The Three Great Secret Laws

The Japanese Buddhist term sandai hihō means “Three Great Secret Laws,” and refers to a doctrine first expounded by our founder Nichiren Daishonin to serve as the foundation of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. The Three Great Secret Laws are the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching (honmon no honzon) , the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching (honmon no kaidan) and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching (honmon no Daimoku) .

The Origin of the Great Secret Laws
The first time that the Daishonin explained in writing the complete concept of the Three Great Secret Laws—the True Object of Worship, the High Sanctuary and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching—was after being pardoned from exile to Sado.
The Daishonin first mentions the Three Great Secret Laws in “The Essentials of the Lotus Sutra” (“Hokke shuyō-shō”) , which he wrote in the fifth month of 1274 (the eleventh year of the Bunei Period), shortly after retiring to Minobu. In that work, the Daishonin writes:

What is the secret doctrine that Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Tiantai and Dengyo failed to transmit during the two thousand and more years since the Buddha’s passing? Answer: The secret doctrine consists of the True Object of Worship, the High Sanctuary and the five characters of the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching.
(Gosho, p. 736)

Before the Daishonin established the Three Great Secret Laws, he fulfilled every prediction made about the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. That is, the Daishonin suffered the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, which led him to discard his provisional status as the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo and reveal his true identity as the true Buddha from kuon ganjo. He also experienced the emergence of the three powerful enemies who were to confront the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day with foul language and angry frowns. The Encouraging Devotion chapter also states that the votary of the Lotus Sutra will be banished again and again. The Daishonin proved that he was the votary of the Lotus Sutra for the Latter Day by reading the lines of the thirteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra with his very life. It was his identity as the True Buddha that allowed him to unveil the Three Great Secret Laws.
Within the doctrine of the Three Great Secret Laws, the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching is the Gohonzon, the object of worship that Nichiren Daishonin himself inscribed. The High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is the place where the True Object of Worship is enshrined. The Daimoku of the Essential Teaching is the Daimoku (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) that the priests and lay members of Nichiren Shoshu chant with faith in the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching.

The Three Great Secret Laws and the Three Disciplines for the Latter Day
A passage from the “Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden” ) explains the relationship between the Three Great Secret Laws and the three types of learning, also known as the three disciplines:

The sutra that substantiates the True Object of Worship is the text on the Tathagata’s secret and his mystic powers. The three disciplines of precepts, meditation and wisdom are the actual Three Great Secret Laws from the Juryo chapter.
(Gosho, p. 1773)

The Daishonin shows that there is a profound relationship between the three disciplines and the Three Great Secret Laws. The three types of learning—precepts, meditation and wisdom—are the three fundamental disciplines in which all Buddhist practitioners train.
Precepts are rules of conduct designed to suppress or eliminate harmful or evil behavior. Such rules attempt to prevent negativity in our mental, verbal and physical activities, thus eliminating evil and engendering positivity.
Meditation focuses the mind, reduces extraneous mental activity and neutralizes psychological and emotional distress.
Wisdom sheds light on the true nature of the three paths of earthly desire, karma and suffering, and thereby helps free people who are ensnared within those three paths.
The three types of learning do not function independently of one another, but assist and compensate for each other to help a Buddhist practitioner eliminate harmful desires and attain the Buddha path.
Tao-hsüan (596-667 CE), patriarch of the Nanshan (Jap. Nanzan) branch of the Lü (Jap. Ritsu) school of Chinese Buddhism, states the following about the way in which the three types of learning interact to extricate Buddhist practitioners from the three paths. “One first arrests [the three paths] through the precepts, then binds them with meditation and finally destroys them with wisdom.”
Thus, according to Shakyamuni’s Buddhism, the keeping of precepts assisted meditation. The ability to meditate effectively allowed the flow of wisdom. Wisdom then helped people to end their servitude to earthly desires and attain the Buddha path.
Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin states the following about the three types of learning.

As a general rule, because all Buddhists practice precepts, meditation, and wisdom, one must not deviate from any of those three disciplines for even an instant.
(Six Volume Writings; Rokkan-shō, p. 85)

In other words, there is no form of Buddhism that does not employ the three disciplines.
Nikko Shonin states the following in “Annotations on the ‘Three Great Secret Laws Transmitted by Jōgyō’” (“’Jōgyō shoden sandai hihō’ guketsu”):

Precepts correspond to the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching; meditation corresponds to the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching; and wisdom corresponds to the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching.
(Gosho, p. 1703)

Nikko Shonin clearly states here that in the Latter Day of the Law, the three types of learning are the Three Great Secret Laws. Thus, the Three Great Secret Laws that the Daishonin established are the roots of his Buddhism and the secret to mastering the Buddha path.
A passage from “On the Three Great Secret Laws” ( “Sandai hihō-shō” ) reads:

The original practice for attaining the true entity consists of the True Object of Worship, the High Sanctuary, and the five characters of the Daimoku from the Juryō chapter.
(Gosho, p. 1593)

The Three Great Secret Laws of the original practice for attaining the true entity are the fundamental and supreme entity of the Law that the True Buddha practiced in the infinite past of kuon ganjo.

Expansion and Amalgamation of the Three Great Secret Laws
Nichikan Shonin, states the following about the expansion of the Three Great Secret Laws in “Interpretations Based on the Principle Hidden in the Depths" ( “Egihanmon-shō” ):

The One Great Secret Law is the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching. The place where this True Object of Worship dwells is called the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching. Our chanting of the mystic Law (Myoho) with faith in this True Object of Worship is referred to as the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching.
(Six Volume Writings; Rokkan-shō, p. 82)

In short, the One Great Secret Law—the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching—is endowed with the High Sanctuary and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching, and thus expands into the Three Great Secret Laws. Nichikan Shonin continues:

The True Object of Worship is endowed with the properties of the person and the Law. There is a true High Sanctuary and relative High Sanctuaries. There is the Daimoku of faith and the Daimoku of practice. In this way the One Great Secret Law expands into Six Great Secret Laws. The treasure repository of the Buddha’s eighty thousand teachings derives from these Six Great Secret Laws.
(ibid.)

This passage shows that the True Object of Worship can be viewed in terms of the person and the Law. Furthermore, there are the true and relative High Sanctuaries, as well as the Daimoku of faith and the Daimoku of practice. That is how the One Great Secret Law expands into Six Great Secret Laws. These Six Great Secret Laws are the source of the five and seven thousand volumes of the Buddha’s teachings and the origin of the treasure storehouse of all of the Buddha’s 84-thousand teachings.
Nichikan Shonin goes on to discuss the amalgamation of the treasure storehouse of the Buddha’s 80-thousand teachings.

If the treasure storehouse of the Buddha’s eighty thousand teachings were amalgamated, they could be reduced to the Six Great Secret Laws. The Six Great Secret Laws can be further reduced to the Three Great Secret Laws, which, in turn, can be reduced to the One Great Secret Law of the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching. The True Object of Worship of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is therefore referred to as the True Object of Worship endowed with the Three Great Secret Laws.
(ibid.)

In other words, the entire treasure storehouse of the Buddha’s 80-thousand teachings is contained within the Six Great Secret Laws. The Six Great Secret Laws are likewise contained within the Three Great Secret Laws, and the Three Great Secret Laws are contained within the One Great Secret Law of the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching.
We are preparing for the 750th Anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s submission of the Rissho ankoku-ron in praise of the true doctrine. It is vital that we priests and lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu place our faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching and follow the guidance of the High Priest, as we strive to spread the Three Great Secret Laws in accordance with the High Priest’s instruction.
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