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On Attaining Buddhahood
- Issho Jobutsu Sho -


Some two years after he first proclaimed Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren Daishonin was living in Kamakura. That city was the seat of the military government (shogunate), and this letter was addressed to an official serving there on the military tribunal. His name was Toki Jonin and he was a staunch follower of the Daishonin throughout his life. Thirty other letters, including the "Letter from Sado" and "The True Object of Worship," were addressed to him or his wife. "On Attaining Buddhahood" was written in 1255.

The letter opens with the Daishonin equating Myoho-renge-kyo, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the truth of life. Throughout history, most religions have theorized that the supreme law or being transcends the physical world. Buddhism teaches that the law and the phenomena we observe around us are inseparable. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the law of life, gives rise to all phenomena, and all phenomena are manifestations of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That is what is implied by the reference in this letter to "the mutually inclusive relationship of life and all phenomena."

According to the Jodo doctrine, this world is impure, but a magnificent, pure land lies far beyond the western horizon. This was the only paradise to which humans could aspire, and then only in death. Therefore, the title of this Gosho, which implies enlightenment in this lifetime, had a remarkably fresh ring to it.

The Daishonin frankly rejects the distinction between the Buddha and human beings by saying that there are no fundamental differences between a Buddha and a common mortal.

However, a person suffering from delusion is called a common mortal, but the same person, once enlightened, is called a Buddha. A further explanation is to be found in "The True Entity of Life": All people have the potential for Buddhahood within, and that is why "On Attaining Buddhahood" says, "You must never seek any of Shakyamuni's teachings or the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe outside yourself." He rejects the concept of a distant "pure land" and the condemnation of this world that it implies. A land is pure or impure only to the degree that the people who inhabit it are Pure. Both purity and impurity exist in any land and vary according to the life-condition of the population, hence the Buddhist law of the oneness of life and environment (Esho Funi)

Nichiren Daishonin then stated that the only means to rid ourselves of illusions and awaken to the unchanging truth of life is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. By so chanting we form an indissoluble bond with the life of the original Buddha, through which the precious heritage of enlightenment can flow. He next defines the literal meaning of myoho or the Mystic Law, which is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Life is eternal and continually repeats the two phases of life and death. In the manifest state (life) it exhibits the quality of "existence," and in the latent state (death) it exhibits the quality of "nonexistence. " But the true nature of life is far more profound than anything conveyed by either of those two concepts. Myo, meaning mystic, indicates the essence of life, which cannot be grasped logically or perceived through the senses. Ho, or law, indicates the manifestations of life, which function 'in accordance with various natural principles. The Daishonin explains that life itself is the entity of the Middle Way, which is the reality of all things - in other words, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. All these concepts, which constitute the core of his philosophy, must be pondered and then utilized in practice if we are to illuminate the innate darkness of our lives and become enlightened in this lifetime.

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