Everything in the entire universe is equal. Animals, trees, the sun, ourselves--we are all the
same. Christianity teaches that only human beings can go to heaven.
Shakyamuni, by contrast,
realized that all life is equal. Therefore it is not only human beings that can be saved --
enlightened -- all living things have the same potential to attain enlightenment. This is the teaching
of the second chapter of the
Lotus Sutra (Hoben chapter). The 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra
Juryo chapter) explains the reason for this, which is that all states of existence exist in the
beginningless Buddhahood, and Buddhahood exists in all the beginningless states of existence.

Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra has 28 chapters. The first 14 contain the theoretical teachings, while
the second 14 contain the essential or true teachings. The most important chapter of the
theoretical teachings is chapter 2 "Tactfulness" (
Hoben-pon). Of the essential teachings it is
chapter 16, "The Life-span of the Tathagata" (
Juryo-hon) which is the most important.

We, and several other
Shoshin-kai temples chant the prolonged version of the Hoben chapter,
Seoge, because it connects the Hoben chapter, which states that all life is equal, to the
Juryo chapter which reveals the Buddha's own enlightenment. In other words, it provides a
transition between the theoretical and the essential teachings. It is therefore important to chant
this section.

Nevertheless, the most important thing is to chant
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. The Hoben and
Juryo chapters are like an instruction manual while the Daimoku (Namu-myoho-renge-kyo) is the
crucial element -- the mechanism itself.

The Lotus Sutra is a conversation between the
Buddha and the people. Shakyamuni understood
this crucial element. However, he taught that he himself was the central figure, the Buddha, and
that the people had to observe rules and practice in such and such a way for an indefinite amount
of time to attain different levels of awareness.
Nichiren Daishonin's teaching, on the other hand,
states that he is not the only one who can attain Buddhahood. Everyone has the same potential
as he, but you have to chant to achieve it. Shakyamuni said, "I am the Buddha and I am
instructing you with these various teachings at this time for you people to become enlightened. In
the future, in the fifth five hundred years after I have passed away, the Lotus Sutra will be the
Way and someone will come along and teach you."

Shakyamuni created the blueprint, Nichiren Daishonin used that blueprint and built a structure.
The blueprint is not useful by itself. The construction made from the blueprint, however, can
stand on its own and is therefore most essential. Nichiren Daishonin used Shakyamuni's
teachings to develop a system to teach others. That is what Gongyo is.
By Reverend Raido Hirota
Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation volunteers
This is NOT an official site of
the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai