If a spark as small as a bean is set to a single blade of grass in a spring field of a thousand square ri thick with grass, it becomes in an instant an immeasurable, boundless blaze. Such is also the case with this robe. Though only one robe, it has been offered to the Buddhas of all the characters of the Lotus Sutra. Be firmly convinced that the benefits from this will extend to your parents, your grandparents, nay, even to countless living beings. (“The Offering of an Unlined Robe,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 533)
When Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter on May 25, 1275, he lived in a small dwelling in the foothills of Mount Minobu. He lacked many necessities for surviving the harsh elements, and he wrote this letter to thank the woman who had sent him an unlined robe, a gift that would help him through the summer.
Though little is known about the woman, she is thought to have lived at Sajiki in the seat of the military government, Kamakura, some 90 miles away. Nichiren praises her, letting her know that her sincerity in sewing and offering the robe will bring her untold benefits.
He explains that offering a single robe to a person dedicated to spreading the Lotus Sutra means making an offering to innumerable Buddhas.
Before this passage, he equates each of the 69,384 Chinese characters that make up the Lotus Sutra to a Buddha awakened to the ultimate truth of life. “It is as though you had offered that many robes to each of them” (WND-1, 533), he writes. Thus, her offering will benefit her entire family and countless living beings.
By Developing Compassion, We Can Tap Into Every Facet of Our Being
Appreciation is core to leading a humane existence, the aim of Buddhism. Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) wrote, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.”1 As he suggests, a compassionate heart allows us to fully engage ourselves in life and use every facet of our being for bettering ourselves and the world around us.
Nichiren and his many disciples exemplified this way of life. Having gained courage, strength, conviction and hope through faith in Nichiren’s teachings, his disciples, in thanks, provided food, clothing and money to aid in Nichiren’s survival and help him further spread his teachings. In turn, Nichiren always expressed his gratitude, never taking anything for granted. Such heart-to-heart exchanges helped both Nichiren and his disciples overcome all adversity.
Ikeda Sensei observes:
Nearly all of the Daishonin’s personal letters to his followers were written in thanks for offerings.
The Daishonin replied from his heart to others’ hearts. He replied to sincerity with great sincerity—and with lightning speed. This is also the spirit of Josei Toda, the second Soka Gakkai president. The Soka Gakkai has developed to such an extent because we have maintained this spirit to this day. (Learning From the Gosho: The Eternal Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 9)
Today, the Soka Gakkai has inherited Nichiren’s spirit to widely spread Buddhism, and Soka Gakkai members are overcoming obstacles that attempt to hinder this effort, developing a wonderful worldwide network of respect and peace.
Appreciation is core to leading a humane existence, the aim of Buddhism.
Contributing to others generates the vitality we need to face our challenges. By contributing financially to our movement for kosen-rufu, sharing Buddhism with our friends and family, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for others, studying Buddhism, and talking with and encouraging one another, we learn how to manifest the same richness of heart as Nichiren. Such efforts sustain, enliven and strengthen us. At the same time, we are solidifying a core of good fortune in our own lives. Sensei says:
To do, create or contribute something that benefits others, society and ourselves, and to dedicate ourselves as long as we live to that challenge—that is a life of true satisfaction, a life of value. It is a humanistic and lofty way to live. Faith in the Mystic Law is the driving force that enables us to create the greatest possible value for both ourselves and others. (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 453)
Just as a tiny spark in a field of grass instantly becomes an “immeasurable, boundless blaze,” Nichiren assures us that our actions for others immediately spread into immeasurable benefits for our family, friends and many others.
—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department