2. Great Desire, Great Vow for Widespread Propagation
The great vow and desire for kosen-rufu, which we wish to present in this installment, is the heart of Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren Buddhism, at its very core, upholds the vow for the “great desire for widespread propagation” to be fulfilled. In fact, when we perform gongyo every morning and evening, we are making such a vow.
In the third silent prayer titled “For the Attainment of Kosen-rufu”, it reads:
I pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu be fulfilled…
The Oxford Dictionary of English explains “desire” as “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen”. When we look around us, everyone desires for different things in their lives and some go all way out to have their desires fulfilled. It is not an understatement to say that people’s life is centered upon their desires.
However, the great desire for widespread propagation is a desire of a different magnitude. This original pure wish for oneself and others to become happy, is the desire of a Buddha.
Everyday as we recite the gongyo, we are constantly reminded of this great desire of a Buddha. The concluding passage of the “Life Span” (16th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra that we chant every day reads:
Mai ji sa ze nen
I ga ryo shujo
Toku nyu mu-jo do
Soku joju busshin
At all times I think to myself:
How can I cause living beings
To gain entry into the unsurpassed way
And quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?
The Buddha yearns for only one thing: to help people gain unsurpassed happiness. This state of great compassion of wanting to work for the happiness for oneself and others is the life state of Buddhahood itself.
Hence, when we offer this silent prayer “that the great desire of kosen-rufu be fulfilled”, it is not only a passive prayer to activate the functions of the universe for the progress and realization of kosen-rufu, but a pledge to dedicate our lives to embrace this great desire for kosen-rufu and to walk on this path of attaining Buddhahood.
In fact, this great desire for kosen-rufu or the life state of Buddhahood, is in the depths of our life since time without beginning. Buddhism comes down to practice. Unless we can practice to bring forth this life state of great compassion, everything discussed remains theoretical.
It therefore follows that this vast state of life is only manifest in those who strive to actualize kosen-rufu. If we remove ourselves from the struggle to “exert a hundred million aeons of effort in a single moment of life” (GZ, 790), towards the realization of this noble cause, we won’t be able to reveal our highest life potential…
[The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, The Gosho is the Buddhist Scripture for the Latter Day of the Law]
Unmistakably, only when we take concrete action to actualize kosen-rufu without begrudging our lives can the state of Buddhahood well forth. When we chant to the Gohonzon with single-minded determination and make tireless effort similar to that of a Buddha, whether to shakubuku a friend or to advance kosen-rufu in our respective district or chapter, wisdom, courage and life-force well forth from within our lives, enabling us to breakthrough our fundamental darkness and enter the path of Buddhahood.
This is precisely the reason why the Daishonin calls on his disciples to “make a great vow” and to “dedicate their lives to the great desire for kosen-rufu”.
My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow... Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra. [WND, 1003]
No genuine disciple should misinterpret this vow to be just any promise or pledge. Nichiren Daishonin says, “‘Great vow’ refers to the propagation of the Lotus Sutra” [GZ, 736]. It means making a personal determination and steadfastly taking action with selfless dedication to advance kosen-rufu. This determination must be the departure point.
Making a vow is the foundation of achieving something great. Making a vow creates a strong self that enables us to overcome all our weaknesses and challenge through all difficulties and obstacles.
This true spirit of a vow is clearly demonstrated by Daishonin in the following Gosho passage:
This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law… I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it! [WND, 280-281]
The above passage in “Opening of the Eyes” opens our eyes to the Daishonin’s Great Vow. This is the same vow that Shakyamuni states in the Lotus Sutra’s passage above; the same vow manifested by the Bodhisattvas of the Earth in the Ceremony in the Air; and the same vow shared by the three successive presidents and undertaken now by Soka Gakkai members in all 192 countries to propagate the law without begrudging one’s life! This great vow enables everyone of them to sustain their fighting spirit through all obstacles and persecutions that arise in their journey to advance kosen-rufu – because they knew that only by resolutely winning in their struggle would Buddhism spread.
And the spirit of this philosophy of mentor and disciple truly comes to life only when the disciples’ hearts blaze with the same bright spiritual flame evinced by the Daishonin, who proclaimed: “Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law” (WND, 280).
[Lectures on The Opening of the Eyes, I and My Disciples]
To cherish the same great desire and to fight with the same spirit of selfless commitment as the mentor, even in the face of arduous difficulties, is the true path of oneness of mentor and disciple. If we consider ourselves part of the robust ranks of youth around the world calling themselves disciples of President Ikeda, then it is time, we, too make a vow to pray and engage in an all-out struggle to advance for kosen-rufu with the same determination and fighting spirit as our mentor. When we live true to the shared vow of mentor and disciple, we have nothing to fear.
President Ikeda personally wrote the lyrics of the song titled “Youth with a Noble Vow” in April 2014. This poem summarizes his calling for the youth to stand up with a great vow. If we still do not stand up and make a vow at this moment when our mentor is still around, we will regret in the future.
To all my youth who’ve made a vow
Rise, our journey’s starting now
The time has come, the world is waiting
Our battle’s begun and must be won
Take your stand on the global stage
Champions of humankind
Emerge and dance, young heroes of mine
Challenge the darkness of times
Face the storm with joy and pride
The heart of Soka is alive
Shine the light of hope and justice
Never give in, no matter what!
Live the vow and share your faith
To illuminate the truth for all
Emerge and dance, young heroes of mine
Many in body one in mind
You must always stand alone
Your life united with my own
Lead the way creating history
Never forget what matters most
With your friends throughout the word
Become the change you wish to see
Emerge and dance, young heroes of mine
Together as one, you and I
i. The Great Desire for Widespread Propagation, the Life State of the Buddha
Everyday SGI members, around the globe, perform morning and evening gongyo. The familiar phrase in the 3rd Silent Prayer,‘I pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu be fulfilled..’, is no longer distant to them. Yet, the term ‘great desire for the widespread propagation’ has always been ambiguous, until it was clearly elucidated by SGI President Ikeda in The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings.
ii. Enlightenment always begin with a Vow
Everything begins with a prayer. The ultimate form of prayer is a vow and this vow is none other than a vow to contribute to the happiness of others and the development of human society. Only by practicing with this great vow can we recollect this great desire of widespread propagation. The Daishonin used his entire life to actualise his vow.
iii. The Vows of Our Founding Presidents
In The Dragon Gate Gosho, we find the Daishonin’s famous words: “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (WND-1, 1003). Nothing is more powerful than the great vow that the Daishonin’s disciples make to realize kosen-rufu, to share the Mystic Law with others, and to attain Buddhahood themselves and help others do the same. The benevolent forces of the universe protect those who strive to achieve this great vow. Because of the commitment to this vow, the Soka Gakkai has grown into the global movement today.