|ENTRY INTO NIRVANA
THE LIFE OF NICHIREN DAISHONIN #45
from Nichiren Shoshu Monthly June 2000
|On the 13th day of the tenth month of 1282, the Daishonin replaced the statue of Shakyamuni at His bedside with the Dai-Gohonzon, the essential spirit of the True Buddha. As His disciples and followers chanted Daimoku, the Daishonin peacefully entered nirvana at the hour of the dragon (approximately 8 a.m.). He had spent the entirety of His precious life for the sake of the salvation of all mankind and the ultimate propagation of the Mystic Law. His body of 61 years had come to an end.
At this time, the earth suddenly shook and, although it was early winter, the cherry blossoms in the garden of the Ikegami mansion were in full bloom. These mysterious occurrences displayed the manifestation of the sadness of the entire universe for the passing of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. And at the same time they represented the profound significance that the entry into nirvana of the True Buddha was a departure but not a departure. The departure simultaneously meant the mysticism of eternal existence.
Nichikan Shonin in His writing, "The Eight Aspects of the Established Principles of our Master, NIchiren Daishonin," explained the significance of the Daishonin's passing in Ikegami rather than in Minobu. He wrote:
Shakyamuni preached the Law at Eagle Peak and entered nirvana in a grove of sal trees on the bank of the Ajitavati River, which was located to the northeast of Eagle Peak. Nichiren Daishonin expounded the Mystic Law in Minobu and entered into the realm of the eternally tranquil light in Ikegami, on the bank of the Tama River, which was situated to the northeast of Minobu. The pattern indicated in both ancient and current times was the same. This is profoundly significant.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NON-EXTINCTION AND EXTINCTION
The entry into nirvana by Nichiren Daishonin represented the great mysticism of life, characterized by non-extinction and extinction, of the Buddha from the infinite past of Kuon-ganjo.
The actual entity of the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin is in itself Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the essential life of the universe. In his Maka-shikan, T'ien T'ai taught the principle of "lightnening one's powers to mingle in the dust for the salvation of mankind." According to this principle, the Buddhas and Boddhisattvas, in order to save the people, hid their inherent brilliant wisdom and emerged in the human realm and mingled with the people who were all tarnished as the dust. According to the principle of "the manifestation of the same qualities as the common mortals," in an effort to teach the people, the Buddha took on the same appearance as the common person and functioned as an exemplary model for the people, by manifesting the actual proof of how people are in themselves the entities of enlightenment. Indeed, Nichiren Daishonin emerged in the Latter Day of the Law to present the mystical benefits of the Buddhism of Sowing.
When Nichiren Daishonin, who manifested the physical qualities of a common mortal, entered nirvana, He essentially returned to the absolute life entity of the universe.
The life of the Buddha is constant and has no beginning or end. To teach the people, the Buddha, at times, takes on life, and at other times, takes on a latent, expired form.
Thus in His "Orally Transmitted Teachings"(Ongi kuden), the Daishonin stated:
In non-substantiality and substantiality; in life and death; in latency and manifest form; during his lifetime and after his passing - these are all aspects that characterize the essential constancy of life. (Gosho, p.1767)
The following passages from the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra describe the Buddha's entry into nirvana:
Therefore I tell them,"Monks, it is rare that one may see the Tathagata." When the people hear these words, they are sure to realize how rare it is to see a Buddha, and then they will yearn and thirst for him. In this way they will plant the cause of enlightenment in their hearts. Therefore the Tathagata announces his own death even though he does not really become extinct. (Kaiketsu,p.434; Lecture on the Sutra,p.94)
I let the people witness my nirvana as a means to save them, but in truth I do not die; I am always here, teaching the Law." (Kaiketsu,p.434; Lecture on the Sutra, p.112)
Since the Buddha spans the Three existences of past, present and future, the people may relax and slacken in their Buddhist practise, if the Buddha were constantly present. Thus, as an expedient means to teach the people, the Buddha manifests the aspect of his entry into nirvana. By so doing, the Buddha performs His Buddhist practise by exposing the people to the difficulties that this situation entails.
Nichiren Daishonin's physical entity manifested the aspect of His entry into nirvana; hoiwever as the following passages indicate, His life was, indde, the life of the True Buddha and the essential spirit of the Law, and as such, it was entirely contained in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, as a manifestation of the true entity of His life:
I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart.
and the Gohonzon manifests the actual entity of the entire life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
The brilliant power of the True Buddha solidly illuminates the entire world and manifests the mystical functions benefiting sentient beings.
Learning of the Daishonin's entry into nirvana, His disciples and followers, in their profound sadness, and under the leadership of the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, recited the Sutra, chanted DAimoku and expressed their debt of gratitude to the Daishonin.
On the 14th of the 10th month, the day after the Daishonin's passing, HIs body was placed in a coffin at the hour of the dog (approximately 8 p.m.). Then at the hour of the rat (approximately 12 midnight), according to funeral rites, His body was cremated. Thereafter, the Daishonin's ashes were collected for the solemn pewrformance of the funeral service.
Nikko Shonin, as the great master who directly received the Heritage of the Law, took charge of the entire funeral ceremony. He kept a detailed record of the procedures in his "Record of the Occasion of the Demise of Our Master" (Shuso go-senge kiroku). He wrote this record on the third day following the passing of the Daishonin. Written on the 16th day of the 10th month, this document contains the Daishonin's last instructions concerning the statue of Shakyamuni and the annotated Lotus Sutra. The statue of Shakyamuni was a single full body statuette that was presented to the Daishonin, during His exile to Izu, by Ito Hachiro-Zaemon, the steward of Ito, as a token of his appreciation to the Daishonin, who successfully prayed for the recovery of Ito from his illness. The Daishonin's last instruction concerning the statuette was to "place it by my grave."(Seiten,p.584) The Daishonin presented instructions on the handling of the annotated Lotus Sutra:
It must remain at the temple at the grave site, and each of the six disciples who will alternately keep watch should study it during his turn. (Seiten,p.585)
After performing the service held on the seventh day following the Daishonin's passing, Nikko Shonin expressed his sincere gratitude to Ikegami Munenaka and the entire Ikegami family and took his leave in the early morning of the 21st day of the 10th month. Carrying his master's ashes, Nikko Shonin left Ikegami and safely returned to Minobu on the 25th day of the 10th month.
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