by Martin Bradley
It is now something like seventy years ago since I discovered the entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the Chinese language, when I was little more than ten years old. I was immediately convinced that all those fascinating ideograms would one day reveal to me what life is all about and how we might alleviate the bundle of troublesome worries that tarnish all our existences.
Pictures may suggest, point to or even illustrate our intentions. They can even alter the atmosphere of a room. But they can never explain how we might liberate ourselves from our inherent schizophrenia.
Having no wisdom myself, I decided that I would translate a tiny portion of the writings of a person whom I perceive as being fundamentally enlightened.
Also, I would like to point out to various monks and scholars that any word to translate Myō has to include the simultaneity of all time and space. Otherwise such a complete teaching is reduced to a nonsensical caricature.
This book is an effort to repay the debt of being born in the world of humankind and to thank those who helped me turn away from the demonic insanity of a mad dog who snarls at his own bewilderment.
If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of my friends, Harley White, Kirk W. Wangensteen, Michael Okoniewski, and the late Gerhard Lenz, this book could never have been called back into existence. For a number of years, I had the attitude that these translations would die their own death. However, here I am continuing to write the Preface for a new edition of The Essential of the Teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin, which is being typed out and rewritten into Standard English by Harley, who has not only served as editor, but has also made contributions to the writing of the text as well. As a faithful follower of the teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin, Harley has shown a purposefulness and perseverance in seeing this book restored to life, for which I am extremely grateful.
The essential of Nichiren’s teaching is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas (Kyō).
Next, the question should be answered: What is a dharma?
A dharma is anything that exists, whether it be in the phenomenal world or anything that goes on in our heads. The word “dharma” stands in contraposition to the word “Dharma” with a capital D, which is a Sanskrit term for the whole of existence or the whole of the teaching of the various Buddhas. All Buddha Dharmas are the same in essence.
In the Treatise on the Real Aspect of All Dharmas, Nichiren says the following: “Even though the two Buddhas Shākyamuni and Tahō are carrying out their roles of Buddhas who are suspended in time and place, still it is the Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas (Kyō) – that is really the original Buddha and the workings of existence.”
There are numerous passages in the writings of Nichiren Daishōnin that urge his followers to ‘embrace’ Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō in every thought, word, and action. This is to say that because enlightenment is already inherent within us, the more we recite that single phrase, the more fully we experience the enlightened aspect of each facet of our lives – even more so as our understanding deepens – since Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō encompasses the entirety of existence.
The idea is that reciting the theme and title should become as natural as breathing. And Nichiren often equates faith in Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō with letting our wishes and desires flow forth as instinctively as we hunger for food, thirst for water, long for love, seek a cure for illness, and the like, even admonishing us that if we do not, we will regret it later. When we practise reciting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō in such a manner, always maintaining a pure seeking spirit for the truth and the clear light of enlightenment, we are protected even from the delusions of our own minds, which might be considered the greatest protection of all.
Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō implies the whole of the Dharma and all dharmas. That single phrase is complete in itself and all-encompassing. Nothing else is needed. All imaginable meritorious virtues stem from its recitation alone – a practice sublime in its simplicity. And yet the profundity of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō is fathomless.
This is the true practice as taught by Nichiren Daishōnin, and he encourages all of his followers to rely on him as they would depend on a wooden staff on treacherous paths. Furthermore, he assures us that he Nichiren is the guide on the difficult road to the attainment of enlightenment. Thus the aim of this book is to make these writings of Nichiren Daishōnin and the essential of his teaching, which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, more accessible and understandable to worldwide readers of modern English.