A Ship to cross the Sea of Suffering

"Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realise our goals, in our efforts to move forward." Daisaku Ikeda

It’s true…

I’ve been neglecting you lately. The truth is, is that I’ve found another space to share that isn’t bound to solely buddhist themes. I need to make more of an effort, but the holiday season ties people in knots. And time becomes a scarce resource.

I haven’t been neglecting my Buddhist practice though, and that is the main thing. Buddhahood happens in every moment of life, so capturing that in words at times is very difficult for me. The age old teaching of 3000 realms in a single moment of life. Nichiren Buddhism is about taking action in daily life, and continuing to practice every waking moment so that your life state (moods) are resonating with your innate Buddhahood as often as possible. The qualities of Wisdom, Compassion and courage. Heck, even in my dreams lately, I’ve been my Buddha self. My subconscious acting out things I haven’t processed during the day. Experiencing situations that have played out in my mind, or troubled me – but what is interesting is the fact that lately even in my dreams I’ve been practicing immense compassion and wisdom towards the events playing out. It has given me deep insight into the daily occurrences of which at times get under my skin. I feel my understanding growing in every moment. My capacity expanding.

The faith and practice of living in Buddhahood as often as possible is deepening in me. They don’t call it a practice for no reason, and this year coming marks my fifth year as a practicing Nichiren Buddhist. My Third year as an SGI member. The end of the first year as a district leader, and the beginning of my journey having received my very own Gohonzon on the 1st of December. I’ve been sharing one with my partner of 6 years, and it feels absolutely wonderful to have my own ready and waiting for me when I move out early next year. I need to make/invest in a butsudan now.

I’ve taken to finally reading and keeping the gosho close to me at all times as of late. Volume one of the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. I am in love with the teachings, and the poetic nature of Nichiren as he writes to and encourages his followers during the 1200’s. What an amazing journey of humanity we have been on. What a great time to be alive and to be embracing the Lotus Sutra. Sharing the wisdom and certainty of attaining buddhahood in this life with our friends, family and all those whom we encounter.

As the New Year draws closer, I am digging my toes deeper into the determinations of becoming more confident, living with more courage to share the practice with others, and dispelling negativity and worry from my life. The crippling self doubt that I experience really has to go! I am ready to break up with it, and no longer let it take advantage of my mind. There are so many gems of encouragement in the Gosho that help me to feel inspired and supported in my efforts to challenging my human revolution, and transforming the karmic tendencies reoccurring throughout my life.  “An ascending life, in which we keep striving to grow and improve—this is what is meant by human revolution. Human revolution doesn’t mean becoming something special or different from who we are; it simply means striving to improve, no matter what challenges we face.”

“One’s true worth as a human being is not a matter of outward appearance or title but derives from the breadth of one’s spirit. Everything comes down to faith and conviction. It is what is in one’s heart and the substance of one’s actions that count.” – Daisaku Ikeda

Picking encouragement from the Gosho can be difficult to share. But lately I’ve had ‘The Selection of Time’, ‘Opening of the eyes’ and ‘A ship to cross the sea of suffering’ crossing my mind. On attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, is seriously compelling and encouraging in the wake of realising that Buddhahood can be obtained here and now. By anyone at anytime through the power of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, and through upholding an studying the Lotus Sutra you will find proof of this.

Just to add to the length of this post, I feel inclined to share the Gosho (letter from Nichiren) called the Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering. After all, it is the gosho that I have based the title of my blog from. Enjoy.

A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering

WHEN I asked him about what you told me the other day, I found it to be exactly as you said. You should therefore strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Listen with the ears of Shih K’uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou.1

In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him, the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers flow into the sea, but does the sea turn back their waters? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of theLotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; nor does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers, there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As T’ien-t’ai stated, “The various rivers flow into the sea, and logs make a fire burn more briskly.”2

You should realize that it is because of a profound karmic relationship from the past that you can teach others even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra reads, “Nor will they hear the correct Law—such people are difficult to save.”3 The “correct Law” means theLotus Sutra; it is difficult to save those who are deaf to the teachings of this sutra.

A passage from the “Teacher of the Law” chapter reads: “If one of these good men or good women [in the time after I have passed into extinction is able to secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person, even one phrase of it, then you should know that] he or she is the envoy of the Thus Come One.” This means that anyone who teaches others even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is the envoy of the Thus Come One, whether that person be priest or layman, nun or laywoman. You are already a lay practitioner and therefore one of the “good men” described in the sutra. One who listens to even a sentence or phrase of the sutra and cherishes it deep in one’s heart may be likened to a ship that crosses the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. The Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, “Even a single phrase cherished deep in one’s heart will without fail help one reach the opposite shore. To ponder one phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation.”4 Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to cross the sea of the sufferings of birth and death.

The Lotus Sutra speaks of “someone finding a ship in which to cross the water.”5 This “ship” might be described as follows: As a shipbuilder ofp.34 infinitely profound wisdom, the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment, the lord of teachings, gathered the lumber of the four flavors and eight teachings, planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and assembled the planks, forming a perfect unity of both right and wrong,6 and completed the craft by driving home the spikes of the one true teaching that is comparable to the flavor of ghee. Thus he launched the ship upon the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. Unfurling its sails of the three thousand realms on the mast of the one true teaching of the Middle Way, driven by the fair wind of “the true aspect of all phenomena,”7 the vessel surges ahead, carrying aboard all people who can “gain entrance through faith alone.”8 The Thus Come One Shakyamuni is at the helm, the Thus Come One Many Treasures takes up the mooring rope, and the four bodhisattvas led by Superior Practices row quickly, matching one another as perfectly as a box and its lid. This is the ship in “a ship in which to cross the water.” Those who are able to board it are the disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly. When you visit Shijō Kingo, please have an earnest talk with him. I will write you again in more detail.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The twenty-eighth day of the fourth month

To Shiiji Shirō

Background

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Kamakura in the first year of Kōchō (1261), about two weeks before he was exiled to Itō in Izu. Virtually nothing is known about the recipient, Shiiji Shirō, other than that he lived in the province of Suruga and was acquainted with two of theDaishonin’s leading disciples, Shijō Kingo and Toki Jōnin.

The title of this letter is drawn from a passage in the “Medicine King” chapter of the Lotus Sutra that speaks of “a ship in which to cross the water.” In this letter, the Daishonin teaches that the daimoku of theLotus Sutra is the “ship” that can unfailingly transport one across the sea of life’s inevitable sufferings to the distant shore of enlightenment.

Notes

1. Shih K’uang, in Chinese legend, was a court musician whose sense of hearing was so keen that he could judge the quality of a newly cast bell, where ordinary musicians could not. Li Lou’s sight was so acute that he could see the tip of a hair at a hundred paces.

2. Great Concentration and Insight.

3. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.

4. The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra.” “The opposite shore” represents nirvana, or enlightenment, while this shore where we live represents illusion.

5. Lotus Sutra, chap. 23.

6. “Forming a perfect unity of both right and wrong” means that both good and evil are eternally inherent in life. Provisional sutras hold that wicked people cannot attain enlightenment, but the Lotus Sutrareveals that even such people possess the Buddha nature, giving the example of Devadatta attaining Buddhahood.

7. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.

8. Ibid., chap. 3.

Referenced from http://www.nichirenlibrary.org/en/wnd-1/Content/3#p33

WND-1:3 Page 33-34

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