Casting Off the Transient and Revealing the True
AMID THE GREATEST ADVERSITIES, WE CAN REVEAL OUR INNATE POWER AS HUMAN BEINGS AND TRANSFORM SOCIETY
Many things make us who we are—where we were born, the family we were born into, our childhood experiences, those people and things that influence us, our beliefs and way of life, and the list goes on. Everything that makes us who we are is relevant and important.
Buddhism also teaches about the true nature of our lives. It teaches that our lives are eternal—that inherent in each of us is the noble state of Buddhahood, and that, no matter our background, physical makeup or status in society, we are equally respectworthy.
In order to tap this noble life state, we must challenge and overcome the negative tendencies that can rule us and plunge us into suffering.
A key concept in Nichiren Buddhism is “casting off the transient and revealing the true,” which explains that through our Buddhist practice, we can transcend our provisional state of existence and courageously bring forth the true state of our lives, which is Buddhahood.
SGI President Ikeda explains this process of casting off the transient and revealing the true, stating:
This means that ordinary people, whose lives are ruled by selfish desires and burdened by karma and suffering, return to their inherent life state from time without beginning, sever the chains of karma and become Buddhas filled with compassion and wisdom who wish to help all humanity attain enlightenment. This is the noblest state we can experience as human beings . . .
June 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 48
Nichiren Daishonin set forth a path by which all people can attain this enlightened state of being, his presence like the sunlight flooding into a cave that has been shrouded in darkness for numberless eons.
The idea of “revealing the true” comes down to assuming the Buddha’s “wish to help all humanity attain enlightenment.” It points to our true identity as Bodhisattvas of the Earth—those in the Lotus Sutra who emerge onto the scene with the firm desire to propagate the Mystic Law, the essence of the sutra, and awaken the people to their Buddha nature in the trouble-filled saha world.Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In Sanskrit, saha means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.” For this reason, in the Chinese versions of Buddhist scriptures, saha is rendered as endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering.
Nichiren’s “Casting Off the Transient and Revealing the True” Opened the Way for All People
Awakening to our true self, to our mission to spread hope through the teachings of Buddhism, does not mean ridding ourselves of our provisional or transient self. In fact, the idea of “casting off the transient” teaches that we can reveal our true self, our highest potential, just as we are.
This concept was powerfully demonstrated by Nichiren Daishonin, who at the height of his persecution by military authorities, cast off his transient status as an ordinary, unenlightened person burdened with karma and suffering and, while remaining an ordinary human being, revealed his original, true identity as a Buddha.
The Daishonin manifested the true and highest potential of life as an ordinary person—indeed, as a person who more than any other was being oppressed and persecuted by the authorities.
On September 12, 1271, Hei no Saemon-no-jo Yoritsuna, the deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs, led a large contingent of armed soldiers to arrest Nichiren. He was then taken into custody by Hojo Nobutoki, the constable of Sado, where it seemed he would be exiled. Certain officials had secretly plotted, however, to have him beheaded that night, and they had him escorted to a secluded beach called Tatsunokuchi.
As they made their way to the beach, Nichiren maintained his composure. He sent a messenger to his disciple Shijo Kingo, who rushed barefoot to his mentor’s side.
When they approached the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Nichiren declared he had parting words for Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, the guardian deity of Japan’s warrior class who was highly respected by the country’s rulers. He rebuked this great bodhisattva and the Sun Goddess for not protecting the votary of the Lotus Sutra as they had promised.
They arrived at Tatsunokuchi between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Just as the executioner raised his sword, Shijo Kingo cried out: “These are your last moments!”
Nichiren replied: “You don’t understand! What greater joy could there be? Don’t you remember what you have promised?” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 767).
Then, at the moment, a brilliant orb of light flashed above, lighting up the midnight sky. This frightened the soldiers so much that they scattered away and the executioner dropped his sword and could no longer wield it. Nichiren urged them: “Come closer! Come closer! . . . What if the dawn should come? You must hurry up and execute me—once the day breaks, it will be too ugly a job” (WND-1, 767).
Overwhelmed by Nichiren’s towering and dignified state of life, the authorities could not carry out the execution. This came to be known as the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.
While later exiled to Sado Island, he referred to this incident, writing: “On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year . . . this person named Nichiren was beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 269).
Here, Nichiren declares that he cast off his transient identity as an ordinary person and revealed his true identity as a Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
President Ikeda explains the importance of this event, stating:
[Nichiren’s] unwavering resolve and behavior in this crisis were a manifestation of the colossal life force of the Buddha, with which he completely vanquished the devilish forces aligned against him.February 2013 Living Buddhism, p. 25
It is important to remember, however, that though Nichiren revealed the supreme life state of Buddhahood, he was not a supernatural being adorned with special, superhuman characteristics. If anything, his appearance was the exact opposite of most people’s image of a Buddha: he was a prisoner and a soon-to-be exile. The Daishonin manifested the true and highest potential of life as an ordinary person—indeed, as a person who more than any other was being oppressed and persecuted by the authorities. This is the tremendous significance of his casting off the transient and revealing the true.
Remaining an ordinary person while casting off the transient and revealing the true at Tatsunokuchi, Nichiren demonstrated the true greatness and dignity that we each have in our lives. Every one of us has a unique mission to persevere no matter the challenges, transform our lives and reveal our Buddhahood, thereby opening the way for all those around us to do the same.
The Soka Gakkai Upholds Nichiren’s Powerful Spirit
Upholding the Daishonin’s dauntless spirit, the Soka Gakkai’s three founding presidents cast off the transient and revealed the true in pioneering the path for the happiness of all people in contemporary times.
The first and second Soka Gakkai presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, gave their lives to protect this Buddhism, going to prison during World War II and never recanting their beliefs. In postwar Japan, Soka Gakkai members cast off the transient and revealed the true by breaking through their personal struggles, uniting with their mentor and taking on President Toda’s vow to carry out kosen-rufu as their own.
And, resolved to realize the vision of his mentor, Josei Toda, SGI President Ikeda has faced and overcome untold challenges to develop the SGI into a worldwide movement with 12 million members around the world who are standing up with the awareness that they are Bodhisattvas of the Earth, committed to fulfilling the noble task of creating a world of absolute peace, freedom and happiness.
President Ikeda says:
However much we may speak of the wonderful innate power of life, or of people’s limitless potential, that alone amounts to no more than an abstraction. Rather, it is when we strive to develop ourselves in the midst of the greatest adversity that our innate power as human beings reveals itself. Our true self, of which we were not even aware, comes to the fore.July 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 50
He also says:
For us, “casting off the transient and revealing the true” is making kosen-rufu, the realization of happiness for all people, our highest purpose and mission in life and carrying out its courageous practice in our daily lives.The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, p. 197
The Social Implications of Casting Off the Transient and Revealing the True
In a world plagued by division, a growing disregard for life and the threat of nuclear destruction, this Buddhist concept of “casting off the transient and revealing the true” holds a powerful key to social transformation.
Many leaders in society cannot see past the transient self, operating on a limited worldview that restricts their concerns to a small population or area of the world, without regard to humanity as a whole. If such views persist, our world will be cast into further chaos and suffering.
As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, our concerns encompass all of humanity.
In his poem “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land,” which President Ikeda dedicated to the members of the SGI-USA in 1993 during a time of racial tension and social upheaval, he writes:
As each group seeks its separate roots and origins
society fractures along a thousand fissure lines.
When neighbors distance themselves
from neighbors, continue your
for your truer roots
in the deepest regions of your life.
Seek out the primordial “roots” of humankind.
Then you will without fail discover
the stately expanse of Jiyu
unfolding in the depths of your life.
(My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 208)
He assures us that as more and more people awaken to their true identity as Bodhisattvas of the Earth (jiyu no bosatsu), we will deepen our awareness of our shared humanity and increasingly work together to create a peaceful future.
During the height of Cold War tensions, President Toda spoke powerfully of this concept, when he made his historic “Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” on September 8, 1957.
He declared at the time that all people are inherently worthy of respect and have the right to live. And he decried the logic that justifies the possession of nuclear weapons—the desire to dominate and bend others to our will, the readiness to annihilate them, destroying their lives and livelihoods, should they resist.
President Ikeda says:
Transforming the darkness that besets humankind literally means transforming the destiny of humankind. The 21st century may be said to represent the crossroads at which all humankind must “cast off the transient and reveal the true.” If the world’s destiny cannot be changed, then this century will turn out to be even darker than the last . . . The present age of hardships and ordeals represents a golden opportunity for all people to awaken to a new global awareness.The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 2, p. 89
The Path for Each Person to “Cast Off the Transient and Reveal the True”
We can awaken to our true selves by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, sharing Buddhism with others and applying Buddhist principles to our daily lives. By showing actual proof of the power of our lives in our relationships, workplaces, communities, wherever we are, we can give hope and inspiration to others.
President Ikeda explains:
When we awaken to our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, incredible strength wells forth from within; all obstacles we encounter become obstacles we have voluntarily chosen to take on so that we can help lead others to enlightenment. And by overcoming those obstacles, we fulfill our bodhisattva vow to help others become happy. Obstacles exist so that we can achieve our mission.December 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 40
Nichiren teaches us to fundamentally transform our attitude toward adversity—from a self-pitying, Why me? to a proud and confident, Yes, me!”
Casting off the transient and revealing the true, thus, expresses the reality that each person has the ability to reveal truly incredible potential. By living with the same powerful resolve as Nichiren, turning obstacles into “golden opportunities” and taking the best action at each moment, we create lives and societies of absolute joy and happiness.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In Sanskrit, saha means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.” For this reason, in the Chinese versions of Buddhist scriptures, saha is rendered as endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering.|