The Door To This Wisdom is Difficult to Enter

The Door To This Wisdom is Difficult to Enter

Thursday, 20 February 2014

India, Japan & The Lotus Sutra

In the Gosho “This is What I Heard”, Nichiren writes, “The heart of each sutra is contained in its title. For example, the land of India has seventy states, and its borders measure ninety thousand ri, yet the people, animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and earth within them are all included in the single word, India. … In like manner, the teachings of a sutra are encompassed in its title.” (WND-1, p859)

Nichiren later wrote to lay nun Myoho:  “Included within the two characters [日本] representing Japan is all that is within the country’s sixty-six provinces: the people and the animals, the rice paddies and the other fields, those of high and low status, the nobles and the commoners, the seven kinds of treasures and all the other precious gems.  Similarly, included within the title, or daimoku, of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the entire sutra without the omission of a single character.”   (The One Essential Phrase, WND-1, p922)

This is an interesting point and while the name of a country does indeed contain within it the geographical, political, social, economic and spiritual nature of the country, if we are lacking in knowledge of a particular country, the name will have no meaning to us or only elicit some generalized stereotypes, which may or may not be true.   And, in the same way, even though Nichiren reassures us in "This is What I Heard" that “Those who chant Myoho-renge-kyo [the title of the Lotus Sutra] even without understanding its meaning realize not only the heart of the Lotus Sutra, but also the “main cord,” or essential principle of the Buddha’s lifetime teachings.”  (WND-1, p860), there is always the possibility that if we are lacking in knowledge of the Lotus Sutra, we may practice, or teach others, our own interpretation of the Mystic Law.  

Within “The One Essential Phrase”, Nichiren also writes:  “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is only one phrase or verse, but it is no ordinary phrase, for it is the essence of the entire sutra. …  Everything has its essential point, and the heart of the Lotus Sutra is its title, or the daimoku, of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  Truly, if you chant this in the morning and evening, you are correctly reading the entire Lotus Sutra.  Chanting daimoku twice is the same as reading the entire sutra twice, one hundred daimoku equal one hundred readings of the sutra, and one thousand daimoku, one thousand readings of the sutra. Thus, if you ceaselessly chant daimoku, you will be continually reading the Lotus Sutra.  The sixty volumes of the T’ien-t’ai doctrines give exactly the same interpretation.”  (WND-1, p922-923)

From the above Gosho extracts, some priests of the Nichiren Shoshu school claimed that it was no longer necessary to study the Lotus Sutra, or even possible to gain benefit from doing so, as it had been replaced by Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

But, in addition to these two Gosho, Nichiren draws on wisdom from the Lotus Sutra in many of his letters to his followers, so he obviously saw it as an essential text for our faith.  Even Josei Toda realized that an understanding of the Lotus Sutra would be essential to ensure the widespread propagation of Nichiren Buddhism and personally, I have found my own faith has deepened as I have studied and come to grips with the profound wisdom of the Lotus Sutra from a Nichiren Buddhist perspective.   

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your effort to write the blog, the words is simple and easy to understand.