The Nichiren Buddhism【ミステリーな日蓮 英訳版】14.Why don’t you refer to Three Great Secret Laws?

14.Why don’t you refer to Three Great Secret Laws?


Hiroto Ema


In this section, I answer another frequently asked question.


Q. The essence of the doctrine of Nichiren is Three Great Secret Laws, namely, the object of devotion (Honzon), the ordination platform (Kaidan), and the title (Daimoku). Why don’t you refer to these important Secret Laws?


Certainly, Nichiren regarded Three Great Secret Laws as important dogmas to the doctrine of Buddhism. Yet, you should keep in mind the premise that Nichiren presented them as he was trying to counter the attack from Esoteric Buddhism. So you, readers of this series, would understand that the purpose of drawing Mandara(Gohonzon) was to destroy Esoteric Buddhism. Also, the preaching of Three Great Secret Laws was the result of it.


The belief in the Lotus Sutra was bitterly criticized by the monks of Esoteric Buddhism, who asserted “the Lotus Sutra lacks the Three Secret Laws (the three mysteries)”. What does it mean? According to Esoteric Buddhism, one of the most important dogma is “Becoming Buddha in this Life (Sokushin Jyobutsu)”, which means everybody can die peacefully and become a Buddha as he is. Nichiren criticized that Esoteric Buddhism had stolen the idea of “Becoming Buddha in this Life” from the Lotus Sutra, so originally it hadn’t been preached in Esoteric Buddhism. But we don’t discuss it further. According to the doctrine of Esoteric Buddhism, “Becoming Buddha in this Life” requires training of the Three Secret Laws, Secret Law (mystery) of the body, Secret Law of the mouth, Secret Law of the mind. To put it more precisely, they mean making the sign with one’s hands (Secret Law of the body), repeating mantra in one’s mouth (Secret Law of the mouth), and visualizing the object of devotion in one’s mind (Secret Law of the mind). And the monks of Esoteric Buddhism criticized that the Lotus Sutra had only Secret Law of the mind among the Three Secret Laws essential to Becoming Buddha in this Life. But the monks who treasured the Lotus Sutra couldn’t contradict it well, and Tendai Syu (Tendai school) combined the Lotus Sutra with Esoteric Buddhism and preached the integration of them. For Nichiren, who regarded the Lotus Sutra as the supreme, these attitudes must have been unforgivable.


In countering Nenbutsu (chanting of Namu Amida Butsu), Nichiren preached the Chanting Daimoku (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo) by adopting its form, and that was also the case when countering Esoteric Buddhism. He tried to make people believe in the Lotus Sutra by using forms which had already been widely accepted. Although Nichiren repeatedly claimed that “Becoming Buddha in this Life” of Esoteric Buddhism was a doctrine which had been established by stealing the essence of the Lotus Sutra, he first tried to convince those who regarded the Three Secret Laws essential to Becoming Buddha in this Life that the Three Secret Laws of the Lotus Sutra was superior to those of Esoteric Buddhism, rather than to refute them by asserting that Becoming Buddha in this Life didn’t require the Three Secret Laws. For Nichiren, the matter of the Three Secret Laws was merely formal, so that he could change them and integrate into the belief in the Lotus Sutra. So the doctrine of the Three Great Secret Laws was presented with such an intension.


By the hands of Nichiren, Secret Law of the mouth, repetition of mantra, was changed to Chanting Daimoku, and Secret Law of the body, making the sign with one’s hands, to the ceremony of giving the commandment. In Enryaku temple in Mt. Hieizan (in Kyoto), when one became a monk, the ceremony was performed in a special building called Kaidan-in (the house of giving the commandments). In this regard, the house doesn’t merely refer to the building itself, but the whole ceremony of giving the commandments, which is symbolized by the house, and it seems that the physical manners used in the ceremony was referred to as Secret Law of the body. For Nichiren himself had been given the commandments in Enryaku temple, he must have realized the importance of the ceremony and the special envy of monks toward it.


After establishing the new belief in Lotus Sutra, Nichiren began to give official rank of a high priest to his disciples with enough virtue in behalf of Enryaku temple. Though it is not clear what kind of ceremony was performed in such occasions, the biggest Mandara (Gohonzon) which Nichiren drew was 244 centimeter long and 125 centimeter wide, and when mounted and arrayed its size exceeds three meters. Certainly, the special ceremony must be performed on the ordination platform of giving the commandments, with the huge Mandara in front of it, as is the case with Esoteric Buddhism, and the commandments given in the Chanting Daimoku. So it is clear that Nichiren used forms and ceremonies for the belief in Lotus Sutra and regard them as expediency.


Nichiren had a special feeling toward the platform of giving the commandments, because when the imperial court and the Shogunate officially accepted Nichiren as the leader priest of Japan, a new house of giving the commandments which should substitute Enryaku temple would be built. It means that the whole establishment of Buddhism would be reorganized with Nichiren in the center, and it was his goal. But the plan wasn’t realized.


Later, when people had forgotten the platform and the ceremony of giving commandments and accepted the belief in Lotus Sutra preached by Nichiren, perhaps the place where believers chanted Daimoku for the object of devotion (Gohonzon), physical manners, instruments, and procedures got to be understood as a whole as the ordination platform of Secret Law of the body.
For Nichiren, the essence of the belief in Lotus Sutra was above all to become   single-minded with Nichiren and believe in him. So neither Chanting Daimoku nor Gohonzon had any worth without becoming single-minded with Nichiren. And this observed, all other issues should be dealt with flexibly according to the knowledge and understanding of each person. So Three Great Secret Laws which Nichiren presented used the doctrine of Esoteric Buddhism in order to counter the criticism from it and convert it to the belief in Lotus Sutra. Moreover it appears only in the preachings to his disciples familiar with Esoteric Buddhism. So apparently it isn’t the essence of the doctrine of Nichiren.


August 1st 2019

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14.質問! 三大秘法に触れないのは、なぜ?



























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