Question: How do we live in this life and prepare for the next life? How do we
live in this moment?
Answer: The Daishonin referred to himself
as Nichiren the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
Like the Daishonin, we should try everyday
to be a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Of
course, the most important thing in
practicing the Lotus Sutra is to chant
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. But it is also very
important to live everyday as the votary of
No one has control over one's movements
or actions. That is to say, one cannot do
whatever one wants or pleases. Therefore
we must chant. The Daishonin said, use
this Law of Myoho-renge-kyo in your life no
matter what you are doing, whether sitting,
standing lying down or walking. The future
continues on from this moment. There is no
distinction or separation between the
present and the future. The present and
the future are one and the same. You must
try to be close to Namu-myoho-renge-kyo,
this is the most important thing. The way
you are living now is the way you will die,
and the way you will live in the future.
Question: If a person who has practiced true Buddhism all her life commits
suicide, what happens to all her accumulated good fortune? What happens to
Answer: For someone to practice this Buddhism since birth is of inestimable
value. I don't know why this person committed suicide, but our life itself is not
ours. One may think so, but it is not our own. We did not create our life, and we
did not buy it; we were granted it as a loan. To destroy yourself is an awful thing
to do, especially since your life is borrowed and does not belong to you-it is not
yours to do with as you please. But [for a person who has practiced all her life]
her life was not in vain. If that person truly practiced the Daishonin's Buddhism
then her sincerity is not wasted or lost.
Within us are the ten worlds, from Hell to Buddhahood. In the past we did a lot of
bad things as well as a lot of good things. The future of that is right now. Right
now we experience the effects of both good deeds and bad deeds. Even if we
practice true Buddhism, if we commit bad deeds we will have a negative effect;
and if we do good deeds we will have a positive effect.
There are some people who say that if there is no one to follow you in your
practice, such as children, then you have wasted a whole lifetime of chanting.
That is just not so, it is never a waste of time. The benefits accumulated from
practice do not disappear.
Question: What is the traditional way of keeping one's parents', one's loved
one's ashes? Can they be kept on or near the altar? Or is there a special place
they should be kept?
Answer: In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism we place only the Gohonzon of
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo at the center of our attention, that is how we attain
enlightenment. The ashes, the stupa (small tope with person's Buddhist name),
pictures and other relics of the deceased are never placed on or near the altar. If
you place these things on the altar you are displacing Gohonzon, which is the
center of this practice. Your mind will be focused on the objects rather than on
For 49 days the spirit of the deceased is at your home. That is why the ashes are
kept at your home for 49 days. After that you pray to Gohonzon for the
enlightenment of the deceased. This is the correct way to treat the dead. If you
keep ashes on the altar it is wrong. The ashes are not the object of our practice.
In placing the ashes on the altar you are not following the teachings stated in the
fifth prayer of Gongyo: "I sincerely pray for the earliest realization of world peace
and happiness, through the Gohonzon's bestowal of equal benefits upon the
entire universe and the whole world." By keeping the ashes on your altar your
practice is self-serving and not magnanimous and for the good of the whole world.
In Japan some people cannot afford to buy a burial plot so they ask the temple
they belong to to keep the remains of their loved ones.
Question: A non-Buddhist asked: How can innocent people (children) be killed
(like those being shot in American schools) and god be just or fair?
Answer: As you know, even in Japan unbelievable incidents happen, one after
another. It is written in the Lotus Sutra that during The Latter Day of the Law the
five impurities will be rampant. These are: 1) impurity of the age caused by war,
natural disasters, etc.; 2) impurity of thought, or illusions, caused by confusion in
the realm of philosophy and religion; 3) impurity of desires, or ugly tendencies
such as greed, anger and stupidity; 4) impurity of the people, weakened both
physically and spiritually by impurities of thought and desires; and 5) impurity of
In the sutra it says, when people have impure thoughts and desires their lives,
their minds, their environments, their countries, their world, the earth, the
universe and everything in the universe will be disordered and confused. As
years go by unimaginable occurrences happen more and more. In the same
manner as the shootings happening in America, terrible things are happening in
Japan. As the Daishonin says, "The mind is like the body, society like its shadow,
when the body bends the shadow follows." Thus the disorder and chaos in
society is a result of people's disbelief in the Law of true Buddhism. It is not only
children who are dying, it is also adults. What is happening to innocent children
and adults is symbolic or indicative of the five impurities.
My answer to this question is that it is very important to establish the religion that
teaches the correct teachings. However, it is wrong to say, as the Soka Gakkai
does, that if everyone believes in this Buddhism there will be no more war, no
more sickness, no more poverty and no more crime. What is important is that
everyone must follow the Law of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, and try very hard to
practice and pray. If you do not practice earnestly and follow the Law of
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, then you are not a true believer.
Question: There are people who spend their entire lives practicing other
religions with such deep belief. Do they gain benefit for having had such deep
faith, or is it wiped out at the end of one's life?
Answer: One example of such people is Christians. Christians care about
others, are charitable, and helpful. A practitioner of Christianity believes he will
go to heaven after death because by helping others he is in service to god. Even
after death he is still a servant of god. Christianity teaches that mankind is god's
creation, and man belongs to him. If the teaching you believe in is wrong you
become complacent or self-satisfied, and in complacency or self-satisfaction
there is no benefit or enlightenment. A wrong teaching can never lead to a
Nichiren Daishonin writes in "Rissho Ankoku Ron," "With the power of faith that is
in their hearts, why must they vainly give credence to heretical doctrines?" What
he means is, if you care anything about others, if you feel the pain of others, don't
believe in heretical teachings. Ponder for a moment about what religion is the
true teaching. Seek out the true religion, and eventually you will come to
understand what is wrong in heretical thought, and from this wrong thought will
emerge a true mind in the true religion. Those with a kind (faithful) heart cannot
be influenced by heretical doctrine.
If one has faith in heretical religions, one's belief does not disappear in death. It
remains with one. One remains sinful and culpable. Life itself is a continuum, but I
don't believe if you have faith in the wrong teaching you will return as a human
Question: What is the Buddhist attitude toward organ donorship? Should people
donate their body parts upon death?
Answer: What do you think? (See Discussion) At the time when Shakyamuni
Buddha was preaching there were no organ donors, therefore there is no answer
to this question in the sutra. Thus we must find the answer in other sources
(Nichiren Daishonin's teachings). What is life? -- Is it time? -- Is it Years? -- Is it
how you live?
Question: Why does the chant have to be in a foreign language? Why do the
terms have to be in a foreign language?
Answer: The sutra is in Chinese. Kumarajiva, a Buddhist scholar, traveled from
India to China where he was invited to study Chinese. He eventually translated
the sutra into Chinese. It is his translation that we recite. Nevertheless, the way
we pronounce the sutra is not Chinese, but Japanese.
In China kanji characters are used, and each kanji character has many
meanings. For example kokoro means mind, spirit, heart, feeling. Namu from
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo means I devote my life to belief. If you were to translate
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo into English it would be a very long daimoku. But in fact,
it could not be Daimoku because it would be too long. If the writing on the
Gohonzon were translated into the language of every country it would never fit on
the Gohonzon. Even among Japanese there is not one person who understands
the meaning of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and Daimoku. Japanese know there is
some writing on the Gohonzon, but to them Gohonzon and the Lotus Sutra are a
foreign language too. If the sutra was translated so that all people could
understand it, it would be like a dictionary, and morning and evening Gongyo
would take 20 to 30 hours to complete.
Within each kanji there is very deep meaning.
Our practice of reciting the Lotus Sutra and
studying this Buddhism deepens our faith.
Don't think of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and the
sutra as Japanese, it does not belong to any
one country. Just accept this as the universal
language of the Daishonin.
Question: Aren't people just trying their best? What difference does it make
whether people chant or not, aren't we all going to be reborn anyway?
Answer: Whether you believe in this religion or not, or whether you practice the
wrong religion, everyone has the ten worlds, and everyone has the Buddha's life
within them. Those who practice Nichiren Daishonin's teachings realize that they
possess the Buddha nature. Those who do not believe in Daishonin's teachings
do not know they have the Buddha nature. But for those who practice this
teaching they must realize that this Buddha nature is like a diamond, which must
be polished. That is, one must practice diligently. If you don't, you will be lost,
confused or perverted due to impurities of thought and desire. As a result you will
completely forget you possess the Buddha nature, and the opportunity will be
discarded. You must realize that you should have gratitude for practicing true
Buddhism, and you must appreciate chanting and want to chant more. In the end
you will realize you have the Buddha nature, and how important it is to do this
practice. The Buddha nature is synonymous with fortune. Those who do not
practice do not realize they possess the Buddha nature as fortune.
Those who practice heretical religions look to god and Buddha to rescue them.
Seeking benefits accumulates delusion. You will never know why you were born
as a human being. You will be driven by desire to seek fame, fortune,
high-ranking positions, and prestigious education to boost your pride. This is
your purpose for living, and it is a waste of time.
The sutra teaches that we were born in this world to practice
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and attain enlightenment. Since fortune, position and
pride are not the purpose of human life, if you live your life seeking these desires
it wouldn't matter whether you were mold or a worm [for all the good it will do].
That is, because you were not born to seek your desires, you should never have
been born human. The life of mold or a worm does not have to suffer, or work, or
experience crime or war.
Question: Is it slander to expose the wrongdoing of a priest?
Answer: No, it is not slander. Both priests and believers are practicing together
for enlightenment. It is very important to teach each other to follow the Law and
not the person. If a teacher teaches you to follow him, he is teaching the wrong
way. But if a teacher teaches you to follow the Lotus Sutra, he is teaching the
right way. It is very important that we admonish each other and encourage each
other. But human beings are very strict with others and lenient with themselves.
You must look at yourself before you point out to other's their faults. You must be
strict with yourself too. The goal of Daishonin's teachings is not to become
perfect personalities. The goal is for we imperfect people with various faults to
gather together and help each other attain enlightenment. Pointing out the faults
of others and hurting them is not the objective of practice.
|QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
With Reverend Raido Hirota
|This is NOT an official site of
the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai