THE BUDDHA WRITINGS OF NICHIREN DAISHÔNIN
The Fundamental Object of Veneration
Now we come to the subtle integration of the objective realm and the subjective insight of the original terrain that is so hard to understand which points to the Buddha vision that is also latent in each one of us, when our lives are open to the implications of Nam myôhô renge kyô. This subtle integration of the objective realm, kyô, and the subjective insight, chi, of the original terrain as seen on the Fundamental Object of Veneration as we stand looking at it, the subjective insight is on the left and its objective realm is on the right.
After the subjective insight of the Tathâgata and his perceived environment we then come to the ‘primordial infinity of the original beginning'. This paraphrase is a clumsy attempt to translate ku.onganjô.
Although this concept of primordiality is expressed as the starting point in a time that has been unrolled like a very long piece of string it is so long it can only be counted as something prior to a time span which would exceed the amount of grains of dust that go into the making of five hundred kalpas. Generally speaking a universal kalpa is considered to be the stretch of time between a big bang and a big crunch, where it is said that all space and all time becomes a singularity.
Be as it may, the Buddha teaching is less concerned with physics than psychology. The infinity of this original beginning is the ever present space where all existence becomes a synchronistic singularity that is deep down within our psyches and yet at the same time it is every instant of life. This part of us which is the origin of life contains all the archetypal urges of the immaculate cognition, the contents of which are written out on the Fundamental Object of Veneration.
With regards to the actual fundamental substance of the self received reward body that is used by the Tathâgata, I said somewhere further back in this essay that all Buddhas are endowed with three bodies: (i) the dharma body is the ultimate truth to which the Buddha is enlightened, (ii) the reward body is the embodiment of the Buddha wisdom and, (iii) the corresponding body is the incarnation that the Buddha manifests according to the needs of sentient beings in order to teach them. The actual fundamental substance of the self received body that is used by the Tathâgata entails the wisdom to which the Daishônin was enlightened in the primordial infinity of the original beginning. The Fundamental Object of Veneration is the means with which the Daishônin imparts that wisdom.
Next we come to the element which is referred to as the inherently infinite existence of the ten realms of dharmas. In contrast to the four noble truths of (i) being born, (ii) becoming old, (iii) getting sick and (iv) dying as taught in the individual vehicle, or the appearances of the four stages of existence (shiûisô) of (i) coming into being or being born, (ii) lasting as long as it lasts, (iii) change and disintegration and (iv) ceasing to exist, the ten realms of dharmas are inextricably a part of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces. I cannot imagine where life was or what it was when our planet was little more than a miasmatic clod or what life will be when the earth ceases to exist. Of course the Buddhist argument is that any perception whatsoever is the reflection of our own minds. Does this mean to say that there is a part of our minds that creates an all embracing history of evolution, speculation as to the future, all that is known about the subatomic particles everything that can be known even though it is somewhat blurred at the edges, is this entirely the product of the five aggregates and the nine cognitions? The answer then, would have to be that each and every sentient being lives out the simultaneousness of cause and effect of the Utterness of the Dharma according to their own karmic propensities. In this light our own existence becomes imponderably inexplicable. What is even more astounding is that each instant we live is only a transient individual glimpse at the past, present and future of the entirety of existence. The problem that always arises is, ‘What is going to happen to me?' To this question I would say that when one can realise that the personalities that we have forged for ourselves according to our respective karma are only the psychological means for surviving a single lifetime and that our real identity is life itself, then this is why the Daishônin wrote out in three dimensional realistic terms all the possible twists, turns and alterations of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces onto this Object of Veneration whereupon we can project and focus our faith in our Buddha nature in order to help us get out of this inherently schizophrenic situation.
The oneness of the person and the dharma means that within the Buddha teaching of Nichiren Daishônin there lingered a dual concept of a Fundamental Object of Veneration that represents the dharma and a Fundamental Object of Veneration that refers to the person (the Daishônin) who established that dharma. In order to make clear that the Fundamental Object of Veneration is the oneness of the wisdom, intellect, profundity and all embracing compassion of the Daishônin is in no way apart from the dharma that he taught, the following phrases as well as others from the Sutra on the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma are quoted to envince this position. The first quotation comes from the Chapter on the Teacher of the Dharma, ‘Wherever this sutric scroll of the dharma is placed for keeping, one should build a stupa made of the seven precious substances which has to be proportionately as tall as it is broad, but there is no reason to put any relic inside it. For the simple reason the whole of the body of the Tathâgata is already in the stupa.' The second quotation comes from the Chapter on the Appearance of the Stupa made of Precious Materials, ‘Among all the sutras, this sutra is the first of all, if there is anybody who can hold to this dharma then that person is holding to the person of the Buddha himself.'
With regard to the Only Universal Object of Veneration of the altar of the precept of the original gateway, it would be simpler if I were to discuss first, the one and only original gateway which is in the second consideration in the booklet of daily practice of Nichiren Shôshû. In these translations the word gateway is a literal translation of the Sino-Japanese ideogram whose implication in these sort of texts, is a gateway to the Buddha dharma. From the viewpoint of the teachings of Nichiren Daishônin this original gateway points to the Nam myôhô renge kyô of the ‘three universal esoteric dharmas' (sandai hihô).
These three universal esoteric dharmas are, (i) the Fundamental Object of Veneration, (ii) the title and theme of the original gateway to the dharma which is Nam myôhô renge kyô and (iii) the altar of the precept of the original gateway which is where the Fundamental Object of Veneration is enshrined.
Just as there are still at the present time people who obsessively read the Bible, Finnegan's Wake, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll or in my case I read over and over again the Writings of Nichiren Daishônin and other related material, an obsessive activity which is really a quest to bring about some kind of individuation as well as revelations that help us to understand what life is all about. This is precisely what the Daishônin did with the teachings of the original gateway as well as the rest of the Dharma Flower Sutra. He projected his whole psyche into the depths of the text and after reading and pondering and pondering and reading again and again, the sutra yielded its esoteric secrets. Usually in the writings of the Daishônin we have the original gateway whose meaning lies submerged within the text, so that the title and theme (daimoku) is so much more than its literal translation.
What is written on the Fundamental Object of Veneration of the original gateway is the full content and significance of the Dharma Flower Sutra in the form of a mandala that has something of the flavour of a cosmic equation. The content of which we will discuss in detail during the next few paragraphs. The title and theme of the original gateway is the Nam myôhô renge kyô , that is to be understood as the consecration and founding of one's life on the vertical threads of the sutra that constitute the realms where existence takes place, into which is woven the filament of the simultaneousness of cause and effect of the Utterness of the Dharma. In other words we are consecrating and founding our lives on the ever continuous now of single instants of mind that contain three thousand existential spaces in order to bring us to a greater awakening of the Buddha wisdom which is inherent in all of us. It could even be said that this is the consecration to what life really is.
The altar of the precept of the original gateway is the altar where the Fundamental Object of Veneration is enshrined. Since there is only one universal object of veneration of the original gateway, then it can only be the one and only Universal Object of Veneration of the altar of the precept (Nam myôhô renge kyô) of the original gateway.
For those people who are not familiar with the teachings of Nichiren Daishônin, the Fundamental Object of Veneration is an upright oblong shape upon which the forces that underlie our lives are written out in a ceremonial calligraphy with the exception of two Sanskrit syllables written in the Siddham alphabet. There are essentially two types of Fundamental Objects of Veneration, one is engraved on wood with gilded engraved letters with a black background, the other type is in the form of a traditional kakemono.
For fear of vilification, mockery and slander, people including the monks are averse to the concept of any diagram representing or reproduction of the Fundamental Object of Veneration whatsoever. So what I will do, is to try and describe its essential contents in words only.
In the four corners of the Fundamental Object of Veneration there are the four universal deva kings in the service of Taishaku (Shakra Devânâm Indra) whose rôle in terms of the ancient Indian view of the universe, is to protect the four continents of Mount Sumeru. Perhaps in more present day terms, would they not be something to do with the forces that prevent our planet coming too close to or drifting too far away from the sun? Could they not be the forces that keep our environment from completely getting out of hand? I have to say that I personally accept the fact that there are forces of good that do protect us, but at the same time I cannot clearly define what the devas (ten) are, again it is the same with the ‘spirits of good' (zenjin). We can be aware of their beneficial influence without really knowing what is happening or how it occurs, but one can also say the same thing about evil presences. According to the first sentence of the first consideration of the ‘morning ritual' (gongyô), it says, ‘Those born into mortal form who are “utterly enlightened” (myôgaku) which is the practical benefit of the original Buddha's own practice...' So that if we are to go by this phrase, even if the devas do have extremely long lifetimes like our planet, according to all accounts from other Buddhist writings, they must be individual beings endowed with very special merits. My personal way of understanding the devas is that they are archetypal forces within us who do have a bearing on our daily lives. However that may be the rôle of the universal deva kings on the Fundamental Object of Veneration is to protect the universe, pick out and punish evil and to encourage all efforts that people make to become enlightened.
In the centre of the Fundamental Object of Veneration there is the inscription of the seven ideograms for Nam myôhô renge kyô under which is written Nichiren and under that there are the two ideograms gohan. These two ideograms generally imply, this mandala is the Daishônin's understanding of the Sutra on the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma. The calligraphy of the central inscription is written in a particular style that is called ‘the bearded theme and title' (higedaimoku). The reason for this I can only assume is that since the title and theme are chanted in a particular solemn manner, because of its all embracing importance for those who follow the teachings of Nichiren Daishônin. Another reason might be, the recitation of the title and theme in this tone of voice forestalls it from becoming trite. This would make me think that it is for similar reasons such a distinctive style of writing is used for nearly all inscriptions of Nam myôhô renge kyô. The only comparison I can refer to are the many Taoist inscriptions that are written in a similar style.
On the left hand side of the inscription of title and theme as one looks at the Fundamental Object of Veneration (which is in fact the right hand side as the Object of Veneration faces us), we have the Buddha Shakyamuni. On the right hand side (again and as always in this essay as we are looking at the Fundamental Object of Veneration) we have the Tathâgata Tahô (Prabhûtaratna). This Buddha appears in the Stupa made of Precious Materials during the ceremony in empty space, in order to bear witness to the truth of the teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni with regard to the Dharma Flower Sutra. According to the Eleventh Chapter on the Appearance of the Stupa made of Precious Materials, the Buddha Tahô came from a Buddha land called Treasured Purity. When this Buddha was still involved in the fifty-two bodhisattva stages in the process of becoming a Buddha he made an oath that on attaining enlightenment or even after his demise into Nirvana, he would appear in the Stupa made of Precious Materials in order to testify the truth of the Dharma Flower Sutra wherever it is being taught. In the eleventh chapter of this sutra the Tathâgata Tahô opens the stupa and invites Shakyamuni Buddha to sit next to him.
In the Threefold Transmission Concerning the Fundamental Object of Veneration (Honzon San Sôden), that is a personal transmission from the Daishônin to one of his original disciples Nichigen, the reciprocal rôles of both Shakyamuni and Tahô are described in the following manner, ‘At the time of the Precious Stupa when Tahô as the object of the Buddha wisdom and Shakyamuni as that wisdom itself, sat in the one stupa it was to show us the fundamental origin of the non duality of the Buddha wisdom and its respective environment. Then what is this Buddha wisdom and its respective environment? It is none other than the continuity of births and deaths that we have acquired since the primordial infinity until now. It is the environment and the wisdom of mind and materiality, it is the stillness and movement of a thousand blades of grass and ten thousand trees. Tahô, by already having entered Nirvana, implies death and inanimation, Shakyamuni who has not yet entered Nirvana, represents life. When the duality of movement and stillness refers to materiality and mind, then mind becomes motion and materiality silence. This is because Tahô is our aspect of death as we pass from one death to another and Shakyamuni is our living form from life to life. The two Buddhas seated in the one stupa implies the inseparability of living and dying as not being separate in any way from death and reincarnation. What this means is that life and death are the single reality of the Universal Nirvana which is also mu (the dharma realm that is the underlying fundamental quality of all existence which can only be perceived through deep psychological perception or at the time of dying). This Universal Nirvana is underlined by neither coming into being nor being extinguished. If reasoning and wisdom are put together, then Shakyamuni represents our reception of sensation and feeling the functioning of the mind or senses in connection with affairs and things (ju). Also our concepts, thoughts, discerning and the functioning of the mind in distinguishing (sô), as well as our functioning of the mind with regard to our likes and dislikes, good and evil and so forth (gyô). Along with the mental faculty that makes us think we are who we are on account of what we know (shiki) are the make up of the four aggregates and the basic make up of our minds. Because it is the mind that has the function of turning over and being in motion. The dharma is expounded through Shakyamuni. Tahô is the unenlightenment of our materiality, because materiality is silent Tahô does not teach the dharma. For those who can grasp the meaning of this, then without affecting our materiality and mental faculties or our bodies and minds in any way, we are entirely Shakyamuni and Tahô. This is explained in the temporary gateway, as becoming aware of our inherent Buddha nature is not separate from our respective personalities just as they are. In the original gateway it is taught as, ‘Since I really became a Buddha it is already coming to countless and boundless and hundreds and thousands of myriads of billion of nayuta asogi kalpas ago.' In other words our real existences consist of the synchronicity of all the past, present and future and all space.
On both sides the two Buddhas Tahô ( in the diagram) and Shakyamuni , there are the four leaders of the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth (jiyu no bosatsu). Next to the Tathâgata Tahô , we have the bodhisattva Jôgyô (Jôgyô Bosatsu)  who along with the other four leading bodhisattvas first appear in the Fifteenth Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Spring from the Earth in the Dharma Flower Sutra. According to the Threefold Transmission Concerning the Fundamental Object of Veneration it says, ‘Jôgyô  is placed next to Tahô  which is something to do with Indian protocol of the host attending to the guest of honour. (Because it is the Buddha Tahô's  stupa) the Tathâgata Tahô  is seated in the place of the host, Jôgyô  as presiding elder of the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth, assumes the supporting function of host.' The Daishônin sees the Bodhisattva Jôgyô  as the temporary or provisional manifestation of the original Buddha of the primordial infinity while the ceremony in empty space was being conducted. Nichiren Daishônin refers to himself as the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Jôgyô in quite a number of his writings. Again according to the Threefold Transmission, the title and theme along with the four leaders of the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth represent the five elements earth, water, fire, wind and the relativity of the void. The title and theme Nam myôhô renge kyô represents relativity which is not different from the Universal Nirvana and the Bodhisattva Jôgyô stands for fire. The name Jôgyô means ‘the supreme practice'. Dôsen of the Tendai school wrote in his Collection of Notes on the Textual Explanation of the Dharma Flower, that each of the four leaders of the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth symbolizes a principal quality of the Buddha of the primordial infinity. In this case Jôgyô indicates the original Buddha's identity or self (ga) as well as fire.
Although the Fundamental Object of Veneration has all the attributes of the Buddha of the primordial infinity, it always depends on the faith of the practitioners in their own Buddha nature, that is to say in life itself if they wish to have access to the inner realisation of this teaching.
Standing on the right of Jôgyô , as we look at the Fundamental Object of Veneration is Muhengyô , who is also one of the leaders of the Bodhisattvas who spring from the earth. His name means ‘the Practice of Boundlessness', and also represents permanence or continuity as one of the principal qualities of the Buddha. In the first part of the Oral Transmission on the Significance of the Dharma Flower, the Daishônin states, ‘Going beyond the bounds of annihilation or continuity is called the Practice of Boundlessness'. Also out of the five elements, Muhengyô  stands for earth.
On the left hand side of Shakyamuni  who is the guest of honour in the ceremony in empty space, is Jyôgyô  who is also one of the leaders of the Bodhisattvas who spring from the earth and like all the other four, is mentioned in the Fifteenth Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Spring from the Earth in the Dharma Flower Sutra. In the Oral Transmission on the Significance of the Dharma Flower, the Daishônin refers to these four bodhisattvas as representatives of the principal qualities of the Buddha, by saying that since the name for Jyôgyô  is written with the ideogram for immaculacy (jyô), the fundamental and particular quality of the Utterness of the Dharma is said to be immaculately pure and without taint. This bodhisattva also stands for water.
On the left of Jyôgyô  we have Anryûgyô , whose name signifies ‘the practice that establishes tranquillity'. Just like the other leaders of the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth, Anryûgyô  is mentioned in the fifteenth chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra. In terms of representing the principal qualities of the Buddha of the primordial infinity this bodhisattva represents his joy and happiness. There is no such thing as an enlightened being that is brow beaten and depressed. In terms of the five elements Anryûgyô represents wind.
Jung in his writings suggests that archetypes of the collective unconscious are subject to a variability which is dependent on the individual. Although our personal archetypes do change their aspect, the archetypes of the immaculate cognition are immutable. It is true that we can only become aware of the collective unconscious through its manifestation in art, religion and the occasional dream etc., but we know at the same time this is what makes us what we are. The immaculate cognition is not only the underlying engine that makes all our unconscious activities do their daily task, it is also the cognition (shiki) that makes us perceive the state of our own fingernails or see the bird on the tree.
In the Threefold Transmission it goes on to say, ‘The single teaching is the one and only doctrine of the Dharma Flower Sutra. The profound significance is the unfathomable subtlety of these five ideograms for Myô, hô, ren, ge, kyô; this is why we refer to them as being profound and because of their deep meaningfulness we use the word “significance”. Broadly speaking the essential of the twenty-eight chapters of the Dharma Flower Sutra is none other than the five ideograms of the objective realm and the subjective insight of the Utterness of the Dharma. Even though the temporary and original gateways each attach significance to the non duality of the Buddha wisdom and its environment, the view that the temporary gateway discusses the transformation of delusions into a first awakening like that of Shakyamuni under the bodhi tree, it can be surmised that wisdom is able to destroy our bewilderment and its expression is the establishment of the gateway to enlightenment through that wisdom. Thus we have Shakyamuni on the left hand side [as we face the Object of Veneration] who stands for wisdom. The original gateway talks of the original enlightenment as being inseparable from its own conduct, therefore inherently it cannot break the bonds of having a lust for life. The original gateway entails this fundamental principle which is why Tahô is on the right to represent it. However these two jointly correlate and bring to completion the Buddha wisdom and its objective realm, materiality and mind, discernment and what is discerned and also life and death. This is called the subtle integration of the objective realm and the subjective insight of the original terrain ( honchi kyôchi myôgo ). You should also realize that the rest of the inscribed names on the Fundamental Object of Veneration follow the same pattern.'
Half way down both sides of the Fundamental Object of Veneration, there are two letters of the Sanskrit Siddham alphabet. On the left,  there is the syllable Hûm that symbolizes the Ferocious Manifestation of the Sovereign of Enlightenment Aizen (Aizen Myôô) who is also called King Aizen (Aizen Ô), the Tathâgata Dainichi (Dainichi Nyôrai), another name for him is the Bodhisattva Kongôai (Kongôai Bosatsu) or the Bodhisattva Kongôô (Kongôô Bosatsu). In iconography King Aizen is represented as being red with three eyes, six arms and a ferocious expression, in one arm he is holding a bow and an arrow. Although this Buddha emanation has his origins in the Shingon or Esoteric school, here in the Fundamental Object of Veneration he represents ‘troublesome worries not separate from enlightenment'.
On the right hand side  opposite to the Ferocious Manifestation of the Sovereign of Enlightenment Aizen, there is the syllable Ham which is the invocation of the Sovereign of Enlightenment called Fudô (Fudô Myôô), whose name implies immutability who also is usually seen in his ferocious manifestation (funnu no sô). This sovereign of enlightenment is one of the principal Buddha emanations that is venerated by the Shingon school and is by some people thought to be an incarnation or emanation of the Tathâgata Dainichi himself, as well as being the head of all the other eight sovereigns of enlightenment. The role of Fudô is to overcome the obstacles and demons that stand in the way of those who follow the practices of the Buddha teaching. He is normally depicted as having a body of the colour of indigo and a frightening appearance, in his right hand he holds a sword, in the left there is a rope that he uses as a snare and is surrounded by an aura of flames. In the Threefold Transmission, these two Sovereigns of Enlightenment have an extremely profound meaning.
‘Next, with regard to the two Ferocious Sovereigns of Enlightenment, King Aizen Tainted with Amorous Desire is the embodiment of troublesome worries being inseparable from enlightenment. He is coloured red which is the shade of desire for beauty and pleasure. If one is to think about the process of the desire for beauty and fun not being separate from the Buddha nature, this is precisely the concern of this Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment. Then we have the Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment Fudô the Unmoveable who is the embodiment of the endless cycle of lives and deaths that are inseparable from the Universal Nirvana. This Sovereign of Enlightenment is coloured indigo black which is the darkness of the inaccessibly congealed inner realm of the inalterable karma of living and dying. This is what Fudô the Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment represents. So we have Aizen acting as meditation and Fudô as the object of meditation. What Fudô and Aizen emphasize are the two dharmas of meditation and what is meditated upon are in fact the two dharmas of our wisdom and its objective realm, these dharmas are none other than our fundamental make up which is the Utterness of the Dharma.'
Maybe a way of understanding Fudô the immoveable who looks across the Fundamental Object of Veneration through the space between the ideogram for lotus and the ideogram for flower towards Aizen who is tainted with desire, could mean that there is a psychological simultaneousness of cause and effect which involves the whole of life and everything that has, is and will happen. Could this not be the point where the whole of mind becomes a singularity of meaning that makes it the flashpoint that renovates our lives? Could this also be the clear light that we become for a very short while every time we die? Then as we flinch away from it, we once again become entwined in the dharmas in the dream of the ever reoccurring sticky trap of life? But nevertheless we are renewed.
What we do have to realize is that our troublesome worries are not separate from our original enlightenment.