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NS 1.27.7.14 – NICHIREN LIBRARY – GOSHO 14, GOSHO 186, OTT CHAPTER 14, LOTUS CHAPTER 14

23 January 2015

CHAPTER 14

Peaceful Practices

CHAPTER 14

Peaceful Practices

At that time Manjushri, Dharma prince, bodhisattva mahasattva, said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, these bodhisattvas undertake something that is very difficult. Because they revere and obey the Buddha, they have taken a great vow that in the evil age hereafter they will guard, uphold, read, recite, and preach this Lotus Sutra. World-Honored One, in the evil age hereafter, how should the bodhisattvas mahasattva go about preaching this sutra?”
The Buddha said to Manjushri: “If the bodhisattvas mahasattva in the evil age hereafter wish to preach this sutra, they should abide by four rules. First, they should abide by the practices and associations proper for bodhisattvas so that they can expound this sutra for the sake of living beings. Manjushri, what do I mean by the practices of a bodhisattva mahasattva? If a bodhisattva mahasattva takes his stand on perseverance, is gentle and compliant, never violent, and never alarmed in mind; and if with regard to phenomena he takes no action but observes the true aspect of phenomena without acting or making any distinction, then this I call the practices of a bodhisattva mahasattva.
“As for the associations proper for them, bodhisattvas mahasattva should not associate closely with rulers, princes, high ministers, or heads of offices. They should not associate closely with non-Buddhists, Brahmans, or Jains, or with those who compose works of secular literature or books extolling the non-Buddhists, p.236nor should they be closely associated with Lokayatas or Anti-Lokayatas.1 They should not be closely associated with hazardous amusements, boxing, or wrestling, or with actors or others engaged in various kinds of illusionary entertainments, or with chandalas, persons engaged in raising pigs, sheep, chickens, or dogs, or those who engage in hunting or fishing or other evil activities. If such persons at times come to them, then they may preach the Law for them, but they should expect nothing from it. Again they should not associate with monks, nuns, laymen, or laywomen who seek to become voice-hearers, nor should they question or visit them. They should not stay with them in the same room, or in the place of exercise, or in the lecture hall. If at times they come to them, they may preach the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, but should expect nothing from it.
“Manjushri, the bodhisattva mahasattva should not, when preaching the Law to women, do so in a manner that could arouse thoughts of desire in them, nor should he delight in seeing them. If he enters the house of another person, he should not engage in talk with the young girls, unmarried women, or widows. Nor should he go near the five types of unmanly men2 or have any close dealings with them. He should not enter another person’s house alone. If for some reason it is imperative to enter alone, he should concentrate his whole mind on thoughts of the Buddha. If he should preach the Law for a woman, he should not bare his teeth in laughter or let his chest become exposed. He should not have any intimate dealings with her even for the sake of the Law, much less for any other purpose.
“He should not delight in nurturing underage disciples, shramaneras, or children, and should not delight in sharing the same teacher with them. He should constantly take pleasure in sitting in meditation, and being in quiet surroundings learn to still his mind. Manjushri, these are what I call the things he should first of all associate himself with.
p.237“Next, the bodhisattva mahasattva should view all phenomena as empty, that being their true aspect. They do not turn upside down, do not move, do not regress, do not revolve. They are like empty space, without innate nature, beyond the reach of all words. They are not born, do not emerge, do not arise. They are without name, without form, without true being. They are without volume, without limits, without hindrance, without barriers. It is only through causes and conditions that they exist, but because of upside-downness, errors are born. Therefore I say that he should constantly delight in viewing the aspect of phenomena as this. This is what I call the second thing that the bodhisattva mahasattva should associate himself with.”
At that time the world-honored one, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

If there are bodhisattvas
who in the evil age hereafter
wish with fearless hearts
to preach this sutra,
these are the places they should enter
and the people they should closely associate with.
At all times shun rulers
and the princes of kingdoms,
high ministers, heads of offices,
those engaged in hazardous amusements
as well as chandalas,
non-Buddhists, and Brahmans.
They should not associate with
people of overbearing arrogance
or those who stubbornly adhere to the lesser vehicle
and are learned in its three storehouses.
Monks who violate the precepts,
arhats who are so in name only,
nuns who are fond
of jesting and laughter,
or women lay believers
who are profoundly attached to the five desires
p.238or who seek immediate entry into extinction—
all these they should not associate with.
If there are people
who come with good hearts
to the place of the bodhisattva
in order to hear the buddha way,
then the bodhisattva
with a fearless heart
but without harboring expectations
should preach the Law for them.
But widows and unmarried women
and the different kinds of unmanly men—
all these he should not associate with
or treat with intimacy.
Also he must not associate with
slaughterers or flesh-carvers,
those who hunt animals or catch fish,
or kill or do harm for profit.
Those who peddle meat for a living
or display women and sell their favors—
all people such as this
he should never associate with.
Those engaged in hazardous sports, wrestling,
or other kinds of amusements,
women of lascivious nature—
never associate with any of these.
Never go alone into an enclosed place
to preach the Law to a woman.
When he preaches the Law,
let there be no jesting or laughter.
When he enters a village to beg for food,
he should take another monk with him;
if there is no other monk around,
with a single mind he should concentrate on the Buddha.
These are what I call
proper practices and associations.
p.239By being careful about these two,
they can preach in a peaceful manner.
They should not speak in terms of
superior, medial, or inferior doctrines,
of doctrines of the conditioned or the unconditioned,
of the real or the not real.
Again they should not make distinctions
by saying, “This is a man,” “This is a woman.”
Do not try to apprehend phenomena,
to understand or to see them.
These are what I call
the practices of the bodhisattvas.
All phenomena
are empty, without being,
without any constant abiding,
without arising or extinction.
This I call the position
wise people associate themselves with.
From upside-downness come distinctions,
that phenomena exist, do not exist,
are real, are not real,
are born, are not born.
Place themselves in quiet surroundings,
learn to still their minds,
remain tranquil, unmoving,
like Mount Sumeru.
Look upon all phenomena
as having no existence,
like empty space,
as without firmness or hardness,
not born, not emerging,
not moving, not regressing,
constantly abiding in a single aspect—
this I call the place to draw near to.
If after I have entered extinction
there are monks
p.240who take up these practices
and these associations,
then when they preach this sutra
they will be free of quailing and timidity.
If a bodhisattva will at times
enter a quiet room
and with the correct mental attitude
will view phenomena according to the principle,
and then, rising from his meditation,
will for the sake of the ruler,
the princes, ministers, and people,
the Brahmans and others,
unfold, propagate, expound,
and preach this sutra,
then his mind will be tranquil,
free of quailing and timidity.
Manjushri,
these I call the first set of rules
for the bodhisattvas to abide by
to enable them in later ages
to preach the Lotus Sutra.

“Furthermore, Manjushri, after the thus come one has passed into extinction, in the Latter Day of the Law, if a person wishes to preach this sutra, he should abide by these peaceful practices. When he opens his mouth to expound or when he reads the 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 or speak of the good or bad, the strong or weak points of others. With regard to the voice-hearers he should not refer to them by name and describe their faults, or name them and praise their good points. Also he should not allow his mind to become filled with resentment or hatred. Because he is good at cultivating this kind of peaceful mind, his listeners will not oppose his ideas. If he is asked difficult questions, he should not reply in terms of the teachings of the lesser vehicle. He should explain things solely in terms of the great p.241vehicle so that people will be able to acquire wisdom embracing all species.”
At that time the world-honored one, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

The bodhisattva should at all times delight
in preaching the Law in a tranquil manner.
On pure clean ground
he should spread his sitting mat,
anoint his body with oil,
wash away dust and impurities,
put on a new clean robe
and make himself both inwardly and outwardly pure.
Seating himself comfortably in the Dharma seat,
he should preach the Law in accordance with questions.
If there are monks
or nuns,
men lay believers,
women lay believers,
rulers and princes,
officials, gentlemen, and common people,
with a mild expression he should preach for them
the subtle and wonderful doctrines.
If there are difficult questions
he should answer them in accordance with the doctrines,
employing causes and conditions, similes and parables,
to expound and make distinctions,
and through these expedient means
cause all listeners to aspire to enlightenment,
to increase their benefits little by little
and enter the buddha way.
He should put aside all idea of laziness,
all thought of negligence or ease,
remove himself from cares and worries
and with a compassionate mind preach the Law.
Day and night constantly he should expound
the teachings of the unsurpassed way,
p.242employing causes and conditions,
immeasurable similes and parables
to instruct living beings
and cause them all to be joyful.
Clothing and bedding,
food, drink, medicine—
with regard to such things
he should have no expectations
but with a single mind concentrate
upon the reasons for preaching the Law,
desiring to complete the buddha way
and to cause those in the assembly to do likewise.
That will bring great gain to them,
an offering of peace.
After I have passed into extinction
if there are monks
who are able to expound
this Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law,
their minds will be free of jealousy and anger,
of all worry and hindrance.
No one will trouble them,
curse or revile them.
They will know no fear,
no attacks by sword or staff,
nor will they ever be banished,
because they abide in patience.
Wise persons will be good
at cultivating their minds like this
and be able to abide in peace
as I have described above.
The blessings of such people
are beyond calculation, simile, or parable;
thousands, ten thousands, millions of kalpas
would not suffice to describe them.

“Also, Manjushri, if a bodhisattva mahasattva in the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish, should accept and p.243embrace, read and recite this sutra, he must not harbor a mind marked by jealousy, fawning, or deceit. And he must not be contemptuous of or revile those who study the buddha way or seek out their shortcomings.
“If there are monks, nuns, laymen, or laywomen who seek to become voice-hearers, seek to become pratyekabuddhas, or seek the bodhisattva way, one must not trouble them by causing them to have doubts or regrets, by saying to them, ‘You are far removed from the way and in the end will never be able to attain wisdom embracing all species. Why? Because you are self-indulgent and willful people who are negligent of the way!’
“Also one should never engage in frivolous debate over the various doctrines or dispute or wrangle over them. With regard to all living beings one should think of them with great compassion. With regard to the thus come ones, think of them as kindly fathers; with regard to the bodhisattvas, think of them as great teachers. Toward the great bodhisattvas of the ten directions at all times maintain a serious mind, paying them due reverence and obeisance. To all living beings preach the Law in an equitable manner. Because a person is heedful of the Law, that does not mean one should vary the amount of preaching. Even to those who show a profound love for the Law one should not on that account preach at greater length.
“Manjushri, if among these bodhisattvas mahasattva there are those who in the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish, succeed in carrying out this third set of peaceful practices, then when they preach this Law they will be free of anxiety and confusion, and will find good fellow students to read and recite this sutra with. They will attract large assemblies of persons who come to listen and assent. After they have listened, they will embrace; after they have embraced, they will recite; after they have recited, they will preach; and after they have preached, they will copy, or will cause others to copy, and will present offerings to the sutra rolls, treating them with reverence, respect, and praise.”
At that time the world-honored one, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

p.244If they wish to preach this sutra,
they must set aside jealousy, hatred, arrogance,
minds that are fawning, deceitful, false,
and constantly practice honest and upright conduct.
They should not look with contempt on others
or hold frivolous debates on the Law.
They should not cause others to have doubts or regrets
by saying, “You will never become a buddha!”
When a son of the Buddha preaches the Law
he is at all times gentle and full of forbearance,
having pity and compassion on all,
never giving way to a negligent or slothful mind.
The great bodhisattvas of the ten directions
out of pity for the multitude carry out the way.
He should strive to respect and revere them,
saying, “These are my great teachers!”
Regarding the buddhas, the world-honored ones,
learn to think of them as unsurpassed fathers.
Wipe out the mind of pride and arrogance
and preach the Law without hindrance.
Such is the third set of rules;
wise people should guard and obey them.
If with a single mind they observe these peaceful practices,
they will be respected by immeasurable multitudes.

“Manjushri, if among these bodhisattvas mahasattva there are those who in the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish, accept and embrace the Lotus Sutra, toward believers who are still in the household or those who have left the household they should cultivate a mind of great compassion, and toward those who are not bodhisattvas they should also cultivate a mind of great compassion, and should think to themselves: These people have lost much. Though the thus come one as an expedient means preached the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, they do not listen, do not know, do not realize, do not inquire, do not believe, do not understand. But although these people do not inquire about, do not believe, and do not understand this p.245sutra, when I have attained supreme perfect enlightenment, wherever I may happen to be, I will employ my transcendental powers and the power of wisdom to draw them to me and cause them to abide in this Law.
“Manjushri, after the thus come one has entered extinction, if among these bodhisattvas mahasattva there are those who succeed in carrying out this fourth set of rules, then when they preach the Law they will commit no error. Monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, rulers, princes, great ministers, common people, Brahmans, and householders will constantly offer them alms and will revere, respect, and praise them. The heavenly beings in the sky, in order to listen to the Law, will constantly follow and attend them. If they are in a settlement or town or in a quiet and deserted place or a forest and people come and want to ask them difficult questions, the heavenly beings day and night will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them and will cause all the listeners to rejoice. Why? Because this sutra is protected by the supernatural powers of all the buddhas of the past, future, and present.
“Manjushri, as for this Lotus Sutra, throughout immeasurable numbers of lands one cannot even hear its name, much less be able to see it, accept and embrace, read and recite it. Manjushri, suppose, for example, that there is a powerful wheel-turning sage king who wants to use his might to subdue other countries, but the petty rulers will not heed his commands. At that time the wheel-turning king calls up his various troops and sets out to attack. If the king sees any of his fighting forces who have won distinction in battle, he is greatly delighted and immediately rewards the persons in accordance with their merits, handing out fields, houses, settlements, and towns, or robes and personal adornments, or perhaps giving out various precious objects such as gold, silver, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, coral, or amber, or elephants, horses, carriages, men and women servants, and people. Only the bright jewel that is in his topknot he does not give away. Why? Because this one jewel exists only on the top of the king’s head, and if he were to give it away, his followers would be certain to express great consternation and alarm.
p.246“Manjushri, the thus come one is like this. He uses the power of meditation and wisdom to win Dharma lands and become king of the threefold world. But the devil kings are unwilling to obey and submit. The worthy and sage military leaders of the thus come one engage them in battle, and when any of the Buddha’s soldiers achieve distinction, the Buddha is delighted in heart and in the midst of the four kinds of believers he preaches various sutras, causing their hearts to be joyful. He bestows upon them meditations, emancipations, faculties that are free of outflows, powers, and other treasures of the Law. He also bestows upon them the city of nirvana, telling them that they have attained extinction, guiding their minds and causing them all to rejoice. But he does not preach the Lotus Sutra to them.
“Manjushri, when the wheel-turning king sees someone among his soldiers who has gained truly great distinction, he is so delighted in heart that he takes that unbelievably fine jewel that has been in his topknot for so long and has never been recklessly given away, and now gives it to the man. And the thus come one does the same. In the threefold world he acts as the great Dharma king. He uses the Law to teach and convert all living beings, and watches his worthy and sage armies as they battle with the devils of the five components, the devils of earthly desires, and the death devil. And when they have won great distinction and merit, wiping out the three poisons, emerging from the threefold world, and destroying the nets of the devils, at that time the thus come one is filled with great joy. This Lotus Sutra is capable of causing living beings to attain comprehensive wisdom. It will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe. It has not been preached before, but now I preach it.
“Manjushri, this Lotus Sutra is foremost among all that is preached by the thus come ones. Among all that is preached it is the most profound. And it is given at the very last, the way that powerful ruler did when he took the bright jewel he had guarded for so long and finally gave it away.
“Manjushri, this Lotus Sutra is the secret storehouse of the buddhas, the thus come ones. Among the sutras, it holds the p.247highest place. Through the long night I have guarded and protected it and have never recklessly propagated it. But today for the first time I expound it for your sake.”
At that time the world-honored one, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

Constantly practice perseverance,
have pity on all beings,
and do your best to expound and preach
the sutra praised by the Buddha.
In the latter age hereafter
those who embrace this sutra should,
with regard to people in the household, people who have left it,
or people who are not bodhisattvas,
cultivate pity and compassion,
saying, “If they do not listen to
and do not believe this sutra
they will lost much.
If I gain the buddha way
I will employ expedient means
and preach this Law for them,
causing them to abide in it.”
Suppose there is a powerful
wheel-turning king.
His soldiers have won merit in battle
and he rewards them with various articles,
elephants, horses, carriages,
adornments for their persons,
fields and houses,
settlements and towns,
or gives them clothing,
various kinds of precious objects,
men and women servants, wealth and goods,
delightedly bestowing all these.
But if there is someone brave and stalwart
p.248who can carry out difficult deeds,
the king will remove the bright jewel from his topknot
and present it to the man.
The thus come one is like this.
He acts as king of the doctrines,
possessing the great power of perseverance
and the precious storehouse of wisdom,
and with his great pity and compassion
he converts the age in accordance with the Law.
He sees all people
as they undergo suffering and anxiety,
seeking to gain emancipation,
battling with the devils,
and for the sake of these living beings
he preaches various doctrines,
employing great expedient means
and preaching these sutras.
And when he knows that living beings
have gained power through them,
then at the very last for their sake
he preaches this Lotus Sutra,
like the king who unbinds his topknot
and gives away his bright jewel.
This sutra is to be honored
as highest among all sutras.
Constantly I guard and protect it,
and do not recklessly reveal it.
But now the time is right
for me to preach it to you.
After I have entered extinction
if someone seeks the buddha way
and hopes to be able in tranquillity
to expound this sutra,
then he should associate himself closely
with the four rules described.
Anyone who reads this sutra
will at all times be free of worry and anxiety;
p.249likewise he will be without illness or pain,
his expression fresh and bright.
He will not be born in poverty or want,
in humble circumstances or ugly form.
Living beings will delight to see him
and look up to him as a worthy or a sage.
The young sons of 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.
If people speak ill of and revile him,
their mouths will be closed and stopped up.
He will stroll about without fear
like the lion king.
The brilliance of his wisdom
will be like the shining of the sun;
even in his dreams
he will see only wonderful things.
He will see the thus come ones
seated in their lion seats
surrounded by multitudes of monks
and preaching the Law.
And he will see dragons,
asuras, and others,
numerous as Ganges sands,
reverently pressing their palms together.
He will see himself there
preaching the Law for them.
Again he will see buddhas,
their bodies marked by a golden hue,
emitting immeasurable rays
that light up all things,
employing brahma sounds
to expound the doctrines.
For the four kinds of believers
the Buddha will preach the unsurpassed Law,
and he will see himself among them
p.250pressing his palms together and praising the Buddha.
He will hear the Law and delight
and will offer alms.
He will obtain dharanis
and proof of the wisdom without regression.
And when the Buddha knows that his mind
has entered deep into the buddha way,
then he will give him a prophecy
that he will attain the highest, the correct enlightenment.
“You, good man,
in an age to come
will attain immeasurable wisdom,
the great way of the buddha.
Your land will be adorned and pure,
incomparably broad and great,
with the four kinds of believers
who press their palms together and listen to the Law.”
Again he will see himself
in the midst of mountains and forests
practicing the good Law,
understanding the true aspect of all phenomena,
deeply entering meditation,
and seeing the buddhas of the ten directions.
Of buddhas, their bodies a golden hue,
adorned with the marks of a hundred kinds of good fortune,
of listening to the Law and preaching it to people—
such will be the good dreams he constantly dreams.
Again he will dream he is king of a country
but casts aside palaces and attendants
and the superb and wonderful objects of the five desires,
repairs to the place of enlightenment
and under the bodhi tree
seats himself on a lion seat,
seeking the way, and after seven days
gains the wisdom of the buddhas.
Having succeeded in the unsurpassed way,
p.251he rises and turns the wheel of the Law,
preaching the Law for the four kinds of believers,
for thousands, ten thousands, millions of kalpas
preaching the wonderful Law free of outflows,
saving immeasurable living beings.
And afterward he will enter nirvana
like smoke coming to an end when a lamp goes out.
If in that evil age hereafter
someone preaches this foremost Law,
that person will gain great benefits,
blessings such as have been described above.
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Notes

1. The Lokayatas expounded a materialist doctrine in the time of Shakyamuni. The Anti-Lokayatas attempted to refute them.
2. Men who are impotent or suffer from other types of sexual disabilities.

nirvana (nirvāṇa) The word, which means “becoming extinguished” or “blown out,” indicates the state in which one has escaped from the cycle of birth and death. In Mahayana Buddhism, it is taken to mean awakening to the true nature of phenomena, or the perfection of buddha wisdom. In Hinayana teaching there are two types of nirvana. First is that of the arhat who has eliminated all illusions and will no longer be reborn in the six paths, but still possesses a body. This is called the nirvana of remainder. Second is that which the arhat achieves at death, when both body and mind are extinguished. This is called the nirvana of no remainder or complete nirvana.

outflows (Skt āsrava, Ch lou, J ro) Another term for earthly desires and illusions. “Outflows” refers to that which flows out ceaselessly from the six sense organs, that is, earthly desires and illusions. Hence to be free of outflows is to be free of earthly desires and illusions.

four kinds of believers Monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.

way (Ch dao, J dō) “The way,” also referred to as “the buddha way,” means awakening or enlightenment. Also the way to enlightenment. “Ways” is used when referring to different levels of enlightenment.

bodhi tree The pipal tree at Buddhagaya under which Shakyamuni attained enlightenment.

place of enlightenment (Skt bodhimaṇḍa, Ch daochang, J dōjō) The place where one carries out religious practice and gains enlightenment, often referring specifically to the place where Shakyamuni gained enlightenment under the bodhi tree.

five desires The desires that arise from the contact of the five sense organs, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, with their respective objects. Sometimes the five desires are defined as the desire for wealth, sex, food and drink, fame, and sleep.

ten directions Eight points of the compass, plus up and down

buddha An “awakened one,” or one who has reached the highest level of enlightenment. In Mahayana Buddhism, the number of buddhas is infinite. Thus in the Lotus Sutra, the term “the Buddha” is used to refer specifically to Shakyamuni Buddha.

Brahma (Brahmā) Also called Mahabrahman (Mahābrahman). An Indian deity regarded as the personification of the fundamental universal principle. In Buddhism he was adopted as a protective deity. He lives in the first of the four meditation heavens in the world of form above Mount Sumeru and rules the saha world.

buddha way The state of enlightenment. See also way.

expedient means (Skt upāya, Ch fangbian, J hōben) A device or temporary means adopted in order to relieve suffering and lead people to enlightenment, often by offering provisional teachings as a means of guiding them to the truth. It is the title of the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

thus come one (Skt tathāgata, Ch rulai, J nyorai) One of the ten epithets for a buddha.

CHAPTER 14

Peaceful Practices

Chapter Fourteen: Peaceful Practices
Five important points

Point One, concerning the “Peaceful Practices” chapte

Point Two, on the passage “Next, the bodhisattva or mahāsattva should view all phenomena as empty, that being their true entity. They do not turn upside down, do not move, do not regress, do not revolve. They are like empty space, without innate nature, beyond the reach of all words. They are not born, do not emerge, do not arise. They are without name, without form, without true being. They are without volume, without limits, without hindrance, without barriers.”

Point Three, on the passage “If he is asked difficult questions, he should not reply in terms of the Law of the Lesser Vehicle. He should explain things solely in terms of the Great Vehicle so that people will be able to acquire wisdom embracing all species.”

Point Four, on the passage “After I have passed into extinction / if there are monks / who are able to expound / this Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, / their minds will be free of jealousy and anger, / of all worry and hindrance. / No one will trouble them, / curse or revile them. / They will know no fear, / no attacks by sword or staff, / nor will they ever be banished.”

Point Five, on the passage “If they are in a settlement or town or in a quiet and deserted place or a forest and people p.117come and want to ask them difficult questions, the heavenly beings day and night will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them and will cause all the listeners to rejoice.”

LOTUS CHAPTER 14 OTT POINTS 1-4 THE RECORD OF THE ORALLY TRANSMITTED TEACHINGS SAYS:

141 – Concerning the “peaceful” practices of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law and the practices carried out by Nichiren and his followers now in the Latter Day of the Law, you should understand that, when one practices the Lotus Sutra under such circumstances, difficulties will arise, and these are to be looked on as “peaceful” practices.
142 – This passage lists the eighteen aspects of emptiness. The substance represented by the eighteen aspects of emptiness is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Every one of these eighteen aspects is a description of the Wonderful Law.
143 – When one is refuting, one should not use the provisional teachings in an attempt to enlighten them. The “wisdom embracing all species” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. “All” refers to the ten thousand things, and the “wisdom embracing all species” refers to the wisdom underlying all the different species of the ten thousand things, which is Myoho-renge-kyo.
Or again we may say that the wisdom embracing all species is the single mind within all of us. The single mind is the one great entity embracing all the ten thousand phenomena. You should think about this.
144 – This passage of the sutra states that the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching will not suffer any attacks “by sword or staff.”
In the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter, speaking of the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, it says, “There will be many ignorant people / who will curse and speak ill of us / and will attack us with swords and staves.” It also says, “Again and again we will be banished.” But in the present chapter it says that these troubles will not occur. This is because the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter is speaking of those who carry out the practice of the shakubuku method in the Latter Day of the Law, while the present chapter is speaking of those who carry out the practice of the shōju method in the Middle Day of the Law.
145 – As for the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, the heavenly beings will surely guard and protect them. The Law referred to in the words “will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

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14. The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra: Hokekyō daimoku shō (法華経題目抄), 940.

14
The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra

Nichiren, follower of the Great Teacher Kompon [Dengyō]

NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO.
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,1 and that men, simply by respecting the three treasures, were able to escape being swallowed by a huge fish.2 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 all the 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 expedient means, says that one can “gain entrance through faith alone.”3 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 that 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 lacking in knowledge of Buddhism, a person of faith, even if dull-witted, is to be reckoned as a person of correct views. But even though one has some knowledge of Buddhism, if one is without faith, then one is to be p.142considered 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 divisions of the scriptures, while Devadatta memorized the sixty thousand non-Buddhist teachings and the eighty thousand Buddhist teachings, and could manifest eighteen miraculous powers4 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 Avīchi hell. Mahākāshyapa and Shāriputra on the other hand lacked knowledge but had faith, and the Buddha accordingly predicted that they would become the Thus Come Ones Light Bright and Flower Glow, respectively. The Buddha stated, “If one should harbor doubt and fail to believe, one will fall at once into the evil paths.”5 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?” If we accept the words of the sutra, these scholars themselves can hardly avoid falling into the great citadel of the Avīchi hell.
Thus, as we have seen, even those who lack understanding, so long as they chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, can avoid the evil paths. This is like lotus flowers, which turn as the sun does, 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.6 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.7 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 yojanas. 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 rhinoceros horn or the sandalwood leaf.
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 nyagrodha8 tree are so stout that the largest birds can perch on them without breaking them, and yet they are vulnerable to the tailorbird,9 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 magnet 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 magnet. 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 incalculable, innumerable kalpas it is rare that one may hear this Law.”10 And the fifth volume says, “As for this Lotus Sutra, throughout immeasurable numbers of lands one cannot even hear its name.”11 Thus it is an extremely rare thing to hear the name of the Lotus Sutra. Though the Buddhas Sushānta12 and Many Treasures made their appearance in the world, they did not utter so much as the name of the Lotus Sutra. And though the Thus Come One Shakyamuni made his advent expressly for the purpose of preaching the Lotus Sutra, he kept the name of that sutra a secret and never referred to it for a period of forty-two years. It was only when he reached the age of seventy-two that he p.143first began to intone Myoho-renge-kyo, the daimoku of the sutra. 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 and fifty or more years 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, boundless kalpas.
Suppose one were to place a needle in the earth point up and throw down tiny mustard seeds at it from the palace of the great king Brahmā in the heavens. One could sooner impale a mustard seed on the point of a needle in this way 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 this sutra, you should be aware that it is a more joyful thing than for one who was born blind to gain sight and see one’s father and mother, and a rarer thing than for a man 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 Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law states that one who accepts and upholds the mere name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy immeasurable good fortune. The Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law says that, if one hears this sutra and proclaims and embraces its title, one will enjoy merit beyond measure. And the Supplemented Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law says that one who accepts and upholds the name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy immeasurable good fortune. These statements indicate that the good fortune one receives from simply chanting the daimoku is beyond measure.
To accept, uphold, 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 accept, uphold, and protect the “Expedient Means” chapter and the “Life Span” chapter 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, comprehensive, abbreviated, and 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 Brahmā rules over all the threefold world. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are comparable to 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 kyō, or “sutra,” is the king p.144of all sutras, and all the other sutras are encompassed by it. The Buddha appeared in the world and over a period of fifty years 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.13 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 compilation hall 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 [1,015 years after the Buddha’s passing] that Buddhist sutras were first introduced to China. This was in the year with the cyclical sign hinoto-u, the tenth year of the Yung-p’ing era (c.e. 67) in the reign of Emperor Ming of the Later Han dynasty. From that time until the year with the cyclical sign kanoe-uma, the eighteenth year of the K’ai-yüan era (c.e. 730) in the reign of Emperor Hsüan-tsung of the T’ang dynasty, a total of 176 translators went over 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 kyō of the Lotus Sutra.
Among the sutras that the Buddha preached during the more than forty years before he expounded the Lotus Sutra, there is one called the Great and Vast Buddha Flower Garland Sutra. This sutra is preserved in the dragon king’s palace in three versions. The first version contains as many chapters as the dust particles of 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 smaller texts such as the eighty-volume and sixty-volume versions14 are preserved in China and Japan.
In addition, there are the Hinayana Āgama sutras, and the various Mahayana sutras of the Correct and Equal and the Wisdom periods. Among the latter, the Sanskrit text of the Mahāvairochana Sutra devotes a total of thirty-five hundred verses simply to the explanation of the five characters of the mantra avarahakha, 15 to say nothing of the countless verses it uses to describe the seeds, august forms, and samayas16 of the various honored ones. 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 most profound teaching of the Thus Come One Shakyamuni. In addition, all the sutras expounded by the seven Buddhas of the past,17 the thousand Buddhas, or the Buddhas of countless kalpas ago, as well as those expounded by the Buddhas presently living in the ten directions, are followers of the single character kyō of the Lotus Sutra.
Thus, in the “Medicine King” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha addresses Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower, saying that, just as the ocean is foremost among all the rivers, streams, and other bodies of water, just as Mount Sumeru is foremost among all the mountains, and just as the moon is foremost among the heavenly bodies, [so the Lotus Sutra is likewise among all the sutras]. The Great Teacher p.145Miao-lo says in his commentary that the Lotus Sutra is “foremost among all the sutras preached in the past, now being preached, or to be preached in the future.”18
Within this single character kyō are contained all the sutras in the worlds throughout the ten directions. 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 kyō of Myoho-renge-kyo is the supreme achievement of the Buddha’s lifetime of teaching, the other four characters, Myōhō-ren-ge, likewise surpass all the other eighty thousand doctrines that the Buddha taught.
Coming now to the character myō, the Lotus Sutra says, “This sutra opens the gate of expedient means and shows the form of true reality.”19 The Great Teacher Chang-an states, “Myō means to reveal the depths of the secret storehouse.”20 The Great Teacher Miao-lo says of this, “To reveal means to open.”21 Hence the character myō 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 Flower Garland Sutra, but he did not therein expound the key to open this sutra. Likewise, in the more than forty years that followed, he preached the sutras of the Āgama, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom periods as well as the Meditation Sutra, 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, their understanding was in fact distorted.
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 with good eyes cannot make out their shapes and colors. It is when the sun or moon rises that one can discern for the first time what these things really look 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 moon.
Among the bodhisattvas with their two good eyes, the cross-eyed people of the two vehicles, ordinary people with their blind eyes, or icchantikas 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, first the bodhisattvas with their two good eyes gained enlightenment, and then the cross-eyed people of the two vehicles. Next the blind eyes of ordinary people were opened, and then even icchantikas, 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 myō.
There are two myō, 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.22 From another point of view, there are twenty mystic principles,23 ten in the theoretical teaching and ten in the essential teaching; or there are sixty mystic principles,24 thirty in the theoretical teaching and thirty in the essential teaching. From yet other points of view, forty mystic principles25 may be discerned in each half of the p.146Lotus Sutra. By adding these to the forty mystic principles concerning the observation of the mind,26 the single character myō will be found to contain fully one hundred and twenty myō, or mystic, principles.
One fundamental myō, 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.
Myō in India is rendered as sad, and in China, as miao. Myō means to be fully endowed, which in turn has the meaning of “perfect and full.” 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 a single wish-granting jewel, though no bigger than a mustard seed, is capable of showering down the treasures that one could wish for with all the wish-granting jewels.
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 myō 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 or rebirth in the pure land emerged.
Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna in his Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom says, “[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who can change poison into medicine.” This quotation occurs in a passage in Great Perfection of Wisdom that explains the virtues inherent in the character myō of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo remarks, “Because it can cure what is thought to be incurable, it is called myō, or wonderful.”27
In general, there are four kinds of people who have great difficulty in attaining Buddhahood or rebirth in the pure land. First are those predestined for the two vehicles,28 second are icchantikas, third are those who cling to the doctrine of void,29 and fourth are those who slander the Law. But through the Lotus Sutra, all of these people are able to become Buddhas. That is why the Lotus Sutra is called myō.
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 Ānanda. He was thus by no means a person of low station in the southern continent, Jambudvīpa. He became a disciple of the monk Sudāya30 and entered the religious life. From the Venerable Ānanda 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 ascetic practices31 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 Gayashīrsha32 and inviting the Buddha’s disciples over to his side. He confided to Crown Prince Ajātashatru: “I intend to kill the Buddha and become the new Buddha. You must kill your father, the king [Bimbisāra], and become the new king in his place!”
After Crown Prince Ajātashatru had in fact killed his father, Devadatta kept watch on the Buddha’s activities and with a large stone caused his blood to flow. He also struck and killed the nun p.147Utpalavarnā who had reached the state of arhat. Thus he committed fully three of the five cardinal sins.
In addition, with the Venerable Kokālika as his disciple and King Ajātashatru as his patron, Devadatta began to attract followers from everywhere, until throughout the five regions of India with its sixteen great states, five hundred middle-sized states, and ten thousand small 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 the wise gathered about Shāriputra, and those with transcendental powers flocked to Maudgalyāyana, so did evil persons throw in their lot with Devadatta.
As a result, the great earth, which is 168,000 yojanas thick and rests on a windy circle33 as hard as a diamond, nevertheless split open, plunging Devadatta alive into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. His leading disciple Kokālika also fell into hell alive, as did the Brahman’s daughter Chinchā, King Virūdhaka, and the monk Sunakshatra. Moreover, the people of India with its five regions and sixteen great states, five hundred middle-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,34 including Brahmā, Shakra, the devil king of the sixth heaven, and King Yama, likewise witnessed their fate.
All the beings throughout the major world system and the worlds of the ten directions heard about this, and unanimously concluded that, even though as many kalpas should pass as there are dust particles of the land, Devadatta and the others would never escape from the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering, and that, though the stone that marks the duration of a kalpa might be worn completely away, they would continue to suffer in the Avīchi hell. How astounding, then, that in the “Devadatta” chapter of the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni Buddha should reveal that Devadatta was his teacher in a past existence and should predict that he would attain enlightenment in the future as a Thus Come One 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 Thus Come One 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 the way as well. For if the great earth itself could be overturned, then the plants and trees on it would as a matter of course be overturned. And if one can crush the hardest stone, one can certainly bend the pliant grasses. Therefore, the Lotus Sutra is called myō.
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 the Five Canons of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of ancient China depict them as fawning and crooked. For this reason, disaster is said to have come about because of the three women of antiquity.35 Thus women are identified as the cause of the downfall of a nation and its people.
The Flower Garland Sutra, the first great teaching 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 p.148heart they are like yaksha demons.”36 The Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha’s last teaching that 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 crooked.” 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 Flower Garland Sutra says that women “can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood,” it means that they scorch and burn the seeds that would otherwise allow them to become Buddhas. When clouds mass in the sky in a time of great drought and heavy rain falls to 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 meditative practices, all of which bring merit, they will put forth blossoms and bear fruit. The scorched seeds that never sprout even though the rain falls on them, but instead rot 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 pliant substance, when its path is blocked by some hard object such as a rock or a mountain, 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 Silver-Colored Woman Sutra says that, even if the eyes of the Buddhas of the three existences were to fall to the ground, no woman could ever attain Buddhahood. Great Perfection of Wisdom says that one 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 Manjushrī spoke the single character myō, a woman was instantly able to become a Buddha. So extraordinary was this occurrence that Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated, the foremost disciple of the Buddha Many Treasures in the World of Treasure Purity, and the Venerable Shāriputra, who was known among the Thus Come One Shakyamuni’s disciples as the foremost in wisdom, protested. They said that, according to all the Mahayana and Hinayana sutras that the p.149Buddha 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 views reflected in the Silver-Colored Woman Sutra and Great Perfection of Wisdom were proven to be nonsense. Wisdom Accumulated and Shāriputra 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 myō.
In this southern continent of Jambudvīpa there are twenty-five hundred rivers, and every single one of them is winding. They are devious like the minds of the women of Jambudvīpa. And yet there is one river called the Sahaya37 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.38 Such is the virtue inherent in the single character myō.
Myō means to revive, that is, to return to life. For example, it is said that, though the chick of a yellow crane may die, if the mother crane calls the name of Tzu-an,39 then the dead chick will come back to life. Or, in the case of the fish and shellfish that have been killed because a poisonous bird called a chen40 has entered the water, it is said that, if they are touched with a rhinoceros horn, they will all be brought back to life. Similarly, persons of the two vehicles, icchantikas, 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 become Buddhas. But by holding fast to this single character myō, they can revive these scorched seeds of Buddhahood.
T’ien-t’ai says: “The icchantikas, or persons of incorrigible disbelief, 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 that aspires to enlightenment. And yet the Lotus Sutra can cure them, which is why it is called myō, or wonderful.”41 Miao-lo says: “The reason that the other sutras are called ‘great’ but not myō 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 what is thought to be incurable, it is called myō, or wonderful.”42
These passages refer to the fact that sutras such as the Great and Vast Buddha Flower Garland Sutra, the Great Collection Sutra, the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, and the Great Nirvana Sutra all have the character “great” in their titles but not the character myō, or wonderful. This is because they can only cure the living but are unable to cure the dead. The Lotus Sutra, however, can cure the dead as well as the living, and therefore it has the character myō in its title [Myoho-renge-kyo].
Thus, with the other sutras, persons who should by rights become Buddhas cannot 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 adheres to the other sutras.
p.150Now 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 a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million times more difficult for ordinary people to attain Buddhahood or rebirth in the pure land than it was for even the persons of the two vehicles or icchantikas who lived when the Buddha was alive. And yet people nowadays think that, by relying on the Meditation Sutra or some other of the sutras preached in the more than forty 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 Chih-che, who heard the Buddha’s teachings at Eagle Peak43 and later attained an awakening in the place of meditation, has stated unequivocally, “The other sutras only predict Buddhahood . . . for men, but not for women; . . . This sutra predicts Buddhahood for all.”44
The Thus Come One Shakyamuni, in the presence of Many Treasures Buddha and the Buddhas of the ten directions, preached the Lotus Sutra over a period of eight years at the place called Eagle Peak northeast of Rājagriha in the kingdom of Magadha. The Great Teacher [T’ien-t’ai] Chih-che was present and heard him preach. “During my fifty 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 Chih-che, 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 Dengyō.45 He then wrote a work entitled The Outstanding Principles of the Lotus Sutra in which he stated: “Neither teacher nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law 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 in 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. 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 Two-Volumed Sutra or the Meditation 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 p.151seem to be a laudable practice. But because the women who do so are relying upon sutras that can never lead women to Buddhahood or to rebirth in the pure land, they are in effect merely counting other people’s riches. This comes about solely because they are led astray by evil teachers. All the women of 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 those who, instead of teaching them the Lotus Sutra, teach them the Nembutsu.
Only after chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo sixty thousand, a hundred thousand, or even ten million times a day, may women who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra, if they still have some time to spare, 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 concerning the Nembutsu. They never recite the Lotus Sutra or give alms for its sake. True, there are a few who have the Lotus Sutra read by those who uphold its teachings. But they look up to the Nembutsu priests as though they were their parents or brothers, and treat the upholders 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 Pure Virtue 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 unfold the doctrines of the great vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering.”46 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 reform your thinking immediately. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

Completed at the hour of the sheep (1:00–3:00 p.m.) at Seichō-ji temple on the sixth day of the first month in the third year of Bun’ei (1266), cyclical sign hinoe-tora.
+ * & ^ _ – +

186. On Reciting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra: Shōhokke daimoku shō (唱法華題目抄), 1.

SOMEONE asked me the following question. Is it true that, even though members of the clergy or lay believers may not understand the exact meaning of the text of the Lotus Sutra, if they accept and uphold the entire sutra, or one volume of it, or the four most important chapters,1 or the verse section of the “Life Span” chapter, or just one phrase of the sutra; if they themselves read the sutra or copy it, or if they get others to read or copy it; or, if they neither read nor copy it, but just face the sutra, press their palms together and bow in obeisance, or make offerings of incense and flowers; or, if they do not do any of these things, but see others doing these things and have just a slight feeling of rejoicing in their hearts or are happy that the Lotus Sutra is being spread throughout the country—is it true that, if they carry out even one of these acts, they will not be held accountable for their worldly offenses, but will be aided by the benefits of the Lotus Sutra and, like the sages who have reached the first of the four stages of enlightenment in the Hinayana teachings, will in each of their future existences be reborn in the human or the heavenly realm, and will not fall into the evil paths of existence? And, is it true that, constantly reborn in the human or heavenly realms, they will eventually gain complete enlightenment into the Lotus Sutra, attain rebirth in one of the pure lands of the ten directions, or, should they remain in this present world, attain Buddhahood in their present form? Please explain to me in detail about this matter.
I would answer as follows. I do not have a complete understanding of the text, but judging from what is expressed in the Lotus and Nirvana sutras and the commentaries by T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, if people happen to put their faith in the Lotus Sutra and do not in any way slander it, then they will not, as a result of other offenses they might commit, fall into the evil paths of existence.
But if they should encounter an evil friend who has only a slight understanding of the provisional teachings and who, pretending to be very knowledgeable, declares in a plausible manner that the Lotus Sutra is ill fitted for people of our capacities; and if they believe in his words and cease in their hearts to delight in the Lotus Sutra, and instead put their trust in some other teachings, never again for the remainder of their lives returning to their faith in the Lotus Sutra, then they will most likely fall into the evil paths of existence.
Question: I have some doubts regarding what you have said. I do not know whether it is true or not, but p.212some wise person has made the following comment. According to the Lotus Sutra, once in the past, major world system dust particle kalpas ago, there was a Buddha named Great Universal Wisdom Excellence. When this Buddha was still an ordinary mortal, he had sixteen sons who were princes. When their father, the king, attained Buddhahood and expounded the sacred teachings of his lifetime, the princes, his sixteen sons, left the household life and became disciples of the Buddha. After Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Buddha had finished preaching the Lotus Sutra and had entered into a state of meditation, the sixteen princely sons, who were now shrāmaneras, in the presence of the Buddha took turns discoursing upon the Lotus Sutra. And of the unknowable thousands or tens of thousands who listened to their expositions, some immediately gained understanding and reached a stage where they would never regress in their progress toward full enlightenment.
There were also some who, though they had formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra by hearing it, had only a poor understanding of its teachings. These persons were not able to reach the stage of non-regression. For a period of major world system dust particle kalpas, they remained as they were, undergoing the four forms of birth and transmigrating through the six paths of existence. Only when the Thus Come One Shakyamuni appeared in the world and preached the Lotus Sutra were they able to reach the stage of non-regression. Shāriputra, Maudgalyāyana, Mahākāshyapa, and Ānanda were persons of this kind.
And there are others who are even less firm in their faith and who were unable to gain enlightenment even when Shakyamuni was in the world. It may well be that they must wait until countless kalpas in the future before they can do so. Though this is not entirely certain, it seems that we too, perhaps, are among those who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra through the sixteen princely sons of Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Buddha.
According to T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, the persons who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra through these sixteen princely sons correspond to those who attain the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth or the stage of perception and action. Persons who reach the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth or the stage of perception and action have understood the meaning of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, have carried out the ten meditations, and have gained a thorough grasp of the meaning of the Lotus Sutra. In addition, persons who rejoice even for a moment on hearing the Lotus Sutra, and those who rejoice when word of the Lotus Sutra has been passed along to them by fifty persons in succession,2 are, according to the interpretation of T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, equal to those at the initial stage of rejoicing, the first of the five stages of practice carried out by those who have reached the stage of perception and action. In other words, they are by no means persons with only the shallow understanding of ordinary mortals.
But what of us, the people of this latter age, who have formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra through no more than a single word or a single phrase and have no understanding of the sutra as a whole? How can we hope to escape transmigrating through boundless kalpas as numerous as the sands of countless worlds? For us, the principles are very profound but our understanding is slight. That is, the teachings of the sutra are extremely profound and our capacities are in truth too shallow.
It is much better, therefore, that we simply recite the name of Amida, and when in our next life we are reborn in p.213his Pure Land of Perfect Bliss in the west, where we can attain an understanding of the non-birth and non-extinction of all phenomena and gain the stage of non-regression, and when we hear the Thus Come One Amida and the bodhisattvas Perceiver of the World’s Sounds and Great Power preaching the Lotus Sutra there, we can then attain full enlightenment. For, according to the original vow made by Amida, whether people are wise or unwise, good or bad, observers of the precepts or breakers of the precepts, if they so much as once recite his name, then when they are on their deathbed, the Thus Come One Amida, in accordance with his original vow, will invariably come to welcome them to his Pure Land.
It would seem, then, that, when people in this present world set aside any bond they may have formed with the Lotus Sutra and instead strive for rebirth in the Pure Land, they do so because they hope to escape transmigrating through boundless kalpas as numerous as the sands of a million or a thousand worlds and to quickly gain a full understanding of the Lotus Sutra.
If persons who do not have the basic capacity needed to understand the Lotus Sutra nevertheless spend their spare time while in this impure world of ours devoting themselves to the Lotus Sutra, never once reciting the Nembutsu, or the name of Amida, they will only discover how difficult it is to gain enlightenment through the Lotus Sutra and will not establish any cause leading to rebirth in the land of Perfect Bliss. They will have gained neither objective, and in this sense, could be called persons who have no real comprehension of the Lotus Sutra, could they not?
Moreover, from what you have just said, it would seem that, if one forms even a slight bond with the Lotus Sutra, then at least one will not fall into the three evil paths of existence. But this does not assure that one will escape from rebirth in the six paths of existence. According to the Nembutsu doctrine, however, though one may have no clear understanding of the principles involved, if one recites the name of Amida, one will be reborn in the Pure Land. From this it would appear, would it not, that recitation of the name of Amida is far more effective than faith in the Lotus Sutra?
Answer: You have put the case very well, and since your information comes from a person of wisdom, it is no doubt quite reliable. But if you have reported the words of the wise person in an accurate manner, then certain questions arise. You say that persons who have formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra through the sons of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence are, according to the interpretation of T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, in general persons at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth or at the stage of perception and action. But it would be more accurate to say that they have reached the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. Moreover, they are persons who have abandoned a great doctrine and instead chosen lesser doctrines, that is, those who have discarded the Lotus Sutra and shifted their faith to the provisional teachings. But later it will be seen that they have fallen into the evil paths of existence, because they are persons who have slandered the Lotus Sutra and cast it away. Even though one may have an understanding of the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, if one slanders the Law, then one will continue to transmigrate in the evil paths of existence for major world system dust particle kalpas or kalpas as numerous as the sands of countless worlds.
Also, you say that persons who rejoice when word of the Lotus Sutra has been passed along to them by fifty p.214persons in succession, and those who rejoice even for a moment on hearing the Lotus Sutra, are equal to those at the initial stage of rejoicing, the first of the five stages of practice carried out by those who have reached the stage of perception and action. Are you then saying that, when we people of this latter age rejoice on hearing the Lotus Sutra, we cannot be said to be among those who “rejoice even for a moment on hearing the Lotus Sutra”? You say that, according to the interpretation of T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, persons who rejoice on hearing the Lotus Sutra are equal to those in the first of the five stages of practice carried out by those at the stage of perception and action. Are you saying, then, that their other interpretation equating such persons with those at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth should simply be discarded?
To sum up, after examining your discourse on doctrine in some detail, I am afraid I must say that it constitutes a slander of the Law. This is because, in declaring that the Lotus Sutra is not suited to the capacities of people of this latter age such as ourselves, you are in effect saying that, with regard to all the people living in this latter age, so long as they remain in this impure world, it is of no use to them to practice the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. If that is so, then among all the people of this latter age, there will be those who have already put their faith in the Lotus Sutra but who, on hearing your words, will forthwith discard the sutra. And there will be others, who have not yet begun to practice the Lotus Sutra but thought to do so, who will now abandon that idea. Also, if you cause people to cease feeling joy on hearing the Lotus Sutra, this too will constitute a slander of the Law. And if all persons become in effect slanderers of the Law, then no matter how earnestly they may recite the Nembutsu, they will never be able to attain rebirth in the Pure Land.
Again, you say that by reciting the name of Amida one can gain rebirth in his land of Perfect Bliss. But what sutra or passage in the treatises or commentaries can you point to as proof to support such an idea? You must have some very convincing passage in the sacred writings that you can offer as proof. If not, then the doctrine you have described is unworthy of belief.
As I have stated earlier, persons who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra, though they may have no very clear understanding of the sutra, will nevertheless escape falling into the three evil paths of existence. As for gaining emancipation from the six paths of existence, this may be difficult for certain persons of little understanding. But if, as a result of encountering an evil friend, they should be persuaded to cease feeling joy on hearing the Lotus Sutra, then the Lotus Sutra can have no power to save them.
Question: I am very surprised to hear what you say. This is because the wise person I talked to insisted that the Lotus Sutra is not suited to the capacities of ordinary people in this latter age, and I supposed that that was true. But now, if one goes by what you have said, it would appear that, though one may recite the name of Amida, if one is guilty of causing others to disbelieve the Lotus Sutra, then one cannot hope to gain rebirth in the Pure Land, and moreover will fall into the evil paths of existence. This is a very serious matter indeed.
Further, you say that the persons who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra through the sons of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence, because they slandered the Law, continued to transmigrate in the six paths of existence. But you also say that they were at the stage of shallow insight known as the stage of hearing the p.215name and words of the truth. And you say that those who rejoice even for a moment on hearing the Lotus Sutra, and those who rejoice when word of the Lotus Sutra has been passed along to them by fifty persons in succession, are at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth or that of perception and action. In just what passage in the commentaries is this interpretation to be found? I would like to know the exact reference.
Also, you say that persons who have little understanding of the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra but who put faith in the sutra, unless they are persuaded by evil friends to cast aside the Lotus Sutra and shift their allegiance to the provisional teachings, will not, as a result of bad karma from other worldly faults, fall into the evil paths of existence. What proof can you offer for such an assertion?
Finally, you ask what passage can be cited to support the assertion that ignorant people who recite the Nembutsu can gain rebirth in the Pure Land, though I am sure you know already and are only asking the question for effect. The three Pure Land sutras, the Two-Volumed Sutra and the others, and the commentaries on the sutras by the Reverend Shan-tao and others, explain all this very clearly. Why should there be any doubts about the matter?
Answer: With regard to those persons who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra through the sons of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence, they were slanderers of the Law because they had abandoned a great doctrine and instead chosen lesser doctrines, and were at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. This is not simply my own opinion. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in volume three of his Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra states: “Though they heard the preaching of the Law, they did not as yet understand it. In the ages that followed, they encountered their teachers, but even [when Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in the world], they remained in the status of voice-hearers. These are the persons who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra at the time of the sons of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence.” And the Great Teacher Miao-lo, explaining this passage, states in volume three of his Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra”: “They had not yet entered the five stages of practice [carried out by those at the stage of perception and action], and are known simply as those who have formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra.” The passage means that those who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra in the time of the sons of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence are at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth.
Again, in volume six of his Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai says of these persons who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra at that time: “Both those who took faith and those who slandered the Law are capable of attaining enlightenment, just as those who have fallen to the ground can use the ground to help them rise to their feet again. It is like the case of the monk Superior Intent who, though he slandered the monk Root of Joy, was nevertheless able later to gain salvation without fail.” This passage means that persons who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra in the time of the sons of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence had to wait for a period of major world system dust particle kalpas because they had slandered the Law. They were comparable to the monk Superior Intent, who slandered the monk Root of Joy.
Regarding persons who rejoice when word of the Lotus Sutra has been passed along to them by fifty persons p.216in succession, one interpretation holds that they have reached the initial stage of rejoicing, the first of the five stages of practice carried out by those at the stage of perception and action. According to another interpretation, however, they have only reached the stage that precedes this, the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. Volume ten of On “The Words and Phrases” states: “Those who attended the preaching assembly and heard the Lotus Sutra must belong to the initial stage of rejoicing, the first of the five stages of practice. But those who rejoice on hearing word of the Lotus Sutra passed along by fifty persons in succession invariably belong to the stage that precedes this.” The meaning of this passage is that those who were the first to hear the preaching of the Lotus Sutra in the assembly belong without question to the initial stage of rejoicing, the first of the five stages. But those who hear word of the sutra passed along by fifty persons in succession belong to the stage that precedes the initial stage of rejoicing, that of hearing the name and words of the truth.
With regard to persons who carry out the five practices mentioned in the “Teacher of the Law” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, those who carry out four of them, namely, to embrace, read, recite, and copy the Lotus Sutra, refers to those who practice for their own benefit. Of the nine types of persons described in the Nirvana Sutra, the first four types are persons who do not have any real understanding of the teachings. Those who carry out the fifth of the five practices listed in the “Teacher of the Law” chapter, that is, those who expound the Lotus Sutra, are persons who practice for the benefit of others. The latter five of the Nirvana Sutra’s nine types represent persons who have an understanding of the teachings. Volume ten of On “The Words and Phrases,” speaking of those who carry out the five practices listed in the “Teacher of the Law” chapter, says: “They have not yet completely entered the five stages of practice [that belong to the stage of perception and action].” And it also says: “They are not to be regarded as completely at the stage of ordinary practitioners.”3 According to these passages, though persons carrying out the five practices listed in the “Teacher of the Law” chapter could be interpreted as carrying out the five stages of practice that belong to the stage of perception and action, they could also be interpreted as being at the preceding stage, the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. If we go by these passages of interpretation, when ordinary mortals who are at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth and have no real understanding of the teachings rejoice on hearing the Lotus Sutra, they will enjoy the same benefits as those who rejoice for even a moment on hearing only one verse or one phrase of the sutra, and those who rejoice on hearing word of the Lotus Sutra passed along by fifty persons in succession.
The evil karma incurred by persons who have no faith in the Lotus Sutra but slander the Law is described in detail in the “Simile and Parable” chapter, and the offense committed by those who slander persons who uphold the Lotus Sutra is described in the “Teacher of the Law” chapter. The benefits gained by those who have faith in the sutra are described in the “Distinctions in Benefits” and “Benefits of Responding with Joy” chapters. To slander the Law means to turn one’s back on the Law. To rejoice in the sutra means to follow and abide by the Law. Though people may have no deep understanding of the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, if they even for a moment declare that the sutra is worthy of veneration, then are they turning against p.217its teachings or following and abiding by them? And the sutra fully describes, does it not, the benefits to be gained by uninformed persons in this latter age who give with joy even a small amount of alms to the sutra.
Furthermore, certain teachers of other schools of Buddhism refer to the Lotus Sutra’s description of little boys at play [collecting sand to make a Buddha tower],4 or of persons who rejoice on hearing one verse or one phrase of the sutra, or on hearing word of it relayed by fifty persons in succession, asserting that these are actually activities worthy of the sages of superior capacity who are described in the sutras preached before the Lotus. But the passages of commentary by T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo just cited make clear that such an interpretation constitutes a slander of the Law. Thus, when such teachers propound interpretations of that kind, declaring that persons who carry out such activities are displaying capacities of a superior type, they are merely misleading the ordinary people of this latter age, who are already prone to create evil karma. And in doing so, they are going against their own expressed aim [to save such ordinary people], are they not?
For this reason, the Great Teacher Miao-lo, in speaking of persons who rejoice on hearing word of the sutra passed along by fifty persons in succession, states: “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 its power by revealing that though their practice is shallow, the benefit that results is profound indeed.”5 This passage means that the Buddha was afraid that persons who did not understand the Lotus Sutra correctly would assert that the sutra was preached solely for the sake of persons of wisdom and skill who are diligent in religious practice, those who are of superior capacity and understanding. Therefore he made clear that ignorant persons of this latter age, those of inferior capacity and understanding, by performing a rather shallow act such as rejoicing on hearing of the Lotus Sutra, can gain benefits that are greater than those of the great men and sages of superior capacity who practiced the teachings set forth in the sutras expounded in the preceding forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life. Hence he described the benefits to be received by those who rejoice on hearing word of the sutra passed along by fifty persons in succession.
Therefore T’ien-t’ai in his commentaries rates believers in ascending order as followers of non-Buddhist teachings, Hinayana believers, and those who follow the provisional Mahayana teachings, and stresses that the benefits enjoyed by the lowest group of Lotus Sutra believers are greater than those enjoyed by any of the other groups. The ascetic Agastya poured the Ganges River into one ear and kept it there for twelve years, and the ascetic Jinu drank the great ocean dry in a single day.6 But these ascetics of the non-Buddhist teachings with their supernatural powers were a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand times inferior to persons at the three stages of worthiness set forth by the Āgama sutras of Hinayana teachings, namely, persons at the stage of ordinary mortals7 who do not possess even one supernatural power. Likewise, Shāriputra, Maudgalyāyana, and the other Hinayana followers who had acquired the three insights and the six transcendental powers were a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand times inferior to those ordinary persons who practice even one verse or one phrase of the p.218Mahayana sutras such as the Flower Garland Sutra, the Correct and Equal sutras, or the Wisdom sutras, although they have not yet cut off the three categories of illusion and do not possess a single supernatural power. And great bodhisattvas who practice the teachings of the Flower Garland, Correct and Equal, or Wisdom sutras so thoroughly that they have reached the stage of near-perfect enlightenment are a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand times inferior to those ordinary people of this latter age who have formed even a slight bond with the Lotus Sutra, although they have not yet cut off the three categories of illusion and have committed all manner of evil. All this is made clear in the commentaries written by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai.
But these days there are followers of the Nembutsu and other schools who claim their capacities are suited to the provisional teachings and do not take faith in the true teaching. They ought to feel ashamed, as the followers of the two vehicles did when the Buddha preached the Correct and Equal sutras and the Wisdom sutras, but they show no shame at all. What is worse, when there are clerics or lay believers who do no more than recite the “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds” chapter of the Lotus Sutra or the verse section of the “Life Span” chapter, or, out of filial piety, try to benefit their fathers and mothers by spending one day copying the sutra, these people attempt to interfere, saying, “The Reverend Shan-tao says that mixing devotion to the Lotus Sutra with the Nembutsu is a form of sundry practice. And he also says that, of a hundred persons who pursue such practices, only one or two can gain salvation, of a thousand who do so, rarely will three or five of them gain salvation, and perhaps not one in a thousand will be so lucky.” And the Honorable Hōnen, who is said to be foremost in wisdom, goes so far as to compare the followers of the Lotus Sutra to persons who wear their grandfather’s sandals or to a band of robbers. The teachers and disciples of the Nembutsu school who make such statements as these are calling down upon themselves the fires of the Avīchi hell.
Question: You speak of these persons in the world today who attempt to turn others against the Lotus Sutra—may I ask what guise they take and what sort of language they use? They seem very frightening.
Answer: Earlier you reported to me the words that “some wise person” had spoken to you. These are precisely the sort of words used by an evil friend who is hoping to turn others against the Lotus Sutra. In this latter age, those who destroy the Lotus Sutra are persons who in their hearts believe they have understood all the sacred teachings preached by Shakyamuni Buddha in the course of his lifetime, but who in fact fail to distinguish between the provisional sutras and the true sutra. They equip themselves with the three robes and one begging bowl of a monk, perhaps retire to a deserted and quiet place, or perhaps are looked on by the people of the world as persons of superlative wisdom. They may wish to be known for their thorough understanding of the Lotus Sutra, and to be honored by the clerics and lay believers of the world as though they were arhats who have acquired the three insights and the six transcendental powers, and yet, as we see from the sutra itself, they destroy the Lotus Sutra.
Question: What proof can you offer to support these statements?
Answer: The “Encouraging Devotion” chapter of the Lotus Sutra states: “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.” The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this passage in these words: “First, p.219there is a section that exposes people of mistaken views. This represents [the arrogance and presumption of] lay people.”8 This passage indicates that men and women of the lay community, deceived by monks who follow the provisional teachings, will oppose the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
The passage in the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter continues as follows: “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.” The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this: “Next, there is a section that exposes the arrogance and presumption of members of the Buddhist clergy.”9 This section indicates that, in the evil age that is the Latter Day of the Law, the various monks who follow the provisional teachings will harbor arrogant thoughts, believing that they are the ones who have truly understood the Law, and will act as enemies to those who practice the Lotus Sutra.
The sutra passage then continues in this manner: “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, saying things like this: ‘These monks are greedy for profit and support and therefore they preach non-Buddhist doctrines and fabricate their own scriptures to delude the people of the world. Because they hope to gain fame and renown thereby they make distinctions when preaching this sutra.’ 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!’” The Great Teacher Miao-lo makes the following comment: “Third is a section that exposes the arrogance and presumption of those who pretend to be sages.”10 This sutra passage and Miao-lo’s comment on it convey the following meaning. In the evil age there will be many monks who equip themselves with the three robes and one begging bowl and live in a deserted and quiet place, conducting themselves like Mahākāshyapa and the other arhats who have acquired the three insights and the six transcendental powers, respected and revered by the lay believers. When they speak one word regarding the doctrine, it seems like a golden word uttered by the Thus Come One himself. These monks will speak slanderously of those who practice the Lotus Sutra, addressing the rulers and high ministers and saying in an attempt to destroy them, “These are men of perverted views and their doctrines are erroneous in nature!”
Regarding these three types of persons, the slanders of the first group, the lay believers, are more easily borne than are those of the second group, the monks with their perverse wisdom. And the slanders of these monks are not as bad as those of the third group, the forest-dwelling monks dressed in their great robes, who are the worst of all.
These three types of persons are represented in the world today by those priests who adhere to the written words of the provisional teachings, or those priests who have little p.220understanding but practice only Zen, believing the statement in various sutras and treatises that the truth is beyond the power of words to describe, or by the members of the lay community who put their trust in such priests. These people do not understand the distinction between the teachings of the sutras preached by the Buddha in the first forty and more years and the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, that is, between the provisional teachings and the true teaching. Therefore, when they read in the Flower Garland Sutra or in the Correct and Equal sutras or the Wisdom sutras that “the mind, the Buddha, and all living beings” are the same,11 or that “the mind itself is the Buddha,”12 and that they will immediately go to pure lands of the ten directions or of the western region,13 and then read in the Lotus Sutra of “the true aspect of all phenomena”14 or that they will immediately go to the pure lands of the ten directions or of the western region,15 they do not realize that, though the words seem to be the same, the meaning is very different. Or they read the statement in the sutras and commentaries that the truth is beyond the power of words to describe, beyond the scope of the mind to imagine, and suppose that nowhere in the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime is the truth or the enlightenment of the Thus Come One revealed, which is to give way to misguided beliefs. As a result, evil demons take possession of these three types of persons and cause them to do harm to the people of this latter age and bring ruin to the nation.
Therefore the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter reads: “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 . . .” This passage means that, in that muddied and evil age, monks will fail to understand that the teachings they put their faith in are no more than an expedient means preached by the Buddha in accordance with what is appropriate. Thus when persons appear who clearly distinguish between the provisional teachings and the true teaching, these monks will revile them and attempt to refute their arguments. This is all because evil demons have taken possession of them, although they are not aware that this has happened.
Therefore, what the uninformed people of this latter age should most fear are not swords and staves or tigers and wolves, or persons who commit the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins, but rather those monks who are equipped with three robes and one begging bowl, those benighted practitioners of Zen, and the lay believers who esteem monks who follow the provisional teachings and hate those who practice the true teaching.
For this reason, the twenty-second volume of the Nirvana Sutra states: “Have no fear of mad elephants. What you should fear are evil friends! Why? Because a mad elephant can only destroy your body; it cannot destroy your mind. But an evil friend can destroy both body and mind. . . . Even if you are killed by a mad elephant, you will not fall into the three evil paths. But if you are killed by an evil friend, you are certain to fall into them.”
Regarding the meaning of this sutra passage, the Great Teacher Chang-an says: “Mad elephants merely inflict harm on others; they do not arouse evil in people’s minds. But evil friends employ enticing words, deception and flattery, clever speech and an affable manner, and in this way cause others to do evil. And in leading them to p.221do evil, they are destroying the good minds that are in them. To destroy good minds is to kill people, that is, to cause them to fall into hell.”16
This passage of commentary means that evil friends will employ enticing words, deception and flattery and speak in a clever manner, thereby gaining control over the minds of ignorant and uninformed people and destroying the good minds that are in them. And the passage from the Nirvana Sutra is meant to warn us that persons who slander the Law and are icchantikas are more to be feared than those who commit the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins. The term “icchantika” refers to those who speak evil of the Lotus and Nirvana sutras.
The Nembutsu followers in the world today, pretending to have a thorough knowledge of the Lotus Sutra, cite various causes and conditions and employ similes in their interpretation, hoping to make others think that they know the true meaning of the sutra. Then they say, “But this sutra is in fact so wonderful that it is beyond the capacity of us ignorant people of this latter age to fully comprehend.” Or they say, “Stout bows and heavy armor are of no use to a fainthearted man.” And the clerics and lay believers who lack wisdom in matters concerning the Buddhist teachings, hearing such words, take them for the truth. So they shift their loyalty to the provisional teachings, which can never lead to the attainment of Buddhahood. Though they have formed some slight bond with the Lotus Sutra, they turn their minds elsewhere, and when they see others practicing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, because they respond with no feeling of joy, they proceed, both the teachers and their disciples, to slander the Law.
So it is that these slanderers of the Law fill the whole country. When people hold Buddhist services, offering alms to the Lotus Sutra and saying prayers for someone who has died, these misguided priests who practice the Nembutsu and slander the Law come with their statements on how the Lotus Sutra is unfitted for the capacities of people of this latter age. Then the persons who are holding the memorial service, trusting in the truth of such assertions, do things that only make rebirth in hell more painful for the deceased parent or spouse or sibling for whose welfare they are praying, and the filial offspring who was holding the memorial service becomes an unfilial offspring and a slanderer of the Law. Those who heed the pronouncements of these teachers respond with joy to their erroneous doctrines and thus become followers of the devil. It would appear that people throughout this country of Japan are practicing the Buddha’s teaching, but in fact that they are not practicing the Buddha’s teaching at all.
At times perhaps a wise man may appear who understands the Buddha’s teaching, but the people of the country cast him aside, and the benevolent deities who guard and protect the land, because they can no longer taste the flavor of the Law, lose their power and brilliance and cease to benefit living beings. They abandon this country and go off to other lands. Then evil demons, seizing this opportunity, come in their place to fill the country, causing the earth to shake and ill winds to blow, bringing grief to the whole realm, and inflicting damage on the five kinds of grain.17 As a result, famine and drought arise, and demons take possession of the people’s five sense organs, so that their vital spirits are snatched away—this is how epidemics break out. All the inhabitants lose their good minds and many fall into the evil paths. All of this comes about because people put faith in the teachings of evil friends.
p.222The Benevolent Kings Sutra states: “Evil monks, hoping to gain fame and profit, will in many cases appear before the ruler, the crown prince, or the other princes, and take it upon themselves to preach doctrines that lead to the violation of the Buddhist Law and the destruction of the nation. The ruler, failing to perceive the truth of the situation, will listen to and put faith in such doctrines, and proceed to create regulations that are perverse in nature and that do not accord with the rules of Buddhist discipline. In this way he will bring about the destruction of Buddhism and of the nation.”
This passage indicates that the evil monks of the latter age will come before the ruler and the high ministers and appear to advise them on how to insure the peace and safety of the nation, but in the end they will in fact bring ruin to the nation. They will seem to be propagating the Buddha’s teaching, but on the contrary will destroy it. The ruler and the high ministers, lacking any deep understanding of the situation, will put faith in the words of the evil monks and thereby bring ruin to the nation and destroy the Buddha’s teaching.
At such a time, the sun and moon will depart from their regular course, the seasons will become confused, summer will be cold, winter warm, and in autumn evil winds will blow. The sun and moon will take on a red color, and though it is not the first or the fifteenth day of the month, there will be eclipses of the sun or moon, or two or three suns will appear at the same time. Huge fires, great winds, and comets will appear, and famine and epidemics will break out. In bringing about the ruin of the nation and causing others to fall into the evil paths, there is nothing to surpass the harm done by evil friends.
Question: Earlier I repeated to you the words that a wise person spoke to me. And since this is a question that affects my life in the next existence, I wanted to hear your opinion as to whether I was given good advice or not. You have indicated that I should be very fearful of the doctrines expounded to me. But persons like myself who are utterly lacking in understanding—how are we to go about taking faith in the Lotus Sutra, how are we to determine what to believe in our innermost hearts?
Answer: It appears that you do not yet fully accept the words I speak to you. That is because, when I address you, you suspect that the heavenly devil Pāpīyas or some evil demon has taken possession of me and that I am simply trying to refute the beneficial doctrines taught to you earlier. You are in doubt because you take every clever person to be a wise man.
Question: If I have doubts, it is because I am an ignorant person. But if I doubt the words spoken to me by all persons of wisdom, then I will end up with nothing to believe in, and will merely live my life in vain, will I not?
Answer: In his dying instructions, the Buddha said, “Rely on the Law and not upon persons.”18 This means that if what a person says is not in agreement with what is expounded in the sutras, one should not believe it, no matter how fine the person may be. And he also said, “Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final.” Because ignorant and uninformed persons cannot decide for themselves which of the sutras expounded by the Buddha in his lifetime of teaching were preached earlier and which were preached later, or which are shallow and which are profound, they should rely on the sutras that are complete and final.
But there are many sutras involved when we speak of those that are complete and final and those that are not complete and final. The Āgama sutras p.223with their Hinayana teachings are not complete and final, whereas the Flower Garland Sutra, the Correct and Equal sutras, the Wisdom sutras, and the Meditation Sutra of the Pure Land teaching are complete and final. The various sutras expounded in the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life are, in comparison to the Lotus Sutra, not complete and final, whereas the Lotus Sutra is complete and final. When the Nirvana and Lotus sutras are compared with one another, the Lotus Sutra is complete and final, but the Nirvana Sutra is not complete and final. When the Mahāvairochana and Lotus sutras are compared, the Mahāvairochana Sutra is not complete and final, whereas the Lotus Sutra is complete and final. Therefore one should discard the sutras expounded in the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life and the Nirvana Sutra, and take as one’s teacher and guide the Lotus Sutra.
Look upon the Lotus Sutra as the ruler of the nation, as one’s father and mother, as the sun and moon, as the great ocean, as Mount Sumeru, as heaven and earth. And conversely, look upon the other sutras as the chief minister, as the high ministers, as the court nobles, as the common people, as the host of stars, the rivers and streams, the other mountains, the plants and trees. We ourselves are ignorant beings creating evil karma in this latter age, persons of dull capacity, who are incapable of readily accepting the Buddhist Law. The ruler of the nation is better able to help others than are the officials who serve under him; a father and mother show greater love and compassion for their children than do mere outsiders. The sun and the moon light up the darkness better than do the host of stars. And if the Lotus Sutra is not suited to the capacities of living beings of this latter age, then how could the other sutras possibly save them?
The Thus Come One Shakyamuni, the Thus Come One Amida, the Thus Come One Medicine Master, the Buddha Many Treasures, the bodhisattvas Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, Great Power, Universal Worthy, Manjushrī—in fact, all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are our compassionate fathers and mothers. And you should understand that the greatest expression of compassion with which they teach and convert living beings is to be found in the Lotus Sutra alone. And understand that the secret art by which evil persons, ignorant persons, persons of dull capacity, women, and those lacking in capacity may be saved is not revealed in the other sutras. The reason that the Lotus Sutra is superior to all the other sutras lies simply in this one point.
And yet scholars today, while praising the Lotus Sutra as the finest of all the sutras, insist that it is not suited to the capacities of people of this latter age, and everyone believes them! Such persons are in fact slanderers of the Law, are they not? In a word, you should have nothing whatsoever to do with them. For in the end, though one may destroy the text of the Lotus Sutra, cut it up, or tear it apart, one can never destroy its message. And although certain persons, because of secular offenses on the part of believers, may urge people to turn away from the Lotus Sutra, I do not believe that they will heed such advice. But you should understand that people may be tricked into turning away from the Lotus Sutra by the doctrines of the provisional teachings, which in some ways resemble those of the Lotus Sutra.
Question: A wise person has advised me, saying: “The Buddha expounded various sutras in the first forty and more years of his preaching life, and expounded the Lotus Sutra in the last eight years of his life. With regard to the attainment of Buddhahood, the earlier sutras are known as the p.224difficult-to-practice way, and the Lotus Sutra as the easy-to-practice way. But with regard to gaining rebirth in a pure land, both categories of sutras are alike, namely, an easy-to-practice way. By reciting and copying the Lotus Sutra, one may gain rebirth in one of the pure lands of the ten directions, or in the land of the Buddha Amida. Or, by following the Meditation Sutra or others of the early sutras and reciting the name of Amida, one may gain rebirth in his Pure Land. One simply follows one or the other procedure, depending upon what sort of capacities one possesses; it is not a matter to be wrangled over. But reciting Amida’s name seems to be a practice that anyone can easily carry out, and in fact it is widely practiced in Japan. It is thus easier to practice than other procedures such as that involving the Lotus Sutra.” What is your opinion of such a view?
Answer: The doctrine you have outlined may be quite correct. Many people in the world today seem to think it reasonable. But I have my doubts about it. I have already indicated my reason for doing so. Ordinary people in this latter age cannot depend upon others just because they are said to be wise. The people of our present age can hardly hope to compare to the wise persons of long ago. And thus, even the words of someone who is looked on as ignorant, if they are supported by clear passages of proof in the sutras and treatises, are by no means to be scorned.
The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra was preached as an introduction to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. Hence careful calculation indicates that the Buddha expounded the various sutras in the first forty and more years of his preaching life, beginning with the preaching immediately after he attained enlightenment and continuing up until he began to preach the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra on Eagle Peak, where, as he said [in the Lotus Sutra], “constantly I have dwelled.” The sutras preached in that interval are the Flower Garland Sutra, the Āgama sutras, the Correct and Equal sutras, and the Wisdom sutras. The doctrines contained in these are intended for persons who follow the three vehicles or who follow the five vehicles. With regard to the period of time needed to attain enlightenment through those vehicles, the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra speaks of how the Buddha has described “the many kalpas of practice for bodhisattvas.” And with regard to the distinction between sutras that were preached in accordance with the Buddha’s own mind and those preached in accordance with others’ minds, it makes clear that the sutras expounded in the first forty and more years were preached in accordance with the minds of others. With regard to those sutras preached in the first forty and more years and the Lotus Sutra preached in the last eight years, it indicates that, although the same words are used in both, the doctrines being set forth are different; as the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra says, “Although the words and phrases are the same, the meaning is quite different.” It is impossible to believe, therefore, that these two categories of sutras differ on the matter of attaining Buddhahood, but are the same with regard to rebirth in a pure land.
The Flower Garland Sutra, the Correct and Equal sutras, and the Wisdom sutras, the ultimate and finest works of the Mahayana teaching, which set forth the doctrines of the sudden attainment of enlightenment or the gradual attainment of enlightenment, were all preached at a time when the Buddha had “not yet revealed the truth.”19 And if even these major sutras are said to have “not yet revealed the truth,” then how much more is this so of the three Pure Land sutras that describe the p.225doctrine of rebirth in the land of Perfect Bliss? This is indicated not only by the sutras themselves, but by the period in which they were expounded [the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life].
There can be no doubt, therefore, that, when the Flower Garland, the Correct and Equal, or the Wisdom sutras refer to rebirth by the grace of Amida, this is something set forth when the Buddha had “not yet revealed the truth.” How, then, could the rebirth by the grace of Amida described in the Meditation Sutra alone not fall into the category referred to in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra as “beset by numerous hindrances and trials”? If one is to regard the process of rebirth in the land of Perfect Bliss described in the Lotus Sutra, a sutra preached in accordance with the Buddha’s own mind, as identical with the process of rebirth in the land of Perfect Bliss described in the Meditation Sutra, a sutra preached in accordance with others’ minds, and designate both of them as an easy-to-practice way, and furthermore to say that among such easy-to-practice ways, that described in the Meditation Sutra whereby a person recites the Nembutsu in order to gain rebirth is a particularly easy-to-practice way, this is to confuse the provisional teachings with the true teaching and to regard them as alike, an error that is tantamount to grave slander of the Law. As water accumulates drop by drop until it flows into the great ocean, as dirt piles up particle by particle until it forms a Mount Sumeru, so bit by bit does the whole country become filled with believers in the provisional teachings, for those who believe in the provisional teachings do not advance to the true teaching, and believers in the true teaching fall back into the provisional teachings. As a result, people will cease to feel joy in their hearts when they hear the Lotus Sutra.
It will be as though the country had lost its ruler, as though people were bereft of their spirits. Mountain temples devoted to the Lotus Sutra and True Word teachings will fall into ruin, and the heavenly gods and benevolent deities, the dragon gods, and all the sages will desert the country and go away. Then evil demons will seize the opportunity to bring disorder to the land, ill winds will blow, the five kinds of grain will not ripen, disease and pestilence will spread abroad, and the population will be wiped out.
Until some seven or eight years ago, it was widely and irresponsibly asserted that practices other than the Nembutsu could never lead to rebirth in the Pure Land; that, as the Reverend Shan-tao had declared, “not even one person in a thousand”20 can be saved by such practices. And in his Nembutsu Chosen above All, Hōnen urged people to abandon such practices, and likened those who followed them to a band of robbers.
Then, in these last four or five years, someone appeared who preached a different doctrine, asserting that there are sutra passages to prove that those who urge others to chant the Nembutsu as advocated in Nembutsu Chosen above All are in fact guilty of slandering the Law, and that both the Nembutsu teachers and their lay followers are destined to fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
When this doctrine first appeared, the Nembutsu believers were uniformly perplexed, exclaiming, “Who are these evil persons, these heretics who insist that reciters of the Nembutsu will fall into the hell of incessant suffering?” But then they began to realize that there was much wisdom to support the claims that Nembutsu believers were fated to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. One by one, they proceeded to examine Nembutsu Chosen above All more closely. And, perhaps because they came to see that in fact it is a p.226work that slanders the Law, they rejected as evil its assertion that “not even one person in a thousand” can be saved by other practices, and each of them came to accept the view that practices other than the Nembutsu can lead to rebirth in the Pure Land. But this was merely something that they proclaimed with their mouths. In their hearts and minds, they continued as before to believe that “not even one person in a thousand” can be saved by such practices.
The lay followers of these Nembutsu proponents, untrained as they are in matters of doctrine, were unaware that the Nembutsu teachers in their inner hearts were slandering the Law. Deceived by pronouncements that practices other than the Nembutsu could lead to rebirth in the Pure Land, the lay believers became convinced that the Nembutsu proponents were not in fact slandering the Lotus Sutra and that it was wrong for the upholders of the Sacred Way teachings to accuse them of such slander.
In giving lip service to the view that other practices can lead to rebirth in the Pure Land, these Nembutsu proponents were committing a greater slander of the Law than those who openly declared that not one person in a thousand could be saved by such practices. They were making others believe that there was nothing faulty in their doctrine, while at the same time attempting to further the spread of reliance on the Nembutsu alone. In doing so, they were in effect carrying out the schemes of the heavenly devil.
Question: There are persons in the Tendai school who state that, when the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai examined the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra and the Lotus Sutra and compared the two, he had two reasons for expressing disapproval of the pre-Lotus Sutra works.
First was the fact that, in terms of the periods in which the sutras were preached, the pre-Lotus Sutra works belonged to the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life. In comparison to the Lotus Sutra, which was preached later, the pre-Lotus Sutra works are thus rough in nature, whereas the Lotus Sutra is “wonderful,” or subtle.
Further, in terms of the classification of the teachings, he declared that some teachings were to be labeled rough in nature and others, “wonderful.” Those elements found in the Flower Garland, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom sutras that pertain to the doctrine of perfect, immediate, and expeditious enlightenment he praised as “wonderful.” But those elements in the Flower Garland, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom sutras that pertain to the doctrine and the practices of persons of the three vehicles and require many lifetimes for the attainment of enlightenment he called the first three of the four teachings of doctrine and rejected as rough in nature.
Thus it would seem that he did not reject those elements pertaining to perfect, immediate, and expeditious enlightenment found in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, but regarded them as equal in nature to doctrines of that type found in the Lotus Sutra. What is your opinion on this?
Answer: I am not surprised that you are puzzled about this matter. From the time of T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo down to the present, it has been a subject of dispute. Throughout the sixty volumes of T’ien-t’ai’s three major works and the various commentaries pertaining to the sutras of the five Mahayana periods,21 there is no passage that, speaking in terms of the classification of the teachings themselves, expresses disapproval of the perfect teaching set forth in the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra. But when speaking in terms of the periods in which p.227they were set forth, the perfect teachings of the pre-Lotus Sutra works are all lumped together as a group and rejected.
With regard to this point, in Japan there have from past times been two opinions. One derives from the commentaries of the Great Teacher Chishō of Onjō-ji temple and holds that, in terms of the teachings themselves and of the period in which they were set forth, the perfect teachings of the pre-Lotus Sutra works are to be rejected. The Enryaku-ji, or Mountain, branch of the Tendai school [which opposes the Onjō-ji, or Temple, branch], however, holds that they are not to be rejected. Both parties cite various passages and commentaries to support their interpretation and advance various arguments, but so far no conclusion has been reached in the controversy.
Speaking in terms of our particular doctrinal line, however, I believe that these points of controversy can be quite satisfactorily settled. When the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai established the classification of the four teachings of doctrine, he followed four principles.
First he established that all four types of teaching of doctrine are to be found in the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra. Second, he compared the Lotus Sutra and the sutras preached prior to it and established that the perfect teaching found in the pre-Lotus Sutra works belongs to the same category as the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra, whereas the first three of the four teachings of doctrine in the pre-Lotus Sutra works are to be rejected as inferior.
Third, he reclassified the perfect teaching expounded in the pre-Lotus Sutra works, placing it in the category of the specific teaching, and thus rejecting it along with the first three of the four teachings of doctrine. He declared that the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra alone was to be designated the “pure perfect teaching.” Fourth, he declared that, though the perfect teaching of the pre-Lotus Sutra works may be treated as belonging to the same category as the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra, it is only regarded as the same as the comparative myō, one of the two kinds of myō of [the perfect teaching of] the Lotus Sutra, but is not regarded as the same as the absolute myō.
When the sixty volumes of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai’s major works are considered in the light of these four guidelines, then the doubts and difficulties will be satisfactorily resolved.
As to the particular passages that could be cited to support each of these points, I would like to keep them secret for the present, and indeed it would be troublesome to list them all here. I might add that there is no question but that, in comparison to the essential teaching section of the Lotus Sutra, the perfect teaching of the pre-Lotus Sutra works and the perfect teaching of the theoretical teaching section of the Lotus Sutra are both to be regarded as inferior.
When the perfect teaching of the pre-Lotus Sutra works is placed in the category of the specific teaching, [it is regarded as “rough” because] in terms of the classification of teachings, “The first three [of the four teachings] are designated as ‘rough,’ while the last one is designated as ‘wonderful.’”22 When this approach is used, the perfect teaching of the pre-Lotus Sutra works is classified with what the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra calls a teaching that requires many kalpas of religious practice for attaining enlightenment.
It may also be noted that, in the commentaries of the Great Teacher Dengyō, he assigns the eight teachings set forth in the pre-Lotus Sutra works to the category of teachings set forth in the forty and more years when the Buddha had “not yet revealed the p.228truth.” He declares that, while the first three teachings are roundabout or circuitous in nature, the perfect teaching of the pre-Lotus Sutra works is by comparison a “direct way,” and the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra he calls a “great direct way.” For details I refer you to his writings.
Question: For persons who place their faith in the Lotus Sutra, what is the proper object of devotion, and what rules are to be followed in acts of worship and daily religious practice?
Answer: First, with regard to the object of devotion, one should inscribe the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, or one volume, or one chapter, or simply the daimoku, or title, of the sutra, and make that the object of devotion, as is indicated in the “Teacher of the Law” and “Supernatural Powers” chapters of the sutra. And those persons who are able to do so further should write out the names of the Thus Come One Shakyamuni and the Buddha Many Treasures, or fashion images of them, and place these on the left and right of the Lotus Sutra. And if they are further able to do so, they should fashion images or write out the names of the Buddhas of the ten directions and the bodhisattva Universal Worthy and the others.
As for the rules to be followed in worship, one should always either sit or stand when in the presence of the object of devotion. Once one leaves the place of worship, however, one is free to walk, stand still, sit, or lie down as one wishes.
As a daily religious practice, one should recite the daimoku, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Those persons who are able to do so should further recite a verse or a phrase of the Lotus Sutra. As a supplementary practice, if one wishes, one may offer praise for Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Buddha, or the Buddhas of the ten directions, for all the various bodhisattvas or the persons of the two vehicles, the heavenly beings, the dragon deities, or the eight kinds of nonhuman beings [who protect Buddhism]. Since we live in an age when there are many uninformed people, there is no need for believers to attempt at once to practice the meditation on the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, though if there are persons who wish to do so, they should learn how to practice this type of meditation and carry it out.
Question: What benefits are to be gained by simply reciting the daimoku?
Answer: The Thus Come One Shakyamuni made his appearance in the world because he wished to preach the Lotus Sutra. But during the first forty and more years of his preaching life he kept the title of the Lotus Sutra secret. From around the age of thirty until he was seventy or more, he set forth teachings that would act as an expedient means leading to the Lotus Sutra; only when he was seventy-two did he for the first time reveal the daimoku, or title, of the Lotus Sutra. The daimoku of the Lotus Sutra thus far surpasses the titles of all the other sutras.
In addition, the two characters of myōhō of the daimoku contain within them the heart of the Lotus Sutra, namely, the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life set forth in the “Expedient Means” chapter, and the doctrine of the Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment in the far distant past set forth in the “Life Span” chapter.
When the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai preached Profound Meaning in ten volumes, he devoted the first volume to a general discussion of the meaning of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. In the second through the seventh volume, he presented a detailed description of the one character myō, and in the eighth and ninth volumes he interpreted the three characters hō, ren, and ge. In the tenth volume he p.229explained the character kyō, stressing that this one character kyō contains within it all the sutras of the Flower Garland, Āgama, Correct and Equal, Wisdom, and Nirvana periods.
According to Profound Meaning, the two characters of myōhō express the doctrines of the hundred worlds and thousand factors, and of the mutual identity of the mind, the Buddha, and all living beings. The ten volumes of Great Concentration and Insight express the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, of the hundred worlds and thousand factors, and of the three thousand realms, as well as the doctrine that the mind, the Buddha, and all living beings—these three things are without distinction. They reveal that all the Buddhas, the bodhisattvas, the causes and effects of the Ten Worlds, the plants and trees of the ten directions, even the shards and rubble, are all without exception contained within the two characters of myōhō.
With regard to the Flower Garland, the Āgama, and the other sutras expounded in the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life, the daimoku, or titles, of the Hinayana sutras do not contain within them the benefits bestowed by the Mahayana sutras. And among the Mahayana sutras, the daimoku of those that expound the doctrine of rebirth in a pure land do not contain within them the blessings of attainment of Buddhahood. And though some of the sutras are referred to as “kings,” they cannot be called “the king among kings.”
Moreover, the Buddhas figuring in the various sutras do not have the power to confer the benefits bestowed by other Buddhas. To be sure, it is stated that the Buddhas are equal in their enlightenment and that one Buddha is the same as the other Buddhas. And that if one adopts the view that the Dharma bodies of the Buddhas are all equal, then one may say that one Buddha is the same as another Buddha. But in reality, one Buddha does not possess the power to confer the benefits bestowed by all the other Buddhas.
In the case of the Lotus Sutra, however, all the sutras preached in the first forty and more years are included within this one sutra. The Buddhas of the worlds in the ten directions, who are all endowed with the three bodies, are one and all gathered there, for, as it is explained, all are emanations of the one Buddha, Shakyamuni. Therefore, this one Buddha is none other than all Buddhas, and all Buddhas are thus brought together within the two characters of myōhō.
For this reason, the benefits to be gained by reciting the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are great indeed. All the Buddhas, all the daimoku of the various sutras, are opened up and merged in the Lotus Sutra. One understands that it is myōhō that makes this opening up possible, and therefore one should recite the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
Question: I consulted a wise person with regard to the doctrines you have been explaining. He agreed that of course the Lotus Sutra is superior to the other sutras. And people who have the capacity to do so can devote themselves to the practice of its teachings. But when one is addressing ordinary people in this latter age, if one takes no account of their capacities but merely speaks disparagingly of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and urges them to practice the Lotus Sutra, this may well cause them to abandon the Nembutsu, which they have practiced for so many years. And since they have not yet had time to practice the Lotus Sutra for any appreciable period, they will in effect end up with no practice at all, will they not?
Moreover, without inquiring into the capacities of the people you are addressing, you urge everyone to p.230follow the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. If in fact they put their faith in the Lotus Sutra, then well and good. But if instead they should speak slanderously of the Lotus Sutra, they will invariably fall into hell.
Even the Buddha, in the first forty and more years of his preaching life, did not preach the Lotus Sutra. This was because, as he himself said, “If I merely praised the Buddha vehicle, then the living beings, sunk in their suffering, [would be incapable of believing in this Law].”23 And if the capacities of living beings in Shakyamuni’s time were as limited as this passage indicates, then how much more limited must be the capacities of ordinary people in this latter age of ours? Therefore the “Simile and Parable” chapter of the Lotus Sutra records that the Buddha, addressing Shāriputra, said, “Do not preach this sutra to persons who are without wisdom.”
What is your opinion regarding these points raised by the wise person I spoke with?
Answer: You have explained the objections raised by the wise person you spoke with. He is saying, in effect, that, when one addresses the ordinary people of this latter age, one must take their innate capacities into careful consideration. For if one fails to do so and goes recklessly ahead, one may cause them to speak slander, which one must not do.
If this is indeed what the wise person is saying, then I would advise you to reply as follows. He has quoted the passage that reads “If I merely praised the Buddha vehicle,” and that which reads “Do not preach this sutra to persons who are without wisdom.” But then ask him if he has not taken notice of the passage in the same sutra that tells how the bodhisattva Never Disparaging would address “whatever persons he happened to meet,”24 saying, “I have profound reverence for you,” and how he would continue to do so even when they attacked him with sticks of wood or tiles and stones.
Question: I find it very difficult to understand why, within the very same Lotus Sutra, there should be passages that so directly contradict one another. Could you explain in some detail the reason for this?
Answer: In the “Expedient Means” and other chapters, it would appear that the Buddha is carefully considering the capacities of his listeners in preaching the sutra. But in the “Never Disparaging” chapter, even though what is said may invite slander, the preaching of the sutra is done in a very forceful manner. Though both ways are contained within a single text, the former and the latter are as different from one another as water and fire.
The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explains this by saying: “Shakyamuni, addressing persons of his time who in previous existences cultivated good roots, preached the doctrines of the lesser vehicle and assisted and protected them. But Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, addressing persons who in past existences did not cultivate good roots, expounded the doctrines of the great vehicle, forcing them to hear it, though it angered them.”25
The meaning of this passage is as follows. In the case of persons who already possess good roots and are capable of gaining enlightenment in their present existence, it is proper to preach the Lotus Sutra directly. But if there are persons among the group who are likely to slander the Lotus Sutra when they hear it, then it is better for the time being to preach the provisional teachings as a form of preparation, and only later to preach the Lotus Sutra. As for persons who have not in the past acquired any particularly good roots and who in their present existence are incapable of taking faith in the Lotus Sutra, they are p.231likely for one reason or another to fall into the evil paths in their next existence anyway. Therefore one should preach the Lotus Sutra to them in a forceful manner, and when they speak slanderously of it, they will thereby create a reverse relationship with it.
According to the above passage of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, in this latter age the persons who are lacking in good roots are many, and those who possess them are few. Therefore, many people are doubtless destined to fall into the evil paths in their next existence. And if they are destined for the evil paths in any case, then one should preach the Lotus Sutra to them forcefully and thereby allow them to create a “poison-drum relationship” with the sutra. Hence there can be no doubt that this latter age is the proper time in which to preach the Lotus Sutra to all people, thus enabling them to create a reverse relationship with it by slandering it.
Moreover, the “Expedient Means” chapter describes how the five thousand persons of overbearing arrogance withdrew from the assembly. They did so after hearing the Buddha make the concise replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, and when the Buddha was about to begin making the expanded replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle. At that time, the Buddha used his power to influence them in such a way that they rose from their seats and withdrew. Later, through the Nirvana Sutra and the four ranks of bodhisattvas, the Buddha made it possible for these persons to achieve enlightenment in their present existence.
On the other hand, in the Non-Substantiality of All Phenomena Sutra it is recorded that Bodhisattva Root of Joy, addressing the monk Superior Intent, forced him to listen to the Mahayana teachings, causing him to speak slanderously of such teachings [and thus create a reverse relationship with them]. With regard to these two differing incidents, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explains that “the Thus Come One Shakyamuni was exercising the virtue of compassion in causing them to withdraw, while Bodhisattva Root of Joy was exercising the virtue of pity in forcing the monk to listen.”26
The meaning of this passage is that the Buddha was moved by compassion and for the moment put aside thoughts of the later happiness of the five thousand persons. He could not bear to see them slander the Lotus Sutra and suffer the pain of falling into hell, and therefore he inspired them to withdraw from the assembly. It was like the case of a mother who knows that her child is sick but cannot bring herself to inflict suffering on the child, and therefore does not treat the child quickly with moxibustion. In the case of Bodhisattva Root of Joy, he was moved by pity. He did not mind that the person he was addressing would suffer pain for a time, but thought only of that person’s eventual happiness. Therefore he forced the person to listen to the Mahayana teachings. It was like the case of a pitying father who, seeing that his child is ill, is not deterred by the fact that the child may undergo temporary suffering but is concerned only for the child’s eventual welfare. Therefore he applies the treatment of moxibustion.
When the Buddha was in the world, for the first forty and more years of his preaching life he kept the Lotus Sutra a secret. Even the bodhisattvas who had reached the stage of near-perfect enlightenment or those who had achieved the level of non-regression did not know even the title of the sutra. Furthermore, with regard to the “Life Span” chapter, during the eight years in which the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra, the very title of the chapter was kept secret and only p.232revealed in the latter part of the period. Therefore, one may wonder why one should go about so energetically preaching the Lotus Sutra to ordinary people in this latter age.
In his commentary, the Great Teacher Miao-lo explains this by saying, “The people who lived when the Buddha was in the world had the innate capacity to gain enlightenment, and therefore the Buddha took their capacities carefully into account when he preached to them. But in the case of persons of the latter age, one preaches the truth to them directly so that they can form a relationship with it.”27 The meaning of this passage is as follows. When the Buddha was in the world, there were many persons who were capable of attaining the stage of non-regression during the Buddha’s lifetime. Therefore he did not immediately set forth the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra, for fear that his listeners might slander them, but instead gradually nurtured their capacities and after that preached the Lotus Sutra. In the period following the demise of the Buddha, however, there are few persons who have the capacity to attain enlightenment and many who can only form a relationship with the sutra by hearing it directly. Therefore it is best in most cases simply to preach the Lotus Sutra to them. There are many examples such as those above-mentioned.
Many of the teachers in the latter age cannot judge the capacities of their listeners. When one cannot tell the capacities of one’s listeners, it is probably best just to preach the true teaching to them in a forceful manner. Thus the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in his commentary says, “If people’s capacities cannot be judged, one can best avoid error by preaching the teachings of the great vehicle to them.”28 The meaning of this passage is that, when one cannot tell what people’s capacities are, one will not go wrong if one preaches the doctrines of the great vehicle to them.
There is also another approach in which one carefully determines the capacities of the persons of a particular age and preaches the Law to them in an appropriate manner. Thus if the people of a particular country are all believers in the provisional teachings and speak slanderously of the true teaching, stubbornly refusing to accept it, then one should preach the true teaching to them in a rebuking and censorious manner. But whether this approach is appropriate or not will depend upon the times.
Question: Among the Buddhist teachers of China, there are some who give all their attention to the provisional Mahayana sutras and do not attempt to deal with the true sutra. What is the reason for this?
Answer: When the Buddha appeared in the world, he spent the first forty and more years of his preaching life expounding the Hinayana and provisional Mahayana sutras, and only after that did he preach the Lotus Sutra. [In the “Expedient Means” chapter] he states, “If I used a lesser vehicle to convert even one person, I would be guilty of stinginess and greed, but such a thing would be impossible.” By this, the Buddha means that, if he had only expounded the pre-Lotus Sutra works and had not preached the Lotus Sutra, he would have been guilty of the error of stinginess and greed.
Later, when he preached the “Entrustment” chapter, he extended his right hand and three times patted the heads of the bodhisattvas who had gathered from throughout the major world system and from four hundred ten thousand million nayutas of lands in the eight directions and instructed them, saying, “In the future you must preach the Lotus Sutra. If there are persons who do not have the capacity to accept it, you should expound some of the other profound doctrines from p.233the sutras I preached in the previous forty and more years, nurturing their capacities in this way, and thereafter preach the Lotus Sutra.”
Still later, in the Nirvana Sutra, he repeated this message, saying, “After the Buddha has entered extinction, there will be four ranks of bodhisattvas who will preach the Law. And there will be four standards to follow with regard to the Law. But if in the end these bodhisattvas do not propagate the true sutra, then you should know that they are in fact manifestations of the heavenly devil.”
Therefore, in the period of five hundred to nine hundred years following the demise of the Thus Come One, Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna and Bodhisattva Vasubandhu appeared and widely propagated the sacred teachings of the Thus Come One.
Bodhisattva Vasubandhu at first wrote a work entitled The Dharma Analysis Treasury, representing the doctrines of the Hinayana Sarvāstivāda school, in which he set forth the doctrines preached by the Buddha over a period of twelve years in the Āgama sutras. He made no attempt whatever to elucidate the Mahayana teachings. Next, he wrote The Treatise on the Ten Stages Sutra, The Commentary on “The Summary of the Mahayana,” and other works in which he discussed the provisional Mahayana teachings expounded by the Buddha in the first forty and more years of his preaching life. And last, he wrote The Treatise on the Buddha Nature, The Treatise on the Lotus Sutra, and similar works in which he outlined the true Mahayana teachings. The career of Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna followed the same general pattern.
The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, a Buddhist teacher of China, classified the teachings of Shakyamuni’s lifetime into the distinct categories of Mahayana and Hinayana and provisional teachings and true teaching.
With regard to the other Buddhist teachers, they explain to a certain extent the meaning and principles of the teachings, but their views are not clearly expressed or lack sufficient passages of proof to support them. Among the scholars, translators, and Chinese teachers of the latter age, there are those who distinguish clearly between the Mahayana and the Hinayana teachings, but within the Mahayana teachings they do not distinguish between the provisional Mahayana and the true Mahayana. Or, though in their words they may seem to be making such a distinction, in their hearts and minds they cannot free themselves from their attachment to the provisional Mahayana teachings. The situation is like that described [in the “Expedient Means” chapter] when it says: “If bodhisattvas who never regress, their number like Ganges sands, [with a single mind should join in pondering and seeking], they could not understand it either.”
Question: Among the Chinese Buddhist teachers there were persons such as the Great Teacher Tz’u-en who was said to have been a reincarnation of the Eleven-faced Perceiver of the World’s Sounds and could emit rays of light from his teeth. Or like the Reverend Shan-tao, who was said to have been a reincarnation of Amida Buddha and could produce Buddha figures from his mouth. And there were many other teachers in the world who could manifest supernatural powers, bestow blessing, or enter meditation and attain enlightenment. Why did these persons fail to distinguish between the provisional sutras and the true sutra and to make the Lotus Sutra the basis of their teaching?
Answer: The ascetic Agastya, a non-Buddhist believer, poured the Ganges River into one ear and kept it there for twelve years. The ascetic Vasu transformed himself into the heavenly being p.234Freedom and displayed three eyes. Among the Taoist adepts of China, Chang Chieh exhaled fog and Luan Pa exhaled clouds. It is said [in the Nirvana Sutra] that, after the demise of the Buddha, the devil of the sixth heaven will take on the form of a monk or a nun, a man or a woman lay believer, an arhat or a pratyekabuddha, and expound the sutras preached by the Buddha in the first forty and more years of his preaching life. But this shows simply that these persons possessed supernatural powers; it does not indicate whether they were wise or foolish.
As the Buddha indicated in his dying instructions, there will be teachers who propagate the provisional sutras only and never make any attempt to propagate the true sutra. This is perhaps because from past times they have had very close connections with the provisional sutras and have never looked into the true sutra, or perhaps because they have been led astray by the devil and have thus become able to display supernatural powers. But whether they are correct or incorrect in their views is to be judged solely on the basis of the doctrines they expound. It is not to be decided on the basis of whether or not they have keen capacity or can display supernatural powers.

Nichiren

The twenty-eighth day of the fifth month in the first year of the Bunnō era [1260], cyclical sign kanoe-saru

Written at Nagoe in Kamakura

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