PART 2: Gosho Study
I have just heard from your messenger that you
are suffering from a serious illness. I hope you will recover
soon and come to see me.
RECOVERS THROUGH THE DAISHONIN'S ENCOURAGEMENT
Nanjo Tokimitsu, Just 22 when this Gosho was written,
was battling a critical illness. By early the next year it would
grow still worse. "The
Proof of the Lotus Sutra," dated February 28, 1282,
expresses the Daishonin's fervent resolve that the young man
would not die.
And as for you demons - will you cause this disciple of mine
to suffer and swallow a sword point first, or embrace a raging
fire, or become the archenemy of all the Buddhas throughout the
universe and in the three existences of life? How terrible this
will be for you! Now, will you cure this man's illness immediately
and hereafter give him your protection instead, in this way escaping
from the grievous sufferings that are the lot of demons? Or do
you prefer to have your heads broken into seven pieces and after
your death to fall into the hell of incessant suffering? (MW-2,
Nichiren Daishonin himself was in poor health at this time. The
hardships and privations of three decades spent struggling to
declare the True Law in the face of persecution and misunderstanding
were beginning to tell on him. In a letter to Tokimitsu's mother,
Lady Nanjo, toward the end of 1281,. he writes, "Due
to my decline in health I have refrained from replying to those
who sent me letters." Yet despite his own deteriorating physical
condition, he repeatedly took up brush and ink to encourage this
disciple whom he loved. Thanks in no small measure to the Daishonin's
encouragement, Tokimitsu recovered and lived another fifty years.
He and his family eventually prospered, and he donated to Nikko
Shonin the land upon which Head Temple Taiseki-ji now stands.
Also, I have received your gifts.... I can hardly
find words to say how much I appreciate your sincerity in sending
me a letter and your many gifts
TOKIMITSU'S UNUSUAL COURAGE TREASURED BY THE DAISHONIN
In Japan at this time, priests often depended for their livelihood
on donations of money, food or clothing from lay believers, who
regarded such offerings as a source of good fortune and an integral
part of their religious practice. The Daishonin, isolated as he
was in the wilds of Mount Minobu, had to rely on offerings from
his followers in order to survive. The tradition of lay support
was well established and priests 'in general had no fixed custom
of reply, but the Daishonin unfailingly wrote to thank his followers
for even the smallest donation, taking the opportunity to teach
them more about the Buddhist doctrine and encourage their individual
faith. Such letters account for a considerable portion of his
Nanjo Tokimitsu. was unusually courageous and steadfast in his
support of Nichiren Daishonin. The untimely deaths of his father
and elder brother had left him. head of the Nanjo family and forced
him to assume the responsibilities of the hereditary steward's
office while still 'in his teens; from that time on, he always
did whatever he could to ensure the Daishonin's welfare.
During the period of harassment by local authorities known as
the Atsuhara Persecution, the 20-year-old Tokimitsu sheltered
believers in his own home and campaigned tirelessly for the release
of those who had been imprisoned. He threw the whole of his influence
as a minor official of the feudal government into protecting his
fellow disciples. The Kamakura government promptly retaliated
for his stance by imposing on his estate such heavy taxes that
at one point he could not even keep a horse - a hardship for a
samurai and his wife and children lacked proper clothing.
Yet despite his poverty he still managed to provide for the Daishonin.
As we can see from this letter, even when gravely ill, he thought
to send a messenger to Minobu. After expressing his deep gratitude
for such unflagging assistance, the Daishonin proceeds to encourage
Nanjo Tokimitsu by explaining to him, in light of the Lotus Sutra,
just how great are the benefits resulting from sincere offerings
to the sutra's votary.
As you well know, one of the sutras tells us
the story of Tokusho Doji,... What great good fortune you possess!
BENEFIT DERIVES FROM SINCERITY OF OFFERINGS
King Ashoka, the third ruler of the Maurya dynasty, united almost
the whole of the Indian subcontinent in the third century B.C.
Though at first a tyrant, after his conversion to Buddhism
he ruled justly and compassionately in keeping with its ideals,
renouncing conquest by force and devoting great energy to public
works. He sponsored the Third Buddhist Council for the compilation
of the Buddhist teachings and dispatched Buddhist missionaries
throughout India as well as to Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Gandhara, Syria,
Macedonia and Egypt. The story of his past existence as the boy
Tokusho Doji appears in the Zo-agon Sutra and also in the Aikuo
Den (The Story of King Ashoka).
According to this story, Shakyamuni, together with his disciple
Ananda, was once begging on the outskirts of the city of Rajagriha
when he came upon two little boys, Tokusho Doji and Musho Doji,
playing in the mud. The two boys, observing the "thirty-two
distinguishing features of a great man," which the Buddha
is said to have possessed, desired to make him an offering. Having
nothing else at hand, Tokusho Doji hastily made a mud pie. He
placed it in the Buddha's begging bowl while Musho Doji pressed
his palms together in a gesture of reverence. Shakyamuni received
the gift with a smile. When Ananda asked why he smiled, the Buddha
replied: "I have a reason for smiling, Ananda, and you shall
know it. One hundred years after my death, this boy win become
a wheel-turning king at Pataliputra (the largest city in ancient
India) who will rule over all regions. His name will be Ashoka,
and he will rule through the True Law." It is said that Tokusho
Doji was indeed reborn as King Ashoka, and Musho Doji, as either
his wife or his brother, depending on the account.
In citing this story of Tokusho Doji, the Daishonin makes two
points about offerings. First, he explains that the benefit resulting
from donations will be in direct proportion to the greatness of
the teaching or person to whom they are made. Because Shakyamuni,
being the Buddha, was so noble a person, even Tokusho Doji's gift
of a mud pie produced the karmic reward of rebirth as one of antiquity's
greatest monarchs. However, the Daishonin continues, even if one
were to offer countless treasures to Shakyamuni Buddha for 100,000
eons, he would not gain as much benefit thereby as he would by
making offerings for a single day to the votary of the Lotus Sutra
in the Latter Day of the Law. From this, the Daishonin says, Nanjo
Tokimitsu. can imagine the unfathomably great good fortune he
has created through his years of dedication.
Why should the benefit of offerings made to the votary of the
Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day be so much greater than that of
donations made to Shakyamuni Buddha? In addressing this question,
we should first understand that "the votary of the Lotus
Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law" means Nichiren Daishonin
himself No one else 'in the time period of the Latter Day ever
propagated the essence of the sutra and fulfilled its prophecies
as he did. However, "the votary of the Lotus Sutra"
is his provisional identity. Looking deeper, we find that Nichiren
Daishonin is the Buddha of original enlightenment who appears
in the Latter Day of the Law. As the "Ongi Kuden" (Record
of the Orally Transmitted Teachings) states, "The Buddha
eternally endowed with the three enlightened properties is the
votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law."
One might wonder why we call the Daishonin "the original
Buddha" when, by his own reckoning, he lived more than two
thousand years after Shakyamuni. Actually, this designation derives
from the Law he expounded rather than from historical sequence.
The Daishonin is called the original Buddha because he directly
revealed and manifested the original Law eternally inherent 'in
the universe by which all Buddhas, including Shakyamuni, attain
their enlightenment. Shakyamuni's entire twenty-eight-chapter
Lotus Sutra may be viewed as an attempt to explain this Law. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
is like the root, and Shakyamuni's many teachings, like its leaves
In contrast to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, which fully reveals
the Mystic Law, that of Shakyamuni reveals only its partial aspects.
For example, "Juryo" (The Life Span of the Thus Come
One), the sixteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, states that Shakyamuni
attained enlightenment at a time in the remote past called gohyaku
jintengo. His teaching thus presents Buddhahood as having
a beginning, something one "attains" at a particular
In this sense, even though the Lotus Sutra teaches the fundamental
equality of the Buddha and the common mortal, a practical distinction
still remains - the Buddha has attained enlightenment, and the
common mortal has not. The Daishonin's teaching, however, presents
Buddhahood as something innate in life since time without beginning.
Ultimately, he says, we do not "attain" Buddhahood but
rather awaken to the fact of our eternal Buddha nature. Thus the
Daishonin, in one stroke, removed the gap formerly thought to
separate the Buddha and the common mortal, and he opened the way
for all people to realize their originally inherent potential
In brief, we can say that the revelation of Buddhist truth made
by "Shakyamuni Buddha" is still incomplete, while that
made by "the votary of the Lotus Sutra" is complete
and perfect. The difference in the benefit resulting from offerings
made, respectively, to these two persons stems from the difference
in depth between their teachings. The Lotus Sutra itself states
in several places that the merit resulting from offerings to the
sutra's votary in the evil age following the Buddha's death is
far greater than that brought about by offerings made to Shakyamuni
himself. For example, in the verse section of "Hosshi,"
the tenth chapter, we find:
If there is someone who
seeks the Buddha way and during a certain kalpa presses
palms together in my [Shakyamuni's] presence
and recites numberless verses of praise,
because of theses praises of the Buddha
he will gain immeasurable blessings.
And if one lauds and extols those who uphold this sutra,
his good fortune will be even greater
For the sake of disciples after his death, the Daishonin embodied
his enlightenment to the eternal Law of life in concrete form
as the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws. As the "Ongi
Kuden" states, "The object of worship is the entity
of the life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra. " For us, living
as we do at a time when the Daishonin himself is no longer present
in the world, dedicating ourselves to the Gohonzon is the same
as making offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
Generally speaking, our offerings to the Gohonzon take two forms:
material offerings (zai-kuyo) and offerings of the Law
(ho-kuyo). Material offerings include the candles, incense,
water and fruit that we offer to the Gohonzon, as well as the
time, energy and personal resources we contribute to our activities
and organization, which promote kosen-rufu in exact accordance
with the Daishonin's teaching.
Offerings of the Law include our daily gongyo and daimoku to
the Gohonzon and our efforts to propagate and encourage faith
in the Gohonzon. In a broad sense, "offerings" can include
all of our efforts in our Buddhist practice and for kosen-rufu.
The Daishonin tells us 'in this Gosho that the good fortune we
accumulate through such efforts is incalculable.
Another point in the story of Tokusho Doji is that benefit comes
from one's sincerity in making offerings rather than from the
material value of the offering itself. The mud pie was in itself
valueless, yet offered to the Buddha with a sincere heart, it
produced an immense karmic reward. Even large commitments of time,
money or effort will produce little benefit if made begrudgingly
or out of a burdensome sense of obligation, while even a small
offering made joyfully and with a sincere heart will create immense
The Daishonin repeatedly urges us to be convinced that our earnest
efforts in faith bring about unimaginably great effects. As he
states in "On Attaining Buddhahood": "Whether you
chant the Buddha's name, recite the sutra or merely offer flowers
and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefit and good
fortune 'in your life. With this conviction you should put your
faith into practice" (MW-1, 4).
Eagle Peak (Gridhrakuta) is the name of a mountain on the outskirts
of Rajagriha where Shakyamuni is said to have preached the Lotus
Sutra and other teachings. Because it was where the Buddha expounded
his highest teaching, the Daishonin often uses the expression
"Eagle Peak" in a metaphorical sense to mean the Buddha
land or state of Buddhahood. In saying, "You are certain
to be reborn 'in the Pure Land of Eagle Peak," he assures
Tokimitsu, that the good fortune he is accumulating is not merely
a matter of this lifetime but will extend far, far into the future.
Of course, this encouragement applies to us as well.
This is a mountainous, place,... and their sufferings
ENLIGHTENMENT EXISTS WITHIN OUR OWN LIVES
In this passage of great poetic beauty, the Daishonin reveals
that he is the Buddha who is one with the Law of eternal enlightenment;
therefore the place where he lives is fully as sacred as Eagle
Peak. Similarly because the Law he taught is the supreme truth,
those who embrace it also become worthy of respect and make the
place where they live and work the Buddha land.
In retirement at Minobu, the Daishonin lived in a small hermitage
in a ravine deep in the mountains. The narrow road leading there
was blocked by snow in winter and choked with weeds in summer.
His dwelling place was nowhere near even the smallest hamlet,
let alone any major center of learning or political influence.
Moreover, the Daishonin himself was very humble, the son of common
people who practiced the lowly vocation of fishing. He had no
powerful aristocratic patrons, no large temples and no prestige
in religious circles. It would have been easy for the people of
his time to look down on him as an insignificant figure. However,
the Daishonin says, despite the outward humbleness of his person
and his circumstances, "Deep in this mortal flesh I preserve
the ultimate secret Law inherited from Shakyamuni at Eagle Peak."
This statement refers to "Jinriki" (Supernatural Powers
of the Thus Come One), the twenty-first chapter of the Lotus Sutra,
in which Shakyamuni transfers the essence of the sutra to Bodhisattva
Jogyo, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and charges
him with its propagation 'in the Latter Day of the Law. Bodhisattva
Jogyo corresponds to "the votary of the Lotus Sutra 'in the
Latter Day of the Law"; he represents the Daishonin's provisional
identity. From the standpoint of Nichiren Daishonin's enlightenment,
we can say that he fully embodied the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
thus revealing that he is the original Buddha of kuon ganjo,
to whom Shakyamuni alludes in the "Juryo" chapter
of the Lotus Sutra.
The "ultimate secret Law" is the reality of ichinen
sanzen, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws,
which the Daishonin embodied in physical form as the Dai-Gohonzon.
It is called "secret" because no one before Nichiren
Daishonin had ever revealed it, and because it is beyond the understanding
of unenlightened common mortals. Because the Daishonin realized
and manifested the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo within himself,
he is called the Buddha who embodies the oneness of the Person
and the Law (ninpo ikka). Accordingly, the Dai Gohonzon
in which he manifested his enlightenment also embodies this oneness.
All Buddhas, in completing their mission, are born into the world,
attain enlightenment, turn the wheel of doctrine (i.e., preach
the Law) and enter nirvana -here meaning the Buddha's passage
into the latent state of death in which individual life merges
with cosmic life.
In saying, "My heart is where all Buddhas enter nirvana;
my tongue, where they turn the wheel of doctrine; my throat, where
they are born into the world; and my mouth, where they attain
enlightenment," the Daishonin reveals that all Buddhas originate
from, and return to, the Law to which he is enlightened.
The "Jinriki" chapter states that wherever one embraces
the Lotus Sutra, "you should understand that such spots are
places of religious practice. In such places have the Buddhas
gained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, in such places have the
Buddhas turned the wheel of the Law, in such places have the Buddhas
entered parinirvana." The Daishonin, in equating "such
spots" with his own body, shows that the Law to which he
is enlightened is the source of all Buddhas. As he says in "Earthly
Desires Are Enlightenment," "[Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] is
the master of all Buddhas of the past, present and future"
(MW-2, 228), and in "Letter to Akimoto," "All
Buddhas throughout time and space invariably attain their enlightenment
with the seed of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo"
(Gosho Zenshu, p. 1072).
Since Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddha who is one with this Law,
the Dai-Gohonzon that he inscribed also embodies "the source
of all Buddhas" Nichikan, the twenty-sixth high priest, praised
the Gohonzon's virtues 'in words similar 'in content to a passage
from "The Person and the Law":
This [object of worship] is the origin of all Buddhas and sutras
and the place to which they return. The blessings of the myriads
of Buddhas and sutras throughout space and time all return to
this Gohonzon - which provides the seed of Buddhahood and is
hidden in the sutra -just as the tree's hundreds and thousands
of leaves and branches all return to the same root.
"Since the Law is supreme, the Person is worthy of respect;
since the Person is worthy of respect, the Land is sacred"
is a well-known passage from "The Person and the Law,"
the one from which this Gosho takes its name. Nichiren Daishonin
was a common person without worldly status or renown, but because
he was enlightened to the ultimate Law, he was worthy of supreme
respect, and the forlorn wilderness of Mount Minobu where he lived
was the Buddha land. In a broader sense, we can also apply this
passage to ourselves. We may be people without particular distinction,
having many flaws or facing many troubles and difficulties. But
because we embrace the supreme Law, striving to manifest the state
of Buddhahood and to help others do the same, we are worthy of
respect, and the place where we exert ourselves for kosen-rufu
is the Buddha land. The 'Jinriki" chapter states that wherever
one embraces and practices the Lotus Sutra, "whether in a
garden, a forest, beneath a tree, in monks quarters, 'in the lodgings
of white-robed laymen, in palaces, or in mountain valleys or the
wide wilderness," that place is where the Buddhas enter nirvana.
Life and its environment are essentially one. No matter what
sort of jobs we hold, what neighborhoods we live in, what kind
of families we belong to or what our individual circumstances
may be, when we bring forth our innate Buddhahood by chanting
daimoku to the Gohonzon, that enlightenment is simultaneously
manifested in our surroundings. And, as we strengthen our life
tendency toward Buddhahood through accumulated practice, we can
make our external reality joyful, filled with good fortune. From
another viewpoint, we can also read this Gosho passage as an admonition
to live our lives and strive to show actual proof of the power
of our faith in a way that will truly reflect the greatness of
the Law we embrace.
"illusions, errors, and sufferings" in the last sentence
of this paragraph refer to the so-called three paths of earthly
desires, karma and suffering, which bind people to the realm of
delusion. They are called paths because one leads to another.
Earthly desires include such negative mental tendencies as greed,
anger, stupidity, arrogance and doubt, which arise, fundamentally,
from ignorance of the Buddha nature. Earthly desires cause people
to view things in a distorted way and thus prompt them to make
"errors" -actions that create bad karma.
Bad karma then produces the effect of suffering, which in turn
aggravates illusions or earthly desires, prompting us to compound
our errors and create more evil karma. This produces more suffering,
and so on. This is the vicious cycle that traps people in the
lower states of life. However, when illuminated by the state of
Buddhahood, these three paths just as they are become the Buddha's
three virtues of wisdom, truth (or the essential property of the
Law) and freedom, or emancipation. That is, as we devote ourselves
to the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the entire network of
interlocking causes and effects that forms our unique personality
and individual circumstances comes to be based on Buddhahood and
begins working to create joy, rather than suffering, for ourselves
Nichiren Daishonin uses the concept "changing poison into
medicine" to describe this transformation. In "On First
Hearing the Doctrine of the Buddha Vehicle," he states: ...
"Poison" means the three paths of earthly desires, karma
and suffering, and "medicine", the three virtues of
the property of the Law, wisdom and emancipation. Changing poison
into medicine means to change the three paths into the three virtues"
(Gosho Zenshu, P. 984).
The Daishonin says we can attain this wonderful benefit when
we "come to this place" -- that is, Eagle Peak or our
innate Buddhahood. He encourages us here that when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
with the conviction that within our own lives exists this eternally
inherent Buddha nature, we can at once manifest it, dispelling
the ignorance and illusion that are the source of all evil karma
and creating the cause for eternal joy. Our enlightenment exists
within our own lives, nowhere else outside of us.
Note: These three virtues characterize the Buddha's
life. The property of the Law is the truth that the Buddha has
realized, or the true entity of life; wisdom is the capacity to
realize this truth; and emancipation is freedom from the sufferings
of birth and death. These three virtues also correspond respectively
to the three properties (sanjin) of the Buddha's life: the property
of the Law, or essential property; the property of wisdom, or
the Buddha's enlightened spiritual property, and the property
of action, or the Buddha's enlightened physical property.
A suffering traveler in central India....
How can I describe your sincerity? In truth, it is splendid!
ALL LIVING BEINGS CAN FREE THEMSELVES FROM SUFFERING
According to the ancient Indian worldview, north of the Snow
Mountains there was a small body of water called Munetchi ("lake
without heat"), or the Icy Lake, which gave rise to the four
rivers that nourished the soil of Jambudvipa ("the continent
where human beings dwell"). Bounded by shores of gold, silver,
emerald and crystal, its waters were said to remove all suffering
and satisfy all desire.
In a similar way, the Daishonin says, the Mystic Law has the
power to "quench the fires of anguish" arising from
greed, anger, stupidity and the like, and to fulfill all desires.
Therefore, he compares Mount Minobu, where he, the votary of the
Mystic Law, was living, to Munetchi Lake.
Our prayer to the Gohonzon indeed enables us to 64 quench the
fires of anguish in our hearts," overcoming any frustration,
deadlock or suffering, and lead lives of supreme fulfillment in
which we have nothing to regret. The Gohonzon embodies the statement
in "Yakuo" (Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine
King), the twenty-third chapter of the Lotus Sutra: "This
sutra can save all living beings". This sutra can cause all
living beings to free themselves from suffering and anguish. This
sutra can bring great benefits to all living beings and fulfill
their desires, as a dear cool pond can satisfy all those who are
In the final sentences of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin reminds
Nanjo Tokimitsu that a long time has elapsed since he last visited
Minobu, and he urges the young man to come see him as soon as
possible, striving in this way to arouse his seeking mid so that
he would be motivated to overcome his illness quickly. He concludes
with an exclamation of praise for Tokimitsu's remarkable sincerity