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Gosho Study

A Ship to Cross the Sea of the Sufferings of Birth and Death


One who listens to even a sentence or phrase of the sutra and cherishes it deep in one’s heart may be likened to a ship that crosses the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. The Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, “Even a single phrase cherished deep in one’s heart will without fail help one reach the opposite shore. To ponder one phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation.” Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to cross the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. (“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 33)

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

Troubles and worries are an inseparable part of life. No one can escape the sufferings of birth and death. The “sea of the sufferings of birth and death” is a metaphor for the deep, unending sufferings we encounter in this life. …

The single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—which Nichiren Daishonin taught as the “seed of Buddhahood,” the fundamental cause for attaining enlightenment—contains within it all of the Buddha’s teachings. By believing in this single phrase, all people can reveal their inherent Buddha nature and transform the sufferings and sorrows of the human condition into the four noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.

Nichiren’s use of the word listen is significant. The passage from Miao-lo that the Daishonin cites comes from The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra.” In that work, the Great Teacher Miao-lo goes on to say: “Whether one accepts or rejects the teachings, they have entered one’s ear and one has thus established a bond with them. And then, though one may comply with them or go against them, in the end one will because of this bond be able to achieve liberation” (“The Sacred Teachings of the Buddha’s Lifetime,” WND-2, 56). While keeping in mind the specifics of a person’s situation, to allow them to hear the Lotus Sutra plants the “seed of Buddhahood” in that person’s heart and activates the world of Buddhahood within them.

In that sense, there’s no need to be overly worried about how your listeners react when you talk to them about Buddhism. You’ve helped them establish a connection to Buddhism, and eventually the opportunity will come when they are able to manifest the life state of Buddhahood.

As we have seen so far, there is enormous benefit in sharing even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra with others. At the same time, those who hear your words will forge a connection to Buddhism and acquire boundless good fortune and benefit as a result. This is why reaching out to talk with others about Buddhism is so important. (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 4, pp. 42–43)

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