Thoughts on “The Two Kinds of Illness”

The priest Nichiren Daishonin frequently traded correspondence with practitioners in 13th century Japan, and we’re lucky enough to have translated compilations to study. One letter I read today is, “The Two Kinds of Illness” with this excerpt:

However, if one tries to use the Hinayana teachings to cure the three poisons and eighty thousand illnesses that arise from slandering the Mahayana sutras, such as the Flower Garland, Wisdom, and Mahāvairochana sutras, these illnesses will merely become worse and never be cured. They can be treated only with the Mahayana teachings. Moreover, if one attempts to use the Flower Garland, Wisdom, and Mahāvairochana sutras, or the teachings of the True Word and Three Treatises schools to cure the three poisons and eighty thousand illnesses that arise when the practitioners of the various Mahayana sutras oppose the Lotus Sutra, those sicknesses will become all the more serious. To illustrate, the flames emitted by burning wood or coal can easily be extinguished by water, but if one pours water over a fire produced by burning oil, it will only burn more intensely, the flames mounting still higher.

Having already written about physical illnesses as the first kind of illness, Nichiren dove into the second, illnesses of the mind. While I anticipated that this referred to mental illness, it may be more aptly referred to as illness of the heart. In particular, Nichiren speaks to the results of false sages of ritual and institutional Buddhism misleading innocent practitioners and leading them away from their own Buddhahood. Because the original Buddha, Shakyamuni, delivered Buddhism through Expedient Means, the depth and essence of Buddhism was revealed gradually.

Shakyamuni determined that at the time of awakening to his enlightenment, and his many lifetimes of enlightenment, the people were not ready to absorb the full extent of this nirvana state. Revealing Buddhism beyond the capacity and the time would only drive people away from their own Buddhahood. So he gave oral sermons which were later compiled into the different Sutras by his disciples.

Concepts like “the middle way” are therefore useful because they point to an effect of Buddhist practice, but there is not a true practice of “the middle way” so it is limiting to the practitioner. Ultimately, if all you are attempting to do is practice the middle way as you read about in Tibetan Buddhism, you’re ignoring the true teachings that the Buddha revealed long after this one.

Buddhist sages and great teachers, of course, couldn’t be ignorant to Expedient Means as they’re not a secret in Buddhist practice. Rather, for their own vanity and the gain of their temples, they declared that the later teachings were either too difficult to practice, or they ignored this truth. This causes great suffering, and ultimately, this “illness of the mind” that Nichiren writes about here.

So if this illness is caused by fake sages, how could they possibly cure this? In actuality, their attempts would only aggravate the issue, because disciples would sincerely practice ineffective Buddhism even when the truth is available.

If you believe that Buddhism is just a philosophy to respect others, then you miss the fact that in order to truly respect others, it takes great effort and you also need to respect yourself. The true Buddhism of today is such a practice – it is chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.


Buddhist Next Door


Thoughts on “The Gem in the Robe”

Parables have been a well-established method of sharing faith stories, and having recently read “The Gem in the Robe,” I wanted to share some thoughts.

First, the text:

The house was a very prosperous one

and the poor man was served many trays of delicacies.

The friend took a priceless jewel,

sewed it in the lining of the poor man’s robe,

gave it without a word and then went away,

and the man, being asleep, knew nothing of it.

After the man had gotten up,

he journeyed here and there to other countries,

seeking food and clothing to keep himself alive,

finding it very difficult to provide for his livelihood.

He made do with what little he could get

and never hoped for anything finer,

unaware that in the lining of his robe

he had a priceless jewel.

Later the close friend who had given him the jewel

happened to meet the poor man

and after sharply rebuking him,

showed him the jewel sewed in the robe.

When the poor man saw the jewel,

his heart was filled with great joy,

for he was rich, possessed of wealth and goods

sufficient to satisfy the five desires.

We are like that man.


In the beginning of the parable, I felt like I was in the shoes of the poor man. I’ve been to friend’s homes that are larger and have been fed delicacies (mmm, pizza).

But from there, my thoughts turned to the jewel? What was it that the rich man was able to give the poor man? In my opinion, the jewel was the absolute happiness of one’s Buddha nature. Just as we are unable to see our own eyebrows without having a mirror, without the help of another, we can’t truly believe that we possess ultimate potential.

I also was surprised that the rich man rebuked the poor man. After all, the poor man unassumingly was just trying to get by in life, moving from country to country. He had a difficult life, and who was the rich man to get all uppity about the jewel he sewed in his friend’s robe?

But from the perspective of Buddhism, if the “rich man” knew that the best way to reach the “poor man”‘s heart was to rebuke him, then this was the ultimate manifestation of compassion. How compassionate of the rich man to care enough to point out to his friend that he had this jewel the entire time. And most importantly, it worked, the poor man saw the jewel and could now spend his life doing other things.

In the spirit of Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni) or Nichiren Daishonin, I’d like to believe that the poor man would then do the same thing for someone else, that the rich man had done for him. As for the rich man? Surely, he had many other friends that were also unaware of this deep treasure in their lives.


Buddhist Next Door

Studying the World’s Foremost Life Philosophy

I was flipping through my new World Tribune newspaper, and came across a list of Nichiren’s writings. The Young Women’s Division across the country are challenging themselves to study these 30 letters with working links:

1. On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land
2. The Opening of the Eyes
3. The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind
4. The Selection of the Time
5. On Repaying Debts of Gratitude
6. On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime
7. On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings
8. On the Buddha’s Prophecy
9. The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra
10. Letter from Sado
11. On Prolonging One’s Life Span
12. Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution
13. The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood
14. Letter to the Brothers
15. Reply to Kyo’o
16. The Three Kinds of Treasure
17. On Persecutions Befalling the Sage
18. The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra
19. The Supremacy of the Law
20. The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon
21. Winter Always Turns to Spring
22. On the Treasure Tower
23. The Drum at the Gate of Thunder
24. The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
25. The True Aspect of All Phenomena
26. Many in Body, One in Mind
27. The Kalpa of Decrease
28. Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light
29. The Dragon Gate
30. The Proof of the Lotus Sutra


I think I’ll go ahead and study these too~


Buddhist Next Door

Thoughts “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime”

Each time I read the writings and teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, I have different thoughts and conclusions. Five years ago I felt a certain way, and in five years with more study experience under my belt, I’ll surely have a more nuanced view.

After reading “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” this excerpt sticks with me:

When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

This first part identifies what a Buddha is through the words of Nichiren – an ordinary human being free of delusions. And the second part identifies how to free oneself of delusions – by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with deep faith. 


Buddhist Next Door