in harmonious unity.
In the same way, Hotto Sozoku within the organization exists when Hokkeko members protect their local temple with respect and faith in the Dai-Gohonzon. The most important thing for the Hokkeko organization is building and keeping the spirit of itai-doshin, based on the unity between priesthood and laity. It is especially important that respect towards fellow members is included when we are doing this as an organization.
But relying solely on the temple and the organization to accomplish Hotto Sozoku is not enough. Hotto Sozoku within the family is essential as well. The family is something to depend upon in life and is the foundation of emotional stability. Our lives begin in our families and also returns to them. In these modern times, people’s minds are devastated by life’s brutality in society, the collapse of the extended family, and the breakdown of the social fabric. In such times, the warmth of family life and security from the support of family members is needed more than ever.
How do we accomplish Hotto Sozoku at home? It is important to teach this faith to our children as a natural part of their upbringing. Encouragement from priests and Hokkeko members will also be invaluable support for each family’s efforts in Hotto Sozoku. Education in faith should be started as soon as possible after a baby is born. There seems to be people who don’t actively pass down this practice to their children or grandchildren because they want to give their children the chance to choose. If the parents know how great this Buddhism is, why give them the opportunity to choose between True Buddhism and heretical belief systems? It may be too late by the time they make such a decision, and they may rebel against their parents. When the child is still a baby, let him or her sleep beside you or sit on your lap when you are doing Gongyo so that he or she can hear it. During early childhood, make it a practice to do Gongyo together as a family, or to chant slowly with the child, or to chant three Daimoku before each meal.
Keeping an attitude of faith in all aspects of our daily lives is important. Family members should always place the highest priority on a life of faith based on the Gohonzon. Attending the Oko Ceremonies and Shodakai’s, holding memorial ceremonies for ancestors and going to the local temple and Head Temple Taisekiji are also valuable educational experiences for our children. They will learn about the principles of faith in the Three Treasures of the Sowing, the relationship between Master and Disciple, slander-free faith, and respecting ancestors in a natural way through Hotto Sozoku of the temple, the Hokkeko and the family. The children will then come to appreciate the importance of understanding and repaying debts of gratitude, and will naturally form healthy personalities endowed with gratitude and compassion. If children don’t practice strongly, they may not hold a proper memorial ceremony after their parents’ passing. If your children are already adults, earnestly begin the difficult task of passing down this faith to them. If you have brothers and sisters or other relatives who don’t practice, continue to try to shakubuku them, even if it takes many years.
Nichiren Daishonin teaches us the importance of transferring this practice to later generations. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism has continued for more than 750 years because families have been passing down their practice to later generations.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.