Buddhist Terminology: Passing Down the Law to One’s Progeny
The Importance of Hotto Sozoku
Hotto Sozoku, “Passing Down the Faith to One’s Progeny,” is one of the most important practices, along with shakubuku, which we must carry out in our daily lives in order to successfully propagate the True Law of Nichiren Daishonin. It is also called “Passing Down the Torch of the Law,” comparing faith to a torch which is kept burning.
The final will of Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, is Kosen-rufu, the worldwide propagation of True Buddhism to save all living beings. The True Law must be perpetuated for Kosen-rufu throughout the more than ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law in order to lead the people of each generation. From the standpoint of the fundamental Entity of the Law, the worldwide propagation and perpetuation of the True Law derive from the Transmission of the Heritage of the Law entrusted by Nichiren Daishonin to only one person, Nikko Shonin. The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary enshrined at the Head Temple Taisekiji and all the teachings the Daishonin propagated through His life were, in turn, entrusted by Nikko Shonin to Nichimoku Shonin. Each successive High Priest receives this specific transmission to a single person. At this time, the 67th High Priest, Nikken Shonin, is the sole possessor of the Heritage of the Law. This is called Hotto Sozoku, “Passing Down the Torch of the Law,” from the viewpoint of the True Entity of the Law. The priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu must respect and take faith in the Dai-Gohonzon and the Transmission of the Heritage of the Law and always keep in mind the importance of Hotto Sozoku as the core of our faith and practice. Now, let me explain Hotto Sozoku, “Passing Down the Faith,” in the temple, the Hokkeko and the family with emphasis on the perspective of lay believers.
Hotto Sozoku in the temple
A Nichiren Shoshu Temple is the place where the believers are taught and guided for the sake of Kosen-rufu. Within the temple, the chief priest, who has been dispatched by the High Priest, teaches and guides the believers in the Nichiren Shoshu formalities. When the priests and the laity in the spirit of itai-doshin, exert themselves in practice and propagation of the True Law, new believers join Nichiren Shoshu and the priest performs the Gojukai Ceremony in the temple.
Temples are built in numerous locations and under various circumstances. When the priesthood and laity, in harmonious unity, protect these temples and the Gohonzons enshrined therein, there is Hotto Sozokuwithin the temple. We must remember that our faith is founded upon the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and the protection of the Heritage of the Law. Without these, there is no Hotto Sozoku in a Nichiren Shoshu Temple. As we successfully strive for wider propagation, many new temples will be established. The attainment of Hotto Sozoku of these temples will lead to true Kosen-rufu.
Hotto Sozoku of the Hokkeko
In the same way, the Hokkeko organization’s “Passing Down the Faith” exists when each Hokkeko member protects his or her local temple with respect and faith in Dai-Gohonzon and the Heritage of the Law. The most important thing for the Hokkeko organization is building and keeping the spirit of itai-doshin, based on the unity between priesthood and laity. Our trust and solidarity will deepen through believing in the same Gohonzon as we receive wonderful benefits together. This experience engenders ever-increasing joy in faith and motivates greater efforts for new generations of shakubuku.
The origin of the Hokkeko can be traced back to the Atsuhara Hokkeko believers centered on Nanjo Tokimitsu. We must never forget the Hokkeko believers who endured many such persecutions each generation. In those days, the priesthood and Hokkeko members protected and spread the True Law, accomplishing Hotto Sozoku based on pure faith with no slander. We must pass down the faith to our descendants taking these great predecessors as the ideal example. Unfortunately, the SGI is now one of the groups which have forgotten Hotto Sozoku and separated from the temple and the Heritage of the Law.
Hotto Sozoku within the family:In the Gosho, “Letter to Jakunichibo,” Nichiren Daishonin states,“It is destiny that they should have been my parents, and I, their child.” (Gosho, p.1393; MW-1, p. 235 ) He teaches here that there is cause and relation (a karmic bond) between a parent and a child due to True Buddhism. It is the greatest pleasure for us to see our children and grandchildren practice this True Buddhism correctly. The Daishonin also states in the Gosho, “On the Urabon,” as follows:
The worst evil of all produces consequences that not only affect the perpetrators personally, but extend to their sons, their grandsons and so on down to the seventh generation. And the same is true of the greatest good of all. (Gosho, p.1377; Ref., MW-7, p. 172)
The “worst evil” in the above Gosho passage refers to not believing and slandering the True Law. On the other hand, the “greatest good” means to accept and take faith in the Three Great Secret Laws and the Three Treasures of Nichiren Shoshu and practice this Buddhism.
Therefore, if our children and grandchildren continue to pass down the faith of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, our entire family’s evil karma will be erased and we will live lives full of fortune and benefits. Then the family’s prosperity will last for many, many years to come. The Daishonin reveals in the Gosho, “Oko Kikigaki,” :
“The enlightenment of the father and mother is the children’s enlightenment. The children’s enlightenment is the parents’ enlightenment.” (Gosho, p.1825)
In order to enjoy benefits from the Gohonzon and to receive the compassionate protection of the Gohonzon for many generations to come, we must resolve to undertake the difficult task of doing Hotto Sozoku.
The family is something to depend upon in life and is the foundation of emotional stability. Our lives begin in our families and also return to them. In these modern times, people’s minds are devastated by life’s brutality in society, the collapse of the extended family, and the breakdown of the social fabric. In such times, the warmth of family life and security from the support of family members is needed more than ever. If all the family members are practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism together, they can build strong relationships and tighten family bonds. They can live lives filled with pleasure, peace of mind and satisfaction. Building a harmonious household through our faith shows others the benefit of the Gohonzon. Through this, we are practicing “silent” shakubuku.
Nichiren Daishonin teaches us the importance of repaying our debts of gratitude. It is very important for us to know and repay all our debts incurred in life. Those who practice Nichiren Shoshu will form benevolent personalities, and will naturally become affectionate children who are dutiful to their parents. To be blessed with benevolent children is one of the greatest benefits of attaining Hotto Sozoku. A life of true happiness is one in which all family members practice Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism together and live with deep trust in each other under the great compassion of the Gohonzon.
How do we actually accomplish Hotto Sozoku at home? Parents should have a strong sense of Hotto Sozokuand practice it in their own daily lives. It is important to teach this faith to our children as a natural part of their upbringing. Encouragement from priests and Hokkeko members will also be invaluable support for each family’s efforts in Hotto Sozoku. Education in faith should be started as soon as possible after a baby is born. Some parents want to wait until their child shows interest before they teach him or her about the practice. But it is already too late when a child becomes rebellious towards the parents. Rather, when the child is still a baby, let him or her sleep beside you or sit on your lap when you are doing Gongyo so that he or she can hear it. During early childhood, make it a practice to do Gongyo together as a family, or to chant slowly with the child, or to chant three Daimoku before each meal.
Keeping an attitude of faith in all aspects of our daily lives is important. Family members should always place the highest priority on a life of faith based on the Gohonzon. Attending the Oko Ceremonies and Shodakai’s, holding memorial ceremonies for ancestors and going to the local temple and Head Temple Taisekiji are also valuable educational experiences for our children. They will learn about the principles of faith in the Three Treasures of the Sowing, the relationship between Master and Disciple, slander-free faith, and respecting ancestors in a natural way through Hotto Sozoku of the temple, the Hokkeko and the family. The children will then come to appreciate the importance of understanding and repaying debts of gratitude, and will naturally form healthy personalities endowed with gratitude and compassion. If children don’t practice strongly, they may not hold a proper memorial ceremony after their parents’ passing. If your children are already adults, earnestly begin the difficult task of passing down the faith to them. If you have brothers and sisters or other relatives who don’t practice, continue to try to shakubuku them, even if it takes many years.
The core of this concept is to pass down faith in the three foundations of: the Head Temple, the local temples, and the Gohonzon in our homes, understanding and clarifying the relationship of these three, and to strive for shakubuku. I hope that, based on the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Honmon (Essential) Teaching, you will have faith in the transmission of the Heritage of the Law possessed by the successive High Priests, receive and hand down the precious history of Nichiren Shoshu which priesthood and laity have transmitted until now, and strive to practice and perform shakubuku, always keeping Hotto Sozoku in mind.
The Buddhist terms ”Passing Down the Faith to One’s Progeny” and “Passing Down the Torch of the Law” are written with somewhat different Japanese characters but are both pronounced Hotto Sozoku.
(This content is reprinted from an Oko lecture in the December, 2001 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly)