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.
Nichien 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. As "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, only 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 teachings 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 (1185-1333). 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 Nichiren's 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 (710-794) 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 focused 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 earlier, Daishonin wrote "Requital For the Buddha's Favor" in the 2nd year of Kenji (1276).
Two years later he sent the writing, "Questions and Answers on the Object of Worship"
(Honzon-mondo-sho) to Jokenbo in the 1st year of Koan (1278). In this Gosho he wrote:
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 two species -- 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 for 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.
Dozenbo belonged to the Shingon sect, while his landowner, Tojo Kagenobu, belonged to the
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 MyohoRengeKyo is the underlying source of our lives. In other words, we exist
because of Myohorengekyo. 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 of our lives, the source of our lives.
That is the Law. Since we all are governed by, and are alive as a result of this fundamental cause - the
Law of MyohoRengeKyo - 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.
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.
REQUITAL FOR THE
By Reverend Raido Hirota
|Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation volunteers
|This is NOT an official site of
the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai
*Dozenbo - (d.1276) chief priest of Seichoji temple in Tojo Village in Awa Province where Nichiren Daishonin entered the
priesthood. From the age of 12 Nichiren Daishonin studied under Dozenbo.