Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 10:
Joy in Both Life and Death [10.10]
10.10 Sudden and Untimely Deaths
In this excerpt from The New Human Revolution, the novel’s protagonist Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) hastens to a regional area to encourage members after the untimely death of one of their central leaders in a car accident.
Throughout his writings, Nichiren Daishonin speaks of the three obstacles and four devils,1 one of which is the hindrance of death. This devilish function serves to arouse doubt and confusion through the death of those striving diligently in Buddhist practice.
We all have our own karma, but as ordinary mortals we cannot grasp its depth. Even should steadfast practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism die young, their death will enable them to actualize the Buddhist principle of “lessening karmic retribution.”2
Those who strive energetically for kosen-rufu as genuine practitioners of the Mystic Law are certain to attain Buddhahood, however their lives may end.
An early Buddhist scripture tells the story of a lay believer named Mahanama. He asked the Buddha where and in what form of existence he would be reborn were he to suddenly meet his end in an accident due to being distracted by the bustle of the town instead of concentrating his thoughts on the Three Treasures—the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order.
The Buddha responded: “For instance, Mahanama, if a tree bends to the east, slopes to the east, tends to the east, which way will it fall when its root is cut?”
To which Mahanama replied: “It will fall [in the direction that] it bends, slopes and tends.”3
Through this story, the Buddha taught that those who embrace Buddhism and practice assiduously, even if they were to meet with an unexpected, accidental death, will be carried by the Law in the direction of rebirth in good circumstances.
Shin’ichi then began to talk about the death of Isamu Ishizaki [a central leader in Tottori Prefecture]: “There may be some members who are wondering why, given that he practiced Nichiren Buddhism, Mr. Ishizaki met with such an accident. The causes and effects inherent deep in our lives, the workings of our karma, are strict indeed. That is why, even if we practice Nichiren Buddhism, the manner of our death can occur in any number of ways.
“There may be some who die giving their lives in the struggle to uphold Buddhism, like Mr. Makiguchi who died in prison for his beliefs. There may be some who die young as a result of illness or accidents. But when viewed through the eyes of faith, it all has some extremely profound meaning.
“Those who have dedicated their lives to working for kosen-rufu are Bodhisattvas of the Earth.4 They are followers of the Buddha. Life is eternal. In light of the teaching of the Mystic Law, such people will absolutely attain Buddhahood. Their surviving family members will also definitely be protected. I state unequivocally that, as long as those left behind continue to persevere in faith, the good fortune and benefit accumulated through their loved ones’ dedication to kosen-rufu will also pass on to them, and they will, without fail, enjoy unsurpassed happiness.”
Hearing Shin’ichi’s tremendous conviction, the feelings of doubt that had been clouding the members’ minds evaporated and the sun of hope began to rise in their hearts.
Shin’ichi continued: “Being without a spouse or partner doesn’t mean that we will never be happy. Prestige and wealth also do not guarantee happiness. True happiness, absolute happiness, is only found when we awaken to the fact that our lives embody the Mystic Law, carry out our human revolution, and manifest the great life state of Buddhahood through our Buddhist practice. We are born alone and we die alone. Only the Mystic Law has the power to protect us across the three existences of past, present, and future.
“If you continue devoting yourselves earnestly to kosen-rufu, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions and three existences will protect you. Therefore, no matter what happens, no matter what others may say or how badly they may treat you, you must never be swayed or shaken. If you become cowardly and distance yourself from faith, you will only end up miserable.
“Life is eternal, but this present lifetime flashes by in an instant. I hope you will be aware of your mission in this existence, devote yourselves to kosen-rufu, and accumulate abundant good fortune.”
From The New Human Revolution, vol. 10, “Bastion of the Pen” chapter.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are (1) the obstacle of earthly desires, (2) the obstacle of karma, and (3) the obstacle of retribution. The four devils are (1) the hindrance of the five components, (2) the hindrance of earthly desires, (3) the hindrance of death, and (4) the hindrance of the devil king.
- *2Lessening karmic retribution: This term, which literally means, “transforming the heavy and receiving it lightly,” appears in the Nirvana Sutra. “Heavy” indicates negative karma accumulated over countless lifetimes in the past. As a benefit of protecting the correct teaching of Buddhism, we can experience relatively light karmic retribution in this lifetime, thereby expiating heavy karma that ordinarily would adversely affect us not only in this lifetime, but over many lifetimes to come.
- *3The Book of the Kindred Sayings (Sanyutta-Nikāya) or Grouped Suttas, Part 5, translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1994), p. 321.
- *4Bodhisattvas of the Earth: An innumerable host of bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and to whom Shakyamuni Buddha entrusts the propagation of the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Day of the Law.