“My Wish Is That All My Disciples Make a Great Vow”
In his message to the Nov. 16 ceremony commemorating the 88th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s Founding (Nov. 18, 1930), SGI President Ikeda cited three passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings (see this issue, pp. 2–3). This month, we will study the first passage from “The Dragon Gate.”
“My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow . . . Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra. Think of this offering as a drop of dew rejoining the ocean, or a speck of dust returning to the earth.” (“The Dragon Gate,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1003)
“The Dragon Gate” is a letter Nichiren Daishonin wrote to Nanjo Tokimitsu during the height of the Atsuhara Persecution, in which farmers who upheld belief in Nichiren’s teachings were unjustly harassed and threatened by local authorities in an effort to have them abandon their faith. Ultimately, 20 disciples were arrested under false charges and harshly interrogated. Three of them were executed, and the remaining 17 were banished from their village. Despite the fact that many had been practicing Nichiren’s teaching only for a year or two, none gave up their faith.
With this Atsuhara Persecution, the Daishonin witnessed these farmers—ordinary people of humble status in society—boldly upholding their faith. Their actions convinced him that he had established a teaching that could be embraced by ordinary people and championed as a religion for the enlightenment of all humanity.
Also amid these intense persecutions, Nanjo Tokimitsu, who was in his early 20s, bravely protected his fellow practitioners, sheltering some of them in his own home. As a result, high taxes were levied against him, leaving him unable to provide basic needs for his own family.
Despite the harrowing opposition Nichiren’s disciples faced, they maintained unwavering faith, their actions in line with the Daishonin’s declaration: “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (WND-1, 1003).
What is this great vow?
It is the desire to spread the beneficial practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren closes “The Dragon Gate” with this expression of the great vow in the Lotus Sutra: “We beg that the merit [we have] gained . . . may be spread far and wide to everyone, so that we and other living beings all together may attain the Buddha way” (WND-1, 1003).
In his Nov. 16 message, President Ikeda explains this great wish as follows: “The Mystic Law is a source of immeasurable benefit, including the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime, the enlightenment of all people, and the realization of true, lasting peace and prosperity in society. Let us endlessly spread this great benefit—to our families and friends, our communities and societies, our countries and the world—as we continue in our efforts, never retreating a single step, to rid the world of suffering and misery and elevate the life state of all humankind” (see p. 3).
Because of their vow and unending trust in their mentor, Nichiren’s disciples withstood the gravest hardships. Just as he describes when he says, “Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 1003), his disciples in the face of death gave their lives for the loftiest goal of kosen-rufu.
Throughout his writings, Nichiren teaches that because we are engaged in the noblest of efforts, devilish functions will invariably arise to sway us from the direct path to enlightenment. He warns that such negative influences, or “evil friends,” can appear in various forms, even at times taking the form of allies.
“The way to truly fulfill the great vow for kosenrufu is to continue reaching out in dialogue to the person right in front of us.”
The ultimate expression of such evil is the devil king of the sixth heaven—who represents the most grievous negative functions that try to obstruct one’s progress in faith and saps one’s life force.
The devil king can manifest as authority figures, friends, family members, fellow practitioners and anyone who causes practitioners to regress in or abandon their faith. In “The Dragon Gate,” Nichiren says that the devil king led astray even those with direct ties to the Buddha (see WND-1, 1002–03).
This devil king can also manifest as greed, discouragement, yearning, craving, laziness, fear, doubt, anger, attachment to fame, arrogance and contempt. These are known as the ten kinds of troops that the devil king rouses to harass and lure Buddhist practitioners away from realizing their Buddhahood.
President Ikeda offers several keys to winning over such negative influences in his lecture on “The Dragon Gate” in Learning From the Writings: The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin:
1) Affirm your attitude toward the vow for kosen-rufu. Do you regard it as a burden or as a mission? “This difference in outlook or attitude,” President Ikeda says, “is what determines whether we will be defeated by negative influences, or evil friends, or successfully attain Buddhahood” (p. 125).
2) Summon powerful faith that activates the protective functions of the universe (p. 125).
3) Continue forging harmonious unity among fellow practitioners (p. 120).
4) Deepen the bond of mentor and disciple (see p. 123).
5) Take action with the spirit of construction. He says, “Destruction takes but an instant, while construction requires an all-out struggle” (p. 122).
6) Make the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime your ultimate goal (p. 126).
How do we actualize this great vow in our daily lives?
We must strive to do whatever we can to reach out to each person we encounter, and foster bonds of trust and respect. President Ikeda states: “The way to truly fulfill the great vow for kosen-rufu is to continue reaching out in dialogue to the person right in front of us and conveying through our lives the greatness of the Mystic Law, the key to genuine happiness” (pp. 121–22).
And when we dedicate ourselves to realizing kosen-rufu, as Nichiren says, our lives become like “a drop of dew rejoining the ocean, or a speck of dust returning to the earth” (WND-1, 1003). In other words, we establish in our lives the undefeatable state of Buddhahood that is one with the all-encompassing Mystic Law, which President Ikeda describes to be “as vast as the ocean and as firm as the earth” (p. 127). WT