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NS 127 716 – NICHIREN LIBRARY

25 January 2015

14
The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra

Nichiren, follower of the Great Teacher Kompon [Dengyō]

Background
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.

188
What It Means to Slander the Law

Nichiren, the shramana of Japan

Background
THE first section elucidates the causes that lead one to be reborn in the eight great hells. The second section makes clear the gravity of the offenses that lead one to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. The third section uses the dialogue form to clarify various points. The fourth section describes the attitude of mind that should characterize the votary of the Lotus Sutra when he strives to propagate its teachings.
First, to examine the causes that lead one to be reborn in the eight great hells. The first of the eight great hells is called the hell of repeated rebirth for torture. It is situated a thousand yojanas underneath the continent of Jambudvīpa. This hell is ten thousand yojanas in both length and breadth.
The persons being punished in this hell are intent upon doing harm to one another. Once they catch a glimpse of one another, they go after each other like dogs and monkeys, each using iron claws to snatch and tear at his opponent, until all their flesh and blood has been torn away and only bare bones remain. Or else the wardens of hell, taking iron clubs in their hands, pummel the offenders from head to foot until their bodies have been crushed to particles no bigger than grains of sand, or they use sharp knives to hack away the flesh chunk by chunk. But each time all this has happened, the offenders are restored to their original form, being reborn again and again in the same hell.
As to the life span of dwellers in this hell, fifty years of ordinary human life are equivalent to one day and one night in the life span of the four heavenly kings, and the four heavenly kings have a life span of five hundred years. But the five hundred years of the four heavenly kings is equivalent to no more than one day and one night in the life of the sufferers in the hell of repeated rebirth for torture, and they have a life span of five hundred such years.
The action that causes one to be reborn in this hell is the taking of life. Even if one kills no more than a tiny insect such as a mole cricket, an ant, a mosquito, or a gadfly, if one does not repent of the crime, one will invariably fall into this hell, as surely as a needle, no matter how small, will sink if it is placed on the surface of water. And even if one should repent, if one then goes on to commit the same offense again, then it will be very hard for one to escape punishment even though one should repent a second time. It is like the case of a man who has been sent to prison for stealing. Though he may in time be freed by the authorities and allowed to leave prison, if he once more steals and is sent to prison again, p.247it will be very hard for him to get out a second time.
This being the case, there is hardly a person in all of Japan at the present time, from the ruler on down to the common people, who can escape falling into this hell. Even Buddhist priests who follow the rules of discipline and are renowned for the strictness with which they observe the precepts can scarcely avoid killing an ant or a louse or doing injury to a mosquito or a gadfly. And how much more certain is the fate of those who day after day kill the birds and deer of the hills and meadows or the fish and shellfish of the rivers and seas, or even worse, those who go so far as to kill oxen, horses, or human beings!
The second hell is the hell of black cords. It is situated beneath the hell of repeated rebirth for torture and is the same length and breadth as that hell. Here the wardens of hell seize the persons to be punished and force them to lie down on the ground of white-hot iron, take cords of hot iron and, using the cords to mark lines on them as a carpenter would mark lines on a piece of wood, take hot iron axes and, following the lines marked by the cords, chop and hack up the victims, or use saws to saw them into pieces.
Again, to left and right there are huge mountains of iron. Iron flags are set up on these mountains and cords of iron strung from one flagpole to another. Then the sufferers are made to carry a mountain of iron on their backs, to mount the iron cords, and to walk across them from one mountain to the other. Many of them fall from the ropes and are smashed to pieces, or are pushed off so that they drop into iron caldrons where they are boiled alive. The sufferings endured in this hell are ten times more horrible than those of the hell of repeated rebirth for torture.
A hundred years in the life of an ordinary human being is equivalent to one day and one night in the life of those in the heaven of the thirty-three gods, the second of the six heavens in the world of desire, and the life span of such beings lasts for a thousand years. But these thousand years that represent the life span of beings in that heaven amount to no more than one day and one night in the lives of those in the hell of black cords, the second of the eight hells, and their lives last for a thousand such years.
Those who not only take life but steal and rob in addition fall into this hell. Thus those robbers in our age who, having committed a theft, go on to murder the owner of the goods, are certain to fall into this hell.
The third hell is the hell of crushing. It is situated underneath the hell of black cords and is the same length and breadth. Here there are many iron mountains lined up in pairs facing one another. The wardens of this hell, who have the heads of oxen or horses, take clubs and drive the offenders in between the mountains. At such a time, the two mountains come rushing together, so that the bodies of the sinners are crushed to pieces and their blood flows out and covers the ground. In addition, there are many other types of suffering to be endured.
Two hundred years in the life of a human being is the equivalent of one day and one night in the life of those who live in the Yāma heaven, the third of the six heavens in the world of desire, and there the life span lasts for two thousand years. But these two thousand years are no more than one day and night in the life span of those in the hell of crushing, and their lives last for two thousand such years.
Those who not only take life and steal, but in addition commit acts of sexual misconduct such as having an affair with another man’s wife will fall into this hell.
p.248Many priests, nuns, laymen, and laywomen of the world today commit sins of this type; among priests this sort of offense is particularly frequent. Ordinary husbands and wives can usually keep watch on one another, and it is difficult for them to evade the eyes of others, and so they are not likely to commit such offenses. Moreover, since priests are unmarried, they do not have much opportunity to indulge what licentious desires they may have. However, although they may not commit any offense with an unmarried girl, since if she should become pregnant, she would be pressed to confess who her baby’s father is and the whole affair would come to light, still they may contrive to have relations with another man’s wife. Once having done so, they of course will take care to keep the matter strictly secret. So we may surmise that, among the eminent priests of our time, there are many who have committed an offense of this kind. If so, then a large number of such eminent priests of our time are destined to fall into this hell.
The fourth hell is the hell of wailing. It is situated beneath the hell of crushing and is the same length and breadth. Here the wardens of hell, emitting horrible cries, shoot at the offenders with bows and arrows, or club them over the head with iron bars and force them to race over the ground of burning iron, or turn the sinners over and over on heated iron racks and in this way roast them. At other times they force open their mouths and pour in a stream of molten copper, so that their five vital organs1 are burned up and immediately drop out of their bodies.
Four hundred years in the life of a human being is the equivalent of one day and one night in the lives of those who inhabit the Tushita heaven, the fourth of the six heavens in the world of desire, and there the life span lasts for four thousand years. But these four thousand years are no more than one day and night in the life span of those in the hell of wailing, and their lives last for four thousand such years.
Those who not only take life, steal, and commit sexual misconduct, but also drink intoxicants, will fall into this hell, these being the causes that condemn one to it. Among the priests, nuns, and men and women lay believers of our time, those who are great drinkers of intoxicants will find it particularly hard to escape the sufferings of this hell.
The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom lists thirty-six faults that are traceable to intoxicants, and the Brahmā Net Sutra says that anyone who urges one cup of liquor upon another will for five hundred lifetimes be born with an armless body. According to a commentary by a Buddhist teacher,2 this means he will be born as an earthworm or something of that sort. And if this is the case, how much worse will it be for those who sell liquor to others for a price, or worse, who sell watered down liquor to others! There must be many persons among the laymen and laywomen of our age who will have difficulty avoiding the sufferings of this hell.
The fifth hell is the hell of great wailing. It is situated beneath the hell of wailing and is the same length and breadth. In this hell, sufferings are inflicted upon the offenders that are ten times as great as those of all the preceding four hells put together.
As to the life span there, eight hundred years in the life of a human being is equivalent to one day and one night in the lives of those who live in the Heaven of Enjoying the Conjured, the fifth of the six heavens in the world of desire, and there the life span lasts for eight thousand years. But these eight thousand years are no more than one day and night in the life span of those in the hell of great wailing, and their p.249lives last eight thousand such years.
Those who are not only guilty of the major offenses of taking life, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, and drinking intoxicants, but who also tell falsehoods and lies will fall into this hell.
The people of today, even those who are noted for their worthiness or outstanding virtue, can perhaps go an hour without lying, but they cannot go a day without doing so. Or perhaps they can go a day without lying, but they cannot go a month; they may go a month but they cannot go a year; or they may go a year but they cannot go a whole lifetime. And if such is the case, then it will be hard for even a single person in the world today to escape falling into this hell.
The sixth hell is the hell of burning heat. It is located beneath the hell of great wailing and is of the same dimensions. In this hell, there are many different kinds of suffering. If one were to take a spark of fire no bigger than a pea from this hell and place it in the continent of Jambudvīpa, it would burn up the whole continent in an instant. How much more devastating, then, must be its effect upon the bodies of the offenders, which are as soft as cotton. The persons confined to this hell look upon the fires of the preceding five hells as though they were so much snow. In terms of the human world, the fire of this hell is as much greater in intensity as is the heat of molten iron or copper when compared with the heat of a stick of burning firewood.
As for the life span there, sixteen hundred years in the life of a human being is equivalent to one day and one night in the lives of those who inhabit the Heaven of Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the sixth of the six heavens in the world of desire, and there the life span is sixteen hundred years. But these sixteen hundred years are no more than one day and night in the life span of those in the hell of burning heat, and their lives last sixteen hundred such years.
As for the causes that condemn one to this hell, those persons who not only take life, steal, commit sexual misconduct, drink intoxicants, and lie, but who are also guilty of erroneous views, denying the law of cause and effect, will fall into this hell.
Concerning erroneous views, one man has said, “If a person dies of starvation, he will be born in heaven.”3 Generally speaking, those who are ignorant of the law of cause and effect may be described as holding erroneous views. In terms of worldly conduct, persons of erroneous views may be defined as those who are lacking in compassion. There are many persons in the world today who will find it hard to escape this hell.
The seventh hell is the hell of great burning heat. It is situated underneath the hell of burning heat and is of the same dimensions. Here offenders are subjected to sufferings that are ten times as great as those of the preceding six hells. The life span is half of a medium kalpa. Anyone who not only takes life, steals, engages in sexual misconduct, drinks intoxicants, lies, and subscribes to erroneous views, but in addition forces nuns who are ordinarily strict in observing the precepts to engage in sexual relations, will fall into this hell. Similarly, priests who use liquor to ply women of the laity who observe the precept against sexual misconduct, thereby tricking them into misconduct, or who give them goods and valuables to entice them to have sexual relations, will likewise fall into this hell.
Among the priests of our time, there are many who are guilty of heinous crimes such as these. The Great Compassion Sutra says that, in the latter age, there will be many men and women of the laity who will be reborn in the p.250realm of heaven, and many priests and nuns who will fall into hell. The sutra is no doubt speaking about persons of the type I have mentioned above. Anyone with a conscience would be ashamed at the very thought of such conduct!
On the whole, if we consider the causes that condemn one to suffer in these seven great hells as they are described in the various sutras and treatises, and then look at the four types of Buddhist believers—priests, nuns, laymen, and laywomen—in Japan in the present age, we will discover no one who is likely to escape from these seven great hells, nor will we even hear reports of such a person.
The Nirvana Sutra states: “When we enter that latter age, those who are born as human beings will be as few in number as the specks of dirt that can be placed on a fingernail, while those who fall into the three evil paths will be as numerous as the dust particles of the worlds of the ten directions.” If this is so, then those who have died among our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, must all have fallen into one of these seven great hells. Appalling is the only way to describe it.
Dragons, serpents, evil spirits, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, sages—we have never seen such beings, we have only heard reports of them. In the world today, a man or woman who does not do the kind of deeds that will lead to rebirth in one of the seven great hells—we have never seen such a person, nor have we even heard reports of such a one. And yet there is not a single person who thinks that he himself, along with all other living beings, will in fact fall into the seven great hells. Even though he may say in so many words that he will probably fall into hell, in his heart he does not really think that it will happen.
Again, although there are priests and nuns, laymen and laywomen who believe that they have committed the kind of acts that will condemn them to hell, they will put their faith in Earth Repository or some other bodhisattva, or depend upon Amida or one of the other Buddhas to save them. Or, if there are those who have followed various practices that produce good roots, they will all conclude that, with such good roots, they will never be in danger of falling into hell. Or there will be those who, following the practices of their respective schools, will trust to the wisdom taught by their school and believe that they are doing nothing that would condemn them to hell.
And yet the faith that such persons put in the Buddhas and bodhisattvas is nothing like the love that they feel for their darling children or their husbands or wives, or nothing like the respect they feel for their parents or their sovereign. In quality, the two types of emotions are worlds apart. In fact such persons think very lightly of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Therefore, it is a grave error for the people of our time to believe that, just because they put their faith in the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, or just because they carry out the teachings of this school or that, they will be able to escape the sufferings of hell. People of understanding and good conscience should give careful consideration to this matter.
The eighth hell is the great Avīchi hell, also called the hell of incessant suffering. It is situated beneath the hell of great burning heat, at the very bottom of the world of desire. This hell measures eighty thousand yojanas in length and breadth and is surrounded by seven iron walls.
I will not describe in detail the extreme suffering that marks this hell, but if all the sufferings of the seven great hells described above, along with all other sufferings known elsewhere, were to be taken as a unit, then the sufferings of the Avīchi hell would be p.251a thousand times greater. In the eyes of the offenders who suffer in this hell, those who suffer in the hell of great burning heat seem in fact to be enjoying the delights of the Heaven of Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the highest heaven in the world of desire.
This hell gives off such a foul odor that, if the beings in the four continents of the world or the heavenly beings in the six heavens of the world of desire were to sniff it, they would all die. There are two mountains, however, called Emerging Mountain and Sinking Mountain, that hold in the stench from this hell and prevent it from reaching human beings.4 Therefore the beings of our world are spared from death.
If the Buddha were to describe the sufferings of this hell in full, those who heard his words would spit up blood and die. Hence the Buddha does not speak of them in detail.
The life span in this hell is equivalent to the length of one medium kalpa. As to the length of a medium kalpa, the human life span may be of immeasurable length, but imagine that the life span diminishes by one year in every hundred years. It continues to diminish in this way until it has reached a life span of only ten years, and the period required for this process is called one period of decrease. The life span then begins to increase at the rate of one year every hundred years, and continues until it has reached a length of eighty thousand years. The period required for this process is known as one period of increase. One such period of increase, along with one such period of decrease, constitutes a small kalpa, while twenty such periods of increase and decrease constitute a medium kalpa. Thus those who fall into this hell of incessant suffering are destined to dwell there for a comparable length of time and to undergo great torture there.
As to the causes that condemn one to this hell, it may be said that those who commit any of the five cardinal sins will fall into this hell. The five cardinal sins are killing one’s father, killing one’s mother, killing an arhat, causing a Buddha to shed blood, and causing disharmony among the members of the Buddhist Order. In our present age, however, since there is no Buddha now living, it is impossible to cause a Buddha to shed blood. Likewise, since there is no Buddhist Order, it is impossible to cause disharmony among its members. And since there are no arhats, it is impossible to kill an arhat. Thus the only offenses possible are those of killing one’s father or killing one’s mother. And since the laws of the sovereign are so strict in their prohibition of the killing of a parent, it is rare to find anyone who commits such an offense. Hence in our present age, one would expect that very few people would fall into the Avīchi hell.
However, there are offenses that are similar in gravity to the five cardinal sins.5 There are many persons who burn the wooden or painted images of Buddhas or Buddhist halls and pagodas, who appropriate the lands donated to such Buddhist images, who hack down or burn the stupas, or who kill wise men. Such persons will fall into the sixteen separate places that are attached to the Avīchi hell.6 Thus we may be certain that many of those living in the world today will fall into these sixteen separate places, and those who slander the Law will also fall into this hell.
Next, I would like to make clear the gravity of the offenses that lead one to fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
Question: Is there any offense other than the five cardinal sins that will cause one to fall into the hell of incessant suffering?
Answer: Yes, the grave offense of slandering the Law, or correct teaching.
p.252Question: What passages can you cite as proof?
Answer: The second volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra, . . . When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avīchi hell.”7 From this passage we can see that slandering the Law is an action that leads one to the Avīchi hell.
Question: Are the five cardinal sins and the sin of slandering the Law of similar gravity?
Answer: The Larger Wisdom Sutra records: “Shāriputra said to the Buddha, ‘World-Honored One, are the five cardinal sins and the sin of destroying the Law similar in nature?’
“The Buddha said to Shāriputra, ‘No, they are not similar. Why is that? Because if one destroys the perfection of wisdom, then one destroys the all-inclusive wisdom and the wisdom that understands every aspect of phenomena possessed by the Buddhas of the ten directions. When one destroys the treasure of the Buddha, then one destroys the treasure of the Law, and when one destroys the treasure of the Law, one destroys the treasure of the Buddhist Order. When one destroys the three treasures, one destroys all the correct views in the world, and when one destroys all the correct views in the world, then one is committing a crime that will bring one unlimited retribution. And when one has committed a crime that will bring unlimited retribution, then one must undergo pain and suffering for an unlimited period of time.’”
And elsewhere in the same sutra it says: “Because these persons have accumulated the causes that come from destroying the Law, they will fall into the great hell for a period of immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of years. These persons who destroy the Law will move from one great hell to another. And when the great fire comes that destroys the world at the end of the kalpa of decline, they will move to the great hell in some other world. Thus they will move here and there throughout the worlds of the ten directions. And during that time, though the fire will occur at the end of the kalpa of decline and they will die in one world, because they have not yet exhausted the evil karma acquired through the act of destroying the Law, they will return to the great hell in this world.”
In the seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra it says: “Among the four kinds of believers there were those who gave way to anger, their minds lacking in purity, and they spoke ill of him and cursed him, saying, ‘This ignorant monk . . . !’ Some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him. . . . For a thousand kalpas they underwent great suffering in the Avīchi hell.”8
This passage indicates that, if one curses the votary of the Lotus Sutra or beats him with sticks, though one may later repent of such actions, one cannot completely absolve oneself of the offense but will fall into the Avīchi hell for a period of a thousand kalpas. The sin of slandering the Law, even though one later repents of it, is a thousand times graver than the five cardinal sins. And how much worse is the fate of one who slanders the Law without ever repenting? Can such a person ever hope to be released from the Avīchi hell?
Therefore it is stated in the second volume of the Lotus Sutra: “If this person . . . on seeing those who read, recite, copy, and uphold this sutra, should despise, hate, envy, or bear grudges against them, . . . When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avīchi hell, be confined there for a whole kalpa, and when the kalpa ends, be born there again. He will keep repeating this cycle for a countless number of kalpas.”9
p.253In this third section I will employ the dialogue form to clarify certain points.
Question: I understand now that the sin of slandering the Law is even graver than the five cardinal sins. But just what does it mean to slander the Law?
Answer: The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che in his commentary on the Brahmā Net Sutra says, “‘To slander’ means to turn against.” Thus one who turns against the Law is slandering the Law. Vasubandhu in his Treatise on the Buddha Nature says, “To hate a thing is to turn against it.” The meaning of this passage is that one who hates the Law and causes others to reject it is slandering the Law.
Question: I would like to know more about the exact nature of this offense. Could you give a rough description of it?
Answer: Volume five of the Nirvana Sutra says: “Suppose there were a person who said that the Thus Come One is transient in nature. Could such a person escape having his tongue fall out?” The meaning of this passage is that anyone who presumes to say that the Buddha is transient in nature will have his tongue fall out.
Question: The various Hinayana sutras state that the Buddha is transient in nature, and in addition, all the followers of the Hinayana sutras likewise declare that the Buddha is transient. If that is so, then do the tongues of the Buddha and his followers all fall out as a result?
Answer: When the believers in the Hinayana sutras state that the Buddha of the Hinayana sutras is transient, it is unlikely that their tongues fall out. But if they address themselves to the Mahayana sutras and say that the Buddha revealed there is transient, or if they attempt to use the Hinayana sutras to refute the Mahayana sutras, then their tongues will fall out.
If we consider this fact, then we can see that, although one may simply be following the teachings of the sutra that one believes in, if one attempts to use that sutra to refute a sutra that is superior to it, then one will be slandering the Law. And if this is the case, then those persons who put their faith in provisional Mahayana sutras such as the Meditation Sutra and the Flower Garland Sutra, though they may carry out the practices prescribed in the text of the sutra, if they fail to set aside such sutras and put their faith in the sutras that are superior to them, or if they dare to assert that their own sutras are superior, then they will in effect be slandering the Law. Thus, for example, though one may understand the teachings as they are taught in the Meditation and the other sutras, if a sutra appears that refutes those teachings and yet one fails to accept that sutra, then one is slandering the Law. The principle here is the same as in the case of the Hinayana sutras discussed above.
Question: The Two-Volumed Sutra describes the ten recitations and the immediate attainment of rebirth in the Pure Land. According to the teachings of this sutra, those who perform ten recitations of Amida’s name will be reborn in the Pure Land. Now if one uses the teachings of some later sutra to refute these assertions, does this not constitute a case of slandering the Law?
Answer: The Buddha, speaking of the Meditation Sutra and the other various sutras that he expounded during the first forty and more years of his preaching life, declared that “I have not yet revealed the truth.”10 In the light of this statement, therefore, we would have to say that, in spite of the teachings concerning the ten recitations and the immediate attainment of rebirth, such rebirth is in fact difficult to count on. But if we did not have the Buddha’s own statement in the sutra that p.254he had “not yet revealed the truth,” then in rejecting the teachings concerning rebirth in the Pure Land, we would be guilty of slandering the Law.
Question: There are some persons who say that the statement “In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth” that appears in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra does not mean to imply that the truth has not yet been revealed in any of the various sutras preached in the preceding forty and more years, or not revealed in a single one of their numerous passages or sentences. It merely means that in various places in the various sutras preached in the preceding forty and more years, the Buddha speaks disparagingly of those who are predestined for the two vehicles of voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, declaring that such persons are forever incapable of attaining Buddhahood, and he also speaks as though the Thus Come One Shakyamuni had attained enlightenment for the first time in his present lifetime. It is these statements alone that the Buddha had in mind when he said that he had “not yet revealed the truth” and not any of the other passages in the earlier sutras. Thus, anyone who sees the passage “In these more than forty years . . .” and recklessly declares, for example, that the passage in the Meditation Sutra that promises nine grades of rebirth in the Pure Land to ordinary believers11 does not in fact assure one of rebirth at all, is in fact an outrageous slanderer of the Law. What is your opinion of such an argument?
Answer: This interpretation is very like the one put forward by Tokuitsu of the eastern region.12 Tokuitsu, in explaining the statement “I have not yet revealed the truth,” stated that the Buddha in the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra had asserted that those who were predestined for the two vehicles could never attain Buddhahood, and it was this assertion that the Buddha was taking exception to when he said that he had not yet revealed the truth. The Buddha did not intend his statement to apply to all the teachings of the first four flavors that he had revealed in the past. The Great Teacher Dengyō, on the other hand, insisted that the statement “I have not yet revealed the truth” was meant to apply to all the passages and sentences in the teachings of the first four flavors that had preceded the Lotus Sutra.13 So you can see that the opinion you mention is very much like that of Tokuitsu, who was a slanderer of the Law in ages past. Let me take some time here, however, to pose a question so that we may examine and shed light on this opinion [and then I will go on to refute other erroneous views].
Question: In the sutras that precede the Lotus Sutra it is denied that the people of the two vehicles can ever attain Buddhahood, and then the Buddha states that “I have not yet revealed the truth.” If that is so, then the passages in the various sutras in which the Buddha previously stated that those predestined for the two vehicles can never attain Buddhahood, must be lies told by the Buddha who states that “I have not yet revealed the truth.” Is that what we are to assume? If so, then of course we must admit that the Buddha tells lies. And if a person tells lies, then whether he asserts that a thing exists or that it does not exist, we cannot believe him in either case. You may say that only the statement denying that those predestined for the two vehicles can ever attain Buddhahood is a lie, while the assertion that those of the other vehicles, such as bodhisattvas and ordinary human beings, are reborn in the pure land and attain Buddhahood is a true statement, but we find that difficult to believe. If a man lies and tells us that east is in fact west, then he is just as likely to tell us that west is east. And if the Buddha is capable of stating that p.255the people of the two vehicles can never attain Buddhahood, then when he tells us that those of the other vehicles such as bodhisattvas can attain Buddhahood, how do we know that that too is not a lie? All those of the five vehicles alike possess the Buddha nature. To conceal the fact that those of the two vehicles, voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, possess the Buddha nature and reveal that those of the bodhisattva vehicle and the humanity vehicle possess it will on the contrary have the effect of concealing the Buddha nature present in bodhisattvas and ordinary human beings.
Someone has asserted that the Buddha’s statement “In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth” refers simply to the truth regarding the path to attainment of Buddhahood. It does not mean that he has not yet revealed the truth regarding rebirth in the Pure Land. I can criticize this view as follows: If we assume that, in the statements that the Buddha made during the forty and more years concerning the attainment of Buddhahood, he did not yet reveal the truth, then are we also to assume that, when he stated in the Two-Volumed Sutra that the monk Dharma Treasury would not accept the correct enlightenment [and become a Buddha unless all other beings could be reborn in his Pure Land], and that in fact ten kalpas had already passed since he became the Buddha Amida, he was likewise not revealing the truth? If so, then, on the basis of the various sutras preached during the forty and more years, the monk Dharma Treasury could never have become the Buddha Amida, and hence it is simply a falsehood to say that Dharma Treasury attained Buddhahood. And if it is a falsehood to say that Dharma Treasury attained Buddhahood, then what Buddha is going to welcome the practitioners of the Nembutsu to the Pure Land?
The person may try to get around these difficulties by saying, “During the more than forty years, there was no attainment of Buddhahood. But Amida’s attainment of Buddhahood did not take place in this era; he attained Buddhahood in the past.”
I can raise objections to this, however, with these words: If the various sutras preached during the forty and more years do not in fact make it possible for ordinary persons to attain Buddhahood, then likewise in the far distant kalpas of the past it could not have been possible for one to attain Buddhahood merely on the basis of the provisional sutras preached during the forty-year periods of the Buddhas of those past ages. We know this because all the various Buddhas of past, present, and future follow the same order in preaching the teachings.
The person may point to the passage in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra that says, “One is not able to quickly attain unsurpassed enlightenment,” and argue that this means that, although one cannot quickly attain Buddhahood through the sutras preached during the forty and more years, one can do so after spending kalpas working at it. But I can criticize this view by pointing out that, a little farther along in the same text, Great Adornment and the other bodhisattvas express their understanding of the Buddha’s teachings by saying, “Though immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable asamkhya kalpas may pass, they will in the end fail to gain unsurpassed enlightenment.” If this statement is correct, then even though kalpas were to pass, one could never attain Buddhahood on the basis of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra.
There are also persons who say that, according to the understanding of the Flower Garland school, the Flower Garland Sutra alone is not numbered among the sutras preached during the forty and more years. Already in the p.256Flower Garland Sutra the way to achieve rebirth and attain Buddhahood is expounded. Therefore, if one follows the practices advocated by the Flower Garland Sutra, how can one fail to achieve rebirth and attain Buddhahood?
To this I would reply that the assertion that the Flower Garland Sutra is not to be counted among the sutras preached during the forty and more years is a doctrine taught by the teachers of the Flower Garland school. But the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, when speaking of the sutras preached during the forty and more years, specifically mentions the Flower Garland teaching of the ocean-imprint meditation by name, indicating that that sutra is to be included among the sutras preached during the forty and more years. If one accepts the assertions of the Flower Garland teachers, therefore, one must turn one’s back on the words of the Buddha.
Question: If it is impossible to achieve rebirth and attain Buddhahood through any means other than the Lotus Sutra, then when the Buddha appeared in the world, why did he not just preach the Lotus Sutra alone? Why did he spend forty and more years preaching all those other sutras?
Answer: I will let the Buddha answer that objection in his own words by citing the passage of the Lotus Sutra that reads: “If I merely praised the Buddha vehicle, then the living beings, sunk in their suffering, [would be incapable of believing in this Law]. And because they rejected the Law and failed to believe in it, they would fall into the three evil paths.”14
Question: If that is so, then why will the people not likewise reject and slander the sutras that were preached before the Lotus Sutra?
Answer: The sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra vary in countless ways. But taken as a whole, we may say that they were preached in such a way as to accord with the minds of others [rather than the Buddha’s own mind] and speak in terms of the listeners’ hearts. Therefore there is nothing in them to rouse the opposition of the listeners. It is like the case of stones thrown into water—the water offers no resistance to them. Moreover, though there are many different doctrines put forward in these sutras, they do not lead the minds of the people out of the nine worlds. The minds of the people continue to reside in the realm of delusion, now following good, now following evil, and therefore they can never attain the realm of Buddhahood.
Question: You say that the Buddha, because he was afraid that people would slander it, did not preach the Lotus Sutra at the beginning of his teaching life, but waited until forty and more years had passed to preach it. Now why is it that you do not in like manner preach the provisional sutras, but instead proceed without any hesitation to preach the Lotus Sutra, thus causing people to slander it and to fall into the evil paths of existence?
Answer: When the Buddha was in the world and was seated beneath the bodhi tree, he gauged the capacities of the people of his time. He perceived that if he preached the Lotus Sutra immediately, then people would slander it and would fall into the evil paths. If he waited for forty and more years before preaching it, however, they would not slander it, but instead would advance to the first of the ten stages of security, where there is no more retrogression, and would continue to advance until they had reached the stage of perfect enlightenment. But he also realized that, in the muddy age of the Latter Day of the Law, the capacities of the people would be such that not one person in ten thousand would be capable of reaching the first of the ten p.257stages of security. Likewise he knew that those who would preach the teachings in that time, not being Buddhas, would have great difficulty correctly gauging the capacities of the people. Therefore the Buddha gave permission for such persons to preach the Lotus Sutra from the very beginning so that people could establish some connection with the sutra, whether it was one of rejection or of acceptance.
At the same time, he indicated that even after his passing, if there were persons who possessed the proper capacities, then it was all right to begin by preaching the provisional teachings to them. Again, those concerned primarily with compassion [or bringing happiness to people] might begin by preaching the provisional sutras, as Shakyamuni Buddha himself had done. Or, those primarily moved by pity [or relieving the sufferings of people] might begin by preaching the true sutra, as Bodhisattva Never Disparaging had done.15
Moreover, he knew that for ordinary people in the latter age it will be a difficult thing indeed to avoid falling into the evil paths of existence. But he felt that, if they must fall into the evil paths in any case, it was far better that they should do so as a result of slandering the Lotus Sutra than as a result of some worldly crime. For, as a certain text tells us, “Those who hear the Law, speak slanderously of it, and fall into hell as a result, are still superior to those who offer alms to Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.”16 The meaning of this passage is that, even if one slanders the Lotus Sutra and falls into hell as a result, one will acquire a hundred, thousand, ten thousand times more merit than if one made offerings and paid homage to Shakyamuni, Amida, and as many other Buddhas as there are sands in the Ganges.
Question: If what you have said is true, then the patriarchs and teachers of the Flower Garland, Dharma Characteristics, Three Treatises, True Word, Pure Land, and other schools must all be relegated to the category of slanderers of the Law. The Flower Garland school, for example, claims that the Flower Garland Sutra is so vastly superior to the Lotus Sutra that they are as far apart as clouds and mud, and the Dharma Characteristics and Three Treatises schools maintain the same view. The True Word teaching in Japan is divided into two branches. The True Word represented by Tō-ji temple holds that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Flower Garland Sutra, and of course even more inferior to the Mahāvairochana Sutra. The type of True Word embraced by the Tendai school17 teaches that the Mahāvairochana and Lotus sutras are on an equal level with regard to the principles expounded, but that the former excels in the matter of mudras and mantras. All those who preach views such as these must be condemned to rebirth in the evil paths of existence, must they not?
Answer: When a school is established and passes judgment on the relative superiority of the various sutras, there are two ways in which it may approach the matter. One is called apparent rejection, the other actual rejection. In the case of apparent rejection, one in fact approves of the assertions of another school but appears to reject them, perhaps for the purpose of making clearer the truth of the matter. In actual rejection, one in truth fails to realize the superiority of another school’s teaching but in one’s delusion actually believes that one’s own views are superior and with all one’s heart rejects the other’s views. The patriarchs and teachers of the various schools in some cases adopted the course of apparent rejection and in others adopted that of actual rejection.
p.258There are cases where a person in his heart believes that the Lotus Sutra is superior to all other sutras, but appears for a time to turn away from it and reject it, hoping in this way to make the teachings of the Lotus Sutra more apparent. In the same way, Devadatta, King Ajātashatru, and non-Buddhists played the role of enemies of the Buddha and then, after they had thereby made clear the Buddha’s virtue, they in the end became followers of his teachings. On the other hand, there are many who in fact are ignorant and who act as enemies of the Buddha and thus fall into the evil paths. Therefore, in the case of the patriarchs and teachers of the various schools, one should determine whether they wrote anything that would indicate they had recanted their views, or whether they continued to be slanderers of the Law and thus condemned themselves to rebirth in the evil paths. Chia-hsiang of the Three Treatises school, Ch’eng-kuan of the Flower Garland school, Tz’u-en of the Dharma Characteristics school, and Kōbō of Tō-ji temple, for example—did these men write anything recanting their views? This is a point you should look into very carefully.
Question: If one is truly determined to use one’s present existence to free oneself from the sufferings of birth and death, then what should one shun and what should one seek?
Answer: The various sutras say that one should shun the company of women, but I would point to the passage in the Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the grove of sal trees just before his death: “Bodhisattvas! Though you can perceive the countless faults and ailings that attach to and beset your bodies, because you have made up your minds to accept and abide by the Nirvana Sutra, it will guide and protect you and will not cause you to be lacking. Bodhisattvas, 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. A mad elephant can destroy only a single body, but an evil friend can destroy countless good bodies and countless good minds. . . . 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.”
The meaning of this passage is that, if one cares about the next life, one should fear all kinds of causes that lead to rebirth in the evil paths. But even more than such causes, one should fear evil friends or teachers.
Thus, after the passing of Great Adornment Buddha, four of the monks who were his disciples,18 because they chose to follow evil teachings, were reborn in the Avīchi hells of the ten directions. And not only that—they caused their six hundred million followers and supporters to be reborn in the hells of the ten directions as well. Angulimāla, following the instructions given him by Manibhadra, cut off the fingers of 999 persons, and in the end even plotted to do injury to his mother and to the Buddha. The monk Sunakshatra was a son of Shakyamuni Buddha and received and embraced the twelve divisions of the scriptures, practiced the four stages of meditation, and cut off all ties with the world of desire. But because he later adopted the teachings of the non-Buddhist leader Painfully Acquired, he fell into the Avīchi hell while still alive. Devadatta had memorized the sixty thousand teachings of the non-Buddhist schools and the eighty thousand teachings of Buddhism, but he carried out the five ascetic practices in violation of the Buddha’s teaching and hence in living form fell into the hell of p.259incessant suffering. King Ajātashatru killed his father and planned to do injury to his mother, and he loosed a huge elephant, hoping thereby to destroy the Buddha, all because of the instructions of his evil teacher, Devadatta. The monk Kokālika slandered Shāriputra and Maudgalyāyana and thereby fell into the Avīchi hell while still alive. King Mihirakula wiped out all traces of the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order from all the five regions of India; his younger brother became king of Kashmīra and proceeded to destroy 1,600 stupas and Buddhist temples in the kingdom of Gandhāra; the king of Karnasuvarna19 worked to destroy Buddhism; King Virūdhaka slaughtered 90,900,000 persons, and the blood flowed until it formed a lake; King Shashānka destroyed Buddhism, cut down the bodhi tree, and dug out its roots; and King Yu-wen of the Later Chou dynasty in China20 destroyed more than 4,600 temples and caused more than 260,600 priests and nuns to return to secular life. All these deeds were done because these men put their trust in evil teachers and allowed evil demons to enter their bodies.
Question: In India and China, the non-Buddhist teachings have destroyed the Buddha’s teachings, and the Hinayana doctrines have overwhelmed the doctrines of the Mahayana. Will that happen in Japan as well?
Answer: There are followers of non-Buddhist teachings and Hinayana doctrines in India and China, but there is neither in Japan. We have our doctors of Chinese history and literature, but these constitute no enemy to the Buddhist teachings. In addition, we have three schools of Hinayana teachings,21 but no one expects to use the teachings of these schools to free himself from the sufferings of birth and death. They are looked on simply as a means to gain a better understanding of Mahayana doctrines.
In effect, all we have in this country are five schools of Mahayana.22 And because people all aim to free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death through the teachings of one or another of these five schools, many disputes occur as to which school is most suitable. In addition, because the followers and supporters of the various schools are so numerous, there is much greed for profit and support involved.
In this fourth section, I would like to describe the attitude of mind that should characterize the practitioner who strives to propagate the teachings of the Buddha.
One who hopes to propagate the Buddha’s teachings must be aware of the five guides and propagate the correct teaching in accordance with these. These five guides are (1) the teaching, (2) the people’s capacity, (3) the time, (4) the country, and (5) the sequence in which the Buddhist teachings are to be propagated.
As to the first of these, the teaching, the Thus Come One Shakyamuni in the course of his fifty years of preaching taught doctrines that fall into various different categories such as Mahayana and Hinayana, provisional and true, exoteric and esoteric teachings. The Flower Garland school speaks of the five teachings,23 into which it divides all the preachings of the Thus Come One’s lifetime, and among these regards the Flower Garland and Lotus sutras as the highest. And of these two sutras, it places the Flower Garland Sutra in the supreme position. This is the doctrine accepted by the three schools of southern China and the seven schools of northern China, the patriarchs and teachers of the Flower Garland school, and the Great Teacher Kōbō of Tō-ji temple in Japan.
The Dharma Characteristics school divides the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime into three periods,24 and among p.260these three, it regards the Profound Secrets and Lotus sutras as representing the finest among all the sacred teachings of his lifetime. But although both are regarded as “sutras that are complete and final,” the Lotus Sutra is considered to be a “sutra that is not complete and final” among the complete and final sutras, while the Profound Secrets Sutra is looked on as a “sutra that is complete and final” among the complete and final sutras.
The Three Treatises school classifies the teachings into two storehouses and three periods.25 Among the teachings of the three periods, those of the third period, the teachings of the Middle Way, include the Wisdom sutras and the Lotus Sutra. Of these two, the Wisdom sutras are considered to be higher.
The True Word teaching in Japan is divided into two branches. The branch of Tō-ji temple follows the classification set up by the Great Teacher Kōbō in his “ten stages of the mind,”26 assigning the Lotus Sutra to the eighth place, the Flower Garland Sutra to the ninth place, and the True Word teachings to the tenth and highest place. Thus it holds that the Lotus Sutra is not only inferior to the Mahāvairochana Sutra, but to the Flower Garland Sutra as well. The branch of True Word that exists within the Tendai school, following the doctrines of the Great Teacher Jikaku and others, holds that the Mahāvairochana and Lotus sutras differ in their degree of thoroughness, the former comprehensive, and the latter abbreviated. Thus the Lotus Sutra represents the esoteric teachings in theory,27 but the Mahāvairochana Sutra represents the esoteric teachings in both theory and practice.
The Pure Land school sets up the categories of the Sacred Way teachings and the Pure Land teachings, the difficult-to-practice way and the easy-to-practice way, the sundry and the correct practices. According to this view, all sutras other than the three Pure Land sutras, such as the Lotus Sutra, are to be relegated to the categories of the difficult-to-practice way, the Sacred Way teachings, and the sundry practices.
The Zen school is divided into two branches. One branch maintains that all the various sutras and all the profound doctrines of the various schools are included in the Zen school. The other branch holds that all the sacred teachings put forward by the Thus Come One in the course of his lifetime are so many words and explanations, mere expedient devices emerging from the mouth of the Thus Come One. The Zen school, by contrast, represents the secret intention of the Thus Come One, which has never been put into words or explanations. It constitutes a “separate transmission outside the sutras.”
The Dharma Analysis Treasury, Establishment of Truth, and Precepts are all Hinayana schools. In India and China, the Hinayana schools often refuted the Mahayana schools, but such is not the case in Japan. [Here I will ask a question.]
Question: All these schools seem to vary in their doctrines. Are we to assume that each of these various doctrines has some logic to it and that they will all lead to enlightenment? Or is there only one school that represents the correct doctrine and are all the other schools in fact slanderers of the Law?
Answer: Though they have their different theories and vary in other ways, we can probably say that all of them lead to enlightenment.
Four hundred years after the death of the Buddha, King Kanishka of Gandhāra, who honored the Buddhist teachings, gathered a group of monks together for the space of a summer, provided them with alms, and p.261questioned them about the Buddhist teachings.28 As he listened to each monk’s opinion, he found that there were many differences of doctrine. The king, thinking this very strange, said, “Surely there must be one fixed doctrine that the Buddha preached!” Finally, he consulted the Venerable Pārshva.
The Venerable Pārshva replied, “Suppose that you break up a staff of gold and make various different objects out of the pieces. Though the objects differ in shape, they all come from the one staff of gold. Though a person may argue over their differences in shape, there is no arguing about the fact that they are made of gold. Similarly, there are different gateways to understanding. A person may argue over which one is the best to enter, but the truth that he acquires upon entering is the same in all cases.”29
Again, Gunavarman30 has said: “Though the various teachings differ from one another, the truth that a person reaches through practice of them is one and the same. Because of one-sided attachment, the results may be better or worse in different cases, but a person of true understanding will not argue over such differences.”
Moreover, the five hundred arhats all had different causes that led them to become arhats, but they all alike attained an understanding of the sacred truth. Among the [Buddha’s] four ways of preaching described in Great Perfection of Wisdom there is that known as “preaching by seeing the vices of the hearers.”31 And among the [Buddha’s] four intentions of preaching32 described in The Summary of the Mahayana is that known as “the intention of according with the desires of all living beings.” According to these, the Buddha will at one time disparage a certain type of good action and at another time will praise it. Likewise, the Buddha at times condemns this or that of the six pāramitās such as the pāramitās of almsgiving, of keeping the precepts, and of assiduousness, and at other times praises them. Thus he leads all to enlightenment.
If we stop to consider it in this way, then we may say that the dispute between Dharmapāla and Bhāvaviveka;33 the difference of opinion between Jnānaprabha and Shīlabhadra over the principles of non-substantiality and the Middle Way;34 the dispute among the three schools of southern China and the seven schools of northern China over the doctrines such as the sudden, gradual, and indeterminate teachings, the divisions of the Buddha’s teachings into one period, two periods, three periods, four periods, or five periods, and the divisions of the four doctrine school, the five doctrine school, and the six doctrine school; the Tendai doctrine of the five periods; the Flower Garland doctrine of the five teachings; the dispute between the Tō-ji and the Tendai versions of the True Word teachings;35 the Pure Land school’s doctrine of the Sacred Way teachings and the Pure Land teachings; the Zen school’s doctrine of the teachings that are outside the scriptures and those that are inside the scriptures36—all of these approaches differ, but they are all alike in that they lead to the truth.
Objection: The five teachings of the Flower Garland school, the three periods of the Dharma Characteristics and Three Treatises schools, the Zen school’s doctrine of the teachings that are outside the scriptures, the Pure Land school’s categories of the difficult-to-practice and easy-to-practice ways, and the five periods of the three schools of southern China and the seven schools of northern China, and other doctrines—if you say that these doctrines, though they differ from one another, are all alike in that they lead to the truth and that all accord with the Buddha’s intentions and do not constitute slandering of the Law, then is p.262there in fact no such thing as slander of the Law?
To slander the Law means to turn against the Law. To turn against the Law means that, in the case of the Hinayana, one turns against the Hinayana sutras, and in the case of the Mahayana, one turns against the Mahayana sutras. If one turns against the Law, then how can one not be slandering the Law? And if one slanders the Law, how can one fail to call down upon oneself some bitter retribution? But what you have just said contradicts this principle of truth. This is my first objection.
The Great Wisdom Sutra says, “Those who slander the perfection of wisdom will fall into the Avīchi hells in the ten directions.” The Lotus Sutra says, “If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra, . . . When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avīchi hell.” And the Nirvana Sutra says, “In this world there are three kinds of illness that are difficult to cure. The first is violation of the four grave prohibitions, the second is commission of the five cardinal sins, and the third is slander of the Mahayana.”37 How could these passages from the sutras be dismissed as invalid? Here we have textual proof of what I am saying.
The Scholar Vimalamitra, the Great Arrogant Brahman, the Meditation Master Hsi-lien, and the Dharma Teacher Sung-ling38 slandered the correct teaching and, while still alive, fell into the Avīchi hell and their tongues festered in their mouths. This is actual proof of what I am saying.
Bodhisattva Vasubandhu wrote a treatise on the Hinayana teachings in which he contradicted the teachings of the Mahayana sutras. But later, as he confessed to Bodhisattva Asanga, he repented so deeply of the fault he had committed that in his chagrin he came close to cutting out his own tongue. If slandering the Law is no fault, then why should this man, a scholar who had written a thousand treatises,39 be so filled with remorse?
The Indian word “icchantika” is translated as “unbeliever.” An unbeliever is someone who does not believe that “all living beings alike possess the Buddha nature,”40 and that is what an icchantika is.
One who is an unbeliever is a slanderer of the Law. Of the seven types of living beings in the Ganges River,41 the first is the icchantika, or person of incorrigible disbelief, who slanders the Law and hence is constantly sunk in the river, and the second is the person who commits the five cardinal sins or slanders the Law and hence is constantly sunk. How then can one not be fearful of slandering the Law?
Answer: Slandering the Law means speaking ill of the Buddhist teachings for no reason. I do not think that it is slander when one speaks ill of other doctrines in order to urge the validity of the doctrines of one’s own school.
“The intention of according with the desires of all living beings” included among the four intentions of preaching in Summary of the Mahayana may be illustrated as follows. Suppose that there is a person who has not done one single good thing in his life so far, but has done only evil. Now suppose that, through some slight influence in that direction, he should do some good thing. Regardless of just what the good thing was, we should surely rejoice and praise him for it. On the other hand, suppose there is a good person who in the course of his life so far has done only one type of good deed. In order to encourage him to do other kinds of good deeds as well, we may well criticize his one type of good deed. Thus the doing of a good deed will in some cases cause us to scold and in other cases cause us to praise. And the same p.263applies to the method of “preaching by seeing the vices of the hearers” included among the four ways of preaching in Great Perfection of Wisdom. Thus the condemnations found in the Vimalakīrti Sutra are directed at those doctrines that during the period of the Āgama sutras were the object of praise.
From this we can see that, if there are many persons who have capacities that fit them for the Hinayana teachings, then we will speak ill of the Mahayana teachings in order to encourage more people to take faith in the Hinayana sutras. On the other hand, if there are many persons who have capacities that fit them for the Mahayana teachings, we will criticize the Hinayana teachings and seek to encourage faith in the Mahayana. Or, if people seem to have an affinity with Amida Buddha, then we may criticize the other Buddhas in order to encourage faith in Amida. If many people seem to have an affinity with Bodhisattva Earth Repository, then we may criticize the other bodhisattvas and speak highly of Earth Repository. If many people have an affinity with the Flower Garland Sutra, we may criticize the other sutras and speak highly of the Flower Garland; if people have an affinity with the Great Wisdom Sutra, we may criticize the other sutras and praise the Great Wisdom; and we will proceed in the same fashion if people show an affinity for the Lotus Sutra, the Mahāvairochana Sutra, or some other sutra.
To observe the capacities of people and praise or censure accordingly does not constitute slander of the Law. If, however, a person who has no understanding of capacities should set about praising or censuring in an irresponsible manner, then I think that would constitute slander of the Law. But I do not think that, for example, when the teachers of the Flower Garland, Three Treatises, Dharma Characteristics, Tendai, True Word, Zen, or Pure Land schools seek to refute each other’s sutras in order to establish the teachings of their own school, this constitutes slander of the Law.
Objection: You say that there is nothing wrong in attacking other sutras and other schools in order to urge the doctrines of one’s own school and sutra, in attacking other Buddhas and bodhisattvas in order to render praise to the particular Buddha or bodhisattva that one favors, or in attacking certain roots of good because one wishes to encourage other roots of good. If so, then in the Āgama sutras of the Hinayana, do we find passages that attack the Flower Garland Sutra or the other Mahayana sutras? Or in the Flower Garland Sutra, do we find passages that attack the Lotus, the Mahāvairochana, or the other sutras of that class?
Answer: It is true that there are no passages in the Āgama sutras of the Hinayana that attack the Mahayana sutras. But the Flower Garland Sutra mentions the two vehicles, the great vehicle, and the one vehicle, and attacks the two vehicles and the great vehicle, and the Nirvana Sutra mentions the various sutras of the great vehicle and expresses opposition to them. The Secret Solemnity Sutra declares that it is the king of all the sutras, the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra says that in the more than forty years the Buddha had not yet revealed the truth, and the Amida Sutra says that in comparison to the Nembutsu the practices set forth in the other sutras are means to plant only “minor roots of good.” And these are not the only examples that could be cited. In addition, we may consequently assume that the teachers who base their doctrines on these various sutras likewise support the assertions I have cited.
If we stop to consider this, it would seem to me that, when one is expounding the views of one’s own p.264particular school, there should be nothing wrong in criticizing the various sutras where they differ from the view of one’s own school.
Objection: The Flower Garland Sutra does indeed mention the lesser vehicle, the great vehicle, and the one vehicle, and the Secret Solemnity Sutra, as you say, describes itself as the “king of all the sutras.” The Nirvana Sutra mentions “the various sutras of the great vehicle,” and the Amida Sutra says that, in comparison to the Nembutsu, the practices set forth in the other sutras are only “minor roots of good.” But there is no other work that, like the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra in the passage about the sutras preached “in the more than forty years,” designates a specific period of time, mentions the various major sutras such as the Āgama, Correct and Equal, Wisdom, and Flower Garland sutras preached during that period, and indicates their inferiority to that sutra.
The Nirvana Sutra does indeed have the passage about “the various sutras of the great vehicle.” And since the Nirvana Sutra was the last sutra the Buddha preached, when he was in the grove of sal trees, one would perhaps suppose that, when it speaks of “the various sutras of the great vehicle,” it is speaking disparagingly of all the sutras other than the Nirvana Sutra. But if we examine the list of sutras that is given after the mention of “the various sutras of the great vehicle,” we see that it includes “the twelve divisions of discourse,” “the sutras,” “the correct and equal sutras,” and “the doctrine of the perfection of wisdom.”42 But it makes no mention of the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra or the Lotus Sutra. And the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra itself, in its mention of sutras preached in the more than forty years, simply lists the Āgama, Correct and Equal, Wisdom, and Flower Garland sutras. It gives no indication of the relative merits of the Lotus and Nirvana sutras.
The Secret Solemnity Sutra describes itself as the “king of all the sutras.” But when it comes to describing what it means by “all the sutras,” it mentions such sutras as the Flower Garland Sutra and the Shrīmālā Sutra, indicating that it is the king of all these sutras, but we find no mention of the Lotus Sutra. And when the Amida Sutra speaks of “minor roots of good,” it gives no indication of what period it is speaking about, or just what sort of good roots it means. When it speaks of “minor roots of good,” is it perhaps using the term to designate the Hinayana sutras? Or by “minor roots of good” does it mean the good practices that pertain to the two realms of human and heavenly beings? Or by “minor roots of good” does it mean the various good practices described in the Meditation Sutra and the Two-Volumed Sutra? Who knows? It is nowhere explained which of the practices advocated by the Buddha in the course of his lifetime are “minor roots of good” when compared to the Nembutsu.
Again, in the various esoteric teachings such as the Mahāvairochana Sutra and the Six Pāramitās Sutra we do not find any passages that disparage all of the other sutras preached in the lifetime of the Buddha and praise only that particular sutra. The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, however, in the passage concerning the sutras preached in the preceding more than forty years, does disparage all those sutras. And in the case of the Lotus Sutra alone, we find a passage that disparages all the sutras preached in the more than forty years preceding the Lotus Sutra, the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra that was being preached concurrently, and the Nirvana Sutra that was to be preached in the future, praise being reserved solely for the Lotus Sutra. Thus we see that when Shakyamuni or any of the p.265other various Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future make their appearances in the world and preach all the various sutras, they all accord the highest place to the Lotus Sutra.
It is like the terms “lord” and “underlings,” which have no fixed meaning. In the countryside, the peasants and the attendants of the samurai refer to the samurai as “lords.” But in the capital, even the members of the Minamoto and Taira families are called “underlings,” while the term “lords” is reserved for members of the three families of court nobles.43 Or it is like the term “king” when used to refer to a head or leader. Even a peasant can be king in his own home, while a steward, a lord of the manor, or a constable will be king of his particular hamlet or village or district or province. But none of these is a great king, a ruler of a nation.
In the Hinayana sutras, the principle of nirvana of no remainder44 is “king,” and in comparison to the Hinayana precepts and meditation, the Hinayana wisdom is king. In the Mahayana sutras, the principle of the Middle Way is king. In the Flower Garland Sutra, the principle of the perfect fusion and unity of all phenomena45 is king. In the Wisdom sutras the principle of non-substantiality is king, while in the Great Collection Sutra the guarding of the correct Law is king. The Medicine Master Sutra is king among the sutras that describe the special vows taken by the Buddha Medicine Master;46 the Two-Volumed Sutra is king among the sutras that describe the forty-eight vows of the Buddha Amida; and the Mahāvairochana Sutra is king among the sutras that describe mudras and mantras. But none of these is the king of all the sutras preached during the Buddha’s lifetime. The Lotus Sutra is the great king of all the ultimate doctrines expounded in all the sutras, such as supreme truth and worldly truth, the three truths of non-substantiality, temporary existence, and the Middle Way, mudras and mantras, the principle of the unconditioned, the twelve great vows, and the forty-eight vows. To understand this is to understand the teachings.
Thus Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k’ung, Fa-tsang, Ch’eng-kuan, Tz’u-en, Chia-hsiang, the teachers of the three schools of southern China and the seven schools of northern China, T’an-luan, Tao-ch’o, Shan-tao, Bodhidharma, and all the others, when they claimed that the particular sutra that they based their own doctrines on is first among all the sutras preached during the Buddha’s lifetime, were indicating that they did not understand the teachings. Among all the teachers of the various schools, only the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che can be said to have understood the teachings.
The Sacred Way and Pure Land teachings, the difficult-to-practice way and easy-to-practice way, correct and sundry practices expounded by T’an-luan, Tao-ch’o, and the others are derived originally from The Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra. But to conclude that the Lotus Sutra and True Word teachings are included among the difficult-to-practice way described in Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra is a highly erroneous view. To put forward such a view is to mistake the intent of the author of this commentary and the steps of its argument.
Tz’u-en, on the basis of the Profound Secrets Sutra, postulated three periods that included all of the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime. But he erred when he failed to understand that the three periods described in the Profound Secrets Sutra itself do not include all the various sutras.
When Fa-tsang, Ch’eng-kuan, and others divided all the teachings of the p.266Buddha’s lifetime up into the so-called five teachings, they assigned the Lotus Sutra and the Flower Garland Sutra to the category known as the perfect teaching and held the opinion that the Flower Garland Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra. Although the Flower Garland Sutra, which they favored, contains no mention of the fact that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood or that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the inconceivably remote past, they believed that it did in fact teach these two doctrines. Hence, though the Lotus Sutra is superior to the Flower Garland Sutra in this respect, they asserted that it is inferior to the Flower Garland Sutra, a view that is highly erroneous. Similarly, Chia-hsiang of the Three Treatises school, in expounding his doctrine of the two storehouses, asserted that the Wisdom sutras are superior to the Lotus Sutra, which is likewise an erroneous view. And when Shan-wu-wei and the others claimed that the Mahāvairochana Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra, they showed that they not only did not understand the real meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but did not really understand the Mahāvairochana Sutra either.
Question:47 If all these actions do in fact constitute slanders of the Law, then have the persons who committed them fallen into the evil paths of existence? What is your opinion on this?
Answer: The act of slandering the Law may belong to any of four categories, namely, those of upper, middle, lower, and miscellaneous slanders.48 The slander of the Law committed by men like Tz’u-en, Chia-hsiang, and Ch’eng-kuan would seem to fall into the upper or middle categories. In addition, probably because they themselves were aware that they had slandered the Law, they left writings in which they recanted their earlier views.
Again, there are two categories of rejection directed against the views of other teachers, apparent rejection and actual rejection. Sometimes one may be aware that the other person’s doctrine is superior, but for the sake of clarifying the issue, one appears to attack his teachings. This is what is called apparent rejection. Actual rejection is of two kinds. If one mistakenly believes that a superior sutra is in fact inferior and directs a refutation at it, this is actual rejection of the bad kind. But if one directs a refutation at a sutra that actually is inferior, this is actual rejection of the good kind.
With regard to the simile of the golden staff put forward by the Venerable Pārshva, it means that, though there are numerous different Hinayana sutras, they are alike in expounding the principles of suffering, non-substantiality, impermanence, and non-self. All the supporters of the Hinayana sutras subscribe to these doctrines, and although there are controversies among the eighteen or twenty Hinayana schools,49 these are controversies over the approach to the truth, not over the truth itself. Therefore these persons are not guilty of slandering the Law when they attack each other. But when the non-Buddhist believers attack the Hinayana sutras, they do so on the basis of non-Buddhist principles of permanence and existence, while the Hinayana sutras expound the principles of impermanence and non-substantiality. Therefore, when the non-Buddhists attack the Hinayana sutras, this constitutes a slandering of the Law.
The Mahayana sutras teach the principle of the Middle Way, while the Hinayana sutras teach that of non-substantiality. Therefore, when the supporters of the Hinayana sutras attack the Mahayana sutras, they are slandering the Law, but when the supporters of the Mahayana sutras attack the Hinayana sutras, they are not slandering the Law.
p.267The truth expounded in most of the Mahayana sutras has yet to be opened up and merged into the truth revealed in the Lotus Sutra because it does not make clear that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood and that the Buddha gained enlightenment in the inconceivably remote past. The truth expounded in the Lotus Sutra, on the other hand, opens up and merges the truth in the other sutras with itself because it does make clear these two facts. Therefore, when supporters of the other Mahayana sutras attack the Lotus Sutra, they are slandering the Law, but when supporters of the Lotus Sutra attack the other Mahayana sutras, they are not slandering the Law.
Thus, the Mahāvairochana Sutra and the teachings of the True Word school are regarded as teachings that have yet to be opened up and merged, because they do not reveal the two facts just mentioned concerning persons of the two vehicles and the time when the Buddha gained enlightenment. Hence they are classified as works and doctrines preached before the Lotus Sutra. If the Mahāvairochana Sutra were opened up and merged [with the Lotus Sutra] and revealed these two facts, then it would be in the same category as the Nirvana Sutra. But the doctrines of the evil element inherent in the Buddha’s life50 and of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, which were propounded by the Tripitaka Masters Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k’ung, and I-hsing, would appear to have been stolen from the teachings of T’ien-t’ai Chih-che. If so, then the slanders of the Law committed by Shan-wu-wei and these other men would belong to the category of apparent rejection or of miscellaneous slander of the Law.
In the case of the five hundred arhats, the reason for their attaining enlightenment is to be found in the twelve-linked chain of causation expounded in the Hinayana teachings. Through ignorance, action, and the other links in the chain they were able to attain an understanding of the principle of non-substantiality. Thus, though one may argue over which particular approach to take, this does not constitute slandering of the Law.
As for the four intentions of preaching described in Summary of the Mahayana and the four ways of preaching described in Great Perfection of Wisdom, the authors, Bodhisattva Asanga and Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna, scholars who lived after the passing of the Buddha, understood that the Lotus Sutra constitutes the heart of all the sutras. Hence they employed these categories of four intentions of preaching and four ways of preaching in order to reveal the meaning of the doctrines contained in the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra. But if one takes the four intentions of preaching and four ways of preaching that are based on an understanding that has been opened up and merged, and confuses them with the four intentions of preaching and four ways of preaching that are based on an understanding that has yet to be opened up and merged, how can this be anything but slander of the Law?
Someone who is perfectly clear in his understanding of these various points may be said to understand the teaching.
There are four phrases concerning faith or belief: first, to believe but not understand; second, to understand but not believe; third, to both believe and understand; and fourth, to neither believe nor understand.
Question: If a person believes but does not understand, should he be called a slanderer of the Law?
Answer: The Lotus Sutra says that one can “gain entrance through faith alone,”51 and the ninth volume of the Nirvana Sutra says the same thing.52 p.268[Hence he is not to be regarded as a slanderer of the Law.]
Objection: The thirty-sixth volume of the Nirvana Sutra says: “I have explained in the sutras that there are two types of people who slander the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order. First are those who do not believe and whose hearts are filled with hatred and anger. Second are those who, although they believe, do not understand the doctrines. Good man,53 if a person has a believing heart but lacks wisdom, he will simply fall into greater and greater ignorance. And if a person has wisdom but lacks a believing heart, he will simply become more and more enmeshed in erroneous views. Good man, because the person who does not believe has hatred and anger in his heart, he will deny the existence of the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order. And because the person who believes is lacking in wisdom, his understanding of the doctrines will be topsy-turvy and he will cause those who hear the Law to slander the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order.” This passage seems to be saying that, with these two types of persons, the one who believes but does not understand is a slanderer of the Law. What is your opinion on this?
Answer: This person who believes but does not understand corresponds to the second of the seven types of persons in the Ganges River as described in the thirty-sixth volume of the Nirvana Sutra. A person such as this, when he hears the Nirvana Sutra expound the doctrine that “all living beings alike possess the Buddha nature,” will believe and yet again he will not believe.
Question: What do you mean by believing and yet not believing?
Answer: When he hears the doctrine that all living beings possess the Buddha nature expounded, he believes it, and yet in his heart he continues to give credence to the views expounded in the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra, believing that there is a certain type of human being who does not possess the Buddha nature. This is what is meant by believing and yet not believing.
Question: What scriptural proof do you have of this?
Answer: The Nirvana Sutra, speaking of the second type of persons in the Ganges River, says: “Thus when such a person hears this Great Nirvana Sutra, he is able to conceive a believing heart. So he is named among those who are able to get out of the river.” But it also says, “Though one believes that living beings possess the Buddha nature, one supposes this does not mean that all of them invariably do so. This is called the state of insufficient belief.”
According to these passages, though such a person declares with his lips that he believes in the Nirvana Sutra, in his heart he continues to give credence to the doctrines of the earlier sutras. As we have seen, the Nirvana Sutra says of such a person of this second type, “Because the person who believes is lacking in wisdom, his understanding of the doctrines will be topsy-turvy.” To understand the doctrines in a topsy-turvy fashion means to read a passage from the true sutra but interpret it in accordance with the doctrines of the provisional sutras.
Question: What passages of scripture can you cite to support your contention that the person who believes but does not understand can attain the way?
Answer: The thirty-second volume of the Nirvana Sutra says, “Although there are innumerable causes that lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith, then that includes all those causes.” And in volume nine of the same sutra, we read: “Once you have finished listening to this sutra, then you will possess all of the various causes and p.269conditions leading to enlightenment. When the voice of the Law and the Buddha’s shining light have entered into a person’s pores, then he will be certain to attain supreme enlightenment.” And the Lotus Sutra, as we have seen, says that one can “gain entrance through faith alone.”
Question: What about those who understand but do not believe? Are they slanderers of the Law?
Answer: They belong to the first type of persons in the Ganges River.
Question: What scriptural passages can you cite?
Answer: Volume thirty-six of the Nirvana Sutra, speaking of persons of this first type, says: “If a person listens to the Great Nirvana Sutra describing the Buddha who is permanently abiding, knows no change, and enjoys the virtues of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity, and yet in the end that person fails to believe that all living beings alike possess the Buddha nature, he is an icchantika. A person may slander the correct and equal sutras, commit the five cardinal sins, and go against the four grave prohibitions, and yet in the end he will attain enlightenment. Persons who have reached the stage of stream-winner, the stage of the once-returner, the stage of the non-returner, or the stage of arhat,54 and pratyekabuddhas will invariably attain supreme perfect enlightenment. But one who is an icchantika, when he hears these facts expounded, will give way to disbelief in his heart.”
Question: This passage deals with those who do not believe, but it does not say anything about those who understand but do not believe. What passage can you cite that pertains to the latter?
Answer: The passage from the Nirvana Sutra cited above that deals with the first type of person concludes by saying, “If a person has wisdom but lacks a believing heart, he will simply become more and more enmeshed in erroneous views.”

Chapter Sixteen: The Life Span of the Thus Come One
Twenty-seven important points

Point One, concerning Chapter Sixteen, The Life Span of the Thus Come One Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, volume nine, says: “Thus Come One is a general designation for the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences, for the two Buddhas, the three Buddhas,1 the Buddha of the essential teaching, and the Buddha of the theoretical teaching. Specifically, it is a special designation for the three Buddhas of the original state. Juryō, or Life Span, refers to an overall reckoning. It indicates an overall reckoning of the benefits of the two Buddhas, the three Buddhas, and all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences. Therefore the chapter is called the Juryō-hon, or [Reckoning of] the Life Span chapter.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The title of this chapter deals with an important matter that concerns Nichiren himself. This is the transmission described in the “Supernatural Powers” chapter. The Thus Come One is Shakyamuni Buddha or, more generally speaking, all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences. Or, more specifically, it refers p.124to the Buddha of the original state who is eternally endowed with the three bodies.
Now it is the understanding of Nichiren and his followers that, generally speaking, the term “Thus Come One” refers to all living beings. More specifically, it refers to the disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren.
This being the case, the term “eternally endowed with the three bodies” refers to the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law.
The title of honor for one who is eternally endowed with the three bodies is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what the three great concerns of actuality2 of the “Life Span” chapter refer to.
Speaking in terms of the six stages of practice, the Thus Come One in this chapter is an ordinary mortal who is in the first stage, that of being a Buddha in theory. When one reverently accepts Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, one is in the next stage, that of hearing the name and words of the truth. That is, one has for the first time heard the daimoku. When, having heard the daimoku, one proceeds to put it into practice, this is the third stage, that of perception and action. In this stage one perceives the object of devotion that embodies the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. When one succeeds in overcoming various obstacles of illusions, this is the fourth stage, that of resemblance to enlightenment. When one sets out to convert others, this is the fifth stage, that of progressive awakening. And when one comes at last to the realization that one is a Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies, then one is a Buddha of the sixth and highest stage, that of ultimate enlightenment.
Speaking of the chapter as a whole, the idea of gradually overcoming illusions is not the ultimate meaning of the “Life Span” chapter. You should understand that the ultimate meaning of this chapter is that ordinary mortals, just as they are in their original states of being, are Buddhas.
p.125And if you ask what is the action or practice carried out by the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies, it is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Point Two, regarding the words “You must listen carefully and hear of the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage supports the concept of one who is eternally endowed with the three bodies. Various interpretations on these words have been transmitted.
As for the transcendental powers, the actions that are carried out instant by instant, motion by motion, by us living beings are regarded as transcendental powers. Thus the voices of the wardens of hell punishing the offenders are all to be termed transcendental powers. The countless things in the three thousand realms that undergo the process of birth, abiding, change, and extinction, are all in themselves embodiments of transcendental powers.
But in the view of Nichiren and his followers, the realization and understanding of the concept of attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form is what is meant by “the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers.” For outside of the attainment of Buddhahood, there is no “secret” and no “transcendental powers.”
The eternally endowed three bodies mentioned here are gained through a single word. And that single word is “faith” or “to believe.” Therefore the sutra says, “We will believe and accept the Buddha’s words” (chapter sixteen). You should stop and consider the meaning of these two words “believe” and “accept.”

Point Three, regarding the words “But good men, it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood.”

p.126The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “I in fact” is explaining that Shakyamuni in fact attained Buddhahood in the inconceivably remote past. The meaning of this chapter, however, is that “I” represents the living beings of the Dharma-realm. “I” here refers to each and every being in the Ten Worlds. “In fact” establishes that “I” is a Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies. This is what is being called “fact.” “Attained” refers both to the one who attains and to the thing attained. “Attain” means to open or reveal. It is to reveal that the beings of the Dharma-realm are Buddhas eternally endowed with the three bodies. “Buddhahood” means being enlightened to this.
In the word “since” (irai), the element i (already, or having passed) refers to the past, and the element rai (coming) refers to the future. And the present is included in these two elements i and rai.
The passage is thus saying that “I [or the beings of the Dharma-realm] in fact revealed” the Buddhahood that is immeasurable and boundless in both past and future. It is referring to the hundred worlds and thousand factors and the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. The two words “hundred” and “thousand” in the sutra passage refer to the hundred worlds and the thousand factors. These then represent the reality of three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
Now Nichiren and his followers, those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the original lords of teachings of the “Life Span” chapter. Generally speaking, the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching are not the sort of persons who are qualified to handle this chapter. For they employ an approach in which the theoretical teaching is on the surface and the essential teaching is in the background, while Nichiren and his followers employ an approach in which the essential teaching is in the forefront and the theoretical teaching is in the background.
Be that as it may, this chapter does not represent the teaching that is essential for the Latter Day of the Law. The reason is that this chapter embodies the Buddhism of the harvest suitable for the time when the Buddha was in the world. But only the five p.127characters of the daimoku constitute the Buddhism of sowing that is suitable for the present time. Thus, the Buddhism of the harvest is for the time when the Buddha was in the world, and the Buddhism of sowing is for the time after his passing. Hence it is the Buddhism of sowing that is needed in the Latter Day of the Law.

Point Four, regarding the passage “The Thus Come One perceives the true aspect of the threefold world exactly as it is. There is (u) no (mu) ebb or flow of birth and death, and there is no existing in this world and later entering extinction.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The “Thus Come One” is the living beings of the threefold world. When we look at these living beings through the eyes of the “Life Span” chapter, we can see and understand the true aspect of these beings who in their original states possess the Ten Worlds.
The aspect or characteristics of the threefold world are birth, aging, sickness, and death. But if we look at birth and death in terms of their true nature, then there is no birth or death. And if there is no birth or death, then there is no ebb or flow. Not only do birth and death not exist. To look on birth and death with repulsion and try to escape from them is termed delusion, or a viewpoint of acquired enlightenment.3 Seeing and understanding the originally inherent nature of birth and death is termed awakening, or original enlightenment.
Now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they realize the originally inherent nature of birth and death, and the originally inherent nature of ebb and flow.
We may also say that nonexistence (mu) and existence (u), birth and death, ebbing and flowing, existing in this world and p.128entering extinction, are all, every one of them, actions of the eternally abiding inherent nature.
“Nonexistence” indicates that the actions of Myoho-renge-kyo are none other than the Dharma-realm. “Existence” indicates that hell, just as it is, is the total entity of the Wonderful Law originally endowed with the Ten Worlds. “Birth” indicates the Wonderful Law appearing as birth in accordance with changing circumstances. “Death” is death as seen through the “Life Span” chapter, in which the Dharma-realm is at the same time the true aspect of reality. Because there is “ebb,” there is “entering extinction,” and because there is “flow,” there is “existing in the world.”
Thus [in terms of the three truths], nonexistence, death, ebbing, and extinction represent the truth of non-substantiality or emptiness. Existence, birth, flowing, and existing in the world represent the truth of temporary existence. And [the true aspect of the threefold world that] the Thus Come One perceives exactly as it is, is the truth of the Middle Way.
[In terms of the three bodies], nonexistence, death, ebbing, and extinction represent the eternally endowed reward body. Existence, birth, flowing, and existing in the world represent the eternally endowed manifested body. And [the true aspect of the threefold world that] the Thus Come One perceives exactly as it is, is the eternally endowed Dharma body.
These three bodies are our own single bodies. This is why [Words and Phrases, volume nine] says, “The single body is none other than the three bodies, a statement that is secret.” And this is also why it says, “The three bodies are none other than the single body, a statement that is secret.”
Thus the Buddha of the Lotus that is the entity of the Law (chapter eleven, point six), who is eternally endowed with the three bodies, is Nichiren and his disciples and lay supporters. That is because they embrace the title of honor, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Point Five, regarding the passage “Because if the Buddha remains in the world for a long time, those persons with p.129shallow virtue will fail to plant good roots but, living in poverty and lowliness, will become attached to the five desires and be caught in the net of deluded thoughts and imaginings.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage in the sutra explains that, if the Buddha remains in the world for a long time, then people with shallow virtue will fail to plant good roots, and meanwhile will become caught in the net of deluded thoughts or views.
Essentially, these “persons with shallow virtue” are living beings who failed to heed the Law when the Buddha was in the world and now, after his passing, have been born in this country of Japan. They are the so-called slanderers of the Law such as the believers of the Nembutsu, Zen, and True Word teachings.
In the phrase “fail to plant good roots,” the term “good roots” refers to the daimoku. “Fail to plant” refers to those who have yet to embrace the daimoku.
“Imaginings” refers to assertions such as that one should “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” the Lotus Sutra, or that the Lotus Sutra ranks in third place among the sutras. Views such as these are called “imaginings.”
The word “deluded” refers to sutra teachings that are based on the deluded words of the provisional teachings. “Thoughts” refers to mistaken views. To insist that the Lotus Sutra, first among the sutras, actually ranks third is an example of a mistaken view. “In the net of” means in the company of persons who slander the Law and do not have faith.
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are persons who have abandoned those sutras that embody deluded views and the company of those who are “caught in the net.”

Point Six, regarding the passage “After he has gone, the children drink some kind of poison that makes them distraught with pain and they fall writhing to the ground.”

p.130The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “Some kind” refers to [the kind administered by] the priests of the Nembutsu, Zen, and True Word teachings, who slander the Law. “Poison” refers to the expedient means of the provisional teachings, that is, something other than the good medicine of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore “the children” become confused and distraught. “Distraught” means to be deprived of breath. They have become distraught because they lack the life force of the “Life Span” chapter. “They fall writhing to the ground” indicates that they fall into the Avīchi hell.
Regarding the passage on the children who drink poison, the commentary [Words and Phrases, volume nine] says, “To believe and accept the doctrines of erroneous teachers is referred to as ‘drinking poison.’”
The children represent those who slander the Law, and the poison that is drunk is the provisional doctrines of Amida, Mahāvairochana, and their like. But now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are not drinking poison.

Point Seven, on the words “Some are completely out of their minds, while others are not.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “completely out of their minds,” or more literally, “had lost their original minds,” refer to slandering of the Law. “Original minds” refers to the seeds of enlightenment sown by the Buddha. “While others are not” refers to the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
To “lose” or be “out of one’s mind” here means to lose something that one originally possessed. The fact that now Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is an indication that they have not lost their original minds.

Point Eight, regarding the passage “Gathering fine medicinal herbs that meet all the requirements of color, fragrance and flavor, he grinds, sifts, and mixes them together. p.131Giving a dose of these to his children, he tells them: ‘This is a highly effective medicine, meeting all the requirements of color, fragrance, and flavor. Take it and you will quickly be relieved of your sufferings and will be free of all illness.’”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage of the sutra deals with the three truths of non-substantiality, temporary existence, and the Middle Way, and with the three types of learning, namely, precepts, meditation, and wisdom. These are the “highly effective medicine, meeting all the requirements of color, fragrance, and flavor.”
“Grinding” stands for the truth of non-substantiality, “sifting” for the truth of temporary existence, and “mixing together” for the truth of the Middle Way. “Giving” means to deliver or entrust something to someone, and the “children” are the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. When [he gives a dose to his children and] they take it, this indicates that they accept and uphold [the Lotus Sutra]. The passage is saying that it is “a highly effective medicine, meeting all the requirements of color, fragrance, and flavor.” “All” here means that it is the highly effective medicine of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that includes the ten thousand practices, ten thousand good acts, and the various pāramitās.
The words “color, fragrance” mean that “there is not one color or one fragrance that is not the Middle Way”4 and refer to the attainment of Buddhahood by plants and trees. This means, then, that in the five characters of the daimoku there is not a single thing that is not included. Therefore, if we take a dose of it, we will “quickly be relieved of our sufferings.”
For this reason, taking the highly effective medicine of the Wonderful Law will relieve us of the sufferings inflicted by earthly desires, the three poisons of greed, anger, and foolishness.
The votaries of the Lotus Sutra, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, do not accept the alms of those who slander the Law, and thereby they are relieved of the sickness of greedy desires. The p.132votaries of the Lotus Sutra, though they are cursed and abused, practice forbearance, and thereby they are relieved of the sickness of anger. The votaries of the Lotus Sutra know that they will attain Buddhahood for, as the sutra says, “Such a person assuredly and without doubt / will attain the Buddha way” (chapter twenty-one, Supernatural Powers), and they are thereby relieved of the earthly desires associated with foolishness. This “highly effective medicine” is thus the sweet dew that insures attainment of Buddhahood in the Latter Day of the Law.
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the original possessors of this highly effective medicine.

Point Nine, regarding the passage “Because the poison has penetrated deeply and their minds no longer function as before. So although the medicine is of excellent color and fragrance, they do not perceive it as good.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “the poison has penetrated deeply” refer to persons who have become deeply committed to the provisional teachings, an action that constitutes slander of the Law. For that reason, they do not believe or accept the highly effective medicine of the Lotus Sutra. Though one gives them a dose of it, these persons spit it out because “they do not perceive it as good,” that is, it is distasteful to them.
But now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, cannot be said to be among those who “do not perceive it as good.”

Point Ten, regarding the passage “I will leave this good medicine here. You should take it and not worry that it will not cure you.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “This good medicine” refers to the sutra teachings or to the relics of the Buddha. But in the Latter Day of the Law it refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
p.133“Good” indicates something that is favored by all the Buddhas of the three existences, namely, the five characters of the daimoku. “I will leave this” indicates that it is for the Latter Day of the Law. “Here” means the country of Japan in the continent of Jambudvīpa. “You” means all the living beings in the Latter Day of the Law.
“Take it,” or more literally, “take and swallow it,” refers to the ceremony we perform when we accept and uphold the Lotus Sutra. “Swallow” refers to the chanting of the daimoku. From the time we swallow it, we become eternally endowed with the three bodies. Thus we are cured of the sickness of attachment to the Buddha who first attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree.
Now this is what Nichiren and his followers are doing when they chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Point Eleven, regarding the passage “[Ever] since I attained Buddhahood / the number of kalpas that have passed / is an immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, / millions, trillions, asamkhyas.” 5

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The traditional interpretation of this passage holds that it refers in this one sentence to the three bodies of a Buddha. The word “since” refers to the nine worlds other than Buddhahood, while the word “I” refers to the world of Buddhahood. It is saying that these Ten Worlds are part of the makeup of a Buddha with his eternally endowed three bodies. The Buddha includes both the “since” and the “I,” which makes it clear that he has from the very beginning possessed all Ten Worlds.
p.134“I” stands for the Dharma body, “Buddhahood” stands for the reward body, and “ever” stands for the manifested body. These three bodies have been self-attained by the ancient Buddha who is without beginning or end. The same idea is expressed in the passage that reads, “This cluster of unsurpassed jewels / has come to us unsought” (chapter four, Belief and Understanding). Thus we see that the passages in this chapter that reveal the original enlightenment of the Buddha and the extremely great length of his life span are something never to be found in the other sutra teachings.
Now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are acting as votaries of these words, “since I attained Buddhahood.”

Point Twelve, on the words “In order to save living beings, / as an expedient means I appear to enter nirvana.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage of the sutra indicates that the Nirvana Sutra derives from the Lotus Sutra. It is already being referred to as an expedient means.

Point Thirteen, on the words “I am always here, preaching the Law.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “Always here” refers to the place where the votaries of the Lotus Sutra abide. “Here” is the sahā world. “Mountain valleys or the wide wilderness” (chapter twenty-one, Supernatural Powers)—this is what the sutra means when it speaks of “here.”
“Preaching the Law” is the sound of the words of all living beings, that is, the sound of preaching the Law through the wisdom that is freely received and used, a part of their original makeup. Now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, preaching the Law means Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the preaching of the Law carried out now by Nichiren and his followers.

p.135Point Fourteen, on the words “Then I and the assembly of monks / appear together on Holy Eagle Peak.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage refers to “the assembly on Holy Eagle Peak which continues in solemn state and has not yet disbanded.” “Then,” or the time when this takes place, is the Latter Day of the Law, the time when the Buddha responds to the receptiveness of the people. “I” refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, “and” to the bodhisattvas, and “assembly of monks” to the holy assembly [the voice-hearers and pratyekabuddhas]. “Together” means all the Ten Worlds. “Holy Eagle Peak” is the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. That is, “at this time ‘I,’ ‘and,’ and ‘the assembly of monks’ appear together on Holy Eagle Peak.”
This must be kept secret! This must be kept secret! This is a clear statement of the actuality of three thousand realms in a single moment of life of the essential teaching. The Gohonzon is the realization and manifestation of this passage. In that sense, the word “together” stands for the principle of eternal and unchanging truth, while the word “appear” stands for the wisdom of the truth that accords with changing circumstances. “Together” is a single moment of life, while “appear” is the three thousand realms.
Again we may say that the word “then” refers to the time when [the Buddha and the others appear in] the sahā world at the time of the essential teaching. [The beings indicated in] this sentence represent the mandala of the Ten Worlds in their entirety. Therefore the time indicated by the word “then” is the fifth five hundred year period, or the Latter Day of the Law. “I” refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, “and” to the bodhisattvas, and “assembly of monks” to the persons of the two vehicles. “Together” refers to [the beings of] the six paths. “Appear” means to be ranged side by side in the Pure Land of Holy Peak [Holy Eagle Peak]. “Holy Peak” refers to the Gohonzon. It also refers to the place where Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, dwell.

Point Fifteen, regarding the passage “When living beings p.136witness the end of a kalpa / and all is consumed in a great fire, / this, my land, remains safe and tranquil, / constantly filled with heavenly and human beings. / The halls and pavilions in its gardens and groves / are adorned with various kinds of gems. / Jeweled trees abound in flowers and fruit / where living beings enjoy themselves at ease. / The gods strike heavenly drums, / constantly making many kinds of music. / Māndārava blossoms rain down, / scattering over the Buddha and the great assembly. / My pure land is not destroyed, / yet the multitude see it as consumed in fire, / with anxiety, fear, and other sufferings / filling it everywhere. / These living beings with their various offenses, / through causes arising from their evil actions, / spend asamkhya kalpas / without hearing the name of the three treasures. / But those who practice meritorious ways, / who are gentle, peaceful, honest, and upright, / all of them will see me / here in person, preaching the Law.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage is a hymn of praise on the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life revealed in the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching. The words “When . . . all is consumed in a great fire” in fact signify the great fire of earthly desires. The words “this, my land, remains safe and tranquil” refer to the realm of the environment. The words “where living beings enjoy themselves at ease” refer to the realm of living beings. The words “Jeweled trees abound in flowers and fruit” refer to the realm of the five components. Thus this part of the passage is clearly speaking of the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
Again we may say that the passage refers to the Ten Worlds. The “great fire” stands for the world of hell, “heavenly drums” stands for that of animals, and “heavenly and human beings” for the two worlds of human and heavenly beings, which are “constantly filled with heavenly and human beings.”
The words “māndārava blossoms” stand for the world of p.137voice-hearers, the words “gardens and groves” stand for that of pratyekabuddhas, the one word “and” in the phrase “the Buddha and the great assembly” stands for the world of bodhisattvas, and the words “scattering over the Buddha” stand for the world of Buddhas. The worlds of asuras and hungry spirits are implied in the lines “with anxiety, fear, and other sufferings / filling it everywhere.” These various worlds are referred to in the words “these living beings with their various offenses.”
However, the revelations in this “Life Span” chapter make clear that “all of them will see me,”6 that is, they make clear the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the very persons referred to here.

Point Sixteen, on the words “I am the father of this world.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “I” refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, the father of all living beings. The Lotus Sutra assures us that both the Buddha and the sutra itself possess the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent.
The assurance regarding the Buddha is found in the passage concerning the three virtues of the Buddha of the theoretical teaching that reads, “But now this threefold world / is all my domain, / and the living beings in it / are all my children. / . . . I am the only person / who can rescue and protect others” (chapter three, Simile and Parable). As for the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent as they pertain to the Buddha of the essential teaching, the virtue of sovereign is attested in the words “This, my land, remains safe and tranquil” (chapter sixteen); that of teacher in the words “Constantly I have preached the Law, teaching, converting” (ibid.); and that of parent in the words “I am the father of this world.”
The Great Teacher Miao-lo states in his commentary that p.138anyone who does not understand the text of the “Life Span” chapter is no more than a beast who has no understanding of a debt of gratitude [a summary of Miao-lo’s words from The Treatise of Five Hundred Questions].
As for the passages that attest to the fact that the sutra itself possesses these three virtues, the virtue of sovereign is attested in the words “As the Buddha is king of the doctrines, so likewise this sutra is king of the sutras” (chapter twenty-three, Medicine King). The virtue of teacher is attested in the words “this sutra can save all living beings” (ibid.). And the virtue of parent is attested in the words “And as the heavenly king, great Brahmā, is the father of all living beings, so this sutra likewise is father of all sages, worthies,” etc. (ibid.).
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the fathers of all living beings, for we save them from the torments of the hell of incessant suffering. The Nirvana Sutra says, “The varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are the Thus Come One’s own sufferings.” And Nichiren declares, The varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings.

Point Seventeen, on the words “Abandoning restraint, they give themselves up to the five desires / and fall into the evil paths of existence.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “Abandoning restraint” is a term designating slander of the Law. Those who do so are without doubt destined to fall into the Avīchi hell.
But now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are exempted from the fate referred to in this passage of the sutra.

Point Eighteen, on the words “Always I am aware of which living beings / practice the way, and which do not.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This p.139passage concerns the living beings of the Ten Worlds. The words “practice the way” stand for the four noble paths or the four higher worlds of existence, while the words “do not [practice the way]” stand for the six paths or the six lower worlds of existence.
Or again, one may say that “practice the way” represents the worlds of asuras, human beings, and heavenly beings, while “do not [practice the way]” represents the three evil paths.
Ultimately, now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, those who “practice the way” are the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, while those who “do not” are the slanderers of the Law. The word “way” stands for the Lotus Sutra. As T’ien-t’ai says, “The term ‘Buddha way’ refers to this sutra [the Lotus] in particular.”
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are those who “practice the way,” while those who do not chant it are those who “do not [practice the way].”

Point Nineteen, on the words “At all times I think to myself [literally, make this thought]”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “At all times” designates the three existences of past, present, and future. “Myself” refers specifically to Shakyamuni Buddha, and in a more general way to the Ten Worlds.
The words “this thought” in the phrase “make this thought” refer to the eternally inherent single thought of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The word “make” here is not the “make” of “made” or “created,” but rather the “make” of “not made” or “not created,” that is, eternal and inherent.
Broadly speaking, in terms of the inherent Ten Worlds, the word “myself” refers to each of the ten thousand entities of those worlds. “This thought” indicates that the voices of the hell wardens as they berate the inmates of hell, as well as all the other various thoughts of living beings, are all of them expressions of the wisdom of the Buddha of limitless joy. All of these are referred to in the word “thought.”
p.140Now the thought expressed by Nichiren and his followers as they chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the thought of great pity and compassion.

Point Twenty, on the words “How can I cause living beings / to gain entry into the unsurpassed way / and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The term “unsurpassed way” refers to the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies who is revealed in the “Life Span” chapter. Outside of this, there is no other “body of a Buddha” to be acquired.
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, will without doubt “acquire the body of a Buddha.”

Point Twenty-one, on the Jigage, or verse (ge) section, that begins with the words Jiga, or “Since I”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “Since” refers to the nine worlds, while the word “I” refers to the “body of a Buddha.”7 The ge, or verse, presents the principle of the teachings, the principle that both the nine worlds and Buddhahood exist in one’s original state of life. One should ponder it deeply.
The expression of this principle is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Point Twenty-two, on the beginning and end of the Jigage section

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “Since” (ji [which also means self or freely]) marks the beginning of the verse section, and the words “quickly acquire the body (shin) of a Buddha” mark the end. The beginning and end are “since” and “body,” which make up ji-shin (oneself). The words that are in between represent the receiving (ju) and use (yū) [of p.141the boundless benefits inherent in oneself]. Hence the Jigage section represents “the body [inherently endowed with boundless benefits] that is freely received and used” (ji-ju-yū-shin), or the Buddha of limitless joy.
If one realizes that the Dharma-realm is identical with oneself, then the Dharma-realm is the Buddha of limitless joy; hence there is nothing that is not contained in the Jigage section.
“The body that is freely received and used” is none other than the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. Dengyō says, “A single moment of life comprising the three thousand realms is itself ‘the body that is freely received and used’ [or the Buddha of limitless joy].8 ‘The body that is freely received and used’ is the Buddha who has forsaken august appearances. This Buddha who has forsaken august appearances is the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies.”
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are just this.

Point Twenty-three, on the term kuon, or time without beginning

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This chapter as a whole deals with the true attainment in kuon. Kuon means something that was not worked for, that was not improved upon, but that exists just as it always has.
Because we are speaking here of the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies, it is not a question of something attained for the first time at a certain time, or of something that was worked for. This is not the kind of Buddhahood that is adorned with the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics, or that needs to be improved on in any way. Because this is the p.142eternally abiding Buddha in his original state, he exists just as he always has. This is what is meant by kuon.
Kuon is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and “true attainment”9 means awakening to the fact that one is eternally endowed with the three bodies.

Point Twenty-four, on the country of those who are to be converted by the teachings of this “Life Span” chapter and the religious practice to be employed

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The country where the teachings of this chapter are to be propagated is Japan, or in more general terms, the continent of Jambudvīpa.
Those who are to be converted are all the living beings of Japan. The religious practice to be employed is the mind of faith, faith meaning “to be without doubt.”
Those who administer the teachings are the bodhisattvas of the essential teaching, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Point Twenty-five, concerning the establishment of the object of devotion

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This object of devotion is based on the passage that reads, “the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers” (chapter sixteen). The three types of learning, namely, precepts, meditation, and wisdom, are represented by the Three Great Secret Laws embodied in the “Life Span” chapter.
At Holy Eagle Peak, Nichiren without question faced the Buddha and received oral instruction from him in these three great laws. The object of devotion is thus the entity of the entire life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

p.143Point Twenty-six, concerning the person or persons to whom the “Life Span” chapter is addressed

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: In the context of the sutra itself, the chapter is addressed to the bodhisattva Maitreya. However, we are thinking basically in terms of the time after the passing of the Buddha. Therefore we must say that it is addressed to all the living beings of the country of Japan, and in particular to Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Maitreya represents the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. The name Maitreya means Compassionate One and designates the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
The Great Teacher Chang-an [in his commentary on the Nirvana Sutra] says, “One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.” Is this not a description of the bodhisattva Maitreya?

Point Twenty-seven, concerning the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies
The seed, the august form or appearance of the Buddha or other venerable beings, and samaya, the attributes or manual signs

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The august form of the Buddha or other venerable beings is a physical representation of the original state endowed with the Ten Worlds. The samaya are the things that inherently belong to the Ten Worlds. The seed represents the single word “faith.”
All these are Nam-myoho-renge-kyo just as it stands. Or we may say that the samaya is the gesture of pressing one’s palms together. Treat these matters as secret. Treat these matters as secret.

CHAPTER 16

The Life Span of the Thus Come One

At that time the Buddha spoke to the bodhisattvas and all the great assembly: “Good men, you must believe and understand the truthful words of the thus come one.” And again he said to the great assembly: “You must believe and understand the truthful words of the thus come one.” And once more he said to the great assembly: “You must believe and understand the truthful words of the thus come one.”
At that time the bodhisattvas and the great assembly, with Maitreya as their leader, pressed their palms together and addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored One, we beg you to explain. We will believe and accept the Buddha’s words.” They spoke in this manner three times, and then said once more: “We beg you to explain it. We will believe and accept the Buddha’s words.”
At that time the world-honored one, seeing that the bodhisattvas repeated their request three times and more, spoke to them, saying: “You must listen carefully and hear of the thus come one’s secret and his transcendental powers. In all the worlds the heavenly and human beings and asuras all believe that the present Shakyamuni Buddha, after leaving the palace of the Shakyas, seated himself in the place of enlightenment not far from the city of Gaya and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment. But good men, it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, p.266thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained buddhahood.
“Suppose a person were to take five hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayuta asamkhya major world systems and grind them to dust. Then, moving eastward, each time he passes five hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayuta asamkhya worlds he drops a particle of dust. He continues eastward in this way until he has finished dropping all the particles. Good men, what is your opinion? Can the total number of all these worlds be imagined or calculated?”
The bodhisattva Maitreya and the others said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, these worlds are immeasurable, boundless—one cannot calculate their number, nor does the mind have the power to encompass them. Even all the voice-hearers and pratyekabuddhas with their wisdom free of outflows could not imagine or understand how many there are. Although we abide in the stage of non-regression, we cannot comprehend such a matter. World-Honored One, these worlds are immeasurable and boundless.”
At that time the Buddha said to the multitude of great bodhisattvas: “Good men, now I will state this to you clearly. Suppose all these worlds, whether they received a particle of dust or not, are once more reduced to dust. Let one particle represent one kalpa. The time that has passed since I attained buddhahood surpasses this by a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayuta asamkhya kalpas.
“Ever since then I have been constantly in this saha world, preaching the Law, teaching, and converting. And elsewhere I have led and benefited living beings in hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas and asamkhyas of lands.
“Good men, during that time I have spoken about the buddha Burning Torch and others, and described how they entered nirvana. All this I employed as an expedient means to make distinctions.
“Good men, if there are living beings who come to me, I employ my buddha eye to observe whether their faith and other faculties are keen or dull, and then depending upon how p.267receptive they are to salvation, I appear in different places and preach to them under different names, and describe my life span as long or short. Sometimes when I make my appearance I say that I am about to enter nirvana, and also employ different expedient means to preach the subtle and wonderful Law, thus causing living beings to awaken joyful minds.
“Good men, the thus come one observes how among living beings there are those who delight in lesser teachings, meager in virtue and heavy with defilement. For such persons I describe how in my youth I left my household and attained supreme perfect enlightenment. But in truth the time since I attained buddhahood is extremely long, as I have told you. It is simply that I use this expedient means to teach and convert living beings and cause them to enter the buddha way. That is why I speak in this manner.
“Good men, the scriptures expounded by the thus come one are all for the purpose of saving and emancipating living beings. Sometimes I speak of myself, sometimes of others; sometimes I present myself, sometimes others; sometimes I show my own actions, sometimes those of others. All that I preach is true and not false.
“Why do I do this? The thus come one perceives the true aspect of the threefold world exactly as it is. There is no ebb or flow of birth and death, and there is no existing in this world and later entering extinction. It is neither substantial nor empty, neither consistent nor diverse. Nor is it what those who dwell in the threefold world perceive it to be. All such things the thus come one sees clearly and without error.
“Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and
making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, a buddha’s work, I have never for a moment neglected.
“Thus, since I attained buddhahood, an extremely long period of time has passed. My life span is an immeasurable number of asamkhya kalpas, and during that time I have constantly abided p.268here without ever entering extinction. Good men, originally I practiced the bodhisattva way, and the life span that I acquired then has yet to come to an end but will last twice the number of years that have already passed. Now, however, although in fact I do not actually enter extinction, I announce that I am going to adopt the course of extinction. This is an expedient means that the thus come one uses to teach and convert living beings.
“Why do I do this? Because if the Buddha remains in the world for a long time, those persons with shallow virtue will fail to plant good roots but, living in poverty and lowliness, will become attached to the five desires and be caught in the net of deluded thoughts and imaginings. If they see that the thus come one is constantly in the world and never enters extinction, they will grow arrogant and selfish, or become discouraged and neglectful. They will fail to realize how difficult it is to encounter the Buddha and will not approach him with a respectful and reverent mind.
“Therefore as an expedient means the thus come one says: ‘Monks, you should know that it is a rare thing to live at a time when one of the buddhas appears in the world.’ Why does he do this? Because persons of shallow virtue may pass immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of kalpas with some of them chancing to see a buddha and others never seeing one at all. For this reason I say to them: ‘Monks, the thus come one is hard to get to see.’ When living beings hear these words, they are certain to realize how difficult it is to encounter a buddha. In their minds they will harbor a longing and will thirst to gaze upon the buddha, and then they will work to plant good roots. Therefore the thus come one, though in truth he does not enter extinction, speaks of passing into extinction.
“Good men, the buddhas, the thus come ones, all act in such a manner. They act in order to save living beings, so what they say is true and not false.
“Suppose, for example, that there is a skilled physician who is wise and understanding and knows how to compound medicines to effectively cure all kinds of diseases. He has many sons, p.269perhaps ten, twenty, or even a hundred. He goes off to some other land far away to see about a certain affair. After he has gone, the children drink some kind of poison that makes them distraught with pain and they fall writhing to the ground.
“At that time the father returns to his home and finds that his children have drunk poison. Some are completely out of their minds, while others are not. Seeing their father from far off, all are overjoyed and kneel down and entreat him, saying: ‘How fine that you have returned safely. We were foolish and by mistake drank some poison. We beg you to cure us and let us live out our lives!’
“The father, seeing his children suffering like this, follows various prescriptions. Gathering fine medicinal herbs that meet all the requirements of color, fragrance, and flavor, he grinds, sifts, and mixes them together. Giving a dose of these to his children, he tells them: ‘This is a highly effective medicine, meeting all the requirements of color, fragrance, and flavor. Take it and you will quickly be relieved of your sufferings and will be free of all illness.’
“Those children who have not lost their senses can see that this is good medicine, outstanding in both color and fragrance, so they take it immediately and are completely cured of their sickness. Those who are out of their minds are equally delighted to see their father return and beg him to cure their sickness, but when they are given the medicine, they refuse to take it. Why? Because the poison has penetrated deeply and their minds no longer function as before. So although the medicine is of excellent color and fragrance, they do not perceive it as good.
“The father thinks to himself: My poor children! Because of the poison in them, their minds are completely befuddled. Although they are happy to see me and ask me to cure them, they refuse to take this excellent medicine. I must now resort to some expedient means to induce them to take the medicine. So he says to them: ‘You should know that I am now old and worn out, and the time of my death has come. I will leave this good medicine here. You should take it and not worry that it will not p.270cure you.’ Having given these instructions, he then goes off to another land, where he sends a messenger home to announce, ‘Your father is dead.’
“At that time the children, hearing that their father has deserted them and died, are filled with great grief and consternation and think to themselves: If our father were alive he would have pity on us and see that we are protected. But now he has abandoned us and died in some other country far away. We are shelterless orphans with no one to rely on!
“Constantly harboring such feelings of grief, they at last come to their senses and realize that the medicine is in fact excellent in color and fragrance and flavor, and so they take it and are healed of all the effects of the poison. The father, hearing that his children are all cured, immediately returns home and appears to them all once more.
“Good men, what is your opinion? Can anyone say that this skilled physician is guilty of lying?”
“No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha said: “It is the same with me. It has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayuta asamkhya kalpas since I attained buddhahood. But for the sake of living beings I employ the power of expedient means and say that I am about to pass into extinction. In view of the circumstances, however, no one can say that I have been guilty of lies or falsehoods.”
At that time the world-honored one, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

Since I attained buddhahood
the number of kalpas that have passed
is an immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands,
millions, trillions, asamkhyas.
Constantly I have preached the Law, teaching, converting
countless millions of living beings,
causing them to enter the buddha way,
all this for immeasurable kalpas.
In order to save living beings,
p.271as an expedient means I appear to enter nirvana
but in truth I do not pass into extinction.
I am always here, preaching the Law.
I am always here,
but through my transcendental powers
I make it so that living beings in their befuddlement
do not see me even when close by.
When the multitude sees that I have passed into extinction,
far and wide they offer alms to my relics.
All harbor thoughts of yearning
and in their minds thirst to gaze at me.
When living beings have become truly faithful,
honest and upright, gentle in intent,
single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha,
not hesitating even if it costs them their lives,
then I and the assembly of monks
appear together on Holy Eagle Peak.
At that time I tell the living beings
that I am always here, never entering extinction,
but that because of the power of expedient means
at times I appear to be extinct, at other times not,
and that if there are living beings in other lands
who are reverent and sincere in their wish to believe,
then among them too
I will preach the unsurpassed Law.
But you have not heard of this,
so you suppose that I enter extinction.
When I look at living beings
I see them drowned in a sea of suffering;
therefore I do not show myself,
causing them to thirst for me.
Then when their minds are filled with yearning,
at last I appear and preach the Law for them.
Such are my transcendental powers.
For asamkhya kalpas
constantly I have dwelled on Holy Eagle Peak
and in various other places.
p.272When living beings witness the end of a kalpa
and all is consumed in a great fire,
this, my land, remains safe and tranquil,
constantly filled with heavenly and human beings.
The halls and pavilions in its gardens and groves
are adorned with various kinds of gems.
Jeweled trees abound in flowers and fruit
where living beings enjoy themselves at ease.
The gods strike heavenly drums,
constantly making many kinds of music.
Mandarava blossoms rain down,
scattering over the Buddha and the great assembly.
My pure land is not destroyed,
yet the multitude sees it as consumed in fire,
with anxiety, fear, and other sufferings
filling it everywhere.
These living beings with their various offenses,
through causes arising from their evil actions,
spend asamkhya kalpas
without hearing the name of the three treasures.
But those who practice meritorious ways,
who are gentle, peaceful, honest, and upright,
all of them will see me
here in person, preaching the Law.
At times for this multitude
I describe the Buddha’s life span as immeasurable,
and to those who see the Buddha only after a long time
I explain how difficult it is to meet a buddha.
Such is the power of my wisdom
that its sagacious beams shine without measure.
This life span of countless kalpas
I gained as the result of lengthy practice.
You who are possessed of wisdom,
entertain no doubts on this point!
Cast them off, end them forever,
for the Buddha’s words are true, not false.
He is like a skilled physician
p.273who uses an expedient means to cure his deranged sons.
Though in fact alive, he gives out word he is dead,
yet no one can say he speaks falsely.
I am the father of this world,
saving those who suffer and are afflicted.
Because of the befuddlement of ordinary people,
though I live, I give out word I have entered extinction.
For if they see me constantly,
arrogance and selfishness arise in their minds.
Abandoning restraint, they give themselves up to the five desires
and fall into the evil paths of existence.
Always I am aware of which living beings
practice the way, and which do not,
and in response to their need for salvation
I preach various doctrines for them.
At all times I think to myself:
How can I cause living beings
to gain entry into the unsurpassed way
and quickly acquire the body of a buddha?

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