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Gosho Study

Nichiren cautions us about erroneous teachings. Am I making negative causes by joining in other religious holidays or events?

Answer: Celebrating life’s events with loved ones leads to creating harmony and deeper bonds, so freely take part in them. Most important is your own firm Buddhist faith and practice.

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This study series focuses on Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, who faced challenges we can relate to today, and his enduring encouragement to them that we can apply to dynamically transform our lives.

Essentially, Nichiren Buddhism teaches us how to create harmony in society, so respecting the religious beliefs of family and friends, and joining in religious celebrations, like funerals or weddings, is only natural and in no way a negative cause.

Nichiren Daishonin often refers to the correct teaching and critiques other teachings as incorrect or erroneous. He did so with good reason. The Lotus Sutra holds that all people, without exception, possess a Buddha nature and have the capacity to attain enlightenment in this lifetime. It teaches that all people are limitlessly worthy of respect. Nichiren identified this as the correct teaching.

However, many other Buddhist teachings and teachers in Nichiren’s day disagreed. So he had to strictly point out their errors, undergoing persecution as a result.

But Nichiren also taught that when we base ourselves on faith and practice of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essential principle of the Lotus Sutra, we can find value and meaning in all other teachings and events.

He, for instance, often quotes other religious and secular sources and refers to the beliefs and traditions of his time to make his points.

Let’s look at one letter he wrote to answer a question similar to yours.

The Mystic Law Permeates Everything

Akimoto Taro, a samurai and disciple of the Daishonin, lived in Shimosa Province (present-day Chiba Prefecture) and became a follower around 1260. He was closely acquainted with three longtime believers who also resided in Shimosa: Soya Kyoshin, Ota Jomyo and Toki Jonin. Throughout various persecutions and hardships, the four maintained strong faith and collaborated to support Nichiren and their fellow believers.

In 1271, Akimoto sent Nichiren a letter asking about the meaning of the five seasonal festivals traditionally observed in Japan. Due to his position in society, he likely had to participate in such festivals and was concerned that doing so might run counter to the Lotus Sutra’s teachings.

In his response, Nichiren says, “First, when we consider the order of the five seasonal festivals, we find that they are festivals corresponding to the order of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo” (“On the Five Seasonal Festivals,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 374). He then briefly relates each character of Myoho-renge-kyo with each festival in the order they occur.

He reminds Akimoto of the inclusive and universal nature of the Mystic Law as a principle that permeates, informs and is relevant to every aspect of life and society. Summing up his answer, Nichiren writes:

The sixth volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality.” And so, even when you commemorate the five seasonal festivals, simply chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and strive to attain the way. (“On the Five Seasonal Festivals,” WND-2, 375)

Here, he conveys the basis for the Buddhist principles that “faith equals daily life” and “Buddhism manifests itself in society.” By striving “to attain the way” (practice Buddhism) amid our daily lives, we can establish a state of unshakable happiness.

Maintain Firm Faith While Creating Harmonious Relationships

On his first visit to Hawaii in 1960, Shin’ichi Yamamoto (Ikeda Sensei’s character in The New Human Revolution) responds to a woman concerned about her son attending a Christian school:

The basis of our faith is to believe in and pray to the Gohonzon, which was revealed by Nichiren Daishonin. As long as we do not veer from this foundation, there is no need to be rigid or intolerant. …

“Many aspects of our culture and how we live are connected in one way or another to religion. For instance, most companies are closed on Sundays. This is a practice that comes from Christianity, which views Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Yet, anyone who thinks that taking Sundays off is a slander of Buddhism would be unable to live harmoniously in society. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 46)

Our Buddhist practice encourages us to have conviction in our beliefs while cherishing and creating harmony in our families and communities. Celebrating life’s events with family and friends leads to greater trust and deeper bonds, so freely and joyfully taking part in them reflects our faith and conveys the humane ideals of Nichiren Buddhism.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

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