The Proof of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishounin Gosho Study
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
The Proof of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishounin Gosho Study
The Proof of the Lotus Sutra
Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus Sutra
A person who, in the evil world of the latter age, believes in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra just as they are set forth in the sutra-how does the mirror of the Lotus Sutra portray him? Shakyamuni Buddha has left us words from his golden mouth revealing that such a person has already made offerings to a hundred thousand million Buddhas in his past existences. But ordinary persons in the latter age might well doubt the words spoken by one Buddha only. With this thought in mind, Taho Buddha expressly came all the way from his world of Treasure Purity, many lands to the east. Facing Shakyamuni Buddha, he gave his words of testimony to the Lotus Sutra, saying, "All that you have expounded is the truth." If this is so, then there can be no room for doubt about the matter. Nevertheless, Shakyamuni Buddha may have felt that ordinary persons in the latter age would still be skeptical. Hence he summoned all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions to come and join him in the magnificent act of extending their long broad tongues, which had told nothing but the truth for countless kalpas, until they projected into the sky as high as Mount Sumeru.
Since this is the case, when an ordinary person in the latter age believes in even one or two words of the Lotus Sutra, he is embracing the teaching to which all the Buddhas in the ten directions have given credence. I wonder what good karma we created in the past to have been born as such persons, and I am filled with joy. Shakyamuni’s words which I have mentioned above indicate that the blessings that come from having made offerings to a hundred thousand million Buddhas are so great that, even though one may have believed in teachings other than the Lotus Sutra and as a result of this slander been born poor and lowly, one is still able to believe in this sutra during this lifetime.
T’ien-t’ai states, "It is like the case of a person who falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground and rises to his feet again." Those who slander the Lotus Sutra will fall to the ground of the three evil paths or of the human and heavenly realms, yet through the help of the Lotus Sutra they will in the end attain Buddhahood.
Now since you, Ueno Shichiro Jiro, are an ordinary person in the latter age and you were born into a warrior family, you should by rights be called an evil man, and yet your heart is that of a good man. I say this for a reason. Everyone, from the ruler on down to the common people, refuses to take faith in my teachings. They inflict harm on the few who do embrace them, heavily taxing or confiscating their estates and fields or even in some cases putting them to death. So it is a difficult thing to believe in my teachings, and yet both your mother and your deceased father dared to accept them. Now you have succeeded your father as his heir and, without any persuasion from others, you too have wholeheartedly embraced these teachings. Many people, both high and low in rank, have advised or threatened you, but you have refused to give up your faith. Now that you appear certain to attain Buddhahood, the devils of heaven and the demons are trying to use this illness to intimidate you. But remember that life in this world is limited. Never allow yourself to be intimidated!
"And as for you evil spirits -- will you cause this disciple of mine to suffer and swallow a sword point first, or embrace a raging fire, or become the archenemy of all the Buddhas of the ten directions in the three existences? How terrible this will be for you! Now, will you cure this man’s illness immediately and hereafter give him your protection instead, in this way escaping from the grievous sufferings that are the lot of evil spirits? If you fail to do so, then you will have your heads broken into seven pieces in this life and after your death fall into the hell of incessant suffering! You should absolutely free yourself from this fate; if you ignore my words, you will regret it later.
The twenty-eighth day of the second month in the fifth year of Koan (1282)
Handed to you by Hoki-bo.
The True Object of Worship
The True Object of Worship
- Kanjin no Honzon Sho -
Lord Toki, I have received the summer kimono, three sumi inksticks, and five writing brushes. I have written down some of my thoughts concerning the true object of worship and I am sending the treatise to you, Ota, Soya and the others. It concerns a very important matter, the purpose of my advent. Only those who are strong in faith and open-minded should be allowed to read it. The treatise contains much criticism and few answers. What it reveals, however, has never been heard of before, and is bound to startle those who read or hear of it. Even if you show it to others, never let three or four persons read it together at a time. In the twenty-two hundred and twenty odd years since the Buddha's passing, the ideas contained in the heart of this treatise have never been revealed before. Despite all the official persecutions befalling me, I expound it now at the beginning of the fifth half-millennium, when the time is ripe for its propagation. I hope those who read it will remain firm in their faith so that both master and disciples can climb Eagle Peak together to pay their respects to Shakyamuni, Taho, and all the other Buddhas in the universe.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-sixth day of the fourth month in the tenth year of Bun'ei (1273).
Nichiren, the Shramana of Japan
Volume Five of the Maka Shikan states: "A single entity of life is endowed with the Ten Worlds. At the same time, each of the Ten Worlds is endowed with all the others, so that an entity of life actually possesses one hundred worlds. Each of these worlds in turn possesses thirty realms, which means that in the one hundred worlds there are three thousand realms. The three thousand realms of existence are all possessed by a single entity of life. If there is no life, that is the end of the matter. But if there is the slightest bit of life, it contains all the three thousand realms.... This is what we mean when we speak of the 'region of the unfathomable.'" Note: "Three thousand realms" Might also read "three thousand factors," But the number is the same. The only difference lies in the method of expansion. Another text of the Maka Shikan states: "One world possesses the three realms of existence."
Question: Is the principle of ichinen sanzen [the three thousand realms in a single entity of life] explained in the Hokke Gengi?
Answer: Miao-lo states that it is not.
Question: Then is it explained in the Hokke Mongu?
Answer: Miao-lo states that it is not.
Question: What are his exact words?
Answer: He says, "Neither of the two mentions ichinen sanzen."
Question: Is it explained in any of the first four volumes of the Maka Shikan?
Answer: No, it is not.
Question: What proof is there of this?
Answer: Miao-lo says, "When at last he revealed in the Maka Shikan how to perceive the true nature of life, he at the same time employed the 'three thousand realms' as a way to understand."
Question: Volume Two of the Hokke Gengi states: "Each of the Ten Worlds contains the other nine, and in those one hundred worlds are one thousand factors." Volume One of the Hokke Mongu states: "Each cognitive faculty possesses the Ten Worlds, each of which again includes all of the ten within itself. Since each of those hundred worlds possesses the ten factors, the total becomes one thousand." In the Kannon Gengi appears this statement: "The Ten Worlds are all mutually inclusive, thus making one hundred worlds. One thousand factors are inherent within life. Even though they are not visible, all life by its nature possesses all of them."
Is ichinen sanzen mentioned in the first four volumes of the Maka Shikan?
Answer: Miao-lo says not.
Question: What does he say exactly?
Answer: Volume Five of the Guketsu reads: "In comparison with Chapter Seven, the preceding chapters do not perfectly describe practice in its totality. But they contain the twenty-five preparatory exercises which lead to understanding, and thus, they provide the way to full practice. The first six chapters, then, are all meant to bring understanding." Also in the same volume: "When at last he revealed in the Maka Shikan how to perceive the true nature of life, he at the same time employed the 'three thousand realms' as a way to understand. This is the ultimate truth of his teachings. That is why Chang-an stated in his introduction: 'The Maka Shikan reveals the teaching that T'ien-t'ai himself practiced in the depths of his being.' He had good reason for saying this. I hope that those who read the Maka Shikan and seek to understand it must not let their minds be distracted by anything else."
The Great Sage propagated his teachings for thirty years. During the first twenty- nine years he expounded the doctrines contained in the Hokke Gengi, Hokke Mongu, and other works. Through them he explained the five periods and the eight teachings as well as the one hundred worlds and the one thousand factors. He not only refuted the erroneous doctrines of the preceding five centuries, but at the same time clarified matters that had not been fully explained by Buddhist scholars of India. Chang-an states: "Even the great masters of India were not in a class with him, and the Chinese scholars -- well, one need hardly mention them. This is no idle boast -- the doctrine he taught was indeed of such excellence." How pitiful that T'ien-t'ai's successors allowed those thieves, the founders of the Kegon and Shingon sects, to steal the priceless gem of ichinen sanzen and then, ironically, became their followers! Chang-an was fully aware this would happen when he remarked in sorrow, "If this principle should become lost, it would be a tragedy for the future."
Question: What is the difference between the principle of the one hundred worlds of the one thousand factors, and that of ichinen sanzen, the three thousand realms of life?
Answer: The former concerns only sentient beings, the latter applies to both sentient and insentient beings.
Question: If insentient beings possess the ten factors, is it correct to assume that plants and trees have minds and can attain Buddhahood like sentient beings?
Answer: This is a matter that is difficult to believe and difficult to understand. T'ien-t'ai defined two points that are "difficult to believe" And "difficult to understand." One lies in the realm of the Buddha's teachings and the other in the realm of his enlightenment. In the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra we read that adherents of the doctrines of the two vehicles and people of incorrigible disbelief are forever barred from attaining Buddhahood, and that Shakyamuni for the first time attained enlightenment in this world. However, we find that the first and second halves of the Lotus Sutra repudiate both these statements. One Buddha who says two things as opposite as fire and water -- who could believe him? This is the point "difficult to believe" And "difficult to understand" In the realm of the Buddha's teachings. The point "difficult to believe" And "difficult to understand" In the realm of his enlightenment concerns the principle of ichinen sanzen, which explains that even insentient beings possess the ten factors of life, and that they possess both material and spiritual aspects of life.
Both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist scriptures permit wooden or painted images to be used as objects of worship, but T'ien-t'ai and his followers were the first to explain the principle behind this act. If a piece of wood or paper did not have both material and spiritual aspects, or lacked the inherent cause to manifest a spiritual nature, then it would be futile to rely upon it as an object of worship.
Question: What authority do you have for stating that a plant, a tree or a land manifests cause and effect, or the ten factors?
Answer: Volume Five of the Maka Shikan says: "A land of this world also has the ten factors. Thus an evil land has appearance, nature, entity, power and so on." Volume Five of the Shakusen states: "Appearance exists only in what is material, nature exists only in what is spiritual. Entity, power, influence, and relation in principle combine both the material and the spiritual. Inherent cause and latent effect are purely spiritual; manifest effect exists only in what is material." The Kongobei-ron states: A plant, a tree, a pebble, a speck of dust -- each has the innate Buddha nature, along with the other causes and conditions needed to attain Buddhahood."
Question: You have told us about the sources of this doctrine. Now what is meant by kanjin?
Answer: Kanjin means to observe one's own mind and to find the Ten Worlds within it. This is what is called kanjin ("observing the mind"). For example, though one can see the six sense organs of other people, he cannot see the six sense organs on his own face. Only when he looks into a clear mirror for the first time does he see that he is equipped with all six sense organs. Similarly, various sutras make reference here and there to the six paths and the four noble worlds [that constitute the Ten Worlds], but only in the clear mirror of the Lotus Sutra and T'ien-t'ai's Maka Shikan can one see his own three thousand conditions -- the Ten Worlds, their mutual possession, and the thousand factors.
Question: What part of the Lotus Sutra do you refer to, and what section of the Maka Shikan?
Answer: Chapter Two, Hoben-bon, of the Lotus Sutra states that the Buddhas appear in this world "to open the door of Buddha-wisdom to all beings." This refers to the fact that all the nine worlds possess the realm of Buddhahood. Chapter Sixteen, Juryo-hon, states: "Since I attained Buddhahood, an unimaginably long period has passed. The length of my life is infinite aeons. My life has always existed and shall never end. Men of devout faith, once I also practiced the bodhisattva austerities and the life which I then acquired has yet to be exhausted. My life will last yet twice as many aeons from now." Here the sutra refers to the realm of Buddhahood which includes all of the other nine worlds.
The sutra states: "Devadatta shall become a Buddha called Devaraja." This indicates that the world of Hell also contains the world of Buddhahood. In the sutra it is stated: "There are ten female demons, the first named Lamba.... [The Buddha says to them:] 'You will receive immeasurable good fortune if only you will protect those who embrace the title of the Lotus Sutra.'" Thus, the world of Hunger contains all the Ten Worlds. When the sutra says: "The Dragon King's daughter...attained enlightenment," it indicates that the world of Animality has the Ten Worlds. The sutra says that Balin ashura and the other ashura kings will attain enlightenment upon hearing even a single verse or phrase of the sutra. The sutra says: "all people who [erect statues to] honor the Buddha...have attained Buddhahood," meaning that the world of Humanity contains the Ten Worlds. The sutra states that the heavenly gods, led by Mahabrahman, declared: "We shall attain enlightenment." Thus the world of heaven contains the Ten Worlds.
The sutra says: "Shariputra, in one of your lives to come...you will become a Buddha called Padmaprabha." Thus the world of Learning contains the Ten Worlds. The sutra says: "Those who seek to become a pratyekabuddha, monks and nuns,...join their hands in reverence, wishing to hear the way to attain the perfect truth."
Thus the world of the Pratyekabuddha has the Ten Worlds. The sutra describes the multitude of Bodhisattvas who appeared from the earth and declared, "We also yearn to receive the pure great law." Thus the world of the Bodhisattva contains the Ten Worlds. The sutra says: "[Men of devout faith, the sutras which the Tathagata expounded are all for the purpose of saving people from their sufferings.] Sometimes I speak of myself, sometimes of others." Thus the world of Buddhahood contains the Ten Worlds.
Question: Although I can see both my own sensory organs and those of others, I cannot see the ten worlds in myself or others. How can I believe in them?
Answer: Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sutra says: "[The Lotus Sutra is] the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." [In describing how difficult it will be to fulfill the teachings of the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha's passing,] Chapter Eleven speaks of the "six difficult and nine easy acts." The great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states: "Because the theoretical and essential teachings [of the Lotus Sutra] contradict all the earlier sutras, they are extremely difficult to believe and difficult to understand." The Great Teacher Chang-an comments: "The Buddha intended these as his ultimate teachings. How could they ever be so easy to understand?"
The Great Teacher Dengyo says: "The Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and to understand because in it the Buddha directly revealed what he had attained." Those who were born in the days of Shakyamuni Buddha and heard his teachings in person had received the seed of enlightenment from him in the distant past. In addition, Shakyamuni, as well as Taho Buddha, the Buddhas in the ten directions of the universe, the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and the other bodhisattvas such as Monju and Miroku, aided them and encouraged them to have understanding, but even then there were those who failed to believe.
Five thousand people left the assembly, [arrogantly thinking that they had understood what they had not]. All gods and men [other than those already present in the assembly] were moved to other worlds [because they were incapable of understanding the Buddha's teachings]. How much more difficult it is to believe in the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha's passing -- in the Former and Middle Day of the Law -- and even more difficult now at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law! If it were easy for you to believe in, it would not be the Buddha's true teaching.
Question: The passages from the Lotus Sutra and the explanations by T'ien- t'ai, Chang-an and others which you have cited are free from obscurities and doubtful points. But you seem to be saying that fire is water, or that black is white. Although they may be the teachings of the Buddha, I find it difficult to accept them. Now I look repeatedly at people's faces, but I see only the world of Humanity. I do not see the other worlds. And the same is true when I look at my own face. How am I to believe in the Ten Worlds?
Answer: When we look from time to time at a person's face, we find him sometimes joyful, sometimes enraged, and sometimes calm. At times greed appears in the person's face, at times foolishness, and at times perversity. Rage is the world of Hell, greed is that of Hunger, foolishness is that of Animality, perversity is that of Anger, joy is that of Rapture, and calmness is that of Humanity. These worlds, the six paths, are present in the physical appearance of the person's face. The remaining four noble worlds are hidden and dormant and do not appear in the face, but if we search carefully, we can tell that they are there.
Question: Although I am not entirely certain about the six paths, it would appear from what you have said that we possess them. But what about the four noble worlds which cannot be seen at all?
Answer: Earlier you doubted that the six lower worlds exist within Humanity, but when I illustrated the point through an analogy, you understood. Perhaps it will be the same with the four noble worlds. I will try to employ reasoning to explain a little bit about the matter. The fact that all things in this world are transient is perfectly clear to us. Is this not because the worlds of the two vehicles are present in the world of Humanity? Even a heartless villain loves his wife and children. He too has a portion of the Bodhisattva world within him. Buddhahood is the most difficult to demonstrate. But since you possess the other nine worlds, you should believe that you have Buddhahood as well. Do not permit yourself to have doubts. The Lotus Sutra, explaining the world of Humanity, says that "[the Buddhas appear in this world] to open the door of Buddha-wisdom to all beings." The Nirvana Sutra states: "Those who study the Mahayana teachings, though they have the eyes of ordinary mortals, are said to have 'the eyes of a Buddha.'" That common mortals born in the Latter Day of the Law can believe in the Lotus Sutra is due to the fact that the world of Buddhahood is present in the world of Humanity.
Question: The Buddha clearly explained that each of the Ten Worlds has the same Ten Worlds within itself. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to believe that our base hearts could possess the world of Buddhahood. If I cannot believe it, I will become a person of incorrigible disbelief. With your great compassion, please help me to believe and save me from the torture of the hell of incessant suffering.
Answer: You have already seen and heard the sutra passages concerning "the one great reason" [why the Buddhas appear in this world]. If you still do not believe, then how can anyone, from Shakyamuni on down to the four ranks of bodhisattvas or we common mortals who have yet to attain Buddhahood, save you from disbelief? Nevertheless, I will try to explain. After all, there were some who could not attain enlightenment through the direct teachings of the Buddha, but were able to do so later through the preaching of Ananda and the other disciples.
People can attain Buddhahood in two ways: By meeting the Buddha and hearing the Lotus Sutra, or by believing in the sutra even though they do not meet the Buddha. Even before the advent of the Buddha some Brahmans in India came to the correct view of life through the Vedas. In China before the arrival of Buddhism, some had attained the correct view through Taoism and Confucianism. Many wise bodhisattvas and common mortals perceived that the Buddha had planted the seed of Buddhahood within them in the remote past [of sanzen-jintengo before they heard the Lotus Sutra]. They understood this by hearing the provisional Mahayana sutras of the Kegon, Hodo, and Hannya periods. They are like pratyekabuddhas [who could perceive the impermanence of life in the sight of] scattering blossoms or falling leaves. These, then, are the type of people who came to understand the truth through teachings other than the Lotus Sutra.
But many did not receive the seed of Buddhahood in their past existences and cling to Hinayana or provisional Mahayana teachings, and even if they are fortunate enough to encounter the Lotus Sutra, they cannot advance beyond their Hinayana or provisional Mahayana views. They are convinced that their own views are correct, and as a result they place the Lotus Sutra on the same level with the Hinayana sutras or provisional Mahayana sutras such as the Kegon and Dainichi. Some even regard the Lotus Sutra as subordinate to these. Such teachers are inferior to the sages of Confucianism and Brahmanism.
But let us put this question aside for the moment. The mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is as difficult to believe as fire existing in a stone or flowers within a tree. Yet under the right conditions such phenomena actually occur and can be believed. To believe that Buddhahood exists within Humanity is the most difficult thing of all -- as difficult as believing that fire exists in water or water in fire. Nevertheless, the dragon is said to produce fire from water and water from fire, and although people do not understand why, they believe it when they see it occur. Since you now believe that Humanity contains the other eight worlds from Hell to Bodhisattva, why are you still unable to include Buddhahood? The Chinese sage-kings Yao and Shun were impartial toward all people. They perceived one aspect of Buddhahood within Humanity. Bodhisattva Fukyo saw the Buddha in everyone he met, and Prince Siddhartha was a man who became a Buddha. These examples should help you to believe.
Note: The teaching that follows must be kept in strictest secrecy.
Question: Shakyamuni, the lord of doctrine, is the Buddha who has destroyed all the three illusions. He is the sovereign of all sentient beings in the entire universe -- kings, bodhisattvas, people of the two vehicles, common mortals and heavenly beings. Whenever the Buddha moves, Bonten attends him on the left and Taishaku on the right. Priests and nuns, laymen and laywomen, as well as the eight kinds of lowly beings who protect Buddhism, follow behind, while the Kongo gods march in the vanguard. With his eighty thousand teachings he leads all people to enlightenment. How could such a great Buddha dwell in the hearts of us common mortals?
Both the teachings before the Lotus Sutra and the first half of the Lotus Sutra itself tell us that Lord Shakyamuni attained his enlightenment for the first time in this world. Searching into those passages for the cause of his enlightenment, we find that he practiced bodhisattva austerities in past existences as Prince Nose, Bodhisattva Judo, King Shibi, and Prince Satta. The Buddha practiced the bodhisattva austerities for the unimaginably long period [described in the teachings of zokyo, tsugyo, bekkyo and engyo. The first half of the Lotus Sutra, for example, states that] he continued practicing for as long as sanzen- jintengo. During that long period the Buddha served as many as seventy-five, seventy-six or seventy-seven thousand Buddhas and finishing his practice, he became Shakyamuni Buddha in this life. Are you saying that each of us has a world of Bodhisattva within, which is endowed with all the blessings Shakyamuni attained as a result of his practice?
Again, looking into these teachings to find the results of his practice, we see that Shakyamuni Buddha's original enlightenment occurred in this life. For more than forty years the Buddha revealed himself in four different ways in four kinds of teachings, and with them he was able to give benefit to all people by expounding the provisional and theoretical teachings.
When he preached the Kegon Sutra, the Buddha appeared as Vairochana Buddha seated in the center of a lotus flower with one thousand petals. When he expounded the Agon sutras, he appeared as a Buddha who had eliminated all illusions by practicing thirty-four kinds of spiritual purification. When he preached the Hodo sutras, he was accompanied by a great multitude of Buddhas. Ten thousand Buddhas joined him when he expounded the Hannya sutras. In the Dainichi and Kongocho sutras, he made a dignified appearance as five hundred and seven hundred Buddhas and bodhisattvas respectively. In Chapter Eleven of the Lotus Sutra the Buddha manifested himself in four different ways as he transformed the land three times. When the Buddha expounded the Nirvana Sutra, those assembled saw him variously as the Buddha of the zokyo, tsugyo, bekkyo or engyo teachings. When the Buddha entered nirvana at the age of eighty, he left his relics and teachings to benefit people in the Former, Middle, and Latter Days of the Law.
Now, the essential teaching says that Shakyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood in the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo, and it describes the various austerities that made this possible. Since then he has the various austerities that made this possible. Since then he has manifested himself in many different ways throughout the universe and preached all the teachings of Buddhism to lead infinite numbers to enlightenment. Incomparably more people have been enlightened through the essential teaching than through the theoretical one. The former is like the ocean and the latter, a drop of water, the one great mountain and the other a speck of dust.
What is more, a bodhisattva of the essential teaching is far superior to any bodhisattva of the theoretical, including Monju, Kannon or any other in the universe. The difference between them is even greater than that between Taishaku and a monkey.
Are you saying that besides these bodhisattvas, all beings and all things in the universe are inherent in the Ten Worlds and the three thousand realms of our own lives? Do the people of the two vehicles who became arhats by destroying their illusions, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, the Four Wheel-Rolling Kings, the great flames of the hell of incessant suffering all exist within us? Even if you say this is what the Buddha taught, I still cannot believe it.
When we consider it, the teachings that came before the Lotus Sutra must be genuine in both substance and wording. The Kegon Sutra describes the Buddha as "perfect and free from all falsehood and defilement like the empty sky." A passage of the Ninno Sutra reads: "One can penetrate the ultimate source of delusion and extirpate his benighted nature until nothing but perfect wisdom remains." In the Kongo Hannya Sutra it says: "[When one attains enlightenment,] nothing but pure goodness will remain within him."Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha states in the Daijo Kishin-ron (Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana): "Only pure blessings exist within his Buddha nature. Bodhisattva Vasubandhu remarks in his Yuishiki-ron (The Consciousness-Only Doctrine): "When a bodhisattva advances to the final stage of practice, with adamantine meditation he extinguishes all remaining seeds of desire and casts away imperfect wisdom, thereby developing the ultimate consciousness of total purity and perfection."
The Lotus Sutra is only one, while the sutras taught before it are innumerable. And the older ones have been taught over a longer period than the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, if they contradict the Lotus Sutra, you should accept the older sutras. Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha was the Buddha's eleventh successor, whose appearance had been foretold in the sutras. Bodhisattva Vasubandhu was one of the greatest bodhisattvas who ever lived and the author of one-thousand treaties. How then can you believe the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, a lowly priest living far away from the birthplace of Buddhism who interpreted the sutras but did not write a single treatise?
Still, I might be able to disregard the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and accept the Lotus Sutra if it said anything to prove this point. But where in the sutra can you find any passages that definitely verify the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, one thousand factors and the three thousand realms of life? Even in Chapter Two of the Lotus Sutra we find the following passage: "The Buddha has eliminated all evils of life." Neither Vasubandhu's Hokke-ron (Treatise on the Lotus Sutra) nor Bodhisattva Sthiramati's Hosho-ron (On the Treasure Vehicle of Buddhahood) makes any mention of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.
Nor are there any writings by the great Buddhists of northern and southern China, or by the priests of the seven temples of Japan, that expound this principle. It is simply T'ien-t'ai's own biased view, and Dengyo made the mistake of transmitting it. That is what the National Teacher Ch'ing-liang meant when he said, "T'ien-t'ai's theory is wrong." Priest Hui- yuan said, "By defining Hinayana doctrines as zokyo teachings, T'ien-t'ai has confused Hinayana and Mahayana." Ryoko criticized him, saying: "T'ien-t'ai is the only one who did not understand the true meaning of the Kegon Sutra." Tokuichi reproached him, saying: "See here, Chih-i, whose disciple are you! With a tongue less than three inches long you slander the teachings that come from the Buddha's long broad tongue!" Kobo Daishi commented: "Chinese priests of various sects vied with one another to steal the ghee of the Kegon Sutra, calling it their own doctrine." Thus, the doctrine of ichinen sanzen is not mentioned in either the provisional or the true teachings. It did not appear in the writings of any of the great Indian scholars, and no Chinese or Japanese priest has ever espoused it. How then do you dare to believe it?
Answer: Your criticisms are harsh. The difference between the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras must be determined by what the sutras themselves say. In them we find statements that the Buddha did not reveal the truth in the first forty-two years of his teaching and that he would reveal it in the Lotus Sutra.
Taho and all the other Buddhas throughout the universe presented themselves to testify to the truth of the Lotus Sutra, testimony that they did not give for any other sutra. With the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni enabled the people of the two vehicles to attain Buddhahood, whereas with the earlier sutras he did not. In the earlier sutras he stated that he attained enlightenment for the first time in this world, but in the Lotus Sutra he revealed that his enlightenment was actually in the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo.
I will now explore the problem posed by the scholars you mentioned above. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai comments: "Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna clearly perceived the truth in their hearts, but they did not teach it. Instead, they preached the provisional Mahayana teachings, which were suited to their times. However, the Buddhist teachers who came later were biased in their understanding, and the scholars obstinately clung to their own views, until in the end they began to battle with one another. Each defended one small corner of the teachings and thereby completely departed from the true way of the Buddha." The Great Teacher Chang-an says of T'ien-t'ai, "Even the great masters of India were not in a class with him, and the Chinese scholars -- well, one need hardly mention them. This is no idle boast -- the doctrine he taught was indeed of such excellence."
In their hearts Vasubandhu, Nagarjuna, Ashvaghosha, Sthiramati and other Buddhist scholars knew [the truth of ichinen sanzen], but they did not reveal it to others because the time for it to be expounded had not yet come. As for the Buddhist teachers in China who preceded T'ien-t'ai, some kept this treasure in their hearts and others knew nothing about it. Among those who followed him, some accepted [ichinen sanzen] only after first trying to disprove it, and others never accepted it at all.
As regards to the passage in the Hoben chapter that you quoted, "The Buddha has eliminated all evils of life," Here the Buddha is referring to a teaching from one of the earlier sutras. But when you take a closer look at the sutra, it becomes clear that the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is being explained. For in the same chapter, this passage occurs: "The Buddhas appear in this world to open the door of Buddha-wisdom to all beings."T'ien-t'ai comments on this passage as follows: "If people do not possess innate Buddha-wisdom within them, how could the Buddha say he wanted to develop it? One must understand that the Buddha-wisdom is latent in all human beings." Chang-an [cites a parable to illustrate this and] concludes: "How could people realize their Buddha-wisdom if it did not exist within them? How could the poor widow discover her treasure if it had not been in the storehouse?"
It is, however, extremely difficult to convince you that the Lord Buddha exists within us, as do the nine worlds from Hell to Bodhisattva. In Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sutra he gives us this admonishment: "Among all the sutras I have preached, now preach, and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." The "six difficult and nine easy acts" He expounded in the next chapter emphasize the difficulty. Hence T'ien-t'ai states: "Because the theoretical and essential teachings [of the Lotus Sutra] contradict all the earlier sutras, they are extremely difficult to believe and difficult to understand -- no less difficult than facing an enemy who is armed with a spear."Chang-an comments: "The Buddha intended these as his ultimate teachings. How could they ever be easy to understand?" The Great Teacher Dengyo remarks: "The Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and to understand because in it the Buddha directly revealed what he had attained."
In the first eighteen hundred years after the Buddha's entry into nirvana, only three persons perceived the True Law. They are Shakyamuni of India, the Great teacher T'ien-t'ai of China, and the Great Teacher Dengyo of Japan. These three men are all Buddhist sages.
Question: What about Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu?
Answer: Those sages knew, but did not expound it. They expounded part of the theoretical teaching, but did not teach either the essential teaching or the truth of the Buddha's enlightenment it contains. Perhaps the people in their age were capable of believing it, but the time was not ripe to expound it. Or perhaps neither the people nor the time was appropriate.
After the advent of T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo, many Buddhists learned of ichinen sanzen through the wisdom of these two sages. They included Chia-hsiang of the Sanron sect; more than one hundred priests of the southern and northern sects of China; Fa- ts'ang and Ch'ing-liang of the Kegon sect; Hsuan-tsang and Tz'u-en of the Hosso sect; Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung of the Shingon sect; and Tao-hsuan of the Ritsu sect. At first they all opposed T'ien-t'ai, but later totally accepted his teachings.
Now, to dispel the grave doubts you have about the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, I refer you to the Muryogi Sutra, which states: "Suppose a baby is born to a king and queen. He may be only a day, two days or seven days old; a month, two months or seven months old; a year, two years or seven years old. He cannot yet administer the affairs of state, but already he is honored and respected by all the nation's subjects and ministers and has as his companions the sons of other rulers. The royal parents love him without reserve and always talk with him, for he is still very young.
"Men of devout faith, one who embraces this sutra is like the young prince. The various Buddhas can be likened to the king and this sutra to the queen. They give birth to a bodhisattva, their child. Suppose the bodhisattva listens to and accepts the sutra. If he recites even one phrase or a verse, or reads even a few lines of it or preaches it one, two, ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, or countless times, though he cannot yet grasp the full truth of it, already he will be revered by the four kinds of believers and the eight kinds of other lowly beings, he will be attended by great bodhisattvas, and continually receive the unreserved protection and compassion of all Buddhas. This is because he is still new to the faith."
The Fugen Sutra says: "This Mahayana sutra is the treasure, the eye and the seed of life for all Buddhas in the universe throughout the past, present and future... You should exert yourself in practice and never let the seed of Buddhahood die out." It also declares: "This all-embracing sutra is the eye of all Buddhas because through its teachings they become endowed with the five types of vision. Since the three enlightened properties of the Buddha's life arise from the sutra, it is the seal of ultimate truth which assures entry into the ocean of nirvana. A Buddha's three pure properties come from this vast ocean and become the fertile field of good fortune for all human and heavenly beings."
Now we should go on to survey the entire range of the Buddha's teaching, the exoteric and esoteric, as well as Hinayana and Mahayana, specifically the sutras upon which each denomination, Kegon, Shingon, etc., depends for its doctrine. For example, the Kegon Sutra describes Vairochana Buddha seated in the center of a thousand-petaled lotus flower; the Daijuku Sutra, a cloud of Buddhas who gathered from all over the universe; the Hannya Sutra, the emergence of one thousand Buddhas; and the Dainichi and Kongocho sutras depict more than twelve hundred Buddhas and bodhisattvas. All these Buddhas are but temporary manifestations of the original Buddha. These sutras all reveal the practices of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Buddhahood he attained in this life, but they do not reveal the original cause for his enlightenment in the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo.
It is true that the immediate attainment of Buddhahood is revealed in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, but they do not mention Shakyamuni Buddha teaching his disciples in the remote past of sanzen-jintengo and gohyaku-jintengo. Therefore, there is no revelation of when the Buddha started teaching or when he finished. The Kegon Sutra seems to belong to the higher two and the Dainichi Sutra to all of the four teachings -- zokyo, tsugyo, bekkyo and engyo -- but these sutras actually fall into the category of zokyo and tsugyo, the two lower teachings, because they do not expound the three requisites for Buddhahood: Innate Buddha nature, the potential to realize it, and the cause that makes the Buddha nature develop. Then how can we define these sutras as the seed of enlightenment?
The translators of the new versions of the sutras learned about T'ien-t'ai's teaching of ichinen sanzen when they returned to China. When they translated Sanskrit sutras into Chinese, some put T'ien-t'ai's principle into their translations, and others claimed that the originals they had brought back from India already contained it. Some of the scholars of the T'ien-t'ai sect were simply pleased that other sects expounded the same doctrine as theirs, while others praised the Buddhism of India and slighted that of China, or discarded their original doctrines and adopted new ones. These scholars yielded to their devilish nature and stupidity. However, without ichinen sanzen, the seed of enlightenment, sentient beings cannot attain enlightenment, and any statue or image would be an object of worship in name alone.
Question: You have not yet fully answered my question about the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.
Answer: The Muryogi Sutra states: "[If you embrace this sutra,] you will naturally receive the benefits of the six paramitas without having to practice them." The Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra says: "They wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment."The Nirvana Sutra states: "Sad indicates perfect endowment."Bodhisattva Nagarjuna comments: "Sad signifies 'six.'" The Daijo Shiron Gengi Ki (Annotation of the Four Mahayana Theses) states: "Sad connotes six. In India the number six implies perfect endowment."In his annotation of the Lotus Sutra, Chia-hsiang writes, "Sad means perfect endowment." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai remarks: "Sad is a Sanskrit word, which is translated as myo." An arbitrary interpretation of these quotations may distort their meaning, but in essence they mean that Shakyamuni's practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the single phrase, Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in that phrase, we shall naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.
With full understanding of Shakyamuni's teachings, the four great men of Learning said: "We have gained the supreme cluster of jewels when we least expected it." They represent the world of Learning that is within ourselves. The Hoben chapter states: "At the start I pledged to make all people perfectly equal to me, without any distinction between us. By now the original vows that I made have already been fulfilled. I have led all the people on the path of Buddhahood." The enlightened life of Shakyamuni Buddha is our own flesh and blood. His practices and resulting virtues are our bones and marrow. Chapter Eleven of the Lotus Sutra says: "Those who choose to protect this sutra serve Taho Buddha and me..... They also serve all other Buddhas present who dignify and glorify all the worlds." Shakyamuni, Taho, and all the other Buddhas in the ten directions represent the world of Buddhahood within ourselves. By searching them out within us, we can receive the benefits of Shakyamuni, Taho, and all the other Buddhas. This is what is meant by the following passage in Chapter Ten: "If one hears the Law for even a single moment, he will be able to attain perfect enlightenment."
The Juryo chapter reads: "The time is limitless and boundless -- a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand nayuta aeons -- since I in fact attained Buddhahood." Present within our lives is the Lord Shakyamuni who obtained the three enlightened properties of life before gohyaku-jintengo, the original Buddha since time without beginning. The Juryo chapter states: "Once I also practiced the bodhisattva austerities and the life which I then acquired has yet to be exhausted. My life will last yet twice as many aeons from now." He was speaking of the world of Bodhisattva within ourselves. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are the followers of Lord Shakyamuni in our lives. They follow the Buddha just as T'ai-kung and Tan, the Duke of Chou served as ministers to King Wu of the Chou dynasty and later assisted his son, and successor, the infant King Ch'eng; or just as Takeshiuchi served Empress Jingu and later her grandson Crown Prince Nintoku as a highly valued minister. Bodhisattvas Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo and Anryugyo represent the world of Bodhisattva within our lives. The Great Teacher Miao-lo declares: "You should realize that our life and its environment are the entity of ichinen sanzen. When we attain Buddhahood, according to this principle, our life pervades the entire universe both physically and spiritually."
Shakyamuni revealed in the Kegon Sutra the world within the lotus flower at Buddh Gaya where he attained enlightenment. In the more than fifty years until he died in the Sala grove, Shakyamuni Buddha preached the Pure Land of Dainichi Buddha in the Mitsugon Sutra, three times purified countless lands in the universe when he preached the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and expounded four kinds of lands in the Nirvana Sutra -- the Land of Enlightened and Unenlightened Beings as well as the Land of Transition, Actual Reward, and Eternal Light. All these lands as well as the Pure Land of Amida Buddha and the Emerald Land of Yakushi Buddha are in constant flux - - growth, stability, decline and ku. When the Lord Buddha, Shakyamuni, enters nirvana, all the other Buddhas and their lands also pass away with him.
The saha world Shakyamuni revealed in the Juryo chapter is the eternal pure land, impervious to the three calamities and the four cycles of change. In this world the Buddha is eternal, transcending birth and death, and his disciples are also eternal. That is why the three thousand worlds or the three realms of existence are within our own lives. The Buddha did not reveal this truth in the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra because the time was not right and he found his disciples not yet able to grasp the truth.
Shakyamuni Buddha did not transmit Nam-myoho- renge-kyo, the heart of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, even to Bodhisattvas Monju and Yakuo, let alone to any lesser bodhisattva. He transferred it only to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, summoning them and preaching the eight core chapters -- from the fifteenth to the twenty-second chapter -- of the Lotus Sutra.
The true object of worship is described in the ceremony of the transmission as follows:
In the air above the saha world [which the Buddha of the essential teaching identified as the pure and eternal land], Nam-myoho-renge-kyo appears in the center of the Treasure Tower with Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas seated to the right and left, and the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth, led by Jogyo, flank them. Around them are Monju, Miroku and the other followers of the Four Bodhisattvas. All the other bodhisattvas, whether they are disciples of the Buddha of the theoretical teaching or of the Buddhas of the other worlds, take their seats further below, like commoners kneeling on the ground in the presence of nobles and high ministers. The Buddhas who gathered from the other worlds in the ten directions of the universe all remain on the ground, showing that they are only manifestations of the eternal Buddha and that their lands are transient, not eternal and unchanging.
During the entire fifty years of Shakyamuni's teaching, only in the last eight years did he preach the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra. Again, of all these chapters, only in the eight vital chapters did he reveal and transfer the object of worship to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. During the two millennia of the Former and Middle Days of the Law, statues were made showing Mahakashyapa and Ananda flanking Shakyamuni Buddha as he preached Hinayana, and Monju and Fugen flanking Shakyamuni Buddha as he preached the provisional Mahayana, the Nirvana Sutra and the theoretical teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
Even though statues and images were made of Shakyamuni Buddha during the two millennia, no image or statue was made of the Buddha of the Juryo chapter. Only in the Latter Day of the Law shall the representation of that Buddha appear.
Question: During the two millennia of the Former and Middle Days of the Law the great Bodhisattvas and teachers constructed images of Shakyamuni Buddha preaching Hinayana, provisional Mahayana or the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra and built temples for them. However, no one in India, China and Japan, neither their kings nor subjects, revered the object of worship revealed in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching. Although I think I understand in general what you are saying, I have never heard such a thing before and I therefore find it startling to my ears and perplexing to my mind. Will you explain it to me in greater detail?
Answer: All the teachings Shakyamuni expounded -- the provisional teachings in the first four of the five periods and the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra in the last period -- make an unbroken series of teachings like one perfect sutra. [These can be divided into three parts -- preparation, revelation and transmission.] Preparation covers the part from the Kegon Sutra, his first preaching at Buddh Gaya, to the Hannya sutras; revelation includes the Muryogi Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Fugen Sutra (ten volumes in all); and transmission indicates the Nirvana Sutra. The second part can also be classified into three. The Muryogi Sutra and the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra are preparation. Revelation begins with the Hoben (second) chapter and ends with the nineteen line verse of the Funbetsu Kudoku (seventeenth) chapter. Transmission includes the rest of the Lotus Sutra -- from the section clarifying the four stages of faith -- and the Fugen Sutra.
We can divide the ten volumes of the Muryogi Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, and the Fugen Sutra into two parts: Theoretical and essential. In the theoretical teaching, preparation indicates the Muryogi Sutra and the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, revelation is the Hoben (second) chapter through the Ninki (ninth) chapter, and transmission includes the tenth to the fourteenth chapters. The Buddha of the theoretical teaching declared that he first attained Buddhahood in this life. He revealed the hundred worlds and the thousand factors inherent in life, though he did not go on to expound their eternal nature. Since the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra thus reveals a part of the Buddha's own enlightenment, it excels all the other sutras and is difficult to believe and difficult to understand.
Herein the first relationship between Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples can be traced back to the time when he was the sixteenth son of Daitsu Buddha. At that time he first planted the seed of Buddhahood in their lives. In Shakyamuni's lifetime only a few of them could discover the seed when they heard the Kegon Sutra and the other teachings of the first four periods. This was not, however, the Buddha's true intention. Their discovery through these teachings was as rare as curing an illness with poison. Common mortals and the people of the two vehicles were led gradually to the Lotus Sutra through the teachings of the first four periods. They then discovered the seed of Buddhahood within themselves and were able to obtain the fruit of enlightenment.
There were people of Humanity and Heaven who took faith in the eight chapters for the first time in Shakyamuni's days. Some took the seed into their lives by listening to a single phrase or verse from among the eight chapters. Others nurtured and harvested the seed they received, and still others obtained the fruit of enlightenment when they came to the Fugen and Nirvana sutras. There were also some who obtained the same fruit through Hinayana and provisional Mahayana teachings when they appeared later in the Former, Middle and Latter Days of the Law. These last are like the disciples in Shakyamuni's lifetime who discovered the seed of Buddhahood through the teachings of the first four periods.
Preparation, revelation and transmission are also represented in the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, especially in the latter fourteen chapters. Preparation is the first half of the Yujutsu (fifteenth) chapter. Revelation includes the latter half of this chapter, the Juryo chapter, and the first half of the Funbetsu Kudoku (seventeenth) chapter -- one chapter and two halves. Transmission includes the rest. The Buddha of the essential teaching denied that he first attained Buddhahood in this life. The difference between the theoretical and essential teachings is as great as that between heaven and earth.
The latter revealed the eternity of the Ten Worlds and, further, the True Land. The theoretical teaching, the teachings of the first four periods, the Muryogi Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra were all preached according to the capacities of the people. They are, therefore, easy to believe and easy to understand. In contrast, the essential teaching reveals the Buddha's own enlightenment, and therefore, is difficult to believe and difficult to understand. However, even the difference between ichinen sanzen of the theoretical and of the essential teachings pales into insignificance before the ultimate principle hidden within the Lotus Sutra.
True Buddhism also has its preparation, revelation, and transmission. Shakyamuni Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra in his life as the sixteenth son of Daitsu Buddha. When he appeared as Shakyamuni he also expounded teachings for fifty years, including the Kegon Sutra, the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra. All these sutras as well as the innumerable teachings of all the other Buddhas in the universe are preparation for revealing the heart of the Juryo chapter.
All the teachings other than "one chapter and two halves" Of true Buddhism are Hinayana in nature and heretical. Not only do they fail to lead to enlightenment, but they also lack the truth. Those who believe in them are of slight virtue, bound by illusion, ignorant, unfortunate, solitary and like birds and beasts which do not appreciate their parents' love.
The first half of the Lotus Sutra and the sutras preceding it teach that one can attain Buddhahood, but even they are not the true cause for Buddhahood. Much less so are teachings of a Hinayana nature such as the Dainichi Sutra. It is out of the question to think that the scholars and priests of the seven sects, including Kegon and Shingon, preach the true cause for attaining Buddhahood.
These inferior sutras seem to fall within the zokyo, tsugyo, and bekkyo teachings, but actually they are no better than the lowest two. They maintain that their doctrines are incomparably profound, although nowhere do they clarify when the Buddha planted the seed of Buddhahood, or when he nurtured and reaped it. These doctrines are no different from Hinayana which demands that one reduce his body to ashes and annihilate his consciousness, for they do not reveal when the Buddha started teaching and when he finished. If a queen should conceive by a slave, her baby would be nothing but an outcast.
The second through the ninth chapters of the theoretical teaching seem to have been expounded for the sake of the people of the two vehicles rather than for the common people and bodhisattvas in Shakyamuni's lifetime. From a more profound viewpoint, they are intended for the common people after the Buddha's passing -- in the Former, Middle and Latter Days of the Law -- and in particular, for the common people in the beginning of the Latter Day.
Question: On what authority do you say so?
Answer: Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sutra states: "Since hatred and jealously abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" Chapter Eleven states: "The Buddha wishes his true teachings to be maintained eternally....All the other Buddhas assembled should realize that this is the Buddha's will." Examine what the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters state about the future. The theoretical teaching was preached for the people after the Buddha's passing.
As regards the essential teaching, it was addressed exclusively to the people early in the Latter Day of the Law. On the surface the Buddha seems to have preached this teaching for the salvation of the people of his day; he planted the seed of Buddhahood in their lives in the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo and nurtured it through his preaching as the sixteenth son of Daitsu Buddha in sanzen-jintengo and through the teachings of the first four periods and the theoretical teaching in this life. Then he finally brought his followers to full enlightenment, from togaku to myokaku, with the essential teaching.
In actuality, however, the essential teaching bears no resemblance whatsoever to the theoretical teaching. Preparation, revelation, and transmission of the essential teaching are intended entirely for the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. The essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra and true Buddhism are both pure teachings that lead directly to Buddhahood. However, Shakyamuni's is the Buddhism of harvest, and this is the Buddhism of sowing. The core of his teaching is one chapter and two halves, and for me it is Myoho-renge-kyo alone.
Question: On what authority do you say that the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra was meant for the generation of the Latter Day of the Law?
Answer: The Yujutsu (fifteenth) chapter states: "More numerous than the sands of eight Ganges Rivers, bodhisattvas from other worlds arose in the great assembly. Palms pressed together in deep reverence, they bowed and said to the Buddha, 'Lord Buddha! Allow us to protect, read, recite, transcribe, and worship this sutra with diligence in the saha world after your passing. We vow to preach this sutra widely throughout the land.' Thereupon the Buddha said, 'Desist, men of devout faith! There is no need for you to protect this sutra.'" This statement totally contradicts the Buddha's exhortations in the preceding five chapters. In Chapter Eleven is the passage: "The Buddha addressed the four groups of believers in a loud voice, saying, 'Who among you will propagate the Lotus Sutra throughout the saha world?'"Bodhisattva Yakuo, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings would have followed Shakyamuni's command before anything else even if no other Buddha had supported his exhortations, but Taho and other Buddhas came to this world to exhort them to propagate the sutra after Shakyamuni's passing. Deeply encouraged, the bodhisattvas all pledged, saying, "We will not begrudge our lives," for their first and last wish was only to fulfill the Buddha's will.
However, in the Yujutsu chapter the Buddha suddenly seemed to reverse himself and forbade all the countless bodhisattvas from propagating the sutra in this world. We therefore face what appears to be an insoluble contradiction, one that is beyond ordinary understanding.
T'ien-t'ai gave three reasons for Shakyamuni's action in stopping the bodhisattvas and three more for the summoning of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Essentially, the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching and the bodhisattvas of the other worlds were not qualified to inherit Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the Juryo chapter, which only Nichiren has realized. At the dawn of the Latter Day evil people who slander the Law would fill the land, and so the Buddha rejected their pledge and instead summoned the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He entrusted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to them for the salvation of all mankind. The bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching were also unqualified because they were not the original disciples of the Buddha. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states in his Hokke Mongu: "The Buddha said to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, 'You are my true disciples, destined to propagate the law of my enlightenment.'" Miao-lo declares in the Hokke Mongu Ki: "When the sons disseminate the teachings of their father, they can save all people." Tao-hsien comments in his Fusho Ki: "Because the Law was expounded by the original Buddha, it was entrusted to his true disciples."
In the Yujutsu chapter Bodhisattva Miroku asked Shakyamuni Buddha: "We believe that none of the Buddha's teachings, no matter to whom they are directed, is false, and that his wisdom penetrates all. When bodhisattvas still immature in faith hear after your passing that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are the Buddha's original disciples, they will refuse to believe it and will eventually commit the grave sin of slandering the Buddha's law. Lord Buddha! We sincerely implore you to explain this and remove our doubt, so that men of devout faith who appear after the Buddha's passing will not lose themselves in doubt." Here Bodhisattva Miroku was imploring the Buddha to preach the Juryo chapter for those to come after his passing.
The Juryo chapter states: "Some are out of their minds, while others are not.... Those children who have not lost their senses can see that the beneficial medicine is good in both color and fragrance, so they take it immediately and are completely cured of their sickness."The sutra explains that all bodhisattvas, people of the two vehicles, and people of Humanity and Heaven received the seed of enlightenment at gohyaku-jintengo. It was nurtured by the preaching of the sixteenth son of Daitsu Buddha as well as by Shakyamuni Buddha's provisional sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Then they finally attained Buddhahood when they heard the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra.
The Juryo chapter continues: "Those who are out of their minds are equally delighted to see their father return and beg him to cure their sickness, but when they are given the medicine, they refuse to take it. This is because the poison has penetrated deeply, causing them to lose their true minds. Therefore they think that the medicine will not taste good in spite of its fine color and fragrance. Then father thinks, '..Now I must use some means to get them to take it.' So instructing them, he again goes off to another land, where he sends a messenger home to announce,..." According to the Funbetsu Kudoku (seventeenth) chapter, "the good medicine" Of the Juryo chapter is left for "those of the evil-filled Latter Day of the Law."
Question: Who is the messenger mentioned in the text?
Answer: It means the bearers of Buddhism. They fall into four categories. Most of the leaders of Hinayana appeared in the first five hundred years after the Buddha's passing, and most of those who taught provisional Mahayana came in the second five hundred years. The bearers of the theoretical teaching appeared mainly in the next thousand years, and the rest in the beginning of the Latter Day. The "messenger" In our times refers to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who will appear in the beginning of the Latter Day. "This good medicine" Is the heart of the Juryo chapter, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo -- its name, entity, quality, function and influence. The Buddha would not entrust this medicine even to the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching, much less to the bodhisattvas of other worlds.
The Jinriki (twenty-first) chapter states: "Thereupon in the presence of the Buddha the bodhisattvas equal in number to the dust particles of a thousand worlds who had sprung up from the earth, all with a single mind, pressed their palms together, gazed up reverently at his solemn countenance, and said to the Buddha, 'Honored One! After your passing we pledge to propagate this sutra throughout every land where your manifestations appear or where you pass into nirvana.'"T'ien-t'ai says: "The great assembly witnessed the Bodhisattvas of the Earth alone making this pledge." Tao-hsien remarks: "The Buddha transmitted this sutra solely to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Because the Law was expounded by the original Buddha, it was intrusted to his true disciples." Bodhisattva Monju is a disciple of Fudo Buddha, who dwells in Amida Buddha in the west. Bodhisattva Kannon is a disciple of Nichigatsu Jomyotoku Buddha. Bodhisattva Fugen is a disciple of Hoi Buddha. They were not entrusted with the supreme law, so they could not possibly appear and propagate it in the Latter Day.
The Jinriki chapter states: "Shakyamuni Buddha demonstrated his great mystic powers to the entire assembly, extending his long broad tongue till it reached upward to the Brahma-heaven. All the other Buddhas seated on lion king thrones under jewel trees throughout the universe did the same, extending their long broad tongues." In no other sutra, whether Hinayana or Mahayana, exoteric or esoteric, is there a passage that describes Shakyamuni Buddha and all the other Buddhas extending their tongues to the Brahma-heaven. The Amida Sutra states that Buddhas covered a major world system with their tongues, but this is a mere assertion with no truth behind it. The Hannya Sutra tells how the Buddha's tongue covered the major world system and radiated infinite light when he expounded the Hannya. Yet this cannot compare with the proof given in the Jinriki chapter. Since these two sutras are mere provisional teachings, they obscured the Buddha's enlightenment in the remotest past.
After the Buddha displayed his ten great mystic powers described in the Jinriki chapter, he transferred the Mystic Law to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth: "At that time the Buddha addressed Jogyo and the host of other bodhisattvas, saying, 'The mystic powers of a Buddha are boundless, beyond imagination. Even if I were to exert all these powers for infinite aeons in explaining the great benefit of this sutra to ensure its propagation, I could never explain them fully. I have briefly described in this sutra all the laws of the Buddha, all the invincible mystic powers of the Buddha, all the secret storehouses of the Buddha and all the profound practices of the Buddha.'"T'ien-t'ai says: "This paragraph begins the third stage of the chapter, where the Buddha transfers the essence of his teachings to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth." Dengyo states: "The Jinriki chapter says, 'I have briefly described in this sutra all the laws of the Buddha...' In the Lotus Sutra the Buddha revealed all the laws, invincible mystic powers, secret storehouses and profound practices of his enlightenment." Demonstrating ten great mystic powers, the Buddha transferred Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Four Great Bodhisattvas, Jogyo, Anryugyo, Jyogyo and Muhengyo.
[T'ien-t'ai states that] the first five of the ten great mystic powers are meant for those living in Shakyamuni's lifetime, and the last five for the generations after his passing. But in a deeper sense all are intended for future generations. The Buddha confirms this later in the same chapter: "Because they [the Bodhisattvas of the Earth] will faithfully uphold this sutra after the Buddha's passing, all the Buddhas rejoice and display their limitless mystic powers."
The Zokurui (twenty-second) chapter states: "At this time Shakyamuni Buddha rose from his place of preaching, and displaying his great mystic powers, put his right hand on the heads of the infinite numbers of bodhisattvas, saying, 'I now transfer the supreme law of enlightenment to you.'"The Buddha passed the Law to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching, bodhisattvas of other worlds, Bonten, Taishaku, and the Four Heavenly Kings. Then "all the Buddhas, who had gathered from the ten directions of the universe, returned to their respective lands... And the Buddha ordered that the Treasure Tower of Taho Buddha return to its original place." After the Bodhisattvas of the Earth had departed, the Buddha urged all the remaining bodhisattvas to keep the teachings after his passing as he preached the last six chapters of the Lotus Sutra, the Fugen Sutra, and the Nirvana Sutra.
Question: Did the Bodhisattvas of the Earth then appear in this world during the two millennia of the Former and Middle Days of the Law to spread the Lotus Sutra?
Answer: No, they did not.
Question: Your answer comes as a surprise. If both the theoretical and the essential teachings of the Lotus Sutra are intended for those people living after the Buddha's demise, and the Buddha entrusted the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, why did they not appear during the first two millennia to spread the sutra?
Answer: I will not say.
Question: I am asking you again, what was the reason?
Answer: I will not disclose it.
Question: Once more, what is the reason?
Answer: If I disclose it, all will refuse to believe and, what is worse, will slander me, as in the Latter Day of Ionno Buddha. Even my own disciples would slander me if I tried to explain, so I can only keep silent.
Question: Nonetheless, I urge you to answer. Unless you do, you will be violating the Buddha's precept against concealing the truth.
Answer: Then since I have no choice, I will try to give you a brief explanation. The Hosshi (tenth) chapter states: "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" The Juryo chapter states: "I leave this good medicine here for you now." The Funbetsu Kudoku chapter speaks of "the evil-filled Latter Day of the Law."The Yakuo chapter says: "During the last half-millennium after my death the Lotus Sutra will spread widely throughout the world." In the Nirvana Sutra occurs a passage which reads: "Suppose that a couple has seven children, one of whom falls ill. Although the parents love all their children equally, they worry most about the sick child."
These passages are a crystal mirror of the Buddha's will. They show that the Buddha did not appear for the sake of those present during the eight years when he revealed the Lotus Sutra at Eagle Peak, but for people like us, those living in the beginning of the Latter Day, not for those who lived in the Former or Middle Day of the Law. "The sick child" mentioned in the Nirvana Sutra represents the slanderers of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day. The Buddha will now "leave this good medicine here" especially for those who "think that the medicine will not taste good in spite of its fine color and fragrance."
The Bodhisattvas of the Earth did not appear in the Former and Middle Days of the Law for good reason.
Hinayana and provisional Mahayana were spread in the first millennium because the time was not ripe for the true teaching and the people were not ready to embrace it. The great bodhisattvas in the Former Day led those who had taken faith in the Lotus Sutra during Shakyamuni's lifetime to attain enlightenment through Hinayana and provisional Mahayana teachings. If the Bodhisattvas of the Earth had spread the Lotus Sutra at that time instead of later, the people would have reviled it and thereby destroyed all the good fortune they had accumulated in Shakyamuni's lifetime. Therefore the bodhisattvas did not emerge then. People of the first millennium are like those in the Buddha's lifetime who gradually matured and attained enlightenment through his provisional teachings.
Late in the second millennium, Bodhisattva Kannon was reborn as Nan-yueh and Bodhisattva Yakuo as T'ien-t'ai. They openly preached the theoretical teaching and kept the essential teaching to themselves. T'ien-t'ai fully revealed the hundred worlds, the thousand factors, and the three thousand realms of life. They expounded the theoretical principles, but they did not put Nam-myoho-renge-kyo into actual practice or establish the true object of worship. The time was not right for propagation, although even then it was possible to attain Buddhahood through the Law.
Now, in the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, Hinayana adherents attack the doctrines of Mahayana, and provisional Mahayana believers denounce the true Mahayana teachings. East is mistaken for west, and heaven and earth are turned upside down. The great bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching are gone, and all the gods have deserted the country and no longer lend it protection.
At this very time the Bodhisattvas of the Earth appear in the world to give the medicine of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the ignorant people of the Latter Day. This is what Miao-lo means when he states: "Even if they revile the true teaching and fall into the evil paths, they create the causes for eventual attainment of Buddhahood."
You who are my disciples, take this to heart! The Bodhisattvas of the Earth were the first disciples of Lord Shakyamuni when he attained enlightenment in the remotest past, yet they were not faithful to him in India. They did not come to Buddh Gaya after he attained enlightenment, nor did they come to the Sala grove when he entered nirvana. They also failed to appear when the Buddha preached the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra, and they left the assembly when he preached the last six chapters. They only attended the Buddha when he expounded the first eight chapters of the essential teaching. Since such noble bodhisattvas received the Mystic Law and made a solemn oath to Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha, and all the other Buddhas, is it possible that they will not appear now at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law? Know this: In the time for shakubuku the Four Bodhisattvas appear as wise kings who rebuke and convert evil kings, and in the time for shoju they appear as priests to protect and spread true Buddhism.
Question: Does the Buddha predict their coming in the Latter Day?
Answer: The Yakuo chapter of the Lotus Sutra states that during the last half- millennium after the Buddha's death the Lotus Sutra will spread widely throughout the world. T'ien-t'ai predicts: "In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic Way shall spread and benefit mankind far into the future." Miao-lo states: "In the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law the Mystic Law will benefit mankind." The Great Teacher Dengyo declares, "The Former and Middle Days are almost over, and the Latter Day is near at hand."
This declaration conveys his regret that he was not born in the right time for propagation. Born in Japan, he foresaw the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, saying, "The propagation of the true teaching will begin in the age when the Middle Day of the Law ends and the Latter Day opens, in a land to the east of T'ang and to the west of Katsu, among people stained by the five impurities who live in a time of conflict. The sutra says: 'Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?' There is good reason for this statement."
"Conflict" refers to the present internal strife and imminent invasion from the western sea. Now is when the Bodhisattvas of the Earth will appear in this country and establish the supreme object of worship on the earth which depicts Shakyamuni Buddha of the essential teaching attending the true Buddha. This object of worship has never appeared in India or China. Its time had not come when Prince Shotoku in Japan constructed Shitenno-ji temple, so he could only make a statue of Amida, a Buddha in another world, as the object of worship. When Emperor Shomu erected Todai-ji temple, he made a statue of Vairochana Buddha as the object of worship but could not manifest the true meaning of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Dengyo almost revealed the truth of the sutra, but because the time had not yet come, he constructed a statue of Yakushi Buddha who dwells in an eastern realm of the universe, but he did not represent the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth in any form.
Thus, the revelation of the true object of worship has been entrusted only to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. They have been waiting for the right time to emerge from the earth and carry out the Lord Buddha's command. They did not appear in the Former or Middle Day. But if they did not appear in the Latter Day of the Law, their vows would be outright lies, and the prophecies of Shakyamuni, Taho, and the other Buddhas would be no more than froth on the waters.
We have recently experienced earthquakes, comets and other calamities such as never occurred in the Former or Middle Day. These signs could not be caused by garudas, ashuras or dragons; they must foretell the appearance of the Four Great Bodhisattvas. T'ien-t'ai states: "By observing the fury of the rain we can tell the greatness of the dragon that caused it, and by observing the flourishing of the lotus flowers we can tell the depth of the pond they grow in." Miao-lo says: "Wise men can see omens and what they foretell, as snakes know the way of snakes." When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, he understands the meaning of all worldly affairs.
Showing profound compassion for those ignorant of the gem of ichinen sanzen, the True Buddha wrapped it within the single phrase Nam- myoho-renge-kyo, with which he then adorned the necks of those living in the Latter Day. The four Great Bodhisattvas will protect anyone who embraces the Mystic Law as faithfully as T'ai-kung and the Duke of Chou protected King Wen, and as devotedly as the four white-haired elders served Emperor Hui.
The twenty-fifth day of the fourth month in the tenth year of Bun'ei (1273)
The Opening of the Eyes
The Opening of the Eyes
- Kaimoku Sho -
From this time forward, the great bodhisattvas as well as Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings became the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. Thus, in the Hoto chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha treats these great bodhisattvas as his disciples, admonishing and instructing them in these words: "So I say to the great assembly: After I have passed into extinction, who can guard and uphold, read and recite this sutra? Now in the presence of the Buddha let him come forward and speak his vow!" This was the solemn way he addressed them. Then, among the great bodhisattvas, it was "as though a great wind were tossing the branches of small trees." Like the kusha grass bending before a great wind or like rivers and streams drawn to the great ocean, so were they drawn to the Buddha.
But it was still a relatively short time since the Buddha had begun to preach the Lotus Sutra on Eagle Peak, and what he said seemed to his listeners dreamlike and unreal. The treasure tower had first appeared to confirm the correctness of the theoretical teaching in the first half of the Lotus Sutra, and after that the treasure tower prepared the way for the expounding of the essential teaching in the latter half. The Buddhas of the ten directions gathered in assembly, Shakyamuni Buddha announcing that all of these were emanations of his body. The treasure tower hung in the air, with Shakyamuni and Taho seated side by side in it, as though both the sun and the moon had appeared side by side in the blue sky. The great assembly of human and heavenly beings were ranged about the sky like stars, and the Buddhas who were emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha were on the ground, seated on their lion seats under jeweled trees.
In the Lotus Treasury World described in the Kegon Sutra, the Buddhas in their reward bodies all dwell in their separate lands. Buddhas of other worlds do not come to this world and call themselves emanations, [as happened in the case of the Lotus Sutra,] nor do Buddhas of this world go to other worlds. Only me and the other great bodhisattvas come and go.
As for the nine honored ones in the eight-petaled lotus and the thirty-seven honored ones, described in the Dainichi and Kongocho sutras, respectively, although they appear to be transformation bodies of the Buddha Mahavairochana, they are not Buddhas enlightened since the remote past or endowed with the three bodies.
The thousand Buddhas described in the Daibon hannya Sutra and the Buddhas of the six directions represented in the Amida Sutra never assembled in this world, [as did the Buddha’s emanations in the Lotus Sutra]. The Buddhas who assembled when the Daijuku Sutra was preached were not emanations of Shakyamuni. The four Buddhas of the four directions depicted in the Konkomyo Sutra are transformation bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Thus, in the various sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni does not assemble Buddhas who carry out different austerities and practices and who possess the three bodies, nor does he identify them as emanations of himself. [Only in the Hoto chapter of the Lotus Sutra does he do so.] This chapter, then, is intended as an introduction to the Juryo chapter that follows later. Shakyamuni Buddha who was believed to have attained enlightenment for the first time only some forty and more years previously, calls together Buddhas who had become enlightened as long ago as one or even ten kalpas in the past, and declares that they are emanations of himself. This is a far cry indeed from the Buddha’s usual preaching on the equality of all Buddhas [in their Dharma bodies], and in fact a cause of great astonishment. If Shakyamuni had attained enlightenment for the first time only some forty years earlier, there could hardly have been so many beings in the ten directions who had received his instruction. And even if he was privileged to possess emanations, there would have been no benefit in his showing them to his listeners. T’ien-t’ai, describing what went on in the astonished minds of the assembly, says: "It was evident to them that Shakyamuni Buddha possessed numerous emanations. Therefore they understood that he must have attained enlightenment in the far distant past."
In addition, the great bodhisattvas as numerous as the dust particles of a thousand worlds appeared, rising up out of the ground. Even Fugen and Monju, who had been regarded as the leading disciples of Shakyamuni, could not compare to them. The great bodhisattvas described in the assemblies in the sutras of the Kegon, Hodo and Hannya periods and the Hoto chapter of the Lotus Sutra, or Kongosatta and the others of the sixteen great bodhisattvas of the Dainichi [and Kongocho] sutras, when compared with these newly arrived bodhisattvas, seemed like a pack of apes or monkeys, with the new bodhisattvas appearing among them like so many Taishakus. It was as though great ministers of court should mingle with humble mountain folk. Even Miroku, who was to be the next Buddha after Shakyamuni, was perplexed by them, to say nothing of the lesser personages in the assembly.
Among these great bodhisattvas as numerous as the dust particles of a thousand worlds there were four great sages called Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jyogyo and Anryugyo. In the presence of these four, the other bodhisattvas suspended in the air or seated on Eagle Peak could not bear to gaze on them face to face or begin to fathom their dignity. Even the four bodhisattvas of the Kegon Sutra, the four bodhisattvas of the Dainichi Sutra or the sixteen great bodhisattvas of the Kongocho Sutra, when in the presence of these four, were like bleary-eyed men trying to peer at the sun, or like humble fishermen appearing in audience before the emperor. These four were like T’ai-kung Wang and the others of the four sages of ancient China, who towered above the multitude. They were like the Four White-Haired Elders of Mount Shang who assisted Emperor Hui. Solemn, dignified, they were beings of great and lofty stature. Aside from Shakyamuni, Taho and the emanations of Shakyamuni from the ten directions, they were worthy of being good friends upon whom all beings could rely.
Then Bodhisattva Miroku began to consider the matter in his mind. He said to himself, "Since Shakyamuni Buddha was a crown prince and during the forty-two years since he gained enlightenment at the age of thirty up until this gathering on Eagle Peak, I have known all the bodhisattvas of this world, and all the great bodhisattvas that have come from the worlds of the ten directions to attend the assemblies. Moreover, I have visited the pure and impure lands of the ten directions, sometimes as the Buddha’s emissary, at other times on my own initiative, and I have become acquainted with all the great bodhisattvas of those various lands. As for these great bodhisattvas who have appeared from the earth, what kind of Buddha is their teacher? Surely he must be a Buddha who is incomparably superior to Shakyamuni, Taho and the emanation Buddhas from the ten directions! From the fury of the rain, we can judge the greatness of the dragon that caused it to fall; from the size of the lotus flower, we can tell the depth of the pond that produced it. Now from what land did these great bodhisattvas come, what Buddha did they follow, and what great teaching have they practiced?"
Thus did Bodhisattva Miroku wonder to himself, becoming so puzzled that he was unable to utter a sound. But, perhaps through the Buddha’s power, he was at last able to put his doubts into words, saying:
Immeasurable thousands, ten thousands, millions,
a great host of bodhisattvas
such as was never seen in the past -
This host of bodhisattvas
with their great dignity, virtue and diligence -
who preached the Law for them,
who taught and converted them and brought them to this?
Under whom did they first set their minds on enlightenment,
what Buddha’s Law do they praise and proclaim?
World-Honored One, from times past
I have seen nothing like this!
I beg you to tell me where they come from,
the name of the land.
I have constantly journeyed from land to land
but never have I seen such a thing!
In this whole multitude
there is not one person that I know.
Suddenly they have come up from the earth —
I beg you to explain the cause.
[Paraphrasing Miroku’s statement,] T’ien-t’ai comments: "Since the time of the Buddha’s enlightenment at the place of meditation up until the present gathering, great bodhisattvas unceasingly came from the worlds in the ten directions to attend the various assemblies. Their numbers are unlimited, but I, with the wisdom and power appropriate to the next Buddha, have been able to see and know every single one of them. And yet among the newly arrived multitude, I do not know a single person-this in spite of the fact that I have traveled in the ten directions, have served the various Buddhas, and am well known among their audiences."
Miao-lo comments: "Wise men can perceive the cause of things, as snakes know the way of snakes."
The meaning of these passages of scripture and commentary is perfectly clear. In effect, from the time of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment up until the present assembly [on Eagle Peak], in this land and in all the lands of the ten directions Bodhisattva Miroku had never seen or heard of these bodhisattvas that came forth from the earth.
The Buddha, replying to Miroku’s doubts, said: "Ajita, these bodhisattvas ... whom you have never seen before in the past - when I had attained supreme perfect enlightenment in this saha world, I converted and guided these bodhisattvas, trained their minds and caused them to develop a longing for the Way."
He also said: "When I was in the vicinity of the city of Gaya, seated beneath the bodhi tree, I attained the highest, the correct enlightenment and turned the wheel of the unsurpassed Law. Thereafter I taught and converted them, caused them for the first time to set their minds on the way. Now all of them dwell in the stage of no regression ... Ever since the long distant past I have been teaching and converting this multitude."
But Miroku and the other great bodhisattvas were further perplexed by these words of the Buddha. When the Buddha preached the Kegon Sutra, Hoe and countless other great bodhisattvas appeared in the assembly. Miroku and the others wondered who they could be, but the Buddha said, "They are my good friends," and they thought this must be true. Later, when the Buddha preached [the Daijuku Sutra] at the Great Treasure Chamber and [the Daibon hannya Sutra] at the White Heron Lake, great bodhisattvas appeared in the assembly and Miroku and the others supposed that they too were good friends of the Buddha.
But these great bodhisattvas who had newly appeared out of the earth looked incomparably more venerable than those earlier bodhisattvas. One might conclude that they were the teachers of Shakyamuni Buddha, and yet the Buddha had "caused them for the first time to set their minds on the way," and, when they were still immature, had converted them and made them his disciples. It was this that Miroku and the others found so profoundly perplexing.
Prince Shotoku of Japan was the son of Emperor Yomei, the thirty-second sovereign. When he was six years old, elderly men came to Japan from the states of Paekche and Koguryo in Korea and from the land of China. The six-year-old prince thereupon exclaimed, "These are my disciples!" and the old men in turn pressed their palms together in reverence and said, "You are our teacher!" This was a strange happening indeed.
There is a similar story found in a secular work. According to this work, a man was walking along a road when he saw by the roadside a young man of about thirty who was beating an old man of about eighty. When he asked the reason, the young man replied, "This old man is my son."
Bodhisattva Miroku, continuing to doubt, said: "World Honored One, when the Thus Come One was crown prince, you left the palace of the Shakyas and sat in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya, and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment. Barely forty years or more have passed since then. World-Honored One, how in that short time could you have accomplished so much work as a Buddha?"
The various bodhisattvas who had attended the numerous assemblies held in the forty-some years since the Buddha preached the Kegon Sutra had raised doubts at each assembly, asking the Buddha to dispel these doubts for the benefit of the multitude. But this present doubt was the greatest doubt of all. It surpassed even the doubt entertained by Daishogon and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas described in the Muryogi Sutra when the Buddha, after declaring in the previous forty-some years of his teaching that enlightenment was something that required countless kalpas to attain, now announced that it could be attained quickly.
According to the Kammuryoju Sutra, King Ajatashatru, led astray by Devadatta, imprisoned his father and was on the point of killing his mother, Lady Vaidehi. Reprimanded by the court ministers Jivaka and Chandraprabha, however, he spared his mother’s life. At that time she begged that the Buddha appear to her and then she began by posing this question: "What offense have I committed in the past that I should have given birth to this evil son? And, World-Honored One, through what cause have you come to be related to a person as evil as your cousin Devadatta?"
Of the doubts raised here, the second is the more perplexing, the question of why the Buddha should be related to an evil person like Devadatta. A wheel-turning king, we are told, is never born into the world along with his enemies, nor is the god Taishaku to be found in the company of demons. The Buddha had been a merciful personage for countless kalpas. Yet the fact that Shakyamuni was born together with his archenemy might make one doubt whether he was indeed a Buddha at all. The Buddha, however, did not answer the question of Lady Vaidehi. Therefore, if one reads only the Kammuryoju Sutra and does not examine the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, one will never know the truth of the matter.
In the Nirvana Sutra, Bodhisattva Kashyapa posed thirty-six questions to the Buddha, but even these cannot compare to this question posed by Miroku. If the Buddha had failed to dispel Miroku’s doubts, the sacred teachings of his entire lifetime would have amounted to no more than froth on the water, and all living beings would have remained tangled in the snare of doubt. That was why it was so important for him to preach the Juryo chapter.
Later, when the Buddha preached the Juryo chapter, he said: "In all the worlds the heavenly and human beings and asuras all believe that the present Shakyamuni Buddha, after leaving the palace of the Shakyas, seated himself in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment." This passage expresses the view held by all the great bodhisattvas and the rest of the multitude from the time of the Buddha’s first preaching at the place of enlightenment until his preaching of the Anrakugyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra. "But, good men," the Buddha continued, "it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood."
In three places the Kegon Sutra says that the Buddha attained enlightenment for the first time in his present existence. In the Agon sutras he speaks of having attained the way for the first time in his present existence; the Vimalakirti Sutra states, "The Buddha first sat beneath the bodhi tree"; in the Daijuku Sutra, "It is sixteen years [since the Thus Come One first attained the way]"; in the Dainichi Sutra, "when I long ago sat in the place of meditation"; in the Ninno Sutra, "twenty-nine years [since his enlightenment]"; in the Muryogi Sutra, "In the past I sat upright in the place of meditation"; and in the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra, "I first sat in the place of meditation." But now all these passages have been exposed as gross falsehoods by this single pronouncement in the Juryo chapter.
When Shakyamuni Buddha revealed that he had gained enlightenment in the far distant past, it became apparent that all the other Buddhas were emanations of Shakyamuni. When the Buddha preached the earlier sutras and the first half, or theoretical teaching, of the Lotus Sutra, the other Buddhas were pictured as standing on an equal footing with Shakyamuni, after completing their respective practices and disciplines. Therefore the people who pay devotion to one or another of these Buddhas as the object of worship customarily look down on Shakyamuni Buddha. But now it becomes apparent that Vairochana Buddha, who is described in the Kegon Sutra as being seated on a lotus pedestal, and the various Buddhas who appear in the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods, such as the Dainichi Sutra, are all in fact followers of Shakyamuni Buddha.
When Shakyamuni Buddha attained the way at the age of thirty, he seized the saha world away from the heavenly king Daibonten and the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, who had ruled it previously, and made it his own. In the earlier sutras and the first half of the Lotus Sutra, he called the regions of the ten directions pure lands and spoke of the present world as an impure land. But now, in the Juryo chapter he has reversed this, revealing that this world is the true land and that the so-called pure lands of the ten directions are impure lands, mere provisional lands.
Since the Buddha [of the Juryo chapter] is revealed as the eternal Buddha [and all the other Buddhas as his emanations], it follows that not only the great bodhisattvas whom Shakyamuni himself taught in his transient status but the great bodhisattvas from other realms [who were taught by the Buddhas of their own realms] are also in fact disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. If, among all the numerous sutras, this Juryo chapter should be lacking, it would be as though there were no sun and moon in the sky, no supreme ruler in the nation, no gems in the mountains and rivers, and no spirit in human beings.
Nevertheless, Ch’eng-kuan, Chia-hsiang, Tz’u-en, Kobo and others, seemingly learned men of provisional sects such as Kegon and Shingon, in order to praise the various sutras upon which their provisional doctrines are based, go so far as to say, "The Buddha of the Kegon Sutra is the Buddha in his reward body, while the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is merely the Buddha in his manifested body." Or they say, "The Buddha of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra is in the region of darkness, while the Buddha of the Dainichi Sutra occupies the position of enlightenment."
As clouds obscure the moon, so calumnious ministers can obscure a man of true worth. A yellow stone, if people praise it, may be mistaken for a jewel, and ministers who are skilled in flattery may be mistaken for worthy men. In this impure age we live in, scholars and students are confused by the slanderous assertions of the kind of men I have mentioned above, and they do not appreciate the true worth of the jewel of the Juryo chapter. Even among the men of the Tendai sect there are those who have become so deluded that they cannot distinguish gold from mere stones.
One should consider the fact that, if the Buddha had not attained enlightenment in the distant past, there could not have been so many disciples who were converted and instructed by him. The moon is not selfish with its reflection, but if there is no water, then its reflection will not be seen. The Buddha may be very anxious to convert all people, but if the connection between them is not strong enough, then he cannot go through the eight phases of a Buddha’s existence. For example, the voice-hearers attained the first stage of security or the first stage of development but so long as they followed the teachings that preceded the Lotus Sutra and sought only to regulate and save themselves, they had to postpone the attainment of the eight phases of a Buddha’s existence to some future lifetime.
If Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, had attained enlightenment for the first time in his present existence, then when he preached the Lotus Sutra, Bonten Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings, though they had ruled over this world since the beginning of the kalpa of continuance, would have been disciples of the Buddha for no longer than forty-some years. These beings would then have established their connection with the Lotus Sutra for the first time during the eight years of preaching at Eagle Peak. They would thus have been like newcomers, unable to attach themselves unreservedly to their lord, and kept at a distance by those who had been present longer.
But now that it has become apparent that Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, then the bodhisattvas Nikko and Gakko, who attend the Thus Come One, Yakushi of the eastern region, the bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi, who attend the Thus Come One Amida of the western region, along with the disciples of all the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions and the great bodhisattvas who are disciples of the Thus Come One Mahavairochana as they are shown in the Dainichi and Kongocho sutras-all of these beings are disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. Since the various Buddhas themselves are emanations of the Thus Come One Shakyamuni, it goes without saying that their disciples must be disciples of Shakyamuni. And of course the various deities of the sun, moon and stars, who have dwelt in this world since the beginning of the kalpa of continuance, must likewise be disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Nevertheless, the sects of Buddhism other than Tendai have gone astray concerning the true object of worship. The Kusha, Jojitsu and Ritsu sects take as their object of worship the Shakyamuni Buddha who eliminated illusions and attained the way by practicing thirty-four kinds of spiritual purification. This is comparable to a situation in which the heir apparent of the supreme ruler of a state mistakenly believes himself to be the son of a commoner. The four sects of Kegon, Shingon, Sanron and Hosso are all Mahayana schools of Buddhism. Among them the Hosso and Sanron sects honor a Buddha who is comparable to the Buddha of the superior manifested body. This is like the heir of the supreme ruler supposing that his father was a member of the warrior class. The Kegon and Shingon sects look down upon Shakyamuni Buddha and declare the Buddha Vairochana and the Buddha Mahavairochana to be their respective objects of worship. This is like the heir looking down upon his own father, the supreme ruler, and paying honor to one who is of obscure origin simply because that person pretends to be the sovereign who abides by the principles of righteousness. The Pure Land sect considers itself to be most closely related to the Buddha Amida, who is an emanation of Shakyamuni, and abandons Shakyamuni himself who is the lord of teachings. The Zen sect behaves like a person of low birth who makes much of his small achievements and despises his father and mother. Thus the Zen sect looks down upon both the Buddha and the sutras. All of these sects are misled concerning the true object of worship. They are like the people who lived in the age before the Three Sovereigns of ancient China and did not know who their own fathers were. In that respect, the people of that time were no different from birds and beasts.
The people of these sects who are ignorant of the teachings of the Juryo chapter are similarly like beasts. They do not understand to whom they are obligated. Therefore Miao-lo states: "Among all the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime, there is no place [other than the Juryo chapter] where the true longevity of the Buddha is revealed. A person ought to know how old his father and mother are. If a son does not even know how old his father is, he will also be in doubt as to what lands his father presides over. Though he may be idly praised for his talent and ability, he cannot be counted as a son at all!"
The Great Teacher Miao-lo lived in the T’ien-pao era (742-756) in the latter part of the T’ang dynasty. He made a deep and thorough examination of the Sanron, Kegon, Hosso, Shingon and other schools and the sutras upon which they are based. Then, he concluded that if one fails to become acquainted with the Buddha of the Juryo chapter, one is no more than a talented animal who does not even know what lands his father presides over. "Though he may be idly praised for his talent and ability" refers to men like Fa-tsang and Ch’eng-kuan of the Kegon school or the Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei of the Shingon school. These teachers had talent and ability, yet they were like sons who do not even know their own father.
The Great Teacher Dengyo was the patriarch of both esoteric and exoteric Buddhism in Japan. In his Hokke shuku he writes: "The sutras that the other sects are based upon give expression in a certain measure to the mother-like nature of the Buddha. But they convey only a sense of love and are lacking in a sense of [fatherly] sternness. It is only the Tendai-Hokke sect that combines a sense of both love and sternness. The Lotus Sutra is ‘father of all sages, worthies, those still learning, those who have completed their learning, and those who set their minds on becoming bodhisattvas.’ " The sutras that form the basis of the Shingon and Kegon sects do not even contain the terms "sowing," "maturing" and "harvesting," much less the doctrine to which these terms refer. When the sutras of the Kegon and Shingon sects assert that their followers will enter the first stage of development and achieve Buddhahood in their present body, they are putting forth the teachings of the provisional sutras alone, teachings that conceal [the seeds sowed in] the past. To expect to harvest [the fruit of Buddhahood] without knowing the seed first sowed is like the minister Chao Kao attempting to seize the throne or the priest Dokyo trying to become emperor of Japan.
The various sects argue with one another, each claiming that its sutra contains the true seeds of enlightenment. I do not intend to enter the argument. I will let the sutras speak for themselves. Thus Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, speaking of the seeds of enlightenment implanted by the Lotus Sutra, designates them "the seeds without peer." And these seeds of enlightenment are the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life as expounded by T’ien-t’ai.
The seed of enlightenment for the various Buddhas described in the Kegon Sutra, the Dainichi Sutra and the other various Mahayana sutras is the one doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. And the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che was the only person who was capable of perceiving the truth of this doctrine. Ch’eng-kuan of the Kegon school usurped the doctrine and made it the soul of the passage in the Kegon Sutra that reads: "The mind is like a skilled painter."
The Dainichi Sutra of the Shingon school contains no mention of the fact that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, that the Buddha Shakyamuni achieved enlightenment in the distant past, or of the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. But after the Tripitaka Master Shubhakarasimha or Shan-wu-wei came to China, he had occasion to read the Maka shikan by T’ien-t’ai and came to gain wisdom and understanding. He then usurped the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, using it to interpret the passages in the Dainichi Sutra on "the reality of the mind" or that which reads, "I am the source and beginning of all things," making it the core of the Shingon teachings but adding to it the practice of mudras and mantras. And in comparing the relative merits of the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra, he declared that while the two agree in principle, the latter is superior in practice. The mandalas of the two realms, the Shingon teachers claim, symbolize the attaining of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles and the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, but are these doctrines to be found anywhere in the Dainichi Sutra? Those who claim so are guilty of the grossest deception!
Therefore the Great Teacher Dengyo states: "The Shingon school of Buddhism that has recently been brought to Japan deliberately obscures how its transmission was falsified in the recording [by I-hsing, who was deceived by Shan-wu-wei], while the Kegon school that was introduced earlier attempts to disguise the fact that it was influenced by the doctrines of T’ien-t’ai."
Suppose someone were to go to some wild region like the island of Ezo and recite the famous poem:
How I think of it -
dim, dim in the morning mist
of Akashi Bay,
that boat moving out of sight
beyond the islands.
If the person told the ignorant natives of Ezo that he himself had composed the poem, they would probably believe him. The Buddhist scholars of China and Japan are equally gullible.
The priest Liang-hsu states that the doctrines of the Shingon, Zen, Kegon, Sanron..., when compared with the Lotus Sutra, are none other than a kind of introduction to the true teachings [of the Lotus Sutra]. We are told that the Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei was subjected to torments by King Emma because of his mistaken view [that the Dainichi Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra]. Later, he had a change of heart and became a supporter of the Lotus Sutra, which is why he was spared further torments. As evidence, when he, Pu-k’ung and the others devised the Womb Realm mandala and the Diamond Realm mandala of the Shingon school, they placed the Lotus Sutra in the center of the two mandalas as the supreme ruler, with the Dainichi Sutra depicting the Womb Realm and the Kongocho Sutra depicting the Diamond Realm to the left and right as ministers to the ruler.
When Kobo of Japan drew up a theoretical statement of the Shingon teachings, he was attracted by the Kegon sect and assigned [the Kegon Sutra to the ninth stage of advancement and] the Lotus Sutra to the eighth stage. But when he taught the practices and ceremonies to his disciples Jitsue, Shinga, Encho, Kojo and the others, he placed the Lotus Sutra in a central position, between the two realms of the Womb and the Diamond as Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k’ung did.
In a similar case, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron school, in his ten-volume Hokke genron, assigned the Lotus Sutra to the fourth of the five periods of teachings, claiming that it repudiated the two vehicles to reveal the one vehicle of the bodhisattva and then incorporated the former as the means to attain the latter. Later, however, he became converted to the teachings of T’ien-t’ai. He ceased giving lectures, dismissed his disciples and instead served T’ien-t’ai for a period of seven years, personally carrying T’ien-t’ai on his back [when T’ien-t’ai mounted an elevated seat for preaching].
Again, Tz’u-en of the Hosso school, in his seven-volume and twelve-volume Daijo hoon girin jo, states that the one vehicle doctrine set forth in the Lotus Sutra is an expedient means, and that the three vehicle doctrine represents the truth. He also makes many similarly absurd pronouncements. But in the fourth volume of the Hokke genzan yoshu, he is represented as saying that "both doctrines are to be accepted," thus bringing flexible interpretation to the tenets of his own school. Although he said that both doctrines were acceptable, in his heart he supported the T’ien-t’ai teachings on the Lotus Sutra.
Ch’eng-kuan of the Kegon school wrote a commentary on the Kegon Sutra in which he compared the Kegon and Lotus sutras and seems to have declared that the Lotus Sutra is an expedient means. But later he wrote: "The T’ien-t’ai school defines this teaching [of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life] as the truth. The doctrines of my own school, on matters of principle, do not disagree in any way with those of the T’ien-t’ai school." From this it would appear, would it not, that he regretted and reversed his earlier pronouncement.
Kobo is a similar example. If one has no mirror, one cannot see one’s own face, and if one has no opponents, one cannot learn of one’s own errors. The scholars of the Shingon and the other various sects were unaware of their errors. But after they were fortunate enough to encounter the Great Teacher Dengyo, they became conscious of the mistakes of their own particular sects.
The various Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly and human beings described in the sutras that preceded the Lotus may seem to have gained enlightenment through the particular sutras in which they appear. But in fact they attained enlightenment only through the Lotus Sutra. The general vow taken by Shakyamuni and the other Buddhas to save countless living beings finds fulfillment through the Lotus Sutra. That is the meaning of the passage of the sutra that states that the vow "has now been fulfilled."
In view of these facts, I believe that the devotees and followers of the Kegon, Kammuryoju, Dainichi and other sutras will undoubtedly be protected by the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and heavenly beings of the respective sutras that they uphold. But if the votaries of the Dainichi, Kammuryoju and other sutras should set themselves up as the enemies of the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and heavenly beings will abandon them and will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. It is like the case of a filial son whose father opposes the ruler of the kingdom. The son will abandon his father and support the ruler, for to do so is the height of filial piety.
The same thing applies to Buddhism. The Buddhas, bodhisattvas and the ten demon daughters described in the Lotus Sutra will not fail to lend their protection to Nichiren. And in addition, the Buddhas of the six directions and the twenty-five bodhisattvas of the Pure Land sect, the twelve hundred honored ones of the Shingon sect, and the various honored ones and benevolent guardian deities of the seven sects are also certain to protect Nichiren. It is like the case of the Great Teacher Dengyo, who was protected by the guardian deities of the seven sects.
I, Nichiren, think as follows. The gods of the sun and moon and the other deities were present in the two places and three assemblies when the Lotus Sutra was preached. If a votary of the Lotus Sutra should appear, then, like iron drawn to a magnet or the reflection of the moon appearing in the water, they will instantly come forth to take on his sufferings for him and thereby fulfill the vow that they made in the presence of the Buddha. But they have yet to come and inquire of my well-being. Does this mean that I am not a votary of the Lotus Sutra? If that is so, then I must examine the text of the sutra once more in the light of my conduct and see where I am at fault.
Question: What eyes of wisdom allow you to perceive that the Nembutsu, Zen and other sects of our time are the enemies of the Lotus Sutra and evil companions who are ready to mislead all people?
Answer: I do not state personal opinions, but merely hold up the mirror of the sutras and commentaries so that the slanderers of the Law may see their ugly faces reflected there and perceive their errors. But, if they are incurably "blind," it is beyond my power.
In the Hoto chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra we read: "At that time Taho Buddha offered half of his seat in the treasure tower to Shakyamuni Buddha ... At that time the members of the great assembly, seeing the two Thus Come Ones seated cross-legged on the lion seat in the tower of seven treasures ... And in a loud voice he [Shakyamuni Buddha] addressed all the four kinds of believers, saying, ‘Who is capable of broadly preaching the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law in this saha world? Now is the time to do so, for before long the Thus Come One will enter nirvana. The Buddha wishes to entrust this Lotus Sutra to someone so that it may be preserved.' "
This is the first pronouncement of the Buddha.
Again the chapter reads: "At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
This holy lord, this World-Honored One,
though he passed into extinction long ago,
still seats himself in the treasure tower,
coming here for the sake of the Law.
You people, why then do you not also
strive for the sake of the Law?
In addition, these emanations of my body,
Buddhas in immeasurable numbers
like Ganges sands,
have come, desiring to hear the Law
Each has abandoned his wonderful land,
as well as his host of disciples,
the heavenly and human beings, dragons and spirits,
and all the offerings they give him,
and has come to this place on purpose
to make certain the Law will long endure
as though a great wind
were tossing the branches of small trees.
Through this expedient means
they make certain that the Law will long endure.
So I say to the great assembly:
After I have passed into extinction,
who can guard and uphold,
read and recite this sutra?
Now in the presence of the Buddha
let him come forward and speak his vow!"
This is the second proclamation of the Buddha. The passage continues:
Taho Thus Come One, I myself,
and these emanation Buddhas who have gathered here,
surely know this is our aim.
All you good men,
each of you must consider carefully!
This is a difficult matter -
it is proper you should make a great vow.
The other sutras
number as many as Ganges sands,
but though you expound those sutras
that is not worth regarding as difficult.
If you were to seize Mount Sumeru
and fling it far off
to the measureless Buddha lands,
that too would not be difficult.
But if after the Buddha has entered extinction,
in the time of evil,
you can preach this sutra,
that will be difficult indeed!
If, when the fires come at the end of the kalpa,
one can load dry grass on his back
and enter the fire without being burned,
that would not be difficult.
But after I have passed into extinction
if one can embrace this sutra
and expound it to even one person,
that will be difficult indeed!
All you good men,
after I have entered extinction
who can guard and uphold,
read and recite this sutra?
Now in the presence of the Buddha
let him come forward and speak his vow!
This is the third admonition from the Buddha. The fourth and fifth admonitions are found in the Devadatta chapter and I will deal with them later.
The meaning of these passages from the sutra is right before our eyes, obvious as the sun suspended in the blue sky or a mole on a white face. And yet the blind ones, those with perverse eyes, the one-eyed, those who believe no one but their own teachers, and those who cling to biased views cannot see it!
For those who earnestly seek the way, in spite of all difficulties, I will try to demonstrate what these passages mean. But they must understand that the truth is more rarely met with than the peaches of immortality that grow in the garden of the Queen Mother of the West, or the udumbara flower that blooms only when a wheel-turning king appears. Moreover, the conflict [between Nichiren and the various sects] surpasses the eight years of warfare when the governor of P’ei and Hsiang Yu battled for the empire of China, the seven years when Yoritomo and Munemori fought for the islands of Japan, the struggles between Taishaku and the asuras, or between the dragon kings and the garuda birds at the Anavatapta Lake.
The truth of the Lotus Sutra has made its appearance twice in the country of Japan. You should understand that it appeared once with the Great Teacher Dengyo and again with Nichiren. But the sightless ones doubt this; it is beyond my power to convince them. Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and the Buddhas of the ten directions gathered together and judged the relative merits of all the sutras of Japan, China, India, the palace of the dragon king, the heavens and all the other worlds of the ten directions, and this is the sutra they chose.
Question: Do sutras such as the Kegon, the sutras of the Hodo period, Hannya, Jimmitsu, Ryoga, Dainichi and Nirvana belong to the "nine easy acts" group or the "six difficult acts" group?
Answer: Tu-shun, Chih-yen, Fa-tsang and Ch’eng-kuan of the Kegon school, who were all masters of the three divisions of the canon, state that both the Kegon Sutra and the Lotus Sutra belong to the "six difficult acts" category. Though in name they are two different sutras, they are identical in their teachings and principles. It is similar to the statement, "Though the four perceptions of reality are separate, the truth they point to is identical."
The Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang and the Great Teacher Tz’u-en of the Hosso school state that the Jimmitsu Sutra and the Lotus Sutra both expound the Consciousness-Only doctrine. They date from the third period of the Buddha’s teaching and belong to the "six difficult acts" category.
Chi-tsang of the Sanron school asserts that the Hannya Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are different names for a single entity, two sutras that preach one teaching.
The Tripitaka masters Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung [of the Shingon school] say that the Dainichi Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are identical in principle and that both belong to the "six difficult" category. But the Japanese [Shingon leader] Kobo says that the Dainichi Sutra belongs neither to the "six difficult" nor to the "nine easy" category. The Dainichi Sutra, according to him, stands apart from all the sutras preached by Shakyamuni Buddha, since it was preached by Mahavairochana Buddha, the Buddha in his body of the Law. Likewise, some persons assert that, since the Kegon Sutra was preached by the Buddha in his reward body, it stands outside the categories of "six difficult" and "nine easy."
Such, then, are the views put forth by the founders of these four schools. The thousands of students of these schools likewise subscribe to the same views.
I must observe sadly that, although it would be simple enough to point out the error of the views put forward by these men, if I did so, the people of today would not even look in my direction. They would go on in their erroneous ways, and in the end would slander me to the ruler of the country and put my life in jeopardy. Nevertheless, our merciful father Shakyamuni Buddha, when he faced his end in the grove of sal trees, stated as his dying instructions that we are to "rely on the Law and not upon persons." "Not relying upon persons" means that, when persons of the first, second, third and fourth ranks preach, even though they are bodhisattvas such as Fugen and Monju who have attained the stage of near-perfect enlightenment, if they do not preach with the sutra in hand, then they are not to be accepted.
It is also laid down that one should "rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final." We must therefore look carefully among the sutras to determine which are complete and final and which are not, and put our faith in the former. Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his Jujubibasha ron states: "Do not rely on treatises that distort the sutras; rely only on those that are faithful to the sutras." The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai says: "That which accords with the sutras is to be written down and made available. But put no faith in anything that in word or meaning fails to do so." The Great Teacher Dengyo says: "Depend upon the preachings of the Buddha and do not put faith in traditions handed down orally." Enchin or the Great Teacher Chisho says: "In transmitting the teachings, rely on the written words [of scriptures]."
To be sure, the leaders of the various schools whose opinions I have quoted above all appear to base themselves on some groups of sutras and treatises in attempting to establish which teachings are the most superior. But these men all cling firmly to the doctrines of their own school and perpetuate the erroneous views handed down from their predecessors, so that their judgments are characterized by twisted interpretations and personal feelings.
Their doctrines are no more than private opinions that have been dressed up and glorified.
The non-Buddhist schools of such men as Vatsa and Vaipulya, which appeared in India after the Buddha’s death, are even more wrong in their views and more cunning in their doctrines than their counterparts before the Buddha [because they borrowed ideas from Buddhism]. Similarly, since the introduction of Buddhism to China in the Later Han dynasty, non-Buddhist views and writings have become even more wrong and cunning than the pre-Buddhist writings of Confucianism that deal with the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of antiquity. Also the teachers of the Kegon, Hosso, Shingon and other schools, jealous of the correct doctrines of the T’ien-t’ai school, brazenly interpret the word of the true sutra in such a way that they will accord with the provisional teachings.
Those who seek the way, however, should reject such one-sided views, transcending disputes between one’s own sect and others, and should not treat others with contempt.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha says: "Among the sutras I have preached, now preach and will preach, [this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand]."
Miao-lo remarks: "Though other sutras may call themselves the king among sutras, there is none that announces itself as foremost among all the sutras preached in the past, now being preached or to be preached in the future." He also says: "Concerning [the Buddha’s statement] that this wonderful sutra surpasses all those of past, present and future, there are those who persist in going astray. Thus they commit the grave fault of slandering the sutra and for many long kalpas are subjected to sufferings."
Startled by these passages in the sutra and its commentaries, I examined the entire body of sutras and the expositions and commentaries of the various teachers, and found that my doubts and suspicions melted away. But now those foolish Shingon priests rely upon their mudras and mantras and believe that the Shingon sect is superior to the Lotus Sutra, simply because the Great Teacher Jikaku and their other teachers have assured them that Shingon is superior. Their views are not worthy of discussion.
The Mitsugon Sutra says: "The Juji, Kegon, Daiju, Jinzu, Shrimala and the other sutras all derive from this sutra. Thus the Mitsugon Sutra is the greatest of all sutras."
The Daiun Sutra states: "This sutra is the wheel-turning king among all sutras. Why is this? Because in this sutra is set forth the doctrine of the constancy of the Buddha nature as the true nature of all beings."
The Rokuharamitsu Sutra says: "All the correct teachings expounded by the countless Buddhas of the past and the eighty-four thousand wonderful teachings that I have now expounded may as a whole be divided into five categories: first, sutras (the Buddha’s teachings); second, vinaya monastic rules); third, abhidharma (treatises); fourth, prajna-paramita (the teachings of the perfection of wisdom); and fifth, dharani (mystic spells). The works in these five collections will instruct sentient beings. Among sentient beings there may be those who cannot accept and abide by the sutras, vinaya, abhidharma and prajna-paramita, or there may be sentient beings who commit various evil acts such as the four major offenses, the eight major offenses or the five cardinal sins that lead to the hell of incessant suffering, or slander the correct and equal sutras or are icchantikas who disbelieve Buddhism itself. In order to wipe out such crimes, give quick release to the offenders and allow them to enter into nirvana at once, I preached for their sake this collection of dharanis.
"These five divisions of the Dharma are compared to the flavors of milk, cream, curdled milk, butter and ghee, respectively, with ghee as the finest. The division containing the dharanis compares to ghee. Ghee has the finest and most subtle flavor among the five substances enumerated above and is capable of curing various sicknesses and easing the minds and bodies of sentient beings. Similarly, the dharani division stands foremost among the five divisions of the teachings because it can do away with grave offenses."
The Gejimmitsu Sutra states: "At that time Bodhisattva Shogisho addressed the Buddha, saying, ‘World-Honored One, in the first period of your teaching when you were in the forest Sage Ascetics-Gathering, or the Deer Park, in Varanasi, for the sake of those who wished merely to seek the vehicle of the voice-hearers, you expounded the doctrine of the four noble truths, in this way turning the wheel of the correct Law. This was a very wonderful thing, a very rare thing. No heavenly or human being in any of the countless worlds had ever been able to expound such a doctrine as this before. And yet the wheel of the Law that you turned at that time left room for improvement, left room for doubt. It was not yet final in meaning and offered ample opportunity for dispute.
" 'Then, World-Honored One, in the second period of your teaching, for the sake of those who wished merely to seek the Great Vehicle, you taught that all phenomena are without distinctive natures of their own, that there is no birth or death, that all things are basically in a state of quietude, and that the nature of beings as they exist constitutes nirvana. You turned the wheel of the correct Law, although you did not reveal the whole truth. This was even more wonderful, an even rarer thing. But the wheel of the Law that you turned at that time left room for improvement, left room for doubt. It was not yet final in meaning and offered ample opportunity for dispute.' "
" ‘Now, World-Honored One, in the third period of your teaching, for the sake of those who wish to practice the vehicle that saves all beings, you taught that all phenomena are without distinctive natures, that there is no birth or death, that all things are basically in a state of quietude, and that the nature of beings as they exist constitutes nirvana-and then you have taught that the "nature" you spoke of itself lacks anything that can be called a nature. You have turned the wheel of the correct Law and expounded these doctrines in their perfect form. This is most wonderful, the rarest thing of all. This wheel of the Law that you have turned leaves no room for improvement, no room for doubt. It is truly complete and final in meaning and offers no opportunity for dispute.’ "
The Daihannya Sutra says: "When one regards whatever teachings one hears, either secular or Buddhist, as an expedient means, one is brought to understand that these can be incorporated into the profound principles that prajna, or Buddha wisdom, alone can grasp. When, with the same wisdom, one understands that all secular matters and actions represent the essential nature of things, one will see not a thing that is outside that essential nature."
The first volume of the Dainichi Sutra states: "Master of Secrets [Kongosatta], there is a great vehicle practice which arouses the mind that is without attachment to things and leads one to understand that all phenomena are without individual natures. Why is this? Because in past times those who practiced this way were able to observe the alaya-consciousness within the five components, and to realize that individual natures are illusory."
The same sutra also says, "Master of Secrets, these men in this way cast aside the concept of non-self and came to realize that the mind exists in a realm of complete freedom and that the individual mind has from the beginning never known birth [or death]."
It also says: "Emptiness is by nature removed from the sense organs and their objects. It has no form or boundaries; beyond any futile theory, it is equal to space. It represents the ultimate in the absence of individual nature."
It also says, "The Buddha Mahavairochana addressed the Master of Secrets, saying, ‘Master of Secrets, what is the meaning of enlightenment? It means to understand one’s own mind as it truly is.’ "
The Kegon Sutra states, "Among the various beings of all the different worlds, there are few who seek to practice the vehicle of the voice-hearers. There are still fewer who seek that of the cause-awakened ones, and those who seek the great vehicle are extremely rare. To seek the great vehicle is relatively easy to do, but to have faith in the doctrines of this sutra is difficult in the extreme. And how much more difficult is it to uphold this sutra, keep its teachings correctly in mind, practice them as directed, and understand their true meaning.
"To take the major world system and hold it on the top of your head without moving for the space of a kalpa is not such a difficult thing to do. But to have faith in the doctrines of this sutra is difficult in the extreme. To offer musical instruments for the space of a kalpa to all the living beings who are as countless as the dust particles of the major world system will not gain one much merit. But to have faith in the doctrines of this sutra will gain one merit in great quantity. To hold ten Buddha lands in the palm of one’s hand and remain stationary in the midst of the air for the space of a kalpa is not so difficult to do. But to have faith in the doctrines of this sutra is difficult in the extreme. To offer musical instruments for the space of a kalpa to all the living beings who are as countless as the dust particles of those ten Buddha lands will not gain one much merit. But to have faith in the doctrines of this sutra will gain one merit in great quantity. For the space of a kalpa one may honor and give alms to the various Thus Come Ones who are as countless as the dust particles of those ten Buddha lands. But if one can accept and abide by the doctrines of this chapter, one will gain vastly greater merit."
The Nirvana Sutra says, "Although the various correct and equal sutras of the great vehicle will bring inestimable merit, there is no way to describe how much greater is the merit gained through this sutra. It is a hundred times, a thousand times, a billion times greater, greater in a way that is beyond calculation or simile. Good man, milk comes from the cow, cream is made from milk, curdled milk is made from cream, butter is made from curdled milk, and ghee is made from butter. Ghee is the finest of all. One who eats it will be cured of all illnesses, just as if all kinds of medicinal properties were contained in it. Good man, the Buddha is like this. The Buddha brought forth the twelve divisions of discourse. From among these twelve divisions he brought forth the sutras, from among the sutras he brought forth the great vehicle sutras, from the great vehicle sutras he brought forth the doctrine of prajna-paramita, and from the prajna-paramita he brought forth the Nirvana Sutra. The Nirvana Sutra is comparable to ghee.
Ghee here is a metaphor that stands for the Buddha nature.
When we compare these sutra passages that I have just quoted with those of the Lotus Sutra that describe it as the greatest among the sutras the Buddha "has preached, now preaches and will preach," and deal with the six difficult and nine easy acts, the latter stand out like the bright moon beside the stars, or Mount Sumeru beside the other eight mountain ranges which surround it. And yet Ch’eng-kuan of the Kegon school, Tz’u-en of the Hosso school, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron school and Kobo of the Shingon sect, all men who were believed to possess the Buddha eye, did not understand the above passages of the Lotus Sutra. How then could the ordinary scholars of the time, who appear to be quite blind, be expected to judge the difference between the Lotus Sutra and the other ones? This difference is as plain as black and white, or Mount Sumeru side by side with a mustard seed, yet these men go astray. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that they are also confused by the principles as vast as the sky. Unless one can perceive the relative profundity of the various writings, one cannot judge the worth of the principles that are revealed in them.
The Lotus and the other sutras are contained in separate volumes and the passages are out of sequence. Since this makes it difficult to judge the worth of the various teachings, I quoted the above passages in order to help the ignorant to understand.
When it comes to kings, there are great kings and petty kings, and in any matter whatsoever, there are parts and there is the whole. We have talked about the simile of the five flavors of milk, but we must understand when this simile is being applied to Buddhist teachings as a whole and when it is being applied to one part of those teachings.
The Rokuharamitsu Sutra teaches that sentient beings can attain enlightenment, but it refuses to apply this to those without the nature of any enlightenment. And of course it mentions nothing about the doctrine that Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment countless ages in the past.
The Rokuharamitsu Sutra cannot in fact even compare with the Nirvana Sutra, which compares itself with ghee among the five flavors, much less with the theoretical and essential teachings of the Lotus Sutra. And yet the Great Teacher Kobo of Japan, misled by the above-quoted passage of the Rokuharamitsu Sutra, assigned the Lotus Sutra to the fourth flavor, or that of butter. If the so-called ghee of the dharanis [in this sutra] cannot even match the so-called ghee of the Nirvana Sutra, then how could he possibly make such an obvious mistake? And yet he writes that "the Buddhist teachers of China have vied with one another to steal the ghee," calling T’ien-t’ai and others thieves. And in a boastful vein, he declares, "What a pity it is that the worthy men of ancient times were not able to taste this ghee."
Putting all this aside, I will point out the truth for the sake of my followers. If others do not choose to believe it now, it is because they are persons who thereby form a reverse relation. By tasting a single drop, one can tell the flavor of the great ocean, and by observing a single flower in bloom, one can predict the advent of spring. One does not have to cross the water to far-off Sung China, spend three years traveling to Eagle Peak in India, enter the palace of the dragon king the way Nagarjuna did, visit Bodhisattva Miroku [in the Tushita heaven] the way Asanga did, or be present at the two places and three assemblies when Shakyamuni preached the Lotus Sutra, in order to judge the relative merits of the Buddha’s lifetime teachings. It is said that snakes can tell seven days in advance when a flood is going to occur. This is because they are akin to dragons [who make the rain fall]. Crows can tell what lucky or unlucky events are going to take place throughout the course of a year. This is because in a past existence they were diviners. Birds are better at flying than human beings. And I, Nichiren, am better at judging the relative merits of sutras than Ch’eng-kuan of the Kegon school, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron school, Tz’u-en of the Hosso school and Kobo of the Shingon sect. That is because I follow in the footsteps of the teachers T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo. If Ch’eng-kuan and the others had not accepted the teachings of T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, how could they have expected to escape the sin of slandering the Law?
I, Nichiren, am the richest man in all of present-day Japan. I have dedicated my life to the Lotus Sutra, and my name will be handed down in ages to come. If one is lord of the great ocean, then all the gods of the various rivers will obey one. If one is king of Mount Sumeru, then the gods of the various other mountains cannot help but serve one. If a person fulfills the teaching of "the six difficult and nine easy acts" of the Lotus Sutra, then, even though he may not have read the entire body of sutras, all should follow him.
In addition to the three pronouncements of the Buddha in the Hoto chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Devadatta chapter contains two enlightening admonitions. [The first reveals that Devadatta will attain Buddhahood.] Devadatta was a man of incorrigible disbelief, of the type called icchantika, and yet it is predicted that he will in the future become a Thus Come One called Heavenly King. The forty volumes of the Nirvana Sutra state that [all beings, including the icchantika, possess the Buddha nature, but] the actual proof of that is found in this chapter of the Lotus Sutra. There are countless other persons such as the monk Sunakshatra or King Ajatashatru who have committed the five cardinal sins and slandered the Law, but Devadatta is cited as one example to represent all the countless others; he is the chief offender, and it is assumed that all lesser offenders will fare as he does. Thus it is revealed that all those who commit the five or the seven cardinal sins or who slander the Law or who are icchantikas inherently opposed to taking faith will become Buddhas like the Thus Come One Heavenly King. Poison turns into sweet dew, the finest of all flavors.
[The second admonition concerns the fact that the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood.] When she attained Buddhahood, this does not mean simply that one person did so. It reveals the fact that all women will attain Buddhahood. In the various Hinayana sutras that were preached before the Lotus Sutra, it is denied that women can ever attain Buddhahood. In the Mahayana sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, it would appear that women can attain Buddhahood or be reborn in the pure land. But they may do so only after they have changed into some other form. It is not the kind of immediate attainment of Buddhahood that is based on the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. Thus it is an attainment of Buddhahood or rebirth in the pure land in name but not in reality. The dragon king’s daughter represents "one example that stands for all the rest." When the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, it opened up the way to attaining Buddhahood for all women of later ages.
Confucianism preaches filial piety and care for one’s parents, but it is limited to this present life. It provides no way for one to assist one’s parents in their future lives, and the Confucian sages and worthies are therefore sages and worthies in name only and not in reality. Brahmanism, though it recognizes the existence of past and future lives, similarly offers no means to assist one’s parents to a better life in the future. Buddhism alone can do so, and thus it is the true way of sages and worthies. But in the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra, and in the sects based on these sutras, to gain salvation even for oneself is impossible. One can hardly hope to do anything for one’s parents either. Though the texts of these sutras may say [that they can bring about salvation], in reality that is not the case. Only with the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, in which the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, did it become evident that the attainment of Buddhahood was a possibility for all mothers. And when it was revealed that even an evil man such as Devadatta could attain Buddhahood, it became evident that Buddhahood was a possibility for all fathers. The Lotus Sutra is the Classic of Filial Piety of Buddhism. This ends my discussion of the two admonitions contained in the Devadatta chapter.
Awed by the five proclamations of the Buddha [made in the Hoto and Devadatta chapters], the countless bodhisattvas promised the Buddha that they would propagate the Lotus Sutra, as described in the Kanji chapter. I will hold up this passage of the sutra like a bright mirror so that all may see how the present-day priests of the Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu sects and their lay supporters are guilty of slandering the Law.
On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year, between the hours of the rat and the ox (11:00 P.M. to 3:00 A.M.), this person named Nichiren was beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado and, in the second month of the following year, snowbound, is writing this to send to his close disciples. [The description of the evil age in the Kanji chapter seems] terrible, but [one who cares nothing about oneself for the sake of the Law has] nothing to be frightened about. Others reading it will be terrified. This scriptural passage is the bright mirror which Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions left for the future of Japan, and in which the present state of the country is reflected.
It may also be regarded as a keepsake from me.
The Kanji chapter states:
We beg you not to worry.
After the Buddha has passed into extinction,
in an age of fear and evil
we will preach far and wide.
There will be many ignorant people
who will curse and speak ill of us
and will attack us with swords and staves,
but we will endure all these things.
In that evil age there will be monks
with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked
who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained,
being proud and boastful in heart.
Or there will be forest-dwelling monks
wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement,
who will claim they are practicing the true way,
despising and looking down on all humankind.
Greedy for profit and support,
they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen
and will be respected and revered by the world
as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers.
These men with evil in their hearts,
constantly thinking of worldly affairs,
will borrow the name of forest-dwelling monks
and take delight in proclaiming our faults
Because in the midst of the great assembly
they constantly try to defame us,
they will address the rulers, high ministers,
Brahmans and householders,
as well as the other monks,
slandering and speaking evil of us,
saying, "These are men of perverted views
who preach non-Buddhist doctrines!"
In a muddied kalpa, in an evil age
there will be many things to fear.
Evil demons will take possession of others
and through them curse, revile and heap shame on us.
The evil monks of that muddied age,
failing to understand the Buddha’s expedient means,
how he preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate,
will confront us with foul language and angry frowns;
again and again we will be banished ...
The eighth volume of the Hokke mongu ki comments follows: "In this passage, three types of arrogance are cited. First there is a section that exposes persons of mistaken views. This represents the arrogance and presumption of lay persons. Next there is a section that exposes the arrogance and presumption of certain members of the Buddhist clergy. Third is a section that exposes the arrogance and presumption of those who pretend to be sages. Of these three types of arrogance, the first can be endured. The second is more formidable than the first, and the third is the most formidable of all. This is because the second is harder to recognize for what it really is, and the third is even harder to recognize."
Priest Chih-tu writes in the Toshun: "First, regarding the verse section that begins with ‘There will be many ignorant people’: The first part tells how the votaries of the Lotus Sutra must endure evils inflicted by the body, mouth and mind of their opponents. This refers to non-Buddhists and Buddhist laymen of evil. The next part that begins with ‘In that evil age’ deals with arrogant members of the Buddhist clergy. The third part that begins, ‘Or there will be forest-dwelling monks,’ deals with members of the clergy who [pretend to be sages and use their positions to] act as leaders of all the other evil persons." And the same text goes on to say: "The section that begins ‘Because in the midst of the great assembly’ describes how these men will appeal to the government authorities, slandering the Law and defaming its supporters."
In the ninth volume of the Nirvana Sutra we read: "Good man, there are icchantikas, persons of incorrigible disbelief. They pretend to be arhats, living in deserted places and speaking slanderously of the correct and equal sutras of the great vehicle. When ordinary people see them, they all suppose that they are true arhats and speak of them as great bodhisattvas." It also says: "At that time, this sutra will be widely propagated throughout Jambudvipa. In that age there will be evil monks who will steal this sutra and divide it into many parts, losing the color, scent and flavor of the correct teaching that it contains. These evil men will read and recite this sutra, but they will ignore and put aside the profound and vital principles that the Thus Come One has expounded in it and replace them with ornate rhetoric and meaningless talk. They will tear off the first part of the sutra and stick it on at the end, tear off the end and put it at the beginning, put the end and the beginning in the middle and the middle at the beginning or the end. You must understand that these evil monks are the companions of the devil."
The six-volume Hatsunaion Sutra states: "There are also icchantikas who resemble arhats but who commit evil deeds. There are also arhats who resemble icchantikas but display merciful hearts. The icchantikas who look like arhats spend their time slandering the correct and equal sutras to the populace. The arhats who look like icchantikas, on the other hand, are critical of the voice-hearers and go about preaching the correct and equal sutras. They address the populace, saying, ‘You and I are all bodhisattvas. Why? Because each living being possesses the Buddha nature.’ But the populace will probably call such men icchantikas."
In the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha speaks as follows: "After I have passed away ... After the Former Day of the Law has ended and the Middle Day of the Law has begun, there will be monks who will give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline. But they will scarcely ever read or recite the sutras, and instead will crave all kinds of food and drink to nourish their bodies. Though they wear the clothes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who, narrowing their eyes, stalk softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice. And constantly they will reiterate these words: ‘I have attained arhatship!’ Outwardly they will seem to be wise and good, but within they will harbor greed and jealousy. [And when they are asked to preach the teachings,] they will remain silent, like Brahmans who have taken a vow of silence. They are not true monks-they merely have the appearance of monks. Consumed by their erroneous views, they slander the correct teaching."
In the light of the sun and moon that are [the Lotus Sutra preached on] Eagle Peak and [the Nirvana Sutra preached at] the sal grove, or in the bright mirrors that are the commentaries by Miao-lo of P’i-ling and Chih-tu of Tung-ch’un, we can discern without a trace of obscurity the ugly faces of the priests of the various sects of present-day Japan, especially the Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu sects. The Lotus Sutra says [in the Kanji chapter], "After the Buddha has passed into extinction, in an age of fear and evil," and the Anrakugyo chapter says: "In the evil age hereafter," "in the latter age," and "in the latter age hereafter when the Law is about to perish." The Fumbetsu kudoku chapter says: "In the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law"; the Yakuo chapter says, "In the last five-hundred-year period." The Kanzetsu chapter of the Sho-hokke-kyo [another Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra] says, "In the latter age hereafter," and "in the latter age to come." The same type of language is found in the Tembon-hokekyo [a third translation of the Lotus Sutra]. T’ien-t’ai states: "In the Middle Day of the Law, the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north are the enemies of the Lotus Sutra." And Dengyo states: "At the end of the Middle Day of the Law, the scholars of the six Nara sects are the enemies of the Lotus Sutra."
In the time of T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, [the three types of enemies mentioned above] had not yet appeared. But we must recall that when Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, and Taho Buddha sat side by side in the treasure tower like the sun and the moon and the Buddhas who were emanations of Shakyamuni had come from the ten directions and were ranged beneath the trees like so many stars, then it was said that, after the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law and the thousand years of the Middle Day of the Law, at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, there would be three types of enemies of the Lotus Sutra. How could this pronouncement made by the eight hundred thousand million nayutas of bodhisattvas have been an empty or a false prediction?
It is now some twenty-two hundred years since the Thus Come One passed away. Even if it were possible to point straight at the earth and miss it, if the flowers were to cease blooming in spring, still I am certain that these three powerful enemies exist in the land of Japan. If so, then who is to be numbered among the three enemies? And who is to be accounted a votary of the Lotus Sutra? It is a troubling question. Are we — I and my disciples — to be numbered among the three enemies? Or are we to be numbered among the votaries of the Lotus Sutra? It is a troubling question.
In the twenty-fourth year of the reign of King Chao, the fourth ruler of the Chou dynasty, with the cyclical sign kinoe-tora, on the night of the eighth day of the fourth month, a five-colored light spread across the sky from north to south until all was as bright as noon. The earth shook in six different ways, and though no rain fell, the rivers and streams, wells and ponds brimmed with water. All the trees and grasses bloomed and bore fruit. It was a wondrous happening indeed. King Chao was greatly surprised. The Grand Historian Su Yu performed divination’s and announced, "A sage has been born in the western region." "What about our country?" asked King Chao, to which Su Yu replied, "Nothing particular will happen for now. But one thousand years from now, the words of this sage will be brought to this country and will bring benefit to all living beings." Su Yu was a scholar of non-Buddhist texts who had not in the slightest degree freed himself from illusions of thought and desire, and yet he was able to know what would happen a thousand years in the future. And just as he predicted, 1,015 years after the Buddha’s passing, in the reign of Emperor Ming, the second ruler of the Later Han dynasty, in the tenth year of the Yung-p’ing era (A.D. 67), with the cyclical sign hinoto-u, the doctrines of Buddhism were introduced to China.
On quite a different level is the prediction I have described above that was made by the various bodhisattvas in the presence of Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha, and the Buddhas from the ten directions that were emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha. In view of this prediction, how could the three types of enemies of the Lotus Sutra help but be present in Japan today?
In the Fuhozo Sutra, the Buddha is recorded as saying: "After my passing, during the one thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, there will be twenty-four persons in succession who will spread abroad the correct teachings as I have taught them." Mahakashyapa and Ananda [were contemporaries of the Buddha and so] we will pass them over. But a hundred years later there was the monk Parshva, six hundred years later Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha, and seven hundred years later Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, along with others, all appearing just as the prophecy had said they would.
If so, how could the prophecy [in the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra] be in vain? If this prophecy is at variance with the truth, then the whole Lotus Sutra is at variance with the truth. Then the predictions that Shariputra will in the future become the Thus Come One Flower Glow and that Mahakashyapa will become the Thus Come One Light Bright are all mere lies. In that case, the teachings put forward in the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra must be absolutely correct, and the voice-hearers are destined never to achieve Buddhahood. If it is true that one should give alms to a dog or a fox before one gives them to a voice-hearer such as Ananda, then where do we stand?
[The passage from the Kanji chapter mentions three groups of people,] saying first that "there will be many ignorant people," second that "in that evil age there will be monks," and referring third to "monks wearing clothing of patched rags." The first category of ignorant people are the important lay believers who support monks in the second and third categories. Accordingly, the Great Teacher Miao-lo, commenting on the persons in the first group, says they represent the arrogance and presumption of lay persons. And the Toshun says, "... appeal to the government authorities, [slandering the Law and defaming its supporters] ."
Concerning the second group of enemies of the Lotus Sutra, the sutra says: "In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart."
Similarly, the Nirvana Sutra says: "In that age there will be evil monks ... These evil men will read and recite this sutra, but they will ignore and put aside the profound and vital principles that the Thus Come One has expounded in it."
The Maka shikan says: "If one lacks faith [in the Lotus Sutra], one will object that it pertains to the lofty realm of the sages, something far beyond the capacity of one’s own wisdom to comprehend. If one lacks wisdom, one will become puffed up with arrogance and will claim to be the equal of the Buddha."
We see an example of this in the statement by the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o: "The second reason [for the difficulty in understanding the Lotus Sutra] is that its principles are very profound but human understanding is slight." Honen says: "Religious practices other than the Nembutsu do not accord with the people’s capacities. They are not appropriate for the times."
[To combat such views,] the Great Teacher Miao-lo states in the tenth volume of his Hokke mongu ki: "Probably those who are mistaken in their understanding fail to realize how great is the benefit gained even by a beginner [in the practice of the Lotus Sutra]. They assume that benefit is reserved for those who are far advanced in practice and disparage beginners. Therefore, the sutra here demonstrates the power of the sutra by revealing that practice is shallow but the benefit that results is profound indeed."
The Great Teacher Dengyo declares: "The Former and Middle Days are almost over, and the Latter Day is near at hand. Now indeed is the time when the one vehicle expounded in the Lotus Sutra will prove how perfectly it fits the capacities of all people. How do we know this is true? Because the Anrakugyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, ‘In the latter age hereafter when the Law is about to perish,’ [the Lotus Sutra will be expounded far and wide]." And Eshin says: "Throughout Japan, all people share the same capacity to attain Buddhahood through the perfect teaching."
Now which opinion should we believe, that of Tao-ch’o and Honen or that of Dengyo and Eshin? The former has not a scrap of evidence in the sutras to support it. The latter is based firmly upon the Lotus Sutra.
Moreover, the Great Teacher Dengyo of Mount Hiei is, for all priests throughout Japan, the master of ordination into the priesthood. How could any priests turn their hearts toward a person like Honen, who is possessed by the heavenly devil, and reject the Great Teacher Dengyo, the master of ordination? If Honen was a truly wise man, why did he not, in his Senchaku shu, mention the passages of explanation by Dengyo and Eshin such as I have quoted above, and resolve the contradiction? He did not do so, because he is the kind of person who hides the teachings of others. When the Lotus Sutra speaks of the second type of enemy, saying, "in that evil age there will be monks," it is referring to men like Honen who disregard the precepts and hold perverse views.
The Nirvana Sutra says: "[World-Honored One, today I have learned the correct view for the first time. World-Honored One, up till today] we all have been persons of mistaken views." Miao-lo explains this by saying, "They themselves referred to the three teachings [they had practiced until that time] as mistaken views." And the Maka shikan says, "The Nirvana Sutra says, ‘Up till today we all have been persons of mistaken views.’ ‘Mistaken’ is bad, is it not?" The Guketsu says, " ‘Mistaken’ is bad. Therefore, let it be known that only the perfect teaching is good. There are two meanings involved here. First, that which accords with the truth is to be accounted good and that which goes against the truth is to be accounted bad. This is the meaning from the relative viewpoint. [Second,] attachment [to this viewpoint] is bad and transcending it is good. [This is the meaning from the absolute viewpoint.] From both the relative and absolute viewpoints, we should abandon all that is bad. To be attached to the perfect teaching is bad, and to be attached to the other [three] teachings is of course even worse."
The goods and evils of non-Buddhist creeds, when compared with the Hinayana sutras, all represent a bad way. Similarly, the good ways of Hinayana teachings, and the four flavors and three teachings as well when compared with the Lotus Sutra, are all mistaken and bad. The Lotus Sutra alone is correct and good. The perfect teaching of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra is so called from the relative viewpoint; from the absolute viewpoint, it must still be counted as bad. Fundamentally it falls into the category of the first three [of the four] teachings, and therefore it is bad in that sense as well. To practice the highest principles of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings according to the sutras is still bad. How much more so, then, is someone who would take a work of insignificant doctrines such as the Kammuryoju Sutra, which cannot compare even with the Kegon and Hannya sutras, as the fundamental teaching? Such a person incorporates [the ideas of] the Lotus Sutra into the Kammuryoju Sutra and urges people to "ignore, abandon, close and discard" the Lotus and believe only in the Nembutsu. That is what Honen, his disciples and lay supporters do, and they deserve to be called slanderers of the correct teaching.
Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and the various Buddhas of the ten directions came to this world in order to "make certain that the Law will long endure." Honen and the other Nembutsu priests throughout Japan declare that in the Latter Day of the Law, the Lotus Sutra will disappear before the Nembutsu. Are such persons not the enemy of Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas?
Concerning the third group of enemies of the Lotus Sutra, the sutra says: "Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement ... and they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers." And the six-volume Hatsunaion Sutra states: "There are also icchantikas who resemble arhats but who commit evil deeds. There are also arhats who resemble icchantikas but display merciful hearts. The icchantikas who look like arhats spend their time slandering the correct and equal sutras to the populace. The arhats who look like icchantikas, on the other hand, are critical of the voice-hearers and go about preaching the correct and equal sutras. They address the populace, saying, ‘You and I are all bodhisattvas. Why? Because each living being possesses the Buddha nature.’ But the populace will probably call such men icchantikas."
The Nirvana Sutra says: "After I have passed away... [After the Former Day of the Law has ended and] the Middle Day of the Law has begun, there will be monks who will give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline. But they will scarcely ever read or recite the sutras, and instead will crave all kinds of food and drink to nourish their bodies. Though they wear the clothes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who, narrowing their eyes, stalk softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice. And constantly they will reiterate these words: ‘I have attained arhatship!’ Outwardly they will seem to be wise and good, but within they will harbor greed and jealousy. [And when they are asked to preach the teachings,] they will remain silent, like Brahmans who have taken a vow of silence. They are not true monks-they merely have the appearance of monks. Consumed by their erroneous views, they slander the correct teaching."
Miao-lo writes concerning persons of this type: "The third [group] is the most formidable of all. This is because the second is harder to recognize for what it really is, and the third is even harder to recognize." And the Toshun states: "The third part that begins, ‘Or there will be forest-dwelling monks,’ deals with members of the clergy who [pretend to be sages and use their positions to] act as leaders of all the other evil persons."
As for these "members of the clergy who [pretend to be sages and use their positions to] act as leaders of all the other evil persons" -- where in Japan at the present time should we look for them? On Mount Hiei! In Onjo-ji [in Otsu]! In To-ji [in Kyoto]! In the temples of Nara! In Kennin-ji [in Kyoto] or Jufuku-ji and Kencho-ji [in Kamakura]! We must examine this carefully. Do the words refer to the monks of Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei who wear helmets on their heads and are dressed in armor? Do they refer to the monks of Onjo-ji who wear suits of mail on their fivefold bodies of the Law and carry weapons? But these men do not resemble the monks "wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement" that are described in the sutra, nor do they seem to be the type who are "respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers." They are not like the men of the third group who, [as Miao-lo said,] are "even harder to recognize." It would appear, therefore, that the words refer to men such as Shoichi of Kyoto and Ryokan of Kamakura. [Even if they are identified as such,] they should not hate others. If they have eyes, they should examine the sutra texts and compare their own behavior with them.
The first volume of the Maka shikan states: "There has never been anything to compare to the brightness and serenity of concentration and insight." The first volume of the Guketsu states: "From the time when Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty dreamed at night of the Buddha down to the Ch’en dynasty, [when the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai lived,] there were many who participated in the Zen school and received the robe and bowl that were handed down." The Fuchu explains this by saying: "The handing down of the robe and bowl refers to the succession of Zen patriarchs from Bodhidharma on down."
The fifth volume of the Maka shikan states: "There is a type called Zen men, but their masters and disciples are blind [to the truth] and lame [in practice], and both masters and disciples will fall into hell." In the seventh volume, we read: "[There are ten ways necessary for understanding and practicing Buddhism correctly. Of these, except one,] the nine ways have nothing in common with the ordinary priests of the world who concentrate on the written word, nor do they have anything in common with the Zen masters who concentrate on practice. Some Zen masters give all their attention to meditation alone. But their meditation is shallow and false, totally lacking in the nine ways. This is no empty assertion. Worthy persons of later ages who have eyes to see will understand the truth of what I say."
The seventh volume of the Guketsu states: " ‘Priests who concentrate on the written word’ refers to men who gain no inner insight or understanding through meditation but concern themselves only with characteristics of the doctrine. ‘Zen masters who concentrate on practice’ refers to men who do not learn how to attain the truth and the corresponding wisdom but fix their minds on the mere techniques of breath control. Theirs is the kind of [non-Buddhist] meditation that fundamentally still retains outflows. ‘Some Zen masters give all their attention to meditation alone’ means that, for the sake of discussion, T’ien-t’ai gives them a certain degree of recognition, but from a stricter viewpoint they lack both insight and understanding. The Zen men in the world today value only meditation [as the way to realize the true entity] and have no familiarity with doctrinal teachings. In relying upon meditation alone, they interpret the sutras in their own way. They put together the eight errors and the eight winds, and talk about the Buddha as being sixteen feet in height. They lump together the five components and the three poisons and call them the eight errors. They equate the six sense organs with the six transcendental powers and the four elements with the four noble truths. To interpret the sutras in such an arbitrary manner is to be guilty of the greatest falsehood. Such nonsense is not even worth discussing."
The seventh volume of the Maka shikan states: "In the past, the Zen master of Yeh and Lo became renowned throughout the length and breadth of China. When he arrived, people gathered around him from all directions like clouds, and when he left for another place, they formed a great crowd along the roads. But what profit did they derive from all this bustle and excitement? All of them regretted what they had done when they were on their deathbed."
In the seventh volume of the Guketsu, we read: "The text speaks of the ‘Zen master of Yeh and Lo.’ Yeh is in Hsiang-chou and was the capital of the Ch’i and Wei dynasties. The founder of Zen caused Buddhism to flourish there and converted the people of the region. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, out of deference to the people of his time, refrains from naming anyone specifically. Lo refers to the city of Lo-yang."
The six-volume Hatsunaion Sutra says: "The extreme is impossible to see. That is, the extremely evil deeds done by the icchantika are all but impossible to perceive." Or, as Miao-lo has said, "The third [group] is the most formidable of all. This is because ... the third is even harder to recognize."
Those without eyes, those with only one eye, and those with distorted vision cannot see these three types of enemies of the Lotus Sutra who have appeared at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. But those who have attained a portion of the Buddha eye can see who they are. "They will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders." And the Toshun states: "These men will appeal to the government authorities, slandering the Law and defaming its supporters."
In the past, when the Middle Day of the Law was coming to an end, Gomyo, Shuen, and other priests presented petitions to the throne in which they slandered the Great Teacher Dengyo. Now, at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, Ryokan, Nen’a, and others drew up false documents and presented them to the shogunate. Are they not to be counted among the third group of enemies of the Lotus Sutra?
Nowadays the teachers of the Nembutsu address the "rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders" who support the Tendai-Hokke sect, saying, "The principles of the Lotus Sutra are very profound but our understanding is slight. The doctrine it teaches is extremely deep; our capabilities are extremely shallow." [Just as the Maka shikan says,] they "object that it pertains to the lofty realm of the sages, something far beyond the capacity of their own wisdom to comprehend."
Again, the men of the Zen sect say: "The Lotus Sutra is a finger pointing at the moon, but the Zen sect is the moon itself. Once one has the moon, of what use is the finger? Zen is the mind of the Buddha. The Lotus Sutra is the word of the Buddha. After the Buddha had finished preaching the Lotus Sutra and all the other sutras, he held up a single flower and through this gesture conveyed his enlightenment to Mahakashyapa alone. As a token of this tacit communication, the Buddha presented Mahakashyapa with his own robe, which together with the enlightenment has been handed down through the twenty-eight patriarchs of India and so on through the six patriarchs of China." For many years now, the whole country has been intoxicated and deceived by this kind of falsehood.
Again, the eminent priests of the Tendai and Shingon sects, though nominally representatives of their respective sects, are in fact quite ignorant of their teachings. In the depths of their greed and out of fear of the courtiers and warriors, they compromise with the assertions of the Nembutsu and Zen followers and sing their praises. Long ago, Taho Buddha and the various Buddhas who were emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha acknowledged their allegiance to the Lotus Sutra, saying that they would "make certain that the Law will long endure." But now the eminent leaders of the Tendai sect acknowledge the assertion that the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra are very profound but human understanding is slight. As a result, the Lotus Sutra exists in Japan today in name only-there is not a single person who actually practices it and attains enlightenment. Who can be called a votary of the Lotus Sutra? We see monks who burn down temples and pagodas and are exiled in numbers too great to count. And we see numerous eminent monks who fawn on the courtiers and warriors and are hated for it by the people. Can men such as these be called the votaries of the Lotus Sutra?
Because the predictions of the Buddha are not false, the country is already full of the three types of enemies of the Lotus Sutra. And yet, as though to belie the golden words of the Buddha, there seems to be no votary of the Lotus Sutra as was predicted would appear. How can this be?
But let us consider. Who is it who is cursed and spoken ill of by the populace? Who is the monk who is attacked with swords and staves? Who is the monk who, because of the Lotus Sutra, is accused in petitions submitted to the courtiers and warriors? Who is the monk who is "again and again banished," as the Lotus Sutra predicted? Who else in Japan besides Nichiren has fulfilled these predictions?
But I, Nichiren, am not a votary of the Lotus Sutra, because, contrary to the prediction, the gods have cast me aside. Who, then, in this present age will be the votary of the Lotus Sutra and fulfill the prophecy of the Buddha?
The Buddha and Devadatta are like a form and its shadow-in lifetime after lifetime, they are never separated. Prince Shotoku and his archenemy Moriya appeared at the same time, like the blossom and the calyx of the lotus. If there exists a votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the three types of enemies are bound to exist as well. The three types of enemies have already appeared. Who, then, is the votary of the Lotus Sutra? Let us seek him out and make him our teacher. [As the Lotus Sutra says, to find such a person is as rare as for] a one-eyed turtle to chance upon a piece of driftwood [with a hole just the right size to hold him].
Someone may raise this question: It would surely appear that the three types of enemies are present today, but there is no votary of the Lotus Sutra. If one were to say that you [Nichiren] are the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the following serious discrepancies would become apparent. The Lotus Sutra states: "The young sons of the heavenly beings will wait on him and serve him. Swords and staves will not touch him and poison will have no power to harm him." It also reads: "If people speak ill and revile him, their mouths will be closed and stopped up." And it states: "They [who have heard the Law] will enjoy peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences." It also states: "[If there are those who ... trouble and disrupt the preachers of the Law,] their heads will split into seven pieces like the branches of the arjaka tree." Furthermore, it reads: "In this present existence they [the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra] will gain the reward of good fortune." And it adds: "If anyone sees a person who accepts and upholds this sutra and tries to expose the faults or evils of that person, whether what he speaks is true or not, he will in his present existence be afflicted with white leprosy." [How do you explain these discrepancies?]
Answer: These doubts of yours are most opportune. I will take the occasion to clear up the points that puzzle you. The Fukyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra states: "They spoke ill of him [Bodhisattva Fukyo] and cursed him." And again: "Some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him." The Nirvana Sutra states: "They will even kill him or do him injury." The Lotus Sutra states: "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, [how much more will this be so after his passing?]"
The Buddha encountered acts of hostility, known as the nine great ordeals, such as being wounded in the toe by Devadatta, and yet he was a votary of the Lotus Sutra, was he not? And Bodhisattva Fukyo [who, as we have seen above, was cursed and beaten] — was he not a votary of the one vehicle teaching? Maudgalyayana was beaten to death by a Brahman group called Bamboo Staff sometime after the Lotus Sutra predicted that he would attain Buddhahood in a future life. Among the [twenty-five] successors to the lineage of Buddhism, the fourteenth, Bodhisattva Aryadeva, and the twenty-fifth, the Venerable Aryasimha, were murdered. Were these men not votaries of the Lotus Sutra? Chu Tao-sheng was banished to a mountain in Su-chou, and Fa-tao was branded on the face and exiled south of the Yangtze River. Were these men not upholders of the one vehicle teaching? Among scholars of secular learning, both Po Chu-i and Sugawara no Michizane, who was posthumously revered as the god of the Kitano Shrine, were exiled to distant places, and yet were they not worthy men?
If we consider the second part of your question, we must note the following points. Those who did not commit the error of slandering the Lotus Sutra in their previous existences will become votaries of the Lotus Sutra in their present lives. If such persons should be subjected to persecution under a false charge of having committed worldly offenses, then those who persecute them ought to suffer some kind of immediate retribution. It should be like the case of the asuras who shoot arrows at Taishaku or the garuda birds that try to eat the dragons of the Anavatapta Lake, but who both invariably suffer injury themselves instead. And yet T’ien-t’ai says: "The ills and pains I suffer at present are all due to causes in the past, and the meritorious deeds that I do in my present life will be rewarded in the future." Likewise, the Shinjikan Sutra states: "If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present." The Fukyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra says: "When his offenses had been wiped out." This indicates that Bodhisattva Fukyo was attacked with tiles and stones because he had in the past committed the offense of slandering the Lotus Sutra.
Next, we should note that, if a person is inevitably destined to fall into hell in his next existence, then even though he commits a grave offense in this life, he will suffer no immediate punishment. The icchantikas, men of incorrigible disbelief, are examples of this.
The Nirvana Sutra states: "Bodhisattva Kashyapa said to the Buddha, ‘World-Honored One, as you have described, the rays of the Buddha’s great nirvana enter the pores of all living beings.’ " It also states: "Bodhisattva Kashyapa said to the Buddha, ‘World-Honored One, how can those who have not yet set their minds on enlightenment create the causes that will lead to enlightenment?’ " In reply, "the Buddha said to Kashyapa, ‘There may be persons who listen to the Nirvana Sutra and yet claim that they have no need to set their minds on enlightenment, and instead slander the correct teaching. Such persons will immediately dream at night of demons and their hearts will be filled with terror. The demons will say to them, "How foolish you are, my friend! If you do not set your mind on enlightenment now, your life span will be cut short!" These persons quake with fear, and as soon as they wake from the dream, they set their minds on enlightenment. And you should know that such persons will become great bodhisattvas.’ " In other words, although a person might slander the correct teaching, if he is not an unspeakably evil person, he will be warned at once in a dream and will have a change of heart.
[According to the Nirvana Sutra, the icchantikas, on the other hand, are likened to] "dead trees or stony mountains" that can never bring forth growth. They are "scorched seeds which, although they encounter the sweet rain," will not grow. "Bright pearls have the power, when put into turbid water, to change it into clear water... But when thrown into the mud of icchantika, they cannot purify it." They are [like persons without a wound on their hands when the sutra says,] "If a person with a wound on his hand handles poison, it will enter his body, but it will not enter the body of a person without a wound." "Just as torrents of rain cannot remain suspended in the sky, [so the rain of the Law cannot remain in the sky of icchantika]." Through these various similes we can know that icchantikas of the most evil type will invariably fall into the hell of incessant suffering in their next life. Therefore they do not suffer any immediate punishment in this life. They are like the evil rulers of ancient China, Emperor Chieh of the Hsia dynasty and Emperor Chou of the Yin dynasty. During their reigns, heaven did not display any unusual manifestations as a warning. That was because their offenses were so grave that their dynasties were already destined to perish.
Third, it would appear that the guardian deities have deserted this country, and this is probably one reason why offenders do not suffer any immediate punishment. In an age that slanders the Law, guardian deities will take their leave and the various heavenly gods will cease to lend their protection. That is why the votaries of the correct teaching do not receive any sign of divine favor, but on the contrary encounter severe difficulties. The Konkomyo Sutra says: "Those who perform good deeds day by day languish and dwindle in number." We are living in an evil country and an evil age. I have discussed all this in detail in my work entitled "Rissho Ankoku Ron."
This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law. Shariputra practiced the way of the bodhisattva for sixty kalpas, but he abandoned the way because he could not endure the ordeal of the Brahman who begged for his eye. Of those who received the seeds of Buddhahood in the remote past and those who did so from the sons of Daitsu Buddha, many abandoned the seeds and suffered in hell for the long periods of gohyaku-jintengo and sanzen-jintengo, respectively, because they followed evil companions.
Whether tempted by good or threatened by evil, if one casts aside the Lotus Sutra, one destines oneself for hell. Here I will make a great vow. Though I might be offered the rulership of Japan if I would only abandon the Lotus Sutra, accept the teachings of the Kammuryoju Sutra and look forward to rebirth in the pure land, though I might be told that my father and mother will have their heads cut off if I do not recite the Nembutsu -- whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as men of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield! All other troubles are no more to me than dust before the wind.
I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!
Question: How can you be certain that the exiles and sentences of death imposed on you are the result of karma created in the past?
Answer: A bronze mirror will reflect color and form. The First Emperor of the Ch’in dynasty had a lie-detecting mirror that would reveal offenses committed in this present life. And the mirror of the Buddha’s Law makes clear the causal actions committed in the past. The Hatsunaion Sutra states: "Good man, because persons committed countless offenses and accumulated much evil karma in the past, they must expect to suffer retribution for everything they have done. They may be despised, cursed with an ugly appearance, be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished and lowly or heretical family, or be persecuted by their sovereign. They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can diminish in this lifetime one’s suffering and retribution."
This sutra passage and my own experience tally exactly. By now all the doubts that I have raised earlier should be dispelled, and thousands of difficulties are nothing to me. Let me show you phrase by phrase how the text applies to me. "They may be despised," or, as the Lotus Sutra says," ... despise, hate, envy or bear grudges against them" -- and in exactly that manner I have been treated with contempt and arrogance for over twenty years. "They may be cursed with an ugly appearance," "They may be poorly clad" — these too apply to me. "They may be poorly fed" — that applies to me. "They may seek wealth in vain" — that applies to me. "They may be born to an impoverished and lowly family" — that applies to me. "They may be persecuted by their sovereign" — can there be any doubt that the passage applies to me? The Lotus Sutra says, "Again and again we will be banished," and the passage from the Hatsunaion Sutra says, "They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions." [These passages also apply to me.]
The passage also says: "It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can diminish in this lifetime one’s suffering and retribution." The fifth volume of the Maka shikan has this to say on the subject: "The feeble merits produced by a mind only half intent on the practice cannot alter [the realm of karma]. But if one carries out the practice of concentration and insight so as to observe ‘health’ [the realm of the four elements of earth, water, fire and wind as well as the realm of earthly desires] and ‘illness’ [the realm of illnesses], then one can alter the cycle of birth and death [in the realm of karma]." It also says, "[As practice progresses and understanding grows,] the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere."
From the beginningless past I have been born countless times as an evil ruler who deprived the votaries of the Lotus Sutra of their robes and rations, their fields and crops, much as the people of Japan in the present day go about destroying the temples dedicated to the Lotus Sutra. In addition, countless times I cut off the heads of the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. Some of these grave offenses I have already paid for, but there must be some that are not paid for yet. Even if I seem to have paid for them all, there are still ill effects that remain. When the time comes for me to transcend the sufferings of birth and death, it will be only after I have completely freed myself from these grave offenses. My merits are insignificant, but these offenses are grave.
If I practiced the teachings of the provisional sutras, then these retributions for my past grave offenses would not appear. When iron is heated, if it is not strenuously forged, the impurities in it will not become apparent. Only when it is subjected to the tempering process again and again will the flaws appear. When one is pressing hemp seeds, if one does not press very hard, one will not get much oil from them. Likewise, when I vigorously berate those throughout the country who slander the Law, I meet with great difficulties. It must be that my actions in defending the Law in this present life are calling forth retributions for the grave offenses of my past. If iron does not come into contact with fire, it remains black, but if it contacts fire, it turns red. If you place a log across a swift stream, waves will pile up like hills. If you disturb a sleeping lion, it will roar loudly.
The Nirvana Sutra says: "It is like the case of a poor woman. She has no house to live in and no one to aid or protect her and in addition she is beset by illness, hunger and thirst; she wanders through various places, begging for a living. While staying at an inn, she gives birth to a baby, but the master of the inn drives her away. Though the baby has just been born, she takes it up in her arms and sets out, hoping to journey to another land. But along the way, she encounters fierce wind and rain, and she is troubled by cold and bitten by mosquitoes, gadflies, hornets and poisonous insects. Coming at length to the Ganges River, she clasps her child in her arms and begins to cross it. Although the current is very swift, she will not let go of her child, and in the end both mother and child are drowned. But through the merit that the woman gained by her loving tenderness, she is reborn after her death in the Brahma heaven.
"Monjushiri, if there are good men who wish to defend the correct teaching, they should emulate this poor woman crossing the Ganges who sacrificed her life because of her love for her child. Good man, the bodhisattvas who guard the Law should behave in this way. They should not hesitate to give up their lives. Then, although they do not seek emancipation, emancipation will come of itself, just as the poor woman, though she did not seek to be reborn in the Brahma heaven, was nevertheless reborn there."
The Great Teacher Chang-an interprets this story from the Nirvana Sutra in terms of the three obstacles. Observe how he does this. The fact that the woman is called "poor" indicates that the person does not have the treasure of the Law. The fact that she is identified as a woman indicates that the person has a measure of tenderness. The "inn" signifies an impure land. The child she bears is the heart that has faith in the Lotus Sutra, or the wisdom that perceives one’s inherent Buddha nature. Being driven out of the inn by its master signifies that the person is exiled. The fact that the baby has just been born means that very little time has passed since the person began to have faith in the Lotus Sutra. The fierce wind the woman encounters is the imperial decree sentencing the person to exile. The mosquitoes, gadflies and other insects are the "many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill" of the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The fact that both mother and child are drowned indicates that, though in the end the person had his head cut off, he never renounced his faith in the Lotus Sutra. Being reborn in the Brahma heaven means being reborn in the realm of Buddhahood.
The power of karmic rewards extends to all of the Ten Worlds, even to the realm of Buddhahood. Even though one might go around killing people throughout the provinces of Japan and China, if one does not commit any of the five cardinal sins or does not slander the Law, one will not fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Yet one must go through other evil paths for a period of numerous years. Even if one observes ten thousand precepts and performs ten thousand good deeds, if one does so with a mind only half intent, one cannot be reborn in any heaven of the world of form. To be born a king in the Brahma heaven of that world, one must add the spirit of compassion to one’s karma that goes with outflows and leads one in that direction. The poor woman in the sutra passage was reborn in the Brahma heaven because of her concern for her child. Her case is different from the nature of causality that is commonly known. Chang-an offers two interpretations of it, but in the end it is nothing other than the loving kindness with which the woman cares for her child that makes the difference. Her concern concentrates on one thing just like the Buddhist practice of concentration. She thinks of nothing but her child, which is similar to Buddhist compassion. That must be why, although she created no other causes to bring it about, she was reborn in the Brahma heaven.
The path to Buddhahood is not to be found in the Kegon doctrine of the phenomenal world as created by the mind alone, in the eight negations of the Sanron sect, in the Consciousness-Only doctrine of the Hosso sect, or in the Shingon type of meditation on the five elements of the universe. Only the T’ien-t’ai doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life is the path to Buddhahood. Even in the case of this doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, we do not possess the kind of wisdom and understanding to comprehend it fully. Nevertheless, among all the sutras preached by the Buddha during his lifetime, the Lotus Sutra alone contains this jewel which is the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. The doctrines of the other sutras are merely yellow stones that appear to be jewels. They are like sand, from which you can extract no oil no matter how hard you squeeze it, or a barren woman who can never bear a child. Even a wise man cannot become a Buddha through the other sutras, but with the Lotus Sutra, even fools can plant the seeds that lead to Buddhahood. As the sutra passage I have quoted earlier puts it, "Although they do not seek emancipation, emancipation will come of itself."
Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith.
Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes. Some of them feel pity for their wives and children and grieve at the thought of parting from them in this life. In countless births throughout many long kalpas they have had wives and children but parted from them in every existence. They have done so unwillingly and not because of their desire to pursue the way of the Buddha. Since they must part with them in any case, they should remain faithful to their belief in the Lotus Sutra and make their way to Eagle Peak, so that they may lead their wives and children there as well.
Question: You insist that the followers of the Nembutsu and Zen sects will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. This shows that you have a contentious heart. You yourself are in danger of falling into the realm of the asuras. Moreover, it is said in the Anrakugyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra: "He should not delight in speaking of the faults of other people or scriptures. He should not display contempt for other teachers of the Law." It is because you are going against this passage in the sutra that you have been abandoned by heaven, is it not?
Answer: The Maka shikan says: "There are two ways to spread the Buddha’s teachings. The first is called shoju and the second is called shakubuku. When the Anrakugyo chapter says that one should not speak of the shortcomings of others, it is referring to the shoju method. But when the Nirvana Sutra says that one should carry swords and staves or that one should cut off their heads, it is referring to the shakubuku method. They differ in approach in that one is lenient and the other severe, but they both bring benefit."
The Guketsu comments on this passage as follows: "With regard to the two ways of spreading the Buddha’s teachings, the passage from the Nirvana Sutra, ‘carry swords and staves,’ is found in the third volume where it says, ‘Defenders of the correct teaching need not observe the five precepts or practice the rules of proper behavior. [Rather they should carry knives and swords, bows and arrows, prongs and lances.]’ ... And later on, the sutra tells of King Sen’yo [who put to death those who slandered the correct teaching]. It also mentions how the new physician, [knowing that the medicine from milk prescribed by the old physician was ineffective,] forbade its usage, saying, ‘If anyone takes any more of this medicine, he shall have his head cut off.’ These passages also demonstrate how the method of shakubuku should be applied to persons who go against the Law. All the sutras and treatises deal with one or the other of these two methods."
The Hokke mongu states "Question: The Nirvana Sutra clearly states that one should associate closely with the ruler, bearing bows and arrows and helping overthrow evil persons. And yet [the Anrakugyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra says that one should stay away from persons in power and should behave with humility and loving kindness. There seems to be a major contradiction between the sternness of one approach and the gentleness of the other. Why should they differ so?
"Answer: The Nirvana Sutra speaks mostly about the shakubuku approach. But it also mentions dwelling in the state where one looks on all living beings as one’s own children. Could it say so if it did not have the shoju approach? The Lotus Sutra is mainly concerned with the shoju approach [as in the Anrakugyo chapter]. But [in the Dharani chapter] there is also the curse [on anyone who troubles the preachers of the Law] which says he will have his head split into seven pieces. Could it say so if it did not have the shakubuku approach? Both sutras employ one or the other of the two methods depending on the context. The method chosen should be that which accords with the time."
The Nehangyo sho or "Commentary on the Nirvana Sutra" states: "When monks or laymen are defending the Law, the most important thing is for them to adopt the proper basic mental attitude. They should disregard external details, stick to the principles, and in this way spread the teachings of the Nirvana Sutra. Therefore it says that defenders of the correct teaching need not abide by petty regulations. And that is why it says they need not practice the rules of proper behavior. In past times the age was peaceful and the Law spread throughout the country. At that time it was proper to observe the precepts and not to carry staves. But now the age is perilous and the Law is overshadowed. Therefore it is proper to carry staves and to disregard the precepts. If both past and present were perilous times, then it would be proper to carry staves in both periods. And if both past and present were peaceful times, then it would be proper to observe the precepts in both of them. You should let your choices be fitting and never adhere solely to one or the other."
I suppose the learned priests of the time think it is only natural that one should have doubts about this. Therefore, no matter how I explain and try to persuade my own disciples, they still cannot seem to overcome their doubts, but behave like icchantikas, or persons of incorrigible disbelief. Therefore I have quoted these passages of explanation from T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo and others in order to silence their ungrounded criticisms.
These two methods of shoju and shakubuku are like water and fire. Fire hates water, water detests fire. The practitioner of shoju laughs with scorn at shakubuku. The practitioner of shakubuku laments at the thought of shoju. When the country is full of evil persons without wisdom, then shoju is the primary method to be applied, as described in the Anrakugyo chapter. But at a time when there are many persons of perverse views who slander the Law, then shakubuku should come first, as described in the Fukyo chapter. It is like using cold water to cool yourself in the hot weather, or longing for a fire when the weather turns cold. Grass and trees are kinsmen of the sun-they suffer in the cold moonlight. Bodies of water are followers of the moon-they lose their true nature when the hot weather comes.
In the Latter Day of the Law, however, both shoju and shakubuku are to be used. This is because there are two kinds of countries, the country that is passively evil, and the kind that actively seeks to destroy the Law. We must consider carefully to which category Japan at the present time belongs.
Question: If one applies the shakubuku method at a time when the shoju method would be appropriate, or shoju at a time when shakubuku would be appropriate, is there any merit to be gained?
Answer: The Nirvana Sutra says: "Bodhisattva Kashyapa addressed the Buddha, saying, ‘The body of the Law you, the Thus Come One, possess is as indestructible as a diamond. But I do not yet understand the means by which you acquired it. Would you tell me?’
"The Buddha replied, ‘Kashyapa, it is because I was a defender of the correct teaching that I have been able to attain this diamond-like body. Kashyapa, because [in the past] I devoted myself to the correct teaching, I have been able to achieve this diamond-like body that abides forever and is never destroyed. Good man, defenders of the correct teaching need not observe the five precepts or practice the rules of proper behavior. Rather they should carry knives and swords, bows and arrows...'"
"‘The monks [whom you are speaking of] preach various teachings, but still they are not able to utter "the lion’s roar." ... Nor are they able to refute and convert evil persons who go against the correct teaching. Monks of this kind can bring no benefit either to themselves or to the populace. You should realize that they are in fact shirkers and idlers. Though they are careful in observing the precepts and maintain spotless conduct, you should realize that they cannot achieve anything. [Then a monk raises "the lion’s roar." ...] Those who break the precepts, upon listening to his preaching, are all enraged to the point where they attack him.
This preacher of the Law, though he may in the end lose his life, is still worthy of being called a person who observes the precepts and brings benefits to both himself and others.’ "
In the passage from the Nehangyo sho quoted earlier, Chang-an says: "You should let your choices be fitting and never adhere solely to one or the other." And T’ien-t’ai, as we have seen, declared that "the method chosen should be that which accords with the time." If it is not, you will be like someone who plants seeds at the end of autumn. Though you may carefully tend the field, you are not likely to harvest any rice or grain.
During the Kennin era (1201-1204), two men came prominence, Honen and Dainichi, who spread the teachings of the Nembutsu and Zen sects, respectively. Honen denied the worth of the Lotus Sutra now that the world has entered the Latter Day of the Law, saying that "not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood" through that sutra, and that "not one person in a thousand" can be saved by its teachings. Dainichi for his part claimed that the true teachings of Buddhism had been transmitted apart from the sutras. These two doctrines have now spread throughout the entire country. The learned priests of the Tendai and Shingon sects fawn on the lay supporters of the Nembutsu and Zen sects or fear them the way a dog wags its tail before its master or a mouse fears a cat. These men enter the service of the ruler and the military leader, where they preach in such a way as to bring about the destruction of the Buddhist Law and the ruin of the country. These Tendai and Shingon leaders in their present existence will fall into the realm of hungry spirits, and after death will find themselves in the Avichi hell. Even if they retire to the mountain forests and engage intensely in the meditation on the three thousand realms in a single moment of life or retire to a quiet spot and concentrate on the three mysteries [of body, mouth and mind], if they do not understand the time or the people’s capacity and perceive which of the two methods, shoju or shakubuku, is appropriate, then they can never free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death.
Question: When you berate the followers of the Nembutsu and Zen sects and arouse their enmity, what merit does that bring?
Answer: The Nirvana Sutra says, "If even a good monk sees someone destroying the teaching and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then you should realize that that monk is betraying the Buddha’s teaching. But if he ousts the destroyer of the Law, reproaches him or punishes him, then he is my disciple and a true voice-hearer."
Chang-an comments on this as follows: "One who destroys or brings confusion to the Buddha’s teachings is betraying them. If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, one is in fact his enemy. But one who reprimands and corrects an offender is a voice-hearer who defends the Buddha’s teachings, a true disciple of the Buddha. One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent. Those who reproach offenders are disciples of the Buddha. But those who do not oust offenders are betraying the Buddha’s teachings."
If we examine the Hoto chapter of the Lotus Sutra, we find Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and the various Buddhas from the ten directions who are emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha gathering together. And why? As the sutra itself says, "Each ... has come to this place on purpose to make certain that the Law will long endure." Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas intend to insure the future propagation of the Lotus Sutra so that it can be made available to every single living being, the children of the Buddha, in times to come. We may surmise from this that their concern and compassion are even greater than that of a father and mother who see their only child inflicted with great suffering. Honen, however, shows not the least concern about their compassion, but would tightly shut the gates to the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law so that no one would have access to it. Like a person who tricks a demented child into throwing away his treasure, he tries to induce people to discard the Lotus Sutra, a shameless thing to do indeed!
If someone is about to kill your father and mother, shouldn’t you try to warn them? If a bad son who is insane with drink is threatening to kill his father and mother, shouldn’t you try to stop him? If some evil person is about to set fire to the temples and pagodas, shouldn’t you try to stop him? If your only child is gravely ill, shouldn’t you try to cure him with moxibustion treatment? To fail to do so is to act like those people who see but do not try to put a stop to the Zen and Nembutsu followers in Japan. As Chang-an says, "If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, one is in fact his enemy."
I, Nichiren, am sovereign, teacher, father and mother to all the people of Japan. But the men of the Tendai sect [who do not refute the misleading sects] are all great enemies of the people. As Chang-an has noted, "One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent."
One who has not set one’s mind upon the way can never free oneself from the sufferings of birth and death. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, was cursed by all the followers of non-Buddhist teachings and labeled as a man of great evil. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai was regarded with intense enmity by the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north, and Tokuitsu of Japan criticized him for using his three-inch tongue to try to destroy the five-foot bodyof the Buddha. The Great Teacher Dengyo was disparaged by the monks of Nara, who said, "Saicho has never been to the capital of T’ang China!" But all of these abuses were incurred because of the Lotus Sutra, and they are therefore no shame to the men who suffered them. To be praised by fools-that is the greatest shame. Now that I have incurred the wrath of the authorities [and am now in exile], the priests of the Tendai and Shingon sects are no doubt delighted. They are strange and shameless men.
Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in the saha world, Kumarajiva journeyed to the Ch’in dynasty in China, and Dengyo likewise went to China, [all for the sake of the Lotus Sutra]. Aryadeva and Aryasimha sacrificed their bodies. Bodhisattva Yakuo burned his arms as an offering, and Prince Shotoku stripped off the skin on his hand [and copied the sutra on it]. Shakyamuni, when he was a bodhisattva, sold his flesh to make offerings, and another time, when he was a bodhisattva named Gyobo, he used his bone as a pen [to write down the Buddha’s teaching].
T’ien-t’ai has said that "the method chosen should be that which accords with the time." The propagation of the Buddhist teachings should follow the time. For what I have done, I have been condemned to exile, but it is a small suffering to undergo in this present life and not one worth lamenting. In future lives I will enjoy immense happiness, a thought that gives me great joy.
The Opening of the Eyes
The Opening of the Eyes
- Kaimoku Sho -
There are three categories of people that all men and women should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent. There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism.
Confucianism describes the Three Sovereigns, the Five Emperors and the Three Kings, whom it calls the Honorable Ones of Heaven. These men are depicted as the heads of the government officials and the bridges for the populace. In the age before the Three Sovereigns, people were no better than birds and beasts in that they did not even know who their own fathers were. But from the time of the Five Emperors on, they learned to know what both their father and mother were to themselves, treating them according to the dictates of filial piety. Thus Chung-hua served his father with reverence, though the latter was stubborn and hardheaded. Also, the governor of P’ei, after he became the emperor, continued to pay great respect to his father, the Venerable Sire. King Wu of the Chou dynasty made a wooden image of his father, the Earl of the West, and Ting Lan fashioned a statue of his mother. All of these men are models of filial piety.
The high minister Pi Kan, seeing that the Yin dynasty was on the path to ruin, strongly admonished the ruler, though it cost him his head. Hung Yen, finding that his lord, Duke Yi, had been killed, cut open his own stomach and inserted the duke’s liver in it before he died. These men may serve as models of loyalty.
Yin Shou was the teacher of Emperor Yao, Wu Ch’eng was the teacher of Emperor Shun, T’ai-kung Wang was the teacher of King Wen, and Lao Tzu was the teacher of Confucius. These teachers are known as the four sages. Even the Honorable Ones of Heaven bow their heads to them in respect, and all people press their palms together in reverence. Sages such as these have left behind writings that run to over three thousand volumes in such works as the Three Records, the Five Canons and the Three Histories. But all these writings in the end do not advance beyond the three mysteries. The first of the three mysteries is Being. This is the principle taught by the Duke of Chou and others. The second mystery is Non-Being which was expounded by Lao Tzu. The third is Both Being and Non-Being, which is the mystery set forth by Chuang Tzu. Mystery denotes darkness. Some say that, if we ask what existed before our ancestors were born, we will find that life was born out of the primal force, while others declare that eminence and ignobility, joy and sorrow, right and wrong, gain and loss occur simply as part of the natural order.
These are theories that are cleverly argued, but which fail to take cognizance of either the past or the future. Mystery, as we have seen, means darkness or obscurity, and it is for this reason that it is called mystery. It is a theory that deals with matters only in terms of the present. Speaking in terms of the present, the Confucians declare that one should abide by the principles of benevolence and righteousness and thereby insure safety to oneself and peace and order to the state. If one departs from these principles, they say, then one’s family will be doomed and one’s house overthrown. But although the wise and worthy men who preach this doctrine are acclaimed as sages, they know nothing more about the past than an ordinary person unable to see his own back, and they understand as little about the future as a blind man who cannot see what lies in front of him.
If, in terms of the present, one brings order to one’s family, carries out the demands of filial piety, and faithfully practices the five constant virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and good faith, then one’s associates will respect one and one’s name will become known throughout the country. If there is a wise ruler on the throne, he will invite such a person to become his minister or his teacher, or may even cede his position to him. Heaven too will come to protect and watch over such a person. Such were the so-called Five Elders who gathered about and assisted King Wu of the Chou dynasty, or the twenty-eight generals of Emperor Kuang-wu of the Later Han, who were likened to the twenty-eight constellations of the sky. But since such a person knows nothing about the past or the future, he cannot assist his parents, his sovereign or his teacher in making provisions for their future lives, and he is therefore unable to repay the debt he owes them. Such a person is not a true worthy man or sage.
Confucius declared that there were no worthy men or sages in his country, but that in the land to the west there was one named Buddha who was a sage." This indicates that non-Buddhist texts should be regarded as the first step toward Buddhist doctrine. Confucius first taught the doctrine of rites and music so that, when the Buddhist scriptures were brought to China, the concepts of the precepts, meditation and wisdom could be more readily grasped. He taught the ideals of ruler and minister so that the distinction between superior and subordinate could be made clear, he taught the ideal of parenthood so that the importance of filial piety could be appreciated, and he explained the ideal of the teacher so that people might be taught to follow.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo says: "The propagation of Buddhism truly depends on this. First the teachings on rites and music were expounded, and later the true way was introduced." T’ien-t’ai states: "In the Konkomyo Sutra it is recorded that ‘All the good teachings that exist in the world derive from this sutra. To have a profound knowledge of this world is itself Buddhism.’" In the Maka shikan we read: "I [the Buddha] have dispatched the Three Sages to educate the land of China." In the Guketsu, we read: "The Shojohogyo Sutra states that Bodhisattva Gakko appeared in that land under the name Yen Hui, Bodhisattva Kojo appeared there as Confucius, and Bodhisattva Kashyapa appeared as Lao Tzu. Since the sutra is speaking from the point of view of India, it refers to China as ‘that land.’ "
Secondly, we come to the non-Buddhist teachings of India. In Brahmanism we find the two deities Shiva, who has three eyes and eight arms, and Vishnu. They are hailed as the loving father and compassionate mother of all living beings and are also called the Honorable One of Heaven and sovereign. In addition, there are three men, Kapila, Uluka and Rishabha, who are known as the three ascetics. These ascetics lived somewhere around eight hundred years before the time of the Buddha. The teachings expounded by the three ascetics are known as the four Vedas, and number sixty thousand.
Later, in the time of the Buddha, there were the six non-Buddhist teachers, who studied and transmitted these non-Buddhist scriptures and acted as tutors to the kings of the five regions of India. Their teachings split into ninety-five or ninety-six different lines, forming school after school. The banners of their pride were lifted up higher than the heaven where there is neither thought nor no thought, and their dogmatic rigidity was harder than metal or stone. But in their skill and depth of understanding, they surpassed anything known in Confucianism. They were able to look into the past and perceive two, three, or even seven existences, a period of eighty thousand kalpas, and they could likewise know what would happen eighty thousand kalpas in the future. As the fundamental principle of their doctrine, some of these schools taught that causes produce effects, others taught that causes do not produce effects, while still others taught that causes both do and do not produce effects. Such were the fundamental principles of these non-Buddhist schools.
The devout followers of the non-Buddhist teachings observe the five precepts and the ten good precepts, practice the kind of meditation that is still accompanied by outflows and, ascending to the worlds of form and formlessness, believe they have attained nirvana when they reach the highest level of heavens. But although they make their way upward bit by bit like an inchworm, they fall back from the heaven where there is neither thought nor no thought, and descend instead into the three evil paths. Not a single one succeeds in remaining on the level of heavens, though they believe that once a person has attained that level, he will never descend from it. Each approves and practices the doctrines taught by his teacher and stoutly abides by them. Thus some of them bathe three times a day in the Ganges even on cold winter days, while others pull out the hairs on their head, fling themselves against rocks, expose themselves to fire, burn their bodies, or go about stark naked. Again there are those who believe they can gain good fortune by sacrificing many horses, or who burn grasses and trees, or make obeisance to every tree they encounter.
Erroneous teachings such as these are too numerous to be counted. Their adherents pay as much respect and honor to the teachers who propound them as the various deities pay to the god Taishaku or the court ministers pay to the ruler of the empire. But not a single person who adheres to these ninety-five types of higher or lower non-Buddhist teachings ever escapes from the cycle of birth and death. Those who follow teachers of the better sort will, after two or three rebirths, fall into the evil paths, while those who follow evil teachers will fall into the evil paths in their very next rebirth.
And yet the final conclusion of these non-Buddhist teachings constitutes an important means of entry into Buddhism. Some of them state, "A thousand years from now, the Buddha will appear in the world," while others state, "A hundred years from now, the Buddha will appear in the world." The Nirvana Sutra remarks: "All scriptures or teachings, from whatever source, are ultimately the revelation of Buddhist truth. They are not non-Buddhist teachings." And in the Lotus Sutra it is written, "Before the multitude they seem possessed of the three poisons or manifest the signs of heretical views. My disciples in this manner use expedient means to save living beings."
Thirdly, we come to Buddhism. One should know that the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment is a great leader for all living beings, a great eye for them, a great bridge, a great helmsman, a great field of good fortune. The four sages and three ascetics of the Confucian and Brahmanical scriptures and teachings are referred to as sages, but in fact they are no more than ordinary people who have not yet been able to eradicate the three categories of illusion. They are referred to as wise men, but in fact they are no more than infants who cannot understand the principles of cause and effect. With their teachings for a ship, could one ever cross over the sea of the sufferings of birth and death? With their teachings for a bridge, could one ever escape from the maze of the six paths? But the Buddha, our great teacher, has advanced beyond even transmigration with change and advance, let alone transmigration with differences and limitations. He has wiped out even the very root of fundamental darkness, let alone the illusions of thought and desire that are as minor as branches and leaves.
This Buddha, from the time of his enlightenment at the age of thirty until his passing at the age of eighty, expounded his sacred teachings for a period of fifty years. Each word, each phrase he spoke is true; not a sentence, not a verse was false. The words of the sages and worthy men preserved in the scriptures and teachings of Confucianism and Brahmanism, as we have noted, are free of error, and the words match the spirit in which they were spoken. But how much more true is this in the case of the Buddha, no speaker of false words from countless kalpas in the past? In comparison to the non-Buddhist scriptures and teachings, the doctrines that he expounded in a period of fifty or so years represent the great vehicle, the true words of the great man. Everything that he preached, from the dawn of his enlightenment until the evening that he entered into nirvana, is none other than the truth.
However, when we examine the eighty thousand teachings of Buddhism expounded during a period of fifty or more years and recorded in scriptures, we find that they fall into various categories such as Hinayana and Mahayana, provisional and true sutras, exoteric and esoteric teachings, detailed and rough discourses, true words and false words, correct and incorrect views. But among these, the Lotus Sutra alone represents the correct teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, the truthful words of the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions. The World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment designated a specific period of the preceding forty years and more, and defined the various sutras preached during that period, numerous as the sands of the Ganges, as the sutras in which he had "not yet revealed the truth." He designated the Lotus Sutra preached during the eight years as the sutra in which he "now must reveal the truth." Thus Taho Buddha came forth from the earth to testify that "All that you have expounded [in the Lotus Sutra] is the truth," and the Buddhas that are emanations of Shakyamuni gathered together and extended their long tongues up to the Brahma heaven in testimony. These words are perfectly clear, perfectly understandable, brighter than the sun on a clear day or like the full moon at midnight. Look up to them and believe them, and when you turn away, cherish them in your heart!
The Lotus Sutra contains two important teachings. The Kusha, Jojitsu, Ritsu, Hosso and Sanron sects have never heard even so much as the name of these teachings. The Kegon and Shingon sects, on the other hand, have surreptitiously stolen these doctrines and made them the heart of their own teachings. The doctrine of ichinen sanzen, or three thousand realms in a single moment of life, is found in only one place, hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu were aware of it but did not bring it forth into the light. T’ien-t’ai Chih-che alone embraced it and kept it ever in mind.
The doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life begins with the concept of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds. But the Hosso and Sanron sects speak only of eight worlds and know nothing of the entirety of the Ten Worlds, much less of the concept of their mutual possession. The Kusha, Jojitsu and Ritsu sects derive their teachings from the Agon sutras. They are aware only of the six worlds and know nothing of the other four worlds. They declare that in all the ten directions there is only one Buddha, and do not even preach that there is any other Buddha in any of the ten directions. Of the principle that "all sentient beings alike possess the Buddha nature," they of course say nothing at all. They refuse to acknowledge that even a single person possesses the Buddha nature. In spite of this, one will sometimes hear members of the Ritsu and Jojitsu sects declaring that there are Buddhas in the ten directions or that all living beings possess the Buddha nature. This is because the teachers of these sects who appeared after the passing away of the Buddha had stolen these Mahayana doctrines and incorporated them into the teachings of their own sects.
To illustrate, in the period before the appearance of Buddhism, the proponents of the non-Buddhist teachings in India were not so bound up in their own views. But after the appearance of the Buddha, when they had listened to and observed the Buddhist teachings, they became aware of the shortcomings of their own doctrines. They then conceived the clever idea of appropriating Buddhist teachings and incorporating them into their own doctrines, and as a result they fell into even deeper error than before. These are examples of the type of heretical teachings known as "appropriating Buddhism" or "misunderstanding Buddhism.[fubukkya and gakubuppaja]"
The same thing occurred in the case of non-Buddhist scriptures in China. Before Buddhism was brought to China, Confucianism and Taoism were rather naive and childish affairs. But in the Later Han, Buddhism was introduced to China and challenged the native doctrines. In time, as Buddhism became more popular, there were certain Buddhist monks who, because they had broken the precepts, were forced to return to secular life, or who elected to join forces with the native creeds. Through such men, Buddhist doctrines were stolen and incorporated by the Confucian and Taoist teachings.
In volume five of the Maka shikan we read: "These days there are many devilish monks who break the precepts and return to lay life. Fearing that they will be punished for their action, they then go over to the side of the Taoists. Hoping to gain fame and profit, they speak extravagantly of the merits of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, usurping Buddhist concepts and reading them into their erroneous scriptures. They twist what is lofty and force it into a mean context, they destroy what is exalted and drag it down among the base, striving to put the two on an equal level."
Miao-lo, in his Guketsu comments on this passage as follows: "Though they are monks, they destroy the teachings of Buddhism. Some break the precepts and return to lay life, as Wei Yuan-sung did. Then, as laymen, they work to destroy the teachings of Buddhism. Men of this kind steal and usurp the correct teachings of Buddhism and use them to supplement and bolster the heretical writings. The passage on ‘twisting what is lofty...’ means that, adopting the outlook of the Taoists, they try to place Buddhism and Taoism on the same level, to make equals of the correct and the heretical, though reason tells us that this could never be. Having once been followers of Buddhist teachings, they steal what is correct and use it to bolster what is heretical. They twist the lofty eighty thousand teachings of the twelve divisions of the Buddhist canon and force them into the mean context of Lao Tzu’s two chapters and five thousand words, using them to interpret the base and heretical teachings of that text. This is what is meant by ‘destroying what is exalted and dragging it down among the base.’ " These comments should be carefully noted, for they explain the meaning of the foregoing description of events.
The same sort of thing happened within Buddhism itself. Buddhism was introduced to China during the Yung-p’ing era (AD. 58-75) of the Later Han dynasty, and, in time, established its supremacy over Confucian and Taoist teachings. But differences of opinion developed within Buddhism, resulting in the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north, which sprang up here and there like so many orchids or chrysanthemums. In the time of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties, however, the Great Teacher Chih-che overcame these various schools and returned Buddhism once more to its primary objective of saving all living beings.
Later, the teachings of the Hosso and Shingon schools were introduced from India, and the Kegon school also made its appearance. Among these schools, the Hosso school set itself up as an arch opponent of the T’ien-t’ai school, because their teachings are contradictory to each other like fire and water. However, when the Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang and the Great Teacher Tz’u-en closely examined the works of T’ien-t’ai, they came to realize that the views of their own school were in error. Although they did not openly repudiate their own school, it appears that in their hearts they switched their allegiance to the T’ien-t’ai teachings.
From the beginning the Kegon and Shingon schools were both provisional schools based upon provisional sutras. But the Tripitaka masters Shan-wu-wei and Chinkang-chih [who introduced the esoteric Shingon teachings to China] usurped the T’ien-t’ai doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life and made it the core of the teachings of their school, adding the practice of mudras and mantras and convincing themselves that their teachings surpassed T’ien-t’ai’s. As a result, students of Buddhism, unaware of the real facts, came to believe that the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life was to be found in the Dainichi Sutra that had been brought from India. Similarly, in the time of the Kegon patriarch Ch’eng-kuan, the T’ien-t’ai doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life was surreptitiously incorporated and used to interpret the passage in the Kegon Sutra that reads, "The mind is like a skilled painter." People were unaware that this was what had happened.
In the case of our own country of Japan, the Kegon and the other sects that comprised the six sects of Nara were introduced to Japan before the Tendai and Shingon sects. The Kegon, Sanron and Hosso sects argued and contended, as inimical to one another as water and fire. When the Great Teacher Dengyo appeared in Japan, he not only exposed the errors of the six sects, but also made it clear that the Shingon sect had stolen the principles of the Lotus Sutra as expounded by T’ien-t’ai and made them the heart of the teachings of its own sect. The Great Teacher Dengyo set aside the various tenets propounded by the leaders of the other sects and, solely in the light of the sutras, attacked their views. As a result, he was able to defeat eight eminent priests of the six sects, then twelve priests, then fourteen, then over three hundred, as well as the Great Teacher Kobo. Soon there was not a single person in all Japan who did not acknowledge allegiance to the Tendai sect, and the great temples of Nara, Toji and other temples throughout all the provinces became subordinate to the head temple of the Tendai sect at Mount Hiei. The Great Teacher Dengyo also made it clear that the founders of the various other schools in China, by acknowledging allegiance to the doctrines of T’ien-t’ai, had escaped committing the error of slandering the correct teachings of Buddhism.
Later, however, conditions in the world declined and people became increasingly shallow in wisdom. They no longer studied or understood the profound doctrines of the Tendai sect, and the other sects became more and more firmly attached to their prejudiced views. Eventually, the six sects and the Shingon sect turned upon and attacked the Tendai sect. The latter, growing ever weaker, in the end found that it was no match for the other sects. To aggravate the situation, absurd new sects such as Zen and Pure Land appeared and began attacking the Tendai sect as well, and more and more of its lay supporters transferred their allegiance to these erroneous sects. In the end, even those priests of the Tendai sect who were looked up to as men of eminent virtue all admitted defeat and lent their support to these sects. Not only Tendai but Shingon and the six sects as well were forced to yield their lands and estates to the new heretical sects, and the correct teachings [of the Lotus Sutra] fell into oblivion. As a result, the Sun Goddess, the God Hachiman, the Mountain King of Mount Hiei, and the other benevolent deities who guard the nation, no longer able to taste the flavor of the correct teachings, departed from the land. Demons came forward to take their place, and it became apparent that the nation was doomed.
Here, with my humble outlook, I have considered the differences between the teachings expounded by the Buddha Shakyamuni during the first forty and more years and those expounded in the Lotus Sutra during the last eight years of his life. Although both differ in many ways, contemporary scholars have already expressed the opinion, and it is my conviction as well, that the chief difference lies in the fact that the Lotus Sutra teaches that persons of the two vehicles [shomon (Learning) and engaku (Realization)], voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, can attain Buddhahood, and that the Buddha Shakyamuni in reality attained enlightenment at an inconceivably distant time in the past.
When we examine the text of the Lotus Sutra, we see that it predicts that Shariputra will become Flower Glow Thus Come One, that Mahakashyapa will become Light Bright Thus Come One, Subhuti will become Rare Form Thus Come One, Katyayana will become Jambunada Gold Light Thus Come One, Maudgalyayana will become Tamalapattra Sandalwood Fragrance Buddha, Purna will become Law Bright Thus Come One, Ananda will become Mountain Sea Wisdom Unrestricted Power King Buddha, Rahula will become Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers Thus Come One, the five hundred and seven hundred voice-hearers [shomon and engaku disciples] will become Universal Brightness Thus Come Ones, the two thousand shomon who have more to learn or do not have more to learn will become Jewel Sign Thus Come Ones, the nuns Mahaprajapati and Yashodhara will become the Thus Come Ones Gladly Seen by All Living Beings and Endowed with a Thousand Ten Thousand Glowing Marks, respectively.
Thus, if we examine the Lotus Sutra, we will realize that these persons are worthy of great honor. But when we search through the scriptures expounded in the period previous to the Lotus Sutra, we find to our regret that the situation is far different.
The Buddha, the World-Honored One, is a man of truthful words. Therefore he is designated the sage and the great man. In the non-Buddhist scriptures of India and China there are also persons called worthy men, sages or heavenly ascetics because they speak words of truth. But because the Buddha surpasses all these, he is known as the great man.
[When he expounded the Lotus Sutra,] this great man said, "The Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the world for one great reason alone." He also said, "I have not yet revealed the truth," "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth," and "[I,] honestly discarding expedient means, [will preach only the unsurpassed way].", Taho Buddha added his testimony to the words of the Buddha, and the emanations of the Buddha put forth their tongues as a token of assent. Who, then, could possibly doubt that Shariputra will in the future become Flower Glow Thus Come One, that Mahakashyapa will become Light Bright Thus Come One, or that the other predictions made by the Buddha will come true?
Nevertheless, all the sutras preceding the Lotus Sutra also represent the true words of the Buddha. The Daihoko butsu Kegon Sutra states: "There are only two places where the Great Medicine King Tree, which is the wisdom of the Thus Come One, will not grow and bring benefit to the world. It will not grow in the vast void that is the deep pit into which persons of the two vehicles [shomon and the engaku] fall, or in the profoundly heretical and craving-filled waters wherein drown beings unfit for Buddhahood who destroy their own roots of goodness."
This passage may be explained as follows. In the Snow Mountains there is a huge tree that has numberless roots. It is called the Great Medicine King Tree and is the monarch of all the trees that grow in the land of Jambudvipa. It measures 168,000 yojanas in height. All the other trees and plants of Jambudvipa depend upon the roots, branches, flowers and fruit of this tree to attain their own flowering and fruition. Therefore this tree is employed as a metaphor for the Buddha nature, and the various other trees and plants stand for all living beings. But this great tree will not grow in a fiery pit or in the watery circle. The fiery pit is used as a metaphor for the mind of persons of the two vehicles, and the watery circle is used as a metaphor for the mind of icchantikas or persons of incorrigible disbelief. The scripture is saying that these two categories of beings will never attain Buddhahood.
The Daijuku Sutra states: "There are two types of persons who are destined to die and not to be reborn, and who in the end will never be able to understand or repay their obligations. One is the voice-hearer and the other is the cause-awakened one. Suppose that a person falls into a deep pit. That person will be unable to benefit himself or to benefit others. The voice-hearer and the cause-awakened one are like this. They fall into the pit of emancipation and can benefit neither themselves nor others."
The more than three thousand volumes of Confucian and Taoist literature of China on the whole stress two principles, namely, filial piety and loyalty to the sovereign. But loyalty is nothing more than an extension of filial piety. Filial piety may be described as lofty. Though heaven is lofty, it is no loftier than the ideal of filial piety. Filial piety may be called deep. Though earth is deep, it is no deeper than filial piety. Sages and worthy men are the product of filial piety. It goes without saying, therefore, that persons who study the teachings of Buddhism must also [observe the ideal of filial piety and] understand and repay their obligations. The disciples of the Buddha must without fail understand the four debts of gratitude and know how to repay them.
In addition, Shariputra, Mahakashyapa and the other disciples, who were persons of the two vehicles, carefully observed the two hundred and fifty precepts and the three thousand rules of conduct, mastered the three types of meditation-known as flavor meditation, pure meditation and free-of-outflows meditation-and carried out the teachings of the Agon sutras, and freed themselves from the illusions of thought and desire in the threefold world. They must therefore have been models in the understanding and repaying of obligations.
And yet the World-Honored One declared that they were men who did not understand obligation. He said this because, when a man leaves his parents and home and becomes a monk, he should always have as his goal the salvation of his father and mother. But these men upheld the two vehicles, and although they thought they had attained emancipation, they did nothing to benefit others. And even if they had done a certain amount to benefit others, they had led their parents to a path whereby they could never attain Buddhahood. Thus, contrary to what one might expect, they became known as men who did not understand their obligations.
In the Vimalakirti Sutra we read: ‘‘Vimalakirti once more questioned Monjushiri, saying, ‘What are the seeds of Buddhahood?’ Monjushiri replied, ‘All the delusions and defilement’s are the seeds of Buddhahood. Even though a person commits the five cardinal sins and is condemned to the hell of incessant suffering, he is still capable of conceiving the desire for the great way.’ "
The same sutra also says: "Good man, let me give you a metaphor. The plains and highlands will never bring forth the stems and blossoms of the blue lotus or the water lily. But the muddy fields that are low-lying and damp-that is where you will find these flowers growing."
It also says: "One who has already become an arhat and achieved the level of truth that goes with arhatship can never conceive the desire for the way and gain Buddhahood. He is like a man who has destroyed the five sense organs and therefore can never again enjoy the five delights that go with them."
The point of this sutra is that the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity can become the seeds of Buddhahood, and the five cardinal sins such as the killing of one’s father can likewise become the seeds of Buddhahood. Even if the high plains should bring forth blue lotus flowers, the persons of the two vehicles would never attain Buddhahood. The text is saying that, when the goodness of the persons of the two vehicles is compared with the evils of ordinary persons, it will be found that, though the evils of ordinary persons can lead to Buddhahood, the goodness of the persons of the two vehicles never can. The various Hinayana sutras censure evil and praise good. But this sutra, the Vimalakirti, condemns the goodness of persons of the two vehicles and praises the evils of ordinary persons. It would almost appear that it is not a Buddhist scripture at all, but rather the teachings of some non-Buddhist school. But the point is that it wants to make absolutely clear that the persons of the two vehicles can never become Buddhas.
The Hodo darani Sutra states: "Monju said to Shariputra, ‘Can a withered tree put forth new blossoms? Can a mountain stream turn and flow back to its source? Can a shattered rock join itself together again? Can a scorched seed send out sprouts?’ Shariputra replied, ‘No.’ Monju said, ‘If these things are impossible, then why do you come with joy in your heart and ask me if Buddhahood has been predicted for you in the future?’ "
The passage means that, just as a withered tree puts forth no blossoms, a mountain stream never flows backward, a shattered rock cannot be joined, and a scorched seed cannot sprout, so the persons of the two vehicles can never attain Buddhahood. In their case the seeds of Buddhahood have been scorched.
In the Daibon hannya Sutra, [Subhuti] says: "All you sons of gods, if you have not yet conceived a desire for perfect enlightenment, now is the time to do so. If you should once enter the realm of the enlightenment of voice-hearers, you would no longer be capable of conceiving such a desire for perfect enlightenment. Why is this? Because you would be outside the world of birth and death, which itself would constitute an obstacle." This passage indicates that he is not pleased with the persons of the two vehicles because they do not conceive the desire for perfect enlightenment, but he is pleased with the heavenly beings because they do conceive such a desire.
The Shuramgama Sutra states: "If a person who has committed the five cardinal sins should hear of this shuramgama meditation and should conceive the desire for supreme enlightenment, then, he would still be capable of attaining Buddhahood. But, World-Honored One, an arhat who has put an end to outflows is like a broken vessel, and will never be capable of receiving and upholding this meditation."
The Vimalakirti Sutra says: "Those who give alms to you are cultivating for themselves no field of good fortune. Those who give alms to you will fall into the three evil paths." This passage means that the human and heavenly beings who give alms to the sage monks such as Mahakashyapa and Shariputra will invariably fall into the three evil paths. Sage monks such as these, one would suppose, must be the eyes of the human and heavenly beings and the leaders of all living beings, second only to the Buddha himself. It must have been very much against common expectation that the Buddha spoke out time and again against such men before the great assemblies of human and heavenly beings, as we have seen him do. Was he really trying to reprimand his own disciples to death? In addition, he employed countless different metaphors in expressing his condemnation of the men of the two vehicles, calling them donkey milk as compared to cow’s milk, clay vessels as compared to vessels of gold, or the glimmer of a firefly as compared to the light of the sun.
He did not speak of this in one word or two, in one day or two, in one month or two, in one year or two, or in one sutra or two, but over a period of more than forty years, in countless sutras, addressing himself to great assemblies of countless persons, condemning the persons of the two vehicles without a single extenuating word. Thus everyone learned that his condemnation was true. Heaven learned it and earth learned it, not merely one or two persons but hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands learned and heard of it, as did all the human and heavenly beings, the persons of the two vehicles and the great bodhisattvas gathered in assembly from the worlds of the ten directions, the worlds of form and formlessness, the six heavens of the world of desire, the four continents and the five regions of India, and the heavenly beings, the dragon gods and the asuras of the threefold world. Then each of these beings returned to his own land, explaining the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha of the saha world one by one to the inhabitants of his respective land, so that there was not a single being in the countless worlds of the ten directions who did not understand that Mahakashyapa, Shariputra and those like them would never attain Buddhahood and that it was wrong to give them alms and support.
In the Lotus Sutra preached during the last eight years of his life, however, the Buddha suddenly regretted and retracted his earlier position and instead taught that persons of the two vehicles can in fact attain Buddhahood. Could the human and heavenly beings gathered in the great assembly to listen to him be expected to believe this? Would they not rather reject it and, in addition, begin to entertain doubts about all the sutras preached in this and earlier periods? They would wonder if all the teachings put forward in the entire fifty years of the Buddha’s preaching were not, in fact, false and erroneous doctrines.
To be sure, there is a passage in the Muryogi Sutra that says, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." Nevertheless, one might wonder if the heavenly devil had not taken on the Buddha’s form and preached this sutra of the last eight years, the Lotus Sutra. In the sutra, however, the Buddha describes quite specifically how his disciples of the two vehicles will attain Buddhahood and reveals the kalpas and the lands in which they will appear, the names they will bear, and the disciples they will teach. Thus it becomes apparent that Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, is saying two different things. This clearly means that he is contradicting his own words. This is why the Brahmanists laugh at the Buddha and call him the great prevaricator.
But just as the human and heavenly beings in the great assembly were feeling downcast in the face of this contradiction, the Thus Come One Taho, who dwells in the world of Treasure Purity in the east, appeared in a huge tower adorned with the seven kinds of treasures and measuring 500 yojanas high and 250 yojanas wide. The human and heavenly beings in the great assembly accused Shakyamuni Buddha of contradicting his own words, and although the Buddha answered in one way or another, he was in considerable embarrassment, being unable to dispel their doubts, when the treasure tower emerged out of the ground before him and ascended into the sky. It came forth like the full moon rising from behind the eastern mountain in the dark of night. The tower of seven kinds of treasures ascended into the sky, clinging neither to the earth nor to the roof of the heavens, but hanging in midair, and from within the tower a pure and far-reaching voice issued, speaking words of testimony. [As the Lotus Sutra describes it:] "At that time a loud voice issued from the treasure tower, speaking words of praise: ‘Excellent, excellent! Shakyamuni, World-Honored One, that you can take the great wisdom of equality, a Law to instruct the bodhisattvas, guarded and kept in mind by the Buddhas, the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, and preach it for the sake of the great assembly! It is as you say, as you say. Shakyamuni, World-Honored One, all that you have expounded is the truth!’ "
[Elsewhere the Lotus Sutra says:] "At that time the World-Honored One, in the presence of Monjushiri and the other immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas who from of old had dwelled in the saha world, as well as . . . human and non-human beings — before all these he displayed his great supernatural powers. He extended his long broad tongue upward till it reached the Brahma heaven, and from all his pores [he emitted immeasurable, countless beams of light that illuminated] all the worlds in the ten directions.
"The other Buddhas, seated on lion seats underneath the numerous jeweled trees, did likewise, extending their long broad tongues and emitting immeasurable beams of light."
And it also says: "Shakyamuni Buddha caused the Buddhas who were emanations of his body and had come from the ten directions to return each one to his original land, saying: ‘. . . The tower of Taho Buddha may also return to its former position.’ "
In the past, when the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment first attained the way, Buddhas appeared in the ten directions to counsel and encourage him, and various great bodhisattvas were dispatched to him. When he preached the Hannya Sutra, he covered the major world system with his long tongue, and a thousand Buddhas appeared in the ten directions. When he preached the Konkomyo Sutra, the four Buddhas appeared in the four directions, and when he preached the Amida Sutra, the Buddhas of the six directions covered the major world system with their tongues. And when he preached the Daijuku Sutra, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions gathered in the Great Treasure Chamber that stands on the border between the worlds of form and desire.
But when we compare the auspicious signs that accompanied these sutras with those accompanying the Lotus Sutra, we find that they are like a yellow stone compared to gold, a white cloud to a white mountain, ice to a silver mirror, or the color black to the color blue -- the bleary-eyed, the squint-eyed, the one-eyed and the wrong-viewed will be likely to confuse them.
Since the Kegon Sutra was the first sutra to be preached, there were no previous words of the Buddha for it to contradict, and so it naturally raised no doubts. In the case of the Daijuku Sutra, the Daibon [hannya] Sutra, the Konkomyo Sutra and the Amida Sutra, the Buddha, in order to censure the ideal of the two vehicles demonstrated in the various Hinayana sutras, described the pure lands of the ten directions, and thereby inspired ordinary persons and bodhisattvas to aspire to attain them. Thus he caused the persons of the two vehicles to feel confounded and vexed.
Again, because there are certain differences between the Hinayana sutras and the Mahayana sutras mentioned above, we find that in some cases Buddhas appeared in the ten directions, in others great bodhisattvas were dispatched from the ten directions, or it was made clear that the particular sutra was expounded in the worlds of the ten directions, or that various Buddhas came from the ten directions to meet in assembly. In some cases, it was said that Shakyamuni Buddha covered the major world system with his tongue, while in others it was the various Buddhas who put forth their tongues. All of these statements are intended to combat the view expounded in the Hinayana sutras that in the worlds of the ten directions there is only one Buddha.
But in the case of the Lotus Sutra, it differs so greatly from the previous Mahayana sutras that Shariputra and the other voice-hearers, the great bodhisattvas, and the various human and heavenly beings, when they heard the Buddha preach it, were led to think, "Is this not a devil pretending to be the Buddha?" And yet those bleary-eyed men of the Kegon, Hosso, Sanron, Shingon and Nembutsu sects all seem to think that their own particular sutras are exactly the same as the Lotus Sutra. That is what I call wretched perception indeed!
While the Buddha was still in this world, there were undoubtedly those who set aside the sutras he had taught during the first forty and more years of his teaching life and embraced the Lotus Sutra. But after he passed away, it must have been difficult to find persons who would open and read this sutra and accept its teachings. To begin with, the sutras preached earlier run to countless words, while the Lotus Sutra is limited in length. The earlier sutras are numerous, but the Lotus Sutra is no more than a single work. The earlier sutras were preached over a period of many years, but the Lotus Sutra was preached in a mere eight years.
Moreover, the Buddha, as we have seen, has been called the great liar, and therefore one can hardly be expected to believe his words. If one makes a great effort to believe the unbelievable, one can perhaps bring oneself to believe in the earlier sutras but not in the Lotus Sutra. The people today appear to believe in the Lotus Sutra, but in fact they do not really believe in it. The reason is this: when someone assures them that the Lotus Sutra is the same as the Dainichi Sutra, or that it is the same as the Kegon Sutra or the Amida Sutra, they are pleased and place their faith in this person. If someone tells them that the Lotus Sutra is completely different from all the other sutras, they will not listen to him, or even if they should listen, they would not think that the person was really speaking the truth.
Nichiren has this to say. It is now over seven hundred years since Buddhism was introduced to Japan. During that time, only the Great Teacher Dengyo truly understood the Lotus Sutra, but no one is willing to heed this fact which Nichiren has been teaching. It is just as the Lotus Sutra says: "If you were to seize Mount Sumeru and fling it far off to the measureless Buddha lands, that too would not be difficult.... But if after the Buddha has entered extinction, in the time of evil, you can preach this sutra, that will be difficult indeed!"
The powerful assertions I am putting forward are in complete accord with the sutra itself. But as the Nirvana Sutra, which was designed to propagate the Lotus Sutra, states: in the defiled times of the latter age, those who slander the correct teaching will be as numerous as the specks of dirt in all the lands of the ten directions, while those who uphold the correct teaching will be as few as the specks of dirt that can be placed on a fingernail. What do you think of that? Would you say that the people of Japan can be squeezed into the space of a fingernail? Would you say that I, Nichiren, occupy the ten directions? Consider the matter carefully.
In the reign of a wise king, what is reasonable will prevail, but when a foolish king reigns, then what is unreasonable will have supremacy. One should understand that, in similar fashion, when a sage is in the world, then the true significance of the Lotus Sutra will become apparent.
In my remarks here, I have been contrasting the early sutras with the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and it would appear as though the early sutras are in a position to prevail. But if they really win out over the theoretical teaching, then it means that Shariputra and the other persons of the two vehicles will never be able to attain Buddhahood. That would surely be lamentable!
I turn now to the second important teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, was born in the kalpa of continuance, in the ninth period of decrease, when the span of human life measured a hundred years. He was the grandson of King Simhahanu and the son and heir of King Shuddhodana. As a boy he was known as Crown Prince Siddhartha, or the Bodhisattva All Goals Achieved. At the age of nineteen he left his family, and at thirty he attained enlightenment. At his place of enlightenment, the World-Honored One first revealed the ceremony of Vairochana Buddha of the Lotus Treasury World, a Land of Actual Reward, and expounded the ten mysteries, the six forms, the perfect interfusion of all things, and the subtle and wonderful great teaching for immediate attainment of the ultimate fruit. At that time the Buddhas of the ten directions appeared on the scene, and all the bodhisattvas gathered about like clouds. In view of the place where Shakyamuni preached, the capacity of the listeners, the presence of the Buddhas, and the fact that it was the first sermon, is there any reason the Buddha could have concealed or held back the great doctrine? Therefore the Kegon Sutra says: "He displayed his power freely and expounded a sutra of perfection and fullness."
The work, which consists of sixty volumes, is indeed a sutra of perfection and fullness in its every character and stroke. It may be compared to the wish-granting jewel which, though it is a single jewel, is the equal of countless such jewels. For the single jewel can rain down ten thousand treasures which are equal to the treasures brought forth by ten thousand jewels. In the same way, one character of the Kegon Sutra contains all the meanings encompassed in ten thousand characters. The passage that expounds the identity of "the mind, the Buddha and all living beings" represents not only the core of Kegon teachings, but of the teachings of the Hosso, Sanron, Shingon and Tendai sects as well.
In such a superb sutra, how could there be any truths that are hidden from the hearer? And yet we find the sutra declaring that persons of the two vehicles and icchantikas can never attain Buddhahood. Here is the flaw in the jewel. Moreover, in three places the sutra speaks of Shakyamuni Buddha as attaining enlightenment for the first time in this world. It thus hides the fact that, as revealed in the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha actually attained enlightenment in the remote past. Thus, the Kegon Sutra is in fact a chipped jewel, a moon veiled in clouds, a sun in eclipse. How incomprehensible!
The sutras of the Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods, such as the Dainichi Sutra, since they were expounded by the Buddha, are splendid works, and yet they cannot begin to compare with the Kegon Sutra. Therefore one could hardly expect that doctrines concealed even in the Kegon Sutra would be revealed in these sutras. Thus we find that the Zo-agon Sutra speaks of Shakyamuni Buddha as having attained the way for the first time in his present existence, the Daijuku Sutra says, "It is sixteen years since the Thus Come One first attained the way," and the Vimalakirti Sutra states, "The Buddha first sat beneath the bodhi tree and through his might conquered the devil." Likewise, the Dainichi Sutra describes the Buddha’s enlightenment as having taken place "when I long ago sat in the place of meditation," and the Ninno hannya Sutra refers to it as an event of "twenty-nine years" in the past.
It is hardly surprising that these sutras should speak in this fashion. But there is something that is an astonishment to both the ear and the eye. This is the fact that the Muryogi Sutra also speaks in the same way. In the Muryogi Sutra, the Buddha denies the great doctrines, such as the Kegon Sutra concept of the phenomenal world as created by the mind alone, the concept of the ocean-imprint meditation set forth in the sutras of the Hodo period and the Hannya Sutra concept of mutual identification and non-duality, when he declares, "I have not yet revealed the truth." The Muryogi Sutra regards the practices taught in the previous sutras as the practice that requires many kalpas to complete. However, the same sutra says, "In the past I sat upright in the place of meditation for six years under the bodhi tree and was able to gain supreme perfect enlightenment," using the same type of language as the Kegon Sutra, the first sutra Shakyamuni preached after his enlightenment, when it talks of the Buddha having attained enlightenment for the first time in this world.
Strange as this may seem, we may suppose that, since the Muryogi Sutra is intended to serve as an introduction to the Lotus Sutra, it deliberately refrains from speaking about doctrines to be revealed in the Lotus Sutra itself. But when we turn to the Lotus Sutra, we find that, in the sections where the Buddha discusses in both concise and expanded form the replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, he says: "The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas," "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines [and now must reveal the truth]," and "[I,] honestly discarding expedient means, [will preach only the unsurpassed way]." Moreover, Taho Buddha testifies to the verity of the eight chapters of the theoretical teaching, declaring that these are all true. We would suppose, therefore, that in them there would be nothing held back or concealed. Nevertheless, the Buddha hides the fact that he attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, for he says: "I first sat in the place of meditation and gazed at the tree and walked around it." This is surely the most astounding fact of all.
In the Yujutsu chapter, a multitude of bodhisattvas who had not been seen previously in the more than forty years of the Buddha’s preaching life suddenly appear, and the Buddha says, "I taught and converted them, and caused them for the first time to set their minds on the way." Bodhisattva Miroku, puzzled by this announcement, says: "[World-Honored One,] when the Thus Come One was crown prince, you left the palace of the Shakyas and sat in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya, and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment. Barely forty years or more have passed since then. World-Honored One, how in that short time could you have accomplished so much work as a Buddha?"
In order to dispel this doubt and puzzlement, Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, then preaches the Juryo chapter. Referring first to the version of the events presented in the earlier sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, he says: "In all the worlds the heavenly and human beings and asuras all believe that the present Shakyamuni Buddha, after leaving the palace of the Shakyas, seated himself in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment." But then, in order to dispel their doubts, he says: "But good men, it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood."
All the other sutras such as the Kegon, Hannya and Dainichi not only conceal the fact that people of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, but they fail to make clear that the Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas in the past. These sutras have two flaws. First, because they teach that the Ten Worlds are separate from one another, they fail to move beyond the provisional doctrines and to reveal the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life as it is expounded in the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Second, because they teach that Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment for the first time in this world, referring only to his provisional aspect, they fail to reveal the fact, stressed in the essential teaching, that the Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago. These two great doctrines are the core of the Buddha’s lifetime teachings and the very heart and marrow of all the sutras.
The Hoben chapter, which belongs to the theoretical teaching, expounds the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, making clear that persons of the two vehicles can achieve Buddhahood. It thus eliminates one of the two errors found in the earlier sutras. But it nevertheless retains the provisional aspect, and fails to reveal the eternal aspect, of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Thus the true doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life remains unclear and the attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles is not properly affirmed. Such teachings are like the moon seen in the water, or rootless plants that drift on the waves.
When we come to the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, then the belief that Shakyamuni first obtained Buddhahood during his present lifetime is demolished, and the effects of the four teachings are likewise demolished. When the effects of the four teachings are demolished, the causes of the four teachings are likewise demolished. Thus the cause and effect of the Ten Worlds as expounded in the earlier sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra are wiped out, and the cause and effect of the Ten Worlds in the essential teaching are revealed. This is the doctrine of original cause and original effect. It reveals that the nine worlds are all present in the beginningless Buddhahood, and that Buddhahood is inherent in the beginningless nine worlds. This is the true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, the true hundred worlds and thousand factors, the true three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
When we consider the matter in this light, we can see that the Vairochana Buddha seated on the lotus pedestal of the ten directions as described in the Kegon Sutra, the little Shakyamuni described in the Agon sutras, and the provisional Buddhas described in the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods such as the Konkomyo, Amida and Dainichi sutras are no more than reflections of the Buddha of the Juryo chapter. They are like fleeting reflections of the moon that float on the surfaces of various large and small bodies of water. The scholars of the various schools of Buddhism, confused as to [the nature of the Buddhas of] their own school and, more fundamentally, ignorant of [the Buddha of] the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, mistake the reflection in the water for the actual moon, some of them entering the water and trying to grasp it in their hands, others to snare it with a rope. As T’ien-t’ai says, "They know nothing of the moon in the sky, but gaze only at the moon in the pond."
Nichiren has this to remark. Though the Lotus Sutra teaches that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, this view tends to be overshadowed by the opposite view propounded in the sutras that precede the Lotus Sutra. How much more so is this the case with the doctrine that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the remote past? For in this case, it is not the Lotus Sutra as a whole that stands in contradiction to the earlier sutras, but the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra that stands in contradiction both to the earlier sutras and to the first fourteen chapters of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, of the latter fourteen chapters of the essential teaching, all of them with the exception of the Yujutsu and Juryo chapters retain the view that the Buddha first attained enlightenment in his present lifetime.
The forty volumes of the Daihatsunehan Sutra, preached by the Buddha in the grove of sal trees just before his passing, as well as the other Mahayana sutras except the Lotus Sutra, have not one single word [to say about the fact that the Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago]. They speak of the Dharma body of the Buddha as being without beginning and without end, but they do not reveal the true nature of the other two bodies, the reward body and the manifested body.
How, then, can we expect people to cast aside the vast body of writings represented by the earlier Mahayana sutras, the Nirvana Sutra and the major portion of the theoretical and essential teachings of the Lotus Sutra, and put all their faith simply in the two chapters Yujutsu and Juryo?
If we examine the origins of the school called Hosso, we find that, nine hundred years after the Buddha passed away in India, there was a great teacher of doctrine called Bodhisattva Asanga. At night, he ascended to the inner court of the Tushita heaven, where he came before Bodhisattva Miroku and resolved his doubts concerning the sacred teachings propounded by the Buddha during his lifetime. In the daytime, he worked to propagate the Hosso doctrines in the state of Ayodhya. Among his disciples were various great scholars such as Vasubandhu, Dharmapala, Nanda and Shilabhadra. The great ruler, King Shiladitya, bowed his head in reverence, and the people of all the five regions of India abandoned their arrogance and declared themselves followers of his teaching.
The Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang of China journeyed to India, spending seventeen years visiting 130 or more states in India. He rejected all the other teachings of Buddhism, but brought back the doctrines of the Hosso school to China and presented them to the wise sovereign, Emperor T’ai-tsung. Hsuan-tsang numbered among his disciples such men as Shen-fang, Chia-shang, P’u-kuang and K’uei-chi. He preached his teachings in Ta-tz’u-en-ssu temple and spread them through more than 360 districts of China.
In the reign of Emperor Kotoku, the thirty-seventh sovereign of Japan, Doji, Dosho and other priests went to China and studied these doctrines, and on their return preached them at Yamashina-dera temple. In this way, the Hosso sect was regarded as the leading sect of Buddhism throughout all three lands of India, China and Japan.
According to this sect, in all the teachings of the Buddha, from the Kegon Sutra, the earliest of the sutras, to the Lotus and Nirvana sutras that were preached last, it is laid down that those sentient beings who do not possess the innate nature of any enlightenment and those predestined for the two vehicles can never become Buddhas. The Buddha, they say, never contradicts himself. Therefore, if he has once declared that these persons will never be able to attain Buddhahood, then, even though the sun and moon may fall to the earth and the great earth itself may turn upside down, that declaration can never be altered. In the earlier sutras those sentient beings who do not possess the innate nature of any enlightenment or those predestined for the two vehicles were said to be incapable of attaining Buddhahood. Therefore, even in the Lotus or Nirvana Sutra it is never said that they can in fact do so.
"Close your eyes and consider the matter," the members of the Hosso sect would say. "If it had in fact been plainly stated in the Lotus and Nirvana sutras that those who do not possess the innate nature of any enlightenment or those predestined for the two vehicles can actually attain Buddhahood, then why would not the great scholars such as Asanga and Vasubandhu or the Tripitaka masters and teachers such as Hsuan-tsang and Tz’u-en have taken notice of this fact? Why did they not mention it in their own writings? Why did they not accept the belief and transmit it to later ages? Why did not Asanga question Bodhisattva Miroku about it? People like you, Nichiren, claim that you are basing your assertions on the text of the Lotus Sutra, but in fact you are simply accepting the biased views of men like T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo and interpreting the text of the sutra in the light of their teachings. Therefore you claim that the Lotus Sutra is as different from the earlier sutras as fire from water."
Again, there are the Kegon and Shingon schools, which are incomparably higher in level than the Hosso and Sanron schools. They claim that the doctrines that persons of the two vehicles may attain Buddhahood and that the Buddha achieved enlightenment in the remote past are to be found not only in the Lotus Sutra, but in the Kegon and Dainichi sutras as well.
According to these schools, the Kegon patriarchs Tu-shun, Chih-yen, Fa-tsang and Ch’eng-kuan, and the Shingon masters Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung were far more eminent than T’ien-t’ai or Dengyo. Moreover, they claim that Shan-wu-wei’s teachings descend in an unbroken line from the Buddha Mahavairochana or Dainichi. How could men like this, who are manifestations of the Buddha, possibly be mistaken, they ask. They point to the passage in the Kegon Sutra that reads: "Some people perceive that immeasurable numbers of kalpas have passed since Shakyamuni attained the Buddha way," or the passage in the Dainichi Sutra that says: "I [Mahavairochana Buddha] am the source and beginning of all things." Why, they ask, would anyone claim that it is the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra alone that expounds the doctrine that Shakyamuni attained enlightenment long ago? Persons who do so are like frogs at the bottom of a well who have never seen the great sea, or like mountain dwellers who know nothing of the capital. "You people look only at the Juryo chapter and know nothing of the Kegon, the Dainichi and the other sutras! Do you suppose that in India and China and Silla and Paekche [in Korea] people believe that these two doctrines are limited to the Lotus Sutra alone?"
As we have seen, the Lotus Sutra, which was preached over a period of eight years, is quite different from the earlier sutras preached over a period of some forty years. If one had to choose between the two, one ought by rights to choose the Lotus Sutra, and yet the earlier sutras in many ways appear to carry greater weight.
While the Buddha was still alive, there would have been good reasons for choosing the Lotus Sutra. But in the ages since his passing, the teachers and scholars have in most cases shown a preference for the earlier sutras. Not only is the Lotus Sutra itself difficult to believe, but in addition, with the coming of the latter age, gradually sages and worthy men disappear from the scene, and deluded persons increase in number. People are prone to make mistakes even in shallow, worldly affairs, so how much more likely are they to be mistaken about the profound Buddhist teachings that lead to enlightenment?
Vatsa and Vaipulya were keen and perceptive, but still they confused the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras. Vimalamitra and Madhava were very clever by nature, but they could not distinguish properly between the provisional teachings and the true teachings. These men lived during the thousand-year period known as the Former Day of the Law, not far removed in time from the Buddha himself, and in the same country of India, and yet they fell into error, as we have seen. How much more likely, therefore, that the people of China and Japan should do so, since these countries are far removed from India and speak different languages from it?
Now human beings have grown increasingly dull by nature, their life span diminishes steadily, and the poisons of greed, anger and stupidity continue to multiply. Many ages have passed since the Buddha’s death, and the Buddhist scriptures are all misunderstood. Who these days has the wisdom to interpret them correctly?
Therefore the Buddha predicted in the Nirvana Sutra that in the Latter Day of the Law, those who abide by the correct teachings will occupy no more land than can be placed on top of a fingernail, while those who slander the correct teachings will occupy all the lands in the ten directions.
In the Hometsujin Sutra we find a passage stating that those who slander the correct teachings will be as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, but those who abide by the correct teachings will be no more than one or two pebbles. Though five hundred or a thousand years go by, it will be difficult to find even a single person who believes in the correct teachings. Those who fall into the evil paths because of secular crimes will be as insignificant in number as the specks of dirt placed on a fingernail, but those who do so because of violations of the Buddhist teachings will be equal in number to the specks of dirt in all the lands in the ten directions. More monks than laymen, and more nuns than laywomen, will fall into the evil paths.
Here Nichiren considers as follows: Already over two hundred years have passed since the world entered the Latter Day of the Law. I was born in a remote land, and, moreover, a person of low station and a priest of humble learning. During my past lifetimes through the six paths, I have perhaps at times been born as a great ruler in the human or heavenly world, and have bent the multitudes to my will as a great wind bends the branches of small trees. And yet at such times I was not able to become a Buddha.
I studied the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras, beginning as an ordinary practitioner with no understanding at all and gradually moving upward to the position of a great bodhisattva.
For one kalpa, two kalpas, countless kalpas I devoted myself to the practices of the bodhisattva, until I almost reached the stage of non-regression [where one never fails to attain Buddhahood]. And yet I was dragged down by the powerful and overwhelming influences of evil, and I never attained Buddhahood. I do not know whether I was among the third group who failed to take faith when the sons of Daitsu Buddha preached [the Lotus Sutra] and again failed to attain Buddhahood during the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha, or whether I faltered and fell away from the teachings which I heard [long before Daitsu Buddha] at gohyaku-jintengo and thus have been reborn in this age.
While one is practicing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, one may surmount all kinds of difficulties occasioned by the evil forces of worldly life, or by the persecutions of rulers, non-Buddhists, or the followers of the Hinayana sutras. And yet one may encounter someone like Tao-ch’o, Shan-tao or Honen, monks who seemed thoroughly conversant with the teachings of the provisional and the true Mahayana sutras but who were in fact possessed by devils. Such men seem to praise the Lotus Sutra most forcefully, but in fact they belittle the people’s ability to understand it, claiming that its principles are very profound but human understanding is slight. They mislead others by saying that "not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood" through that sutra, or that "not one person in a thousand" can be saved by it. Thus, over a period of countless lifetimes, people are deceived as often as there are sands in the Ganges, until they [abandon their faith in the Lotus Sutra and] descend to the teachings of the provisional Mahayana sutras, abandon these and descend to the teachings of the Hinayana sutras, and eventually abandon even these and descend to the teachings and scriptures of the non-Buddhist doctrines. I understand all too well how, in the end, people have come in this way to fall into the evil paths.
I, Nichiren, am the only person in all Japan who understands this. But if I utter so much as a word concerning it, then parents, brothers and teachers will surely censure me and the ruler of the nation will take steps against me. On the other hand, I am fully aware that if I do not speak out, I will be lacking in compassion. I have considered which course to take in the light of the teachings of the Lotus and Nirvana sutras. If I remain silent, I may escape persecutions in this lifetime, but in my next life I will most certainly fall into the hell of incessant suffering. If I speak out, I am fully aware that I will have to contend with the three obstacles and four devils. But of these two courses, surely the latter is the one to choose.
If I were to falter in my determination in the face of persecutions by the sovereign, however, it would be better not to speak out. While thinking this over, I recalled the teachings of the Hoto chapter on the six difficult and nine easy acts. Persons like myself who are of paltry strength might still be able to lift Mount Sumeru and toss it about; persons like myself who are lacking in supernatural powers might still shoulder a load of dry grass and yet remain unburned in the fire at the end of the kalpa of decline; and persons like myself who are without wisdom might still read and memorize as many sutras as there are sands in the Ganges. But such acts are not difficult, we are told, when compared to the difficulty of embracing even one phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. Nevertheless, I vowed to summon up a powerful and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings, and never to falter in my efforts.
It is already over twenty years since I began proclaiming my doctrines. Day after day, month after month, year after year I have been subjected to repeated persecutions. Minor persecutions and annoyances are too numerous even to be counted, but the major persecutions number four. Among the four, twice I have been subjected to persecutions by the rulers of the country.The most recent one has come near to costing me my life. In addition, my disciples, my lay followers, and even those who have merely listened to my teachings have been subjected to severe punishment and treated as though they were guilty of treason.
In the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra we read: "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?" The second volume states: "If this person [should slander a sutra such as this,] or on seeing those who read, recite, copy and uphold this sutra, should despise, hate, envy or bear grudges against them ..." And the fifth volume says: "It [the Lotus Sutra] will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe." It also states: "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us," and "They will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, [as well as the other monks,] slandering and speaking evil of us, saying, ‘These are men of perverted views [who preach non-Buddhist doctrines]!’ " It is also stated in the same volume: "again and again we will be banished," and [in the seventh volume] "Some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him."
The Nirvana Sutra records: "At that time there were a countless number of Brahmanists who plotted together and went in a body to King Ajatashatru of Magadha and said, ‘At present there is a man of incomparable wickedness, a monk called Gautama. All sorts of evil persons, hoping to gain profit and alms, have flocked to him and become his followers. These people do not practice goodness, but instead use the power of spells and magic to win over men like Mahakashyapa, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.’"
T’ien-t’ai says: "It will be much worse in the future because the principles [of the Lotus Sutra] are so hard to teach." Miao-lo says: " ‘Hatred’ refers to those who have not yet freed themselves from impediments and ‘jealousy’ to those who take no delight in listening to the doctrine." The teachers of the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north in China, as well as the countless other scholars of China, all regarded T’ien-t’ai with resentment and animosity. Thus Tokuitsu said: "See here, Chih-i," whose disciple are you? With a tongue less than three inches long you slander the teachings that come from the Buddha’s long broad tongue that can cover even his face!"
In the Toshun we read: "Question: While the Buddha was in the world, there were many who were resentful and jealous [of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra]. But in the age after his passing, when one preaches this sutra, why are there so many who try to make trouble for one? Answer: It is said that good medicine tastes bitter. This sutra, which is like good medicine, dispels attachments to the five vehicles and establishes the one ultimate principle. It reproaches those in the ranks of ordinary beings and censures those in the ranks of sagehood, denies [provisional] Mahayana and refutes Hinayana. It speaks of the heavenly devils as poisonous insects and calls non-Buddhists demons. It censures those who cling to Hinayana teachings, calling them mean and impoverished, and it dismisses bodhisattvas as beginners in learning. For this reason, heavenly devils hate to listen to it, non-Buddhists find their ears offended, persons of the two vehicles are dumbfounded, and bodhisattvas flee in terror. That is why all these types of persons try to make trouble [for a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra]. The Buddha was not speaking nonsense when he declared that hatred and jealousy would abound."
The Kenkai ron states: "The superintendents of priests [in the capital of Nara] say in their memorial to the throne, ‘Just as in a land west of China there was a Brahman named Demon Eloquence, so now in this eastern realm of Japan there is a shavepated monk who spits out crafty words. Evil spirits invisibly invite such people to deceive and mislead the world.’ I [Dengyo] reply to these charges by saying: ‘Just as in the Ch’i dynasty of China we heard of the arrogant superintendent of priests, Hui-kuang, so now in our own country we see these six superintendents of priests [who oppose me]. How true was [the Buddha’s prediction in] the Lotus Sutra that the situation would be much worse after his passing.’ "
The Hokke shuku the Great Teacher Dengyo also states: "Speaking of the age, [the propagation of the true teaching will begin] in the age when the Middle Day of the Law ends and the Latter Day opens. Regarding the land, [it will begin in a land] to the east of T’ang and to the west of Katsu. As for the people, [it will spread among] people stained by the five impurities who live in a time of conflict. The sutra says: ‘Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?’ There is good reason for this statement."
When a little boy is given moxibustion treatment, he will invariably hate his mother; when a seriously ill person is given good medicine, he will complain without fail about its bitterness. And we meet with similar complaints [about the Lotus Sutra], even in the lifetime of the Buddha. How much more severe is the opposition after his passing, especially in the Middle and Latter Days of the Law and in a far-off country like Japan? As mountains pile upon mountains and waves follow waves, so do persecutions add to persecutions and criticisms augment criticisms.
During the Middle Day of the Law, one man alone, T’ien-t’ai, understood and expounded the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras. The other Buddhist leaders of both northern and southern China hated him for it, but the two sage rulers of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties gave him an audience so he could establish the correctness of his views in debate with his opponents. Thus in time he ceased to have any more opponents. At the end of the Middle Day of the Law, one man alone, Dengyo, grasped the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras just as the Buddha had expounded them. The seven major temples of Nara rose up like hornets against him, but the two worthy sovereigns, Emperor Kammu and Emperor Saga, themselves investigating the views of both sides, made clear which was correct, and thereafter there was no further trouble.
It is now over two hundred years since the Latter Day of the Law began. The Buddha predicted that conditions would be much worse after his passing, and we see the portents of this in the quarrels and wranglings that go on today because unreasonable doctrines are prevalent. And as proof of the fact that we are living in a muddied age, I was not summoned [for a doctrinal debate with my opponents], but instead I was sent into exile and my very life was imperiled.
When it comes to understanding the Lotus Sutra, I have only a minute fraction of the vast ability that T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo possessed. But as regards my ability to endure persecution and the wealth of my compassion for others, I believe they would hold me in awe. [As a votary of the Lotus Sutra,] I firmly believe that I should come under the protection of the gods, and yet I do not see the slightest sign of this. On the contrary, I am subjected to increasingly severe punishments. In view of this, am I perhaps then not a votary of the Lotus Sutra after all? Or have the heavenly gods and benevolent deities perhaps taken leave and departed from this land of Japan? I find myself in much perplexity.
But then I recall the twenty lines of verse in the Kanji chapter of the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra [in which the eight hundred thousand million nayutas of bodhisattvas describe the persecutions they will endure after the Buddha’s death for the sake of the Lotus Sutra]. If I, Nichiren, had not been born in this land of Japan, then the words of the World-Honored One predicting such persecutions would have been a great prevarication, and those eight hundred thousand million nayutas of bodhisattvas would have been guilty of the same offense as that of Devadatta, of lying and misleading others.
The sutra says that "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us and will attack us with swords and staves," with rocks and tiles. Look around you in the world today-are there any priests other than Nichiren who are cursed and vilified because of the Lotus Sutra or who are attacked with swords and staves? If it were not for Nichiren, the prophecy made in this verse of the sutra would have been sheer falsehood.
The same passage says: "In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked," and "They will preach the Law to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers." If it were not for the priests of the Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu sects of our present age, then the World-Honored One would have been a teller of great untruths.
The passage likewise says: "Because in the midst of the great assembly. . ., they will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, . . . [slandering and speaking evil of us]." If the priests of today did not slander me to the authorities and have them condemn me to banishment, then this passage in the sutra would have remained unfulfilled.
"Again and again we will be banished," says the sutra. But if Nichiren had not been banished time and again for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, what would these words "again and again" have meant? Even T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo were not able to fulfill this prediction represented by the words "again and again," much less was anyone else. But because I have been born at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, the "age of fear and evil" described in the sutra, I alone have been able to live these words.
As other examples of prophecies that were fulfilled, in the Fuhozo Sutra it is recorded that the World-Honored One said that one hundred years after his passing, a great ruler named King Ashoka would appear. In the Maya Sutra he said that six hundred years after his passing, a man named Bodhisattva Nagarjuna would appear in southern India. And in the Daihi Sutra he said that sixty years after his passing, a man named Madhyantika would establish his base in the dragon palace. All of these prophecies came true. Indeed, if they had not who would have faith in the Buddhist teachings?
Thus the Buddha decided the time [when the votary of the Lotus Sutra should appear], describing it as "an age of fear and evil," "the latter age hereafter," "the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish," and "the last five-hundred-year period," as attested by both the two Chinese versions of the Lotus Sutra, Sho-hokke-kyo and Myoho-renge-kyo. At such a time, if the three powerful enemies predicted in the Lotus Sutra did not appear, then who would have faith in the words of the Buddha? If it were not for Nichiren, who could fulfill the Buddha’s prophecies concerning the votary of the Lotus Sutra? The three schools of southern China and seven schools of northern China, along with the seven major temples of Nara, were numbered among the enemies of the Lotus Sutra in the time of the Middle Day of the Law. How much less can the Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu priests of the present time hope to escape a similar label?
With this body of mine, I have fulfilled the prophecies of the sutra. The more the government authorities rage against me, the greater is my joy. For instance, there are certain Hinayana bodhisattvas, not yet freed from delusion, who draw evil karma to themselves by their own compassionate vow. If they see that their father and mother have fallen into hell and are suffering greatly, they will deliberately create the appropriate karma in hopes that they too may fall into hell and share in and take their suffering upon themselves. Thus suffering is a joy to them. It is the same with me [in fulfilling the prophecies]. Though at present I must face trials that I can scarcely endure, I rejoice when I think that in the future I will escape being born into the evil paths.
And yet the people doubt me, and I too have doubts about myself. Why do the gods not assist me? Heavenly gods and other guardian deities made their vow before the Buddha. Even if the votary of the Lotus Sutra were an ape rather than a man, they should address him as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and rush forward to fulfill the vow they made before the Buddha. Does their failure to do so mean that I am in fact not a votary of the Lotus Sutra? This doubt lies at the heart of this piece I am writing. And because it is the most important concern of my entire life, I will raise it again and again here and emphasize it more than ever, before I attempt to answer it.
Prince Chi-cha in his heart had promised to give the lord of Hsu the precious royal sword that he wore. Therefore, [when he later found that the lord of Hsu had died,] he placed the sword on his grave. Wang Shou, having drunk water from a river, carefully tossed a gold coin into the water as payment. Hung Yen, finding that his lord had been killed, cut open his stomach and inserted his lord’s liver in it before he died. These were worthy men, and they knew how to repay a debt of gratitude. How much more so, then, should this be the case with great sages like Shariputra and Mahakashyapa, who observed every one of the two hundred and fifty precepts and the three thousand rules of conduct, and had cut themselves off from the illusions of thought and desire and separated themselves from the threefold world? They are worthy to be the leaders of Bonten, Taishaku and the other heavenly gods, and the eyes of all living beings. During the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching, these men were disliked and pushed aside with admonitions that they could never attain Buddhahood. But when they had tasted the medicine of immortality in the Lotus Sutra, they were like scorched seeds that sprout, a shattered rock joined together again, or withered trees that put forth blossoms and fruit. Through the Lotus Sutra, it was revealed that they would attain Buddhahood after all, though they had yet to enter the eight phases of a Buddha’s existence. How, then, can they not do something to repay the profound debt of gratitude that they owe to the sutra? If they do not do so, they will show themselves to be inferior to the worthy men I have mentioned earlier, and in fact be no more than animals who have no understanding of a debt of gratitude.
The turtle that Mao Pao saved did not forget to repay the kindness of the past. The great fish of the K’un-ming Pond, in order to repay the man who had saved his life, presented a bright jewel in the middle of the night. Even these creatures understood how to repay a debt of gratitude, so why shouldn’t men who are great sages?
The Venerable Ananda was the second son of King Dronodana, and the Venerable Rahula was the grandson of King Shuddhodana. Both men were born into very distinguished families and even attained arhatship. However, they were declared to be unable to attain Buddhahood. And yet, during the eight-year assembly at Eagle Peak, where the Lotus Sutra was preached, it was revealed that they would become Buddhas with names such as the Thus Come One Mountain Sea Wisdom [Unrestricted Power King] and the Thus Come One Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers. No matter how distinguished their families or what great sages they were, if it had not been for the revelation in the Lotus Sutra, who would have paid respect to them?
Emperor Chieh of the Hsia dynasty and Emperor Chou of the Yin dynasty were lords of an army of ten thousand chariots and commanded the allegiance of the entire populace of their kingdoms. But because they governed despotically and brought about the downfall of their dynasties, people speak of Chieh and Chou as the epitome of evil men. Even a person of low station or a leper, if he is likened to Chieh and Chou, will be enraged at the insult.
If it had not been for the Lotus Sutra, then who would ever have heard of the twelve hundred voice-hearers and the countless other voice-hearers [who would attain Buddhahood through the sutra], and who would have listened to their voices? No one would have read the Buddhist sutras compiled by the thousand voice-hearers, nor would there be any paintings or statues of them set up and worshipped. It is entirely due to the power of the Lotus Sutra that these arhats are revered and followed. If these voice-hearers were to separate themselves from the Lotus Sutra, they would be like a fish without water, a monkey without a tree, a baby without the breast, or a people without a sovereign. How then can they abandon the votary of the Lotus Sutra?
Through the sutras that precede the Lotus Sutra, the voice-hearers have acquired the heavenly eye and the wisdom eye in addition to their physical eyes. Through the Lotus Sutra, they have been provided with the Dharma eye and the Buddha eye. Their eyesight can penetrate any of the worlds in the ten directions. How then could they fail to see me, the votary of the Lotus Sutra, right here in the saha world? Even if I were an evil man who had said a word or two against them, or even if I cursed and reviled the voice-hearers for a year or two, a kalpa or two, or a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand or a million kalpas, and went so far as to threaten to take up swords and staves against them, so long as I maintain my faith in the Lotus Sutra and act as its votary, then they should never abandon me.
A child may curse his parents, but would the parents for that reason cast him aside? The young owls eat their mother, but the mother nevertheless does not abandon them. The hakei beast kills its father, but the father does nothing to prevent this. If even animals behave like this, then why should great sages abandon the votary of the Lotus Sutra?
The four great voice-hearers, in the passage that deals with their understanding, proclaimed:
Now we have become voice-hearers in truth,
for we will take the voice of the Buddha way and cause it to be heard by all.
Now we have become
for everywhere among
the heavenly and human beings, devils and Bontens
of the various worlds
we deserve to receive offerings.
The World-Honored One in his great mercy
makes use of a rare thing,
in pity and compassion teaching and converting,
bringing benefit to us.
In numberless millions of kalpas
who could ever repay him?
Though we offer him our hands and feet,
bow our heads in respectful obeisance,
and present all manner of offerings,
none of us could repay him.
Though we lift him on the crown of our heads,
bear him on our two shoulders,
for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands
reverence him with all our hearts;
though we come with delicate foods,
with countless jeweled robes,
with articles of bedding,
various kinds of potions and medicines;
with ox-head sandalwood
and all kinds of rare gems,
construct memorial towers
and spread the ground with jeweled robes;
though we were to do all this
by way of offering
for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands,
still we could not repay him.
In the various sutras preached during the earlier period of the Buddha’s teaching life, which have been compared to the first four flavors, the voice-hearers were depicted on countless occasions as subjected to all kinds of abuse and shamed before the great assembly of human and heavenly beings. Thus we are told that the sound of the Venerable Mahakashyapa’s weeping and wailing echoed through the major world system, that the Venerable Subhuti was so dumbfounded that he almost went off and left the alms bowl he had been carrying, that Shariputra spat out the food he was eating, and that Purna was berated for being the kind who would put filth in a precious jar.
When the World-Honored One was at the Deer Park, he extolled the Agon sutras and enjoined his disciples to rely on the two hundred and fifty precepts as their teacher, warmly praising those who did so, and yet before long, as we have seen, he turned about and began condemning such men. He is guilty, we would have to say, of making two different and completely contradictory pronouncements.
Thus, for example, the World-Honored One cursed Devadatta, saying, "You are a fool who licks the spit of others!" Devadatta felt as though a poison arrow had been shot into his breast, and he cried out in anger, declaring, "Gautama is no Buddha! I am the eldest son of King Dronodana, the elder brother of the Venerable Ananda and kin to Gautama. No matter what kind of evil conduct I might be guilty of, he ought to admonish me in private for it. But to publicly and outrageously accuse me of faults in front of this great assembly of human and heavenly beings — is this the behavior appropriate to a great man or a Buddha? He showed himself to be my enemy in the past when he stole the woman I intended to marry, and he has shown himself my enemy at this gathering today. From this day forward, I will look upon him as my archenemy for lifetime after lifetime and age after age to come!"
When we stop to consider, we note that, of the great voice-hearers, some were originally from Brahman families who believed in non-Buddhist doctrines, or were leaders of various non-Buddhist followers who had converted kings to their teachings and were looked up to by their followers. Others were men of noble families or the possessors of great wealth. But they abandoned their exalted positions in life, lowered the banners of their pride, cast off everyday clothing and wrapped their bodies in the humble, dingy hued robes of a Buddhist monk. They threw away their white fly whisks, their bows and arrows, and took up a solitary alms bowl, becoming like paupers and beggars and following the World-Honored One. They had no dwellings to protect them from the wind and rain, and very little in the way of food or clothing by which to sustain life.
Moreover, all the people of the five regions of India and the four seas were disciples or supporters of the non-Buddhist religions, so that even the Buddha himself was on nine occasions forced to suffer major hardships.
Thus, for example, Devadatta hurled a great stone at him and King Ajatashatru loosed a drunken elephant on him. [Failing to receive support from] King Agnidatta, the Buddha was forced to eat horse fodder and, at a Brahman city, he was offered stinking rice gruel. Again, Chincha, the daughter of a Brahman, tying a bowl to her belly, claimed to be pregnant with his child.
Needless to say, the Buddha’s disciples were likewise forced to suffer frequent hardships. Thus, countless numbers of the Shakya clan were killed by King Virudhaka, and ten million of the Buddha’s followers were trampled to death by drunken elephants that were set upon them. The nun Utpalavarna was killed by Devadatta, the Venerable Kalodayin was buried in horse dung, and the Venerable Maudgalyayana was beaten to death by members of a Brahman group named Bamboo Staff. In addition, followers of the six non-Buddhist teachers banded together and slandered the Buddha before King Ajatashatru and King Prasenajit, saying, "Gautama is the most evil man in the whole land of Jambudvipa. Wherever he may be, the three calamities and seven disasters rampage without fail. As the numerous rivers gather together in the great sea and the groves of trees cluster on the great mountains, so crowds of evil men gather about Gautama. The men called Mahakashyapa, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Subhuti are examples. All those who are born in human form should place loyalty to the sovereign and filial piety above all else. But these men have been so misled by Gautama that they disregard the lessons of their parents, abandon their families and, defying the commandments of the king, go to live in the mountain forests. They should be expelled from this country. It is because they are allowed to remain that the sun, moon and stars manifest sinister phenomena and many strange happenings occur in the land."
The voice-hearers did not know how they could possibly bear such persecutions. Then, as if to add to their hardship, [the Buddha himself began to denounce them]. They found it difficult to follow him. Now and then, hearing him condemn them repeatedly in great assemblies of human and heavenly beings, and not knowing how to behave, they only became more confused.
On top of all this, they had to face the greatest hardship of all, as revealed in the Vimalakirti Sutra, [when the Buddha addressed the voice-hearers,] saying, "Those who give alms to you are cultivating for themselves no field of good fortune. Those who give alms to you will fall into the three evil paths." These words were spoken when the Buddha was staying at the Ambapali Garden. There Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly
Kings and the heavenly gods of the threefold world, along with earthly gods, dragon gods and other beings as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, had gathered in this great assembly, when the Buddha said, "The heavenly and human beings who give alms to Subhuti and the other monks will fall into the three evil paths." After the heavenly and human beings had heard this, would they be likely to go on giving alms to the voice-hearers? It would almost appear as though the Buddha were deliberately attempting through his words to inflict death upon those who upheld the two vehicles. The more sensible persons in the assembly were no doubt repelled by the Buddha’s action. Nevertheless, the voice-hearers were able to obtain enough of the alms given to the Buddha to keep themselves alive, meager though the amount was.
When I consider the situation, it occurs to me that, if the Buddha had passed away after preaching the various sutras delivered in the first forty and more years of his teaching life, and had never lived to preach the Lotus Sutra in the later eight years, then who would ever have offered alms to these venerable ones? They would have been living in the realm of hungry spirits.
But after more than forty years of preaching various sutras, it was as though the bright spring sun appeared to melt the frigid ice, or a great wind arose to dispel the dew from countless grasses. With one remark, in one moment, the Buddha wiped away his earlier pronouncements, saying, "I have not yet revealed the truth." Like a great wind scattering the dark clouds or the full moon in the vast heavens, or like the sun shining in the blue sky, he proclaimed, "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth." With the brilliance of the sun or the brightness of the moon, it was revealed in the Lotus Sutra that Shariputra would become the Thus Come One Flower Glow and Mahakashyapa would become the Thus Come One Light Bright. Because of the Lotus Sutra which is the phoenix among scriptures and the mirror that reflects the teachings, after the Buddha’s passing, the voice-hearers were looked up to by the human and heavenly supporters of Buddhism just as the Buddha would be.
If the water is clear, then the moon will not fail to be reflected there. If the wind blows, then the grass and trees will not fail to bow before it. And if there is a votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the sages, the voice-hearers, should not fail to go to his side, though they might have to pass through a great fire to do so, or make their way through a great rock. Though Mahakashyapa may be deep in meditation, he should not ignore the circumstances. Why does he do nothing about the situation? I am completely perplexed. Is this not the last five-hundred-year period? Is the prediction that the Lotus Sutra will spread abroad widely mere nonsense? Is Nichiren not the votary of the Lotus Sutra? Are the voice-hearers protecting those who disparage the Lotus Sutra as a mere written teaching and who put forth their great lies about what they call a special transmission? Are they guarding those who write "Discard, close, ignore, abandon!" urging people to close the gate to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and to throw away its scrolls, and who cause the ruin of the temples dedicated to the practice of the Lotus Sutra! The various heavenly deities swore before the Buddha to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra, but now that they see how fierce are the great persecutions of this muddied age, do they fail to come down? The sun and the moon are still up in the sky. Mount Sumeru has not collapsed. The sea tides ebb and flow and the four seasons proceed in their normal order. Why then is there no sign of aid for the votary of the Lotus Sutra? My doubts grow deeper than ever.
In the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha is shown predicting that various great bodhisattvas and heavenly and human beings will attain Buddhahood in the future. But trying to realize such predictions is like trying to grasp the moon in the water, like mistaking the reflection for the actual object — it has the color and shape of the object but not the reality. Likewise, the Buddha would seem to be displaying profound kindness in making such predictions, but in fact it is little kindness at all.
When the World-Honored One had first attained enlightenment and had not yet begun to preach, more than sixty great bodhisattvas, including Hoe or Dharma Wisdom, Kudokurin or Forest of Merits, Kongodo or Diamond Banner and Kongozo or Diamond Storehouse, appeared from the various Buddha lands of the ten directions and came before Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. There, at the request of the bodhisattvas Genju or Chief Wise, Gedatsugatsu or Moon of Deliverance and others, they preached the doctrines of the ten stages of security, the ten stages of practice, the ten stages of devotion, the ten stages of development, and so forth. The doctrines that these great bodhisattvas preached were not learned from Shakyamuni Buddha. At that time, Bontens and other deities of the worlds of the ten directions came together and preached the various teachings, but again those were not what they had learned from Shakyamuni.
These great bodhisattvas, deities, dragons and others who appeared at the assembly described in the Kegon Sutra were beings who had dwelt in "inconceivable emancipation" since before Shakyamuni Buddha began preaching. Perhaps they were disciples of Shakyamuni when he was carrying out bodhisattva practices in previous existences, or perhaps they were disciples of previous Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions. In any event, they were not disciples of the Shakyamuni who first attained enlightenment in this world and expounded his lifetime teachings.
It was only when the Buddha set forth the four teachings in the Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods that he finally acquired disciples. And although they were doctrines preached by the Buddha himself, they were not doctrines that revealed his true intention. Why do I say this? Because the specific and perfect teachings, as set forth in the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods, do not differ in meaning from the specific and perfect teachings as set forth in the Kegon Sutra. The specific and perfect teachings given in the Kegon Sutra are not the specific and perfect teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. They are the specific and perfect teachings of Hoe and the other great bodhisattvas mentioned earlier. These great bodhisattvas may appear to most people to have been disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, but in fact it would be better to call them his teachers. The World-Honored One listened to these bodhisattvas preaching and, after gaining wisdom and understanding, proceeded to set forth the specific and perfect teachings of the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods. But these differ in no way from the specific and perfect teachings of the Kegon Sutra.
Therefore we know that these great bodhisattvas were the teachers of Shakyamuni. These bodhisattvas are mentioned in the Kegon Sutra, where they are called "good friends." To call a person a good friend means that he is neither one’s teacher nor one’s disciple. The two types of teachings called Tripitaka and connecting teachings are offshoots of the specific and perfect teachings. Anyone who understands the specific and perfect teachings will invariably understand the Tripitaka and connecting teachings as well.
A teacher is someone who teaches his disciples things that they did not previously know. For example, in the ages before the Buddha, the heavenly and human beings and followers of Brahmanism were all disciples of the two deities and the three ascetics. Though their doctrines branched off to form ninety-five different schools, these did not go beyond the views of the three ascetics. Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, also studied these doctrines and for a time became a disciple of the Brahmanic teachers. But after spending twelve years in various painful and comfortable practices, he came to understand the principles of suffering, emptiness, impermanence and non-self. Therefore he ceased to call himself a disciple of the Brahmanic teachings and instead proclaimed himself the possessor of a wisdom acquired from no teacher at all. Thus in time the human and heavenly beings came to look up to him as a great teacher.
It is clear, therefore, that during the teaching period of the first four flavors, Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, was a disciple of Hoe and the other great bodhisattvas. Similarly, he was the ninth disciple of Bodhisattva Monju. This is also the reason why the Buddha repeatedly declares in the earlier sutras, "I never preached a single word."
When Shakyamuni Buddha was seventy-two, he preached the Muryogi Sutra on Eagle Peak in the kingdom of Magadha. At that time he denied all the sutras he had preached during the previous more than forty years, and all the fragmentary teachings derived from those sutras, saying, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." At that time, the great bodhisattvas and the various heavenly and human beings hastened to implore the Buddha to reveal the true doctrine. In fact, in the Muryogi Sutra he made a single pronouncement that appeared to suggest the true doctrine, but he did not elaborate on it. It was like the moment when the moon is about to rise. The moon is still hidden behind the eastern hills, and though its glow begins to light the western hills, people cannot yet see the body of the moon itself.
In the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in the section that concisely reveals the replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, the Buddha briefly explained the concept of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the doctrine that he had kept in mind for his final revelation. But because this was the first time he had touched on the subject, it was only dimly apprehended, like the first note of the cuckoo heard by someone drowsy with sleep, or like the moon appearing over the rim of the hill but veiled in thin clouds. Shariputra and the others, startled, called the heavenly beings, dragon deities and great bodhisattvas together, and, begging for instruction, said:
The heavenly beings, dragons, spirits and the others,
their numbers like Ganges sands,
the bodhisattvas seeking to be Buddhas
in a great force of eighty thousand,
as well as the wheel-turning kings
[who] come from ten thousands of millions of lands,
all press their palms and with reverent minds
wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment.
The passage indicates that they requested to hear a doctrine such as they had not heard in the previous more than forty years, one that differed from the four flavors and the three teachings. With regard to the line "[they] wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment," it may be noted that the Nirvana Sutra states: "Sad indicates perfect endowment." The Mue mutoku daijo shiron gengi ki states: "Sad connotes six. In India the number six implies perfect endowment." In his commentary, Chi-tsang writes: "Sad is translated as perfect endowment.’’ In the eighth volume of his Hokke gengi, T’ien-t’ai remarks, "Sad is a Sanskrit word, which is translated as myo or wonderful." Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, in the heart of his thousand-volume Daichido ron, comments, "Sad signifies six." Nagarjuna was thirteenth in the lineage of the Buddha’s successors, the founder of the Shingon, Kegon and the other schools, a great sage of the first stage of development and the person whose true identity was the Thus Come One Dharma Clouds Freedom King [Tathagata Houn Jizaio].
The characters Myoho-renge-kyo are Chinese. In India, the Lotus Sutra is called Saddharma-pundarika-sutram. The following is the mantra concerning the heart of the Lotus Sutra composed by the Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei:
namah samanta-buddhanam om a a am ah
saddharma-pundarika-sutram jah hum vam hoh
vajra-arakshaman hum svaha
Hail to all the Buddhas! Three-bodied Thus Come One! Open the door to, show me, cause me to awaken to and to enter into, the wisdom and insight of all the Buddhas. You who are like empty space by nature and free from dust.
Cause me to enter into the Sutra of the White Lotus of the Correct Law, to dwell everywhere and to rejoice. You, Adamantine Protector, who are the entity of emptiness, aspect-free nature and desire-free nature.
This mantra, which expresses the heart of the Lotus Sutra, was found in the iron tower in southern India. In this mantra, the words saddharma mean "correct Law." Sad means sho or correct. Sho is the same as myo or wonderful, myo is the same as sho. Hence the titles Sho-hokke-kyo and Myoho-renge-kyo. And when the two characters namu are prefixed to the title Myoho-renge-kyo, we have the formula Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Myo means perfect endowment. Six refers to the six paramitas representing all the ten thousand practices. When the persons ask to hear the teaching of perfect endowment, they are asking how they may gain the perfect endowment of the six paramitas and ten thousand practices of the bodhisattvas. In the phrase "perfect endowment," endowment refers to the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, while perfect means that, since there is mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, then any one world contains all the other worlds, indicating that this is "perfect." The Lotus Sutra is a single work consisting of eight volumes, twenty-eight chapters, and 69,384 characters. Each and every character is endowed with the character myo, each being a Buddha who has the thirty-two distinctive features and eighty characteristics. Each of the Ten Worlds manifests its own Buddhahood. As Miao-lo writes, "Since even Buddhahood is present in all living beings, then all the other worlds are of course present, too."
The Buddha replied to the request of his listeners by saying that "the Buddhas wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings.’’ The term "all living beings" here refers to Shariputra and it also refers to icchantikas, persons of incorrigible disbelief. It also refers to the nine worlds. Thus the Buddha fulfilled his words, "Living beings are numberless. I vow to save them all," when he declares: "At the start I took a vow, hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us, and what I long ago hoped for has now been fulfilled."
All the great bodhisattvas, heavenly beings and others, when they had heard the doctrine of the Buddha and comprehended it, said: "Since times past often we have heard the World-Honored One’s preaching, but we have never heard this kind of profound, wonderful and superior Law." One’s preaching’ refers to the fact that they had heard him preach the great doctrines of the Kegon Sutra and other sutras in the time previous to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. ‘We have never heard this kind of profound, wonderful and superior Law’ means that they had never heard the teaching of the one vehicle of Buddhahood propounded in the Lotus Sutra."
They understood, that is, that none of the previous Mahayana sutras-including those of the Kegon, Hodo and Hannya periods, such as the Jimmitsu and Dainichi sutras- which are numerous as the sands of the Ganges, had ever made clear the great principle of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, which is the core of all the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime, or the bone and marrow of those teachings, the doctrines that those in the two vehicles will achieve Buddhahood and that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the remote past.
The One Essential Phrase
The One Essential Phrase
First, for you to ask a question about the Lotus Sutra is a rare source of good fortune. In this age of the Latter Day of the Law, those who ask about the meaning of even one phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra are much fewer than those who can hurl great Mount Sumeru to another land like a stone, or those who can kick the entire galaxy away like a ball. They are even fewer than those who can embrace and teach countless other sutras, thereby enabling the priests and laymen who listen to them to obtain the six mystic powers. Equally rare is a priest who can explain the meaning of the Lotus Sutra and clearly answer questions concerning it. The Hoto chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra sets forth the important principle of six difficult and nine easy acts. Your asking a question about the Lotus Sutra is among the six difficult acts. This is a sure indication that if you embrace the Lotus Sutra, you will certainly attain Buddhahood. Since the Lotus Sutra defines our life as the Buddha's life, our mind as the Buddha's wisdom and our actions as the Buddha's behavior, all who embrace and believe in even a single phrase or verse of this sutra will be endowed with these three properties. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is only one phrase, but it contains the essence of the entire sutra. You asked whether one can attain Buddhahood only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and this is the most important question of all. It is the heart of the entire sutra and the substance of its eight volumes.
The spirit within one's body may appear in just his face, and the spirit within his face may appear in just his eyes. Included within the word Japan is all that is within the country's sixty-six provinces: all of the people and animals, the rice paddies and other fields, those of high and low status, the nobles and the commoners, the seven kinds of gems and all other treasures. Similarly, included within the title, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is the entire sutra consisting of all eight volumes, twenty-eight chapters and 69,384 characters without exception. Concerning this, Po Chu-i stated that the title is to the sutra as eyes are to the Buddha. In the eighth volume of his Hokke Mongu Ki, Miao-lo stated that T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Gengi explains only the title, but that the entire sutra is thereby included. By this he meant that, although the text was omitted, the entire sutra was contained in the title alone. Everything has its essential point, and the heart of the Lotus Sutra is its title, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Truly, if you chant this in the morning and evening, you are correctly reading the entire Lotus Sutra. Chanting daimoku twice is the same as reading the entire sutra twice, one hundred daimoku equal one hundred readings of the sutra, and a thousand daimoku, a thousand readings of the sutra. Thus if you ceaselessly chant daimoku, you will be continually reading the Lotus Sutra. The sixty volumes of the T'ien-t'ai doctrine present exactly the same interpretation. A law this easy to embrace and this easy to practice was taught for the sake of all mankind in this evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, "During the Latter Day of the Law, if one wishes to teach this sutra, he should employ the mild way of propagation." Another reads, "In the Latter Day when the Law is about to perish, a person who embraces, reads and recites this sutra must abandon feelings of envy and deceit." A third states, "In the Latter Day of the Law, one who embraces this sutra will be carrying out all forms of service to the Buddha." A fourth reads, "In the fifth five hundred years after my death, accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease." The intent of all these teachings is the admonition to embrace and believe in the Lotus Sutra in this Latter Day of the Law. The heretical priests in Japan, China and India have all failed to comprehend this obvious meaning. The Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu sects follow either the Hinayana or the provisional Mahayana teachings but have discarded the Lotus Sutra. They misunderstand Buddhism, but they do not realize their mistakes. Because they appear to be true priests, the people trust them without the slightest doubt. Therefore, without realizing it, both these priests and the people who follow them have become enemies of the Lotus Sutra and foes of Shakyamuni Buddha. From the viewpoint of the sutra, it is certain that not only will all their wishes remain unfulfilled, but their lives will be short and, after this life, they will be doomed to the hell of incessant suffering.
Even though one neither reads nor studies the sutra, chanting the title alone is the source of tremendous good fortune. The sutra teaches that women, evil men, and those in the realms of Animality and Hell--in fact, all the people of the Ten Worlds--can attain Buddhahood. We can comprehend this when we remember that fire can be produced by a stone taken from the bottom of a river, and a candle can light up a place that has been dark for billions of years. If even the most ordinary things of this world are such wonders, then how much more wondrous is the power of the Mystic Law. The lives of human beings are fettered by evil karma, earthly desires and the inborn sufferings of life and death. But due to the three inherent potentials of Buddha nature--innate Buddhahood, the wisdom to become aware of it, and the action to manifest it--our lives can without doubt come to reveal the Buddha's three properties. The Great Teacher Dengyo declared that the power of the Lotus Sutra enables anyone to manifest Buddhahood. He stated this because even the Dragon King's daughter was able to attain Buddhahood through the power of the Lotus Sutra. Do not doubt this in the least. Let your husband know that I will explain this in detail when I see him.
The third day of the seventh month in the first year of Koan (1278).
On Attaining Buddhahood
On Attaining Buddhahood
- Issho Jobutsu Sho -
If you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured through eternity and attain supreme enlightenment in this lifetime, you must awaken to the mystic truth which has always been within your life. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth within you. Myoho-renge-kyo is the king of sutras, flawless in both letter and principle. Its words are the reality of life, and the reality of life is the Mystic Law (Myoho). It is called the Mystic Law because it explains the mutually inclusive relationship of life and all phenomena. That is why this sutra is the wisdom of all Buddhas.
Life at each moment encompasses both body and spirit and both self and environment of all sentient beings in every condition of life, as well as insentient beings -- plants, sky and earth, on down to the most minute particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the universe and is revealed in all phenomena. One awakened to this truth himself embodies this relationship. However, even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but some inferior teaching. "Inferior teachings" means those other than this sutra, which are all provisional and transient. No provisional teaching leads directly to enlightenment, and without the direct path to enlightenment you cannot attain Buddhahood, even if you practice lifetime after lifetime for countless aeons. Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime is then impossible. Therefore, when you chant the Mystic Law and recite the Lotus Sutra, you must summon up deep conviction that Myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself.
You must never seek any of Shakyamuni's teachings or the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe outside yourself. Your mastery of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of mortal sufferings in the least unless you perceive the nature of your own life. If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, any discipline or good deed will be meaningless. For example, a poor man cannot earn a penny just by counting his neighbor's wealth, even if he does so night and day. That is why Miao-lo states, "Unless one perceives the nature of his life, he cannot eradicate his evil karma." He means here that unless one perceives the nature of his life, his practice will become an endless, painful austerity. Miao-lo therefore condemns such students of Buddhism as non-Buddhist. He refers to the passage in the Maka Shikan, "Although they study Buddhism, their views revert to those of non-Buddhists."
Whether you chant the Buddha's name, recite the sutra or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefits in your life. With this conviction you should put your faith into practice. For example, the Jomyo Sutra says the Buddha's enlightenment is to be found in human life, thus showing that common mortals can attain Buddhahood and that the sufferings of birth and death can be transformed into nirvana. It further states that if the minds of the people are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.
It is the same with a Buddha and a common mortal. While deluded, one is called a common mortal, but once enlightened, he is called a Buddha. Even a tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel if it is polished. A mind which presently is clouded by illusions originating from the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but once it is polished it will become clear, reflecting the enlightenment of immutable truth. Arouse deep faith and polish your mirror night and day. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our lives from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend nor words express. When you look into your own mind at any moment, you perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet you still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur to you. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the reality of all things. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho to its manifestations.
Renge, the lotus flower, symbolizes the wonder of this Law. Once you realize that your own life is the Mystic Law, you will realize that so are the lives of all others. That realization is the mystic kyo, or sutra. It is the king of sutras, the direct path to enlightenment, for it explains that the entity of our minds, from which spring both good and evil, is in fact the entity of the Mystic Law. If you have deep faith in this truth and chant Myoho-renge-kyo, you are certain to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. That is why the sutra states, "After my death, you must embrace this sutra. Those who do so shall travel the straight road to Buddhahood." Never doubt in the slightest, but keep your faith and attain enlightenment in this lifetime. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra
The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra
Nichiren, follower of the Great Teacher Dengyo
Question: Is it possible, without understanding the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but merely by chanting the five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day, once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths, and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression?
Answer: Yes, it is.
Question: You may talk about fire, but unless you put your hand in a flame, you will never burn yourself. You may say "water, water!" but unless you actually drink it, you will never satisfy your thirst. Then how, just by chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo without understanding what it means, can you escape from the evil paths of existence?
Answer: They say that if you play a koto strung with a lion’s sinews, then all the other kinds of strings will snap. And if you so much as hear the words "pickled plum," your mouth will begin to water. Even in everyday life there are such wonders, so how much greater are the wonders of the Lotus Sutra!
We are told that parrots, simply by twittering the four noble truths of the Hinayana teachings, were able to be reborn in heaven, and that men, simply by respecting the three treasures, were able to escape being swallowed by a huge fish. How much more effective, then, is the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, which is the very heart of all the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Buddhism and the eye of the countless Buddhas! How can you doubt that, by chanting it, you can escape from the four evil paths?
The Lotus Sutra, wherein the Buddha honestly discarded all provisional teachings, says that one may "gain entrance through faith." And the Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the grove of sal trees on the last day of his life, states, "Although there are innumerable practices which lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith, then that includes all those practices."
Thus faith is the basic requirement for entering the way of the Buddha. In the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice, the first ten stages, dealing with faith, are basic, and the first of these ten stages is that of arousing pure faith. Though a person has no knowledge of Buddhism, if he has pure faith, then even though he may be dull-witted, he is to be reckoned as a man of correct views. But even though one has some knowledge of Buddhism, if he is without faith, then he is to be considered a slanderer and an icchantika or person of incorrigible disbelief.
The monk Sunakshatra observed the two hundred and fifty precepts, mastered the four stages of meditation, and was versed in all the twelve types of sutras while Devadatta learned the sixty thousand non-Buddhist teachings and the eighty thousand Buddhist teachings and could manifest eighteen miraculous powers with his body. And yet it is said that these men, because they had knowledge but no faith, are now in the great citadel of the Avichi Hell. Mahakashyapa and Shariputra on the other hand lacked knowledge but had faith, and the Buddha accordingly predicted that they would become the Buddhas Light Bright and Flower Light respectively. The Buddha stated, "One who gives way to doubt and does not have faith will surely fall into the evil paths." These words refer to those who have knowledge but are without faith.
And yet contemporary scholars ask, "How is it possible simply by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with faith but no understanding, to avoid the evil paths of existence?" If we accept the words of the sutras, these scholars themselves can hardly avoid falling into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell.
Thus, as we have seen, even if a person lacks understanding, so long as he chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he can avoid the evil paths. This is like the lotus blossom that turns in the direction of the sun, though the lotus has no mind to direct it, or like the plantain that grows with the rumbling of thunder, though this plant has no ears to hear it. Now we are like the lotus or the plantain, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun or the thunder.
People say that if you tie a piece of living rhinoceros horn to your body and enter the water, the water will not come within five feet of you. They also say that if one leaf of the sandalwood tree unfurls, it can eradicate the foul odor of the eranda trees for a distance of forty yojana. In this case, our evil karma may be likened to the eranda trees or the water, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra may be likened to the living horn of the rhinoceros or the leaf of the sandalwood tree.
Diamonds are so hard that almost no substance will cut them, and yet they can be cut by a sheep’s horn or a turtle’s shell. The limbs of the nyagrodha tree are so stout that the largest birds can perch on them without breaking them, and yet they are vulnerable to the tailorbird, which is so tiny it could almost build its nest on the eyelashes of a mosquito.
Here, our evil karma is analogous to the diamond or the nyagrodha tree, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, to the sheep’s horn or the tailorbird. Amber draws dust and a lodestone attracts iron particles; here our evil karma is like the dust or iron, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is like the amber or the lodestone. If we consider these analogies, we can see why we should always chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The first volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "Throughout numberless and incalculable kalpas it will be a difficult thing to hear this Law." And the fifth volume says, "As for this Lotus Sutra, throughout countless numbers of countries one cannot even hear the name of it." Thus it is an extremely rare thing to hear the name of the Lotus Sutra. Though the Buddhas Shusenda and Taho made their appearance in the world, they did not utter so much as the name of the Lotus Sutra. And though Shakyamuni Buddha made his advent expressly for the purpose of preaching the Lotus Sutra, during a period of forty-two years, he kept the name of that sutra secret and never referred to it. It was only when he reached the age of seventy-two that he first began to intone the title of the sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo. However, the people of faraway countries such as China and Japan were unable to hear of it at that time. It was over a thousand years before China heard so much as the name of the sutra, and another three hundred fifty years or more before it was heard in Japan.
Thus, encountering this sutra is as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara flower, which occurs but once in three thousand years, or the one-eyed turtle finding a floating piece of sandalwood, which happens only once in innumerable aeons.
Suppose one were to stick a needle in the earth point up and throw down tiny mustard seeds at it from the palace of King Bonten in the sky. One could sooner impale a mustard seed on the point of the needle than encounter the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra. Or suppose one were to place a needle upright on top of the Mount Sumeru in one world and then, standing atop the Mount Sumeru of another world on a very windy day, were to try to cast a thread so that it reached the other mountain and passed through the eye of the needle. One could sooner thread a needle in this way than encounter the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
Therefore, when you chant the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra you should be aware that it is a more joyful thing than for one who was born blind to gain his eyesight and see his father and mother, and a rarer thing than for one who has been seized by a powerful enemy to be released and reunited with his wife and children.
Question: What passages of proof can be cited to show that one should chant only the daimoku?
Answer: The eighth volume of the Myoho-renge-kyo states, "One who receives and embraces the name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy good fortune beyond measure." The Sho-hokke-kyo says, "If one hears this sutra and proclaims and embraces its title, he will enjoy blessings beyond measure." And the Tembon-hoke-kyo says, "One who receives and embraces the name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy good fortune beyond measure." These passages indicate that the good fortune one receives from simply chanting the daimoku is beyond measure.
To embrace, read, recite, take delight in and protect all the eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra is called the comprehensive practice. To receive and protect the Hoben and Juryo chapters is called the abbreviated practice. And simply to chant one four-phrase verse or the daimoku, and to protect those who do so, is called the essential practice. Hence among these three kinds of practice, the comprehensive, the abbreviated and the essential, the daimoku is defined as the essential practice.
Question: How great are the blessings contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo?
Answer: The great ocean contains all the numerous rivers that flow into it, the great earth contains all sentient and insentient beings, the wish-granting jewel is capable of showering down innumerable treasures, and the heavenly king Bonten rules over all the threefold world. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are comparable to all these. All beings of the nine worlds, as well as those in the world of Buddhahood, are contained within them. And since all beings of the Ten Worlds are contained within them, so are their environments.
Let us first examine the fact that the five characters, Myoho-renge-kyo, contain within them all teachings. The single character kyo or "sutra" is the king of all sutras, and all the various other sutras are encompassed by it. The Buddha appeared in the world and over a period of fifty years and more preached eighty thousand sacred teachings. At that time the life span of human beings is said to have been one hundred years. The Buddha passed away in the middle of the night on the fifteenth day of the second month of the year with the cyclical sign mizunoe-saru (949 B.C.). Thereafter, during some ninety days of summer, or the period from the eighth day of the fourth month until the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the same year, one thousand arhats gathered at the Chamber of the First Council and set down all the sutras.
After that, during the one thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, all these various sutras spread throughout the five regions of India, but they did not reach as far as China. It was only in the fifteenth year of the Middle Day of the Law, or 1,015 years after the Buddha’s death, that Buddhist statues and sutras were first introduced to China. This was in the year with the cyclical sign hinoto-u (AD. 67), the tenth year of the Yung-p’ing era in the reign of Emperor Ming the Filial of the Later Han dynasty. From that time until the year with the cyclical sign kanoe-uma (AD. 730), the eighteenth year of the K’ai-yuan era of the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the T’ang dynasty, a total of 176 translators went to China, taking with them 1,076 sutras, works on discipline and treatises comprising 5,048 volumes contained in 480 scroll-cases. All of these sacred writings are followers of the single character kyo, or sutra, of the Lotus Sutra.
Among the sutras that the Buddha preached during the forty or more years before he expounded Myoho-renge-kyo, there is one called the Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra. This sutra is preserved in the dragon king’s palace in three versions. The first version contains as many chapters as there are dust particles in ten major world systems. The second version contains 498,800 verses, and the third version contains 100,000 verses in forty-eight chapters. Outside of these three versions, only the eighty-volume and sixty-volume versions are preserved in China and Japan.
In addition, there are the Hinayana sutras such as the Agon sutras, and the various Mahayana sutras of the Hodo and Hannya categories. Among the latter, the Sanskrit text of the Dainichi Sutra devotes a total of 3,500 verses simply to the explanation of the five characters of the mantra Avarahakha, to say nothing of the countless verses it uses to describe the "seeds," august forms and samayas of the various Buddhas. In China, however, the text exists in a mere six or seven volume form. The Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the sal grove on his last day, is preserved in China in a version that is only forty volumes long, though in this case, too, the Sanskrit versions of the text have many more volumes. All these various sutras are followers of the Lotus Sutra, the heart of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. In addition, all the sutras expounded by the seven Buddhas of the past, the thousand Buddhas, or the Buddhas of countless aeons ago, as well as those expounded by the Buddhas presently living in the ten directions, are all followers of the single character kyo of the Lotus Sutra.
Thus, in the Yakuo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha addresses the bodhisattva named Shukuoke, saying in essence, "It [the Lotus Sutra] is like the ocean, which is foremost among all bodies of water such as rivers and streams; like Mount Sumeru, which is foremost among all mountains, or like the god of the moon, which is foremost among all the heavenly bodies [shining in the night sky]." The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this by saying, "[It] is foremost among all the sutras the Buddha has preached, now preaches and will preach."
Within this single character kyo are contained all the sutras in the entire universe. It is like the wish-granting jewel that contains within it all manner of treasures, or the vastness of space that encompasses all phenomena. And because this single character kyo of Myoho-renge-kyo is the supreme achievement of the Buddha’s lifetime of teaching, the other four characters, Myo-ho-ren-ge, likewise surpass all the other eighty thousand doctrines that the Buddha taught.
Coming now to the character myo, [meaning "mystic" or wonderful,"] the Lotus Sutra says, "This sutra opens the door of expedient teachings and reveals the true aspect of reality." The Great Teacher Chang-an comments on this as follows: "Myo means to reveal the depths of the secret storehouse." And the Great Teacher Miao-lo says of this, "To reveal means to open." Hence the character myo means to open.
If there is a storehouse full of treasures but no key, then it cannot be opened, and if it cannot be opened, then the treasures inside cannot be seen. The Buddha preached the Kegon Sutra, but he did not give the kind of explanation that would be a key to open this sutra. Likewise, in the forty or more years that followed, he preached other sutras such as the Agon, Hodo, Hannya and Kammuryoju sutras, but he did not reveal their meaning. Their doors remained closed, and therefore no one could understand these sutras. Even though people thought they understood, they in fact had only a distorted view.
But then the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra and in this way opened the storehouses of the sutras. And for the first time in more than forty years, all the people of the nine worlds were able to view the treasures that lay within. To give an analogy, even though there are people and animals, plants and trees on the earth, without the light of the sun or moon, even those who have eyes cannot make out their shapes and colors. Only when the sun or moon rises can one discern for the first time what they are really like. The sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra were shrouded in the darkness of a long night, and the essential and theoretical teachings of the Lotus Sutra were like the sun and the moon.
Among the bodhisattvas with their two good eyes, the cross-eyed men of the two vehicles, common mortals with their blind eyes, or those of incorrigible disbelief who have been blind since birth, there were none who could make out the true color or shape of things by means of the earlier sutras. But when the Lotus Sutra was preached and the moon of the theoretical teaching came forth, then the bodhisattvas with their two good eyes first gained enlightenment, to be followed by the cross-eyed men of the two vehicles. Next the blind eyes of the common mortals were opened, and then even the persons of incorrigible disbelief, who had been blind from birth were able to establish a relationship with the Lotus Sutra that assured them that their eyes would one day open. All this was due entirely to the virtue of the single character myo.
There are two myo or mystic principles expounded in the Lotus Sutra, one in the first fourteen chapters, which constitute the theoretical teaching, and one in the latter fourteen chapters, which constitute the essential teaching. From another point of view there are twenty mystic principles, ten in the theoretical teaching and ten in the essential teaching, or there are sixty mystic principles, thirty in the theoretical teaching and thirty in the essential teaching. From yet other points of view, forty mystic principles may be discerned in each half of the Lotus Sutra. By adding these to the forty mystic principles concerning the observation of the mind the single character myo will be found to contain fully one hundred and twenty myo or mystic principles.
One fundamental myo or mystic principle underlies every one of the 69,384 characters that make up the Lotus Sutra. Hence the Lotus Sutra comprises a total of 69,384 mystic principles.
The character myo is rendered in Sanskrit by the word sad, and in Chinese is pronounced miao. Myo means "fully endowed," which in turn has the meaning of "perfection." Each word and each character of the Lotus Sutra contains within it all the 69,384 characters that compose the sutra. To illustrate, one drop of the great ocean contains within it the waters of all the various rivers that flow into the ocean, and the wish-granting jewel, though no bigger than a mustard seed, is capable of showering down all the treasures that one could wish for.
To give another analogy, plants and trees are withered and bare in autumn and winter, but when the sun of spring and summer shines on them, they put forth branches and leaves, and then flowers and fruit. Before the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, the people in the nine worlds were like plants and trees in autumn and winter. But when the single character myo of the Lotus Sutra shone on them like the spring and summer sun, then the flower of the aspiration for enlightenment blossomed and the fruit of Buddhahood emerged.
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his Daichido Ron says, "[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who changes poison into medicine." This quotation occurs in a passage in the Daichido Ron that explains the virtues inherent in the character myo of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "Because it can cure that which is thought to be incurable, it is called myo or mystic."
In general, there are four kinds of people who have great difficulty in attaining Buddhahood. First are those predestined for the realms of Learning and Realization, second are those of incorrigible disbelief, third are those who cling to the doctrine of void, and fourth are those who slander the True Law. But through the Lotus Sutra, all of these people are able to attain Buddhahood. That is why the Lotus Sutra is called myo.
Devadatta was the eldest son of King Dronodana and a nephew of King Shuddhodana, [the father of the Buddha Shakyamuni,] which made him the Buddha’s cousin. He was also the elder brother of the Buddha’s disciple, the Venerable Ananda. He was thus by no means a person of low station in the continent of Jambudvipa. He became a disciple of the monk Sudaya and entered the religious life. From Ananda he learned the eighteen miraculous powers, and he committed to memory the sixty thousand teachings of the non-Buddhist schools and the eighty thousand teachings of Buddhism. He observed the five practices and appeared almost more saintly than the Buddha himself. Thinking to make himself a leader like the Buddha, he dared to commit the crime of disrupting the Buddhist Order by establishing his own ordination platform on Mount Gaya and inviting the Buddha’s disciples over to his side. He confided to Crown Prince Ajatashatru, "I intend to kill the Buddha and become the new Buddha. You must kill your father, King Bimbisara, and become the new king in his place!"
After Crown Prince Ajatashatru had in fact killed his father, Devadatta kept watch on the Buddha’s activities and with a large stone succeeded in wounding him to the extent that blood flowed. He also struck and killed the nun Utpalavarna who had reached the state of arhat. Thus he committed three of the five cardinal sins.
In addition, with Kokalika as his disciple and King Ajatashatru as his patron, Devadatta began to attract followers from everywhere, until, throughout the five regions of India with its sixteen great states and five hundred medium-sized states, every soul guilty of one, two or three of the cardinal sins was a member of his group. They gathered about him as the various rivers gather in the great ocean, or as plants and trees gather on a great mountain. As wise men gathered about Shariputra, and those of occult powers flocked to Maudgalyayana, so did men of evil bent throw in their lot with Devadatta.
As a result, the great earth, which is 168,000 yojana thick and rests on a windy circle as hard as a diamond, nevertheless split open, plunging Devadatta alive into the hell of incessant suffering. His leading disciple Kokalika also fell into hell alive, as did the female Brahman Chinchamanavika, King Virudhaka and Sunakshatra the monk. Moreover, the people of the five regions of India with its sixteen great states, five hundred medium-sized states and ten thousand small states all observed this. Those in the six heavens of the world of desire and in the four meditation heavens, all beings in both the worlds of form and formlessness, including Bonten, Taishaku, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven and King Emma, likewise witnessed their fate.
All the beings throughout the major world system and the entire universe heard about this, and unanimously concluded that, even though as many kalpas should pass as there are dust particles on the earth, Devadatta and the others would never escape from the hell of incessant suffering, and though the stone that marks the duration of a kalpa might be worn completely away, they would continue to suffer in the great citadel of the Avichi Hell. How astounding, then, that in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni should reveal that Devadatta was his teacher in a past existence and should predict that he would attain enlightenment in the future as a Buddha called Heavenly King! If the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra are true, then the Lotus Sutra must be an outrageous lie. But if the Lotus Sutra is true, then the previous sutras must be guilty of perpetrating the wildest deceptions.
If Devadatta, who committed three of the five cardinal sins, and in addition was guilty of countless other grave offenses, could become the Buddha Heavenly King, then there can be no doubt that the other evildoers who committed only one or two of the cardinal sins will surely attain enlightenment as well. For if something is capable of overturning the great earth itself, then it can surely overturn mere plants and trees. And if something can crush the hardest stone, it can certainly bend the pliant grasses. Therefore the Lotus Sutra is called myo.
Coming now to the subject of women, we find that they are strongly condemned in both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist writings. The works known as the Three Records and Five Canons of the Three Rulers and Five Emperors of ancient China depict them as fawning and perverse. For this reason, disaster is said to have come about because of the three evil women of antiquity. Thus women are identified as the cause of the downfall of a nation and its people.
The Kegon Sutra, the first great Buddhist doctrine that the Buddha preached following his enlightenment states: Women are messengers of hell who can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood. They may look like bodhisattvas, but at heart they are like yaksha demons." And the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha’s last teaching which he delivered in the grove of sal trees, says, "All rivers and streams are invariably winding and devious, and all women are invariably fawning and perverse." And it also says, "If all the desires and delusions of all the men throughout the major world system were lumped together, they would be no greater than the karmic impediment of one single woman."
When the Kegon Sutra says that women "can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood," it means that they scorch and burn up the seeds that would otherwise allow them to attain Buddhahood. When cloud masses form in the sky during a time of great drought and heavy rain falls on the earth, then countless withered plants and trees everywhere will put forth blossoms and bear fruit. But this is not true of seeds that have been scorched. They will never sprout; rather the heavy rain makes them rot.
Now the Buddha is like the masses of clouds, his teachings are like the heavy rain, and the withered plants and trees are like all living beings. When they are watered by the rain of the Buddhist teachings and observe the five precepts, the ten good precepts and the meditational practices, all of which bring merit, then they will put forth blossoms and bear fruit. But the scorched seeds never sprout even though the rain falls on them, but instead rot. They are comparable to women who, though they encounter the Buddhist teachings, cannot free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death but instead turn away from the truth of Buddhism and fall into the evil paths. This is what the sutra means when it says that women "can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood."
The passage in the Nirvana Sutra cited above says that, just as all rivers and streams twist and wind, so too are women perverse and devious. Because water is a fluid substance, block its path with some hard object such as a rock or a mountain, and it will split into two streams or turn aside, flowing now this way, now that. Women are the same, their minds are soft and weak. Though they may believe that a certain course is right, if they come up against the strong will of a man and find their way blocked, then they will turn in some direction quite different from the one they originally intended.
Again, though you may trace pictures on the surface of the water, nothing of what you have drawn will remain. Women are the same, for lack of steadfastness is their basic character. Hence they will think a certain way at one moment, and then a moment later have quite a different view. But the basic character of a Buddha is honesty and straightforwardness. Hence women, with their devious ways, can never become Buddhas.
Women are doomed to the five obstacles and the three types of obedience. Hence the Gonjikinyo Sutra says, "Though the eyes of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future were to fall to the ground a woman could still never become a Buddha."
And the Daichido Ron says, "You could sooner catch the wind than grasp the mind of a woman."
Yet though all female beings were so despised in the various sutras, when Bodhisattva Monjushiri spoke the single character myo, a woman was instantly able to become a Buddha. So extraordinary was this occurrence that Bodhisattva Chishaku, the foremost disciple of Taho Buddha in the world of Treasure Purity, and Shariputra, who was known among Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples as the foremost in wisdom, protested. They said that according to all the Mahayana and Hinayana sutras that the Buddha had preached in the previous forty years and more, the dragon king’s daughter could not possibly become a Buddha. And yet in the end their arguments were of no avail and in fact she did become a Buddha.
Thus the passage in the Buddha’s first sutra declaring that women "can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood," and that in his final sermon in the sal grove about how "all rivers and streams are invariably winding and devious," were utterly contradicted, and the mirror or diviner’s tortoise shell of the Gonjikinyo Sutra and the Daichido Ron were proven to be nonsense. Chishaku and Shariputra were obliged to still their tongues and shut their mouths, while all the human and heavenly beings present at the great gathering where the Lotus Sutra was preached pressed their palms together in an excess of joy. All this was due entirely to the virtue of the single character myo.
In the continent of Jambudvipa in the southern region of the world, there are 2,500 rivers, and every single one of them is winding. They are devious like the minds of the women of Jambudvipa. And yet there is one river called the Shabaya that follows a course as straight as a taut rope, flowing directly into the western sea. A woman who has faith in the Lotus Sutra will be like this river, proceeding directly to the Pure Land in the west. Such is the virtue inherent in the single character myo.
Myo means to revive, that is, to return to life. This is like the yellow crane’s chick. It is said that though the chick may die, if the mother crane calls the name of Tzu-an, then the dead chick will come back to life again. Or it is like the case of the fish and shellfish that have been killed because a poisonous secretary bird has entered the water. If they are touched with a rhinoceros horn, we are told, they will all be brought back to life. Similarly, persons of the two vehicles, those of incorrigible disbelief and women were described in the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra as having scorched and killed the seeds that would have allowed them to attain Buddhahood. But by holding fast to this single character myo, they can revive the scorched seeds of Buddhahood.
T’ien-t’ai says, "The icchantika nevertheless have minds, and so it is still possible for them to attain Buddhahood. But persons of the two vehicles have annihilated consciousness, and therefore cannot arouse the mind which aspires to enlightenment. And yet the Lotus Sutra can cure them, which is why it is called myo." Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "The reason that the other sutras are called dai or ‘great’ but not myo is simply that it is easy to cure those who have a mind, but difficult to cure those who are without a mind. Because it [the Lotus Sutra] can cure that which is thought to be incurable, it is called myo or mystic."
These passages refer to the fact that sutras such as the Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra, Daijuku Sutra, Daibon Hannya Sutra and Dainehan Sutra all have the character dai in their titles but not the character myo. This is because they can cure only the living but cannot cure the dead. The Lotus Sutra, however, can cure the dead as well as the living, and therefore it has the character myo in its title.
Thus, with the other sutras, persons who should become Buddhas are unable to do so. But with the Lotus Sutra, even those who would ordinarily find it impossible to do so can attain Buddhahood, not to mention those for whom it is relatively easy. This being the case, in the time since the Lotus Sutra was preached, there ought not to be a single person who puts faith in the other sutras.
Now the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law have passed, and we have entered the Latter Day of the Law. In such an age, it is ten billion times more difficult for ordinary people to attain Buddhahood than it was for even the persons of the two vehicles or those of incorrigible disbelief who lived when the Buddha was alive. And yet people nowadays think that by relying on the Kammuryoju Sutra or some other of the sutras preached in the forty-odd years before the Lotus Sutra, they can escape the sufferings of birth and death. How futile, how utterly futile!
Women, whether they live at the time of the Buddha or in the Former, Middle or Latter Day of the Law cannot attain Buddhahood through any teaching but the Lotus Sutra. None of the other sutras expounded by any of the Buddhas anywhere can help them. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, who heard the Buddha’s teachings at Eagle Peak and later attained an awakening in the place of meditation, has stated unequivocally: "The other sutras predict Buddhahood for men only and not for women. Only this sutra predicts Buddhahood for all."
Shakyamuni Buddha, in the presence of Taho Buddha and the other Buddhas of the ten directions, preached the Lotus Sutra over a period of eight years at the place called Eagle Peak northeast of Rajagriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai was present and heard him preach. "During my fifty or more years of teaching," said the Buddha, "I have preached various sacred doctrines, all in order to bring benefit to living beings. In the sutras of the first forty-two years, I taught that it was not possible for women to attain Buddhahood. But now with the Lotus Sutra I declare that women can become Buddhas."
Northeast of Eagle Peak, at a distance of some 108,000 ri beyond the mountains and seas, there is a country called Mahachina in Sanskrit. We know it as China. Some fifteen hundred years after the Buddha’s passing, there appeared in this country a messenger of the Buddha called the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai who declared that women could never attain Buddhahood through any teaching other than the Lotus Sutra.
Three thousand ri to the east of China there is a country called Japan. Some two hundred years after the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai passed away, he was reborn in this country and bore the name of the Great Teacher Dengyo. He then wrote a work entitled Hokke Shuku in which he stated: "Neither teachers nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the Lotus Sutra they can do so in their present form." Thus he made clear why the dragon king’s daughter was able to become a Buddha.
It may seem somewhat difficult for women of the age we live in to attain Buddhahood without changing their present form. But if they put their trust in the Lotus Sutra, there is no doubt that they will be reborn in the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss when they die. They will reach it more readily than the rivers and streams flowing into the great ocean, or more swiftly than the rain falling from the sky.
And yet we find that the women throughout Japan do not chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Instead they put their faith in works such as the Muryoju Sutra or the Kammuryoju Sutra, which can never lead women to the Pure Land or to Buddhahood. They intone the name of the Buddha Amida sixty thousand or a hundred thousand times a day. Amida is indeed the name of a Buddha, and to invoke it would seem to be a laudable practice. But because the women who do so are relying upon sutras that deny that women can ever attain Buddhahood, they are in effect merely counting other people’s riches. And this comes about solely because they are led astray by evil teachers. The women throughout Japan face an enemy more fearful than tigers or wolves, mountain bandits or pirates at sea, their parents’ foes or their husbands’ concubines. Their real enemies are the persons who, instead of teaching them to rely on the Lotus Sutra, teach them the Nembutsu!
Women who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo sixty thousand, a hundred thousand, or even ten million times a day, and after that, if they still have some time to spare, they may now and then murmur to themselves the name of Amida or one of the other Buddhas. But women these days spend their whole lives constantly reciting the name of Amida and busying themselves with matters that concern the Nembutsu. They never recite the Lotus Sutra or give alms for its sake. True, there are a few of them who have the Lotus Sutra read by priests who follow its teachings. But they look up to the Nembutsu priests as though they were their parents or brothers, and treat the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra with less respect than they would their retainers or followers. And yet they claim that they are believers in the Lotus Sutra!
By contrast, Lady Jotoku gave permission for her sons, the two princes, to enter the Buddhist Order and encouraged them to propagate the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, the dragon king’s daughter took a vow, saying, "I will reveal the teachings of the Great Vehicle and bring release to suffering beings." These women surely took no vow to practice only the teachings of the other sutras and to neglect the practice of the Lotus Sutra. Nevertheless, that is what the women of today do, paying all their attention to the practice of other sutras and none to that of the Lotus Sutra. You must change your ways immediately. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Completed at the Hour of the Sheep (2:00 P.M.) at Seicho-ji temple on the sixth day of the first month of the third year of Bun’ei (1266), the year with the cyclical sign hinoe-tora.
Beneficial Medicine for All Ills
Beneficial Medicine for All Ills
I have received your gift of two baskets of leached persimmons and a basket of eggplants. About the lay priest your husband's illness: in China there were physicians called Huang Ti and Pien Ch'ueh, and in India there were the doctors Jisui and Jivaka. These men were each the treasures of their age and teachers to the physicians of later times. Yet they could not even begin to compare to the person called the Buddha, a physician without peer. This Buddha revealed the medicine of immortality: the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. Moreover, he taught that these five characters are "beneficial medicine for the illnesses of all the people of Jambudvipa."
Your husband is a person of Japan, which is included within Jambudvipa, and now he suffers from bodily illness. Yet the sutra passage clearly refers to beneficial medicine for all ills. In addition, this sutra of the Lotus is the greatest of all medicines. A wicked ruler called King Virudhaka killed more than five hundred women of the Buddha's clan, whereupon the Buddha sent his disciple Ananda to Eagle Peak to obtain the blue lotus flower. When he touched it to the bodies of the women, they returned to life and after a week were reborn in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Because the flower called the lotus is endowed with such splendid virtue, the Buddha likened it to the Mystic Law.
A person's death does not necessarily come about through illness. In our own times, the people of Iki and Tsushima, though not suffering from illness, were all slaughtered by the Mongols in a single stroke. Likewise, illness does not necessarily result in death. Now, this illness of your husband's may be due to the Buddha's design, for the Vimalakirti and Nirvana sutras both speak of sick people attaining Buddhahood. From illness arises the mind that seeks the Way.
Among all diseases, the five cardinal sins, the incorrigible disbelief of the icchantika and slander of the Law are the grave ailments that especially pained the Buddha. The people of Japan today, without a single exception, are afflicted with the most serious of all diseases, the grave illness of major slander. I refer to the followers of the Zen, Nembutsu and Ritsu sects, and to the Shingon teachers. Precisely because their ailment is so serious, they neither recognize it themselves nor are others aware of it. And because this illness grows worse, warriors from throughout the four seas will attack at any moment, and the ruler, his ministers and the common people will all be destroyed. To behold this with one's very eyes is indeed a painful thing.
In his present life, the lay priest, your husband has not appeared to have had especially strong faith in the Lotus Sutra. But now that the forces of karma accumulated in the past have caused him to suffer this long illness, he seeks the Way day and night without cease. Whatever minor offenses he may have committed in this lifetime must surely have already been eradicated, and by virtue of his dedication to the Lotus Sutra, the great evil of [his past] slander will also be dispelled. Were he to go right now to Eagle Peak, he would feel as delighted as if the sun had come out and illuminated all the ten directions; and he would find himself rejoicing, wondering how an early death could be so happy a thing. No matter what might befall him on the road between this life and the next, he should declare himself to be a disciple of Nichiren. To give an analogy: though Japan is a small country, if one should but announce that he is a vassal of the lord of Sagami, he will command unquestioning awe. I, Nichiren, am the most recalcitrant priest in Japan, but with respect to my faith in the Lotus Sutra, I am the foremost sage in the entire world. My name has reached the pure lands of the ten directions, and heaven and earth surely know of it. If your husband declares that he is Nichiren's disciple, no evil demon can possibly claim ignorance of the name.
I have no words to express my thanks to you for your sincerity in sending offerings on many occasions.
With my deep respect.
Monkeys rely on trees, and fish depend on water. You, a woman, rely upon your husband. Being loath to part from him, you have shaved off your hair and dyed the sleeves of your robe black. How could the Buddhas of the ten directions not have pity upon you? Nor could the Lotus Sutra ever abandon you. Believing this, you must entrust yourself to it.
The sixteenth day of the eighth month
Aspiration for the Buddha Land
Aspiration for the Buddha Land
It is now the last ten-day period of the eleventh month. While I was living in Kamakura in Sagami Province, I thought that the changing of the four seasons was the same in all provinces, but in the two months that have passed since I arrived in this northern province of Sado, the icy winds have been blowing without pause, and although there are times when the frost and snow stop falling, one never sees the sunlight. I feel the eight cold hells in my present body. The hearts of the people here are like those of birds and beasts; they recognize neither sovereign, teacher nor parent. Even less do they distinguish between truth and error in Buddhism, or between good and evil teachers. But I will say no more of this.
When I sent back from Teradomari the lay priest whom you had dispatched on the tenth day of the tenth month to accompany me, I wrote and entrusted to him certain teachings for you. As you have probably surmised from these, the advent of the Great Law is already before our very eyes. In the two thousand two hundred years and more since the Buddha's passing, in all of India, China, Japan and the entire world, [as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states:] "Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna clearly perceived the truth in their hearts, but they did not teach it. Instead, they preached the provisional Mahayana teachings, which were suited to their times." T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo gave a general indication of it but left its propagation for the future. Now this secret Law, the one great reason for which all Buddhas make their advent, will be spread for the first time in this country. And is not Nichiren the very person who propagates it?
The portents of its rise have already appeared. The great earthquake of the past Shoka era was a major omen of a kind never before witnessed in previous ages, one totally unprecedented in the twelve generations of divine rule, the ninety reigns of human emperors, and the two thousand two hundred years and more since the Buddha's passing. The Jinriki chapter [of the Lotus Sutra] states, "Because [there will be those who] faithfully uphold this sutra after the Buddha's passing, all the Buddhas rejoice and display their limitless mystic powers." It also refers to "all the laws of the Buddha." Once this great Law spreads, the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings as well as the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra will no longer provide even the slightest benefit. The Great Teacher Dengyo states, "When the sun rises, the stars go into hiding." And the preface written by the priest Tsun-shih reads, "At the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, [Buddhism rises in the east and] illuminates the west." This great Law has already appeared. The signs heralding its advent far surpass those of previous ages. In pondering the significance of this, I realize it is because the time [for propagation] has arrived. The sutra states: "[Among these bodhisattvas] were four who led the entire multitude. The first was called Jogyo..." It also reads, "One who is able to uphold this sutra in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law...," and "To seize Mount Sumeru and fling it far off..."
I would like you to gather and keep together in one place the five notebooks I mentioned to you, which contain essential passages from the various sutras and from the Daichido Ron. Please make sure that the essential passages from the treatises and commentaries as well do not become scattered and lost. Tell the young priests not to neglect their studies. You must not lament too bitterly over my exile. The Kanji and Fukyo chapters clearly state [that the votary of the Lotus Sutra will meet persecution]. Life is limited, and we must not begrudge it. What we should aspire to, after all, is the Buddha land.
The twenty-third day of the eleventh month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271)
I am sending back some of the young priests [who accompanied me here to Sado]. You can ask them what this province is like and about the circumstances under which I live. It is impossible to describe these matters in writing.
Sunday, 29 October 2006
A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering
A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering
When I asked him about what you told me the other day, I found it to be exactly as you said. You should therefore strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Listen with the ears of Shih K'uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou.
In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn't a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers run to the sea, but does its fullness make the rivers flow backward? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; neither does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As T'ien-t'ai stated, "All rivers flow to the sea, and logs make a fire roar."
You must realize that it is because of a deep karmic relationship from the past that you can teach others even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra reads, "It is extremely difficult to save those who are deaf to the True Law." The "True Law" means the Lotus Sutra.
A passage from the Hosshi chapter reads, "If there is someone, whether man or woman, who secretly teaches to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let it be known that he is the envoy of the Buddha." This means that anyone who teaches others even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is clearly the Buddha's envoy, whether he be priest or nun, lay man or woman. You are a lay believer and one of those described in the sutra. One who hears even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra and cherishes it deep in his heart may be likened to a ship which navigates the sea of suffering. The Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "Even a single phrase cherished deep in one's heart will without fail help him reach the opposite shore. To ponder one phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation..."
A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, "...as though one had found a ship to make the crossing." This "ship" might be described as follows: The Lord Buddha, a shipbuilder of infinitely profound wisdom, gathered the lumber of the four tastes and eight teachings, planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and assembled the planks, using both right and wrong, and completed the craft by driving home the spikes of the one, supreme teaching. Thus he launched the ship upon the sea of suffering. Unfurling the sails of the three thousand conditions on the mast of the Middle Way doctrine, driven by the fair wind of "all phenomena reveal the true entity," the vessel surges ahead, carrying all believers who can enter Buddhahood by their pure faith. Shakyamuni Buddha is the helmsman, Taho Buddha mans the sails, and the four Bodhisattvas led by Jogyo strain in unison at the creaking oars. This is the ship in "a ship to make the crossing," the vessel of Myoho-renge-kyo. Those who board it are the disciples and followers of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly. When you visit Shijo Kingo, please have an earnest talk with him. I will write you again.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-eighth day of the fourth month
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