Monthly Dharma Message

Dharma Message By Rev. Takamasa Yamamura

Basic Dharma of Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths

  1. Suffering.
  2. Origin of suffering.
  3. Cessation of suffering.
  4. The Path. (Eight Right Practices)

Eight Right Practices.

1, Right Views 2, Right Thinking

3, Right Mindfulness 4, Right Speech

5, Right Action 6, Right Effort

7, Right Concentration 8, Right Livelihood

We will review the most basic Dharma that we must know as followers of the Honolulu Myohoji. We are Buddhists. If someone were to ask you about Buddhism, how would you reply?

The Buddhism of St. Nichiren is very important. Nevertheless, as the premise for its study we must know the basic Dharma of Buddhism. This Dharma is the universal truth.

Buddhism is the enlightened message of the human being, Gautama Siddartha. Siddartha practiced meditation under the Bodhi tree in the town of Gaya in Inda and was enlightened. He first taught the contents of his enlightenment to his practitioner friends in the town of Sarnath. Those teachings are the basic Dharma of Buddhism.

Why did Siddartha become a practitioner? The answer is suffering. We grow old, ill and will someday die. The human being who is approaching hopelessness must live on. There is no way of knowing how long the happiness of today will continue. We all die someday. And after death, through our karma, we are reborn and our suffering continues.

The Mission of Buddhism

  1. We study and practice to maintain mental peace and to live a tranquil life despite the fact we are living in absolute suffering.

2. Reincarnation continues because our evil deeds and evil mind becomes energy. What then must we do? We remove the evil element (illusion) from our mind.

One of the truths that Siddartha was enlightened to after intense mental concentration. The Four Noble Truths (Mechanism of Suffering)

Suffering. We all are suffering to some extent. We have to recognize and acknowledge the presence of suffering.

Origin of suffering. The origin of suffering is ignorance or illusion.

Cessation of suffering. This means that healing is possible and that there is the possibility of cessation. If illusion vanishes, suffering also vanishes.

The Path. How to erase suffering? How to do this? It is called the Eight Right Practices.

There is no substance to suffering. We experience it with our mind. The cause of suffering is not an external physical phenomenon, but it is assigned to how we keep our mind.  For example, if we think that the cause of illness is the illness itself, it is resolved by receiving medicine and medical treatment. Yet as long as we are alive, anyone will someday fall ill and we cannot completely remove illness from human life.  This is the thinking of the Four Noble Truth.  The cause of illness is not illness but it lies in the desire to be healthy and the mind that suffers from illness.  The only way to solve this is to change our state of mind.  All human beings will grow old and become ill. We change our mind so that we can accept this fact. That is the method to erase suffering.

Eightfold Path

This Dharma is the teaching that we live a proper life. The word “proper” means that we discard our mistaken self-centered (egotistic) view and objectively see the state of this world (real aspect). The Eightfold Path is to control our actions with feelings of kindness and objectively seeing the events of daily life. By so doing, we can gradually erase the illusions of our mind.

Right view means to understand that everything is transformed and everything happens by the law of karma. If we do something, then we can expect something in return. We should understand this law and see the happenings around us.

Right thought means that we have to reflect about everything that we are doing in your daily life.

Right speech means that we should select kind words when we speak to others.

Right behavior means to know good manners, and it is absolutely wrong to use violence.

Right livelihood means to keep to our regular schedule in life. To be careful about our diet. To strive to live a healthy life. To sleep at night. To apply ourselves to meditation.

Right effort means to try to do good deeds for others and to be compassionate to other being

Right mindfulness means that we should study the Dharma and remember it, and to try to improve the condition of our mind and body.

Right concentration means that we should control our feelings and be stable. To realize this, we should engage in meditation at all times.

Living the eightfold path means to obtain balance in our life. Our mission as a human being is the perfection of our character. For that purpose a balanced life is necessary.  To become a tolerant and gentle person is the precondition to become a person of character and a successful person.  And to live the life that we have been given as a successful person, we have to know a balanced life. Once we become a balanced person, we will become a more flexible person, and we will be able to accept everything that happens in our daily life.

In this way, the great characteristic of the Buddhism, which was started by Gautama Siddhartha, which practices the Eightfold Path and so forth, is to not rely on an external power but, to the very end, to open the path through one’s own power. Siddhartha strove to solve his sufferings with the conviction of relying on himself alone.

Siddartha says in the Dhammapada: “Your savior is yourself. By properly controlling yourself, a person obtains the true savior.”

It is not enough to just know about the mechanism for suffering. After knowing this Dharma, we must practice until we have changed ourselves. For that purpose, we study the Dharma, which is the universal Truth, and we must recite the Odaimoku many times each day.


The Eternal Spirit

The Honolulu Myohoji is a Nichiren-Shu temple. It was originally a Kempon-Hokke Shu temple. Kempon (literally to manifest the original) means to reveal the hommon, the later half of the Lotus Sutra, chapters 15 to 28. Chapters 1 to 14 of the Lotus Sutra are called the shakumon. The shakumon are sermons by the Historical Buddha. The hommon are sermons by the Eternal Buddha. Please remember this.   It is sufficient that your know this.

In the old days, there were people who said that the teachings of the hommon were superior, and the shakumon was inferior. I ask that you forget this. Both are equally important teachings.

At today’s Myohoji we often read chapter 16. That is because this portion is central to all Buddhism and it is the essence. The teachings of Buddhism do not begin unless we read this chapter. In there are the true intentions of Buddhist spirituality.

What is it that I am referring to? It is kuon jitsujo (enlightened eternally from the remote past). Kuon jitsujo means from the eternal past I am complete. What has been completed? I have become a complete eternal existence.

Let me explain a bit more. While you might not have taken notice of this, within you there is the energy of eternal life. It is the power that sustains you. We may also call it life power. That life power is sustaining you. That life power is eternal energy, and it is called spirit.

Human beings are formed of the three entities of body, mind and spirit. Your essence is not your body, or your mind, but it is spirit. This spirit is eternal life energy.   You are being sustained by this eternal life energy. It is chapter 16 that teaches us this.

To effectively use in our lives the power and energy that is possessed by our spirit, which is our reality, is the key to live a happy life. It is also the key for good fortune.

A person, who believes in his essence, which is spirit, is grateful to the power of that spirit, and has a real feeling of being sustained by it, has strong life power, and is blessed by good fortune and health.

In this world there are people with strong life power and people with weak life power. This has to do with whether or not this spiritual power is activated.

The life power is weak for those who do not believe in the existence of the spirit, and believe that they are living by their power alone. They always have worries and are tormented by the various problems of life.

You are not mind. You are also not body. The realization that you are spirit is kuon jitsujo (complete eternally from the remote past). To have us become aware of this fact, we read the verse section of chapter 16.

Your reality is eternal spirit. Therefore you can become tremendously strong. If you believe that your reality is your body, fear arises in your mind. The cause for all human fears is this body. It is because we think that the physical body is our essence, we are afraid of losing it.

If we believe that our reality is the mind, we will control instincts with reason and become a very nervous person. We will become a mentally weak person.

If we can believe that our essence is spirit, it cannot be harmed by anything, and it is an eternal and indestructible existence, our fears and worries will cease. We will come to live our life without fear and positively. To call forth that belief, we read chapter 16 over and over again.

Moreover, the origin of our reality, which is spirit, is the Enlightened- Eternally-from-the-Remote-Past Shakyamuni Buddha (Kuon Jitsujo Shakyamuni Buddha). We are the branch spirit of the Great Spirit, called the Eternal Buddha. This is the teaching of chapter 16. Since Buddhism is the teaching for human beings to become the Buddha, if we can believe in chapter 16, we can move closer to our goal. We should instead say that you are on the first step of enlightenment if you can awaken to the fact that your essence is one with the Buddha.

The awareness of chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra is indeed true Buddhism and the faith of Nichiren Shu.

To depend on such things as prayer and to make appeals for the Buddha’s help are expedient measures and the entrance to faith. Meditation is also a means and a manual. Without the awareness of chapter 16, no matter how much meditation we engage in, our efforts are useless.

Please do not forget that the truth is that we must become aware of the divine that is within us.

There are many religions that cling to and make appeals to God and Buddha in Hawaii. If you wish to go to them, you may do so. However, our Myohoji temple is walking one step above those religions.

Translated by Mr. Dean Makinodan.