SGI-USA Study Curriculum
Lectures on the Hoben and Juryo Chapters of the Lotus Sutra
by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda
Myoho-renge-kyo is the Lotus Sutra of the
Featuring SGI President Ikeda's series of lectures on the
"(Expedient means) and "Juryo"
(Life Span of the Thus Come One) chapters of the Lotus Sutra.
President Ikeda titled this "Preliminary Thoughts."
To this day, memories of my mentor, Josei Toda, the second
Soka Gakkai president, lecturing on the Lotus Sutra, come
vividly to mind like scenes in a great painting.
After the war, the Soka Gakkai was in a state of ruin as
a result of the campaign of suppression that had been waged
against it by the militarist government. At that time, President
Toda began efforts to reconstruct the organization by delivering
lectures on the Lotus Sutra to a handful of members.
As a participant in the seventh series of lectures he gave,
I heard him speak on Sept. 13, 1948. That was in the autumn
of my 21st year. The venue was the old Soka Gakkai Headquarters
"I see that everyone's arrived," he began. There
were 50 to 60 people present. President Toda, his eyes sparkling
behind his glasses, gazed around the meeting place, which
consisted of two small rooms. Then he cleared his throat
and began lecturing in a frank and open manner.
I was instantly awestruck, electrified by the profound
ideas, the great and intense confidence, the compassionate
cry of concern for the world and humankind that seemed to
gush from his very being.
President Toda would never toy or joke around with difficult
ideas or concepts. His lectures were compassionate, straightforward
and lucid. Yet they glowed with the light of extremely profound
truth. They conveyed philosophy rooted directly in life
experience and in the Law that pervades the infinite universe.
They were filled with breathtaking drama and joyous music.
At one point, as I listened to him speak, the sun seemed
to rise in my heart, and everything became illuminated brilliantly
before my eyes.
That night, while still filled with the thrill and excitement
I felt during the lecture, I wrote a poem in the pages of
How I marvel at the greatness and profundity of the Lotus
Isn't it the path to salvation for all humankind?
The teaching that enlightens one to the origin of life and
The fundamental principle revealed to enable all people
to acquire the loftiest character and happiness ---
Are not all these to be found in the Lotus Sutra?
I am 21 years old.
Since setting out on my journey of life, what did
I contemplate, what did I do, what did I make the wellspring
of my happiness?
From this day on, I will advance bravely.
From this day on, I will live resolutely.
I will live within the life of the Great Law, win over
True sadness inspires one to lead a great life.
I now see the true Great Path and perceive the true nature
Astonished at his profundity and breadth of knowledge,
someone once asked President Toda, "When did you study
Smiling warmly, he replied: "While in prison during
the persecution, I chanted sincere daimoku, and I studied.
As a result, these things seem to have come to me. The 80,000
sutras in fact refer to my own life."
These lectures arose from the vast state of life of President
Toda, who had awakened to the essence of Buddhism while
The Lotus Sutra of the Former, Middle and
Later on, President Toda developed the format for his lectures
on the Lotus Sutra. He instituted beginners classes on the
"Hoben" and "Juryo" chapters specifically
for those who had recently taken faith.
His lectures, so brilliant and full of conviction, planted
the essence of Buddhism in the hearts of his listeners,
even without their being aware of it. For these persons
new to faith, many of whom thought of Buddhism only in terms
of Shakyamuni, President Toda began each series of lectures
by emphasizing that although people in different times spoke
of the "Lotus Sutra," the form in which the Lotus
Sutra is expressed differs according to the age --- depending
on whether it is the Former, Middle or Latter Day of the
President Toda used to say:
Everyone casually assumes that the Lotus Sutra indicates
the 28 chapter text by that name. But there are in fact
three kinds of Lotus Sutra.
The first is the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni. This is the
28 chapter sutra of that name; this Lotus Sutra benefited
people during Shakyamuni's lifetime and during the Former
Day of the Law. Presently, in the Latter Day, however, even
if you should carry out the practices [of the Former Day]
of reading and reciting this sutra and copying it, you will
gain no benefit thereby. Our recitation of the "Hoben"
and "Juryo" chapters during morning and evening
Gongyo does not come from this earlier practice --- it has
a different significance.
The Lotus Sutra of the Middle Day of the Law is T'ien-t'ai's
Maka Shikan (Great Concentration and Insight).
The Lotus Sutra for this period of the Latter Day is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
the "seven-character Lotus Sutra" hidden in the
depths of the "Juryo" chapter. You need to understand
that there are three kinds of Lotus Sutra and how they are
related to one another. In addition to these, there is another
Lotus Sutra that, while not capable of being substantiated
in a precise historical sense, was recognized alike by Nichiren
Daishonin, Shakyamuni, T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo; this is the
"24 character Lotus Sutra" expounded by Bodhisattva
Shakyamuni of India taught the "28 chapter Lotus Sutra"
for those alive during his lifetime and in the Former Day.
T'ien-t'ai of China expounded the Maka Shikan for human
beings of the Middle Day of the Law. And Bodhisattva Fukyo
expounded the so-called "24 character Lotus Sutra"
for the people of the Middle Day of a Buddha called lonno.
President Toda explained that despite the differences in
the age and the form in which the teaching was expressed,
these are all in fact the same Lotus Sutra. President Toda
called the Lotus Sutra as thus conceived the "manifold
The Lotus Sutra, therefore, is not simply the "Lotus
Sutra of Shakyamuni." It is also the "Lotus Sutra
of T'ien-t'ai" and the "Lotus Sutra of Bodhisattva
Fukyo." To President Toda, who had become enlightened
to the Lotus Sutra's essence, this was clear.
In the course of listening to his broad-ranging lectures,
his listeners, as a matter of course, could engrave distinctions
between the "Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni" and the
"Lotus Sutra of Nichiren Daishonin" in their lives.
What do the different expressions of this "manifold
Lotus Sutra" have in common? Ultimately, it is the
teaching that "everyone equally has the potential to
become a Buddha." There are, however, great differences
in how Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin expressed this
Whereas Shakyamuni expressed it as the "28 chapter
Lotus Sutra." Nichiren Daishonin, to enable all
human beings of the Latter Day to attain Buddhahood, revealed
the ultimate principle of the Lotus Sutra as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
In the "Essence of the Lotus Sutra" (Hokke
Shuyo Sho) the Daishonin says: "Nichiren throws
away the general and the outlined and selects the essential.
The essence is the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo transmitted
to Bodhisattva Jogyo" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 336).
The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, which constitute
the Lotus Sutra's essence --- that is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
of the Three Great Secret Laws --- are the Lotus Sutra appropriate
to this age of the Latter Day of the Law. President Toda
therefore termed the Daishonin's teaching the "Lotus
Sutra of the Latter Day."
The Lineage of Votaries of the Lotus Sutra
Someone who expounds a teaching that can enable all people
to attain Buddhahood is certain to encounter persecution.
Even Shakyamuni underwent a succession of great persecutions.
Moreover, the Lotus Sutra itself states that whoever spreads
the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law is certain
to encounter numerous persecutions even greater than those
Shakyamuni faced. Such passages and phrases as: "Since
hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the
Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his
passing?"; "the three powerful enemies";
and "hatred abounds, and it is hard to believe";
and the teaching of "the six difficult and nine easy
acts" all serve to clarify this point.
A votary who endures all of these great persecutions and
perseveres in spreading the teaching among the people of
the Latter Day embodies the heart of the Lotus Sutra. Enduring
persecution to spread the teaching to others is, in fact,
an expression of compassion.
Just as the sutra predicts, the life of Nichiren Daishonin,
who appeared in the Latter Day, was a succession of great
persecutions. The Daishonin, noting that he had encountered
persecutions matching in every respect those that the sutra
predicts will befall its votary, declares himself to be
the "votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day"
and the Buddha of the Latter Day.
At the same time, the Daishonin also designates Shakyamuni,
T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo as votaries of the Lotus Sutra of
their respective ages. They were all predecessors who expounded
the Lotus Sutra out of their desire for the people's happiness;
and they were persecuted as a result.
In addition, in many places in the Gosho, the Daishonin
praises and offers the greatest encouragement to his followers,
such as Shijo Kingo, who struggled to overcome great difficulties
and persevered with faith, not begrudging their lives. He
called them "votaries of the Lotus Sutra." To
one woman (the mother of Oto Gozen) who visited him in exile
on the island of Sado, bringing her young daughter with
her on the arduous journey, he goes so far as to say, "You
are undoubtedly the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra among
all the women of Japan" (MW-3, 52). And he gives her
the name Nichimyo Shonin (Sage Nichimyo).
Buddhism Means Taking Action --- Among People
and in Society
He also writes, "At the time of kosen-rufu, all people
in the entire world will become votaries of the Lotus Sutra"
(Gosho Zenshu, P. 834). He thus indicates the principle
that anyone in the world may become a votary of the Lotus
"Votaries of the Lotus Sutra" refers to those
who dedicate themselves to the mission of saving all people
throughout the entire world and over the 10,000 years and
more of the Latter Day of the Law. And kosen-rufu indicates
a situation in which individuals, basing themselves on the
Mystic Law, contribute to others and to society as "votaries,"
that is, as people of action.
Accordingly, the Soka Gakkai's founding president, Tsunesaburo
Makiguchi, and the second president, Josei Toda, who struggled
against the country's militarist regime and propagated the
Law for the people's happiness without begrudging their
own lives, certainly have a place in this lineage of votaries
of the Lotus Sutra.
The 65th high priest, Nichijun, lauded President Makiguchi
as "an emissary of the Buddha from birth," and
he praised President Toda as "the forerunner of the
Bodhisattvas of the Earth."
President Toda initiated the great struggle to spread the
"Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day" for those laboring
in extreme distress under the conditions that ensued following
World War II.
"I want to banish the word misery from this world."
"I want to rid the world of poverty and sickness [by
enabling all to become prosperous and healthy]." This
roar of my mentor, who, like a lion, stood up alone, still
resounds in my ears. This cry of the spirit is none other
than the "heart of the Lotus Sutra."
Buddhism always means action and practice. Enabling people
to overcome their difficulties and establish lives of supreme
happiness requires dialogue, thoroughgoing dialogue. In
such action and practice beats "the heart of the Lotus
The "Buddhism Hidden in the Depths
of the Sutra" Is Open to All
In his lectures, President Toda often spoke as follows:
Nichiren Daishonin read the Lotus Sutra from the standpoint
of its most profound inner-level recesses. The Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai read the surface meaning of the Lotus Sutra and
interpreted its passages and phrases most skillfully...
When I say Nichiren Daishonin read the Lotus Sutra, bear
in mind that he was not reading the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni
expounded just as it was, he was reading it in terms of
the meaning contained in its depths, from his state of life
as the Buddha of the Latter Day. This is what he indicates
when he refers to "the theoretical teaching that I
read" and "the 'Juryo' chapter in my inner enlightenment."
In his lectures, President Toda strictly distinguished
between the "surface reading," or reading from
the standpoint of Shakyamuni and T'ien-t'ai, and the "deep
reading," or reading from the standpoint of Nichiren
Daishonin; and he explained the correct way to read the
sutra in the Latter Day.
Just what kind of reading is this "deep reading"?
In a nutshell, it is to read the sutra from the standpoint
of the vast state of life of the original Buddha who desires
to enable all people of the Latter Day to attain true happiness.
The Daishonin "read the Lotus Sutra with his life"
by practicing with the spirit of not begrudging his life.
The essence of the Lotus Sutra the Daishonin risked his
life to propagate is the "Lotus Sutra of the Latter
Day," the "Lotus Sutra hidden in the depths of
the sutra" --- that is, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Considered from this standpoint, the 28 chapters of the
Lotus Sutra become in their entirety an explanation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
A "deep reading," hence, is to read the Lotus
Sutra from the standpoint of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
When we recite the "Hoben" and "Juryo"
chapters during Gongyo, we do so not from the standpoint
of the Lotus Sutra of the Former or Middle Day of the Law
but from that of Nichiren Daishonin's teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Commentary With Great Wisdom for People's
Happiness, Rooted in Daily Life
Nichiren Daishonin lectured on the 28 chapter Lotus Sutra
from the standpoint of the teaching hidden in its depths,
and Nikko Shonin recorded his lectures in the form of the
"Ongi Kuden" (Record of the Orally Transmitted
Teachings). To revive the heart of the Lotus Sutra and enable
all people of the Latter Day to attain Buddhahood, the Daishonin,
out of his immense compassion, explains exactly how the
passages of the sutra should be read.
This deep reading of the Lotus Sutra might be termed an
"interpretation from the standpoint of the Daishonin's
enlightenment." It is not simply a theoretical explanation
of the sutra but a reading that articulates the spirit of
the sutra passages from the single perspective of how all
people in the world can become happy.
In other words, it was a commentary geared to action, for
practice. It was a commentary for all human beings, on human
life and on living. Rather than representing simply "knowledge,"
the "Ongi Kuden" is a "reading" of great
wisdom that precisely and boldly clarifies the Lotus Sutra's
relevance to the age and to reality.
"Hidden in the depths" may give an impression
of some mystery closed off to most people. But that is certainly
not the case. On the contrary, the true value of the "Buddhism
hidden in the depths" lies in its being widely open
to all people and becoming a living, pulsing force that
invigorates the age and society.
The members of the Nikken sect have turned this basic tenet
completely on its head. They twist the teaching of the "Buddhism
hidden in the depths," get hung up on rigid interpretations,
and cloak themselves in a shell of authority. They have
turned the world of priests and temples into a world of
special privilege, and they have turned the Gohonzon into
a tool for controlling people. While not carrying out a
satisfactory practice themselves, they spend their time
in desultory pursuits, allowing the roots of their humanity
to decay. Their conduct is truly fearful. They have killed
the Daishonin's spirit.
At any rate, in these lectures I would like to discuss
the Lotus Sutra's connection with the age and with society,
reading from the "Ongi Kuden" and basing my words
on President Toda's lectures.
The Benefit of Reciting the Sutra
As you know, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or the daimoku
of the Lotus Sutra, is termed the "prime practice"
and reading or reciting the "Hoben" and "Juryo"
chapters is called the "supplementary practice."
The 26th high priest, Nichikan, explains the relationship
between the primary and supplementary practices by comparing
them to food and seasoning, respectively. In other words,
when eating rice or noodles, the "primary" source
of nourishment, you use salt or vinegar as seasoning to
help bring out, or "supplement," the flavor.
The benefit from carrying out the primary practice is immense.
When you also recite the "Hoben" and "Juryo"
chapters, it has the supplementary function of increasing
and accelerating the beneficial power of the primary practice.
Our basic way of Gongyo is to regard chanting daimoku as
its primary component and reciting the "Hoben"
and "Juryo" chapters as supplementary.
The benefit of chanting daimoku is immeasurable and boundless.
Indeed, there is infinite power in, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
just one time. The Daishonin says, "If you recite these
words of the daimoku once, then the Buddha nature of all
living beings will be summoned and gather around you"
(MW-5, 112). Also, he teaches that the benefit of chanting
one daimoku is equal to that of reading the entire Lotus
Sutra, that of chanting 10 daimoku is equal to reading the
sutra 10 times, that of 100 daimoku is equal to reading
the sutra 100 times, and that of 1,000 daimoku is equal
to reading the sutra 1,000 times.
Accordingly, there is no need to go to unreasonable lengths
to read the sutra when, for example, you are sick. If, as
a result of forcing yourself to do a complete Gongyo at
such times, your condition should worsen, then, rather than
increasing your benefit, it may in fact have the opposite
effect of destroying your joy in faith and thus generating
At such times, it may be best to simply read the "Hoben"
and Jigage portions of the sutra and chant daimoku, or to
just chant daimoku. Buddhism is reason. The important thing,
therefore, is for each person to make wise judgments that
will enable him or her to carry out a practice of Gongyo
filled with joy.
The Lotus Sutra As Read From the Daishonin's
The primary practice of the Daishonin's Buddhism is to
chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate truth of the highest
Buddhist teaching. Since we are carrying out the supreme
primary practice, anything less than the highest supplementary
practice would be of no help at all.
The supplementary practice the Daishonin chose is the Lotus
Sutra, which represents the purpose of Shakyamuni Buddha's
advent in this world. Of the sutras 28 chapters, he chose
for recitation the "Hoben" chapter, which is the
"essence of the theoretical teaching" (Gosho Zenshu
p. 1015), and the "Juryo" chapter, , "the
essence of the essential teaching" (Ibid., p. 1016).
During the Daishonin's time, as well, his followers read
and recited these two chapters. In one Gosho, for example,
Among the entire twenty-eight chapters, the "Hoben"
chapter and the "Juryo" chapter are particularly
outstanding. The remaining chapters are in a sense the branches
and leaves of these two chapters. Therefore for your regular
recitation, I recommend that you practice reading the prose
sections of the "Hoben" and " Juryo"
chapters (MW-6, 10).
He teaches that since the "Hoben" and "Juryo"
chapters constitute the foundation of the Lotus Sutra's
28 chapters, these two chapters should be read dally.
Gongyo and daimoku are the roots that, as it were, enable
you to grow into a great tree. The tree of your life strengthens
and thickens as a cumulative result of your continuing practice
of Gongyo and daimoku. While it may not be possible to see
any changes from one day to the next, because of the daily
nourishment a consistent practice affords, your life will
one day become towering and vast like a great tree. As you
carry out a steady practice, you will develop a state of
life of absolutely indestructible happiness.
As I mentioned earlier, however, it goes without saying
that the "Hoben" and "Juryo" chapters
we recite are those of the Lotus Sutra as seen from Nichiren
Daishonin's standpoint of the "teaching hidden in depths."
Nichikan explains that we read the "Hoben" chapter
to "refute" its surface meaning and "borrow"
its phrases, and that we read the "Juryo" chapter
to "refute" its surface meaning and "reveal"
the profound message hidden in it. Reading these chapters
from the standpoint of the Daishonin's Buddhism, we refute
their surface meaning; it is as though we are saying: "The
Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni has no power of benefit in the
At the same time, from the Daishonin's standpoint, we also
read it "to lend praise to the greatness of the Gohonzon
through the Lotus Sutra." This way of reading it corresponds
to "borrowing" its words and "revealing"
its hidden teaching.
While there are meticulous arguments to support and substantiate
this explanation, for the time being I would simply like
to confirm the point that in reading the "Hoben"
and "Juryo" chapters, we do so from the standpoint
of the Daishonin's Buddhism.
Your Chanting Voices Reach the Buddhas and
I imagine some of you may wonder how reading sutra passages
you cannot understand could bring about any benefit. Let
me reassure you that definitely there is benefit from carrying
out this practice.
The Daishonin says:
A baby does not know the difference between water and fire,
and cannot distinguish medicine from poison. But when he
sucks milk, his life is nourished and sustained. Although
one may not be versed [in various sutras]... if one listens
to even one character or one phrase of the Lotus Sutra,
one cannot fail to attain Buddhahood (MW-7, 104-05).
Just as a baby grows larger without realizing it by drinking
milk, if you earnestly chant the Mystic Law with faith in
the Gohonzon, your life definitely will come to shine with
immeasurable good fortune and benefit.
To cite another example: Dogs have a language in the world
of dogs, and birds have a language in the world of birds.
While people cannot understand these languages, fellow dogs
and fellow birds can certainly communicate with one another.
Also, even though some people do not understand scientific
jargon or a particular language, others can communicate
very well through these languages.
Similarly it might be said that when we are doing daimoku,
we are speaking in the Buddhas and bodhisattvas language.
Even though you may not understand what you are saying,
your voice definitely reaches the Gohonzon, all Buddhist
gods and all Buddhas and bodhisattvas over the three existence's
and in the 10 directions; and that, in response, the entire
universe bathes you in the light of good fortune.
At the same time, it is certainly true that if you study
the meaning of the sutra based on this practice and with
a seeking mind, you can as a matter of course deepen your
confidence and strengthen your faith still further.
A Practice for Revitalization
When we do Gongyo and chant daimoku, we conduct a ceremony
in which we praise the Gohonzon and the great Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
On one level, it could be said that Gongyo is a poem or
a song of the highest and utmost praise for the Buddha and
for Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental law of the universe.
At the same time, when we do Gongyo, we praise the eternal
life of the universe and the world of Buddhahood in our
President Toda once said:
When we turn to the east and salute the Buddhist gods,
then and there the Buddhist gods within our own hearts
soar out into the universe. Then, when we face the Gohonzon
during the second prayer, the Buddhist gods all take their
seats behind us.
If I were to salute the Buddhist gods right now, then,
regardless of whether it was night or day, they would all
take their seats behind me and salute the Gohonzon. And
these Buddhist gods would all work to bring about what I
When we worship the Gohonzon, right then and there the
doors of the microcosm within us open completely to the
macrocosm, and we can experience a sense of serene and great
happiness, as though gazing out over the entire universe.
We sense tremendous fulfillment and joy, and gain access
to a great and inexhaustible source of wisdom. The microcosm
that has been embraced by the universe in turn embraces
Gongyo is an invigorating "ceremony of time without
beginning" that revitalizes us from the very depths
of our being. Therefore, the important thing is to do Gongyo
each day filled with a feeling of rhythm and cadence ---
like a horse galloping through the heavens. I hope you will
do Gongyo when you are relaxed and refreshed in both body
and mind, and that you will perform this practice in such
a manner that you can experience great satisfaction and
Practicing the "King of Sutras"
Makes People Strong and Wise
The Lotus is the "king of sutras," the "scripture
that calls out to all people." It is a scripture "living"
right now; it embodies the Buddha's compassion and egalitarian
outlook. It is a "renaissance scripture," overflowing
with the spirit of revitalization, that makes human beings
strong and wise. And the "Hoben" and "Juryo"
chapters are the "eye" of the sutra.
No practice is as universally accessible to all people
as the practice that Nichiren Daishonin set forth of reading
the sutra and chanting daimoku. This is the Buddhist practice
most accessible to all people.
During the Daishonin's lifetime, both priests and lay people
assiduously recited the sutra and chanted daimoku. In modern
society, however, for many people in Japan, sutras have
become something distant and remote; the only exposure that
most people in Japan have to the sutras is when they hear
a priest intoning them at a funeral.
This state of affairs, this tendency to depend on priests
--- which has come to be regarded as so natural that no
one questions it --- has produced a spiritual foundation
of blind obedience to religious authority. And it is the
"fundamental evil" that has allowed members of
the clergy to grow arrogant and decadent.
Today, however, as a result of the development of the Soka
Gakkai International, people not only in Japan but in countries
throughout the world are joyously chanting the Mystic Law
and reciting the "Hoben" and "Juryo"
chapters. This is a grand undertaking wholly without precedent
in the history of Buddhism. This represents the great religious
revolution of the 20th century.
Nichiren Daishonin's "people's Buddhism" is generating
a great light of peace and happiness throughout the world.
Millions are experiencing the beneficial power of the Mystic
Law and are acting out the wonderful drama of their human
revolution. More than anything else, it is this fact that
most eloquently attests to the correctness of the SGI, which
carries on the spirit of the Lotus Sutra in the present
As I work on these lectures, I have images of these many
friends in mind. I would like to proceed as though carrying
on a discussion with each of you while gazing up into a
clear, blue sky, or strolling leisurely along a path through
a field filled with fragrant, blooming flowers.
[ Contents | Next