Encouragement

Fulfilling Our Vow for Kosen-rufu Is a Genuine Expression of Gratitude

Study for September.


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Fulfilling Our Vow for Kosen-rufu Is a Genuine Expression of Gratitude

PRESIDENT IKEDA’S LECTURE SERIES

 

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, once said: “It goes without saying that, in being able to take the lead for kosen-rufu today, I owe an incredible debt to [founding] President [Tsunesaburo] Makiguchi. As his disciple and someone who looks up to him as a father, I am determined to cherish him and repay my debt of gratitude to him throughout my life—no, for all eternity.”

Mr. Toda stood up amid the ruins of postwar Japan and began the task of rebuilding the Soka Gakkai. Burning in his heart was a fierce determination to repay his debt of gratitude to Mr. Makiguchi, the Soka Gakkai’s founding president, and achieve kosen-rufu without fail. And out of his wish to eliminate misery from the world, he went on to accomplish his lifetime goal of expanding the Soka Gakkai’s membership to 750,000 households.

The way of mentor and disciple is the way of repaying debts of gratitude.

I devoted myself to serving and supporting Mr. Toda, who taught me the supremely noble way of life of dedicating oneself t o spreading the Mystic Law. In the tough economic times following World War II, his businesses faced serious financial troubles. While other employees abandoned him one after the other, I alone stood by him and did everything I could to assist him throughout that period. This was my way of repaying my gratitude to him.

•    •    •

Gratitude is the Highest Virtue

In December 1950, after traveling to Omiya City in Saitama Prefecture hoping to secure the means to keep his businesses afloat, Josei Toda and I were walking along a riverbank. It was a beautiful starry night.

I hummed a tune popular in that dark postwar period, changing the lyrics from “In the flow of the stars . . . , who turned me into this kind of woman” to “In the flow of the st ars . . . , who turned me into this kind of man?” Mr. Toda, who was walking ahead of me, turned around and said with a smile, “It was me!” My heart was warmed by my mentor’s cheerful remark.

I will never forget how I vowed at that time to advance forever with my mentor. I resolved that, though his businesses might be facing a series of challenges, I would fight on with an indomitable spirit all my life as his disciple, no matter what the situation, and achieve victory without fail.

Some years later, with a photograph of my mentor in the inner pocket of my suit jacket, I set out to fulfill his dream of kosen-rufu in Asia and throughout the world. I am always together with my mentor. To this very day, I continue to put my mentor’s teachings and guidance into practice, and converse with him in my heart every single day.

Gratitude is the highest virtue, and Nichiren Daishonin’s life was characterized by an unwavering commitment to repay his debts of gratitude.

In this installment, let’s explore the true spirit of repaying debts of gratitude, as we study passages from “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” and “The Four Debts of Gratitude.”

A Treatise Written to Honor the Memory of His Teacher

The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was born;[1]This appears in Elegies of Ch’u and other Chinese works. A commentary on Elegies of Ch’u by Chu Hsi of the Sung dynasty states: “The old fox dies, invariably turning his head toward the hillock. This is because he never forgets the place of his birth.” the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from Mao Pao.[2]This story appears in A Collection of Stories and Poems. When the young Mao Pao, who later became a general of the Chin dynasty, was walking along the Yangtze River, he saw a fisherman about to kill a turtle he had caught. Moved to pity, he gave the fisherman his clothing in exchange for the turtle and thus saved its life. Later, pursued by enemies, he reached the banks of the Yangtze. There, the turtle he had saved in his youth appeared and carried him to the opposite shore. If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how much more should human beings! Thus Yü Jang, a worthy man of old, fell on his sword in order to repay the debt he owed his lord Chih Po,[3]According to Records of the Historian, Yü Jang of Chin first served the Fan and Chung-hang families but was not given an important position. Later, Yü Jang served under Chih Po, who treated him with great favor. In time, Chih Po was killed by Hsiang-tzu, the lord of Chao. To avenge his lord, Yü Jang disguised himself as a leper by lacquering his body, made himself a mute by drinking lye, and in this way attempted to approach Hsiang-tzu. But his attempt at assassination failed, and he was caught. Hsiang-tzu, understanding his feeling of loyalty, gave Yü Jang his robe. Yü stabbed it three times to show his enmity for the man who had killed his lord and then turned his sword upon himself. and the minister Hung Yen for similar reasons cut open his stomach and inserted the liver of his dead lord, Duke Yi of Wei.[4]This story appears in Records of the Historian. While Hung Yen was away on a journey, enemies attacked the state of Wei and killed his lord, Duke Yi, and devoured his body, leaving only the duke’s liver. Then they left the land. When Hung Yen returned, he saw the disastrous scene and wept. He slit open his own stomach and inserted the liver to save his lord from dishonor, and so died. What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country.

But if one intends to repay these great debts of gratitude, one can hope to do so only if one learns and masters Buddhism, becoming a person of wisdom. (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 690)

Dozen-bo[5]Dozen-bo (d. 1276): A priest of Seicho-ji temple in Awa Province, Japan, under whom Nichiren Daishonin studied from age 12. When Nichiren first declared his teaching at Seicho-ji in 1253, his refutation of the Pure Land (Nembutsu) teachings enraged Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of the area and an ardent Nembutsu believer, who ordered his arrest. At that time, Dozen-bo quietly helped Nichiren escape. Nevertheless, he was afraid to oppose Kagenobu and for this reason could never bring himself to convert to the Daishonin’s teaching. After the Komatsubara Persecution in 1264, Dozen-bo visited Nichiren, and at that time asked whether it was possible for him to attain Buddhahood. In response, the Daishonin refuted the Nembutsu teachings, which Dozen-bo upheld, and encouraged the latter to devote himself to the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra. It seems that Dozen-bo did arouse a measure of faith in Nichiren’s teaching from that time; however, he died without formally converting. was Nichiren Daishonin’s childhood teacher when he was studying at Seicho-ji temple in Awa Province (present-day southern Chiba Prefecture). Among Dozen-bo’s disciples close to Nichiren at that time were Joken-bo and Gijo-bo,[6]Joken-bo and Gijo-bo: Priests at Seicho-ji temple who, as disciples of Dozen-bo, had supported Nichiren Daishonin during his early studies. When Nichiren declared the establishment of his teaching at Seicho-ji in 1253, they helped him escape when his life was threatened by the local steward Tojo Kagenobu, who was enraged by his denunciation of the Pure Land teachings. Later, they became the Daishonin’s followers and received several of his writings. who were his seniors.

In June 1276, Nichiren learned of Dozen-bo’s death. One month later, he composed “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” to honor the memory of his late teacher and repay his debt of gratitude to him. In his cover letter to “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” he requests that the treatise be read aloud before Dozen-bo’s grave: “I ask that just the two of you, you [Joken-bo] and Gijo-bo, have the work read aloud two or three times at the summit of Kasagamori [a woody knoll on the grounds of Seicho-ji temple], with this priest [who carried my letter to you] to do the reading. Please have him read it once before the grave of the late Dozen-bo as well” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 737).

Seeking the Way and Propagating Buddhism to Repay His Gratitude to His Teacher

In “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” Nichiren Daishonin recounts his life of seeking the way and propagating Buddhism to repay his debt of gratitude to his teacher. It was also a life dedicated to the struggle of “refuting the erroneous and revealing the true” to lead all people in the Latter Day of the Law to enlightenment.

He further states, “In the enclosed treatise, I have written matters of the utmost importance” (WND-1, 737)—referring to his revelation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws,[7]Three Great Secret Laws are the core principles of the Daishonin’s teaching. They are the object of devotion of the essential teaching, the daimoku of the essential teaching and the sanctuary of the essential teaching. The Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo embodies all three. opening the way to secure a brighter future for all humanity.

At the very beginning of this treatise, he presents the examples of the old fox and the white turtle to illustrate that even animals repay debts of gratitude, underscoring that it is all the mor e important for human beings to do so. Then, he cites the examples of Yü Jang and Hung Yen, asserting that since even the worthy men of old practiced the way of gratitude, practitioners of Buddhism should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, teachers, country and society.

How can Buddhists repay their debts of gratitude? The Daishonin tells us that we can do so by studying and gaining a deep understanding of the teachings of Buddhism, thereby becoming people of true wisdom and striving to guide to happiness those to whom we owe debts of gratitude

•    •    •

“Acknowledging What Has Been Done on One’s Behalf”

Here, let’s take a moment to consider the meaning of repaying debts of gratitude.

Repaying debts of gratitude is deeply rooted in human nature, irrespective of time or place, and is an integral part of people’s lives, as the tales and historical anecdotes quoted by Nichiren Daishonin in his treatise illustrate.

In modern Japan, the phrase “repaying debts of gratitude” is often associated with the hierarchical relations of Japan’s feudal period, but that is really only one small aspect of the concept.

The Chinese characters that the sutras used to denote “repaying debts of gratitude” (Jpn. ho’on; Chn. bao en) are thought to be translated from the Sanskrit expression krita-jna, which literally means “acknowledging (jna) what has been done on one’s behalf (krita).”

Recognizing that we owe our present existence to the help and support of many others and, with gratitude for that fact, working in turn to help and support others—this in itself is what is meant by “knowing one’s debts of gratitude” and “repaying one’s debts of gratitude.”

Repaying debts of gratitude is proof of our humanity. In Buddhism, repaying debts of gratitude is not just limited to the debts owed to a specific group of people such as one’s parents or the country’s ruler. A life of deep and genuine gratitude naturally recognizes the debt of gratitude one owes to all living beings.

How do we repay our debt of gratitude to all living beings? The Daishonin tells us that “learning and mastering Buddhism” is also important in this endeavor (see WND-1, 690).

The passage we are studying in this section is followed by the words, “Can a ship steered by someone who cannot even tell the direction of the wind ever carry the traveling merchants to the mountains where treasure lies?” (WND-1, 690).

This is saying that unless we attain true wisdom through practicing Buddhism, we cannot lead others to the truth. In Buddhism, repaying debts of gratitude means developing an expansive state of life so that we can communicate our appreciation to many others and repay our debts of gratitude to them on the deepest level.

In Nichiren Buddhism, this means taking action to fulfill the vow to lead all people to happiness. “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” teaches us this by chronicling the Daishonin’s own great efforts and struggles for this purpose.

Becoming a Wise Person Who Can Lead People to Enlightenment

If one hopes to learn and master Buddhism, then one cannot do so without devoting time to the task. And if one wants to have time to spend on the undertaking, one cannot continue to wait on one’s parents, one’s teachers, and one’s sovereign. Until one attains the road that leads to emancipation, one should not defer to the wishes and feelings of one’s parents and teachers, no matter how reasonable they may be.

Many people may think that counsel such as this runs counter to secular virtues and also fails to accord with the spirit of Buddhism. But in fact secular texts such as The Classic of Filial Piety make clear that there are times when one can be a loyal minister or a filial child only by refusing to obey the wishes of one’s sovereign or parents. And in the sacred scriptures of Buddhism it is said, “By renouncing one’s obligations and entering the Buddhist life one can truly repay those obligations in full.”[8]Salvation by Men of Pure Faith Sutra. Though this sutra is no longer extant, this passage from it is quoted in The Forest of Gems in the Garden of the Law. “The Buddhist life” in the sutra’s context means a monastic life, but here Nichiren Daishonin interprets it as a life based on faith in the Mystic Law. Pi Kan refused to go along with his sovereign’s wishes and thereby came to be known as a worthy man.[9]This story is found in Records of the Historian. King Chou of the Yin dynasty was so absorbed in his affection for his consort, Ta Chi, that he totally neglected affairs of state. When his minister Pi Kan remonstrated with him, King Chou flew into a rage and killed him. Prince Siddhartha [Shakyamuni Buddha] disobeyed his father King Shuddhodana and yet became the most outstanding filial son in all the threefold world. These are examples of what I mean. (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 690)

When Nichiren Daishonin entered Seicho-ji at the age of 12, he made a v ow to “become the wisest person in all Japan” (“The Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei,” WND-1, 175). We can interpret this as a vow to seek the way to lead his parents and all humanity to enlightenment, indicated by the passage we examined earlier: “They [persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism] should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country. But if one intends to repay these great debts of gratitude, one can hope to do so only if one learns and masters Buddhism, becoming a person of wisdom” (WND-1, 690).

Becoming a wise person who can lead people to enlightenment—this was the start of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhist quest, as well as the point of origin for his lifelong propagation efforts.

Therefore, he says that in order t o become a wise person, one must devote oneself to Buddhist practice, and that carrying out such practice and mastering the way to secure indestructible happiness for all people is how t o truly repay the kindness and live up to the hopes of one’s parents and one’s teacher.

In “Letter to the Brothers,” too, the Daishonin writes, “In all worldly affairs, it is the son’s duty to obey his parents, yet on the path to Buddhahood, disobeying one’s parents ultimately constitutes filial piety” (WND-1, 499).

Attaining the path that leads to Buddhahood is the fundamental way to be good to one’s parents, he asserts. This is because, by revealing our Buddhahood through faith in the Mystic Law, we can display boundless wisdom and compassion, and lead our parents and all humanity to enlightenment.

Seeking the Truth to Lead One’s Parents and Teacher to Enlightenment

In this section, Nichiren Daishonin indicates that a loyal minister or a filial child as described in the non-Buddhist texts, or a person of genuine gratitude as described in the Buddhist scriptures, is not necessarily one who obeys the will of parents or sovereign. He cites the case of Pi Kan, who did not follow the instructions of King Chou of the Yin dynasty, but was still praised as a worthy man; and he relates that when Shakyamuni left his palace to seek the way, he disobeyed his father’s command, but was still regarded later as the “most outstanding filial son in all the threefold
world” (WND-1, 690).

SGI President Ikeda talks with Tokyo Soka Elementary School students at their first athletic meet, 1978. Photo: Seikyo Press.

Nichiren, too, went against the wishes of his parents and teacher, and even disobeyed the ruler of the land as he continued to seek the way, fully aware that by spreading the Mystic Law, he would be subjected to harsh persecution.

In a later section of “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” the Daishonin writes: “If in this present existence I am so fearful for my life that I fail to speak out, then in what future existence will I ever attain Buddhahood? Or in what future existence will I ever be able to bring salvation to my parents and my teacher? With thoughts such as these uppermost in my mind, I decided that I must begin to speak out” (WND-1, 727). Mr. Makiguchi underlined this passage in his personal copy of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

No one was more filial in the truest sense than Nichiren. The starting point of Nichiren Buddhism is repaying one’s debts of gratitude. No matter what the times, this will never change. That’s why I’d like young people to make being
good to their parents the starting point of their own vows in life. Having compassion for one’s parents is the foundation for having compassion for all others.

It gives me joy that so many Soka youth are now leading such noble lives of gratitude. I firmly believe that these youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth, striving with the loftiest of spirits, ar e treasures of the Soka Gakkai and of humanity.

•    •    •

Repaying One’s Debt of Gratitude to One’s Teacher

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “All these things I have done solely to repay the debt I owe to my parents, the debt I owe to my teacher, the debt I owe to the three treasures of Buddhism, and the debt I owe to my country. For their sake I have been willing to destroy my body and to give up my life” (WND-1, 728).

Buddhism teaches the four debts of gratitude— the definition of which varies slightly depending on the source. In the Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra,[10]Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra: A sutra translated by the Indian monk Prajna, who traveled to China in 781. It explains that the states of the Buddha, bodhisattva, pratyekabuddha, arhat and voice-hearer all originate from the minds of ordinary people. Thus it compares the mind to the ground, which produces grain. The sutra also defines the four debts of gratitude—those owed to one’s parents, to all living beings, to one’s sovereign and to the three treasures—and extols the blessings of observing the mind in a quiet and remote place they are listed as the debts owed to one’s parents, to all living beings, to one’s sovereign and to the three treasures of Buddhism.

Nichiren quotes from this source in “The Four Debts of Gratitude” and other writings. But in “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” he incorporates the debt owed to all living beings within the debt owed to one’s parents, and adds in its place the debt owed to one’s teacher or mentor. We may surmise that this is an expression of his spirit to repay his debt of gratitude to Dozen-bo, the teacher of his youth.

In reality, though Dozen-bo was Nichiren Daishonin’s teacher, he was fainthearted. He did not stand up for Nichiren when he was persecuted. Nor was Dozen-bo able to fully give up his attachment to the Pure Land (Nembutsu) teaching. In spite of this, Nichiren still deeply cared for him. In “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” he says that when he learned of Dozen-bo’s death, he wanted to rush to his grave and perform a memorial service for him there (see WND-1, 729). This indicates just how lofty are the ties of mentor and disciple.

The Light of a Religion Genuinely Dedicated to People’s Happiness

How much more noble and sublime, then, will be the lives of those who encounter a genuine teacher of kosen-rufu and embark on the exciting adventure of challenging their human revolution and changing their destiny! In doing so, we are leading unsurpassed lives.

The mentor never ceases to wish for the growth of the disciples. The disciples, meanwhile, are endlessly resolved to repay their debt of gratitude to their mentor. The mentor-disciple relationship is a supreme symphony of the human spirit.

Nichiren Daishonin taught this great path of mentor and disciple—one that he himself walked, seeking to find the best way to correctly inherit and carry on the Buddhism of Shakyamuni and repay his debt of gratitude to Dozen-bo, who first instructed him in the Buddhist teachings.

When we dedicate ourselves to the path of mentor and disciple, Nichiren Buddhism, a teaching truly concerned with people’s happiness, will continue to shine with indestructible brilliance. A life based on the way of mentor and
disciple, of supremely noble behavior as a human being, gives positive direction and hope to young people. It also has the power to elevate the life state of all humankind and guide people everywhere toward genuine happiness and fulfillment.

Striving to Lead All People to Enlightenment

Nichiren Daishonin selflessly dedicated himself to propagating the Mystic Law in order to repay the four debts of gratitude. Or put another way, he worked tirelessly to realize the Buddha’s vow to help all living beings attain Buddhahood.

His quest for the essential truth of Buddhism led him to establish the daimoku of Nam-myohorenge- kyo when he first proclaimed his teaching [at Seicho-ji in 1253]. In so doing, his vow to “become the wisest person in all Japan” (“The Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei,” WND-1, 175) so that he could repay his debt of gratitude to his parents and all those in his life was achieved through his establishment of the Law.

The Dominican Republic, with its beautiful ocean, is known as the “Jewel of the Caribbean.” Photo: Seikyo Press.

With the completion of his quest to discover the ultimate truth of Buddhism, he then embarked on a new journey to propagate that truth. By spreading the Mystic Law and benefiting humankind, he was able to fulfill his vow in the deepest sense. He thus indicates here that he has opened the way to freeing all people from suffering into the eternal future.

“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” relates his actions as he stood up alone to proclaim the correct teaching of Buddhism in the Latter Dayof the Law. He continued spreading the Mystic Law, dedicating himself unsparingly to the task amid one onslaught of persecution after another. It was a struggle that demanded incredible fortitude and endurance, requiring him to “battle no less fiercely than the asuras and the god Shakra, or the Buddha and the devil king” (WND -1, 716).

So intense were the persecutions he faced that Nichiren writes, “Nowhere in all the sixty-six provinces and the two offshore islands of Japan, not for a day, not for an hour, could I find a placeto rest in safety” (WND-1, 727). Yet, he forged ahead tirelessly to repay his debt of gratitude to all living beings.

After declaring that he has been finally able to fulfill his great vow, he concludes “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” with the words: “Thus the flower will return to the root and the essence of the plant will remain in the earth. The benefit that I have been speaking of will surely accumulate in the life of the late Dozen-bo” (WND-1, 737).

He is saying that the benefit of spreading the Mystic Law throughout the ten thousand years and more of the Latter Day of the Law and thereby enriching the lives of all people will also accumulate in the life of the late Dozen-bo.

This shows the Daishonin’s infinite compassion. He explains how even a teacher such as Dozen-bo can attain Buddhahood through the benefit of the Mystic Law. This is the ultimate essence of the path of repaying debts of gratitude that is one with Nichiren Daishonin’s vow.

Carrying Out the Bodhisattva Vow for the Happiness of All Living Beings

Were it not for them [all living beings], one would find it impossible to make the vow to save innumerable living beings.[11]One of the four universal vows made by bodhisattvas when they embark on Buddhist practice. The four vows are: 1) to save innumerable living beings, 2) to eradicate unlimited earthly desires, 3) to master inexhaustible doctrines and 4) to attain unsurpassed enlightenment. Moreover, but for the evil people who persecute bodhisattvas, how could those bodhisattvas increase their merit? (“The Four Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 43)[12] “The Four Debts of Gratitude” was composed on January 16, 1262, while Nichiren was in exile on Izu and is addressed to a believer named Kudo (most probably Kudo Yoshitaka) who lived in Tojo Village in Nagasa District, Awa Province (present-day southern Chiba Prefecture). In it, the Daishonin affirms his sense of gratitude to those who exiled him—a sentence that fulfilled the prophecy of the Lotus Sutra and forced him to read the sutra with his life—and teaches the way of truly repaying debts of gratitude.

With regard to repaying debts of gratitude, let’snow turn to a passage from “The Four Debts of Gratitude.”

As we have confirmed so far, in Buddhism, repaying debts of gratitude is directed to all living beings, including our parents and others in our lives.

In “The Four Debts of Gratitude,” Nichiren Daishonin states, “Were it not for them [all living beings], one would find it impossible to make the vow to save innumerable living beings” (WND-1, 43). In other words, the debt of gratitude owed to all living beings inspires bodhisattvas to make a vow to help all living beings attain enlightenment. In the present day, it is we, the members of the Soka Gakkai, who are carrying out this bodhisattva vow in order to repay our debt of gratitude to all living beings.

Mr. Toda once said with deep feeling: “Mr. Makiguchi died saying that he had left behind his yet little-known theory of value and his disciples. Therefore, as his disciple, I must exert myself to the very fullest.”

As Mr. Makiguchi’s leading disciple, Mr. Toda worked tirelessly to make his mentor’s theory of value known throughout the world. He did this to repay his debt of gratitude to his mentor.

I, in turn, engraved in my heart every plan and vision my mentor, Mr. Toda, had for the future

Realizing the Dream of Mr. Toda

A future division member once asked me: “What is your dream?” I replied: “My dream is making my mentor Mr. Toda’s dream a reality.” That’s because doing so is the direct route to achieving world peace and transforming the destiny of humankind.

On the same occasion, I also said to our young members: “I hope that in the future, you’ll become fine scholars and leaders of society, in both name and substance. That is one of my greatest dreams.”

In this new era of worldwide kosen-rufu, young people throughout Japan and around the world are striving to make that dream a reality.

Whenever I learn of your victories, I imagine Mr. Toda smiling happily.

We only truly repay our debts of gratitude for the support and kindness we have received when we offer that same support and kindness to the next generation.

“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Will Spread for Ten Thousand Years and More, for All Eternity”

To return to “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” after Nichiren Daishonin indicates that he has fulfilled his vow, there is an unforgettable passage in which he makes a towering declaration for kosen-rufu, or the widespread propagation of
the Mystic Law, in the Latter Day: “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity, for it has the beneficial power to open the blind eyes of every living being in the country of Japan” (WND-1, 736).

Nichiren Daishonin opened the noble path of repaying debts of gratitude that leads directly to fulfilling the vow to help all living beings attain enlightenment—in other words, the great path of kosen-rufu to realize happiness for all humankind. And today, the Soka Gakkai and the SGI are making this a reality. That is why they can be called the “Soka Gakkai Buddha.” The great power and benefit of the Buddha cannot fail to fill the lives of every one of our members.

For precisely that reason, the most important challenge for us now is to communicate the vibrant Soka Gakkai spirit from one youth to another. We must keep it flowing forever, and solidify the path that will ensure that our movement
for kosen-rufu is carried on from one generation to the next, in perpetuity. Without the ongoing development of the Soka Gakkai, the organization in complete accord with the Buddha’s intent, worldwide kosen-rufu, the global
spread of Nichiren Buddhism, will not continue throughout the ten thousand years or more of the Latter Day of the Law.

The development of Soka is a beacon of hope. The unity of Soka is a force for victory. The triumph of Soka is a source of peace and prosperity.

Let’s always live with the positive, vibrant Soka spirit of repaying debts of gratitude! Let’s forge ahead energetically into the new era with our friends around the world! —With my sincerest appreciation to all my precious fellow members everywhere who have achieved another brilliant record of victory through their noble efforts this past year (2016).

Translated from the December 2016 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal.

 

(pp. 41-49)

Notes   [ + ]

1. This appears in Elegies of Ch’u and other Chinese works. A commentary on Elegies of Ch’u by Chu Hsi of the Sung dynasty states: “The old fox dies, invariably turning his head toward the hillock. This is because he never forgets the place of his birth.”
2. This story appears in A Collection of Stories and Poems. When the young Mao Pao, who later became a general of the Chin dynasty, was walking along the Yangtze River, he saw a fisherman about to kill a turtle he had caught. Moved to pity, he gave the fisherman his clothing in exchange for the turtle and thus saved its life. Later, pursued by enemies, he reached the banks of the Yangtze. There, the turtle he had saved in his youth appeared and carried him to the opposite shore.
3. According to Records of the Historian, Yü Jang of Chin first served the Fan and Chung-hang families but was not given an important position. Later, Yü Jang served under Chih Po, who treated him with great favor. In time, Chih Po was killed by Hsiang-tzu, the lord of Chao. To avenge his lord, Yü Jang disguised himself as a leper by lacquering his body, made himself a mute by drinking lye, and in this way attempted to approach Hsiang-tzu. But his attempt at assassination failed, and he was caught. Hsiang-tzu, understanding his feeling of loyalty, gave Yü Jang his robe. Yü stabbed it three times to show his enmity for the man who had killed his lord and then turned his sword upon himself.
4. This story appears in Records of the Historian. While Hung Yen was away on a journey, enemies attacked the state of Wei and killed his lord, Duke Yi, and devoured his body, leaving only the duke’s liver. Then they left the land. When Hung Yen returned, he saw the disastrous scene and wept. He slit open his own stomach and inserted the liver to save his lord from dishonor, and so died.
5. Dozen-bo (d. 1276): A priest of Seicho-ji temple in Awa Province, Japan, under whom Nichiren Daishonin studied from age 12. When Nichiren first declared his teaching at Seicho-ji in 1253, his refutation of the Pure Land (Nembutsu) teachings enraged Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of the area and an ardent Nembutsu believer, who ordered his arrest. At that time, Dozen-bo quietly helped Nichiren escape. Nevertheless, he was afraid to oppose Kagenobu and for this reason could never bring himself to convert to the Daishonin’s teaching. After the Komatsubara Persecution in 1264, Dozen-bo visited Nichiren, and at that time asked whether it was possible for him to attain Buddhahood. In response, the Daishonin refuted the Nembutsu teachings, which Dozen-bo upheld, and encouraged the latter to devote himself to the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra. It seems that Dozen-bo did arouse a measure of faith in Nichiren’s teaching from that time; however, he died without formally converting.
6. Joken-bo and Gijo-bo: Priests at Seicho-ji temple who, as disciples of Dozen-bo, had supported Nichiren Daishonin during his early studies. When Nichiren declared the establishment of his teaching at Seicho-ji in 1253, they helped him escape when his life was threatened by the local steward Tojo Kagenobu, who was enraged by his denunciation of the Pure Land teachings. Later, they became the Daishonin’s followers and received several of his writings.
7. Three Great Secret Laws are the core principles of the Daishonin’s teaching. They are the object of devotion of the essential teaching, the daimoku of the essential teaching and the sanctuary of the essential teaching. The Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo embodies all three.
8. Salvation by Men of Pure Faith Sutra. Though this sutra is no longer extant, this passage from it is quoted in The Forest of Gems in the Garden of the Law. “The Buddhist life” in the sutra’s context means a monastic life, but here Nichiren Daishonin interprets it as a life based on faith in the Mystic Law.
9. This story is found in Records of the Historian. King Chou of the Yin dynasty was so absorbed in his affection for his consort, Ta Chi, that he totally neglected affairs of state. When his minister Pi Kan remonstrated with him, King Chou flew into a rage and killed him.
10. Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra: A sutra translated by the Indian monk Prajna, who traveled to China in 781. It explains that the states of the Buddha, bodhisattva, pratyekabuddha, arhat and voice-hearer all originate from the minds of ordinary people. Thus it compares the mind to the ground, which produces grain. The sutra also defines the four debts of gratitude—those owed to one’s parents, to all living beings, to one’s sovereign and to the three treasures—and extols the blessings of observing the mind in a quiet and remote place
11. One of the four universal vows made by bodhisattvas when they embark on Buddhist practice. The four vows are: 1) to save innumerable living beings, 2) to eradicate unlimited earthly desires, 3) to master inexhaustible doctrines and 4) to attain unsurpassed enlightenment.
12.  “The Four Debts of Gratitude” was composed on January 16, 1262, while Nichiren was in exile on Izu and is addressed to a believer named Kudo (most probably Kudo Yoshitaka) who lived in Tojo Village in Nagasa District, Awa Province (present-day southern Chiba Prefecture). In it, the Daishonin affirms his sense of gratitude to those who exiled him—a sentence that fulfilled the prophecy of the Lotus Sutra and forced him to read the sutra with his life—and teaches the way of truly repaying debts of gratitude.

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