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Fundamentals

Making a Great Vow

New Orleans. Photo by Geneva Lewis.

“My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow. We are very fortunate to be alive after the widespread epidemics that occurred last year and the year before. But now with the impending Mongol invasion it appears that few will survive. In the end, no one can escape death. The sufferings at that time will be exactly like what we are experiencing now. 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)

Background

For his disciples who were facing severe persecutions, Nichiren Daishonin emphasizes that genuine happiness lies in living with the “great vow” of spreading the correct teaching for the happiness of the people, which itself is the great desire of the Buddha. When we align ourselves with this desire, we can bring forth unlimited wisdom and power from within.

When this letter was written, the entire nation faced disaster. Numerous people had died from epidemics, and the threat of the Mongols invading Japan loomed. Therefore, Nichiren said, “Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra.” From the perspective of the vast universe, we may seem as insignificant as “a drop of dew” or “a speck of dust.” But when we live for the Buddha’s great vow, our lives fuse with the Buddhahood of the universe, forever remaining in the orbit of that indestructible life condition.

Nichiren concludes this letter by referring to the passage from the Lotus Sutra “we and other living beings all together may attain the Buddha way” (WND-1, 1003). He thus stresses the importance of wishing for the happiness of oneself and others. We can contribute to this noble cause and live a life of purpose and fulfillment by encouraging others and sharing Buddhism.

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

From our standpoint as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, the great vow means dedicating our lives to kosen-rufu. A teacher or mentor sets forth and demonstrates this noble way of life, while genuine disciples emulate that example. (A Foundation for Your Life, pp. 254–55)

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