QUESTION: What is faith?
Reverend Raidou Hirota (RH): Before we discuss what faith is, we must first talk
about what it is we believe in. We must first talk about Buddhism. People typically believe
that Buddhism is what Shakyamuni Buddha taught. Everyone believes that the Buddha
taught that anybody and everybody can become a Buddha if they follow the practice of
Buddhism. But Buddhism is not the Buddha's teachings. Buddhism is how to become a
Buddha. The purpose of Buddhism is to awaken the Buddha-nature in all of us, this is the
essential point. Faith, therefore, is heart -- spirit. Each kanji character (Chinese character)
carries many different meanings and many pronunciations for the same character. The kanji
for Namu of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo carries the meaning of "the heart of the believer."
Returning the life or the spirit to Buddha is what Namu indicates. Namu has a deeper
meaning than faith. It means that Buddha is within yourself and you return your life to the
Buddha. Namu means returning Buddha to oneself. It is both beyond you and in you. It is
returning Buddha to oneself. By practicing Buddhism we awaken or restore the
Buddha-nature -- Buddha-spirit -- that has always been within us.
Faith is giving one's life to Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, but Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is one's life
itself. That is the circle: they are the same thing. Your life is Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo- is using your life for
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, and Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is your life. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is
using your life to further yourself, while at the same time it is also using your life for
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. It is for Namu-myoho-renge-kyo that we use our lives.
QUESTION: How many years do I have to chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo to attain
RH: To ask this question is like asking how much food in total do I have to eat during my
lifetime in order to live? The amount of food one person eats from birth till about age 80,
can't be eaten all at once, it is gradually consumed. In order to live you have to eat three
times a day. The same is true of chanting, you have to do it twice a day, everyday. It's a
continuing process that doesn't end. You do it day after day until you die. It's not the goal
that is important. What is important is how you live your life each day, not what is at the end
of the road you take. You have to look at this as what you do day after day and not as what
it will bring to you tomorrow or the next day.
The two kanji characters which make up renge exist in the phrase Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.
Renge means lotus flower. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is like the flower itself. The lotus flower
is an usual flower, unlike any other. Most flowers have pistils and stamens in their centers
from which the seeds are generated after the blossom has died. The lotus flower, on the
other hand, has a seedpod at its center. Its seeds and blossom exist at the same time. With
the lotus flower, therefore, the blossom itself is the result and as it opens it reveals its
seeds at its center, which are the cause. This is also true of life. That is why the Buddha
used the lotus flower -- renge -- as the symbol for the Law of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo
because the blossom, which is the effect, and the cause, which are the seeds, exist at
once. They do not occur separately, they coexist simultaneously.
It is generally accepted that cause and effect are two separate entities. For instance, if you
exert yourself you become hungry. These two exist separately. Work is the cause, hunger,
which occurs later, is the effect. But renge is different. Renge symbolizes simultaneous
cause and effect. That is, for Namu-myoho-renge-kyo cause and effect exist at the same
time. There isn't cause and cause..;.and effect and effect; there aren't two. There is no end
of one and a beginning of the other. There is no separation between the cause and the
effect. They are the same. They coexist. The moment you chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo
enlightenment is there. There is no distinction between a cause made and its effect.
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is both the cause and the effect.
This is something difficult for human beings to understand so we dissect it, but it is not
actually meant to be dissected. Everything coexists at the same time. Your mother and
father, for example, produced you. You are the product of your parents. Looking at it from
the child's point of view the child would say that it's because of them that I exist. To the
child the mother and father were the cause. To the parents the child is the result. He is the
result of his parents. If he has a child he would be the cause, the child would be the result.
And so on, and so forth, it's a continuing process. You can't look at it one way or the other.
How can you separate the cause from the effect?
In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings Shakyamuni taught that cause and effect were separate,
occurring at different times. Before the Lotus Sutra was taught you had to practice for many
lifetimes to attain Buddhahood. You made a series of causes for which you would receive
the effect. Then with the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni completely changed his teachings and
taught that cause and effect exist simultaneously. It's not how long you practice Buddhism,
or that you chant to attain Buddhahood, it' that you have Buddhahood within your life, and
reveal it while you're chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. When you make the cause you have
the effect. With the practice of the Lotus Sutra you are making and receiving the cause and
effect at the same time.
Chanting is the same as revealing Namu-myoho-renge-kyo because the cause and the
effect are the same; they exist at the same moment.
QUESTION: How do I chant so that one Daimoku in a single moment of time will bring
me to enlightenment?
RH: You must pray as if you are calling everyone to your enlightenment. You have to
have that kind of feeling when you chant. You chant Daimoku in such a way as if you are
calling everyone in the whole universe, not just this one or that one, but everyone -- all life
-- ;to this enlightenment. The way to pray is as it is written in the last prayer of Gongyo:
May the impartial benefits of Myoho-renge-kyo spread equally
To the farthest reaches of the universe so that I, together with
All other existence, may attain the tranquil state of enlightened life.
This does not only include believers of this Buddhism, it includes all people and all things
for they too have Namu-myoho-renge-kyo and Buddhahood. Everyone -- believers, and
non-believers -- have this equally, whether they believe it or not. By chanting this intensely
you are calling forth all life to awaken the Buddha-nature.
Most other religions are concerned with human beings alone. True Buddhism is concerned
with all life in whatever form it may be. Insects, bacteria, animals, birds. There's no one
particular thing, it's all encompassing, even aliens or whatever there might be in
outerspace. The teachings before the Lotus Sutra only spoke of human beings as the
targets for enlightenment, but with the Lotus Sutra all life -- the whole universe -- became
the objects of enlightenment. Everything in life -- your pants, your shirt, your tie, your
glasses, dew drops, the minutest particles of life -- all life!
QUESTION: What is the meaning of "Living Essence" in the third silent prayer of
Taisekiji's version of the silent prayer of Gongyo , which we are also using?
RH: "Living Essence" is the same as three treasures (sampo). The Three Treasures are
Buppo-so: Bu is the Buddha of the "Living Essence." Po is ho and is the Law of the "Living
Essence"; and So is the Priest of the "Living Essence." Together the Buddha, the Law and
the Priest (Buppo-so) are the Living Essence. For various religions and sects the three
treasurers are different. In other words each religion has its own set of three treasures.
The three treasures are different for all the religions of the world. In Nichiren Shoshu the
treasure of the Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin. In those Buddhisms such as Nichiren Shu,
which believe in Shakyamuni, Shakyamuni is the Buddha of the three treasures. In Nichiren
Shoshu the treasure of the Law is Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, and the treasure of the Priest is
the second High Priest Nikko Shonin.
Gohonzon contains all three treasures -- the Buddha, the Law and the priest. You will know
an individual's religion by the three treasures that they revere.
Kechimyaku has no relationship to the flesh-body being transferred to Nikko Shonin, just as
we don't pass on what we think or what we feel to our children when we give birth to them.
The Daishonin's teaching is that enlightenment exists in everything. No one but the
Daishonin teaches this. This is the root of kechimyaku, that enlightenment exists in all
living things since time without beginning. So while Taiseki-ji repeatedly says they're the
only ones who have kechimyaku in an effort to make people believe what they say is true,
they have forgotten that Namu-myoho-renge-kyo exists in all people and all things.
The spirit of the Gohonzon is not written on the surface of the paper it's on. What is written
on Gohonzon is only representative of the spirit. You have to have an example of that
spirit to focus on, which is why we have Gohonzon. Gohonzon is a representation of the
Buddha-spirit. But because a person has Gohonzon within himself and he writes it down,
that does not qualify him; that is not what it's all about. No matter what the status of the
person, he is still a human being.
QUESTION: What is kechimyaku?
RH: Some people call the Daishonin Buddha. Some people call Shakyamuni Buddha. But
Shakyamuni is really not a Buddha; he was a provisional Buddha. In Nichiren Shoshu we
believe the one who is truly Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin, not Shakyamuni. We say that the
Daishonin is the true Buddha, but we don't worship him. We call Nichiren Buddha because
he taught us teachings that were more profound than Shakyamuni's teachings. What
Shakyamuni taught was limited.
Whereas Shakyamuni's believers have gold or wooden statues of Shakyamuni as their
object of worship, believers of Nichiren Daishonin have Gohonzons as their object of
worship and thereby are worshipping the Law and not the person. They are worshipping
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, not Daishonin. So those who believe in Shakyamuni believe in the
person -- Shakyamuni -- and we who believe in Nichiren Daishonin';s teachings believe in
the Law. So the basis of kechimyaku is the Law or Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren
Daishonin is not the basis of kechimyaku, it is only the Law that is the basis of kechimyaku.
The Law comes first. The person who studies, perceives and comprehends the Law is
Buddha. This Buddha will teach others.
Those who worship Shakyamuni look towards him and pray towards him. They don't look
towards and pray towards what he perceived and comprehended. That is why it is
incorrect. In Nichiren Shoshu we look beyond the person of Nichiren Daishonin to the Law
of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. It is the Law that embodies all the Buddhist principles. We do
not worship Daishonin himself.
QUESTION: Where in the Gosho or other writings does Nichiren Daishonin declare
himself to be the original Buddha?
RH: There is no place in the Gosho, not one instance in which Nichiren Daishonin says
he is the Buddha. Nowhere in the Gosho does Daishonin say, "I am the Buddha." However,
in the 21st chapter of the Lotus Sutra Shakymuni transfers the entirety of the Buddha's
lifetime of teachings, which are all contained in the Lotus Sutra, to Bodhisattva Jogyo
;(Bodhisattva Superior Practice) to keep after his death.
Shakyamuni said in the Lotus Sutra that in the fifth five hundred years after his extinction
there will be someone who will save all mankind with this sutra. In the Hokke Shoshin
Jobutsu Sho Nichiren Daishonin says "I am Bodhisattva Jogyo." In the Ho-on-Jo ("Requital
For the Buddha's Favor") Daishonin expressed his realization that if people practice as he
instructs they will, as a matter of course, awaken to enlightenment. In the Kaimoku Sho
("Opening of the Eyes Gosho") he writes, "Shakyamnui [Buddha], Taho and the other
Buddhas intend to insure the future propagation of the Lotus Sutra so that it can be made
available to every single living being in times to come. Their concern and compassion are
even greater than that of a father and mother who see their only child inflicted with great
suffering...I Nichiren am sovereign, teacher, father and mother to all the people of Japan."
In the Sen-ji Sho ("The Selection of the Time";) Daishonin said, "There can be no room to
doubt that I, Nichiren am the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in all of Japan. Indeed, from
this we may assume that, even in China and India and throughout the entire world, there is
no one who can stand side by side with me.";
These words are from the Gosho; Nikko Shonin learned from these words, from these
Gosho. Nikko Shonin also lived with Daishonin -- sharing the same clothes, eating the same
food -- and observed how the Daishonin lived and what happened to him -- to his life. All of
this led Nikko Shonin to realize that Nichiren Daishonin was the votary of the Lotus Sutra,
and that he was the one and only Buddha. That is why, if you want to awaken to
Buddhahood you have to practice as the Daishonin teaches.
Believers of Nichiren Shu are the one's who ask, "Where does Nichiren say he is the
Buddha? He didn't say anything like that, it's you who are saying that Nichiren is the
Surely anybody can say "I' am the Buddha." The most important thing is how you live.
Nichiren Daishonin lived like one.
|This is NOT an official site of
the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
By Reverend Raido Hirota
|Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation staff.