All disciples and believers of Nichiren should chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with the spirit of many in body, one in mind (itai-dōshin), overriding all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the foundation for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the ultimate objective of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great aspiration for kōsen-rufu can be fulfilled without fail. But if any of Nichiren’s disciples should disrupt the unity, he will destroy his own castle from within.
（Gosho p. 514）
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.
Today’s Oko is the first of the year, the “Year of Advancing Kosen-rufu Through Shakubuku.” The gosho passage that I read is from “The Heritage of the Law.” This gosho was written on the eleventh day of the second month of the ninth year of Bunnei (1272). It was titled “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” in the Major Writings (of Nichiren Daishonin). Nichiren Daishonin mentions three major points in this gosho.
The first point is mentioned at the beginning of this gosho, “… the ultimate law of life and death as transmitted from the Buddha to all living beings is Myoho-renge-kyo.”
The second point also is mentioned in this gosho “Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment countless aeons ago, the Lotus Sutra which leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from each other.”
The third part is the part that I just read.
Through this passage, I would like to talk about how we should approach the practical points for this year.
Overseas Department Chief Rev. Gyoyu Urushibata mentions the practical points for the overseas members to follow and its meaning.
1. Concerning the significance of the practical point “to consistently do Gongyo and Shodai together with our families,” conducting Gongyo and Shodai are the basics of our practice. “Together with families” contains the meaning of hotto-sozoku, which is passing the faith down to one’s progeny through demonstrating one’s conduct of Gongyo and Shodai.
This point is the essential basis of our faith and practice. 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin mentions, “…true faith must exist with both faith and practice.” There is a passage in The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke gengi) that states the following:
One will be able to reach into Clear Cool Pond (Shoryochi) with both the eyes of wisdom [faith] and the steps of practice [chanting Daimoku].
(Hokke gengi, p. 521)
Reciting portions of the Hoben and all of the Juryo Chapters of the Lotus Sutra, along with chanting Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo, is the foundation of our practice. By doing Gongyo and Shodai, not only are we eradicating the negative karma we had accumulated from the beginningless past, but also we are cleansing our six senses that have been deluded by the heretical beliefs and the effects it has on society. Which comes to the second point.
2. Regarding the practical point “to accomplish our individual shakubuku goals through consistent shakubuku,” to conduct shakubuku is also a basic of our practice. Finding people to shakubuku will arise through one’s relationships or karmic bonds. Based on these karmic bonds, we will conduct shakubuku. Sometimes one will need support from fellow members, but shakubuku will begin by finding people with whom we share a karmic bond.
This point is as essential as the first point. You have heard many times about Jigyo-keta (practicing for oneself and for others). While Gongyo and Shodai are the practice for oneself, shakubuku is the practice for others.
Regarding the practice of shakubuku, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin guides us with the following:
Shakubuku is the supreme practice of repaying our debts of gratitude. It is the practice of compassion to save all living beings. By doing shakubuku, we can lead others to true happiness and at the same time, expiate our own negative karma from the beginningless past. Shakubuku enables both oneself and others to attain true happiness in this lifetime and in the next.
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin also mentions that shakubuku is the supreme practice of compassion and repaying our debts of gratitude. By conducting the practice of shakubuku, we are capable of eradicating the various sins and negative karma we have accumulated from countless distant kalpas in the past. Which is why the merit attained by the people who do shakubuku is tremendous. On the other hand, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin told us that we will not attain merit if we don’t do shakubuku. Not only that, but Nichiren Daishonin mentions in “Admonitions Against Slander”:
Both master and disciple will surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering if they see enemies of the Lotus Sutra and fail to reproach them. (MWND Vol. 1, p. 164)
With this passage alone, our practice must be the practice for oneself and for others.
68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin mentions the following:
What is it that we must do when we are born as a human being? There are many views to this, but the important thing is one’s devotion to others and to society. To devote only to oneself is equivalent to the thinking of Hinayana Buddhism…. The people of the learning and realization are totally devoted to the Buddhist practice in regards to their own selves, but don’t show the same devotion to others. Which is why they are told by the Buddha, “You will never attain enlightenment.”
Nichinyo Shonin further mentions:
The reason we do shakubuku is that we are totally devoted to the practice of compassion to save today’s chaotic society and lead all others who are suffering to true happiness, which is for the society and for others. On the other hand, because we are devoted to this, it creates the cause that we are doing this for ourselves. If we continue to think about ourselves, we will surely receive a scolding from the Buddha, “You will never ever attain Buddhahood.”
Nichinyo Shonin guides us with the following:
As you may well know, in this world, there are absolutely evil people, and there are absolutely great people. Sometimes children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You know these children say things that will make one parent proud. But these children at some point will be broken by society, and turn into something else. We can easily point to the lack of an educational system. But basically, if we slacken the responsibility of teaching the children the benefits of the Mystic Law, that will surely happen to the children. I believe we must realize that we hold that important responsibility.
Through our actions we take regarding Gongyo, Shodai, and shakubuku, I believe, through the unity between priesthood and laity, and through many in body, one in mind, we can accomplish the shakubuku goals we set up for this year. The unity must be based through the guidance of High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, Overseas Department, and the Chief Priest of the local temple. Any kind of action or thinking that is not based on these can only lead to dotai ishin (one in body, different in mind).
3. Next is “to encourage all believers to make a pilgrimage to the Head Temple.” The Head Temple is the sacred place where the Dai-Gohonzon of the essential teaching and Nichiren Daishonin’s soul resides, and it is the place where tremendous benefits are amassed. By going on Tozan to the Head Temple where benefits permeate, and by reciting the sutra and chanting Daimoku to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, you can receive the great benefit of eradicating the negative karma that you created from your past lifetimes, live a long life and extinguish disaster, and achieve your aspirations. It is a particularly great opportunity for members new to Tozan to establish their own faith by visiting Taisekiji.
Nichiren Daishonin mentions in “The Person and the Law (Reply to Lord Nanjo)”:
Should this mountain, where the most august Votary of the Lotus Sutra resides, be regarded any less highly than the pure land of Eagle Peak? Because the Law is ineffably supreme, the Person is venerable and because the Person is venerable, the place is sacred. The Mystic Powers (Jinriki) Chapter states, “…in a forest, under a tree, in a priests’ quarters… the Buddhas enter parinirvana.” Those who travel to this place to pay their respects will instantly eradicate the negative karma they have accumulated since the remote past and transform their sins of the three categories of action (mental, verbal, and physical) into the three virtues (the body of the Law, wisdom, and emancipation). (Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin Vol. 1, p. 83)
It is essential for us to understand that having an audience with the Dai-Gohonzon is truly significant in our practice. For it freely will open boundaries in which our lives will overcome all hardships and sufferings, and obtain the knowledge to judge things correctly. It is important to let new people know about this Buddhism through our actions.
As disciples and believers of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, we cannot slacken our practice of Gongyo and Shodai when we are striving in shakubuku; nor can we slacken our practice of shakubuku when we are striving in Gongyo and Shodai.
In closing, I wish for the further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.