From the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration, Nissen Shōnin (Seifū Nagamatsu), the founder of Honmon Butusyū Shū, lived through ever‐changing, and turbulent times. It was also the days of the Cholera pandemic. And since there wasn’t a cure or any effective antibiotics for the infectious disease at the time, tens of thousands of people in Japan lost their lives every year. It was just like the Coronavirus pandemic that is ravishing our world today. Meanwhile, the followers of Honmon Butsuryū Kō (the former name of Honmon Butsuryū Shū) could save themselves from death thanks to the merit of Odaimoku chanting and the sacred water called Okōzui (offered water to the Gohonzon).
However, even the followers could not stop feeling anxious everyday. We have on record, a follower confessing his anxiety to Nissen Shōnin and how our master encouraged that follower. I would like to introduce this exchange as the words of encouragement from Nissen Shōnin to all of the people who are fighting against Coronavirus throughout the world today.
QUESTION: Cholera prevails today. I was so confident that I would not be infected with it because I am a follower of Honmon, but Cholera finally has reached the house across the street. I am now losing courage. If Cholera came to my place, that means I will bring shame upon our wonderful teachings and the name of our sect. What am I supposed to do? I was quite free from anxiety until this morning, but I am now beginning to sink under the weight of this situation. I feel shame at having this feeling. I heard that ten people died yesterday and twenty people today in our neighborhood! I cannot help but be worried. What should I do? Can you advise me on how to drive away this feeling, please?
ANSWER: Tendai Daishi (the Great Master Tien Tai, the founder of Chinese Tendai Buddhism) quoted the text of the Flower Garland Sutra, “Belief is the source of the Buddhist way and the mother of merits.” in his writing, Makashikan (the Mahayana Practice of Cessation and Contemplation. He also said, “Doubtlessness is called belief.” in his writing, Hokkemongu (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra). The Great Master Nichiren said, “If the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra wholeheartedly devote their life to the Lotus Sutra and practice according to its golden words, it is certainly needless to say that not only in the next life, but also in this lifetime they will overcome severe difficulty, prolong their life, receive the great, good fortune of unsurpassed enlightenment, and accomplish the great vow of the widespread, propagation of True Buddhism.” These words are the Buddha’s teachings, and are written in the Lotus Sutra in which Taho Nyorai (Buddha of Many Treasures) proved its truthfulness. Attaining Buddhahood (or falling into hell), receiving benefits or punishments, and everything else all depend on one letter…Shin 信 (belief). This is derived from the Lotus Sutra, which leaves no room for doubt. Here, I’ll give you words of advice:
If you have any doubt about one character or passage of the Lotus Sutra, that means you doubt the whole of the sutra. You will suffer punishment for belittling Buddha’s teachings. Vice versa, if you believe in this one phrase, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, that means you believe in every one of the sixty-nine thousand, three hundred, eighty-four characters of the Lotus Sutra and, will immediately receive many benefits. The believers of the Lotus Sutra are those who carry out Bodhisattva practice. They attain Buddhahood during their lives.
Originally, we called the Buddha “Sage lord—heavenly being among heavenly gods” or “Most wise, virtuous, brave, and stalwart one.” We also regard the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the unmeasurable remote past as the one and only Buddha named, the Primordial Buddha. Therefore, there is no superior Buddha among the immeasurable Buddhas of the ten directions (east, south, west and north, each midpoint, up and down) and three worlds (past, future and present), except for the Primordial Buddha. There is no being whose wisdom can be compared to the wisdom of the Buddha among Honge Bodhisattvas (the disciples of the Primordial Buddha), Shakke Bodhisattvas (the disciples of other Buddhas), Nijō (two vehicles of Shōmon, the voice-hearer practitioners and Engaku, solitary-buddha practitioners), or celestial beings and humans. There isn’t even a being similar to the Buddha. Compared to this Buddha, every living being is a fool. There is truly no better way to cross the great, ocean of birth and death than to believe in the Buddha’s teachings. Now that the Buddha has revealed the Odaimoku (Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō) preaching Honmon teachings (chapter 15 to 22 of the Lotus Sutra), who could be comparable to the Buddha among those who lived in Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime, Shōbō (Age of the Right Dharma), Zōbō (Age of the Semblance Dharma), or Mappō (Age of the Degenerated Dharma) period? When you get rid of your superficial knowledge that you have gained through your short life, you will be able to obtain true “faith.” It is said in the third chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Simile and Parable, “You are able to gain entrance to this sutra through faith (belief) alone. It is not because of any wisdom of your own.” Therefore, it is impossible for us, unenlightened people, to understand the world of the Buddha’s enlightenment, Jyukkaigogu—Mutual Containment of the Ten Realms (the ten realms share the other nine realms) and Ichinen Sanzen—the Three Thousand Realms Contained in One Mind. So he showed us mercy in that we only have to chant the Odaimoku, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, by faith.
There are two ways of chanting: chanting with doubt and chanting with belief. Having doubt brings nothing, it will just make it more difficult for you to receive benefits. Even doubting one phrase or word of the Lotus Sutra means that you doubt the whole of the Sutra. If you doubt the text, “the heavenly king Vaisravana (Bishamonten—guardian god of Buddhism or protector of the world) will shield and guard those who uphold this sutra, making certain that they suffer no decline or harm within the area of a hundred yojanas (chapter 26),” that means you also doubt, “A person of wisdom, hearing how keen are the benefits to be gained, after I have passed into extinction should accept and uphold this sutra. Such a person assuredly and without doubt will attain the Buddha way (chapter 21).” If you doubt the text, “If clouds should bring thunder, and lightning strike, if hail pelts or drenching rain comes down, think on the power of the Bodhisattva, Perceiver of the World’s Sounds and at that moment, they will vanish away (chapter 25),” that means you also doubt, “If a person should slander a sutra such as this or, on seeing those who read, recite, copy and uphold this sutra, should despise, hate, envy, or bear grudges against them, listen now again, I will tell you the penalty this person must pay. When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell (chapter 3).” How can you benefit by being so skeptical? How can you understand the meaning of these texts when having feelings of doubt? Doubting brings no merit and no faith grows by being skeptical.
When you see people die in this world, you are witnessing the fact that people are mortal. If you must die, you should entrust everything (which is beyond the range of your understanding) to the power of Odaimoku, and die in peace. The Buddha left the Odaimoku, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō to us, unenlightened people. Once you think about how reliable the power of Odaimoku is, there will be no end, just as the blind tries to distinguish between black and white. When you believe in the Buddha’s teaching as the guiding principle for your life, you are not blind any more. There is a straight path that you should take; give up your own knowledge first. You should be resigned to the fact that you are blind to the matter of life and death. How could you predict whether your future will turn out to be black or white? Only the Buddha has the all-seeing eye that is able to see through the past, present and future. There is nothing that he cannot see. He is the one and only existence who can see everything correctly. When you follow the Buddha’s teachings without even a shred of doubt, everything in this world will go well. The slanderer falls into hell, and the believer attains Buddhahood. There is no delusion in the true teachings of the Buddha. Believing that every word of the Lotus Sutra is true is the straight, highroad to entering its teachings.
[ The Great Master Nissen’s writing—No Shadow of a Doubt is Called Faith ]
Ultimately, having NO DOUBT is called having FAITH.
Believe in the golden words of the Buddha!
Entrust yourself to the Lotus Sutra!
Don’t be beaten by this epidemic!
You have the power of the Odaimoku with you!
Written and Translated into English by