Letter to the Brothers - Times of Difficulties is Precisely the Opportunity to Attain Buddhahood

If you propagate it, devils will rise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching. Once passage from the same volume reads: “As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere… One should be neither influenced or frightened by them. If one falls under their influence, one will be led into the paths of evil. If one is frightened by them, one will be prevented from practicing the correct teaching.” This statement not only applies to me, but also is a guide for my followers. Reverently make this teaching your own, and transmit it as an axiom of faith for future generations.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p501

This is a letter that Nichiren Daishonin wrote to the Ikegami brothers who lived in Ikegami in the province of Musashi (present day Ota Ward in Tokyo) and their wives in which he taught the essence of “faith for surmounting obstacles”. The letter was originally thought to be written in 1275 but recent studies indicate that it was 1276.

It is not clear when the Ikegami brothers took faith in the Daishonin’s teachings but they were generally thought to have been the Daishonin’s earliest followers. The brothers belonged to the Ikegami clan, a prominent samurai family that served as a leading construction contractor for government building projects.

However, after the Daishonin went to live in Mount Minobu, their father opposed their faith in the Lotus Sutra disowned Munenaka, the elder of the two. The guidance in this letter was written in response to the report of this development.

The Daishonin revealed the the true nature of hardships that the brothers were confronting. He explained that hardships arise due to the devil king of the sixth heaven harassing practitioners by negatively influencing those around them.

The Daishonin also explained that practitioners encounter hardships due to their own karma from past lifetimes and that they should in fact be considered a benefit in the form of lessening one’s karmic retribution.

Finally, the Daishonin further explained that hardships can also be seen as an ordeal devised by the heavenly deities - the protective functions of the universe - to test the strength of a person’s faith.

In addition, the Daishonin taught that the appearance of the three obstacles and four devils serves to show that the Ikegami brothers were on the correct path of Buddhist practice and urged them to remain united, and together with their wives, prevailed over the adversity that they were confronting then, based on faith.

Some time after this letter was written, the elder brother was disowned for the second time (after he was reinstated after the first disownment). However, the brothers practiced exactly in accordance with the Daishonin’s teachings and finally wn their father over by successfully converting him to the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

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The practice of Buddhism entails a struggle between the forces of the Buddha and devilish functions.

To the beleaguered Ikegami brothers who were confronting one of the most serious crises in their lives, the Daishonin encouraged them that they must on no account be defeated by such negative forces.

The first point that the Daishon encouraged them that they must on no account be beaten be defeated by such negative functions.

The first point that the Daishonin revealed in this passage is that when one carries out one’s Buddhist practice correctly, the working of negative forces will surely appear.

The Daishonin’s Buddhism is a religion of transformation that uphold the universal enlightenment of al people. It is preciously for this reason, when once strives in one’s Buddhist practice based on resolute faith, that negative functions appear to hinder one’s progress in one’s faith and practice.

In this passage the Daishonin cited a message from the Great Teacher T’ien T’ai’s Great Concentration and Insight which reads: “As practice regresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere.” In our context, we can say that when we strive on the two paths of study and practice and when our conviction in faith is about to be further strengthened, that is the crucial when negative forces will appear to hintder us from doing so.

On top of this, the point to note is that the passage stated that the “three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form”.

These negative functions seek to catch practitioners of the Daishonin’s Buddhism off guard, and through various insidious means, they vie with one another to tempt, discourage or exhaust them.

Now, the question is how do we remain unaffected by the three obstacles and four devils? Here, the Daishonin outlined two key ingredients for the find of faith needed to conquer them - (1) “not being influenced by them” and (2) “not being frightened by them”.

“Not being influenced by them” manifest the “wisdom” to see devilish functions for what they are and not be swayed by them, while “not being frightened by them” means to summon forth the “courage” to stand up to them without fear. In terms of our daily practice, it is by carrying out the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge kyo that will enable us to manifest the wisdom and courage from within our lives to defeat such negative forces.

Nichiren Daishon himself set an example by walking along this very path of battling and thoroughly triumphing over devilish functions in exact accordance with the passage from Great Concentration and Insight expounds. Based on the actual proof, the Daishonin stated, “This statement not only applies to me, but also is a guide for my followers. Reverently make this teaching your own, and transmit it as an axiom of faith for future generations.”

In this way, the Daishonin called forth to his disciples to courageously wage a struggle against all obstacles that appear before us in the shared commitment of mentor and disciple.

SGI President said, “It is because we strive to realise kosen-rufu that devilish functions appear to obstruct us. And their appearance is precisely your opportunity to attain Buddhahood. Struggling against the three obstacles and four devils is the path to Buddhahood. This is the formula for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.”

Let’s us strive based on faith that remains undaunted in the face of the three obstacles and four devils and open forth a victorious state of life.

(Translated and adapted from the April 2012 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai's monthly study journal.)

The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood - Sowing Seeds of Happiness in Life of Others

Because I have expounded this teaching, I have been exiled and almost killed. As the saying goes, “Good advice grates not the ear”. But still I am not discouraged. The Lotus Sutra is like the seed, the Buddha like the sower, and the people like the field.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p748

This letter was written from Mount Minobu on August 1276 to Soya, a lay follower who had lived in Soya Village in Shimosa Province.

His full name and title were Soya Jiro Hyoe-no-jo Kyoshin, and he was thought to have been an officer of the high court of the Kamakura shogunate. Together with Toki Jonin and Ota Jomyo, he was one of the leading believers in Shimosa.

He received many important writings containing the essential doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. The content of these letter clearly indicated that he had strong faith and was highly educated.

In this letter, the Daishonin first explained that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo constitutes the two elements of reality and wisdom, the way to Buddhahood.

The Daishonin also pointed out at the end of the letter that one who ignores those who commit slander will not be able to attain Buddhahood. In this way, as the title of the Gosho suggested, the Daishonin laid down the essentials for attaining Buddhahood.

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To whom do we owe this debt of gratitude for the fact that we are practising the teaching of the Mystic Law today? As memories raced through our minds, probably the faces of seniors in faith, fellow members or family members who did their utmost best to share Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings with us appear vividly.

However, if we were to trace to the beginning of it all, the wellspring is none other that Nichiren Daishonin himself.

The Daishonon established the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra, as the fundamental teaching for all people in the Latter Day of the Law to enjoy peace and happiness in their lives. Thereafter, he initiated a movement to spread this teaching far and wide.

In this letter, the Daishonin taught that if one forgets the original teacher, one would surely lose sight of the correct path to enlightenment. During the Daishonin’s time, various Buddhist schools slandered and criticised Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra.

It was in response to this religious landscape that the Daishonin called forth that one should never forget the originsl teacher for all people, and tried to awaken these schools from their erroneous thoughts by expounding “this teaching”.

For this reason, as the Daishonin said in this Gosho, “Good advice grates on the ear”, the Daishonin was intensely hated by people with deep attachments to erroneous thoughts and teachings.

As a result, the Daishonin was harshly persecuted, experiencing life-threathening oppressions, including a near-execution and exiles.

Despite having experienced such adversities, the Daishon stated, “But still I am not discouraged.” Though short, this statement expresses the Daishonin’s indomitable resolve to continue waging the struggle for kosen-rufu and that he would never give up this endeavour no matter what happens.

This is because the Daishonin was well aware that he did not overcome these great obstacles and spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, the Law that would lead all people of the Latter Day to happiness will perish.

The Daishonin revealed the underlying profound significance of the teaching he had establish in this manner: “The Lotus Sutra is like the seed, the Buddha like the sower, and the people like the field.”

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the seed of Buddhahood that enables all ordinary beings to become a Buddha.

The Buddha is like a sower, who sow the seeds of Buddhahood in the lives of the people.

Likewise, when we share the teachings of the Mystic Law with someone, our efforts can help awaken the innate Buddhahood that exists in the depths of his or her life.

In this way, there is no doubt the practice of propagation constitutes the “Buddha’s action” of sowing the seed of Buddhahood in life of the others.

SGI President Ikeda explained in this guidance: “Kosen-rufu is an endeavour to sow the seeds of absolute happiness - seeds that enable people to feel that living is itself a joy - in the lives of all people.”

Let’s us continue carrying out the noble endeavour of sowing seeds of happiness in the lives of others by initiating sincere dialogues based on prayers for the happiness of our friends.

(Translated and adapted from the November 2011 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai's monthly study journal.)

Winter Always Turns to Spring - Advancing Fearlessly towards the Spring of Victory

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are a if in winter, but winter always turn to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone heard or seen of winter turning back to autumn. Nor have we ever heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra who turned into an ordinary person. The sutra reads, “If there are those who hear the Law, then not one will fail to attain Buddhahood.”

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p997)

This letter, written in the fifth month of 1275 when Nichiren Daishonin was 54, was addressed to lay nun Myoichi, who lived in Kamakura.

Lay nun Myoichi and her husband were strong believers who maintained pure faith throughout the most difficult times of the Daishonin’s life from the Tatsunokuchi Persecution to the Sado exile.

But because of their faith in the Lotus Sutra, their estate was confiscated and on top of this, Myoichi’s husband passed away before the Daishonin was pardoned from his sentence of exile on Sado. Besides losing her husband, Myoichi was struggling to raise her children alone. Despite her many difficulties, Myoichi sent her attendant to where the Daishonin was in Sado to serve and protect him.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to encourage her, explaining that believers of the Lotus Sutra are as if in the midst of winter, but that winter unfailingly turns to spring. The Daishonin assured her that there is no doubt about her husband’s attainment of enlightenment since he displayed strong faith by continuing to follow the Daishonin even when his estate was confiscated because of his faith.

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Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is a teaching of hope that expounds the possibility of changing any kind of karma. The purpose of our practice of faith is to accumulate good fortune each time we overcome hardships in life to attain a life state of absolute happiness that remain indestructible for eternity.

Even though we may be in the midst of a harsh winter in life, there is no doubt that we will usher in the spring of life underscored by victory. The winter of life is filled with harsh adversities is in fact, a turning point that serves as an opportunity for us to establish a life state of Buddhahood, that is, absolute happiness.

This was precisely what Nichiren Daishonin perceived in the life of Myoichi. The Daishonin perceived that this was the crucial moment for Myoichi. She must have been experiencing extreme hardship having lost her husband and left alone to raise her children, one of whom was sickly.

However, from the perspective of the eternity of life, there is absolutely no doubt that both Myoichi and her husband who strove together with the Daishonin through the most difficult times, had already entered the orbit of attaining Buddhahood, that is, realising a life state of absolute happiness that remains indestructible for eternity.

The Daishonin experienced successive persecutions, some of which were life-threatening, for the sake of propagating the teaching of the Mystic Law that leads all people in the Latter Day to happiness. However, no matter how great the persecution, the Daishonin’s heart remained undefeated. Even in the midst of adversities, the Daishonin wrote, “Not once have I thought of retreat” (WND-2, p465); “I feel immeasurable delight” (WND-1, p386).

The Daishonin established a magnificent life state that remained unaffected by the trials and tribulations in life. Not only did he remain undefeated, the Daishonin waged a tremendous struggle and turned the tables around by actually returning to mainland Japan alive from his exile on Sado, scoring an unprecedented victory.

On top of this, the righteousness of the Daishonin’s teachings was proven when his prediction of foreign invasion was realised with the Mongols’ invasion of Japan.

Based on these actual proofs of victories that the Daishonin demonstrated with his life, the Daishonin called forth to Myoichi with absolute conviction: “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring.” The Daishonin powerfully convinced Myoichi that it is simply not possible that one who believes in the Lotus Sutra would continue suffering forever.

Through these words, the Daishonin urged Myoichi that she must never harbour any doubts in her practice of faith and that she must continue forging ahead, no matter how difficult it is.

SGI President said in his novel, The New Human Revolution, “When the spring of victory comes after a winter of harsh trials, everything is transformed into happiness and joy. Without having cried, you cannot genuinely laugh; without having suffered, you cannot savour real joy. I’m sure there are times when, in the midst of some difficulties, you think, ‘Why me?’ But that in fact is your change to fulfil the mission you have chosen. The deeper your suffering, the greater your mission.”

Let’s us be convinced of the spring of victory in our lives and continue in our courageous endeavour to construct a youthful SGI.

(Translated and adapted from the February 2012 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai's monthly study journal.)

The True Aspect of All Phenomena - The "Two Ways of Practice and Study" is the Way to Happiness

Believe in the Gohonzon, the supreme object of devotion in all of Jambudvipa. Be sure to strengthen your faith, and receive the protection of Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions. Exert yourself in two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach otters. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach otters to the best of our ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-1, p386)

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Sairen-bo Nichijo while at Ichinosawa on Sado Island in the fifth month of the tenth year of Bun’ei (1273). For some reasons, Sairen-bo was also exiled on Sado, where he had been converted by the Daishonin in the second month of 1272.

A former Tendai priest, he was a disciple with a strong seeking mind and passionately asked the Daishonin on the significance and meaning of various important Buddhist doctrines. In response, the Daishonin explained many fundamental and important doctrines in his reply to Sairen-bo, including Budhist doctrinal thesis, such as “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” (WND-1, p216) and “The Oral Tradition regarding the Enlightenment of Plants” (WND-2, P429).

“The True Aspect of All Phenomena” was also in the Daishonin’s reply to Sairen-bo’s request for the Daishonin to explain the term, “true aspect of all phenomena”.

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Right at the outset of this passage, Nichiren Daishonin declared that the Gohonzon, the mandala he inscribed with his life, as “the supreme object of devotion in all Jambudvipa”. In modern terms, it means “the foremost object of devotion in the world”.

The Gohonzon is the manifestation of the great teaching that enables all people, regardless of who they are or how harsh their current circumstances may be, to manifest their Buddhahood, a life state of supreme victory. It is for this reason that the Daishonin stated that the Gohonzon is “the foremost in the world”.

However, there is one important point to remember. No matter how great the power, there is no way of tapping it without strong faith. This is why the Daishonin said, “Be sure to strengthen your faith, and receive the protection of Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions.”

The Daishonin is encouraging us that the greater the adversities, the stronger our faith should be. Only by summoning forth such firm faith will we be able to activate the protective forces of Shakyamuni , Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions.

And, in order to cultivate such strong faith, one must exert oneself in “the two ways of practice and study”. Faith is not simply an issue of having a positive mind. Without carrying out the concrete practice of sharing Buddhism with others, chanting daimoku and reciting the gongyo, studying Buddhism, there can be no Buddhism.

On top of this, what is most important in our practice is not only carrying out these Buddhist practice ourselves but to enable others to do the same. With the spirit of compassion and courage, we strive to encourage others to stand up on their feet again and together, we advance towards victory. This is what our Buddhist practice entails.

Faith, practice and study is enhanced and works in mutual synchronisation with faith as its axis. It is faith that motivates one to practice and study while the enhancement of practice and study in turn strengthens one’s faith. Furthermore, contact with the vibrant life states of fellow practitioners will serve as stimulus that accelerates the momentum of one’s practice.

In concluding this passage, the Daishonin stated, “Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase.” The Daishonin is urging us to share Buddhism with others to the best of our ability, in whatever way we can. Summoning forth the courage to take this first step will help open up a refreshing life state and a new way forward in kosen-rufu.

SGI President Ikeda said, “Maintaining courageous faith throughout one’s life; striving against the evil forces that obstruct the flow of kosen-rufu; always basing oneself on faith in the Gohonzon and on the writings of Nichiren Daishonin - these are the key requirements that make possible the momentous advancement of kosen-rufu. It is because the Soka Gakkai had advanced along this path of champion that it will continue to grow and prosper for eternity.”

While anchoring our lives on the basic practice of faith, practice and study, let us initiate new challenges with renewed determination and invigorating life force.

(Translated and adapted from the October 2009 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.)

On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime - The Practice of Chanting Daimoku is the key to Inner Change

It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being. When deeded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-1, p4)

Although the original is no longer extant and the precise date and name of the recipient are unknown, this letter is traditionally held to have been written around 1255 and addressed to Toki Jonin.

The title, “On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime”, refers to an ordinary person becoming enlightened during the curse of his or her present existence.

In this writing, Nichiren Daishonin revealed that the practice of chanting daimoku is the key to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime and explained the significance of chanting daimoku in terms of both theory and practice.

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Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is a religion that is based on the transformative principles of life. And the key to attaining Buddhahood - the ultimate transformation of our life-state - lies in our inner transformation, that is, a change in our heart or mind.

Generally, it is thought that an “ordinary being” and “Buddha” are completely separate and removed from one another. But the Daishonin overturned this common concept by revealing that there is no chasm whatsoever between the two and revealed that the difference between “delusion” and “enlightenment” in the minds of ordinary people.

How then, can we transform delusion into enlightenment?

What makes this transformation possible is the practice of chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Here in this passage, the Daishonin used the metaphor of a mirror to explain this point in simple terms.

The Daishonin likened the suffering life state of an ordinary being shrouded by the innate darkness of life, which is he fundamental root cause of delusion, to “a tarnished mirror”. On the other hand, he likened the enlightened life state that is awakened to the true aspect of reality to “a clear mirror”.

A “tarnished mirror” will not reflect anything, but by polishing it, it will become a clear mirror that reflects everything clearly. Likewise, by chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with sincere faith, our lives will be polished, thereby wiping away the dust of innate darkness and manifest the Buddhahood with which we are originally endowed.

The practice of chanting daimoku, which is the practice for polishing our lives, may be seen as having two aspects. In this passage, the Daishonin elucidated the first aspect when he said “arouse deep faith” while the second aspect is articulated through the phrase, “diligently polish your mirror day and night”.

Through this, the Daishonin taught us the importance of summoning the “courageous fighting spirit” to battle our inner darkness, the fundamental delusion that hinders the attainment of enlightenment and to continue making steadfast efforts to maintain “continuing faith” for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

SGI President Ikeda said, “Sonorously chanting the daimoku of the Mystic Law and courageously engaging ourselves in Gakkai activities on a daily basis is the greatest way of polishing our lives. Our lives will be polished into a clear mirror that correctly reflects the view of life, the society, the world and the universe without any distortions in one’s life. The brilliance of the wisdom of value creation will shine forth, enabling you to correctly discern all phenomena in the most appropriate manner and thereby remain undefeated no matter what happens.”

Let us base our lives in the practice of chanting daimoku, which is the key to polishing and changing our lives, and construct an indestructible life state of absolute happiness.

(Translated and adapted from the January 2012 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.)

On Persecutions Befalling the Sage - Courage is found Within

Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion king fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like barking foxes, but Nichiren's followers are like roaring lions.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p997

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu on the first day of the tenth month of the year 1279 to his followers in general, amidst the "Atsuhara Persecution". The Daishonin also specifically instructed that this letter be kept by Shijo Kingo.

Around 1275, propagation efforts in the Fuji area began to produce significant results under the leadership of Nikko Shonin. There were a number of converts among both priests and laity, but as the number of new believers increased, so did official pressures.

In Atsuhara, a village in Fuji District of Suruga Province, believers were subjected to a series of threats and harassments known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. Twenty believers, all farmers, were arrested on the twenty-first day of the ninth month, on false charges and three of them were later beheaded. In spite of these persecutions, not one go the twenty farmers abandoned their faith.

Amidst such circumstances, the Daishonin encouraged his disciples that each of them must now "summon up the courage of a lion king" and maintain their faith to the end, not bowing to any persecutions.

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How do we forge our lives so that we remain undefeated no matter what happens? It is none other than the courageous faith based on he spirit of mentor and disciple. This is what Nichiren Daishonin taught in this passage.

What does "heart of the lion king" refers to? SGI President Ikeda explained as follows:

"In a nutshell, it refers to 'courage'. This courage is not found outside one's life. It is found within. Courage does not belong to an exclusive group of people. It can be found equally in the lives of all people, no matter who you are. However, it is indeed unfortunate that many people have sealed off this immeasurable treasure that can be found within their lives and end up drifting aimlessly amidst waves of cowardice, despair and illusion. There is nothing more wasteful than this. One cannot imagine the vast opportunities and possibilities one would have wasted in lives. It is precisely for this reason that we must 'summon forth' the courage from deep within and breakthrough our cowardice and weaknesses."

Courage is the crucial, decisive factor that leads us to victories in all aspects of our lives. The Daishonin stated here: "The lion king fears no other beast, nor do its cubs." Through this statement, the Daishonin was reminding us that all of us possess the same "courage of the lion king" that enables one to remain undefeated in the face of all adversities as displayed by the Daishonin himself.

Now the question is, how do we "summon up the courage of the lion king"? The Daishonin stated here, "Nichiren's followers are like the roaring lions." It is the lion's roar infused in the spirit of mentor and disciple that would enable us to do so.

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin taught, "The 'roar' [in the term 'lion's roar' (shishi ku) is the sound of the teacher and the disciples chanting in unison." (OTT, P111)

As the Daishonin taught here, only when the disciples stand up and chant the daimoku of the Mystic Law in unison with their mentor, making their mentor's heart their own, upholding and spreading the teachings of the Mystic Law, and continuously take on the share struggle of mentor and disciple, will we be able to conquer all devilish forces.

SGI President Ikeda said, "Those who always have their mentor in their hearts as they face life's struggles are strong. When we make our mentor's spirit of resolute commitment to kosen-rufu our own, we can bring forth the same life-condition and reveal unlimited potential. No unity is ore solid than the spiritual bound of mentor and disciple. And the power of unity is what changes history."

To "roar the lion's roar" does not mean to do something extraordinary. It means to open the hearts of our friends through sincere dialogues. While cherishing these bonds of friendships we have established through these dialogues, let us create a new page in the history of kosen-rufu.

(Translated and adapted from the April 2011 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai's monthly study journal.)

The One-Eyed Turtle and the Floating Log - All Practitioners of the Mystic Law Possess a Great Mission

I can only marvel that you so frequently send a messenger to me, when we have never met. The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra (1) states that Shakyamuni Buddha will assume the form of an ordinary person in order to make offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra (2). Could it be that Shakyamuni Buddha has entered your body, or were your roots of goodness from the past aroused?

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p960)

This letter was written at Minobu to the wife of the late pay priest Matsuno Rokuro Saemon who lived at Matsuno in Suruga Province.

The lay priest and his wife were thought to have been converted to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism through their relationship with the Nanjo family.

Matduno Rokuro Saemon died in 1278, the year before this letter was written. At that time, disasters were frequent, and in particular, the famine that persisted through the autumn and winter of 1278 created untold misery.

Against such social settings, the Daishonin was living extremely harsh conditions in Minobu. The Daishonin described his livelihood in Minobu in this letter in this manner: "Here I have neither clothing sufficient to cover my body nor provisions enough to survive." (WND-1, p959)

On top of this, the authorities had started taking action to prevent the community of the Daishonin's disciples from expanding by persecuting the Daishonin's disciples from expanding by persecuting the farmer believers in Atsuhara. This letter was written in the peak of what is known today as the "Atsuhara Persecution".

Amidst such tumultuous circumstances both on a personal and social level, Matsuno's wife made frequent offerings to the Daishonin. She appeared to have done so even though she had not met him personally, and she continued to serve and protect him in this way even after her husband's death.

Besides sincerely expressing his profound appreciation to her in this letter, the Daishonin also reveals how difficult it is to be born human and even more rare to encounter the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo by relating the "story of the one-eyed turtle", and hence the title.

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In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin offered his heights praise for actions taken underscored by the sincere spirit and commitment to contribute to the advancement of kosen-rufu.

Despite her own hardship, the wife of the late lay priest Matsuno frequently sent her messenger to deliver offerings to Nichiren Daishonin who was living under extremely harsh conditions at Mount Minobu.

The Daishonin offered word of the highest praise for her sincere support she was rendering to the lofty struggle waged by "the votary of the lotus Sutra" even though she had never personally met the Daishonin before.

The Daishoni said, "I can only marvel… Could it be that Shakyamuni Buddha has entered your body, or were your roots of goodness from the past aroused?"

In our practice of faith, it is the depth and strength of the spirit or resolve with which we carry out our practice that is of utmost importance. It is this profound and sincere spirit and resolve that found expression in the actions taken by the wife of the late lay priest Matsuno that the Daishonin cherished and respected.

By the same token, all our contributions for kosen-rufu, including our financial contributions, express our appreciation and our determination to advance kosen-rufu. Each person's contribution, regardless of the dollar amount, should be valued as a beautiful offering of the heart.

As Nichiren Daishonin reminded us in this passage and repeatedly in many other writings, it is the heart of faith and sincerity behind an offering that determine value. This beautiful and sincere spirit with which the offering is made in turn guarantees immeasurable good fortune and benefit.

This is what the Daishonin emphasised next in this passage by quoting from the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra whereby Shakyaumni Buddha makes a promise to dispatch good men and women who cherish the intent f the Buddha to make offerings to and protect those who teach and spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha's passing ("The Teacher of the Law Chapter of the Lotus Sutra).

Based on this teaching expounded in the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin stated here that Shakyamuni Buddha would assume the form of an ordinary person in order to make offerings to and protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The "votary of the Lotus Sutra" here refers to Nichiren Daishonin while those who protect the votary are none other than the Daishonin's disciples.

In light of this teaching, each and every practitioner of the Daishonin's Buddhism who has appeared to advance the cause of worldwide kosen-rufu possesses a mission that only he or she can fulfil. All fellow members of the SGI, who are striving this lofty cause, possess the joy of fulfilling one's own unique mission. It can be said that it is this joy and pride that constitutes the strength and power of the Soka Gakkai, which have overcome numerous adversities and obstacles over the past 80 years to achieve the victorious development we see today.

SGI President Ikeda confirmed this point in his guidance, "Why is the Soka Gakkai so strong? It is because we have 'truly courageous warriors' who stands up alone to boldly wage a struggle regardless of whether they are noticed by people or not. We have fellow members who have decided that their place of mission is right where they are right now. With this resolve, they pray and strive with all their might in the shared commitment of mentor and disciple. We have such members all over the country. There is no mistake that such individuals will surely receive the protection of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the 10 directions and three existences."

Let's be awakened to our profound mission we all possess and courageously advance with renewed determination towards the centennial of the Soka Gakkai.

Footnotes: 1. The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra: The 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra are compiled into eight volumes and the Daishonin referred to the fourth volume, It is this volume that the "Teacher of the Law" (both) chapter is contained. Specifically, the Daishonin was referring to the passage from the "Teacher of the Law" chapter which reads: "If after I have entered extinction, there are those who can expound this Sutra. I will send the four kinds of believers magically conjured, monks and nuns, and men and women of pure faith, to offer alms to the teachers of the Law; they will lead and guide the living beings, assemble them and cause them to listen to the Law." (LSOC, p207)

2. "Votary of the Lotus Sutra": Refers to the one who practices in exact accord with the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, propagates the teachings of the Lotus Sutra; reads the Lotus Sutra with his or her life, and continues to uphold and practise the teachings of the Lotus Sutra amidst great persecutions.