On Reprimanding Hachiman - The Practice of Propagation is An Expression of Compassion

Now for the past 28 years, since the 5th year of the Kencho era (1253), cyclical sign mizunoto-ushi, the 28th day of the 4th month, until the present, the 12th month of the 3rd year of the Koan era (1280), cyclical sign knoe-tatsu, I, Nichiren, have done nothing else, but have laboured solely to put the 5 or 7 characters of Myoho-rengekyo into the mouths of all the living beings of the country of Japan. In doing so, I have shown the kind of compassion that a mother does when she labours to put milk into the mouth of her infant child.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-2, p931)

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this work at Minobu in December 1280 and addressed it to the body of his followers.

Hachiman, the subject of this letter is a major god in Japan and had a special significance to the Kamakura shogunate as its patron deity.

One month before this writing in November, a fire destroyed the Hachiman shrine at Tsurugaoia in Kamakura. It was a critical time for the shogunate as the Mongol Empire was preparing for a second invasion of Japan. The burning of the shrine to the patron deity of the Kamakura regime was thus, a cause of widespread alarm.

In this writing, Nichiren Daishonin addressed the significance of events such as the burning of the Hachiman shrine and the Mongol invasion of Japan from the viewpoint of Buddhism, particularly the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin reprimanded Hachiman for his negligence in failing to protect the Lotus Sutra and its votary, the Daishonin.

Hachiman was believed to have vowed before the Buddha to protect those who uphold and propagate the Lotus Sutra. But because he had failed to do so, the Daishonin asserted, major gods such as Brahma and Shakra had seen fit to punish Hackman by burning his shrine. The Daishonin strictly admonished Hachiman to lend protection to the votary of the Lotus Sutra.


This passage is where Nichiren Daishonin taught on propagation, a practice based on the spirit of compassion to realise the salvation of all people.

On 28 April 1253 (5th year of the Kencho era), Nichiren Daishonin proclaimed his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time. The Daishonin was fully aware that great persecutions would certainly befall him by doing so but he was prepared to confront every oppression based on the vow to never regress in his endeavour to lead all people to enlightenment.

In actual fact, when the Daishonin started to propagate the teachings of the Mystic Law and refute the erroneous teachings, he encountered a succession of life-threatening persecutions one after another. However, the Daishonin did not retreat even a single step and continued to strive single-mindedly for the realisation of kosen-rufu. This is what the Dashonin was referring to when he said, “Now for the past 28 years,… I, Nichiren, have done nothing else…”

The Daishonin then described the spirit with which he had struggled to propagate the Mystic Law so that all living beings can attained enlightenment by using the example of the kind of profound compassion that a mother does when she labours to put milk into the mouth of her infant child.

Today, it is the SGI that is advancing kosen-rufu in the same spirit of profound compassion with which the Daishonin waged an intense struggle.

A mother loves, protects and fosters the life of her infant child without seeking any rewards in return. Likewise, all of us SGI members are carrying out the compassionate practice of propagation to realise the happiness for oneself and others by engaging ourselves in dialogues with friends regardless of whether they understand Buddhism or not.

SGI President Ikea said, “Nichiren Daishonin continued to wage a great struggle in the spirit of selfless dedication out of his singleminded wish to lead all people to happiness. All of us who have succeeded this noble mission from the Daishonin are all respectworthy Bodhisattvas of the Earth. All of us have been blessed with great good fortune from the past existences to be emissaries of the Buddha. Today, we see a stream of youthful and courageous Bodhisattvas of the Earth leaping forth one after another. Lets scale a news mountain of kosen-rufu as we continue to share and propagate the teachings of the Mystic Law with our friends around us.”

As we set forth into the 2nd half of this year, let us challenge ourselves in the practice of propagation and expansion in our movement of kosen-rufu.

Translated and adapted from the April 2014 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

Persecution by Sword and Staff - Achieve a Life of Happiness and Victory through Faith Based on the Spirit of Ungrudging Devotion

Be that as it may, commit yourself to the Lotus Sutra and have faith in its teaching. You must not only believe in them yourself, but also encourage others to do the same, so that you may save those who were your parents in all your past existences. From the time I was born until today, I have never known a moment’s ease; I have only thought of propagating the daimoku of Lotus Sutra.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-1, p964-965)

Nichiren Daishonin composed this writing, “Persecution by Sword and Staff”, while in residence on Mount Minobu in April 1279. It was addressed to his youthful disciple, Nanjo Tokimitsu, the steward of Ueno Village in Fuji District, Suruga Province (present day central Shizuka Prefecture). This was just around the time when the Atsuhara Persecution began to intensify in earnest.

After citing the numerous harsh persecutions that the Daishonin had personally gone through and prevailed over, he encouraged Tokimitsu who was courageously confronting the persecutions in Atskhara to commit himself wholeheartedly to the Lotus Sutra.


This is a passage in which Nichiren Daishonin taught us that those who persevere in faith till the very end will not only be able to prevail over all hardships but can ultimately lead all people towards happiness.

When the 21-year old Nanjo Tokimitsu received this letter from the Daishonin, he was waging an all-out struggle with youthful passion against the increasingly tense situation on Atukhara. In this letter, the Daishonin encouraged Tokimitsu to commit himself “to the Lotus Sutra and have faith in its teachings”. This statement can well be called the ultimate message of this letter.

By calling forth to Tokimitsu to “commit yourself to the Lotus Sutra and have faith in its teachings”, the Daishonin was urging him to live and strive alongside the mentor who had read the Lotus Sutra with his life and emerged victorious against all persecutions, remained steadfast in faith and dedicate his life to the great struggle for kosen-rufu.

The Daishonin also stated in this passage, “You must not only believe in them yourself, but also encourage others to do the same…” The Daishonin was teaching here that by deepening our faith and sharing Buddhism with the people around us, we will not only be able to attain enlightenment ourselves, but we will be able to lead those “who were our parents in all past existences” to enlightenment as well. This means, in other words, that we can help guide all those we encounter or have connections with in this lifetime to the path of Buddhahood.

Next, the Daishonin reflected on his life of unending struggles and expressed his sentiment by stating, “From the time I was born until today, I have never known a moment’s ease; I have thought only of propagating the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra”. The Daishonin waged an intense struggle against numerous harsh persecutions without begrudging his own life and dedicated his life to the compassionate vow to realise the happiness of all people.

It was the three successive presidents of the Soka Gakkai who inherited the same spirit of selfless dedication as the Daishonin to realise the happiness for oneself and for others and tirelessly dedicated themselves to the propagation of the teachings of the Mystic Law throughout Japan and the world. And this includes all of us, SGI members, who are engaging ourselves in the great shared struggle as mentor and disciple.

SGI President Ikea said, “Those who wish to transform their karma, who pray for the realisation of kosen-rufu, and who strive for that cause with ungrudging devotion are guaranteed to achieve a life of happiness and victory. Those who sincerely persevere in their Buddhist practice will be victors; they will win in the end. This is the ultimate purpose of faith in Nichiren Buddhism.”

Let us forge ahead with courage and joy to create a new era of worldwide kosen-rufu.

(Translated and adapted from the February 2014 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.)

On Persecutions Befalling the Sage

You may rest assured that nothing, not even a person possessed by a powerful demon, can harm Nichiren, because Brahma, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, the Sun Goddess, and Hachiman are safe-guarding him. Strengthen your faith day by day and months after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage.

(Passage from “On Persecutions Befalling the Sage”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p996-999)

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu in the midst of the Atsuhara Persecution on the first day of the tenth month of 1279 to his followers in general. The Daishonin specifically indicated at the end of that this letter should be kept by Shijo Kingo, who was leading the community of believers in Kamakura.

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 the Fuji District of Suruga Province, believers were subjected to a series of threats and harassments known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. On the twenty-first day of the ninth month in 1279, 20 believers, all farmers, were arrested on false charges. They were brought to the residence of Hei no Saemon, the deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs, in Kamakura where they were detained and interrogated.

Upon receiving reports on the persecution, the Daishonin wrote this letter in which he explained the significance of such persecutions for the Law and encouraged his disciples that they must now “summon up the courage of a lion king” to confront and overcome this persecution.

Through his own experiences of overcoming severe hardships such as his exiles to Izu and Sado, Nichiren Daishonin declared in this passage that no one, “not even a person possessed by a powerful demon”, could harm him because of the protective functions f life and the universe that he summoned forth through his resolute faith.

The Daishonin was expressing his conviction that as long as our faith is strong and steadfast, any malicious scheme or hardship cannot defeat us due to the powerful protection we receive from our environment.

This letter was written in the midst of the Atsuhara Persecution, while 20 peasant believers – arrested and detained on account of trumped-up charges – were being severely interrogated. The Daishonin encouraged all his disciples to never fear any threat or persecution and to face their difficulties with courage.

He told his disciples in this passage to strengthen their resolve all the more and advance with faith, urging them to “strengthen your faith day by day and month after month”.

To carry on with our faith is, in one sense, a battle between the strength of our innate Buddhahood and the negative functions, both internal and external, to deny it.

In this regard, the Daishonin cautioned us, “Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage.”

If we succumb to doubts and fears in the face of difficulties without trying to resolve them, or if we become complacent and oblivious to the need to constantly challenge against our weaknesses, then life’s negative influence will find its way into our innermost selves.

If an airplane loses the power o propel itself, it will lose speed and eventually crash. The plane is in its most stable state when it is powerfully moving forward.

The same is true of our faith. It is of utmost importance to ceaselessly advance towards the realisation of kosen-rufu and out individual happiness. The ultimate serenity and stability of our lives are to be found in constant challenge. When we cease to advance in faith, we have already begun to backslide and be defeated in faith.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “Our work to advance the movement of kosen-rufu is also an unending struggle. The Daishonin taught that it is a battle between the Buddha and the devilish forces. Therefore any slackening in our efforts to strive against the incessant onslaught of enemies – namely, devilish functions – represents not stagnation but rather regression and, ultimately, defeat.”

Faith for absolute victory is found in our constant challenge against our weaknesses and in our daily discovery of our innate Buddhahood through resolute prayer to the Gohonzon. Those who keep challenging themselves are already winning over their own limitations, and that is the greatest victory one can achieve in life.

The Properties of Rice

I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province. It is stated that “the seeds of Buddhahood sprout as a result of conditions, and for this reason they preach the single vehicle.”

(Passage from “The Properties of Rice”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p1,117-1,118)

Although the date and recipient of this letter remain unknown, judging from the style and content, Nichiren Daishonin probably wrote it after he moved to Mount Minobu, and it was likely addresses to the lay priest Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe. He was a central figure among believers in Fuji District of Suruga Province.

The wife of lay priest Tahahashi was Nikko Shonin’s aunt. As such, he was converted by Nikko Shonin and since then, he played an active role in assisting Nikko Shonin to spread the Daishonin’s teaching in the area. His residence was used as a venue for believers in the Fuji community to gather.

By writing “I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province”, Nichiren Daishonin showed his profound trust in his followers and encourages their initiative and sense of responsibility to spread Buddhism in their own communities.

The wide spread of Nichiren Buddhism in each community depends solely on the sense of responsibility of those who live and practice there, since there were no limitations on how much those living elsewhere can do.

In light of the Buddhist principle of “the oneness of life and its environment”, our environment and the land in which we live will begin to change when our lives change. As we strengthen our resolve to spread peace and happiness in our community and take consistent action, we will without doubt begin to see positive changes.

All people, no matter who they are, possess the Buddha nature, that is, the cause for attaining enlightenment. This Buddha nature is stimulated when one comes into contact with Buddhism, blossoming into the life condition of Buddhahood and bears the fruit of indestructible happiness. For this reason, the Buddha nature is sometimes referred to as the seed of Buddhahood.

In this passage, the Daishonin encourages us to share the teaching of the single vehicle – the Mystic Law – with others so that their seed of Buddhahood may be awakened.

Sharing Buddhism is an act of helping other open up their Buddha nature. It can be said to be an act of planting seeds of happiness in the lives of others. Although they may not immediately start practicing, their Buddha nature, once awakened, will undoubtedly become manifest in time. It is therefore of utmost importance that we communicate Buddhism with sincerity.

Human relationships begin with dialogue. Even if we ourselves are convinced of the validity of Nichiren Buddhism, unless we express our confidence in words, others may not understand. In this sense, dialogue and words possess great power to initiate a fundamental change in people and thereby create peace and happiness for all.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “Only human beings can fill the society and the world with dialogue. Dialogue has the power to create great value, irrespective of the wealth or social position of participants… Though meetings with people might be brief and involve an exchange of only a few words, those few words can open up and completely change people’s hearts.”

Let us create a positive change in our communities and move the times towards peace by engaging ourselves in sincere and honest dialogue with friends.

“The seeds of Buddhahood sprout as a result of conditions, and for this reason they preach the single vehicle”: Passage from the “Expedient Means” (2nd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. “Vehicle” refers to the Buddha’s teaching which helps to bring people to different life states, e.g. Learning, Realisation, Bodhisattva or Buddhahood. The “single vehicle” refers to the teaching that will lead people to Buddhahood. This passage expounds that the Buddha preaches the single vehicle because the Buddha nature inherent in all living beings are manifested as a results of conditions. The “seeds of Buddhahood” refers to the life state of Buddhahood inherent in all living beings. Specifically, “the single vehicle” refers to the implicit teachings hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra – Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Propagating the Correct Teaching is the Direct Path to Peace

Therefore you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? The regions in the ten directions will all become treasure realms, and how could a treasure realm ever suffer harm? If you live in a country that knows no decline or diminution, in a land that suffers no harm or disruption, then your body will find peace and security, and your mind will be calm and untroubled.

(Passage from “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p6-32)

On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land is a treatise submitted by Nichiren Daishonin at the age of 39 to Hojo Tokiyori, the most influential figure in the Kamakura shogunate then, on the sixteenth day of the seventh month in 1260.

During that time, Japan was plagued by natural disasters, including violent earthquakes which took many lives. In addition, famines and epidemics swept throughout the land.

Nichiren Daishonin, who was agonising over the great suffering of the people, was prompted by the frightful earthquake of unprecedented scale in 1257 to seek an answer to the cause of these disasters in the scriptural writings of Buddhism. In an effort to clarify the cause, he went to Jisso-ji temple at Iwamoto in Suruga Province and pored over the entire collection of Buddhist scriptures in the temple library.

The Daishonin summarised the conclusion he arrived at in the form of a treatise, On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land, and submitted it to Hojo Tokiyori.

This passage aptly summarises the principles of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” (rissho ankoku). This passage can also be said to be the conclusion of the entire treatise. The statement, “Therefore you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]”, corresponds to “establishing the correct teaching” (rissho) while “if you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land” corresponds to “peace of the land” (ankoku).

The statement, “Therefore you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]”, means that one should discard one’s belief in erroneous teachings and embrace the correct ones. This is because when the people uphold the belief in partial or erroneous teachings, their lives will be “distorted” due to the negative effects that arise from their erroneous beliefs. This will in turn give rise to negative effects in society. On the other hand, when correct teachings are established in the lives of people, they will bring forth wisdom, strength and virtues and their lives will be in peace and harmony. The lives of the people will then exert a positive influence on their surroundings that will eventually lead to the realization of a peaceful society.

The “threefold world” refers to the world of desire, the world of form and the world of formlessness. It refers to the actual world where living beings in the lower six worlds live in. In addition, “ten directions” refer to the entire universe.

The “one true vehicle, the single good doctrine” refers to the Lotus Sutra which expounds the universal teachings of the Mystic Law that will lead all living beings to happiness. By stating that by embracing the Mystic Law, the threefold world and the regions in the ten directions will become the Buddha land, the Daishonin taught that the principle of “establishing the correct teachings for the peace of the land” transcends the framework of time and national boundaries. It is the principle that will bring about the realization of global peace.

The Daishonin also said in this passage, “If you live in a country that knows no decline or diminution, in a land that suffers no harm or disruption, then your body will find peace and security, and your mind will be calm and untroubled.” This statement indicates that one can find genuine peace and security in one’s life only with the realization of peace in the society and nation.

This is because our daily lives can never exist separately from the society or surroundings. When there is instability and decline in our society, there can be no individual happiness. For this reason, Nichiren Daishonin taught that if one seeks personal security and happiness, one should first of all pray and strive for peace and order in the world.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “The Daishonin’s Buddhism is the great teaching for ‘securing peace of the land’. As the number of people who chant the Mystic Law increases, that country and society will naturally be led on a rhythm towards prosperity. There can be no greater and more lasting contribution to the people than this.” In this manner, it is essential that we propagate the Mystic Law far and wide in order to realize peace and prosperity in the world.

1. The one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]: In the Latter Day of the Law, it refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws.

2. The threefold world: The world of desire, the world of form and the world of formlessness derived from the six paths (world of hell to rapture). It refers to the actual world where we live in.

3. Treasure realms: Refers to a realm filled with benefits. It is expounded in the “Life Span of the Thus Come One”, (16th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra that the saha world in which the Buddha constantly dwell is the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light (treasure realm).

A Gift of Rice - One Who Dedicates Oneself to Kosen-Rufu Will Receive Protection Without Fail

In a time of famine, offering the food that is the only means for sustaining one’s life that day to the Buddha is offering one’s life to the Buddha.

(Passage from “The Three Kinds of Treasure”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-1, 1,125)

The addressee and the date of the composition of this letter are unknown. The title, “The Gift of Rice”, derived from the opening passage of the letter, in which Nichiren Daishonin gave thanks for the offerings made. 

 In this passage we are studying this month, the Daishonin stated that giving what sustains or is of value to one’s life is equivalent to offering one’s life to the Buddha. In this way, the Daishonin extended his highest praise to the sincere offerings made by his disciple. Thereafter, the Daishonin said in the same letter that “earnest resolve” is the key for ordinary beings to attain Buddhahood. 

 SGI President once said in his guidance: “One cannot fathom how noble it is to sincerely devote oneself to the Mystic Law and the realization of kosen-rufu. The benefit such an individual enjoys is truly immeasurable. Such an individual will be protected at the crucial and the family will prosper. Such an individual is able to realize his or her human revolution. The children, grandchildren and future generations will all be embraced in abundant good fortune. There is no doubt about this. Such an individual will enjoy a life state of the world’s foremost champion.” 


My family took up faith in 1955. We belonged to the Adachi chapter and offered our home in Ibaragi Prefecture as a venue for Soka Gakkai activities. However, when I was in primary 4, my father was left with a huge debt when he became a loan guarantor to his friend. Eventually, we had to let go of our house. On the day that we moved out of our house, I heard our neighbors whispering: “It must have been due to that dubious religion they are practicing.” I was greatly upset and clenched my fist in vexation. 

When I was in the first year of high school, my father died of heart attack. On that occasion again, I heard my relatives and neighbors talking amongst themselves: “All who become members of the Soka Gakkai will suffer misfortune.” 

 I was left with my mother and younger sister. Although my mother was weak in health and often fell sick, she worked hard to raise us and exerted herself in Gakkai activities at the same time. Though I was poor, I had great pride in being a member of the High School Division. I challenged and engaged myself joyfully in activities. 

As I did not have enough money to take the bus, I rode my bicycle over uneven paths to visit members of the High School Division and encouraged them as best as I could. Three months after my father’s passing, I became a member of the second batch of the Tokyo Hosu Group (a special training group in the High School Division established by President Ikeda). My mother worked hard to save enough money for me to travel to Tokyo from Ibaragi twice a month to attend the Hosu Group Meeting at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. 

 At the Hosu Group Meeting, President Ikeda told us, “There will come a day when you are in your 50s and 60s and tell yourselves that you are indeed so glad that you have striven in the Soka Gakkai. Therefore, you must continue to hold up high the banner as a Soka Gakkai member and never bring it down.” 

 Through my encounters with President Ikeda, I consolidated my vow to live out my life together with the Soka Gakkai and my mentor till the very end. After my marriage, I brought along my two young children to all the Gakkai activities that I attended. I have never stopped nor looked back till today. 

Now, I drive around the whole of Ibaragi Prefecture in my car, attending meetings and giving personal guidance. I travel an average of 100 km a day. At times, I travel more than 150 km in a day. Over these decades, I have literally devoted myself to kosen-rufu without begrudging my time or money with the resolve to offer my life to the Law. 

 Today, my husband is now the president of our town council, having received nominations from 1250 families in this area. He is striving to his utmost to expand the circle of friendship and understanding towards the Soka Gakkai. I also joyfully participate in various community activities, by cooking food for the participants, organizing performances and songs to enable all participants to enjoy themselves. 

Through our sincere efforts, I have been able to earn the trust of the people in my community. They say, “We feel assured whenever Mrs Asano is around,” and come to me to discuss various issues that they are facing in life and the community. 

 Just as President Ikeda said, I now enjoy the luxury of being able to lead a life that is completely dedicated to the betterment of others without having to worry about anything else. I am truly indebted to my mentor and fellow members. 


Mrs Okazaki, a fellow WD member living in Shimotsuma city in Ibaragi, also lived out her life in accord with the Gosho passage we are studying this month. 

Together with her husband who was transferred to Ibaragi by his company, Mrs Okazaki moved to the city, a completely strange land. Her only source of hope and trust was fellow Soka Gakkai members. 

Bringing along her three young children, she exerted herself in Gakkai activities without retreating a single step. She continued striving as a district leader, then as a chapter leader and later as a zone leader, single-mindedly working for the happiness of fellow members. 

Mrs Okazaki’s greatest concern was the future of her eldest son, who had speech impairment. 

Her house was one of the three houses in Ibaragi affected by ground liquefaction due to the 11 March Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. Half of her house was destroyed and no longer livable. “Why is this happening to me even though I am practicing faith?” For a split second, this thought crossed her mind. 

However, she recalled President Ikeda’s guidance: “Your karma is actually your mission.” 

With this guidance, she blew away all negative thoughts and renewed her vow to devote her life to kosen-rufu. With intense and powerful prayers, Mrs Okazaki visited every family who were victims of the earthquake, one by one, to offer wholehearted encouragement. 

Two months after the disaster, she was able to buy over a house that was about 10 years old and unaffected by the earthquake at a bargain. The new house was 2.5 times larger than her previous house. She decided to use the first floor of her home and as a venue for Gakkai activities and rent out the second floor. 

With this arrangement, she would have a regular income and no longer had to worry about the future livelihood of her eldest son. 

Furthermore, her eldest son volunteered to take over his parents’ task of delivering the Seikyo Shimbun. His parents had been delivering the paper for 20 years. Her prayers that her eldest son would grow into a person who can contribute to kosen-rufu were also answered. 

Having practiced President Ikeda’s guidance and advanced together with the Soka Gakkai both in good and bad times, Mrs Okazaki prevailed over her karma and now enjoys a remarkable life state. 

 We have now entered into a new era of kosen-rufu. 

Let us be deeply grateful for having the great good fortune to be able to live in this wonderful age and continue to strive to our utmost best and live a victorious life. 

Written by Hideko Asano, General WD Prefectural Chief of Ibaragi. Translated and adapted from the October 2013 issue of The Daibyakurange, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

The Three Kinds of Treasure - The Essence of Buddhist Practice is to Respect All People

The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behaviour as human being. The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are more than animals.

(Passage from “The Three Kinds of Treasure”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p851-2)

This letter was written on the eleventh day of the ninth month of the year 1277 to Shijo Kingo.

In the sixth month of the same year, Kingo happened to be an observer at a debate during which the Tendau priest Ryuzo-bo (who had the patronage of Ryokan, the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple) was bested by the Daishonin’s disciple Sammi-bo (Kuwagayatsu Debate). After the debate, Ryuzo-bo’s group filed a report to Kingo’s lord, Ema, falsely accusing Kingo of fomenting trouble at the debate by using his weapon to threaten Ryuzo-bo.

Upon receiving this report, Ema threathened to banish Kingo from the Ema residence unless he abandon faith in the Lotus Sutra. However, not long later, Ema fell critically ill and it was Kingo, a skilled physician, who helped to cure him. Through this, Ema’s trust in Kingo was restored. However, because of this, Kingo incurred further jealousy from his fellow colleagues and his life was in grave danger. In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin cautioned Shijo Kingo and instructed him on the most appropriate behaviour in his trying circumstances.

When he received this letter from Nichiren Daishonin in 1277, Shijo Kingo was in grave danger of being killed by his jealous colleagues. The Daishonin urged Kingo to be careful of his words and to conduct himself wisely to overcome the crisis.

In this passage, the Daishonin taught that “the heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter”. This chapter described how Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who is Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous life, spread the Lotus Sutra despite encountering “curses and abuses” from people, some of whom “would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him”. (The Lotus Sutra, p267)

The practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was to “bow in obeisance” to all people whom he encountered, and to preach that all of them could attain Buddhahood. (cf, The Lotus Sutra, p266) His actions signified that because all people possess the Buddha nature, the utmost respect should be accorded to them. The significance of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of revering all living beings is, as the Daishonin explained, synonymous with the revelation that the purpose of Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world lies in his behaviour as a human being.

The Buddha’s essential purpose in this world is to lead all people to awaken their innate Buddhahood. This universality of Buddhahood is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s actions were an expression of the Buddha’s intent. To act humanely in the midst of reality is the reason we practice Buddhism, and the essence of Buddhist practice is to respect all people.

The Daishonin wrote, “The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals.” Here he stressed the importance of conducting oneself wisely. Self-control through reason and value creation through wisdom – these are proofs of humanity. It is foolish to be at the mercy of immediate interests or transient emotions, and such a tendency is akin to the stage of Animality.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “However we choose to live, we have one life. If we are to live, therefore, why not leave behind a history of our lives? Animals are not capable of creating a history of their moral existences… People who are creating a history of their virtuous lives are truly living as humans; they are genuine sages and victors.”

Let us continue to win the trust of others in our community by conducting ourselves wisely and achieve victory with our exemplary behaviour.

The Good Medicine for All People

Moreover, the Lotus Sutra states that it is “good medicine for the ills of the people of Jambudvipa.” The people of this world of Jambudvipa are suffering from illness, but they have the medicine of the Lotus Sutra. Now in your case, the three requirements are already present, so how could you fail to recover? But if you have doubts, I am powerless to help you.

(Passage from “Reply to the Lay Priest Takahashi”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p610)

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in 1275 at Minobu to the lay priest Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe, who lived in Kajima, in Fuji District of Suruga Province. Takahashi’s wife was the aunt of Nikko Shonin, and it was through this connection that he converted to the Daishonin’s teaching. He appeared to have been a leading figure among the lay believers in the Fuji area. It is said that Nikko Shonin stayed at his residence when Nikko Shonin waged the propagation movement in the Fuji area, using it as a central base for this movement.

At the beginning of 1275, the year that this letter was written, Takahashi fell seriously ill. This letter was written by Nichiren Daishonin in response to news of Takahashi’s illness and was entrusted to Nikki Shonin to be delivered to Takahashi.

The Daishonin taught in this Gosho that the “good medicine” in the Latter Day of the Law is none other than the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In the concluding portion, the Daishonin encouraged Takahashi by citing examples of King Ajatashatru who overcame his illness through the good medicine of the Lotus Sutra. Shortly after receiving this letter from the Daishonin, Takahashi fully recovered from his illness.

In the passage, Nichiren Daishonin offered warm encouragement to the lay priest Takahashi, who was suffering from a grave illness.

Quoting a passage from the “Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King” (23rd) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra which states “… this sutra provides good medicine for the ills of the people of Jambudvipa” (The Lotus Sutra, p288), the Daishonin taught that the Lotus Sutra, specifically, the teachings of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the good medicine for the ills of all people in the world.

By stating that “the people of this world of Jambudvipa are suffering from illness”, the Daishonin was speaking in both literal and figurative sense. Not only was he referring to physical sickness of which the recipient of this letter, Takahashi, was suffering, but also of people’s delusions, which Buddhism describes as the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness.

The Daishonin then explained that the great Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the good medicine that will cure the ills of the body and mind.

By saying that “the three requirements are already present”, the Daishonin was referring to the three elements necessary for the fulfillment of one’s prayers, namely, the sutra, the Buddha and the practitioner.

The sutra that Takahashi is embracing is the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental seed of Buddhahood while the Buddha is none other than Nichiren Daishonin, the original Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. Furthermore, Takahashi himself was sincerely dedicated to Buddhism and had contributed tremendously to kosen-rufu. Thus, Takahashi possessed all that he needed to become well. For this reason, the Daishonin encouraged him that with all three requirements fulfilled, he will overcome his illness without fail.

After Takahashi received his guidance, he did in fact overcome his illness. We can imagine that he must have struggled earnestly through faith and prayer to get well. In the final analysis, it all boils down to one’s determination. No matter how much encouragement we receive, if we have doubt or are weak in faith, our prayers will not be answered.

In the course of our journey in life, there will be times when we experience illness or painful difficulties. However, if we continue to practice sincere faith without harbouring any doubts during such adversities, our lives will never fail to move in the direction of happiness.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “It is in the midst of adversity that we should arouse a profound and strong ichinen of faith. Only then will we be able to elevate and expand our state of life to be as vast as the great ocean. The resolute ichinen of faith brings about happiness and victory in life.”

Let us always remember that with any struggle, standing up in faith based on firm determination and elevating our life condition is the powerful means to achieving a magnificent victory.

On Prolonging One’s Life Span

If you are unwilling to make efforts to heal yourself, it will be very difficult to cure your illness. One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system, so first you must muster sincere faith. This is the meaning of the passage in the seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra that states that burning a finger is an offering to the Buddha and the Lotus Sutra is better than donating all the treasures of the major world system. A single life is worth more than the major world system. You still have many years ahead of you, and moreover you have encountered the Lotus Sutra. If you live even one day longer, you can accumulate that much more benefit. How truly precious your life is!

(Passage from “On Prolonging One’s Life Span”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p955)

Nichiren Daishonin sent this letter in 1279 to the lay nun, Toki, the wife of Toki Jonin. Toki Jonin was one of Nichiren Daishonin’s earliest disciples who maintained strong faith throughout his life, exerting himself in protecting the Daishonin through all ordeals. He received many important Gosho from the Daishonin, including “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind”. His wife, Toki, supported him throughout and maintained pure faith till the end.

When this letter was written, Toki was suffering from an illness. Upon receiving report on her illness, Nichiren Daishonin encouraged her in this letter by stating that the power of the Mystic Law can transform even fixed karma and prolong one’s life.

Nichiren Daishonin taught the preciousness of life in the light of Buddhism, that even a single day of life surpasses all the treasures in the entire universe. The Lotus Sutra explains that because life is a treasure surpassing all others, dedicating one’s life for the good of others is a cause for creating one’s eternal good fortune. Since life is that precious, the Daishonin encouraged us to try to live even one day longer.

Lay nun, Toki, recipient of this letter, had been suffering from illness. Upon hearing this, the Daishonin penned this letter, encouraging her to first and foremost summon up courage and take action to confront her illness.

People tend to resign themselves to their circumstances, especially when faced with pain and suffering. The Daishonin urged us to challenge such a passive mindset and sense of resignation. He told Toki to keep fighting her illness with profound conviction in the words of the Lotus Sutra that expounds that “one’s life can be prolonged”.

He went on to tell Toki that because she encountered the Lotus Sutra (Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism) in her present lifetime, she could accumulate that much more benefit. Upholding this teaching is itself accumulating good fortune. Furthermore, despite their adverse circumstances, those who uphold the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are already teaching others through their lives, the greatness of the Law.

Therefore, the Daishonin was encouraging Toki, “You must never be defeated by your illness. You must live out your life to the fullest by dedicating it to the happiness of others and to the Mystic Law.”

SGI President Ikeda once said, “So long as we live, while ceaselessly chanting the daimoku of the Mystic Law, let us continually blaze with passionate determination and take action for kosen-rufu. The strong mind of faith forged thereby is the sole driving force which can enable us to confidently overcome the sufferings of birth and death.”

With passionate faith devoted to kosen-rufu, let us forge ahead with power and strength.

The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream

Then how does one recognise the sage of the Lotus Sutra in this latter age? The sutra states that one who “can preach this sutra” or who “uphold this sutra” is “the envoy of the Thus Come One”. In other words, one who embraces the eight volumes, or a single volume, chapter, or verse of the Lotus Sutra, or who chants the daimoku, is the Thus Come One’s emissary. Also, one who perseveres through great persecutions and embraces the sutra from beginning to the end is the Thus Come One’s emissary.

(Passage from “The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p942)

This letter was written on the fifteenth day of the ninth month in the year 1278 to Shinjo Kingo.

When Kingo tried to convert his lord, Ema, in September 1274, he incurred the lord’s wrath. False accusations made against Kingo by jealous colleagues aggravated the situation and brought great agony to him. In June 1277, Lord Ema ordered Kingo to abandon his faith in the Daishonin’s teachings or face the consequence of having his service to the Ema family terminated.

However, Kingo continued to struggle based on faith in exact accordance with the Daishonin’s guidance. As a result, Kingo achieved great victory at the end. Eventually, Ema could clearly perceive Kingo’s sincere and dedicated service and renewed his trust in him. Ema bestowed upon Kingo a fief far larger than the one he already has. He reported this news to the Daishonin immediately. This letter was written in response to Kingo’s report.

In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin quoted from the Lotus Sutra to explain in simple terms what “a sage of the Lotus Sutra is, in the Latter Day of the Law.

The Lotus Sutra explains that “a sage of the Lotus Sutra” is an envoy of the Thus Come One, the Buddha and is a person who can preach the Lotus Sutra and also uphold it.

In the present day context, “one who embraces the eight volumes, or a single volume, chapter, or verse of the Lotus Sutra, or who chants the daimoku” refers to anyone who upholds faith in the Gohonzon and shares the benefits of practising the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

The Daishonin also stated, “One who perseveres through great persecutions and embraces the sutra from beginning to the end is the Thus Come One’s emissary.” The true envoys of the Buddha are those who maintain their faith no matter what sort of hardships they encounter.

In light of this passage, SGI members – who embrace the Daishonin’s correct teachings and exert themselves for the sake of others – are the noble envoys of the Buddha.

Social position and wealth do not determine how noble we are. True nobility is determined by the philosophy we choose to uphold, the kind of action we take and by how we live our lives. People who uphold the Mystic Law and strive earnestly in the frontlines of kosen-rufu activities are worthy of the greatest respect.

It is essential, therefore, that we have heartfelt respect for one another and treat one another with utmost kindness and care. By cherishing our fellow members, we are also raising our own state of life and accumulating good fortune.

SGI President Ikeda explained this point in his guidance, “SGI members who are earnestly striving for the realisation of kosen-rufu are the Daishonin’s envoys and the Buddha’s heirs. By praising the members, one accumulates benefits for oneself and strengthens one’s Buddhahood. In fact, though one is praising the other person, one is, in effect, praising one’s own Buddhahood. This is the Buddhist principle of the oneness of oneself and others – that we and others are one and indivisible.”

Let us forge ahead together in the spirit if mutual respect and harmony for the attainment of kosen-rufu.

Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra

All the various teachings of the Buddha are spread by persons. As T’ien-t’ai said: “Even during the Buddha’s lifetime, the Law was revealed by people. How, then, in the latter age, can one say that the Law is worthy of respect, but that the person who upholds it is to be despised?” Hence, if the Law that one embraces is supreme, then the person who embraces it must accordingly be foremost among all others.

(Passage from “Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p61)

Although there are different opinions concerning the date of this letter, it is generally accepted that Nichiren Daishonin wrote it in the third month of the year 1263, shortly after he had been pardoned from exile on the Izu Peninsular and had returned to Kamakura. The recipient is not known.

As the title indicates, this work discusses the significance of embracing the Lotus Sutra and is written in the form of questions and answers.

Nichiren Buddhism, no matter how wonderful its teaching may be, cannot be spread by itself. Nor can it reveal its greatness without practitioners who embrace and spread it widely in society. The future of Nichiren Buddhism is, therefore, determined by its practitioners.

In other words, no matter which era, the people who practice and spread Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings are most essential. So it is important to strengthen our resolve and capacity for the widespread of Buddhism and at the same time, to help others develop themselves into able successors in our community of faith.

Because the Buddhist teaching is important in bringing peace and happiness, the people who uphold and spread it become worthy of respect. This is precisely why T’ien-t’ai expounded that it is erroneous to esteem the Mystic Law while despising its practitioners. He taught that if one finds the Law worthy of respect, one must also respect those who embrace the Law.

As Nichiren Daishonin wrote, “if the Law that one embraces is supreme, then the person who embraces it, must accordingly be foremost among all others”, those who uphold and spread the Mystic Law are worthy of utmost respect, regardless of their social status or secular circumstances.

Because it is the people who spread Buddhism, cherishing each person dedicated to the spread of Buddhism amounts to valuing Buddhism itself. Conversely, despising or slandering the people who uphold Buddhism is equivalent to despising or slandering Buddhism.

In this sense, it is absolutely vital to cherish and encourage one another as fellow members who are practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Protecting and encouraging one person leads to the advancement of all.

Only with unity and solidarity forged through mutual respect and encouragement can the movement of kosen-rufu be advanced. SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “Cherishing every person – this is the tradition of the Soka Gakkai spirit passed down through generations. Extending ourselves to those who are suffering and encouraging them wholeheartedly through dialogue – we must never forget this tradition. There can be no genuine Buddhist practice without wholeheartedly encouraging each person, without taking action for the sake of each person.”

Let us extend mutual respect and encouragement to our fellow members as we continue to advance kosen-rufu with courage and fervour.