Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 3: The Practice for Transforming Our State of Life [3.2]
3.2 “Never Seek This Gohonzon outside Yourself”
In this selection, President Ikeda explains the profound principle of tapping the power of the Gohonzon in our lives. The immeasurable life force and limitless wisdom expressed by the Gohonzon are also inherent in our lives, and our Buddhist faith and practice enable us to exercise them with unrestricted freedom.
In any religion, the object of worship or devotion holds a place of prime importance. What, then, is the true meaning of the object of devotion, or the Gohonzon, in Nichiren Buddhism?
In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” the Daishonin states: “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 832). Discussing this passage in one of his lectures, Mr. Toda said:
“Although we may pray to this great Gohonzon thinking it exists outside us, the reality is that it resides directly within the lives of us who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws. This passage from the Daishonin is truly inspiring.
“Those who do not yet have faith in the Mystic Law are people at the ‘stage of being a Buddha in theory’ [the first of the six stages of practice],1 where the Buddha nature, while appearing vaguely to be present, does not function in the least. We [Soka Gakkai members], on the other hand, because we chant to the Gohonzon, are at the ‘stage of hearing the name and words of the truth’ [the second of the six stages of practice]. At this stage, the Gohonzon already shines brilliantly within us.
“However, the degree to which it shines will differ depending upon the strength of each person’s faith. It’s like a light bulb. A high-watt light bulb shines brightly, and a low-watt light bulb shines faintly.
“To continue with the analogy of a light bulb, for those who haven’t yet embraced the Mystic Law, the light bulb isn’t connected to a power source. Whereas for us, practitioners of the Mystic Law, the light bulb that is the Gohonzon is turned on. Therefore, our lives shine brightly.”2
Everything depends on the strength of our faith. When we have strong faith, our life itself becomes a “cluster of blessings” (WND-1, 832), which is how the Daishonin describes the Gohonzon. He further states: “This Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith”3 (WND-1, 832).
People of strong faith, therefore, never reach a deadlock. No matter what happens, they can transform everything into a source of benefit and happiness. Naturally, in the long course of our lives, we are bound to encounter various kinds of problems and suffering. But we will be able to turn all difficulties into nourishment for developing a higher state of life. In this respect, for practitioners of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, everything is ultimately a source of benefit and happiness at the most profound level. The word “unhappiness” does not exist in the vocabulary of those who have strong faith.
Toward the end of his Commentary on “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” Nichikan Shonin [a great restorer of Nichiren Buddhism who began the task of systematizing the Daishonin’s teachings writes:
“When we embrace faith in this object of devotion [the Gohonzon] and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our lives immediately become the object of devotion of three thousand realms in a single moment of life;4 they become the life of Nichiren Daishonin. This is the true meaning of the phrase ‘he [the Buddha] then adorned the necks of the ignorant people of the latter age [with the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo].’5 (cf. WND-1, 376). Therefore, we must venerate the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law and strive to develop our own power of faith and power of practice. We must not spend our lives in vain and regret it for all eternity, as the Daishonin says.6 (cf. WND-1, 622)”
In this passage, Nichikan Shonin clearly states that, through faith in the Gohonzon, our lives can instantly manifest the object of devotion and life state of Nichiren Daishonin. It was for this very purpose that the Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon. Here, we find the supreme essence of Nichiren Buddhism.
Faith enables us to manifest the Gohonzon that exists within us; it allows us to bring forth the diamond-like state of the Buddha and make it shine brightly.
Within the depths of our lives, we each inherently possess boundless life force and a wellspring of infinite wisdom. Faith allows us to freely tap that inner life force and wisdom.
Mr. Toda often used to say: “What’s inside you comes out. What’s not there, won’t.” The strong and pure state of Buddhahood and the weak and base states of hell, hunger, and animality all exist within our lives and are manifested in response to causes and conditions in our environment.
Since life is eternal throughout the three existences of past, present, and future, our past karma may also assail us in the present in the form of some major problem or suffering. However, just as the cause of suffering lies within our lives, we also possess the power to transform our suffering into happiness. This is the power of the life state of Buddhahood.
As Mr. Toda declared, ultimately human beings are the product of what lies inside them, no more, no less.
It’s vital, therefore, that we each cultivate the “earth” of our lives and put down deep and extensive “roots” of happiness. We must manifest the Gohonzon that exists within us and forge a self that is as unshakable as a mighty tree. In terms of our life state, this will be expressed as outstanding humanity and exemplary behavior, while in terms of our daily lives, it will manifest as benefit and good fortune.
The crucial point is whether we have faith. We must never make light of the Daishonin’s assertion that “It is the heart that is important” (WND-1, 1000).
What matters is not form or a person’s position or wealth. Those who have faith in their hearts are truly happy.
From a speech at a representatives gathering, Tokyo, April 3, 1993.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Six stages of practice: Also, six identities. Six stages in the practice of the Lotus Sutra formulated by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in his Great Concentration and Insight. They are as follows: (1) The stage of being a Buddha in theory; (2) the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth; (3) the stage of perception and action; (4) the stage of resemblance to enlightenment; (5) the stage of progressive awakening; and (6) the stage of ultimate enlightenment, or the highest stage of practice.
- *2Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Works of Josei Toda), vol. 6 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1992), p. 608. (Lecture on “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” March 6, 1956.)
- *3The Japanese word for faith (shinjin) consists of two Chinese characters.
- *4Three thousand realms in a single moment of life: A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world.
- *5The full quote from “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind” reads: “Showing profound compassion for those unable to comprehend the gem of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the Buddha wrapped it within the five characters [of Myoho-renge-kyo], with which he then adorned the necks of the ignorant people of the latter age” (WND-1, 376). Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being comprised of two characters). The Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings.
- *6Translated from Japanese. Nichikan, Kanjin no honzon-sho mondan (Commentary on “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind”), in Nichikan Shonin mondan-shu (The Commentaries of Nichikan Shonin), (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1980), p. 548.