Reverend Shogu Kimura
Winter Will Always Turn to Spring
Good morning everyone. Today, on this occasion of the February Oko sermon in our expression of gratitude to our master Nichiren Daishonin, I have sincerely recited the sutras and chanted Daimoku together with you. Moreover, I have sincerely prayed for you to eliminate your sins and negative karma from this and infinite past lifetimes; for you to redouble your faith; for you to enjoy a safe and long life; for peace and harmony to reign in your home; for all matters to proceed forth smoothly; and for the successful achievement of all your great objectives in this and future existences. I am certain that the Daishonin would be truly pleased to see so many of you in attendance today.
The title of this lecture, “Winter Will Always Turn to Spring,” is from a Gosho with the same title (“Winter Will Always Turn to Spring”; “Myōichi-ama gozen- goshōsoku”), which was written by Nichiren Daishonin when he was 54 years of age. He wrote it in the fifth month of 1275 (the first year of Kenji). It was addressed to Myōichi-ama.
This Gosho passage is extremely famous. Certainly, many of you have been comforted by it when you experienced hardships, suffering, and great difficulties. It encouraged you to uphold your faith and practice by challenging your own negative karma and overcoming all obstacles.
Myōichi-ama, the recipient of this letter, was a resident of Kamakura. She was always mindful and concerned about Nichiren Daishonin’s wellbeing. When Nichiren Daishonin was exiled to Sado and when he was in residence in Minobu, she sent him a servant to take personal care of him and to perform the chores. In this instance, we know from the Gosho that Myōichi-ama presented an offering of a robe. Myōichi-ama’s family is described in the following way:
Your deceased husband left behind a son who is sickly and a young daughter. He abandoned you in death and you are all alone—his elderly wife, as frail as brittle wood. (Gosho, p. 832)
Thus, it is apparent that Myōichi-ama’s husband died and left her behind with an ailing son and a young daughter. In the latter half of the Gosho, the Daishonin further wrote:
Myōichi-ama, you must continue to live. Even if you should pass and observe the world from beyond, you will see that I certainly will look after your young children. (Gosho, p. 833)
The Daishonin’s words are warm and full of compassion, as he reassures Myōichi-ama that, if something should happen to her, he would protect and take care of the young children that she would leave behind. In addition, he describes her husband in the following way:
Your deceased husband gave his life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. His life depended on a meager income, and even that was taken away because of his devotion to the Lotus Sutra. Indeed, he gave his life for its sake. (Gosho, p. 832)
This passage indicates that Myōichi-ama’s husband believed in Nichiren Daishonin, and his small fief was confiscated because of his faith. The Daishonin offers him praise as an individual who thoroughly upheld faith, never begrudging his life for the sake of true Buddhism.
The Daishonin stated:
Those who maintain faith in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, since ancient times, has anyone heard of or seen winter turn back to autumn. Nor have I heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra turning back into a common mortal. The sutra states, “If there are people who listen to the [true] Law, then not one will fail to attain Buddhahood.” (Gosho, p. 832)
We can interpret this passage in the following way: Those who practice the Lotus Sutra may experience hardships and suffering that are as severe as the bitter cold of winter. However, those who thoroughly carry through their faith will achieve happiness without fail, just like the winter season definitely will transform into the warm spring, full of sweet blossoms.
The Daishonin further states that never in history has anyone seen or heard of the seasons reversing and going from winter to autumn. In the same way, it is impossible for those who believe in the Lotus Sutra to proceed in the reverse direction to become rough common mortals who continually undergo the transmigration of the six paths. The Expedient Means (Hōben) chapter states, “If there are people who listen to the [true] Law, then not one will fail to attain Buddhahood.” Thus, even if we currently are facing hardships and suffering, if we continue to uphold faith without ever slackening, we will be able to achieve a life condition of true happiness without fail and ultimately attain enlightenment.
It is impossible for us to know how much negative karma we may have accumulated from our past and present lives. If we never encountered true Buddhism, we would have continued to rampantly accumulate karmic misdeeds.
For example, let us assume that we have a dirty dust cloth. If we wash this dust cloth in a bucketful of clean water, the water will become dirty but the cloth will become clean. However, if we wash that same dirty cloth in a bucketful of dirty water—as dark and dirty as a bucketful of ink—then the cloth will become dirtier and darker than before.
The Lotus Sutra is like the clean, clear water. Those who believe in it are able to cleanse their lives and wash away their karmic sins. However, those who believe in slanderous doctrines will find themselves steeped in increasingly dark and dirty grime in their lives. This is indicated in the principle of the “deep penetration of the poison” (dokke jinnyū).
It is quite ordinary for people to find it difficult to believe in true Buddhism and to be drawn easily into the depths of slander. The reference to winter indicates that, by embracing and upholding the Lotus Sutra, which is difficult to believe and understand, we are able to completely draw out our negative karma. For this reason, this Buddhist practice can be comparable to winter.
In the natural world, great changes take place when the tides ebb and flow and the seasons change. In the same way, when common mortals transform into Buddhas, when their hearts and minds change, and when their life conditions change, they invariably will encounter evil functions that will try to obstruct their progress. Nichiren Daishonin gave the following explanation in the Gosho, “Letter to the Brothers” (“Kyōdai-shō”):
Without fail, devils will arise, if you preach this doctrine to others. If these devils do not vie with one another to cause obstruction, there is no way of knowing that this is the true doctrine. (Gosho, p. 986)
The Daishonin also stated the following in “The Three Obstacles and Four Devils” (“Hyōe sakan dono-gohenji”):
The same is true when a common mortal achieves Buddhahood. Without fail, the three obstacles and four devils will arise to obstruct progress. When this occurs, the wise will rejoice and the foolish will retreat. (Gosho, p. 1184)
As individuals who uphold faith in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism—the true teaching that leads us to attain enlightenment—we must overcome karmic obstacles that we cannot avoid in our lives. This is why the doctrine indicates that “those who uphold faith in the Lotus Sutra are as though they are in winter.”
In the Gosho, “Establishing the Four Bodhisattvas as the Object of Worship” (“Shibosatsu zōryū-shō”), Nichiren Daishonin stated:
Those who practice the Lotus Sutra and consider themselves to be my disciples—the disciples of Nichiren—must all do as I do.
(Gosho, p. 1370)
Nichiren Daishonin stated that he “encountered four major persecutions and countless minor ones,” in describing his actual experiences. Given these circumstances, we, as his disciples, should not pursue an easy and comfortable theoretical practice. Indeed, it is essential for us to withstand challenges as strong as the blustery winter winds and continue our practice. This will enable us to overcome all karmic obstacles.
The phrase, “winter will always turn to spring,” is based on the principle of changing poison into medicine (hendoku iyaku). Our High Priest Nichinyo Shonin presented us with the following guidance:
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism extends throughout the three existences and the ten directions. In short, it is a teaching that correctly observes all things throughout infinite time and space. It is a doctrine that correctly determines the truth and indicates the correct way of life. Based on this, we must believe in the Gohonzon, which inherently possesses the power of benefits that is vast and limitless. Furthermore, by practicing to this Gohonzon, we can change the three poisons into the three virtues. As a result, we can develop a prosperous human nature, enabling us to love peace. In turn, we can purify the entire world and establish a realm of safety and tranquility. (Dai-Nichiren, February 2007, p. 52)
Last September, our High Priest Nichinyo Shonin conducted the Public Announcement of the Official Designation of the new Daikoji Temple in Panama and the Enshrinement Ceremony of the wooden Gohonzon there.
On that occasion, six female believers had an audience with the High Priest. Eighteen years ago, these individuals resigned from the SGI and went to visit the Head Temple. Thereafter, they established a propagation center and overcame various difficulties. Not one of these six women renounced her faith during this time. Now, together with more than 600 members, their long-time dream of establishing a temple came true.
They were isolated in their faith, as they struggled for the sake of achieving kosen-rufu in Panama. They exemplified the precious spirit of kosen-rufu, based on the passage, “winter will always turn to spring.”
There were occasions when they were persecuted by the SGI. As overseas believers, they must have felt extremely forlorn and forsaken, not to have a temple and a priest as a source of spiritual support and comfort. They were like the buds on the trees, quietly enduring the severe winter, as they awaited the advent of spring. During this time, however, they grew in number from six to more than 600 believers. They endured difficulties, but they continued to propagate the Law. Their sincere practice and accomplishments perfectly demonstrate the spirit of “winter will always turn to spring.” They persevered to propagate the peerless and unique true Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, through kosen-rufu, as they sought to actualize world peace.
In this Year of Advancing Kosen-rufu Through Shakubuku, let us advance ever more vigorously and with great devotion, under the direction of our High Priest, to achieve our designated shakubuku objectives.