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"When we practice gongyo and chant daimoku before the Gohonzon, the good and evil capacities of our life begin to function as the exalted form of fundamental existence.... It is as if sufferings are made the fuel for a fire of joy and wisdom and compassion. It is the Mystic Law and faith which ignite that flame."
The following is a summary of SGI President Daisaku Ikedaís guidance at a special training session for representatives of the SGI-USA Youth Division, conducted at the Malibu Training Center, February 20.

Todayís gathering is one of the true successors of SGI-USA, the young people. In addition, many staff members who have played a large role working behind the scenes are with us. 

I want our young people to study doctrine, and I also want them to test themselves in action. With that hope in mind, as well as with the great appreciation I feel for your daily efforts, I would like to discuss today several points concerning the basis of faith. 

We just finished evening gongyo together and expressed our deepest prayers to the Gohonzon. It is inappropriate to discuss the Gohonzon lightly, but the history of Buddhism in the United States is short and it is my duty as a leader to implant conviction and determined faith in your hearts to whatever extent I can. 

For that reason, I would like to discuss several essential points concerning the Gohonzon, though I may not be able to explain it completely.

Gohonzon means fundamental object of worship. It is the object which we worship and have faith in as the basis of life. It is only natural, then, that our lives are fundamentally determined by the object we take as our object of worship. 

Traditionally, the objects of worship in Buddhism were most frequently images of the Buddha. In some cases, paintings of the Buddha were used. In early Buddhism it is true, there were no Buddhist images, but in later ages images of the Buddha were created in northwest India, in the Gandhara region, under the influence of Grecian culture. Buddhist images were one of the products of the cultural intercourse of the Silk Road. 

The common people became familiar with the image of the Buddha through these statues and paintings, and they aroused faith in the Buddha and reverence for him through such works of art. 

But Nichiren Daishoninís basic object of worship consists of writing, of words. Rather than worshipping a graphic image, the Daishonin made the written expression of the world of the intellect, the great and lofty wisdom of the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, the object of highest reverence. 

In this one respect alone, the object of worship of the Daishonin is fundamentally different from that traditionally worshipped in Buddhism. 

Words are mysterious. They have tremendous power. Take a personís name, for example. He signs it. In it is included his personality, his position in the world, his strengths, his mental and physical state, his past, the causes and effects that made him what he is. 

In the word Japan, written with two Chinese characters, the geographical features of the country, its people, its flora and fauna ó all are encompassed. 

In actuality, a person and a country are always changing, moment to moment, without a momentís pause. The name of a person or country is the single word that expresses and encompasses all of those activities and functions. 

The daimoku, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is just like that: it encompasses all phenomena in the universe. The true entity of all phenomena in the ever-changing universe is perfectly expressed just as it is in the Gohonzon. The true entity of the universe is precisely the same for each of us, who are each a microcosm of the universe. Nichiren Daishonin tells us this in his writings. 

That is why the Daishoninís Gohonzon embodies the basic Law of the universe; it is the true fundamental object of worship. 

Nichijun Shonin, the sixty-fifth high priest, explained that one reason the Gohonzon consists of writing is that it would be impossible to depict the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds in a graphic image, though they could be shown separately. 

The Mystic Law which Operates as Both Good and Evil
The universe includes both the powers of good and evil. 

In the Gohonzon all of the Ten Worlds are represented, from Shakyamuni and Taho, who represent the Buddha realm, to Devadatta, who represents the state of Hell. 

And both the representatives of good powers and capacities and the representatives of evil powers and capacities are illuminated equally by the light of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Both then display the "exalted form that inherently exists in them," which means the exalted forms and operations of existence just as it is. The exalted form of fundamental existence is manifested as the fundamental object of worship. 

When we practice gongyo and chant daimoku before the Gohonzon, the good and evil capacities of our life begin to function as the exalted form of fundamental existence. 

Lives that are full of the pain of Hell, lives that are in the state of Hunger, lives warped by the state of Anger ó such lives, too, begin to move in the direction of creating their own personal happiness and value. Lives being pulled toward misfortune and unhappiness are redirected and pulled in the opposite direction, toward good, when they make the Mystic Law their base. 

It is as if sufferings are made the fuel for a fire of joy and wisdom and compassion. It is the Mystic Law and faith which ignite that flame. 

If that is true, it goes without saying that the worlds of good ó such states as Buddhahood, Bodhisattva and Heaven ó only increase their brightness and their power and glory by the power of daimoku chanted. 

The sun and moon of our individual microcosms, too, shine forth with brilliant light and illuminate the darkness of life. 

Good and evil, all the three thousand realms and factors of existence merge and make a 180-degree revolution and lead us to happiness, to a life of eternity, joy, true self and purity. 

It is only natural that sometimes we fall sick. But we must see that sickness as a sickness that originally exists in life, based on the principle of the Mystic Law. In other words, there is no reason to allow yourself to be controlled by illness, for it to fill your life with suffering and distress. From the standpoint of eternal life through the three existences, your fundamentally happy self is incontrovertibly established. 

That realization will remove any obstacles or blocks you experience in life and will serve as a springboard for a leap to a more expansive state of being. 

Life will be enjoyable. And death will be peaceful, a glorious journey to the next enjoyable life. 

When winter arrives, the trees and other plants temporarily lose their leaves. But those plants possess the life to send forth new green shoots when spring comes. Human death is like that, but we possess a life force that leads us to a new life ó to a new mission - immediately, and without pain. 

On the other hand, if the roots and even the seeds wither, no new life will spring forth. In one sense, such a life has perished. It will not send forth green leaves, beautiful flowers, or fragrant fruits. You must not allow yours to become that sort of life. 

The Voice Chanting Daimoku Reaches the Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions
Next I would like to reply to the question whether there is any value in chanting daimoku and reciting sutra passages without understanding their meaning. 

Of course it is better if you understand their meaning. That will strengthen your commitment to the Law. But if you understand and yet fail to practice, itís all of no use. Not only that, but you canít understand the real depth of the teachings through reason alone. 

Birds, for example, have their own language, their own speech. People donít understand it, but other birds do. There are many examples among humans as well ó codes, abbreviations, or foreign languages are well understood by experts or native speakers but unintelligible to others. 

In the same way, the language of gongyo, of chanting daimoku, reaches the Gohonzon and the realms of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three existences and the ten directions. We might call it the language of the realms of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. 

Thatís why the voice of gongyo and daimoku directed to the Gohonzon, whether we understand it or not, reaches all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly deities. They hear it and say, "Excellent, excellent!" in response, rejoicing and praising us, and the entire universe envelops us in light. 

Up the Mountain of Supreme Enlightenment to the Sky of Tranquil Light
The Daishonin has taught us that through gongyo and chanting daimoku we can reach an elevated state in which, while engaged in our daily lives, we traverse the entire universe. 

In his "Letter to Sairen-bo," Nichiren Daishonin writes, "Those who become my disciples can see Eagle Peak in India without walking a single step, and can travel to the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light day and night. What an indescribable joy!" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1343). 

When you worship the Gohonzon, the door to your microcosm is opened to the entire universe, the macrocosm, and you experience a great, boundless joy, as if you were looking out over the entire cosmos. You feel great satisfaction and rejoicing, a great wisdom, as if you held the entire universe in your palm. The microcosm enfolded by the macrocosm reaches out to enfold the macrocosm in its own embrace. 

The Daishonin also writes, in his "Letter to Niike," "When nurtured by the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ... (we are) free to soar into the skies of the ultimate reality" (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 260). 

And, in "Urabon Gosho," Nichiren Daishonin writes: "Though he himself is like the frail wisteria vine, because he clings to the pine which is the Lotus Sutra, he is able to ascent the mountain of Supreme Enlightenment. Because he has the wings of the One Vehicle to rely on, he can soar into the sky of Tranquil Light" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1430). 

Just as we might look down on the bright, clear scene of world below from a lofty mountainís highest peak, we can climb the peak of the mountain of wisdom (supreme enlightenment). 

And we can attain a state of eternal bliss, experiencing the infinite expanse and depth of life moment after moment, as if we were flying through the universe and gazing at the brilliantly shining Milky Way, blazing comets, and all of the beautiful stars. 

Nichiren Daishonin adds, after the passage from "Urabon Gosho," quoted above, the promise that we will be able to bring great fortune not only to ourselves but also to our ancestors for seven generations back and our descendants for seven generations into the future. How wonderful indeed are the enormous merits of the Mystic Law! 

The Great Merits of Faith Are Inconspicuous Benefits
Nichiren Daishonin writes in "The Fourteen Slanders," ĎBut how great is the difference between the blessings received when a sage chants the daimoku and the blessings received when we chant it?í To reply, one is in no way superior to the other. The gold that 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" (MW-3, p. 207). 

In other words, the benefits of the Gohonzon are completely unrelated to a personís position or wealth. They are equal for all. The Daishonin tells us that any person who chants daimoku will attain happiness. 

The merits of the Gohonzon can be divided into conspicuous and inconspicuous benefits. 

Conspicuous benefits reveal themselves when you have some problem with your health or with work or in some other aspect of your daily life and you are protected and a solution suddenly presents itself. 

At the same time, you accumulate blessings and gradually establish a rich and expansive state of life, just as the waters of the sea gradually rise with the swelling tide. Once you have established that state, you will never be defeated, no matter which of lifeís troubles you might be confronted with. And you will be able to enjoy yourself in a state of happiness not only in this existence but for all eternity. This is the meaning of inconspicuous benefits. 

They are like a spring; once you wind it up, it is always ready to be set in motion. But if the spring isnít wound, it will not work when called on. To continue this metaphor, it is faith that winds the spring, and the state of the spring when it is fully wound and has the potential to act whenever necessary is a life filled with inconspicuous benefits. 

The power of the Mystic Law allows us to naturally achieve a life in which all our wishes are fulfilled and we enjoy eternal happiness. 

But how do those benefits depend upon faith? The Daishonin writes, in "Admonitions Against Slander," "No matter how sincerely one believes in the Lotus Sutra, any violation of its teachings will surely cause him to fall into hell, just as one crab leg will ruin a thousand pots of lacquer" (MW-1, p. 165). 

The fourteen slanders are taught as the causes of evil. Among those slanders are contempt, hatred, jealousy and grudges. These mean being contemptuous of, hating, being jealous of, or holding grudges against those with faith. 

There are cases when we wonder why merit doesnít reveal itself in spite of our earnest and high degree of faith. At such times, rather than suspecting that you may entertain doubt about the Gohonzon, it is better to ask yourself whether you are not guilty of these four types of slander. Because a person who is contemptuous, hating, jealous, or holds grudges will realize no benefits. 

Of course you are perfectly free to say what must be said even to your fellow members in faith, and it is necessary to do so. But there is a difference between words spoken with real concern for your listener and those spoken with feelings of hatred or jealousy. It is extremely important to understand and observe this distinction. 

All of us who gather here before the Gohonzon in the cause of kosen-rufu are the Buddhaís children, the family of the Mystic Law. 

That is why we must respect and encourage each other throughout our lives. Let me end todayís speech by urging you to be absolutely convinced that the merits of the Gohonzon and the protection of the deities are bound to increase for precisely such a person.