Where should I start?
In “The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin” the letters and essays are arranged in chronological order, so you could start at the beginning and work your way through. Or, you could jump to the ten letters that Nikko Shonin, his successor, felt contained the core teachings and wisdom of Nichiren’s writings. (see http://nichirenbuddhist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/ten-major-writings.html)
Also, if you don’t have a copy of the Gosho yourself, you can read it online here:
At the back of each Gosho is some background information to get a flavour of when it was written and who it was written to. Read this to set the tone of the letter. If you need further information on the person it was written to, look them up in the dictionary of Buddhism: http://www.sgilibrary.org/dict.html
· Check the footnotes for explanations of unfamiliar terms.
Look for the following:
· What is the theme of this Gosho?
· What are the key points of the Gosho?
· What lessons instantly jump out at you?
· Is it offering guidance, support, a warning?
“The Opening of the Eyes” was written during his exile on Sado Island under hostile weather conditions and with limited supplies, Nichiren managed to write a 158 page letter! He must have really wanted to pass on these words to his followers.
· Re-read the background information.
· What was going on in Nichiren’s life at that time?
· Where was he?
· Who is he writing to?
· What’s going on in their lives?
Imagine Nichiren writing the Gosho as you read it again.
· What is he trying to say to the reader?
· What would the recipient be feeling as they read through it?
· What does Nichiren want you to learn from this letter?
· Look for the heart of the letter.
· How does this letter support other letters you’ve read?
But also think about each paragraph as you read it. Paper and other resources would have been difficult to get and expensive so Nichiren would have thought very carefully about every paragraph he included.
· Think carefully about each paragraph?
· What does he want to say to you in this paragraph?
Many of the Gosho contain imagery and analogies to explain difficult concepts. i.e. In the Gosho “A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering” Nichiren writes “Listen with the ears of Shih K’uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou” (WND-1, p33). The footnote explains these are two characters from Chinese legends with unbelievable hearing and sight.
· When you come across these images and analogies, think about why Nichiren is using this example?
If you are struggling to understand the text or want further information:
· Study it with other members
· Read President Ikeda’s lecture on that Gosho (if there is one).
These letters to his disciples or government leaders were written for a reason. Nichiren wants us to learn something. To deepen our understanding of something. To do something. To raise our awareness of something. To warn us about something.
· How would I feel if this letter was personally addressed to me?
· As a result of reading it, how will I improve my faith and practise?
· What should I be doing? How can I improve my behaviour?
· What should I be thinking? How will I improve my attitude?
· What should I be aware of? How should I protect myself?
· If there are parts of a Gosho that really stand out to you as important, read them out loud and really connect with these golden words.
· Underline, highlight or write down some of these key phrases that inspire you.
· Memorize these quotes.
· Engrave them in your heart.
· Make them available to be instantly recalled whenever you are facing obstacles or struggling in your practise, and need a boost.
The Gosho gives us an opportunity to learn about Nichiren Buddhism directly from Nichiren Daishonin. As we read his writings, we can connect with his wisdom, his compassion and his Buddha nature.
BUT there is a big difference between reading the Gosho, and applying it to your life.
Don’t just enjoy the philosophy and stories, but really connect with them. Use the guidance of Nichiren Daishonin and apply it to your own life, deepening your faith, and advancing on a path of absolute happiness in this world.Don’t settle for a theory of life. Nichiren Buddhism is daily life. LIVE IT!