How are you? We are Buddhist, aren't we? If so, how often do you feel "I am a Buddhist" by yourself in your daily life? - When you are chanting or meditating? When you see Buddhist items or the image of Buddhism on TV? There must be various situations. However, if you can feel it only when you see Buddhist items or images, the teaching of Buddhism has not merged into your mind or body deeply, because Buddhism is not only a religion but also a 'Way of Life'. Living every day is Buddhism. You can feel Buddhism every day. When you begin to feel Buddhism at all times, you are a true Buddhist. But what does feeling Buddhism mean? What do you think? - Keeping the teaching? Keeping precepts; keeping chanting every day; keeping a calm mind always; keeping peace and not fighting? These are not answers; they are actions after you get the feeling. Again, what does feeling Buddhism mean? The answer is to feel Śākyamuni Buddha (the Buddha) and Nichiren Shōnin every day. We can feel the Buddha beside us always, and we can feel Nichiren Shōnin closely; then you can talk with the Buddha and Nichiren Shōnin, depending on the depth of your Faith. I know many Nichiren Shū Buddhists who are aware of the Buddha's messages, or Nichiren Shōnin's messages, and feel the reality. Śākyamuni Buddha said in the Lotus Sūtra:
"I always live in this world and expound the Dharma. I shall never be extinct. If you adore me, I appear and expound the Dharma to you. I know who is practicing the Way and who is not. I am thinking: 'How shall I cause all living beings to enter into the unsurpassed Way and quickly become Buddhas?'"
The Buddha is beside us always, and watches us and guides us. We must keep these ideas in our mind and make efforts for our daily life and then we can be aware of the Buddha's salvation every day. I would like to introduce you to a practice for your mind. Gasshō.
"No Anger Day"
There are many Buddhas in Buddhism, such as Amitābha-Buddha (Amida), Mahāvairocana Buddha (Dainichi) and Bhaiṣajyaguru Buddha (Yakushi), but the only Buddha who people celebrate a birthday for is Śākyamuni Buddha, who is the founder of Buddhism and who we believe in. This tells us that Śākyamuni Buddha was a human being and a real person in history. Therefore, He understands our pain and suffering very well, as well as our weak will or timidness. Under the teachings of Nichiren Shōnin, other Buddhas are regarded as duplicates of Śākyamuni Buddha. Believing in Śākyamuni Buddha means believing in all other Buddhas.
Salvation of the Buddha
Śākyamuni Buddha adopted a very unique way to save people. He always expounded his teachings according to people's capacities or characters, and the situation. This means He did not only save people, but He also guided them individually, using the supreme way, to be independent from delusion or attachment. There are two aspects of salvation:
1. Making people's suffering easy with valid advice and leading them in the right direction.
2. Making clear the cause of their sufferings and suggesting to them how to overcome such difficulties, in order for people to be independent from the sufferings by themselves.
The first one is a healing salvation. This is a very important process for suffering people as a kind of first-aid, but some potential still remains that the sufferings may return, despite the suffering fading as a result of the advice. The second one is an independent salvation from suffering. By understanding the cause of sufferings, people can control and overcome sufferings by themselves, and also can prevent other unpredictable sufferings in the future.
For example, the first one is like a developed country supporting an undeveloped country with money or items, but after the money has been spent completely, the country still has a potential to end up in the same situation as it had been before. The second one, not only supporting by money or material aid, useful instruction is provided, such as how to make a well, how to cultivate good harvests, and how to repair utility machines. This is an ideal support to accelerate and develop the country so that it can become economically independent. The Buddha's teachings include both of these aspects as His salvation. These are the Buddha's words:
"The centre of my teachings is to control your own mind. Therefore, endeavour to overcome your ego, keep your mind from greed and keep your behaviour right, keep your mind pure and keep your words faithful. Don't forget the law 'There is no permanence in this world' . All is changing and transcends permanently, you must keep this always. By understanding the transience of your life, you will be able to overcome greed and anger, and overcome all your evils. If you found your mind was tempted and entangled in greed by an evil, you must not obey and must suppress such temptation. 'Be the master of your mind, you must not let your mind be your master'. A mind makes you a Buddha and makes you a beast. Therefore, study my teaching together, learn together, practice together, encourage each other and share the pleasure of the path together. Do not make your mind worry for petty things and spare your time for waste. Harvest the fruit on the path and trip the blossoms of enlightenment."
The Buddha knows about our weak will very well. Therefore, He guides us to stand on our own legs and to be independent from suffering, through internal practices. Internal practices are: being free of delusions of counterfeit truth, resisting temptations and gossip, seeing rightly, listening rightly, understanding rightly and conducting yourself rightly, and keeping your mind calm always, or the eightfold path. Through this practice, you will be able to obtain eyes to see the truth and think compassionately of others, by being able to step into their shows. As a result, you will be able to realize the increase in your compassion and love, and become gentle-minded towards others. If you cannot be gentle to others, or your mind can still be deluded by others words, you need proper practices under the instruction of a Nichiren Shū Minister.
The Declining Latter Age of the Dharma
Now, as we look at the world, there are many kinds of problems or sufferings. Lately, people are concerned about frequent acts of terrorism and violent crimes in public places, even in schools. "Where are we going?" or "This world seems like hell! It looks just like the end of the world". Buddhism expounds a concept of the 'Age of Declining Buddhism'. This 'Declining Latter Age of the Dharma' is right about now. It is 2000 years since the Buddha passed away. People's minds and morals are corrupt and they have become selfish. People pay no attention to others, chasing their own material benefits selfishly, and pursuing their own pleasures. They commit themselves to evil teachings or cults, and they hate, fight and kill each other. An example is the conflict between Israel and Palestine. They cannot stop killing each other due to deep hatred and deep-seated grudges they hold against each other. They are religious people. Why haven't they improved over time? I wonder what the purpose of religion is. It seems like they seek revenge against each other as a result of their ego and hatred, by using the name of God.
The Law of Cause and Effect
Revenge is basically one emotion, but it has become the natural emotion for them. It is impossible to stop retaliation and establish peace through revenge. Human history shows us this: a country which invades another country has a fate to be invaded by another country. A country founded by a coup d'etat has a fate to fall by another coup d'etat, but a revolution without violence has a nature to reform national policy democratically. All phenomena occur according to the law of cause and effect. These are some more of the Buddha's words:
"Hatred can never be stopped by hatred; it can be stopped and healed only by love. This is everlasting truth. All phenomena are interrelated with cause and effect - rain falls, winds blow, plants bloom, leaves mature and are blown away. All arise and extinguish acccording with the law, cause and effect."
Salvation of the Lotus Sūtra
In the Declining Latter Age of the Dharma, people's minds are corrupt and they act like animals and live for self pleasure and material things. Their desire takes precedence over all else, at the whim of their instincts. This Age seems like a morass. For people in such an Age, the Buddha left the supreme teaching, the Lotus Sūtra which has never been expounded before.
As you know, the feature of the teachings contained in the Lotus Sūtra is compared to the nature of the lotus flower; although the lotus flower grows in a muddy pond, the flower is never coloured by the bud, but keeps it's colour pure. Also, if the pond becomes muddier, the flower becomes even more pure. In the Lotus Sūtra, the Buddha manifests the feature of His Enlightenment: the Buddha reveals His true figure for the first time. He is the Eternal Buddha. Even if His physical body is extinguished, He is always in this world and leads us and saves us in the Declining Latter Age of the Dharma. In short, we can receive His compassion and guidance directly, just like when the Buddha was still alive. Therefore, believing in the Lotus Sūtra means to see the Buddha directly and receive His teaching directly. He is beside us in this real world and leads us, with a wish that all living beings can enter into Enlightenment, just like the Buddha himself.
"It is many hundreds of thousands of billions of trillions of aeons since I became the Buddha. I shall never be extinct. I show my extinction to you expediently although I never pass away. I always live here and expound the Dharma. I am the Father of the world. I am saving all living beings from suffering. I am always thinking 'How shall I cause all living beings to enter into the unsurpassed way and quickly become Buddhas?' - The Lotus Sūtra, Chapter 16.
No Anger Day
It is easy to deplore and complain about politics, matters or troubles. We should take action to improve our problems if we realize their seriousness, instead of merely complaining. If we think of the negative part always, we cannot step forward; but if we can focus on the positive part, we will step forward. We have the potential and the ability to improve anything if we confront our difficulties with courage. There is a teaching about how to behave in the Declining Latter Age of the Dharma in Chapter 13 of the Lotus Sūtra:
"There will be many dreadful things in the evil world of the Age of Defilements. Devils will enter the bodies and cause them to abuse and insult us. We will wear the armour of endurance because we respect and believe in the Buddha. We will endure all these difficulties."
This teaches us to have endurance and an unbroken mind. I would like to suggest to you an essential precept of this teaching. It is a 'No Anger Day' every Friday. It is a day you must not get angry, must not argue, and must not complain about anything. Please devote your mind to being relaxed and remain calm all day. Be patient, even though you may feel anger, chant Odaimoku 'Namu Myoho Renge Kyo' until the feeling improves. If you think you still have a bad temper or a frustrating day, this will be an initiaion precept to improve your nature. If you keep this, you will recieve good gifts or messages from the Buddha. Let us keep this for others happiness and for your own mind to be peaceful too.