Nichiren Shoshu

Myoshinji Temple

Okyobi Address

January, 2015
John Bennett

Good morning everyone and Happy New Year.  Please allow me to take a moment to thank Reverend Kimura and Reverend Shirai for conducting morning Gongyo and the Okyobi Ceremony.  Thank you.

As you can see we now have our three practical points for 2015 up on the wall over my head to the left.  The first one should be familiar now as last year’s first point.  The second point of encouraging each other to participate in the Oko Ceremony emphasizes repaying “our debt of gratitude to the three treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing while establishing our own firm faith through learning the doctrines directly from the priests...” as stated in the January issue of the NSM by the Oversea’s Department Chief Reverend Urushibata.  And the third practical point is to participate in Tozan pilgrimages to the Head Temple in Japan to cultivate our faith and nurture capable leaders. 

All members and especially new believers will be able to establish firm faith and develop into capable leaders by going on Tozan to chant in front of the Dai-Gohonzon.  Leaders in Hokkeko and Nichiren Shoshu are not like the concept of leaders in ordinary society.  Most people think of leaders as simply appointed figureheads with assigned authority to delegate tasks and plan how to do things.  This is simply not the case in Nichiren Shoshu.  To be a capable leader one simply has to dedicate one’s life to following.  In the case of the Hokkeko to follow the guidance of the High Priest and Chief Priest of our local temple.  Thus by practicing daily and carrying out action on the guidance for proper practice we can reveal the power of the Dai-Gohonzon to overcome suffering and set an example for people in society at large to follow. 

In fact in a lecture at a summer study Tozan I once heard a chief priest explain that the High Priest is the master of following the teachings of the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin.  It is because of this that he has received the heritage of the Law from the 67th High Priest and is the foremost leader in Nichiren Shoshu.

Therefore, by carrying out these three practical points throughout this year we will be following the guidance of the 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin and this will enable us to accumulate the great fortune to attain enlightenment in this lifetime.  As last month’s Gosho passage mentioned by practicing in this way we can enjoy “peace and security in this lifetime and good circumstances in the next”. 

However, whether or not we actually achieve this great objective depends on the strength of our faith which is revealed in our ability to encounter difficulties and overcome them.  Of all the transformations that human beings endure the transformation from a common mortal into a Buddha is the longest reach we will ever make.  And the quest of Kosen Rufu is the hardest journey we will take.  In the Gosho Nichiren Daishonin likens this transformation to a carp ascending to the top of a hundred foot water fall while overcoming the swift current, avoiding fisherman and birds of prey so that the carp can become a dragon when it reaches the summit.  With all of this difficulty it is rare for carp to become a dragon.

High Priest Nichinyo Shonin has warned us several times over the last year that the closer we get to the final day of our goal for 2015, the more difficulty we will encounter.  I know many of us are encountering difficulties. What is the reason these difficulties appear?  Nichiren Daishonin explains that as we get closer to achieving Kosen Rufu or even attaining Buddhahood in our own life, evil forces will become terrified and attempt to interfere with our success.  This all sounds very ominous and fearful.  You might begin to wonder about what happened to the “peace and security” part of the practice when you encounter this kind of difficulty.

Last year while studying the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly I came across two very interesting quotes.  The first quote in the June issue is from guidance by the 68th High Priest for the March Kosen Rufu shodai.  It states;

“His followers will encounter adversity [when they practice Myoho-Renge-Kyo], but they should understand that actually, it is peace and pleasure.” (Gosho, p. 1763)

In the December 2014 NSM on page 12 there is another Gosho quote in which Nichiren Daishonin states;

“Regard the arrival of tribulations as peace and security”.  (Gosho, p. 1783)

Reading these quotes is, for me, the definition of difficult to believe and difficult to understand.  And yet I also understand that if we could live life this way it would be very powerful.  Nichiren Daishonin wrote in a Gosho “The greater the hardship one encounters, the greater the delight one should feel.”   What a different life we would lead if we could just feel delight when encountering difficulty. 

I believe that if we want to have this kind of experience we must reach for it with great effort.  We grow because we challenge ourselves to understand the illusions we have about words like “peace” and “security” and strive to understand a different way to approach both of these concepts and live life a different way.  But where do we begin?  We may not be able to get there all at once but we might be able to take a small first step.

There is a humorous saying, “if you can’t find the solution you can always admire the problem”.  As humorous as this is we can take a hint from it and start by appreciating that we have difficulties.  If we didn’t have difficulties we would not have challenges to overcome. Therefore we could not prove the validity of this teaching by demonstrating for all to see, the power of the Gohonzon to overcome all difficulties and suffering.  And with all of the difficulties we have in our life we have an endless supply of ways to shakubuku people.

I hope you all have a splendid New Year with greater success and fortune than in previous years.  Thank you.