The Door To This Wisdom is Difficult to Enter

The Door To This Wisdom is Difficult to Enter

Monday, 5 May 2014

What's On the Blog



Gongyo Style  ( 독경 스타일)  
Time To Stand Up                                     
To Infinity and Beyond                                (COMING SOON)
Faith Is The Key                                          (COMING SOON)
The Elephant in the Room                       (COMING SOON)
Vehicles with Restricted Access              (COMING SOON)
A Masterclass in Buddhism                      (COMING SOON)
Sessen Doji  (WND Version)                     (COMING SOON)
Buddhism for Kids 2                                   (COMING SOON)
Working Hard or Working Smart             (COMING SOON)
Feel the Burn (& Push Through It)           (COMING SOON)
Character and Reputation                         (COMING SOON)
Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word             (COMING SOON)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Time To Stand Up

Niji seson.   Ju sanmai.   
Anjo ni ki.   Go sharihotsu …”

“At that time the World-Honored one calmly arose from his Samadhi and addressed Shariputra …”  (LSOC2, 56)

After finishing his meditation on the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, Shakyamuni - here referred to as “seson” ( the most respectworthy of the world) - starts to teach the assembly the Lotus Sutra by addressing Shariputra, one of his ten main disciples who was known for his outstanding wisdom.

This is a great departure from Shakyamuni’s previous sutras, which tend to follow the format of a discussion in which he answers his disciples questions in accordance with their current level of understanding. 

“At this time” Shakyamuni knows the time has come for him to expound the Lotus Sutra and he starts to teach in accordance with what HE wants to say, rather than in response to what his disciples want to know.   Shakyamuni confidently begins to explain his greatest teaching in which he will reveal to all of his followers how they too can achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime.  Later in the chapter he explains:

Up to now I have never told you that you were certain to attain the buddha way.  The reason I never preached in that manner was that the time to preach so had not yet come.  But now is the very time when I must decisively preach the great vehicle” (LSOC2, 68)

In his treatise “The Selection of the Time”, Nichiren writes “When it comes to studying the teachings of Buddhism, one must first learn to understand the time.  In the past, when the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence appeared in the world, he remained for a period of ten small kalpas without preaching a single sutra. Thus the Lotus Sutra says, “Having taken his seat, ten small kalpas pass. …  The Buddha knew that the time had not yet come, and though they entreated, he sat in silence.” [LSOC7, 176-177]” (WND-1, 538)

For this reason, within Buddhism “At that time” has the special significance of being the time when a Buddha realizing the correct moment has come, stands up and teaches people how to become enlightened and reveal their own Buddhahood.

For Nichiren, this moment came on 28 April 1253, when he had completed his journey to find the one supreme teaching of the Buddha.  “At that time”, after finishing his meditation (chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”), the Daishonin addressed the local people, teaching them the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra among Shakyamuni’s many teachings and explaining the limitations of the expedient means that other schools of Buddhism were teaching.

In Volume 1 of his “Lectures on the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” Chapters of the Lotus Sutra”,  Daisaku Ikeda explains that with regard to our own practice, “At that time” is the moment when we pray to the Gohonzon and single-mindedly determine, of our own volition, to stand up and work to achieve kosen-rufu.  It's not about sharing this Buddhism with others because we are told to, or because we think we should, it's something we do because WE want to.  He writes:

“’That time’ is the moment you resolve from the depths of your heart: ‘Now I will stand up and fight!’  From that instant your destiny changes.  Your life develops.  History begins.”  (p33)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sovereign, Teacher, Parent, Buddha

“Shakyamuni Buddha is to us a sovereign, a teacher and a parent, who alone works to save and protect us.”  (WND-1, p35)

 “[T]his threefold world is all my domain and the living beings in it are my children.  Now this place is beset by many pains and trials, I am the only person who can rescue and protect others.”
 Shakyamuni, (LSOC3, p105-106)

In this passage we see that Shakyamuni identifies himself as the sovereign (of this threefold world of suffering) , the parent (of all living beings) and the teacher (who can rescue and protect others).

With this in mind let’s look at some of the stages in Shakyamuni’s teachings: 


Parents hate to see their children in pain, and to stop them from getting hurt, some of the earliest teachings are don’t touch the kettle, stay away from fire and don’t talk to strangers. 

In a similar way, Shakyamuni the parent wanted to quickly stop the suffering of his early followers, and after identifying that earthly desires and attachments were the cause of suffering, Shakyamuni encouraged them to renounce such attachments.   Giving up attachments, or earthly desires, is not easy, but several schools of Buddhism have been founded on this principle and the followers have renounced material possessions and live simple lives in secluded accommodation and temples. 

In some ways, this kind of extreme practice, seems comparable to an adult today who remembering the words of his parents, still refuses to make a cup of tea, is unable to cook or use a fire, and still heeding warnings not to talk to strangers, is unable to find employment, make friends or interact with people within their community.
This may have been great "fatherly" advice for people new to the Buddha's teachings, but this teaching was always intended as an expedient means, and it still persists with some schools of Buddhism today.  This solitary practice may keep alive the Buddha's earliest teachings, which from a historic perspective may be worthwhile, but it's not a practice that is accessible to most people and has been upgraded several times throughout the Buddha's lifetime.


Once we know our children are safe from harm, we can start to teach them more useful skills.  We are still parents, but we are also starting to educate and teach useful life skills and patterns of behaviour. 

Simple things (even those that are quite profound like saying “please”, “thank you” and “sorry”) can be taught directly, but other things may need expedient means.  For example, when learning to ride a bike, balance may be an issue at first, and so our parents attach training wheels to our bike or when learning to swim, we may need the confidence of armbands.

In the same way, now that the Buddha knows his children are starting to break free from their ignorance, this next stage of the Buddha’s teaching is to help people to start making good causes for their future with simple precepts to follow in their daily lives. 

These training wheels of Buddhism are preparing them for bigger and better things, but some Buddhist schools today are still content to practise with these expedient means, rather than upgrading to the more profound teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

“In his heart he longed to preach the Lotus Sutra. He knew, however, that living beings differ in their capacities, and therefore he did not preach as his own mind dictated, but instead preached numerous sutras that were suited to the hearts and minds of his listeners.”  (WND-1, p35)

Returning to our own children, once they have gained confidence in swimming, we may then hire a professional coach to teach them to swim, or we may hire a piano teacher or take them to ballet class, football practice or to learn a foreign language.

In Shakyamuni’s case, he didn’t need to rely on other teachers, because as well as the qualities of a parent, he was also an excellent teacher who could lead people from complete beginners in their Buddhist practice, giving them the confidence to continue their studies and following up with more advanced lessons, guidance and practices.


As a wise sovereign, Shakyamuni also knew that it would take many, many years for him personally to reach every one of the citizens and lead them to Buddhahood, so he needed envoys to spread his teachings throughout the land.  This was the start of the Bodhisattva vehicle and his disciples sharing what they had learned with their friends, family and strangers.  This would benefit their own lives, their practice and their future enlightenment, but Shakyamuni the sovereign, also knew that as more people escaped from their chains of suffering, his kingdom as a whole would also benefit and become a more harmonious place to live. 


“… But then a time came when he preached the Lotus Sutra, declaring that he had fulfilled the vows he had taken earlier and he would now let living beings know how they could become Buddhas like himself.”  (WND-1, p35)

Finally, when the time was right, and Shakyamuni thought his followers were ready for his ultimate teaching, he taught them the Lotus Sutra which explained the true aspect of all phenomena, the Mystic Law of cause and effect and the one way to attain supreme enlightenment in this lifetime.

Prior to the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni was the parent, the teacher, the sovereign and the mentor that was leading people towards an understanding of what was in his heart and mind, but with the Lotus Sutra, he was finally able to fulfill his vow to “make all persons equal to me, without any distinctions between us” (LSOC2, p70)

The Lotus Sutra is a teaching that can “only be understood and shared between buddhas” and, because Shakyamuni's practice and that of his followers are now the same, this is also the start of the oneness of the mentor-disciple relationship.

Throughout most of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni is encouraging people to embrace this one Buddha vehicle, but he also understands that these earlier teachings may be necessary for his followers until they are ready to take this final step on their journey to Buddhahood.

"X" Marks The Spot

When Shakyamuni first became enlightened under the Bodhi tree, he realized that the people at that time would struggle to understand the profound wisdom of his perfect enlightenment and he was faced with a dilemma.  Should I keep the teaching to myself (and let people continue to suffer) or should I try to teach the great Buddha vehicle but risk people discarding the teaching due to their inability to comprehend what I have gained (and thus continue to suffer)?

“Then my thoughts turned to the buddhas of the past and the power of expedient means they had employed, and I thought that the way I had now attained should likewise be preached as three vehicles.  When I thought in this manner, the buddhas of the ten directions all appeared and with brahma sounds comforted and instructed me. 

“Well done, Shakyamuni!” they said.  “Foremost leader and teacher, you have attained the unsurpassed Law.  But following the example of all other buddhas, you will employ the power of expedient means.  We too have all attained the most wonderful, the foremost Law, but for the sake of living beings we make distinctions and preach the three vehicles.  People of small wisdom delight in a small doctrine, unable to believe that they themselves could become buddhas.  Therefore we employ expedient means, making distinctions and preaching various goals.  But though we preach the three vehicles, we do it merely in order to teach the bodhisattvas.” …

When I heard these saintly lions and their deep, pure, subtle, wonderful sounds, I rejoiced, crying, “Hail to the buddhas!”

Then I thought to myself, I have come into this impure and evil world, and as these buddhas have preached, I too must follow that example in my actions.” (LSOC2, p77-78)


The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, states that expedient means are “methods adopted to instruct people and lead them to enlightenment.” and that “expedient means are skilfully devised and employed by Buddhas and bodhisattvas to lead people to salvation.”

Turning to the image of a treasure map, “X” marks the treasure of perfect enlightenment attainable through the practice of the Lotus Sutra - a treasure buried deep within our lives.  But to enable people to reach the treasure, Shakyamuni needed to lead his followers away from danger, away from their suffering due to ignorance, greed and anger, and to teach them how to break the cycle of the six lower worlds. 

He did this by giving them vehicles (teachings, guidelines, examples and directions) that would lead them along different paths or stages, each one allowing them to get closer to the treasure of Buddhahood than the last.  The first three vehicles were the vehicle of Learning, the vehicle of Realisation (or Partial Enlightenment) and the vehicle of the Bodhisattva way.  

With the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni reveals the fourth, and final vehicle – the ONE GREAT BUDDHA VEHICLE.  This is the ONE, AND ONLY, vehicle that will allow everyone (regardless of sex, race, status, age or any other prejudicial criteria) who hears, upholds and practices it to gain supreme perfect enlightenment in this lifetime.  This vehicle is the perfect wisdom of the unsurpassed law that Shakyamuni awoke to under the Boddhi tree forty years before.  

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Gongyo Style (독경 스타일)


Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is only one phrase or verse, but it is no ordinary phrase, for it is the essence of the entire sutra. ... Included within the title, or daimoku, of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the entire sutra … without the omission of a single character.  …  The heart of the Lotus Sutra is its title. …  Truly, if you chant this in the morning and evening, you are correctly reading the entire Lotus Sutra.  Chanting daimoku twice is the same as reading the entire sutra twice, one hundred daimoku equal one hundred readings of the sutra, and one thousand daimoku, one thousand readings of the sutra.  Thus, if you ceaselessly chant daimoku, you will be continually reading the Lotus Sutra.”                      (“The One Essential Phrase”, WND-1, p922-923)

“Question: Why do you say that all teachings are contained within the daimoku?
Answer: Chang-an writes: “Hence [T’ien-t’ai’s explanation of the title in] the preface conveys the profound meaning of the sutra. The profound meaning indicates the heart of the text, and the heart of the text encompasses the whole of the theoretical and essential teachings.”  
(“On The Four Stages of Faith”, WND-1, p788)

“Question: Is it possible, without understanding the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but merely by chanting the five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day, once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths, and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression?
Answer: Yes, it is.” 
(“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra”, WND-1, p141)

When plants and trees receive the rainfall, they can hardly be aware of what they are doing, and yet do they not proceed to put forth blossoms?  The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo do not represent the sutra text, nor are they its meaning. They are nothing other than the intent of the entire sutra. So, even though the beginners in Buddhist practice may not understand their significance, by practicing these five characters, they will naturally conform to the sutra’s intent.”
(“On The Four Stages of Faith”, WND-1, p788)

“The Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law says that, if one hears this sutra and proclaims and embraces its title, one will enjoy merit beyond measure. And the Supplemented Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law says that one who accepts and upholds the name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy immeasurable good fortune. These statements indicate that the good fortune one receives from simply chanting the daimoku is beyond measure.”
(“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra”, WND-1, p143)

“Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to cross the sea of the sufferings of birth and death.”
(“A Ship To Cross The Sea of Suffering”, WND-1, p 33)


In 1264, Nichiren Daishonin replied to a question from the wife of Daigaku Saburō concerning how to perform gongyo.  It’s clear from this reply – “The Recitation of the “Expedient Means” and “Life Spans” Chapters" - that the Daishonin had already established the daily practice of reciting extracts from these two chapters of the Lotus Sutra…

“You say that you used to recite one chapter of the Lotus Sutra every day, completing the entire sutra in the space of twenty-eight days, but that now you read the “Medicine King” chapter once a day. You ask if you should simply read each chapter in turn, as you were originally doing.” (WND-1, p68)

“First of all, when it comes to the Lotus Sutra, you should understand that, whether one recites all eight volumes, or only one volume, one chapter, one verse, one phrase, or simply the daimoku, or title, the blessings are the same. It is like the water of the great ocean, a single drop of which contains water from all the countless streams and rivers… A single character of the Lotus Sutra is like such a drop of water. …

On the other hand, a single character of the other sutras, or the name of any of the various Buddhas, is like one drop of the water of a particular stream or river. …  One such drop does not contain the water of countless other streams and rivers.  Therefore, when it comes to the Lotus Sutra, it is praiseworthy to recite any chapter you have placed your trust in, whichever chapter that may be.”  (WND-1, p69)

“Though no chapter of the Lotus Sutra is negligible, among the entire twenty-eight chapters, the “Expedient Means” chapter and the “Life Span” chapter are particularly outstanding. The remaining chapters are all in a sense the branches and leaves of these two chapters. Therefore, for your regular recitation, I recommend that you practice reading the prose sections of the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters.  … As for the remaining chapters, you may turn to them from time to time when you have a moment of leisure.”  (WND-1, p71)

“Also in your letter, you say that three times each day you bow in reverence to [the Gohonzon]  and that each day you repeat the words “Namu-ichijo-myoten” [“devotion to the wonderful sutra of the one vehicle”] ten thousand times.”  (WND-1, p71)

“Though reciting the words ”Namu-ichijo-myoten” amounts to the same thing, it would be better if you just chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as Bodhisattva Vasubandhu and the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai did.”  (WND-1, p72)


“To accept, uphold, read, recite, take delight in, and protect all the eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra is called the comprehensive practice.  

To accept, uphold, and protect the “Expedient Means” chapter and the “Life Span” chapter is called the abbreviated practice.

And simply to chant one four-phrase verse or the daimoku, and to protect those who do so, is called the essential practice.

Hence, among these three kinds of practice, comprehensive, abbreviated, and essential, the daimoku is defined as the essential practice.  
 (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra”, WND-1, p141)


In your letter you [lay priest Matsuno] write: “Since I took faith in [the Lotus] sutra , I have continued to recite the ten factors of life [from the “Expedient Means” chapter] and the verse section of the ‘Life Span’ chapter and chant the daimoku without the slightest neglect.  But how great is the difference between the blessings received when a sage chants the daimoku and the blessings received when we chant it?”  To reply, one is in no way superior to the other. The gold that a fool possesses is no different from the gold that a wise man possesses; a fire made by a fool is the same as a fire made by a wise man.   However, there is a difference if one chants the daimoku while acting against the intent of this sutra.
 (“The Fourteen Slanders”, WND-1, p755-756)


Myo ho ren ge kyo. Hoben-pon. Dai Ni.

Sho-but͡ chi-e. Jinjin muryo.

Go chi-e mon. Nange nannyu.

Issai shomon. Hyaku-shi-butsu. Sho fu no chi.

Sho-i sha ga. Butsu zo shingon.  Hyaku sen man noku.
Mushu sho butsu. Jin gyo sho-butsu.  Muryo doho.

Yumyo shojin.

Myosho fu mon.

Joju jinjin. Mi-zo-u ho.

Zui gi sho setsu. Ishu nange.

Shari-hotsu. Go ju jo-butsu irai.  Shuju innen. Shuju hiyu.
Ko en gonkyo. Mu shu hoben.  Indo shujo. Ryo ri sho jaku.

Sho-i sha ga. Nyorai hoben.  Chiken hara-mitsu. Kai i gu-soku.

Shari-hotsu. Nyorai chiken. Kodai jinnon.  Muryo muge. Riki. 
Mu-sho-i. Zenjo.  Gedas. Sanmai. Jin nyu musai.  Joju issai. Mi-zo-u ho.

Shari-hotsu. Nyorai no. Shuju fun-betsu.  Gyo ses^sho ho. 
Gonji nyunan.  Ekka shushin. Shari-hotsu.  Shu yo gon shi. 
Muryo muhen.  Mi-zo-u ho. Bus^shitsu joju.

Shi shari-hotsu. Fu shu bu setsu.  Sho-i sha ga. 
Bus^sho joju.  Dai ichi ke-u. Nange shi ho.

Yui butsu yo butsu. Nai no kujin.  Shoho jisso.

Sho-i shoho.  Nyo ze so. Nyo ze sho.  Nyo ze tai. Nyo ze riki.
Nyo ze sa. Nyo ze in. Nyo ze en. Nyo ze ka.
Nyo ze ho. Nyo ze honmak^kukyo to.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Flowers, Light, Music, ACTION!

Returning to Chapter 1 (Introduction) of the Lotus Sutra, after Shakyamuni  finishes teaching the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, he enters samadhi (a state of meditation)

“At that time heaven rained down mandarava flowers, great mandarava flowers, manjushaka flowers, and great manjushaka flowers, scattering them over the Buddha and over the great assembly, and everywhere the Buddha world quaked and trembled in six different ways.”  (LSOC1, p37)

These omens signify something truly great is coming, and it’s something that is going to really shake up the world and shake up the lives of everyone who hears it.

Next, “The Buddha emitted a ray of light from the tuft of white hair between his eyebrows … lighting up eighteen thousand worlds in the eastern direction.  There was no place that the light did not penetrate, reaching down as far as the Avachi hells and upwards to the Akanishtha heavens” (LSOC1, p38)

This ray of light illuminated everything within those 18,000 worlds and the assembly could see people in those worlds struggling in the six paths of life, buddhas teaching various sutras, disciples carrying our various practices, and buddhas entering paranirvana. 

In the Orally Transmitted Teachings (Nichiren’s lectures on the Lotus Sutra recorded by Nikko), Nichiren describes this ray of light as “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”.  When we enter samadhi by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo before the Gohonzon, we are aligning ourselves with the wisdom of the universe and this beam of light comes from within us, illuminating the true aspect of all phenomena and the Mystic Law of the universe at work within our lives, the lives of others and within our environment.

The assembly is filled with great joy at these omens, but also wonders what these various signs mean.  On behalf of everyone, Bodhisattva Maitreya asks Manjushri what is going on.

Manjushri explains that many millions of years ago, these same omens occurred after Buddha Sun Moon Bright taught a sutra called “Immeasurable Meanings”, and this Buddha then preached “the great vehicle sutra called the Lotus of the Wonderful Law”.   Manjushri replies:

“I suppose that the Buddha, the world-honored one, wishes now to expound the great Law, to rain down the great Law, to blow the conch of the great Law, to beat the drum of the great Law, to elucidate the meaning of the great Law.”  (LSOC1, p46)

All of this leads us to understand that the message that Shakyamuni is about to teach, and explain to us, is a teaching that is shared by buddhas throughout history. 

It’s a teaching that will rain down on everyone, and when it rains, everyone gets wet.  The Lotus Sutra is a teaching that WILL affect everyone, whether it’s future bodhisattvas of the earth, who will embrace and propagate this teaching, or believers of earlier schools of Buddhism that actively choose to ignore the most profound and supreme teaching of Shakyamuni. 

The great Law is coming and it’s going to rain down on everyone equally, regardless of social status, gender, race, sexual orientation or age.  This is an incredibly profound teaching, especially from a country with such a strict caste system, and Shakyamuni had decided in his wisdom not to reveal it in the previous forty years.  This really is a teaching that many people at that time, and even today, would find “difficult to understand and difficult to enter”.

To blow the conch of the great Law” and “to beat the drum of the great Law” are both sounds that have been used to rally armies before going into battle, and as well as clearly explaining the true aspect of all phenomena and the Mystic Law, Shakyamuni will inspire us with his words to go forth and spread this teaching far and wide. 

The Lotus Sutra is really shaking things up, and as well as being a teaching for everyone, Shakyamuni wants us to tell other people about it.  He doesn’t want us to keep this message to ourselves, he wants us to share this Great Law with others.

Later in this chapter of the Lotus Sutra, this point is explained again in the phrase “heavenly drums sounded of themselves”  (LSOC1, p50) 

Nichiren Daishonin’s interpretation of this phrase in his Orally Transmitted Teachings is that, “The “heavenly drums” represents “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” and “sounded” refers to the sound of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”.   “Sounded of themselves” also suggests "preaching spontaneously without being asked", so “heavenly drums sounded of themselves” implies that when spontaneously chanted by votaries of the Lotus Sutra “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” will spread everywhere in the Latter Day of the Law’.

Similarly, “Beating our own drum” and “blowing our own horn” are both ways to promote, publicize and advertise something that’s great about us, and within the context of Nichiren Buddhism we are proudly promoting the wonderful Law of the Lotus Sutra and publicly declaring the immeasurable benefits of chanting Nichiren’s mantra of “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” 

The Lotus Sutra is not a bedtime story to make you feel warm and fuzzy, it's a calling to spread this Buddhism far and wide.  
The teaching to come, once Shakyamuni awakes from his meditation, is not only going to raise our spirits and make us feel good, but it will inspire us and motivate us to share the message with others for the benefit of all humanity.

Manjushri ends this first chapter by saying:

“Let us press our palms together and wait with a single mind.  The Buddha will rain down the rain of the Law to fully satisfy all seekers of the way.  You who seek the three vehicles, if you have doubts and regrets, the Buddha will resolve them for you, bringing them to an end so that nothing remains.”  (LSOC1, p55)