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Gosho Study

‘The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life’

Photo by Geneva Lewis.


Nichiren Daishonin addressed this letter in February 1272 to Sairen-bo, a former priest of the Tendai school of Buddhism, when both were exiled on Sado Island. It seems this letter was a response to a question Sairen-bo had asked about the heritage of the ultimate Law of life, an important principle in the Tendai school.

“The ultimate Law of life” is a principle of fundamental importance for attaining Buddhahood, allowing us to overcome the sufferings of birth and death. “Heritage” means the transmission of the Law from mentor to disciple.

Nichiren tells Sairen-bo that the ultimate Law is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. We inherit this Law when we believe that we possess the supreme Buddha nature, when we chant with fellow practitioners with the spirit of many in body but one in mind and when we pray to remain steadfast in faith.

Commenting on the deep karmic connection that destined Sairen-bo to become his disciple, he urges Sairen-bo to “summon forth the great power of faith” (WND-1, 218).


“Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another. To chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death. This is a matter of the utmost importance for Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters, and this is what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra.” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 216)


It’s so easy to draw distinctions and hold on to differences, but in this passage Nichiren says it is of “the utmost importance” to realize that the Buddha, the Law and ourselves are one.

“Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago” means a Buddha who works eternally to relieve the sufferings of all people. “The Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood” refers to the Law, or teaching, that enables all people to attain Buddhahood. There’s no difference between the Buddha within us and the Law that enables us to attain Buddhahood. That’s why Nichiren emphasizes the importance of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the firm conviction that we are “in no way different” from the Buddha and the Law. “This is what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra,” he writes.

The Lotus Sutra speaks of the Buddha’s desire to lead all people to attain the same life state as he has. Striving to live for kosen-rufu, for the happiness of oneself and others, while maintaining a strong seeking mind—herein lies the transmission of the heritage of the ultimate Law of life.


“All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled.” (WND-1, 217)


The key to spreading our philosophy of hope, as Nichiren writes, is the unity of fellow members advancing in the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple. “Transcending all differences among themselves” here means to overcome the tendency to separate ourselves from, to have conflicts with or to discriminate against others. “As inseparable as fish and the water” means to respect and encourage one another. “The spirit of many in body but one in mind” means everyone regardless of personality, talent or social position working together in common cause to accomplish kosen-rufu.

In our divided world, with faction pitted against faction, a movement to bring people together is more crucial than ever. In fact, the essence of Nichiren Buddhism is found in our actions to build such unity; and to solidify this unity is to fulfill the great vow of kosen-rufu. Our mission is to harmoniously and cheerfully expand our network of hope based on mutual respect and encouragement.


“Nichiren has been trying to awaken all the people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the heritage and attain Buddhahood.” (WND-1, 217)


Here we can see the spirit with which Nichiren lived his life. He took on the great vow to enable all people to attain Buddhahood, just as the Lotus Sutra teaches.

To “share the heritage” means to inherit this vow from the mentor through one’s faith in the Mystic Law. Most important, this heritage is open to everyone; there’s no special class of people for which the heritage is reserved. Everyone can share this desire for peace and happiness.

The Daishonin risked his life repeatedly for the happiness of all people. The Soka Gakkai’s three founding presidents likewise made and fulfilled, in the face of harrowing obstacles, their own great vow for kosen-rufu in modern times. We, too, can inherit their spirit and, for the sake of our world, share this wonderful philosophy now and into the future.

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