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9 March 2015

Chapter Two: Expedient Means – Point One, regarding the “Expedient Means” chapter

Eight important points


Point One, regarding the “Expedient Means” chapter

(Translator’s note: According to Words and Phrases, there are three types of hōben, or expedient means. The first is known as hōyū hōben,or “adaptations of the Law expedient means,” teachings that were preached in accordance with people’s capacities and tastes. They stress the truth of impermanence and the severing of attachment to the phenomenal world and correspond to Hinayana and early Mahayana. The second is called nōtsū hōben, or “expedient means that can lead one in,” teachings that the Buddha preached as a gateway to the true teaching. The third is called himyō hōben, or “the secret and wonderful expedient means,” which corresponds to the ultimate truth. “Secret and wonderful” refers to the fact that the Buddha concealed the truth for the first more than forty years of his preaching life, explaining it only in the Lotus Sutra. Unlike the first two expedients, the third type not only leads people to the truth but simultaneously contains the truth.)

Words and Phrases, volume three, states, “The  of hōben (expedient means) means secret. The ben means wonderful. ‘Wonderful’ leads to ‘secret’; this is identical with the truth, which is kept secret. When we examine what is meant by the priceless jewel sewn into the lining of the man’s robe (chapter eight, Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples), we see that it is in no way different from the jewel in the topknot of the king (chapter p.21fourteen, Peaceful Practices). And the man who is called a hired laborer is in fact no different from or apart from the rich man’s son (chapter four, Belief and Understanding). All of these similes point to what is secret, what is wonderful.

“It is as the Lotus Sutra says: ‘Only I [Shakyamuni] understand its [the Law’s] characteristics, / and the Buddhas of the ten directions do likewise’ (chapter two). ‘Stop, stop, no need to speak! / My Law is wonderful and difficult to ponder’ (ibid.). Therefore the term ‘secret’ is used to explain the  of hōben, and the term ‘wonderful’ is used to explain the ben. This is in fact the meaning that underlies this chapter. So it is called the ‘Expedient Means’ chapter.”

On “The Words and Phrases,” volume three, says, “The third type of expedient means is characterized as secret and wonderful. Because it can be termed wonderful, it is identical [with the truth]. . . . The perfect [teaching] is regarded as identical [with the truth], but the three [teachings—the Tripitaka, the connecting, and the specific teachings] are characterized as not identical [with the truth]. Therefore it is in contrast to these non-identical teachings that the teaching [of the Lotus Sutra] is characterized as being identical [with the truth].”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The priceless “jewel” mentioned in the passage of commentary from Words and Phrases is the jewel sewn into the lining of the robe, which is the same as the jewel in the king’s topknot. And the hired laborer is absolutely identical with the rich man’s son. But in the end persons who slander the Law and fail to have faith in it are followers of the provisional teachings outside the body of the truth, the teachings represented by two types of expedient means known as “adaptations of the Law” and those “that can lead one in.” For that reason, such persons cannot recognize [that the two jewels or the two persons in the above similes are] the same and no different from each other.

Now Nichiren and his followers, who recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are observers of the “secret and wonderful expedient p.22means,” teachings that are within the body of the truth. Therefore, after the title of the sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo, comes the chapter entitled “Expedient Means.”

In explaining the statement in Words and Phrases that “this is identical with the truth, which is kept secret,” in his On “The Words and Phrases,” volume three, Miao-lo says, “The perfect [teaching] is regarded as identical [with the truth].” And if identical means the perfect [teaching], then this must be another name for the Lotus Sutra. Identical must indicate the truth that ordinary people are identical with the highest level of being, or the Buddha of the true aspect of all phenomena. Perfect refers to the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. Though the words “identical” and “perfect” are different, they are each another name for “wonderful.” That all living beings are in fact the Buddha of the true aspect of all phenomena is a wonderful thing, an unfathomable thing! But persons who slander the Law are at present unaware of this fact. Therefore it is referred to as being secret.

The Record also says: The three thousand worlds of the Dharma-realm may be termed secret and wonderful. Secret means strict [or without a single exception]. The three thousand worlds, every single one of them, exit [in one’s life]. There is nothing more unfathomable than this! Even persons who are called great slanderers of the Law will in time come to accept and uphold Myoho-renge-kyo—this is the purpose of the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren and his followers are carrying out this task correctly. To take the persons and teachings of the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra and lead them into the body of teachings of the Lotus Sutra—this is the purpose of the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This is also termed the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form, or “their consistency from beginning to end” (chapter two), the consistency of the ten factors.

Again, the “Expedient Means” chapter represents the Ten Worlds, or in another sense it represents ignorance or darkness. p.23Myoho-renge-kyo, or the Lotus Sutra, stands at the apex of the Ten Worlds, and at the same time represents the Dharma nature. It exemplifies the principle that earthly desires are identical with enlightenment, that the sufferings of birth and death are identical with nirvana.

“The perfect [teaching] is regarded as identical [with the truth]” refers to the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. “Wonderful” and “identical [with the truth]” are synonymous. “Perfect” and “wonderful” are the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life expressed in a single word. “Perfect” refers to the true aspect of all phenomena. A commentary [The Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight,” volume one] explains the word “perfect” by saying, “Perfect means perfect and interfused or perfect and full.” “Perfect and interfused” refers to the theoretical teaching; “perfect and full” refers to the essential teaching. “Perfect” also refers to the two practices of concentration and insight. Again, it refers to the fact that we are made up of the two elements of body and mind. The expression of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, in a single word, is the secret storehouse of the Eshin school of teachings.

In the character en 圓, or “perfect,” the outer enclosure 囗 represents a single moment of life, while the element 員 (literally, number) represents three thousand realms. The principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life is unfathomable. This wonderful principle was never expounded in the three teachings previous to the Lotus Sutra, the Tripitaka teaching, the connecting teaching, and the specific teaching. Therefore it is called “secret.”

From all this you should understand that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo represents the expedient means of the single mind or life.1 Myoho-renge-kyo represents the ninth consciousness, while the Ten Worlds represent the levels from the eighth consciousness on down.

You should think all these matters over carefully. The  of p.24hōbenmay also refer to the ten directions. The ten directions are the same as the Ten Worlds. The ben of hōben indicates something that is unfathomable in nature.

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