Sunrise Service... The Sun and Hokekyo
Rev. Eijo Ikenaga, Honolulu Myohoji
The memorable day,
April 28, is coming soon.
On this day in 1253, early in the morning, St. Nichiren first chanted
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" from the top of Asahigamori on Mt.
Kiyosumi in Chiba, Japan. He chanted it toward the sun rising over the
Pacific Ocean. It was truly the beginning of Nichiren Shu. The 750th
anniversary of the establishment of Nichiren Shu is coming up in 2002.
We are moving towards this most memorable year, committing ourselves
to counting day by day with the motto "Odaimoku-soguzu (Propagation
of Odaimoku to the world)." On the island of Oahu in Hawaii, we
commemorate the event every year on the Sunday nearest to April 28 at
the Blow-hole Lookout.
Following is a copy of the radio talk "Honolulu Myohoji Hour"
I offered twice a month through Radio Station KOHO. Although it is so
old that the name of Bishop Senchu Murano, ex-Bishop of Nichiren Mission
Of Hawaii, appears in the talk, I still have fond memories of the Sunrise
Service of that day, and I would like to share with you the same thoughts
on how we can walk towards the big year 2002.
In the greeting, after the prayer of the Sunrise Service, Bishop Senchu
Murano encouragingly said, "As long as you come here to join in
the reciting of Odaimoku, Nichiren Shu in Hawaii will be fine."
Then he asked me to say a few words to the congregation. I spoke to
the people, feeling the stimulating light of the rising sun on my back.
I was inspired by the spectacle, with all of them looking beautiful
in the morning sunshine. I raised my voice so as not to be drowned out
by the sound of the high waves. "This is the 27th Sunrise Service
since I came to Hawaii. The sunrise this morning was especially beautiful.
But the beauty of the sunrise is different every time. Why? It is due
to the water vapor and clouds on the horizon. The shape of the clouds
is always different, just as you all look different from each other.
Just as you think differently and have different ideas from each other,
the shape of clouds is always different. This kind of diversity makes
the sun look brilliant and beautiful when it rises. Look how beautiful
and gorgeous it is. So are you! Bathed in the morning sun, receiving
the graceful rays, each of you looks shining and gorgeous." It
was truly wonderful to see them, as Bishop Murano said. However, a thought
then passed through my mind. I was looking at it the opposite way from
Bishop Murano. "What happened to him? Where is she? How about her?
I was looking for the people who used to come. I then raised my voice
again. "Although the shape and thickness of the clouds is always
different depending on whether we have a fine day or a rainy day, the
sun behind the clouds is the same sun to which St. Nichiren chanted
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo' 700 years ago. Though the clouds around
the sun change from time to time, the eternal light of the sun never
changes. The sun is Hokekyo. Hokekyou is the eternal life,
the eternal truth. As long as the sun rises, the light of the eternity
permeates. No need to worry. Even if you or I cannot come here any longer,
someone who loves truth will appear and chant Namu Myoho Renge
Kyo. St. Nichiren was looking forward to the future by saying,
'If Nichiren's compassion is great, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo will spread
and permeate to the future for millions of years.' So this morning I
looked for eternity and chanted Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, burning myself
like the sun."
This is what I said to the people at the site of the Sunrise Service.
What Bishop Murano said was a matter of reality. What I said was a matter
of ideal. We live every day between reality and the ideal. On the day
when we had the Sunrise Service, we also had a Buddha Day workshop sponsored
by the Hawaii Buddhist Council. It was held at the Sheraton Waikikii.
We had enthusiastic hours of discussion, with Prof. George Tanabe from
the University of Hawaii as the main speaker. Young ministers from various
denominations and other Nisei and Sansei people participated as panelists
or listeners. The subject we discussed was, as usual, how Buddhism in
Hawaii can survive into the future.
year, Hawaii observed the Centennial Anniversary of Immigration to Hawaii
by contract between the Governments of Japan and Hawaii. Indeed, the
Meiji Era has grown far away. Hawaiian Buddhism, which was brought to
Hawaii by those immigrants, is also being phased out among the younger
generations. The only contact many of the young people have with Buddhism
is when someone dies. The things they see are meaningless to them. The
sermons that the ministers give don't stimulate them to interest. The
gap of language and custom between people is so huge that Buddhism today
sometimes seems inactive. Reflecting on such phenomena, not only in
Hawaii but also in Japan, Prof. Tanabe's presentation was controversial.
What Prof. Tanabe said was, in short, that the traditional Buddhist
sutras are so archaic that they are Greek to the common people. They
cannot satisfy their intellectual need or faith.
Historical studies have shown that some of the sutras were not necessarily
books of the Buddha's direct words. Some of sutras were written a hundred
years after the life of the Buddha. It has been more than two thousand
years since the time of the Buddha. It could be time for us to write
a sutra that our contemporaries can understand. It could be named, for
instance, the Diamond Head Sutra. There was some laughter,
but it was sincerely discussed. The titles of most sutras begin with
Bussetsu," like Bussetsu Kan Muryoju Kyo" or "Bussetsu
Uranbon Kyo," putting stress on the importance that this sutra
was truly formed through the Buddha's mouth. It is the real Buddhist's
attitude that we respect the sutras as the real words of the Buddha.
We should practice as the sutras tell us, and we should not distort
what the sutras say about the truth.
My Dharma teacher once told me the story of his apprenticeship. Soon
after his graduation from college, he was assigned by his Dharma teacher
to give a sermon at an assembly. He was too young and impertinent to
show off his knowledge and talents in a speech. He was speaking eloquently.
All of sudden, when he said, such and such, so and so...I think...,"
a thunderous voice fell upon his head, Bakayaro! You fool!"
He was pulled down out of the pulpit. He got a scolding, "When
did you become so great as to be able to say 'I think so and so?
It is one thing to talk that way about ordinary things. But the only
way you can talk in delivering the teachings of the Buddha would be,
Buddha said this and that, St. Nichiren said so and so. There
is no any other way for you to preach the teaching, is there?"
This story teaches us that there is no space to insert our own opinions
among the divine teachings of Buddha. Real faith grows from the attitude
that all of the Buddha's words are true. So we should be sincere towards
the truth. As Prof. Tanabe mentioned, it is true that the sutras are
not necessarily records of the direct words of the Buddha. The sutras
were compiled by people who wanted to preserve the Buddha's words for
the future. Therefore, most sutras are begun with the words, "Thus
have I heard." In these words, "Thus have I heard," is
expressed the sincere attitude of the compilers towards the truth revealed
by the Buddha. It is called a treatise or a thesis when we write our
opinions. There must not be any objections to the writing of treatises
of Buddhism, but it is a different matter to write sutras. The thunderous
voice of the above Dharma master may fall on us for being so arrogant.
When Prof. Tanabe suggested, "Let us write our own sutras,"
of course, it might have been motivated by the needs of the time for
I would like to take Prof. Tanabe's suggestion in a positive way - to
live a day without drifting in the ocean of realities, sustaining the
ideal of Hokekyo within us, is to write our own sutras. To say "Thus
have I lived " could be "Thus have I heard" to us. Though
Buddhism teaches us that we can become a Buddha, it does not mean that
we can become the sun itself. We can just receive the sunlight. Receiving
the sunlight, bathing in the grace of the sunlight, how can we shine
ourselves? By writing a sutra with "thus have I heard." As
each of the people gracefully shone in the sunlight on the day of the
Sunrise Service, sutras written by each of you would have a different
taste. The sun, like Hokekyo, will bestow on each of you a glow that
only you can have under the light. St. Nichiren said, "Illuminated
by the Light of the Odaimoku, one turns into an August Being with innate
nature." Let us each shine in the light of Hokekyo. Let us write
our sutra with faith and responsibility, no matter how high and rough
the waves of reality are. Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.
FOLLOWING IN THE PATH OF NICHIREN SHONIN
Rev. Eiyu Yoshiki
"Because we are Your (the Buddha's) messengers, We are fearless before multitudes." (The Lotus Sutra, Chapter 13, "Encouragement for Keeping This Sutra")
Our founder, Nichiren Shonin, returned to Mt. Kiyosumi in his home district in 1253, after studying in many faraway places. Facing the morning sun on April 28, he recited the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, for the first time. Nichiren Shonin was 32 years old.
of the Nichiren Shu Order have determined that day as the day of the
Establishment of Nichiren Buddhism (Rikkyo Kaishu). It has been almost
750 years since then. The Odaimoku that Nichiren Shonin recited for
the first time at Kiyosumi has been recited not only in Japan, but
also in India, the home of Buddhism, various countries in Asia, the
United States, Brazil, and Europe.
The history of the spread of the Odaimoku among many peoples in many
countries is the history of the many peoples who have been saved by
the Odaimoku. Nichiren Shonin reached the firm conclusion, after pursuing
his studies, that the Lotus Sutra is the supreme teaching of the Buddha,
and that everyone can be saved by it if he recites Namu Myoho Renge
Kyo. But he was seriously troubled about whether or not he should
make it public. Later he wrote about it in a letter: "It is I,
Nichiren, alone who knows that the Lotus Sutra is the soul of the
Buddha Himself, who is a father of all human beings. Afraid of losing
my life, if I do not speak up, I will be ungrateful for the Buddha,
becoming an enemy of the Buddha. On the other hand, if I speak up
and spread the faith of the Lotus Sutra, I won't be able to avoid
exile or capital punishment in the future. What shall I do? After
going through unbearable torment, I decided to choose the way to repay
an obligation to the Buddha.
As a teenager with an interest in philosphy and filled with intellectual
curiosity, young Nichiren left his country home for Kamakura to seek
the truth of Buddhism. He returned from Kamakura several years later,
but then left for Mt. Hiei to enlarge his experience and pursue the
truth again. Nichiren Shonin seldom discussed his journey of study.
But, using Mt. Hiei as a base, he must have visited various temples
and eminent priests in the Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara areas. When Nichiren
Shonin reached the conclusion that the Lotus Sutra was the supreme
teaching, his long journey of seeking the truth was over. The wise
man of the Lotus Sutra returned home to Kiyosumi.
When Nichiren Shonin took the first steps from a wise man of the Lotus
Sutra to a expounder of the Lotus Sutra, his mind swayed intensely.
"The long-cherished hope of the Buddha is in the Lotus Sutra,
people can not be saved until they believe in it. Should I speak up
or not? If I speak out, various hardships and persecutions will befall
not only me, but also my parents, brothers and master. If I don't
speak out, I will certainly fall to hell after death even if I have
no trouble in this life.
After an intense conflict, Nichiren Shonin took the first step as
an expounder of the Lotus Sutra. As he had expected, his life thereafter
was a series of persecutions. It was exactly as preached in the Lotus
Sutra, that expounders of the Lotus Sutra would encounter various
persecutions. The phrase, "Because we are Your (Buddha's) messengers,
We are fearless before multitudes," cited above at the beginning
of this writing, is in the verse of twenty lines of the Lotus Sutra,
chapter 13, "Encouragement for Keeping This Sutra." This
verse is about the Bodhisattvas who swore patiently to propagate the
Lotus Sutra no matter what kind of persecutions and great difficulties
would befall them.
Whenever Nichiren Shonin encountered persecution, he found himself
in this verse, deepening his realization as an expounder of the Lotus
Sutra. When we are in difficulties, we complain or deplore our misfortune.
But when we come to the conviction that our decision or our behavior
is not wrong, but satisfactory in the eyes of Buddha, we could fearlessly
take them in stride.
Q&A about Nichiren Shu
WHAT IS THE TRUE MEANING OF HOBEN?
Q: In the Lotus
Sutra, there is a chapter entitled "Hoben-pon," or "Expedients".
In this chapter, it is said that all of the teachings expounded prior
to the Lotus Sutra are expedients. Was Sakyamuni Buddha telling us to
throw away all the previous teachings because they are expedients? Or
should we study the previous teachings, along with the Lotus Sutra,
as the Buddha's teaching? Please explain the true meaning of "Hoben"
in the Lotus Sutra.
A: In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha tells us of the one great purpose
for which the Buddhas appeared in the worlds.
"The Buddhas appear in the worlds in order to cause all living
beings to open the gate to the insight of the Buddha, and cause them
to purify themselves, in order to show the insight of the Buddha to
all living beings. They appear in the worlds in order to cause all living
beings to obtain the insight of the Buddha. They appear in the worlds
in order to cause all living beings to enter the Way to the insight
of the Buddha." (Lotus Sutra P.32)
In the teachings before the Lotus Sutra, practitioners called Sravaka
and Pratyekabuddha, who are also called Two-Vehicles, are attached to
obtaining their own enlightenment. They are arrogant because they believe
that they have attained enlightenment, although they don't realize that
their attainment is of a lower stage, called Arhatship.
The Buddha expounds various teachings to all living beings only for
the purpose of revealing the One Buddha-Vehicle, the Lotus Sutra. And
the Buddha's original vow was that He would cause all living beings
(including Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha) to become exactly as He is.
However, this human's Saha-world is full of defilement, and the capacity
of living beings to understand the Buddha's unsurpassed teachings are
not yet ripe. Therefore, if He expounds the highest teaching to them
from the beginning, they might be overwhelmed and would not be able
to understand it. Besides, since each individual possesses a different
capacity for understanding, the Buddha uses suitable words and stories
for each one in order to lead him to the aimed path of the Lotus Sutra.
This is the power of the expedients of the Buddha in his propagation.
All living beings possesses Buddha nature. Therefore, with the Buddha's
expedient teachings they can gradually come to understand his teachings
and improve their capacity, and finally become a Buddha with the Buddha's
highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra.
There is a story in the Lotus Sutra. There was a place containing a
magnificent treasure. In order to reach it, people had to travel a long,
dangerous road. They organized a treasure-hunting party. In the party,
there was a leader who was wise and clever, and he knew this road very
well. He lead the party to the place of the treasure. But most of the
party tired along the way and wanted to return home. The leader thought,
"They shouldn't give up now. We are close to the treasure. I must
think of some expedient to encourage them to continue." Then, using
his supernatural power, he made imaginary city on the road ahead. He
told the travelers, "Look, everyone! Now you don't have to worry
any more. You can enter that city and take a rest."
After they refreshed themselves, the leader made the magic city disappear
and said, "Let's move on! The treasure is right there." Encouraged
by their leader, the travelers were able to reach their destination.
(Lotus Sutra, P.144-145)
Following the story, the Buddha continues, "If you had only heard
of the One Vehicle of the Buddha, you might not have wished to see or
approach the Buddha, but may have thought, 'The Way to Buddhahood is
too long for us to pass through unless we make a long, painstaking effort.'
In order to give you a rest halfway, I have given you expedients to
the teaching of Nirvana (such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Fold
Path, or the Twelve-linked Chain of Dependent Origination) by the two
vehicles. To those who have attained the two vehicles, I say, 'You have
not yet done all that you should do. You are near the wisdom of the
Buddha. Think it over and reconsider it! The Nirvana you attained is
not true. I divided the One Vehicle of the Buddha into three."
But it is very sad that some misinterpret the meaning of Hoben, or expedients,
saying, "Forget all the teachings expounded before the Lotus Sutra.
The Lotus Sutra is the only teaching to lead all living beings to Buddhahood."
He quotes from the Lotus Sutra translated by Burton Watson which says,
"Now I, in the midst of the bodhisattvas, honestly discarding expedient
means, will preach only the unsurpassed way." (P.44-45)
But we must refer to other English versions of the Lotus Sutra. There
are other three English translations of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra
translated by Bishop Senchu Murano, which we of Nichiren-Shu rely on,
says in that part, "I have laid aside all expedient teachings.
I will expound only unsurpassed enlightenment to Bodhisattvas."
The Lotus Sutra translated by Tsugunari Kubo and published by the Numata
Center for Buddhist Translation and Research says in that part, Having
openly set aside skillful means, I will teach only the highest path
to all the bodhisattvas." (P. 49)
Another English version, published by Kosei Publishing, has a translation
similar to the Murano and Kubo translations. Furthermore, when we look
at the origin of the term Hoben in Sanskrit, upaya,
it originally meant to approach or to reach. Considering these facts,
it is obvious that the Buddha's true intention is not to discard the
teachings He expounded before the Lotus Sutra. His true heart is that
He had been expounding expedient teachings up to a point, but now the
time has come to expound the highest teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Because
the capacity of all living beings ripens, He stops expounding the expedient
teachings. The Buddha's teachings expounded before the Lotus Sutra are
not false. We Nichiren Buddhists should study them as well as the Lotus
Sakyamuni Buddha states at the end of Chapter 2, Hoben-pon, of the Lotus
Sutra, "As a rule, the Buddhas expound the Dharma with billions
of expedients as stated above, according to the capacities of all living
beings. Those who do not study the Dharma cannot understand it. You
have already realized the fact that the Buddhas employ expedients, according
to the capacities of all living beings. Know that, when you remove your
doubts and when you have great joy, you will become Buddhas!" (P.49-50)
Please understand the true meaning of HOBEN or Expedient
that the Buddha uses in the Lotus Sutra.