These traits of weakness are not specific to Dozenbo. We are all guilty of cowardice, delusion,
self-preservation, self-defense, and placating to others. Believers should keep in mind that our faith
is more important than anything, and we should overcome our trepidation and cowardice.
Daishonin wrote "Requital for the Buddha's Favor" on July 21st in
the 2nd year of Kenji (1276) as an expression of gratitude for his
teacher. The actual date of Dozenbo's death is undetermined but
thought to have been in June, a month prior to this
Gosho being
written. Since telephones and telegrams did not exist in those days,
the Daishonin learned of Dozenbo's death by letter several days later.
Whereas "The Requittal for the Buddha's Favor" is a fairly long
Gosho, it took a few days for Daishonin to write it. He must have
spent those days grieving over his teacher's death and reminiscing
about old times.
From the Buddhist point of view, Dozenbo's mind for pursuing faith was weak. He had turned a deaf ear to
the Daishonin, the disciple he had taken under his wing and been fondest of. Never once did he take pity
on this favorite disciple and try to visit him during the Daishonin's exile to Sado Island. Early in "Requital
for the Buddha's Favor" Daishonin wrote, "Although one may exert one's full effort to save others, it is
very difficult to save them from the karmic retribution that they have brought upon themselves." Despite
this observation, the Daishonin expressed his sadness and regret upon hearing of Dozenbo's death. And in
fact, he was amazed by the extent of his own disquiet, knowing as he did of his teacher's weak faith and
spineless nature, and often wondering what would happen to such a man after his death. Yet, as he
explained, "In spite of all that I thought a great deal of [Dozenbo], and when I heard the news of his death,
I felt as though, whether I had to walk through fire or wade through water, I must rush to his grave,
pound on it, and recite a volume of the Lotus Sutra for his sake."
In The Classic of Filial Piety Confucius teaches that "if after three attempts to warn the rulers of the
nation one's advice is still unheeded, one should leave the area." Daishonin vowed to follow this sage
advice and adjourn to
Mount Minobu in order to show the extent of his concern for the nation. I believe
before he entered the wilderness of Minobu the Daishonin declared his intentions to many people including
the Kamakura government. He realized how closed-minded and selfish the government was, being
concerned with securing its power, and caring nothing for the people. Thus, upon entering the wilderness,
the Daishonin turned his attention away from remonstrating with the government, and embarked on
ensuring the correct transmission of his teaching of the Lotus Sutra to each individual in the Latter Day.
To say the least, the Daishonin's life on Sado Island was rough. Such being the case, it is unimaginable that
he voluntarily adjourned to the wilderness of Mount Minobu where life was even harsher. On Mount
Minobu he made his home in a single dwelling surrounded by lofty mountains, some of whose peaks
remained snowcapped year round. The place was so inaccessible visitors were rare, and his only neighbors
were the monkeys who, infrequent as it was, came swinging through the trees. Food was another problem,
being scarce and inadequate. The Daishonin determined his course of action based on faith, and decided
that living thus was the way for him to make a living, and he did so courageously with only his faith to
guide him. He was not in retirement from active life on Minobu; he never renounced the world. But people
said he had left the world, though none of the believers who visited him at Minobu thought this. It was only
the general public that did.
The other day I was watching a special program on TV. It was about a man who became a priest after he
was fired from his job. This is unthinkable to me. I have also heard of a woman who became a priest after
being jilted by her lover. I think believers who have such priests are unfortunate. Those priests renounced
the world and then entered the priesthood. I don't believe priests should renounce the world; people in the
world cannot come to such priests looking for support and guidance. I also think something is wrong with a
temple where such people are allowed to become priests.
The man in the TV program kept his new life secret from his wife and children. They did not learn of his
new lifestyle until he was ordained a priest. When they came to see him at the temple they wept. None of
this made sense to me. However, it exemplifies the image the general public holds of the priesthood. Some
priests enter the priesthood because they want to save the world, but the public believes they became
priests because they wanted to renounce the world. This is an awful misunderstanding. If I said that I
renounced the world, there would be no need for you to visit this temple, for it would mean that I have
abandoned the society of people as well as the world.
The view of the priesthood was much the same during the Kamakura era. In those days many people who
grew tired of the on-going power struggle within the ruling classes became priests. In contrast, the
Daishonin became a priest to discover the true teaching in the world. Once vested with the true and
foremost teaching the Daishonin sought to attain enlightenment, and at the same time to help others,
including his parents and relatives, to attain enlightenment, too. Notwithstanding, society declared that he
had turned tail and fled from the world to the wilderness of Minobu. Daishonin was well aware of the
public's view, though none of his believers shared the public's perception. Yet, regardless of what the world
might think, the Daishonin forthrightly announced to the Kamakura government that he would adjourn to
Minobu to explore the correct way to transmit the true teachings. His move to Minobu was not made for
personal reasons, but for the public good - for the benefit of this Buddhism. However, because society
viewed him as having retired from the world Daishonin realized if he left Minobu to visit his late master's
grave, people would suppose he had failed to accomplish his purpose. For this reason he finally decided
against visiting Dozenbo's grave no matter how much he wished to do so. His reason for visiting the grave
would have been strictly personal, and personal affairs is what he had renounced.
When Nichiren Daishonin entered the Kiyosumi temple at the age of 12, two senior priests, Jokenbo and
Gijobo, acted as teachers to him, instructing him in various matters with great care and kindness. These
two priests were important and instrumental to his progress. At the end of the Heian era (794-1185) there
was a high priest of the
Sanron sect of the seven temples of Nara called Gonso. In 802 Gonso was defeated
in debate by
Dengyo-the-Great, and he immediately renounced his sect and became a disciple of Dengyo.
At the end of the Nara era there was an Administrator of Monks called Gyohyo (722-797) of the Daian
temple of the Kegon sect (currently the Shingon sect). He was the priest who had administered the
precepts of Buddhism to Dengyo in his youth, which means he was a teacher to Dengyo at the time Dengyo
became a priest. When Gyohyo learned the teaching of Dengyo, he voluntarily renounced the teaching of
the Kegon sect. As these two exemplary priests had done, Jokenbo and Gijobo likewise acted courageously
and honorably and became disciples of Nichiren although they had once been his teachers.
Had Jokenbo and Gijobo been ill-disposed seniors who intimidated their juniors, they would not have valued
Buddhism above all else, and would not have conducted themselves as they did. Seniors who tend to be
habitually ill disposed would have refused to become disciples of someone such as Nichiren, saying that
they remembered him as a kid with a runny nose who knew nothing. Jokenbo and Gijobo, however, were
not like this; they did become disciples of Nichiren Daishonin. When they listened to the Daishonin's
teaching they were persuaded that the purpose of becoming a priest was nothing more than to value the
true teaching. They realized the teaching of the Shingon sect was clearly wrong. They made the decision to
accept the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and to revere Nichiren as their teacher.
As you know, some people assume that a person who is younger than them is inferior to them. They
assume a younger person has a long way to go before he or she reaches where they are. They ridicule their
juniors saying, "I've known you since you were in diapers." They should be ashamed of their behavior if it
is in anyway inferior to that of their juniors who were once in diapers. We should make much of the
substance of an individual and the way he lives. Age does not matter. When a younger person is right, we
should revere him or her even though he or she may be younger than we by 20~30 years. Jokenbo and
Gijobo were able to do so. They could do so because they were focussed on the true reason and purpose of
Buddhism rather than on their senior status. They knew what was most important, which is to have true
faith and attain enlightenment. As far as faith is concerned, neither seniority of practice nor title is
meaningful. If you boast of having practiced this faith for many years, you should conduct yourself
accordingly. Otherwise you are not practicing your faith in accordance with the Daishonin's intention. In
1253, when Tojo Kagenobu tried to assassinate the Daishonin after he denounced the Nembutsu sect and
declared the establishment of his new Buddhism, Jokenbo and Gijobo gave refuge to the Daishonin on
Mount Kiyosumi and helped him escape. They demonstrated their dedication to the Lotus Sutra by
safeguarding the life of the Lotus Sutra (the Daishonin). In the Gosho the Daishonin asserts that there can
be no doubt of Jokenbo and Gijobo achieving enlightenment.
As I said before, Daishonin wrote "Requital For the Buddha's Favor" in the 2nd year of Kenji (1276). Two
years later he sent the writing, "Honzon-mondo-sho" to Jokenbo in the 1st year of Koan (1278). In this
Gosho he wrote:
Though Dozenbo was my teacher, he was afraid of his landowner Tojo Kagenobu, a
devout believer of the Nembutsu sect who constantly expressed enmity towards the
Lotus Sutra. In the presence of his landowner, Dozenbo pretended to hate me, Nichiren,
even though he felt sympathetic towards me at heart. They say Dozenbo came to believe
in the Lotus Sutra late in life, but how did he die? It could not have been a peaceful
death. I do not think he fell into hell, but neither could he have broken away from the
cycle of rebirth in the
six lower worlds. He could not fall into hell, nor could he attain
enlightenment. Thus he is suspended in midair indefinitely without being able to be
truly connected to the Lotus Sutra. I feel sad and regretful.
Here Daishonin shows that Tojo Kagenobu, who formed a reverse relationship with
the Lotus Sutra by condemning the Daishonin, has more of a chance for salvation
than Dozenbo who tried to please everyone. Jokenbo and Gijobo, after having
protected the Daishonin and hiding him from the authorities, had no choice but to
leave Mount Kiyosumi when the Daishonin did. Thereafter they kept in touch and
diligently practiced their faith. The brave effort of these two priests to protect the
Daishonin was an expression of their dedication to the Lotus Sutra. There is no
doubt that they will break away from the cycle of rebirth in the six lower worlds and
attain enlightenment. Dozenbo, on the other hand, flattered both parties and tried
to be a part of both. He was like a bat, which can almost belong to both classes of
birds and mammals because it has both wings and mouse-like features. When the
two groups came head to head in conflict, Dozenbo would take the side of the group
that would be most advantageous to him. And when the conflict was over both
groups disliked him. His attitude toward belief was similar to the status of a bat's:
he could not be faithful to either side.
Remember that Dozenbo belonged to the Shingon sect, whereas his landowner, Tojo Kagenobu, belonged to
Nembutsu sect. If Dozenbo believed that the Shingon teaching was the best and true teaching, he
should have remonstrated with his landowner for the sake of his faith. Instead, at the expense of his faith
in the Shingon sect he flattered and kowtowed to his landowner of the Nembutsu sect, yielding to him and
pretending to hate the Daishonin. Thus he lived his life saddled with a dual or triple personality.
We cannot attain enlightenment if our minds are set on gratifying everyone. If you are like this you will
lose sight of who you really are. Though some people claim that having no principle is their principle, it
does not work. If you want to attain enlightenment and cultivate the Buddha's mind that is within your
own life, you have to relinquish the attitude of satisfying each and everyone. Otherwise there is no
salvation for you. If you practice as Dozenbo did, with a dual or triple personality, kowtowing to everyone,
you will be destined after your death to hang in midair and not belong anywhere. Not only will you be
unable to attain enlightenment, you will have even less of a chance for salvation than those who fall into
hell. There will be no chance for you to awaken to the true teaching while in the midst of suffering in hell.
You will vainly hang in midair, waiting for prayers and a stupa erected for the happy repose of the dead to
be offered in your name by some living person.
In Buddhism hell is a place where one experiences suffering. When engulfed by tremendous suffering we
vow that if we are born as a human being again we will not fail to practice the teaching of
Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo - the teaching that everyone possesses the Buddha's mind. Hell is a place that
gives you a chance for awakening. It is not the end of life, but a place where one can practice to overcome
the torments of hell. If we are suspended in midair and never experience hell's torment, how can we seek
and find salvation?
For the past two months I have been discussing Dozenbo and have told you that we are all of the same
mind as he. But Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the underlying source of our lives. In other words, we exist because
of Myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore for our own sake we must not be caught up in self-protection. As the sutra
suggests we should not hold our life and body dear and begrudge the supreme teaching. If we love
ourselves, we must highly value that which is the cause our lives, the source of our lives-the Law. Since we
all are governed by, and are alive as a result of this fundamental cause-the Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo-- our
lives cannot exist without highly esteeming this underlying source we are dependent on. If the air we
breathe should disappear from this earth, we would all die in a matter of minutes; we would lose our
precious lives only because of its absence. If we drown in water we will also die within a few minutes. And
likewise, no matter how much we might love our own life, we will lose it if we were severed from the source
that sustains it.
The Buddha determined that the most fundamental cause-the source, the why and wherefore of life- is the
Law of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. The Lotus Sutra teaches that the most important thing in life is not to be
self-absorbed, but to devote one's life to the Law of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Thus if we value ourselves,
we should make much of this teaching for our own sake. Dozenbo, unfortunately, cared so much about
himself to the extent that his perspective was obscured. He completely lost sight of the source of life-the
Law. It is understandable that we care about ourselves. Even small insects do. But we human beings must
realize that there is a Law that we should value above all else. We cannot save ourselves with timid minds.
Having faith means to become courageous. We can not practice without the courage to put the Law into
practice. I sincerely hope you will keep in mind that we should think much of our faith if we really care
about our lives.
By Reverend Raido Hirota
Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation staff.
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the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai
Banff, Alberta, Canada