Queequeg wrote: ↑
Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:33 pm
(The Opening of the Eyes
) is one of Nichiren's most important writings.
Great Concentration and Insight (Zhiyi's Mohezhikuan) says: “There are two ways to spread the Buddha’s teachings. The first is called shōju and the second is called shakubuku. When the ‘Peaceful Practices’ chapter says that one should not speak of the shortcomings of others, it is referring to the shōju method. But when the Nirvana Sutra says that one should carry swords and staves or that one should cut off their heads, it is referring to the shakubuku method. They differ in approach in that one is lenient and the other severe, but they both bring benefit.”
On “Great Concentration and Insight” (Zhanran's commentary on Mohezhikuan) states: “With regard to the two ways of spreading the Buddha’s teachings, the passage from the Nirvana Sutra, ‘carry swords and staves,’ is found in the third volume where it says, ‘Defenders of the correct teaching need not observe the five precepts or practice the rules of proper behavior. [Rather they should carry knives and swords, bows and arrows, halberds and lances.]’... And later on, the sutra tells of King Sen’yo [who put to death those who slandered the correct teaching]. It also mentions how the new physician, [explaining that the medicine from milk prescribed by the old physician was dangerous], forbade its usage, saying, ‘If anyone takes any more of this medicine, he shall have his head cut off.’*(See Note Below on Beheading) These passages also demonstrate how the method of shakubuku should be applied to persons who go against the Dharma. All the sutras and treatises deal with one or the other of these two methods.”
The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra (Zhiyi's Fahua Wenchu) reads: “Question: The Nirvana Sutra clearly states that one should associate closely with the ruler, bearing bows and arrows and helping overthrow evil persons. And yet [the ‘Peaceful Practices’ chapter of] the Lotus Sutra says that one should stay away from persons in power and should behave with humility and loving kindness. There seems to be a major contradiction between the sternness of one approach and the gentleness of the other. Why should they differ so?
“Answer: The Nirvana Sutra speaks mostly about the shakubuku approach. But it also mentions dwelling in the state where one looks on all living beings as one’s own children. Could it say so if it did not have the shōju approach? The Lotus Sutra is mainly concerned with the shōju approach [as in the ‘Peaceful Practices’ chapter]. But [in the ‘Dhāranī’ chapter] there is also the curse [on those who trouble the preachers of the Dharma] that says they will have their heads split into seven pieces. Could it say so if it did not have the shakubuku approach? Both sutras employ one or the other of the two methods depending on the context. The method chosen should be that which accords with the time.”
The Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra (by Kuan- ting, Zhiyi's disciple and second patriarch of the Tiantai School) states: “When monks or laymen are defending the Dharma, the most important thing is for them to adopt the proper basic mental attitude. They should disregard external details, stick to the principles, and in this way spread the teachings of the Nirvana Sutra. Therefore, it says that defenders of the correct teaching need not abide by petty regulations. And that is why it says they need not practice the rules of proper behavior. In past times the age was peaceful, and the Dharma spread throughout the country. At that time it was proper to observe the precepts and not to carry staves. But now the age is perilous, and the Dharma is overshadowed. Therefore, it is proper to carry staves and to disregard the precepts. If both past and present were perilous times, then it would be proper to carry staves in both periods. And if both past and present were peaceful times, then it would be proper to observe the precepts in both of them. You should let your choices be fitting and never adhere solely to one or the other.”
I suppose the learned priests of the time think it is only natural that one should have doubts about this. Therefore, no matter how I explain and try to persuade my own disciples, they still cannot seem to overcome their doubts, but behave like icchantikas, or persons of incorrigible disbelief. Therefore, I have quoted these passages of explanation from T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo, and others in order to silence their ungrounded criticisms.
These two methods of shōju and shakubuku are like water and fire. Fire hates water, water detests fire. The practitioner of shōju laughs with scorn at shakubuku. The practitioner of shakubuku laments at the thought of shōju. When the country is full of evil people without wisdom, then shōju is the primary method to be applied, as described in the “Peaceful Practices” chapter. But at a time when there are many people of perverse views who slander the Dharma, then shakubuku should come first, as described in the “Never Disparaging” chapter.** (see note below on the practice of Never Disparaging) It is like using cold water to cool yourself in the hot weather, or longing for a fire when the weather turns cold. Grass and trees are kindred to the sun—they suffer in the cold moonlight. Bodies of water are followers of the moon—they lose their true nature when the hot weather comes.
In the Latter Day of the Dharma, however, both shōju and shakubuku are to be used. (Emphasis added) This is because there are two kinds of countries, the country that is passively evil, and the kind that actively seeks to destroy the Dharma. We must consider carefully to which category Japan at the present time belongs.
Question: If one applies the shakubuku method at a time when the shōju method would be appropriate, or shōju at a time when shakubuku would be appropriate, is there any merit to be gained?
Answer: The Nirvana Sutra says: “Bodhisattva Kāshyapa addressed the Buddha, saying, ‘The Dharma body of the Thus Come One is as indestructible as a diamond. But I do not yet understand the means by which you acquired it. Would you tell me?’
“The Buddha replied: ‘Kāshyapa, it is because I was a defender of the correct teaching that I have been able to attain this diamond-like body. Kāshyapa, because [in the past] I devoted myself to the correct teaching, I have been able to achieve this diamond-like body that abides forever and is never destroyed. Good man, defenders of the correct teaching need not observe the five precepts or practice the rules of proper behavior. Rather they should carry knives and swords, bows and arrows . . .
“‘The monks [whom you are speaking of] preach various teachings, but still they are not able to utter “the lion’s roar.” . . . Nor are they able to refute and convert evil persons who go against the correct teaching. Monks of this kind can bring no benefit either to themselves or to the populace. You should realize that they are in fact shirkers and idlers. Though they are careful in observing the precepts and maintain spotless conduct, you should realize that they cannot achieve anything. [Then a monk raises “the lion’s roar.” . . .] Those who break the precepts, upon listening to his preaching, are all enraged to the point where they attack him. This preacher of the Dharma, though he may in the end lose his life, is still worthy of being called a person who observes the precepts and brings benefits to both himself and others.’”
In the passage from Commentary on the Nirvana Sutra quoted earlier, Chang-an (Kuan-ting) says, “You should let your choices be fitting and never adhere solely to one or the other.” And T’ien-t’ai, as we have seen, declared that “the method chosen should be that which accords with the time.” If it is not, you will be like someone who plants seeds at the end of autumn. Though you may carefully tend the field, you are not likely to harvest any rice or grain.
Nichiren referred to his practice of criticizing the various Buddhist teachings as "shakubuku". We cannot forget that this practice was carried out within a Buddhist context in which doctrinal debate was a formal matter with deep implications. Debates were official activities with rules and procedures, including the outcome that a loser would be required to give up the views demonstrated as wrong and become a student of the victor. If the head of a temple or monastery lost such a debate, the temple itself would be required to change affiliation and come under the direction of the victor. Several temples in the Nichiren tradition became affiliated with Nichiren through victory in debate. Historically, in the background of Nichiren's activities are the histories of debates involving Tiantai and Tendai, including two major government sanctioned debates won by Zhiyi in China and Saicho in Japan by which these teachers became the teachers of the nation. Nichiren repeatedly petitioned the Kamakura Shogunate for such a debate but was never granted one.
So, Nichiren's public criticism is framed within this debate culture. Further, we should keep in mind that Nichiren's teaching was almost always in person. We have a few writings in which he formally petitioned the government, and his students sometimes engaged in debate under his guidance, but he was restrictive in who he would permit to debate. Further, we need to keep in mind that Nichiren, as well as his students, was well versed not only in their own views, but the views criticized. Nichiren practiced those teachings himself before giving them up.
Finally, if your native language is English, you most certainly do not live in an actively evil nation where the Dharma is actively slandered. You live in a nation that is "passively evil", where even the names of the Three Jewels have never been heard. Therefore, it is
1. Unlikely that you have the background to engage in formal debate.
2. It is not appropriate in the place you live.
We have Nichiren's own writings giving his disciples counsel on shakubuku. It behooves us to take such counsel into account in determining our own course of conduct:
You may bring forth this point in an official debate, but not during personal discussions. Should you indiscriminately mention it to whomever you meet, on any occasion or at any time, you will certainly incur punishment from the Buddhas of the three existences. This is the doctrine that I have always referred to as my own inner realization...
Nichiren is referring to Essential Ichinen Sanzen taught in the 16th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. But since we live in only as "passively evil nation", we ought to avoid bringing up criticism at all, except in very limited circumstances. These criticisms are definitely not something that we ought to be casually tossing out on the internet. These are deeply serious matters that do not give us license to engage in egotistical flame wars with people in social media or chat bubbles. Even in person, these are profoundly serious matters that demand deep respect. If the person you are addressing has only a passing or relatively uninformed connection to Buddhism, then criticism will find no meaningful reception. As the Buddha counseled in the Bhaddali Sutta:
"Here some bhikku progresses by a measure of faith and love. In this case bhikkus consider thus: 'Friends, this bhikku progresses by a measure of faith and love. Let him not lose that measure of faith and love, as he may if we take action against him by repeatedly admonishing him.' Suppose a man had only one eye; then his friends and companions, his kinsmen and relatives, would guard his eye, thinking: 'Let him not lose his one eye.' So too some bhikku progresses by a measure of faith and love.
In the rare occasion where we are speaking to someone and questions arise about the correct teaching, then we can engage in shakubuku. But, again, we should heed Nichiren's counsel on how to engage in such based on his counsel for public debate:
When in public debate, although the teachings that you advocate are perfectly consistent with the truth, you should never on that account be impolite or abusive, or display a conceited attitude. Such conduct would be disgraceful. Order your thoughts, words, and actions carefully, and be prudent when you meet with others in debate.
-The Teaching, the Practice and the Proof
* On Beheading - The Nirvana Sutra teaches that those who slander the Dharma should be punished and their heads cut off. Nichiren utilized this rhetoric, but in arguably his most important writing, Rissho Ankoku Ron
(Securing the Peace and Prosperity of the Nation
), Nichiren directly explained what he meant by this. Rissho Ankoku Ron
takes the form of a fictional dialog:
[The Guest asked,]"You speak of punishing those who slander the Law, but to do so would violate the Buddha’s prohibitions. I can hardly believe that such a course would be right. How can you justify that?"
The host said: "You have clearly seen the sutra passages that I have cited, and yet you can ask a question like that! Are they beyond the power of your mind to comprehend? Or do you fail to understand the reasoning behind them? I certainly have no intention of censuring the sons of the Buddha. My only hatred is for the act of slandering the Dharma. According to the Buddhist teachings, prior to Shakyamuni slanderous monks would have incurred the death penalty. But since the time of Shakyamuni, the One Who Can Endure, the giving of alms to slanderous monks is forbidden in the sutra teachings. Now if all the four kinds of Buddhists within the four seas and the ten thousand lands would only cease giving alms to wicked priests and instead all come over to the side of the good, then how could any more troubles rise to plague us, or disasters come to confront us?"
"Cutting off the head" translates in our time and place to cutting off support for slanderers. It does not mean physically beheading people. This cannot be emphasized enough.
** On the Practice of Never Disparaging - Nichiren directly compared his teaching of the Daimoku to Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta's practice described in the 20th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
Here is the prose passage describing Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta (Never Disparaging) in whole. In the distant past, there was a Buddha of certain title in a certain land (the details are not critical). After his parinirvana, in the Middle Day of that Buddha's law, there appeared Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta:
...At that time there was also a monk, a bodhisattva, called Sadāparibhūta (Never Despising).
“O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, why was he called Sadāparibhūta? Because whenever he saw any monk, nun, layman, or laywoman, he would praise and pay homage to them, saying:
I deeply respect you. I dare not belittle you. Why is this? Because all of you practice the bodhisattva path, and will become buddhas.
“Furthermore, this monk did not concentrate himself on reciting the sutras but only paid homage such that, even when he saw the fourfold assembly from afar, he would go up to them, praise, and pay homage to them, saying:
I dare not belittle you, because you will all become buddhas.
“In the fourfold assembly there were some whose minds were impure and who became angry, and reviled and disparaged him, saying:
Where does this ignorant monk come from? He says that he himself does not belittle us and predicts that we shall all become buddhas. We do not need such an idle prediction.
“In this way he wandered about for many years and was always reviled. But he never got angry and always said, ‘You will become a buddha.’
“Whenever he spoke these words, people would assail him with sticks or stones; he fled from them yet still proclaimed loudly at a distance:
I dare not belittle you. You will all become buddhas.
“Since he always spoke these words, the excessively proud monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen called him Sadāparibhūta. When this monk was about to die, he heard in the air twenty thousands of myriads of koṭis of verses of the Lotus Sutra expounded previously by the Buddha Bhīṣmagarjitasvararāja and, completely preserving them, he attained the purity of the eye, and the purity of the ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind that were described before. After having attained these pure faculties, his lifespan increased two hundreds of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of years and he taught this Lotus Sutra to the people far and wide.
“Then those excessively proud monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen in the fourfold assembly who had despised him and called him Sadāparibhūta saw that he had attained great transcendent powers, the power of joy in eloquence, and the power of great virtuous meditation. Hearing his teaching,
all of them believed and followed him.
“Furthermore, this bodhisattva inspired a thousand myriads of koṭis of sentient beings and caused them to abide in highest, complete enlightenment. After his death, he met two thousand koṭis of buddhas, all of whom were called Candrasūryapradīpa. In accordance with his teaching he expounded this Lotus Sutra, and for this reason met another two thousand koṭis of buddhas, all of whom were called Meghasvararāja. He preserved and recited this sutra in accordance with the teaching of these buddhas and expounded it for the sake of the fourfold assembly. Thus he attained purity of the natural eye and purity of the ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and taught the Dharma to the fourfold assembly without fear.
“O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, this Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Sadāparibhūta respected, honored, praised, and paid homage to all these buddhas. Having planted roots of good merit, he again met thousands of myriads of koṭis of buddhas; and he expounded this sutra over again in accordance with the teaching of those buddhas. Having perfected his merits he attained buddhahood.
“O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, what do you think about this? Was Bodhisattva Sadāparibhūta of that time someone unknown to you? He was none other than I myself. If I had not preserved and recited this sutra and taught it to others in my previous lives, I would not have swiftly attained highest, complete
enlightenment. Because I preserved and recited this sutra and taught it to others in the presence of previous buddhas, I swiftly attained highest, complete enlightenment.
“O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, then the fourfold assembly of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen who became angry and disparaged me, did not, as a consequence, meet a buddha for two hundred koṭis of kalpas, nor did they hear the Dharma or see the Sangha. They suffered greatly in the Avīci Hell for a thousand kalpas. After having been freed from the consequences of their errors they finally met Bodhisattva Sadāparibhūta, who led and inspired them to highest, complete enlightenment.
“O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, what do you think about this? Were those in the fourfold assembly of that time who disparaged this bodhisattva persons unknown to you? They are the five hundred bodhisattvas in this assembly, beginning with Bhadrapāla, the five hundred nuns beginning with Siṃhacandrā, and the five hundred laymen beginning with Sugatacetanā, all of whom will never turn back on the path to highest, complete enlightenment.
“O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, know that this Lotus Sutra will greatly benefit the bodhisattva mahāsattvas and lead them to highest, complete enlightenment. For this reason, after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa the bodhisattva mahāsattvas should always preserve, recite, explain, and copy this sutra.”
Comparing his own practice to Sadaparibhuta, Nichiren wrote:
The Teaching, the Practice, and the Proof
In the past, in the Middle Day of the Dharma of the Buddha Awesome Sound King, not a single person knew of the three treasures. However, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging appeared, and to all living beings he declared the teaching of twenty-four characters that the Buddha Awesome Sound King had expounded. All those who heard this twenty-four-character teaching, without a single exception, were later reborn with Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, and were at last able to obtain the benefit of enlightenment. This was solely because they had already received the seeds of Buddhahood when they first heard the teaching. The same thing occurs in our present era. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s age was the Middle Day of the Dharma, whereas this age is the defiled Latter Day of the Dharma. He was a practitioner at the initial stage of rejoicing, and I, Nichiren, am an ordinary practitioner at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. He sowed the seeds of Buddhahood with the twenty-four characters, while I do so with only the five characters [of Myoho-renge-kyo]. Although the ages are different, the process of attaining Buddhahood is exactly the same.
We do have an imperative to practice for others, as well as ourselves. For the followers of Nichiren, this fundamentally means planting the seed of Daimoku in the mind stream of others. We do not need to berate people, and incessantly "pound the table" on errors. Just remember, the Daimoku means:
I deeply respect you. I dare not belittle you. Why is this? Because all of you practice the bodhisattva path, and will become buddhas.