Masaharu Anesaki’s book, “Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet” was originally published in 1916 but is now in the public domain. It is available on the web without charge in a number of electronic formats.
Masaharu Anesaki, M.A., Litt.D., was a professor of the Science of Religion at the Imperial University of Tokyo and a professor of Japanese Literature and Life at Harvard University. The 1916 edition was published by Harvard University Press.
The full-opened eyes see the Truth of the everlasting relationship between ourselves and the eternal Buddhahood, in which the Buddha, as revealed in the chapter on the Eternal Life of the Tathagata, is the Lord ruling over all subjects, the Master leading his pupils to maturity, and the Father who gives birth to the children. We are, from all eternity, subjects of the Buddha, his disciples, and his children; being essentially like him through the eternal Truth. When seen in this light, every religion and ethical system, compared with Nichiren’s religion revealed in the Lotus, is one of the preliminary steps leading up to the ultimate truth. Yet men are blind or squinting and do not see the whole truth in its full light.
Buddha, as he is represented as declaring himself in the chapter on Eternity, is the Tathagata from all eternity and has ever been working to lead all sentient beings to maturity in Buddhahood. He is the Lord of Truth and Father of all, and we are his disciples and children. Religion is nothing but the way to enlightenment in this eternal relationship, and morality, nothing but the method of realizing the same truth in our life.
The basic truth of existence and its everlasting laws are inherent in every being, while the personal manifestations of Buddhahood are working to bring all beings to full consciousness of their own real nature. In other words, all beings, participating in the primeval wisdom of the universe, are developing their proper nature in conjunction with the educative activity of the Buddhas. Taking this view of the cosmic movement, the Supreme Being is nothing but the union of the Truth and the Person, as realized in the person of Buddha and to be realized in each of us.
That Nichiren emphasized these virtues, together with obedience to the master, is noteworthy as showing his keen interest in moral life. It must be observed, also, that this ethical interest was not with him merely an adjunct of religious belief, but a vital criterion of religious truth. For to worship Buddha and revere the Truth revealed by him does not consist in devising rituals, or in contemplating Buddha’s truths in visionary ways, but in working out in our own life the truths taught, by putting faith in Buddha as the Lord, Master, and Father. Faith ought to be actualized in life, but is empty unless realized in the three cardinal virtues named above. Nichiren’s conviction that his life was vitalizing the Lotus of Truth was another way of stating his ethical interpretation of religion.
Buddha is the primeval master, and Nichiren is now living the life of his primeval disciples. Primeval, therefore everlasting, and as true for the future as in the past — he is the one predestined to be the leader, the savior of the coming ages. In short, Nichiren is the man who is “reading” the Truth by his life.
Since I have attained Buddhahood, … I have constantly been preaching truths, And helping innumerable beings to maturity, Leading them in the Way of Buddhas; Thus, innumerable aeons have passed in this work. (Chapter XVI).
The link between the past and future is Nichiren, who represents in this country at this moment the solemn pledge of salvation, and is commissioned to work in the days of degeneration. Thus his person is the key to the efficacious working of the everlasting Truth, which has its origin in eternity and is destined to prevail forever in the future. This was Nichiren’s conviction about his person and his mission. In order to open the eyes of all fellow-beings to this, it was necessary to bring them to the same enlightenment concerning themselves. For this purpose, each must, first of all, know the true relation existing between himself and the eternal Buddhahood, which is represented, preeminently, by the Lord Sakya, and is to be realized in one’s own self. This metaphysical relation between the Master and the disciples, between the cosmos and the individual, is the very foundation of all religion and ethics. Open the eyes to this cardinal relation, then all enlightenment will naturally follow.
Noble and sublime may be the conception of the Supreme Being, but it is but an idol or image, a dead abstraction, if we ourselves do not participate in its supreme existence and realize in ourselves its excellent qualities.
According to Nichiren, the manifold teachings existing are but the varying aspects of the same cosmic principle; and each of those systems represents a certain truth, while errors come from sticking to a particular point of the teachings. The Truth is touched, but the whole Truth is missed.