It has been a wish of mine to publish these wonderful teachings of our lineage of Nichiren Shu Buddhism for a long time, in order to disseminate their wisdom throughout the world. They are very special to me, because they are from the many newsletters that I collected during my Buddhist education at the Toronto Nichiren Buddhist Temple under my teacher Kanta Tsukamoto Shonin, who was the head priest of that Temple for over 10 years. I carried this collection of newsletters with me when I moved from Buffalo to Seattle, waiting for the right opportunity and support to bring this project to fruition. So indeed, this is a happy event.
Tsukamoto Shonin’s teachings are wonderful, because he reveals to us a very simple but profound insight into our daily lives, through many stories and allegories. Through each story he shares his very personal and emotional experience of life, with an awareness which has allowed people, despite cultural and language differences, to relate with the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Buddhism.
Tsukamoto Shonin became a Kaikyoshi early in Nichiren Shu’s activities outside Japan in order spread the teachings of Nichiren Shu Buddhism across the ocean to English speaking people. This was at a very important time in our propagation efforts, and began the movement towards establishing Nichiren Shu Buddhism outside of Japanese ethnic communities. …
We all have Buddha’s nature, without exception. May we recognize it, and strive to realize that the Buddha world is the real world with Odaimoku. This is the faith of the Lotus Sutra. Please make the effort to chant Odaimoku everyday, for yourself and your neighbors.
This ideal world, or “Buddha world” does not refer only to a world we enter after death. It is possible to enter it during our lifetime. Therefore we use the words “Becoming a Buddha” for someone who is still alive. Nichiren Shonin said, “The true way of a Bodhisattva or Buddha is to strive to achieve the Buddha world.”
[O]ne must not deplore the real world because of the degradation and disorder. Don’t think about a next unknown world, even heaven, because what is definite is that we must live in this sensuous real world now. We should see this world as it is, and make more effort to change it into the ideal world, the “Buddha’s World.” Even if we don’t achieve this during our lifetimes, after death we will enter into the Buddha world automatically.
Just as we can’t see our own eyebrow because it is so close to the eye, we cannot clearly recognize the nature which is in our own mind, because we are enjoying things like whisky, and are drowning in the sea of temporary enjoyment. Therefore it is impossible to make the seed of the Buddha-nature sprout. In order to develop the seed, you must chant Odaimoku. Once you recognize that everyone has this nature, and can become a Buddha, your character will naturally become modest. By way of practicing to attain enlightenment, you will feel the gratification of living not only for yourself, but also for other people.
Nichiren Buddhism is called a “positive religion” because the Lotus Sutra instructs us to confront reality positively, and improve our lives by making efforts with faith. Generally, this world is spoken of negatively, and is called a degraded and disordered world. However, Nichiren Buddhism is different. Even though this world seems like it is degraded, and a world filled with deep desire, we are Buddha’s children. We all have Buddha’s nature, as a seed, waiting to become a Buddha and to construct an ideal world, the “Buddha’s world.” Unfortunately, it is difficult to recognize this nature by oneself, even if it is a part of our own mind.
The Buddha is said to have passed away about two thousand five hundred years ago, but really He lives here as the Eternal Buddha, and is saving people everywhere in different forms. This story is expounded for the first time in the final teaching, the Lotus Sutra.
“Since I became the Buddha, I have been expounding the teachings to hundreds of millions of living beings for many hundreds of innumerable aeons to lead them into the Way to Buddhahood. In order to save the people, I expediently showed them my passing away. In reality I shall never be extinct. I always live here, and expound the teaching according to people’s capacities. I am always thinking: ‘How shall I cause all living beings to enter into the unsurpassed Way and quickly become Buddhas?’ ” – The Lotus Sutra, Chapter XVI
With devoted faith to the Eternal Buddha, we will naturally be endowed with Buddha’s wisdom, be lead to approach Buddhahood and have a good life.
Nichiren Shonin said, “Chant Odaimoku obstinately.” It is best to chant Odaimoku loudly, with a positive mind, as many times as possible, because the power of Odaimoku is relative to one’s mind. It is difficult to explain with words how Odaimoku works. The proof of its effectiveness is found by chanting it.
Chanting Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, is our primary practice. This is the essence of the Lotus Sutra and includes all the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.
Nichiren Shonin said, “All the good deeds and virtues of the Buddha are manifested in the title of the Lotus Sutra, that is, in the five characters, Myo, Ho, Ren, Ge, and Kyo. However sinful we may be, we shall be naturally endowed with all the deeds and virtues of the Buddha, if we adhere to these five characters.” – Kanjin Honzon-sho
The Lotus Sutra teaches us that all living beings are originally born with a Buddha seed. It is possible for everyone to attain enlightenment, just as the Buddha did. In order to do so, it is essential to make efforts and have faith by oneself. From another perspective, it can be said that everyone is a Buddha. But in reality, we tend to frequently make mistakes. Therefore, we need practice and training. So even if we have the seed of Buddha, the seed has not sprouted or blossomed yet. To sprout and grow, the seed needs the Lotus Sutra as the sun, and Odaimoku as fertilizer. Keep this in your mind. It is very important that in order to become a Buddha, one must make the effort, and learn in daily life, based on the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. By obtaining good practice, we will find solutions for any troubles in our life.
[F]aith is the property of the heart, and one of life’s treasures. Faith saves us from suffering or darkness with compassion, teaches us self-control, carries with it a secure mind that will never be defiled by evil or crime, and shows us the answer of life through enlightenment. Having faith gives our life vitality, and rejuvenates our minds. How do we transmit this treasure to our children and others? It is an essential thing to have in the world and in life. The transmission of faith is not so difficult. As Nichiren Shonin said, “At the beginning of Odaimoku, ‘Namu’ means respecting and following gently.” Faith begins with respecting the Buddha and following his teaching gently. Please keep this in your mind and heart, and make efforts to transmit the teachings and Buddhist faith.