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The Opening of the Eyes
By Daisaku Ikeda
World Tribune PressCopyright © 2010 Soka Gakkai
All rights reserved.
The Three Virtues — Sovereign, Teacher and Parent — Establishing the Buddhism of the People Through Compassion and Enduring Persecution
There are three categories of people that all human beings should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent. There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism. (WND-1, 220)
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These [teachings set forth by sages and worthies in China] are theories that are cleverly argued, but that fail to take cognizance of either the past or the future. Mystery, as we have seen, means darkness or obscurity, and it is for this reason that it is called mystery. It is a theory that deals with matters only in terms of the present. (WND-1, 221)
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Confucius declared that there were no worthies or sages in his country, but that in the land to the west there was one named Buddha who was a sage. This indicates that non-Buddhist texts [such as Confucianism] should be regarded as a first step toward Buddhist doctrine. Confucius first taught propriety and music so that, when the Buddhist scriptures were brought to China, the [Buddhist] concepts of the precepts, meditation, and wisdom could be more readily grasped. He taught the ideals of ruler and minister so that the distinction between superior and subordinate could be made clear, he taught the ideal of parenthood so that the importance of filial piety could be appreciated, and he explained the ideal of the teacher so that people might learn to follow. (WND-1, 221)
In their skill and depth of understanding, they [the six non-Buddhist teachers of India] surpassed anything known in Confucianism. They were able to perceive two, three, or even seven existences, [or] a period of eighty thousand kalpas, into the past, and they likewise knew what would happen eighty thousand kalpas in the future. As the fundamental principle of their doctrine, some of these schools taught that causes produce effects, others taught that causes do not produce effects, while still others taught that causes both do and do not produce effects. Such were the fundamental principles of these non-Buddhist schools. (WND-1, 222)
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But not a single person who adheres to these ninety-five types of higher or lower non-Buddhist teachings ever escapes from the cycle of birth and death. Those who follow teachers of the better sort will, after two or three rebirths, fall into the evil paths, while those who follow evil teachers will fall into the evil paths in their very next rebirth.
And yet the main point of these non-Buddhist teachings constitutes an important means of entry into Buddhism. (WND-1, 222)
Thirdly [following Confucianism and Brahmanism], we come to Buddhism. One should know that the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment [Shakyamuni Buddha] is a great leader for all living beings, a great eye for them, a great bridge, a great helmsman, a great field of good fortune. The four sages and three ascetics of the Confucian and Brahmanical scriptures and teachings are referred to as sages, but in fact they are no more than ordinary people who have not yet been able to eradicate the three categories of illusion. They are referred to as wise men, but in fact they are no more than infants who cannot understand the principles of cause and effect. With their teachings for a ship, could one ever cross over the sea of the sufferings of birth and death? With their teachings for a bridge, could one ever escape from the maze of the six paths? But the Buddha, our great teacher, has advanced beyond even transmigration with change and advance, let alone transmigration with differences and limitations. He has wiped out even the very root of fundamental darkness, let alone the illusions of thought and desire that are as minor as branches and leaves. (WND-1, 223)
The True Sovereign, Teacher and Parent, and the True Causality of Attaining Buddhahood
The main theme running throughout "The Opening of the Eyes" is that of the three virtues. This is clearly indicated in the Daishonin's opening lines: "There are three categories of people that all human beings should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent. There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism" (WND-1, 220). He thus identifies the three virtues — those of sovereign, teacher and parent — as qualities that all people should respect.
In addition, the Daishonin identifies Confucianism, Brahmanism and Buddhism as the philosophical and religious doctrines that people should study. By "Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism" in this passage, he means the various teachings of China, including Confucianism and Taoism; the various non-Buddhist teachings of India, including Brahmanism; and, of course, the various teachings of Buddhism. This covers all of the principal strains of thought that had been transmitted to Japan in the Daishonin's day.
The underlying focus of this treatise is to evaluate the world's major schools of thought and religion as known by Nichiren Daishonin and to clarify who should genuinely be revered by all humanity as the person possessing the three virtues — sovereign, teacher and parent.
The various gods, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, sages and worthies presented in these philosophies and religions are described as possessing one or more of the three virtues, and they have in fact been revered by many people. The Daishonin, however, focuses on the question of who possesses these three virtues, because only someone endowed with all three is suitable as an object of universal veneration and respect.
In "On Prayer," Nichiren writes: "Though one may be a parent, if of humble station, one cannot at the same time assume the role of sovereign. And though one may be a sovereign, if not also a parent, one may inspire fear. And though one may be both a parent and a sovereign, one cannot be a teacher as well.
"The various Buddhas [other than Shakyamuni], since they are known as World-Honored Ones, may be regarded as sovereigns. But since they do not make their appearance in this saha world, they are not teachers. Nor do they declare that 'the living beings in it [the threefold world] are all my children.' Thus Shakyamuni Buddha alone fulfills the three functions of sovereign, teacher, and parent" (WND-1, 343–44).
Here, the Daishonin explains that of all the various Buddhas expounded in the Buddhist scriptures, only Shakyamuni possesses the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent. This assertion also holds true when we investigate teachings outside of Buddhism.
Nichiren Daishonin, discussing the philosophies and religions of ancient India and China in "The Opening of the Eyes," notes that the various central deities, such as the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu, as well as the ideal rulers and the sages and worthies who have left behind these teachings, were said to possess one or more of the three virtues. None of them, however, were considered endowed with all three.
In some cases, they may be endowed with traits such as nobility, dignity and strength, which correspond to the virtue of sovereign, but lack such qualities of the parent as compassion. Conversely, they may have compassion but lack nobility. Also, some, while having nobility and compassion, do not demonstrate the virtue of the teacher because they do not expound a teaching that leads people to happiness. For this reason especially, most sages and worthies are not endowed with all three virtues.
As his discussion of the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent in terms of Confucianism, Brahmanism and Buddhism unfolds, the Daishonin examines the content of the respective teachings, as well as people's practice and conduct based on those teachings.
Because the three virtues are characteristics exhibited by Buddhas, bodhisattvas and various honored ones in relation to the people, it goes without saying that gauging who truly possesses these three virtues becomes extremely important in terms of what the people are taught and the type of practice they are urged to carry out.
Based on this analysis, Nichiren concludes that Shakyamuni alone embodies the three virtues — serving as sovereign, teacher and parent for all living beings. In contrast, he argues, the honored ones and teachers of Confucianism in China and Brahmanism in India were ignorant of the principles of cause and effect; therefore, they could not be regarded as genuinely possessing the virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent.
"The Opening of the Eyes" states: "One should know that the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment [Shakyamuni Buddha] is a great leader for all living beings, a great eye for them, a great bridge, a great helmsman, a great field of good fortune. The four sages and three ascetics of the Confucian and Brahmanical scriptures and teachings are referred to as sages, but in fact they are no more than ordinary people who have not yet been able to eradicate the three categories of illusion. They are referred to as wise men, but in fact they are no more than infants who cannot understand the principles of cause and effect. With their teachings for a ship, could one ever cross over the sea of the sufferings of birth and death? With their teachings for a bridge, could one ever escape from the maze of the six paths? But the Buddha, our great teacher, has advanced beyond even transmigration with change and advance, let alone transmigration with differences and limitations. He has wiped out even the very root of fundamental darkness, let alone the illusions of thought and desire that are as minor as branches and leaves" (WND-1, 223).
By "the principles of cause and effect," the Daishonin is referring to the causality of life over the three existences — past, present and future — that determines human happiness. Later, based on the fivefold comparison, he further clarifies the doctrine of original cause and original effect, which is the true causality of attaining Buddhahood. This is the doctrine of the true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the true three thousand realms in a single moment of life hidden in the depths of "Life Span," the 16th chapter of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra.
In the first half of "The Opening of the Eyes," the Daishonin concludes that, in terms of the teachings of Confucianism, Brahmanism and Buddhism that have been transmitted to Japan thus far, only Shakyamuni appears to fully function as sovereign, teacher and parent to all living beings. And the Daishonin also clarifies, in terms of Shakyamuni's entire body of teachings, that the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra is the true teaching for attaining Buddhahood and the great Law for liberating all people of the Latter Day from suffering. The reason he says Shakyamuni embodies all three virtues — sovereign, teacher and parent — is that Shakyamuni became enlightened to the true causality of attaining Buddhahood, manifested it in his own life, and then expounded it in the form of the Lotus Sutra.
The Practice of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra Embodies the Functions of Sovereign, Teacher and Parent
In the latter half of "The Opening of the Eyes," Nichiren details his struggles as the votary of the Lotus Sutra enlightened to this true causality of attaining Buddhahood and striving to make it accessible to all people of the Latter Day.
He alone has awakened to the great Law for attaining Buddhahood hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra, and he alone recognizes the deplorable prevalence throughout the land of erroneous teachings that hinder the propagation of this Law. He writes, "I, Nichiren, am the only person in all Japan who understands this" (WND-1, 239).
But no sooner does he expound the correct teaching and doctrines than he is assailed by unimaginable and unprecedented persecution. Describing his situation, he writes, "As mountains pile upon mountains and waves follow waves, so do persecutions add to persecutions and criticisms augment criticisms" (WND-1, 241).
In a time of conflict, in a polluted age, Nichiren nevertheless surmounts the daunting persecutions of exile and near execution and wages an unceasing spiritual struggle for the enlightenment of all people. He reveals his expansive state of life in the following passage: "When it comes to understanding the Lotus Sutra, I have only a minute fraction of the vast ability that T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo [the great teachers of Buddhism of China and Japan, respectively] possessed. But as regards my ability to endure persecution and the wealth of my compassion for others, I believe they would hold me in awe" (WND-1, 242).
Leaving a detailed explanation of this passage for another occasion, suffice it to say the Daishonin is here making a great declaration that no figure in the history of Buddhism since Shakyamuni surpasses him in terms of his compassion and forbearance in the face of persecution as he struggled to guide all people to enlightenment.
The latter half of "The Opening of the Eyes" delves into why the Daishonin, as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, fails to receive the protection of the Buddhist gods as the Lotus Sutra promises, and why those persecuting him fail to receive punishment. In fact, one reason the Daishonin wrote this treatise was to address these extremely important questions that invited both doubt and criticism. Indeed, these lingering questions formed thebasis not only of the abuse the general populace showered on the Daishonin but also the denunciations of erstwhile followers who had abandoned their faith and turned against him.
In this writing, the Daishonin directly addresses these questions and seeks to dispel people's doubts. He states: "This doubt lies at the heart of this piece I am writing ... [I]t is the most important concern of my entire life" (WND-1, 243). As he sets about answering these questions, what gradually becomes clear is that the Lotus Sutra's description of the votary's conduct in propagating the teaching and the persecutions he will encounter perfectly match the Daishonin's own conduct and the persecutions befalling him.
Specifically cited as proof that Nichiren Daishonin is the votary of the Lotus Sutra are: the Buddha's entreaties to the bodhisattvas to make a great vow to spread the sutra after his passing, as well as the description of the six difficult and nine easy acts in "Treasure Tower," the 11th chapter; the demonstration that ordinary people can attain Buddhahood (the attainment of Buddhahood of evil people and women) in "Devadatta," the 12th chapter; and the intense persecution of the votary of the Lotus Sutra by the three powerful enemies described in "Encouraging Devotion," the 13th chapter.
Excerpted from The Opening of the Eyes by Daisaku Ikeda. Copyright © 2010 Soka Gakkai. Excerpted by permission of World Tribune Press.
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