Overcoming Severe Difficulties, Obstacles, and Devils

There is by no means a scarcity of people who have taken the trouble to become believers of Nichiren Shoshu through some connection, but have begun to entertain doubts about their faith, either because of ill health, the heartless, malicious gossip of people in society or through submission to the opposition of parents or siblings. Because of this, such people have removed themselves from their faith and let that faith go to sleep. In all likelihood, there are also those who diligently attend to bedridden family members, anguish over the disharmony of a gloomy household, or shed tears over financial uncertainty.
Why should we have to face such hardship when we have embraced the True Law and True Doctrine? I believe that all of us have experienced these kinds of skepticism and irritating feelings of uncertainty while living the long path of faith.
For the sake of those of you who harbor such doubts, those of you who currently battle illness or are tortured by the sufferings resulting from your personal karma, I would like to speak about the causes for those sufferings and ways in which you can face up to them.
Because I have also just spent the past three long years under medical treatment, I am now one who has been truly touched to the depths of my heart as to the preciousness of good health, and I can feel what happiness is. All the more because of this, there is no way that I can think of your present doubt and anguish as just somebody else's problem.
Taking your affliction as my own suffering and using that as fuel for surmounting those demonic obstacles, I would like to discuss Buddhism and illness, death, definite karma vis-a-vis indefinite karma, as well as the behavior of true persons of faith, in order to consider the reasons why we need to have correct faith.
There could be no greater joy for me than if this brief account could serve as some kind of foundation, and give even the least bit of courage to those of you who are struggling with these kinds of karmic sufferings.

1.Causes for Illness Explained by the Buddha

According to T'ien-t'ai's Maka Shikan and the Daishonin's Reply to Ohta Nyudo, six reasons are given as causes for illness, which are listed below.

I. Illness Stemming from Disharmony of the Four Elements.
In other words, this is illness which results from an imbalance of the four major elements which make up the human body, i.e., earth, fire water and wind. Disharmony of the earth element includes maladies of the muscles, nerves, skeleton, hair, vascular tract, skin, teeth and the like. Disharmony of the water element includes disorders of the blood, hormones, secretions of enzymes, perspiration and digestive organs. Sicknesses involving the fire element include maladies which derive from fever, blood pressure, the scorching heat of summer and the like. Illness of the wind element pertains to the respiratory and circulatory organs, and includes ailments which result from cold weather and exhaust fumes. In The Treatment of lllness, regarding the disorders which result from disharmony of the four elements, the Daishonin states:

...the first of which is illness of the body. Physical diseases comprise one hundred and one disorders of the earth element, one hundred and one imbalances of the water element, one hundred aJld one disturbances of the fire element and one hundred and one disharmonies of the wind element, a total of four hundred and four maladies.
(MW, 3- 273)

Although the Daishonin explains that there are four hundred and four possible disorders, it is more than likely that in today's cities, plagued by photochemical smog and air pollution, that number is going to continue to increase more and more.

II. Illness Stemming from Immoderate Eating or Drinking.
The next reason for illness is immoderate or reckless eating or drinking habits, and such maladies include afflictions of the stomach and intestines, liver ailments, malnutrition, physical debility, etc. More concretely, we can become ill from the intake of too much ice, alcohol, cola, coffee or medicines, or from overeating on a daily basis. On the other hand, ailments can also arise from not enough calorie intake, from malnutrition, contaminated foods, an unbalanced diet, or from such substances as tobacco or narcotics.

III. Illness Stemming from an Unsettled Mind.
It might be said that these maladies arise because of such psycho- emotional neglect as irregular daily habits, poor spinal posture, a lack of physical exercise, sleep deprivation, overwork or emotional insecurity. It should further be said that in our present day and age, there are many other ailments which come about due to a lax mind or other chinks in our psychological armor, such as sudden traffic accidents and injuries, which we should always be careful to avoid.
But whatever might be said, the maladies which arise from these three types of causes still belong individually to mild sorts of illness, and the severity of such sickness differs radically, merely depending on one's own caution and diet. Medically speaking, the means of treatment for these afflications are virtually guaranteed. Through the power of medical science, i.e., with a doctor's appropriate treatment and skill, the power of medicines and good nursing care, the above mentioned kinds of illness can eventually be healed.
However, in order to fight these kinds of ill health, while the patient's own willpower and courage are also necessary, good nursing care is also extremely vital. It should be said that out of consideration for each other, we should be very attentive, because with the slightest inconsiderate word or action by a doctor or nurse, or by one nursing a sick person, the injury to the patient can be considerable.
Nichikan Shonin, the Twenty-sixth High Priest of Taisekiji, taught that a person who cares for the infirmed should understand the following five points, which he called the Five Virtues of the Nurse. (From Yakuo- bon Lecture on the Eradication of lllness, Research Text 10-582)
1. Knowledge of which foods the patient may and may not eat.
2. Not being repulsed by feces, urine, expectoration or vomit, and not revealing emotion.
3. Nursing with compassion, and with no motive of being compensated with money, clothing or food.
4. Possession of wisdom about correct medicinal tinctures.
5. Teaching the Law to the patients and giving them inspiration and courage.
However, among the origins of disease explained in Buddhism, the next three must be researched with keen interest because they reach to a level more profound than modern medical science's overall view of life.

IV. Illness Stemming from Communion with Demons.
This simply refers to maladies which occur when the pathogenic bacteria (germs) that cause infectious diseases multiply. Viral influenza and other contagious diseases would fall under this category. Of course antibiotic substances and the like are effective in treating such illnesses, but the infected person's life force and power of resistance are more necessary than anything else. Nichikan Shonin teaches that we should brandish our power of faith and seek the protection of the Gohonzon.

V. The Acts of Devils.
According to Buddhism, these infirmities are said to destroy a practitioner's seeking spirit and wisdom based on Buddhsim and rob the person of merit and benefit. When a person who maintains faith falls ill as a result of the acts of these devils, he begins to entertain doubts about his faith, and in the end, discards his faith (wisdom based on Buddhism) and loses the desire to chant. Medically speaking, these are maladies of the mind, such as mental illness and and emotional disorders. Furthermore, incessant warfare, which springs from insatiable, foolish greed and anger, and which costs many lives, is also the work of devils. In The Treatment of Illness, the Daishonin states:

The second category is illness of the mind. These illnesses arise from the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity and are of eighty-four thousand kinds. They are beyond the healing powers of the two Brahman deities, the three ascetics, or the six non- Buddhist teachers. Medicines prescribed by Shen Nung and Huang Ti are even less effective.
(MW, 3-274)

The Daishonin states here that these illnesses cannot be healed at their root through the power of medical science.

VI. Karmic Illness.
These illnesses, resulting from the karma of past existences, cannot be fathomed by human intelligence. One might to venture to say that they include hereditary diseases, congenital abnormalities, inborn constitutional weakness, blindness, dearness and dumbness, as well as senility. Even with today's medical science, there are no remedies for these afflictions. When all is said and done, there is no other way for us to resolve them than by taking correct faith in the True law, through which we can change our past karma and strive to purify our lives.
The above Buddhist explanations transcend medical science in their clarification of the causes of illness, and even though we have been engaged in a Buddhist examination of just this single facet of human illness, from the viewpoint of life in general, I believe that the reader can perceive how profound the insight of Buddhism is.
However, these multitudes of causes for illness do not work individually to cause the outbreak of a health problem, but rather intertwine with each other to give rise to a more complex situation. If there is a problem with the lungs, the lung disorder simultaneously becomes the cause for a malady of the heart and mind, as a result of which the whole body is said to be sick.
I believe, therefore, that it is not enough to take measures against just one symptom of an illness. Whatever else one might say, I believe that the patient must cause a strong now of life energy to emerge through correct faith, and under the care of a good physician, maintain a correct and regulated diet. I further believe that both the person looking over the recovery process, as well as the patient, must concentrate more on the patient’s reformation and revolution of life, both mental and physical, than merely on the fight against the disease itself.
Think for a moment about the life of a human being. From birth until maturity, parents worry about our physical well being. However, from the time that we become an adult, the process of growing old begins, and the main thing we have to worry about for the rest of our lives is our physical security' because we are always in danger of sudden accidents or illness.
Whenever we make telephone calls or write letters, we almost automatically use such greetings as, How are you and Take care of your health. Yet these are not just simple stock phrases. It is precisely because we are ordinarily healthy that I strongly feel that we should think first and foremost about good health, whether it be in terms of eating, studying or exercising, aim for our improvement as people, and strictly and seriously regulate our daily lives.
This makes me want to cry out, How can a person who is careless with his own life be an emissary for Kosen-rufu! It also makes me search my own soul.

II. For You Who Suffer From Illness.

In the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the most excellent path to salvation is prescribed, not only for those who are sick, but for all mankind. I leave this good medicine here for you now. You should take it and not worry that it will not cure you. (Lectures on the Sutra, The Hoben and Juryo Chapters, p. 105) Further, in the Yakuo Bosatsu Honji Chapter, there is a passage which explains: This teaching is good medicine for the ills of the people of this world. If a person has an affliction and is able to hear this teaching, his illness will be eradicated, and he will know neither old age nor death. (Kaiketsu, p.606)
In the Maka Shikan, T’ien-t'ai states: Because the Lotus Sutra is able to heal, it is also called myo, or mystic. The Great Teacher Miao-lo further elaborates on the power of the Mystic Law in this way. Because it can cure that which is thought to be incurable, it is called myo or mystic. (MW, 3-15)
There are more people than it would be possible to mention who have, through the benefit of having maintained faith in the Supreme Law of Myoho Renge Kyo, overcome illness, made miraculous recoveries beyond the wildest dreams of their doctors, and actually returned to work joyfully within society.
Again, in The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, our Founder the Daishonin instructs: Myo means to revive, that is, to return to life. (ibid., p. 23)
Then what could the words eradicate illness refer to? Nichikan Shonin instructs that because of the power of Myoho Renge Kyo:

1. One will come across a good physician through the providence of the Buddha.
2. The medicine one receives will be well suited to the illness, and the remedy for the malady will be successful. That is, one remedy will serve two or three functions.
3. An illness which should have been long-term will be stimulated to heal immediately. (From Yakuo-bon Lecture on the Eradication of lllness, Research Text 10-583)
In other words, Nichikan Shonin is explaining that for the person who practices the Mystic Law, the power of one remedy will have not only an increased, but the optimum effect.
Further, the phrase eternally ageless means that one who believes in the Mystic Law will not become feeble with age. For example, even as a person's years increase, he or she will always manifest a youthful, fresh-looking vitality, and achieve a human life condition that is happy and at ease.
Moreover, the word undying refers to the fact that one who has faith in the Mystic Law will accumulate great fortune, and therefore, will not vainly die a tragic death. Here are some concrete examples of the kinds of sorrowful, wretched, ill-fated deaths, that we are told will absolutely not occur.
1. Losing one’s life despite having committed no offense.
2. Dying a miserable death from such causes as hunger, thirst, cold or heat.
3. Though one has not lived to the end of one's expected lifetime, losing one's life to such errors in medical treatment as surgical mishap or incorrect administration of medication.
4. After going to all the trouble to obtain medical treatment, the medicinal method, rather than being beneficial, instead has diverse effects.
5. Dying a lonely and premature death, without a single person to watch over one.

Those of use who practice faith in the Mystic Law must realize that it is truly to this extent that we are protected. For that reason, we should arouse the most deliberate and tenacious power of faith possible, and above all, feel certain of the Dai-Gohonzon's all-surpassing protection. If all we do is moan that we are tormented, pained and disheartened about our illness, we will resolve nothing.
It is rather due to the fact that we are in pain that we must awaken to a sense of piety, and take faith. Please, remember this passage from Nichiren Daishonin's Opening of the Eyes.

Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because Heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes.
(MW, 2-205)

The painful, bitter times are the most important of all. You should know that when you summon up faith and chant Daimoku, the power of that faith increases the vitality of one's life. Because of faith, a person receives divine protection, and in combination with this, the power of medical science manifests itself effectively and appropriately.
But however much one talks about the immensity of the Mystic Law’s power, it is heretical to hope for the kind of dreamy miracles or occult powers whereby one will instantly turn around and make an instant recovery, just by taking a dose of medicine. It would be best to bear in mind that human life is not to be obtained so cheaply.
As our Founder the Daishonin explains in Reply to Shi'jo Kingo: Truly, the only secret art that can stop attacks by demons on the bodies and minds of all people is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. (Zenshu, p. l 170)Nichikan Shonin further states: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the finest of all varieties of medicine. (From Yakuo-bon Lecture on the Eradication of Illness, Research Text 10-628) The conviction that there is no finer medicine than the Mystic Law is vital.
In other words, through our faith, each of us can individually exceed the limitations of modern medical science, which is said to perform only symptomatic treatment of illness, and through the continuous battle against illness, we can little by little grow as human beings and strive in body and mind for a reformation in our personal lives. Herein lies the value of a living Buddhism.
The Hiyu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra explains [that if a person has slandered the Lotus Sutra in a past existence, even if, after countless lifetimes of suffering in Hell and agonized wanderings through the Six Paths he eventually creates the causes through which he becomes a doctor, he will merely finds that his efforts as a doctor meet in frustration]:

If a person who has mastered the path of medicine, and through those methods is able to cure a [patient's] illness, other maladies will increase, or the patient may even die; or, if the doctor himself becomes ill, he will not be able to save others; even if he uses good medicines, they will have no benefit, but will act as poison.
(Kaiketsu, p. 244)

In order for a doctor or nurse who spends his or her life curing sickness to be reputed as a really skilled or fine physician who performs true medical treatment, it is more than likely that that person must practice Buddhism, and set his sights on the kind of medical science that cultivates the dignity of human life. Though one is called a physician, he is not always just a physician, because if he himself becomes sick, he is no more than another patient. For this reason, I believe that he must accumulate fortune through the True Law. I further believe that the path to salvation for both himself and his patients is first and foremost, the cultivation of his qualities as a human being.

III. For Those Who Have Doubts About Faith Because They Are Ill Despite Their Faith

There are people in this world who sometimes become victims of gross illusions. Those illusions can include such beliefs as, not only will a person with faith not get sick, he won't even die. There is no scarcity of such people who say that if one has faith, an illness will heal, but when it seems that their own illness shows no signs of getting better, they then say, even though I'm practicing faith as best I can, I've been assaulted by a 'devil of illness', and then entertain doubts about faith.
In reality, what is known in Buddhism as a Devil of Illness, refers to the unrest regarding faith caused by this kind of physical and emotional illness, rather than to the illness itself.
Therefore, what we call disbelief, or slander of the True Law, which manifests as illness through the Five Components, i.e., form, perception, conception, volition and wisdom, is known as either a Devil of Illness or a Devil of the Components. We must realize that a person who agonizes over the reasons for having become sick when he has faith and is practicing that faith to the best of his ability, is coming face to face with that Devil of the Components.
As was mentioned in the previous chapter, it is true that a person who has correct faith will shine with fortune and merit, will be able to overcome illness and achieve a reformation of his humanity, and will have the power to cause a serene and grand flowering of his life.
However, it cannot be said with certainty that a person of faith will never face calamity of any kind. Even if different individuals were said to have arrived in similar fashion at correct faith in this lifetime, it must also be said that just as there are differences between each person's physiognomy, wisdom, possession or lack of talent and degree of material wealth, the degree to which a person will be tormented by illness will clearly depend on the resulting effect of that person's good and evil karma from past existences. Nichiren Daishonin states the following in the Letter from Sado:

Even more so are past slanders of the Law, which stain the depth of one's heart. A sutra states that both the crow's blackness and the heron's whiteness are actually the deep stains of their past karma.
(MW, 1-39)

He teaches us that everything in existence is summoned due to past karma. But there is no need for useless grief. A passage from the Yujutsu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra states: The Buddha is happy and at ease, with few maladies and few troubles. (Kaiketsu, p. 478) It is further stated in the Ongi Kuden: Illness is another name for the three poisons of earthly desire, and is shared by both Buddhas and bodhisattvas. As the above passage teaches, such Buddhas as the Daishonin and Shakyamuni have became ill, as have many bodhisattvas and people of greatness. You are by no means the only one who has been visited by misfortune.
Furthermore, the Nirvana Sutra speaks about the afflictions of those who [slandered the True Law in a past existence, but] who practice the True Law during this lifetime. Even if one suffers a vicious death, is severely condemned, reviled, whipped, beaten or imprisoned in chains; or even if one starves or suffers privations, he will not fall into hell. The Hatsunaion Sutra also states: Even though people suffer various kinds of afflictions, the fact that they receive them so lightly during this lifetime is a result of the beneficial power that derives from protecting the Law. As we can see from these passages, we should all realize that in order to change into medicine the poison of all our past slanders against the Law, for which we would otherwise have to undergo great suffering in the future, in order to transform grave slander and lessen our karmic retribution, we now suffer a few illnesses and a few troubles.
It is about time that we really decide whether, through practice of the True Law here and now, we will sever ourselves from the future unhappiness of falling into the hell of incessant suffering due to past slanders against the Law, or accumulate slander because of disbelief, and further amass the causes for grave suffering.
This important doctrinal principle of lessening one's karmic retribution (Jap., Tenju Kyoju) is c1early explained in Buddhism. The Daishonin states:

The Nirvana Sutra teaches the principle of lessening karmic retribution. If one's heavy karma from the past is not expiated within this lifetime, he must undergo the sufferings of hell in the future, but if he experiences extreme hardship in this life, the sufferings of hell will vanish instantly.
(from I,essening One's Karmic Retribution, MW, 1- 17)

In Letter to the Brothers, he further instructs:

This means that we, who now believe in the True Law, once committed the sin of persecuting its votary in the past, and should therefore be destined to fall into a terrible hell in the future. However, the blessings gained by practicing the True Law are so great that we can change our karma to suffer terribly in the future by meeting relatively minor sufferings in this life.
(MW, 1-138)

In reality, during the Daishonin's lifetime, many people lost their lives to widespread epidemics, famine and severe earthquakes. Unlike them, very few of the Daishonin's disciples lost their lives to such things as these epidemics. The Treatment of Illness states:

For some reason, however, there is less affliction and death among Nichiren's followers. It is indeed mysterious. Is this because we are few in number, or because our faith is strong?
(MW, 3-279)

Even though you are distressed by sickness and human suffering, my hope is that you would be keenly aware of the truth that compared to people in the outside world, your ills and troubles are, by far, few in number, and your afflictions, light.
A passage from the Hiyu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra clarifies what will become of those who slander the Law through disbelief. Because of a multitude of illnesses, they will waste away with no place to turn. This passage explains that illness will become worse and worse, and that there will be nowhere to go for relief. As opposed to that, these slight afflictions we now face will become the internally fragrant, blossom-producing, motivational force that will spark the transformation from the dark, pathetic life condition of past slanders against the Law and their future resulting agony, into our life's vividly shining world of Buddhahood.
Even if we grieve over illness, that is not going to cure the illness. There is nothing more foolish than entertaining doubts about the True Law and amassing slander while crying, Why, when I have faith, have I become sick? Why don't I get better?
Please try to somehow arouse deep faith, and without doubting the Mystic Law, continue to chant Daimoku to the Dai-Gohonzon, single- mindedly yearning to see the Buddha, not begrudging your life to do so. Then, please also try to pray and work for world-wide propagation.
Because of the power of your faith, you can believe without a doubt that the time eventually will come when you will actually be able to perceive the protection of the Gohonzon, and experience it for yourself.

IV. The Benefit of Overcoming the Suffering of Illness

No one who has not experienced the suffering of being visited by a malady can understand the distress, suffering and pain of that illness. But on the other hand, the immense joy that one feels when he has overcome that misery and experienced a revival of life, is a joy that cannot be bought at any price. There is an old proverb which says, “One illness puts an end to calamity.” The person who has a chronic illness takes better care of his body than a person with no malady, and it is also said that in the final analysis, the chronically ill person lives longer. By the same token, the moment a plant that has been raised in a greenhouse or a sterile environment is brought outside, it dies. The power to live and a nourishing of vitality can be nourished more by the gasps of suffering and battles with hardship than by an uneventful, easy going upbringing.
Experiments on a poplar tree conducted in a biology class at Mie University were recently aired on television. The first experiment involved severing branches from the poplar, which were put into a hothouse set at twenty-five degrees centigrade, in an attempt to make the branches grow.
The results are as follows.
A. Branches gathered in July budded.
B. Branches gathered in October did not bud.
C. Branches gathered in December budded.

From this experiment, it was learned that the growth progress of the plant continues until about the end of September. It was further clarified that the plant is dormant around the months of October and November, and during that period, the plant is creating new buds for the following year. The buds that were produced in December were, in the final analysis, the new buds which should have sprouted the following spring, but which came forth prematurely.
From the standpoint of ordinary common sense, we would imagine that plants are dormant during the severe winter months of January and February. But in fact, on the contrary, winter is already the beginning ofa new spring. From this fact, I would hope that you understand that the challenge presented by hardship is not really suffering, but a departure towards a new found happiness.
In the second experiment, potted poplars were prepared, and then the awakening process between winter and spring was observed. Here are the results.
A. Plants stored in the hothouse during the winter did not sprout even inApri1.
B. Plants exposed to the cold open air for ten days then budded at a temperature of twenty-five degrees centigrade.
C. Plants exposed for one month to the cold open air during the winter put forth buds at twenty degrees centigrade.
D. Plants exposed for two months to the cold open air during the winter sprouted at sixteen degrees centigrade, and grew more robustly.
From these facts, it was learned that plants which are exposed to the cold outdoor air will not bud. It was further observed that if a plant is exposed to the open air for a longer period of time, it will sprout at lower temperatures, and the new buds will grow more quickly and heartily. If these ideas are applied to human life, what might this suggest?
I would like to say that if one has not encountered storms of human suffering, one will grow no fresh sprouts of human happiness.Moreover, the longer the period of adversity, the stronger and heartier the life force that will be fostered. In a Reply to Ueno-dono, Nichiren Daishonin states.. Even if you suffer for a time, your suffering will in the end turn to delight. (Zenshu, p. 1564)
If you are courageous, and at the same time, do battle with the Devil of Illness, should you not fight bravely, like a resourceful general of the Mystic Law, without regret?
In one sense, I do not believe that illness is all bad. It is because we experience illness that we can be grateful for good health and realize the preciousness of life. Experiencing illness can further allow us to sympathize with another's misfortune, feel his tragedy as our own and be compassionate towards him.
A person in good health is apt to take living in tranquility for granted, and find it difficult to have heartfelt compassion for one who is bedridden. However, I would like to say that although a person who has experienced a grave illness may be inferior to a healthy person in terms of robustness, illness itself molds one's character. It allows one to grow two or three times as much in humanity, that is, in compassion for life, in not treating life carelessly, and in sympathy for the misfortunes of others.
In Beneficial Medicine for All Ills, Nichiren Daishonin states: From illness arises the mind that seeks the Way. (MW, 5-280)
When it comes to embracing and cultivating faith, it is the distress that comes from illness that can enable one to adhere to the True Law.
It is suffering that can stimulate the desire to earnestly chant Daimoku, and enable one to become absolutely serious without worrying about appearances.
It is when people are really healthy that they forget to be grateful for that health, and are apt to spoil their health through neglect. Or it is because they are mindless of their health that they meet with accidents in the mountains or at the beach, or meet with unexpected mishaps.
Therefore, without understanding the significance of good health a person will not realize the preciousness of life, even though he may be healthy. From the viewpoint of the fundamental mission in life of a human being, it must be said that the life condition of a person who accumulates slanders against the Law is far more sorrowfully wretched than that of the person who suffers from sickness. Happily, you and I possess the fine medicine of the Mystic Law, which surpasses the power of medical science. We further have many warm-hearted disciples of the Mystic Law to encourage and console us. Is this not reassuring?
However, overcoming the Devil of Illness does not end with merely conquering a malady. Because we can settle the accounts of our past slanders against the Lotus Sutra, obtain the means for longevity in this life and receive the fortune for good circumstances in our next existence, it must be said that the joy which results from that is truly immense.
In Curing Karmic Illness, Nichiren Daishonin writes to Ohta Nyudo:Knowing you are in agony grieves me, but, on the other hand, it is cause for delight. (MW, 2-247) I might be told that I am being tedious, but please do not forget that you and I are not just curing an ailment, but while continuing to battle illness through faith in the Mystic Law, we are striving for a human reformation in body and mind. The following two phrases appear in the Daishonin's Reply to Kyo'o.

Believe in this mandala with all your heart. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?
(MW, 1-ll9)

Kyo'o Gozen's misfortunes will change into fortune. Muster your faith and pray to this Gohonzon. Then what is there that cannot be achieved?
(ibid., p. 120)

May we do our utmost to arouse deliberate, thriving faith energy, and together, bravely get back on our feet. Then, aware for the rest of our lives of the benefit and joy that we have been granted, may we repay that debt of gratitude through our practice of Shakubuku, because the maintenance of our faith is also vital. There is a proverb which says: There is strength in continuation.

V. A Single Experience

At this juncture, I would like to speak about two things, i.e., the carelessness with which modern medical science tends to treat human life, and the tremendous mysteriousness of the Mystic Law's benefit, using the dramatic example of the existence of a single life, which I would otherwise have kept concealed. I am referring to the life of my niece, Noriko Obayashi.
Noriko was born on June 2, 1970, at the municipal hospital in the city of Kawanishi, which is located in Hyogo Prefecture. However, the joy of her birth was short-lived, because she was born with a cleft palate, and did not have the energy to drink enough milk. On top of that, she was also born with an abnormally small head, the medical term for which is microcephalia. Two days after the gir1's birth, Noriko's young parents and grandmother were forced to share the burden of her suffering with her.
On the fourth day after her birth, June 6, Noriko's father and grandmother were summoned to a separate room, where the physician in charge gave them the prognosis that Noriko was incapable of healthy growth. He told them that no matter how the situation was viewed, since the child could not be expected to develop normally, under the circumstances, even though it might seem merciless, they should consider Noriko as never having been born, and for that reason, both for Noriko's sake and the welfare of the entire household, euthanasia (mercy killing) should be performed by means of a lethal medication.
Whether due to the influences of the foods and medications ingested by mothers during pregnancy, or because of past karma, the birth of such congenitally abnormal babies has gradually increased in recent years, and dealing with them now by means of such savage deaths is not rare.
However, no matter how unfortunate a child one is burdened with, it is hardly possible that we could calmly hope for the death of our own child. To say the least, as Nichiren Shoshu believers, Niriko's father and grandmother were unable to give their tacit approval to such an atrocity.
Yet, the physician said that if they were going to raise Noriko at any cost, the hospital would not be responsible, and he wanted them to discharge the child and bring her to another hospital.
From that day onward, the grandmother made her way to the Nichiren Shoshu temple Genryuji, in the city of Ikeda, in the hope that somehow, Noriko might be saved by the very doctor who had abandoned her. But if he would not help the child now, who on earth would save her? In her heart, the grandmother determined that now was the only time to rescue Noriko, and began to commute to early morning Gongyo. In an effort to raise even a little bit of money to cover the treatment expenses, she obtained employment as a housekeeper during the day.
Then on June 17, she was introduced to the Balmore Hospital in Kobe, where the child received a medical examination, but in the end, the prognosis was the same. She then made regular visits to the Pediatric Disease Center in Osaka, clutching the less than one month old baby in her arms. The anxiety of the daily trip to Osaka for grandmother and child was excruciating.
At around this time, the grandmother began writing Haiku poems.The following are some examples of her work:

Before the Buddha, my heart longs to unleash its anguished cries.
Into the mouth of an infant who does not eat, I put my finger to make her drink.
My hungry, beloved child does not know what it is to eat, but my skin feels her cry for food.

After spending a month in this way, Noriko was removed from the Osaka Pediatric Disease Center, and was admitted to the pediatrics ward of the Momoyama Municipal Hospital in Osaka. But even though mother and child were admitted together, Noriko was not even able to drink milk or juice on her own, so she was fed milk though a tube in her nose.
Naturally, therefore, the infant could not laugh or talk. She could not even sleep peacefully. The condition of her illness was not thought to have improved in the least.
But whether one calls it the compassion or the providence of the Buddha, in March of 1971, through the strong recommendation of an itinerant public health nurse in Kawanishi City, Noriko was released from the Momoyama Hospital in Osaka, and was admitted to the newly constructed Hyogo Prefectural Children's Hospital in Kobe.
Surgery on Noriko's cleft palate was performed there under the direction of a Dr. Kimura. Afterwards, the doctor himself said that never in his life had he known of an operation to have been performed so flawlessly. It was a mystery to him why it had been such a fine operation. He was even surprised at how commendatory he himself was.
The doctor further said that the family could be relieved because Noriko would recover little by little from metal retardation and the smallness of her body. It was the first time that the family had heard joyous words from the doctor.
In this way, because of the success of her surgery under the protection of the Dai-Gohonzon, Noriko became able to drink milk on her own, and was given the energy to live. A smile finally returned to the faces of her grandmother and the whole household. But the benefit of the Mystic Law did not end there. While enduring this long journey to the bitter end, Noriko's young parents were able to realize, at the very core of their beings, both the tremendous importance of faith in the Mystic Law and the immense power of the Dai-Gohonzon.
Furthermore, while overcoming numerous obstacles, parallel to Noriko's discharge from the hospital, her parents were able to purchase property in a new development called New Town, located in a quiet suburb of Ikeda City, where they built a new house that would be appropriate for raising their sickly young child.
In truth, Noriko's parents realized that one absolutely single-minded desire for the Mystic Law gives hope in the midst of extreme anguish, which bears the fruits of both unlimited good faith and effort. They further understood that that desire not only becomes a mysterious power which transcends human understanding, and results in the invisible protection of the Gohonzon, but also brilliantly manifests as good fortune.
Like the two princes Jozo and Jogen mentioned in the Myoso Gonno Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, this helpless infant taught her young parents true faith and proved the benefit of the Mystic Law.
Here are several more poems written by Noriko's grandmother to mark the progress of the child's growth:

After a night of rain, the rainbow is magnificent. (July, 1972)
The season of mowers passed, the child browns in the blazing sun. (August, 1972)
Holding the infant to my breast, I feel her weight increase day by day. (October, 1972)
A cough reaches me from the sleeping child. A pang of fear. (November, 1972)
The child peels a mandarin orange. She is growing, the nape of her neck so lovely. (Winter, 1972)
Naked in the pool, no sign of weight loss in the summer heat.(Summer, l973)
A child of three, How curious this paper called money.(Winter, 1973)
The visage of the sleeping child so innocent - the face of the Buddha. (Spring, 1974)
I watch her stand, I see her kneel - it's the Children's Festival.(November, 1974)

Then in April, l975, Noriko entered nursery school with her playmates.

The garden in full bloom, a cuckoo comes to play. (April, 1975)
After a brief rain, I cannot measure the growth of the young bamboo. (May, 1975)

It has been five long years since that declaration of Noriko's death sentence, but now her house is filled with joy each and every day is a day to repay that debt of gratitude.
The words of the following two quotes from the Gosho are proven by Noriko's story. In The Bow and Arrow, Nichiren Daishonin replies to Toki-ama Gozen: Your illness is surely not due to karma, but even if it were, you could rely on the power of the Lotus Sutra to cure it.(MW, 7-125) Again, in Reply to Kyo’o: “Kyo’o G.ozen’s misfortunes will change into fortune. Muster your faith and pray to this Gohonzon. Then what is there that cannot be achieved?
Noriko's story is no more than one small case in point. But this kind of experience, this kind of magnificent drama of human reformation and a return to life, is now unfolding one after the other on a global scale within the homes of Nichiren Shoshu believers. In his Gosho, On Prayer, the Daishonin instructs:

And yet, though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and now and the sun rise up from the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.

When a believer in the Mystic Law offers sincere prayer, it is hardly possible that any immense jewel of blessing or irreplaceably supreme good fortune will not shine.
However, what is most important here is that throughout our lives and even in our dreams, we must not forget the influence of the Dai-Gohonzon, its power of the Buddha and the Law, and the benefit, joy and strong sense of gratitude which we receive due to the power of our faith and practice.
I somehow feel that the sad person is the one who is apt to forget the times of suffering and his indebtedness to the Buddha.
In The Opening of the Eyes (II) , Nichiren Daishonin warns: Whether tempted by good or threatened by evil, if one casts aside the Lotus Sutra, he destines himself for hell. (MW, 2-200)
The life of Noriko's family is just beginning. What kinds of sufferings will the members of her family face in the future? There is nothing more fearful than idleness and force of habit. When they have continued their faith in the True Law for ten or twenty years, as Nichiren Daishonin states in Letter to Niike:

Still greater are the benefits arising from ten or twenty contributions, or from five years, ten years, or a lifetime of contributions. They are even beyond the measure of the Buddha's wisdom.
(MW, 1-254)

In terms of one's life, the immense, infinite benefits that blossom from the continuation of faith are so great that not even the Buddha's wisdom can measure them.
Please do your best to etch the following words of the Daishonin, the Gohonzon of the Latter Day of Law, deep within your hearts.

Therefore I say to you, my disciples, try practicing as the Lotus Sutra teaches, exerting yourselves without begrudging your lives !Test the truth of Buddhism!
(The Selection of the Time, MW, 3- 181)

You also are a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra and your faith is like the waxing moon or the rising tide. Be deeply convinced, then, that your illness cannot possibly persist and that your life cannot fail to be extended! Take care of yourself and do not burden your mind with grief.
(The Bow and Arrow, MW, 7- 126)

Please chant Daimoku with your whole heart, encourage each other, and construct and protect the treasure tower of your life, which cannot be bought, no matter how much treasure one has in the bank. Build that tower high, strong and sturdy. Be strong! Conquer your own weakness! Overcome your illness! Win on the job! Win in life! Polish your humanity! I would like to say that it is exactly for these purposes that we have Buddhism. What are you waiting for?

VI. Concerning Tranquility in This Life

It is explained in the Kanpotsu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra: A person who embraces and recites this sutra shall not be attached by greed to clothing, bedding, food and drink, or materials for living. His desires shall be fulfilled, and he shall obtain good fortune in this life. (Kaiketsu , p. 670) It is further explained: A person who embraces and extols this Sutra shall obtain great fortune in this lifetime. (ibid., 671) However, the benefit and good fortune that Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism says we shall receive is not the kind of dubious, feigned benefit spoken of by the likes of the Nembutsu, the founders of new religions and religious fraternities, which depend on prayer to an external power, inferior, happy-go-lucky occult powers, or shamans.
Through the power of faith in, and practice of the Mystic Law, we can awaken the Buddha nature of the True Cause existing within the deep recesses of human life, and cause the life condition of the Buddha to fragrantly blossom within our hearts, so that no matter what kind of suffering we encounter, through the power of the Supreme Law, we can even build, with our own determination and conviction, a self that is immovable and life condition that is impregnably happy.
Buddhism explains that rather than cursing our anguish, running away from and renouncing our sufferings, becoming suicidal or abandoning ourselves, we can use our tribulations as a springboard for a fresh leap toward a stronger, more resolute and crystallinely golden road to humanity.
Sad to say, however, there are people who unjustly resent their sufferings, throw away the religious tenets of their ancestors, blame their illness, their many sufferings and their unhappiness on the fact that they joined Nichiren Shoshu, and then, hysterically frightened, give themselves over to drink, find fault with their spouses and friends and finally damage the Gohonzon.
The following is a thorough explanation given in the Kanji Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Demons will take possession of others and through them curse, revile and heap shame on us. (Rissho Ankoku Ron, MW, 2-16) The Juryo Chapter further expounds: This is because the poison has penetrated deeply, causing them to lose their true minds. (Lectures on the Sutra, p. 105) In the Letter to Niike, the Daishonin states: The sage, it seems, has been possessed by a devil. He is like a basically even-tempered person who, when drunk, reveals an evil side and causes trouble. (MW, 1-257) As the above passages indicate, when it comes to this Buddhism, people of position or reputation, those thought to be Persons Of character or otherwise mild-mannered, are completely transformed, and in their abuse of others, their features become diabolical and their language foul.
Concerning these kinds of persons, the Daishonin states in, The Selection of the Time: If a man builds a road for others and someone loses his way on it, is that the fault of the road-builder? (MW, 3-82) This passage teaches that it is exactly these kinds of people who blame the builder of a road, when they have gotten lost on it through their own fault. They are the kind of people who unjustly resent the pioneers who bore through mountains and build bridges in order to pave a highway.
The Great Master Miao-1o also stated the following in the ninth volume of his Chronicles on the Hokke Mongu. Whether a person advances or retreats in Buddhist practice is up to the individual. It has nothing to do with the sacred teachings of the Buddha.
“A person's doubt and error are his own responsibility.” You should strictly refrain from blaming the sacred teachings of Buddhism for your own ambiguity and lack of wisdom. If you consider the fact that the illness you suffer from and the many dismal adversities you cry over, are the results of causes you yourself have made according to the law of cause and effect, you can realize that the person you were born as, the life condition you were born with, the person you married, the children you gave birth to and the severe adversities you face, are all due to your bonds of karma from the remote past. With that in mind, your present circumstances are also due to the seeds you have sown in your present daily life. Therefore, your present circumstances are neither someone else's fault, nor the fault of society. Things will not be resolved by cursing your parents.
Even though it may seem at first glance that your present situation is the fault of bad government, environ-mental pollution or your spouse, if you search into the fundamental causes, in the final analysis, you should come to realize that you yourself have formed those causal connections or karmic relations within your own life. Of course, the powers of medical science are a natural necessity and the taking of medication is also important. However, in order to find a true cure for sickness and victory over the Devil of Illness, what is most fundamentally important is having an attitude in dealing with disease which promotes the unity of the members of your family, their joining of energies and their mutual infusion of strong life force. From there, you must pick up, elevate, and protect your own human life at its source.
When I say that you must stand up and effect a monumental human reformation through the True Law that includes a change in all of your own past karma, I am not speaking casually— I am appealing and crying out to your soul.
It is exactly for that purpose that I am trying to glorify the dignity and flowering of life, as well as its fullness and joy. I have attempted to do this by giving explanations of Shakyamuni's ultimate purpose as manifested in the Lotus Sutra, and by presenting examples of documentary proof written by the Great Master of the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin, which I have accompanied by concrete illustrations of natural law and an account of a person's return to life. Where are the sutras or philosophical principles whose logic clearly explains how a person can manifest the life condition of Buddhahood and obtain fundamental salvation and reform by singing the hymns of the Shingon sect, or by intoning the name of the Nembutsu sect's Amida Buddha or by sitting in the lotus position of the Zen sect? Where in this world is there logic or documentary proof that thoroughly explains that one can reveal the world of Buddhahood and find an essential solution that spans the Three Existences with an indestructible human life by praying to the cross, performing the dance of Tenri-kyo or conducting Shinto rites; or by worshiping a fox, the spirits of the dead, or statues of Amida or Yakushi Buddha?
We should believe in the Buddha's ultimate purpose, his supreme truth, his absolute documentary evidence and his clear actual proof.There can be no human reformation based on undocumented, meaningless ideas.
It is precisely because of the True Law, the True Master and the True Doctrine that we can build a self that can overcome tribulation and obstacles by demons. Therefore, the Yakusoyu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra explains. “Tranquility in this lifetime and good circumstances in the next.” (Kaiketsu, p. 282) Tranquility in this lifetime does not mean a honey-sweet kind of existence, passive quietude or a life free of troubles. Rather, in a more positive, active and independent vein, this phrase connotes that one stands resolutely against the forces of a gale, no matter what kind of trials one is assailed by, and maintains an unwavering determination and conviction. The phrase further connotes a strength and luminescence of character, as well as a staunch brilliance of faith.
Consider this. A flower that blossoms in the serene security of a flower garden or a green house is so beautiful to look at that it is enchanting. But the life of such a flower is so short and fleeting that it does not deeply touch a person's heart. Conversely, a single flower that has survived the wind and snow to blossom in a forbidding crevice of a boulder high in the mountains possesses a characteristically strong beauty and impressive drive that is quite moving.
When it comes to the peacefulness of waves, lakes and streams are shallower than a great ocean, so the waves in lakes and streams are also quieter. However, one cannot launch oneself out into the world from an inland lake or stream.
Even though there may be huge, raging waves in a great ocean due to flowing of warm and cold currents, the broad, deep ocean embraces all rivers and many torrential rains, and buried beneath its depths, it contains limitless resources.
As long as one is swept away by billowing waves, sheds tears because of the tempests of life, and grieves while succumbing to various hardships, one does not understand the true nature of tribulation and demonic obstacles.
It is just these great obstacles, illnesses and wild tempests that polish a person, make her mature and force her to be strong and resolute. You must attain a life condition from which you w view these problems as the good friend who inspires you to achieve massive personal reform.In The Three Devils and Four Obstacles, the Daishonin states:

There is something extraordinary in the ebb and now of the tide, the rising and setting of the moon, and the way in which summer, autumn, winter and spring give way to each other. Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood. At such a time, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
(MW, 2-288)

In Winter Always Turns to Spring, he further states:

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, which never fails to turn into spring. Never have I seen or heard of winter turning into autumn. Nor have I ever heard of any believer in the Lotus Sutra who remained a common mortal. A passage from the sutra reads, Among those who hear of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood.
(MW, 1-150)

Here are two proverbs: “Joyous events are followed by many demons,” and, “Adversity makes a man wise.”
If you are a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin, I pray that you will read the Daishonin's Gosho and the quintessence of the Lotus Sutra with your heart, and practice the same with your body.

VII. Concerning the Devil of Death

One of the Three Obstacles and Four Devils mentioned in Buddhism is called the Devil of Death. This term simply refers to such fatal calamities as premature, accidental or unforeseen deaths. Or, the term can also connote the doubts about faith which arise from such an accident or death, and because of which, in the end, a person foolishly nips the attainment of Buddhahood in the bud.
There is no mistake that the loss of life due to a traffic accident or unexpected disaster is certainly a tragic event. But the loss of faith which can result from such tragedy is the most lamentable thing of all.The Nirvana Sutra warns that this loss of faith destroys innumerable good deeds and deprives us of good thoughts, and further, destroying purity of heart, this loss of faith becomes the cause for falling into the hell of incessant suffering.
What could be the causes for such tragic disasters and unnatural deaths?
The first thing that comes to mind is carelessness and negligence. I believe that living in this danger-filled modern society, all of us have encountered one or two such near-miss experiences. If we think about such situations as driving in a car, or children running out into traffic, just being alive today is a thing to be wondered about. In Encouragement to a Sick Person, the Daishonin states: It is amazing that I should have survived until now. (MW, 6-32)
But are there not people who are under the illusion that because they have faith and embrace the Mystic Law, they can do anything they want, or it will be all right even if they are a little excessive? If there are such people, they had better correct such superficial ideas immediately. It is exactly because we are disciples of the Daishonin and members of Nichiren Shoshu that we must be all the more careful on a day to day basis, and must eliminate arrogance, negligence and haughtiness from our hearts.
Our caution to maintain pure faith and prudence is the greatest safeguard in preventing unforeseen calamity. In The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin tells Shijo Kingo: It is a matter of rejoicing that your usual prudence and courage, as well as your firm faith in the Lotus Sutra, enabled you to survive unharmed. (MW, 1-245)
The second cause for tragedy and unnatural death is retribution for slandering the True Law. There is a passage in the Hosshi Chapter of the Lotus Sutra which states: If, with a single evil word, someone slanders either a lay person or a priest who recites the Lotus Sutra, that sin is extremely grave. (Kaiketsu, p. 386) If a person slanders the True Law, is filled with jealously and resentment for practitioners of Buddhism and compounds slanderous disbelief within his heart, that person will unknowingly spoil his own fortune, and will internally sustain invisible sins, which will, in due course, manifest distinctly in that person's life as external retribution in the form of illness, injury or unexpected accident. The intensity of this slander will further become general retribution, devastating the hearts of a whole nation's people, and resulting in the economic and territorial aggression of war. In An Outline of the Zokurui and Other Chapters, Nichiren Daishonin warns:

Even among those who embrace the Lotus Sutra according to its words, there are some who resent the votary of the Lotus Sutra either because of their greed, anger and stupidity, or because of worldly matters, or because of his various actions.
(MW, 5-267)

This passage gives us a warning about the horror of the sin of the person who might be said to be a believer in the Mystic Law, but who, because of the direct effects of earthly desire, is filled with jealous resentment, turns his back on the Buddha and deceives the Master.
The third reason for such tragedies, as was stated earlier, is that an unnatural death may be for the sake of lessening one' s karmic retribution.
I cite once again this significant passage from the Nirvana Sutra. Even if one suffers a vicious death, is severely condemned, reviled, whipped, beaten or imprisoned in chains; or even if one starves or suffers privations, he will not fall into hell.
As the Hiyu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra explains, the Buddha sees the true aspect of our world.

He sees living beings seared and consumed by birth, old age, sickness and death, care and suffering...they undergo the pain of poverty and want, the pain of parting from loved ones, the pain of encountering those they detest - all these many different kinds of pain. Yet living beings, drowned in the midst of all this, delight and amuse themselves, unaware, unknowing, without alarm or fear. They feel no sense of loathing and make no attempt to escape.
(The Lotus Sutra, Translated by Burton Watson, p. 59)

In spite of the existence of the finest, most priceless jewel with which one can overcome illness, tragic disasters and unnatural deaths, the present situation is that people revile it and will not pick it up. Even though they hear the True Law, they entertain misgivings and doubts, and do not have the courage to understand true reason. Because of this, people are unable to lighten the most severe calamities. It is explained in Buddhism that the four sufferings and eight sufferings, which occur in every person's life, are clearly trivial in comparison to falling into the hell of incessant suffering as a result of slanderous disbelief. These sufferings are: 1) the suffering of birth; 2) the suffering of sickness; 3) suffering caused by the aging of the body, and subsequent decrease in vitality and life condition; 4) the suffering of death (although this term refers to the anxiety one experiences at the last moment of one's life, that suffering is clearly less severe than the incessant suffering of hell); 5) the suffering of parting from those whom one loves (the suffering which arises from parting from one's body at death, from wealth, and from immediate family and other relatives; 6) the suffering of meeting those one hates (ultimate evil retribution and fear of the infinite); 7) the suffering of being unable to obtain what one seeks (seeking freedom from evil teachings, suffering and bad fortune, but being unable to attain it; also suffering from vainly desiring a hoped for situation, a variety of beneficial powers, good teachings, comfort, good effects and supporting conditions, but being unable to obtain them); 8) sufferings arising from the five components of life, i.e., form (physical aspect of life), perception, conception, volition to act, and consciousness.
Tragic accidents and calamities are not the only things to be dreaded. Far more fearful is for these to result in doubts about faith, loss of the True Law, turning to erroneous ideologies, philosophies and religions, and the undermining of body, mind and life itself. The is why the Nirvana Sutra explains:

Do not fear such things as evil elephants. You should rather fear evil friends. The reason for this is that an evil elephant can destroy only the body, but not the heart. Evil friends can destroy both body and heart together.

Looking at it from a different angle, even if a practitioner of the True Law should happen to encounter an unexpected, tragic accident, we should realize that through the beneficial power of the True Law, he will rather..
1. draw the effects he would otherwise receive in his next life, to receive them in the present.
2. lessen the grave retribution of incessant suffering.
3. receive a lesser punishment in this lifetime instead of falling into hell in the future, and both here and now, simultaneously transform past slanders against the Law and future karmic suffering, thereby achieving a supreme reformation in his life.

Furthermore, should a person die because of an accident or disaster, there is actually no other way to offer true memorial prayers for their immediate attainment of the supremely enlightened state of Buddhahood than through the True Supreme Law of Myoho Renge Kyo. The more tragic and pitiful the individual's demise, the more we must offer memorial prayers through this True Law to assist their attainment of Buddhahood.
There is absolutely no other direct path to Buddhahood for a person whose slander of the Law and heresy are great, than through the Supreme Law of Myoho Renge Kyo. I hope that you will never forget the following passage that the Daishonin wrote in Hell and Buddhahood.

Even though one may practice the provisional teachings for uncountable aeons, he will only fall into hell if he turns against the Lotus Sutra.
(MW, 2-240)

There is also this passage from Repaying Debts of Gratitude.

A hundred years of practice in the land of Perfect Bliss cannot compare to the benefit gained from one day's practice in this impure world.
(MW, 4-272)

The Daishonin is giving us instruction that even if our life in this world is brief, the benefit we can obtain by embracing the Mystic Law and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for even one day is greater than practicing in the land of Perfect Bliss for one hundred years. Moreover, the following explanation is given in On the Protection of the Nation.

At the moment of death, even though a person who believes in the Lotus Sutra neither prays to the Buddha, recites the Sutra nor enters a place of Buddhist practice, he shall obtain the benefit of unconsciously illuminating the universe and soundlessly reciting the entirety of the sutras. Though he does not reach to pick up the scroll of a single sutra, he shall receive the benefit of having taken hold of the entire eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra.
(Zenshu, p. 56)

How important is it that we embrace the Mystic Law? You should know that this immense Mystic Law exists for the sake of living people, whether they are troubled, sick or unhappy, who want their lives to blossom with great strength and breadth, both in this life and the next. But the Mystic Law also exists for the sake of those who have already died in the past. I hope you will pay particular attention to this next passage, which is also from On the Protection of the Nation.

Both priests and lay believers should pray earnestly to be able to discern between heretical and true paths. After that, you should embrace the True Law and pray for your next life. Should you lose your life hereafter and fall into the three evil paths, even if you regret it later, it will be too late.

At the same time, you should always think that this is the last moment of your life, and with that sense of mission and resolution, you should offer your life for the propagation of the Mystic Law. In Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life, the Daishonin states:

Be resolved to summon forth the great power of your faith, and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of your death.

He further states in Reply to Ueno-dono:

You are going to die one way or another. Since this is so, you should offer you life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, even if tentatively.
(Zenshu, p. 1561)

If you possess the conviction that this is the last moment of your life and single-mindedly yearn to see the Buddha, not begrudging your life to do so, if you live for the sake of the Lotus Sutra and offer your life for the propagation of the Mystic Law, there should be no reason for doubt, interference or jealous resentment. If you do that, you should be able to live fully and imperturbably on a daily basis. We are taught in the Gosho, The Gift of Rice:

But what is the meaning of Nam? This word derives from Sanskrit, is pronounced kuei-ming in Chinese and kimyo in Japanese, and means to devote one's life. Ultimately it means to offer our lives to the Buddha.
(MW, 1-267)

Even Confucius states: If you hear about the True Path one morning, you should not mind dying that same evening. Rather than doubting that you may die today, or being frightened, you should follow the Daishonin's golden words from The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra. Regard your survival as wondrous. Moreover, you should be grateful that you have been able to live until today, and should deeply consider the significance of the joy of your having been able to encounter the supremely profound secret of the Mystic Law sooner than other people in this world.
As the words, “...let us live longer”, from the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra indicate, we should consider each morning's awakening as a new life bestowed on us by the Buddha. In other words, we are reborn each and every day. We should further live each day with a feeling of dignity and a desire to make that day significant.
Today will never come again. It is only because we think in terms of a seventy or eighty year life span that we are careless about today. Instead of that, it is important to discover how to live today without the slightest regret.
If you live for your mission with this kind of resolution, then no matter how painfully sad the realities that befall you may be, True Buddhism will cause the potential of Buddhahood within your life to blossom forth, and give you the wisdom and power to overcome those difficulties.
The most important thing in life is not how to succeed, but how to overcome painfully sorrowful tribulations, obstacles, and devils. I want to tell you that True Buddhism will foster that power deep within your heart.

VIII. Concerning Definite (Immutable) and Indefinite (Mutable) Karma

People often say such things as, No matter what I do, I just don't have any luck. Then again, there are those who do not seem to work very hard, but who ride the waves of success to become stars and celebrities.
That may not be so bad as long as a person actually feels more blessed than others, but when such a person lapses into adverse circumstances, in many cases he will try to sidestep his own neglect and lack of faith and self-righteousness to blame others, or curse himself, and finally judge things emotionally and become embroiled in unfounded rumors or popular opinion.
However, as I mentioned earlier in reference to the lessening of karmic retribution, Buddhism posits:

...because you committed countless offenses and accumulated much evil karma in the past, you must expect to suffer retribution for everything you have done. You may be reviled, cursed with an ugly appearance, be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished or heretical family, or be persecuted by your sovereign. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can diminish in this lifetime his suffering and retribution.
(MW, 2-200)

The Letter to the Brothers states:

...the blessings gained by practicing the True Law are so great that we can change our karma to suffer terribly in the future by meeting relatively minor sufferings in this life.
(MW, l-138)

We are told that we should realize that we can actually transmute our future incessant sufferings in hell by receiving a lesser retribution during this lifetime.
Although there may be people who wonder how Buddhism can make such statements, or who are perplexed by them, the Shinchikan Sutra nevertheless states:

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present.
(MW, 2-l97)

As this passage indicates, if we look at the karmic seeds planted within a person's life, the fortuitous wisdom he or she possesses and the law which he or she practices, all of which are illuminated by the law of cause and effect transcending the Three Existences of past, present and future, we will probably see why Buddhism can make such claims.
In the fifth volume of the Maka Shikan, the Great Master T'ien-t'ai states: “Due to karmic actions in the past, a person entrusts his life to his mother and father to [reside in the mother's womb] and be born in his present body.”
Further, in The Opening of the Eyes, the Daishonin states: “And the mirror of' the Buddha's Law makes clear the causal actions committed in the past.” (MW, 2-200) Moreover, in the following passages, the Daishonin clarifies the smiling life condition of his inner heart as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, the True Buddha Able to Endure, who overcame such great persecutions as the exiles to Izu and Sado, and the Tatsunokuchi and Komatsubara.persecutions.

As seen from the enlightened eye of wisdom of the Juryo Chapter of the Essential Teachings, the original possession of illness and suffering are clarified. Accordingly, this is the wisdom of the Buddha of Intrinsically Perfect Wisdom.
(Ongi Kuden, Zenshu, p.773)

Hearing of this, I rejoiced, saying that I had long expected it to come to this.
(On the Buddha's Behavior, MW, 1-175)

Therefore, with the knowledge that our present sufferings from illness are due to past karma, we should now practice of the True Doctrine of the True Law and the True Master, and know that the fortune of that practice will shine both now and in our future lives.
What are the causes of definite and indefinite karma? What causes our karma to be heavy or light? Here is an explanation of definite karma given in the Yuga Shichi Ron.
1. Karma due to Desire (Jap., Igyo):
This is karma which derives from desires for fame, riches, and honor, or from earthly desire or slander.
2. Karma due to Repetitive Action (Jap., Kagyo):
This is heavy karma sustained from continuous slander repeated incessantly over a long period of time, or from accumulated slander committed through the encouragment of others.
3. Karma due to slander of a beneficial “Field” [object of veneration that enables one to cultivate fortune] (Jap., Den):
Through slander of people to whom one owes a debt of gratitude, such as one's parents, or through slander of the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood), one will lose good fortune and earn heavy karma.
A person whose life possesses even one such offense will sustain heavy, definite (immutable) karma. Other, lighter, karma is indefinite (mutable).
The fifteenth volume of the Kusha Ron gives the following explanation of definite karma.
1. Definite karma sustained through strong emotion.
In other words, this refers to people who, motivated by strong earthly desire, commit slander. However, this may also result from profound reflection with a pure heart. If a person who has not yet encountered the True Law takes faith in a heretical religion, even though the person may reflect deeply based on a pure, but minor goodness, the result is that the person increasingly commits slander. No matter how well intentioned a person is, if he practices an evil path, minor goodness will be transformed into great evil.
2. Karma sustained through habitual conduct.
This refers to people who accumulate slander through habits that are passed on by his forebears.
3. Karma arising from a conduct relating to that which possesses merit.
This refers to the offenses of people who slander the merit of the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood. In other words, it refers to people who slander the True Law.
4. Definite karma arising from conduct towards one’s mother and father.
In other words, this is retribution that results from causing suffering, anguish, or injury to people to whom one owes a profound debt of gratitude, such as one's parents. However, if a person is fettered by the bonds of affection and thereby clings to the heretical religion of his mother, father or master, this will result in the sustaining of definite karma, even if it was done in the name of filial piety.
The aforementioned represent heavy, immutable karma sustained because of evil conduct. Karma not contained within the aforementioned categories is indefinite or mutable.
The above classifications discuss the severity of karma. The fourth chapter of the Daibibasha Ron, meanwhile, explains three periods in which karmic retribution (whether definite or indefinite) is received.
1.Present-life Karma (Present-life retribution):
This refers to people who have made bad karmic causes in the present life, and who also receive that retribution during this life. This is explained in the Kanpotsu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

If anyone sees a person who accepts and upholds this sutra and tries to expose the faults or evils of that person, whether what he speaks is true or not, he will in his present existence be afflicted with white leprosy.
(The Lotus Sutra, Translated by Burton Watson, p. 324)

The Great Master T'ien-t'ai explains: The Lotus Sutra is the core of all the sutras.... if out of arrogance one does not refrain from slighting it, the tongue in one's mouth will break out in sores.
2. Next-life Karma (Next life retribution)
This refers to people who have made bad karmic causes in their present existence, but who, instead of receiving retribution for their slander against the Law in this lifetime, will receive that punishment in their next existence. The Hiyu Chapter of the Lotus Sutra explains:If a person fails to have faith, but instead slanders this sutra, immediately he will destroy all the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world...When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell... (The Lotus Sutra, Translated by Burton Watson, p.74) The Daishonin explains the reason for this in The Opening of the Eyes.

All these various similes illustrate the fact that icchantika of the most evil type will invariably fall into the hell of incessant suffering at the time of their successive rebirths. Therefore they do not suffer any immediate punishment in this life.
(MW, 2-l99)

At first glance, people who accumulate slander seem to enjoy a happy life. The reason they do not seem to suffer any kind of retribution in the present is because they will be punished either in their next or, as explained below, in a later lifetime.
2. Later Karma (Retribution received later than the next rebirth)
This refers to people who make negative karmic causes in their present lives, and who will receive the effects after two or more rebirths. In his Shakusen, volume Ill, the Great Master Miao-1o chronicles: “Retribution for slander against the Law will continue for many aeons.” In The Opening of the Eyes, the Daishonin states:

But not a single person who adheres to these ninety-five types of higher or lower [non-Buddhist] teachings ever escapes from the cycle of birth and death. Those who follow teachers of the better sort will, after two or three rebirths, fall into the lowest states of existence, while those who follow evil teachers will fall into the lowest states in their very next rebirth.
(MW, 2-77)

He makes it clear that if we do not base our lives on the Mystic Law, setting aside the good or evil of other matters, we will one day have to receive retribution for our slander against the Law.
Therefore, you should know that in cases where the sufferings of daily life, the devil of illness, and other human afflictions are the result of light, indefinite (mutable) karma, such problems can probably be resolved either through one's own efforts or the powers of medical science. But you should also know that if the same sufferings are the result of heavy, definite (immutable) karma, no matter how hard one tries, there will be no relief. Even if one consults a doctor, it will be fruitless, and the suffering will penetrate more and more deeply. Whatever one says, there is no way to change immutable karma and find true relief, except through the Mystic Law. I would like you to read and engrave in your heart these words that the Daishonin wrote to Shijo Kingo in the Gosho, General Stone Tiger.

The Yuga Ron of Bodhisattva Maitreya and the Dai Ron of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna both state that if one's illness is caused by immutable karma, even the most excellent medicine will turn I to poison, but if he believes in the Lotus Sutra, poison will change into medicine.
(MW, 1-225)

In this way, a person with immutable karma, who is unaware of the Mystic Law, will, in any event, have to suffer retribution one day, whether it be in this life, in successive rebirths or in the life following his next one. But in the case of mutable karma, the thirty-first chapter of the Nirvana Sutra states the following.

Retribution for mutable karma will be received immediately upon encountering the [appropriate] influence. Without the influence, there will be no retribution.

As this passage indicates, it is most important that we do not form relationships with evil masters, evil paths or evil doctrines. In The Entity of the Mystic Law, the Daishonin states:

The mystic principle of the true aspect of reality is one, but if it encounters evil influences it will manifest delusion, while if it encounters good influences it will manifest enlightenment.

This passage teaches that it is most important that we avoid evil influences and evil friends, that we form connections with good friends, the True Law and the True Doctrine, and walk unswervingly on the great path of life.
The Nirvana Sutra explains the following about people who do not listen to the Lotus Sutra, and who lack faith and commit slander against the Law.
1. Their mutable karma will become immutable.
2. Retribution for karma created in this life, that should have been received in this life, will be postponed until the next life.
3. Mild retribution will become severe retribution.
4. Retribution that should have been received while the person was alive, will be received with ore severity after the person has fallen into hell.
In other words, slanderers of the Law may not seem to have anything untoward happen to them, and may seem to enjoy lives of ease. But in fact, they do not encounter suffering in this life because these kinds of people will receive in their next life the retribution that they were supposed receive in this one, and because retribution that they should have received while alive will be received more severely while they are living in hell. They live their lives like crazed or abortive mowers, whose fruit does not come to fruition in this lifetime. The Daishonin gives instruction concerning this matter in Letter to Horen.

They are like men who have already been sentenced to execution and are awaiting their turn in prison. While they are in prison, regardless of what evil acts they may commit, they will receive no further punishment other than the death sentence already passed upon them.
(MW, 7-121)

The Daishonin compares a slanderer of the Law to a prisoner facing the death penalty. Even if he commits a number of unpardonable actions while in prison, if he has only a short while to live before his death sentence is carried out, it is not likely that he will be reprimanded for those actions.
Further, Buddhism expounds the Five Signs of Decay of a Heavenly Being. No matter how prosperous or opulent a person becomes, no matter whether one becomes royalty, nobility, a person with imperial authority, or a celebrity, the influence of that status lasts at most five or ten years, and is no more than a fleeting dream, like a castle built on the sand.
According to the Nirvana Sutra, the Five Signs of Decay of a Heavenly Being are:
1. His Clothing Will Become Dirty.
No matter how beautiful one's clothes are now, they will become soiled, and will one day become stained. It is impossible to maintain their original beauty forever. Moreover, however many clothes one may have, one actually wears only a few items at a time. One cannot wear all one's clothing all at once; having wealth and finery does not instantly bring happiness. 2. The Flowers Crowning His Head Will Wither. No matter how splendid a mower garland may be, before long it will fade and wilt. In the same way, no matter how one boasts of youthfulness or intelligence, the mind grows old, and before one is aware of it, both mind and body are assaulted by illness. Of course, the only way to remain eternally youthful and maintain vigorously powerful vitality is to embrace and practice the True Law.
3. His Body Will Smell and Become Defiled.
This refers to the thriving of the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity within one's life. One will also eventually be afflicted with karmic illness and suffer from a dirty, foul-smelling body.
4. His Armpits Will Sweat.
Dismayed by the affairs of the world and terrified by calamity, one's armpits will break out into a cold sweat. In other words, the joy derived from being royalty or nobility will, in an instant, make a complete turnabout, and before one realizes it, one's happiness and conviction will disappear and be lost.
5. He Will Feel No Value in Living.
That is, in one's heart, one will not be able to find any intrinsic joy in life's activities. Nor will one's life be vibrant. It could be said that this is a life condition is such that one can neither continue to enjoy one’s own position, nor freely or tranquilly accomplish one's mission, either at home, at the work place, or within society. When going off to work, one worries about one's superiors and colleagues, and when at home, one worries about work. One feels no inner composure, nor can one find enough contentment for enthusiasm to well up from the depths of one's heart. Neither can one find delight or joy in living. Such a situation could be called the inability to feel any value in being alive.
In this way, when our lives are not based on the True Doctrine of the True Law and the True Master, when they are not founded on the world of Buddhahood, which is as indestructible as a diamond and causes a fragrant blossoming within our hearts, in the end, the meeting joy and pleasure we experience is like a momentary, crazed mower or an empty image that crumbles in an instant. That cannot be called true happiness or glory.
In contrast, a person of the True Law can transform his life and environment into the land of eternally tranquil light, and carve for himself a life condition that allows him to take full pleasure in his own mission.
Moreover, no matter how one might be assailed by the sufferings of past karma, one can..
1. transform immutable karma into mutable karma;
2. turn around karmic retribution for present causes that should have been received in one's next life, so that it is received in this life, and attain the strong life condition written about in Letter to the Brothers:

The doctrine of ichinen sanzen revealed in the fifth volume of the Maka Shikan is especially profound. If you propagate it, devils will arise without fail. Were it not for these, there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching.
(MW, 1-l45)

3. make severe karmic retribution light;
4. receive light karmic retribution in this lifetime (instead of falling into hell in one's next life.)
Again, it is stated in Letter lo the Brothers:

This means that we, who now believe in the True Law, once committed the sin of persecuting its votary in the past, and should therefore be destined to fall into a terrible hell in the future.However, the blessings gained by practicing the True Law are so great that we can change our karma to suffer terribly in the future by meeting relatively minor sufferings in this life.

As this passage indicates, it is because of the power of the Mystic Law, because of the power Of its benefit, that we can both lessen and escape our karmic retribution, and in due course, bear the fruit of true, indestructible happiness. In the Gosho, On Prolonging Life, the Daishonin states:

Sincere repentance will eradicate even immutable karma, to say nothing of karma which is mutable.
(ibid., p. 229)

When I, Nichiren, prayed for my mother, not only was her illness cured, but her life was prolonged by four years.
(ibid., p. 230)

As these passages indicate, the Daishonin proved that his mother was cured through the beneficial power of the Mystic Law, and instructed Toki Jonin's wife that she should also be healed through the Mystic Law's beneficial power. You will not resolve immutable karma by being bitter about it or cursing it. The following instruction is found in Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man:

If only you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to come?This is the truth, and it is of great profundity. You should believe and accept it.
(MW, 5-110)

As this passage instructs, if we embrace the Dai-Gohonzon, chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and attain the life condition of Buddhahood, which is as indestructible as a diamond, there is no need to fear anything, whether our karma is immutable or mutable.
I believe that karmic suffering polishes human life and polishes faith, and increases the brilliance of one's happiness. The Great Master Miao- lo clarifies four forces that change immutable karma in the eighth volume of his Guketsu.

Changing immutable karma entails four forces. The first is the power of the path, the second is the protection of the Buddha, the third is the method of treatment and the fourth is not begrudging one's life.

The Twenty-sixth High Priest of Taisekiji, Nichikan Shonin, further stated in the Yakuo-bon Lecture on the Eradication of Illness (Research Text 10-608) :

First, the power of the path is the power of faith, that is, faith in the golden words of the Master of the Juryo Chapter of the Essential Teachings. As for the second, the protection of the Buddha, if faith is already strong, one will obtain the protection of all the Buddhas. Obtaining the protection of the Buddha also depends on the aforementioned power of faith. Third, the method of treatment refers to the fact that we should chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, not doubting the Mystic Law of the Juryo Chapter of the Essential Teachings. Chanting the Mystic Law is the same as using fine medicine. And fourth, not begrudging one's life means that without begrudging our lives for even a split second, we should sweat day and night, morning and evening, to attain Buddhahood. With possession of these four forces, one can transform immutable karma without fail.

First, with the power of faith, second, with the protection of the Buddha, third, with Daimoku, and fourth, without begrudging our lives, we should strive to teach all mankind the path to Buddhahood. In other words, the one supreme path to eradicating the immutable retribution of grave karma entails praying for Kosen-rufu and persevering in Shakubuku and teaching activities.

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