Going Forth

by Ryuei Michael McCormick

This talk was given March 18, 2001 prior to leaving for Shingyo Dojo.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Ryuei

Going Forth Under the Protection of Universal Virtue

In just a few short weeks, I will be heading to Shingyo Dojo to complete the final phase of my initial training. Over three years ago, on the occasion of celebrating Oeshiki in October 1997, I underwent shukke tokudo. Shukke tokudo means “leaving home to attain the Way.” Since that time, I have dedicated myself to training under my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda. This training included humble things like cleaning the bathrooms and sweeping leaves, and it included scholarly tasks like translating the gosho and preparing Lotus Seeds for the 20th anniversary. The training also included working with my fellow Shami, Shinkyo Warner and Ryuoh Faulconer, and it included meeting famous scholars like Senchu Murano Sensei and studying with famous teachers like Shimomiya Sensei who is a renowned expert in shomyo practice. The past three years has been difficult at times, for myself and my family. I am sure that there have been times when it has been difficult for Matsuda Sensei as well. However, I can definitely say that the past three years have been very rewarding. I have learned more and done more in the past three years in respect to Nichiren Buddhism than I had in the previous 10 of wandering and searching on my own. I feel an immense sense of gratitude. I feel gratitude to the Nichiren Shu, to the San Jose Nichiren Buddhist Temple, to all of you who have supported and encouraged me, and most especially to my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda for taking me on as his disciple and enabling me to get to this point in my training.

In thinking about Shingyo Dojo and completing this final phase of my initial training, I decided to look for encouragement in the last chapter of the Lotus Sutra, “The Encouragement of Universal-Sage Bodhisattva.” In that chapter the Buddha says, “The good men or women will be able to obtain this Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma after my extinction if they do the following four things: 1. secure the protection of the Buddhas, 2. plant the roots of virtue, 3. reach the stage of steadiness [in proceeding to enlightenment], and 4. resolve to save all living beings. The good men or women will be able to obtain this sutra after my extinction if they do these four things.” It is my conviction that by coming here today and chanting the Lotus Sutra and Odaimoku in the presence of the Gohonzon, all of us have been able to do these four things. In chanting the Lotus Sutra and Odaimoku we receive the protection of the Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Tathagata and the emanated buddhas of the ten directions. In chanting the Lotus Sutra and the Odaimoku, we plant the seed of buddhahood in our lives and receive all the merits and virtues of the Buddha. In chanting the Lotus Sutra and the Odaimoku we are on the stage of steadiness and in fact manifest the attainment of buddhahood in our very bodies. In chanting the Lotus Sutra and the Odaimoku we arouse the aspiration to attain enlightenment for all living beings. The very practice that all of us come here to do together is by nature the fulfillment of the four things which enable us to obtain the Lotus Sutra.

In obtaining the Lotus Sutra, we are all able to perform the five practices of receiving and keeping, reading, reciting, expounding, and copying the sutra. In doing these practices the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue (who embodies all the buddha’s practices and merits) promises to give us his protection, and manifest himself to us so that we may attain peace and joy and practice with even more dedication. He declares, “Anyone who keeps the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma [while it is] propagated in the Jambudvipa, should think, ‘I can keep [this sutra] only by the supernatural powers of Universal Virtue.’ Anyone who keeps, reads and recites this sutra, memorizes it correctly, understands the meaning of it, and acts according to it, know this, does the same practices that I do. He should be considered to have already planted deeply the roots of good under innumerable Buddhas [in his previous existence].” All of us should be humbled then, to realize that our practice of keeping the sutra by chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is only possible through the supernatural power of Universal Virtue. All of us should be encouraged to know that our practice of keeping the sutra by reciting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is the supernatural power of Universal Virtue.

Further on, Shakyamuni Buddha adds, “Universal-Sage! Anyone who keeps, reads and recites this Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, memorizes it correctly, studies it, practices it, and copies it, should be considered to see me, and hear this sutra with my mouth. He should be considered to be making offerings to me. He should be considered to be praised by me with the word ‘Excellent!’ He should be considered to be caressed by me on the head. He should be considered to be covered with my robe.” All of us should be humbled to realize that in chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo we do so in the actual presence of the Buddha. All of us should be encouraged to know that in chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo we have come into the presence of the Buddha.

As a novice, I will be going to Shingyo Dojo to further pursue the Way by chanting the Lotus Sutra, copying it, meditating upon it and performing many other practices that will enable me to strengthen myself so that I can be worthy to propagate it as a priest of the Nichiren Shu. In some ways, I think Shingyo Dojo will be a welcome retreat away from daily life; in other ways, it will be a rigorous test of my dedication. Either way, I will remember all of you who also receive and keep, read, recite, expound, and copy the Lotus Sutra in your own lives. In terms of faith, there should be no difference between your practice and what I am about to undertake. I am also mindful of the fact that if not for your help, I could not be doing what I am doing. I am also mindful that I am not doing this just for myself. I am doing this for the sake of all those in this country who need someone to undertake this training so that the Lotus Sutra and Namu Myoho Renge Kyo can take root in American soil. This training then, is not to gain some kind of secret knowledge or inside track to enlightenment. Nor is it to get a title or credentials. This training, which I am determined to see through to the end, is for the sake of sharing the Dharma with you and with all of those across this country who are hungry for it and have not yet been able to make the connection with the true lineage of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Sutra, and the Great Bodhisattva Nichiren. In going to Mt. Minobu for Shingyo Dojo I do so in humility and also with courage based upon the teaching of chapter 28 of the Lotus Sutra.

I have said that I am about to finish the final phase of my initial training. I say this because I have no illusion that Shingyo Dojo is the last part of my training. There is much more that needs to be done. I do not foresee there ever being a time when I do not have more things to learn from my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda. And I do not foresee a time when I will not have more to learn from all of you. Becoming a Buddhist priest is not just about being learned, it is about being someone who knows how to learn and being someone who can help and encourage others in learning as well. And this learning is not intellectual knowledge or even the knowledge of ceremony or meditation techniques. The learning I am speaking of has to do with having a broad mind, an open heart, and the ability to manifest the Wonderful Dharma in our words and actions so that it is fully present in our lives. It is this kind of learning that I hope we can continue to study together.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2001, 2002.


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