“Niji seson. Ju sanmai.
Anjo ni ki. Go sharihotsu …”
“At that time the World-Honored one calmly arose from his Samadhi and addressed Shariputra …” (LSOC2, 56)
After finishing his meditation on the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, Shakyamuni - here referred to as “seson” ( the most respectworthy of the world) - starts to teach the assembly the Lotus Sutra by addressing Shariputra, one of his ten main disciples who was known for his outstanding wisdom.
This is a great departure from Shakyamuni’s previous sutras, which tend to follow the format of a discussion in which he answers his disciples questions in accordance with their current level of understanding.
“At this time” Shakyamuni knows the time has come for him to expound the Lotus Sutra and he starts to teach in accordance with what HE wants to say, rather than in response to what his disciples want to know. Shakyamuni confidently begins to explain his greatest teaching in which he will reveal to all of his followers how they too can achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime. Later in the chapter he explains:
“Up to now I have never told you that you were certain to attain the buddha way. The reason I never preached in that manner was that the time to preach so had not yet come. But now is the very time when I must decisively preach the great vehicle” (LSOC2, 68)
In his treatise “The Selection of the Time”, Nichiren writes “When it comes to studying the teachings of Buddhism, one must first learn to understand the time. In the past, when the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence appeared in the world, he remained for a period of ten small kalpas without preaching a single sutra. Thus the Lotus Sutra says, “Having taken his seat, ten small kalpas pass. … The Buddha knew that the time had not yet come, and though they entreated, he sat in silence.” [LSOC7, 176-177]” (WND-1, 538)
For this reason, within Buddhism “At that time” has the special significance of being the time when a Buddha realizing the correct moment has come, stands up and teaches people how to become enlightened and reveal their own Buddhahood.
For Nichiren, this moment came on 28 April 1253, when he had completed his journey to find the one supreme teaching of the Buddha. “At that time”, after finishing his meditation (chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”), the Daishonin addressed the local people, teaching them the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra among Shakyamuni’s many teachings and explaining the limitations of the expedient means that other schools of Buddhism were teaching.
In Volume 1 of his “Lectures on the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” Chapters of the Lotus Sutra”, Daisaku Ikeda explains that with regard to our own practice, “At that time” is the moment when we pray to the Gohonzon and single-mindedly determine, of our own volition, to stand up and work to achieve kosen-rufu. It's not about sharing this Buddhism with others because we are told to, or because we think we should, it's something we do because WE want to. He writes:
“’That time’ is the moment you resolve from the depths of your heart: ‘Now I will stand up and fight!’ From that instant your destiny changes. Your life develops. History begins.” (p33)