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Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

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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.

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‘Reading’ the Truth by Nichiren’s Life

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.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

Innumerable Aeons of Work

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).

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

The Link Between the Past and Future

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.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

Realizing

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.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

The Whole Truth

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.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

The Supreme Being in Ourselves

[T]he object of worship, the Supreme Being, is to be sought nowhere but in the innermost recess of every man’s nature, because the final aim of worship is the complete realization of the Supreme Being in ourselves.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

Our Common Karma

Moreover, an existence of any kind is never an individual matter, but always the result of a common karma, shared by all born in the same realm of existence. Hence the expiation made by any one individual is, in fact, made for the sake of all his fellow-beings. Both the persecutors and the persecuted share the common karma accumulated in the past, and therefore share also in the future destiny, the attainment of Buddhahood. Nichiren’s repression of others’ malice and vice is at the same time his own expiation and self-subjugation. How, then, should his followers not share his merit in extinguishing the accumulated sins, and preparing for the realization of the primeval Buddha-nature? “Therefore,” Nichiren exhorts his disciples, “believe in me, and emulate my spirit and work, in the firm faith that the Master is the savior and leader! Work together, united in the same faith! Then, the expiation of sins will be achieved for ourselves and for all our fellow-beings, because we all share in the common karma.”

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

The Realm of ‘Mutual Participation’

The fundamental teaching of the Lotus concerning the reality of the universe amounts to this, that every being exists and subsists by virtue of the inexhaustible qualities inherent in each. There are innumerable individuals, and also groups of beings, including Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, celestial beings, mankind, furious spirits, beings in the purgatories, etc. Their respective characteristics are unmistakably distinct, but their qualities and conditions are constantly subject to change, because in each of the beings are inherent the qualities manifest in others, the differences arising simply from the varying configuration of the manifest and the potential qualities. Moreover, even taking the existences as they are at a given moment, they cannot subsist but by mutual interaction and influence. To subsist by itself by no means signifies to be separate from others; on the contrary, to interact one with another is the nature of every particular being. These features of existence are the laws or truths (dharma), and the cosmos is the stage of the infinite varieties and interactions of the dharmas, in other words, the realm of “mutual participation.”

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

Communion of the Believers

In short, every one who nourishes him, the man who is living for the sake of the Truth, is father or mother, and is thus contributing to the Buddhist cause. In this way his sense of personal indebtedness was always combined with the consciousness of his high mission; there was nothing in his life that did not present itself in these two aspects — the immediate benefits, and the eternal cause; all practised in the communion of the believers.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet

Living in an Earthly Heaven

It is by mankind, in all kinds of existence, that the ideal perfection is to be achieved, and therefore the stage of its realization is this world, the abode of mankind. The Buddhist ideal of enlightenment is man’s awaking to the fundamental unity of his present existence with the primeval Buddhahood; while the key to make this world a hell or to transform it into a heaven is in our own hands. The use of the key consists in first calling forth the primeval Buddhahood in the innermost recess of our own soul, and in viewing this actual world as a heaven. This transfiguration means not merely imagining that earth is heaven, but living in conformity with the assumption, under the guidance of the enlightened mind. This ideal was realized by Buddha when he preached the Lotus of Truth on Vulture Peak, and the scene of the revelation was transfigured into a paradise. Nichiren had no doubt about the Scripture narrative, and now, in Minobu, he was himself experiencing such a transfiguration of his own abode.

Nichiren, The Buddhist Prophet