The Essence of Faith

I extend my heartfelt welcome to all of you and commend you on your tremendous efforts in traveling such long distances from distant overseas countries to attend this tozan.
Nichiren Daishonin stated the following in his gosho, "The Person and the Law" ("Nanjo dono gohenji” ):

Those who visit this place can instantly expiate the sins they have committed since the infinite past and transform their illusions into wisdom, their errors into truth, and their sufferings into freedom.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 1569; MW-1, p. 264)

Through your participation in this tozanpilgrimage to the Head Temple Taiseki-ji, where the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism is enshrined, you have expiated your individual karmic sins from the remotest past, and more significantly, you have made an invaluable karmic cause to establish an unshakable life condition of enlightenment. Thus, I extend my sincere congratulations to you.

In order to understand the true significance of correct faith, you must first be convinced that your life does not end with this lifetime alone, but that it permeates the eternity of the three existences of the past, present and future.

Those who think that a person's life is over when he dies cannot uphold serious faith. It is true, indeed, that a person's physical body dies and turns to ashes. It would even seem as though that person has returned to nothingness. Life, however, is eternal and indestructible.

This is revealed and expounded by True Buddhism. It is faith that motivates people to believe it and to put forth great efforts in their Buddhist practice to achieve the life condition of enlightenment.

The Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which you all recite during gongyoevery morning and evening, teaches us that the life of the Buddha is eternal.

The passage, "Ga jitsu jobutsu irai muryo muhen," from the Juryo Chapter means, “An infinite and boundless time has past since I attained Buddhahood.” This reveals that Shakyamuni actually became a Buddha in the incredibly distant past of gohyaku jintengo.

Moreover, also in the Juryo Chapter, Shakyamuni reveals the karmic practice that enabled him to become a Buddha in the distant past of gohyaku jintengo: “Ga hon gyo bosatsu do, “ means “Once I also practiced the bodhisattva austerities.”

In other words, Shakyamuni was able to become a Buddha in the distant past of gohyaku jintengo, as a result of practicing Myoho-renge-kyo, the Mystic Law to which the eternal Buddha of limitless joy was enlightened.

Thereafter, Shakyamuni continued to teach and give sermons in this sahaworld, as is illustrated in the following passage, “Shaba sekai seppo kyoke,” which means, “I have been in this sahaworld to teach the Law.”

Thus, the Juryo Chapter simultaneously expounds the three mystic principles of the true cause, true effect and true land. To interpret this in terms of Shakyamuni Buddha is a provisional and literal explication, and to explain this in terms of the Buddha of limitless joy of eternal time without beginning or end -- kuon ganjo--, who continued to eternally teach and give sermons in this sahaworld, is a profound and true interpretation.

If the life of the Buddha permeates the three existences of past, present and future, then our lives also span these three existences eternally.
Therefore, Nichiren Daishonin expounds the following in his gosho, “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” ("Shoji ichidaiji kechimyaku sho"):

The heritage of the Lotus Sutra flows within the lives of those who never forsake it in any lifetime whatsoever -whether in the past, the present or the future.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 514; MW-1, p. 23)

Accordingly, every individual in this lifetime possesses eternal life. Nichiu Shonin, the Ninth High Priest of the Head Temple, stated the following:

All people are unaware of their alternate cycles of life and death. They forget about matters concerning their past lives.
(Reki, p. 1-379)

Thus, since life and death are alternately repeated in our lives, we are only aware of occurrences in the present life. We are led to believe, therefore, that human life ends with death in the current lifetime.

This notion motivates people to compulsively pursue hedonistic pleasures while they are still alive, living in total abandon to the earthly desires of the three poisons characterized by greed, anger and stupidity. Before long and unbeknownst to them, they amass the frightening karmic causes of slander in their lives that, in effect, prevents them from attaining enlightenment.

What are the Five Hindrances (Gogai)?

Various forms of dust constantly enter into our homes and bodies. Buddhism teaches us that, in the same way, 84,000 dust particles penetrate into the same number of pores in our bodies everyday.The grime that accumulates in our homes or bodies can be washed away, but the “grime” that collects in our hearts cannot be cleansed as easily as washing a piece of clothing.

Of the 84,000 forms of “grime,” the worst five are the following: greed or avarice (donyoku gai) , anger or holding grudges (shin'i gai) , sleepiness or laziness (suimin gai), anxiety or spiritual instability (tokai gai)and distrust or delusions (gi gai) . These are known as the five hindrances (gogai) . The word gogailiterally means “five lids.” When a person is overcome by these "grimes," they form these five “lids” or hindrances in their hearts that prevent the entry of the helping hands of the Buddha.

The first of these five, greed or avarice (donyoku gai) , refers to a person’s covetousness.All human beings possess the five senses-- sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch -- that instinctively function to trigger the five forms of desire: “I want to see beautiful things.”“I want to hear pleasant voices.”“I want to smell fragrant smells.”“I want to eat delicious foods.”“I want to touch soft things.”When these desires are intensified, however, people who already have nice houses and a great deal of wealth, for example, covet even more than what they possess. Blinded by their desire to get rich quickly, they engage in various evil activities. When people are controlled by this form of greed, they are unable to lead a steady and honest life. Ultimately, this can lead to the horrible consequence of a broken and ruined family.

The next hindrance is anger or holding grudges (shin'i gai) . It signifies a person who is controlled by an angry heart that creates an impenetrable seal around itself.
This angry heart that ordinarily remains concealed can be suddenly triggered into action by an insignificant matter. A person who possesses such a heart will suddenly manifest angry discontent and dissatisfaction when things do not go his way.

Jealousy and resentment, which invariably destroy the unity of different bodies but one mind (itaidoshin) , are also manifestations of this form of anger. Jealousy and resentment emerge when people persistently cling to self-centered notions. The appearance of jealousy and resentment in a person's heart is a definitive indicator that his faith is growing weak. When a person's faith weakens, his vitality diminishes. At this point, the earthly desires of greed, anger and stupidity are likely to make their presence known. In this condition, a person is unable to discern his own responsibility in a situation and faults others for all negative circumstances. As long as the person blames others, the problems cannot be resolved. When one's faith is strong, he is able to observe and learn from the strengths of others. When rumors and criticisms of people arise in our midst, we must all strive to be strong and wise individuals who can positively channel the topic in a favorable direction.

The next hindrance is sleepiness or laziness (suimin gai) . It refers to the condition in which a person, even when he is awake, is perpetually in a slow, slumber-like mode. Such a person always lacks vitality, and, without fail, he feels sleepy when he sits before the Gohonzon.
The objective of our faith and practice is to receive the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law that are inherent in the Gohonzon, so that we can lead daily lives that are brimming with benefits. Accordingly, in order to receive the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law from the Gohonzon, we must forcefully exert our power of faith and power of practice. When our faith is weak, our attitude towards the Gohonzon also weakens. This lazy nature becomes a hindrance that prevents us from receiving the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law from the Gohonzon.

The next hindrance is anxiety or spiritual instability (tokai gai) , and it refers to the condition in which one's spirit is always unsettled. One of the meanings of “to” in the word “tokai” is“to leap.” True to this word, this hindrance describes a person who is never calm and is always moving around. Such a person busily moves about for no specific reason and is prone to sudden shifts in temperament that make him mope and fret. He can regret and grieve over any situation, and his heart can plunge into the pits of darkness and cause him to lose a sense of stability in his life. When such a condition prevails, the complaints and ignorance of the earthly desires manifest themselves and prevent the person from upholding correct faith.

The next hindrance is harboring distrust or delusions (gi gai) . It is a condition in which a person's constant distrust of all things becomes a tremendous obstacle for him. This form of distrust is directed at the three entities of the self, the master and the Law.

First, a person who cannot trust himself is plagued by his inability to foster faith and conviction in the correct teaching within his own life. Such a person can ultimately lead himself to death.

Moreover, when his sense of distrust intensifies, he ultimately begins to distrust the master and the Law, doubting whether or not Buddhism could truly lead him to salvation. The Daishonin wrote:

One should become the master of his mind rather than let his mind master him.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 669; MW-2, p. 236-7)

A person who is overcome by this hindrance of distrust turns his back on these golden words and makes critical judgments on Buddhism and the organization according to the ignorant and limited standards of a common mortal. In such a situation, he is absolutely unable to embrace the truth and will inevitably fall into the life condition of hell.

Accordingly, it is the essential objective of our faith to prevent ourselves from the descent into the five hindrances, which will effectively prevent us from pursuing the path to enlightenment. To do this, we must be convinced that all entities that are alive today possess eternal life throughout the three existences of past, present and future. It is of critical importance to tell ourselves that "we must not slacken in our faith for even a single day," as we advance forth.

In his gosho, “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin, citing the ShinjikanSutra, wrote:

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.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 571; MW-2, p. 197-8)

Through this passage, the Daishonin expounds the principle of cause and effect. In other words, the present effects result from karmic causes made in past lifetimes. The present causes, in turn, will determine the happiness or misfortune of our future lives. Our daily existence, then, is extremely significant.

Now is the ideal opportunity, while we are ambulatory and are able to move about freely, to eliminate the five hindrances from our lives and establish for ourselves the life condition of Buddhahood in this and all future existences.

In his writing, “Forethoughts on One's Final Moment” ("Rinju yojin sho"), Nichiu Shonin, the Ninth High Priest of the Head Temple, stated the following:

A person's determination at his final moment depends on his deeds over the years. It depends entirely on his daily attitude and conduct.
(Yo-3, p. 259)

Whether or not a person can attain enlightenment is determined by his faith and practice over a period of many years. Accordingly, it is absolutely essential to participate in tozanto the Head Temple, to go to the local temple to pray to the Gohonzon and to maintain a strong practice for oneself and for others.

The Way to Eliminate the Five Hindrances

As exemplified by the parables of Sessen Doji and Rakuho Bonshi the Buddhism of Shakyamuni required extended periods of Buddhist practice to attain enlightenment. This is known as chronological practice. T'ien-t'ai the Great, based on this form of practice, expounded the twenty-five regulations, according to the five practices of the masters (goshu hosshi) of the Lotus Sutra. Through these, he gave instruction on the appropriate mental attitude and physical conduct. Expounded therein was the way in which to eliminate the five hindrances.

Following the Former and Middle Days of the Law, two thousand years after the emergence of Shakyamuni's Buddhism, its efficacy to save mankind disappeared.Thus, it was no longerpossible for anyone to attain enlightenment through the chronological practice.

Therefore, in the Latter Day of the Law, the Buddha of limitless joy from eternal time without beginning or end made his advent into this world in the form of Nichiren Daishonin. He inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, the embodiment of the great Law of the “three-thousand realms contained in a single life-moment”("ichinen sanzen") to which the Daishonin was enlightened in the remotest past without beginning or end (kuon ganjo). He then propagated it to all the people in the Latter Day of the Law.

He wrote in his gosho, “The True Object of Worship” ("Kanjin no honzon sho"):

Shakyamuni's practices and the virtues he consequently
attained are all contained within the single phrase,
Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in that phrase, we shall
naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 653; MW-2, p. 64)

Thus, the benefits of the karmic causes and effects of all the Buddhas of the three existences of past, present and future are naturally contained in the Gohonzon. Accordingly, as a result of believing in and practicing to this Gohonzon, the six senses -- consisting of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and intuiting -- that have been deluded by the five hindrances, will receive the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law and will be naturally cleansed, making it possible to attain enlightenment in one's present form as a common mortal, without eliminating earthly desires.

The Practice of the Simultaneity of Cause and Effect ("Inga guji")

Even though life is eternal, it is contained within the momentary existence of this lifetime.

In other words, the present invariably becomes the past, and the past quickly becomes the present. Accordingly, that moment is an actual existence characterized by the concept of a void (“ku”), in which presence is in itself nothingness and nothingness is in itself presence.

There is no actual existence outside this moment however, and eternity is but a series of these moments. Therefore, at times we experience happiness, at other times we cry out of sadness, and at still other times we feel discouraged and disappointed -- all as a result of the karmic causes of the past that are manifested in this life.

Thus, in order to firmly establish the life condition of enlightenment in the two existences of the present and the future, we must realize that our present attitude and conduct are the key elements that will determine our future happiness or misfortune.

In other words, a brief comment like, “However much I pray to the Gohonzon, I receive no benefits,” signifies a person's doubt and slanderous laziness, and, unbeknownst to him, in the instant of this utterance, it will be internalized as a karmic cause for the life condition of hell. The gradual descent to hell, therefore, is but an outward manifestation of the actual proof of one's conduct. In terms of the true nature of life, it is not exactly a gradual descent into hell. Rather, in the very instant that a person renounces his faith, regardless of the outward manifestation at the time, his life is immediately cast into the life condition of hell.

Take, for example, the present Ikeda Sokagakkai, which has slandered and denounced the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary ofTrue Buddhism, the fundamental lifeblood of faith in Nichiren Shoshu, and the successive High Priests who have received the golden heritage of the Law. In the very instant that the slanderer thought the evil and callous notion, he simultaneously created a karmic cause to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. This is known as the principle of simultaneity of cause and effect ("inga guji").

Accordingly, even if your life at the present time is full of the five hindrances, it is of foremost importance to be confident that it is possible for you to construct an eternally indestructible life condition of enlightenment. Moreover, it is absolutely essential to maintain an unfalteringly strong faith.

Wherever there is water, the moon will appear. In the same way, if we uphold sincere faith, then the Buddha will reside, without fail, in our lives. Accordingly, if we deposit a lid upon the water, then, the moon cannot emerge. Similarly, if we place a hindrance in the form of a lack of faith in our hearts, then the Buddha cannot reside therein.

Practice for Oneself and for Others ( “Jigyo keta” )

It is truly essential to advance forth in our practice for ourselves and for others by individually establishing a life condition of enlightenment and constructing a life full of benefits.
The fundamental core of the practice for oneself lies in the performance of the daily morning and evening gongyo. Gongyoliterally means “to strive to practice the good Law,” and it is the basic form of Buddhist practice. By sincerely and correctly performing gongyo, which will enable us to fuse with the reality and wisdom of the Gohonzon ( “kyochi myogo” ), the supreme power of Buddhahood that is inherent within the lives of each individual will emerge. This, in turn, will make it possible for us to construct a life full of benefits that will remain unshaken by obstacles and devils.

The morning gongyodetermines the rhythm of life for the entire day, and the evening prayers of appreciation will set the scene for the following day. Accordingly, a haphazard track record of doing gongyowill not enable a person to exhibit a strong life force.
An irresolute and halfhearted attitude in performing gongyowill inevitably bring about chaos and a stalemate condition in one's daily life. Nichiu Shonin wrote the following:

Item: The practice of gongyoistruly important for the followers of our denomination.... Our master has instructed us that our insincere thoughts are manifested in the focus of our eyes, the position of our faces and hands and the way in which we sit. We should not display such an insincere attitude in our posture. Sincere daimokuthat is chanted without muddled thoughts is called the Myoho-renge-kyo of the true practice, and such a form represents the actual entity of enlightenment inour present form.
(Reki zen-1, p. 334)

In other words, if, during the performance of gongyo, the most important opportunity for us to fuse with the Gohonzon, we cannot properly join our hands in prayer, we close our eyes, or if we have poor posture-- these are all manifestations of the presence of insincere thoughts in our minds. The passage instructs us that if we chant daimokuwithout first correcting our form, then our prayers will not result in our attainment of enlightenment in our present form.

The Benefits of Shakubuku and Propagation

At the same time that we perform the practice for ourselves (jigyo), it is equally important to practice for others (keta). In his gosho, “ Letter to Jakunichi-bo” ("Jakunichibo gosho"), Nichiren Daishonin wrote the following:

Those who become Nichiren's disciples and followers should realize the profound karmic relationship they share with him and spread the Lotus Sutra in the same spirit.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 1394; MW-1, p. 236)

The Daishonin strictly instructs us to perform shakubukuin the same way as he had done.
Nichiren Daishonin's life is said to have begun and ended with the “Treatise on Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism” ("Rissho Ankoku Ron"). Since the attainment of absolute world peace (kosenrufu) is the ultimate goal, those who slacken in their propagation efforts of shakubukucannot be considered true believers of Nichiren Shoshu.

Moreover, Nichikan Shonin, in the following passage from the “Notes on the Gosho‘On Practicing the Buddha's Teachings’ ” ("Nyosetsu shugyo sho hikki"), explains that neglecting shakubukuisa form of slander:

If you neglect shakubukuin your hearts and ignore the four dictums (1. Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant suffering; 2. Zen is the teaching of devils; 3. Shingon will ruin the nation; 4. Ritsu is traitorous), then your conduct is tantamount to slander. If you do not use your mouth to perform shakubuku, then your mouth will be considered slanderous. If you do not clasp the prayer beads in your hands and face the Gohonzon, then your entire body will be considered slanderous.
(Mondan shu, p. 767)

Since shakubukuisthe most difficult of all the difficult practices, the benefits to those who perform it are all the more great.
The Daishonin stresses this point in the following passage from his gosho, “Wu-lung and I-lung” ("Ueno ama gozen gohenji"):

A hand which takes up the Lotus Sutra immediately attains enlightenment, and a mouth which chants it instantly enters Buddhahood, just as the moon is reflected in the water the moment it appears from behind the eastern mountains, or as a sound and its echo arise simultaneously. It is for this reason that the sutra states, "Among those who hear of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood."
(Shinpen gosho, p. 1574; MW-4, p. 305-6)

In other words, if we follow the directions of the Daishonin and strive forth in the practice of shakubuku, then through the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect (inga guji), the three paths of earthly desires, karma and suffering, which include the five hindrances, will transform into the three virtues of the property of the Law, wisdom and emancipation or freedom. Thus, we will be able to overcome various forms of karma and establish an unshakable life condition of enlightenment that will last for eternity.

The Cause of Disasters Lies in the Slander of True Buddhism

As all of you are aware, in early January of last year in Japan, the great Hanshin earthquake, centered in Awaji Island, caused much destruction. Homes and buildings in Kobe and its surrounding area suffered great devastation, and far too many people lost their precious lives. Such disasters are not limited to Japan. No one knows where and when such destruction will strike again in the world.

In the following passage from the “Treatise on Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism” ("Rissho Ankoku Ron"), Nichiren Daishonin proclaims that the cause for such disasters is none other than the permeation of heretical sects and doctrines:

The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right; to a man, they give their allegiance to evil. That is the reason why the benevolent deities have abandoned the nation, why sages leave and do not return. And in their stead come devils and demons, disasters and calamities that arise one after another.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 234; MW-2, p. 5-6)

The foremost evil source of disasters in Japan is none other than the Ikeda Sokagakkai, which has renounced faith in Nichiren Shoshu and has degenerated into a completely heretical sect. The members have dared to contemptuously proclaim that the Dai-Gohonzon, which they had worshipped until recent times, is “nothing but a material object.” They have committed the unthinkable slander of arbitrarily creating counterfeit objects of worship and disseminating them among the people. In accordance with the golden words of the Daishonin, it is clear that this is the greatest cause for the tremendous upheavals and natural disasters.

As long as such great slanderers prevail, we, as people who live along with them in this world, are frequently caught in the midst of the misfortune that they have caused. The objective world of the insentient environment (eho) isdefiled, and this leads to the occurrence of disasters. However much we may pray for individual happiness, according to the principle of the oneness of life and its environment (esho funi), it is impossible to achieve true good fortune in such a world.

Accordingly, now is the time for all the priests and lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu to put forth their utmost efforts to perform shakubukuand re-shakubukufor the sake of individual enlightenment as well as for the construction of a peaceful nation and society.

The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of true Buddhism that is presently enshrined in the Shohondo is the Gohonzon that was inscribed for all mankind.

The Daishonin wrote the following in his gosho, “On Practicing the Buddha's Teachings” ("Nyosetsu shugyo sho"):

When all people chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together, the wind will not beleaguer the branches or boughs, nor will the rain fall hard enough to break a clod.
(Shinpen gosho, p. 671; MW- 1, p. 101 )

When all of you exert your utmost efforts to achieve great success in performing shakubukufor the objective of kosenrufuin your respective areas, and when all the people in the world strive to unite in one mind, based on the True Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, then the objective world of the insentient environment (eho) will be cleansed, and wars and disasters will be replaced, without fail, by a peaceful Buddha's land. The essence of faith in Nichiren Shoshu, therefore, is to pursue this and to put it into actual practice.

Towards the Objective of the 750th Anniversary of the Establishment of Our Denomination

Our High Priest Nikken Shonin presented us with an intermediary goal in our advancement towards kosenrufuin the form of the 750th anniversary of the establishment of our denomination, six years from now in the year 2002. He proclaimed that “On that auspicious occasion, 10,000 Hokkeko members will continuously go on the tozanpilgrimage each day for over a month during the great ceremony to express their sincere joy and gratitude.”

This direction from the High Priest is, indeed, a manifestation of his sincere wish to cultivate individual happiness and to construct a peaceful nation and society through the prosperity and advancement of Nichiren Shoshu.

Although you may reside in different countries, I am certain that all of you are of one mind in your determination to strive for absolute individual happiness and world peace. You have many fellow members and friends in various countries around the world, so when you unite your efforts and steadfastly advance forth together to perform shakubukuto propagate forth (kosenrufu) the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, the embodiment of Nichiren Daishonin's life, you will definitely be able to construct a joyful nation and society.

I ceaselessly pray for your steadfast advancement towards kosenrufu.
I will conclude my sermon titled “The Essence of Faith,” by praying for the continued good health and tremendous happiness of all the overseas believers. Thank you very much for your attention.
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