Skip to content

nichilibrary.org

9 March 2015

Foreword

THE publication in a single volume of the translations of 172 writings of Nichiren Daishonin, including his five major works, is indeed wonderful news, not only for members of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), but for all English-speaking people interested in Buddhism. This volume is the translation of works in the Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshū (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin). Now a good half of the contents of that volume has been translated and published in English.
Looking back, I recall that the Gosho zenshū was published in April 1952, about one year after my mentor, Jōsei Toda, became the second president of the Soka Gakkai. Since then, the members of the Soka Gakkai in Japan have been fond of reading the Gosho zenshū as they have persevered in spreading the Buddhist teachings widely, exactly as the Daishonin willed, for the peace and prosperity of humankind.
Particularly since my visit to the United States in 1960, my first trip outside Japan, the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin have transcended national boundaries and spread to numerous countries around the world. Now the number of countries I have visited has also grown to fifty-four.
Today the expansion of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism to 128 countries and territories worldwide attests to the realization of these golden words of the Daishonin: “The moon appears in the west and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west. The same is true of Buddhism. It spread from west to east in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, but will travel from east to west in the Latter Day” (p. 401).
A world religion invariably has its sacred scriptures, or original texts. In Buddhism, for instance, there are sutras that record the teachings of Shakyamuni; in Christianity, there is the Bible; in Islam, the Koran.
The scriptures of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism are called the “Gosho.” (“Go” is an honorific prefix and “sho” means writings; thus, literally, honorable writings.) These writings have a distinguishing feature that sets them apart from the sacred texts of other religions. It is the fact that the founder, Nichiren Daishonin, wrote those works himself. Though the originals of many of those works have been lost, many important writings, including more than half of those known as the ten major works, have been handed down to the present in their original form. Naturally, with the worldwide spread of this Buddhism a demand has grown for the translation of those works, and efforts are now being made in many countries in that direction.
The Daishonin’s successor, Nikkō Shōnin (1246–1333), envisioned early on that, for the sake of worldwide propagation, the writings of his teacher were certain to be translated in the future. He declared: “Just as when the Buddhism of India spread eastward, the Sanskrit texts were translated and introduced in China and Japan, so when the time comes to widely declare the sacred teachings of this country, the Japanese texts are sure to be translated and spread in China and India. There is no reason to argue over translations that will benefit far-off lands. I alone worry about changes being made according to personal views” (Gosho zenshū).
Buddhism calls our present age the Latter Day of the Law. It is a period described in the sutras as an evil age defiled by the five impurities, in which people’s lives are muddied, and their confusion of thought is extreme. I am convinced that the Gosho is the one book that can dispel the darkness of this period and illuminate the third millennium. I believe it is the Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin that is indeed the scripture for the Latter Day of the Law, the scripture for all eternity.
The Gosho is a work of faith, of philosophy, of daily living, of eternal peace, and of boundless hope. It is set with myriad jewels of guidance. SGI members have read a single passage of the Gosho with their entire life, and not only changed their lives for the better but also achieved their human revolution.
What is the purpose of our studying the Gosho? The answer is expressed clearly in the following passage: “Believe in the Gohonzon, the supreme object of devotion in all of Jambudvīpa. Be sure to strengthen your faith, and receive the protection of Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions. Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (p. 386).
The main elements of the practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism are summed up in this passage. What is important is, first, faith; second, practice; and third, study. Strong faith leads us directly to Buddhahood. And it is practice and study that deepen and strengthen that faith. For us, study must never be a mere accumulation of knowledge. It must be strictly a practical study to deepen one’s own faith and elevate one’s own state of life.
Moreover, the path of practice and study leads to the Gohonzon and to society. Because of practice and study, we face the Gohonzon, recite the sutra, and chant daimoku. With the wisdom and life force gained thereby, we carry out our practice and study in the midst of society. Herein lies what we call the bodhisattva way. That is the action of leading other people toward lasting happiness while striving to establish enduring peace for humanity. That practice begins with the inner reformation of the individual, and through that practice, the substance of our lives is deepened and enriched. The ultimate of those changes is the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime, or in modern terms, human revolution or self-actualization.
When the Daishonin talks about the Lotus Sutra, it is no longer a mere sacred scripture of the past. How overjoyed those who heard his teachings must have been on learning that the Lotus Sutra is alive in the realities of life, and that it teaches one’s own precious dignity. Our attitude when we read the Gosho should be the same.
The Gosho was written in thirteenth-century Japan. No matter what idea one expresses, one can never avoid what the sociologist Karl Mannheim described as the “existential determination of knowledge.” That is, it is perfectly natural that ideas be bound by various conditions of the society and age that are quite unrelated to the ideas themselves.
Thus, the Daishonin’s writings also reflect the cultural and social conditions of his time. Nevertheless, universal principles both timeless and unchanging are beautifully expressed therein. Our responsibility, I believe, is to read and extract those principles, and bring them to life in the present.
To give just one example, the Daishonin writes, “Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart” (p. 579). In modern terms, we might say that this well-known passage from The Selection of the Time expresses the ideals of freedom of spirit, freedom of religion, and freedom of thought.
Because of the pioneering nature of the Daishonin’s ideas, he was rejected by the feudalistic society of his time. At the Daishonin’s asserting that a debate on the teachings—in other words, discussion—is the only fair means of determining the superiority of a religion, the eminent priests of various schools, who were in collusion with government authorities, responded with violence unacceptable in a religious person.
In that sense, the Gosho is also the record of the Daishonin’s confrontation with the leaders of the political and religious worlds of his day. And the motivating power for that unyielding struggle was none other than his strength of spirit. The Daishonin writes: “Everyone in Japan, from the sovereign on down to the common people, without exception has tried to do me harm, but I have survived until this day. You should realize that this is because, although I am alone, I have firm faith” (p. 614).
The Daishonin clearly describes his circumstances during this period in this passage of Letter from Sado: “It is the nature of beasts to threaten the weak and fear the strong. Our contemporary scholars of the various schools are just like them. They despise a wise man without power, but fear evil rulers. They are no more than fawning retainers. Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove one’s real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with priests of erroneous teachings tries to destroy the correct teaching and do away with a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood. Like Nichiren, for example. I say this not out of arrogance, but because I am deeply committed to the correct teaching. An arrogant person will always be overcome with fear when meeting a strong enemy” (p. 302).
In the midst of that battle with authority and power, in which he never begrudged even his life, the meticulousness of the Daishonin’s concern for his followers is absolutely astonishing. In response to the offerings he received from them, he wrote letters to each one, noting the items they had sent, and encouraging them in their faith. And to those believers grieving for the husband or child they had lost, he extended the utmost sincerity, giving them the courage and hope to live.
Religion exists to resonate vibrantly within each person. Even if one discusses the happiness of all human beings, if it is spoken of apart from the happiness of a single human being, that is mere theory.
The Daishonin writes: “The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (p. 852).
It is when the fruits of studying the Gosho show in our own behavior that we can say we have truly read it.
Thus I am praying that, with great seeking spirit and deep faith, SGI friends throughout the world will tackle the serious study of the Gosho.
In conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the staff of the Gosho Translation Committee, who were in charge of the translation and editing of this volume. I also offer my deep gratitude to Dr. Burton Watson, the translator of The Lotus Sutra, who made so many invaluable contributions in translation.

Daisaku Ikeda
President
Soka Gakkai International
1
On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime

Background
IF you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured since time without beginning and to attain without fail unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime, you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth innate in all life.
The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, true and correct in both word and principle. Its words are the ultimate reality, and this reality is the Mystic Law (myōhō). It is called the Mystic Law because it reveals the principle of the mutually inclusive relationship of a single moment of life and all phenomena. That is why this sutra is the wisdom of all Buddhas.
Life at each moment encompasses the body and mind and the self and environment of all sentient beings in the Ten Worlds as well as all insentient beings in the three thousand realms, including plants, sky, earth, and even the minutest particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in all phenomena. To be awakened to this principle is itself the mutually inclusive relationship of life at each moment and all phenomena. Nevertheless, even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching. “Inferior teaching” means those other than this [Lotus] sutra, which are all expedient and provisional. No expedient or provisional teaching leads directly to enlightenment, and without the direct path to enlightenment you cannot attain Buddhahood, even if you practice lifetime after lifetime for countless kalpas. Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime is then impossible. Therefore, when you chant myōhō and recite renge,1 you must summon up deep faith that Myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself.
You must never think that any of the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime or any of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences are outside yourself. Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your life. If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, then your performing even ten thousand practices and ten thousand good deeds will be in vain. It is like the case of a poor man who spends night and day counting his neighbor’s wealth but gains not even half a coin. That is why the T’ien-t’ai school’s commentary states, “Unless p.4one perceives the nature of one’s life, one cannot eradicate one’s grave offenses.”2 This passage implies that, unless one perceives the nature of one’s life, one’s practice will become an endless, painful austerity. Therefore, such students of Buddhism are condemned as non-Buddhist. Great Concentration and Insight states that, although they study Buddhism, their views are no different from those of non-Buddhists.
Whether you chant the Buddha’s name,3 recite the sutra, or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefits and roots of goodness in your life. With this conviction you should strive in faith. The Vimalakīrti Sutra states that, when one seeks the Buddhas’ emancipation in the minds of ordinary beings, one finds that ordinary beings are the entities of enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. It also states that, if the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.
It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being. When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
What then does myō signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality. Myō is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and hō, to its manifestations. Renge, which means lotus flower, is used to symbolize the wonder of this Law. If we understand that our life at this moment is myō, then we will also understand that our life at other moments is the Mystic Law.4 This realization is the mystic kyō, or sutra. The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, the direct path to enlightenment, for it explains that the entity of our life, which manifests either good or evil at each moment, is in fact the entity of the Mystic Law.
If you chant Myoho-renge-kyo with deep faith in this principle, you are certain to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. That is why the sutra states, “After I have passed into extinction, [one] should accept and uphold this sutra. Such a person assuredly and without doubt will attain the Buddha way.”5 Never doubt in the slightest.
Respectfully.
Maintain your faith and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

==

215
On the Ten Chapters of “Great Concentration and Insight”

Background
THE school known as the Flower Garland school holds that the perfect teaching of the Flower Garland Sutra and the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra are one in nature. But it considers that the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra is an offshoot of the Flower Garland perfect teaching.
The Dharma Characteristics school and the Three Treatises school take a similar view [with regard to the perfect teaching of the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra and that of the Lotus Sutra].
If the Tendai school follows the same sort of interpretation as these other schools, then what is the use of having a Tendai school separate from the other schools?
The Tendai school, for example, holds that the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra and that of the Nirvana Sutra are one in nature, but because the Lotus Sutra was preached before the Nirvana Sutra, the perfect teaching of the Nirvana Sutra is regarded as inferior to that of the Lotus Sutra. If the perfect teaching of the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra and the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra are regarded as one in nature, then, by the same token, does this mean that, because the other sutras were preached before the Lotus Sutra, the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra must be regarded as inferior?
In the end, erroneous interpretations such as these come about because of a mistaken understanding of passages found in the commentaries, passages such as “Concerning myō, or wonderful, the myō of this teaching and the myō of the other teachings [are not different in meaning],”1 “The truth of [the two kinds of] the perfect teaching does not differ,”2 “[The Buddha wisdom shown at the beginning and that at the latter time] are alike in representing the principle of perfect and immediate enlightenment,”3 and “The first three [of the four teachings] are designated as ‘rough.’”4
In Great Concentration and Insight, in the section dealing with the concentration and insight of perfect and immediate enlightenment, a passage from the Flower Garland Sutra5 is quoted. And in the section on the four forms of meditation in volume two, there are passages that would seem to refer to the Nembutsu practice.
But, as the saying goes, if the source is muddied, the stream will not run clear. Those persons who declare that the perfect teaching of the earlier sutras and the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra are one in nature may think that they are teaching others Great p.378Concentration and Insight, but all they are doing is making Nembutsu believers out of them.
From past times, there have been three opinions regarding the doctrines of Great Concentration and Insight, namely, that they derive from the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra; that they derive from the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra; and that they derive from both the theoretical teaching and the essential teaching. But I will not go into this matter here. [As Miao-lo says], “Therefore one should understand that Great Concentration and Insight sets forth the wonderful contemplation that is based on the opening up and merging of the provisional teachings with the perfect vehicle.”6 That is, the entire text of Great Concentration and Insight is founded on the opening up and merging of the provisional teachings with the Lotus Sutra.
Although Great Concentration and Insight quotes passages from various sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra and from the sacred texts of the non-Buddhist teachings, it is not espousing the ideas contained in these earlier sutras or non-Buddhist texts. It borrows passages from these texts but at the same time rejects the principles taught therein. [As Miao-lo says], “The setting is that of the earlier texts, but the wisdom is invariably that set forth in the perfect teaching.”7 That is, although there are quotations from various sutras such as the Questions of Manjushrī, the Great Correct and Equal Dhāranīs, or the Invocation of Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, and the four forms of meditation are discussed, the principles set forth therein are invariably those of the Lotus Sutra. [As Miao-lo says], “Various texts from here and there are quoted to make up a single composition, but the true meaning of the work in the end refers solely to the two sutras [the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra].”8
Great Concentration and Insight consists of ten chapters entitled “Overall Meaning,” “Explaining Terminology,” “Characteristics of the Essence,” “Encompassing the Doctrines,” “Partial and Perfect,” “Preparatory Practices,” “Correct Meditation,” “Effect and Reward,” “Setting Forth Teachings,” and “Pointing Out the Goal.”
[As Great Concentration and Insight says] the first six chapters are based on the sutras. These six chapters, from “Overall Meaning” through “Preparatory Practices,” take up the first four volumes of the work. The wonderful understanding described therein sets forth the doctrine of the Lotus Sutra’s theoretical teaching.
The seventh chapter, “Correct Meditation,” establishes the correct practice based on the wonderful understanding, and deals with the ten objects and ten meditations, the practice of the essential teaching. The exposition of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life begins with this chapter.
This doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life is not to be found in the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, much less in any of the sutras preached prior to the Lotus. Although this doctrine derives from the ten factors, which represent the true aspect of all phenomena, as set forth in the concise replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle [in the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra], its meaning is made clear only in the essential teaching.
In the case of the sutras preached before the Lotus, one uses the theoretical teaching to explain the meaning of the words. And in the case of the theoretical teaching, one uses the essential teaching to explain the meaning of the words. Only in the case of the essential teaching does one use the actual words themselves to explain the meaning.
There are many different kinds of p.379practices in the perfect teaching. Counting grains of sand and contemplating the great ocean are among them,9 as of course are the practice of reciting the sutras that preceded the Lotus and intoning the names of Amida Buddha and the other Buddhas.
These, however, are practices to be carried out on particular occasions or at particular times. The true perfect teaching practice is to keep the mouth constantly reciting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, whatever the occasion, and to keep the mind fixed on the meditation on the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. This is the practice and understanding of persons of wisdom. For the ordinary lay believers of Japan, however, it is sufficient if they concentrate solely on the recitation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The name will invariably invoke all the blessings of the thing itself. It has been said that there are seventeen names for the Lotus Sutra,10 but these are names that are common to other writings as well. The particular name of the sutra, that by which all the Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future invoke it, is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Amida, Shakyamuni, and all the other Buddhas, when they were creating the cause for the attainment of enlightenment, invariably fixed their minds on the practice of concentration and insight, and with their mouths they invariably recited Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The priests of the Tendai and True Word schools who practice the Nembutsu, unaware of these facts, constantly engage in the recitation of the words Namu Amida Butsu [Hail to Amida Buddha], and hence lay believers assume that the Tendai and True Word schools advocate the practice of the Nembutsu.
Moreover, the followers of Shan-tao and Hōnen believe that the followers of the Tendai and True Word teachings must be reciting the Nembutsu because they are dissatisfied with the practices of their own schools. This then leads them to proclaim that, rather than taking great pains to study the Tendai or True Word teachings or recite the Lotus Sutra, it is better to concentrate on the recitation of the Nembutsu and, after attaining rebirth in the Pure Land, to there come to a true understanding of the Lotus Sutra.
Because beliefs such as these have spread throughout this country of Japan, the leaders of the Tendai and True Word schools have been abandoned by their lay followers, and their temples in the sixty or more provinces have fallen into ruin.
The ninety-six non-Buddhist schools derived from the rules of conduct laid down by the monk Buddha Wisdom,11 and the slanders against the Lotus Sutra in Japan began when wide acceptance was given to the view that the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra and that of the pre-Lotus sutras are identical. What a sad day that was!
The non-Buddhists declared that this world is characterized by eternity, happiness, self, and purity, but the Buddha appeared in the world to proclaim that it is in fact characterized by suffering, non-substantiality, impermanence, and non-self. The persons of the two vehicles, voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, then became unduly attached to the concept of non-substantiality and failed to advance to an understanding of the great vehicle, or Mahayana, teachings, and so the Buddha admonished them by declaring that the five cardinal sins too are the seeds of Buddhahood, that the countless dusts and troubles of earthly desires are also the seeds of the Thus Come One, warning them that the “good doctrine” of the two vehicles would never lead to the attainment of Buddhahood.
The concepts of eternity, happiness, p.380self, and purity as expounded by the non-Buddhists were erroneous, but there was nothing wrong with these terms themselves. However, the Buddha condemned these terms to show that their concepts were wrong. [In Mahayana] evil too can constitute the seed that leads to Buddhahood, and of course good can do so as well. However, when it came to the persons of the two vehicles, though the Buddha granted that they were capable of evil, he would not grant that they were capable of good.12
The Nembutsu that is practiced in the world today is a Nembutsu that will destroy the Lotus Sutra throughout this country. Though it may be a “good” practice, and one that is theoretically sound, one should condemn its name.
This is because the Buddhist teachings should conform to what is suitable for the particular country. In India, there were states wholly devoted to the Hinayana teachings, states wholly devoted to the Mahayana teachings, and states in which both Hinayana and Mahayana were pursued. The teachings differed according to the state. And China is the same in nature.
But Japan is a country suitable only for the Mahayana teachings, and among these, the teaching of the one vehicle [of the Lotus Sutra]. Even the teachings of the three Mahayana schools, the Flower Garland, the Dharma Characteristics, and the Three Treatises schools, are not suitable for this country, much less those of the three Hinayana schools.13
The Nembutsu and Zen schools that enjoy popularity in the country today derive from the Correct and Equal sutras, and their level of understanding in no way exceeds that of the Dharma Characteristics, Three Treatises, and Flower Garland schools.
The Nembutsu practice of reciting Namu Amida Butsu pertains only to the sutras preached prior to the Lotus. According to the Lotus Sutra, it can never lead to rebirth in the Pure Land. Only after the opening up and merging of the teachings that takes place in the Lotus Sutra can it become a cause for the attainment of Buddhahood.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, on the other hand, is not related to the forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching life before he expounded the Lotus Sutra. It relates only to the eight years during which he preached the Lotus.
The doctrine of Namu Amida Butsu cannot effect the opening up and merging [of the doctrine of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]. It is the Lotus Sutra that is capable of carrying out such an opening up and merging, and the Nembutsu is that which is opened up and merged.
Practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, even if they do not once in their lifetime utter the words Namu Amida Butsu, will enjoy all the blessings bestowed by Amida Buddha and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions. Such practice is like the wonderful wish-granting jewel, which is capable of bestowing gold, silver, and all manner of wealth.
But though one may recite the Nembutsu for a whole lifetime, one will never gain the blessings of the Lotus Sutra, just as one could never buy a wish-granting jewel with mere gold and silver. Even though one were to offer all the gold and silver and other forms of wealth contained in the entire major world system, one could never exchange them for the wish-granting jewel.
Even if the teachings of Nembutsu should be opened up and merged [into the Lotus Sutra], they are the provisional teachings within the body [of the Lotus Sutra] and therefore inferior to the true teaching within the same body. And given our present age, how few must be the wise persons p.381who reach such an understanding of the opening up and merging of the teachings!
Even if such persons should exist, what of their disciples, their kinfolk, and their retainers? Ignorant persons such as these, seeing the wise person reciting the Nembutsu, will conclude that he is a full-fledged believer in the Nembutsu. They surely will not take him for a votary of the Lotus Sutra! But so long as one recites Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, even the most ignorant of persons could not fail to recognize one as a votary of the Lotus Sutra.
In our present age, more fearful than those who murder their father or mother or plot insurrection are those who, though leaders of the Tendai or True Word schools, yet go about reciting Shan-tao’s Praising Rebirth in the Pure Land or twittering away with Hōnen’s Nembutsu.
After you have concluded the reading of Great Concentration and Insight, you may pass this letter around among the persons who attended the reading. Once the reading of Great Concentration and Insight is concluded, come back here as soon as possible.
With regard to the lawsuit, if the cause of my action is reasonable enough, I think it will be difficult to reach a settlement [because the High Court at Kamakura harbors prejudice against me]. And, as people say, legal inquiries are not like matters of religious doctrine, and it was wise of us to have raised a suit. Therefore, there would seem to be even less hope for a quick settlement.
Word has come that the Lesser Aide of Judicial Affairs has turned the suit over to Hei no Saburō Saemon [to avoid a settlement].14 Under these circumstances, you should consider that the longer the case drags on, the better are the prospects. A settlement will probably be reached eventually, and if it is not, people will understand that there is a reasonable cause on my side, so you should not fret over the delay.
At the moment I have a number of Tendai and True Word persons visiting me and am very busy with them and other things, so I will end this here.

===

Foreword
From early times the Lotus Sutra has been known as “the king of the sutras.” This is above all because it is “a scripture of great hope” that brings light to the hearts of all people.
The Lotus Sutra clearly and definitively reveals the buddha nature that is an integral part of the lives of all people. And it makes clear that the Buddha desires and acts so that all people, by opening up this buddha nature inherent within themselves, may attain the state of buddhahood for themselves. The sutra further stresses that the continued observance of such action is the true mission of the bodhisattva, and never ceases to praise the observance of this practice.
The buddha nature, which is inherent in all living beings, is a universal and fundamental source or fountain of hope. When it is fully brought to light, it allows all human beings to realize their highest level of personal development and to attain unparalleled happiness and good fortune. And the Lotus Sutra is the text that most forcefully asserts this truth.
The Lotus Sutra, which possesses the power to fulfill the hopes latent in the lives of human beings, spread from India to Central Asia, and from there to the countries of eastern Asia. In India and Central Asia various manuscripts of the sutra in Sanskrit and other languages of that area into which it was translated have been found. In the region of eastern Asia, it was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva (344–413), and that is the version in which it has been read, recited, and best known by many people. In that form, we may say, it constituted one of the most important spiritual elements underlying the culture of China in the Six Dynasties, Sui, and Tang periods, and of Japan in the Heian period.
In particular, in China in the sixth century the Great Teacher Tiantai (538–597), on the basis of the Lotus Sutra, developed his system of interpretation known as “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” which expounds the philosophy of hope embodied in the Lotus Sutra in a subtle and logically convincing manner. But although there had been, in the history of the transmission of the Lotus Sutra, efforts to transcend the barrier of cultural differences and bring out the universally valid nature of the sutra’s message, it would appear that the true worth of the Lotus Sutra had not, in this period before the appearance of Nichiren Daishonin (1222–1282), as yet been fully revealed.
Nichiren Daishonin in his writings states: “The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 851–52).
By this the Daishonin means that the heart of the Lotus Sutra, the highest among all of Shakyamuni’s teachings, resides in the practice carried out by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging of respecting and paying reverence to all people. The life of each and every person is endowed with the buddha nature, the seed or potential for attaining buddhahood. So long as a person pursues the correct path, this seed will invariably sprout, blossom, and bear fruit. It was on the basis of this firm conviction that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging paid obeisance to every single person that he encountered.
To encourage and bring to fulfillment this practice of paying respect to others, we may say, constitutes the Buddha’s basic aim, the true message of the Lotus Sutra, and the true propagation of the Lotus Sutra. In order to achieve the ideals and spirit of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin made this most important practice the very core of his being. Moreover, he revealed Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws1 as the manifestation of his own life embodying the buddha nature, and for the sake of all people of the future, opened up the path that would lead to inner transformation, or human revolution, and the creation of a peaceful and ideal society.
In the seventy-nine years since its founding in 1930, the Soka Gakkai, obeying the final instructions of Nichiren Daishonin, has wholeheartedly carried out this most important practice of the Lotus Sutra. As individuals among the populace have succeeded in attaining their own personal victory and realized full satisfaction in life, a rich human culture has blossomed into being, and a path has been opened for the establishment of world peace. And this path is now being spread throughout the entire globe.
For humankind as a whole, the twenty-first century represents the crucial, the now-or-never moment for the establishment of peace. Therefore I firmly believe that now is the time to work more tirelessly than ever to propagate and establish this philosophy of hope set forth in the Lotus Sutra, a scripture that delves into the very fundamentals of human life, and that this opportunity must not be missed. For that reason it is with profound joy that, at the start of this, the twenty-first century, I greet the publication of this Soka Gakkai edition of The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras as it makes its way out into the world.
I would like in conclusion to express my thanks to Dr. Burton Watson for his painstaking English translation of the three sutras.

Daisaku Ikeda
President of Soka Gakkai International
CHAPTER 1

Virtuous Practices

This is what I heard:
At one time the Buddha was in Rajagriha, staying on Mount Gridhrakuta. Accompanying him were a multitude of leading monks numbering twelve thousand persons. Also accompanying him were eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva; heavenly beings, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and mahoragas; and various monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. Great wheel-turning kings, petty wheel-turning kings, kings of the gold wheel, silver wheel, and other kinds of wheels, kings of states, princes, ministers, subjects, gentlemen and ladies of the state, and rich men of the state, all with followers numbering in the hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, surrounding them, came to the place where the Buddha was, bowed in obeisance before his feet, and circled around him a hundred thousand times, burning incense, scattering flowers, and offering various kinds of alms. This done, they retired to one side and sat down.
The names of the bodhisattvas were Dharma Prince Manjushri, Dharma Prince Great Dignity and Virtue Storehouse, Dharma Prince Without Worry Storehouse, Dharma Prince Great Eloquence Storehouse, Bodhisattva Maitreya, Bodhisattva Guiding Head, Bodhisattva Medicine King, Bodhisattva Medicine Superior, Bodhisattva Flower Banner, Bodhisattva Flower Glow Banner, Bodhisattva Dharani Freedom King, Bodhisattva p.4Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, Bodhisattva Great Power, Bodhisattva Constant Exertion, Bodhisattva Jeweled Seal Head, Bodhisattva Jeweled Accumulation, Bodhisattva Jeweled Staff, Bodhisattva Transcending the Threefold World, Bodhisattva Vimabhara,1 Bodhisattva Scented Elephant, Bodhisattva Great Scented Elephant, Bodhisattva Lion Roar King, Bodhisattva Lion Frolic World, Bodhisattva Lion Swiftness, Bodhisattva Lion Exertion, Bodhisattva Brave Acute Strength, Bodhisattva Lion Fierce Subduer, Bodhisattva Adornment, and Bodhisattva Great Adornment. Eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva such as these accompanied the Buddha.
There were none of these bodhisattvas who were not great men in their Dharma bodies. They were accomplished in matters pertaining to the precepts, meditation, wisdom, emancipation, and the insight of emancipation. Their minds, concentrated and stilled, were at all times in a state of samadhi. They were tranquil and unperturbed, without action, without desire, and no topsy-turvy or confused thoughts could ever reach them. Placid and still, clean and pure, their will was dark, empty, and vast. They maintained this state unmoving for a million hundred thousand kalpas. Immeasurable doctrines were all manifest before them. They had acquired great wisdom, had fully understood all phenomena, perceived and distinguished the truth regarding natures and characteristics, and displayed absolute clarity concerning being and nonbeing, long and short.
They were also skilled in understanding various capacities, natures, and desires, and employing dharanis and unimpeded eloquence, and following in the wake of buddhas who had turned the wheel of the Law, they too skillfully turned it. First they sprinkled tiny drops, wetting down the dust of desire. They opened the gates of nirvana and fanned the wind of emancipation, dispelling the heat of worldly cares and letting in the clear coolness of the Law.
Next they dispensed the profound teachings of the twelve-linked chain of causation, using them to douse the burning rays p.5of compounded suffering, the raging fires of ignorance, aging, sickness, and death. Then they poured forth in abundance the unsurpassed great vehicle to moisten and enrich the good roots possessed by living beings. They sowed the seeds of goodness, spreading them throughout the fields of merit, making it possible for all beings everywhere to put forth the sprouts of enlightenment. The sun and moon of their wisdom, the seasons of their expedient means, support and promote the undertaking of the great vehicle, causing the multitude quickly to attain supreme perfect enlightenment.
These bodhisattvas dwelled constantly in the ease and joy of a subtle and wonderful truth, and in their immeasurably great compassion rescued living beings from suffering. For living beings these were true good friends; for living beings these were great fields of good fortune; for living beings they were teachers who arrived unsummoned; for living beings they were places of tranquillity and joy, saviors, guardians, places of great refuge and repose.
In one place after another for the sake of living beings they acted as great and good guides and teachers, as great guides and teachers. Because living beings are blind, they knew how to act as eyes for them. For the deaf, the noseless, the dumb they acted as ears, nose, and tongue. Where capacities were lacking or defective, they knew how to supply and mend them; where there was disorder, chaos, and confusion, they brought the great remedy of correct thought.
They were helmsmen, great helmsmen, ferrying the many beings over the river of birth and death until they reached the shore of nirvana. They were master physicians, great master physicians, distinguishing the marks of illness, understanding the nature of medicines, applying the medicine that was appropriate to the disease, dispensing medication to the multitude. They were trainers, great trainers, curbing all wild and eccentric behavior. They were like trainers of elephants or horses, able to train them till none were untrained. They had the brave fierceness of the lion, which overawes all the other beasts and is scarcely to be challenged.
p.6They diverted themselves with the paramitas of the bodhisattvas, and stood firm and unmoving on the ground of the thus come one. They abided secure in the power of their vows, purified the buddha lands far and wide, and before long will succeed in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment. These bodhisattvas mahasattva all possessed inconceivable virtues such as these.
The names of the monks were Great Wisdom Shariputra, Transcendental Power Maudgalyayana, Life of Wisdom Subhuti, Mahakatyayana, Purna, son of Maitrayani, Ajnata Kaundinya, Heavenly Eye Aniruddha, Keeper of the Precepts Upali, Attendant Ananda, Rahula, son of the Buddha, Upananda, Revata, Kapphina, Bakkula, Chunda, Svagata, Dhuta Great Kashyapa, Uruvilva Kashyapa, Gaya Kashyapa, and Nadi Kashyapa, twelve thousand monks such as these. All were arhats who had exhausted all ties and outflows and had no further bonds or attachments, having attained true and correct emancipation.
At that time the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment, gazing all around at the seated multitude and seeing that each member of the group had had time to compose his mind, accompanied by the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva in the assembly, rose from his seat and proceeded to where the Buddha was. They bowed their heads to the ground in obeisance before the Buddha’s feet and circled around him a hundred thousand times, burning heavenly incense and scattering heavenly flowers, heavenly robes, heavenly necklaces, and priceless heavenly jewels and gems over him. These revolved in the midst of the sky and drifted down on four sides in cloudlike masses, an offering to the Buddha. Heavenly bowls and vessels from heavenly kitchens brimmed and overflowed with a hundred heavenly flavors; just observing their forms and smelling their aroma was enough to make one feel naturally satisfied. Heavenly banners, heavenly streamers, heavenly canopies, wonderful heavenly playthings were ranged here and there, and heavenly instruments played music for the amusement and pleasure of the Buddha.
Then the bodhisattvas, advancing, kneeling on one knee, and p.7pressing their palms together, single-mindedly joined their voices together in speaking these verses of praise:

Great indeed, great sage lord of great enlightenment,
without defilement, without stain, without attachment,
trainer of heavenly and human beings, elephants and horses,
scenting all with the wind of the way, the incense of virtue,
calm in wisdom, vast in feeling, still and concentrated in thought,
will extinguished, consciousness gone, mind tranquil,
eternally cut off from dreamlike deluded thoughts and ponderings,
no more elements, components, sense fields, or realms,
his body neither existing nor not existing,
neither caused nor conditioned, neither self nor other,
neither square nor round, neither short nor long,
neither appearing nor disappearing, neither born nor extinguished,
neither created nor arising, neither acted nor made,
neither sitting nor lying down, neither walking nor standing,
neither moving nor turning, neither idle nor still,
neither advancing nor retreating, neither in safety nor danger,
neither right nor wrong, neither gaining nor losing,
neither that nor this, neither departing nor coming,
neither blue nor yellow, neither red nor white,
neither crimson nor purple nor any other sort of color,
born in precepts, meditation, wisdom, emancipation, insight,
setting out from samadhis, six transcendental powers, aids to the way,
arising from pity, compassion, the ten powers, fearlessness,
emerging because of the good actions of living beings.
p.8He displays his sixteen-foot body, gleaming like purple gold,
trim and upright, shining with great penetrating brilliance;
characteristic tuft curled like a moon, sun rays behind his neck;
his coiled hair deep blue, a knob of flesh on his crown;
pure eyes, bright mirrors, gazing up and down;
eyebrows and lashes blue and lengthy, mouth and cheeks shapely;
lips and tongue red and comely as crimson flowers;
forty white teeth like snowy agate;
forehead broad, nose long, an open countenance;
breast displaying a fylfot pattern, lion-chested;
hands and feet soft and supple, marked with thousand-spoked wheels;
armpits and palms crossed with lines, inside and out well molded,
long upper and lower arms, fingers straight and slim;
skin delicate and soft, hair curling to the right;
anklebones and knees well exposed, male member hidden like a horse;
slim muscles, well-locked bones, deer-like legs;
front and back radiant, pure, without defilement,
unstained by turbid water, untouched by dust,
the thirty-two features all like this,
the eighty characteristics plain to see.
Yet in truth there is no form that is with or without features;
he is cut off from all eyes that look for features.
With features that are featureless he bears a featured body,
and the features of living beings with their featured bodies are likewise.
He can cause living beings to rejoice and do obeisance,
to give their hearts to him, show reverence, be diligent.
Because he has put aside pride and haughtiness,
he has achieved a wonderfully formed body such as this.
Now we, a multitude of eighty thousand,
p.9have all come together to bow our heads, dedicate our lives,
to one who has extinguished thought, mind, will, and consciousness,
trainer of elephants and horses, sage free of attachments.
We bow heads, give ourselves to his Dharma body and manifested body,
his aggregate of precepts, meditation, wisdom, emancipation, insight.
We bow heads, give ourselves to his wonderful characteristics,
we bow heads, give ourselves to one difficult to conceive.
His brahma sounds thunder and shake, echoing in eight varieties,
subtle, wonderful, pure, extremely profound and far-reaching.
The four noble truths, six paramitas, twelve-linked chain of causation,
are set forth, depending on the workings of the minds of living beings.
Of those who hear, there are none whose mind is not opened;
they cut off the immeasurable entanglements of birth and death.
Of those who hear, some reach the stage of stream-winner, of once-returner, non-returner, or arhat,
the state of the cause-awakened one, free of outflows, free of action,
the bodhisattva stage, free of birth, free of extinction.
Some gain immeasurable dharanis,
unimpeded delight in preaching, great eloquence,
expounding profoundly deep, subtle, and wonderful verses,
diverting themselves by bathing in clear channels of the Law,
some leap or fly up, display transcendental powers,
go in and out of water and fire, their bodies completely free.
p.10In such manner does the thus come one turn the wheel of the Law,
pure, unbounded, difficult to conceive.
We are moved, and all together bow our heads,
dedicating our lives to the timely turning of the wheel of the Law,
bow our heads, dedicate ourselves to the brahma sounds,
bow our heads, dedicate ourselves to the chain of causation, truths, paramitas.
The world-honored one immeasurable kalpas in the past
diligently carried out numerous virtuous practices
for our sake, human and heavenly beings, dragon kings,
for all living beings everywhere.
He was willing to discard all things difficult to discard,
wealth, riches, wife, child, country, and capital,
begrudging nothing inside or outside his dharma,
donating all to others, his head, eyes, marrow, and brains.
He honored and upheld the pure prohibitions of the buddhas,
never violating them even though it might cost him his life.
Though men came with swords and staves to do him harm,
with foul mouths cursed and insulted him, he never showed anger.
For successive kalpas he sacrificed his body, never slacking,
day and night disciplined in mind, in constant meditation.
He studied all the various ways and doctrines,
in his profound wisdom penetrated the capacities of living beings.
For this reason now he can exercise his powers freely,
free in command of the Law, the king of the Law.
We are moved, and all together bow our heads,
dedicating ourselves to one who has accomplished what is hard to accomplish.

CHAPTER 2

Preaching the Law

At that time the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva, having spoken these verses in praise of the Buddha, all together addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored One, we, this multitude of eighty thousand bodhisattvas, now desire to pose some questions regarding the Law of the thus come one. We wonder if the world-honored one will be kind enough to listen?”
The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, “Excellent, excellent, good men. You know when the time is right. Proceed with your questions! Before long, the thus come one will enter parinirvana, and he wishes to make certain that there will be no more doubts anywhere after he has entered nirvana. What do you wish to ask about? Now is the time to speak.”
Bodhisattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, speaking in a single voice, then addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored One, if bodhisattvas mahasattva wish to succeed quickly in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment, what sort of doctrines should they practice? What sort of doctrines can cause bodhisattvas mahasattva to succeed quickly in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment?”
The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, “Good men, there is a single doctrine that can cause bodhisattvas to succeed quickly p.12in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment. If bodhisattvas study this doctrine, then they will be able to gain supreme perfect enlightenment.”
“World-Honored One, what is the name of this doctrine? What is its meaning? What practices does it prescribe for bodhisattvas?”
The Buddha said: “Good men, this single doctrine is called the doctrine of immeasurable meanings. If bodhisattvas wish to practice and study these immeasurable meanings, then they should observe and perceive how all phenomena, from the beginning down to the present, are in nature and aspect empty and tranquil, without bigness or littleness, without birth or extinction, not abiding, not moving, neither advancing nor retreating, but like vacant space, without any dualism.
“But living beings in their vain delusions make wild calculations, saying, this is one thing, that is another, this brings gain, that brings loss, and give rise to thoughts that are not good, carrying out evil acts, transmigrating through the six paths of existence and undergoing sufferings and bitterness for immeasurable millions of kalpas without ever being able to escape.
“Bodhisattvas mahasattva, clearly perceiving that this is so, are moved to pity in their minds, and inspired by great compassion, wish to rescue these beings from their plight. They should then once more enter deeply into the study of all phenomena. If the aspects of phenomena are such, then such-and-such phenomena will be born. If the aspects of phenomena are such, then such-and-such phenomena will abide. If the aspects of phenomena are such, then such-and-such phenomena will change. If the aspects of phenomena are such, then such-and-such phenomena will undergo extinction. If the aspects of phenomena are such, this can lead to the birth of bad phenomena. If the aspects of phenomena are such, this can lead to the birth of good phenomena. And the same applies in the case of the abiding, changing, and extinction of phenomena.
“When bodhisattvas have in this manner observed the beginning and end of these four aspects and have understood them in their entirety, then they will clearly perceive that all phenomena, p.13never abiding from one instant to the next, are constantly being born anew and passing into extinction, and then they will immediately perceive the true aspect of birth, abiding, change, and extinction.
“Once they have gained this perception, then they must turn to the capacities, natures, and desires of living beings. Because such natures and desires are immeasurable in variety, the ways of preaching the Law are immeasurable; and because the ways of preaching the Law are immeasurable, its meanings are likewise immeasurable. These immeasurable meanings are born from a single Law, and this Law is without aspect. What is without aspect is devoid of aspect and does not take on aspect. Not taking on aspect, being without aspect, it is called the true aspect.
“When bodhisattvas mahasattva rest and abide in this understanding of the true aspect of all phenomena, then the pity and compassion that they put forth will be based on clear understanding and not groundless, and they will be truly capable of rescuing living beings from the sufferings that they undergo. And once they have rescued them from suffering, they will preach the Law for them and enable living beings to enjoy ease and delight.
“Good men, if bodhisattvas are able in this manner to practice the immeasurable meanings of this all-embracing doctrine, then they are certain to succeed quickly in attaining supreme perfect enlightenment. Good men, this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra is true and correct in word and principle, worthy of unsurpassed veneration. It is guarded and protected by all the buddhas of the three existences. There is no devil host, no congregation of non-Buddhist believers who can invade it, nor can it be destroyed by any erroneous views or accidents of birth and death. Therefore, good men, if bodhisattvas mahasattva wish to gain unsurpassed enlightenment quickly, they should practice and study this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra.”
At that time Bodhisattva Great Adornment addressed the Buddha once more, saying: “World-Honored One, the Law preached by the world-honored one is beyond ordinary p.14comprehension, the capacities and natures of living beings are also beyond ordinary comprehension, and the doctrines and emancipations are likewise beyond ordinary comprehension. Regarding the doctrines that the Buddha has preached to us, we have no more doubts or difficulties. But because confusion and misunderstanding arise in the minds of living beings, we wish to question the world-honored one further.
“In the forty and more years since the thus come one gained the way, he has constantly expounded for the sake of living beings upon the principle of the four aspects of phenomena, the principle of suffering, of emptiness, impermanence, no self, no bigness, no littleness, no birth, no extinction, one aspect that is no aspect, the nature of phenomena, the aspect of phenomena, from the beginning emptiness and tranquillity, neither coming nor going, neither appearing nor disappearing.
“Those who listened to you were perhaps able to gain the heat stage, the peak stage, or the foremost worldly stage, to attain the stage of the stream-winner, of the once-returner, of the non-returner, or the arhat, to gain the way of the pratyekabuddha, to conceive a desire for enlightenment, to ascend to the first level, the second level, the third level, and so forth to the tenth level.
“The principles of these various doctrines that you have expounded upon in past days—how do they differ from those you are expounding now? You say that if bodhisattvas practice this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, they are certain to quickly attain unsurpassed enlightenment. Just what does this mean? We beg the world-honored one to have compassion and pity for all, and for the sake of living beings far and wide to make clear the distinctions, so that all those everywhere in this present existence and in ages to come, when they hear the doctrines, may be free from the net of residual doubt!”
Thereupon the Buddha said to Bodhisattva Great Adornment: “Excellent, excellent, you great and good men. You have seen fit to ask the thus come one about the subtle and wonderful meaning of this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle. You should understand that by doing so you can benefit many people, assure p.15peace and joy to human and heavenly beings, and rescue living beings from suffering. This is in truth great pity and compassion. And because it is true, it cannot be vain. As a result of this, you will without fail quickly attain unsurpassed enlightenment. And you will also make it possible for all living beings in the present age and in ages to come to attain unsurpassed enlightenment.
“Good men, in the past I sat upright for six years under the bodhi tree in the place of enlightenment and was able to gain supreme perfect enlightenment. With the Buddha eye I observed all phenomena and knew that this enlightenment could not be explained or described. Why? Because I knew that living beings are not alike in their natures and desires. And because their natures and desires are not alike, I preached the Law in various different ways. Preaching the Law in various different ways, I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth. Therefore the ways they gained were not uniform but differed in different cases, and they have not been able to quickly attain unsurpassed enlightenment.
“Good men, the Law may be compared to water that can wash away dirt and defilement. A well, a pond, a river, a stream, a brook, a channel, a vast sea—all are capable of washing away all kinds of dirt and defilement. And the water of the Law is like this, because it can wash living beings clean of the dirt of earthly desires.
“Good men, water possesses a single nature, but rivers, streams, wells, ponds, brooks, channels, and vast seas each have their particular differences. The nature of the Law is like this too—in its ability to wash away grime and impediment, it is without differentiation. But in its categories of three doctrines, four stages, or two ways,1 it is not uniform.
“Good men, although all forms of water can be used for washing, a well is not the same as a pond, a pond is not the same as p.16a river or stream, a brook or channel is not the same as the sea. And as the thus come one, hero of the world, enjoys complete freedom with regard to the Law, so the various doctrines that he preaches are like [these bodies of water]. What he preaches in the beginning, in the middle, and later, is in all cases capable of washing clean the earthly desires of living beings. But what he preaches in the beginning is not the same as what he preaches in the middle, and what he preaches in the middle is not the same as what he preaches later. The beginning, middle, and later preachings are identical in their words and phrases, but each is different in meaning.
“Good men, when I rose up from under the kingly [bodhi] tree, proceeded to Deer Park in Varanasi, and turned the wheel of the Law, preaching the four noble truths for Ajnata Kaundinya and the others of the five ascetics, I explained that the various phenomena are from the beginning all empty and tranquil, that they succeed each other without ever abiding, that from one instant to the next they are born and pass into extinction. During the middle period, both here and in various other places, for the sake of the monks and the host of bodhisattvas I expounded and set forth the twelve-linked chain of causation and the six paramitas, likewise explaining that the various phenomena are from the beginning all empty and tranquil, that they succeed each other without abiding, that from instant to instant they are born and pass into extinction. And now once more I am here expounding this great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, again explaining that the various phenomena are from the beginning all empty and tranquil, that they succeed each other without abiding, that from instant to instant they are born and pass into extinction. Therefore, good men, though in what I preach at the beginning, in the middle, and at a later time the words and phrases are the same, the meaning is quite different. Because the meaning is different, the understanding of living beings is different. And because their understanding is different, the doctrines they gain, the stages they gain, the ways they gain are likewise different.
“Good men, in the beginning I preached the four noble truths p.17for the sake of those who wished to become voice-hearers. At that time eight million heavenly beings came down to listen to the Law and conceived a desire for enlightenment. In the middle period in one place and another I expounded the profound teaching of the twelve-linked chain of causation for the sake of those who wished to become pratyekabuddhas, and immeasurable numbers of living beings conceived the desire for enlightenment or abided at the level of voice-hearers.
“Then I preached the twelve divisions of the broad and impartial sutras, the teaching of great wisdom, and the Flower Garland teaching of the ocean-imprint meditation, describing the many kalpas of practice for bodhisattvas, and hundreds and thousands of monks and ten thousands and millions of human and heavenly beings, immeasurable living beings, were able to attain and abide in the stage of stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, arhat, or pratyekabuddha, or in the doctrine of original causation.
“Good men, you should understand that in this sense, though my preachings are the same, they differ in their meaning. Because their meaning is different, the understanding of living beings is different. And because their understanding is different, the doctrines they gain, the stages they gain, the ways they gain are likewise.
“Therefore, good men, from the time I gained the way and first began to preach the Law down to the present day, when I expound the great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, I have never failed to preach suffering, emptiness, impermanence, no self, not absolute, not provisional, not big, not little, from the beginning not born, at the present time not passing into extinction, one aspect that is no aspect, the aspect of phenomena, the nature of phenomena, neither coming nor going, living beings shifting from one to another of the four aspects.
“Good men, for this reason none of the many buddhas ever vary in the words they speak. They can use a single sound to respond to all the multitude of voices everywhere, can use a single body to manifest bodies as numerous as the immeasurable, countless sands of hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions p.18of nayutas of Ganges Rivers. And each of these bodies in turn manifests different types of forms numerous as the sands of some hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas and asamkhyas of Ganges Rivers. And each of these forms in turn manifests forms numerous as the sands of some hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas and asamkhyas of Ganges Rivers.
“Good men, this then is the inconceivably profound realm of the buddhas. It cannot be understood by persons of the two vehicles, nor can it be grasped even by bodhisattvas in the ten stages of security. Only between one buddha and another can it be fully comprehended.
“Good men, for this reason I have stated that this subtle, wonderful, profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra is true and correct in word and principle, worthy of unsurpassed veneration. It is guarded and protected by all the buddhas of the three existences. There is no devil host, no congregation of non-Buddhist believers who can invade it, nor can it be destroyed by any erroneous views or accidents of birth and death. If bodhisattvas mahasattva wish to gain unsurpassed enlightenment quickly, they should practice and study this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra.”
When the Buddha finished speaking, the major world system quaked and trembled in six different ways. From the sky various different kinds of heavenly flowers rained down of their own accord, heavenly utpala flowers, padma flowers, kumuda flowers, pundarika flowers. There also rained down countless varieties of heavenly incense, heavenly robes, heavenly necklaces, and priceless heavenly jewels that came tumbling and turning through the air and descended as offerings to the Buddha and the great assembly of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers. Heavenly vessels from heavenly kitchens heaped and overflowing with heavenly foods of a hundred flavors, heavenly streamers, heavenly banners, heavenly canopies, and wonderful heavenly playthings were ranged here and there, heavenly musical instruments played, and songs were sung to praise the Buddha.
Then in the eastern region the buddha worlds, numerous as p.19Ganges sands, also quaked and trembled in six different ways, raining down heavenly flowers, heavenly incense, heavenly robes, heavenly necklaces, priceless heavenly jewels, heavenly vessels from heavenly kitchens, a hundred heavenly flavors, heavenly streamers, heavenly banners, heavenly canopies, and wonderful heavenly playthings. Heavenly musical instruments played and songs were sung in praise of the buddhas and the great assembly of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers, and the same occurred in the southern, western, and northern regions, in the four intermediate directions, and in the upper and lower regions.
In this assembly, thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva gained the samadhi of immeasurable meanings, thirty-four thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva gained countless immeasurable dharanis, and all were able to turn the unregressing wheel of the Law of all the buddhas of the three existences.
When the monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, heavenly beings, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, great wheel-turning kings, petty wheel-turning kings, kings of the silver wheel, the iron wheel, and other kinds of wheels, kings of states, princes, ministers, subjects, gentlemen and ladies of the state, and rich men of the state, along with the hosts of hundreds and thousands of followers accompanying them, heard the Buddha, the thus come one, preach this sutra, some gained the heat stage, the peak stage, the foremost worldly stage, the stage of stream-winner, of once-returner, of non-returner, of arhat, or of pratyekabuddha. Some gained the bodhisattva’s truth of birthlessness. Some gained one dharani, some two dharanis, some three dharanis, some four dharanis, some five, six, seven, eight, nine, or ten dharanis. Some gained hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of dharanis, and some gained an asamkhya of dharanis, immeasurable, countless as Ganges sands.
All were able to acquiesce and obey and to turn the unregressing wheel of the Law. Immeasurable numbers of living beings conceived the desire for supreme perfect enlightenment.
CHAPTER 3

Ten Benefits

At that time the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment addressed the Buddha once more, saying: “World-Honored One, the world-honored one has preached this subtle, wonderful, profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra. Truly it is profound, profound, profound! Why do I say so? Because in this assembly when the bodhisattvas mahasattva, the four kinds of believers, the heavenly beings, dragons, and spirits, the kings of states, ministers, and subjects, and other living beings hear this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, there are none who fail to gain dharani teachings, the three doctrines, four stages, or the desire to attain enlightenment. So we know that this teaching is true and correct in word and principle, worthy of unsurpassed veneration. It is guarded and protected by all the buddhas of the three existences. There is no devil host, no congregation of non-Buddhist believers who can invade it, nor can it be destroyed by any erroneous views or accidents of birth and death. Why? Because once one hears it, one can uphold all the doctrines.
“If there are living beings who are able to hear this sutra, they will gain great profit. Why? Because if they can practice it, then without fail they will quickly gain unsurpassed enlightenment. As for those living beings who are unable to hear it, one should know that they will lose great profit, for though immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable asamkhya kalpas may pass, they will in p.21the end fail to gain unsurpassed enlightenment. Why? Because they will not know about the great direct way to enlightenment, but will travel perilous byways beset by numerous hindrances and trials.
“World-Honored One, this sutra is beyond comprehension. We beg that the world-honored one, taking pity upon this great assembly, will broadly expound the profound and unfathomable matters contained in this sutra. World-Honored One, where does this sutra come from, where does it lead to, where does it abide, that it should possess such immeasurable benefits, such inconceivable powers, assuring to the multitude the quick attainment of supreme perfect enlightenment?”
At that time the world-honored one said to the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment: “Excellent, excellent, good men. It is just so, just so, just as you have spoken. Good men, this sutra I preach is profound, profound, truly profound! Why do I say so? Because it assures that the multitude will quickly attain unsurpassed enlightenment. Because once one hears it, one can uphold all the doctrines. Because for living beings it brings great profit and enrichment. Because practicing it, one travels a great direct way free of hindrances and trials.
“Good men, you ask where this sutra comes from, where it leads, where it abides. Listen carefully and with attention. Good men, this sutra issues originally from the dwelling and abode of the buddhas. Its aim is to lead all living beings to conceive the desire for enlightenment. And it abides in the practices carried out by bodhisattvas. Good men, this is where this sutra comes from, where it leads, and where it abides. Therefore this sutra is able to possess such immeasurable benefits, such inconceivable powers, and to assure to the multitude the quick attainment of unsurpassed enlightenment.
“Now, good men, would you like to hear about the ten inconceivable benefits and powers that this sutra possesses?”
Bodhisattva Great Adornment said, “Please, we wish very much to hear!”
The Buddha said: “Good men, the first is that this sutra can cause bodhisattvas who have not yet conceived the desire for p.22enlightenment to conceive such a desire. It can cause those who are without compassion or benevolence to nurture compassionate minds. It can cause those who delight in killing and slaughter to nurture minds of great pity. It can cause those filled with envy and jealousy to nurture minds of joyful acceptance. It can cause those who are begrudging and attached to things to nurture minds capable of relinquishing. It can cause those who are close-fisted and greedy to nurture minds of almsgiving. It can cause those of abundant arrogance and pride to nurture minds that uphold the precepts. It can cause those much given to wrath and anger to nurture forbearing minds. It can cause those who are indolent and lazy to nurture minds of diligence. It can cause those who are scatterbrained and disordered to nurture minds devoted to meditation. It can cause those with much ignorance and folly to nurture minds of wisdom. It can cause those who are not yet capable of saving others to nurture minds set upon saving others. It can cause those who practice the ten evil acts to nurture minds devoted to the ten good acts. It can cause those who delight too much in the conditioned to strive for minds fixed on the unconditioned. It can cause those whose minds are given to regression to cultivate minds of non-regression. It can cause those given to outflows to nurture minds free of outflows. It can cause those with many earthly desires to nurture minds that cleanse and extinguish such desires.
“Good men, this is called the first benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the second inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If living beings are able to hear this sutra, though they hear only one recitation, one verse, or just one line, they will be able to comprehend and master hundreds, thousands, millions of meanings, so many that although immeasurable numbers of kalpas should pass, they would never be able to finish expounding the teaching they have received and uphold. Why? Because the meanings of this teaching are immeasurable.
“Good men, this sutra may be likened to a single seed from which grow hundreds, thousands, ten thousands of other seeds, p.23and from each of these seeds in turn grow more seeds numbering in the hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, so that they keep on increasing in this way until they become immeasurable. This sutra is like this. From a single Law grow hundreds and thousands of meanings, and from each of those hundreds and thousands in turn grow more, numbering in the hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, so that they keep on increasing in this way until there are an immeasurable, boundless number of meanings. That is why this sutra is called Immeasurable Meanings.
“Good men, this is called the second benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the third inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If living beings are able to hear this sutra, though they hear only one recitation, one verse, or just one line, and are thereby able to comprehend and master hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of meanings, then although they have earthly desires, it will be as though they were free of earthly desires, and they will go in and out of the realm of birth and death without thoughts of fear or dread. Toward living beings they will acquire minds of pity and tenderness, and they will confront all phenomena with brave and stalwart thoughts.
“They will be like a young man of great strength who can lift and hold aloft various heavy objects. The person who upholds this sutra will in like manner be able to shoulder the weighty treasure of unsurpassed enlightenment and bear living beings on his back, carrying them out of the path of birth and death.
“Even before he is capable of saving himself he will be capable of saving others. He will be like a ship’s captain whose body is afflicted with grave illness, whose four limbs fail to function properly, and who remains on this shore. But he has a sound and durable ship and can always explain to others the articles needed to get them over the water, so that by providing these he can insure their crossing. The person who upholds this sutra will be like this. Though he is afflicted with the body of one who dwells in the five realms, constantly beset by one hundred and eight illnesses, and though he remains on this shore, the shore of p.24ignorance, aging, and death, yet he will possess this durable great vehicle sutra, Immeasurable Meanings, which explains how living beings can be saved and how, if one practices it as it directs, one can escape from birth and death.
“Good men, this is called the third benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the fourth inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If living beings are able to hear this sutra, though they hear only one recitation, one verse, or just one line, they will be filled with brave and stalwart thoughts. Though they have not yet saved themselves, they will be able to save others. They will become companions of the bodhisattvas, and the buddhas, the thus come ones, will at all times turn toward such persons when they expound the Law. And once these persons have heard it, they will be able to accept and uphold all of it, abide by it without violation, propagate it for the sake of others, and preach it widely in accordance with what is appropriate.
“Good men, such persons will be like a prince newly born to the king of a country and his queen. When he is one day, two days, or seven days old; one month, two months, or seven months old; one year, two years, or seven years old, though he is not yet able to manage the affairs of state, already he is respected and looked up to by the ministers and the people. He is a companion to the sons of other great kings, and the king and queen love and dote on him and are forever talking of him. Why? Because he is still just a child.
“Good men, the person who upholds this sutra will be like this. The buddhas, who are the king, and the sutra, which is the queen, join together in harmony to give birth to this bodhisattva son. If the bodhisattva is able to hear this sutra, whether it is one line or one verse, one repetition, two repetitions, ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, or immeasurable, countless repetitions equal to the sands of a million ten thousand Ganges Rivers, though he cannot fully grasp the extent of its truth, and though he cannot make the lands of the major world system quake and tremble or with brahma sounds like the roll of thunder turn the great wheel of the Law, already he will be revered and looked up p.25to by all the four kinds of believers and eight kinds of guardians, and he will have the great bodhisattvas for his companions. He will enter deeply into the secret Law of the buddhas and will be able to expound it without error or omission. He will be constantly guarded and kept in mind by the buddhas, who will pity and love him, favor and shelter him, because he is new in these studies.
“Good men, this is called the fourth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the fifth inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If there are good men or good women who, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, accept, uphold, read, recite, or copy this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, then although such persons are still bound and encumbered by earthly desires, unable to remove themselves from the concerns of the ordinary individual, yet they will be able to manifest and show to others the way of the great bodhisattva. They will be able to expand a single day so that it covers a hundred kalpas, or compress a hundred kalpas into a single day, causing other living beings to rejoice and give wholehearted assent [to their words].
“Good men, these good men and good women will be like little dragons who, only seven days after they are born, are already able to make clouds rise up and rain to fall.
“Good men, this is called the fifth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the sixth inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If good men or good women, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, accept, uphold, read, or recite this sutra, then although they are still encumbered by earthly desires, they will be able to preach the Law for living beings and enable them to break away from earthly desires, from the realm of birth and death, and to cut off all suffering. Once living beings have heard them, they will carry out religious practice, gaining the doctrines, gaining various stages, and gaining the ways, just the same as if they had been taught by the Buddha, the thus come one.
p.26“Suppose, for example, there is a prince who, although still just a boy, is entrusted with the management of affairs of state because the king is abroad on a journey or has been seized by illness. If at that time the prince follows the king’s orders and abides by the law in issuing directives to the various clerks and government officials, guiding the flow of affairs in a proper manner, then each of the people of the state will comply with the spirit of his instructions, and the order that prevails will be like that when the king himself is in charge.
“The good men and good women who uphold this sutra will be the same as this. Whether the Buddha is in the world or has passed into extinction, if these good men, though they have not yet been able to reach the stage of immobility, follow the Buddha’s methods of preaching and giving instruction when they expound the Law, then once living beings have heard them and single-mindedly applied themselves to practice, they will be able to cut off earthly desires, gain the doctrines, gain various stages, and gain the ways.
“Good men, this is called the sixth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the seventh inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If good men or good women, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, are able to hear this sutra and rejoice and put faith and hope in it, greeting it as something rare; if they accept, uphold, read, recite, copy, explain, preach, and practice it as it directs, conceiving a desire for enlightenment, cultivating good roots, nurturing minds of great compassion, and desiring to save all living beings from their sufferings, then although they have not yet been able to practice the six paramitas, the six paramitas will of themselves appear before them. In their present bodies they will be able to gain the truth of birthlessness, their earthly desires and their sufferings of birth and death will in one moment be cast off and destroyed, and they will ascend to the seventh stage of the bodhisattva.
“Suppose, for example, there is a stalwart hero who wipes out the king’s enemies. Once these enemies have been destroyed, the p.27king rejoices greatly and takes half of his kingdom and presents it all to the hero as a fief. The good men and good women who uphold this sutra will be similar to this. They will be the bravest and most heroic of all practitioners. And though they do not seek for them, the six paramitas, those treasures of the Law, will come to them naturally. Their enemies, birth and death, will of themselves be scattered and destroyed, and they will be enlightened to the truth of birthlessness, which is like receiving half the buddha land in fief and its treasures as a gift to enjoy in tranquillity.
“Good men, this is called the seventh benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the eighth inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If there are good men or good women who, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, are able to obtain this sutra, they will revere and put faith in it as though they were gazing upon the Buddha’s body, and will not let themselves treat it any differently. They will love and delight in this sutra, accept, uphold, read, recite, copy, and do obeisance to it, putting it into practice as the Law directs, strictly observing the precepts, firmly persevering, carrying out the paramita of almsgiving, cultivating profound pity and compassion, and preaching this unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra far and wide for the sake of others.
“If there are persons who have never believed in the existence of sinfulness or blessing, then they will show them this sutra and, employing various kinds of expedient means, will convert them and prevail upon them to believe. Through the authority and power of the sutra, such persons will be able to develop minds of faith, abruptly changing their direction. And once having developed minds of faith, because they proceed with courage and diligence, they will be able to acquire the dignity, virtue, authority, and power of this sutra, to gain the ways, and to gain various stages.
“Therefore these good men and women, because of the benefits they gain through being converted, will in their present forms as men and women be able to gain the truth of birthlessness, to p.28gain the upper level, and to become companions of the bodhisattvas. Quickly they will be able to lead living beings to success, to purify the buddha land, and before long to gain unsurpassed enlightenment.
“Good men, this is called the eighth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the ninth inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If there are good men or good women who, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, are able to obtain this sutra, who leap with joy on having gained what they never had before, who accept, uphold, read, recite, copy, and offer alms to it and for the sake of the multitude, observing distinctions, expound and preach the message of this sutra far and wide, then in one instant they will be able to wipe out the lingering guilt and heavy obstacle of their deeds in former existences and to attain a state of purity. Thereafter they will acquire great eloquence, step by step adorn themselves with the paramitas, acquire various samadhis including the shuramgama samadhi, enter the great gate of the dharani teachings, gain the power of diligent effort, and quickly attain the highest levels. They will be skilled at dividing their bodies and producing emanations of themselves, dispatching them to the lands in the ten directions to rescue and save all living beings in the twenty-five realms of existence from their dire sufferings, enabling them all to gain emancipation. This is because the sutra possesses this power.
“Good men, this is called the ninth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, the tenth inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: Suppose there are good men or good women who, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, are able to obtain this sutra, and are filled with great joy, greeting it as something rare. After they themselves have accepted, upheld, read, recited, copied, offered alms, and put it into practice as it directs, they will also be able far and wide to encourage those in household life and those who have left such life to accept, uphold, read, recite, copy, offer alms, explain, and p.29preach the sutra and practice it as the Law directs. Because they have the power to cause others to practice this sutra, others will gain the ways and gain various stages. All this will come from the fact that these good men and good women are moved to compassion and have the power to convert others diligently. As a result, these good men and good women in their present bodies will be able to gain immeasurable dharani teachings.
“While they are still at the stage of ordinary persons, while they are just beginning, they will find themselves naturally capable of committing themselves to countless asamkhyas of broad resolutions and great vows, demonstrating profound determination to save all living beings, exercising great compassion, rescuing multitudes far and wide from their sufferings, gathering to themselves a mass of good roots, and bringing enrichment and benefit to all. They will expound the moisture of the Law, pouring it everywhere to water the dry and barren places. They will show themselves able to dispense the medicine of the Law to living beings, bringing peace and happiness to all. Gradually they will come forth and ascend until they reside at the stage of the clouds of the Law. The moisture of their favor will water all places; nothing will be outside their compassion. They will encompass all living beings who suffer, causing them to enter upon the buddha path. And because of all this, these people will before long gain supreme perfect enlightenment.
“Good men, this is called the tenth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
“Good men, this unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra fully possesses great and marvelous supernatural powers such as these. It is worthy of unsurpassed veneration, for it can enable ordinary persons all to attain the stage of sage; leaving forever the realm of birth and death, they will all gain freedom. Therefore this sutra is called Immeasurable Meanings. It can cause all living beings who are still at the level of ordinary persons to put forth immeasurable shoots that will grow into the way of the bodhisattva, to plant trees of benefits that will flourish, put out branches, and spread. Therefore this sutra is dubbed the possessor of inconceivable benefits and power.”
p.30At that time the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva, speaking in a single voice addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored One, as the Buddha has preached, this profound, subtle, wonderful, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra is true and correct in word and principle, worthy of unsurpassed veneration. It is guarded and protected by all the buddhas of the three existences. There is no devil host, no congregation of non-Buddhist believers who can invade it, nor can it be destroyed by any erroneous views or accidents of birth and death.
“Thus it is that this sutra possesses ten benefits and inconceivable powers such as have been described. It brings great enrichment and benefit to all living beings immeasurable in number. It causes all bodhisattvas mahasattva each one to gain the samadhi of immeasurable meanings. Or perhaps they will gain hundreds and thousands of dharani teachings, or they will be able to gain the various levels and various types of cognition of the bodhisattva, or they will gain the four-way and four-stage enlightenment of the cause-awakened one and the arhat. The world-honored one in his compassion and mercy has been pleased to preach the Law for us in this way, enabling us to gain the great profits of the Law. This is most wonderful, something never known before. The compassion and favor of the world-honored one is indeed difficult to repay!”
When they had finished speaking these words, the major world system quaked and trembled in six different ways. From the sky there rained down various kinds of heavenly flowers, heavenly utpala flowers, padma flowers, kumuda flowers, pundarika flowers. There also rained down countless varieties of heavenly incense, heavenly robes, heavenly necklaces, and priceless heavenly jewels that came tumbling and turning through the air and descended as offerings to the Buddha and the great assembly of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers. Heavenly vessels from heavenly kitchens were heaped and overflowing with a hundred heavenly flavors; merely observing their forms and smelling their aromas was enough to make one feel satisfied. Heavenly streamers, heavenly banners, heavenly canopies, and wonderful p.31heavenly playthings were ranged here and there, heavenly musical instruments played, and songs were sung to praise the Buddha.
Then in the eastern region the buddha worlds numerous as Ganges sands also quaked and trembled in six different ways, raining down heavenly flowers, heavenly incense, heavenly robes, heavenly necklaces, priceless heavenly jewels, heavenly vessels from heavenly kitchens with a hundred heavenly flavors, so that observing their forms and smelling their aromas was enough to make one feel satisfied. Heavenly streamers, heavenly banners, heavenly canopies, and wonderful heavenly playthings were ranged here and there, heavenly musical instruments played, and songs were sung in praise of the buddhas and the great assemblies of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers there, and the same occurred in the southern, western, and northern regions, in the four intermediate directions, and in the upper and lower regions.
At that time the Buddha addressed the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva, saying: “You should approach this sutra with profound feelings of respect, practice it as the Law directs, convert all beings far and wide, and propagate it with a diligent mind. At all times be industrious in its cause, guard it day and night, and enable living beings, each one of them, to enjoy the profits of the Law. You will then in truth be showing great compassion and great pity. Use the transcendental power of your vows to guard and protect this sutra, and do not let it be impeded by doubt. In the time given you, you must without fail cause it to spread throughout Jambudvipa, making certain that all living beings are able to see and hear it, to read, recite, copy, and offer alms to it. Then as a result you yourselves will be able quickly to gain supreme perfect enlightenment.”
At that time the bodhisattva mahasattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas mahasattva rose from their seats and proceeded to where the Buddha was. They bowed their heads to the ground in obeisance before the Buddha’s feet and circled around him a hundred thousand times. Then they advanced, knelt on one knee, and all blending their voices in unison, spoke to the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored p.32One, we have been fortunate enough to receive the compassion and mercy of the world-honored one, who for our sake has preached this profound, subtle, wonderful, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra. Respectfully we accept the Buddha’s charge. After the thus come one has passed into extinction, we will propagate this sutra far and wide, causing all beings everywhere to accept, uphold, read, recite, copy, and offer alms to it. We beg you to have no concern or fret on that account. We will employ the power of our vows to enable all living beings everywhere to see, hear, read, recite, copy, and offer alms to this sutra, and to gain the sutra’s marvelous supernatural blessings.”
At that time the Buddha praised them, saying, “Excellent, excellent, good men. Now you are true sons of the Buddha. With the vastness of your great compassion and great pity, you can rescue those sunk in profound suffering, save those in peril. You are fields of good fortune for all living beings. You will act as great and good guides and teachers for all beings far and wide. You are great supports and resting places for all living beings. You are great almsgivers for all living beings. At all times you will take the profits of the Law and distribute them abroad to all beings.”
At that time all the members of the great assembly were filled with great joy. Bowing in obeisance to the Buddha, they accepted and upheld his teaching and then departed.

Foreword
I view with the greatest pleasure the publication of this English translation of the Ongi kuden, or The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, by Dr. Burton Watson, a translator of world renown. For it will introduce to the world at large the essence of East Asian Buddhism.
Dr. Watson is widely known for his deep understanding of Chinese literature and his translations of Ssu-ma Ch’ien’s Records of the Historian and of Chinese poetry. We first met in 1973. I had for some time thought of him as the most suitable person to undertake a translation of the Lotus Sutra, and I expressed the hope that he would one day gratify us with a translation done from Kumārajīva’s Chinese version of the text. I was of course aware that there were already a number of English translations of the sutra. My hope, however, was that he would produce a translation marked by stylistic beauty, one that would do justice to the literary qualities of the text and at the same time be easily understood by readers not already familiar with Buddhism. Dr. Watson, having agreed to my proposal, fulfilled his promise twenty years later with the publication of his translation of the Lotus Sutra. It has proved a major event in the history of world Buddhism, a powerful beacon to light the future of humankind.
In 1992, the year before Dr. Watson’s translation of the Lotus Sutra appeared, I met with him again. We talked about the Ongi kuden, which embodies Nichiren’s comments on the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Watson, who by this time had completed his translation of the sutra itself, expressed a deep interest in the manner in which Nichiren interpreted it. Aware of the many problems involved, he agreed nevertheless to undertake an English translation of the Ongi kuden as well. Now, a fitting adornment to his long career as a translator, his translation of that text is being published. I am confident that it will open up to the world the profound philosophical teachings of Buddhism and act as a joyous revelation to all humankind.
Numerous persons throughout the world who seek a deeper understanding of Buddhism have heard of the Ongi kuden, but only a few have had a glimpse of its contents. Many have expressed a strong desire to learn more about the text and have long wished for an English translation.
On the occasion of the publication of this translation, I would like here to say a brief word about my own understanding of the Ongi kuden.
As I recall, it was August of 1962 when I began a series of lectures on the Ongi kuden designed for college-level students who were members of the Soka Gakkai. I wanted to train future leaders of the movement and to make the profound philosophy of Nichiren accessible in contemporary terms. It was a time of nuclear armament, an age engulfed in hatred and mistrust, and I felt there was a deep need to replace these with a humanism based on mutual trust and harmony.
Generally speaking, Buddhism is viewed as an exploration of the inner world of the individual, focusing mainly upon meditation and the observance of religious precepts or rules. And in fact it has largely ignored the question of how these inner concerns of the individual can be applied to the outer world of society as a whole. Therefore few people perceive Buddhism as a philosophy for the attainment of world peace.
Nichiren, however, as he demonstrated in his famous work On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land, posited a fundamental truth or principle that a revolution beginning within the inner being of the individual can then bring about a similar revolution in the world at large.
Basing himself upon the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren did not look to some external being such as a Buddha or the gods as the source of this revolution in the individual and in society. Instead he perceived a Law or truth that permeates both the inner being of the individual and the life force of the universe as a whole, and sought to open up and disseminate an understanding of that truth. But this concept far transcended the ordinary thinking of the age in which he lived, and as a result, as the Lotus Sutra itself had predicted, he could not fail but encounter numerous grave difficulties. And indeed, the very fact that he endured such difficulties in the course of propagating the sutra was proof of the correctness of its teachings, and at the same time evidence that he was, as it were, “reading the Lotus Sutra” with his whole being, that he was a true “votary of the Lotus Sutra.”
In later years, when Nichiren retired to Mount Minobu, he delivered a series of lectures on the Lotus Sutra for the instruction of his disciples. He revealed the hidden meanings of the sutra passages that were so familiar to him, the meanings that earlier authorities on the sutra such as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai and the Great Teacher Miao-lo had not fully brought to light. Nichiren, utilizing the work of these earlier commentators, in his own lectures on the sutra proceeded to make clear these hidden meanings.
His lectures were recorded and compiled by Nikkō, one of his closest disciples. Nichiren gave his approval to the work, whose completion is recorded as the first day of the first month of the first year of the Kōan era, which corresponds to the year 1278. It later came to be known as the Ongi kuden, or The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings.
The charge is often made that the Lotus Sutra, though abounding in highly vivid similes and parables, lacks philosophical content. If we look only at its surface meaning, we may perhaps agree with such an opinion. But Buddhism customarily applies three approaches in interpreting its writings, examining them first from the standpoint of the words of the text, then from that of the ideas or meaning implied by the words, and finally, from that of the underlying purport or purpose of the work.
Chinese authorities on the Lotus Sutra such as T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo, by pondering the words of the sutra, had derived from them certain subtle ideas or doctrines, which they described in terms such as “the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” “the attainment of Buddhahood in the remote past,” “opening the near and revealing the distant,” or “the replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle.” But their commentaries had as yet not brought to light the underlying purpose or import of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren in his lectures on the sutra revealed that the purport or heart of the work is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and from that standpoint he proceeded to give his explication of the sutra as a whole. This may be termed an interpretation based on his observation of the mind, or the inner truth, implicit in the text, and it constitutes a philosophy of profound depth. Nichiren in effect infused new life into the Lotus Sutra.
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings begins with an explication of the term Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It then proceeds to cite key passages in each of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, in some cases first introducing quotations from the commentaries of T’ien-t’ai or Miao-lo on these passages, in other cases proceeding directly to Nichiren’s interpretation, which, as mentioned earlier, is based upon his “observation of the mind.” The work concludes with commentary on key passages from two short sutras, the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra and the Universal Worthy Sutra, that have traditionally been regarded as prologue and epilogue, respectively, to the Lotus Sutra. In all, Orally Transmitted Teachings contains commentary on a total of 231 passages. Furthermore, there are two additional sections.
What is the basic philosophical outlook of Orally Transmitted Teachings? Various interpretations are possible, but my view is that ultimately it resides in the concept of the dignity of the human being and the dignity of life. In specific terms, it is the belief that ordinary people are capable of attaining Buddhahood, that ordinary people are in fact Buddhas.
In most religions, human beings are relegated to a level quite inferior to that of the sacred being or beings of the faith. But in a religion like Buddhism, whose basic mission is to elevate men and women to the highest plane of spiritual attainment, human beings are referred to rather as “children of the gods” or “children of the Buddha,” terminology that reflects the religion’s very reason for existing.
This fact is most clearly indicated in the following passage from Orally Transmitted Teachings. In the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha reveals that he attained Buddhahood in the far distant past. “It has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas,” he explains, “since I in fact attained Buddhahood” (Lotus Sutra, p. 225).
Ordinarily, one would of course take the “I” in this utterance to refer to Shakyamuni himself. But Nichiren declares that the “I” refers to “the living beings of the Dharma-realm,” to “each and every one in the Ten Worlds.” He is saying that all beings in the Ten Worlds of existence have from the beginning been Buddhas. One might suppose that this is a statement of mere abstract principle. But Nichiren goes on to say, “Now Nichiren and his followers, those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the original lords of teachings of the ‘Life Span’ chapter” (p. 126). That is, anyone who chants the daimoku, regardless of who the person may be, can perceive that he or she has “from the beginning been a Buddha.” In this way he demonstrates the concrete application of his earlier statement.
Thus, in a simple and straightforward pronouncement, he states the principle that ordinary people are identical with the Buddha. This view of human beings is one of the most outstanding characteristics of Orally Transmitted Teachings.
But then there is the problem of human suffering. It would not be too much to say that all human life is in a sense a battle, a trial of endurance. As Tolstoy has written, “All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.” In life we are buffeted by a veritable storm of troubles: the death of kin, pronouncements of incurable illness, bankruptcy, job loss, dissension in the family. This is the true nature of life, and for that reason, people turn to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in hope of finding some safety in the midst of such realities, for the “peace and security in their present existence” that the Lotus Sutra promises (Lotus Sutra, p. 99). But if such ills condemn human beings to unhappiness, then we would have to conclude that the happy human being exists only in fantasy.
Nichiren himself lived a life marked by repeated troubles and hardship. Twice condemned to exile, faced with execution, attacked by warriors and ruffians, subjected to abuse and slander, again and again his very existence was in danger. His was a life far removed from the “peace and security” described in the Lotus Sutra. And for that very reason, many people doubted that Nichiren was in fact the kind of “votary of the Lotus Sutra” who faithfully carries out the sutra’s injunctions.
In his lectures on the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren, viewing the course of his own life and pondering the harsh realities of human existence, declared, “You should understand that, when one practices the Lotus Sutra under such circumstances, difficulties will arise, and these are to be looked on as ‘peaceful’ practices” (p. 115). Such a statement would at first glance seem to contradict the Lotus Sutra itself. But rather than being a conclusion that contradicts the Lotus Sutra, it is one that brings to light the true meaning of the sutra, a meaning that lies deeper than the mere surface words of the text.
From his words we learn that happiness means not the absence of troubles but rather the refusal to be defeated by them, which is the true definition of happiness.
Nichiren goes on to state, “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 that the varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (p. 138). He announces that he will carry out an act of great compassion, sharing the sufferings of all beings and rescuing them from these sufferings. Thinking not of himself alone, he expresses a fervent desire to bring happiness to all human beings, showing through his own being the true way for a Buddhist believer to proceed.
I would like also to call attention to Nichiren’s comments on “The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The example of patience and perseverance that this bodhisattva presents, the power of a Law that seeks to save both believers and maligners alike, his practice of paying honor to the Buddha nature present in all beings as he “simply went about bowing to people” (Lotus Sutra, p. 267)—all this is a concrete demonstration of the belief that all people are capable of attaining Buddhahood. And Nichiren adopts this same practice as his own, developing it into a compassionate struggle to save all humankind through kōsen-rufu, or the wide propagation of the teachings.
Nichiren believed that the heart of Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime teachings lay in the Lotus Sutra, and that the heart of the Lotus Sutra’s practice lay in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. In one of his letters, he writes, “What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.”1 This letter, which resounds with praise for the humanism of the Buddhist doctrine, stresses that the truth of Buddhism is to be found not in the words of the sutra alone, but in the Buddha’s aims as they are revealed in his actions as a human being.
Bodhisattva Never Disparaging bowed to persons of all kinds in order to awaken them to the reality that all possess the Buddha nature within themselves. In doing so, he gave expression to boundless courage and a faith that could not be shaken.
Nichiren in his comments on the “Never Disparaging” chapter lists fourteen different ways in which one could look at the act of obeisance performed by the bodhisattva as he “went about bowing to people.” In one of these he says, “It is like the situation when one faces a mirror and makes a bow of obeisance: the image in the mirror likewise makes a bow of obeisance to oneself” (p. 165). Here he is pointing to a highly important moral principle that appears to be lacking in modern society, namely, a spirit of mutual trust and mutual esteem, one that understands that when you show respect for others, they will show respect for you.
The principal cause for the sense of alienation that besets human beings in our present-day society is egotism. This is the conclusion reached in the discussions I held some years ago with the historian, Dr. Arnold Toynbee. And how is one to overcome this attachment to egotism? From a Buddhist point of view, it is to be accomplished by ridding human beings of their self-centeredness, of what Buddhism terms the “fundamental darkness” that enshrouds their lives. This is ignorance, a lack of awareness of the true dignity of their existence, of the fact that their own lives are embodiments of the Wonderful Law and that they themselves have from the beginning been Buddhas. And what can wipe out this ignorance is a firm faith, a faith that never doubts the Buddha nature within all men and women, never doubts the dignity of their inner beings. The engendering of such faith is now humankind’s greatest need, is it not?
An organization of people who are spreading Nichiren’s philosophy of peace and life, and who share its doctrines and ideals, exists at present in 190 different countries and regions of the world. The solidarity of men and women who are wakened to the true dignity of life will continue to expand and make it possible that war and terrorism be wiped out, and that poverty, destruction of the environment, and other global problems that now threaten humankind be solved. I firmly believe that that day will come, and my one great desire is that it may come as quickly as possible.
In closing, I would like to express my own heartfelt wish that readers will find in this book a fountain of inexhaustible wisdom and that it will enable them to live lives filled with boundless courage and hope.

Daisaku Ikeda

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: