As for the matter of becoming a Buddha, ordinary people keep in mind the words “earnest resolve” and thereby become Buddhas. When we carefully consider what exactly earnest resolve refers to, … it means that offering one’s only robe to the Lotus Sutra is equivalent to peeling off one’s skin; and that in a time of famine, offering the food that is only meant for sustaining one’s life that day to the Buddha is offering one’s life to the Buddha.
(Passage from “The Gift of Rice”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p1,125-27)
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Mount Minobu in response to an offering of a sack of rice from one of his disciples. Unfortunately, only a portion of this letter is extant and the date and recipient of this letter is unknown.
The title, “The Gift of Rice”, derived from the opening passage of the letter which read, “I have received the sack of polished rice, the sack of yams, and the basket of river laver that you took the trouble to send me by messenger.” (WND, p1,125)
In this letter, the Daishonin explained how lofty it is to make offerings to the Lotus Sutra out of one’s sincere heart.
In the first portion of this letter, the Daishonin emphasized this point through the examples of sages of old who attained enlightenment by giving the most precious treasure – their very lives – as offerings to the Buddha. However, such an extreme practice cannot be carried out by and not necessary for ordinary people in the present age. The Daishonin revealed in this Gosho how ordinary people can attain enlightenment just as the sages of old did.
The Daishonin stated here that in this present age, it is the spirit of “earnest resolve” to dedicate oneself to the Lotus Sutra (Nichiren Buddhism) that is important. Such “earnest resolve” can be expressed as acts of sincere offering. Nichiren Daishonin stated that giving whatever sustains or is of value to our lives, such as “food” and “clothing”, as offerings to the Buddha will ultimately lead us to the path of Buddhahood. He said, “… ordinary people keep in mind the words ‘earnest resolve’ and thereby become Buddhas.”
This “earnest resolve” refers to one’s sincerity that arises from one’s faith, the resolve to devote one’s life for the attainment of kosen-rufu and one’s pledge to wage a united struggle of mentor and disciple. In this way, the key to attaining Buddhahood lies in one’s strong and earnest faith.
In his novel, The New Human Revolution Vol. 4, SGI President Ikeda wrote, “The offerings and financial contributions to the organisation were meant exclusively to accomplish Daishonin’s mandate to widely propagate the Mystic Law. Offerings made towards this end were equivalent to offerings made to the original Buddha. There was, then, no greater offering, no greater good. Certainly, nothing could bring greater benefit.” (p115)
President Ikeda explained here that the context of our present age, sincere financial contributions to our organisation of kosen-rufu are equivalent to sincere offerings to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. Making such offerings is itself creating the cause to accrue great fortune in our lives.
The life of Mitsuko Takada, a Women Division chapter leader in Shiga prefecture, attests to this.
When Mitsuko was in primary four, her mother passed away due to illness. Shortly theresfter, her father remarried but she could not get along with her stepmother. Mitsuko dropped out from high school, ran away from home and become a member of a “hell-riders” motorcycle gang, spending al of her time with them.
She got married at the age of 19 but divorced at the age of 27 after delivering her second child.
Mitsuko and her children lived in a shabby hut. She was so poor that having her water and power supplies cut off became a norm in her life. On top of this, her children were extremely weak in health. All that she could think of everyday was to die with her children. She was mentally and physically exhausted and spent her days wandering aimlessly on the brink of an abyss of hopelessness and despair.
It was at this point in her life that a Soka Gakkai Women Division member introduced her to Nichiren Buddhism with the earnest hope, “I want to become happy!”, despite strong opposition from her father.
She started working to raise her two children and exerted herself sincerely in activities for kosen-rufu. One day, she heard a fellow member about becoming a “kofu member” (members who endeavour to consistently make financial contribution to the organisation). The first thing that came to her mind was, “I want to contribute my part for kosen-rufu, too!”
Since that day onwards, she began saving one coin everyday as she struggled to overcome her dire financial straits based on daimoku. After much struggle, she had saved enough to become a “kofu member”. Although it was only a humble amount, Mitsuko was filled with the “earnest resolve” to contribute in whatever way she could.
As she headed towards the centre to make her contribution, she could not help but look back on her life after her conversion. She said, “When I look back, I realized that after taking up faith, my life did change for the better. Although my financial condition was far from ideal, my water and power supplies have never been cu off since my conversion. My children have also regained their health.” As she recollected, Mitsuko was filled with immense appreciation.
After making her contribution, Mitsuko headed back home in high spirits. Upon reaching home, she was shocked to find her father standing at her doorsteps. On the floor by the foot of her father were bags of rice and fresh vegetables he had bought for her. Her father then placed some pocket money in Mitsuko’s hands and squeezed them tightly with both his hands. Overwhelmed by deep emotions, Mitsuko hugged her father and with tears flowing down her cheeks, she said, for the first time, “Thank you father!” For many years, she had lost contact with her father but at that moment, she felt a current of warmth flowing through her life, bridging the gap between herself and her father.
From that day onwards, Mitsuko continued to take on the challenges of life while cherishing a sense of deep gratitude. She was surprised at how much her life has transformed. Before taking up faith, her life used to be filled with complaints, frustrations and resentment. But now, all of these have been replaced by gratitude. Mitsuko grew by leaps and bounds. She became a leader who always has a warm smile on her face and was well-liked by her fellow members. Wherever she went, she never failed to bring hope and courage to others. Her life was a great actual proof of her practice and faith.
Presently, she is married to a kind man who truly loves her. They have just purchased a new home and have established a harmonious and happy family dedicated to kosen-rufu. To date, Mitsuko has personally converted 23 families to receive the Gohonzon and is now enjoying life to the fullest.
President Ikeda said, “Buddhism teaches that the heart is most important. It all boils down to the heart. One who strives earnestly will surely receive benefits accordingly. On the other hand, those who just put on a front will lose out in the end. Buddhism is strict. This is why those who are earnest and sincere will ultimately win.”
Let us all cherish an “earnest resolve” as we continue to advance together with a deep sense of gratitude.
Translated and adapted from the November 2005 and 2006 issues of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.