|THE PRAYER BEADS
from BUDDHISM FOR NEW MEMBERS
Nichiren Shoshu Monthly Vol5 No.12 p12-3
|Nichikan Shonin (1655-1726), the Twenty-sixth High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu wrote in His treatise, "The Three Robes of This School":
'The prayer beads are the Buddhist implement which helps common mortals advance in their Buddhist practise.(Seiten, p.970)'
'A king named Haruri once spoke these sorrowful words to the Buddha: "In recent years, famine and pestilence have plagued my country. All the people are distressed. I worry about this continually. We are in a painful position. The totality of the Law is too profound and extensive to practise. Please teach me the main point of the Law." The Buddha replied: "King, if you want to eliminate earthly desires, make a circular string of 108 wooden beads. Hold them always to yourself. Recite 'Nam Buddha - Nam Dharma - Nam Sangha.' Count one bead with each recitation." (Ibid.)'
This is the origin of juzu beads. Just as the Buddha advised the king to hold a string of beads, we use juzu beads when worshipping the three Treasures, or when counting the number of recitations of the Daimoku.
Nichikan Shonin further stated:
'A circle of beads manifests the mystic principle. Miao-lo stated in his writing, "The Annotations on the Great Concentration and Insight" (Guketsu), "There is no lack in the mystic principle" Therefore, we use a circle of beads that compares to the mystic principle. The basic number of beads is 108, which is said to represent the number of earthly desires posessed by common mortals. (Seiten, p.971)
In Nichiren Shoshu, "Nam Buddha" is Nichiren Daishonin, "Nam Dharma" is the Dai-Gohonzon, and "Nam Sangha" is Nikko Shonin and the successive High Priests. These are the Three Treasures.
Our prayer beads consist of two long strands joined at either end with two large beads. Hanging from the outside of these large beads are two shorter strands on one side and three on the other. They are strung with white braided cord with white pompom tassels at the end. These sets of two and three strands are equidistant and opposite from each other. The two large beads are called the father and mother beads. Both of them represent the Buddha.
When we use the beads, we twist them over once, forming a figure eight that represents a basket. Traditionally, this was done so that, symbolically, the benefits of practising and chanting Daimoku would not fall through the basket. The end of the figure eight with the three strands is placed over the middle finger of the right hand and the end with the two strands over the middle finger of the left. The short strands lie on the outside of the hands which are placed together with the palms and fingers touching.
Between the mother and father beads are 108 smaller beads. These represent earthly desires. You will also find four still smaller beads. They are oppposite each other, two being seven beads away from the end with two strands and the other two are forteen beads beyond the first two.
These four small beads represent the four leaders of the Boddhisattvas of the Earth - Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo, and Anryugyo - and also indicate the four virtues of the Buddha's life. These are eternity, happiness, true self, and purity. Directly under the father bead, which is at the end with two tassels, is a smaller one. This represents the essential nature of the Law: the eternal, absolute truth.
The strands which hang from the outside of the middle fingers represent ichinensanzen. The two strands of ten beads each which hang from the left hand symbolize the ten worlds and their mutual possession. Of the three strands which hang on the right side, the two strands with five beads each together symbolize the ten factors.
Beacause of their profound significance, you must treat your prayer beads with respect, just as you would the Buddha. To understand the meaning of the beads is to begin to understand the profundity of Buddhism, the correct practise, and the reason for expressing gratitude to the Three Great Secret Laws and the Three Treasures.
Nichiren Shoshu beads can be obtained from the accessories stores at the Head Temple, at your local Temple, or at independent stores that sell Nichiren Shoshu accessories. Before they are sold, juzu are purified in front of the Temple Gohonzon by a Nichiren Shoshu priest. This is called the eye opening ceremony. If you purchase your beads from a store outside a Nichiren Shoshu Temple, ask if the eye opening ceremony was performed on the beads. If not, then take them to the temple for the ceremony before using them. Also keep in mind that many heretical sects also use some form of prayer beads. Only Nichiren Shoshu prayer beads, as described above, can be used in our practise.
Joining Our Hands in Prayer
The Lotus sutra describes Boddhisattva Fukyo joining his hands in reverent worship as he prayed to the inherent Buddha nature of everyone he encountered. The Lotus Sutra also states: "In facing the Buddha, we must join our hand in prayer;" "it is imperative to join our hands in prayer of wholehearted determination;" "we must show our reverence through our hands joined in prayer to hear about the path with which we are endowed;" and "we must extend greetings by respectfully joining our hands in prayer." This practise is frequently mentioned in the Lotus Sutra.
A passage from Nichiren Daishonin's "Oral Teachings" (Ongi Kuden) states, "Joining our hands in prayer is an alternative expression for the Lotus Sutra." (Shinpen Gosho, p.1734)
Principles such as "Body and Mind", "the Mystic Law", and "Buddhahood and the nine worlds" are all represented in the way we jopin our hands:
The ten worlds are entirely enclosed in the two characters for joining our hands in prayer. All worldly phenomena are contained in the hands joined in prayer.(Ibid.)
The Daishonin also says in the Gosho, "Observations of the Shingon", "The symbolism of joining the hands in prayer is that of the true entity of all phenomena." (Shinpen Gosho, p.612)
Another passage states:
The two characters for joining the hands in prayer are contained in all phenomena. The entities of hell and hunger, respectively, and all the laws of the three-thousand worlds in their present condition join their hands in prayer and face the Buddha. (Shinpen Gosho, p.1734)
This excerpt teaches us that when we, the common mortals of the nine worlds, join our hands in prayer with sincere determination in faith and face the Gohonzon, we become entities who manifest the principles of the "mutual possession of the ten worlds" (jikai goku), the "actual three-thousand realms contained in a single life moment" (ichinen sanzen), and the "attainment of Buddhahood in our present form" (sokushin jobutsu).
Joining our hands in prayer is immediately synonymous with understanding our lives. (Ibid.)
When we pray and devote ourselves to the Gohonzon, we manifest the principle: "Buddhahood is inherent within the nine worlds". Our existences, as we join our hands in prayer, facing the Buddha and chanting Daimoku, are the very manifestation of enlightenment.
Nichiren Shoshu explains the meaning of joining our hands in prayer in the following way: our wholehearted determination is represented by the eight petals of the lotus flower. this is also called the "lotus of the heart" or the "white lotus", and it represents our Buddha nature when we join our hands in prayer. The eight petals are reprented by our eight fingers, and the two thumbs symbolize father and mother or the principles of reality and wisdom and "practicing for spiritual stability and wisdom". It is also said that the ten digits portray the concept of three thousand realms inherent in the ten worlds, and by joining the fingers and palms, we achieve the mutual possession of the ten worlds.
Bringing the joined hands to the chest represents the white lotus of one's heart (determination). Fusing the two entities of body and mind and chanting Daimoku actualizes the principles of "the three categories of action are in themselves the three properties", and "the actual three thousand realms in a single life-moment", and "the Buddha of the entity of the Law".
It is important to position our hands correctly when we perform morning and evening Gongyo and chant Daimoku. People sometimes begin with the correct form but gradually deviate. When initial attention wanes, fingertips can start to bend and the fingers slide apart. Other people have the opposite problem. They increase the tension in their hands so much so that their underarms become wide open. Still others let their hands gradually fall below chest level. These cannot be called the true form of joining our hands in prayer.
The correct way to practise is to sit up straight and chant from the diaphragm. Our eyes should be set on the character "Myo" on the Gohonzon. This enables us to achieve the actual three-thousand realms in a single life moment and become one with the Buddha of the entity of the Mystic Law. Thus, we must be conscientious on a daily basis to maintain a correct posture in our practise.
(This article was re-written from the Hokkeko Handbook)
|TAKAISIN LUENTOIHIN /
BACK TO LECTURES
|SEURAAVA LUENTO /
|TAKAISIN KOTIIN /