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Sansho Shima

Sansho Shima
(from UKE August 1989 by Paul Reeves and Rebecca Irvine)

The Buddhist term for these resistant forces which arise specifically to undermine our faith and stop us from practising is sansho shima, which means the ‘three obstacles and four devils’.

Sho of sansho represents the obstacles encountered in the world around us, ma of shima literally means ‘devils’ and represents the characteristics we have which prevent us from achieving our true potential to reveal Buddhahood. In may ways, the three obstacles and four devils overlap. The difference between them is that the former are the result of external forces and the latter internal. They are united in the way that they conspire to attack us at precisely our most vulnerable point.

The three obstacles:
1. Earthly desires (bonno-sho), or obstacles arising from the three poisons of greed (hunger), anger and stupidity. We all have these three poisons; what matters is how we deal with them. Buddhism teaches that everything has a positive and negative aspect. For instance, bacteria carefully cultivated in a microbiologist’s laboratory can form the basis of life-saving medicines. Those same bacteria, allowed to thrive in a carelessly tended kitchen, can cause illness or even death. Similarly, when we chant we can harness our desires to spur us to enlightenment, or let them run riot until they dominate us entirely.

2. Karma (go-sho), encompasses the unhappiness created by committing any of the ‘five cardinal sins’ or ‘ten evil acts’ in this or previous existences. These include murder, adultery, lying, theft, the disruption amongst fellow Buddhist believers and really relate to the most hurtful wounds we can inflict on those around us. As the law of cause and effect is very strict, it is therefore quite understandable that go-sho often appears in the form of opposition from those closest to our hearts, our spouses and offspring.

3. Retribution (ho-sho), the results of causes made in the three evil paths; Hell, Hunger and Animality, which in turn form the lowest of the Ten Worlds. Ho-sho can appear in the form of opposition from the state, one’s employer, parents or other persons who wield power over us.

The four devils:
1. The five components (on-ma), is the summition of all the different sufferings attendant on being alive, a grand gala of the aches and pains of mind, body and spirit. As such, the scope of on-ma is great, as is its potential to hinder the achievement of our goals. On-ma is responsible, for example, for depression, exhaustion and despair – even apathy.

2. Earthly desires (bonno-ma), symbolizes difficulties arising from the three poisons. As such it appears the same as bonno-sho. The reason for this is very simple. Buddhism teaches that everything has both an inherent cause and an external cause. For example, the external cause (bonno-sho) of a person’s anger might be the promotion of a colleague rather than himself. The inherent cause (bonno-ma) of his suffering is his thwarted desire for personal advancement, which could be the result of stupidity, in the form of arrogance.

3. Death (shi-ma), This includes the suffering inherent in bereavement and that evoked by the thought of our own demise. In a world where technology seems to have the answers to so many of life’s problems, death is often difficult for people to deal with. It is possible to talk to an astronaut on a moon walk, but not to a parent who has died. Worse, we can plan the details of our daily existence minutely, but we cannot plan when or how we will die. Perhaps, in defence, we skirt the issue, and pretend indifference. When the reality is brought home, particularly in the sudden or early death of someone we love or deeply respect, it can provoke so much unease and upset that we seek to hide from it.
Since the basic Buddhist principle of the eternity of life invites the contemplation of the relative brevity of each of our sperate lifetimes, if we are not prepared, deep-seated terror can prevent us from exploring its implications, and cause evasion. Ultimately, this can mean the cessation of our practice, which not only prevents the attainment of Buddhahood for the individual but also prevents us from praying for the happiness of others, including those who have already died.

4. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven (tenji-ma). This is the symbol of the most serious hindrance of all. It is the most powerful of all the negative forces, and takes the form most likely to trouble us or cause us to suffer from doubt or illusion. Nichiren Daishonin equates it with the fundamental darkness inherent in all life. Tenji-ma comprises all deceptions and delusions, especially those which arise from misleading religious beliefs. At first sight, this may not appear to amount to much, but actually, the actions taken on the basis of a distorted view of reality can cause tremendous unhappiness, not only to oneself but everyone in one’s environment.

Obviously, as we are all individuals with different circumstances and characters, the sansho shima we experience will differ. Also, when we are confronting it head on, trying to work out which particular devil or obstacle we are fighting could well be irrelevant. It can be useful, however, to recognize that our difficulty is sansho shima in its broadest sense and that it has arisen precisely because our faith and practice are getting stronger – at the same time showing us a weak point in our amour of faith which needs strengthening. In fact, it is a chance to flex our muscles, and realize another part of our potential, and see our Buddha nature emerging.

Indeed, sansho shima is vital to our growth as human beings, for without it we would not be able to prove the power of the Gohonzon. As Nichiren Daishonin explains:

“If you propagate it (i.e. this Buddhism) devils will arise without fail. Were it not for these, there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching”. (MW-V1 p.145, WND p.501)

Once we can see that even our sansho shima has a positive function, by showing us that we’re on the right track, we need fear it no longer. It’s part of us, just like our Buddhahood.

A glimpse of Kosen-rufu

DAILY ENCOURAGEMENT: "We need to cultivate the spirit to live with self-assurance, to make our way joyously through life. We practice this faith precisely to forge such a strong and vibrant inner resolve."

(Daisaku Ikeda)

I need help

I have been struggling with keeping the cycle of regular gongyo and daimoku. I need your encouragement. Please think of your best encouragement to get me back in the groove. I need your help!!! Share with me your experiences! I am hoping to get back into the groove soon enough that all this summer is gongyo summer!

Read and Study the Treasure Tower

ON THE TREASURE TOWER (a letter by the Daishonin)

I have read your letter with great care. I have also received your offering to the treasure tower of one thousand coins, polished rice, and other articles. This I have respectfully reported to the Gohonzon and to the Lotus Sutra. Please rest assured.

In your letter you ask, “What is signified by the Thus Come One Many Treasures and his treasure tower, which appeared from beneath the earth?” The teaching on the treasure tower is of great importance. In the eighth volume of his Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explains the appearance of the treasure tower. He states that it has two distinct functions: to lend credence to the preceding chapters and to pave the way for the revelation to come. Thus the treasure tower appeared in order to verify the theoretical teaching and to introduce the essential teaching. To put it another way, the closed tower symbolizes the theoretical teaching, and the open tower, the essential teaching. The open tower reveals the two elements of reality and wisdom.1 This is extremely complex, however, so I will not go into further detail now.

In essence, the appearance of the treasure tower indicates that on hearing the Lotus Sutra the three groups of voice-hearers perceived for the first time the treasure tower within their own lives. Now Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters are also doing this. In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra. It follows, therefore, that whether eminent or humble, high or low, those who chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.are themselves the treasure tower, and, likewise, are themselves the Thus Come One Many Treasures. No treasure tower exists other than Myoho-Renge-Kyo. The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is the treasure tower, and the treasure tower is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

At present the entire body of the Honorable Abutsu is composed of the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space. These five elements are also the five characters of the daimoku. Abutsu-bo is therefore the treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bo himself. No other knowledge is purposeful. It is the treasure tower adorned with the seven kinds of treasures— hearing the correct teaching, believing it, keeping the precepts, engaging in meditation, practicing assiduously, renouncing one’s attachments, and reflecting on oneself. You may think you offered gifts to the treasure tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, but that is not so. You offered them to yourself. You, yourself,are a Thus Come One who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three bodies. You should chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with this conviction. Then the place where you chant Daimoku will become the dwelling place of the treasure tower. The Sutra reads, “If there is any place where the Lotus Sutra is preached, then my treasure tower will come forth and appear in that spot.”

Faith like yours is so extremely rare that I will inscribe the treasure tower especially for you. You must never transfer it to anyone but your son. You must never show it to others unless they have steadfast faith. This is the reason for my advent in this world.

With my deep respect,

(Keep studying the lessons to follow this whole lesson during Summer 2011, and you will gain the deepest understanding of the Gohonzon.)

There was an unsuccessful attempt on Nichiren Diashonin's life. It is dramatized in a Japanese movie clip that you MUST watch.


How this lesson works

After you have taken the quiz (see last entry), you will know how you learn best and understand the world. I will take each of these learning modalities and show you how your special abilities can make your Gohonzon really pop out for you. Over this next month, you will find that there are multiple ways of understanding the Gohonzon. Keep watching this blog.


Depending on how your brain works, the Gohonzon will have special meaning for you that is unique to YOU only and your inherent Buddhahood. I am including a link to a quiz that will help you discover how your brain works. If you want to unlock the magic of the Gohonzon, follow these simple instructions. Examine the chart and take the quiz. Figure out which one you are and we will talk all summer about how your special type of intelligence can make your Buddhist soar like the eagles.


The Multiple Intelligence theory suggests that no one set of teaching strategies will work best for all Buddhists at all times. All Buddhists have different proclivities in the seven intelligences, so any particular strategy is likely to be successful with several students, and yet, not for others. Because of these individual differences among students, teachers are best advised to use a broad range of teaching strategies with their students. As long as instructors shift their intelligence emphasis from presentation to presentation, there will always be a time during the period or day when a Buddhist student has his or her own highly developed intelligence(s) actively involved in learning.

Key Points in MI Theory

* Each person possesses all seven intelligences - MI theory is not a "type theory" for determining the one intelligence that fits. It is a theory of cognitive functioning, and it proposed that each person has capacities in all seven intelligences.

* Most people can develop each intelligence to an adequate level of competency - although an individual may bewail his deficiencies in a given area and consider his problems innate and intractable, Gardner suggests that virtually everyone has the capacity to develop all seven intelligences to a reasonably high level of performance if given the appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction.

* Intelligences usually work together in complex ways - Gardner points out that each intelligence as described above is actually a "fiction"; that is no intelligence exists by itself in life (except perhaps in very rare instances in savants and brain-injured individuals.) Intelligences are always interacting with each other.

* There are many ways to be intelligent within each category - there is no standard set of attributes that one must have to be considered intelligent in a specific area. Consequently, a person may not be able to read, yet be highly linguistic because he can tell a terrific story or has a large, oral vocabulary. Similarly, a person may be quite awkward on the playing field, yet possess superior bodily-kinesthetic intelligence when she weaves a carpet or creates an inlaid chess table. MI theory emphasizes the rich diversity of ways in which people show their gifts within intelligences as well as between intelligences.

“All Buddhists can learn and succeed, but not all on the same day in the same way.”

- William G. Spady

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Where does your true intelligence lie? This quiz will tell you where you stand and what to do about it. Read each statement. If it expresses some characteristic of yours and sounds true for the most part, jot down a "T." If it doesn't, mark an "F." If the statement is sometimes true, sometimes false, leave it blank.

1. _____ I'd rather draw a map than give someone verbal directions.

2. _____ I can play (or used to play) a musical instrument.

3. _____ I can associate music with my moods.

4. _____ I can add or multiply in my head.

5. _____ I like to work with calculators and computers.

6. _____ I pick up new dance steps fast.

7. _____ It's easy for me to say what I think in an argument or debate.

8. _____ I enjoy a good lecture, speech or sermon.

9. _____ I always know north from south no matter where I am.

10. _____ Life seems empty without music.

11. _____ I always understand the directions that come with new gadgets or appliances.

12. _____ I like to work puzzles and play games.

13. _____ Learning to ride a bike (or skates) was easy.

14. _____ I am irritated when I hear an argument or statement that sounds illogical.

15. _____ My sense of balance and coordination is good.

16. _____ I often see patterns and relationships between numbers faster and easier than others.

17. _____ I enjoy building models (or sculpting).

18. _____ I'm good at finding the fine points of word meanings.

19. _____ I can look at an object one way and see it sideways or backwards just as easily.

20. _____ I often connect a piece of music with some event in my life.

21. _____ I like to work with numbers and figures.

22. _____ Just looking at shapes of buildings and structures is pleasurable to me.

23. _____ I like to hum, whistle and sing in the shower or when I'm alone.

24. _____ I'm good at athletics.

25. _____ I'd like to study the structure and logic of languages.

26. _____ I'm usually aware of the expression on my face.

27. _____ I'm sensitive to the expressions on other people's faces.

28. _____ I stay "in touch" with my moods. I have no trouble identifying them.

29. _____ I am sensitive to the moods of others.

30. _____ I have a good sense of what others think of me.

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Place a check mark by each item you marked as "true." Add your totals. A total of four in any of the categories A through E indicates strong ability. In categories F and G a score of one or more means you have abilities as well.




Logical- Mathematical


M usical






Intra- personal


Inter- personal

7 ___

4 ___

2 ___

1 ___

6 ___

26 ___

27 ___

8 ___

5 ___

3 ___

9 ___

13 ___

28 ___

29 ___


12 ___

10 ___


15 ___

30 ___

18 ___

16 ___

20 ___


17 ___

25 ___

21 ___

23 ___


24 ___









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The Seven Multiple Intelligences in SGI Buddhists





in words

reading, writing, telling stories, playing word games, etc.

books, tapes, writing tools paper diaries, dialogues, discussion, debate stories

Logical- Mathematical

by reasoning

experimenting, questioning, figuring out puzzles, calculating, etc.

things to explore and think about, science materials, manipulatives, trips to the planetarium and science museum


in images and pictures

designing, drawing, visualizing, doodling, etc.

art, LEGOs, video, movies, slides, imagination games, mazes, puzzles, illustrated books, trips to art museums

Bodily- Kinesthetic

through somatic sensations

dancing, running, jumping, building, touching, gesturing, etc.

role play, drama, movement, things to build, sports and physical games, tactile experiences, hands-on learning


via rhythms and melodies

singing, whistling, humming, tapping feet and hands, listening, etc..

sing-along time, trips to concerts, music playing at home and school, musical instruments


by bouncing ideas off other people

leading, organizing, relating, manipulating, mediating, partying, etc.

friends, group games, social gatherings, community events, clubs, mentors/apprenticeships


deeply inside themselves

setting goals, meditating, dreaming, being quiet,

secret places, time alone, self-paced projects, choices

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Name of Student: ___________________________________

In each of the following categories, check all items that apply.

Linguistic Intelligence

_____ writes better than average for age

_____ spins tall tales or tells jokes and stories

_____ has a good memory for names, places, dates, or trivia

_____ enjoys word games

_____ enjoys reading books

_____ spells words accurately (preschool: does developmental spelling that is advanced for age)

_____ appreciates nonsense rhymes, puns, tongue twisters, etc.

_____ enjoys listening to the spoken word (stories, commentary on the radio, talking, books)

_____ has a good vocabulary for age

_____ communicates to others in a highly verbal way

Other Linguistic Strengths:

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

_____ asks a lot of questions about how things work

_____ computes arithmetic problems in his/her head quickly (preschool: math concepts are advanced for age)

_____ enjoys math class (preschool: enjoys counting and doing other things with number)

_____ finds math computer games interesting (no exposure to computers: enjoys other math or counting games)

_____ enjoys playing chess, checkers, or other strategy games (preschool: board games requiring counting squares)

_____ enjoys working on logic puzzles or brain teasers (preschool: enjoys hearing logical nonsense such as in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

_____ enjoys putting things in categories or hierarchies

_____ likes to experiment in a way that shows higher order cognitive thinking processes

_____ thinks on a more abstract or conceptual level than peers

_____ has a good sense of cause-effect for age

Other Logical-Mathematical Strengths:

Spatial Intelligence

_____ reports clear visual images

_____ reads maps, charts, and diagrams more easily that text (preschool: enjoys visuals more than text)

_____ daydreams more than peers

_____ enjoys art activities

_____ draws figures that are advanced for age

_____ likes to view movies, slides, or other visual presentations

_____ enjoys doing puzzles, mazes, Where's Waldo? or similar visual activities

_____ builds interesting three-dimensional constructions for age (e.g., LEGO buildings)

_____ gets more out of pictures than words while reading

_____ doodles on workbooks, worksheets, or other materials

Other Spatial Strengths:

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

_____ excels in one or more sports (preschool: shows physical prowress advanced for age)

_____ moves, twitches, taps, or fidgets while seated for a long time in one spot

_____ cleverly mimics other people's gestures or mannerisms

_____ loves to take things apart and put them back together again

_____ put his/her hands all over something he/she's just seen

_____ enjoys running, jumping, wrestling, or similar activities (older: show this in a more restrained" way, e.g., woodworking, sewing, mechanics) or good fine-motor coordination in other ways

_____ has a dramatic way of expressing himself/herself

_____ reports different physical sensations while thinking or working

_____ enjoys working with clay or other tactile experiences (e.g., finger-painting)

Other Bodily-Kinesthetic Strengths:

Musical Intelligence

_____ tells you when music sounds off-key or disturbing in some way other way

_____ remembers melodies of songs

_____ has a good singing voice

_____ plays a musical instrument or sings in choir or other group (preschool: enjoys playing percussion instruments and/or singing in a group)

_____ has a rhythmic way of speaking and/or moving

_____ unconsciously hums to himself/herself

_____ taps rhythmically on the table or desks as he/she works

_____ sensitive to environmental noises (e.g., rain on the roof)

Other Musical Strengths:

Interpersonal Intelligence

_____ enjoys socializing with peers

_____ seems to be a natural leader

_____ gives advice to friends who have problems

_____ seems to be street smart

_____ belongs to clubs, committees, or other group organizations (preschool: seems to be part of a general education social group)

_____ enjoys informally teaching other kids

_____ likes to play games with other kids

_____ has two or more close friends

_____ has a good sense of empathy or concern for others

_____ others seek out his/her empathy or concern for others

_____ others seek out his/her company

Other Interpersonal Strengths:

Intrapersonal Intelligence

_____ displays a sense of independence or a strong will

_____ has a realistic sense of his/her strengths and weaknesses

_____ does well when left alone or to play or study

_____ marches to the beat of a different drummer in his/her style of living and learning

_____ has an interest or hobby that he/she doesn't talk much about

_____ has a good sense of self-direction

_____ prefers working alone to working with others

_____ accurately expresses how he/she is feeling

_____ is able to learn from his/her failures and successes in life

_____ has high self-esteem

Other Intrapersonal Strengths:

Excerpted from Armstrong, Thomas. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, Alexandria, Virginia, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (1994).

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The following list provides a survey of the techniques and materials that can be employed in teaching through the multiple intelligences.

Linguistic Intelligence

* lectures, debates
* large- and small-group discussions
* books, worksheets, manuals
* brainstorming
* writing activities
* word games
* sharing time
* storytelling, speeches, reading to class
* talking books and cassettes
* extemporaneous speaking
* journal keeping
* choral reading
* individualized reading
* memorizing linguistic facts
* tape recording one's words
* using word processors
* publishing (e.g., creating class newspapers)

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

* mathematical problems on the board
* Socratic questioning
* scientific demonstrations
* logical problem-solving exercises
* creating codes
* logic puzzles and games
* classifications and categorizations
* quantifications and calculations
* computer programming languages
* science thinking
* logical-sequential presentation of subject matter
* Piagetian cognitive stretching exercises
* Heuristic

Spatial Intelligence

* charts, graphs, diagrams, and maps
* visualization
* photography
* videos, slides, and movies
* visual puzzles and mazes
* 3-D construction kits
* art appreciation
* imaginative storytelling
* picture metaphors
* creative daydreaming
* painting, collage, visual arts
* idea sketching
* visual thinking exercises
* graphic symbols
* using mind-maps and other visual organizers
* computer graphics software
* visual awareness activities
* optical illusions
* color cues
* telescopes, microscopes, and binoculars
* visual awareness activities
* draw-and-paint/computer- assisted-design software
* picture literacy experiences

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

* creative movement, mime
* hands-on thinking
* field trips
* the classroom teacher
* competitive and cooperative games
* physical awareness and relaxation exercises
* all hands-on activities
* crafts
* body maps
* use of kinesthetic imagery
* cooking, gardening, and other "messy" activities
* manipulatives
* virtual reality software
* kinesthetic concepts
* physical education activities
* communicating with body language/ hand signals
* tactile materials and experiences
* body answers

Musical Intelligence

* musical concepts
* singing, humming, whistling
* playing recorded music
* playing live music on piano, guitar, or other instruments
* group singing
* mood music
* music appreciation
* playing percussion instruments
* rhythms, songs, raps, chants
* using background music
* linking old tunes with concepts
* discographies
* creating new melodies for concepts
* listening to inner musical imagery
* music software
* supermemory music

Interpersonal Intelligence

* cooperative groups
* interpersonal interaction
* conflict mediation
* peer teaching
* board games
* cross-age tutoring
* group brainstorming sessions
* peer sharing
* community involvement
* apprenticeships
* simulations
* academic clubs
* interactive software
* parties / social gatherings as context for learning
* people sculpting

Intrapersonal Intelligence

* independent study
* feeling-toned moments
* self-paced instruction
* individualized projects and games
* private spaces for study
* one-minute reflection periods
* interest centers
* personal connections
* options for homework
* choice time
* self-teaching programmed instruction
* exposure to inspirational/ motivational curricula
* self-esteem activities
* journal keeping
* goal setting sessions


Thank you for being patient, dedicated readers.  I am working on a series of articles that will explore in depth the meaning of the Gohonzon.  After all, if it is out object of devotion, we should at least understand it as well as we can, right?  You will be excited to learn that there are infinte depths of meaning behind every stroke of the Daishonin's quill.  Give me two more weeks to finish my night classes, and I will begin polishing up each section to publish right here.  Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
Love ya!


A term from the Lotus Sutra that literally means to declare and spread widely. The "Medicine King" (twenty-third) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads, "After I [Shakyamuni Buddha] have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period you must spread it abroad widely (kosen-rufu) throughout Jambudvipa and never allow it to be cut off." Nichiren (1222-1282), identifying himself as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, made it his lifelong mission to fulfill the above injunction of the Buddha, that is, kosen-rufu. He saw widely propagating his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which he identified as the essence of the sutra, as the fulfillment of that mission.

Nichiren wrote in his Selection of the Time, "Can there be any doubt that, after this period described in the Great Collection Sutra when 'the pure Law will become obscured and lost,' the great pure Law of the Lotus Sutra will be spread far and wide (kosen-rufu) throughout Japan and all the other countries of Jambudvipa?" (550).

In The True Aspect of All Phenomena, he also wrote, "At the time when the Law has spread far and wide (kosen-rufu), the entire Japanese nation will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target" (385).In On Practicing the Buddha's Teachings, he wrote: "The time will come when all people will abandon the various kinds of vehicles and take up the single vehicle of Buddhahood, and the Mystic Law alone will flourish throughout the land. When the people all chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the wind will no longer buffet the branches, and the rain will no longer break the clods of soil. The world will become as it was in the ages of Fu Hsi and Shen Nung" (392). He meant that the spread of the Mystic Law would bring about peace in society and nature.