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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Nothing ceded from the Gohonzon? Not according to Nichiren.

“.... because on its face you displayed the Seven Characters “Namu Myoho renge kyo”, when the north wind blows the scaly tribe (fish) of the Southern Sea, meeting that wind, will leave the sufferings of the great sea and when the east wind comes the birds and deer of the western mountains, having had that wind touch their bodies, shall escape the Way of the Beasts and they shall be reborn in the Inner Cloister of Tushita. How much more the human beings who have a following joy (zuiki) for that sotoba, touching it to their hands and seeing it with their eyes! Think that it is like the moon’s reflection when the water is clear and the reverberation when they strike the drum that by the merit of that sotoba the departed parents shall also illuminate the Pure Land like the sun and moon of heaven and the person of filial nurture as well as his wife and children shall have a lifespan of a hundred and twenty years in the present world and in the after life shall go to the Pure Land of the Spiritual Mountain (ryozen jodo). Henceforth on subsequent sotobas you should display the Title (Daimoku) of the Hokekyo.” (Nakaoki nyudo goshosoku, STN, v. 2, 1718-1719)

Merely coming across a toba written "Namu Myoho ho renge kyo" is enough to eventually attain Buddhahood.

Do you think that nothing is ceded from the scriptures and the Gohonzon?

Jim, an SGI senior leader also has posted that nothing is ceded from the Gohonzon (power of the Buddha and power of the Law) to the believer because the only powers are the power of faith and the power of practice (of the believer).

There are several ways to look at it in order to demonstrate your (and his) error and they derive from the timeless principles of Buddhism called Dependent Origination and Ichinen Sanzen or Three Thousand Worlds in a Momentary State of Existence. 

These principles demonstrate that everything in the universe is inextricably connected to everything else. Therefore, not only does one's thoughts words and deeds affect ones own being but all beings both sentient and insentient and all phenomena equally affect us. This is the rational for chanting for other people's welfare, those dead and alive, praying for rain, good weather, lack of accidents etc. The environment equally has the power to influence us. Rainy days are gloomy or cause our joints to hurt, for example.

When examining one's own power compared to the power of the Buddha and Law, it is impossible to fail to acknowledge that our power alone is indeed limited. Whether in the religious or in the secular realm, a team can accomplish more than an individual and an individual with a tool can accomplish more than one without a tool. Were our power not limited, we could, by our own power, obtain Buddhahood but according to Nichiren Daishonin, we require both the help of others [the Buddha, the Law, and good friends in the dharma] and the hindrances of others [those who obstruct our faith and practice]. Believing that we can utilize our power alone to attain Buddhahood is a shallow mechanistic approach to Buddhism, denying others assistance and the utility of a tool. It also deprecates the Gohonzon thinking that the paper and ink of the object of devotion is inferior to the flesh and bones of the human being. In the secular realm, millions have given their lives for the sake of ink and paper, ie: for the Constitution of the United States. How much more so in the realm of Buddhism where, "Since the Law is supreme, the Person is worthy of respect; since the Person is worthy of respect, the Land is sacred.", not the other way around.

"The characters of this sutra are all without exception living Buddhas of perfect enlightenment. But because we have the eyes of ordinary people, we see them as characters. For instance, hungry spirits perceive the Ganges River as fire, human beings perceive it as water, and heavenly beings perceive it as amrita. Though the water is the same, it appears differently according to one’s karmic reward from the past.

The blind cannot see the characters of this sutra. To the eyes of ordinary people, they look like characters. Persons of the two vehicles perceive them as the void. Bodhisattvas look on them as innumerable doctrines. Buddhas recognize each character as a golden Shakyamuni. This is what is meant by the passage that says, “[If one can uphold this sutra], one will be upholding the Buddha’s body.” Those who practice with distorted views, however, are destroying this most precious sutra. You should simply be careful that, without differing thoughts, you single-mindedly aspire to the pure land of Eagle Peak. A passage in the Six Pāramitās Sutra says to become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you. I will explain in detail when I see you."

"“Who do you think we are?” they say. “We are the characters of the verse section of the ‘Life Span’ chapter of the Lotus Sutra that your son Hōren recites each morning. These characters will be your eyes, your ears, your feet, your hands!” Thus do they earnestly converse with him." -- Letter to Horen

The blind cannot see the characters of this sutra. To the eyes of ordinary people, they look like characters. Persons of the two vehiclesperceive them as the void. Bodhisattvas look on them as innumerable doctrines. Buddhas recognize each character as a golden Shakyamuni. This is what is meant by the passage that says, “[If one can uphold this sutra], one will be upholding the Buddha’s body.” Those who practice with distorted views, however, are destroying this most precious sutra. You should simply be careful that, without differing thoughts, you single-mindedly aspire to the pure land of Eagle Peak. A passage in the Six Pāramitās Sutra2 says to become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you. I will explain in detail when I see you. -- Letter to Soya

“Then yesterday morning the single character myō, which begins the title of the Lotus Sutra, came flying through the air above the cauldron that is the hell of incessant suffering, and there changed into a golden-hued Shakyamuni Buddha. This Buddha possessed the thirty-two features, and his face was like the full moon. He spoke in a thunderous voice, saying, ‘Even those who have destroyed enough good causes to fill the entire realm of phenomena, if they hear the Lotus Sutra just once, will never fail to attain enlightenment.’

“Then from this one character myō a heavy rain began to fall that extinguished the flames of the hell of incessant suffering. King Yamatipped his crown in a gesture of respect, the wardens of hell put aside their staffs and stood at attention, and all the transgressors in hell looked around in astonishment and asked what had happened.

“Then the character hō appeared in the air and underwent the same kind of transformation, followed by the character ren, the character ge,and the character kyō. In this way sixty-four characters appeared and became sixty-four Buddhas. Sixty-four Buddhas appearing in the hell of incessant suffering were like sixty-four suns and moons coming out in the sky. Amrita, or sweet dew, then descended from the sky and fell upon the transgressors.

“The transgressors asked the Buddhas why these wonderful things were happening. The sixty-four Buddhas answered, saying: ‘Our golden-hued bodies do not come either from sandalwood or from jeweled mountains. They come from the eight times eight characters, the sixty-four characters that make up the titles of the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, which were transcribed by I-lung, the son of Wu-lung, who is here in the hell of incessant suffering. The hand of I-lung is part of the body fathered by Wu-lung, and the characters written by that hand are as though written by Wu-lung himself.’" -- Letter to Horen

"It is no ordinary thing for a woman in the latter age to have resolved to make an offering to each of the twenty-eight chapters of this wonderful Lotus Sutra. At the ceremony of the “Treasure Tower” chapter, the Thus Come Ones Many Treasures and Shakyamuni, the Buddhas of the ten directions, and all bodhisattvas gathered together. When I ponder where this “Treasure Tower” chapter is now, I see that it exists in the eight-petaled lotus flower of the heart within the breast of Nichinyo. This is like the lotus seed containing the lotus flower within it, or a consort carrying a crown prince in her womb. When someone, having observed the ten good precepts, is destined to be born a crown prince and awaits his birth in the consort’s womb, the heavenly gods will protect him. That is why a crown prince is called the Son of Heaven. Each of the 69,384 characters of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra is like a crown prince and is the seed of a Buddha."

"Every single character in this sutra represents the true intention of the Buddhas, and every brushstroke of it is a source of aid to those who repeat the cycle of birth and death. There is not a single word in it that is untrue." -- A Sage and an Unenlightened Man

T’ien-t’ai said, “Voices do the Buddha’s work.”

Here Nichiren is talking generally. When talking specifically (about the characters of the Lotus Sutra) he writes:

“And among the Sutras, the Lotus Sutra is a manifestation in writing of Shakyamuni Buddha’s intent; it is his voice set down in written word.” (The Pure and Far Reaching Voice))

“Shakyamuni Buddha and the written words of the Lotus Sutra are two different things but their heart is one. Therefore, when you cast your eyes upon the words of the Lotus Sutra you should consider that you are beholding the living body of the Buddha Shakyamuni.” (Ibid, pg 147)

and

“However the Buddha recognizes each character as a golden Lord Shakyamuni. This is the meaning of the statement that ‘[one who is able to hold this Sutra] thereby holds the Buddha’s body’. Those who practice Buddhism but adhere to distorted views destroy this loftiest of Sutras.” (MW vol 5, Reply to Soya Nyudo, pg 164)

Likewise when talking generally, Nichiren states, T’ien-t’ai said, “Voices do the Buddha’s work.” That is:

"When the Lotus Sutra is placed before an image possessing thirty-one features, the image never fails to become the Buddha of the pure and perfect teaching. It is for this reason that the Universal Worthy Sutra, referring to the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra, explains, “A Buddha’s three types of bodies are born from this correct and equal sutra.” The correct and equal sutra in this phrase does not mean the sutras of the Correct and Equal period; it indicates the Lotus Sutra. The Universal Worthy Sutra also states, “This great vehicle sutra is the eye of the Buddhas. It is through this sutra that the Buddhas are able to acquire the five types of vision.”

The written words of the Lotus Sutra express in visible and non-coextensive form the Buddha’s pure and far-reaching voice, which is itself invisible and coextensive, and so possess the two physical aspects of color and form. The Buddha’s pure and far-reaching voice, which once vanished, has reappeared in the visible form of written words to benefit the people.

A person gives utterance to speech on two occasions: On one occasion, it is to tell other people what one does not oneself believe in an effort to deceive them. That person’s voice in this case “accords with others’ minds.” On the other, it is to voice what one truly has in mind. Thus one’s thoughts are expressed in one’s voice. The mind represents the spiritual aspect, and the voice, the physical aspect. The spiritual aspect manifests itself in the physical. A person can know another’s mind by listening to the voice. This is because the physical aspect reveals the spiritual aspect. The physical and spiritual, which are one in essence, manifest themselves as two distinct aspects; thus the Buddha’s mind found expression as the written words of the Lotus Sutra. These written words are the Buddha’s mind in a different form. Therefore, those who read the Lotus Sutra must not regard it as consisting of mere written words, for those words are in themselves the Buddha’s mind."

For this reason, T’ien-t’ai in his commentary states: “When the Buddha begins preaching after repeated entreaties from his listeners, he expounds the heart of his teaching. The heart of his teaching is the Buddha’s mind, and the Buddha’s mind is itself the Buddha’s wisdom. The Buddha’s wisdom is extremely profound. Therefore, the Buddha refuses three times to proceed with his preaching, and his listeners entreat him four times to continue to preach. The preaching of the Lotus Sutra was accompanied by such difficulties. Compared to the Lotus Sutra, the preaching of the other sutras was an easy matter.”8 In this commentary, T’ien-t’ai uses the term “Buddha’s mind” to indicate that the sutra, itself a physical entity, actually embodies the Buddha’s spiritual aspect.

Because the Lotus Sutra manifests the Buddha’s spiritual aspect, when one embodies that spiritual aspect in a wooden or painted image possessing thirty-one features, the image in its entirety becomes the living Buddha. This is what is meant by the enlightenment of plants."

The case of the Lotus Sutra is the same. The Lotus Sutra is the master of Medicine Master Buddha in the east, as well as the master of all Buddhas in the south, west, north, and the worlds above and below. Shakyamuni Buddha and the other Buddhas revere the characters of the Lotus Sutra in the same way that people fear their sovereign and the stars venerate the moon."

Therefore both the scripture (Law) and the person are required in Mappo with the exception of the Four Great Bodhisattvas who need nothing other than the Five Characters. Still, the Five Characters themselves are a scripture. Now, I think, you should take your Zen derived teachings and discard them immediately, unless you are one of the Four Great Bodhisattvas who have been disciples of  Shakyamuni Buddha since the infinite past. Oh, I forgot, you don't even acknowledge the greatness of the Master of Teachings, Lord Shakya of the Original Doctrine. Too bad! Too sad!

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