I am in the process of writing a new book on the practice of Nichiren Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra. What I'll be posting is my first draft, imperfect as it is. What I post has been sent to my editor and trust me will be greatly improved by his wonderful work. I'm sharing here on the chance others may find something of value or something to correct of offer feedback on. Let the reading of this not be an onerous task nor a task of anything less than joy. The source material comes from the Shutei Nichiren Shu Hoyo Shiki which draws from Miao-lê, as well as most importantly the Mohe-zhiguan or Makashikan by Chi-i.
Our devotion and the devotional phrase is a two part deal. One part is Myoho Renge Kyo, which we all know is the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Sutra. So that is there. Picture if for a moment as a book, it is certainly more than just a book but for now hold that image. Now the book is sitting over there on the coffee table or perhaps it’s on a book shelf. There you are on the sofa, all nice and comfy. You are Namu. The book is over there, Myoho Renge Kyo is over there, and you are over here, Namu is over here.
At this point you can see there is a separation between you the subject and it the object. But if you go over to the book shelf and pick up the book and hold it and begin to read it you the subject and it the object are connecting, now Namu is beginning to be appended to Myoho Renge Kyo. Mind, this is only an illustration.
At this point you are more connected holding the book or holding it and reading than when you were in one place and it was in another. Suppose as you read it you become emotionally involved in some part of the sutra. Say you’re reading about this big huge assembly of people gather watching the Buddha sit in meditation, and you are curious about this scene you’re reading. Now you are even more connected you the Namu has come closer to the Myoho Renge Kyo. You are coming closer to an experience of oneness of subject and object.
Now let’s say that further on you’re reading the sutra and you come to the guy with the run down dilapidated house that’s on fie and his children are inside. You might be a parent yourself, and perhaps this might trigger a maternal or paternal response as you imagine if it were your children. At this point you have entered into the Lotus Sutra even more deeply and your Namu is ever more at one with the Myoho Renge Kyo. You are ever more closer to the unification of subject and object. You are though not simply becoming the Lotus Sutra, you are in fact beginning to feel the Lotus Sutra that is fundamentally at the core of your life.
Further along you read about some folks who pop up out of the ground and have wondrous bodies and some have lots of followers and some are traveling solo. But out of the ground they come, and they keep coming in what appears to be an impossible number. And you may realize that you too came from the earth, and you too have a desire to go to and praise the Buddha just as they did. You also realize that you have been trying to tell people about the Lotus Sutra just as they promised they would. And you begin to think you might just possibly be acting as they did and fulfilling the promise they made.
You the Namu is now even more deeply connected to the Myoho Renge Kyo but now it is not the book you’re holding but something deeper inside you. You may feel a glowing inside you, or perhaps it makes you feel warm, or even giddy at times. Or perhaps you simply feel at home, you may feel it’s just right, it fits. Now you begin to experience the connection to you and your Myoho Renge Kyo which has been in a sense activated by your Namu.
Namu is you, it is your action. Namu is from the word Namaste. Namaste means devotion, reverence, respect. Namu and Namaste are action words, they indicate you doing something. Being passive is not Namu. The more your devotion, your honoring, your actions, your behaviors, your thoughts, your every sense is directed to Myoho Renge Kyo the more the Myoho Renge Kyo of your life is activated and the more of your environment becomes Myoho Renge Kyo. But you are the key. Myoho Renge Kyo is there, it always has been, it takes you to activate it. Buddhism is not a passive religion.
We have these images of the Buddha sitting under a tree and we think that’s all we need to do. But you see that’s only part of the story. Yes the Buddha attained enlightenment or awakening, but only after defeating Mara. I believe that one of the toughest battles the Buddha waged against Mara was doubt.
The Buddha doubted he could teach people, he had doubts about whether he could do it. Mara tempted him by playing to those doubts, first creating them and expanding them, then by offering alternatives. In any case, had the Buddha not gotten up from the tree and gone to teach the Four Noble Truths then whatever awakening that was achieved under the tree would have meant nothing. The awakening would have died right there and Mara would have won. The image for us to hold on to is not of the Buddha sitting under the tree.
The image we should hold on to of the Buddha is a man who got up and walked. He walked wherever he could and he taught whomever he could. He did not rest. Sitting under the tree is a misrepresentation, if you will, of the Buddha and Buddhism. Buddhism requires you to participate, and to participate with your entire life. The more of your life that participates the more of your Myoho Renge Kyo will manifest because of your Namu.
*** “When one fixes [the mind] on the Dharma-realm [as it is], then there is not a single sight nor smel that is not the Middle Way. The same goes for the realm of self, the realm of Buddha, and the realm of living beings.” Grand Master Miao-lê
As our Namu more fully awakens our Myoho Renge Kyo and our lives manifest the fullness and truth of the Dharma then there is no distinction or separation of self and Myoho Renge Kyo. Every bit of our lives and our experiences of life more and more take on all the truth and beauty of the Lotus Sutra.
In a way, in my mind the image that comes to me is one of atoms, though that may not be the exact correct word, since I’m not a physicist I could be wrong. Even if I’m wrong perhaps you can imagine it as I describe. So you have all the atoms floating around some atoms are you or various people. Some atoms are the Dharma. As single atoms they form nothing they just simply are. But as they become more attracted to each other, as the polarity of them changes then they want to get closer together.
At first you’re sort of this neutral atom just floating around, bouncing off other atoms even. As you begin to chant, to practice and study you begin to reveal the positive polarity of yourself. As a neutral atom you could go either way but lets just say positive, it really doesn’t matter. And as you chant and practice the opposite polarity of the Dharma atoms begin to gravitate towards you. Your practice increases and your polarity becomes stronger hence you attract the Dharma atoms even more. This increased attraction causes the space between the two of you to decrease. It keeps decreasing until bam, you and the Dharma atom become one. A nuclear explosion doesn’t happen but something incredible does. It up to you to find out what that is.
The really cool thing is that as you the subject and Myoho Renge Kyo the object become more unified then you begin to experience your world differently. You being to smell the flavor and scent of Myoho Renge Kyo, and it’s everywhere, and it’s very pleasing, sort of like Christmas cookies. The tastes, the sights, the sensations, every thing and every where is Myoho Renge Kyo. What’s even cooler is it was always there you just couldn’t see it, feel it, smell it, or sense it. You aren’t transported anywhere, you stay where you are but your eyes are opened. You become awakened.
All of this is not to one extreme or another. It isn’t all perfect, not by any means. Your perfection might be some else’s hell. It isn’t all a bummer either. It’s sort of like Goldielocks. Perhaps I shouldn’t use such colorful or seemingly silly language. Yet I do think it can help to illustrate and help you form a mental image of this very important concept.
There is no distinction between you and the Dharma. Your practice doesn’t make you into someone else, it doesn’t change who you are. What does happen is the good or beneficial characteristics of all the Ten Worlds are strengthened so that they rise above the potential negative. In other words you reveal the greatness that lies within you, the greatness of the Bodhisattva from beneath the ground who has been taught by the Eternal Buddha from the infinite past. You become the living manifestation of the truth of the Lotus Sutra. Now the book that was sitting on the coffee table is not merely a manuscript recorded thousands of years ago, but a living document of today.
The fact that you are not transported to some new magical perfect place with no troubles or road bumps is a blessing. If that were the case then you would not be on this Saha world, you would not be able to fulfill the vows of the Bodhisattvas from beneath the ground, and no one would be able to relate to you. You with all your foibles and imagined shortcomings are the perfect person for the role you are to play to spread the Dharma. This too is the Middle Way. You are not perfect, you are not broken, you are just who you need to be and awakening the Myoho Renge Kyo within your life allows all the truth of the Dharma to manifest in your life, and then you can reveal it to others through your very real lived experiences.
And in truth, the realm of self, the realm of Buddhas, and the realm of living beings are all one. There is no fundamental distinction in terms of the True Dharma of the Myoho Renge Kyo. There is not you to be cast off, there is no Buddha to be taken on. There is only the one, fully awakened through your Namu at one with Myoho Renge Kyo.
The view of a separation, even the illustration examples I’ve used, are all false views. I used them because that is usually the starting point where many of us began as we first were introduced to Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra. Those examples are where we start from, and where we move to is the realization of the truth of the Middle Way.
Miao-lê says, “Since ignorance and defilements are themselves identical with enlightenment, there is no origin of suffering to be eradicated. Since the two extreme views are the Middle Way and false views are the right view, there is no path to be cultivated. Since samsara is identical with Nirvana, there is no cessation to be achieved.”
Further Miao-lê says, “A single, unalloyed reality is all there is, - no entities whatever exist outside of it.”
There is the Myoho Renge Kyo and us but it is not an and it is a mutuality. There really is no way to write it or express it and the best we can do is what Nichiren realized Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Remember Ananda begins his recollection of the Sutra with Thus have I heard. He says Myoho Renge Kyo is what I heard and what follows is an explanation. When we live Namu we are not simply manifesting the words of the 28 chapters. We are in fact unifying in body, mind, and spirit our fundamental Dharma reality and revealing the Myoho Renge Kyo. In a way Myoho Renge Kyo is who we are and everything we live and do is like the explanation of the Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.
As an aside, for those who doubt their ability to teach other the Lotus Sutra, or who think they are not skillful enough to explain the Lotus Sutra to others fear not. You are Myoho Renge Kyo, all you need to do is let people experience your Namu and the Myoho Renge Kyo of your life. Your words are not nearly as important as your life. When you want to learn something from someone who do you go to? I’m guessing if you are able you will turn to the person who has solved similar problems or experienced the things you wish to learn. So it is with those around you who are most likely going through similar situations in their lives. Your life is the most powerful teacher around, never doubt yourself and don’t underestimate the power of your actions.
“You should know that there are 3000 worlds in one thought moment within this body and land. So when [the Buddha] attained the Way, this true principle found in all bodies and all thought moments was able to spread throughout the Dharma realm.” Miao-lê
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