The Opening of the Eyes
- Kaimoku Sho -
This treatise is one of Nichiren Daishonin's most important writings, for he revealed himself here to be the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law who possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent. In February 1272, still under the harsh penalty of exile on Sado Island, the Daishonin completed this work and addressed it to Shijo Kingo, one of his trusted disciples. "The True Object of Worship," written one year later, clarifies the object of worship, which allows all people to attain enlightenment, from the viewpoint of the Law. "The Opening of the Eyes" treats the same subject in terms of the Person; that is, it shows Nichiren Daishonin to be the original Buddha who would establish the true object of worship for the happiness of all mankind. The object of worship is the embodiment of the Daishonin's life and the supreme law of the universe, Nam-myoho-retige-kyo.
The Tatsunokuchi Persecution of 1271 and the subsequent exile to Sado Island were the greatest of all persecutions bcfalling Nichiren Daishonin. His life on the forbidding island was full of hardship; his hut was open to the wind and snow, and he lacked food, clothing and writing materials. In addition to his physical suffering he was troubled by the news that many of his followers in Kamakura had abandoned their faith. Moreover, jealous Nembutsu priests posed a continual threat to his life. The shadow of death always haunted him. Under these circumstances, Nichiren Daishonin wrote this treatise to encourage his disciples as though it were his last will and testament.
Nichiren Daishonin expressed his conviction as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law in the Gosho, "On the Buddha's Behavior": "After everyone had gone, I began to put into shape a work in two volumes, called Kaimoku Sho (The Opening of the Eyes), which I had been working on since the eleventh month of the previous year. I wanted to record the wonder I had experienced, in case I should be beheaded. The essential message in this work, which I entrusted to Shijo Kingo's messenger, is that the destiny of Japan depends solely upon me. A house without pillars collapses and a man without a soul is dead. I am the soul of the people of Japan."
Nichikan Shonin, the twcnty-sixth high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, explains in his exegesis of this work that the title "The Opening of the Eyes" means to open eyes that are blind. He writes, "Because the eyes of all people in Japan are clouded by their adherence to provisional teachings, they cannot recognize the three virtues of the original Buddha. Therefore it is as though they were blind." He goes on to explain that this treatise was written to open the eyes of all mankind to the original Buddha who possesses all of the three virtues: the virtue of sovereign, or the power to protect the people; the virtue of teacher, or the wisdom to lead them to enlightenment; and the virtue of parent, or the compassion to save them from unhappiness. A passage from this treatise reads, "On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year, between the hours of the Rat and the Ox (11:00 P.M. to 3:00 A.M.), this person named Nichiren was beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado . . . " It was through the Tatsunokuchi Persecution that Nichiren Daishonin completed his transient mission as Bodhisattva Jogyo, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and revealed his true identity as the original Buddha of kuon ganjo. "This person named Nichiren was beheaded" means the death of a common mortal named Nichiren, and "it is his soul that has come to this island of Sado" indicates that from then on the Daishonin was to reveal in full his enlightenment as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
In this treatise, Nichiren Daishonin begins by saying, "There are three categories of people that all men and women should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent." He then proceeds to examine to what extent these three virtues are possessed by teachings of increasing profundity, beginning with Confucianism, and progressing upward through Taoism, Brahmanism, Hinayana Buddhism, provisional Mahayana teachings, the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The three virtues are a theme running throughout the entire Gosho; they are a standard for evaluating the relative depth of various teachings. Ultimately, the Daishonin will declare that he himself is the sovereign, teacher and parent for all people in the Latter Day of the Law, indicating that he is the Buddha of that age.
The Daishonin sets up a comparison between the provisional and true teachings of Buddhism. Every teaching of the Buddha reveals some truth, but all the provisional teachings were meant only to lead to the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin reveals the core of the essential teaching, saying, "The doctrine of ichinen sanzen is found in only one place, hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra." He attributes the cause of the miseries and disasters ravaging Japan to the confusion in Buddhism and the failure to recognize the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra. He then cites two reasons why the sutra is supreme. One is that the theoretical teaching (former half of the Lotus Sutra) teveals that people in the state of shomon (Learning) and engaku (Realization) can attain enlightenment, a possibility utterly denied in the previous forty-two years of the Buddha's preaching. The predictions in the theoretical teaching that Shariputra and others of the two vehicles will attain Buddhahood substantiate the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the statement that Buddhahood is open to all.
The other reason is that, in the essential teaching (the latter half of the Lotus Sutra), Shakyamuni Buddha denied that he had first attained enlightenment in India, and instead revealed his original enlightenment in the unfathornably remote past-a time called gohyaku-jintengo. The Daishonin points out the difficulty which later scholars had in believing the Buddha's new revelation in the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha himself predicted this, saying that among all sutras, the Lotus Sutra is "the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." People tended to believe the mass of sutras preached during the first forty-odd years rather than the one solitary sutra which contradicted all the others. The Daishonin, however, takes the position that only the revelation of the truth of Buddhism can save the nation from the miseries which have been brought about by false interpretations of the Buddha's teachings. This conviction, he says, has moved him to propagate the Lotus Sutra in spite of the persecution which he knew his action would incur. He alone has experienced the reality of the sutra's words: "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?"
Next the Daishonin raises a major question. If he is in fact the votary of the sutra, he ought to be protected by the heavenly gods, but in actuality he has suffered incomparably greater persecutions than any faced by T'ien-t'ai, Dengyo or others. If he is truly the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then why do the gods not protect him as they vowed in the sutra that they would? This apparent failure was a ma or cause of doubt among his disciples at the time of the Sado exile. He writes, "This doubt lies at the heart of this piece I am writing. And because it is the most important concern of my entire life, I will raise it again and again here and emphasize it more than ever, before I attempt to answer it."
The second part of the Gosho introduces the scene of the ceremony of the Lotus Sutra where, in the Yujutsu (15th) chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha summons forth countless bodhisattvas from beneath the earth. The assembly is awed by their noble appearance. Who are these bodhisattvas, they wish to know. Shakyamuni replies that they are his disciples. This statement provokes grave doubt and consternation. Shakyamuni has been a Buddha for only slightly more than forty years. How could he possibly have trained innumerable bodhisattvas in so short a span of time? Shakyamuni's answer is to expound the Juryo (16th) chapter, in which he reveals that he had actually attained enlightenment in the unfathomably remote past. It therefore becomes apparent that all the other Buddhas of other sutras are his emanations and all bodhisattvas are his disciples. Moreover, the three virtues of Shakyamuni Buddha of the Juryo chapter are the highest of those of any Buddha or sage discussed so far. Nichiren Daishonin makes it clear that the Buddha of the Juryo chapter is the teacher of all Buddhas and sutras. In this chapter the Buddha revealed his supreme teaching. All the other sutras are shown to be a means whereby the people are led to the highest teaching of all-the Lotus Sutra, the core of which is the Juryo chapter.
At this point in the Gosho an implicit analogy begins to emerge. The doubt held by Shakyamuni's disciples about how he could possibly have taught the Bodhisattvas of the Earth leads to the revelation of his true identity as the Buddha who attained enlightenment countless aeons ago. Similarly, the doubt held by the Daishonin's disciples about why he was seemingly not protected and did not lead a peaceful life leads to an understanding of his true identity as the Buddha of the Latter Day.
Having so far expounded the superiority of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin introduces the principle of sowing, maturing and harvest. When Shakyamuni revealed his Buddhahood in the remote past, he pointed directly toward the original cause of his own enlightenment. The Daishonin, by referring to the seed of Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment, points toward the supreme law whereby all Buddhas attain enlightenment - Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This law is what lies in the depths, not on the surface, of the Juryo chapter. Nam-myoho-rengekyo is the seed of enlightenment. Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddha of True Cause-because he directly taught the original or true cause for attaining Buddhahood. And his Buddhism is called the Buddhism of sowing because it implants the seed of enlightenment in the lives of those who practice it. In this light, he possesses the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent for all mankind. The Daishonin declares that the bodhisattvas and heavenly gods should be protecting him and helping him to spread the Mystic Law which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra, as they vowed to Shakyamuni that they would do.
Each sutra has its own claim to excellence, a fact which led to much confusion in later times. Giving examples, the Daishonin shows that each sutra contains statements to the effect that it is superior to all teachings which preceded it. But only the Lotus Sutra declares that it is supreme among all the sutras "I have preached, now preach, and will preach." Having reconfirmed the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin shows how his life is bound irrevocably to the teachings of that sutra. The three powerful enemies predicted in the Kanji (13th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra serve to identify him as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. Had he not encountered opposition and hostility as the sutra prophesied, the words of Shakyamuni would have been false. However, the people could not acknowledge the Daishonin as the sutra's votary because he did not seem to be protected by the heavenly gods; rather, he suffered an attempted execution and two exiles. Here the Daishonin gives three reasons, apart from the need to fulfill the sutra's prophecies, why the gods do not protect him. First, if one has committed slander of the Lotus Sutra in previous existences, he will not be protected from persecution. However, by meeting difficulty in the course of Buddhist practice, such slanders can be eradicated. The Daishonin here shows this through his own example. Secondly, when the slander of people is so heavy as to doom them to the state of hell, they do not necessarily receive immediate retribution, even when they persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Thirdly, because the gods forsake a country which is filled with slanderers, those who persecute the votary do not incur immediate punishment. After detailing these reasons, the Daishonin vows to stake his life on the cause of saving all people. He writes, "Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law.... I will be the Pillar of Japan. I will be the Eyes of Japan. I will be the Great Ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!" This is his oath as the Buddha of the Latter Day. As such, his deepest concern was not whether or not he was protected by the Buddhist gods, but rather, to carry out his mission.
Then the Daishonin teaches us that we will definitely ai am Buddhahood as long as we do not permit ourselves to be overcome by doubts, even when difficulties befall us. In the final section, he also explains that the means used for Buddhist propagation depend on the country and the capacity of the people. There are two ways to propagate the Lotus Sutra: shoju, or gentle arguments, and shakubuku, or strict refutation. The Daishonin says that Japan of his day, as a nation of slanderers, requires shakubuku. Then he concludes that to remove suffering and give joy to the people is the Buddha's teaching. The Daishonin is alone in refuting and rooting out the cause of human miseries. He is the Buddha who possesses the three virtues-the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent. No matter what others may say about him, he is not shamed. On the contrary, to be praised by the ignorant would be the greatest shame of all. After all, for Nichiren Daishonin the exile to Sado was only a "small suffering" in this life. Rather, he feels "immense joy" even in exile because of the overall results he was confident would come in the future.
The recipient of this treatise, Shijo Kingo, was a leader of the followers in Kamakura and a samurai who served Ema Mitsutoki of the Mjo clan. Besides his accomplishment in the martial arts, he was reputed to be a skilled physician. He was converted to the Daishonin's Buddhism around 1256. Kingo helped the Daishonin in various ways to propagate his teachings and resolutely protected his fellow believers. He received thirty-seven (extant) letters from the Daishonin.
A passage from "The Three Kinds of Treasure" describes the bond between them: "Over and over I recall the moment, unforgettable even now, when I was about to be beheaded and you accompanied me, holding the reins of my horse and weeping tears of grief. Nor could I ever forget it in any lifetime to come. If you should fall into hell for some grave offense, no matter how Shakyamuni might urge me to become a Buddha, I would refuse; I would rather go to hell with you." At Tatsunokuchi Shijo Kingo had accompanied the Daishonin, resolved to die with him. Also, he journeyed to Sado Island to visit the Daishonin in exile. Communication with an exile was prohibited, so only a few of the most devout disciples attempted even to send a letter or offering. A personal visit was therefore an extreme risk, especially for Shijo Kingo, who was in the employ of the ruling Fujo clan. Shijo Kingo also sent his messenger to the Daishonin with writing materials and other necessities. On Sado, the Daishonin completed the "The Opening of the Eyes," and delivered it to Shijo Kingo through his messenger.
Why did the Daishonin entrust this treatise to Shijo Kingo in particular? There are at least four possible reasons. First, the faith demonstrated by Shijo Kingo's willingness to give his life for the Lotus Sutra at Tatsunokuchi might well have qualified him in the Daishonin's mind. Secondly, perhaps Shijo Kingo, who had personally witnessed what occurred at Tatsunokuchi, could best understand the full implication of this document. Thirdly, Shijo Kingo was a central figure among the lay believers in Kamakura. Though he alone may have been able to grasp the profound meaning of "The Opening of the Eyes," the Daishonin may have intended to give guidance and encouragement to all the followers in Kamakura through Kingo. Fourth, the Daishonin may have intended, through Shijo Kingo's example, to stress the importance of the role and mission of the believers who assisted him, as stated in "Propagation by the Wise": "Even if there should be a person of wisdom who embraces Buddhism, how could he propagate it without believers who support him?"
Part One | Part Two
Designed by Will Kallander