Nichiren Shonin's Vow
Rev. Hosho Higuchi


As Nichiren Shu is approaching its 750th anniversary, a major campaign has been in the works to mark the occasion. We will look back 750 years as to the history behind the name of "Nichiren" and "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo". It originates in a place, "Asahi-ga-mori", on Mt. Seicho in "Awa-no-kuni" (Chiba Prefecture). It is there that a young monk first raised his voice to intone the sacred prayer, "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo", to the raising Sun. From this moment on, the young monk called himself "Nichiren" and vowed his life to the Lotus Sutra. This was the beginning of Nichiren-Shu's establishment.

NICHIREN's "Nichi" means the Sun. A passage in chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra reads: "Just as the light of the sun and the moon eliminates all darkness, He will be able to cause innumerable Bodhisattvas to dwell finally in the One Vehicle." Nichiren Shonin vowed that he will be the one to lead all people to the Buddha's world by this name.

NICHIREN's "Ren" means the lotus flower. Another passage in chapter 15 of the Lotus Sutra reads: "The Bodhisattvas from underground* are not defiled by worldiness, just as the lotus flower is not defiled by water."

* The Bodhisattvas from underground, unlike the other famous Bodhisattvas from another world, appeared from the ground where we live. Of course, the other Bodhisattvas also vowed to the Buddha's vow. But the Buddha entrusted the ones from underground for spreading lotus sutra during the Mappo era.

Nichiren Shonin's vow came from the original Sakyamuni Buddha's wish:

"Leading all living beings to the Eternal Buddha's world." This wish is the beginning of other Bodhisattvas or divines. Therefore, Nichiren Shonin found the Lotus Sutra as the essence of his vow and the sacred light which eliminate all darkness. In order to encompass this idea, Nichiren Shonin started intoning "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" (I vow to the Lotus Sutra).

As Nichiren Shonin's vow becomes the Bodhisattva's vow, he has faced much persecutions all in the name of the Lotus Sutra but he never forgot his first vow. Later on Sado Island where Nichiren Shonin was being exiled, he finally realized that he was one of the Bodhisattvas from underground. During this time, Nichiren Shonin proclaimed in one of his major works ("Kaimoku-sho"), "I will be the pillar of the world, I will be the eyes of the world and I will be the ship of the world."

It has been almost seven and a half centuries since that time. Today, Nichiren Shonin's teachings are still believed by many. Although centuries pass and the world strives to become better (especially compared to Nichiren Shonin's era), there are many who still keep wishing to be saved. As long as there are people who intones "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" from inside their hearts, Nichiren Shonin's vow will never fade away, no matter how many more centuries pass.


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What is swearing and praying for us?

Rev. Eiyu Yoshiki, Wahiawa, Hawaii



The Nichiren Shu Order has been promoting various events lending to the 750th Anniversary of Rikkyo Kaishu, Procalmation of Nichiren Buddhism in the year 2002 in Asia, America, and Europe. Our founder Nichiren Shonin at the age of 32, swore at Mt. Kiyosumi, on April 28, 1253, that he would expand the Lotus Sutra among the people. He believed that because it was the Buddha's true teachings, reciting the Odaimoku, which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra, would save many people

Why did Nichiren Shonin establish a new mission called Rikkyo Kaishu? Why did Nichiren Shonin declare that the Lotus Sutra was the Buddha's true teachings? First, let us think about that.

Ever since Buddhism had been introduced into Japan in the sixth century, various sutras have been chanted and various Buddhas Statues were worshiped as an object of faith until Nichiren Shonin was born. On the other hand, in the period when Nichiren Shonin was born, eyes were turned to a social phenomenon. Japan was in a transitional stage. The political power was changing from the aristocracy to samurai, and the political situation was very unstable. They had many long spells of hot weather and famines. The country appeared headed for serious destructions, just as Mappo.

Nichiren Shonin thought, "Although many temples were erected and sutras were chanted, why was the country disturbed and people were suffering?" Nichiren Shonin pursued his studies to various provinces which were far away from Kiyosumi to solve his doubts to ponder his thoughts. He did not leave in detail where and what he studied. But, by studying in various provinces, it was certain that Nichiren Shonin came to the conviction that the Lotus Sutra was a true teachings of the Buddha and reciting the Odaimoku would save people living in Mappo.

Because the Lotus Sutra explained that the Buddha with great compassion swore and prayed to make all living beings attain Buddhahood or similar state of Jogyo Bodhisattva and other Bodhisattvas who were successors after the Buddha's passing away and swore and prayed to keep and spread the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren Shonin was worried whether to say or not to say. "The Lotus Sutra is a soul of the Buddha who is a father of all living beings. If I kept quiet about this, I will regret it all of my life. I will fall out of the Buddha's favor and will become an enemy of the Buddha. By spreading these words and by showing my faith in the Lotus Sutra, I will be exiled and punished." After much consideration Nichiren Shonin chose the way which kept him in the Buddha's favor.

Rikkyo Kaishu means not only that Nichiren Shonin established a new mission, but he intended to go back to the Buddha's true teachings. After Rikkyo Kaishu, the life of Nichiren Shonin was continued persecution. But, as Nichiren Shonin said, "I, Nichiren have never changed my mind." He had been sacrificing himself to propagate the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and, keeping the swearing and praying to the Buddha.

A Judaist minister describes religion in the following manner:

"The person who makes a journey through the desert is guided by a star. He walks toward the star. He can't arrive at the star, but arrives at the town which is his destination by approaching the star. The ideal that each person holds up seems to be the star."

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the religions that have birthplaces in the desert. The person who makes a journey through the desert does not walk under a scorching sun in the daytime but with the guiding star in the night. The star as the signpost may be God. A traveler can not retreat even if he gets tired of the journey while on his way. Because in the desert the wind immediately blows out the traveler's footprint, he will not know which direction to take to return. He must use the star as a guiding compass forever.

Even if he makes his journey toward the star, he who walk on earth can't arrive at the star. But the star is necessary for him as a guide. By walking toward the star, he will arrive at a destination on earth.

How does Buddhism describe religion? The above proverb associates us Buddhist with chapter 7 of the Lotus Sutra the Parable of a Magic City.

At a distance there was known an Island of Treasure. In those day, all the people were blind with greed, but no one intended to go to the Island of Treasure, because the island was beyond an untrodden deep jungle. It was a hazardous trip and one had to have a strong will and unafraid of danger.

Then, a guide who was very excellent appeared in the world. The person was wise and brilliant, had culture and nobility, furthermore, also knew the road in the jungle. Having an able guide, a group was formed to journey to the Island of Treasure. All the people left for the island in high spirits. There were no roads in the jungle. Their journey was a succession of hardship beyond description, because they had to cut out their path through a thick jungle, go over the felled down trees, and struggle against various harmful insects and animals. In less than several days the journey group was completely tired. To make matters worse, they harbored a suspicion, "Is there really an Island of Treasure? By chance could the guide be deceiving us? "

If their trouble were only physical pain, they could get over it by taking a rest. But it is very difficult to dispel suspicion and create confidence. The guide thought, "If they stop the journey now, all their efforts will be for not." He knew that they would not follow him in an ordinary way, so he made a big city in the jungle with his miracle power. "Look at that, there is a town over there. Let's take a rest at the town without saying to retreat." The group was surprised to see the city. Because of sudden appearance of the city in the jungle, the group thought "Our efforts have been rewarded because we could fight our way out of the jungle."

The people who felt relieved at the city regained their spirit. Then, the guide put out the magic city that he set up for the group. "Listen to me, this was actually a temporary town. But we have come closer to the Island of Treasure. Let us start with spirit." The motivation lifted the spirit of the group and they were able to arrive at the Island of Treasure.

We can see a remarkable resemblance of Mahayana in this story. The people walk in the jungle in the Parable of a Magic City of the Lotus Sutra. People need a guide to travel through a jungle because it is difficult to look at a star in a jungle. The guide is meant to be the Buddha. After the Buddha's passing, the guide is the priest who keeps and propagates the Lotus Sutra. A guide has walked with people in Mahayana. People of the group are lay members, and an Island of Treasure is the world of the Buddha's enlightenment. Unlike the desert people of the group may return by using the road in the jungle if they wished return. So this story showed us the Buddha's effort and how the Buddha would lead us to the world of the Buddhahood.

Hearing an inspiring story, we are deeply moved and resolve to do our best. But the excitement cools down and as days go by we forget the resolution. Why does the Buddha set up a magic city? That's because he wants to make people take a rest and let their willpower recover, then lead them to an Island of Treasure and also because the Buddha knows well frailty of a human mind.

For us who are capricious, the Buddha does not lead us to an enlightenment of the Buddha at once, but sets up a temporary city as a Hoben (expedient), and boosts our willpower. The Sanskrit of "Hoben" is upaya. The original meaning of upaya is "to draw near". We have been drawing near a purpose step by step, and the walking is just "Hoben". The Lotus Sutra says Hoben everywhere. The Buddha knows well our capricious mind. Therefore, the Buddha will lead us to the world of enlightenment of the Buddha with a Hoben.

To take a rest is sometimes necessary for us who are weak willed. But, it is important that we take steps forward again, after having taken a rest. When we fall into a difficult situation, we often think, "why is it so painful?". No other person in the world is more unhappy than I." Now someone may think so. Most of these people are in their own world, and think only about their own problems.

Such people are in the depths of grief and disappointment because they shut themselves in their own world.

Why would we be born into this world? All people, as Buddha's children, receive some mission from the Buddha when they are born into this world. The mission is that we also fulfill the swearing and praying that the Buddha would save all living beings in this world. We must realize such things. We must vow to be of any help to the Buddha at all times. How shall we help the Buddha? It is by just praying. It is by praying the Odaimoku, Namu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo. It is the praying, "Please use my body for the Buddha." Open our heart and try to make people joyful. Think about and act that we live for other people and for communities. When we take these steps, we will approach real happiness and peace of mind instead of a magic city.

*Foot note

[Mappo] According to Buddhist tradition, there were three periods in the religion. The first, The Age of the perfect Law, existed for a thousand years after the death of the Buddha, and was the age in which his teachings were to be strictly observed. The second period, The Age of the Copied Law, was the next thousand years in which there was to be a decline in faith and morality, but a growth in monasteries and temples. The third period, a period of ten thousand years, was The Age of the Latter Law when vice and strife would spread across the earth. It was believed that this final period had begun in 1052.


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Q: I understand followers of Nichiren Shu practice chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. I am not familiar to that practice. Please explain what is Namu Myoho Renge Kyo and how to practice.

A: "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" is called Odaimoku, literally means the Sacred Title. In Nichiren Shu, practice of chanting Odaimoku is the most fundamental and important practice to attain Buddhahood.

NAMU MYOHO RENGE KYO AS AWARNESS OF THE LORD BUDDHA

Prince Siddhartha of Sakya Clan made a long, profound search for the Ultimate Truth and He finally attained Buddhahood through his great wisdom and experience. Then, He revaeled His awareness of the Supreme reality and taught The Way to us who are suffering in this Saha World. If we follow His teaching sincerely and faithfully, we will have the same awareness which The Buddha had experienced.

Nichiren Shonin teaches:

"Sakyamuni Buddha's merit of practicing the bodhisattva way leading to Buddhahood, as well as that of preaching and saving all living beings since His attainment of Buddhahood are altoghther contained in the five words of myo, ho, ren, ge, and kyo (Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Dharma)and that conseqyently, when we iphold the five words, the merits which He accumulated before and after His attainment of Buddhahood are naturally transfoerred to us."

(Kanjin Honzon-Sho)

NAMU MYOHO RENGE KYO AS WISDOM OF THE LORD BUDDHA

Buddha means The Enlightened One who has Perfect Wisdom. The Buddha revealed the Ultimate Truth to us as wisdom in Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Therefore, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is not different from the identity of the Lord Buddha.

NAMU MYOHO RENGE KYO AS COMPASSION OF THE LORD BUDDHA

Odaimoku is the Buddha's great compassion. It is warm and lively. When we recite Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, we will recieve the great Compassion of the Lord Buddha. As we will be happy when we receive someone's compassion, everyone who receives the Lord Buddha's great Compassion will feel full of new power physically and spiritually. We will not be afraid of anything whenever we face difficulity, and we will overcome it.

Nichiren Shonin teaches:

"Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is not only the true spirit of the Lord Buddha but the heart, body and to be expounded of the Lotus Sutra."

(A Letter replying to Soya Nyudo)

ODAIMOKU IS THE ESSENCE OF THE LOTUS SUTRA

It is said that there are about eighty-four thousands Buddhist scriptures, which compilation is called Issai-Kyo , meaning the All Sutras or Daizo-Kyo, meaning the Great Storage of Sutras. The Lotus Sutra is the sutra which unifies all other sutras and expounds the Ultimate Truth. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha revealed his origin as the Eternal Original Buddha. The Buddha says in the Sutra,"Once I vowed that I would cause all living beings to become exactly as I am." That is, He tried to relieve us who are ignorant, from sufferings and to make each of us like Him. Although we thought even if we wish, we would be hardly saved, we will be saved by the Lord Buddha as well as we can save others. This is His great compassion. And this great Truth is taught in the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra is composed of 28 chapters, so it takes so much time to read it through. Above all, it is more difficult to understand. In this modern society, especially called Mappo Period, or Decling Latter Age of the Dharma, each of us is so busy that we cannot spare time to read the Sutra. Nichiren Shonin found the most important and sacred Dahrma which had been sunk by the Eternal Buddha in Ch. 16, "Duration of Life of the Tathagata", and revealed it to us. This Dharma is Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo., which has the same merit as reading and understanding the whole Lotus Sutra.

LET US PRACTICE ODAIMOKU.

"Namu" means adoration. "Myoho Renge Kyo" is the formal title of the Lotus Sutra. So when we recite the Odaimoku, we can leave from our own small selfishness and unify with the Lotus Sutra, which is the Buddha himself. Therefore, through reciting the Odaimoku, we are able to recieve the Buddha's benevolence and approach Buddhahood. Even though Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is a short phrase, it is the Buddha's wisdom, awareness and compassion, and it has equal merit as the whole Lotus Sutra.

However, some people may wonder how it is beneficial to them without knowing the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. A baby drinks milk and grows naturally without knowing why milk is good. When you are sick, you take medicine prescribed by a doctor and get well even though you don't know what the ingredients are.

RELIGION IS NOT NECESSARY IN THE REALM OF REASON,

BUT IS IN THE REALM OF EXPERIENCE.

It is the state beyond explanation with words. We can hardly tell the exact taste of a banana to a person who has never tasted it, even though we may explain its shape, color, and texture. But if we show a banana, peel off its skin and let him eat it, he can learn what a banana is. Similarly, we can be aware of the realm of faith through the experience. The Buddha's teaching is not theory of life but A WAY OF LIFE. Therefore, we should practice reciting Odaimoku as part of experience of life. And we will find a new opening world of faith.

It is ideal that you face to the Great Mandala, put your hands together in Gassho and chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. But since the Odaimoku contains the Buddha's wisdom and compassion in it, even while walking or working, whenever and wherever we recite Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, we will sense an "AWARENESS" of the "WISDOM" and "COMPASSION" of the Lord Buddha.

 

LET US HAVE FAITH IN THE ODAIMOKU: Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.

LET US SINCERELY RECITE THE ODAIMOKU: Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.

 

Your life will be revitalized. You will find a bright, joyful and happy life.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The propagation in England has been inaugurated as Rev. Chishin Hirai, former minister at Puuene, Hawaii, settled in London as a Nichiren Shu overseas minister. It is hoped that he will succeed in spreading the teachings of Nichiren Shonin in Europe with the cooperation of Rev. Kristoph Pieters in Belgium.

 

Rev. Chishin Hirai, former Resident Minister of the Puunene Nichiren Mission, Hawaii, was appointed the first Nichiren Shu missionary in England on Sept. 30, and he left Japan for London on the following day.

Rev Hirai, 33, was born in the Taikyoji Temple in Saga City, Kyushu, Japan. Having completed the Doctorate Course in the Department of Buddhism of the Rissho University in 1992, Rev. Hirai went to Hawaii as a trainee for overseas missionary. He attended the 100-day training for gokito masters in 1994-95 and was appointed to be the Resident Minister of the Puuene Mission on the island of Maui, Hawaii, in 1995.

During the ceremony held in the Nichiren Shu Administration Headquarters in Tokyo, Chief Administrator Shobun Nagai encouraged Rev. Hirai saying, "This is our pilot project, the fate of which depends on you. Please take care of your health and work hard, utilizing the experiences you gained in Hawaii." Rev. Hirai received the letter of appointment together with an envelope of financial aid. The Nichiren Shu Newspaper donated the gohonzon with signature affixed by Chief Administrator; Rev. Josho Ueda, Director of the Overseas Propagation Bureau; and Rev. Enin Misaka, President of the Japanese Nichiren Shu Newspaper.

Recently, more and more former Soka Gakkai members, who began to have doubts about Gakkai teachings, are seeking answers to their questions about the teachings Nichiren Shonin from Nichiren Shu ministers and temples. So the Nichiren Shu Administration Headquarters decided it appropriate to send a minister to London to provide proper guidance for such people.

Institutionalization is Necessary

Upon departure for London, Rev. Hirai explained why he decided to go to London and what he plans to accomplish there.

"Over the past two years, inquiries on Nichiren Buddhism via Internet began to increase from London. Most of them came from former Soka Gakkai members who began doubting the teachings of the Gakkai. It made me interested in visiting Europe.

"During my trip to Europe, I visited London, where I found a number of people seeking guidance. I felt there is a good chance of propagating Nichiren Buddhism in Europe. Letters and telephones are not enough to answer all the questions about theology and how to keep and practice a faith.

"What moved me to become an overseas minister was my desire to find out whether or not the teachings of Nichiren Shonin could be applicable overseas. after five years in Hawaii as a minister, I fee that it depends on the efforts on the part of individual ministers.

"As yet, I have no definite plan of activities in England. It took several hundred years after the introduction of Buddhism to take root in Japan as a religion of the people during the Kamakura Period, and it has been some 700 years since then. thinking of those time spans, I do not expect to make a great stride immediately. I only hope to take the first step for the conversion of Europe to the Lotus teaching.

"As far as I know, no Japanese Buddhist order is engaging in missionary activities in England. As a lone missionary going to London, I hope others think it necessary to follow. i think I will not be able to accomplish much without institutionalized help. I believe that propagation today calls for organized activities. I fervently hope that such a system will be created soon."

Rev. Hirai resides in northern London,
near Regent's Park. His address:

8 Irvine Court

100 Whitfield Street,

London, W1P 5RU

United Kingdom

 

Tel/fax: 44-0171-388-3693


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Historic service Held with Triple Ceremony

BY CHISIN HIRAI, London Mission

 

Oct 12, beginning at 2:30 p.m., we held a triple ceremony --the Establishment of the Nichiren Buddhist Temple of London, the Eye-Opening of the Mandala Go-honzon and Enshrining the Mandala gohonzon as the Object of Worship at the office of Ms. Vanessa Mori.

Participating in the ceremony were three members: Vanessa Mori, Simone Continente, and Derek Watson as well as my parents.

It took quite a long time for me to conduct the three ceremonies in succession although I made them as simple as possible. Nevertheless, it seemed that British people did not find them to long; they seemed to find gokito service and oshoko rather interesting.

My father-teacher, Rev. Shozan Hirai, made a congratulatory speech saying that he was happy to have attended this historic service on the eve of our Founder's memorial day. He encouraged me and also told the British members to keep faith in Nichiren buddhism in the traditional Nichiren Shu way.

I announced that although we do not have any building or facility, there is no doubt that the Nichiren Buddhist Temple of London was established today; that I hope to conduct Sunday service every week taking turns at a member's home until I establish my own residence; that I hope to organize the Church and register it with the government; that membership dues must be collected; and that I hope to lead members to visit Mount Minobu in order to report the establishment of the London Temple.

Members in turn expressed their gratitude for the establishment of the Nichiren Temple of London with a Nichiren Shu Minister; and they promised me to exhort themselves to practice the way of Nichiren Buddhism.

After the service, we all shred the offerings my parents brought from Japan, including a bottle of Japanese sake, which, incidentally, was quite acceptable to the British members. Afterwards, those of us who had the time went to a Chinese restaurant.

Oct. 19: Sunday service in the apartment of Ms. Simone Continente. I visited her the day before to tell her what to prepare for the service. Participants increased to five: Simone Continente, Vanessa Mori, Derek Watson, Simon Robbins, and Simone's sister.

Simone's sister is also a former Soka Gakkai member who has recently begun studying Nichiren Shu Buddhism. I wanted to talk with her much more than I did, but she spoke limited English and I do not know Italian at all. So our conversation was through Simone acting as the interpreter.

After the service we decided that Simone and I would represent the Temple for registration purpose: I, as the President and Simone, as the Secretary.

We asked Vanessa Mori to find out the procedure for registering the Temple.