Lotus Blossom in McClelland Art Gallery – contrasts to the large sculptures…
With it’s dramatically sombre title, “The Importance of the Moment of Death“, Nichiren tells us exactly what’s on his mind. The text of the letter shows that it was sent to an unknown person to read to the lay nun Myōhō. Presumably she was unable to read… Whatever, Nichiren knew several lay nuns called Myoho and this one’s a widow.
We know he despised the “Pure Land” and other teachings and espoused the Lotus Sutra as being the final version of a lifetime’s work and thought by Shakyamuni, who most know as the Buddha. His outspokenness brought him many enemies in feudal Japan.
He was drawing to the end of his life, being 56, with 4 years to go. In this piece he states exactly what he thought – and did! The sheer poetry when he talks about the transient nature of life, is like majestic magic.
Looking back, I have been studying the Buddha’s teachings since I was a boy. And I found myself thinking, “The life of a human being is fleeting. The exhaled breath never waits for the inhaled one. Even dew before the wind is hardly a sufficient metaphor. It is the way of the world that whether one is wise or foolish, old or young, one never knows what will happen to one from one moment to the next. Therefore I should first of all learn about death, and then about other things.”
So I gathered and considered the sacred teachings of Shakyamuni’s entire lifetime, as well as the writings and commentaries of scholars and teachers.
Which is what Nichiren really did. From a young boy he sought the true nature of existence. And using the metaphors that without white there can be no black, and without life there can be no death, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was the fruit of his lifetime’s studies.
Nichiren explicitly says (above) that it was from looking at dead people at such an early age that he commenced his life’s work and started studying Buddhism! What a fantastic thing from such a gloomy beginning!
Nichiren encourages the lay nun Myoho that her recently deceased husband is okay.
He also says that she will be (and is currently), okay.
The persistent care and trouble that Nichiren takes over ordinary people is noteworthy; he continually encourages, when things are just pottering on as well as when people are at their darkest hour and are troubled.
How does he say these things? Here?
The key passage for me is here:
One who upholds the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra transforms the black lacquer of the evil deeds of a lifetime, and of countless kalpas of lifetimes in the past, into the great merit of good deeds. All the more so is this true of one’s good roots from the beginningless past, which all take on a golden hue.
And when your deceased husband chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at the end on his deathbed, the evil deeds of a lifetime, and from the beginningless past, changed into the seeds of Buddhahood. This is what is meant by the teachings called “earthly desires are enlightenment,” “the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana,” and “attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form.”
And because you are the beloved wife of such a man, the teaching of women attaining Buddhahood without doubt also applies to you.
The image is that of a huge dying star, the Carina Nebula which is likely to cataclysmically pop. From its remains, new stars will be made, which is the whole point of it all. Nichiren then goes on to finish saying,
…if this were to be a lie, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and all the Buddhas of the ten directions, who are Shakyamuni’s emanations, would be liars, great liars, evildoers, and those who deceive all living beings and cause them to fall into hell (…) It would not be Nichiren’s lie; rather it would be the lie of all the Buddhas in the ten directions and three existences.
But consider: How could such a thing ever be?
I will explain this matter in detail when we meet.
I would love to had been at that meeting!
And in Another Letter to the Lay Nun Myoho…
Three years later in another letter to the nun, Nichiren again encourages the nun. Her loneliness has increased as she is shunned by her family – all for chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
In fact in this letter, we get a clue to Nichiren’s realisation that Buddhahood applies to everyone. He paraphrases Shakyamuni’s disillusionment with the women of his time and at the same time praises the lay nun Myoho, when he says,
I have received your gift of a light summer robe. You have been left behind by your deceased husband in a woman’s situation, and are separated from your relatives, too. You hear nothing from your one or two daughters, who are not to be relied on. Moreover, you are a woman who is hated by others because of this teaching. You are just like Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.
I had therefore thought that, though women would tarnish their names and throw away their lives on meaningless paths, they were weak at following the path to Buddhahood. But now you, born a woman in the evil world of the latter age, while being reviled, struck, and persecuted by the barbaric inhabitants of this island country who are unaware of these things, have endured and are propagating the Lotus Sutra.
She must have been a tough one. She chanted the daimoku, probably just like in this YouTube video.
Nichiren does not explicitly say, to my eyes, what “The Importance of the Moment of Death” is. But his meaning is clear.
The importance of the moment of death is to be chanting The Daimoku of The Lotus Sutra, even if it’s only in your head.
I did this when I had an operation a few years ago, just as I was going under the anaesthetic. Of course I woke up later (like dah…), but my faith was paramount in my thoughts as I drifted off, though weirdly, I almost forgot….. Here’s how.
I was completely empty of thoughts, or a bit shocked, as they prepared my hand for the drugs, maybe my face showed trepidation or something to the anaesthetist, but she said “most people try to think happy thoughts or faces at this time” – it was then that I remembered I’d previously promised myself many times to chant as I went under…. so I did… and just in time.
Clifford to Clarence Worley – Click image for Quote
I have a set drill in my head now that should I feel I’m a goner, to chant, even if it’s just inside my mind.
Is this mad? Not for me.
Will I forget again?
Who can tell? But though I quoted this at the top from Nichiren, I’ll repeat it again here…
It is the way of the world that whether one is wise or foolish, old or young, one never knows what will happen to one from one moment to the next.
This comes from a letter Nichiren wrote to a recently widowed woman back in medieval Japan. It’s it’s title, you see, and like Nichiren’s interpretation of the Lotus Sutra, it’s title is almost all you need as it’s entirety is wrapped up in both it’s substance and it’s intent of the title.
So the previous theme, one I made with pastel shades reminiscent of Edinburgh Rock, is too hellish and tranquil. We need more red. I need more red! We need more fire. More like the Dragon King represented in the picture, mouth open, shouting, fangs showing, vicious moustache even! Crikey – the hat is scary! It’s the difference between active life and quiet retirement.
The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, inherent cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and their consistency from beginning to end.
I say this six times a day, in all! So what’s it mean?
A. Well given that everyone has the Buddha nature within them at all times from the priciple of 3000 realms in a single moment, two people who are revealing their Buddhahood simultaneously will understand the full and complete nature of each other’s lives no matter what or how anything is said. If either Buddha nature is hidden by negative forces, then there will be confusion and doubt, suspicion and fear. This simultaneous connection will stretch backwards and forwards in time, making the various causes and effects, relations and appearances as stated, as a logical consequence, across all of space and time.
I’ve nabbed the content of this from Ted Penfold. My wife, has told me that she heard this lecture of Dick’s and found it and him some of the most inspiring things in her life. I came across this wonderful piece by chance, looking for some background information on Nikko, the second guy after (Nichiren) in our prayers, and repeat it here so that more people might be similarly inspired.
I’ve corrected some spellings from the original transcript here which I assume were due to OCR transcription errors, mainly. I’ve also added a few links, where appropriate, to external sources (SP)
n.b. Admonitions = Precepts = Warnings. The three terms appear in different places, but essentially mean the same thing (SP)
LECTURE ON THE TWENTY-SIX ADMONITIONS OF NIKKO SHONINby the late SGI UK General Director, Richard Causton
The following lecture by SGI UK General Director, Richard Causton, based on various lectures given by him around the U.K. and overseas during late 1992 and 1993, was inspired by SGI President Ikeda’s guidance on this subject on 24th October 1992. This lecture first appeared as a series of articles in SGI-UK’s monthly magazine, the U.K. Express. (now called Art of Living – SP)
At a discussion meeting this evening we discussed the subject;
How has our practice influenced our view of the future.
I thought about this and determined that my vision is extremely optimistic now as compared to previously in my life. I connected two passages from the very beginning and near end of the Gosho that explain the interconnectedness of all things that are the basis for my optimism.
Life at each moment encompasses the body and mind and the self and environment of all sentient beings in the Ten Worlds as well as all insentient beings in the three thousand realms, including plants, sky, earth, and even the minutest particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in all phenomena. To be awakened to this principle is itself the mutually inclusive relationship of life at each moment and all phenomena. – Nichiren Daishonin, WND page 3
The essence of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra is that all phenomena arise from the mind. To illustrate, they say that the mind is like the great earth, while the grasses and trees are like all phenomena. But it is not so with the Lotus Sutra. It teaches that the mind itself is the great earth, and that the great earth itself is the grasses and trees. The meaning of the earlier sutras is that clarity of mind is like the moon, and that purity of mind is like a flower. But it is not so with the Lotus Sutra. It is the teaching that the moon itself is mind, and the flower itself is mind. You should realize from this that polished rice is not polished rice; it is life itself. – Nichiren Daishonin, WND page1126
This connectivity is something
that I’ve felt since an early age. The title of this post, Never Seek the Gohonzon Outside Yourself, emphasises this point – that we don’t create the earth, we are the earth.
A Lotus Flower - in Redditch, on a golf course!
Despite the petty machinations of politicians and vested groups, I believe that we people have within us the power to make our world a nicer, less animalistic place, right now. The SGI has this ideal and more and more people are coming to this way of thinking.
It’s not a case of smiling and being nice to everyone. Far from it. It’s a case of taking action, making a revolution in the ways of thinking, a human revolution, criticising and pointing out the actions and stupidity of bad people. Not turning the other cheek but arguing without backing down.
Like the polished rice, it is and I am, life itself.
A remarkable result follows from a variation of the double-slit experiment in which detectors are placed in either or both of the two slits in an attempt to determine which slit the photon passes through on its way to the screen. Placing a detector even in just one of the slits will result in the disappearance of the interference pattern. The detection of a photon involves a physical interaction between the photon and the detector of the sort that physically changes the detector. (If nothing changed in the detector, it would not detect anything.)
In other words, the photon “knows”. That’s all we can say about it. This er.. cartoon explains it…
The mutually inclusive relationship of life at each moment and all phenomena is shown in another of my favourite things, the concept of Entanglement.
Here’s Dr Quantum again, and that’s all I’ll say.
All this means that it’s perfectly possible for all humans to exist on our world in harmony, solving the great threat of greed that fuels consumerism and all the waste, pollution and corruption that accompanies it.
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