Everything in the entire universe is equal. Animals, trees, the
sun, ourselves--we are all the same. Christianity teaches that
only human beings can go to heaven. Shakyamuni, by
contrast, realized that all life is equal. Therefore it is not only
human beings that can be saved--enlightened--all living things
have the same potential to attain enlightenment. This is the
teaching of the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra (Hoben
chapter). The 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra (Juryo chapter)
explains the reason for this, which is that all states of existence
exist in the beginningless Buddhahood, and Buddhahood exists
in all the beginningless states of existence.
Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra has 28 chapters. The first 14 contain the theoretical
teachings, while the second 14 contain the essential or true teachings. The most
important chapter of the theoretical teachings is chapter 2 "Tactfulness"
(Hoben-pon). Of the essential teachings it is chapter 16, "The Life-span of the
Tathagata" (Juryo-hon) which is the most important.
We, and several other Shoshin-kai temples chant the
prolonged version of the Hoben chapter, called Seoge,
because it connects the Hoben chapter, which states that all
life is equal, to the Juryo chapter which reveals the Buddha's
own enlightenment. In other words, it provides a transition
between the theoretical and the essential teachings. It is
therefore important to chant this section.
Nevertheless, the most important thing is to chant
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. The Hoben and Juryo chapters are
like an instruction manual while the Daimoku
(Namu-myoho-renge-kyo) is the mechanism, the crucial
The Lotus Sutra is a conversation between the Buddha and the people. Shakyamuni
understood this crucial element. However, he taught that he himself was the central
figure, the Buddha, and that the people had to observe rules and practice in such and
such a way for an indefinite amount of time to attain different levels of awareness. The
Daishonin's teaching, on the other hand, states that he is not the only one who can attain
Buddhahood. Everyone has the same potential as he, but you have to chant to achieve
it. Shakyamuni said I am the Buddha and I am instructing you with these various
teachings at this time for you people to become enlightened. In the future, in the fifth
five hundred years after I have passed away, the Lotus Sutra will be the Way and
someone will come along and teach you.
Shakyamuni created a blueprint, Nichiren Daishonin used that blueprint and built a
structure. The blueprint is not useful by itself. The construction made from the
blueprint, however, can stand on its own and is therefore most essential. Nichiren
Daishonin used Shakyamuni's teachings to develop a system to teach others.
By Reverend Raido Hirota
|Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation staff.
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the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai