Today is April 28th, the birthday of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.
It was at age 12 that
Nichiren Daishonin began his study and
practice of Buddhism at Seicho-ji temple on Mt. Kiyosumi near
his home in Tojo Village, Awa Prefecture. For twenty years,
until the age of 32, the pursuit of his study of Buddhism, the
Lotus Sutra in particular, as well as other religions, took him
from Tojo Village to the temples and centers of religious studies
of Kamakura, Kyoto, Osaka and their surrounding areas.
When his studies were complete he returned to his homeland
where the people who loved him - his parents, his teacher and
his brothers - lived. Back at Seicho-ji he consolidated his
realization into an absolute certainty that the Lotus Sutra was
the true teaching for all mankind.
In the very early morning on this day in the year 1253, 750 years ago, Nichiren Daishonin climbed to
the hilltop in the Kasagamori forest near Seicho-ji temple. The rays of sunlight were at the horizon
just before sunrise. The Daishonin trained his eyes on that point on the horizon and as the sun rose his
voice rose and intoned Namu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo. The first Namu-myoho-renge-kyo to be voiced in the
world. Since that day, in these 750 years, everything in the world has changed: our way of life,
developments in science and technology, our surroundings and environment. Nevertheless, the human
heart and life itself have not changed, they have remained the same.
At the time of his ordination the Daishonin had been given the name Rencho by his master Dozenbo
who practiced the Shingon teachings. On the day that he proclaimed Namu-myoho-renge-kyo as the
true teaching for all mankind he renamed himself Nichiren.
Nichi represents the symbol of the sun.
Ren indicates the lotus blossom. The name Nichiren is based on passages in the Jinriki (21st) chapter
of the Lotus Sutra and the Yujutsu (15th ) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
In the Jinriki chapter we read "Just as the light of the sun and moon illuminates all obscurity, this
person will practice among the people and dispel the darkness of all mankind." The last two characters
of this passage are the word seken, which means the whole world -- "this person will practice for the
whole world." Think about this phrase. We can also find this passage in the gosho "Letter to
Jakunichi-bo," "Giving myself the name Nichiren signifies that I attained enlightenment by myself.
This may sound boastful, but there are specific reasons for what I say. The sutra reads, 'Just as the
light of the sun and moon illuminates all obscurity, this person will practice among the people and
dispel the darkness of all mankind.' Consider exactly what this passage reveals. 'This person will
practice among the people' means that the first five hundred years of the
Latter Day of the Law will
witness the advent of
Bodhisattva Jogyo, who will illuminate the darkness of human ignorance and
earthly desires with the torch of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo."
As for the Yujutsu chapter of the Lotus Sutra it states, "They are not defiled by worldliness just as the
lotus-flower is not defiled by water."
Shakyamuni created the Lotus Sutra but he was not able to practice it or put it into a form for
practical use. In the
Maka Shikan T'ien-t'ai (538-597AD) put forth a philosophical theory explaining a
principle in the Lotus Sutra which he called
ichinen sanzen, but this only partially and indistinctly
revealed some teachings of the Lotus Sutra. T'ien-t'ai was unable to expound the true meaning and
establish the essential practice of the Lotus Sutra. It was only Nichiren Daishonin who was able to live
the Lotus Sutra and establish a clear, precise and simple practice of the Lotus Sutra for the entire
It is now the Latter Day of the Law and Bodhisattva Jogyo has appeared. Now is our time to practice as
Nichiren Daishonin did and to save the world. In order to save the world we must chant the
daimoku of
the Lotus Sutra and tell others. This is the only way to attain enlightenment. In this age of the Latter
Day the Daishonin shows us what to do and how to do it. He is called the Buddha because it is he who
has given us the direct path to enlightenment. In the gosho the Daishonin warns that "if you
understand that you have the Buddha nature within you but you do not practice and live according to
my teaching, then it is as if you do not possess the Buddha nature at all." Therefore it is essential that
we follow the Daishonin and chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, especially on this day, April 28.
Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation staff.
By Reverend Raido Hirota
For April 28, 2002
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