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Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
- Shoji Ichidaiji Kechimyaku Sho -


Records are sketchy, but it is believed that Sairen-bo Nichijo was a noted priest of the Tendai sect who, for some unknown reason, had been living in exile on Sado for a number of years. He met the Daishonin there and became his follower. "Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life," dated February 11, 1272, was addressed to a question posed by Sairen-bo. The Daishonin also sent him several of his most profound writings, including "The True Entity of Life," "On Prayer," and "Enlightenment of Plants."

By the thirteenth century, the once-prestigious Tendai sect had deteriorated as it became infused with the esoteric teachings of the Shingon sect. The famed Mahayana sanctuary on Mount Hiei for two centuries had been the hub of the Japanese religious world, but the Buddhism practiced there was no longer relevant to the needs of the times or even orthodox. The Tendai sect lapsed into formalism and a monotonous repetition of long-established ritual.

Sairen-bo was an astute scholar. He must have been appalled at the lack of orthodoxy and discipline in his own sect and he quickly sensed the wisdom and truth expounded by Nichiren Daishonin. He sought the answer to the ultimate question, that of life and death, and the Daishonin praised him with "How admirable that you have asked about the transmission of the ultimate law of life and death!" He provided a look into the mystery of the Buddha's own enlightenment, as well as a practical guide whereby ordinary persons could attain the same end.

In the first paragraph, the Daishonin states that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is itself his inner enlightenment, is the heritage of the ultimate law of life. The transmission of this Law was made from the Daishonin to his immediate successor Nikko Shonin, and then to each successive high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. In the general sense, however, this Law also flows in the depths of the lives of those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In this Gosho, the Daishonin declares that there is no distinction whatsoever between himself, the Gohonzon, that is, the embodiment of his enlightened life, and us, the common mortals who chant. In terms of time, the lifeblood - the mystic relationship between the Law and the lives of the people - courses eternally throughout the past, present and future, unbroken in any lifetime. In terms of space, the heritage of the ultimate law flows within the lives of the Daishonin's disciples who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo unified in their purpose of establishing world peace.

Having stated that the Law is within, Nichiren Daishonin explains how to inherit the ultimate law - how to manifest innate Buddhahood. He encourages the attitude that "now is the last moment..." in order to achieve the most meaningful life possible, and a strong self-identity which transcends both life and death. In discussing the thousand Buddhas and the ten kings of hell, he reveals the continuity of cause and effect spanning past, present and future. Whatever life-condition predominates in this life will be carried over into the next.

The heritage of the ultimate law flows from the infinite past to the eternal future. It pulses vigorously in the fusion between the Law - the Gohonzon - and the people's lives, as well as in the mutual recognition and encouragement of those who uphold the Law. Whether someone can inherit the lifeblood of the Daishonin's Buddhism or not depends entirely on his faith. This is why he strictly warns in his conclusion, "Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra."

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