Three Obstacles and Four Devils

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markatex
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Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by markatex » Tue Jun 19, 2018 6:51 pm

There was an old thread on this but I thought I’d start a new one since I think resurrecting old threads is somewhat frowned upon.

This is a subject that has some personal importance to me as of late.

Anyway, Queequeg describes them:
They're basically phenomena that interfere with attaining enlightenment - obstacles posed by
1. klesa - one's greed, hatred, ignorance;

2. karma from five cardinal offenses - (1. murdering one's father; 2. murdering one's mother; 3. murdering an arhat; 4. injuring a buddha; 5. causing schism in the sangha)

3. ordinary karmic retribution for acts while transmigrating through the three evil paths - Hell, Preta and Asura

Devils are

1. obstacles that arise from the nature of our physical and mental composition;

2. obstacles from klesa;

3. untimely death;

4. obstacles posed by parents and rulers.
In what writings does Nichiren Shonin discuss these? Also, Obstacle #1 and Devil #2 seem to be the same. What’s the difference?

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Queequeg
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by Queequeg » Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:13 pm

I believe that the Three Obstacles are obstacles to enlightenment that in the immediate sense come from our internal constitution - our disposition to the klesas and various evil karma. The Four Devils fundamentally come from similar causes - our internal constitution, but in the immediate sense appear to assail us from without. In other words, the Four Devils are our klesas and evil karma manifesting as external dharmas.

To appreciate the nature of these inner and outer obstacles, one needs to frame this within ichinen sanzen.

Tientai discusses these in his writings, particularly Maka Shikan - I will need to look for the reference. Nichiren refers to these regularly. As best I can recall, he doesn't discuss them in detail, and rather, he assumes the reader is familiar with the teachings.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

markatex
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by markatex » Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:57 pm

Thanks.

I’ve noticed lately that a recommitment to serious practice on my part is often followed by some shit show occurring or reoccurring in my life. Is it the manifestation of past karma? Is some evil spirit trying to discourage me? Should I expect Kishimojin to smite those who are causing me trouble? (The last part is said 50% in jest.)

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Queequeg
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by Queequeg » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:14 pm

It might be incompatible with the modern secular sensibilities, but when we consider that our mind and environment are continuous, its not surprising that redoubling efforts to practice would manifest in internal and external obstacles. The analogy I used to hear was of turning on a garden hose for the first time in the spring - all the debris and creepy crawlies that made their way into the hose have to be expelled before the water runs clear.

In a sense, we are altering momentum, breaking the karmic inertia that keeps us in samsaric cycles. All kinds of things get disrupted out of their course and we bump into things as we move.

In any event, Mazel Tov on your shitstorm!
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

dude
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by dude » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:30 pm

...Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood. At such a time, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
- The Three Obstacles and Four Devils

....(The Maka Shikan says ) “[As practice progresses and understanding grows], the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere.”

- On the Opening of the Eyes

markatex
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by markatex » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:47 am

My sensei referred me to several letters Nichiren wrote to the Ikegami brothers, one of which is commonly referred to as “Three Obstacles (or hindrances) and Four Devils.” Nichiren does briefly list most of them but doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail.

The basic idea seems to be that our practice “draws out” karmic retribution from previous lives; however, the retribution is made light (comparatively) because of our faith in the Lotus Sutra. So the things we suffer in this regard (such as being poor, or living under a nasty sovereign) are really minor (compared to spending millions of eons in the hell realms).

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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by dude » Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:43 pm

Quite right, markatex.

I think one of those quotes I cited was a letter to the brothers.
Thinking about this thread earlier, it struck me that one theme that runs through all the gosho is the Daishonin's conviction that all the suffering in his life was big time sansho shima and a cause for him to rejoice.
Just as you say, our own sufferings pale in comparison to what he endured.

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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Jun 23, 2018 10:25 am

Are the four devils in reference to Mara's daughters?
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः
उत्पन्नाजातुविद्यन्तेभावाःक्वचनकेचन

narhwal90
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:19 am

as per the Nichiren library;

The four devils are (1) the hindrance of the five components, obstructions caused by one’s physical and mental functions; (2) the hindrance of earthly desires, obstructions arising from the three poisons; (3) the hindrance of death, meaning one’s own untimely death obstructing one’s practice of Buddhism, or the premature death of another practitioner causing one to doubt; and (4) the hindrance of the devil king

#2, #3 seem like they are similar

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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Jun 23, 2018 12:19 pm

Apparently there were 5 daughters anyways... :oops:
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः
उत्पन्नाजातुविद्यन्तेभावाःक्वचनकेचन

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Jun 23, 2018 12:23 pm

narhwal90 wrote:
Sat Jun 23, 2018 11:19 am
as per the Nichiren library;

The four devils are (1) the hindrance of the five components, obstructions caused by one’s physical and mental functions; (2) the hindrance of earthly desires, obstructions arising from the three poisons; (3) the hindrance of death, meaning one’s own untimely death obstructing one’s practice of Buddhism, or the premature death of another practitioner causing one to doubt; and (4) the hindrance of the devil king

#2, #3 seem like they are similar
So the "four devils" rather than being Māra's daughters, are like the Four-fold Māra (四魔)

i - Māra as unskillful mindsets 烦恼魔
ii - Māra as death 死魔
iii - Māra as the conditioned world/pañcaskandhāḥ 阴魔
iv - Māra as the sovereign of the paranirmitavaśavartinādevāḥ, those gods who delights in power over their creations, living at the top of the Kāmadhātu, right underneath the dhyāna heavens 自在天魔

I think there is a solid overlap.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः
उत्पन्नाजातुविद्यन्तेभावाःक्वचनकेचन

smcj
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by smcj » Sat Jun 23, 2018 2:33 pm

Obstacles can be pleasant too. Getting the job or the lover you’re always wanted can derail your practice. That’s why Mara sent his daughters to seduce Sakyamuni.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.

illarraza
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Re: Three Obstacles and Four Devils

Post by illarraza » Thu Jun 28, 2018 1:55 am

Why we suffer all manner of retributions as did Nichiren

"Question: How can you be certain that the exiles and sentences of death imposed on you are the result of karma created in the past?
Answer: A bronze mirror will reflect color and form. The First Emperor of the Ch’in dynasty had a lie-detecting mirror that would reveal offenses committed in this present life. The mirror of the Buddha’s Law makes clear the causal actions committed in the past. The Parinirvāna Sutra states: “Good man, because people committed countless offenses and accumulated much evil karma in the past, they must expect to suffer retribution for everything they have done. They may be despised, cursed with an ugly appearance, be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished and lowly family or one with erroneous views, or be persecuted by their sovereign. They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that they can diminish in this lifetime their suffering and retribution.”

This sutra passage and my own experience tally exactly. By now all the doubts that I have raised earlier should be dispelled, and thousands of difficulties are nothing to me. Let me show you phrase by phrase how the text applies to me. “They may be despised,” or, as the Lotus Sutra says, people will “despise, hate, envy, or bear grudges against them”—and in exactly that manner I have been treated with contempt and arrogance for over twenty years. “They may be cursed with an ugly appearance,” “They may be poorly clad”—these too apply to me. “They may be poorly fed”—that applies to me. “They may seek wealth in vain”—that applies tome. “They may be born to an impoverished and lowly family”—that applies to me. “They may be persecuted by their sovereign”—can there be any doubt that the passage applies to me? The Lotus Sutra says, “Again and again we will be banished,” and the passage from the Parinirvāna Sutra says, “They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions.” [These passages also apply to me.]

The passage also says, “It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that they can diminish in this lifetime their suffering and retribution.” The fifth volume of Great Concentration and Insight has this to say on the subject: “The feeble merits produced by a mind only half intent on the practice cannot alter [the realm of karma]. But if one carries out the practice of concentration and insight so as to observe ‘health’ and ‘illness,’ then one can alter the cycle of birth and death [in the realm of karma].” It also says, “[As practice progresses and understanding grows], the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere.”

From the beginningless past I have been born countless times as an evil ruler who deprived the votaries of the Lotus Sutra of their robes and rations, their fields and crops, much as the people of Japan in the present day go about destroying the temples dedicated to the Lotus Sutra. In addition, countless times I cut off the heads of the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. Some of these grave offenses I have already paid for, but there must be some that are not paid for yet. Even if I seem to have paid for them all, there are still ill effects that remain. When the time comes for me to transcend the sufferings of birth and death, it will be only after I have completely freed myself from these grave offenses. My merits are insignificant, but these offenses are grave.

If I practiced the teachings of the provisional sutras, then these retributions for my past grave offenses would not appear. When iron is heated, if it is not strenuously forged, the impurities in it will not become apparent. Only when it is subjected to the tempering process again and again will the flaws appear. When pressing hemp seeds, if one does not press very hard, one will not get much oil from them. Likewise, when I vigorously berate those throughout the country who slander the Law, I meet with great difficulties. It must be that my actions in defending the Law in this present life are calling forth retributions for the grave offenses of my past. If iron does not come into contact with fire, it remains black, but if it contacts fire, it turns red. If you place a log across a swift stream, waves will pile up like hills. If you disturb a sleeping lion, it will roar loudly." -- Opening of the Eyes

"It is the same with Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters. The Lotus Sutra reads, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?” It also reads, “It will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe.” The Nirvana Sutra states, “By suffering an untimely death, rebuke, curses or humiliation, beatings with a whip or rod, imprisonment, starvation, adversity, or other minor hardships in this lifetime, one can avoid falling into hell.” The Parinirvāna Sutra says: “They may be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished and lowly family or one with erroneous views, or be persecuted by their sovereign. They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that they can diminish in this lifetime their suffering and retribution.” -- Letter to the Brothers

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