The Four Virtues

Juzu BeadsNichiren Buddhism demands that we test ourselves and that we test the results of our Practice. To do this we must know why we do, what we do, and this covers every aspect of our Practice.

In my previous post about The Significance Of Prayer Beads we saw that the four smaller beads in the body represent the four Great Bodhisattvas of the Earth. These in turn represent The Four Virtues of the Buddha, and here is a much fuller explanation.

Nichiren Daishonin attributes the four virtues of the Buddha to the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Bodhisattva Superior Practices (Jogyo) represents true self. Revealing true self means for us to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, thus manifesting our innate Buddhahood and shedding the lesser self of egotism. Bodhisattva Boundless Practices (Muhengyo) signifies eternity. Through establishing our true self of Buddhahood, we come to understand, perhaps not intellectually but with our innermost heart, the eternity of life, and remain unswayed by our ever-changing circumstances while confidently challenging ourselves. Bodhisattva Pure Practices (Jyogyo) represents purity. Once we are awakened to the greater self of Buddhahood, we are no longer tainted by delusions. With a secure sense of self, we can even positively influence our environment, thus purifying it. Finally Bodhisattva Firmly Established Practices (Anryugyo) signifies happiness—a kind of happiness that withstands all the ups and downs of our lives, including death. Through developing confidence in the Buddha nature as our true self, we free ourselves from trivial concerns for any unnecessary artifice of life and remain at peace with ourselves, knowing that we will ultimately triumph over any obstacle.

It is significant that the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth represent the four virtues of the Buddha. As the names of those bodhisattvas indicate, only through our dedicated practice as bodhisattvas—practice dedicated to the happiness of others—can we break through our lesser self and reveal the greater self of Buddhahood. In other words, our bodhisattva practice is the cause for the Buddha’s four virtues to manifest in our lives. Yet from another perspective, it may be also said that Buddhas are in essence those who are awakened to their greater self and act for the well-being of others. In this sense, the altruism of Bodhisattva practice is not only the means to overcome the lesser self and develop the four virtues; it is also a direct expression of these four virtues inherent in life, in our Buddha nature. This is why chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which calls forth our inherent Buddhahood and its corresponding virtues, provides the greatest basis for an altruistic life—a life dedicated to the happiness of others.

The four virtues of the Buddha, from the standpoint of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, describe the ideal characteristics of human beings whose view of self is not hindered in any way by selfish ego. Their understanding of self is so encompassing that their own existence and the world around them become indistinguishable. A limited understanding of self, however, leads to egotism, bringing suffering and misery to both oneself and others. True self-knowledge—an awakening to our true, greater self—in this sense is a key to overcoming selfishness.

The Significance Of Prayer Beads

Click for a larger imageIn the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, we hold juzu beads in our hands while reciting Gongyo and chanting Daimoku.

There are 108 beads in the main body, signifying the 108 Earthly Desires.

The 4 smaller beads in the main body represent the 4 Great Bodhisattvas of the Earth….Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo, and Anryugyo.

The 2 large beads at each end of the main body, are the “parent” beads.  The “mother” bead, representing “mystic” is on the side with 3 dangles, and is placed over the middle finger of the right hand.  The “father” bead, representing “law” is on the side with 2 dangles, and is placed on the middle finger of the left hand.

We cross the beads in the middle, which shows our oneness with THE LAW.  Also, we cross the beads so our benefits do not fall through our hands and lives.  By placing the beads on our hands this way, we are accepting the reality that Buddhahood exists within our lives.

When we press our hands together while we hold our juzu beads, our 10 fingers represent the 10 Worlds which fuse together simultaneously in the life of a Buddha, our lives.  Our life is now one with the Mystic Law!

The one small bead that sits below the “father” bead, represents Absolute Truth.

Prior to Nichiren Buddhism, there were only 2 dangles on each end of juzu beads.  The third dangle, consisting of 10 beads and a “Kosen-Rufu” bead, on the side of the “mother” was added, actually tied on, to signify Nichiren Buddhism and distinguish it from other Buddhist sects.

On the remaining 4 dangles, there is a differently shaped bead part way down each string.  This bead is called the “jar” bead and holds the benefits of our practice.

The 5 larger beads at the bottom of each dangle are the “Kosen-Rufu” beads, and represent our desire to spread Nichiren Buddhism,  Kosen-Rufu, throughout the World.

My huge thanks are due to my lovely friend Lily Rose of Myoho Beads for researching the meanings of the individual beads and for allowing me to use her explanation.

As Lily Rose says on her site, be careful buying juzu beads on line.  Use this description or the juzu purchased in SGI bookstores as a guide.  Make sure the beads you purchase have been created in an ethical and politically correct manner. Sorry to say, but many are not.

Back In The Groove

Back In The GrooveWith the pressure of work having eased slightly, albeit for only a few days, it was nice to give more time and focus to my Practice.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things drift to the back of your mind when they don’t receive the attention they deserve. So it was with my Gongyo, having been too tied up to make a proper job of it.

Now I know what you are saying, that my Honzon should come first, last and everywhere in between. But life isn’t like that really, is it? Man cannot life by Gongyo alone, to paraphrase, so work had to take precedence.

While I was at work this week, my two books arrived and until this evening I hadn’t even had time to open the parcel to take a quick peek.

The copy of The Buddha, Geoff and Me is similar in every respect to the last one I owned. No surprise there, though it will be good to have an old friend back on my bedside cabinet.

Having dipped into the new William Woollard, it does look interesting. He has a way of saying very profound or very technical concepts in a very easy to understand way, a real gift. He has been struggling against cancer and I will be very interested in how he has gone about it. I say struggled against cancer, but he is so grounded, that I can’t imagine William struggling against anything now.

Any road up, as my Mom might say, it’s nice to be back in the swing and I’m looking forward to relating my take on Buddhism and the Science of Happiness to you over the coming weeks.

P.S. In case anyone is wondering where the Juzu beads came from, they were made by my friend Lily Rose at Myoho Beads. Lily Rose is a lovely lady who happens to live just round the corner from the Arizona supermarket where the US Senator was shot a little while back. I really get in touch to make sure she is recovering from the shock of it all.

%d bloggers like this: