WHEN Rissho Kosei-kai proclaimed the intention of manifesting its true nature, we made another decision. We elected to adopt a representation of the Great Beneficent Teacher and Lord, Shakyamuni, the Eternal Buddha, as the focus of devotion of our organization. We requested the artist Ryusen Miyahara to paint a picture of Shakyamuni on silk. It took more than a year to complete this great work. But we were soon forced to take certain steps in relation to it. A painting on silk has a guaranteed life of only about fifty years, whereas a wooden statue can be preserved for more than a thousand years. For this reason, it was decided to commission a wooden statue of Shakyamuni, which would be installed on the main altar of the fourth-floor worship hall of the Great Sacred Hall when it was completed.
We commissioned the master sculptor Shinkan Nishikido to produce the statue; and in 1959, I vowed to make a handwritten copy of the entire Threefold Lotus Sutra for inclusion in a compartment within the statue. I made this vow because of something in the writings of Nichiren about dedication ceremonies for paintings and statues of the Buddha. It is said that if copies of the sutras are set in front of painted or carved representations of the Buddha, the thirty-two signs characterizing the Buddha body are complete. I felt that it was essential to make our representation of the body of Shakyamuni absolutely complete by including in it the heart of his teachings, the Lotus Sutra. Although placing printed copies of the ten scrolls of the Lotus Sutra inside the statue would have satisfied the requirements set forth in the teaching of Nichiren, since I am a person who reveres the Law and worships the Buddha, such an act would not have satisfied my own desire. I therefore resolved to devote myself wholeheartedly to the undertaking of copying the sutra.
But I had been extremely busy since 1958. First, we had launched the new religious practices and training program, which demanded that I travel extensively all over the country. Then I had made the trip to Brazil, other South American countries, and the United States. And when I returned to Japan, I found it necessary to continue traveling about the country to encourage the membership. In 1959, I continued making trips to outlying districts to stimulate support for the progress of the "Teaching and Practical Religion in unity" program. Toward the end of that year, we launched the program of extensive organizational reforms that I mentioned earlier. Though the project of copying the sutra was on my mind all the time, I was unable to find the leisure to sit down quietly to do it. But in July, 1960, the carving of the main image of Shakyamuni was seventy percent finished. I no longer had any time to lose. Although there was still much to do in connection with organizational and educational reforms and although summer was already at its hottest, I made up my mind to get to work on the copying at once.
First I needed a model from which to work. I studied the copy that is known as the Chomyo-ji-bon, another called the Heiraku-ji-bon, and a version I own that was copied by the twelfth-century nobleman Fujiwara no Motohira. But none of these seemed to be what I was looking for. Then, recalling the copy made by Sukenobu Arai, I took out the book and almost gasped with amazement at its excellence.
Arai copied the sutra in eight scrolls three times. The first copy he made was unfortunately destroyed in World War II. It is the third copy that still survives. Because he was an outstanding calligrapher (who used the art name Genshu) as well as an erudite scholar of Chinese ideograms, Arai produced a book that has dignity and elegance. Technique can be mastered with training, but elegance cannot be learned. The personality of the individual and his mental and spiritual character manifest themselves in the kind of dignity found in Sukenobu Arai's copy of the Lotus Sutra.
Sukenobu Arai had instructed me in the profound and eternal teachings of the Lotus Sutra. It was therefore with a sense of the wonderful law of causality in the world that I composed myself to use his version of the sutra in producing my own copy.
I employed a kind of handmade paper called torinoko, which resembles vellum. Since the sutra was to be arranged in scroll form, I selected a format of fifty vertical lines of fifteen ideograms each for a single sheet. I calmed my mind as I began work and decided to put my entire spirit in each written ideogram.
Practically no rain fell that July. The soil of the garden was baked to a powdery white in the blazing heat that lasted day in and day out. The very leaves on the trees seemed to wither and droop. Because the current it created stirred the papers I was working on, I dispensed with whatever comfort could be obtained from an electric fan. When the occasional breeze came in the window, it was like a blast from the desert; it did nothing but intensify the heat. As I sat writing, sweat rolled from my forehead and down my arms. My back was soaking wet. The brow of Mrs. Kayo lwafune, who helped by grinding ink on the ink stone, was sprinkled with beads of perspiration. Her work was arduous. Although vigorous rubbing of the ink stick on the stone produces a thick, dark fluid, the quality of the liquid ink is poor, since the particles suspended in the water are too coarse. Gentle rubbing, which gives the required fine, smooth suspension, is demanded. But in the heat of summer, the liquid on the ink stone evaporates quickly, producing an unusable sticky syrup. Mrs. Iwafune's attention was constantly demanded to prevent this happening.
Mrs. Iwafune, my secretary, whom I affectionately call Obaa-chan (granny), has shared the hardships and good times of Rissho Kosei-kai since its founding days. When I was working on the copy of the sutra, I would sometimes put down my brush gently and pause in the hope of giving her a rest from her labors at the ink stone. But usually my hope was not fulfilled, for a guest would almost always appear each time we decided to stop for a moment. Nor were such arrivals surprises, since there was a mountain of important matters for me to deal with every day. As I have said, the reorganization of Kosei-kai had been in effect for only six months. Consequently, problems in connection with it arose frequently. There were many things to decide in relation to the construction of the Great Sacred Hall. In addition, there were decisions to make about acquisition of land for the branches and for the building of training centers. The duties of new leaders and personnel problems in schools and hospitals, as well as countless other matters, constantly demanded my attention. Obviously these duties left me little time for copying the sutra; but my work on the project had to be finished no later than the middle of September, since the carving of the statue was proceeding according to schedule. To make affairs still more pressing, the person who was going to mount the sutra pages in scroll form requested that I give him the work as quickly as possible, since the mountings would have to be thoroughly dry if they were to be enclosed in an airtight compartment in the statue.
I increased the speed of my writing, but my work became much more difficult because the ink dried so fast that it caused the paper to warp. Sitting in the formal Japanese position - which, when held for a long time, makes the back and legs tired and sore - I wrote at a low desk. The heat that persisted for days made me sweat, and the sweat ran into my eyes, which smarted so painfully that I had to wash them every hour. Motoyuki Naganuma, Nenozo Hayashi, and Granny Iwafune all counseled me not to overtax my strength in the heat and make myself sick. Each in a different way, they all suggested that I go somewhere cool to continue my copying. At first, I refused because I hesitated to leave the headquarters when everyone was working hard on the new organizational changes. "You will ruin your health," they all insisted; but such an argument failed to convince me. Although I have been healthy and strong since childhood, the strain of the circumstances under which I was working at that time was beginning to tell on me. Nonetheless, consideration of my own health alone would not have been sufficient to force me to change my mind and leave the headquarters had the senior leaders failed to remind me that, at the pace I was making then, the copying of the sutra would not be finished in time for the dedication ceremonies. Realizing the disappointment this would cause the more than two million members of Kosei-kai, I decided to heed my counselors' admonition and go to a cooler, calmer place where I could devote myself entirely to the project. On the afternoon of July 26, Mrs. Iwafune and I left for a villa known as the Sammai-so, located on the lower slopes of the mountains at Sengokuhara, in Hakone, southwest of Tokyo. In this fairly remote place, the air was cleaner and the temperature much lower than in Tokyo. I felt certain that I would be able to finish my task on time working in such an environment. "Now to work," I whispered to myself as I looked at the cool green of the trees and breathed the refreshing air.
My habit was to arise at five in the morning, wash my face, write my diary entry for the previous day, and then listen to a radio program called "Human-life Reader." After folding up my bedding and putting it away, I would open the shutters and windows and admit the fresh cool morning air. I do not eat breakfast. After light exercises and a bath, I was physically and mentally prepared for my morning religious observances. When they were concluded, I would sit at my desk, ready to begin.
I was impatient to work for even one more hour and to add even one more ideogram to the amount already written. But each ideogram demanded concentration if the work was to have the proper spiritual tone. The conflicting demands for speed and care created a nervous tension that lingered long. At times, I found sleep impossible and got up in the middle of the night to continue work. My shoulders and back grew tired and painful. Accumulated fatigue weakened my eyesight. The desire for speed showed in the quality of my calligraphy. unlike painting and sculpture, which use form and color to achieve their ends, calligraphy can call only on the resources of line and black and white. With these limited means, the calligrapher must express himself. This means that his spirit must be in each letter. After reflecting on this and on my condition at the time, I decided that the only way to achieve my goal for quality in the time allotted to me would be to entrust myself and my writing to the Buddha.
I decided that for the sake of relief from tension, I should rest in the morning and afternoon. In the second rest period of each day, I took easy walks. This new working arrangement proved to be for the better. The tension and weariness left me. The pain in my back and legs ceased; and my eyes, which had seemed on the verge of collapse, regained their normal powers. Many of the difficulties I had experienced in Tokyo no longer plagued me. For instance, the paper stopped warping and wrinkling. During the writing of the fourth and fifth scrolls of the sutra, my bodily condition was good. I felt the establishment of a rhythm in my mind, and it became a pleasure to move the ink brush across the paper. As I continued my work, I said thanks, for I knew that the good conditions I was enjoying were merit obtained through the grace of the Lotus Sutra.
One day, I had an experience that moved me with a realization of the power of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra to inspire warm contacts in people who have never met before. After finishing lunch, I changed into a cotton kimono, took a walking stick, put on geta, and departed for a walk. The summer sun glittered on the yellow flowers in the roadside grass, where bugs were chirping. Dazzling white clouds were piled up beyond the mountains, and a cool breeze was blowing down the slope. As I walked along, I met an elderly woman with a cloth tied lightly around her head. As she bowed politely to me in greeting, I saw that she had a refined face. I said hello and expressed both my pleasure at seeing her well and my hope that she would continue in good health for many years to come. "Thank you, Mr. Niwano," she surprised me by saying. "How does she know me," I thought. And as if sensing my puzzlement, she explained that she had been a member of Kosei-kai for twelve years and that she was extremely happy to have an opportunity to meet the president of the organization in person. As she brought her hands together in the gassho greeting, I responded with the same gesture and with a sense of gratitude for the Lotus Sutra, which had brought us together.
Although in the daytime we could sometimes hear the noise of traffic on the highway below us, at night there was not a sound. Sleeping deeply in the silence of the mountains and waking fresh in the clear morning helped me to work well and smoothly. Mrs. Iwafune made my work possible by cleaning and cooking for me. Kosei-kai members in the vicinity saw to our provisions, and a young member of the organization delivered the newspaper to me each morning. It was always wrapped in paper and secured with a rubber band as protection against soiling and against the morning dew. This kind of unassuming and quiet work by many people encouraged me in the copying of the Lotus Sutra, as did the moral support of the entire Kosei-kai membership.
On the eighth of September, as autumnal winds began blowing in the mountains, I finished copying the tenth and final scroll. It had taken me 55 days to copy the 69,384 ideograms of the text. At the conclusion of the tenth scroll I appended the following dedicatory inscription.
1. Expressing joy at the connection with the Lotus Sutra;
2. The goal of the foundation of Rissho Kosei-kai;
3. Growth into a prominent group in our home country;
4. Initial work on the building of the Great Sacred Hall and on the creation of the statue of Shakyamuni, the Eternal Buddha;
5. Manifestation of the Truth in Rissho Kosei-kai (focus of devotion, teachings, religious practices);
6. Honoring achievement in the five practices of a teacher of the Law;
7. The significance of including the sutra in the image of the Eternal Buddha;
8. The representation of the Eternal Buddha accompanied by the Four Great Bodhisattvas [Eminent Conduct, Boundless Conduct, Pure Conduct, and Steadfast Conduct];
9. The enshrinement of the image of the Eternal Buddha for the sake of all mankind and our spiritual elevation;
10. Declaring our vows throughout the three worlds;
11. Our vows for the salvation of the whole universe.
On this day of good omen in October, 1960
On the occasion of the completion of a copy of the full ten scrolls of the Threefold Lotus Sutra
Disciple of the Buddha
First President, Rissho Kosei-kai
Presentation of handwritten copies of sutras to religious institutions is not novel in the history of Japan. In the twelfth century, for the sake of their happiness in this world and the next, the powerful Heike family copied the Lotus Sutra and other sutras, had them richly mounted in gold and silk, and presented them to Itsukushima Shrine, near Hiroshima. Conditions under which this set and others were copied differed from those prevailing in my case. First, in the instance of the Heike scrolls, each person participating in the project copied only one scroll. Furthermore, most Japanese sutra-copying projects of this kind were undertaken in the name of the worldly well-being of the family or individuals doing the writing. It is true that some of the dedicatory texts accompanying other copies of Buddhist sutras are longer than the one I wrote, but none is more filled with the devotion and spirit of the author. When the copying work was finished, I was happier than I have ever been in my life.
In addition to the dedicatory text for the sutra itself, I composed the following for the wall of the cavity in which the scrolls were to be stored.
Hail to the Great Beneficent Teacher and Lord, Shakyamuni, the Eternal Buddha.
This is humbly to pray for the perfection of the personalities of all of the faithful and for the peace of each home, of society, of the nation, and of the whole world.
November 26, 1960
First President, Rissho Kosei-kai
The copies of the ten scrolls of the sutra were mounted and bound in dark blue ornamented with gold representations of the Buddha preaching. The pictures, which were done by Ryusen Miyahara, illustrated the contents of each scroll. When all this had been done, the ten scrolls were exhibited on the third floor of the Second Training Hall (currently the Young Adults' Group headquarters).
Ceremonies for the dedication of the sutra were held in the studio of the sculptor Shinkan Nishikido on December 8, 1960. Representatives of twenty-four chapters of Rissho Kosei-kai looked on as the sutra and a copy of the Japanese edition of my book Buddhism for Today were enclosed in a compartment in the chest of the statue. Fifteen years earlier, on October 13, 1945, on the six-hundred-sixty-third anniversary of the death of Nichiren, we had made the great vow that Shakyamuni would be the focus of devotion for Kosei-kai and that the teachings of the Lotus Sutra should spread from Kosei-kai to the entire world. At last, the image of Shakyamuni for the new Great Sacred Hall was complete. My body trembled with profound emotion as I brought my hands together in prayer before the image, the very soul of which was the Lotus Sutra itself.
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