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Buddhism of the Sun

Living True to Our Vow to Awaken the Buddha Nature inAll People

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series—Installment 84

Enjoying heartfelt discussion at the Young Men’s Conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, Weston, Florida, November 2022. Photo by Ayumi Inoue.

Nichiren Buddhism is the great teaching of universal enlightenment. It is a religion for the happiness of all people.

Nichiren Daishonin exerted himself unsparingly and endured great persecutions to establish and spread the fundamental Law for the enlightenment of all humanity into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law.

The day he proclaimed his teaching signals the starting point of these efforts. On April 28, 1253, the Daishonin first publicly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, burning with his great vow to free all people from suffering. This year [2022] marks the 770th anniversary[1] of that occasion, when the sun of the Mystic Law dawned to illuminate the darkness of fundamental ignorance[2] shrouding humanity.

• • •

The Birth of a Universal Religion for the Enlightenment of All

Nichiren Daishonin states: “Now when Nichiren chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he is enabling all living beings to attain Buddhahood in the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 41). He also writes: “Can there be any doubt that … the great pure Law of the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] will be spread far and wide [Jpn kosen-rufu] throughout Japan and all the other countries of Jambudvipa [the entire world]?” (“The Selection of the Time,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 550). Nichiren Buddhism is not limited to one country or time; it is a universal religion that is concerned with the happiness of all people.

It is a magnificent, enduring philosophy that transcends differences such as race and culture. It enables each person to shine with supreme dignity and work with others to create a world of true security and peace. It is a people-centered religion, a human religion, that is open to all.

• • •

Now Is the Time for Kosen-rufu

In 1952, marking the 700th anniversary[3] of Nichiren Daishonin’s proclamation of his teaching, my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, declared that the time had come to launch a great struggle for kosen-rufu. He said, “As I rejoice with you all on this glorious day, I hope you will exert yourselves in sharing Nichiren Buddhism with ever greater confidence.” 

What good fortune it is to be born as a human being at this time and strive together on the path of mentor and disciple dedicated to spreading the Mystic Law! In the early days of our movement, Mr. Toda inspired this awareness in each person. Then they personally took initiative to set in motion, with joy and courage, a great tide of propagation.

The spirit behind Nichiren’s proclamation of his teaching was his determined vow to guide all humanity to happiness. This vow of the Buddha of the Latter Day pulses vibrantly in the hearts of Soka Gakkai members—united by the bonds of mentor and disciple—who are actualizing the widespread propagation of his teaching throughout the world today.

In this installment, let us first study a passage from “The Opening of the Eyes” that reveals the fervent commitment and compassion underlying the Daishonin’s vow to free all people from suffering. Let us use it as inspiration to solidify our conviction that “now is the time for kosen-rufu” and broaden our efforts at dialogue to awaken the Buddha nature of all people.

• • •

Making Nichiren’s Writings Our Foundation

This April [2022] marks 70 years since the publication[4] of the Soka Gakkai edition of the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin), at Mr. Toda’s initiative, to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Nichiren’s proclamation of his teaching.

We of the Soka Gakkai have consistently followed the great path of making the Daishonin’s writings our foundation, never straying from his spirit. Based on his awakening in prison to his identity as a Bodhisattva of the Earth,[5] Mr. Toda urged each of us to read the Daishonin’s writings so that we, too, could fulfill our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

On how to approach reading “The Opening of the Eyes,” Mr. Toda instructed: “Rather than simply trying to understand the Daishonin’s words, I seek to connect with his immense compassion, his towering conviction, his ardent spirit to save people from suffering and his solemn and unswerving commitment to kosen-rufu.”[6]

We can truly say we are walking the great path of making Nichiren’s writings our foundation when we strive to read them the way Mr. Toda did, enveloped in the Daishonin’s spirit and with the awareness that we are Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

• • •

A Life of Unsurpassed Riches

I, Nichiren, am the richest man in all of present-day Japan. I have dedicated my life to the Lotus Sutra, and my name will be handed down in ages to come. If one is lord of the great ocean, then all the gods of the various rivers will obey one. If one is king of Mount Sumeru,[7] then the gods of the various other mountains cannot help but serve one. If a person fulfills the teaching of “the six difficult and nine easy acts”[8] of the Lotus Sutra, then, even though he may not have read the entire body of sutras, all should follow him. (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 268)

“The Opening of the Eyes” is one of Nichiren’s major writings, composed during the Sado Exile.[9] In the passage we are studying, he discusses his life state as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi underlined this very important passage in his copy of the Daishonin’s writings and kept it in his heart.

When Nichiren wrote these words, he was an exile on Sado. In the bitter winter cold of that remote island, he suffered terribly from a lack of sufficient shelter, food and clothing. In addition, hostile forces threatened his life, and there was no guarantee he would return to Kamakura alive. His situation was harsh beyond words. Yet even in those extreme circumstances, he declared: “I, Nichiren, am the richest man in all of present-day Japan” (WND-1, 268). What a magnificent state of life!

Why was he “the richest man in all of present-day Japan”? Because he was born in the Latter Day, the time for spreading the correct teaching of Buddhism, and was dedicating his life to the Mystic Law as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. With selfless devotion, he upheld and propagated the Lotus Sutra and lived its words. There are no greater riches for one who has been born a human being.

The indestructible “treasures of the heart” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 851) accumulated by those who remain undaunted by any onslaught of obstacles or difficulties are the true riches. And the ultimate embodiment of those riches is the life state of Buddhahood.

During the Tatsunokuchi Persecution [of September 12, 1271],[10] the Daishonin “cast off the transient and revealed the true.”[11] As the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, he thereafter began to inscribe the Gohonzon, opening the way for all people to reveal the life state of Buddhahood. At the same time, by meeting and overcoming persecution, thus reading the Lotus Sutra with his life, he protected the heart and essence of Buddhism and proved the truth of the Lotus Sutra’s predictions [concerning the propagation of the Law in this evil latter age]. There is no greater joy or honor as a Buddhist. That is why he declares: “I, Nichiren, am the richest man in all of present-day Japan … and my name will be handed down in ages to come” (WND-1, 268).

All who have awakened to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and strive with unwavering conviction to realize Nichiren’s vision of the “westward transmission of Buddhism”[12] and achieve world peace and human happiness are also “the richest” people, experiencing lives of true fulfillment and joy. They are none other than our members who are living their lives aligned with the Mystic Law and together with the Soka Gakkai. There is absolutely no doubt that their valiant endeavors, crowned by brilliant actual proof, will be passed down to posterity.

• • •

‘To Bear This Worthily Is Good Fortune’

Hardships are an honor—this is a creed shared by sages of all times and places. The wise Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: “So here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, ‘This is a misfortune,’ but ‘To bear this worthily is good fortune.’”[13]

Come what may, live in a worthy manner. Embracing faith in the Mystic Law, we are lion kings and champions of life, certain to triumph in the end.

The Daishonin writes: “I do not regret meeting with such great persecutions as the votary of the Lotus Sutra” (“Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment,” WND-1, 317); “It is indeed a matter of joy. … How delightful! How gratifying!” (“The Joy of Fulfilling the Sutra Teachings,” WND-2, 463); “I feel immeasurable delight even though I am now an exile [on Sado Island]” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 386). Taking inspiration from the great conviction Nichiren expresses here and in other passages, let us rouse our courage. As practitioners of his teachings, let’s respond to adversity by staying true to our beliefs with pride and unshakable confidence. 

• • •

Nichiren’s Unwavering Vow

In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren states that in the light of various sutra passages, he is the true votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. One of the passages he quotes as proof is that describing the six difficult and nine easy acts, which appears in the course of Shakyamuni’s three pronouncements[14] in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The six difficult and nine easy acts are similes used to illustrate how incredibly difficult it will be to propagate the Lotus Sutra in the time after Shakyamuni’s death. Having made them aware of this great challenge, Shakyamuni calls on his assembled bodhisattva disciples to carry on his vow and make it a reality, no matter what daunting obstacles may arise. 

In “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin states that immediately before proclaiming his teaching, when contemplating the monumental struggle with negative forces it would inevitably entail, he recalled the six difficult and nine easy acts. He writes: 

Persons like myself who are of paltry strength might still be able to lift Mount Sumeru and toss it about; persons like myself who are lacking in supernatural powers might still shoulder a load of dry grass and yet remain unburned in the fire at the end of the kalpa of decline.[15] … But such acts [counted among the nine easy acts] are not difficult, we are told, when compared to the difficulty of embracing even one phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law [which is counted among the six difficult acts]. (WND-1, 239–40)

Yet, aware of the great hardships that the sutra predicts will lie ahead, he concludes, “Nevertheless, I vowed to summon up a powerful and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings and never to falter in my efforts” (WND-1, 240). With this resolve, he embarked on his struggle to guide all people to enlightenment.

• • •

The Life of the Buddha Pulses in Unremitting Efforts for Kosen-rufu

The fact that “preaching the Lotus Sutra” and “expounding it to even one person” in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 218–19) are included among the six difficult acts attests to just how challenging and, at the same time, noble it is to propagate the Mystic Law in such an age. We can take this as affirming that the Lotus Sutra is the teaching to be propagated in the Latter Day of the Law. 

Nichiren indicates that he understands and has demonstrated with his life the truth of the teaching of the six difficult and nine easy acts, having triumphed over life-threatening persecutions and dedicated himself to spreading the Mystic Law as “the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan” (“Letter to Jakunichi-bo,” WND-1, 993).

He asserts that, just as the gods of various rivers will obey the lord of the great ocean, and just as the gods of various mountains cannot help but serve the king of Mount Sumeru (See WND-1, 268), those who practice the Lotus Sutra, the king of sutras, are kings or champions in the realm of Buddhism.

The path to attaining Buddhahood lies in winning the great battle against our fundamental ignorance and dedicating our lives to spreading the Mystic Law. The life of the Buddha pulses in this unremitting struggle for kosen-rufu. Striving our hardest for this cause enables us to build lasting happiness. That is why Nichiren calls on us to keep in mind the message of the six difficult and nine easy acts and devote ourselves to fulfilling the great vow to lead all people to enlightenment. 

• • •

A Heartfelt Wish to Encourage His Disciples

I have received the string of coins you sent and reported your sincerity to the Lotus Sutra. The ten demon daughters[16] are certain to protect you without fail.

Even so, please tell the lay nun that I am concerned about her. 

With my deep respect. 

(“The Protection of the Ten Demon Daughters” Gosho zenshu, new edition,
p. 1343)
[17]

The next passage we will study is from “The Protection of the Ten Demon Daughters,” a letter addressed to Toki Jonin, a central figure among Nichiren’s disciples in Shimosa Province [part of present-day Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures]. It has been published for the first time in the revised edition of the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu.

Toki Jonin was deeply worried about the illness of his wife, the lay nun Toki, who strove in faith alongside him. Aware of this, the Daishonin conveys his warm concern for the lay nun, asking Jonin to tell her that he, too, is worried about her condition. 

Though short, this letter communicates Nichiren’s profound compassion to do everything he can to encourage his disciples.

• • •

The Promise to Protect the Practitioners of the Lotus Sutra

The ten demon daughters are guardian deities—or what we refer to more commonly in Nichiren Buddhism as heavenly deities[18]—that appear in “Dharani,” the 26th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Motivated by their gratitude to the Lotus Sutra, the fundamental teaching by which all Buddhas attain enlightenment, they vow to Shakyamuni to never allow any beings to trouble its practitioners (see LSOC, 351).

The Daishonin writes that since he has reported Toki Jonin’s sincerity to the Lotus Sutra, it is only natural that the ten demon daughters will protect him and his wife without fail. This is his fervent encouragement to the couple who are bravely battling the storms of karma. 

Nichiren refers to the protection of the ten demon daughters in numerous letters to his disciples. He writes, for instance: “The ten demon daughters in particular have vowed to protect those who embrace the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]” (“The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 672); and “How could Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Buddha,[19] and the ten demon daughters possibly fail to protect you?” (“The Two Kinds of Faith,” WND-1, 899).

• • •

Transforming Even Negative Forces Into Allies

Though the heavenly deities have pledged to protect practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, that doesn’t mean all we have to do is sit around and wait to be protected. The Great Teacher Miao-lo,[20] whom the Daishonin quotes frequently in his writings, says: “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the gods.”[21] In other words, it is the strength of our faith that draws forth the protective workings of the heavenly deities. 

Nichiren writes, “Those who call themselves my disciples and practice the Lotus Sutra should all practice as I do. If they do, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, Shakyamuni’s emanations throughout the ten directions, and the ten demon daughters will protect them” (“On Establishing the Four Bodhisattvas as the Object of Devotion,” WND-1, 978). The heavenly deities will definitely protect those who earnestly take action for kosen-rufu as he does, however difficult their present circumstances, he says. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe will act without fail to safeguard the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. 

He also writes, “I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (“On Rebuking Slander of the Law and Eradicating Sins,” WND-1, 444). Those who strive with such prayer can transform everything, even negative forces, into protective functions that serve as our allies.

• • •

Forging Bonds of Encouragement

“I am concerned about you”—this message encapsulates Nichiren’s thoughtful solicitude and deeply moving care for its recipient. In many other letters, too, we find passages brimming with his sincere compassion. Bathed in the warmth of his sunlike spirit, his disciples must have been filled with the hope that “winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536). 

In our dialogue, Harvard Divinity School professor emeritus Harvey Cox expressed his hopes for our movement, saying: “The great role of religion today is to reform the bonds that connect people. Accomplishing this is one of the areas in which my hopes for SGI are very high.”[22]

In these times when divisive forces are on the rise, the ongoing efforts of Soka Gakkai members around the world, striving with the same spirit as Nichiren Daishonin to support and encourage people, are a great beacon of hope.

We think of others, wondering how they’re feeling and how they’re doing. And with courage, we reach out and talk with them. Using our voices to do the Buddha’s work (See OTT, 4), we help one person after another form hope-inspiring connections to Nichiren Buddhism, embracing them with our heartfelt care.

Encouragement has the power to revitalize those crushed by suffering.

Encouragement has the power to awaken the Buddha nature in all people.

Worldwide kosen-rufu starts with forging bonds of encouragement with those around us. Indeed, strengthening such bonds, one after another, is itself the driving force for worldwide kosen-rufu.

• • •

Obstacles Develop Humankind’s Powers

The great German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed that humankind, in the course of its ongoing development, “will never lack obstacles to give it trouble, and never lack the pressure of necessity to develop its powers.”[23] These words are worth thinking about. 

Kosen-rufu is an unceasing struggle against the negative forces that prevent humanity from achieving peace and happiness. By bravely responding to and triumphing over the challenges they present, we can elevate the life state of humankind. In this sense, the mission of Soka youth in the years ahead will be extremely important. People of conscience around the world are looking forward to your growth and success.

• • •

The Noble Journey of Mentor and Disciple

This April 2, in the season of cherry blossoms, we again mark the anniversary of my great mentor Josei Toda’s passing. For some 11 years, from our first meeting [in 1947 until his death in 1958], I received instruction from him in Buddhism and a wide range of other subjects. I owe who I am today to Mr. Toda. I continue my journey of mentor and disciple even now, carrying on a dialogue with him in my heart.

Mr. Toda once said: “The struggle we are waging now is for the sake of 100 years, 200 years hence. Two centuries from now, history will show that we of the Soka Gakkai have been on the right path. Future generations will attest to it beyond doubt.” 

For us, the anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s proclamation of his teaching [on April 28] is a time to return to our great vow for kosen-rufu and renew our resolve to never waver in our commitment. 

Let’s advance dynamically from the cherry blossoms of April into the fragrant breezes of the Soka month of May. Together let’s walk the great path of our vow for kosen-rufu with ever fresh determination!

Translated from the April 2022 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

References

  1. According to the traditional Japanese way of counting. ↩︎
  2. Fundamental ignorance: Also, fundamental darkness. The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. The inability to see or recognize the ultimate truth of the Mystic Law or the negative impulses that arise from such ignorance. ↩︎
  3. According to the traditional Japanese way of counting. ↩︎
  4. The date of its publication was April 28, 1952. ↩︎
  5. Bodhisattvas of the Earth: The innumerable bodhisattvas who appear in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and are entrusted by Shakyamuni with the task of propagating the Law after his passing. In “Supernatural Powers,” the 21st chapter, Shakyamuni entrusts Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, with spreading the Law in the saha world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  6. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), p. 179. ↩︎
  7. Mount Sumeru: In ancient Indian cosmology, the mountain that stands at the center of the world. ↩︎
  8. Six difficult and nine easy acts: Comparisons expounded in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, to teach people how difficult it would be to embrace and propagate the sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. The six difficult acts are 1) to propagate the Lotus Sutra widely, 2) to copy it or cause someone else to copy it, 3) to recite it even for a short while, 4) to teach it even to one person, 5) to hear of and accept the Lotus Sutra and inquire about its meaning and 6) to maintain faith in it. The nine easy acts include such feats as teaching innumerable sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, walking across a burning prairie carrying a bundle of hay on one’s back without being burned and kicking a major world system into a different quarter. ↩︎
  9. Sado Exile: Nichiren Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island off the western coast of Japan from October 1271—immediately following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271 through March 1274. ↩︎
  10. Tatsunokuchi Persecution: On September 12, 1271, Nichiren Daishonin, who was under arrest for false charges, was taken in the middle of the night to be secretly executed at Tatsunokuchi Beach, but the attempt failed. ↩︎
  11. Casting off the transient and revealing the true: The revealing of a Buddha’s true status, and the setting aside of that Buddha’s provisional or transient status. The term was coined by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in reference to Shakyamuni’s revelation in “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which he discards his provisional identity as the Buddha who first attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree in India and reveals his original enlightenment in the infinite past. In terms of Nichiren Daishonin’s life, it refers to his revelation at the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, during which he casts off his transient status as an ordinary, unenlightened person burdened with karma and suffering and, while remaining an ordinary human being, reveals his original, true identity as a Buddha possessing infinite wisdom, compassion and courage. ↩︎
  12. Westward transmission of Buddhism: Also, westward return of Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin predicted that his Buddhism of the Sun would flow from Japan toward the west, returning to the countries through which Buddhism had originally been transmitted and spreading throughout the entire world (See “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 401). ↩︎
  13. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by Maxwell Staniforth (London: Penguin Books, 1964), p. 75. ↩︎
  14. Three pronouncements: In “Treasure Tower, ” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which marks the start of the Ceremony in the Air, Shakyamuni three times exhorts the assembly to propagate the Lotus Sutra after his passing. With the first pronouncement, the Buddha voices his desire to transmit the sutra to someone. In the second pronouncement, the Buddha expresses his desire to perpetuate the Law for all eternity. In the third pronouncement, the Buddha expounds the difficulty of propagating the sutra after his death by employing the teaching of the six difficult and nine easy acts. ↩︎

  15. Kalpa of decline: The period of time during which a world decays; one of the four stages in the cycle of formation, continuance, decline and disintegration. A kalpa is an immeasurably long period of time. ↩︎
  16. Ten demon daughters: The ten female protective deities who appear in “Dharani,” the 26th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, as the “daughters of rakshasa demons” or the “ten rakshasa daughters.” They vow to the Buddha to guard and protect the sutra’s practitioners, saying that they will inflict punishment on any who trouble these practitioners. ↩︎
  17. Tentative translation. This brief letter was thought to have been composed on April 10, 1280. ↩︎
  18. In Nichiren Buddhism, heavenly deities—also known as protective gods, benevolent deities and so on—refer to positive forces that function to protect practitioners of correct Buddhist teaching and the lands in which they dwell. ↩︎
  19. Many Treasures Buddha: A Buddha depicted in the Lotus Sutra. Many Treasures appears, seated within his treasure tower, in order to lend credence to Shakyamuni’s teachings in the sutra. According to “Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Many Treasures Buddha lives in the World of Treasure Purity in the east. While still engaged in bodhisattva practice, he pledges that, even after entering nirvana, he will appear with his treasure tower in order to attest to the validity of the Lotus Sutra, wherever it might be taught. ↩︎
  20. Miao-lo (711–82): Also known as the Great Teacher Ching-hsi, after his birthplace. A patriarch of the T’ien-t’ai school in China. He is revered as the school’s restorer. His commentaries on T’ien-t’ai’s three major works are titled The Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra,” The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra” and The Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight.” ↩︎
  21. The words “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the gods” appear in Miao-lo’s Annotations on Great Concentration and Insight. The Daishonin quotes it in such writings as “How the Gods Protect the Place of Practice” (WND-2, 668), “General Stone Tiger” (WND-1, 953) and “The Supremacy of the Law” (WND-1, 614). ↩︎
  22. Harvey Cox and Daisaku Ikeda, The Persistence of Religion: Comparative Perspectives on Modern Spirituality (London, New York: I. B. Tauris, 2009), p. 33. ↩︎
  23. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann, translated by John Oxenford and edited by J. K. Moorhead (New York: Da Capo Press, 1998), p. 275. ↩︎

District Discussion Meeting Material

Awakening to Global Citizenship