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A Phrase A Day

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From the Postscript to A Phrase A Day:

“A PHRASE A DAY” is aimed for the Nichiren Buddhists to understand Nichiren Daishonin’s words and practice them in their daily life. The original phrases of “A PHRASE A DAY” or “Ichinichi Ichikun” was published in Japan in 1981 at the time of the Septicentennial (700th) Memorial Anniversary of the death of Nichiren Daishonin. Later an explanatory book on the “Ichinichi Ichikun” was written by Dr. Hoyo Watanabe, President of Rissho University.

A few years later, the ministers of the Nichiren Order of North America decided to translate the explanatory book. After a long struggle with difficult translation work, we were finally able to publish it in this booklet form. The translation into English was based on Dr. Watanabe’s explanatory book; however, some ministers translated Nichiren’s words more freely for English speaking people to better understand Nichiren.

Please note the “Background” of each day. First, as for the date of the letter written by Nichiren Daishonin, who sometimes wrote only the month and year. Second, Nichiren Daishonin’s age is counted in the American way breaking off the traditional Oriental way of counting age. Third, the place where Nichiren Daishonin wrote is very important because his belief in the Lotus Sutra became intense after he was exiled to Sado Island. Lastly, the page number is shown on the Showa Teihon. The Showa Teihon is the most reliable and official source for Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

Finally, I, who have been placed in charge of collating together this booklet, thank Dr. James Ward, a retired eye surgeon. He is not a Buddhist but thinks in Buddhistic ways on many occasions. I hope this English translation is understandable even to non-Buddhists. Therefore, I am glad to have accepted suggestions from such an appropriate person.


Reverend Shokai Kanai,
Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church

Translator, Commentator in English (1986)
Rev. Ryusho Matsuda, San Jose Myokakuji Betsuin
Rev. Shokai Kanai, Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church
Rev. Nippo Shyaku, San Francisco
Rev. Kanshu Ikuta, Gardena Honpoji Betsuin
Rev. Zuigaku Kodachi, Portland Guhoji Betsuin
Rev. Joyo Ogawa, Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church
Rev. Kenjo Igarashi, San Francisco Nichiren Buddhist Church
Rev. Kyoryo Okuno, Toronto Nichiren Buddhist Church
Rev. Ryuken Akahoshi, San Jose Myokakuji Betsuin
Rev. Kyotsu Hori, Professor, Tokyo Rissho Junior College for Women

Japanese-English Edition (1986)
Overseas Propagation Promotion Association, English Translation Committee:

Rev. Kyotsu Hori, Professor, Tokyo Rissho Junior College for Women
Rev. Zencho Kitagawa, Assistant Professor, Rissho University
Rev. Taikyo Yajima, Kokokuji Temple
Rev. Keiryu Shima, Jikoji Temple
Rev. Chiko Ichikawa, Myoanji Temple
Rev. Ryoko Mochizuki, Daikyoji Temple


Book Quotes

Book List

The Buddha Dharma and the Worldly Law


Since the Buddha dharma is not understood correctly and is not believed righteously, the worldly law becomes disorderly. The Buddha dharma is like a body while the worldly law is like its shadow. When the body bends, its shadow also bends.

(Background : May 26, 1280, 58 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p.1752)


To serve your master (in your work) is to practice the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra says that worldly politics and economy are not against its ultimate reality.

(Background : April 11, 1278, 56 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p.1493)

Explanatory note

An old Chinese book says that a wise man predicted destruction of his country because its people did not bother to comb their hair, and his prediction became true.

There is a Japanese saying, “Eyes are the windows of one’s mind.” The slightest movement of our eyes shows what we are thinking. Our thoughts are expressed in our attitudes, which become social movements.

Such matters are taught in Buddhism. But people generally think that Buddhism concerns individual’s inner self only. Nichiren Daishonin clarified this matter. Merely holding hands in gassho and reciting the sutra are not the practice of faith in Nichiren Buddhism. But faith must appear in our daily works.

We, Nichiren Buddhists, keep the teaching of “Rissho Ankoku,” that is, to establish the righteousness of the Buddha’s teaching is to secure the nation. We must understand that the social movement is the reflection of the people’s religion. We must remember that Nichiren Daishonin advised Kingo Shijo to stay on his work when Kingo wanted to quit his work for the sake of devotion to his faith. We must keep Nichiren’s advice in our minds and practice our faith in our home and work.

Rev. Kanai

Phrase A Day

Diligent Practice


Nichiren’s followers must strive to attain Buddhahood by shortening sleeping hours and by cutting the time for rest. If not, you will repent forever.

(Background: August 23, 1277, 55 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p.1373)

Explanatory note

Nichiren himself reached the realization that he is the manifestation of the Bodhisattva Visista Charitra (Jogyo Bosatsu) through his understanding and practice of the Lotus Sutra and through the four major and numerous lesser persecutions.
The above quotation is from the last section of his letter to Lord Toki, in which Daishonin shows what is expected of his followers. He says, “Do not sleep too long and do not waste time; concentrate on the attainment of Buddhahood at all times.”

How strict he was!

Such an intensity is required if we are to live for our faith. As we reflect on our behavior, we notice that some of us gladly torture ourselves to pass examinations, or we don’t complain of hardships if they were for the attainment of our business goals. But these are only transient goals. Our true goal has to be the perfection of ourselves as human beings. It is a difficult task indeed to keep the above oath in mind all the time. We must, however, continuously reaffirm the religious goal and never let it escape from our mind.

Rev. Ikuta

Phrase A Day

Self Respect


Since we were born in this kingdom, our bodies must obey the ruler, but our mind and spirit never obey.

(Background : June 1275, 53 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p.1053)

Explanatory note

If you are to live each day without accomplishing anything, there is no need to think anything, and no need to be alert about anything. But if you are to ponder seriously about life, firmly ascertain the teachings of the true guidance, and to spread them to the world, then you must clearly be aware of the ground on which you stand.

“Senji-sho” is a tract in which Nichiren Daishonin showed his followers how to live in accordance with the faith in the Lotus Sutra. It was written at a time of crisis when the people of Japan lived in fear created by the imminent attack on Japan by the Mongolian Army which had conquered Turkey in the west and China and Korea in the east.

Nichiren’s words presented here tell us how the followers of the Lotus Sutra must behave. This world is governed by our original teacher, the Buddha Sakyamuni. But once we are born in a country, we must abide by the law of the land. However, no one can interfere with our faith that we are in the salvation of our original teacher, the Buddha Sakyamuni. Nichiren expresses the freedom of our mind and spirit. Therefore, the above quotation must be understood to be a cry from the heart of Nichiren. We, his followers, must act according to these words when circumstances push us to the very limit of our endurance.

Rev. Ikuta

Phrase A Day

Eternal Truth


You should promptly convert your wrong faith to the belief in the true and one vehicle faith at once. Then the triple world of the unenlightened will all become the land of the Buddha. Will the land of the Buddha decay? All the lands in ten directions will become the “treasure land.” Will the “treasure land” be destroyed? When the land does not decay and is not destroyed, your body is safe and your heart tranquil. Believe these words and revere them.

(Background : July 1260, 38 years old, at Kamakura, Showa Teihon, p.226)

(Explanatory note)
Presented to the ex-Regent of the Kamakura Shogunate, Hojo Tokiyori, the “Rissho Ankoku Ron” consists of questions and answers between a master of a house and his guest. The following is the master’s last advice to the guest to have the true faith:

“You must change your faith as soon as possible and convert yourself to the Lotus Sutra which is the supreme teaching of the Buddha. Then the Triple World * will all become the land of the Buddha. How can the land of the Buddha decay? Also the ten directions — all the lands will become the ‘treasure land.’ How can the ‘treasure land’ be destroyed?” ( * The Triple World is the world of unenlightened beings. It is divided into three: the world of desire, form, and formlessness.)

“If there is no decay or destruction of the land, the life of the inhabitants will be peaceful and their hearts will be tranquil and happy. This is not my arbitrary opinion, but it is based on Buddhist scriptures. It is as I explained it before, and you should have no objection. You should believe in my words open-mindedly and respect them from your heart. It is the road to the right religion and peace of society.”

The most important teaching in the Lotus Sutra is “This world is identical with the Buddha Land of Tranquil Light.” (The Buddha Land is the place where there is no birth and death, no disturbance by evil passion and delusion, but is shone by the rays of wisdom.) We are surely wandering in this puzzled world, but we are also able to become Buddhas. It is our duty to devote ourselves to this ideal stage. Thus, Nichiren insisted that we should believe in the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and do our best for peace and salvation of all mankind.

Rev. Hori

Phrase A Day

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo Throughout the World


When all the people under the heaven and various schools of Buddhism are all converted to the one and true vehicle, and when only the Lotus Sutra flourishes and all the people recite “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” in unison, the howling wind will not blow on the branches, falling rain will not erode the soil, and the world will become as good as during the reigns of the Chinese Emperors Fu-hsi and Shen-nung. You will see that such times will come when the calamities cease to exist, people live long, and men and their faith become eternal, there should be no doubt about the proof of tranquility in life.

(Background : May 1273, 51 years old, at Sado, Showa Teihon, p.733)

Explanatory note

Nichiren Daishonin said that people read the Lotus Sutra with their eyes and voice, but no one read it with his body except him. People generally do not try to apply the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in daily life.

Nichiren clearly mentioned that each individual’s faith and real society are closely related. It is a foolish idea if one thinks that religion is only for comfort in his or her life. Once we are born, we are a part of a society whether we like it or not. We try to keep peace and happiness under the set rules in the society.

The aim of our faith in Nichiren Buddhism is to realize the Buddha Land where we live. It is our vow to be Nichiren’s followers. The Buddha Land will not be created in a few years nor in ten years but it surely will be realized with our firm faith in the Lotus Sutra.

Rev. Kanai

Phrase A Day

One Spirit in Different Bodies


All things are possible if people are united in one spirit. Nothing can be accomplished if they are not united. It is also true in non-Buddhist scriptures. For instance, a king of Yin in old China, King Chieh, who had an army of seven hundred thousand men disunited in spirit, was defeated by King Wu of Chou and his army of eight hundred men, who were united in one spirit. So that if a person has two thoughts, nothing can be accomplished. Even if there are hundreds or thousands of people, if they are united in one, they are surely able to accomplish their aim.

(Background : August 6, 1274, 52 years old, at Minobu, Skowa Teihon, p.829)

Explanatory note

The history of mankind seems to be changing with the advancement of science and technology. We are led to believe, however, that people’s real character has not changed significantly in itself. It may have been partly degenerated over time.

The social structure today is undergoing complicated changes. In the midst of these changes, we often experience that plans are going astray or that the results turn out to be disappointing. On the other hand, we also learn through experience that trust and mutual reliance is what binds the people together. Our expectations based on this trust and reliance have built the long history and culture of mankind.

Reflecting on Nichiren Daishonin’s life, we learn that he preached to save the people by the true teaching–the Lotus Sutra. With Nichiren, there were many disciples and followers who subjugated themselves to him. There were also a few people who had betrayed Nichiren and left him. However, he repeatedly preached to his disciples and followers that they would never be defeated by anything if they held to the truth and were united in one spirit.

To maintain our true faith, we must have a docile and pious mind and have complete devotion. We who live in the present must give all our attention to Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching, and clearly keep it in our hearts.

Rev. Ogawa

Phrase A Day

Three Great Vows


To desert the teaching of the Lotus Sutra denotes falling into hell. I have made a vow : “Even if someone says that he would make me the ruler of Japan if I give up the Lotus Sutra and rely upon the Kammuryojukyo (Sutra of Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life) for my salvation in the next life, or even if someone threatens me saying that he will execute my parents if I do not say ‘Namu Amida Butsu,’ and even if many great difficulties fall upon me, I will not submit to them until a man of wisdom defeats me by reason.” Other difficulties are like dust in the wind. I will never break my vow that I shall become a pillar of Japan, I shall become the eyes of Japan, and I shall become the great vessel of Japan.

(Background : February, 1272, 50 years old, at Sado, Showa Teihon, p.601)

Explanatory note

The three great vows are stated here by Nichiren Daishonin. His salvation for all people is based on these three original oaths. Nichiren transmitted the Lord Buddha’s salvation to all people through his strong faith in the Lotus Sutra. On April 28th, 1253, at the age of thirtyone, he proclaimed his new faith which contained the fundamental principles of these vows. Because of Nichiren’s conviction concerning these oaths, he never gave up his mission even though he met countless religious persecutions. As Nichiren Buddhists seeking salvation through the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, we must understand the fundamental principles of these three vows of Nichiren. It is always true that in any religion there is no salvation without fundamental principles and diligent practice. They are the essence of Nichiren’s religion.

Rev. Kodachi

Phrase A Day

Religious Exaltation


Tears roll down when I think of the great hardship which I have to endure today, but I cannot stop tears of joy when I think of obtaining Buddhahood in the future. Birds and insects cry without shedding tears. Nichiren does not cry but tears keep falling. These tears are shed not for worldly matters. They are solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, they could be said to be tears of nectar.

(Background : May 17, 1273, 51 years old, at Sado, Showa Teihon, p.728)

Explanatory note

Nichiren Daishonin is admired as a man who has a very stong mind and who can bear all hardships. The people are moved to more admiration when they know that Nichiren has a warm heart and compassionate tears and that he is always thinking, “l must stretch my hands to those who suffer,” and “I must lead them into the salvation in the Lotus Sutra.”

Why did Nichiren face so many persecutions? He said that it was because he had slandered the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in his previous lives, and that these persecutions were meant to erase these sinful karmas which he had created before, so that he could attain Buddhahood in the future. When he realized the persecutions were to attain Buddhahood, he easily accepted them with gratitude.

Thus, Nichiren faced all persecutions positively. He had pity on the people who wished to attain Buddhahood in vain because of unfaithfulness to the teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren did not cry nor shed tears because of worldly matters. But his eyes were full of tears because the people did not believe in the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren, therefore, pushed himself and overcame the numerous persecutions for leading the people into Buddhahood.

Rev. Kanai

Phrase A Day

Merits of Chanting Odaimoku


I, Nichiren, sincerely keep the most profound Lotus Sutra among other sutras which have been preached, are being preached, and will be preached. I also chant Odaimoku, gist of the sutra, by myself and teach others to chant it. Mugwort grass grows straight amidst the hemp field. Trees do not grow straight, but by cutting it straight, it becomes useful. If you chant the sutra as it states, your mind will be straightened. Be aware that it is hard for us to chant Odaimoku unless the spirit of the Eternal Buddha enters into our bodies.

(Background : March 5, 1276, 54 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p. 1166)

Explanatory note

“To live honestly” is fundamental in Nichiren Daishonin’s life and in his religion. Honest means for him not only to be honest in a moral sense but also to be faithful to the spirit of the Buddha Sakyamuni. In other words, it is to be honest to the essential spirit of the Buddha.

Chapter ten of the Lotus Sutra states that the sutra is the most profound among others, so that it is hard to understand and difficult to practice. Accepting this truth, Nichiren Daishonin simplified the difficulty by chanting Odaimoku from the depth of his heart and persuaded others to do the same.

The merits of Odaimoku are like the creeping mugwort grass growing straight in hemp field, or a crooked tree can be cut straight into useful objects. If we earnestly recite Odaimoku, our wavering hearts will unknowingly become right, because we cannot recite it without the spirit of the Eternal Buddha entering our bodies and influencing our life.

When we recite Odaimoku with our whole heart, we are overwhelmed with a mysterious force dwelling within us. It is a refreshing power that only those who have experienced it could understand.

Religion is not necessarily in the realm of reason, but it is in the realm of experience. We can not tell the exact taste of a banana to a person who has never tasted it, even though we may explain its shape, color, and texture. Similarly, Odaimoku is not a theory of life but a way of life. Happiness and sorrow are like the front and back of a single sheet of paper. Many people in the depth of sorrow have found comfort in the recitation of Odaimoku. Others in the depth of suffering, not knowing where to turn, have found their spirits refreshed with the teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

We can never go astray with the sincere recitation of Odaimoku because through this practice we are accepting the teaching of the Buddha with our hearts and bodies.

Rev. Igarashi

Phrase A Day

Appearance of Buddha-nature


A singing bird in a cage attracts uncaged birds, and the sight of these uncaged birds will make the caged bird want to be free. Likewise, the chanting of Odaimoku will bring out the Buddha-nature within ourselves.

The Buddha-nature of Bonten and Taishaku will be called by the chanting and will protect the chanter. The Buddha-nature of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will be pleased to be called. For attaining Buddhahood quickly, one must lay down the banner of arrogance, cast away the club of prejudice, and chant “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.”

(Background : 1277, 55 years old, at Minobu, Showa Teihon, p.1433)

Explanatory note

It is not easy for an ordinary person to attain Buddha. hood, that is, the perfect enlightenment of the Buddha. Even the Buddha Sakyamuni could not attain this perfect enlightenment easily. It is generally believed that He had practiced various ways and finally attained Buddhahood under the Bodhi-tree. In the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, however, the Buddha Sakyamuni says, “I have obtained My eternal life by training Myself for innumerable aeons,” revealing His attainment of great enlightenment in the eternal past.

Nichiren Daishonin taught that the Buddha’s world has no boundary, and that all living beings are embraced in His world by the Buddha’s great compassion. It was Nichiren’s purpose to propagate this teaching of the Lotus Sutra and to show it to this world with himself as an example.

For that reason, Nichiren Daishonin taught so simply that even the illiterate could understand. It is to chant Odaimoku, “Namu Myoho Renge Ryo.” By chanting it, we are able to bring out the Buddha-nature within ourselves and to be protected by deities of the Lotus Sutra. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are pleased by hearing Odaimoku. In other words, we are always connected with Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardian gods through the Buddhanature.

So we should have faith in the Lotus Sutra and should be grateful to the Buddha and to His teachings.

Rev. Akahoshi

Phrase A Day