When we worship gods or Buddhas, we begin with the phrase of “namu.” Namu is an Indian word that has come to mean “offering of life to Buddhas and gods” in China and Japan. Our social standing is determined in part by possessing a spouse and children, retainers, fiefs, and gold and silver, though some people do not have those. Regardless of whether we possess these or not, no one possesses treasure more precious than life. Accordingly, sages and wise men in the past have donated their lives to the Buddhas in order to attain Buddhahood.
Nichiren wrote this passage in his Treatise on Phenomenal and Noumenal Offering (Jiri Kuyō Gosho). We tend to judge ourselves and others by the outward aspects of our lives: where we live, what we wear, our position in society, and the company we keep. It is easy to lose sight of what will happen when we leave this life and give up all those things, even our precious bodies. Nichiren reminds us that our lives are all we have, and when we live them in gratitude for what the Buddha teaches us, and dedicate ourselves to benefitting others, then we exist as enlightened beings.
The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com