Day By Day

By Stephen L. Klick 





This work may be freely distributed.  It is a gift of love to anyone who wishes to receive it.  May the people who read this book benefit and become karmically connected to us, and may all of us work to bring happiness to sentient beings everywhere.  

This book is dedicated to the many people who have helped Buddhist Information grow into a better service organization, Royceann, Connie, Gia, and many others too numerous to mention.


 Other Books From BIONA:

"Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide to Happiness"

"Inside The Lotus Sutra"

"The Loving Heart"

"Walking On The Path"

"Introduction To Buddhism"

"A House on Fire"



Coming Soon:

"Dream World"

"American Jataka Tales"



Stephen Klick is the Director and co-founder of Buddhist Information of North America.  Buddhist Information provides free study material to students all over the North American Continent. Bart Klick Is the Youth Director and web-master for BIONA.







These are the Dharma lectures from the early years of the Buddhist Information ministry.  The writing style is not as developed as it would later become but the content is wonderful because it is Dharma.  Many of these lectures bring back fond memories of the very early days when we were not quite sure of the direction we would take.  We often spent fifteen-hour workdays struggling under a crushing workload but we always had fun.

There was a lot of negativity directed at us in the first few years; some of the phone calls we received were unbelievable unless you were here to experience them yourself.  Some people wanted to beat us, some said they wanted to kill us; others called to tell us we were eternally damned in an effort to convert us to various different philosophies.

 There were also a lot of warm, wonderful calls and one of them was enough to keep us going until we got the next one.  Through it all, good or bad, we hung together and kept practicing the Dharma.  I hope you enjoy this book and find it helpful.  Keep moving forward in your practice 'day by day' and in just a short time you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.


Bartholomew Klick

Youth Director, Web Master

May 8, 2001  

Stephen Klick can be reached at [email protected]

Bart Klick can be reached at [email protected]







            “The Life of Nichiren” is called a hagiography, which means that it idealizes the person being written about instead of looking at him in a more objective manner.  This type of document often serves a valuable purpose; in this case it is intended to inspire people with the greatness of Nichiren Daishonin’s life and teachings.

            It is immediately followed by “My Perfect Teacher,” which examines Nichiren’s life from the historical perspective and concludes with a short Dharma lecture.

The Final four lectures describe the practice called ‘The Meditation of The Lotus Sutra.’  Nichiren Daishonin taught this practice in order to lead people to freedom.



The Life Of Nichiren

Research: Bart Klick





 Good afternoon,  


Today we will be discussing the life of Nichiren Daishonin.  He was born into the lowest strata of Japanese society, the son of a poor fisherman.  Japan was a Buddhist society and any job that caused you to kill was avoided.  So his family was not only poor, they were reduced to doing a job that no one wanted to do.  This is important to understand.

The other two historical Buddhas were born into the very top of their respective societies, and there was a good reason for this.  Only the wealthy had time to think about things other than survival.  The number of people these teachers could reach was accordingly small.

 But Nichiren had to reach everyone, in the latter day of the law.  If he had been wealthy the message could not have been the same.  The Daishonin was born into this class of people to show the unimportance of such things.  It is good to remember that one of the most important men to be born into the human race came from a group that was considered by many to be ‘untouchable.’

On February 16, 1222 Nichiren was born and his parents named him “Splendid Sun Child.”  When he was 12 his parents enrolled him in the closest educational center, Seicho Ji Temple.  Here he learned to read and write in both Chinese and Japanese.  This temple was dedicated to the study and practice of Tendai Buddhism.  The Tendai sect followed the teachings of T’ien T’ai of China and Dengyo of Japan, who both taught the supremacy of “The Lotus Sutra.”

When he was sixteen his basic education was finished, but Nichiren decided to stay in the monastery and become a priest.  The name he took meant “Sage under the Sun—Lotus Growth.”

In a letter he wrote (from “On Refuting Ryo-Ken”) he states, “not only have I sought for learning since childhood, but I also began to pray at the age of 12 before the statue of the Bodhisattva ‘Kokuso’ so that I would become the wisest person in all Japan.  There are profound reasons for the prayers I offered, but I cannot go into them in detail here.  Afterwards I first listened to the “Jodo” and “Zen” sects, and studied at Mount Hiei, Mount Koyo and other countryside temples…”

 (The “Jodo” sect is a ‘pure land’ group represented in this country by the ‘Jodo Shu’, and the much larger ‘Jodo Shinshu’.  There are many followers of ‘Pure Land’ teachings in the Kansas City area.  ‘Zen’ is found all over the United States, of the many schools the most common are “Rinzai,” “Shaolin”, “Soto”, “Vietnamese”, and “Korean”.  Kansas City Kansas has one Korean Zen group.)

So, Nichiren…”Studied the teachings of the other sects,” and also studied the tenants of his own school, yet he wrote, “I found it difficult to clarify the doubts I had.”  Eventually, through reflections and study, our teacher realized that “The Lotus Sutra” contained the highest teaching of the Buddha. 

Early on the morning of April 28, 1253, the then 32-year old priest faced the rising sun, and for the first time chanted “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.”  Later that day he changed his name to “Sun Lotus” or “Nichiren.”  He wrote, “Giving myself the name “Nichiren” signifies that I attained enlightenment by myself.”  Taking the name “Nichiren” thus demonstrated his conviction and realization that he was the original Buddha and the votary of the “Lotus Sutra” in the Latter Day of the Law.

 He wrote, “ Is there anything brighter than the sun or moon?  Is there anything purer than the Lotus Flower?  The Lotus Sutra is like the sun and the moon and the Lotus Flower, therefore it is called Myoho Renge Kyo.  Nichiren is also like the sun and moon, and the Lotus Flower.” 

Taking the Name Nichiren also indicated that he was filled with the desire to shed light upon the evil and impure age of the Latter Day of the Law, and that he wanted to benefit all beings everywhere.  So, April 28, 1253 is an important date for us because not only did our teacher chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for the first time, he also followed up by taking action (an example we should all follow).

  The action he took was to publicly teach what he had realized.  According to tradition Nichiren told the assembled audience the great truth he had perceived, and he also pointed out that the popular forms of Buddhism prevalent in Japan contained errors, because they were based on partial truths found in the provisional sutras. 

His audience was less than thrilled with his proclamation of the superiority of “The Lotus Sutra.”  Why did our teacher conclude that “The Lotus Sutra” is Buddhism’s highest teaching?  “The Lotus Sutra” tells us in the Buddhas own words, “Good sons!  After six years’ right sitting under the bodhi tree of the wisdom throne, I could accomplish perfect enlightenment.  With the Buddha’s Eye I saw all the laws and understood that they were inexpressible…  I knew that the natures and desires of all living beings were not all equal.  As their natures are not equal, I preach the law variously… in forty years and more, the truth has not yet been revealed.”

 “In the laws preached by the Buddha you should develop great strength of faith, for at length after the Buddha’s preparatory teaching he must now proclaim the perfect truth.” 

This kind of evidence was impossible to ignore for any honest seeker of the truth, but Nichiren’s audience became very hostile.  It was an act of great compassion to show these priests that they were mistaken, but if you’ve had the experience of correcting some practitioner’s error (something we have to do if we are a serious student of the Buddha) you already know the kind of reaction our teacher was exposed to.

 “The Lotus Sutra” informs us that if we practice and propagate this sutra, “…many will curse and abuse us, and beat us with swords and staves…”  “Monks in that evil age will be heretical, suspicious, warped, claiming to have attained” what they have not attained.  Their minds will be full of arrogance, and they will curse, abuse, and insult us.  But we will wear the Armour of Perseverance, and endure these hard things. 

That is what the sutra tells us will happen if you spread these teachings in the Latter Day of the Law and that is what happened to Nichiren, right after he finished speaking.  Most people would not expect monks and priests to behave violently, as they spend much of their time preaching love, peace, and tolerance.  But these men proved the truth of the Sutra’s prediction—they were warped indeed.  They not only wanted to kill Nichiren, they tried to kill him, and it was only through the kindness of a former teacher named Dozen Bo that he managed to escape unharmed.

In spite of this hostile response, our teacher spent the rest of his life helping others to understand the teachings of the Buddha.  Nichiren first visited his parents and spent time teaching them.  They became devout followers for the rest of their lives.  In this way he repaid the debt of gratitude he owed to his parents and also set an example for the rest of us to follow. 

In one of the major writings (“The Opening of the Eyes”) our teacher tells us that, “there are three types of doctrines that are to be studied.”  The first are the doctrines of Confucius.  Now, why would that be?  Confucius was a reformer who helped his society by reestablishing a moral system from China’s past.  If he ever had an original thought he never wrote it down.  He was a scholar of the history of China but the wisdom he uncovered applies to all people in every era.

One of the central themes taught was respecting and caring for your parents.  So Nichiren spent the time needed to benefit his parents and then he began to teach and help the people around him—he spent the next few years teaching anyone who was willing to learn, and he also engaged priests from different sect in religious debate, which won him many supporters. 

Nichiren was greatly skilled in the art of Buddhist debate, and since the sects that opposed him found that they could not win they began to think of other ways to rid themselves of this troublesome menace their income.

In August of 1256 a torrential rainstorm flooded Kamakura, leaving the area in ruin.  A few days later an earthquake struck, destroying one of the temples only a few miles away.  The aftershocks lasted for four months.  January of 1257 saw the disasters continue unabated.  Fires burned down several temples.  The constant rainstorms ruined the majority of the crops leading to widespread starvation for all of Japan.

 Desperate and unscrupulous people began to steal the flesh from the dead, or worse, from the young or helpless; they took meat from wild game, mixed the two together, and they sold this mixture to the populace.  Unwittingly the people of Japan had become, as Nichiren put it, “flesh eating devils.” 

Through his studies Nichiren discovered that various sutras described what was happening to Japan.  This is a doctrine known as the three calamities and seven disasters.  This doctrine states that slanderers of the True Law would suffer war, pestilence, droughts, Internal strife, inflation, peculiar and strange occurrences in the heavens, lunar eclipses, solar eclipses, and unseasonable dryness. 

All but two of these had already occurred in Japan and Nichiren informed the rulers that further problems would occur because the country was slandering the True Law.  He sent a document entitled “On Establishing The Correct Teachings For The Peace Of The Land” that warned of internal strife and attacks from outside of Japan.

 Since the other five signs were present, Nichiren was confident that rebellion and invasion would happen as well.  This missive has been preserved in the Gosho (Honored Writings) and is today considered to be one of our teacher’s major writings.  It states, “evil monks, hoping to gain fame and profit, in many cases appear before the ruler, the crown prince, or the other princes, and take it upon themselves to preach doctrines that lead to the violation of Buddhist laws, and the destruction of the nation.  The ruler, failing to perceive the truth of the situation, listens to and puts faith in these doctrines, and proceeds to create regulations that are perverse in nature and do not accord with the rules of Buddhist discipline.  In this way he brings about the destruction of Buddhism and of the Nation.”  

What are these disasters that will destroy the nation and Buddhism?  “When the sun and moon depart from their regular courses, when the seasons come in the wrong order, when a red sun or black sun appears, when two, three, four, or five coronas appear around the sun, this is the first disaster.

When the twenty eight constellations do not move in their regular courses, when the metal star (Venus), the broom star (a comet), the wheel star, the demon star, the fire star (Mars), the water star (Mercury), the wind star, the ladle star, the southern dipper, the northern dipper, the great stars of the five garrisons and all the many stars that govern the ruler, the three high ministers and the hundred officials—when each of these stars manifests some peculiar behavior, this is the second disaster.

When huge fires consume the nation, and the people are burned to death, or when there are outbreaks of demon fire (fires of unknown origin), dragon fire (when clear liquids caught fire), heavenly fire (fire caused by lightning or objects falling from space), mountain god fire (volcanic eruptions), human fire (arsons, accidental fires), tree fires (forest fires), or bandit fire (fire caused by invaders or robbers)—when these prodigies appear, this is the third disaster.

When huge floods drown the population; when the seasons come out of order and there is rain in winter, and ice, frost and hail in the sixth month (in Japan the last month of summer), when red, black or green rain falls; when mountains of dirt and stones come raining down, or when it rains dust, sand or gravel; when the river and streams run backwards, when mountains are afloat and boulders are washed away—when freakish disasters of this kind occur, this is the fourth disaster.

 When huge winds blow people to their death, and the lands, the mountains and rivers, and the trees and forests are all at one time wiped out; when the great winds come out of season, or when black winds, green winds, heavenly winds, earthly winds, fire winds, and water winds blow—when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the fifth disaster.  (The different kinds of winds are dust storms, tornadoes, dry gusts, and hurricanes.)

When heaven and earth and the whole country are stricken by terrible heat so that the air seems to be on fire, when the thousand plants wither and the five kinds of grain fail to ripen, when the earth is red and scorched and the inhabitants all perish—when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the sixth disaster. 

When enemies rise up on all four sides and invade the nation, when rebels appear in the capitol and the outlying regions…and the population is subjected to devastation and disorder, and fighting and plundering break out everywhere—when prodigies of this type occur, this is the seventh disaster.”

This is a very brief excerpt from that Gosho, with this kind of evidence it is hard to understand why the Japanese authorities behaved the way they did.  They were Buddhist, and these words we’ve been listening to come straight from the sutras.  But, nothing happened.  It was as though Our Teacher never sent the letter. 

This period of his life saw Nichiren focusing on teaching people about Buddhism and building the foundation for our movement.  He continued to win converts until the sects around him decided to “remove” him. 

On August 27, a band of men who claimed to practice the Nembutsu teachings attacked his place of residence and tried to kill him.  Nichiren was forced to flee for his life.  He settled down at the home of Toki Jonin, a famous Samurai familiar to any causal reader of the Gosho.  During this time Nichiren gave daily lectures and the circle of staunch believers was rapidly growing.

 Common sense led our Teacher to leave the Kamakura area, you can’t teach people if you’re dead, but his great compassion led him to return in the spring of the next year.  This time, instead of a clumsy mob, Nichiren was seized by authorities and without investigation or trial he was sentenced to exile on the Izu Peninsula (southwest of Kamakura) which was an area mostly populated by ‘Pure Land’ followers.

 Since the country was for the most part Buddhist, the ruling class was not comfortable with the executions of priests, so exile was widely used instead.  But exile in Japan very often amounted to the same thing.  Strangers were not welcome and exiled strangers were not given food or shelter.  So, death from exposure or starvation was not uncommon.

 Nichiren was dumped on an empty beach and was, no doubt, expected to die.  A fisherman who was passing by saw some quality in our Teacher that led him to take this total stranger into his home and keep him alive.  This fisherman also managed boats and he is often referred to as ‘Boat manager’ Yasaburo.  In later years, Yasaburo became a devoted follower.

 It was during this exile that Nichiren realized that Chapter thirteen of “The Lotus Sutra” was directly applicable to his life.  In that chapter it states: “The evil monks of that muddied age…will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; again and again we will be banished.” 

Approximately one month into his stay on Izu Nichiren was invited to stay with Lord Ito, the Steward of the region.  (The Steward was the official representative of the ruler of Japan.)  Lord Ito had a personal reason for the invitation, he was a very sick man, and he wanted the Daishonin to pray for him.  When Lord Ito recovered his health he became a lifelong follower of the Daishonin and a devoted student of “The Lotus Sutra.”

On February 22, 1263 the government pardoned Nichiren.  No explanation was ever given.  Our Teacher returned to mainland Japan in 1264 but he was unable to visit his home district.  One ‘important’ government official hated him because of the first lecture he gave back in 1253.  This is really sad.  Here’s a man who calls himself Buddhist, and who disagreed with what Nichiren was teaching.  Instead of confronting him in debate or having some kind of rational discourse, his solution to what he perceived as “the Nichiren problem” was to abuse his authority and try to kill the Daishonin.

When Nichiren’s father died he could not return home, but the government had seemingly changed its opinion of our Teacher, since they freed him and then left him strictly alone.  He quickly resumed propagation efforts and met with great success.  Then news reached him that his mother was seriously ill—possibly dying. 

In spite of the risk, he returned home in the fall of 1264.  Maybe it was the joy she experienced when she saw him, or perhaps it was the care he provided, certainly, he prayed for her.  He wrote, “when I prayed for my mother, not only was her illness cured but her life span was prolonged by four years.” 

Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, his mother quickly recovered her health.  The local communities of believers were delighted to see Nichiren again.  He began to visit local practitioners, giving guidance or advise when needed. 

On Nov 11, 1264 Nichiren and various disciples were going to visit a member at home when the same ’important’ official led a band of men and ambushed the group.  The killers were turned back, but two of Nichiren’s disciples were dead, the Daishonin was cut on the forehead, and his left hand was broken. 

This direct attack on his life did not deter the Daishonin.  He remained in the area until 1267, working and helping the people who wanted to understand the teaching of the Buddha.  In 1264 Nichiren returned to Kamakura.  The predictions he made in the document “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” were being realized.  He had predicted internal strife and it had occurred.  He had also warned of foreign invasion and the Mongols, under Khubilai Khan, were threatening to make war.

In January 1268, the Mongols sent a letter to the Emperor stating that Japan must become part of the Mongol empire and send yearly tribute.  This was sort of an early tax scheme.  Anyway, the Mongols wanted money and if Japan did not send it to them every year the Mongols were going to invade.  (This is not the only time in history that the Mongols had an effect on Buddhist history.  They encountered a teacher in the Tibet region who convinced them to stop slaughtering people (in that area, anyway) The Khan was so impressed with this teachers courage that he gave him a title and made him the ruler and religious leader for that area.  The Dhali Lama remained the political ruler of Tibet until just a few years ago when the Chinese invaded.  He continues to campaign for Tibetan freedom and it is possible that he would again become the political leader of his country if the opportunity arises.)

 Nichiren spent the next few years attempting to ‘wake’ the government up to the reality of what was happening to the country. There is nothing in the historical record to show that the government of Japan responded in any way to the numerous letters he wrote to various officials. 

On September 10,1271 Nichiren was summoned by the head of Military and Police affairs.  (He was called the Deputy chief but the “chief” in this case was the Regent.)  Two days later, on September 12, 1271, at 4:00 in the afternoon, this official brought hundreds of armor clad warriors to the Daishonin’s cottage.  He reportedly understood that the humble residence was the headquarters of a band of criminals.  He supposedly believed that many weapons were hidden there.  What he found was Nichiren and a few students.  The army ripped up the floors and tore off the doors but no weapons were ever found.

Nichiren was arrested and, strangely enough, charged with treason.  He was sentenced to exile on Sado Island.  Although the Daishonin was in exile once again, certain religious leaders were not happy.  They wanted Nichiren dead. 

In the early part of the year 1272, an unbelievable, almost unthinkable meeting took place.  Dozens of ‘important’ priests converged on Sado Island to demand of the deputy constable the death of the priest Nichiren.  However, a letter had come from the government that stated, “Nichiren is no ordinary, contemptible criminal.” 

The deputy constable was ordered to keep the Daishonin safe.  I suspect this official found it weird, if not sick, that these particular men would want to engage in this sort of behavior.  No doubt, when they returned home, they went right back to preaching peace and love and collecting money.  This official looked at these men and said “instead of killing him, why don’t you confront him in religious debate”? 

Finally!  The voice of reason is heard!  The public debate took place on January 16 and 17, 1272.  Hundreds of priests gathered to debate one man.  The various priests spoke first, quoting the doctrines of whatever sect they belonged to, and many of them were quite eloquent.  But Nichiren was a scholar of Buddhism and he was, in fact, a Buddha.  The priests were left speechless and many people took faith on the spot.  Many more people became followers during the Daishonin’s stay on Sado Island.

On March 8, 1274 a messenger delivered an official pardon for our teacher.  No reason was ever given.  Nichiren returned home but the years of privation (and age) were taking their toll.  Never again would he have the energy to devote to propagation of the teachings. 

In a way, his exile to Sado was very good for Nichiren, he wrote some of his most important teachings there, but there was also great physical suffering from the poor living conditions. 

On April 18, 1274 the Daishonin met with a government official for the last time.  The meeting was very courteous.  It could not possibly escape the attention of anyone that every word the Buddha had written to the government had been realized.  Nichiren answered the official’s questions; first he wanted to know when our teacher thought the Mongols would attack Japan.  Since Nichiren had predicted this event years before, he was the logical person to ask.  This official also wanted to know if it was possible to attain enlightenment through any sutra other than the “Lotus.”

 Nichiren spent time with this official and took great care to give him good advice, soundly based on the sutras.  Two days later Nichiren realized that his advise had been ignored.  There is a Chinese proverb that says that a wise man should leave the county if the sovereign disregards his advise three times.  Nichiren decided to retire, and begin the most important task of his life, preserving the teachings and making them available to later generations.

He watched his students grow, and as they developed, they also began to propagate the teachings; so it wasn’t long before the authorities began to persecute these people. In September, twenty farmers who practiced the Daishonin’s Buddhism were rounded up and arrested.  These farmers were tortured, and ordered to give up their faith.  They refused and on October 15, three were randomly selected and murdered.

 Nichiren wrote, “It is something extraordinary that they chanted ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ at the time of execution.”  He was sickened at the evil stupidity that led misguided authorities to commit such acts, but it was very clear that his students were now truly committed—they had developed Buddhist faith to the point were they feared nothing.  Nichiren had given a few Gohonzon to those who exhibited extraordinary faith, but now the community, as a group was ready and had shown that this mind of faith was the rule, rather than the exception. 

On October 12, 1279 our teacher gave the Great Mandela (called the Dai Gohonzon) to all people so that any of us who seek enlightenment can find the path that leads directly to nirvana. 

On October 13, 1283, while quietly chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” Nichiren died.  It is not possible for me, one of his students, to properly express the gratitude I feel for what the Daishonin did for all of us.  The gift he has given me is enormous and beyond my poor ability to describe with anything close to adequacy.  Our teacher worked all of his life to benefit as many beings as possible.  Let us follow that example and bring this Kosen Rufu, movement to fruitation before the end of this 21st century.

 I would like to thank you for spending time with us today.  Buddhist Information of North America operates twenty-four hours every day of the year.  In the Kansas City area please call (913) 722-0900.  The rest of North America can call (800) 576-9212 toll free.  Those of you outside this area are, of course, welcome but must pay for the call.  There is never any charge for any service from Buddhist Information and we do not accept donations. 

If you want to give back to the Buddhist community please make a donation to your local Dharma center in our name.  Let’s take a moment to dedicate the merit for what we’ve done here today.  May all beings find peace and happiness, may all beings find a path of spiritual advancement that works for them! Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, may all beings benefit.  Thank you very much.



My Perfect Teacher

Part One




I Believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie, I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave, and I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant.” ~H.L. Mencken    



Good afternoon,

            We will begin today’s study with a closer look at Nichiren.  You have already received “The Life of Nichiren” in the early part of our ongoing enquiry.  If you have not read this work please find it in our library section and read it now.

            Religious schools often produce this kind of document when they are writing about the person who founded their movement.  I created “The Life of Nichiren” using nothing but the information provided by my school (SGI) but even while I was writing, it was obvious to me that “The Life of Nichiren” is history with the edges smoothed off. 

            I am an amateur historian, which means that I read and study history because, to me, it’s interesting.  Any student of history who encounters a document like “The Life of Nichiren” would be suspicious of this kind of writing.  Nichiren is presented in stark black and white, with no gray areas or shadings at all.  This is impossible.  He is also shown to be a man who had realizations on “The Lotus Sutra” that never changed or developed.  His later thoughts were pasted onto his earlier life so that there seems to be no developmental period at all.  This is ahistorical. 

            Very little is actually known about Nichiren’s early life.  The era that our teacher lived in is called the Kamakura period.  It began in 1185 CE and ended in 1333 CE.  This period produced all of the modern schools of Buddhism in Japan.  Jacqueline Stone writes, “Among all the leaders of the new Kamakura Buddhist movements, he [Nichiren] alone was of common origins.  In later life, he would describe himself as the son of lowly people…’ and [as], ‘the child of a fisherman.’”  She adds, “Still, his family may not have been altogether as humble as he indicates.  Recent scholarship suggests that his father may perhaps have been a manager or official of the local manor, perhaps in charge of administering the exorcise of fishing rights held by the proprietor.”  (See, “Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism” J. Stone) 

            In 1233 CE our teacher entered Seicho-Ji temple.  This temple can also be referred to as ‘Mount Kiyosumi’ or ‘Kiyosumi-Dera.’  What did Nichiren study there?  We can assume that he encountered some form of esoteric Buddhism as well as other Tendai teachings.  There is no definite evidence to show where Seicho-Ji ’s affiliation was at that time, so the curriculum remains unknown.  However, records show that people and texts from other esoteric traditions were present during the years Nichiren spent there.

            There are two kinds of Buddhist teachings, esoteric and exoteric.  Esoteric teachings are secret teachings that are given to selected students.  Exoteric teachings are never secret.  Before you can receive an esoteric teaching you must undergo a special ceremony to empower you to receive it.  Esoteric Buddhism is also called tantra, it features symbolic gestures called Mudras, it has mystic syllables called dharanis, and repetitious sounds called mantras.  Dainichi Buddha secretly gave esoteric teachings to various famous teachers, one of whom was Nargarjuna.  Shakyamuni Buddha taught exoteric teachings openly to everyone. 

            We are told that our practice is exoteric, based on “The Lotus Sutra” and T’ien T’ai of China’s theory of Ichinen Sanzen.  There is no doubt that Nichiren taught “The Lotus Sutra” and adopted T’ien T’ai ‘s concept of three thousand realms in one thought moment.  However, we know that dharanis are part of our practice (see, “Inside The Lotus Sutra”).  We sit in front of a Mandala called the Gohonzon and practice by chanting a mantra. Dainichi Buddha is on the Gohonzon.  If the Gohonzon is based only on the ten worlds of Ichinen Sanzen and “The Lotus Sutra,” why is this Buddha present?  What connection does Dainichi Buddha (called ‘Aizen-Myo’o on our modern Gohonzon) have to “The Lotus Sutra”?

            As we know, Dainichi was not mentioned in the sutra, but he is always present at any esoteric teaching.  In some of the Gohonzon’s Nichiren personally inscribed Dainichi Buddha is even more prominently displayed.  However, in the Gosho entitled “The Object of Devotion for Observing The Mind” our Teacher writes: “When he preached the Lotus Treasure World in “The Flower Garland Sutra,” Shakyamuni appeared as Vairochana Buddha seated on the lotus pedestal with other Buddhas surrounding him in the ten directions” so it is obvious that, to Nichiren, Vairochana and Shakyamuni are the same being. Another being that should have no place on this Mandala is named Fudo-Myo’o (or ‘Wisdom King Immovable’).  He is also connected to Dainichi and only appears in esoteric writings.

              In 1254, after declaring his faith in “The Lotus Sutra” publicly (On April 28, 1253 CE) Nichiren created a document that dealt with Fudo and Aizen.  It includes drawings of these two Kings of Knowledge, mantras that deal with them and inscriptions where Nichiren identifies himself “As belonging to the twenty third generation of a lineage directly descended from “Maha-Vairocana Buddha” or Dainichi.  (“Criticism and Appropriation” Lucia Dolce, 1999)

            This could be very puzzling if you try to fit our teachers Mandala into the mold of classic Tendai thought.  However, there were esoteric rituals dealing with “The Lotus Sutra” that were enormously popular in Nichiren's time.  If we compare these rituals to the Gohonzon, this confusion is eliminated. 

            One of these esoteric rituals was entitled “The Kakuzensho,” it states, “Namu Maha-Vairocana Buddha, Namu The Four Bodhisattvas of Wisdom, Namu Shakyamuni Buddha (Three Times), Namu Prabhutaratna Buddha (Taho, or ‘Many Treasures Buddha’), Namu Myoho Renge Kyo (or Namu The Sutra of The Lotus Flower of The Wondrous Dharma), Namu Bodhisattva Samantabadra (or Universal Worthy, in Japan he is called Fugen, and is usually shown riding a white elephant), Namu Bodhisattva Manjushri, Namu Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Namu Bodhisattva Maitreya, Namu The Two Heavenly Kings Bishamon and Jikoku, Namu the ten female demons…”

            If you examine the Gohonzon this same formula is used.  Please notice that ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ was already in use for esoteric Lotus practice.  Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was recited in various contexts throughout the Kamakura period.  It was (and is) known as the honorific title of the original Buddha.  The first time I encountered Nam Myoho Renge Kyo being used before Nichiren’s time has been (so far) the most unusual.  A Zen school used the invocation Nam Myoho Renge Kyo every day before eating lunch!  Another place I did not expect to find Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was in one of the Amida schools of that period, they chanted the invocation on their deathbed in order to be reborn in the western pure land.

            It is obvious that Nichiren used the esoteric formula found in the Kakuzensho for creating the Gohonzon.  If the idea were to only express the concept of the ten worlds why would ‘Namu’ appear before some names?  Other teachers had created Lotus Mandalas before Nichiren’s time.  We know that he considered the Gohonzon a Mandala because he said so in his writings.  Nichiren stated, “Because of this, [The Gohonzon] is called a Mandala.”  Mandala is a Sanskrit word that is translated as ‘perfectly endowed’ or ‘a cluster of blessings’.  (“The Real Aspect of The Gohonzon”)

            We also know that Nichiren considered the Lotus Mandalas created by Annen to be ‘fore-runners’ of his Mandala.  These Mandalas likewise represented the ten worlds.  Nichiren frequently quoted Annen’s writings, and his work made a major impact on the thinking of our teacher.  Annen wrote, [The] “hundred worlds, thousand such-ness-ess and three thousand beings, altogether is another name for Maha-Vairocana”

            Nichiren wrote, “A single moment of life comprising the three thousand realms is itself the Buddha of limitless joy; this Buddha has forsaken august appearances.”  Dainichi was known as the Buddha of Limitless Joy.  

            It should now be clear that to understand Nichiren, we must also comprehend the era he lived in.  Our teacher did not develop his thinking in some kind of social vacuum.  Like Shakyamuni before him, Nichiren was a product of his environment.

            Buddhism in the ninth century was very different from what Nichiren would experience just a few hundred years later.  The Buddhist faith in the Japan of 700-800 CE was a state sponsored religion that had minimal impact on only the social elite.  Buddhism was ‘practiced’ for the benefit of the state, which meant the emperor.  Prayers and rituals were conducted to extend his life, and to make him (and the country) more prosperous. 

            Buddhist temples and religious organizations were controlled by the state.  As late as 885 I found famous Buddhist teachers petitioning the royal court for land grants to help support their monasteries.  The state controlled the number of priests any order could have and approved the candidates beforehand.  Monastic officials were court appointed, and promotions with corresponding titles were issued at the pleasure of the ruler.  Japan considered itself a Buddhist country, but the religion personally affected few people outside the priesthood. 

            I don’t mean to imply that all of this changed at once, but the latter part of the tenth century marked a definite change in the type of documents being produced.  The monk Genshin produced a book entitled “Ojayoshu” in 985 CE that is very clearly written for lay followers.  Buddhism was becoming a religion of the people. 

            One of the reasons for this change was the arrival of two ‘new’ schools of Buddhist thought.  Saicho (B. 767-822 CE), or Dengyo founded the Tendai sect in 806 CE and Kukai (B 774-835 CE), or Kobo founded the Shingon or ‘True word’ school in 809 CE.  They had an unusual relationship; Saicho was a student of Kukai’s teaching long after both were heads of their respective schools because Kukai had more exposure to esoteric training when he was in China.  Many of the books Saicho used were copied from Kukai’s library.

            Both of these teachers were Mahayana students who traveled to China and then returned to Japan.  Both men taught that their sect was beneficial to the state and they competed with the older and long established Nara schools for power and prestige. 

            It is not possible to read very much scholarly work about this period without encountering the ideas of a modern historian named Kuroda Toshio.  I was very happy to discover his work.  Although there are some similarities, our fields of interest are different enough for him to be a recent discovery of mine.  Some of his conclusions are very similar to my own and he even invented a jargon to express these thoughts in a more elegant form.

            Mr. Toshio wrote extensively about this period of development in Japanese Buddhism.  When examining the schools of this era he concludes that they, “Did not exist alongside each other in a reciprocally opposing, mutually exclusive relationship, as is commonly believed today, but rather comprised a mildly competitive religious order resting on a shared base.  This base was composed of thaumaturgic beliefs, practices for pacifying spirits, and (from the doctrinal standpoint) the esoteric teachings.  Esoteric Buddhism was thus recognized by all eight schools as the universal and absolute truth, upon which the schools expounded their distinctive doctrines.”  (“The Development of the Kenmitsu System as Japan’s Medieval Orthodoxy,” 1996)

            The word Mr. Toshio created to describe this development of Japanese Buddhist thought was ‘Kenmitsu’.  ‘Ken’ indicates exoteric, rational, ‘revealed’ truth while ‘mitsu’ means something secret and psychological.

            The Mixture of exoteric and esoteric into ‘Kenmitsu’ helped bring into being a personalized form of Buddhist practice in the tenth century.  The “Ojayoshu” and other devotional works of this period are all Pure Land material written by people who were concerned about personal salvation.  Although lay people were becoming interested in Buddhist practice they were not “very Buddhist” in their written thoughts.  The goal of these various practices was to be reborn in a heaven realm and the authors obviously felt that there was a soul to be re-born.  It takes time to understand emptiness.

            The Japanese became interested in Buddhist practice as a result of societal changes and the growing fear that they were quickly approaching the latter day of the law.  Pure Land schools were also popular in China but, strangely enough, they developed from different roots.  Richard Bowring wrote, “It is, in fact, not until the late tenth century that the Cult of Amida became a serious issue, and when it does emerge it comes not straight from Pure Land practice in China but as an offshoot of Japanese Tendai.”  (“Preparing For The Pure Land in the Late Tenth-Century Japan,”1998)  The Japanese Pure Land practice can be traced to the Tendai priest Ennin who introduced this teaching on Mount Hiei in 866 CE.

            So the ninth century was a time where all the schools of Japanese Buddhism became unified under the banner of Kenmitsu, with, at that time, very little ‘Ken’, it was mostly ‘mitsu’.  Oya Takujo wrote, “In the end they all merged into the current of esoteric Buddhism, producing three branches: Tendai esotericism (called Taimitsu), Shingon Esotericism, (Tomitsu) and Nara Esotericism.”

            The tenth century saw the growth of personal practice among society members.  This practice was the Pure Land teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.  They are wonderful introductory practices that eventually led the Japanese to deeper levels of Buddhist thought and development.

            We should examine the Tendai sect if we want to understand Mahayana Evolution anywhere in Asia.  As the T’ien T’ai sect in China and (mispronounced as) Tendai in Japan this has been the most influential school in the history of Buddhism.  When Saicho (or Dengyo) established the Tendai sect he clearly intended to create a single, unified Buddhism for all of Japan.  His emphasis was merging Lotus teachings with esoteric practices.

            The monastery at Mount Hiei was the center for Tendai studies; and it eventually became the center for all Buddhist studies in Japan.  Every so-called ‘new’ school of Buddhism came from the Tendai sect, which still exists today.  Kukai’s Shingon was popular with the nobility at court, but never became a religion of the people.  Shingon “mysteries” were secret words that were transmitted from teacher to pupil and were never written down.  Although Shingon had some impact on Japanese culture, Kukai must be seen as a minor figure in the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

            Saicho was undoubtedly more important but it was three teachers who came from the Tendai lineage who made the biggest contribution to ‘modern’ Buddhist practice.  Ennin (B. 794-864 CE) Enchin (or Chisho) (B 814-889 CE) and Annen (B 841-???)

            I have already remarked that Annen was important because of the influence his writings had on our teacher.  Annen was a student of Ennin and felt that his instruction was formative.  However, Ennin died while Annen was still a junior student so all of his advanced training came from direct disciples of his beloved teacher.  Paul Groner wrote, “Annen’s writings on doctrine were often based on Ennin’s positions although Annen was not hesitant to add his own views.”  (Annen, Tankei, Henj, and Monastic Discipline in the Tendai School”)(1987)

            Annen also studied under Enchin, who was the head of the Tendai School for twenty-three years.  It is not possible to study under someone and not be affected.  Their practice and history gave them some things in common, but Annen and Enchin did have very different views on various aspects of monastic discipline.

            Annen owed his advancement to royal connections.  When his sponsor died Annen vanished from the pages of history.  After 889 CE there is absolutely nothing about the man wrote at least one hundred books, mostly on esoteric Buddhism.  Many scholars argue that he died in 889 CE; others suggest that he went into quiet retirement.

            The importance of Annen cannot be overstated.  Many of the concepts and ideas Nichiren used to create his distinctive school of Buddhism came from this prolific writer and thinker.  The Buddhism we practice is “Kenmitsu;” it definitely is not exoteric, but it doesn’t quite fit into esoteric either.  Instead, it is a blend of the two.  It gives the benefit of esoteric practice to everyone, without secret transmissions, but it is firmly based on exoteric principles.

I have said that Nichiren publicly declared his faith in “the Lotus Sutra” in 1253 CE.  This is considered the traditional founding date of the Nichiren sect.  Of course, this was never our teacher’s intention.  In a work entitled “The Blessings of The Lotus Sutra” he wrote, “I, Nichiren, am not the founder of any school, nor am I a follower of any older school.”  He wrote this passage in 1276 CE, so his views must be considered mature.  Nichiren realized that ‘schools’ or sects are harmful and divisive.  He taught that all the Buddhist sutras were true and that Shakyamuni preached one unified truth that can only be comprehended through understanding “The Lotus Sutra.”

            Nichiren wrote, “All the eight volumes and the twenty eight chapters of “The Lotus Sutra,” the first four flavors (or four periods of teaching before the Lotus) that precede the sutra, and the nirvana sutra that came after the Lotus- make an unbroken series of teachings, like one perfect sutra.”  If you read Nichiren’s criticisms of Honen (also known as Genku), the founder of the Pure Land School, you will notice that he objects to Honen discarding all the sutras but the Amida teachings.  Honen told his students to ignore all the teachings of the Buddha but the introductory Pure Land teachings because the path taught in ‘those other sutras’ was too difficult for people in the latter day of the law.

            If we ignore the dualistic thinking, there are only two other things wrong with Honen’s teaching.  First, by discarding the other sutras, even “The Lotus Sutra,” he was committing slander against the law.  While it is true that Amida vowed to save people who called his name he specifically excluded those who do slander the law, so even if you mistakenly believe these sutras are literal truth, Honen was leading people into difficulty, not salvation.  The second mistake was teaching people to depend on an outside power to save them.  If you teach the Pure Land doctrine as anything other than introductory material you remove yourself from the Buddhist lineage.  Honen went to great length to distance himself from Buddhist doctrine by excluding all but a very small piece of Shakyamuni’s teaching.  His message was the opposite of the self-development the Buddha taught to his students.

            William E. Deal writes, “Although Nichiren frequently cites some sutras as less important than others he is careful never to say that a sutra is itself heretical or false.  However, he does not hesitate to condemn commentaries on sutras and other seminal Buddhist texts as fallacious and therefore heretical.  This distinction would seem to be due to the fact that Nichiren is following the Mahayana Buddhist acceptance of all sutras as words of the Buddha, even if some sutras are provisional.”  (“Nichiren’s Rissho Ankoku Ron and Canon Formation” 1999)

            Nichiren taught that personal salvation was to be gained by transforming not just yourself but the environment of the entire planet.  The work we do to establish Kosen Rufu will make us happy and also benefit others.

            Our school states that Nichiren left the area immediately after preaching his first public sermon on “The Lotus Sutra.”  However, there is some evidence that he stayed in the area for a time.  It seems he helped a family friend win a court case against a Nembutsu follower, which caused even worse problems among the factions at Seicho-Ji temple.  It at this point that Nichiren moved to Kamakura. 

            The next few years were Terrible for Japan.  A long string of natural disasters inspired Nichiren to write, "On Establishing The Correct Teaching For The Peace of The Land"  (“Rissho Ankoku Ron”) in 1260 CE and submit it to Hojo Tokiyori, the most powerful man in the country.  This is a document that shows Nichiren at his very best.  When my teacher talks about "The Peace of The Land" he did not mean the stability of the political structure, he was referring to all the people who lived in Japan.  This is so foreign to that culture that it must be considered a major departure from any other influence.  Nichiren’s human development alone was responsible for this realization.  Up until this time Buddhism was to be taught and practiced because it protected the emperor and other important officials who were the country.  The emperor was supposedly directly descended from the gods, called kami, who founded the Japanese nation.  To Nichiren this was not important; he argued that the ruler must protect the Buddha’s law so that the people could live happy, peaceful lives.  It did not matter who the ruler was, he must live by the law revealed by the Buddha or be replaced. 

            Sato Hiroo writes: “In other words, during the medieval period Nichiren was the only one who openly put into question the absolute authority of the divinely descended [ruler] and affirmed the possibility of transfer (through revolution) of legitimate authority as ruler of the nation to other individuals.”  Hiroo continues, “Nichiren’s thought, radical as it was with its affirmation of the possibility of revolution, stood out as unique and without par not only in the medieval period, but even up to the pre-modern era.”  (“Nichiren’s View of Nation and Religion,” 1999)

            Although "On Establishing The Correct Teaching For The Peace of The Land" did not change the attitude of Japan’s rulers it must be noted that this amazing document affected numerous people and is still studied today.  The practice of rebuking the state was followed by some leaders of various Nichiren sects for hundreds of years and was not always appreciated by the affected officials.  This rebuke usually consisted of submitting a copy of "On Establishing The Correct Teaching For The Peace of The Land" to the emperor, the shogun, or his regional officials, often containing a similar teaching by the abbot doing the ‘admonishing.’  Jacqueline Stone reports that more than forty of these letters of admonition survive from between the years 1285 CE and 1596 CE.”  She adds, “Going to Kyoto to admonish the state is said to have been almost obligatory for anyone holding the office of abbot.”  (“Rebuking The Enemies of The Lotus,”1994)

            In 1261 Nichiren defeated various Pure Land teachers in public debate.  The Pure Land teachings had numerous followers so our Teachers criticism of their practice created enemies who did not want to debate Nichiren, instead they wanted to silence him any way they could.  On august 27, misguided Pure Land practitioners attacked his cottage and our teacher was forced to flee.  This did not satisfy certain highly placed patrons of the Nembutsu school so Nichiren was arrested in May by Bakufu functionaries and was not granted a trial.  (Bakufu meant tent government; the Taishogun had moved his headquarters into tents (where necessary) in Kamakura so that he could be far away from the emperor and his court in Kyoto.)  Nichiren was sentenced to exile on the Izu Peninsula.

            In 1263 the most influential person involved in plotting Nichiren’s exile suddenly died, causing the official who had urged his banishment to petition the government for our teacher’s freedom.  Nichiren was pardoned and returned to Kamakura in February.

There were a growing number of middle rank samurai warriors and these men admired the courage and tenacity Nichiren displayed when confronting the Bakufu authorities, accordingly, they came to form the nucleus of Nichiren’s movement. 

In 1264 Nichiren was in Awa Province where he prayed for his mother who was sick enough that some people feared she would die.  He spent the next few years preaching and teaching his growing number of followers in Awa, Suruga, and other provinces.

            In the first month of 1268 a threatening message arrived in Japan from the Khan of The Mongol Empire.  Japan was to declare itself a part of his domain and pay yearly tribute or prepare to be invaded.  Since Nichiren had predicted outside invasion in his document "On Establishing The Correct Teaching For The Peace of The Land" more people began to listen to his lectures and his movement grew as a result.

            However, Nichiren didn’t want the people and country to be destroyed so he started sending copies of "On Establishing The Correct Teaching For The Peace of The Land" to various top officials.  Our teacher continued to criticize the Nembutsu Pure Land teachings; he now added Zen and ‘Shingon’ teachings as schools that should be abandoned.  Nichiren saw that Japan had many students wanting to practice Buddhism.  However he knew from his own extensive studies that the teachings they were receiving would not bring them the benefits they were seeking.  He did not say that these early teachings would not bring them any benefit, Nichiren wrote, “I believe that the devotees and followers of the various provisional sutras will undoubtedly be protected by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings of the respective sutras they uphold.”

            It is clear that sincere seekers who follow other paths will benefit according to the merit of the path they follow.  Nichiren never criticized any follower of other schools, but he was very critical of the teachers who he felt, had not done enough research to discover the truth that Shakyamuni taught.  Our teacher was opposed to sects because they caused hatred and jealousy between people who should have been working together.  He wrote, “The various sects argue with one another, each claiming that it’s sutra contains the true seed of enlightenment.  I do not intend to enter the argument.”  Nichiren also stated, “Those who seek the truth of Buddhism, however, should reject one-sided views, transcending disputes between one’s own sect and others, and should not treat others with contempt.”  (“The Opening of The Eyes” Part Two)

            What was Nichiren saying about Zen?  In “The Selection of The Time” he wrote, “This sect called Zen claims to represent a ‘special transmission’ outside the sutras, which was not revealed by the Buddha in the numerous sutras preached during his lifetime but was whispered in secret to the venerable Mahakashyapa.  Thus the proponents of this sect maintain that, if one studies the various sutras without understanding the teachings of the Zen set, he will be like a dog trying to bite at a clap of thunder or a monkey trying to grasp the moons reflection in the water.”

            In the work entitled “A Sage and An Unenlightened Man” (part two) Nichiren wrote, “Zen speaks of transmitting something apart from the teachings.  But apart from the teachings there are no principles, and apart from the principles there are no teachings.  Don’t you understand the logic of this, that principles are none other than teachings, and teachings none other than principles?”  He continues, quoting a commentary on T’ien Tai’s major works, “If one says that we are not to hamper ourselves by the use of verbal expressions, then how, for even an instant in this Saha World can we carry on the Buddha’s work?  Do not the Zen followers themselves use verbal explanations when they are giving instructions to others?  If one sets aside words and phrases, then there is no way to explain the meaning of emancipation, so how can anyone ever hear about it?”

            Even before I became a Follower of Nichiren I had very little interest in the Zen teachings because I was a student of the sutras.  The “Maha-Parinibbána Sutta” contains the statement, “What more does the community of Bhikkhus expect from me, Ánanda?  I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ánanda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathágata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back  (translation by Sister Vajira and Francis Story).  In other words, there were no secret transmissions by the Buddha.  He was an ‘open handed’ Teacher who made enlightenment possible for everyone willing to make the effort.  The idea of the Buddha only saving one person from his community is absurd.  If that were the case then everything else he taught was false.

            Nichiren labeled any esoteric practice “Shingon” and criticized it because other sutras were placed ahead of “The Lotus Sutra.”  Also other Buddhas were revered instead of Shakyamuni, which displayed a lack of gratitude for the man who came and taught us.

            Please remember that at the beginning of this lecture I pointed out that Nichiren came from slightly different circumstances than we formerly believed.  This made little difference when he studied in the great centers of learning.  He would always be considered an outsider because of the area he was born in, and his accent would mark him as ‘unimportant.’  Nichiren probably became proficient with texts because no famous teacher would have accepted him as a student.  If he wanted to learn he had to do it from the books available. 

            Esoteric practice, when correctly directed, is very powerful.  I think it bothered Nichiren that esoteric teachings were transmitted directly from master to disciple and never written down, because that meant that too many people would not have access to a form of practice that would allow them to attain enlightenment.  We have already seen that Shingon teachings mostly spread through the upper class of Japanese society but never reached anyone else.  This kind of elitism is against the spirit of “The Lotus Sutra” which teaches that all people have value because everyone has Buddha potential.

            Esoteric practice is important because that law that runs everything is a mystic law.  In the sutra entitled “The Great Discourse On The Lion’s Roar” Shakyamuni states, “Shariputra, when I know and see thus, should anyone say of me, ‘The recluse Gotama does not have any superhuman states, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones.  The recluse Gotama teaches a dharma merely hammered out by reasoning, following his own line of reasoning, following his own line of inquiry as it occurs to him’—unless he abandons that assertion and that state of mind and relinquishes that view, then as surely as if he had been carried off and put there he will wind up in hell.”  (Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)

            Nichiren blended esoteric lotus rituals with devotion to, and study of “The Lotus Sutra,” creating a form of practice that is available to everyone.  Kukai (Kobo), founder of the Shingon sect wrote, “Those men and women who desire to grasp “The Lotus Sutra” must rely on the meditative practice of mantra recitation, the practice of the path of Esoteric Bodhisattvas.”  Kukai died in 835 CE so that idea had been around for 387 years before Nichiren was born.

            Nichiren saw that the forms of Buddhism being practiced in his society were distorted, and from the great compassion he felt for everyone, he pointed those errors out.  Also, as a student and teacher of “The Lotus Sutra” he was obligated to uphold the sutra, as it tells us in chapter 19.  Any student who reads Nichiren’s writings notices the enormous compassion he demonstrated.  In “The Letter to Horen” he writes, “All the living beings of the six paths and the four forms of birth are our fathers and mothers,” and, “…These men and women were all our parents at some point in our past existences.”  Nichiren also said that if his compassion were genuine, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo would spread everywhere. 

            Although his many samurai followers admired his courage some of the people who practiced in the schools he criticized became very angry.  A group of hostile monastics issued a complaint to the Bakufu authorities about Nichiren in 1271.  He was arrested and held for one month, and then sentenced to exile on Sado Island.

            His time in exile was a prolific period for Nichiren.  Some of his best writing was done on Sado.  He also developed the Gohonzon at this time.  In 1272, internal rebellion broke out so that prediction had also come true.  Nichiren stated that he was freed because he was innocent of the charges brought against him and because every prediction he made in “On Establishing the Correct Teaching For The Peace of the Land” had happened just as he said it would.  For this reason he felt the Bakufu authorities changed their minds and that is why he was pardoned 1274.  Various historians have suggested that Nichiren had several followers who could have used their influence to have him freed, but, so far, there is no evidence to support those contentions either, so we are left with a mystery. 

            For some reason, Nichiren was pardoned in 1274 and he returned to Kamakura area in March.  In April the official who had ordered Nichiren’s arrest (Hei No Yoritsuna) met with Nichiren and asked when Japan could expect to be attacked by the Mongols.  He was offered Bakufu patronage if he would join with other sects in praying for the nations protection.  Nichiren refused because he was not interested in founding a sect.  He was concerned that people discover the truth so that they could follow the path that leads to enlightenment.

            In May, he visited a follower who lived at Mount Kiyosumi Dera (Kai Province) and discovered he had loyal supporters who were living close by in the Fuji District.  Nichiren spent the rest of his life in this area, eventually having sixty or more disciples studying with him.

            Nichiren died in 1282, but his “Compassion was truly great and encompassing” because Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo has spread everywhere.  The practice he taught has the power to open the blind eyes of every living being” and “Blocks off the road that leads to the hell of incessant suffering.”  (“On Repaying debts of Gratitude”)

            Nichiren made another prediction about the future of our human race on this planet.  He wrote, “The time will come when all people will abandon the various kinds of vehicles and take up the single vehicle of Buddhahood, and the mystic law alone will flourish throughout the land.  When the people all chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the wind will no longer buffet the branches, and the rain will no longer break the clods of soil.  The world will become an ideal society.  In their present existence the people will be freed of misfortune and disaster and learn the art of living long.”  (“On Practicing The Buddha’s Teachings”)

            This vision of the future is the goal of all Nichiren students.  When Kosen Rufu is established our world will be a Buddhist Pure Land for all living beings. 

            Nichiren was a teacher who was presented with a large pile of textual abstractions that were intended to lead people to Buddhahood.  He spent years studying Buddhist texts and eventually worked out a system of practice that would bring benefit to anyone seeking enlightenment.  His goal was to help the people around him, not create some ‘new’ different form of Buddhism.

            Many of the things we learn as ‘Nichiren’ Buddhists are still taught and practiced by the Tendai sect.  If you have not yet seen a Tendai site please use the link on our Home page ( when you have an opportunity.

 The “Notes on Thirty Four Items” (an important medieval Tendai text) read, “According to the provisional teachings, delusion and enlightenment are separate.  One must first extirpate delusion and then enter enlightenment, thus one does not enter enlightenment from the outset.  But in the perfect and sudden teaching of ‘The Lotus Sutra,’ practice, …and enlightenment are simultaneous… all practices and good deeds are skillful means subsequent to the fruit.”  (J. Stone “Placing Nichiren in The Big Picture,” 1999) In the Gosho entitled “Wu-Lung and I-Lung” we find a very similar passage, “the benefit of the other sutras is uncertain, because they teach that one must first make good causes and only then can one become a Buddha at some later time.  With regard to “The Lotus Sutra”, when one’s hand takes it up, that hand immediately attains Buddhahood, and when one’s mouth chants it, that mouth is itself a Buddha, as, for example, the moon is reflected in the water the moment it appears from behind the eastern mountains.  Or as a sound and it’s echo arise simultaneously.  It is for this reason that the sutra states ‘If there are those who hear the law not one will fail to attain Buddhahood.”’

            As I continue to examine Tendai texts one phrase has been repeated several times, “The assembly on sacred Eagle Peak is still occurring and will not ever cease.”  In “Placing Nichiren in the Big Picture” Stone reports it to us as “The assembly on Sacred Vulture Peak is still numinously present and has not yet dispersed.”  I have made this statement to Nichiren and Tendai students and even the most conservative of them completely agree.  Nichiren wrote, “The Saha World Shakyamuni revealed in the ‘Life Span’ chapter is the eternal Pure Land, impervious to the three calamities and to the cycle of the four kalpas.  The Buddha neither has entered into extinction in the past nor will be born in the future, and the same is true of his disciples.  This means that their lives are perfectly endowed with the three thousand worlds, that is, with the three realms of existence.”

            Various scholars argue that Nichiren absorbed some of the Pure Land teachings and even taught re-birth in the Pure Land of “The Lotus Sutra’s” ‘Eagle Peak’, it is true that Nichiren wrote, “Surely your husband is in the Pure Land of ‘Eagle Peak’ listening and watching over this Saha World day and night.  You, his wife, and your children have only mortal senses, so you cannot see or hear him, but be assured that you will eventually be reunited on Eagle Peak”.  However in the same work (“Hell Is The Land Of Tranquil Light”) he wrote, “Neither the Pure Land or hell exists outside oneself, both lie only within ones own heart.  Awakened to this, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, on is called an ordinary person.  “The Lotus Sutra” reveals the truth, and one who embraces “The Lotus Sutra” will realize that is itself the land of tranquil light”

            It now becomes clear that Nichiren understood the Pure Land and all the various hell realms to exist within the mind of the practitioner.  Kosen Rufu must be established one person at a time because the true Pure Land is the direct result of human spiritual evolution.  My experience has shown me that the average student will see the Pure Land appear in his life after a period of five years, provided he has actually practiced and studied.

This concludes Part One.


(We will take a break and be back in a few minutes)





My Perfect Teacher

Part 2


Thank you for staying I won't keep you much longer.  We have decided to follow the Buddha.  We have realized that there is a path that leads to the end of suffering, so we are seeking enlightenment.  To arrive at any higher state we must understand that everything comes from mind.  We are made up of the thoughts and actions that we have been compiling since the beginning-less past.  This means that we are totally responsible for whatever happens to us.

 Knowing that we are totally responsible can be disheartening when we think about some of the things that have occurred in the past, but it is liberating as well because being responsible also means that we are free to create our own future.  If we have the wisdom to see that everything comes from mind then we will begin to develop healthy thinking, which will lead to beneficial actions and wholesome speech.

To produce healthy thinking we should focus our mind on dharma every day.  Set aside some time, early in the morning on your way to work, on your lunch hour, or even some time in the evening to study the dharma.  Please expose your mind to right thought.

The society we live in is sick and exposure to some forms of entertainment will definitely make you mentally unhappy.  Remove these unsettling, vile patterns of thinking from your mind and you can experience peace and joy.  It does not make sense to practice and study daily in an effort to purify your mind if you also fill your head with the many kinds of unwholesome garbage pumped into our homes as ‘entertainment’.  This kind of material is not fun! 

We have forgotten what fun actually is. If you do not feel light and happy after being ‘entertained’ then you have had an experience of some sort, you may have been distracted for an hour or two, but you did not have ‘fun’!  Spend a few weeks living without unpleasant movies, or television shows and find out for your self just how much your life condition will improve.  As a bonus, when you do watch the occasional worthwhile movie you will deeply appreciate it.

We become jaded from constant exposure, so it is good to get away from the explosions, car chases, and endless murders that fill the average television show or movie.  If we fill our minds with good things we will become peaceful and happy.  Healthy thinking causes you to perform beneficial actions and beneficial actions reinforce healthy thinking.  It is great to make your mind peaceful but it is crucial that we take action and help the people who want to be helped.  This is the path to happiness.

It is fine to say, “Don’t Kill,” but we must do more than merely refrain from murdering one another if we desire to be happy.  We must do more than merely tolerate each other; we must actually love every person who lives on our planet.  This is the path that leads to Buddhahood. 

Please remember that our teacher stated that all the beings alive have been our mother or father at some point in time.  That means we owe them a debt that is very difficult to repay.  If you have not read the teaching entitled “The Sutra About The Deep Kindness of Parents and the Difficulty of Repaying It” you will find it in the Sutra section of our library site.  (

In this discourse the Buddha reminds us, “While the mother is with child, she feels discomfort each time she rises, as if she were lifting a heavy burden.  Like a chronic invalid, she is unable to keep her food and drink down.  When the… time comes for the birth, she undergoes all kinds of pain and suffering so that the child can be born. She is afraid… then the blood flows…  Once the child is born she saves what is sweet for him and swallows what is bitter herself.  She carries the child and nourishes it; washing away it’s filth.  There is no toil or difficulty that she does not willingly undertake for the sake of her child.  She endures both cold and heat and never even mentions what she has gone through…  Parents continually instruct and guide their children in the ways of propriety and morality as the youngsters mature into adults.”

So, the Buddha reminds us of something we already know; on some level of our mind we are already aware of this truth, but what do we do about it?  It is critical that we learn to repay these kinds of debts, for that is what makes us develop into human beings.  To repay the incredible kindness of these beings we should offer not only support and respect but also love. 

We are closely connected to every being on Earth that is why we are on the same planet at the same time.  When you go out your door today, realize that none of the people around you are “total strangers” you have had close relationships with all of them. You owe all of these people the same kind of debt that you owe to your current parents.  Even if you have no understanding at all about the true nature of reality, the practice of compassion is obviously good for you and the people around you.

 It does not matter if you believe in the eternity of life, the way you feel when you live a life dedicated to helping others is already ample reward.  The person who is narrow and self-centered misses out on the best things that life has to offer.  Hatred is not the opposite of love; it is the opposite of life.  Love is life affirming, life blossoms in the presence of love.  Love attracts people while hatred drives people away.  Please make love an integral part of whatever spiritual practice you follow, because love is very influential.

One good deed so often leads to another. It is possible to have a community full of smiling faces and warm hearts; it only takes one person to make the difference.  Please find out for yourself.  To practice love and compassion we must not engage in negative, hurtful, speech.  The biggest problem our species faces on this planet is the noise produced by our own mouths.  Every violent, hurtful of hateful act is preceded by negative speech.  Unless you are truly a very special person some form of negative speech causes your worst problems.

We need to discover some practical method that will allow us to control our mind.  Before you open your mouth, analyze what you are intending to say.  If it is negative or hurtful it is better to remain silent.  This is a technique that can be practiced by anyone.  Self-control is an important first step but it is even better to remove this kind of garbage from our mind, then we don’t have to work so hard because our thoughts are peaceful, at least most of the time.

 To make your thoughts peaceful strictly control what you allow to enter into your mind.  Avoid unhealthy material and replace it with good things like Dharma.  Generate a benevolent mind and follow up by taking action.  Proper Buddhist practice will support this mind of love and it will grow stronger day by day.  The next time anger arises in your mind get away by yourself and examine why you are so angry.  Be honest, because this is very important.  Make certain that your false perception of self is not involved.  Viewing things through your ‘ego’ is like looking in a funhouse mirror that distorts whatever image it reflects.  Remember that anger is destructive and that arrogance and contempt are mental poison.

  You will never be content if your mind is open to this kind of negativity.  Exert yourself to practice every day and fill your mind with dharma at every opportunity.  Practice for yourself and for others, and always be ready to help anyone who needs you.  This method is practical and effective.  My Teacher, Nichiren Daishonin, freely gave it to me and now I offer it to you in the same spirit.              

 I would like to thank you for spending time with us today.  Buddhist information operates twenty-four hours every day of the year.  In the Kansas City Area please call (913) 722-0900.  The rest of North America can reach us (toll free) at (800) 576-9212.  You can reach us by e-mail at [email protected]" and our web site can be found at             

 Let's dedicate the merit for what we've done here today for the benefit of all beings everywhere.  So, may all beings find peace and happiness, may all beings find the path that leads to Nirvana, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, may all beings benefit.  Thank you, very much.



The Eyes of Enlightenment




Good Afternoon,  


We will be discussing, today, the teachings of the Buddha.  Later on we will discuss re-birth, the essential teachings and we’ll also talk a little about Buddhist meditation.  We will begin, however, by examining the theoretical teachings of the Buddha’s “Lotus Sutra.”

All beings want happiness and do not want suffering.  Humans of every age and color, the birds in the air, the animals all around us, the denizens of the oceans, all of these are busily seeking happiness and trying to avoid suffering.  No matter what kind of beings we encounter as we begin to explore the universe, this is one factor that all species have in common.

Suffering is all around us; it is built right into this Saha world system.  Saha is a Buddhist term that means the world around us.  Saha literally means ‘endurance.’  Isn’t that a great name for this system?  We are always enduring things and we take it for granted.  We’re used to it, we think of it as being just the way things are.  We call it ‘normal’ because we have failed to analyze properly.

Take a few minutes to realize that everything you can think of can be analyzed as suffering.  I talk to people every day about Buddhism, and I‘ve heard many different people argue about this point.  Their answers fall into broad categories, but the most common response goes something like this: “how can you say that everything is suffering?  Sex isn’t suffering, or sleep, or food, or movies.”

 However, if you analyze any of these things properly, you will find the suffering.  If sex, books, movies, food or sleep were inherently pleasurable, then the more of these things you did, the better it would be.  In other words, an hour of sex would be fun, a week of sex would be great, and a year filled with continuous, unending sex would be bliss.  We know this isn’t true, we know it, but have you asked yourself why?

Think about this carefully—analyze the system we live in for your self.  Ending suffering is a process; you begin this process by understanding these things, but you have to do the work and you have to be the one who has realizations—no one can do it for you.  The Buddha taught that there is suffering in life; it is the nature of reality. 

It’s the truth; in fact it’s the first of “The Four Noble Truths.”  The Four Noble Truths were part of the very first teaching the Buddha ever gave after becoming enlightened.  These points must have been important because the Buddha taught them his whole career and even included them in “The Lotus Sutra,” which he called his highest teaching. (If you look in the “Phantom City” chapter of the ‘Burton Watson translation’ of “The Lotus Sutra” you will find them on page 131.)

 The Four Noble Truths are:


1. ‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’ or life is suffering and has limits.

2.  ‘The Noble truth of the cause of suffering’, which is ignorance of the nature of mind and its afflictions.

3.  ‘The Noble truth of the cessation of suffering’, or end your suffering by attaining enlightenment.

4. ‘The Noble truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering’, or Buddhist practice leads to enlightenment, which is the end of suffering. 


So the first Noble truth tells us that life is suffering, which we’ve talked about, and that life also has limits; and there are so many limits.  Things that we want that we can’t have, or (sometimes) worse, things that we think we want—until we get them. 

Even if you have everything you ever want, you will still get older every day until eventually you become ill and die.  The nature of all beings (or anything else for that matter) is that they arise due to causes, exist for a time, and then decline, and die.  The only permanent thing in the universe is ‘change.’  The second Noble truth tells us the cause of suffering, which is ignorance; ignorance of the nature of your own mind and it’s many sicknesses, or afflictions.  Please notice the implication here—if we end ignorance we can live without suffering the same way a Buddha does, but we will do that right here, because there isn’t anywhere else for you to go!

There are no heaven realms, and there are no Pure Lands in the east or west.  The sutra makes it very clear that there are not two lands, pure and impure.  There is just this Saha world system.  So when you view the experiences of your life without using the eyes of enlightenment you do not see things the way they really are—and you suffer. 

I’m saying to you and “The Lotus Sutra” is saying to you, that the Pure Land is right here!  The Buddha predicted that this planet would become a Pure Land in the future.  (This is another way of saying that Kosen Rufu will be established.)  I do not believe this means that every human will be practicing Buddhism, but it does mean that most people will be focusing on spiritual growth and development, as a way to eliminate ignorance.

Ignorance is my enemy, and it is your enemy.  The Buddha tells us that our ignorance is the cause of this endless cycle of suffering that we endure.  He tells us that because we do not understand the nature of our own mind, we are sick, and because we are sick we do not try to cure our own minds. In fact we very often add to the poison and garbage already present.

What is it that we do not understand about the nature of our own mind?  We do not realize that the nature of our mind, like everything else that exists, is empty. “The Lotus Sutra” says: “if there are good men and good women who… wish to expound this “Lotus Sutra”… how should they expound (or teach) it?  These good men and good women should enter the Buddhas room, put on the Buddha’s robe, sit in the Buddha’s seat, and then teach this sutra.”

It goes on to explain, “The Buddha’s room is the state of mind that shows great pity and compassion towards all living beings.  The Buddha’s robe is the mind that is gentle and forbearing.  The Buddha’s seat is the emptiness of all phenomena.”  In a later chapter we read: “… the practitioner should view all phenomena as empty, that being their true entity… they are like empty space, without innate nature, beyond the reach of words… it is only through causes and conditions that they exist.

In part one of “The Opening of the Eyes” Nichiren tells us of a mantra (composed by Shan-Wu-Wei): it reads, “hail to the universal Buddha who…opens, shows all the Buddha’s wisdom and understanding so that we understand the empty nature…” Nichiren writes, “This mantra expresses the heart of “The Lotus Sutra.’”  So … the true nature of everything, you, me, the cars outside, the whole planet, all the planets everywhere, the entire universe, the nature of everything is emptiness.  What does that mean?  It means that there is no eternal, inherent, you.  You are the result of causes made in the past. 

Using the dialectics of “The Diamond Sutra,” a rose is not a rose—that is how we know that it is a real rose.  In other words, when we look at a rose with the eyes of enlightenment, we see that the rose is made of non-flower elements, soil, sun, water, minerals, and so on.  If you remove any of those elements, the rose will be gone.

There is no eternally perfect rose that just sprang into existence. That is a fantasy rose.  We already have too many fantasies in our head—that is why we continue to suffer.  When we really understand and realize that everything is empty, our suffering is greatly reduced.  How can you take something personally when there is no person present—ever?  The concept we have of “person” is wrong—it leads us only to suffering.  Eliminate the concept, and we eliminate the suffering that comes with it.

Also realize that when someone is unkind to us it is because of causes we have made in the past.  Since we are practicing Buddhism we are purifying our lives, and the karma we experience is often greatly reduced.  So someone being unkind to us can burn off karma that would have otherwise have produced terrible suffering.  This person you perceive as being unkind is actually your friend!  Really!  All the beings around you are very precious—you cannot attain enlightenment without them.

 In the Gosho (or the writings of Nichiren) we read: “all living beings of the six paths and the four forms of birth are our fathers and mothers.”  This means all the people around you loved, supported, and protected you at sometime in the past.  We owe these people a debt that can only be repaid by our attainment of enlightenment.  If we can become Buddhas we can benefit so many people! Right now we are limited because of all the sickness in our mind.  These afflictions will be gradually removed and purified by correct practice. 

Chanting, Daily Gongyo, and steady, constant study, will “brighten the mirror of your mind” removing the ignorance that causes needless suffering. The third Noble truth tells us that we can end suffering by reaching enlightenment.  The Buddha tells us this because he wants us to be certain that we too can reach the goal. 

Buddhas are always human beings, just like you and I, but they have developed their wisdom potential. They use their eyes of enlightenment to see things just the way they are.  A Buddha would not look out into this audience and see friends, enemies, and then other people that he cares nothing about. He views all of us with compassion, knowing that that we are all the same in wanting happiness, and not wanting to suffer.  A Buddha does make such distinctions; he sees the “such-ness” of things.

 It is possible for us to attain enlightenment.  My teacher wrote in the Gosho: “…The Buddha’s enlightenment is to be found in human life, thus showing that common mortals can attain enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death can be transformed into nirvana.” The fourth Noble truth is the Noble truth of the path or dharma practice leads to enlightenment.  

The Buddha’s early life as a prince was dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. His early religious training after he left home was meditation training under two different teachers, and when this did not satisfy him, he went out on his own and began to do ascetic practices.  He starved himself until he could see these practices led only to death, not enlightenment.  (Many people of his time believed that if you starved yourself to death doing these practices, earnestly seeking the truth, when you died, you would become enlightened.)

 So the Buddha dropped these severe ascetic practices and realized the middle way.  The fourth noble truth is teaching us that middle way which is the classic list of the “Noble Eightfold Path:”


1.               Right View

2.               Right Intention

3.               Right Speech

4.               Right Action

5.               Right Livelihood

6.               Right Effort

7.               Right Mindfulness

8.               Right Concentration


As far as I am concerned everything depends upon number two, right intention.  If you have right intention, you will naturally have right view.  Right view cannot be taught, you can guide people but you can’t do it for them.  Right view means that you will practice right speech and right action—you will only want to help people, never hurt them.  Right intention means that you will practice right effort.  Right effort implies that you will take action when it becomes necessary. 

Mr. Ikeda, in his book “For Today and Tomorrow” tells us: “Buddhism is action.  Without action, we cannot say that we are practicing Nam Myoho Renge Kyo; it would merely remain a concept.  Only through action are we able to truly gain the great benefit of the mystic law.”  If you have right intention you will develop right mindfulness.  This means that we will stay in the present moment.

Much of our suffering comes from dwelling on things that happened in the past—keep this stuff out of your mind!  Learn from the things that happen to us and then forget them.  They only bring unnecessary suffering.  The same is true of the future; plan wisely and then bring your mind back to the present.  Don’t dwell on the seven million things that could go wrong—nothing has happened yet!  So again, it is mindless, unnecessary suffering.  Teach yourself to bring your mind back to the present; not only will you suffer less but also everything you do will be enhanced by your new and improved focus.

 Mindfulness also means that we don’t look at things dualistically.  As soon as something happens, we slap a label on it, but this concept is not reality, it is not true! So something happens, and you label it as ‘a problem’ and from that moment on it becomes a problem.  We don’t need problems!  We already have enough suffering!  This is so simple, if you don’t label this ‘something’ as a problem, your mind will respond to it in a different way, and there won’t be any problem.

 If there is action you can take to deal with this something, then do it and don’t worry about it—worry has no value—it is unneeded suffering.  If there is nothing you can do about it, then there is nothing you can do—so don’t worry about it because worry is bad for you.   This applies to people as well.  We tend to slap labels on others, ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘friend,’ ‘enemy,’ ‘stranger’—none of these things are real!  People are precious—they are all potential Buddhas.  They have all done wonderful things for us in the infinite past and we cannot practice properly without them.  All people are just like you and me—they want happiness, and do not want even the slightest suffering.

We all need to practice mindfulness and it begins with right intention.  Right intention will also produce right concentration.  We need right concentration when we sit in front of the Gohonzon.  This concentration will increase as you continue to practice, your mind will become sharper, and any activity you participate in will be improved.

 Before we take a break I’d like to deal with the classic explanation of dependant origination taught by the Buddha in many different sutras, including “The Lotus Sutra.”  Actually the Buddha taught different levels of dependent origination, because people have different capacities.  One version has three links,

1. Affliction

2. Karma

3. Suffering 

(From afflictions comes Karma, Karma causes the fruit of suffering, which in turn leads to afflictions.)

Another has 5 links:

1. Desire

2. Clinging

3. Existence

4.  Birth

5.  Aging, Sickness, and Death.

 Another has 9 links, and still another has ten: but the classic list of twelve links is the traditional, and it is the version found in ”The Lotus Sutra.” There are places in the Pali canon where expansions beyond twelve links are made so the goal was to help students comprehend, and any of these versions are correct, if they help you understand.

The twelve links are:

1.  Ignorance conditions Karma

2. Karma causes Consciousness

3. Consciousness causes Mind and Body

4. Mind and Body cause the Six Senses

5. The Six Senses cause Contact

6.  Contact causes Feeling

7.  Feeling causes Craving

8.  Craving causes Clinging

9.  Clinging causes Becoming

10. Becoming causes Birth

11. Birth causes---

12. Aging sickness and death.


These twelve links are connecting three lifetimes together. 1 and 2 belong to your last life, 3-10 belongs to this life, and 11 and 12, belong to the future.

 We will end this discussion of the theoretical teachings with a quote from the Daishonin.  “As long as Birth is foretold, then death is inevitable.  As long as death is foretold than birth will follow by necessity.  This is called the Prophesy of eternal life that applies throughout the three existences.”  The next portion of this lecture will deal with re-birth and the essential teachings of the Buddha.

 We’ll take a break now and be back in a little bit.


 (10 minutes pass)


Okay, we’re back-- we’re going to talk about re-birth, reincarnation, or dependent origination.  Most of the world’s religions have teachings on rebirth.  We will skip over the obvious ones, Buddhism, Hinduism, and some others; because of where we are, and the culture most of us come out of, let’s look at, first, Judaism.

 This beginning passage comes out of the “Zohar,” a Kabalistic classic that has been studied since the first century of the Common Era, or the Christian A.D.  It Reads: “all souls are subject to the trials of transmigration; (or rebirth) … the souls must reenter the absolute substance whence they have emerged.  But to accomplish this end they must develop all the perfections… and if they have not fulfilled this condition during one life, they must commence another, a third, and so forth until they have acquired the condition which fits them for reunion with god.”

Rabbi Manasseh Ben Israel was a theologian and a statesman who convinced Oliver Cromwell to remove the unfair laws oppressing Jews in England.  These laws had existed some 350 years, since the time of King Edward the First.  The Rabbi wrote, “The belief of the doctrine of transmigration of souls is a firm and infallible dogma accepted by the whole assemblage of our church with one accord, so there is none to be found who would dare deny it…  Indeed there are a great number of sages in Israel who hold firm to this doctrine, so that they made it a dogma, a fundamental point of our religion.”

Christianity has some interesting things to say on the subject.  The last book of the Old Testament is the book of Malachi.  The closing words of this book (Malachi 4:5) reads: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come.”  Now, Elijah had already lived once among the Jews and he was dead.  However the book of the New Testament refers to this prophesy in three different places.  Mathew 16:13 says “when Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked ‘whom do men say that I am?’  And they said ‘some say that thou art John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  (Sometimes the Greek form of Elijah, Elias, is used.) 

Matthew 17:9 reads: “and as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them saying ‘tell the vision to no man until the son of man be risen again from the dead.’  And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?’  And Jesus answered and said unto them ‘Elijah truly shall come first, and restore all things, but I say unto you, that Elijah is come already and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed…’ and then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (who had already been beheaded by Herod).

Finally Mathew 11:11 says: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist… and if you will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear let him hear!”

The early founders of Christianity taught re-birth; Justin Martyr (100-165) speaks of the soul inhabiting more than one body.  Origen (185-154) wrote, “Is it not rational that souls should be introduced into bodies, in accordance with their merits and previous deeds, and that those who have used their bodies to do the utmost good, should have a right to bodies endowed with qualities superior to the bodies of others?”

 Saint Gregory (257-332) said, “it is absolutely necessary that that the soul should be healed and purified, and if that does not take place during its life on earth, it must be accomplished in future lives.”  Saint Jerome (340-420) wrote: “the doctrine of transmigration has been secretly taught from ancient times to small numbers of people, as a traditional truth not divulged.”

Touching briefly on the subject of Islam, the Koran reads: “god generates beings, and sends them back over and over again, until they return to him.” ([2.28] How do you deny Allah and you were dead and He gave you life? Again He will cause you to die and again bring you to life, then you shall be brought back to Him. ("The Koran" chapter 2 "The Cow")

This is a small sampling of Western thought on rebirth.  The Buddha teaches that each moment of mind is the cause of the next moment.  You never get an effect without a cause, so there never could be an original cause because something never comes from nothing.  My Teacher says in the Gosho, “The Nirvana Sutra states ‘people have been suffering since numberless, uncountable, kalpas ago.  (A small kalpa is approximately 16 million years).  The bones each individual leaves behind pile up as high as Mount Vilupa, near Rajagriha, and the milk he sucks is equal to the quantity of water in the four seas.  The blood one sheds surpasses the quantity of water in the four seas, and so do the tears he sheds over the death of parents, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, children, and relatives.  And though one used all the plants and trees growing on the earth to make four inch tally sticks to count them, one could not count all the parents one has had in the past existences of life. These are the words the Buddha uttered lying in the grove of Sal trees on the final day of his earthly life.  You should pay the strictest attention to them.”

 Before we pass on to the essential teachings of the Buddha, let’s talk about who or what it is that becomes reborn.  First, I tell you that everything is empty, because it is dependent, then I tell you that life is eternal.  Who is it then, inheriting this good and bad karma that is being produced?  I’m asked this question three or four times every month, so I know it’s something that we’re not all clear on.  Think of your mind when you were four years old.  Now think of how your mind is now.  The two are not the same, but it is easy to see the connection between the two.  Think of a fire you build in the forest at night.  You feed it fuel all night long to keep it burning.  You cannot say that the fire from the night before is the same as the fire now—but you can’t say that they are different either.  Think about the connection between the mind you possessed at fours years of age and the mind you have now.  That is the same kind of connection that exists between this life and the next.  That’s simple, isn’t it?

I’d like to move on now to the essential teachings, which are the doctrines that the Buddha considered his highest teachings—for all of his students.  Nichiren states in the Gosho entitled “On Establishing the Correct Teachings for the Peace of the Land”: “the Lotus and the Nirvana sutras represent the very heart of the doctrines that Shakyamuni preached during the five periods of his teaching life.”

However many students misunderstand the correct teachings, and believe that the provisional teachings should be discarded—some students will even tell you that the theoretical teachings of “The Lotus Sutra” should be discarded.  I have no idea where these concepts come from.  In the Gosho entitled “Four Bodhisattvas” the Daishonin states, “In the beginning of the latter day, the essential teaching alone spreads, but even so, the theoretical teaching should not be discarded. Nowhere in the entire “Lotus Sutra” do we find a passage suggesting that we discard the first 14 chapters of the Lotus Sutra, (which comprise the theoretical teachings). In this time the essential teaching is primary, while the theoretical teaching is subordinate. However, those who therefore discard the latter, saying it is not the way to enlightenment, and believe only in the former, have not yet learned the teaching of Nichiren’s true intention.  Theirs is a completely distorted view.  The doctrine concerning the theoretical and essential teachings is not my own, but was expounded by the Buddha.  Those who would distort it can only be possessed by devils, and will topple others along with themselves into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.”

The message here is clear.  Do not discard the first half of “The Lotus Sutra,” the part that contains the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, and The Twelve Link of Dependant Origination.  Do not discard the teaching on emptiness.  Your views will be distorted if you do. 

Well, what about the earlier sutras?  I hear some S.G.I people tell me that these teachings have no value—they even tell you that it’s wrong to read or study other sutras.  This is another one of those distorted concepts that seems to come from nowhere.  In the Gosho entitled “Opening of the Eyes” Nichiren states in the third sentence, “there are three types of doctrines that are to be studied.  They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism.”  Later in the same Gosho, we read, “The words of the sages and wise men are preserved in the scriptures and teachings of Confucianism, and Brahmanism, and as we have noted, is free from error, and the words match the spirit in which they were spoken. But how much more true is this in the case of the Buddha, who from countless kalpas in the past has never spoken in error!  In comparison to the non-Buddhist scriptures and teachings, the doctrine that he expounded over a period of 50 years represent the great vehicle, the true words of a great man.  Everything that he preached from the dawn of his enlightenment to the evening that he entered nirvana is none other than the truth.”

That seems pretty clear. Later in part two of the same Gosho we find “…it does not do to hate others. If one has eyes, one should examine the sutra texts, and compare ones behavior with them.” So why is there a problem? Why the confusion? Well, Nichiren goes on to say, “The doctrines the Buddha taught over a period of fifty years number eighty thousand… but among these sutras, “The Lotus Sutra” represents the correct teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the true words of the Buddhas of the ten directions in the past, present, and future. The Sutras… that the Buddha preached during the first 40 years or so of his teaching life belong to the time when, as the Buddha said, he had “not yet revealed the truth.” The eight years that he preached “The Lotus Sutra” he called the time when he “now must reveal the truth.” 

This one page shows us exactly what the problem is. In one paragraph Nichiren states that all the words of the Buddha are ‘none other than the truth.’ In the very next paragraph he says all sutras before “The Lotus” belong to a time when he had not yet revealed the truth. Our teacher wasn’t crazy, and there is no contradiction. The point is subtle, and it must be easy to become confused.

 Well, what’s the difference between the sutras? What is the message of “The Lotus Sutra” that does not appear in the earlier works? Since the sutras taught by the Buddhas are all true, what was left out of the earlier teachings? What truth had not yet been revealed? Let’s look at the Gosho entitled “The Treatment of Illness,” “‘The Lotus Sutra’ is divided into two categories, the theoretical, and the essential teaching. One is as different from the other as fire is from water or heaven is from earth. The difference is even greater between “The Lotus Sutra” and the sutras that preceded it. These sutras and the theoretical teaching of “The Lotus Sutra” are certainly different but they still have some points of similarity.”

So, What’s different? Nichiren says that in all the sutras, before “The Lotus,” and in the first half of “The Lotus Sutra” itself, the Buddha invariably depicted himself as having attained enlightenment for the first time in this world. “The difference” he says “is like that between a one hundred year old man and a one year old baby. The disciples of these two teachings are also as different as fire is from water, to say nothing of the difference between their lands.” (The disciples of these two teachings are as different as fire is from water… explains why the Buddha refused to let the Voice—Hearer (Shoman) followers present at the preaching of “The Lotus Sutra” propagate these teachings in the Saha world. “The followers are as different as fire and water, to say nothing of the difference of their lands,” is very important to understand.

Until the last half of “The Lotus Sutra” the Buddha land was thought to be somewhere apart from the Saha world (or the real world) and the Buddha only came here temporarily to teach the law and to save people. However, chapter sixteen teaches us there are not two lands, pure and impure, there is only the Saha world, and the Buddha has always dwelt here since his original enlightenment in the far distant past.

In addition, the provisional teachings state that both good and evil remain in your life through all the stages of Bodhisattva training right up until you hit the fifty-first stage. (There are fifty-two stages of Bodhisattva realization.) The fifty-first and fifty-second stage of Bodhisattva development theoretically meant that evil had been completely removed from your life but “The Lotus Sutra” teaches us the concept of Ichinen Sanzen. In other words, good and evil exist in everybody because we all mutually posses the ten worlds.

A last key point is that up until “The Lotus Sutra” was preached, the Buddhas followers believed that only certain students could attain enlightenment. They split themselves into three categories, and only the Bodhisattvas were thought to be able to eventually attain Buddhahood.

 Chapter three, “Simile and Parable,” reveals that there are not three vehicles for different kinds of people; there is only the one Buddha vehicle. In other words, all people can attain Buddhahood, because everybody has Buddha potential inherent in them, or everyone has the ten worlds. The Devadatta chapter teaches us that even “evil” people can eventually attain enlightenment. The second half of the chapter deals with a non-human female who becomes a Buddha in the amount of time it took her to hand a jewel to the Buddha! This is really different! Up until this chapter was taught, everyone knew that women could not become enlightened—they even had a list of reasons explaining why this was impossible. It was a terrible prejudice that existed during that period of Indian culture. (Well… they are still working on these issues today, in modern India).

So why, suddenly, could women become enlightened, and do not pass over the non-human thing, either! A lot of people do. Why could this NON-HUMAN FEMALE attain Buddhahood? It was because she has the same ten factors and the same ten worlds that we all possess. Human women receive a direct prediction of enlightenment in chapter thirteen.

These are the things that are different; these are the truths that had “yet too be revealed.” I hope we’re clear on this, but the best thing for you to do is to read the sutra for yourself—find out for yourself—this is always the message of Buddhism. When you practice “Rely on sutras that are complete and final” and never mix your practice, chant only “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”—but do rely on other sutras to give you guidance for your daily life.

We should also respect the other religions around us—it’s okay if a person is Christian or whatever. In the Gosho entitled “The Opening of The Eyes” Nichiren writes, “The Nirvana Sutra remarks all scriptures or teachings, from whatever source, are ultimately the revelation of Buddhist truth. They are not non-- Buddhist teachings.” This also applies to the other Buddhist groups around us.

The latter half of “The Lotus Sutra” has a chapter entitled “Entrustment.” In that chapter we find “In future ages if there are good men and good women who have faith in the wisdom of the thus come one, you should preach and expound the Lotus Sutra for them, so that they may hear it and understand it. For in this way, you can cause them to gain the Buddha wisdom. If there are living beings that do not believe and accept it, you should use some of the other profound doctrines of the Buddha to teach, benefit and bring joy to them. If you do all this, you will have repaid the debt of gratitude that you owe the Buddhas.”

Mr. Ikeda tells us, “whether a person takes faith in the Gohonzon or not depends entirely on the relationship he formed with Buddhism in the past.” In “The Opening of the Eyes” part two we read, “ those who seek the truth of Buddhism…should reject…one sided views, transcending disputes between ones own sect and others and should not treat others with contempt.” In the same Gosho, we find “…I believe that the devotees and followers of the provisional sutras…will undoubtedly be protected by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and heavenly beings of the respective sutras they uphold.”

So, the message is apparent. We need to practice tolerance for other spiritual groups—this applies equally to the other Buddhist groups around us. Remember, Nichiren never taught anyone to hate.  

 Okay, this last segment will deal with the concept of Ichinen Sanzen, the nine consciousnesses, and the concept of Buddhist meditation. Ichinen literally means ‘ one mind’ or ‘life moment.’ Sanzen means three thousand, so together Ichinen Sanzen means three thousand realms in a single moment of life.

To begin to understand this principal, we must first understand the ten worlds. As we’ve said earlier, everyone possesses the ten worlds. The ten worlds are states or conditions that exist in our minds.

 The ten worlds are:

1.  Hell (rage, suffering, intense fear)

2.  Hunger (greed never satisfied)

3.  Animality (lack of wisdom, lack self of control, foolish behavior)

4.  Anger

5.  Humanity (calmness and reason)

6.  Heaven (dependent joy)

7.  Learning

8.  Realization

9.  Bodhisattva (intense compassion and the desire to benefit all beings every where)

10. Buddhahood (someone who is awake to the way things really are)  

These states exist (at least potentially) in all of our minds. An individual is capable of experiencing all of these states anytime to moment to moment. The reality is, however, that people who do not have any kind of spiritual practice spend most of their time bouncing around in the lower six realms: hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity and heaven. Sometimes their environment treats them well and they have a good day. Other times the environment is hostile and they have a bad day.

People with no spiritual practice at all consider this normal. But, it isn’t normal, what it is really, is unnecessary suffering. If you live in the lower six worlds, you’re not in control of your own life—your environment is in control. The best way to climb into the upper four worlds and stay there is to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo every day without fail, but be careful! It is better to live in the state of hell then it is to spend all of your time in Learning or Realization! Why, because those who live in these worlds, called Shoman and Engaku, tend to look down on other people and treat them with contempt. This may very well be the worst cause you can make.

 President Ikeda wrote, “ committing such acts as ostracizing, bullying, or treating contemptuously the comrades of the Bodhisattvas of the earth who embrace the mystic law is an immeasurably grave offense. People who are guilty of this type of conduct will without fail experience the hell of incessant suffering. The outcome will be the same whether or not one practices this faith. Perhaps this principle applies even more so in this case of the person who does embrace this faith.”

To avoid this problem, always check your motivation before speaking—if you have any doubt at all about why you are saying something—be quiet. It’s very easy to control your mouth if it’s closed. Every day make a determination in front of the Gohonzon to benefit as many beings as possible, generate a mind of love and compassion, this will make you happier and keep you from burning out, which can happen.

 Now, the ten worlds mutually possess the ten worlds bringing our total to one hundred. This now becomes subtler. What we’re saying is that you can be in a state, of say, learning/Bodhisattva or humanity/Bodhisattva or any combination you can think of. I use learning, humanity, or any of the worlds and mix it with Bodhisattva because this is the path that leads to the end of suffering—to Nirvana.

President Ikeda stated, “Only those who directly attain the world of the original Buddha, or the embodiment of the Eternal Law, can gain release from human suffering.” Let me make this clearer—learning and realization can be very dangerous, we need them, but we must be careful not to fall into the dreadful pit that treating other with contempt can create for us.

If you mix learning or realization with Bodhisattva (or intense compassion) you will not have anything to worry about. Clear? So, the ten world contain the ten worlds but reality is still more subtle then that. Each individual has ten factors that make him who he is.

The ten factors are:

1.   Appearance (or how you look, that’s simple isn’t it?)

2.   Nature (is what makes you who you are. It is the reason you know that you are the same mind now that when you were when you were four years old)

3.   Entity (Christians would call this your soul. This life entity has existed forever—from time without beginning. Entity will remain unchanged throughout your life and reappear with you after are reborn.)

4.   Power (your life force, the strength you have to achieve something or effect your environment.)

5.   Influence (is the use of thought or deed to create good or evil.) It is the amount of power you bring to whatever work you produce.

6.   Internal Cause (is the latent karmic seeds in your mind.)

7.   Relation or External Cause (any stimulus in our environment that causes us to react.)

8.   Latent Effect: when we take action the latent effect is lodged in us as energy and will appear as…

9.    Manifest Effect when it meets the right circumstances in the future. (No cause you make, good or bad is ever lost) Finally,

10.  Their consistency from beginning to end (all of these factors work together—if you are in the state of Buddhahood your life condition will be high, you will not be depressed. If you are in hell, your life condition will not be great.) So, the ten worlds contain the ten worlds and ten times ten equals one hundred. The ten factors make up the individual, so a hundred times ten equals a thousand.

(From audience: “There’s math in this?” (Shocked) Yes, (laughing) there will be a math test later!) Seriously, we need to look briefly at the three realms of existence. They are:

1.           Self (the Buddha taught that each individual is composed of heaps or aggregates) these aggregates are: Consciousness, (form has to do with your physical appearance, the other four are your mental makeup.)

2.          The society we live in, or the other living beings around us.

3.           The land or environment you live in. 1000X3=3000 realms in each moment of life.

Now, remember when we were talking about latent effect? We said that when we take action the latent effect is lodged in us as energy and will appear as manifest effect when it meets the right circumstances in the future.

Every time we make a cause, it is stored in us as latent effect, until the time and circumstances are right and then this energy will manifest itself in our lives. This energy may be present 10 minutes or 10 million years—it will wait until everything needed is present—then karma is produced. This energy is stored in our eighth level of consciousness; every one of us has nine levels of consciousness in our mind.

 The first five are our senses, taste, and touch, hearing, sight, and smell. The sixth level is called ‘integration’ because it decides what will be reported to your brain. Interestingly, modern science also teaches this level of consciousness. If you are positive that your keys could not be on the table, this level of consciousness will not report their presence to you. The keys will be there but you won’t see them because your eyes are not reporting everything it sees to your brain. You can then spend the next half hour looking for your ‘missing’ keys, or you can have someone else use their eyes.

The seventh level of consciousness is called the mano consciousness. This level of consciousness is where abstract thought takes place. This is what we mistakenly call ‘self.’ It is the home of our ego. The eight level of consciousness is called the Alaya consciousness. It is the storehouse where all the energies of the causes that you have made are stored. The ninth level is our Buddha nature. If you do not tap into this level, your life and your destiny is fixed by what is already in your ‘storehouse’ consciousness.

By tapping this pure consciousness, any circumstance or situation in your life can be changed. How do we do this—only by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo? Nam Myoho Renge Kyo literally means devotion to the mystic law of “The Lotus Sutra.” Anyone can sit in front of the Gohonzon and manifest a state of Buddhahood by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

 If you have already done so then congratulations! You are already a part time Buddha! Now that you know how to manifest your Buddhahood, the trick is to close up your Butsudan, or place of the Buddha, and demonstrate this life condition all day long in the real world. The Gohonzon is a ‘picture’ of the inner life condition of a Buddha or enlightened being. The ten worlds are present on this Mandela, but the life condition being manifested is that of Buddhahood.

 The Daishonin described the Gohonzon as the true object of worship for observing one’s mind. This is the most effective form of Buddhist meditation ever devised.

Does the Lotus Sutra tell us that we have to meditate to practice correctly? Yes. In Chapter fourteen, we find the statement, “he (or the practitioner) should constantly take pleasure in sitting in meditation, being in quite surroundings, and learning to still his mind.” In chapter eighteen we read, “How much more so if one upholds this sutra, and at the same time dispenses alms, keeps the precepts, is forbearing, delights in meditation, and never gives way to anger or evil speaking. “ So “The Lotus Sutra” tells us that to practice properly, we must meditate.

 Mr. Ikeda writes, “Just as you look into a mirror when you make up your face, to beautify your soul, you need a mirror that reflects the depths of your life. This mirror is none other than the Gohonzon of “observing one’s mind,” or more precisely, observing one’s life. Observing one’s life means to perceive that one’s life contains the ten worlds, and in particular, the world of Buddhahood. It was to enable people to do this, that Nichiren Daishonin bestowed the Gohonzon of ‘observing one’s mind’ upon all human kind.”

 In the Gosho entitled “A Sage And An Unenlightened Man” Nichiren Writes “In the final analysis, this sutra of ‘Myoho Renge Kyo’ sums up all the teachings and meditational practices of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life time in a single moment of life, and Encompasses all the living beings of the ten worlds and their environments in the three thousand realms.”

Volume four of the “Major Writings” defines ‘observation of the mind’ as the perception, through meditation, of the ultimate reality inherent in one’s life. The Daishonin makes clear in his writings that chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo constitutes the practice of ‘observing the mind’ in the latter day of the law.”

From these passages it is clear that chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is meditation training for your mind. (See “Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide To Happiness”) Remember all of your problems, your friends, enemies; all of these come from your own mind. Because of the oneness of yourself and your environment, you must change yourself to have any kind of impact on the people and things around you.

 Leo Tolstoy said, “everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” There is only one thing in the entire universe that must be conquered, your own mind. The Buddha tells us “he is a great giver of gifts to all living beings. You should respond by studying this law… you must not be stingy or begrudging.” We’ve all heard guidance from Mr. Ikeda that tells us how necessary study is for growth. Your mind is like a computer, if you program the system with junk then that is what your mind will produce.

While “you are what you eat” has some truth, you are what you read is totally true. Nichiren writes in the Gosho, “Persons of wisdom of course devote themselves to the study of all the eighty thousand doctrines of Buddhism, and should become familiar with all the twelve divisions of the scriptures.” Following these directions will put you on course to develop “The Eyes Of Enlightenment.”

And I would like to thank you for coming here today, and thank you for listening if you are hearing this on tape. Buddhist Information of America operates twenty—four hours a day, every day of the year. There is always somebody here to answer your phone calls. We will help you find a practice anywhere in the United States and we provide free study material for anyone who wants it. In the Kansas City Area the number is (913) 722-0900, in the rest of North America please call (800) 576-9212.

There is never any charge for any service from Buddhist Information. We want to take this opportunity to dedicate the merit for what we’ve done here today. May all beings find peace and happiness, may all beings find the path that leads directly to Nirvana!  Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, may all beings benefit. Thank You.


The End of Suffering



Good afternoon.  



Today I would like to talk to you about suffering. The four noble truths promise us an end to suffering, right here—now—in this lifetime. There are very practical methods anyone can learn to end suffering, and they work. Please do not take my word for this, find out for yourself. First, you must be practicing correctly, as the Buddha taught. In this period of the Law, Chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” learn the Gongyo ceremony and do these practices daily. (For more information see “Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide To Happiness”)

 Practicing every day is important but if you do not study as well then your growth will be stunted. You will be guilty of one of the fourteen slanders (shallow understanding) and this is not a good cause to make if your goal is to stop suffering for yourself and others. T’ien T’ai, the Buddha of the Middle Period of the Law, wrote; “If [the student] is one-sided in the cultivation of practice and merit and thus neglects the study of wisdom, this results in delusion.”

If practice and study are not applied equally what you are perfecting is deviation. Deviation will never lead to enlightenment; it will however lead you inevitably to misery, hardship, suffering, and pain. We need to develop Buddhist faith, which is never a blind kind of trust. Buddhist Faith is based on years of testing the teachings of the Buddha and realizing that they work because they are based on the reality of the one great Law that runs everything in the universe. We call this Law ‘mystic’ because it is the universe and all life comes from it.

Mr. Ikeda, a wonderful Buddhist scholar, and writer stated “It is the sharp sword of the mystic law, and the great power of faith that enable us to completely sever the chains of suffering.” Everyone has problems; the details merely change from person to person. But, these details really make up a small amount of the suffering in your life. Most of the suffering you will endure is common human suffering that can be eliminated with simple Buddhist training.

What is this training? It comes in four parts:  

1.  Understanding Death.

2.  Living in the Present Moment.

3.  Developing Compassion.

4.  Realizing Emptiness, or Void.  

Our teacher said, “Learn first about Death, than about other things.” Now, why would he say that? Well, death is a topic that most people avoid because it makes them deeply uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling means that you have not understood death yet.

 Mr. Ikeda has stated, “Death will come to each of us some day. We can die having fought for our beliefs and convictions, or we can die having failed to do so. Since the reality of death is the same in either case, isn’t it far better that we set out on our journey towards the next existence in high spirits and with a smile on our faces—knowing that everything we did, we did the very best we could, thrilling with the sense “That was truly an interesting life?”

Every teacher’s works that I’ve studied talks about the inevitability of death. Nichiren wrote, “How long can we expect to live on as we have, from yesterday to today, and from last year to this year? We may look over our past and count how many years we have accumulated, but who can for certain number him self among the living for another day or even an hour?

Yet, though one may know the moment of his death is already at hand, he clings to his arrogance and prejudice, his worldly fame and profit, and fails to devote himself to chanting the mystic law. Such an attitude is futile beyond description.” Shakyamuni, the Buddha of the First Period of the Law said, “As a cow herd with his staff gathers his cows into the stable, so do age and death gather the life of a man.” So death will inevitably come—the only thing keeping you alive now is the beating of your heart, and the simple in and out of your breath. This could stop at any time—it does not matter how old or young you are.

 I am not telling you anything new here am I? Why do western people fear death so much? The answer is simple ignorance, and this kind of fear is a terrible burden to people and the sad part is that this suffering is unnecessary. If you do not have a realization on death, make this a priority. Sit in front of the Gohonzon and make a determination to have this realization, don’t suffer needlessly.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Why? Because the way you die will determine what happens to you next. Once you are in Ku, the life condition you will experience will be the one you manifest most of the time you are alive. If you spend most of your time in the higher worlds, then you will experience great bliss that will seem far too brief. If you live and constantly manifest a hellish life condition then you will experience suffering for what seems to be a long time.

That sounds bad enough but Buddhist scholar Daisaku Ikeda adds, “The state of mind with which we meet our death will greatly influence the course of our lives over eternity.” OH BOY, no pressure there right? What he is telling us is that if you die screaming in some cancer ward you will NOT experience bliss in Ku, and when you are reborn the karmic seeds activated may be bad and you will have an awful rebirth. It is not the cancer that is the problem. I have seen Buddhists die of cancer and it was very beautiful and peaceful. It is critical that we die well and to do that we must practice, of course, but we must also have a realization on death so that we have no fear.

Transmigration, or rebirth, is one of the oldest human beliefs and yet three fourths of the modern populations of the world still believe it. Radically different peoples in very different social environments have discovered this concept again and again. I believe that this is the case because it is true and universal truths have a way of cropping up wherever people seek truth.

It is important, in our quest for truth, that we chant everyday to develop our Buddha Wisdom. We need that wisdom to lead a good life but we also need Buddha wisdom for the moment of our death. If we have developed that wisdom with study and practice then it will manifest when we die. We ought to be experts at the art of death because we have so much practice!

If we have developed a state of Buddha hood this knowledge and the causes we’ve made will ensure that we die well. In the book “For Today and Tomorrow” we find, “Ultimately, people only die as they have lived. One who has faith in the mystic law will not die an unhappy death.” Mr. Toda once wrote, “The last years of your life are the most important. If you are happy during the last years of your life, then your life has been a happy one. Buddhism guarantees that those who practice will approach death in a state of supreme happiness.”

Focusing all of your efforts on one life is very foolish for this life will soon be over. All the fame and glory, the huge piles of money you have stored in bank vaults, all of the people who love you will be left behind when you leave. You come into this world naked and alone and you leave pretty much the same way. The only thing that you take with you is your mental development. Not preparing for your future lives is like going to a university for eight years but never picking a major. You simply drift through and are not prepared or qualified for anything. It is a dreadful waste of time and mind.

The second part this training is mindfulness. Live in the present moment should become a motto you remember until this training is part of your mental makeup. So much of our suffering is unnecessary. Whatever happened in the past is over and you cannot change it. When your mind wanders into the past gently guide it back to the ‘now’ of reality.

Shakyamuni said, “People who are vigilant do not die; people who are negligent are already as if dead.” If your mind spends most of it’s time elsewhere, then you might as well be dead, because you are missing out on your own life. The same is true of the future. Yes, plan for your future but do not obsess over this stuff! Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened, it is just unneeded suffering.

 The benefits you gain from keeping ‘your mind in the now’ are many. You will suffer less and every aspect of your life and spiritual practice will improve as you learn to ‘Pay Attention’ to the details of your own life. Nichiren wrote, “The inseparability of mind and body is called the supreme philosophy.”

Josei Toda, second President of the Soka Gakkai stated in his book, “Lectures on the Sutra”; “The perfect oneness of body and mind is what Buddhism calls “Shikishin Funi”. One’s body and mind should always be in perfect harmony.”

The third part of this training is to develop compassion not just for others but for your self as well. In the book “Faith Into Action” we find, “It is important for each person to embark on a journey in search of truth. The truth however, actually lies in our compassionate actions to assist the weak or those enduring hardships and suffering. It is not to be found in highbrow intellectual knowledge.”

Knowledge by itself can lead to haughty behavior because knowledge without compassion is cold and sterile. A person who has knowledge without compassion is someone who spends their time in the worlds of Learning and Realization. These kinds of people look down on everyone else and are putting themselves onto the path that leads to a hellish future.

There are many reasons to develop compassion. For example, we all think of the Buddha with gratitude, and we should because he gave us the teachings. None of us would be practicing or developing correct wisdom if he hadn’t. Nichiren wrote, “Shakyamuni is the father and mother of all persons in the Saha World.” He also said, “Shakyamuni is the original teacher for all persons in the Saha World.”

So gratitude to the Buddha is proper behavior but we forget about all the people around us. We could not possibly attain enlightenment without the beings in our environment. How could you develop patience, tolerance, or compassion if you are all alone? And yes, you need to have compassion for yourself; being too hard on yourself is just a different form of suffering, it is not profitable! But compassion just for yourself isn’t all that good for you is it?

Remember that Shakyamuni spent much of his teaching career telling his ‘voice hearer’ students that they could not attain enlightenment because they were self centered, and not repaying the debts they owed to all beings. So compassion for your self is important but it is even more important to have compassion for others to balance this out. Another reason that we should want to benefit all sentient beings is that we owe them a great debt, first, just for being around us, as I said, and second because all beings have been our parents at some point in time.

Nichiren writes, “Among living beings there are both men and women and these men and women were all our parents at some point in our past existences.” Nichiren also states that the reason ‘voice hearers’ could not attain enlightenment was their lack of desire to recognize this debt. Their blind selfishness kept them from seeing things the way they really are. This is one of the reasons you need to develop an understanding on the subject of emptiness.

All people and things are empty because all of them are dependent on causes. There is no difference between you and other beings. All beings want happiness and do not want suffering, just like you. Realizing, and I mean realizing, not reading, or hearing, or even believing, but realizing this is an important step in your spiritual progress. Of course, it is easy to say these things, but it is much more difficult to put into practice.

We’ll sit here and say “the Buddha says ‘Let us not hate those who hate us! Let us live free from hatred while dwelling among men who hate!” That’s Great! But when you leave here it is only a matter of time before somebody is going to be nasty to you, maybe very nasty to you! Then what do you do? For some of you this isn’t that big of a deal, somebody being unpleasant means being told you’re fat, or that your dress is ugly, or some other piece of minor unpleasantness, but some of the people we study with are in jails, prisons or mental institutions. ‘Nasty’ can turn into ‘Life-Threatening’ very quickly in those Environments. Can you live in peace while surrounded by hate? Can you practice non-violence in a place filled with it?

Yes, you can, especially when you understand cause and effect. But lets not misunderstand each other, we are not talking about some soft, gooey feeling where you walk around thinking of pink clouds, and telling yourself that you love everybody, that there is no problem and everything is just fine! Everything may not be fine! There are people that you like and there are people who are just background for our lives, you see them but never meet or talk to them. There are also people you cannot stand. That is the normal condition that we all start from and it is a good enough place to begin.

You don’t have to try to convince yourself to view the world through “rose colored glasses.” No matter what is going on in your head, it doesn’t have to come out of your mouth or show in your actions. Practice keeping quiet when someone is trying to hurt you; learn not to put bad things back into your environment. While doing this you should be practicing. Daily Gongyo, chanting and study will purify your life and raise your life condition so that this kind of stuff does not continually occur in your environment and in your mind.

 As your practice grows you will become more skillful at handling these negative emotions but you will always have the ten worlds, so you must always stay alert and always continue to practice. Spend time alone thinking about the kind of person you are and also what kind of person you would like to be.

The Buddha wrote: “There are three types of individuals to be found in this world. Which Three? An individual like an inscription in rock, an individual like an inscription in soil, and an individual like an inscription in water.

“And how is an individual like an inscription on rock? There is the case where a certain individual is often angered, and his anger stays with him a long time. Just as an inscription like an inscription in rock is not quickly effaced by wind or water and lasts a long time, in the same way an individual is often angered, and his anger stays with him a long time. This is called an individual like an inscription on rock.

“And how is an individual like an inscription in soil? There is the case where a certain individual is often angered, but his anger doesn’t stay with him for a long time. Just as an inscription in soil is quickly effaced by wind and water and doesn’t last a long time, in the same way an individual is often angered, but his anger doesn’t stay with him for a long time. This is called an individual like an inscription in soil

 “ And how is an individual like an inscription in water? There is the case where a certain individual—when spoken to roughly, spoken to harshly, spoken to in an unpleasing way—is nevertheless congenial, companionable, and courteous. Just as an inscription in water disappears immediately, and doesn’t last a long time, in the same way a certain individual—when spoken to roughly, spoken to harshly, spoken to in an unpleasing way—is nevertheless congenial, companionable, and courteous. This is called an individual like an inscription in water.”

Take some time and honestly decide which of these three ‘types’ you are. As a former ‘rock’, I can tell you that being ‘an inscription in water’ is so much easier in the long run, it is so much less stress. But you should not let yourself fall into the trap of thinking bad things and then believing that it is all right because you don’t act on these evil thoughts. It is not all right to have evil thoughts! Mental thoughts are behind every act of speech and action, so you do not want your head filled with poison.

 That is also easy to say, but how do we manage it? First of all, again, this practice of chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” will dramatically change your life condition if you actually do the practice! You don’t have to practice for long periods of time but it should be every day. Make a water offering every morning; before you do anything else, spend time in front of the Gohonzon. When you have free time, turn to the Gohonzon. At night, before you go to sleep, practice again in front of the Mandala. In good times, remember to express gratitude for the benefits we have received. This is very important!

 I don’t have to remind you to take your problems to the Gohonzon; we’ve all got that figured out! However, when we express gratitude it shows that we’re paying attention and that we understand how much out lives have been improved. It never hurts to say “thank you.”

 Finally, we turn to the sutras for some practical advice. This is found in the sutra “All the fermentations,” or “All The Taints” which is found in “The Middle Length Discourses of The Buddha” from the Pali Canon. [A free copy of this Sutra will be sent to you upon request.] Here the Buddha teaches a method for controlling your mind. The negativities that we all have are called ‘taints’, or ‘fermentations.’ In this sutra, to end these mental negativities you must know and see what is appropriate and what is not.

 Let us take as an example an eighteen-year-old male whose mind is filled with lust. Now, this is not unusual because his body is producing more hormones then at any other time in his life. But this male wants to practice Buddhism. If he does not guard his mind, lust will come back intensified and, now, other things that he had never thought before will be added as he puts more energy into this kind of thinking. If we picture his mind as being like a white sheet of paper, this lustful thought will grow, and each time he has these thoughts, he makes a blacker mark in the same place. Pretty soon he has this deep black groove and his mind returns to it over and over. It is a habit.

Now if he guards his mind then the additional lustful thoughts would never be added. The mind is steered away from habit energy (in this case lust) and the habit is broken. The mind stops churning out lustful thoughts and the suffering is eliminated.

Kosen Rufu begins with you. If we really want to end unnecessary suffering and benefit all of the beings around us then we must lead the way. To do this we must show people why they should learn this practice and then persevere no matter what happens to them! We can do this by leading successful, happy lives and helping other people to do the same.

We have talked today about ending suffering. The four-step method taught by the Buddha is— Coming to understand death, practicing mindfulness and staying in the present moment, developing compassion (for yourself and for others) and realizing emptiness.  

It is nice that we do this; it is good for us to hear the dharma. This dharma is true now, and it will always be true, that is why it is dharma. The Buddha teaches, “Whether or not a Buddha is present this dharma exists, waiting to be realized.” A teacher can only point out the path—you must decide if you will follow it.

To hear these teachings and believe in them is not enough, you must take action. You must clean up your own mess because you are responsible. Now is the time for you to build on the good things already present in your mind. You have many good qualities or you wouldn’t be practicing Dharma or encountering the Buddhas teachings. Chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” every day to change the poison of your mental negativities into medicine that will cure you and all beings everywhere. (All of the sutras quoted are available in text form, if you would like to read them for yourself. “The Lekha Sutra,” “All The Taints,” and “The Discourse on the Orderliness of the Dharma” will be mailed to you upon request.)

 I would like to thank you for spending time with us today. I would also like to say that Buddhist Information of America operates twenty-four hours every day of the year. There is never any charge for any service from Buddhist Information. There is a huge library of material available, so please use it to study and improve your lives and the lives of the beings around you.

 We can be reached at (913) 722-0900 in the Kansas City area. The rest of the country should call our toll free number (800) 576-9212. If you want to send E-mail to us we are at: [email protected] and our web site can be found at 

Let’s take a moment to dedicate the merit for what we’ve done here today, so, may all beings find peace and happiness, may all beings find the path that leads directly to Nirvana, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, may all beings benefit. Thank you very much.   



Dharma Essentials For Cultivating Stopping and Contemplation By Chih-i of T’ien-T’ai Mountain Monastery





 Chih-i was also known as the great teacher T’ien-T’ai. He was the founder of the T’ien-T’ai school of Buddhism and the Buddha of the middle period of the law. He pointed out the errors of the Ten Major schools of Buddhism, classified Shakyamuni ’s teachings by content, and taught that the Lotus Sutra was the Buddha’s highest teaching.

It was the work entitled “Great Concentration And Insight” that revealed the principle of three thousand worlds in a single moment of life. Nichiren wrote “The time of this great teacher corresponds to the period described in ‘The Great Collections Sutra’ as the age of reading, reciting, and listening” or the Middle Period of the Law.

“(Chih-i)… preached and spread throughout China a perfect meditation and perfect wisdom…” “The Dharma Essentials For Cultivating Stopping And Contemplation” was not one of Chih-i’s major works but I have found it to be very useful to my practice. I hope that you will find it helpful as well.  




“To refrain from doing any manner of evil, to respectfully perform all varieties of good, to carry out the purifications of one’s mind, this is what constitutes the teaching of all Buddhas.” As for attaining Nirvana, there are many paths of entry into it. However, if we talk about those that are absolutely necessary, we do not need to go beyond the two dharmas of ‘Stopping’ and ‘Contemplation.’

 How is this so? ‘Stopping’ is the method that allows you to control your delusions, the things that keep you from seeing things just the way they are.  ‘Contemplation’ is the primary ingredient that you use to cut off these delusions. ‘Stopping’ is the wholesome food that nourishes the mind and consciousness. ‘Contemplation’ is the technique, which causes the development of spiritual understanding. ‘Stopping’ is the supreme cause for you to develop mental peace. ‘Contemplation’ is the technique, which causes the development of spiritual understanding. ‘Stopping’ is the supreme cause for you to demonstrate mental peace. ‘Contemplation’ is the origin of wisdom.

If you perfect the two Dharmas of meditative absorption (or practice) and wisdom (or Study) then you will benefit yourself and others. We need meditative absorption when we sit in front of the Gohonzon. You cannot Kyochi Myogo (Fuse reality and wisdom) with the Mandela if you do not have meditative absorption. If you have been to a Toso, where we chant for at least an hour then you have meditative absorption or you would have gotten up and left the meeting.

Wisdom comes from practice and study. “The Dharma Blossom Sutra” states, “The Buddha himself abides in the great vehicle. Such truths as he has realized are enhanced by the power of meditative absorption and wisdom. He employs these in the deliverance of beings.” The Buddha himself abides in the great vehicle means that these Mahayana practices will cause you to develop your Buddha nature.

You must realize that practice and study (or meditative absorption and wisdom) are like the two wheels of a cart. You must have both wheels or the cart will never move. Thus, one of the sutras states, if you are one-sided in that that you just practice and neglect study, then you will be deluded. If you just study and neglect practice then this results in craziness.

 Although there are minor differences in the faults produced by delusions and craziness, the erroneous views that develop from the two conditions are generally no different. These results are the perfection of deviation. How could this lead to enlightenment? This is why one of the sutras declares, “because the voice hearers students are the most developed in meditative absorption, they cannot perceive the Buddha nature. The Bodhisattvas are the most developed in the power of wisdom but although they do perceive the Buddha nature, still, they have not become entirely clear about it.

 Buddhas on the other hand have equally developed both meditative absorption and wisdom, and that is why they posses absolute understanding and perception of the Buddha nature.” This path is easy to talk about but difficult to follow. If you wish to teach new people, then there are certain steps they should follow.


Chapter One


Now, if you have generated the resolve to practice Buddhism, there are things that you must do. The first is to be pure in upholding the precepts. This is stated in one of the sutras, “It is in dependence upon and directly because of those precepts that one succeeds in developing meditative absorption as well as the wisdom which puts an end to suffering. Therefore the practitioner should be pure in upholding the precepts.”  We are talking about morality here: Do not kill or harm anyone, do not steal or make false statements and do not engage in improper sexual conduct. This is the training for lay people.

 Monks had two hundred and fifty rules, and nuns had five hundred. Of course, this is a monastic teaching from the Middle Period of the Law. In the First Period of the Law, people widely upheld these precepts, because Theravada-like Buddhism was being spread and monastics must have organized moral instruction; following the precepts was a major part of their practice.

In the middle period of the law those who break the precepts are very numerous and provisional Mahayana is propagated. As we see here, the precepts have merely become the first step in the practice.

In the Latter Day of the Law you attain enlightenment by directly embracing this law of Myoho Renge Kyo, and while it is still critical that you practice correct morality, there are no precepts for this period. Why, because lay people in the Latter Day are the beings who spread the mystic law directly into society.

Monastic practice is for the small minority who need this kind of setting. Nichiren tells us that in this period “one should give alms to those without precepts, treating them the same way as they would a Buddha. He is talking about lay people.

So, we’ve talked about precepts, but this does not mean that since you are a layperson you do not have to practice morality. Chih-i quotes from the sutras again. “Within the Buddhas dharma, there are two types of healthy people: Those who have committed no evil deeds whatsoever, and those who, having committed them, have been able to repent of them.”

Now if you desire to repent it is essential to fulfill the ten dharmas. What are they?

1.Understand and believe in cause and effect.

2.Develop Extreme Fearfulness (because the cause you made will definitely produce an undesirable effect).

3.Give rise to a deep sense of remorse.

4.Seek out a method to extinguish offences.

5.Completely confess prior offences.

6.Cut off the continuance of the offences you confessed (stop committing the offense).

7.Bring forth the resolve to be a protector of the dharma.

8.Make great vows to deliver beings.

9.Constantly be mindful of all the Buddhas in the ten directions.

10.Realize the empty nature of your offences.



Chapter Two



The second thing you must do is renounce desires for external sense objects. This is the opening sentence and the chapter deals with the eradication of desires. This is definitely a monastic teaching. In his later major works that dealt with the ‘The Lotus Sutra” Chih-i would write, “Earthly desires are enlightenment, the suffering of birth and death are nirvana.”

Why the change? Is there a change? He seems to be saying one thing, then something totally different but remember monastic students have different karma and different minds with different needs. To teach a student to renounce all desires is a way to reduce attachment, but just having the desire to not have desires is a desire! It is not possible to ever totally eradicate desires.

“The Lotus Sutra” is the teaching for all people who wish to attain enlightenment in all periods of the law. So Chih-I could make the statement “Earthly desires are enlightenment” because of the closing sutra in the “Three-Fold Lotus Sutra,” “The Sutra of Meditation on Bodhisattva Universal Virtue:” “We read: “World Honored One! After the extinction of the Buddha, how can living beings, raise the mind of the Bodhisattva, practice the sutras of great extent, the great vehicle, and ponder the world of one reality with right thought? How can they keep from losing the mind of supreme Buddha hood? How, without cutting off their earthy cares, and renouncing their five desires, can they purify their organs, and destroy their sins? How, with the natural pure eyes received at birth from their parents and without forsaking their five desires, can they see things without impediment?” (The Five Desires are those that come from contact with the five sense organs, sight, sound, smell, taste, and tactile objects.)


Chapter Three


 The third thing to be done is casting off the covering of

1.) Anger

2.) Sleep

3.) Agitation and remorse and

4.) Doubt, you must cast off the cover of anger because anger is the cause for falling into wretched destinies. If you do not discard anger when it arises you might begin to cherish hatred.

If you cherish hatred you might direct negative actions at the object of your hatred. In this way anger covers over the mind and this is why it is called a covering, the Buddha said, “If you slay hatred you become peaceful and happy. If you slay hatred you become free from worry. It is hatred that is the root of poison-ness. It is hatred that destroys every goodness.”

 After you become aware of this you should cultivate compassion and patience as the means to be rid of it and thereby allow the mind to become pure. Casting off the cover of sleep means to rid yourself of dullness and dimness in the mental process while you are practicing. You have not yet attained enlightenment so you are like a man in chains being led to the gallows. How can you possibly sleep? Mindfulness is the cure for this dullness.  If you would like to hear more on the subject of mindfulness please refer to or ask for the series “Dharma For Lay People.” 

The next point is casting off the covering of agitation and remorsefulness. There are three types of agitation; the first is physical. It is characterized by the inability to feel peaceful while sitting down. The second type is verbal agitation, for example, arguments over rights and wrongs, or useless frivolous discourse. The third type is mental agitation. This is marked by neglectfulness and all manner of unwholesome thought.

 Chih-i wrote, “A person who is agitated is like a camel without a nose ring, not subject to control or discipline.” Remorsefulness is also a covering of the mind. One pertinent verse reads,  “It is not that on account of being remorseful one will somehow be able to do what one failed to do. All of the ill deeds which one has already committed can’t be caused thereby to be undone.” In other words, when you make a cause you will always get some kind of effect.

 We practice to purify our karma, which greatly reduces the effect, but causes can never be “unmade.” It is important to have remorse. The third sutra in “The Three-Fold Lotus Sutra” (entitled “The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue”) is all about repenting, so it is important to apologize for bad behavior, but when you dwell on your faults repeatedly, it is just suffering, and this kind of suffering is pointless.

The final covering to discard is doubt. The covering of doubt will keep you from developing faith in any dharma. If you have no faith when you encounter a teaching of the Buddha, you gain nothing. You gain nothing because you do not practice or study; your mind is not seeking truth! You are like an armless man walking through a diamond mine; because you have no arms you gain nothing from the trip.

If you cast off these coverings of, anger, sleep, agitation, and remorse as well as doubt, you are like a man who has gained freedom from a heavy burden. When you eliminate these coverings, your mind will be calm, and you will feel clear and blissful. Remove these coverings and your mind will shine brightly.


Chapter Four


Now if wish to practice the Buddhas’ dharma the first thing you should do is vow to bring all beings everywhere to liberation. You cannot leave anybody out, not your worst enemy, (if you still view things in that misguided way), or even the flea that bit you at the beach last summer! Vow to pursue the way of the Buddha, be industrious and courageous to the point where you would rather die than turn from this path of goodness.

Next, realize the true and actual mark of all dharmas, which exist solely on account of the mind. “The Sutra on the Ten Grounds” states, “throughout the three realms nothing else whatsoever exists. It is all solely created by one mind. This mind (your mind) does not have an inherent nature, because it is dependant on causes.”

 The title of this chapter is “Making adjustments.” What does it mean to ‘make adjustments’? Chih-i uses an example from the sutras; if you play a stringed instrument these strings must be adjusted to the proper tension for you to make music. It is the same with your mind.

There are five matters to be adjusted: they are adjustments with regard to Eating, Sleeping, The Body, The Breath, and The Mind. If you make skillful adjustments in these areas, then wisdom will develop easily. The first adjustment to consider is food. Food should be consumed to supply the body so that you may continue to advance along the way. Do not eat until you are full and bloated, as this will make your mind dull. Do not eat too little as this will make you sick. Whenever you eat, stay mindful, and remember the oneness of mind and body.

One-sutra states, “If the body is tranquil then one’s progress along the way will flourish.” Knowing the proper measure with respect to eating… and maintaining a pure mind while taking pleasure in diligent effort—this is the teaching of all Buddhas.”

The second adjustment is sleep. We all need various amounts, but you must not sleep too much. In another sutra it is written, “whether in the beginning or end of the night, there must be no wasting of the opportunity to cultivate wisdom. One must not, on account of sleep, cause a lifetime to pass by with nothing whatsoever achieved. One should be mindful that the fire of impermanence burns up the entire world and one should seek early to bring about one’s own deliverance. One must not (over) indulge in sleep.”

The third adjustment is to the body, the fourth is to the breath, and the fifth is to the mind. These cannot be considered separately. This section deals with monastic meditative techniques that do not concern us at this time. (If you wish to obtain an introduction to meditation for lay people see “Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide To Happiness.”)

In “The Lotus Sutra” it says, “For the sake of the Buddha Way, the Bodhisattvas in this great assembly have diligently practiced vigor for an incalculable number of tens of millions of kotis of kalpas. (A kotis is approximately 10 million) they have become skillful in entering abiding in, and emerging from an incalculable number of trillions of kotis of Samádhis. They have gained great super-knowledge’s, have long cultivated the Brahmin conduct, and have become well able to practice in appropriate sequence all the good dharmas.”

Practice in appropriate sequence means practicing according to the time. We do not want to use monastic techniques developed in the Middle Period of the Law because this is the Latter Day.  To practice meditation skillfully in this period you must develop single-minded focus directed at the Gohonzon, empty your mind and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.


Chapter Five


If you want to cultivate stopping and contemplation you must employ skillful means. There are five dharmas to consider. The first is zeal. You should posses the zeal to separate your mind from the world’s erroneous thinking and inverted views and become a person who takes pleasure in the study of dharma. The Buddha said, “Zeal constitutes the origins of all good dharmas.”

The second is vigor. Be vigorous in your practice of correct morality and never rest. If you want to make a fire using friction, you must continue until the end or you will never see smoke. This is the kind of vigor you should have when casting off the coverings (see chapter three).

 The third is mindfulness; we’re not just talking about oneness of mind and body, or staying in the present moment, you should be mindful that the world is often deceptive and may be called base, while Buddhist practice is honorable and should be called noble. If you are an enlightened being, you can benefit so many more beings, so we remind ourselves, stay mindful!

The fourth is developing wisdom; worldly happiness is very little, but the suffering is very great. This ‘happiness’ taught by the world is false, deceptive and unreal therefore it has no value. Buddhist practice leads to wisdom and enlightenment, which is the end of suffering. Therefore, it has great value, so develop your wisdom through daily practice.

The fifth is single mindedness; you should see clearly that the world as it is must be called disastrous and horrible. Recognize that practice and wisdom are not only honorable and noble, but the very medicine that will change the world around you. Determine to persevere with your practice until peace and happiness exist everywhere on this planet.


Chapter Six


 When sitting in front of the Mandala, remain in the present moment. It is sometimes difficult to stay focused when chanting for an hour or more because your thoughts are disordered. Anchor your mind to the Gohonzon to prevent your mind from being scattered. Exert control if it is necessary. A sutra says, “As for the five sense faculties, the mind acts as their ruler. Therefore you should all skillfully control your minds.”

One means of skillful control is to realize truth. No matter what your mind dwells on, understand that everything is produced from causes and conditions and is therefore empty. One sutra reads, “Within each and every one of the dharmas, causes and conditions are empty, having no ruler. Put the mind to rest; penetrate to the original source. Based on this, one is referred to as a Shramana. (Shramana, you will remember is the title Nichiren used when refereeing to himself in the Gosho entitled “The Object of Devotion For Observing The Mind Established In The Fifth Five Hundred Year Period After The Thus Come One’s Passing.”)

No matter what your mind thinks of, realize that everything is empty in the present, the past has already been destroyed, and the future has not yet come. Search through these three regions until you see the emptiness. “The Treatise on The Awakening of Faith” states, “If the mind has run off and become scattered one should immediately draw it back in and establish it in right mindfulness.”

Be aware, though, that ‘right mindfulness’ is only mind. There is no external realm. Mind itself is devoid of any inherently existent characteristic. Gently direct your mind back to the Gohonzon, which is the teacher for all students of the Buddha way. Nichiren writes, “I am bestowing on you the Gohonzon of Myoho Renge Kyo. Though this Mandala is written in but five or seven characters it is the teacher of all Buddhas throughout the three existences…”

The truth contained in the Gohonzon is the truth that all Buddhas become enlightened to. If you are distracted by inherent desire, realize that this kind of thinking leads to impurity of mind which leads directly back to suffering. If you are distracted by hatred, focus your mind on loving-kindness. The sutra on Loving Kindness states, “Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill will wish harm upon another even as a mother protects with her life her child; her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.” (The complete text of this sutra is available upon request.)

Always return to the Gohonzon, no matter what the situation. In the morning when you get up, make a water offering and turn to the Gohonzon. At every opportunity during the day, turn to the Gohonzon. At night, after devoting appropriate time to study, turn to the Gohonzon before you sleep. This is so simple, isn’t it? It is good to talk about these things but it is even better to do it.  


Chapter Seven


If the practitioner is able in this manner to skillfully cultivate stopping and contemplation, going from a conventional understanding (I.E just hearing it, or reading it) to a realization of true emptiness he will show evidence of it. His body and mind will become bright and pure. What are the roots of this goodness? Giving to those around you who need it or making offerings to those who practice “The Lotus Sutra:” Practicing correct morality, being dutiful to your parents, respecting your seniors, making offerings to the three jewels, studying the teachings and daily practice. These are the roots of Goodness.

The practitioner will develop realizations on the things he needs to know to progress spiritually. If he honestly seeks then the answers will be where they can be easily found. The student will develop a mind of loving-kindness. He will not spend much time in the lower six realms, when he visits these realms he quickly returns to the higher states. He will devote his time to helping the beings around him.

He will study the doctrines of his teacher and then study other forms of Buddhism, mastering them all but practicing only the supreme way. He will become a teacher of the Law and be inclined to discuss or lecture on the many topics of Buddhism. Dharma Wisdom and joy is found in his mind and he does not think of worldly matters.

Furthermore, when the practitioner gains clarity and purity of mind and body, on account of cultivating stopping and contemplation, he will then experience signs related to impermanence, the non-existence of self, the emptiness of all things, suffering, impurity or the impurity of food. It states in a sutra, “If one controls the mind so that it abides in a single place, there is no endeavor which is not accomplished.”  


Chapter Eight: Demons!


In Sanskrit the term is ‘Mara,’ which can be re-rendered as ‘killer.’ Mara plunders the practitioners merit and destroys his wisdom. “Demons” are negative forces from inside or harmful forces from the outside.  Negative forces from inside are greed, hatred, laziness, ego, and so on, while outside negative forces are natural (assorted) disasters, or social (prevailing thoughts or customs that are harmful).

In Buddhist thought, gods and demons represent two opposite forces present in our Environment.  The positive side of the practitioner wants spiritual growth and development, but negative forces arise because of causes made in the past. These “Demons,” or negative forces, will be overcome with practice and study.

Outside negative forces can be any natural disaster fire, Flood, Earthquake, Hurricanes, or any thing that comes from the outside and harms you. More subtle, but just as deadly, are social forces which can be instilled in you from early childhood. It is important to remember the equality of all beings as taught in “The Lotus Sutra.” Nichiren wrote, “When one chants the Daimoku (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo) bearing in mind that there are no distinctions among those who embrace “The Lotus Sutra” then the blessing he gains will be equal to those of Shakyamuni Buddha.”

 To close chapter eight we examine these passages from the sutras:   “Desire is the foremost of Mara’s armies. Worry is the second. Hunger and thirst is the third army. Craving is the fourth. Sleepiness is the fifth of your armies. Fearfulness is the sixth. Doubt and remorse is the seventh army. Anger is the eighth. Offering and empty praises are the ninth. Prideful ness and arrogance are the tenth. Numerous armies such as these Subdue and bury the practitioner.” 

  “Using the power of practice and study, I “smash all of these armies of yours, “and after achieving the way of the Buddha “cross over all beings to liberation.”   You are the creator of your own difficulties, in every case; it is a matter of the practitioner bringing on calamity through the absence of wisdom. It is never a case of something being actually brought about by demons. If these demon states occur and re-occur then it is necessary to make your mind upright—Do not spare even your own physical life to do so. The practitioner must not be filled with fear or distress. 


Chapter Nine


 Chapter nine is entitled “The Treatment of Disorders” and deals with various health problems that arose among many new practitioners. Various causes are attributed to these assorted sufferings, but most of them were probably caused by poor conditions in the monastery. Many of these students came from wealthy and therefore reasonably healthy environments. If they came from the rural areas, where people did not live in close proximity to one another, the problem was probably worse.

Monks had small living areas, no privacy, poor sanitation, and the food was… meant to keep you alive. Many monks would kill nothing and most of them had various types of lice, which they refused to harm (many modern Asian monastics are the same way).

This is a recipe for illness, and it is small wonder that most students took time to adjust to their new surroundings.  


Chapter Ten


When the practitioner cultivates stopping and contemplation in this manner he may be able to realize that in every case all Dharmas arise from the mind and are empty because they are dependant on causes and conditions. This is the stopping achieved through the understanding of truth.

At such a time, you do not see any fruit of Buddhahood to be sought after nor do you find any beings to be to be delivered to liberation. This is moving from conventional reality, (just because you are ‘empty’ in nature does not mean that you are not here) to the contemplation of ultimate reality (the empty nature of everything.) If you stay in this state overlong, however, you fall into the category of ‘voice hearer’ or ‘Pratyekabuddha’ (people who live in the state of learning or realization.)

Generate a mind of compassion and remember that “The Lotus Sutra” teaches that there is no special path or vehicle for men of learning and realization. There is only one Buddha vehicle; so all spiritual practitioners are Bodhisattvas at some level of training. Bodhisattvas should have great compassion, but they also should remember that no definite and fixed nature can be found. A verse from “The Treatise On The Middle” reads, “All dharmas produced of causes and conditions, I declare them to be empty. They are also simply conventional designations and also embody the meaning of the Middle Way.”

If you abide in this contemplation then the powers of meditative absorption and wisdom will be equal. You will perceive the Buddha nature and become peacefully established in the great vehicle.

 “One practices the practice of the Thus Come One, One enters the room of the Buddha, dons the robe of the Buddha, and sits in the seat of the Thus Come One.”

Finally, Nichiren writes, “The great teacher Miao-Lo comments as follows: ‘Enlightenment has no separate entity, but is completely dependent on ignorance; and ignorance has no separate entity but is completely dependant on enlightenment”… “The Daichido Ron” says, “enlightenment and ignorance are not different things, not separate things. To understand this is what is called the Middle Way,”

Our Teacher writes: “The mind, the Buddha and all living things—these three things are without distinction.” And also “let it be known that the Buddha with the three thousand realms in a single moment of life is any living being in any of the realms of existence who manifests his inherent Buddhahood.” It is by means of the mind that all Buddhas gain liberation.

We would like to thank you for spending time with us today and remind you that Buddhist Information of America operates twenty-four hours every day of the year. We want to help you if we can. There is a huge library of material available, please feel free to use it. We study with people all over the United States and there is never any charge for any service from Buddhist Information of America.

In the Kansas City Area the phone number is (913) 722-0900. In the rest of the United States please call (800) 576-9212. Let’s take a moment to dedicate the merit for what we’ve accomplished here today.  Everything we do here we do for the sake of sentient beings. So, may all beings find peace! May all beings find happiness! May all beings find the path that leads to the end of suffering, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, May all beings benefit. Thank you so much.  


Buddhism: The Sutras For Lay People



     Modern Buddhist history begins with the teachings of a man called Shakyamuni Buddha (Shakyamuni is a title that means sage of the Shaka tribe). He is also known as Siddhartha Gautama. He lived at least 3000 years ago (some scholars say 3500) in Northern India (now Nepal).

Something never comes from nothing or there is never an effect without a corresponding cause. The Buddha taught this, he said, “Action makes joy and suffering. What has been makes what shall be.” This is recognized as a Universal Truth; Christian Thinker and writer Paul, in his letter to the Galatians wrote “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Plato states, in “The Republic,” “for all the unjust deeds that each man has ever done, and for all the men to whom he has done injustice, he pays the penalty in due course.” “The Egyptian Book Of The Dead” has a passage that reads, “…He bestoweth wickedness on him that worketh wickedness, and right and truth on he who worketh right and truth.”

Euripides wrote “ O Zeus, along the noiseless path thou treadest all mortal beings are guided in the way of Justice.” This Truth has seemed self-evident to great thinkers of all eras. Oral tradition tells us that there were six Buddhas before Shakyamuni. It’s possible that the echoes of those teachings can be found in the Brahman religion.

To understand Shakyamuni’s Buddhism it is helpful to know something of the beliefs held by the people around him, especially when you begin to study other sutras. No single teacher founded Brahmanism; rather, over a long period of time many teachers refined these concepts. This led to the existence of various schools; there were differences of course, some of them very subtle. All of these schools taught that the forces of nature were under the influence of deities or gods, and many different rituals were invented in an effort to win the approval or protection of these gods and hymns were composed to praise them.

Collections of these hymns, as well as incantations and sacrificial rites were called VEDAS and the priestly class memorized them. The Indian Sub-Continent was invaded from 1500, to 1200 BCE by groups who called themselves Aryan. All of the gods (other than Indra) recognized by this group were Aryan. The devils were the gods of the defeated people. The RIG VEDA (most famous of all the Vedas) is a re-telling of the victorious invasion of the Aryans and concerns itself with praising the gods who, they felt, made their victory possible.

 The fundamental, most basic reality was considered unchanging for eternity and was labeled Brahma. Individual self was called Atman (which means your own). This Atman was also eternal; body and mind would perish at death, but Atman was the very essence of life.

 The Philosophers of the various schools argued about the nature of reality and the relationship of the individual to ultimate reality. Some of these schools taught that cause led to effect, some claimed that cause and effect had no relationship and still others said that cause sometimes led to effect, but sometimes didn’t depending on the circumstances.

Most of these schools taught re-birth of some kind and all of them agreed that Brahma is the Atman, which is manifested in everything including individual self. So your Atman is exactly the same as Brahma and when the student realized this he is enlightened.

 Men who studied and mastered the Vedas teachings and rituals eventually became the priestly class (or Brahmans) and were the most important people in what became a very rigid chaste system. The other classes were: warriors, who held secular power and ran the country, but were under the Brahmans: commoners (ordinary people) who engaged in commerce, and menial laborers.

This was the society Shakyamuni was born into and he was very much a product of his environment. The teachings of Shakyamuni can be divided into two distinct categories: those which he taught to benefit specific individuals in order to help them overcome their suffering or problems (and the sutras in this category don’t apply to everyone, but when you find one that fits your type of mind, the results are very beneficial); the other category is a systematic approach for all students, that started with the four noble truths and ended with the teaching of “The Lotus Sutra.”

The problems and sufferings of people are numerous and so are the teachings Shakyamuni gave to counter them. Buddhism has been called the eighty thousand (or eighty four Thousand) teachings, but this is not meant to be a literal number. When Shakyamuni Attained enlightenment, the realization was profound and he could see that teaching others would be difficult. His solution was to teach his students in stages, and the system worked and still works beautifully.

First, he wanted to make the distinction between what Brahmanism taught and what he had realized very clear to his students. The Brahman message was that the practitioner should aim to unify his soul with the eternal unchanging soul that was the god Brahma. In contrast, Shakyamuni began his career by teaching the doctrines known as the lesser vehicle {of the many schools that taught the lesser vehicle (or Hinayana) only one survives—it is the Theravada school a small but active minority.}

These teachings introduce the Four Noble Truths:

1) The Noble Truth of Suffering

2) The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering

3) The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering

4) The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering

The Noble Eight Fold Path Is The Path Leading To The Cessation Of Suffering:

1       Right View

2       Right Intention

3       Right Speech

4       Right Action

5       Right Livelihood

6       Right Effort

7       Right Mindfulness

8       Right Concentration


These Teachings also introduce the concept of non-self (because you and everything else is impermanent and dependant on causes) and the Buddha also introduced students to the concept of Nirvana.

 These early teachings were intended to be a step in the right direction; away from the Brahman misconceptions they had been taught all their lives and toward a deeper understanding of the enlightenment Shakyamuni had realized. This is a process every student goes through, especially if they were not raised in the Buddhist Faith.

None of these teachings are wrong, all of them are true but they are not complete because his students were not capable enough to grasp what he intended to teach them. A good example of this lack of development is the fact that no one questioned whether these teachings were complete.

Think about it; if these teachings were complete why would Shakyamuni bother to teach anyone? Why didn’t he just peacefully contemplate things until he entered nirvana? Why did he take up the life long struggle to educate people? And it was a struggle. People tried to do unpleasant things to him, they tried to destroy his reputation, even tried to kill him. He could have avoided all of that, but… he didn’t. Why?

What is missing from these teachings we’ve been talking about? Every School of Buddhism teaches what we’ve talked about so far. The Theravada School never advances beyond these core teachings; in essence, they focus on the first few months of what was at least a forty-year teaching career.

As important as the analytical aspects of Buddhism are, as critical as it is for your individual happiness to properly understand emptiness (surely the greatest therapeutic concept ever devised), if you leave out compassion then the Buddha’s behavior is inexplicable, and you are missing the central message of Buddhism.

 The Buddha tells us: “always I am aware of which living beings practice the way, and which do not, and in response to their needs for salvation I preach various doctrines for them. At all times I think to myself: how can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?” So the reason Shakyamuni behaved the way he did is because he wanted to help people wake up, end their suffering, and attain Buddhahood.

Now, the Buddha had two types of students. They all sought enlightenment, but a small minority felt that the way must include ascetic practices (usually for reasons of purification).  The Buddha could see that that this kind of person needed a monastic environment to be successful and happy so he let his monks engage in very mild forms of asceticism.

In Japan there is a group called the FAS society. There is a Scholar connected with this society named Hisamatsu Shin’ichi who wrote: “We must now think about the meaning that lay Buddhism has at present, and for the future. I have been working on this problem for years, and it comes down to this: which is more important, monastic, or lay Buddhism? My conclusion is that for true Buddhism, it is lay Buddhism that is fundamental, monastic Buddhism being only one of its particular forms. Speaking in terms of universality, monastic Buddhism can only exist based on the universality of lay Buddhism. Thus I think that lay people now are necessary, not conventional Buddhist monks. Is it even possible, given the present situation, to maintain conventional monastic Buddhism? Looking to the future, monastic Buddhism should be disbanded; in fact it already is in the process of falling apart.”

I cannot agree completely because some students will never be happy unless they are in a monastic environment. The rest of us however seek happiness by grasping after what we perceive to be pleasure. Self-denial will not make our type of person happy at all. If the Buddha did not give teachings for lay people, Buddhism would have very limited value.

Less than two percent of the Buddhist world has been monastic, and that same two percent are the only ones who ever practiced quiet, sitting meditation. Not all monks found such practices suitable. In the U.S., for the first time in Buddhist history, more people than ever before are trying to do some form of monastic practice. What will the result be? No one knows because it has never been done before. Please remember, traditionally lay Buddhists in monastic systems remain poorly educated and are taught that supporting the monks and priests is the best way to acquire merit.

Well, we don’t want to remain ignorant! Charity without wisdom will not lead to a higher rebirth. Beware the person who preaches ignorance; he will always have some hidden and unpleasant agenda that ultimately will benefit no one. Ignorance is the enemy that we must blot completely from our lives and our world system. So don’t take my word for what I’ve been telling you. Maybe I’m wrong. Find out for yourself, because the only person who can save you is yourself.

We’ve talked a little about the Theravada teachings and we mentioned Nirvana. At this point in their education, monastics were aspiring to something called “The Phantom City,” which you will learn more about as you study “The Lotus Sutra.” (See “Inside The Lotus Sutra or The Thirty Teachings of Bodhisattva Kenny” at  

In brief “The Phantom City” is a place of rest for people on a long journey (the path to enlightenment).  The Guide (or teacher) sees that the traveler (student) is becoming tired and discouraged so he creates a “city” or place of rest, where the student can recover his lost energy.  In other words, the monastics longed for what they thought nirvana was.  They had a preconceived notion of what it must be like.  (Rather similar to the way Christians speculate on the nature of a “heaven.”) They understood that life is suffering (the first of the Four Noble Truths) but their solution was to escape from the system and live in this blissful state without any kind of suffering. These are the preparatory teachings for the Buddhas monastic followers.

During the lifetime of the Buddha no distinction was made between lay students and monastic followers. One way was not valued over another; they were clearly intended for different types of mind. While it’s true more lay people attained enlightenment, it’s also true that monastic students were a small minority. Approximately 300 years after the Buddha died monks and priests decided that they were somehow special. To be fair, they were preserving the teachings and monasteries did serve as universal centers of learning.

 But special soon became superior, a status that remains unchanged to this day. Oddly, nuns were never included in this superior group. A symptom of this problem is the fact that if you want to become a Buddhist monk or priest, there are many places you can go here in the U.S. We’ve helped young men looking for monasteries; all it took was a simple phone call. However becoming a Buddhist Nun is much more difficult. There is only one place in the entire country to send women.

 It is disgraceful, but in many Buddhist groups women are still second-class citizens. It should be made clear that this was never the Buddha’s intent. Any Group that follows “The Lotus Sutra” recognizes the equality of all beings.

 We’ve talked about monastic practices, but what did that Buddha teach most people? Lay people in those times worked many more hours than we do now, and they did not have endless time to devote to philosophical speculation.  A good example of a lay teaching deals with Amida Buddha. This Buddha appears in several preparatory Mahayana sutras (one of which is appropriately entitled “The Amida Sutra”). The Buddha Amida lived in the Western Pure Land. When he was still a Bodhisattva he swore an oath to save anybody who called his name. The only people he would not save were those who committed the five cardinal sins, or worse, slandered the True Law.

The five cardinal sins are:

1.) Killing your Father

2.) Killing your Mother

3.) Killing a Buddhist Saint

4.) Shedding the blood of a Buddha

5.) Destroying the Harmony of the Buddhist order.


A Pure Land is a place where there is no pain, no suffering, and a student can peacefully attain enlightenment without distraction. It is the same kind of fantasy heaven that the Monastics sought in Nirvana. The Elements that these preparatory teachings have in common is the idea:  change is inevitable, all things, including your ‘self’ are transitory and everything is dependent on causes.

None of these teachings were final or complete, but they did help teach people not to rely on temporary things of the world for happiness.  Interestingly, when the second historical Buddha, T’ien ’T’ai of China, taught new students, he started them on the Amida teachings.  After they abandoned their attachment to this world and began to long for Buddhahood he had them study, practice and recite “The Lotus Sutra.”

 The Early Mahayana sutras teach about Amida Buddha, or other Pure Lands.  The more advanced Mahayana Sutras tell students what and how to practice to develop spiritually and it is that very quality that makes them advanced.

 According to ancient Buddhist tradition (seen throughout Asia) Shakyamuni attained enlightenment at the age of thirty. However, a group of Western Buddhist Scholars have insisted that he was thirty-five. Whichever figures you decide are correct, the Buddha preached these doctrines for 30 or 40 years, before he announced that his students were ready—he would now teach the truth that he had realized so long ago.  For the last eight years of his life he would teach nothing but this truth.

This ultimate truth came to be known as “The Three-fold Lotus Sutra.” “The Lotus Sutra” was preached on a mountain called “Eagle Peak,” Northeast of a city called Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha.  The mountain was named “Eagle Peak” because it’s pinnacle was shaped like an eagle, and also because large numbers of eagles lived there.

 “The Threefold Lotus Sutra” begins with “The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings.” The Buddha is asked, “If a practitioner wants to accomplish perfect enlightenment quickly what doctrine should he practice?” The Buddha replies: “if you wish to attain enlightenment quickly you should practice the Doctrine of Innumerable Meanings. A bodhisattva, if he wants to learn and master the Doctrine of Innumerable meanings, should learn that all laws were originally, will be, and are in themselves void in nature and form; they are non-dualistic, just emptiness. All living beings however discriminate, falsely: it is this, or, it is that. They entertain evil thoughts, make various evil karmas and thus transmigrate… and cannot escape during “infinite” amounts of time.

 Buddhists observing rightly like this, should raise the mind of compassion, and display the great mercy of desiring to relieve others of suffering…” For thirty to forty years Shakyamuni taught people what they could understand (depending on their individual capacity or situation). Now he revealed that all these truths came from a single Law. If you live by this Law, read, recite it, and teach it to others than you can accomplish perfect enlightenment quickly. What was this Great Law?

Shakyamuni did not say that would come in the central text entitled “The Lotus Sutra,” which would be preached next. “The Lotus Sutra” begins by telling us that it is being preached in the same location as “The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings.”

Suddenly, the Buddha begins to preach. This is very unusual. In almost every case someone asked a question and then an answer was given.  It was usually the Buddha, who answered the question, but sometimes an advanced student would answer and the Buddha would show approval at the end. (A good example of this situation is “The Heart Sutra.”)  In this case however nobody knew what question to ask, so for one of the few times in his teaching career he simply began to preach.

 He began by saying “The Wisdom of the Buddhas is very profound and infinite. Their Wisdom School is difficult to understand and difficult to enter, men of learning or realization cannot understand it.  The True entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared by Buddhas.”

 What is this reality or “true entity” of everything? The Buddha says, “This reality consists of ten factors: 1.Appearance 2.Nature 3.Entity 4.Power 5.Influence 6.Inherent Cause 7.Relation 8.Latent Effect 9.Manifest Effect 10.Their Consistency From Beginning to End.” All of life’s functions are classified into ten states that we call the ‘Ten Worlds.’ {For more information please see “Eyes of Enlightenment.”}  These worlds are different from each other but all belong to the same entity (or person).  They are all manifestations of the same being.

The message is that there is an essential characteristic shared by all of the ten worlds and that characteristic is the Ten Factors.  The Buddha goes on to say that although Buddhas give various teachings to help people the one reason they appear in the world is to lead all beings to enlightenment.

 Chapter sixteen reveals that Shakyamuni did not become a Buddha for the first time in India. In fact, he attained enlightenment in the remote past. However, it is important to remember that it is the Law that saves people, not the Buddha. This Law is hidden in the depths of Chapter Sixteen. It is implied but never spoken. The student would understand it intuitively if he practiced and studied as he was taught. As long as a student was limited to using words to understand he would never progress past the fifty-first of the fifty-two stages of development. (The fifty-first was considered to be almost but not quite enlightenment). This final intuitive leap was made by the students of Shakyamuni’s period of the Law.

The Middle Period was under the guidance of Chinese teacher T’ien T’ai, his students had different needs, and he did some of that intuitive work for them with his brilliant analysis of “The Lotus Sutra’s” teaching but all of this was still very theoretical.  What, practically speaking, did a person have to do to attain Buddhahood?  Obviously, some intuitive leap was still necessary at the end. However the people in the Middle Day of the Law had different needs then we do. Their Karma was different but notice that the principles involved do not change. The people and their capacity change but the medicine of “The Lotus Sutra” never changed. It was the same at the beginning as it is now. These things are true, and they always will be true.

 So, Shakyamuni came at the beginning and taught this truth in an abstract way. T’ien T’ai showed up in the Middle Period of the Law and analyzed “it’s socks off” (as my son put it), but Nichiren, in the Latter Day of the Law, showed us the practical way for anyone to attain enlightenment with no intuitive leap necessary.  Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the Universal Law that anyone who ever became a Buddha has realized. “The Lotus Sutra” should be seen as a set of principles that the Buddhist student must master, but the most important thing to remember is that Shakyamuni emphasized the necessity of faith.  Even the most Brilliant of students gains entrance to this wisdom through the door of faith.

Why, because “the true entity of all phenomenon can only be understood by Buddhas.” Now, I’m not urging you to have some sort of blind trust. You develop Buddhist faith by doubting everything, and testing everything—questioning everything. Test this stuff over and over. If it’s real you can see it change your life. After a few years you will know, deep down, all the way through, that what you’re dealing with is reality—and that is the beginning of Buddhist Faith.

We are warned that disbelief and slander (or the opposite of faith) will lead to terrible suffering not only in this life but also in many lives to come. The famous fourteen slanders are a recipe for hellish suffering, and all of them stem from lack of faith.

The fourteen slanders appear in chapter 3 (“Simile and Parable”). They are

1) Haughtiness

2) Neglect

3) Self-Centeredness

4) Shallowness

5) Sensuality

6) Irrationality

7) Unbelief

8) Sullenness

9) Doubting

10) Slander

11) Scorning Goodness

12) Hating Goodness

13) Jealously of Goodness

14) Grudging Goodness

The point we do not want to miss is that we must continue to grow in knowledge and understanding of Buddhism or we are guilty of Shallowness (#4).  This is not talking about our interests or our personality, but is referring to the State of our understanding.

 In the Gosho entitled “On The Buddha’s Prophesy” Nichiren writes “The Great teacher Dengyo stated, ‘Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult.  To discard to shallow and seek the profound requires courage.’” We are also told “This Law-Flower Sutra greatly benefits the practitioner and enables them to reach perfect enlightenment.” And “therefore let his followers, after the Buddha’s extinction, on hearing a sutra such as this, not have doubt or perplexity.  But let them wholeheartedly Publish abroad this Sutra, and age-by-age meeting Buddhas, they will speedily accomplish the Buddha way.”

Before he died at age eighty, Shakyamuni stated, “Rely on the law and not on persons.” He also made a point of saying, “rely on those Sutras that are complete and final.” While study of other sutras is important to develop your knowledge and wisdom, practice of anything other than “The Lotus Sutra” in this period of the law is futile and does not match the intention of our Teacher.

Nichiren Writes in “On The Buddha’s Prophesy,” “In the Latter Day of the Law, there is no longer any benefit to be gained from either Mahayana or Hinayana.  Hinayana retains nothing but it’s teaching; it has neither practice nor proof.  Mahayana still has its teaching and practice but no longer provides any benefit whatsoever, either conspicuous or inconspicuous.

 Furthermore, the sects of Hinayana and provisional Mahayana established during the Former and Middle Days of the Law cling all the more stubbornly to their doctrines as they enter the Latter Day.  Those who espouse Hinayana reject Mahayana, and those who espouse provisional teachings attack the True teachings, until the country is overran with people who slander.  Those who fall into the evil paths because of their mistaken practice of Buddhism outnumber the dust particles that comprise the Earth.  While those who attain Buddhahood by practicing the true teachings are fewer than the dust specks you can hold on a fingernail.”

The final part of “The Three-Fold Lotus Sutra” is “The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue.” It was taught later, at the assembly hall in the great forest monastery. The central theme is repentance, but other topics are dealt with as well.

 For example “the Bodhisattva practice is not to cut off defilement, nor to abide in the ocean of defilement.  In meditating on one’s mind, there is no mind one can seize except the mind that comes from one’s perverted thought.  The mind presenting such a form rises from one’s false imagination like wind in the sky, which has no foothold.  Such a form of the law neither disappears nor appears.  What is Sin?  What is Blessedness?  As one’s own mind is void of itself, sin and blessedness have no existence.  In like manner all the laws are neither fixed nor going towards destruction.  If one repents like this, meditating on his mind, there is no mind he can seize.”

 If we ignore all the teachings before “The Lotus Sutra” that deals with emptiness, we still cannot help but notice that the introductory Sutra “Innumerable Meanings” says: “A Bodhisattva… should observe that all laws… are empty of form.” “The Lotus Sutra” says, “Next, the Bodhisattva… should view all phenomenon as empty, that being their true entity.”

The concluding Sutra tells us “Mind is void of itself…” The Buddha went to great lengths to make certain we would not miss this message.  If you do not have an understanding of emptiness, make that a goal for yourself.  Sit in front of the Gohonzon and make a determination that you will continue to make efforts to understand emptiness as taught by the Buddhas.  When you do begin to have realizations on void the pay-off is a huge drop in suffering that gets better as you practice.

“The Three Fold Lotus Sutra” concludes with the Buddha telling us to constantly have right mind, not to slander the three treasures, nor hinder or persecute anyone practicing correct conduct. We are told again to remember the doctrines of the Sutras and the principle of void. We’re reminded to repay the debt we owe to our parents and to believe deeply in cause and effect, to have faith in the way of one reality, and to know that the Buddha is never extinct. “If in Future worlds, there be any who practice these laws of repentance, know that such a man has put on the robes of Shame, is protected and held by the Buddhas, and will attain perfect enlightenment before long.  This ends “The Lotus Sutra.” We’ll take a break and be back in a few minutes.


 (15 minutes pass)


“The Vimalakirti Sutra” is widely available in a number of translations.  I will be using the excellent version put out by Burton Watson (from Colombian University Press) but I also used a version translated by Vern Barnet, who is a local Scholar.

The Vimalakirti Sutra is the second most widely read Mahayana Sutra.  “Vimala” means “defilement free” or “Pure.”  “Kirti” means “Renowned” or “Praised,” so Vimalakirti is usually translated as “Renowned for Purity” or ”Praised for Freedom From Defilement.”  The central message of this sutra is that you can live a normal life in society and still practice Buddhism.  In fact, since Vimalakirti had the highest realization of all Shakyamuni’s disciples, you could say that lay practice was superior to monastic practice because it allows you to interact with many more people, most of whom would never show up at a monastery to ask questions.

Chapter One is entitled “Buddha Lands”; The Location given was the Arma Gardens (Mango Gardens) in the city of Vaisali.  Three paragraphs into the text you see: “They had learned to accept the fact that there is nothing to be grasped at, no view of phenomenon to be entertained.”  So we’re right back to one of the most important teachings in Buddhism, emptiness.  The Fifth paragraph opens with: “They had plumbed the depths of dependent origination and cut off all erroneous views, no longer entertaining the concepts of either being or non-being.”

 I always thought that this Sutra just beats to death the concept of emptiness, it is talked about all through the text, but recently I was working with a young man who couldn’t grasp the idea of emptiness, he just jumped around to different views, all of them wrong, and then he settled into this Nihilistic viewpoint, “If everything is empty then it doesn’t matter what I do!” He was at that point worse off than he was before we started; I worked with him on the “Diamond Sutra,” and went through the “Heart Sutra” with him over and over again, until he finally demanded that we move onto a different topic.  We started on the “Vimalakirti Sutra” and before he had finished side one of tape one, he called me and started explaining emptiness to me!

He’s the only person who’s done that but if we studied “The Vimalakirti Sutra” earlier more people might have the same experience.  Even though emptiness (or Void) is mentioned in chapter one the main theme is, what are Buddha Lands and how do we acquire them?  Remember that the students have spent time learning the early teachings and want to attain some kind of heaven realm, either the Eastern or Western Pure Land or the monastic “Nirvana.”  The Buddha said: “The various kinds of living beings are in themselves the Buddha lands of the Bodhisattvas.  Why So? Because it is by converting various beings to the teachings that the Bodhisattvas acquire their Buddha lands.  Why is this, because the Bodhisattva’s acquisition of a Pure Land is wholly due to his having brought benefit to living beings!  You should understand that an upright mind is the Pure Land of the Bodhisattva.”

So the Pure Land is right here and the way to acquire it is to develop yourself to your fullest potential: to wake up and view things the way they really are.  The Buddha stated, “Therefore, if the Bodhisattva wishes to acquire a Pure Land, he must purify his mind.  When the mind is pure, the Buddha land will be pure.”  He adds: “It is the failings of living beings that prevent them from seeing the marvelous purity of the land of the Buddha. This land of mine is pure, but you fail to see it.”

At the end of the chapter we find: “It is just that your mind has highs and lows and does not rest on Buddha wisdom, therefore, you see this land as impure.”  In other words you spend your time in the lower six worlds and cannot see reality.  If you base your life on Buddha wisdom, or spend you time in the upper four worlds, you will then see the true “such-ness” of things.  You will not view the world dualistically and therefore you will lose a great deal of mental suffering.

 Chapter Two is entitled “Expedient Means,” and it is here we meet Vimalakirti.  He is a layman and a master of using expedient means to benefit the people around him.  One of these expedient means is to appear sick so that people come to visit him, which gives him the opportunity to teach the dharma.

We read: “good people, this body is impermanent, a thing that decays in a moment, not to be relied on. No person of enlightened wisdom could depend on a thing like this body. This body is like a cluster of foam, nothing you can grasp at or handle, this body is like a bubble that cannot continue for long, this body is like a flame born of longing and desire, this body is like a dream, compounded of false and empty visions, this body is like a shadow, appearing through karma causes, this body is like lightning, barely lasting from moment to moment.

Good people, a thing like this is irksome and hateful, and therefore you should seek a Buddha body.  This body is born of the cutting off of all things not good and the gathering of all good things, born of truth, born of the avoidance of indulgence and laxity.  The body of the Buddha is born of immeasurable numbers of pure and spotless things such as these.

If you wish to gain the Buddha body and do away with the ills that afflict all living beings, then you must set your minds on attaining perfect enlightenment.” The chapter ends by saying that numberless thousands of persons all set their minds on attaining perfect enlightenment.

Chapter Three (“The Disciples”) and Chapter 4 (“The Bodhisattvas”) must be the two strangest chapters recorded anywhere in the sutras.  The Buddha wants to send a disciple (in chapter 3) to enquire about Vimalakirti ’s health, but all of them refuse, because they do not have a great enough understanding of the teachings to answer his criticisms, even though the most famous of the disciples are asked.  Shariputra, the foremost in knowledge among the monastic students, Maudgalyana, Mahakashyapa, Subhuti, Purna, Maha Katyayana, Aniruddha, Upali, Rahula, and Ánanda, a veritable “Who’s Who” of famous Buddhist disciples, all felt that they were not competent enough to visit Vimalakirti, and enquire about his illness.

Chapter Four sees the Buddha still trying to find someone willing to visit Vimalakirti.  He turns to the Bodhisattvas because they have the highest realizations of all his students.  He asks Maitreya, who refuses, he then asks “Shining Adornment,” “Upholder Of The Age,” and “Good Virtue,” who also feel unequal to the task.

 In chapter Five he says to Manjushri, you must go visit Vimalakirti, and enquire about his illness.  Manjushri replies “World Honored One, that eminent man is very difficult to confront.  He is profoundly enlightened in the true nature of reality, and skilled at preaching the essentials of the law—his eloquence never falters, his wisdom is free of impediments, he understands all the rules of Bodhisattva conduct, and nothing in the secret storehouse of the Buddhas is beyond his grasp, he has overcome the host of devils and disports himself with transcendental powers—in wisdom and expedient means he has mastered all there is to know, nevertheless I will go visit him, and enquire about his illness.”

The word spreads quickly; Manjushri and Vimalakirti will be talking together!  So eight thousand Bodhisattvas, five hundred monastic students, and hundreds of thousand of heavenly beings decide to drop everything they’re doing and accompany Manjushri on his visit.

 When they arrive, Manjushri asks about his illness and Vimalakirti spends the rest of the chapter giving a discourse on sickness.  He says: “this illness of mine is born of ignorance and attachment, because all living beings are sick, I too am sick.  If all living beings are relieved of sickness, then my sickness will be mended.  Why, because the Bodhisattva for the sake of living beings enters the realm of birth and death, and because he is in the realm of birth and death he suffers illness.

If living beings can gain release from illness, then the Bodhisattva will no longer be ill.”  He goes on to say that the origin of illness is dualistic thinking. Rid yourself of the concept “I” and “mine” and do not see things as internal or external, treat all as equal, because everything is empty.  Everything is empty because everything is dependent on causes and conditions.

Chapter Six is unusual because of the humorous events that take place when Vimalakirti calls up 32,000 giant chairs, which handily fit into his sick room.  Shariputra and the other monastic students cannot figure out how to sit in them.  This is a symbolic way of saying that these monastics (also called voice hearer’s) did not understand the message of the Buddha.  They were still attached to the provisional teachings, which were only meant as a starting place. The Buddha rebuked them over and over in numerous sutras but still they remained attached to their concept of nirvana.  They wanted out of this Saha world system—they wanted paradise. 

These monastic students were convinced that they could never attain enlightenment. Even the Buddha told them that they would never attain enlightenment because he was trying to get them to wake up from their self-centeredness.  In this chapter, one voice hearer, speaking to another, says: “When we voice hearers hear this doctrine we are all incapable of understanding it. When voice hearers hear this doctrine they will surely all cry out in anguish in voices loud enough to shake the whole thousand million-fold world.” 

This “Vimalakirti Sutra” was taught before “The Lotus Sutra.”  One of the main themes of “The Lotus Sutra” is that there is not three types of students nor are there separate teachings for them.  There is only one teaching, one Buddha vehicle.  It was in “The Lotus Sutra” that Shakyamuni made predictions of Buddhahood for these monastic students, because they realized that they didn’t have to remain voice hearers.  If they developed compassion for others that was greater than the love they had for themselves, then they were Bodhisattvas.

Shariputra has always been a hero of mine so I rejoiced when I read: “Shariputra in ages to come you will become a Buddha bearing the name “Flower Glow” and you will save countless multitudes.”

Chapter Seven deals with compassion. The chapter is entitled “Regarding Living Beings,” and is concerned with how Bodhisattvas should regard other people. The text states: “He treats them with a compassion that never despairs, seeing that all is empty and without ego.  He treats them with the compassion of forbearance, guarding both others and self; treats them with the compassion of wisdom, which always knows the right time,” This is very important to understand.

The right time means to know what era of the law you are living in.  Since we are in the latter day of the law practices designed for the Early and Middle Days of the Law will not help you.   They do not work anymore because they were fashioned for different kinds of people.  The text continues: “he treats them with a compassion that is unerring, innocent of falsity and sham; treats them with a compassion full of peace and delight.  For through it they gain the delight of the Buddha.  Such is the compassion of the Bodhisattva.”

This chapter is mostly remembered for the incident that happens near the end.  Shariputra is having a conversation with a goddess, who claims to have been living in the room invisibly for twelve years!  This goddess is so knowledgeable about the Buddha’s teachings that Shariputra wonders why she still has a female body.  To convince him that gender is not important, she becomes male, and he becomes female.

“The Lotus Sutra” would be taught in a few months and the Buddha would reveal to his students at that time that having this sort of prejudice against women leads to suffering.  The “Devadatta” chapter deals with a woman who attains enlightenment in the time it takes her to hand a jewel to the Buddha. Chapter thirteen predicts enlightenment for female followers!

 In spite of this fact the typical Indian male considered women “soiled and defiled.”  This kind of nonsense has gone on for centuries.

 However, unless embryonic tissue receives other signals, the tissue that forms the external genitalia will always form itself into female structures in the first trimester.  More importantly, since life is eternal we have taken many forms, some were male, some were female, and some were forms that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Chapter Eight ‘beats up’ on the voice hearers again.  Statements like “when common mortals hear the Buddha law, he can set his mind on the unsurpassed way.  But the voice hearer may hear the Buddhas law to the end of his life and yet never be capable of rousing in himself an aspiration for the unsurpassed way” Why?  Again, because they are thinking only of themselves, the only thing keeping them from the Bodhisattva way is their lack of compassion and understanding.

Chapter Nine is called “entering the gate of non-dualism.”  Vimalakirti and the other Bodhisattvas present their explanation of non-dualism, as each one understands it.  We read “‘I’ and ‘mine’ form a dualism.  Because there is and ‘I’ there is also a ‘mine.’ But if there is no ‘I’ there will be no ‘mine.’  In this way one enters the gate of non-dualism.”

Another Bodhisattva named “Dharma Freedom” said: “birth and death form a dualism.  But since all dharmas are not born to begin with, they must now be without death.  By grasping and learning to accept this truth of birth-less-ness, one may enter the gate of non-dualism.”

There are more than twenty-five definitions of non-dualism, one for each Bodhisattva present.  Finally they turn to Vimalakirti and say “each of us has given an explanation, now it is your turn to speak.  How does the Bodhisattva enter the gate of Non-Dualism?”

And Vimalakirti remained silent.  Manjushri sighed and said “excellent, excellent.  Not a word, not a syllable, this is truly to enter the gate of non-dualism.”

Chapter Ten has Vimalakirti sending a phantom body to another world to get food for his visitors.  This is a world were no one has heard of the lesser vehicle teachings so again, the monastic students not understanding the advanced teachings of the Mahayana is the point of the story.  The chapter ends with the eight methods that Bodhisattvas carry out to attain enlightenment.

1) The Bodhisattva must enrich and benefit living beings, but look for no recompense.

2) The Bodhisattva must take upon himself the sufferings of all living beings, and give the merit to them as a gift.

3) The Bodhisattva must be like other living beings in mind, humbling him self, descending to their level, erecting no barriers.

4) The Bodhisattva must regard other Bodhisattvas as though they were Buddhas.

5) When the Bodhisattva hears a sutra he has never heard before, he must not doubt it, and he shall not dispute with the voice hearers.

6) The Bodhisattva must not envy the alms given to others, nor boast of his own gains.

7) The Bodhisattva must constantly examine and repair his own faults, and not censure the shortcomings of others.

8)  The Bodhisattva must at all times strive to acquire merit.  

 The presence of these practical instructions lifts “The Vimalakirti Sutra” into a higher Mahayana classification and makes it a more important teaching.

Chapter Eleven has Vimalakirti and thousands of visitors join with the Buddha in the mango grove.  The Buddha offers a teaching called the “Exhaustible and Inexhaustible Emancipation,” which makes up the rest of the chapter.

We read: “The student should study and practice the teachings on emptiness, but not take emptiness to be enlightenment.”  You should “view all things as impermanent, but not neglect the roots of goodness and view the world as marked by suffering, but not hate to be born and die in it.  See that there is no permanent ego, but be tireless when instructing others.  Also please embrace the view of emptiness and nothing-ness, but do not discard your great pity.”

Chapter Twelve begins with a classic definition of emptiness, which fits on only two pages—fairly compact but not up to the standards of “The Heart Sutra.”  Then a Pure Land is brought from far away and placed on the ground of this world.  This Pure Land represents Vimalakirti ’s state of realization so it does not change in size and neither does our Saha world.

 This is a symbolic way of saying that the Pure Land is here and now.  If your life condition is in the top four worlds and you practice and study then you are building, or have built, a Buddhist Pure Land.

When enough of these Pure Lands come together on our world then Kosen Rufu is established.  The Buddha says: “if Bodhisattva wish to acquire a land as pure as Vimalakirti ‘s they should study and practice the way taught by the Buddhas.”

Chapter Thirteen is entitled the “offering of the law.”  The offering of the Law is the finest offering you can make, because it literally is the gift that keeps on giving.  Teaching someone the Law will benefit him or her in lifetime after lifetime because your mental development is the only thing that goes with you to the next life.  “The Buddha said, ‘Good man, the offering of the Law means the profound sutras preached by the Buddhas.  The sutras enable living beings to sit in the place of practice and turn the wheel of the Law.  Relying on the principle of the true nature of all phenomena, they clearly set forth the doctrines of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, no ego, and tranquil extinction.”

 “The sutras enable you to practice as the law directs, to set aside erroneous views, and to realize that there is no ego, and no disputing the law of cause and effect.  They teach you to rely on meaning, not on words, to rely on wisdom and not on consciousness.  The offering of the law is without equal; therefore you should use this offering of the Law as your offering to the Buddha.

The final chapter is called “Entrustment” because the Buddha told the Bodhisattvas present to spread these teachings so that people like us can learn and set our minds on attaining enlightenment.  This chapter warns that there are two attitudes that keep you from grasping these teachings.  The first is a person who, hearing this sutra for the first time, is alarmed or frightened.  Giving way to doubt they slander the sutra, saying “I never heard this before!  Where does it come from?”

 The second is a person who treats practitioners badly and “at times may even speak of their faults before others.”  Slander of fellow Buddhist students is one of the worst acts you can commit.  This sutra says “you do injury to yourself and cannot train your mind to accept the profound teachings of the Buddha.” This concludes our study of “The Vimalakirti Sutra.”

Before we finish we should briefly look at the final teaching of the Buddha. “The Maha Parinibbána Sutra” was taught on the last day of the Buddha’s life.  He said “therefore, Ánanda, you should live as islands unto yourselves, being your own refuge, with no one else as your refuge, with the dharma as your refuge, with no other refuge.”  Or, rely on the law, not on persons.  The final words of the Buddha were “I declare to you, all conditioned things are of a nature to decay—strive on untiringly.”

This concludes our series on “Dharma For Laypeople.” If you are interested in the other parts of this series “Eyes of Enlightenment,” The Life of the Buddha”, and “The Life of Nichiren” they are freely available from Buddhist Information of North America.

 The “Wisdom of Ani” reads, “I pray thee to set before thyself the path that must be traversed.”  This series has set before you the path; please continue to follow it until Kosen Rufu is established, not just here but universally.  I would like to thank you for spending your time with us today, please be grateful to the people behind the scenes who make all this possible.

 Buddhist Information of North America operates twenty-four hours, every day of the year. We will help you find a practice in the area you live in, and we make informational tapes on numerous Buddhist subjects. We want to help if we can. There is never any charge from Buddhist Information and we do not accept donations. There are many places in your area that do need your support, so please help your local Dharma centers. We can be reached at (913) 722-0900 in the Kansas City area and at (800) 576-9212 in the rest of the North America.

We would like to dedicate the merit that we have attained here for the benefit of all beings everywhere. May all beings find peace and happiness and the path that leads directly to nirvana, Nam-Myoho-Renge Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge Kyo, may all beings benefit. Thank You.




Glossary Of Buddhist Terms



 Abhidharma: One of the three baskets of the Tripitaka

Agama Sutras: The teachings Shakyamuni taught that deal with the four noble truths, the eightfold path, and other introductory concepts.  (See chapter One)

Ajatashatru: King of the state of Magadha.  He murdered his father (King Bimbisara) to ascend to the throne.  He later repented of his evil ways and became a devoted follower of the Buddha.  

Amida: The Buddha who resides in the Western Pure Land.

Anagamin/Anagami: A ‘non-Returner’ (the third stage of holiness in the Theravada tradition.)

Anattá: ‘No self’

Anicca: Impermanence

Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi: Supreme perfect enlightenment.

Arahant: (Also called ‘Arhat’)“One who is worthy of respect,” the highest stage arrived at by Theravada practitioners.

Asura: Angry demon or demigod.  They were a kind of powerful Titan (or giant) who used powerful magic and often fought with the Devas.  They appear in every Indian religion.  They rejected truth and embraced falsehood.

Avichi: The Hell of constant suffering, you must commit at least one of the five cardinal sins to arrive in this state.

Bardo: (also called Ku) the state of in-between where you gather energy until life can be resumed.  What you experience depends on the life condition you died in, for example, those in the world of hell will suffer anguish, and those in the world of Bodhisattva will experience bliss.

Bhikkhu: Monk

Bhikkhuní: Nun

Bodhi: Enlightenment

Bodhi Tree: Also called Pipal tree, the kind of tree Shakyamuni sat under attain to attain enlightenment.

Bodhicitta: The mind of enlightenment.

Bodhisattva: One who desires to attain the state of Buddhahood and lives in the world of compassion.

Bodhisattvas of the Earth:  The Bodhisattvas who appear in “The Lotus Sutra” and vow to propagate these teachings in the latter day of the Law.  Any person who chants Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is a Bodhisattva of the Earth but we usually refer to ourselves as followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth as an act of humility.

Bon: The native religion of Tibet before the introduction of Buddhism.

Brahma: a protective deity

Brahma Practices:  Religious practices that are done for the right reason.

Buddha: A fully awakened being.

Butsudan:  (Japanese) A Buddhist Altar containing the Mandala called the ’Gohonzon.’

Chandala: the lowest class in Indian society, they were considered ‘untouchable’ because they were undertakers, butchers, or fishermen.  Anything job that involved killing were left to this class.

Chih-i: (also called the great teacher T’ien T’ai) The Buddha of the Middle Period of the Law.  The Middle period is also called the ‘Counterfeit Period of the Law’.

Chunda: A blacksmith who offered a meal to Shakyamuni.  The meal proved to be his last because he died shortly after eating it.  However, the meal was offered in sincerity, there was nothing wrong with the food.  Shakyamuni made it clear that Chunda did not poison him or serve him spoiled food.

Circumambulation: A walking meditation around some holy object, usually a stupa or Buddhist statue.

Daimoku: The title of “The Lotus Sutra.”  To chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Dainichi: See Maha Vairochana

Daishonin: Great Sage or wise man.

Dakini: A female spirit who supports Dharma practitioners.

Dana: a gift or offering freely given (charity)

Dengyo: The great teacher Saicho was the founder of the T’ien T’ai sect in Japan, which came to be called the Tendai sect.

Deva: There were hundreds of these Indian gods.  They are said to have created the Asuras, who almost immediately revolted.  According to Indian mythology, this set off a war that is still going on to this day.

Devadatta: A cousin of Shakyamuni who at first was a follower but later became an enemy.  He tried to kill Shakyamuni and also created a schism in the Sangha.  In spite of this behavior, he had also served as a teacher of Shakyamuni in a past life, and in chapter twelve of “The Lotus Sutra” he received a prediction of enlightenment.  He is destined to become the Buddha “Heavenly King.”

Dhamma/Dharma: Dhamma to Theravadin practitioners, Dharma to the rest of us the word has numerous meanings.  It means the Buddhas teaching, Law or truth.

Dharmakaya: The mind of any Buddha.

Dharani:  a memorized phrase, sometimes a mantra, which is used to protect against negative forces.  A student pronounces Dharanis every day in the Gongyo ceremony.

Dozen Bo: The priest who first taught Nichiren when he was young.

Dragon King’s daughter: The dragons supposedly live on the ocean floor.  The dragon king’s daughter attained enlightenment in chapter twelve of “The Lotus Sutra.”  A recent interesting theory suggests that she was a dolphin.

Dukkha: usually translated as ‘suffering,’ it also means impermanence and that which is unsatisfactory.

Eagle Peak: (Also called ‘vulture peak’) the mountain in India where Shakyamuni taught “The Lotus Sutra.”

Esoteric Teachings: Secret teachings that are given to selected students only after they have been initiated.

Essential Teachings: The final thirteen and one half chapters of “The Lotus Sutra.”

Exoteric teachings: Teachings that are freely given to anyone who is interested.

Five cardinal sins: The worst transgressions possible.  They are:  Killing your father, killing your mother, killing an Arhat (see above), injuring a Buddha, and bringing about disunity in the Sangha.

Flower Garland Sutra: The first teaching of the Buddha, which he preached right after his enlightenment.  Seeing that none of his followers understood what he was talking about, he preached what are called the Agama Sutras.

Four noble truths: The first teachings from the Agama Sutras.  They are explained in chapter one under the heading “monastic teachings.”

Fourteen Slanders: Fourteen attitudes you should avoid as a Buddhist practitioner.  They are:  Shallow understanding, and I list this first because if you do not study you cannot grow in your understanding of the Dharma.  Not growing is a serious form of slander.  Arrogance, negligence, wrong understanding of the concept of ‘self,’ improper attachment, ignorance, not having faith, scowling or ‘making faces’ at others, having unresolved doubts, slandering, despising, hating, envying and bearing grudges.

Garuda: A giant Bird who eats dragons.  Some Indian deities rode them.

Gandharva: Part man, part horse, (similar to the Greek Centaur) they were adept in the use of musical instruments.

Geshe: The equivalent of a Doctor of Philosophy in Tibetan Buddhism.

Ghee: The highest grade of clarified butter.  Ghee was often used as an example of something that was the finest or best it could possibly be.

Gohonzon: The Mandala created by Nichiren and offered to the human race as the best means of manifesting your Buddha nature in the latter day of the law.  Never seek this Gohonzon outside of yourself!  You are the Buddha whose nature is manifested when you use this tool.

Gosho:  literally, ‘honored writings,’ this title is applied only to the writings of Nichiren.

Great teacher: A title given to enlightened teachers in China and Japan, usually after their death.

Grdhrakuta: A mountain in India also called “Eagle Peak”

Guru: A Dharma teacher in the Tibetan tradition.

Heart Sutra: An amazingly concise stating of the teachings known as ‘The Wisdom Sutras’ that deals with the emptiness of all phenomena.

Himyo Hoben: The highest level of the Buddhas teaching.

Hinyaya: The early teachings of the Buddha, which aims at achieving the state of arhat.  The word literally means “lesser vehicle’ and is not often used because it is seen as derogatory.  These teachings are usually called Theravada.

Hoyo Hoben: To match teachings to the capacity of a student’s ability.  These are the beginning teachings of the Buddha.

Hungry Ghosts: People who live in the world of hunger.  Early teachings were misunderstood and Shakyamuni’s students thought that the ten worlds were actually places you would be re-born into.

Icchantika: A person possessed of incurable disbelief who has no desire to attain Buddhahood.

Ichinen Sanzen: Three thousand-life conditions in one thought moment. (see Chapter two)

Indra: A swashbuckling god, known for destroying demons and getting drunk.  His chariot was the sun and his usual weapon of choice was the thunderbolt.  He is also known as Shakra.

Itai Doshin: (Japanese) To be many in body but one in mind.  Any Sangha needs Itai Doshin to function properly.

Jambudvipa: the entire human world.

Kalpa: Approximately sixteen million years.

Kalavinka: A bird with a beautiful voice.

Karma/Kamma: (Kamma is Theravada) means action.  The result you receive is based on your intention.

Kimnara: A heavenly being with a beautiful voice that protects Dharma practitioners.

Khandha: The component parts that make up sensory perception: Physical perception, feelings, concepts or labels, mental formations and sensory consciousness.

Kosen Rufu:  Kosen Rufu means world peace but it also means that we want the world we live in to be a Buddhist Pure Land where all people are concerned with spiritual development.

Ku: (Also called Bardo in Tibetan Buddhism) the state of in-between where you gather energy until life can be resumed.  What you experience depends on the life condition you died in, for example, those in the world of hell will suffer anguish, and those in the world of Bodhisattva will experience bliss.


Kumarajiva:  (see chapter Five) a remarkable scholar who translated numerous sutras into Chinese.

Kyochi Myogo: To fuse reality with wisdom.  If you do not Kyochi Myogo with your mattress and pillow, for example, you cannot sleep at night.

Latter Day of the Law: The last of the three periods that exist after a Buddha dies.

Lama: A spiritual teacher in the Tibetan tradition.

Lion throne: Any seat a Buddha uses to teach Dharma.

Mahasattva: A great being.

Maha Vairochana/Dainichi: A Buddha mentioned in several sutras, worshipped by esoteric practitioners.

Mahayana: The greater vehicle teachings of the Buddha.

Mahoraga: A deity with the head of a snake who protects Buddhists.

Major writings: The five major works of Nichiren Daishonin.  They are: “On Establishing The Correct Teaching For The Peace Of The land,” “The Opening Of The Eyes,” “The Object Of Devotion For Observing The Mind,” “The Selection Of The Time,” and “On Repaying debts Of Gratitude.”

Mandarava flower: A legendary flower that only grows in the heaven realms.

Maitreya: (Also called ‘Ajita’) He is the Bodhisattva that will take Shakyamuni’s place in this world as the next Buddha some five and a half million years from now.

Mandala: An object of focus, which allows the practitioner to naturally produce a state of Buddhahood.

Mano: The seventh level of consciousness that we incorrectly identify as ‘self.’

Mantra: a phrase that is repeated as a means of producing the state of samadhi.  A mantra works because it is based on truth.

Mara: This is the negative force present in all of us, which must be overcome if we are to advance in spiritual practice.

Mettá: Loving kindness

Mudra:  A mystic hand gestures used in esoteric Buddhism.

Mystic Law: The ultimate Law that runs the universe expressed by Nichiren as Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Naga: A half man, half snake, this beast lives deep under water.

Nayuta: An inexpressibly large number.

Nembutsu: A Japanese form of Buddhism that focuses on Amida Buddha.

Nirvana: The attainment of enlightenment.  When you become enlightened you no longer suffer while living in the world and that is the real nirvana taught by the Buddha.

Nirvana Sutra: The final teaching of the Buddha given on the day he died.

Notsu Hoben: The middle level Mahayana teachings that emphasize Bodhisattva endeavors.

Paramita: These are practices performed by Bodhisattvas, they are usually listed as the six paramitas, but often the list is expanded to ten.  They are: charity, keeping the precepts, forbearance, diligence in practice, meditation, wisdom, to be able to teach by the use of expedient means, keeping your vows, knowledge, and the development of spiritual power.

Pratyekabuddha: One who understands cause and effect, also someone who understands the true nature of things by observing the natural environment.

Preta: A hungry ghost (see hungry ghost)

Pure Land: A land free from impurities. To live in a Buddhist Pure Land you must elevate your life condition and see things the way they really are.

Rajagriha:  The capitol city of the kingdom of Magadha.

Rakshasa: An evil demon with up to twenty heads and one thousand arms.

Rigpa:  A Tibetan word that means perfect, pure awareness.

Rupa: physical phenomena

Saddharma-Pundarika Sutra: The title of “The Lotus Sutra” in Sanskrit.  “The Lotus Sutra” is the most widely studied text in the Buddhist world.

Saha world: The word means “endurance.”  The Saha world is often called Samsara.  The Saha world is the world we live in now.

Sal Trees: A kind of tree that grows in India.  Shakyamuni died in a grove of Sal trees.

Samádhi: An intense state of concentration that generates first, a state of temporary bliss and then inner peace and tranquility.

Samatha: serenity, peacefulness, this is a synonym for Samádhi.

Sangha: All followers of the teachings of the Buddha.

Sankhárá: Mental formations.

Sañña: Concepts or labels

Seicho-ji Temple:  A temple in Awa Province where Nichiren studied as a young man.

Shakubuku: To strictly refute someone’s incorrect views concerning the teachings of the Buddha.

Shoju:  A method of gradually leading others away from incorrect views.

Shoten Zenjin: The forces that protect Buddhist practitioners.

Shramana: One who leaves worldly cares and becomes a monastic seeker of the way.

Shravasti: The capitol city of Kosala in ancient India.

Srotaapanna: A follower who has reached the level of ‘stream enterer.’  A ‘stream enterer’ is a person who will never regress back to the six lower worlds; he will continue to live in the upper worlds until he attains Buddhahood.

Sumeru: (Also known as Mount Sumeru) According to Indian mythology, Mount Sumeru stands at the center of the world.

Stupa: a container that holds the ashes of some highly realized being.

Sutra: A teaching or book

Tala Trees: A type of palm tree.

Tathágata: An honorific title of a Buddha.

Tantra: Secret teachings based on later Hindu practices.

Tendai School: The T’ien T’ai sect founded in Japan by Dengyo.

Ten Directions: The eight directions plus up and down.

Theoretical teachings: The first fourteen and one half chapters of “The Lotus Sutra.”

Thirty-three heavenly gods: The gods who live on the top of Mount Sumeru.

 Three Great Secret Laws: The chanting of ‘Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo,’ the Gohonzon, and the place where the Mandala is enshrined.

Three Treasures:  (Also called The Triple Gem or The Three Jewels) The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Threefold Lotus Sutra: “The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings.”  “The Lotus Sutra,” “The Sutra of Meditation on The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue.”

Tripitaka: The three baskets (or groups) of Theravada teachings.  They are also known as the Agama sutras.

Thus come one: An honorific title of the Buddha.

Tushita Heaven:  This is the world Bodhisattvas are born into just before they are born into the life where they will attain Buddhahood.  This is known as the heaven of satisfaction.  Maitreya is said to be living in the Tushita heaven waiting to be born into the Saha world.

Twelve link chain of causation: See Chapter one.

Two Hundred and fifty precepts: The rules followed by monastic men.

Udumbara: A mythical flower that is said to bloom once every three thousand years.

Vaishali: One of the great cities of Ancient India that Shakyamuni often visited.

Vajra: Wisdom that is unchanging, like a diamond.

Vajrayâna: The highest vehicle in Tibetan teachings.

Varanasi: The capitol of Kashi, one of the states of ancient India.  Shakyamuni often preached in Varanasi.

Vedana:  Feelings of pleasure, pain, or indifference.

Vimalakirti: The ideal lay believer who appears in “The Vimalakirti Sutra.”  This sutra is the second most popular Buddhist teaching in the world, which means that it is studied every day by millions of people.

Vinnana: Sensory consciousness.

Vipassana: Insight into the character of impermanence and the actual nature of the universe.

Voice Hearer:  One who encounters the four noble truths and strives to become an arhat.

Votary of “The Lotus Sutra”: One who spreads the teachings of “The Lotus Sutra.”

Wheel Turning King: An ideal ruler in Indian mythology who never practiced violence.

Wish fulfilling jewel: A mythical gem that will give the bearer anything he wishes for.

World Honored One: An honorific title of the Buddha.

Yaksha: A type of demon who now protects Buddhism.

Yama: (also called King Yama) the ruler of hell who judges people for their acts while alive.

Yoga: A method of uniting body and mind into its ‘natural’ state.

Yojana:  A unit of measurement, which is supposedly based on how far the Indian royal army could march in one day.