Gosho Study #9: Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this. Shakyamuni and Many Treasures certainly realized this truth. The sutra’s statement, “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers”, cannot be false in any way. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p 217)
Living Out Our Lives on the Lofty Path of Mentor and Disciple Accrues Supreme Good Fortune
This letter, dated the eleventh day of the second month in 1272, was sent by Nichiren from his dwelling in Tsukahara on Sado Island to Sairen-bo Nichijo, a former Tendai priest who, for reasons that are unclear, was also living in exile on Sado.
Amidst the storms of harsh persecutions such as the Tatsunokuchi Persecution (where Nichiren was nearly beheaded), and his exile to the remote island of Sado, many of Nichiren’s disciples in Kamakura discarded faith as described by Nichiren in his writings: “…. in Kamakura, 999 out of 1,000 people … gave up their faith.” (WND-1, p 469)
Exile to Sado during Nichiren’s time was equivalent to a death sentence. Yet, Nichiren declares in this Gosho, “Nichiren has been trying to awaken all the people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the heritage and attain Buddhahood.” (WND-1, p 217) Inspired by the profound compassion of Nichiren, the Buddha of the Latter Day, genuine disciples pledging to uphold the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism in the spirit of unbegrudging faith appeared one after another. Sairen-bo was one of them.
The passage explains where Nichiren teaches that the karmic bond shared by mentor and disciple who had vowed to live out their lives for kosen-rufu is eternal, transcending the three existences of past, present and future. Nichiren teaches that the profound pledge that links mentor and disciple is not a coincidental connection that is limited to this lifetime. Instead, it is a karmic relationship from past existences. It is because of the pledge established in our lives that “we will strive together with our mentor for all eternity spanning the three existences of past, present and future” that we have been born together with, encountered and re-established the bond with our mentor. This will be the same in our future existences. No matter which land we are going to dwell in, we will constantly be reborn in the company of our mentor.
What then, is the profound pledge established in the distant past that links the disciples to the mentor? It is none other than the vow “to lead all people to happiness”. From the Buddhist perspective that Buhhahood exist in one’s life, everyone possesses this determination in their lives no matter who they are. It is the mentor that helps one to recall and awaken to this deepest human wish inherent in one’s life.
In the eternal flow of time, one cannot fathom the immense good fortune of being able to forge a strong bond with our mentor and strive in unity with him to lay an ever-lasting foundation for the worldwide propagation of the Mystic Law in the Latter Day of the Law into eternity. When we ponder over the fact that the relationship between mentor and disciple is karmic in nature and that it transcends the three existences, one cannot help but realize the profound mission which we are born with.
Key points of the Gosho passage:
- The ultimate purpose of our Buddhist practice is to attain enlightenment and achieve absolute happiness. The supreme life condition of Buddhahood can only be developed as we experience and win over various difficulties and sufferings through our strong faith.
- Along this difficult journey, we will encounter periods when we feel lost, depressed and defeated. At such times, even though we may have the Gohonzon and the Gosho, we may feel so discouraged that we harbour thoughts of giving up our faith. At such important junctures, it is the strong bond we have with our mentor and his words of encouragement and concern that can revive our faith and fighting spirit, as we recall the indomitable spirit of our mentor.
- Therefore to be able to be born at a time when we can meet a great mentor in life is one’s greatest good fortune. To ensure that we will continue to have this great good fortune to be reborn again and again with our mentor, we must make the pledge that no matter what happens, we will strive unbegrudgingly with our mentor to realise kosen-rufu. This is the only and surest way to ensure that we can attain Buddhahhood and enjoy absolute happiness.