QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
ON BUDDHA, BUDDHAHOOD
AND ENLIGHTENMENT

With Reverend Raidou Hirota
QUESTION:   What is Buddhahood? Can I attain it?

Rev. Raido Hirota (RH):  Those who practice Nichiren Daishonin's teachings correctly are
bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are those who pursue the wisdom of Buddhahood for themselves while
at the same time teach others. People who are only thinking of themselves are not bodhisattvas,
even though they practice Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. One is called a bodhisattva when he or
she is happy when others are happy, and sad when others are sad. We all have the ability to
eventually realize Buddhahood.

QUESTION:   Everybody experiences birth, sickness, aging and death. Can you explain further
what you mean by that? If you believe that your life is the same as Buddha, what does that mean?
How is your experience of birth, sickness, aging and death different from others who do not
believe that your life is Buddha? As you go through those stages how is it different?

RH:   Whether you believe that your life itself is Namu-myoho-renge-kyo or not you will
experience these four phases of life. The difference is that if you recognize that your life itself is
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, you will know or be aware that birth, sickness, aging and death are not
all that there is to life. These stages are just symptoms of this mortal body. Within the four stages
exists Buddhahood, and life extends beyond this existence. If you don't believe, then all you know
is what your body experiences and you suffer.

In life the body and the spirit are fused and, whether you have belief in this religion or not you
can't escape the natural law that determines that the body and soul will separate and you will die.
Let's say the body is a container. The spirit is like water which will take whatever shape the
container is. The spirit, which is synonymous with mind , does not experience age, sickness or
death; neither is it born. Even if the container breaks or disappears, it doesn't mean that the
contents are bad or ruined. It only means that the shape will change.

It is not coincidental that a particular container has a particular content or spirit. For those who
believe in this Buddhism, the knowledge, which that spirit accumulated during life, is never going
to dissipate or dissolve as though nothing was ever there, even after the container is destroyed or
disappears. This is the difference between knowing and not knowing.

Everything in existence, every man, woman, child, bird, insect, etc. -- everything is contained
within the spirit within that container. It's the awareness of that that makes the big difference
between dying with belief and dying without. Dying knowing that you will continue on and that
you are a part of everything, compared to dying thinking that that's the end. It's a big difference.
Pre-Lotus Sutra teachings taught that Buddha was a separate state of being, and all people could
not attain it. Pre-Lotus Sutra teachings also taught that it was only human beings who were the
objects of enlightenment. The
Lotus Sutra, taught in the last eight years of Shakyamuni Buddha's
life, reveals that a single mind or a single life moment contains all existence, the entirety of the
universe. This is known as
ichinen sanzen -- one mind, three thousand realms of existence.

QUESTION:  If your practice consists of chanting, does that mean a deaf mute cannot attain
enlightenment?

RH:   Grass and trees cannot chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo themselves, nevertheless they can
become enlightened after hearing Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. I made a stupa with
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo written down the middle for the 9/11 victims of the World Trade Center
disaster. Even though
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is written on a piece of wood, that wood still
enjoys the same effect of enlightenment as the grass and trees that hear Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.

After Nichiren Daishonin left the remote island of Sado and settled in
Minobu, a child of one of his
believers who lived on Sado, became sick and died. The father made a wooden stupa and wrote
his child's name on it, and took the stupa to the Daishonin in Minobu. Daishonin wrote
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo down the center of the stupa. The man returned to Sado with the stupa
and erected it at his child's gravesite. In a letter written to this man, Daishonin explained that by
placing this stupa with the inscription of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo in the cemetery for his deceased
child, the wind alone, which blows from east to west, will carry Namu-myoho-renge-kyo to the
fishes in the ocean, to the birds which might fly overhead, to the deer, to the bears, and to all other
animals living in the forest and mountains. This stupa alone is one way that the awakening of the
Buddha-spirit in all living things can come about.

There are some people who are healthy and can hear and chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, there
are others who are not. But what has primacy over the sound that your voice makes is what is in
your heart. Chanting in your heart with faith is what matters. The audible sound is not important,
it's what you say and hear inside your heart, inside yourself, that is paramount. To say
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo but not have it in your heart is equivalent to not saying it or anything at
all. The important point is that you say it with your heart and not just with your throat.
Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation volunteers
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