Rissho Ankoku Ron

A commentary
by Ryuei Michael McCormick

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Conversion and Altruistic Determination

X Confession and Conversion

Finally Convinced, the Traveler Said:

WNSD1: p. 142

WND: pp. 25-26

 

                      The Rissho Ankoku Ron concludes with the words of the guest who again states his conversion to the way of thinking of the host. It is a recapitulation of the entire argument in summary form and as such does not really require much explanation. There are a few points worth noting however.

 

                      The first is that the guest laments his setting aside all buddhas except for Amitabha Buddha and all sutras except for the Pure Land sutras. He says, “But this was not due to any distorted ideas of my own conception. I was simply obeying the words of the eminent men of the past. And the same is true of all the other persons in the ten direction.” Nichiren has the guest say this to make it clear that he does not blame his contemporaries, including the Hojo rulers, for what is going on except insofar as they have uncritically accepted the interpretations of Honen (and by extension Kukai and others) who has come to be revered and considered above reproach. Nichiren has just shown, however, that people should not simply accept the opinions of others, even revered teachers, without looking more deeply into them. If nothing else, Nichiren has demonstrated the value of taking the time to research and think for oneself.

 

                      The guest also says, “From now on, with your kind instructions to guide me, I wish to continue dispelling the ignorance from my mind.” This is a significant statement because it shows that the dispelling of ignorance is not a one-time thing. In our Buddhist practice we must constantly be vigilant and not become complacent. We should also seek out the help of good spiritual friends who may have more learning and/or experience that we can take into consideration. Such good friends can be an encouraging and positive influence.

 

                      The guest goes on to say, “I hope we may set about as quickly as possible taking measures to deal with these slanderers against the Dharma and to bring peace to the world without delay, thus insuring that we may live in safety in this life and enjoy good fortune in the life to come.” The guest is now prepared and determined to act without any further equivocation or delay. This kind of decisiveness is also necessary in our own spiritual practice once we have carefully considered what we mean to do and what effect it will have for ourselves and others. In this case, the guest hopes to help create a peaceful world and to insure safety in this life and good fortune in the life to come. This wish is based upon the promises of the Buddha from chapter five of the Lotus Sutra, “Simile of the Herbs”:

 

“Having heard these teachings, they become peaceful in their present lives. In their future lives, they will have rebirth in good places, enjoy pleasures by practicing the Way, and hear these teachings again. After hearing these teachings again, they will emancipate themselves from all hindrances, practice the teachings according to their capacities, and finally enter the Way, just as the grasses and trees in the thickets and forests, which were watered by the rain from the large cloud, grew differently according to their species.” (Lotus Sutra, p. 106)

 

                      As the full passage from the Lotus Sutra shows, the benefits of practice are not limited to worldly comforts or security, they ultimately lead to the Buddha Way for all beings in the manner best suited to each of them.

 

                      The guest ends with, “But it is not enough that I alone should accept and have faith in your words – we must see to it that others as well are warned of their errors.” Nichiren was not trying to create a privatized spirituality for an elite. As a Mahayana Buddhist, Nichiren wanted to help as many people overcome error and find truth as possible. It was Nichiren’s hope that all beings would endeavor to help each other and act in the world as bodhisattvas working to enlighten all beings so that all may attain buddhahood together.

 

 Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2004.

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