Study

Faith, Practice & Study

On the path to enlightenment study supports the deepening of our Buddhist faith and practice. The articles below outline foundational topics in Nichiren Shoshu faith and practice that support our understanding of life.

Through a balance of faith, practice and study we can absorb the teachings of the Buddha over time and naturally manifest them in our daily lives. As a starting point, one can study about important Buddhist concepts through the reading of basic terminology, and publications such as the Basics of Practice and Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. Reading the Seven Parables that appear in the Lotus Sutra is another way to deepen one’s understanding of Buddhism.

Intro Articles

Karma is Action

Learn what karma is, how it can be changed through positive action, and allow us to overcome any life obstacle and establish truly peaceful, fulfilling and happy lives.

The Ten Worlds

The ‘Ten Worlds’ helps us understand the varying states of life we experience as well as the ultimate potential of Buddhahood we all possess and can achieve through the practice of true Buddhism.

Oneness of Life and its Environment

‘Esho Funi’ is a core Buddhist principle that helps us understand the power we possess to positively influence our environment.

Basic Terminology

Buddha

One who is enlightened to the eternal truth of life and is able to lead others to attain the same enlightenment.

Gohonzon

The Gohonzon is the object of worship in Nichiren Shoshu and the manifestation of the eternally enlightened life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.

Daimoku

The Supreme Invocation or Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. This expression also indicates the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Shodai

The practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Gongyo

The daily practice of reciting a portion of the 2nd (Hoben) Chapter and all of the 16th (Juryo) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra with the offering of silent prayers in gratitude.

Kosen-rufu

The establishment of true peace and stability in the world when the Buddha’s teachings spread widely and all existence can attain the tranquil state of enlightened life.

Karma

Internal causes residing in the depths of life that manifest themselves as conspicuous effects when external causes or conditions are encountered. All people possess both positive and negative karma.

Tozan

The pilgrimage to Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple, Taisekiji, to have an audience with the Dai Gohonzon. Literally translates as “to climb the mountain.”

Publications

Basics of Practice

Available at the front desk and as a digital download, the Basics of Practice is a guide for beginners, as well as a useful ongoing reference. It is available at the front desk and as a digital download:

Download a PDF of the Nichiren Shoshu Basics of Practice.

Nichiren Shoshu Monthly

Published 12 times per year, the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly contains valuable study material for newcomers and experienced members alike. The monthly magazine features Nichiren Shoshu historical information, Guidance from the High Priest, Monthly Oko lectures, member experiences and much more.

Individual issues are available at the front desk of each local temple. To subscribe, please complete the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly Magazine Subscription Application and bring it with you to the temple or mail it to the temple at 2631 Appian Way, Pinole, CA 94564.

Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies

An overview of all major ceremonies in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism including Gantan Gongyo, the Koshi-e Ceremony, the Otanjo-e Ceremony, the Higan-e Ceremony, the Risshu-e Ceremony, the Urabon Ceremony, the Gonan-e Ceremony, the Oeshiki Ceremony, the Mokushi-e Ceremony, the Oko Ceremony, the Wedding Ceremony, the Gojukai Ceremony, the Funeral Ceremony, the Tsuizen Kuyo Ceremony, and the Toba Kuyo Memorial Service.

The Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin Volume I

On July 16, 1994 The New Heisei Edition of the Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin was published by the Head Temple Taisekiji under the direction of Sixty Seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin, and consists of 491 Goshos. The Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin Volume I represents the initial efforts of the Nichiren Shoshu Translation Committee to make these Goshos available in English. This first volume consists of 15 Goshos, mostly taking the form of letters written to Lord Ueno, and contains both English and Japanese for each.

Rissho Ankoku-ron

Volume two of the Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin is The Rissho Ankoku-ron. This treatise is considered one of the seminal works of the Daishonin’s writings. On July 16, 1260, Nichiren presented the Rissho Ankoku-ron, literally “On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism” to the of most powerful governmental figure in Japan, the retired regent Hojo Tokiyori. Written in the form of a dialogue, the Daishonin explains the root cause for all the disasters and calamities that plague society.

Therefore the Daishonin teaches in the Rissho ankoku-ron:

If you desire a secure land, and wish to pray for peace in your present and future existences, you should waste no time, ponder on the correct path, and immediately eliminate slanders.

Selected Gosho Passages of Nichiren Daishonin

In conjunction with the 770th Anniversary of the Birth of Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, the Nichiren Shoshu Commemorative Committee has selected more than 300 important Gosho passages from among Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, and prepared new English translations. The Committee is pleased to present them on this occasion.

In order to ensure an accurate interpretation, the translation committee used both the original, classical Chinese version of the Gosho published in the Nichiren Shoshu Heisei kōtei Gosho, and the Japanese version published in the Heisei shimpen Nichiren Daishonin Gosho. Furthermore, the guidance and lectures by the successive High Priests were consulted in order to convey the correct meaning of each passage.

The Life of Nichiren Daishonin

In conjuction with the 800th anniversary of the advent of our founder, Nichiren Daishonin, as one of the commemorative projects by our Commemorative Committee, the Nichiren Shoshu Overseas Department compiled the writings related to the life of Nichiren Daishonin based on The Authentic Biography of Nichiren Daishonin (Nichiren Daishonin Shoden) and Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu (Nichiren Shoshu Nyoman) and completed the English translation for publication. The biographical writings of Nichiren Daishonin have been published in large numbers from various quarters including the other Buddhist sects. But, many of them do not correctly understand the Daishonin, and in most cases they describe the Daishonin merely as a boddhisattva who propogated the Lotus Sutra after many years of hardships and sufferings. It is truly meaningful for the Overseas Department of Nichiren Shoshu to present The Life of Nichiren Daishonin so that our founder Nichiren Daishonin will be correctly recognized as the True Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law.

Basic Terminology of Nichiren Shoshu

In conjuction with the 750th Anniversary of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice through the Submission of the Rissho ankoku-ron, the Nichiren Shoshu Commemorative Committee is pleased to present this valuable reference book, which contains precise explanations of 135 of the most important Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist terms.

The Doctrines and Practice of Nichiren Shoshu

The Doctrines and Practice of Nichiren Shoshu is core reading for understanding the teachings and practice of Buddhism. Grab one or two copies for yourself (you’ll wear it out) and another for someone else. This book is great for studying with others in a group available at the front desk.

The Collected Sermons of High Priest Nikken Shonin

The Collected Sermons of Honorable Retired High Priest Nikken Shonin contains many profound lectures from our Honorable Retired High priest.

Seven Parables

1. Parable of the Three Carts and the Burning House

In ancient India there was once a very wealthy old man. He lived in a big mansion filled with treasures and riches and surrounded by rice paddies and fields. However, this big house where the rich man lived had only one small entrance with one small door.

One day, the old man discovers that his large mansion is ablaze and cries out, “Fire!” The house was surrounded by flames and was already burning out of control. There was nothing the old man or anyone else could do to put it out.

The mansion was a very large old house. Inside and around the house there lived many types of animals such as snakes, mice, bats, and many others. When these animals discovered the house was aflame they were startled and all ran away in an uproar, screaming in loud terrifying voices.

However, inside the house, the old man’s children were playing so intently that they didn’t even notice that such a horrible fire was blazing all around them. The old man cried out to the children as loudly as he could, “Hurry up! Get out of there! It’s dangerous in there!” But the children were so absorbed in their play they couldn’t hear him and, naturally, wouldn’t come out of the house. The old man realized that if he didn’t do something soon the only door to and out of the mansion would be quickly covered in flames and then the children would not be able to escape and would die in the fire. Saying, “I’ve got a great idea!” he called out to the children, “Hey, children! In front of the doorway are the three carts you’ve been wanting! One pulled by a sheep, one pulled by a deer and the other pulled by a cow!”

As soon as the children heard this, they stopped their playing and exclaimed, “Let’s go and see! Let’s go and see!” They hurriedly scrambled out of the house, each child trying to beat the other out of the door as fast as they could.

Outside the doorway they all looked around and asked, “But, where is the cart pulled by a sheep? Where is the cart pulled by a cow? Where is the cart pulled by a deer?” However, there wasn’t any cart pulled by a sheep, a deer, or a cow to be seen. In their place was an amazingly beautiful large cart drawn by a great white ox.

At this point in the parable, Shakyamuni Buddha then taught that, “The Threefold World is not easy, it is more like the burning house.” This signifies that the world in which we live is not one where one can sincerely feel at ease. The world we reside in is like being in a burning house enveloped in a great fire.

That is to say, the great old house becoming entrenched in flame signifies that our lives and daily way of life are always surrounded in uneasiness and danger. The children absorbed in play represent the people who do not embrace the true teachings of the Buddha that have actually been confronted with anxiety and peril.

It is surely the old man who cries out, “Come on outside! I have the three types of carts you’ve been wanting out here!” who represents the Buddha that saves all mankind.

The children who hear the summoning of the Buddha, leave the old burning house out of a desire for the cart pulled by a sheep and who should have died in the fire, are instead saved by the Buddha.

However, when the children actually come out of the house there are no carts pulled by sheep, deer, or cows anywhere to be seen. Instead, there is a grand cart drawn by a great white ox which is more magnificent than they could have ever imagined.

The cart pulled by the sheep, the cart pulled by the deer, and the cart pulled by the cow are all, respectively, the teachings of the three higher vehicles of learning, absorption and Bodhisattva which are not the purpose of faith. The large cart drawn by a great white ox is the attainment of the greatest life condition of Buddhahood which the Buddha teaches, is instead the true objective of faith.

The old man who is the Buddha is actually lying to the children when he says, “Children, come out of the burning house. I have for you out here three types of carts pulled by a sheep and other animals.” Even if they came outside, there were no such carts.

However, in the place of these carts there was an even more magnificent one. This sort of lie that the old man told was a means to entice the children out of the burning house. In Buddhist terminology, this “means” is called Hoben. We have all probably at some point heard of someone telling us that a lie is a sort of means to reach an end.
The Buddha uses many varied Hoben or “means” to point lost people such as ourselves in the proper direction and save us.

The method that efficiently saves us from suffering is called Hoben. A young child then might think that since the Buddha told a lie to accomplish a means, then he or she can also tell a lie to their mother or father to get them to give them some spending money. We might also think the same thing in regards to other situations in daily life. However, that is not the case. This would simply make us into plain liars.

Now, if we consider the above in regard to our own faith in Buddhism, the children who were so absorbed in play that they didn’t even realize the danger of being inside a burning house could be compared to ourselves before we embraced the correct faith and practice of Nichiren Shoshu. The old man who used the means of Hoben to entice us out of the burning house is the True Buddha of Mappo, Nichiren Daishonin. The Daishonin did not give us a cart pulled by a sheep or a cow, but instead created for us the true teachings and practice of Buddhism of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo – the grand cart drawn by the great white ox.

So, if someone encourages us to chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon we should not feel resentment. There may be people like this in our circle of fellow believers that cause us to feel a bit annoyed. However, people like these are really wonderful human beings that show us the grand cart drawn by the great white ox which is the highest level of Buddhism.

2. Parable of the Wealthy Man and the Poor Son

Long ago, there was a young man. One day this young man ran away from home. For about fifty years he wandered throughout many countries continuing his journey clothed only in rags and existing on very little food.

AII during that time, the father searched for this young man who had been his only son. During the search the father decided to settle at a town where he remained and eventually constructed a home. After some time had passed the father became very wealthy, possessing many storehouses filled with gold, silver, jewels, and other treasures and was surrounded by servants.

The wealthy father gradually grew older, living with one thought in mind: that he would be so very happy if only he could pass on his continually increasing wealth to his son.

Then one day, the son appeared at the house of the wealthy father not knowing that this house was actually his own home. He stood in front of the gate of the house that to him seemed like a castle. As the man looked inside the gate, he saw a person who appeared to be the lord of the manor sitting on a chair inlaid with gold and silver and surrounded by very important looking people.

The son suddenly thought to himself, “I have certainly come upon a very important place. If I stay around here for long, something really horrible may happen. Not knowing if I am a beggar or a thief, they may arrest me!” With that, he turned around to flee from the house.

The wealthy father realized that the beggar who was trying to run away was really his lost child. The wealthy old man immediately dispatched his servants, ordering them to bring back the destitute man.

The son probably thought that if he was caught and brought back to the palace, they would certainly kill him. He fiercely resisted the servants who were trying to apprehend him, but in the end fell unconscious from fright. When the father heard about this, he ordered the servants to release him. Sadly, he thought of what he might do to help his son. He sent two of his servants dressed in dirty clothes to offer the son work. The son happily accepted working for the rich man.

The rich man thought his son did not look healthy and saw that he had returned home in poverty. Wanting somehow to become closer to his son, he disguised himself in dirty clothes so he would not frighten him. He approached his son, inquiring, “Is this work pleasant?”

The son’s employment entailed cleaning latrines. The work was filthy. Everyday, however, he left his shabby home that he had constructed near the wealthy old man’s villa to clean the toilets. The son, not knowing that the old man was indeed his own father, spoke intimately, “Well, the work is hard. But, since I receive double pay for the task, I must do my best.” Gradually, the wealthy man found ways to become closer to his son and eventually gave him the responsibility of tending the management of his estate.

After some time had passed, the father realized that his time to die was nearing so he gathered the king and all the other people around him and declared, “Everyone, please listen to what I have to say. This person standing here is actually my son. There is no doubt about it. I am his father. My son left home some fifty years ago. However, he has finally come back to be by my side. For that reason, I will turn over my entire estate and all my assets to my son standing here.

Shocked at hearing this story, the crowd of people exclaimed, “What? This beggar is your son?!”

The one who was the most surprised of all was the son himself. That was because not only had he found out that he was the son of this wealthy old man, but now had announced that he would transfer his entire estate and all his wealth to him.

Examining this parable from the Lotus Sutra, one can see that the wealthy old father is the Buddha. The poor son who had wandered all over the world represents Rokudo Rinne, which signifies the repetition of the six lower worlds of Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Rapture, and Tranquility. Constantly revolving around these six lower worlds and never being able to break out of its vicious cycle is what we term the world of daily life (of a common mortal). This also can be compared to today’s world where most people not knowing the Gohonzon, the true purpose of life or real happiness, suffer in delusion while putting their faith in mistaken religions and philosophies. When the poor man was instructed to go to the wealthy old man’s house he thought, “I have done nothing wrong” and began to react violently, finally however, collapsed and lost all consciousness.

When the Buddha says, “come to my house,” it means that the Buddha will lead a person to become unconditionally happy. The son was poor not only in the financial sense, but he also possessed an impoverished heart. Becoming happy was something unpleasant for him, something he despised and something which caused him to react violently until in the end, he fainted.

Most people have probably rebelled against what was good for them at least once during their lifetime. For example, when we were children, our parents or a teacher at school may have told us that by doing something we would grow up to be fine young adults. There may be some people who, when told to continue with their studies, felt great displeasure and whined, saying that they didn’t want to study any longer only to regret not heeding their teachers’ or parents’ words later on in life.

Returning to our original topic, this parable gives a splendid example of the magnificence of the Buddha. Wanting to save the man who didn’t want to go to the home of the wealthy old man, when the son acted violently and then fainted, the Buddha purposely sent his retainers to that man dressed in dirty clothing. This was the Hoben, “device” or “means” discussed in the previous article used by the Buddha to reach out and rescue the suffering man. This ploy of having his servants dress in the same style of ragged clothing as the poor man caused him to think, “Oh, they are the same as I am,” thus, feeling assured that a violent attempt to escape would not be necessary this time.

This is the Buddha’s first step in using a method or means to save all living beings. However, the Buddha’s compassion does not end here. The Buddha continues in a most splendid manner. The Sutra explains that the old man tells the son to, “take the lavatory cleaning vessel.” The old wealthy man, who is really the Buddha in this parable, takes off his usual expensive apparel and deliberately dresses himself in tattered rags. He approaches the man, holding out a filthy tool for scrubbing and cleaning out toilets, and together they cleanse the latrine area.

The Buddha is not someone who sits on a golden throne, far from the grasp of the common man. The Buddha can be found in places closest to where men and women suffer, feel sadness, and desperately struggle to put forth their best effort to practice Buddhism. It is here where the Buddha reaches out and encourages us.

When the wealthy old man’s time of death approached, he declared of the man who had so diligently worked for him that, “this person is actually my son, and I will transfer all my wealth to him.” After many years (since the arrival of the poor man) the old wealthy man announces for the first time to those around him that this man is his son. Since the wealthy old man is the Buddha, in reality, the desolate man was originally and still remains, “the child of the Buddha.”

The estate and all the assets that the old man gives to his son is all the wealth and riches that the Buddha possesses and passes on. However, for all those who sincerely believe in and practice to the Gohonzon, it will not take such a long time, as in the case of this son, for us to receive the riches of the Buddha. With a genuine practice to the Gohonzon all can soon receive and be endowed with the treasures of the Buddha, thus, becoming truly happy. However, let’s all be careful not to become like the young man in this parable who became lost and wandered for fifty years, by separating ourselves from the Gohonzon.

3. Parable of the Three Kinds of Medicinal Herbs and Two Types of Trees

This installment is a story that deals with the three kinds of herbs and two types of trees. This parable appears in the Yakusoyu-hon, or “Parable of the Herbs,” (fifth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Shakyamuni Buddha said the following to Kashyapa who was said to have been foremost in the twelve-fold dhuta practices,

Kashyapa, in this wide world, for example, there are mountains, rivers and valleys. In each land, if there are small trees, there are also large trees growing thick in the woods and forests. If there are beautiful flowers, then there are also herbs whose colors would not be called pretty, but if left to grow, could be used for medicinal purposes. When rain pours down from the clouds, the same amount of rain falls equally upon the trees and plants. Even though all the trees and plants throughout the earth receive the same amount of rain, big trees grow larger. Even though small trees also receive the same amount of rain, they do not grow larger and remain the same size. Herein lies the relationship between the Buddha and people’s faith.

In Japan, there are mountains covered with cedar trees and often the adjacent mountains will be covered with pine trees. Even though the rains fall evenly upon all of these trees and mountains, the cedars continue to grow straight and tall while the pines grow as they stretch outwards.

There are many varied types of trees and plants of different sizes and shapes that grow from the very same earth and receive the very same amount of rain. Isn’t this a wondrous thing?

This story reveals that the rain that falls from the sky is the power of the Buddha working to save all human beings and lead them to enlightenment. The compassion of the Buddha and his sermons on the Law of Buddhism are just like the rain that falls from the sky, poured equally upon all people throughout the world.

However, according to the person who is listening to the teaching of the Buddha, there will be ones who agree and embrace those teachings, ones who constantly strive harder to do better in his or her faith, ones who feel that they would like to become like the Buddha, ones who attempt to save other people from suffering and ones who carry out their practice of Buddhist austerities so that this world will become a splendid society that knows no war.

Even though it is the same sermon on the Law of the Buddha, according to the way in which each person perceives or understands that teaching, and since the manner in which each person carries out his or her Buddhist austerities varies, the benefit received will also vary through this difference in practice.

The same holds true for studies at school. When there are forty people in a classroom, the teacher may say the same thing to his or her students, whether it be for English or even for mathematics. The actual classroom remains the same. However, when the students take an examination, there will be ones who receive 100% or even 50% correct answers on their test resulting in marks of A, B, C or D. There may even be someone who receives 0% correct answers resulting in a F. There will be people who intently listen to the teacher, or people who talk with their friends or who even fall asleep and snore during class even though the teacher is giving a lecture. As a result of the efforts of each student, class marks of A, B, C, D, or F will be determined.

When there are forty students in the classroom, the test results for all of these forty students will probably be different. We must understand that just as when the teacher speaks and gives the same lecture to all the students in the classroom, the sermon of the Buddha on the Law of Buddhism is equal for all people.

The phrase within the sutra that reads, “the rain from one cloud” signifies the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and the resulting benefit. The “three kinds of medicinal herbs and two types of trees” are all of us who believe in the Dai-Gohonzon that has been passed down by Taisekiji, the Head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu. That means that the “three kinds of medicinal herbs and two types of trees” are every person who is now reading this article in this magazine.

There are many types of people – tall people, short people, elementary school students, college students, teachers, doctors, etc… There are people who embraced faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism one year ago and people who started practicing five years ago. There are Americans, Latin Americans, Europeans, Thai people, Japanese and people from Japan’s neighboring countries of Korea and the Republic of China. Just because a person is of a different age group, because that person is poor, or because a person came from a foreign country and doesn’t understand English or can’t read the Gosho in classical Japanese, does not mean that the benefit from the Gohonzon will be different. No matter what kind of person someone is or is not, the benefits that are showered from the Dai-Gohonzon are equal for all those who embrace the law of Nam-Myoho- Renge-Kyo.
This is where the greatness of the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin lies.

This applies to young children as well. When a mother or father is intently chanting Daimoku, it does not mean that they receive benefits just because they are adults. Nor does it mean that the benefit of a child who sincerely chants to the Gohonzon will be any different from an adult. The immense powers of the Buddha and of the Law of the Daishonin are just like the rain that falls down from the great sky. They shower themselves equally upon all people.

Isn’t this wonderful! A mother is often compared to the great mother earth. However, just as young trees and plants grow as they stretch from the great mother earth towards the skies, earnestly do Gongyo and sincerely chant Daimoku to the best of your ability while striving to become fine capable people for Kosen-rufu.

4. Parable of the Phantom City and the Land of Treasure

This installment is a tale from the Kejoyu-hon, or “The Phantom City and the Land of Treasure” (seventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Long, ago, a great multitude of people assembled and ascended a steep mountain road. Being a trail within the mountains, the road was rugged and uneven. There were many dangerous areas along the way. The people’s destination, however, was a place filled with rare jewels and other treasures.

When the people first commenced their journey, they were filled with energy for the first day or two. But after many days as the expedition progressed, it seemed as though their destination was still far from reach and they began to tire. All the people in the group began to feel that they no longer wanted or needed the treasure. They started to say that it would be better to give up and return home on the same road from where they had come.

However, the leader of the expedition who had brought all these people on this journey was a wise man and knew many things. Thinking that since they had already come this far, the leader of the expedition contemplated ingenious measures to somehow guide all these people to the land of treasure. Using supernatural powers, he conjured up a great walled city in front of the path of the weary travelers. “Look, everyone!” he exclaimed. “There, far off into the distance is a walled city! Let’s continue towards the city and once we arrive, we will all be able to rest. Let’s not turn back! Let’s keep pressing on!”

Upon hearing the leader’s words of encouragement, the people thought that if they could somehow just make it to the city, they would be all right. With that, energy seemed to return to them again and they all proceeded on.

As the people entered the great walled city, they were overwhelmed with a feeling of how comfortable life in the city was. There were even some people in the group who felt that they wanted to live out the rest of their lives in this city. Since the reason the leader of the expedition had brought all these people over treacherous mountain paths and had made it this far on their long journey was not so that they could all rest in this great walled city, he thought, “This just wont do. I can not allow them to feel satisfied with staying here.” The leader of the expedition then made the city disappear in an instant.

The leader of the expedition then said, “Listen, all of you. I created this great walled city because you were all exhausted from your journey and you needed to rest. The purpose of our journey is not to remain resting in this city. The place where we’ll find all the treasure is close by. So, let’s get going. Let’s press on a just a little farther.” As he said this, the leader of the expedition pointed out the great mountain of treasure to all the people in the group.

I’m sure by now you can all easily figure out that the leader of the expedition represents “the Buddha”. The people who were on the journey in search of treasure are actually all of us. These are the people who seek faith in the True Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. The treasure is the perfect enlightenment of the Buddha, the life condition of the Buddha. The treacherous mountain path the people had to cross is the road that all of us experience when we struggle to carry out the assiduous practice and faith of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

Along the way, the people encountered a dreamlike walled city. Since it was not real, the dreamlike walled city was called the “phantom city” and was a temporary resting place on the way to the perfect road of Buddhahood. This city could, therefore, be also termed “temporary enlightenment.” I’m sure you are aware of the various life conditions found within the Ten Worlds. Below the highest world of the life of Buddhahood are the other states we dwell in during our practice of Buddhist austerities, such as the life conditions of Bodhisattva, Learning, and Realization.

The life conditions of the worlds of Learning, Realization, and Bodhisattva are, respectively, those people who exert themselves to understand things that others do not know, those who possess knowledge that excels others, and those who earnestly work to help and save others.

People within these three worlds possess a knowledge of and carry out many things that other people do not know or do. They often feel satisfied with themselves, saying “I know much more than other people” or, “I do more than others.” They are people who feel content with remaining in the dreamlike “phantom city” that the Buddha created and, therefore, do not try to pursue more.

The worlds of these three life conditions of Learning, Realization, and Bodhisattva are tremendous. However, the working of the extremely powerful life condition of “the state of Buddhahood” far surpasses and cannot be compared in any way to these three worlds. Therefore, the Buddha is never satisfied with the mere states of Learning, Realization, and Bodhisattva. This parable teaches us to seek the life condition of Buddhahood by earnestly devoting ourselves to the austerities in the faith of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

Sincerely studying this tale from the Lotus Sutra can enrich us with a new perspective into the Ten Worlds and the purpose of our faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism. When we were young children, we all wondered what we would become later on in life. We might have thought that we would become a university professor, a scientist, a professional sportsman, or a television or radio talent. There are many purposes or objectives for people in life. However, no matter which career we choose, have chosen, or are now following, the most important thing to remember is to always be a fine person who is respected throughout the society where one resides.

However, one should never be content with oneself because one has, for example, become a scientist, a professional sportsman, has amassed great wealth, or built a large house. Throughout life, it is vital that we never forget the most important purpose in our faith and never feel, “Well, I’ve received many benefits from the Gohonzon and life has become easier. So, I’ll take a little rest from my practice.” Even if one becomes a scientist or a professional sportsman, among other things, and no matter how stable and affluent our lifestyle may become, all these things are no more than the temporary forms of satisfaction of the “phantom city.”

The only absolute life condition that we can feel satisfied in having established is in achieving the enlightened state of Buddhahood. Since we are all human beings, we sometimes catch colds, fall ill or become tired. In times such as these, it is important that we take care of ourselves and rest. However, having rested and become healthy again, it is important that we draw forth our utmost courage and progress towards our final and greatest goal of life: Buddhahood.

The effort and the austerities of our practice and faith of True Buddhism on the way to enlightenment are most difficult, but we must exert ourselves to the best of our ability.

5. Parable of the Gem in the Robe

Once upon a time, there was a poor man who went to visit a wealthy friend to seek help. The poor man had been long absent from his home, and the wealthy friend entertained him and served delicacies and fine wines. Eating and drinking throughout the night, the poor man was so utterly affected that he became drowsy and was unable to discuss the issue he came there to discuss. At night’s end the poor guest fell sound asleep.

The wealthy host, upon receiving a messenger, had to depart on urgent business. He surmised why his poor friend had come to see him, however, and as a gesture of friendship sewed in the hem of his poor friend’s robe a priceless gem that would ensure his happiness. Not wishing to wake his sleeping friend, the wealthy man silently departed.

Later, upon waking, the poor man was disappointed to find that his wealthy friend had gone. Little did he know that the wealthy friend had sewn a precious gem in his robe? And so the poor man left.

He wandered through many countries in vain search of work. Facing days on end without food or drink, he fell to utter destitution.

A few years later, the poor man returned to his wealthy friend’s country. The wealthy man was shocked to see his friend still in such a distraught condition. “What happened to you?” he exclaimed in shock. “Why do you look so miserable? In the hem of your robe I sewed a priceless gem that will grant your every wish!” Hearing this, the poor man immediately checked his hem and found the gem. His extreme delight made him reflect on his earlier ignorance.

Thanks to the precious gem, his life became truly fulfilled, and he was able to joyfully live out the rest of his life.

One of seven parables in the Lotus Sutra, this one appears in the eighth chapter of the Lotus Sutra. It is related by 500 of Shakyamuni’s disciples, known as the 500 arhats, to show their understanding of the teaching of the Lotus Sutra that Buddhahood is inherent even in their own lives. They explain that just as the poor man was ignorant of the treasure he possessed, the Buddha’s disciples were unaware of their Buddha nature and were satisfied with the provisional teaching.

From the viewpoint of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, the priceless gem can be interpreted as the Gohonzon. The wealthy friend, who sewed the priceless gem into his poor friend’s robe, indicates the true Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, who inscribed the Dai Gohonzon as the true object of worship to enable all humankind to attain Buddhahood and who bestowed it upon all people in the Latter Day of the Law. The poor man who drank himself to unconsciousness and then wandered about aimlessly represents the life-condition of those who are unable to realize the Gohonzon’s power. In the Gosho Nichiren Daishonin states:

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren and his disciples are awakened from the intoxication of their fundamental darkness. (Gosho Zenshu, p.735)

Intoxicated by the delusions of the fundamental darkness, we usually do not recognize the existence of Buddhahood within our own lives. Furthermore, we are attached to shallow teachings, philosophies, or our own thoughts and are thus unable to reveal our inherent Buddhahood. But as we begin chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon, we can awaken from the delusions of our fundamental darkness and enjoy the most fulfilling existence in this lifetime and forever.

6. Parable of the Priceless Gem in the Topknot

During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) in Japan which corresponded to the Middle Ages in Europe, the majority of the world had been conquered by one nation. This country had even attacked Japan. That country was the nation of the Mongols. All the people in Mongolia during this time grew their hair very long and tied it up in a knot on the top of their head. This type of hairstyle was called a topknot. It was prevalent throughout Mongolia and China during the Mongol (Yüan) era. It was also a very popular hairstyle in ancient India.

Shakyamuni Buddha said to Bodhisattva Monjushiri (1):

There was once a very brave monarch who fought in battle with many different countries over whom he was continuously victorious. The King awarded many gifts to each of his soldiers who had rendered distinguished service in battle. The rewards at times consisted of castles or land. On other occasions the King rewarded his soldiers money, gold, silver, clothing, horses, elephants and other varied objects. However, there was one thing the King would never grant, and that was the priceless gem that he kept in his topknot.

Actually, Bodhisattva Monjushiri, the Buddha is the same as this monarch. The country that is the powerful enemy that seeks to destroy the King represents the workings of the devil king of the sixth heaven who labors to obstruct the good heart of someone who is striving to attain enlightenment. The Buddha, using his profound wisdom, is able to be victorious over the devil king. The Buddha feels great joy towards the others who have carried out their Buddhist austerities together with him. The Buddha then rewards them with his precious jewels of the laws of Buddhism of the Kegon, Agon, Hoto, and Han’nya Sutras. However, the Buddha still does not teach the most supreme jewel of the Law of the Lotus Sutra. This is because the Buddha only reveals the greatest of all the Laws of Buddhism, that is, the Lotus Sutra, to those who are especially outstanding in their pursuit of the practice of Buddhist austerities.

In this way, this parable unfolds to show us that the jewel hidden within the topknot is none other than the Lotus Sutra, the highest teaching in all of Buddhism which the Buddha had secretly kept in his possession. Because Bodhisattva Monjushiri and the others had carried out exceptional faith, they were now able to hear the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren Daishonin stated in the concluding pages of the “Questions and Answers on Embracing the Lotus Sutra” (Jimyohoke Monto Sho):

How joyful, though, that I have obtained in this life the priceless gem concealed in the topknot of the wheel turning king for which Shakyamuni made his advent into this world! (Shinpen, p.300; M.W. Vol.5, p.37)

Looking at the Daishonin’s words in this passage of the Gosho, “the jewel concealed in the topknot” is the Object of Worship of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Since we are all seeking to earnestly pursue sincere faith in Buddhism, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law has taught us about the Gohonzon, or the Object of Worship, of the Three Great Secret Laws that he safely kept for a long time, until the present day.

If we allow ourselves to become lazy in faith or ridicule the Gohonzon, not only will we not be able to receive the most precious of jewels of the Buddha, but we will suffer under the devil king of the sixth heaven. Therefore, let us all firmly strive to do morning and evening Gongyo, chant Daimoku, study the Gosho, the High Priest’s teachings and other Buddhist materials so that we may be praised by the Gohonzon and the “King,” Nichiren Daishonin, as we receive the many wonderful “jewels” of benefit and happiness within our own lives.

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1. Bodhisattva Monjushiri (Sanskrit: Manjushri): Also referred to as Monju. This bodhisattva appears in the sutras and is regarded as a symbol of the perfection of wisdom. He is revered as the chief of bodhisattvas. With Bodhisattva Fugen, he is depicted as one of the two bodhisattvas who attend Shakyamuni Buddha. According to the Monjushiri Hatsunehan Sutra (“Sutra of the Nirvana of Monjushiri”), Monjushiri was born to a Brahman family in Shravasti and joined the Buddhist Order, converting many people. In the Jo (“Introductory”) or first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, he is shown as recognizing the omens which foretell that the Buddha is about to preach a scripture called Myoho-Renge-Kyo. In the Devadatta (twelfth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Monjushiri is the person who converts the Dragon King’s daughter.

7. Parable of the Excellent Physician and His Sick Children

There was once a skilled physician long ago in a land far away who had many children. One day while the doctor was on a long and distant journey, his children mistakenly ate some bad food or drank poison. The physician returned home to find them writhing on the ground in agony. When the children saw their father, the very skilled physician, they called out, “Help us!”

The father immediately prepared and gave the sick children a wonderfully flavored, sweet smelling and beautifully colored medicine. However, a problem did occur in the process of getting the children to take the medicine. Some of the children who had only fallen ill to a lesser level of poisoning, drank the medicine and were soon cured. Of the children who were more gravely poisoned, the effects of the toxin were more severe and had consequently affected their reasoning. The father could not persuade them to take the wonderful medicine that he had prepared.

Even though the children were still suffering in pain, they refused to take the elixir that would cure them. So, the father devised a plan to coax them into taking the medicine. He said to the children, “One thing I want all of you to know. I am getting to be an old man and I may not have much longer left to live. So, I will leave this medicine with its wonderful color, fragrance and taste here for you now. I hope that you will take the medicine, because if you drink it, you will have nothing to worry about. This medicine will cure your illness.”

The father then departed on a long journey. While the father was away, he sent his servant back home who told the children, “Your father has died!”

“No!” The children cried out in astonishment as they heard the news of the death of their father. Greatly saddened about their father’s passing, the gravely poisoned children who had lost their reasoning due to the effects of the toxin slowly started to regain their senses. Finally realizing that their dear deceased father had lovingly prepared and left medicine for them, they took the medicine and were cured of their illness. Upon taking the medicine, the father suddenly returned home and the family was again joyfully united. The children had been saved from certain death.

The father in this parable who is also a famous and skilled physician is the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin. The children in this tale who drank the poison, refused to take the medicine and therefore remained scrawling in agony are all of us, the people who were born into the age of the Latter Day of the Law.

The father, who saved the children who were suffering from the effects of drinking poison, had prepared a wonderfully flavored, sweet smelling and beautifully colored elixir to cure them of poisoning. This wonderful medicine is none other than the Dai-Gohonzon (and subsequently our own individual Gohonzons that we have enshrined in our homes) to which we join our hands in prayer every morning and evening as we recite the Lotus Sutra and chant the Daimoku of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

The actual action of drinking the medicine comes about because one has faith that the medicine will work. Therefore, through belief in the Gohonzon people are able to chant Daimoku and do daily morning and evening Gongyo that then leads them to happiness. However, the children in this parable who were heavily poisoned and lost their senses refused to take the medicine. They are the people who have slandered the Law and have turned their backs on the true and correct teachings of Buddhism. They staunchly refuse to listen to and embrace the words of the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

At this point in the parable, the father deploys a method to entice the children into taking their medicine. The father promptly departed on a long journey, but (as a ploy to entice the children to take the vitally necessary medicine) soon sends his servant as a messenger back home to tell the children of his (feigned) death.

The action of the father’s using a servant as his messenger appears written in the Lotus Sutra as the phrase “Ken shi gen jo”, or “dispatching a servant who returned to report [the death of the father].”

The servant depicted in this passage that has been asked by the True Buddha of Mappo, is each successive High Priest in Nichiren Shoshu. When the father was about to depart on his long journey, he told the children who had been heavily poisoned, “So, I will leave this medicine with its wonderful color, fragrance and taste here for you now. I hope that you will take the medicine. Because if you drink it, you will have nothing to worry about. This medicine will cure your illness.”

The phrase “So, I will leave this medicine with its wonderful color, fragrance and taste here for you now.” is written in the Lotus Sutra as “Kon ru zai shi”, or in a more direct, word by word translation: “Now I will stop and put it (the medicine) here.” Therefore, as one recalls the passage Ken shi gen jo, one incidentally also keeps in mind the sentence Kon ru zai shi, or “The father promptly departed on a long journey, but soon sent his servant as a messenger back home to tell the children of his (feigned) death.” and “So, I will leave this medicine with its wonderful color, fragrance and taste here for you now.”

Taking a closer look at this phrase “So, I will leave this medicine with its wonderful color, fragrance and taste here for you now”, the word “now” signifies the current age of Mappo, or the Latter Day of the Law. “I will leave this medicine with its wonderful color, fragrance and taste here” means that Nichiren Daishonin left the Dai-Gohonzon, the Great Object of Worship, at the Head Temple, Taisekiji in Japan so that all humanity in their sincere and correct faith of True Buddhism would be able to eradicate their negative karma accumulated since the infinite past and obtain the great benefit of enlightenment in this lifetime.