Lecture in Praise of Nichiren Daishonin
April, 2019 Oko Lecture
Letter to Nanjō Hyō’e Shichirō
(Nanjō hyō’e shichirō dono-gosho)
No matter what great merit one gains by performing good deeds; even if one transcribes the Lotus Sutra ten million times, and achieves the observation of the mind based on the principle of ichinen sanzen(three thousand realms in a single life-moment), should he fail to denounce the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, he will not be able to attain enlightenment.For example, one may loyally serve the imperial court for ten to twenty years, but if he recognizes an enemy of the emperor and neither reports it nor personally feels enmity, all the services he has thus far offered will come to naught. Rather, he will be punished. You must realize that all the people in this age are slanderers of the Law.
(Gosho, p. 1389)
Even if a person performs great deeds, even if he transcribes the Lotus Sutra a thousand or ten-thousand times, and even if he masters the path of observation of the mind based onichinen sanzen (three-thousand realms in a single life-moment), he cannot attain enlightenment if he does not denounce the enemies of the Lotus Sutra. For example, assume that a man serves the imperial court for ten or twenty years. He had knowledge of an enemy of the sovereign, but he did not report him to the throne and he, himself, did not confront that enemy. As a result, the merits of his dedicated service disappeared entirely, and he was instead punished for a crime. Accordingly, you must understand that the people of this age are slanderers of the Law.
Explanation of the Major Terms
Observation of the mind based on the principle of ichinen sanzen: The Buddhist practice to master the knowledge that all three-thousand realms are inherent within one’s own single moment of life. It is to become enlightened to the principles of the mutual possession of the ten worlds (jikkai gogu)and ichinen sanzen, established by the Great Teacher Tiantai, from the passage on the true entity of the ten factors (jūnyojissō) in the Expedient Means (Hōben; second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Here, it refers to Buddhist practice only for oneself.
Enemies of the Lotus Sutra: Those who oppose the Lotus Sutra. In the Latter Day of the Law, they are the slanderers who uphold heretical principles and religions and turn their backs on the Three Great Secret Laws of Nichiren Daishonin.
Background and Summary
This Gosho was written on the 13th day of the 12th month of the first year of Bunnei (1264), approximately a month following the Komatsubara Persecution. Nichiren Daishonin was 43 years old, and he sent this letter from Awa Province (present day Chiba Prefecture) to
NanjōHyō’e Shichirō, the father of NanjōTokimitsu. Hyō’e Shichirōwas a samurai warrior who served the regency of the Hōjōclan. He originally resided in the NanjōRegion of Izu Province, but he later moved to the area of Fuji and became the lord of the manor of the Ueno region. For this reason, he was known as the Lord of Ueno. In the beginning, he was a believer of the Nembutsu sect, but he is said to have received instruction from the Daishonin around the Kōchōperiod (1261-1264) and converted to true Buddhism.
The Daishonin encountered a persecution incident in Komatsubara, as described in the following passage:
I was injured on the forehead and my left hand was struck and broken. (On Persecutions Befalling the Buddha[Shōnin gonan ji], Gosho, p. 1396)
The Daishonin’s wounds had not yet healed, but he immediately wrote this letter to Hyō’e Shichirō, as soon as he learned that he was suffering from a grave illness. First, he expressed words of concern about Hyō’e Shichirō, who was sick in bed. Next, based on the five guides for propagation (gokō), he denounced the heresy of the Nembutsu doctrine and extolled the truth of the Lotus Sutra. Then, he described the circumstances of the Komatsubara
Persecution and concluded the letter by saying:
Should you depart before I do, you must declare that you are a disciple of Nichiren, the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. However, you must know that, if you uphold both Nembutsu and the Lotus Sutra in your practice, you will never be able to attain enlightenment. (Gosho, p. 326, Summarized)
In the passage on which we are focused today, the Daishonin urges us not to practice only for ourselves. He declares that, if we do not also perform shakubuku to denounce the slanders of all the religions that are enemies of the Lotus Sutra, then we cannot attain the ultimate way of enlightenment. Thus, he strongly encourages us to do shakubuku.
Essential Points of the Sermon
Shakubuku Should be Performed by All HokkekōMembers
When NanjōHyō’e Shichirōreceived this letter from the Daishonin, his faith was still undeveloped. To make matters worse, most people around him were Nembutsu devotees, and he was in his sick bed battling death. The Daishonin says the following to Hyō’e Shichirō, who was in this predicament:
Now is the time when you must rouse your faith and denounce erroneous doctrines. (Gosho, p. 325, Summarized)
Thus, he explains that shakubuku is critically important. The Daishonin goes on to present the example that “one may loyally serve the imperial court.” He strictly admonishes us that, regardless of how long and extensively we may practice our faith, we cannot expect to attain enlightenment if we neglect to do shakubuku. Even if we are suffering from sickness and even
if we have been practicing for only a short while, shakubuku is an important form of Buddhist practice that we must constantly carry out.
For this reason, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin gave us the following guidance by referring to the passage we are studying:
We must truly understand that, if we neglect to do shakubuku in our Buddhist practice, then we are not upholding the correct practice intended by the Daishonin. Only when our practice is correct and is in keeping with the intentions of the Daishonin can we expect to receive extensive, infinite benefits and to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. (Dainichiren, June 2018)
Enlightenment can be Achieved Only by Practicing for Both Ourselves and for Others
Both the practice for oneself and the practice for others (jigyōketa)are necessary in our Buddhist practice in the Latter Day of the Law. The relationship between the practice for oneself and for others is likened to two wheels of a cart and the two wings on a bird. If one of the wheels on a cart does not turn, then that cart will go around and around in the same place and will be unable to advance forward. Likewise, a bird will never be able to fly to its destination with only one wing. This is the very reason why the Daishonin, in the current passage, instructs us that, regardless of how assiduously we perform our practice for ourselves, we cannot attain the ultimate way of enlightenment if we do not perform shakubuku and refute all heretical teachings and religions.
Therefore, we must constantly put forth our utmost efforts into our practice for ourselves and for others and proceed toward our destination of attaining enlightenment in this lifetime (isshōjōbutsu) and kōsen-rufu.
People We Can Shakubuku Are Nearby
The last sentence of the passage on which we are focused reads:
You must realize that all the people in this age are slanderers of the Law. (Gosho, p. 323)
We must understand that those who do not uphold faith and practice in Nichiren Shoshu are all individuals who commit slander. Thus, the Daishonin states:
However, if one sees and hears slander and does not denounce it, then one’s two virtues of correct sight and hearing immediately will deteriorate, and one will become a merciless and heartless individual.The Great Teacher Zhanganstated, “If you associate with those [who slander the true Law] and lack the compassion to correct them, then you are, in fact, their enemy.”
(Reply to the Wife of Abutsu-bō [Abutsubō ama gozen-gohenji], Gosho, p. 906)
It is extremely uncompassionate for us to let someone ignorantly commit slander and not do shakubuku. Furthermore, it will also make us equally guilty of slander. To counter this, we must challenge ourselves to actively do shakubuku to share this Buddhism with members of
our families, friends, colleagues and superiors at work, and residents in our neighborhood— all the people in our midst who have yet to embrace and convert to true Buddhism.
Directions From High Priest Nichinyo Shonin
The following is stated in The Doctrine of the Mean (Chūyō):
If someone can do something with a single try, I will try 100 times to do the same. And if one is able to accomplish another thing with ten tries, I will try 1,000 times to achieve it.
(The Collection of Chinese Historical Writings and their Commentaries in Japanese[Kanseki
kokujikai zensho], Vol. 14, p. 517)
This means that by exerting such efforts, even a person with inferior ability or someone with a weak personality can achieve great undertakings in everything.
Suppose others succeed in doing shakubuku with a single try or with 100 tries. Did we really try to achieve a shakubuku result ten or 1,000 times? We should reflect on ourselves, especially on the practice of shakubuku, keeping this point in mind.
(Daibyakuhō, January 1, 2018)
This is the month of the Daishonin’s birth. There are exactly two years left until the great occasion of the 800th anniversary of the advent of our Founder, Nichiren Daishonin. In order to successfully achieve, in name and reality, the establishment of a membership of 800,000 Hokkeko believers, by this great occasion, and in order to offer our sincere debt of gratitude, in solid unity as priests and lay believers, at that time, we must all firmly establish a strong practice for ourselves and for others, and each one of us must courageously accomplish one shakubuku without fail. Moreover, we must not neglect to exert our sincere efforts in developing the faith of the new believers. Given the times and the cold season, I pray that you will take good care of your health and be sure to attend the OkōCeremony and all other ceremonies.