Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 3: The Practice for Transforming Our State of Life [3.7]
3.7 Embracing the Gohonzon Is in Itself Attaining Enlightenment
President Ikeda explains how Nichiren Buddhism views the concept of attaining enlightenment, or Buddhahood.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate Law that gives rise to, or is the source of, all Buddhas. To put it another way, the fundamental cause for the enlightenment of all Buddhas is not countless kalpas of practice,1 but rather awakening to the fundamental Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The Buddhist practice for the Latter Day of the Law is to directly embrace Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is why practice over countless kalpas is not necessary in Nichiren Buddhism.
In his writing “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” Nichiren Daishonin states: “Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.2 If we believe in these five characters, we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was” (WND-1, 365).
The practices of Shakyamuni and the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences to attain enlightenment and the virtues resulting from those practices are all included in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. For that reason, by embracing the “five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo,” we naturally obtain the full benefits enjoyed by Shakyamuni and all Buddhas, and are able to attain Buddhahood.
This is the principle that “embracing the Gohonzon is in itself observing one’s own mind, or attaining enlightenment.”3 It is also articulated as “attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form”4 and “immediate attainment of enlightenment.”5
The Daishonin says that those who embrace the Mystic Law “can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni” (WND-1, 1030). The Daishonin’s teaching opens the way for all people to reach the same great state of Buddhahood as Shakyamuni. Buddhahood is not a fiction or a metaphor, nor is it restricted to the inconceivably distant future. Nichiren Buddhism enables all people to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.
The principle of “embracing the Gohonzon is in itself observing one’s own mind” represents a revolution in the concept of attaining Buddhahood. As Mr. Toda explained:
“Just by chanting the single phrase of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Gohonzon, we can carry out the practice for attaining Buddhahood far more easily than the Buddhas described in the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, who practiced for tens of millions of years [over countless lifetimes before attaining Buddhahood].”6
While the widely accepted view of attaining Buddhahood is that it is a long, strenuous uphill climb to reach the summit of enlightenment, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that all people can reach that summit instantly. We can immediately and directly attain the expansive state of Buddhahood here and now, as though suddenly gazing from on high over the mountain peaks below and enjoying a magnificent, 360-degree panorama of the world. We can then go out among the challenging realities of living and share with others the joy of attaining this lofty state of being. This is what is so wonderful and exciting about the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.
From Lectures on the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” Chapters of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, published in Japanese in September 1995.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Countless kalpas of practice: Practice toward enlightenment over a period of countless kalpas (one kalpa being approximately 16 million years according to one account). In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, attaining enlightenment, or Buddhahood, was thought to require countless kalpas of practice over many lifetimes. This idea contrasts with that of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime or in a single lifetime.
- *2Myoho-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.
- *3Embracing the Gohonzon is in itself observing one’s own mind: In other words, through faith in the Gohonzon, one can tap the Mystic Law inherent in one’s life and attain Buddhahood.
- *4Attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form: This means attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime just as one is, without undergoing endless eons of Buddhist practice.
- *5Immediately attaining enlightenment: This means the immediate attainment of Buddhahood based on the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. It refers to beings in the nine worlds bringing forth their inherent Buddhahood and attaining enlightenment. The term is used in contrast to attaining Buddhahood through transformation, that is, through devoting oneself ceaselessly to arduous Buddhist practice over countless lifetimes until one gradually ascends to the highest stage of supreme enlightenment.
- *6Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Works of Josei Toda), vol. 5 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1985), p. 298.