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The Doctrines of Nichiren with a Sketch of His Life (1893)

The Doctrine of Nichiren bookcoverFrom the Introduction

A few words only are necessary in order to introduce this essay to the public.

Captain J. M. James, of Shinagawa, is an English gentleman who has lived in Japan for more than twenty years. He is a professional man, and the consistent way in which he has always devoted his skill and genius to the interest of both Government and people has made him universally beloved. No sooner did he arrive among us than he was struck with astonishment at the great predominance of Buddhism in the country, and this led him to enter upon a systematic study of Buddhist doctrines. His researches resulted in the discovery that Religious Truth is contained only in the religion of Buddha, especially as set forth in a sacred book of ours called ‘The Lotus,’ and that the teachings of this book are best exemplified in the doctrines and practices of the Nichiren school of thought. Thenceforward he directed his exclusive attention to the Nichiren form of Buddhism, and frequently visited our late lamented prelate, the Most Learned and Virtuous Archbishop Nissatsu Arai, at the temple of Ikegami, in order to receive his instructions. His knowlege thus increasing, his faith in what he learned kept pace with it. This faith, on his part, was doubtless due in a measure to the unfolding of his predestined nature; but must also be attributed to the high intellectual power he exercised in testing and observing truths.

[From the Doctrine of Nichiren book] This is a very good portrait of our Founder. It is copied from one preserved in the Temple of Minobu, which contains the sepulchre of Nichiren and stands at the head of all temples of the Sect. When Nichiren was still alive, Sanenaga Hakii, one of his most eminent adherents, employed a painter to sketch his portrait. It is this which is now preserved in the Temple of Minobu.
[From the Doctrine of Nichiren book] This is a very good portrait of our Founder. It is copied from one preserved in the Temple of Minobu, which contains the sepulchre of Nichiren and stands at the head of all temples of the Sect. When Nichiren was still alive, Sanenaga Hakii, one of his most eminent adherents, employed a painter to sketch his portrait. It is this which is now preserved in the Temple of Minobu.
Some time ago Captain James made me acquainted with a friend of his, Mr. Frederic H. Balfour, who had made a special study of the philosophico-religious systems of China. This gentleman, at my request, undertook to write out in its present form the essay now given to the world, which is from the pen of the late Archbishop of Ikegami above referred-to. This was most excellent and meritorious on the part of Mr. Balfour, who has thereby rendered a great service to our Sect. Never before have the doctrines of Japanese Buddhism been published by any European author in such detail. My warm acknowledgments are also due to Mr. K. Tatsumi, Professor of Sociology in the Nobles’ School, for his invaluable assistance in Englishing the original text. It is now printed for the advantage of all who are interested in the subject, and will be sent far and wide over the face of the globe. The doctrines it sets forth should not be confined to our own country; they are intended for the enlightenment of all living beings wherever such may be — in all times and ages, all spheres and realms of life. It is for this reason that the whole world is now given an opportunity of hearing and embracing the Truth.

Kobayashi Nitto,
College of the Nichiren Sect,
Abbot. Takanawa, Tokyo.

26th Year of Meiji (1893).

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The Intrinsicality of the Mortal, Material and Spiritual

According to Sakyamuni’s idea, all mountains, rivers, and lands, as well as all kinds of flora and fauna, are identical with his own person. Therefore the three worlds [ – the mortal, the material, and the spiritual – ] are said to be his own possession, and all inhabitants his own children. This last phrase means that living creatures of whatever kind are merely the images and metamorphoses of his own body. But this was not known to Sakyamuni until he was thirty years old. It is for this reason that in the above sentence he says, “Now, the three worlds,” and so on. The word “now” implies that Sakyamuni had been ignorant of his original enlightenment, or Buddhahood, until that moment, and that he recognized it for the first time then. Therefore the [Lotus Sutra] says, “The Buddha begins to perceive and to know the intrinsicality of the three worlds, the mortal, the material, and the spiritual.”

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

We Who Follow Nichiren

In the Rissyo-ankoku Ron Nichiren writes: “O believers in false doctrines! Change your beliefs; be converted and return to the true. You will then find that the worlds of evils – mortal, material, and spiritual – are all the World of Buddha. And the World of Buddha” – that state of mind in which complete enlightenment has been attained – “is not subject to decay; the Land of Jewels” – another name for the same mental state – “can never disappear. The World is changeless and eternal, the Land is imperishable and secure. All enjoy rest and peace, while their minds are wrapped in ecstasy.”

To establish the Good Law and tranquilize the State is the main object of our Sect’s teaching. The Sect points to the Three Secret Ordinances … as the means by which Buddhahood may be attained by everybody. It also promulgates the doctrine that an eternal reality underlies all fleeting forms. In a word, we who follow Nichiren offer all men blessings in the present life, and an immunity from suffering hereafter.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

The Nature of the Kaidan

If we repeat the Daimoku, and rigorously purify our thoughts, our bad appetites and passions will disappear of themselves, and we shall become inspired with the pure and lofty ethics of our Sect. In walking or resting, standing or lying, speaking or keeping silence, acting or refraining from action – in all these situations we may attain to the mysterious deliverance; birth, old age, disease and death will disappear of themselves; fears, sorrows, pains and troubles vanish away forever, leaving nothing behind them but eternity, purity, enlightenment and peace. Thus we find ourselves in the Paradise of Buddhas, living in the Land of Glorious Light. Therefore the [Lotus Sutra] says, “We ought to know that this place is the Kaidan.” In other words, any place whatever, where we practise the doctrines of the [Lotus Sutra], is fit to be a Kaidan. And if it is fit to be a Kaidan it is in habited by all the Buddhas. Such is the nature of the Kaidan as taught by our Sect.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

This “Miraculous Scene”

[W]hat is the Kaidan, or Place for Learning Moral Precepts? This is easily understood, since we have already explained the Honzon and the Daimoku. It has been already pointed out that our bodies are identical with the body of the Buddha of Original Enlightenment. The reality behind appearances is the miraculous scene that is reflected, as in a mirror, by the enlightenment of the Buddha; in other words, that is apprehended by the Buddha’s intellect. Now we ourselves are the Buddha’s intellect, and it is the reality behind appearances which we must learn to apprehend. The intellect stands in the same relation to this “miraculous scene” as the cover of a vessel to the vessel itself. In each case, the former corresponds to the latter.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

The Miraculous Oral Discipline in Our Sect

All we have to do is to open our eyes and look at the Truth; then, in spite of our anger and fury we shall experience peace and happiness, we shall be able to establish equality and impartiality between ourselves and others, and attain to that state of content and pleasure which they and we shall enjoy together. What possible reason is there against our succeeding to become Buddhas, except our continuance under the spell of anger and fury, unless we reduce ourselves to emptiness and annihilation? Even ignorant men and women who can neither read nor write may surely attain the Buddhahood, if they will but sincerely repeat the Daimoku Na-nu Myo Ho Ren-ge Kyo. This is the miraculous oral discipline in our Sect.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

Devadatta’s Example

Among the figures inscribed upon the Mandala there is that of Devadatta, of whom we have already spoken as the bitterest enemy of Sakyamuni. Now Devadatta is included in the Mandala as the representative of infernal beings. He fell into the infernal regions through having given rein to anger and fury. But even he was enabled to discard illusions and confusions, and attain to the reality which lay behind his anger and his fury – that is, the Truth. He now became Tenno Buddha without losing his infernal form. Anger and fury, in the first instance, produced the infernal world; but afterwards, as manifestations of the hidden reality behind, they produced the state of Buddhahood. And this resulted simply from the control exercised over them by Devadatta. And if it was thus with Devadatta, why should it be different with us?

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

Meditating Upon the Truth in One’s Mind

[T]he Daimoku contains the very essence of the [Lotus Sutra]. If anyone sincerely meditates upon the Truth in his mind, and repeats the Daimoku in his heart, he will surely receive great blessings. Even as regards the common occurrences of our daily life, be they good or bad, pleasurable or painful, if they are only recognized as the mysterious manifestations of the Truth of the Good Law, and as representations of the transcendent power of the [Lotus Sutra], we shall be able to free ourselves from the slavery of earthly rapture as well as rest perfectly content even in the midst of trouble; pains and pleasures will be indifferent to us, we shall be confused by neither; we shall attain to complete self-mastery, controlling our hearts and minds and not being controlled by them; able to suppress the five appetites and the seven passions, and thus become possessed of a Buddha-body, replete with the four attributes of eternity or permanence, peace, enlightenment, and purity. Under these conditions we are enabled to rid our minds of all base and mean propensities; for example, instead of giving rein to anger and fury, we shall quiet ourselves, and think calmly about the matter, and by this means be able to attain our object.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

The Buddha-Heart

We have said [before] that there is no distinction between the body of any given man and that of the Buddha himself. When the reason of this is understood, everyone ought to exercise the Buddha-heart as soon as any thought arises in his mind. The Buddha-heart means a heart that is set upon practicing the Great Way. Each man ought to pursue the interest proper to his true nature – the acquisition of enlightenment ‐ and to reap the fruits which accrue from the pleasures arising out of friendship for his fellow-men. But the generality of people, not being sufficiently firm in their determination, fail to preserve and enjoy those fruits; their will is weak, and their power of meditation inadequate. This is a human frailty for which provision is made. Instead of insisting upon the mental process, which is too severe for them, our Sect allows them to adopt a mechanical oral practice; in other words, it substitutes the repetition of the Daimoku, or Title of the [Lotus Sutra], for the intellectual discipline. The formula to be repeated is Na-mu Myo Ho Ren-ge Kyo, and these words form the Daimoku, the merits of which were known to Sakyamuni ages and ages ago.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

The Rich Man and His Poor Son

Man is said by Chinese moralists to be the chief of all living beings in this world. But when a man is engrossed in pursuing his own interests, and cannot live in peace with his neighbours, how can he deserve so high a title? Let us take an illustration. There is one, say, who is entirely ignorant of the Truth. He does not know that in his real nature he is identical with the Buddha of Original Enlightenment, but regards himself as a debased and common person incapable of instruction. In short, he is such a one as Buddha would call a mendicant. But he was not always thus. He began life as the son of a rich man to whom he was very dear. Yet he left his good father, and wandered to and fro upon the earth till forty years had elapsed; during which period his father went to live in a foreign land, so that the prodigal could not rejoin him even when he wanted to, but sank into the direst poverty. But was this poverty, this beggary, his true and original condition? Was it the state proper to a rich man’s heir? No! The beggar is but the image of the real man. He is like the Chinese philosopher Chuang-tzu when he dreamt he was a butterfly. The butterfly had only a temporary and subjective existence in the consciousness of the dreamer; it was not Chuang-tzu himself, but vanished when he awoke. Our wanderer, however, is still asleep; alas he is still dreaming that he is a beggar. Under this delusion he is taken captive by the five appetites of colour, sound, smell, taste, and touch, and humbled by the seven passions of cheerfulness, anger, sorrow, pleasure, love, hate, and avarice; he becomes unjust and partial, and aims only at self-interest; he sinks into the gulfs of sadness, melancholy, pains, and troubles; he assumes that his soul is doomed to pass through a series of painful transformations in the six forms of living beings – such as hungry devils, brutes, and so forth. To enable such a one to awake from his dream, and recover from the confusion that besets him, our Sect appoints the Great Mandala as the Chief Object of Worship, which manifests the identity existing between the Buddha and the multitude, and helps people to form a determination to become enlightened. If the beggar we have been speaking of looks steadfastly at this Mandala and sees his own person reflected there, so as to free himself from the base idea of self-renunciation, he will soon become a Buddha of Original Enlightenment in spite of his outward ordinary appearance, just as, on Chuang-tzu awaking from his dream, the butterfly disappeared and the dreamer became himself again. Thus restored, the beggar will be once more the rich man’s son. Sariputra, one of Sakyamuni’s disciples, is said to have become Keko Buddha without undergoing any change in his appearance. Therefore Sakyamuni says, “The Mandala is the mysterious ground on which any man can acquire enlightenment and become a Buddha.”

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)

Attempt to be a Nichiren and a Sakyamuni

The fact that Nichiren became enlightened proves that even the multitude, in these Last Days of the Great Law, can get free from all evils and reach the self-same goal. Indeed, to attempt to be a Nichiren and a Sakyamuni should be the first motive of all who believe in our doctrines, and carry their self-reliance to the furthest possible point.

Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)