The 26 Admonitions explained by Richard Causton
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.
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 SHONIN by 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)
These Twenty-Six Admonitions, or Warnings, were written by Nikko Shonin, the second High Priest, to whom we express our gratitude every day in the 3rd prayer of Gongyo. They were written on 13th January 1333, just 20 days before he died at the great old age of 88. At that time, the average age in Japan was probably similar to the average age in Britain – somewhere between 40 and 50 – so to live to 88 was really quite an achievement. Nikko actually wrote these warnings 51 years after Nichiren Daishonin had died and, remembering that he had been a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin since he was 13 years old, this gives us an idea of the considerable length of time he had practised – 75 years.
In recent years, because their existence gives us absolute concrete proof of Nikken and his followers’ slanderous actions, these Twenty-Six Warnings have been of particular importance to us, in challenging the issue with the priesthood.
Towards the end of his life, Nikko Shonin was deeply concerned about what would happen after his death and his concern is expressed in each one of these Twenty-Six Articles. I think it’s worth noting in this respect that Nikko Shonin’s action in writing these admonitions, which were originally addressed just to the priests, clearly demonstrates that he was very sure that at some point in the future the priests would again prove to be the enemy of true Buddhism – “the parasites in the lion’s bowels”, as Nichiren Daishonin put it (Major Writings, vol. 1, p.35). (also here and here – ed)
By this time, Nikko Shonin had already had to cope with the problem of the five elder priests who had been appointed by Nichiren Daishonin to work together with Nikko to protect and spread his teachings. They deserted Nikko after his master, Nichiren Daishonin, had died, and failed even to help keep the nightly watch over their master’s grave, as was customary. They went their own way and proceeded to found various heretical sects. In other words, for one reason or another, they had not understood, or they did not wish to understand, the truth of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. It is said that they were also deeply concerned about the fact that Nichiren Daishonin had been persecuted throughout his life for his beliefs and were frightened about the possibility of drawing persecution upon themselves. No doubt they also may have been jealous of Nikko Shonin, who had been appointed Nichiren Daishonin’s successor in no less than three different documents, thereby making it abundantly clear that it was Nichiren Daishonin’s will that Nikko Shonin would succeed him.
It is therefore, very important to understand that these Twenty-Six Warnings were made by this great priest Nikko Shonin, twenty days before he died, because he was determined that without fail the heritage of the True Law would be transmitted absolutely purely to future generations.[/expand]
THE IMPORTANCE OF TWENTY-SIX ADMONITIONS TO US AT THIS TIME [expand title=show]
Now let us consider why these warnings are so important to us today. First of all, because of the struggle we have had with the priesthood for the past several years, many of us have had to challenge all sorts of different doubts, and as a result of challenging, have grown a great deal in faith. Therefore we should now understand the need for absolute strictness in all matters of faith implied by these Twenty-Six Warnings. This is our heritage – every one of us, since we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, has inherited the extremely vital mission of spreading these teachings and never allowing them to become distorted or impure.
In a sense, the Twenty-Six Articles are nothing new to us. Because we have been well brought up in faith, we have been naturally abiding by most of them. This spirit goes back to the time of Mr Makiguchi, the first President of the Soka Gakkai who, from the very beginning, was determined that everyone who practised True Buddhism would practise absolutely purely as Nichiren Daishonin had taught. Both the second President, Mr Toda, as well as SGI President Ikeda have taught us with this same purity of spirit. Therefore there is no need to panic when we read these articles, thinking “Does this mean in some way I’ve been going against these warnings ever since I started to practice?”. We may have forgotten one or two points, but basically they teach what we know already.
The important thing is that these Twenty-Six Warnings were put in writing by no less a person in terms of faith, than Nikko Shonin, the appointed successor to Nichiren Daishonin, and the person who is the third of the Three Treasures of Buddhism. The first of the Three Treasures is the Treasure of the Law, the second is the Treasure of the Buddha who teaches the Law and the third is the Treasure of the Priest, who in a specific sense is Nikko Shonin, successor to Nichiren Daishonin and who was the first person, therefore, to spread the teachings. The title given to Nikko Shonin, as in the Silent Prayers of Gongyo, is the Great Leader of the Propagation of True Buddhism, and he is therefore revered in that way; whereas successive High Priests after Nikko are not put into this same category. This was the doctrine of Nichiren Shoshu before Nikken began to distort it in an attempt to prove successive high priests were one of the Three Treasures.
The Treasure of the Priest is Nikko in the specific sense, and in the general sense it is all of us, both priests and lay people, who, with the utmost sincerity, are spreading the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin to others. As is taught in the principle of the Person and the Law, the Law would continue to lie in darkness without the Person to practise it, spread it to others and pass it from one generation to the next. Therefore, as Nichiren Daishonin put it, since the Law is respectworthy, the Person who spreads the Law is also worthy of respect. Without this function, Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism would die.
We are the guardians of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, particularly at this point in time because the priesthood have destroyed themselves. In the future, we must presume, once they have reformed themselves and established an effective priesthood once again, we will share this task with the priests – however that process may take a long time. As it stands at the moment, we SGI members are the only people who can protect the purity of the teachings, supported, of course, by the priests who have seceded.
Since the High Priest, and those who follow him, have failed to abide by these Twenty-Six Warnings and in the process have disgraced the name of Nichiren Shoshu (translated as “Orthodox Sect of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism”, its transmission to future generations and the reformation of the priesthood have now become the responsibility of SGI.
Another reason for the importance of us understanding these Twenty-Six Warnings at this time is that the strictness with which we approach our faith and practice must always be a pillar, or foundation stone, of our future organisation. As you may have read in the UK Express articles where I gave my thoughts on a Democracy of Faith, one of the Seven Pillars was strictness in matters of faith: “That the fundamental principles of faith and practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, on which our organisation (SGI) is founded, must be strictly maintained and protected.” Nichiren Daishonin in the Gosho also uses the word “strict” with regard to faith and without this strictness – as the issue with the priesthood demonstrates – the whole movement of Kosen-rufu could be destroyed.[/expand]
“WE HAVE WON.” [expand title=show]
Sensei himself has emphasised the importance of the Twenty-Six Warnings of Nikko Shonin, lecturing on them himself in Kyoto on 24th October 1992. During the SGI General Training Course in November 1992, Sensei said (according to my personal notes): “The issue with the priesthood of the Nikken sect is over. We have won a most important victory. We all know how evil the actions of Nikken have been. Therefore there is absolutely no point in going on and on talking about them unless in your country you have an established Danto group whose actions you must refute. Now, on the contrary, we must consolidate our strength and get underway our advance towards the achievement of actual Kosen-rufu.”
In fact, the translation at the time was “full-blown Kosen-rufu”. I felt that this was an incredible statement, because ever since I started practising, I have heard Sensei talk about establishing the foundations of Kosen-rufu. But this time he said “full-blown Kosen-rufu”. In other words we are now about to enter the century of Kosen-rufu; we cannot know exactly when it will be achieved but we are now entering such an era.
When Sensei says “We have won our victory” with such complete conviction, one understands that he is talking about what he knows through his daimoku. Sensei has always said that if we have a great challenge, we have to go to the point of victory first. As he describes in Volume 10 of “The Human Revolution”, he was able to learn this himself when Mr Toda gave him the enormous challenge of bringing into the movement of Kosen-rufu well over 100,000 people in a space of 8 months in an area of Japan called the Kansai. He could not believe it was possible, but he battled with himself in front of the Gohonzon, and he chanted daimoku until it became a reality in his mind. “Of course I can achieve this great target; because the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is limitless.
When one breaks through like that in attacking a great problem, you have gone to the point of victory first. No matter what the problem may be in your life that you’re challenging, once you have reached that point of victory and you know without a shadow of doubt that you are going to win, then, through the wisdom of your Buddhahood, the way to achieve it in the reality of your daily life will flow quite naturally into your mind.
The fact that Sensei chose to lecture on the Twenty-Six Warnings himself is, I believe, a rounding off of what has proved to be a very difficult phase of the movement for Kosen-rufu. No doubt when we look back in the future, we shall realise how vital it was that we went through this battle to make our faith strong and set our feet firmly on the path of our mission towards “full-blown Kosen-rufu”.[/expand]
THE SPIRIT OF THE FIRST TWO PRESIDENTS [expand title=show]
It is worth noting that both Mr Makiguchi and Mr Toda as well as Sensei have always placed the greatest possible importance on the Twenty-Six Warnings. This is also emphasised by the fact that on 8th August 1960, within 3 months of being inaugurated as President of the Soka Gakkai, Sensei gave a lecture on the Twenty-Six Warnings to 5,OOO members who were attending a summer course at Taiseki-ji, the Head Temple. We too have now, as it were, ‘come of age’ and must take these Twenty-Six Warnings on board.
Some people may wonder, as they study the Twenty-Six Warnings, why the slander and corruption of the teachings by the priests should have been allowed to go on for so long without remonstrations from the President and other senior leaders of the Soka Gakkai in Japan. The answer is that ever since the Soka Gakkai was first founded in the 1930s, its leaders have sought to purify the priesthood.
If one reads “The Human Revolution” then the whole story is told there. Mr Makiguchi had to remonstrate with the priests of Nichiren Shoshu at the beginning of World War II because they had succumbed to the edicts of the military government that a Shinto shrine should be established at the Head Temple, Taiseki-ji; the priests had also demanded that the lay people of those times – there were not more than about 3,000 of them – should obey the government and establish Shinto shrines in their homes. Also the government had insisted, and again the Nichiren Shoshu priests had given in, that Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings should now incorporate certain aspects of the Shinto religion, particularly that of Emperor worship. However, with great courage Mr Makiguchi flatly refused to follow the priests.
How many of us would have braved the wrath of the military government in those times and stood firm? Amazingly, at crucial times of crisis somehow such people appear. Another example of this was the persecution at Atsuhara during Nichiren Daishonin’s lifetime, when three lay believers were beheaded because they refused to succumb to the pressures of the authorities and give up their faith.
Mr Toda and Mr Makiguchi both absolutely refused to give in. Most of the other leaders in the end gave in but not until they had been through a sort of brain-washing process in prison – which Mr Toda and Mr Makiguchi both had to go through as well. Mr Makiguchi died in prison but Mr Toda lived and when he was finally released from prison he made a great determination to succeed in his struggle to spread the Law so that never again could it be nearly lost in the darkness of human ignorance and prejudice.
As it was, Mr Toda’s prayers were answered because after World War II, he not only attained his target of the Soka Gakkai having 750,000 members before he died in 1958, but also there was a succession of three great High Priests: the 64th High Priest, whose name was Nissho; the 65th High Priest Nichijun, who was continuously consulted by Mr Toda in his task of resuscitating the Soka Gakkai after World War II and the 66th High Priest, Nittatsu, who was the predecessor of Nikken. There was also the retired 59th High Priest Nichiko, who helped Mr Toda to compile the writings of Nichiren Daishonin into the one volume in Japanese, which was then printed and for the first time made directly available to every single lay member.
These High Priests completely understood the significance of the appearance of the Soka Gakkai and therefore nurtured its growth. Nichijun in particular discussed together with Mr Toda all matters relating to how the Gakkai should be constructed and developed, together with the need for the Gakkai to be a legal entity totally separate from Nichiren Shoshu and the Head Temple. In other words, Nichijun was well aware of the state of the priesthood – he had lived through the period in World War II when the Nichiren Shoshu priests had betrayed the trust of Nichiren Daishonin and all previous disciples. Nichijun particularly understood that the hundreds and thousands of members of the Soka Gakkai must be those Bodhisattvas of the Earth who, Shakyamuni Buddha almost 3,000 years previously, had predicted (in the Lotus Sutra) would appear in the early centuries of the Latter Day of the Law. Suddenly this movement appeared – so noble and pure, led by Mr Makiguchi, whose diligence in faith, practice and study was so great. One must note too that these high priests followed after the ghastly happenings in the Head Temple when it was used as a barracks for a labour force, the buildings became dilapidated and the 62nd High Priest, Nikkyo, of those war-time days, was burnt to death in part of the Head Temple which went up in flames.
Mr Toda, and in more recent times, President Ikeda, always hoped that these high priests, particularly Nichijun and Nittatsu, would have sufficient strength and indeed, enough co-operation and support from the priests themselves, to reform the priesthood in general. Meanwhile, they continued to do their best to maintain good relations with the priesthood and, despite provocation, they felt confident that somehow things must resolve themselves in the end. As it turned out, the 66th High Priest, Nittatsu, after the triumphant opening of the high sanctuary Sho-Hondo in 1972, passed away sooner than was expected in 1979, and unfortunately died without being able to put in writing the name of the priest who he was appointing to be his successor. This was not unheard of – it had happened several times in the history of Nichiren Shoshu. In the event rightly or wrongly and by what procedure I do not know, Nikken was declared by the Head Temple to be the new (67th) High Priest and was inaugurated in 1979.
This decision, however, was bitterly opposed by some priests who established a movement called “Sho Shinkai”. The name literally means “correct faith group”, and they argued against the right of Nikken to be the High Priest. At that time Sensei pointed out to all members that this was a matter for the priesthood to resolve and that the lay people had no rights in the internal affairs at the Head Temple. Nikken had been nominated and agreed to be High Priest therefore, as always, we must continue to follow the guidance of Mr Makiguchi and Mr Toda – that one of the most important duties of the laiety was to protect the priesthood and the Head Temple.
Now looking back, one senses that this great blow-up with the priesthood which came to a head at the end of 1990, is actually necessary if the movement for Kosen-rufu is to have the slightest chance of advancing and growing in the years to come. In many ways, the actions of the priesthood are quite mediaeval in the desire of Nikken, and those priests who follow him, to establish a ruthless authoritarian rule, based on the infallibility of the High Priest Nikken. One cannot imagine any such organisation being able to enter the coming century successfully, when from every corner of the whole world there are cries for freedom and democracy. If the movement for Kosen-rufu – the will and testament of Nichiren Daishonin – is to advance into the next century, and the ultimate truth of the Gohonzon is to be established throughout the world, as the Gosho states, it must be carried out in a way entirely suited to the times, and above all, must uphold the purity of the teachings based on the supreme dignity and equality of all human beings.[/expand]
THE PREFACE AND THE CONCLUSION OF THE TWENTY-SIX ADMONITIONS show
The preface of the Twenty-Six Admonitions reads as follows:
The merciful sun (of true Buddhism) that spreads in the Latter Day illuminates the darkness of the extreme evil of slander, and the mystic wind of the Juryo chapter of kuon([expand title=1]Literally, distant past; Refers to the time of the original enlightenment of the Buddha. In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, it means kuon ganjo, time without beginning.[/expand]) blows away the gate of the provisional teaching that the Buddha achieved supreme enlightenment for the first time in Gaya.
Ah, how rare it is to encounter the Buddhist Law! It is as rare as to see the blossom of the Udumbara ([expand title=2] An imaginary plant said to bloom once every three thousand years. [/expand]) or (for a one-eyed turtle) to find a floating sandalwood log with a hollow of just the right size (to hold him). Nay, these cannot suffice to describe the difficulty (of encountering the Mystic Law).
We have fortunately been able to encounter this sutra (i.e. the Gohonzon) due to a deep karmic connection. Accordingly, I will here set forth some articles for the sake of later students of Buddhism. This is solely because I treasure the Daishonin’s golden words regarding Kosen-rufu.
These are vigorous and determined words for an 88-year-old man!
“The mystic wind of the Juryo chapter” means Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws – secret because they had never been revealed until Nichiren Daishonin did so. These Secret Laws are:
- The Invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
- The Object of Worship, which is the Gohonzon.
- The Sanctuary where the Gohonzon is enshrined and which, therefore, is the focal point of the Buddha land which develops around each place of worship through the actions and daimoku of each person.
The sanctuary in your own home is where the Gohonzon is enshrined and in the same way, through your practice, you begin to create the Buddha land around you. For example, if you hold a group meeting at your home, someone may come to it and think to himself: “Maybe I didn’t understand much of what they were talking about, but it was a lovely meeting and they were lovely people”. That is the influence of the Buddha land, created by the daimoku of those who chant.
The Conclusion to the Twenty-Six Admonitions reads as follows:
I have set forth these Twenty-Six Articles for the sake of the eternal salvation and protection of humankind. Learned priests of later generations must not question these in the least. Those who violate even one of these articles cannot be called disciples of Nikko. To make this clear I have formulated each of these precepts.
It is very clear that these Articles were written to the priests, but as we study them, we will see that many of them also apply to us as lay people because they concern the spirit of our practice, and the importance of strictness in faith.
In his lecture on the Twenty-Six Admonitions, Sensei highlighted two key passages from the preface and conclusion which give clearly the spirit and purpose of Nikko’s teaching. Firstly, from the preface: “I will here set forth some articles for the sake of later students of Buddhism. This is solely because I treasure the (Daishonin’s) golden words regarding Kosen-rufu.” Secondly, from the conclusions: “I have set forth these Twenty-Six Articles for the sake of the eternal salvation and protection of humankind“. Both of these passages emphasise that if the movement for Kosen-rufu collapsed because of a failure on our part to be strict in faith this. would be a disaster, not just for us members, but for the whole world.
Viewed in this light, Nikko’s concern is totally understandable. Indeed the problem with Nikken has highlighted it. Up to the moment of his death, from the age of 13 years old onwards, Nikko had served his master and had shared most of Nichiren Daishonin’s persecutions with him. At the time of the Atsuhara persecution, he was the prime point in terms of leading the movement to spread the teachings which led up to that persecution, and he was acknowledged as the person closest to his master, Nichiren Daishonin. Nikko was therefore, determined in those 20 days before his own death, to put in writing something which would ensure that the movement to achieve Kosen-rufu of the world would never fail, and in this way ensuring the achievement of Nichiren Daishonin’s will and testament. This was his great determination and spirit at that time.
As mentioned above, Nikko Shonin was already well aware of the suffering priests were capable of causing; he himself had suffered under the five Elder Priests. He understood the fragility of the priesthood and that their understanding was often very shallow. These elder priests had sheltered under the protective umbrella of the master, Nichiren Daishonin. The moment he died, because they lacked depth of faith and were easily influenced by contemporary trends and had not succeeded in conquering the three poisons in their own lives, they became scared of the criticism and persecutions they would have to face from society and the authorities and their faith collapsed. Nikko was absolutely determined to ensure that the heritage of the True Law would continue to be transmitted purely from person to person, far into the future.
As Sensei said in his lecture on the Twenty-Six Warnings: “herein lies the original spirit of the correct school of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism”. Furthermore, in the concluding passage of the Twenty-Six Warnings, Nikko says “Those who violate even one of these articles cannot be called disciples of Nikko.”
Yet staggeringly, if we study these warnings and remember all we have read about what has been going on in the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood over the past few years, it is clear that Nikken and his faction have violated every single one of them.
Although these Admonitions were specifically intended for priests, as Bodhisattvas of the Earth we lay members of SGI must now uphold the banner of the absolute purity of these teachings in the democratic age we are entering, just as Mr Makiguchi, Mr Toda and Sensei have entrusted us.
Who else could this refer to in this current age but the members of Soka Gakkai International? Where else are there tens of thousands of people who have stood up in more and more countries and in greater and greater numbers – as many as “the sands of 60,000 Ganges rivers”?
Mr. Toda completely understood this, and in the last years of his life he wrote a poem to the Youth Division in Japan. Sensei quoted this poem in his lecture. It is as follows:
You, young people
Engraving in your hearts
The twenty-six precepts,
Dedicate your lives
To the path of the Mystic Law.
The “twenty-six precepts” referred to in this poem are of course, Nikko Shonin’s Twenty-Six Warning Articles or Admonitions. As followers and disciples of Nichiren Daishonin; as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we should engrave these principles in our hearts, abide by them ourselves, and make sure that we pass them on to future generations. One might even say that as the numbers of SGI members multiply and the world-wide organisation for Kosen-rufu grows, so the Twenty-Six Warnings become more important than ever before.
Article 1: “The doctrines of the Fuji school must not differ in the least from the teachings of the late master.” [expand title=show]
This statement is fundamental and crucially important. Through our daimoku to the Gohonzon and our study of the Gosho,; we each have a direct connection to Nichiren Daishonin and to the great Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Individually, we have to defend with our whole lives this connection and this can only be achieved through our practice and study. This is because if we neglect either of these, inevitably our connection grows weaker, causing our good fortune to stop flowing into our lives and weakening our ability to activate the great qualities of our Buddhahood.
In recent times, we as lay people have seen that we must always guard this direct connection by preventing people in positions of authority, such as Nikken, from trying to stand between us and the object of; worship. This is because what Nikken has been trying to do goes totally against what Nichiren Daishonin taught. Recently Nikken has let it be known that the Gosho of these times is his (Nikken’s) guidance and that the Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin are provisional teachings! Fortunately, we as lay believers already have access to the Gosho – Mr Toda saw to that.
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is based totally on equality – that each one of us has the Buddha state within us and that each one of us has equal right of access to the practice that Nichiren Daishonin taught to activate our Buddha state – that is to say by chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon and studying the Gosho. Therefore, in the future, the slightest sign of anyone trying to take away that fight of access from us in some way, whether it is within the lay society or by the priesthood of the future, must be crushed because we would be rejecting our fight as a human being to practise exactly as Nichiren Daishonin taught. This, together with our right as SGI members to visit the Dai-Gohonzon freely, is the main point that is at stake in the baffle that has gone on over the last few years.[/expand]
Article 2: “The doctrines of the five senior priests differ in every regard from the teachings of the late master.” [expand title=show]
It is clear from what Nikken has said and done that we can substitute “the five senior priests” with “Nikken”: “The doctrines of Nikken differ in every regard from the teachings of the late master.” Furthermore, he has failed to abide by all twenty-six of these Admonitions, as you will discover.[/expand]
Article 3: “There will (in the future) appear persons who slander our school, saying that the Gosho are forged writings. You must not associate with such evil priests.” [expand title=show]
At the time he wrote these admonitions, Nikko had already been betrayed by the five elder priests who turned against him after the death of Nichiren Daishonin. Amongst other things, they rejected the majority of the ‘Gosho that were written in the Japanese characters used by the common people. They only accepted Gosho that were written in the classical Chinese characters used by scholars of that; time because they could: not believe their master would have written in such lowly characters. It seems ridiculous, but in the rigid society of those times, they gave this as proof that the Gosho were forged!
Of course Nichiren Daishonin wrote many of the Gosho in the Japanese characters most people would understand, so that what he was teaching would be available to everyone – especially the common people. At that time a similar situation existed in Europe where scholars wrote everything in Latin or Greek. In that way, they protected their exclusivity, whether or not intentionally, since the common people could not read what they wrote.
This Article clarifies that we must always be on the side of the ordinary people of this world and never pollute Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings with unnecessary jargon or false mysticism, often a requirement of religions demanding blind faith.[/expand]
Article 4: “Those who produce forged writings and say that they are Gosho, or who practice with the view that the essential and theoretical teachings (of the Lotus Sutra) are the same, are parasites in the lion’s body.” [expand title=show]
This admonition makes it clear that we should base everything on the Gosho – not, for instance, as Nikken has tried to insist, on his own guidance. If you study President Ikeda’s guidance, you will find that it is based totally on the Gosho from which he uses many quotations to support his explanations. Indeed the purpose of Sensei’s guidance’s is to help us understand and relate to the Gosho in contemporary terms. Likewise, the purpose of our Chapter Study meetings is that we should come to understand the Gosho in terms of our ordinary daily lives and in relation to the particular part of the country where we live.[/expand]
Article 5: “You should refrain from indulging in poetry or non-Buddhist works, or from engaging in idleness and chatter without (having the aim of) rebuking slander.” [expand title=show]
There is a passage from the Gosho, which President Ikeda quoted in his lecture on the Twenty-Six Admonitions, which reads as follows; “Though one may have been fortunate enough to be born as a human being, if he fails to study Buddhism and to refute it’s slanderers, but simply spends his time in idleness and chatter then he is no better than an animal dressed in priestly robes” (Major Writings, Vol. 3, p.215).
This sounds very quaint in these times, but we should remember that this is guidance for priests and monks living in mediaeval times. It doesn’t mean that today, as laymen and women, we cannot go out and enjoy; ourselves. Since there is no separation between Buddhism and daily life, everything we do can be for Kosen-rufu, for example, from keeping ourselves healthy or passing an exam, to learning something about our contemporary world through watching a movie. If we live for Kosen-rufu we can gain value from everything we do and enjoy ourselves too.[/expand]
Article 6: “Lay believers should be strictly prohibited from visiting (heretical) temples and shrines. Moreover, priests should not visit slanderous temples and shrines, which are inhabited by demons, even if only to have a look around. To do so would be a pitiful violation (of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.) This is not my own personal view; it wholly derives from the sutras (of Shakyamuni) and the writings (of Nichiren Daishonin).” [expand title=show]
In this Article, Nikko Shonin is addressing Buddhist priests living in a Buddhist country. As is well known, Nikken staggered everyone in Japan a couple of years ago by going to a Zen cemetery where he had built an elaborate family tomb, and conducting a memorial service for his father there, instead of transferring the ashes to a Nichiren Shoshu burial ground which is customary for members of good faith.
As lay people who live in a non-Buddhist country, it is not so easy for us to relate to the great significance of this. As a foreigner, if we go to Japan we may be taken sightseeing by somebody to some ancient heretical temple. We will probably be told that as long as we quietly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on arrival and departure and do not give offerings, we Me not committing any form of slander. The important point is that we view our visit to such a place as a museum concerning the culture of Japan and the history of Buddhism, not as a place of worship. In the same way in our own country, we may be invited to a church, for example for a family wedding. A church is not even a heretical Buddhist temple and it may well be important for us to be at that particular event from the point of view of respecting the rest of our family and the happiness of the occasion. While the service is going on, we can chant silently inside ourselves and offer our own prayers.
However, as a Japanese member living in Japan, surrounded by heretical temples, strictness in these matters is important. In this respect, Nichiren Daishonin himself set an example.[/expand]
Article 7: “Disciples of ability should be allowed to devote themselves to the study of the Gosho and other doctrines of Buddhism, without being pressed to perform miscellaneous services for their teachers.” [expand title=show]
This is remarkable in the light of many priests’ admission that even at the Head Temple they study the Gosho for only eight hours in a year. I once spoke to a senior priest who came to conduct Gojukai ceremonies in the U.K. and who had been an acolyte as a young boy. I said to him how incredibly fortunate it must be to have the opportunity of studying the Gosho at such an early age, when I had to wait until I was 50. He looked at me blankly, so I repeated my comment and he said “No, No, none of the young priests or acolytes do any form of Gosho study until they’re well into their twenties; their job is simply and solely to learn to serve their seniors. Until they have learnt this they could not understand the Gosho!” Since then I have learnt how little the priests in general know about the Gosho, which is no doubt why their accusations against SGI cannot be substantiated in the light of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.[/expand]
Article 8: “Those of insufficient learning who are bent on obtaining fame and fortune are not qualified to call themselves my followers.” [expand title=show]
This is straightforward. Sensei is always saying to us that if all we think about is fame and fortune then inevitably this will be our downfall because we will merely encourage the three poisons to take charge of our lives. There is also the danger of us trying to use the organisation for our own selfish ends, rather than to advance the movement for Kosen-rufu, which would result in us slandering the Law and causing suffering for ourselves and others.[/expand]
Article 9: “Until they are well versed in the difference between the provisional and true teachings, followers of later generations should visit this temple, setting aside the debt of gratitude they owe to their parents and teachers, and undertake various studies in order to free themselves (from the sufferings of birth and death and attain the Way).” [expand title=show]
Today, this relates to us attending courses. We struggle to get time off work and save money to go on a course at Taplow Court or Trets, or even if there is a vacancy, to go Japan. In terms of cause and effect this is a great and profound act of faith. Understanding this need, Sensei and the Japanese members have given us Taplow Court and the Trets European Centre.[/expand]
Article 10: “Unless you have a thorough understanding of and firm faith in the teachings (of Nichiren Daishonin), you should not study T’ien-t’ai’s doctrines.”
Article 11: “Followers of this school should engrave the teachings of the Gosho in their lives and thereby inherit the ultimate principles expounded by the master. Then, if they have any leisure time, they should inquire into the doctrine of the T’ien-t’ai school.” [expand title=show]
In other words we should be wary of dabbling in other teachings and philosophies until Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings are solidly in our lives, otherwise it would be very easy to develop slanderous views. Through study and experience of applying the teachings to our daily lives, we find they are all-embracing. There is no problem or question to which the teachings do not have the answer. Of course this admonition does not apply to those principles taught by T’ien t’ai which Nichiren Daishonin incorporated into his teachings.[/expand]
Article 12: “You should be inclined to engage in discussion or deliver lectures (on Buddhism), and you should refrain from pursuing secular concerns.” [expand title=show]
Again this is specifically directed to priests or monks who should serve Buddhism twenty-four hours a day. One of the main problems that has emerged in the current issue with the priesthood is their lack of dedication, material greed and love of luxury. Yet Nichiren Daishonin says in the Gosho that “Only honest priests who desire little and are happy with whatever they have can be called ‘priests’ in the true sense of the word.” (Major Writings, vol. 1, p.165). On the other hand, as lay believers, we have to be involved in secular concerns, so our struggle is to maintain a balance between our Buddhist and our secular activities. This takes courage and endurance and above all, faith, qualities which Shakyamuni said in the Lotus Sutra the Bodhisattvas of the Earth would possess. Either way, Nichiren Daishonin pointed out to us in the Gosho that the significance of the Buddha’s appearance in this world, was in his behaviour as a human being.[/expand]
Article 13: “Until Kosen-rufu’ is achieved, propagate the Law to the full extent of your ability without begrudging your life.” [expand title=show]
This is a very powerful statement by Nikko Shonin, made in the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin, who often quoted the passage in the Lotus Sutra telling us never to allow the flow of the movement for Kosen-rufu to cease. It is a warning against half-heartedness which, if we are sensible, we should all heed.[/expand]
Article 14: “As for practitioners who treasure the Law more highly than their own lives, even if they are but humble teachers of the Law, you must hold them in great esteem, revering them as you would the Buddha.”
Article 15: “You should revere a teacher of the Law who engages in its propagation as a sacred priest, even though he may be your junior.”
Article 16: “Even though they may be lowly, you should deeply respect and regard as your teachers those whose understanding of Buddhism surpasses your own.” [expand title=show]
These three Articles follow the same theme. For us this includes those members who devotedly lecture to us, for example at Chapter Study. Everyone is trying their utmost and you can definitely learn something from everybody. But if you sit there during the lecture criticising the person giving it all the time and thinking what a bad lecturer he or she is, you will learn nothing because your mind is totally pre-occupied with these criticisms.
Anyone who is trying to pass on something about the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin is worthy of our respect, and if our ears are open properly, through respecting the lecturer, no matter who it is or how unprofessional he or she may be, we definitely can learn something from them.
These articles also show clearly that in SGI we must never have a hierarchy, as has existed at the Head Temple for many years. This can only lead to patronage, where certain families dominate the organisation, and jealousy and competitiveness destroys people’s seeking mind and devotion to the Law. We should be clear that a leader in Buddhism is simply a person who takes responsibility on behalf of others, in order to serve others. In no sense are they superior to any other member.[/expand]
Article 17: “Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s law and propounds his own views.” [expand title=show]
Nothing could be clearer than this, could it? In fact, Nikken is not the only High Priest to have gone astray. Scholars from Japan have researched into the history of Nichiren Shoshu and made various extraordinary discoveries: that boys of 10 and 14 years old were made high priest to maintain their family’s power within the Head temple; whilst in the Middle Ages there was a high priest who sold the Head Temple and it took three more high priests before they were able to buy it back! However, Nichiren Daishonin warned us that in spreading the Law, “if you propagate it, devils will arise without fail”.[/expand]
Article 18: “Even if a view is set forth unanimously by a conference (of believers), the high priest should repudiate it if it goes against the Buddha’s Law.” [expand title=show]
President Ikeda’s comment on this is as follows: “The basic point is that truth or falsity should be determined neither by authority, that is to say by the High Priest, nor by the weight of the view of the multitude, that is to say by a conference or gathering of believers. In all matters what counts most is whether or not something accords with the correct Buddhist teaching, and it goes without saying that the Daishonin’s golden words are the standard that is to be used in making any such determination.”
In other words, Sensei is saying that voting or a consensus by majority is not necessarily in the least bit democratic because there might be a very important minority whose view is swamped by that majority.
Of course, voting is the only way a political democracy can function. However, as followers of Nichiren Daishonin we can see that another reason it is not the perfect way of deciding anything is because the decision made depends on the state of life of those voting at a particular time. If they are in the state of Anger or Hell, then how they vote will be based on this state of life.
In terms of faith, however, we have the Gohonzon and the Gosho, so anything that is to be decided can be put to the judgement of the individual, based on whether it is fight by the Gohonzon or not. Furthermore, everything comes back to this prime point; if you cannot agree at the first attempt, then everyone has to go back to the Gohonzon and chant and then after a time, get together again and talk. It is of course, very important that people are encouraged to speak out if there is something they feel strongly about. First we should check through daimoku that we are not mistaken or that our view is not just emotional. Then, if we still feel it is right by the Gohonzon, we should speak out.
For twenty years the SGI-UK Central Committee has run things this way. If we do not have unanimous agreement over some matter, then we go back to the Gohonzon again and again until we can unanimously agree or disagree. That is why Sensei says SGI is the perfect democracy, because we have the Gohonzon as the prime point in all we do.[/expand]
Article 19: “Black robes should not be worn priests”
Article 20: “Jikitotsu should not be worn by priests” [expand title=show]
Priests should not wear the black robes worn by other sects, nor should they wear Jikitotsu, meaning a type of robe that is very elaborate and ornamental.[/expand]
Article 21: “You should not sit together with slanderers of the Law (at religious ceremonies) for fear of suffering the same punishment as they.” [expand title=show]
This again is referring to religious ceremonies in a Buddhist country. As mentioned above (see Article 6), in our country a Christian church is not a heretical Buddhist temple. However, we should avoid attending the religious ceremonies of other Buddhist sects which have become established in the U.K.[/expand]
Article 22: “You must not accept offerings from slanderers of the Law.” [expand title=show]
In our organisation, we avoid this by stating that we cannot accept offerings from anyone except members. This means not only that they have a Gohonzon and/or a membership certificate but also that they are practising, even if only a little.[/expand]
Article 23: “Carrying a sword or staff in order to protect the Buddhist Law is permissible. However, (weapons) should not be worn when presiding over religious services, though accompanying priests may be permitted to carry them (to protect themselves and others).” [expand title=show]
I hope we never have to apply this, although there may still be a few countries in the world where it is relevant..[/expand]
Article 24: “(At religious ceremonies) young acolytes should not occupy seats lower than those of high-ranking lay followers.” [expand title=show]
The meaning behind this, as Sensei explained in his lecture, is that priests and for that matter lay people, should not fawn upon those who are able to make large contributions to the Kosen-rufu Fund. They should be treated like any other believer in the spirit of the little boy and his mud-pie offering to Shakyamuni. Based on the Law of cause and effect, because of the sincerity of their contribution they will receive great benefits, so they do not have to be put in an exalted place. I can remember an example of this kind of preferential treatment in the church I was taken to when I was a little boy: People used to have to rent the pews that they sat on; this meant that everyone reasonably well-off got a front seat and everyone else piled in at the back where they could see very little. In those days our parish church was packed with people every Sunday.[/expand]
Article 25: “My disciples should conduct themselves as holy priests, patterning their behaviour after that of the late master. However, even if a high priest or a priest striving for practice and understanding should temporarily deviate from (the principle of sexual abstinence), he may still be allowed to remain in the priesthood (as a common priest without rank).” [expand title=show]
This deals with the issue of celibacy. All Buddhist priests in Nichiren Daishonin’s time were celibate; they never married. In fact, priests in Japan did not marry until for some reason yet to be grasped, the Emperor Meiji, when he was restored to the Imperial throne of Japan in the 19th Century, suggested to the priests that they should get married. It seems they did so with great enthusiasm. Certainly in Nichiren Shoshu, most priests are married.
There are of course, strong arguments for and against celibacy. For example, if a priest is allowed to marry and have children, he will be just the same as a lay person except that he wears different clothes. He will therefore have all the worries and mundane troubles of the lay person; whereas a priest should be serving the Buddha twenty-four hours a day. On the other hand, others doubt the value to couples and families, of guidance from priests who cannot marry.
I have no idea what will be agreed in the future; only we lay people together with the priests can decide in the end. One thing for sure is Nichiren Daishonin’s exhortation in the Gosho, that priests should be people of small desires who are content with what they have.[/expand]
Article 26: “You should treasure those practitioners who are skilled in difficult debate, just as the late master did.” [expand title=show]
People who can debate well and uphold the teachings are always very important, even in these times. Apart from the possibility of a religious challenge to debate, the same qualities may be required to deal effectively for example, with the media, or with scholars.[/expand]
In conclusion, I would like to make the following points:
Firstly, it is crucial that we make these Twenty-Six Warnings the basis of our faith from now on into the future. However, we must use our common sense and understand that some of them are specifically for the priesthood and others apply to Buddhist countries. We should make these Warnings the pillars of our faith in the future, always guarding and protecting them and ensuring they are passed on to future generations.
Secondly, President Ikeda has said: “Without the people who spread the Law, Kosen-rufu would never be anything more than an empty dream.” Who is it who has fulfilled the prophecy in the Lotus Sutra which states that tens of thousands of Bodhisattvas of the Earth would appear in the Latter Day of the Law to spread the Great Pure Law in this troubled age? It can only be the members of SGI, who have spread Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism throughout the world to more than 115 countries, and who steadfastly maintain the movement for Kosen-rufu and as the Gosho says, “never allow its flow to cease”.
Thirdly, as President Ikeda has said: “The priesthood by its own accord has cut itself off from the world of correct faith”. Under the leadership of Nikken, they have committed grave slander of the Law by trying to destroy the SGI – the only organisation fulfilling Nichiren Daishonin’s will and testament.
Finally, we can see that everything is now up to us as members of SGI. We must not fail Nichiren Daishonin; we must fulfil the Buddha’s prophecy. This is our truly profound and extraordinary mission. Indeed this is why we were born into this world at this particular time.
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