Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 3: The Practice for Transforming Our State of Life [3.12]
3.12 Gongyo Encompasses the Heart of the Lotus Sutra
President Ikeda illuminates the significance of the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters of the Lotus Sutra, from which Soka Gakkai members recite passages during gongyo.
I once composed the following poem:
Morning and evening,
joyously attune your lives
to the melody of the universe,
as you recite the “Expedient Means”
and “Life Span” chapters!
What wonderful efforts we are making toward the creation of peace and happiness when we recite these important chapters that comprise the heart of the Lotus Sutra, the highest of all the Buddhist sutras, and vibrantly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the supreme teaching of Buddhism and ultimate Law of the universe!
The Lotus Sutra was expounded to enable all living beings to attain enlightenment. When read in terms of its implicit meaning—namely, from the doctrinal standpoint of Nichiren Buddhism—the Lotus Sutra takes on profound significance as an “explanation” of the object of devotion (Gohonzon) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental Law that opens the way for the enlightenment of all living beings throughout the entire world into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law.
The essence of this sutra is contained in the “Expedient Means” chapter, which expounds the “true aspect of all phenomena,” and in the “Life Span” chapter, which reveals the Buddha’s “attainment of Buddhahood in the remote past.”
From the standpoint of Nichiren Buddhism, the “Expedient Means” chapter praises the wisdom of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (the Mystic Law) as infinitely profound and immeasurable, and elucidates the principle that all living beings are Buddhas. In particular, the section that clarifies the “true aspect of all phenomena” and the “ten factors of life” (the portion that we recite three times during gongyo) indicates that all the ever-changing forms and states of life (all phenomena) are without exception manifestations of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (the true aspect). The Daishonin writes: “All beings and environments in the Ten Worlds1 . . . are without exception manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 383). All living beings are inherently entities of the Mystic Law. Therefore, all those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and work for kosen-rufu are assured of attaining the life state of Buddhahood just as they are.
We don’t need to go to some faraway place to attain Buddhahood. We don’t need to become someone special. We can commune dynamically with the universe as and where we are, and fully reveal the brilliance of our own innate “true aspect”—that is, our true self as an entity of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That is the purpose of gongyo and the realm of faith. We can bring forth from within us the wisdom, courage, and compassion of the Mystic Law. We therefore have absolutely nothing to fear.
The term “life span” of “The Life Span of the Thus Come One” chapter contains the meaning of measuring the life span and benefits of the Buddha. Read from the perspective of the meaning implicit in its text, this chapter offers a detailed description of the eternal life span and the benefits of the “Thus Come One Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (OTT, 123) extending from the infinite past. Here, the eternal nature of life is revealed, along with the fact that this constitutes the true nature of all living beings. Also revealed in this chapter is the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth2 to spread this great Law and lead all living beings to enlightenment.
The verse section of the “Life Span” chapter, in particular, is a grand paean to the infinitely great, noble, and eternal life force we all possess.
The Daishonin notes that when we combine the Chinese character ji (self) of the opening line of the verse section—“ji ga toku burrai” (Since I attained Buddhahood) (LSOC16, 270)—and the final Chinese character shin (body) of the closing line—“soku joju busshin” (quickly acquire the body of a Buddha) (LSOC16, 273), this forms the word jishin, meaning “oneself” (cf. OTT, 140). From beginning to end, the verse section praises the “self” and the “life” of the Buddha, and, as such, it is also a paean to the state of eternal and absolute freedom inherent in our lives.
The verse section offers direct answers to the ultimate questions that form the basis of all thought, philosophy, and religion—in other words, the timeless questions of life, such as “What is the meaning of our existence?” “What is the true essence of our being?” “Where have we come from and where are we going?” and “What are life and death?” The verse section comprises a teaching of hope and joy with the power to illuminate all humanity and all life for eternity.
In the verse section, we find the lines: “Ga shi do annon. Tennin jo juman.” (This, my land, remains safe and tranquil, / constantly filled with heavenly and human beings) [LSOC16, 272].
There is still immense suffering in the world today—suffering as painful as being “consumed in a great fire” (LSOC16, 272). Our noble movement for kosen-rufu, upholding the philosophy of the eternity of life, is firmly committed to creating a world where people live together in happiness and peace—an ideal society that humanity has always longed for. This is the way to secure the right to lead a happy, fulfilled existence for all people in the 21st century, an aspiration shared by countless philosophers, religious leaders, and peace scholars.
From a speech at a world peace gongyo meeting, Tokyo, September 8, 2002.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Ten Worlds: The realms of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings, heavenly beings, voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones, bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. They are also referred to as the ten life states of hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity, heaven, learning, realization, bodhisattva, and Buddhahood.
- *2Bodhisattvas 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.