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.
What is the Best Backup for Windows in a Small Home or Office?
Which Windows Backup? A History.
Over the years I’ve tried many systems for backing up crucial Windows data. Currently for small-scale backups I use the ubiquitous and almost bullet-proof flash drives, my current one tipping the scales at 8Gb. But for major backups, as the years have passed, I’ve used;
Floppy discs – 1.4Mb
Iomega Zip discs – 100Mb
CDRW – 650Mb
DVD-R – 4.7Gb
Western Digital My Book Home Edition – 1Tb
They all had their problems and limitations. The last one looked good with Firewire, USB2, ethernet & eSATA connections – but it overheated and broke…..
Best Windows Backup!
My current system is from Synology and is a “DS210j – Budget-friendly 2-bay NAS server for Home and Small Business”
Addendum June 2011: The tool is a seriously capable bit of kit and I cannot recommend it enough. Get one!
It does everything it says on the tin, and more! The whole thing cost me about 200 quid, plus an hour of my time to install.
Even its firewall is more configurable than any router I’ve used! It can be used as a server for FTP or the web. It comes with software for a host of things that mimic Flikr etc but without all the privacy or security issues inherent in off-line storage. It’ll also run with any operating system because it itself is a mini-linux installation as it is, and includes Windows, Apple and Linux applications.
Check it out, straight from their overview page:
Build Your Entertainment Center
Download Station 2 functions as a 24×7 BitTorrent, FTP, HTTP, eMule, and NZB download center. RapidShare and RSS download are now supported.
DLNA Compliant Media Sever ensures compatibility and interoperability between Disk Station and a wide range of DLNA-certified home devices.
iTunes Server provides an easy way to share music and videos with other iTunes clients within the local network. You can create playlists with songs that match the criteria you specified, and best of all, iTunes will update these playlists automatically as you add or delete songs.
Audio Station supports music, Internet radio stations, and iPod playback with connected USB speakers. Web-streaming mode allows your music to be shared with multiple users over the Internet.
Back Up Your Precious Data
DSM 2.2 offers comprehensive solutions for you to back up data stored on Disk Station or your desktop computer to the Disk Station.
Server backup includes two alternatives: Network Backup and Local Backup. Both allow you to back up data in the shared folders and databases. Incremental backup option and flexible schedules are available. All can be easily configured with a step-by-step wizard.
Desktop backup provides Windows PC users with the Synology Data Replicator 3 for backing up desktop data, Outlook, and Outlook Express emails to their Disk Station by choosing one of the three backup modes: Immediate, Sync, and Scheduled backup, while Mac OS X users can use Apple Time Machine backup application to back up their critical data to Disk Station.
USBCopy allows you to quickly back up your data from an USB storage device such as an USB flash or USB card reader to the Disk Station with just one single touch on the front-panel Copy button.
Enrich Your Web Presence
Photo Station 3 simplifies photo, video, and blog sharing over the Internet. The flexibility of photo theme customization, blog layout arrangement, visitor’s privilege setting, RSS feed, and the dazzling 3-dimentional photo browsing with Cooliris make Photo Station 3 your state-of-the-art lifestyle sharing center on the Internet.
Web Station with built-in PHP+MySQL allows users to publish their own websites or install numerous popular open-source programs.
Access With Your iPhone/Mobile Device
The iPhone App DS audio allows Disk Station users to stream music stored on Disk Station with their iPhone/iPod® touch where Internet access is available, while DS photo allows uploading photos from the iPhone/iPod® touch to their Disk Station.
Users with a mobile device running on Windows Mobile® 6.0, iPhone OS 2.2.1 onward, or Symbian OS 9.1 can log on their Disk Station to view photos with Mobile Photo Station and read supported file formats with Mobile File Station where Internet access is available.
Synology Disk Station is designed and developed perpetually with the concept of energy saving. Compared with average PC counterparts, Synology Disk Station consumes a relatively low amount of power and has the HDDs hibernate when not in use. This not only helps to save energy but also extends the lifespan of the hard disk.
Synology Disk Station truly earns the title of “green product” because of the unique Scheduled Power On/Off feature, and the smart fan design effectively cools down the system with minimum power consumption, yet keeps the system quiet on operation.
Finally, all Synology products are produced with RoHS compliant parts and packed with recyclable packing materials. Synology recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen and is continually working to reduce the environmental impact of the products we create.
The Hell of Incessant Suffering and the Land of Tranquil Light
Note: This was originally published here on Sunday, September 24th, 2006 at 4:28 pm and filed under Buddhism.. The link has been dead for quite some time, looks unlikely to re-appear, so I’m showing the words here as they are so wonderful because they deserve to be preserved. The material is straight from Google’s cache as it isn’t in the Wayback Machine. Use the contact page if you think this is unreasonable.
Through enlightenment we escape the confines of the physical and realise the unlimited potential of the human spirit. Just as the sun that dries the newly hatched butterfly’s wings, the compassion of the Lotus Sutra allows us all to soar from our pitiful cocoons and look out over the landscape of infinite possibility.
The potential for enlightenment exists within all human beings, just as an ungainly chick has the potential to become a great eagle, the single roe egg to become a great salmon, or the young cheetah to become faster even than antelope. Why then, do human beings endowed with the capacity for intelligence and great understanding constantly fail to fulfil their potential?
Physical confinement refers not only to tangible barriers, like walls, or borders, but also by those barriers caused by our lesser consciousnesses. Our lesser consciousnesses often serve to withhold our true potential, making us feel trapped within the lower life states of hell, hunger, animality and anger. We constantly fall into the three evil paths of greed anger and foolishness, and we commit the ten evil acts – all serving only to deepen our suffering and further delude us from our most true and pure nature.
This one moment of insight transformed Mr Toda’s life, and catalysed the growth of the SGI in post war Japan, and subsequently revitalised the cause for Kosen Rufu throughout the world.
It surprises me not in the least that given such a supreme teaching, and aware of his inability to directly influence the affairs of the world outside his cell, that the causes inherent in Mr Toda’s experiencing the Lotus Sutra ultimately led to such profound effects upon so many people today.
Trapped in a prison cell one is all too aware of his physical confinement. Given such an environment, and removed from every day affairs, even the ignorant would have much time to ponder. Many great people of compassion have suffered this kind of confinement – not just such great names as Mandela and Terry Waite, but the countless common people who have found their lives curtailed by cruel regimes bent on every kind of domination.
A prison cell is a relative confinement. The insects that must have occupied Josei Toda’s prison cell were most likely unaware of the rest of the prison, far less so the existence of the country of Japan, it’s people’s anguish, or the needless suffering being delivered upon countless millions of people due to the war. Those insects surely went about their daily business, oblivious to these facts. Spiders would spin their webs, and flies, being such, would daily find themselves trapped therein.
Josei Toda although knowing his mentor and friend Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was also in prison, must have felt a terrible sense of isolation from the world outside, and finally upon learning of Makiguchi’s death a year after his last brief meeting with him, he wept in his devastation all night. For a time he must have felt as isolated as a single ant in the middle of a great desert.
The hell of incessant suffering is indeed realised in this life due to our ignorance of our true nature and the way of the Lotus Sutra. Josei Toda’s prison cell provided him with the opportunity of transcending his own difficulties, realising within himself the Buddha nature which in turn blessed him with the vision that this world and all life within has the potential for buddhahood – that the potential existed for the land of tranquil light to be experienced in this life.
The relative confinement of the prison cell is no different from our confinement upon this planet. To live on a world the size of a grain of sand, human beings would be too small to see even under a powerful microscope. Imagine now that this grain of sand upon which billions of human beings depend may be more than 16000 miles from the nearest grain of sand which may also be inhabited by sentient life. It is impossible for common people to comprehend our isolation.
Surely then, humanity is more physically alone within the vast reaches of the universe than Josei Toda was within his prison cell. Yet, like the flies in Mr Toda’s cell, we are ignorant of our physical isolation and the darkness in our hearts. Why does humanity, more isolated in the universe as was Josei is his cell, not see it’s salvation in the compassion and supreme law of the Lotus Sutra? It is not unheard of for a person to exhibit great wisdom. People [pluraly] on the other hand, have never been recorded with the possession of a collective wisdom to match.
It is because people are amused by meaningless trinkets, misled by the poisonous machinations of our rulers, deluded by jealous and vengeful doctrines, and hungry for power that humanity has successfully delivered itself into a time where the great mystic forces have delivered the hell of incessant suffering before our very eyes.
Nichiren stated “those who stay long in privies forget how foul the smell is”, and so it is with humanity and the three evil paths. Our task as votaries of the Lotus Sutra and disciples of Nichiren is to make the great Law as irresistible to humanity, as the copy of the Lotus Sutra in Mr Toda’s cell was to him.
The movement for Kosen Rufu must make the Law accessible to all and to propagate it at every opportunity. True votaries of the Lotus Sutra see our worldly attachments for the illusions of smoke and dust that they are.
It is not enough simply to become comfortable exchanging our views with fellow believers at regular meetings. This time calls for shakubuku to be practiced with great wisdom, courage and compassion. To provide demonstrable proof to all those around you – your employers, employees, family and friends – is paramount if this world is ever to be transformed into the land of tranquil light. This world may not be transformed in my lifetime, but if we are to take true faith in kosen rufu then we will surely be reborn in the land of tranquil light.
……and read two small passages, both written by Buddhists, one of which quotes one of “The Buddha’s” last works, the Lotus Sutra.
What struck me, was that sometimes, this Buddhism that I do can get a bit confusing, and then suddenly – suddenly someone says something that brings everything right back sharply into focus.
And it all becomes clear, again. It’s just so simple, really.
Daisaku Ikeda Says:
Many religions have demanded blind faith, taking away people’s independence. President Makiguchi opposed such enslavement. What he called for instead was solidarity of awakened common people. To achieve this, he proposed a self-reliant way of life in which we advance on the path of our choice with a firm, independent character. He also stressed a contributive way of life in which we set our fundamental goal in life toward the realization of happiness for ourselves and others, casting aside arrogance and self-satisfaction to respect and benefit others. – For Today and Tomorrow.
Nichiren Daishonin Says:
Becoming a Buddha is nothing extraordinary. If you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with your whole heart, you will naturally become endowed with the Buddha’s thirty-two features and eighty characteristics. As the sutra says, “hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us,” you can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni – Letter to Niike
Both these men are quoting or expressing a fundamental principle of my Buddhism, first expounded by the Buddha, Shakyamuni, many centuries before the Christian era, which is that all people are equal and that all can be as equally enlightened as himself…
Shakyamuni Buddha Says:
(speaking to Shariputra, one of his disciples and trusted friends) ….you should know that at the start I took a vow hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us, and what I long ago hoped for has now been fulfilled… see THE BUDDHA NATURE IS INHERENT IN ALL PEOPLE for a fuller explanation.
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