SPIRITUAL contacts and divine revelations were an important aspect of the practices and beliefs of Reiyu-kai. Both Myoko Sensei and I had been trained by Mr. Arai of that organization; and for about the first year after we founded Rissho Kosei-kai, such revelations manifested themselves with extreme force and frequency. The pronouncements we received came mainly from Fudo Myo-o, the Bodhisattva Hachiman, Bishamonten, Shichimen Daimyojin, and the Bodhisattva Nichiren.
I have already mentioned some of the revelations Myoko Sensei received in connection with me, but the most severe was the order for me to live apart from my wife and children: "Shakyamuni Buddha left his palace when his son, Rahula, had just been born. Niwano, too, you must leave your family. You have six children. In the future, you must not allow your mind to be distracted by either your wife or your children. Unless you can do this, you are not worthy to be called a disciple of the Buddha."
This happened in 1944. At once, I sent my wife and children to my family's home in the country and started living alone, in complete dedication to my religious training. I refused to try to explain myself to the many people who criticized me, because I realized that they could not understand the motivations of a man who had given his whole life to true faith.
I sometimes became lonely for my family. But when I did, a divine revelation would come to this effect: "You still can't separate yourself from your wife and children. What good do you think your attitude will do? The less you worry about them the stronger will be the protection granted them by the gods."
But since I am fundamentally a man of common sense, I would object: "Isn't it natural for a man to think about his wife and children? The Buddha teaches compassion for all sentient beings. If that's the case, it seems that abandoning wife and child, the closest people in the world, violates the teachings of the Buddha. It is a great sin to bring trouble on one's family. It is both inhuman and antisocial." But whenever I reacted in this way, on the following day, Myoko Sensei would say to me, "Last night you thought about your wife and children and offended the gods, didn't you?" Her telepathic powers were astounding.
Thinking about the situation now, I realize that I was wrong to object in this way. I did it because I was too modest to understand the leadership mission that had been settled on me. In my own eyes, I was no more than an ordinary lay believer.
Even though I remained a layman, in order to become a leader, I had to undergo the same kind of religious discipline as a priest. In 1954, I was able to call my family back to me again; but during the ten years we were apart I made highly important spiritual progress. I was able to study the Lotus Sutra thoroughly and could give myself to unrestricted guidance and instruction of other believers. Had my wife and children remained by my side, I would not have been able to develop in this way. My own experience gave me a striking understanding of Shakyamuni's need to separate himself from his wife and son.
My experience of a life like that of the priesthood enabled me to make a definite choice between the Buddhism of the laity and that of the clergy. From that time, I thought more and more in terms of Buddhism of the laity.
In spite of the six years of harsh ascetic practice prior to his enlightenment, in his first teachings Shakyamuni rejected asceticism and advocated the Middle Path. In the Nirvana Sutra, the last of his teachings he said, "My teachings are not entrusted to monks and nuns but to the men and women of the laity." By this he meant that the laymen, not the clergy, would bring his teachings to full life. It is most important to know why Shakyamuni, who attained enlightenment after arduous asceticism and who remained apart from his own family for the rest of his life, taught that lay Buddhism would be the true way to protect and apply his teachings.
I am not attempting to sound like a great man. I do not rank my own experiences with those of Shakyamuni, but I too was enlightened to the importance of lay Buddhism after ten years in which I opposed the gods, argued with them, and diligently sought the Truth. By being separated from my family for ten years of struggle and search, I came to realize that faith is real only when it embraces the whole family.
The next divine revelation with great meaning for me had to do with reading. "You have the duty to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra to the world. Abandon all other reading and dedicate yourself to it alone." For a time, I abided by this rule. I did not read magazines or newspapers, because they contain information on the changing situation of the world and the divine revelation instructed me not to be distracted by such things. Gradually, however, I came to think that it might be safe to read the works of Nichiren, which are true and do not change with the times. One evening, after going home, I read some of these writings. The following day, Myoko Sensei said to me, "Niwano, last night you had delusions and read the works of Nichiren, didn't you?" I was too embarrassed to raise my head.
Though I abided by some of the divine revelations, I paid no attention to any that deviated from the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. I would not countenance those sudden flashes of enlightenment that founders of religious organizations are sometimes said to experience. The Lotus Sutra was always the central element. Spiritual powers were recognized only when they assisted in the understanding of the sutra or served to enhance its importance. The Buddha's Law came first; I would not accept even divine revelations that departed from the Law.
For this reason, I had several disputes with the deities. Sometimes, at meetings of the senior leaders of Kosei-kai, Myoko Sensei would experience visitations. If I was convinced that they were in keeping with the sutra, I explained to the others. But, if they were unreasonable and unconvincing, I refused to comment. The deities were often enraged and scolded me: "Niwano, if you do not do as I say, I will bring physical harm to you." Still I would not give in, but replied, "Do as you like. Take my life. I have devoted it to my task already."
Judging from my continued good health to this day, I must have been right. No, it was the Law that was absolutely right.
In late March, 1945, when the war was moving into its final phase, I was once again summoned to military service. In those days, even inexperienced men in middle age or early old age were being called up and sent into the expendable divisions. I was resigned to going finally to the hell of battle. But Myoko Sensei had another divine revelation: "Niwano will come back on the twenty-eighth."
Not completely believing it, I proceeded to the Maizuru training base, where, as a formality, I underwent a physical examination. Looking steadily into my face, the examiner said, "You have important work to do on the home front. People who save the nation on the battlefield and those who save others at home are of equal importance. Disqualified!" And I took a train to Tokyo, arriving at seven twenty on the morning of March twenty-eighth.
Tokyo had been reduced to a wasteland, but our headquarters still stood. About a thousand loyal members continued to come for training and discussions. They wore baggy bloomers or civilian-guard uniforms, had sooty faces, and carried lunches of potatoes or yams. But their eyes sparkled with power. The mood of the place was still bright.
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