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14 day month of nichiren commenses today, his Birthday 1222 April 6

6 April 2015

1255 words morning and 1255 night, each day for 14 days will easily equal the 35k words of THE 1MONTH OF NICHIREN DAISHONIN APRIL 6 THROUGH APRIL 20 or PLANETARY 3 THROUGH PLANETARY 23 which is ‘ns.1.27.10.3 through 10.23’  

THE FIRST DAY OF THE FIRST MONTH OF THE NEW YEAR IS TODAY. TODAY IS NICHIREN DAISHONIN ONE OF TWENTY-EIGHT

Warning against Begrudging One’s Fief, A I, p. 823

9
A Warning against Begrudging One’s Fief

YOUR letter dated the twenty-fifth of last month arrived at the hour of the cock (5:00–7:00 p.m.) on the twenty-seventh of the same month. On reading the official letter [ordering you to submit a written oath renouncing your faith in the Lotus Sutra] and your pledge not to write such an oath, I felt that it was rare and as fragrant as seeing the udumbara plant in bloom and smelling the budding red sandalwood.
Shāriputra, Maudgalyāyana, and Mahākāshyapa were great arhats who had acquired the three insights and the six transcendental powers. Moreover, they were bodhisattvas who, because of the Lotus Sutra, had attained the first stage of development and the first stage of security, that is, the realization of the non-birth and non-extinction of all phenomena. Yet even they deemed themselves unable to endure the great persecutions that would attend the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the sahā world in the Latter Day of the Law, and declined to accept the task. How then is it possible for ordinary people in the latter age, who have not yet eradicated the three categories of illusion, to become votaries of this sutra?
Even though I myself have been able to withstand attacks with sticks of wood or tiles and stones, vilification, and persecution by the authorities, how could people such as lay believers, who have wives and children, and are ignorant of Buddhism, possibly do the same? Perhaps they would have done better never to have believed in the first place. If they are unable to carry through with their faith to the end, and uphold it only for a short while, they will be mocked by others. So thinking, I felt pity for you. But during the repeated persecutions I suffered and throughout my two sentences of exile, you have demonstrated your resolve. Though that has been wondrous enough, I have no words sufficient to praise you for having written a pledge to carry through with your faith in the Lotus Sutra, in spite of your lord’s threats and at the cost of your two fiefs.
The Buddha wondered whether even bodhisattvas like Universal Worthy and Manjushrī could undertake the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age, and he therefore entrusted the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to Superior Practices and the other three leaders of bodhisattvas who had sprung up from the earth as numerous as the dust particles of a thousand worlds. Now, pondering the meaning of this matter, I wonder if Bodhisattva Superior Practices has taken possession of your body in order to assist me along the way. Or could it be p.824the design of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings?
The fact that those retainers who resent you are growing more presumptuous is definitely the result of the scheming of the priests Ryōkan and Ryūzō. Should you write an oath discarding your faith, they would only become more arrogant, and they would mention it to everyone they meet. Then my disciples in Kamakura would be hounded until not a single one remained.
It is the nature of ordinary people not to know what awaits them in the future. Those who have a full understanding of this are called worthies or sages. Passing over examples from the past, I will cite one from the present. The lord of Musashi1 gave up both his domains and became a lay priest. I hear that ultimately he abandoned many estates, forsook his sons and daughters as well as his wife, and secluded himself from the world. You have neither sons nor reliable brothers. You have only your two fiefs. This life is like a dream. One cannot be sure that one will live until tomorrow. However wretched a beggar you might become, never disgrace the Lotus Sutra. Since it will be the same in any event, do not betray grief. Just as you have written in your letter, you must act and speak without the least servility. If you try to curry favor, the situation will only worsen. Even if your fiefs should be confiscated or you yourself driven out, you must think that it is due to the workings of the ten demon daughters, and wholeheartedly entrust yourself to them.
Had I not been exiled, but remained in Kamakura, I would certainly have been killed in the battle.2 In like manner, since remaining in your lord’s service will likely be to your detriment, this may well be the design of Shakyamuni Buddha.
I have written a petition3 on your behalf. Although there are several priests there [in Kamakura], as they are too unreliable, I was thinking of sending Sammi-bō. However, since he has still not recovered from his illness, I am sending this other priest4 in his stead. Have either Daigaku Saburō, Taki no Tarō, or Toki5 make a clean copy of it when he has time, and present it to your lord. If you can do that, the matter will be resolved. You need not be in a great hurry; rather, make preparations quietly within your lord’s clan. As for the others, let them clamor against you far and wide. Then, if you submit the petition, it may spread throughout Kamakura, and perhaps even reach the regent himself. This would be misfortune changing into fortune.
I explained the teachings of the Lotus Sutra to you before. Matters of minor importance arise from good, but when it comes to a matter of great importance, great disaster without fail changes into great fortune. When people read this petition, their errors will surely come to light. You have only to speak briefly. Say rebukingly, “I will neither leave my lord’s clan nor return my fief of my own accord. If my lord should confiscate it, I will regard it as an offering to the Lotus Sutra and a blessing.”
You must in no way behave in a servile fashion toward the magistrate.6 Tell him, “These fiefs were not bestowed upon me by my lord. They were awarded to me because I saved his life with the medicine of the Lotus Sutra when he was seriously ill. If he takes them from me, his illness will surely return. At that time, even if he should apologize to me, I will not accept it.” Having said so, take your leave in an abrupt manner.
Avoid all gatherings. Maintain a strict guard at night. Be on good terms with the night watchmen7 and make use of them. You should always be in company with them. If you are not ousted this time, the chances are nine to one that your fellow samurai will p.825make an attempt on your life. No matter what, be sure not to die a shameful death.

Nichiren

The seventh month in the third year of Kenji (1277), cyclical sign hinoto-ushi

Reply to Shijō Kingo

Way to Minobu, The II, p. 480

NO words can describe this famine. Not even a single measure of rice is for sale. We will surely starve to death. I will send back all of these priests and stay here alone.1 Please explain the situation to the priests.
On the twelfth day we reached Sakawa, on the thirteenth day Takenoshita, on the fourteenth day Kurumagaeshi, on the fifteenth Ōmiya, on the sixteenth Nambu, and on the seventeenth this place.
Though I am still undecided, because this location in the mountains is for the most part satisfactory to me, it is likely that I will remain here for a while. In the end my lot will no doubt be to wander Japan alone. But if I do stay here I would like it very much if you would visit.
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The seventeenth day
To Toki

Wealthy Man Sudatta, The I, p. 1086

I HAVE received your offering of one thousand coins. Because you have demonstrated such sincerity, I will tell you something. You must not think I am a greedy priest.
I will teach you how to become a Buddha easily. Teaching another something is the same as oiling the wheels of a cart so that they turn even though it is heavy, or as floating a boat on water so that it moves ahead easily. The way to become a Buddha easily is nothing special. It is the same as giving water to a thirsty person in a time of drought, or as providing fire for a person freezing in the cold. Or again, it is the same as giving another something that is one of a kind, or as offering something as alms to another even at the risk of one’s life.
There was once a ruler called King Golden Color.1 For twelve years his country was besieged by a severe drought, and countless numbers of people died of starvation. In the rivers, corpses were treated as bridges, and on land, skeletons were regarded as burial mounds. At that time, King Golden Color aroused a great aspiration to save others and distributed a vast quantity of alms. He gave away everything he could, until a mere five measures of rice remained in his storehouse. When his ministers informed him that this would provide him with food for a single day, the great king took up the five measures of rice and let each of his starving subjects have, for example, one or two grains, or three or four grains. Then he looked up to the heavens and raised his voice, crying out that he would take the pain of all the people’s hunger and thirst on himself and die of starvation. The heavenly gods heard him and instantly sent down the sweet rain of immortality. All those people whose bodies this rain touched or whose faces it fell upon became satiated with food, and in the space of a moment, the inhabitants of the entire country revived.
In India there was a wealthy man called Sudatta. Seven times he became poor, and seven times he became a wealthy man. During his last period of poverty, when all the people had fled or perished and only he and his wife remained, they had five measures of rice that would nourish them for five days. At that time, five people—Mahākāshyapa, Shāriputra, Ānanda, Rāhula, and Shakyamuni Buddha—came one after another to beg for the five measures of rice, which Sudatta gave them. From that day on, Sudatta was the wealthiest man in all India, and he built Jetavana Monastery. From this, you should understand all things.
Just as a monkey resembles a man and a rice cake resembles the moon, p.1087you already resemble the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Because you so earnestly protected my followers in Atsuhara, the people of this country consider you to be like Masakado of the Shōhei era or Sadatō of the Tengi era. This is solely because you have devoted your life to the Lotus Sutra. The heavenly gods do not in the least regard you as a man who has betrayed his lord. In addition, having had numerous public works forcibly assigned to your little village, you yourself lack the horse you should be riding, and your wife and children lack the clothing they should be wearing. Your feeling anxious that the votary of the Lotus Sutra was probably being assailed by snow amidst the mountains and in want of food, and sending me one thousand coins even in such circumstances, is exactly like the poor woman giving a begging monk the single garment that she and her husband wore, or like Rida giving the millet in his jar to a pratyekabuddha.2 How admirable, how noble! I will speak to you in more detail later.
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month in the third year of Kōan (1280)

Reply to Ueno

What It Means to Hear the Buddha Vehicle for the First Time II, p. 741
Background
I HAVE received the seven strings of coins that you sent from Shimōsa Province to me here in Kai Province. These are to be used for memorial services marking the third anniversary of the passing1 of your beloved mother.
Question: “There has never been anything to compare to the brightness and serenity of concentration and insight.”2 Just what does this mean?
Answer: It refers to the concentration and insight of perfect and immediate enlightenment.
Question: And what does “the concentration and insight of perfect and immediate enlightenment” mean?
Answer: It is another name for the Lotus meditation.
Question: And just what does “Lotus meditation” mean?
Answer: It refers to the practice of the Lotus Sutra carried out by the ordinary people of this latter age. There are two aspects to this. One is the opening up and merging of the seeds of similar species. The other is the opening up and merging of the seeds of opposites.
Question: Where do these terms derive from?
Answer: They are taken from the “Parable of the Medicinal Herbs” chapter in the third volume of the Lotus Sutra, the passage that reads, “[Because only the Thus Come One understands] the species, the form, the substance, the nature of these living beings.” Of these four things, the first, “species,”3 has two meanings, namely, the seeds of similar species and the seeds of opposites.
Regarding the term “seeds of similar species,” a commentary says: “All living beings who possess minds have the seeds of the Buddha nature. When they hear a phrase of the sutra, they have the seeds of the wisdom to perceive their Buddha nature. And when they bow their heads and lift up their hands in reverence, this represents the seeds of the good deeds needed to develop that wisdom and realize their Buddha nature.”4
As for the “seeds of opposites,” they are the three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering. They in themselves become what are called the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation.
The doctrine regarding the seeds of similar species is embodied in the Lotus Sutra, but portions of it are also to be found in the various sutras preached prior to the Lotus. Miao-lo in his commentary states, “The specific teaching speaks only of the seeds of similar species and not of the seeds of opposites.”5 Here the term “specific teaching” does not refer to the specific teaching in its original sense, but to the p.742perfect teaching as it is found in the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra or to the perfect teaching expounded by teachers other than T’ien-t’ai.6 Also, in the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the twenty or more lines that begin “If persons make offerings to the relics . . . ”7 pertain on the whole to the opening up and merging of the seeds of similar species.
Question: Just what is meant by the term “seeds of opposites”?
Answer: Great Concentration and Insight states: “What does it mean to hear the perfect teaching? It means to hear the doctrine that birth and death are none other than the Dharma body, that earthly desires are none other than wisdom, and that the bond of karma is none other than emancipation. These are three terms but they are not three entities. These are a single entity, though they are known by three names. These three have a single form; in truth they are not different from one another. When one succeeds in attaining the Dharma body, one also attains wisdom and emancipation. Since wisdom is pure, the other two are also pure. Since emancipation means freedom, the other two also mean freedom. The hearing of all the doctrines follows this same pattern. All the Buddhist doctrines are incorporated, and none of them are lost or missing. This is what is called ‘hearing the perfect teaching.’”
This passage of commentary may serve as the model for the definition of “the seeds of opposites.”
Question: And just exactly what does it mean?
Answer: It means that the realm of birth and death is one of suffering inflicted upon our persons as a result of past actions, and includes the five components, the twelve sense fields, and the eighteen elements. The term “earthly desires” refers to the three categories of illusion, namely, illusions of thought and desire, illusions innumerable as particles of dust and sand, and illusions about the true nature of existence. The bond of karma refers to the five cardinal sins, the ten evil acts, and the four major offenses. The Dharma body is the Thus Come One of the Dharma body; wisdom is the Thus Come One of the reward body; and emancipation is the Thus Come One of the manifested body.
We living beings for vast kalpas without beginning have been endowed with these three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering. And now, when we encounter the Lotus Sutra, these three paths become none other than the three virtues of the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation.
Objection: Water does not come from fire, and grass does not grow from a stone. Evil causes produce evil effects, good causes call forth good responses—such is the fixed principle in the Buddhist teaching. If we inquire into our beginnings, we find that the seminal fluid and blood of the father and mother, the two fluids, one white, one red, come together to produce a single being. And this is the root of evil, the source of impurity. Though the great ocean itself should wash over us, it could not wash away this impurity.
And if we inquire into the root of the suffering that is inflicted upon our persons, we find that it derives from the three poisons of greed, anger, and foolishness. Through the two paths of earthly desires and suffering, karma is created. And this path of karma is none other than what binds us to the realm of birth and death. We are like birds shut up in a cage. How can these three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering be called three causes leading to Buddhahood? You may gather together turds and try to make sandalwood of them, but they will never have the aroma of sandalwood!
Answer: Your objection is quite p.743reasonable. And rather than try to address it, I would like simply to quote the words of Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna, the thirteenth of the Buddha’s successors and founder of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai’s line, who in explaining the word myō, or “wonderful,” in the term myōhō says it is “like a great physician who can change poison into medicine.”8
What is the poison? It is the three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering that are our lot. What is the medicine? It is the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation. And what does it mean to change poison into medicine? It means to transform the three paths into the three virtues: the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation. T’ien-t’ai says, “The character myō is defined as being beyond ordinary comprehension.”9 And he also says, “Life at each moment . . . This is what we mean when we speak of the ‘region of the unfathomable.’”10
This is what the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form means. In recent times the Flower Garland and True Word schools, having stolen this doctrine, treat it as their own. They are outrageous thieves, the most outrageous in the world!
Question: Can ordinary people really understand the meaning of this secret doctrine?
Answer: My own answer would be of no use in this case. But Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna in the ninety-third volume of his Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom states: “The fact that arhats who have eradicated illusions and earthly desires are now able to attain Buddhahood—this is something that only Buddhas can understand. If one is discoursing on doctrine, one ought to give a reasonable explanation, but in truth the matter goes beyond comprehension, and one should therefore not engage in idle theorizing. Once one has succeeded in attaining Buddhahood one will then be able to understand well enough. As for other people, they should have faith, knowing that they can not yet understand.”
This passage of commentary means that bodhisattvas who have cut off the first eleven of the twelve levels of ignorance in accordance with the specific teaching of the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, and great bodhisattvas who have cut off the first forty-one of the forty-two levels of ignorance in accordance with the perfect teaching—even such great bodhisattvas as Universal Worthy and Manjushrī cannot yet understand the meaning of the Lotus Sutra. How much more so is this the case, then, of people of the three vehicles of voice-hearer, cause-awakened one, and bodhisattva who follow the first two of the four teachings, the Tripitaka and the connecting teachings? And how much more is it the case of ordinary people in this latter age?
From this we can surmise that when the Lotus Sutra says that it “can only be understood and shared between Buddhas,”11 it is referring to the fact that it teaches that even for people of the two vehicles, who are depicted in the sutras preached prior to the Lotus as having “reduced the body to ashes and annihilated consciousness,”12 the three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering are in themselves the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation. We may also say that, since even people of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, this must also be true for bodhisattvas and for ordinary people.
That is why T’ien-t’ai states: “The sense organs of people of the two vehicles have become defective [and can never be restored to their proper function]. Therefore it is said that such people have been poisoned. But when the Lotus Sutra predicts that these people will eventually attain Buddhahood, the poison is changed into medicine. Therefore the treatise says that the p.744various other sutras are not secret teachings, but the Lotus Sutra is secret.”13 Miao-lo notes that in this passage the word “treatise” refers to Great Perfection of Wisdom.
Question: What benefit do we gain by hearing this doctrine?
Answer: This is what it means to hear the Lotus Sutra for the first time. Miao-lo says: “If one has faith in the teaching that the three paths of earthly desires, karma, and suffering are none other than the three virtues of the Dharma body, wisdom, and emancipation, then one can cross the two rivers of transmigration, to say nothing of making one’s way in the threefold world.”14
And when ordinary people in the latter age hear this doctrine, not only will they themselves attain Buddhahood, but also their fathers and mothers will attain Buddhahood in their present forms. This is the highest expression of filial devotion.
As I am not well, I will not go into greater detail, but will write again another time.

Nichiren

The twenty-eighth day of the second month in the fourth year of Kenji [1278], cyclical sign tsuchinoe-tora
To Toki

What It Means to Slander the Law II, p. 246

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

When the Roots Are Exposed, the Branches Wither II, p. 1065

THE Three Treatises school too is founded on texts that are lacking in reason. If persons who are blind encounter its teachings, they are led into error. But if wise persons of clear vision do so, then the falsity of its doctrines becomes apparent. When the roots are exposed, the branches wither; when the springs dry up, the current ceases to flow—such is the natural principle.
The Nembutsu school, the Zen school, and the True Word school have roots that are founded in error and their springs lead to deception. But if their roots and their springs are exposed to view, though this may be done by so lowly a person as I, Nichiren, then, so long as Heaven’s design is to bring about a time when the great Law will spread abroad, those evil teachings will be defeated and the true Law will be established—there can be no doubt of this.
Do you realize that already the time is at hand when these evil teachings will vanish? I may be despised and mercilessly hounded . . .

White Horses and White Swans I, p. 1061

Background
IN the letter you wrote from Utsubusa you say that the ninth day of the eighth month will mark the hundredth-day anniversary of your father’s passing, and that, as an offering, you present ten thousand coins with deep respect.
In the declaration you sent for the memorial service, you say that you have read and recited the entire Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law once, the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters thirty times each, and the verse section of the “Life Span” chapter three hundred times, and have chanted the daimoku of Myoho-renge-kyo fifty thousand times. In the same document you say that you recall gratefully how, when your deceased father was still alive, you, my disciple, journeyed a thousand ri over mountains and rivers [to this distant place], receiving in person from me the daimoku of the Mystic Law, and how, less than thirty days later, your father’s life came to an end. You say that although, alas, he has now become mere white bones in the dew garden1 of Jambudvīpa, that although he has turned to dust and earth, you believe that his departed spirit will surely blossom into a flower of enlightenment in the land of Eagle Peak.
Your declaration is signed, “Respectfully yours, the woman disciple of the Onakatomi clan, third year of the Kōan era (1280).”
When we consider the matter, we realize that, although in India the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, the single vehicle, is so voluminous that it can fill a whole city one yojana square, the version that has been transmitted to Japan consists of only eight volumes. In the past, there have been many examples of people who, praying to receive benefit in their present or future existences, have achieved their desires by reciting and praising all eight volumes, or merely one volume, or the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters, or the verse section of the “Life Span” chapter alone. I will say no more about these examples here.
In your declaration you speak of reciting the daimoku of Myoho-renge-kyo fifty thousand times. With regard to this statement, I have tried to think of earlier examples of such a practice, but they seem to be very few. Although there may have been some who recited this daimoku once or twice and gained benefit, I have never heard of anyone who recited it fifty thousand times.
All phenomena have their respective names, and the name in each case indicates the particular virtue or property inherent in that thing. For example, the person known as General Stone Tiger was so called because he was capable of penetrating a stone tiger with p.1062an arrow. And the minister Target Piercing2 was given that name because he could shoot an arrow through a target made of iron. In both cases, the name indicates the qualities of the person.
In the case of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, the virtues and benefits of its eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters are all contained within the five characters that make up its title; it is like, for instance, the wish-granting jewel that contains ten thousand different jewels within it. This is what is meant by the doctrine that the three thousand realms are all contained within a single particle of dust.
The word namu expresses feelings of reverence and a sense of compliance. Therefore, the Venerable Ānanda placed namu above the two characters meaning “this” [of “This is what I heard”], which he wrote at the beginning of all the sutras. The Great Teacher Nan-yüeh employed the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, the words Keishu-nam-myoho-renge-kyo.3
The Venerable Ānanda was the son of King Dronodana and a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. Sixty days after Shakyamuni passed away, Mahākāshyapa and the other disciples, a thousand persons in all, along with Manjushrī and the others, eighty thousand bodhisattvas, all gathered together in the Great Lecture Hall to lament the passing of the Buddha. They conferred among themselves, saying: “Even we, who attended upon the Buddha for so many years, lament our parting from him after only sixty days. What, then, of all the people who live a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, or in the Latter Day of the Law? What means will they have to cherish his memory?
“The six teachers of the non-Buddhist doctrines preserve the four Vedas and the eighteen major scriptures that the two deities and the three ascetics4 preached and left behind eight hundred years ago, so that the words left by their teachers might be transmitted to later ages. Should we not likewise write down the various teachings that we have heard the Buddha preach to the voice-hearers and the great bodhisattvas over the course of fifty years, so that they may serve as an eye to the people of the future?”
So concurring, they invited the Venerable Ānanda to ascend to the highest seat and looked up to him in reverence in the same way they would the Buddha, while they themselves sat in the lower seats. Then Bodhisattva Manjushrī recited the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the Venerable Ānanda, in response to this, replied, “This is what I heard.” The 999 other great arhats then all dipped their brushes in ink and wrote down the words that were spoken.
It is precisely because all the benefits represented by the eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra are contained within these five characters that Bodhisattva Manjushrī recited them. The Venerable Ānanda responded by saying, “Yes, indeed!” And the twelve thousand voice-hearers, the eighty thousand great bodhisattvas, and all the various other listeners from the two worlds and eight groups,5 since that agreed with what they had heard previously, signified their assent.
The sage known as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che wrote about the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the ten volumes and thousand pages of his work The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra. The gist of this work is that the eighty volumes or sixty volumes or forty volumes of the Flower Garland Sutra, the several hundred volumes of the Āgama sutras, the scores of volumes of the Correct and Equal Great Collection Sutra, the forty volumes or six hundred volumes of the Larger Wisdom Sutra, the forty volumes or thirty-six p.1063volumes of the Nirvana Sutra, and all the countless sutras in India, in the palaces of the dragon kings, in the heavens, and in the worlds of the ten directions that are as numerous as the dust particles of the land, are all servants and followers of the single character kyō, or sutra, of Myoho-renge-kyo.
Moreover, the Great Teacher Miao-lo wrote a work in ten volumes entitled The Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra,” in which he declared that all the sutras that were brought to China after the time of T’ien-t’ai, including the sutras known as the new translations,6 are all servants and retainers of the Lotus Sutra. And in Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyō likewise established that the Mahāvairochana Sutra and the other sutras of the True Word school, which are among the new translations, are all servants and retainers of the Lotus Sutra. Kōbō, Jikaku, Chishō, and others, however, put forth opinions that were as different from this teaching as fire is from water. I will outline these opinions later in this letter.
To illustrate, without a single exception the five regions around the capital, the seven marches, the sixty-six provinces, the two islands, and all the districts, manors, villages, fields, plots, persons, cows and horses, gold, silver, and other things in Japan are all contained within the three characters that make up the words “country of Japan.”
The character “king”7 is written with three horizontal lines and one vertical line. The three horizontal lines represent heaven, earth, and humanity, and the single vertical line represents the ruler. Like Mount Sumeru, which rises up out of the great earth and never sways, one whose presence pervades the realms of heaven, earth, and humanity and who does not waver in the slightest is called the ruler.
There are always two kinds of rulers, the first kind being the petty rulers. Minor sovereigns in the realms of human and heavenly beings would be considered petty rulers. The second kind are the great rulers; the great heavenly king Brahmā would be classified as such. In the case of Japan, the sovereign of the entire country would be considered a great ruler, while the governors of the various provinces would be petty rulers.
In the same way, sutras such as those of the Flower Garland, Āgama, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom periods, the Mahāvairochana Sutra, the Nirvana Sutra, and all the other sutras preached before, simultaneously with, or after the Lotus Sutra are petty rulers. They are like the governors of the various provinces of Japan.
The Lotus Sutra, however, is comparable to a great ruler, a Son of Heaven. Hence, the people of the Flower Garland school, the True Word school, and the other schools are like the subjects and followers of the ruler of the nation. But when people who in social rank are no more than subjects living in the various provinces attempt to divest the Son of Heaven of his virtue, then it is as if inferiors are overthrowing superiors, as if the people are turning their backs on superiors and heeding inferiors, or as if the inferiors have overcome the superiors and are rioting and creating disturbances.
No matter how much one may hope to bring about order in the world under such circumstances, the result will only be confusion within the state and the downfall of the persons involved. One might as well try to move the roots of a tree without disturbing the branches and leaves, or hope that a ship could sail peacefully when the waves of the sea have risen in fury.
Though the priests of the Flower Garland, True Word, and Nembutsu schools as well as those of the Precepts and Zen teachings claim to possess great wisdom and eminence, strictly abiding by the precepts and conducting p.1064themselves honestly, their status is that of persons born into families who engage in the overthrow of superiors by inferiors, and as such they are archenemies of the Lotus Sutra. Can they hope to escape falling into the great citadel of the Avīchi hell? Among the adherents of the ninety-five different types of non-Buddhist schools,8 there were no doubt many who were honest and wise, and yet, because they subscribed to the erroneous doctrines handed down from the two deities and the three ascetics, they could not escape being reborn in the evil paths.
In the world today, however, those people who recite Namu Amida Butsu laugh at those who recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or try to deceive them. To use secular comparisons, this is like millet disliking rice, or a landowner detesting his own fields. They are like bandits when the leaders of the army are not present, supposing that they will not be punished for their night raids or acts of burglary, or like moles before the sun has come up, believing that they are as safe as they would be underground. But when Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is like the leader of an army or like the sun, appears, they disappear as quickly as raging flames vanish under water, or as monkeys cower when they encounter dogs. Today, when the reciters of Namu Amida Butsu hear voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the color drains from their faces and their eyes glare with anger, their wits desert them and their bodies begin to quake.
The Great Teacher Dengyō said that, when the sun comes up, the stars hide themselves, and that, when true skill appears, clumsiness becomes known.9 Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna stated that erroneous words are easily dismissed, and that mistaken opinions are hard to support.10 Bodhisattva Gunamati said, “On her face there was the color of death and mourning, and in her words there was the sound of sorrow and resentment.”11 And Fa-sui said, “Those who were formerly the tigers of assertion are now the deer of assent.”12 One should consider these opinions and understand their intent.
Let us openly and clearly outline the virtues of Myoho-renge-kyo! Just as poisonous compounds are changed into medicine, so these five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo change evil into good. The Spring of Jewels is so called because, in this spring, stones are changed into jewels.13 In the same way, these five characters can change ordinary human beings into Buddhas. Therefore, because your beloved departed father chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while he was alive, he was a person who attained Buddhahood in his present form, in the same way that stones change into jewels.
The actions you have taken, then, are the very height of filial piety and concern. Therefore, it says in the Lotus Sutra: “These two sons of mine have carried out the Buddha’s work,” and also “These two sons have been good friends to me.”14
Long ago there lived a great ruler named King Rinda. As long as this ruler could listen to the neighing of white horses, his color remained healthy, he had great strength and vigor, and he was satisfied without being offered food. Even his enemies in neighboring countries doffed their helmets and pressed their palms together in admiration.
But the white horses neighed only when they caught sight of white swans. And because the ruler’s manner of governing was faulty, or perhaps because of some evil karma from his past, all the white swans disappeared. With not a single bird left, the white horses no longer neighed. And when the white horses ceased to neigh, the king’s complexion faded, his strength drained away, his body grew thin and withered, p.1065and his plans for government became shallow and ineffectual.
Soon the nation was in a state of chaos. Lamenting over what to do if soldiers from neighboring nations should rush to attack his country, the king issued a proclamation in which he said: “In our nation, many people follow the non-Buddhist teachings, all of which enjoy our patronage and support. The same is true of the Buddhist teaching. But the non-Buddhists and Buddhists are on bad terms with each other. Now whichever of these two groups can succeed in making the white horses neigh will have its teaching made the object of our faith, while the other’s teaching will be banished from the nation.”
At this time all the non-Buddhist leaders gathered together and tried their best to make the white swans appear and the white horses neigh, but no swans appeared. Although in the past these leaders had shown themselves capable of causing clouds to form and fog to come rolling in, of calling forth winds and stirring up waves, of bringing forth fire or water from their bodies, of changing men into horses or horses into men, and of performing any acts that they pleased, for some reason on this occasion they could not make the swans appear.
At this time there was a disciple of the Buddha known as Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha, or Horse Neigh. When he prayed to the Buddhas of the ten directions, the white swans immediately came forth, and the white horses began to neigh. When the king heard the sound, his color began to improve somewhat, his strength returned, and his skin took on a fresh look. More white swans appeared, and still more, until a thousand birds had come forth, and a thousand white horses neighed all at the same time like cocks crowing at dawn. When the king heard this sound, his complexion became as bright as the sun, his skin as fresh-looking as the moon, his strength as powerful as the god Nārāyana, and his plans for government as sagacious as those of the god Brahmā.
Then, because the silken words of the ruler were as irreversible as the outflow of sweat from the body, all the temples belonging to the non-Buddhist leaders were converted into Buddhist temples.
The country of Japan today resembles the story of King Rinda. This country began with the era of the gods. As it gradually approached the latter age, however, the views of its people became warped, and greed, anger, and foolishness grew stronger. The gods became shallow in their understanding, their authority and power waned, and they began to have difficulty extending their protection even to their devotees.
Meanwhile, the teachings of the great doctrine known as Buddhism were introduced to the country and gradually spread. The people once again became honest and straightforward in their outlook, and the gods were restored to power and authority. But many erroneous opinions appeared in connection with the Buddhist beliefs, and because of these the situation in the country became perilous.
The Great Teacher Dengyō traveled to China and there carried out an investigation into all the various sacred teachings of Japan, China, and India. He discarded those that were inferior and selected those that were worthy, examining each without prejudice or favor. In the end he singled out the Lotus Sutra and two other sutras,15 designating them as the three sutras that would ensure the protection of the nation.
Other sages, however, such as the great teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō, claiming to base their ideas on teachings from China or India, p.1066proceeded to demote the Lotus Sutra to second or third rank among the sutras, declaring it to be a work of “childish theory”16 or claiming that it belonged to “the region of darkness.”17 In place of the Lotus Sutra, they elevated the three sutras18 of the True Word teaching to the position of highest honor.
Thus the age gradually became one in which inferiors overthrow superiors, and these mistaken doctrines spread throughout the entire country. Hence many people have fallen into the evil paths, and the gods have little by little lost their authority, again finding it difficult to protect even their own devotees. As a result, we see that the five rulers19 of the nation, from the eighty-first to the eighty-fifth sovereign, either drowned in the western ocean or were abandoned on islands in the four seas. They were treated like demons while they were alive, and after their demise they fell into the hell of incessant suffering.
However, because there was no one who understood this situation, it has been impossible to remedy it. I am generally aware of these matters, and therefore try to repay the debt of gratitude I owe my country [by speaking the truth], but people only hate me for it.
But I will say no more about that. Instead I would like to say that your beloved father is comparable to King Rinda, and you yourself are comparable to Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha. The white swans are the Lotus Sutra, the white horses are Nichiren, and the neighing of the white horses is the sound of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And so, in the same way that, when King Rinda hears the sound of the horses, his complexion brightens and his strength increases, when your beloved deceased father hears the sound of your voice chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he will delight in his Buddhahood.

Nichiren

The fourteenth day of the eighth month in the third year of Kōan (1280)

Reply to the lady of Utsubusa

Why No Protection from the Heavenly Gods? II, p. 432

Reply [to Toki]
I have no doubt what my final moments will be. When my head is cut off, I will experience a special joy. Having encountered great bandits, I know I will exchange their great poison for a precious jewel.1

I HAVE received the strings of coins in the number that you indicated. I do not know how to thank you for your kindness. As for matters of doctrine, I have discussed them in the work2 that I sent earlier to Shijō Saburō Saemon-no-jō. You should read that work very, very carefully.
If we examine the sutra passages in general, there can be no doubt that I, Nichiren, am a votary of the Lotus Sutra. But now the heavenly gods do not lend me their protection. One reason may be that, because this is an evil country, the heavenly gods and benevolent deities have abandoned it. A second reason may be that, because the benevolent deities cannot taste the flavor of the Law, they have lost their majesty and strength. A third reason may be that great evil demons have entered the hearts of the three powerful enemies, and hence the gods Brahmā and Shakra have no power to restrain them. I will write you later to show documentary and theoretical proofs for each of these cases.
But my life from the beginning has been based upon firm conviction. I have no intention now of reversing my course, nor will I ever reproach [those who persecuted me]. Evil persons too will be good friends to me. As to which of the two approaches, shōju or shakubuku, I should adopt, I rely upon the teachings of the Buddha. I would never dare to make an arbitrary decision of my own. All affairs will come to a conclusion in the pure land of Eagle Peak.
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The tenth day of the fourth month
To Toki

Why Present-Day Nembutsu Practitioners Are Destined for the Hell of Incessant Suffering II, p. 288

190
Why Present-Day Nembutsu 
Practitioners Are Destined for the Hell 
of Incessant Suffering

Background
Written by Āchārya Nichiren at Renge-ji temple in the hamlet of Hanabusa in Tōjō Village, Nagasa District, Awa Province, for Jōen-bō. The first year of Bun’ei [1264], cyclical sign kinoe-ne, ninth month, twenty-second day.

QUESTION: What is your reason for asserting that present-day practitioners of the Nembutsu are destined to fall into the hell of incessant suffering?
Answer: I base my reasoning on The Nembutsu Chosen above All by Hōnen.
Question: And what does this Nembutsu Chosen above All say?
Answer: During the Kennin era [1201–1204], when the Retired Emperor Gotoba exercised power, a comet appeared in the country of Japan, and its name was Hōnen, also known as Genkū. He wrote a work in one volume called Nembutsu Chosen above All, which runs to some sixty or more sheets of paper. It is divided by topic into sixteen sections, and in the first section he states that, according to The Collected Essays on the World of Peace and Delight by the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o, two categories of teachings are to be distinguished, the Sacred Way teachings and the Pure Land teachings.
The Sacred Way teachings include all the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras with the exception of the three Pure Land sutras. The designation “Sacred Way teachings” includes the various exoteric and esoteric Mahayana sutras, such as the Mahāvairochana Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Benevolent Kings Sutra, and the Golden Light Sutra, works that have been held in particular reverence by the imperial court, and all schools of Buddhism that honor any Buddha or bodhisattva other than Amida Buddha, among these the True Word school and the others that make up the eight schools that have been held in particular reverence by the imperial court. It is asserted that although these various sutras, Buddhas, and schools were appropriate for the capacities of persons living in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, now that the world has entered the Latter Day of the Law, not a single person who puts faith in them can hope to gain release from the sufferings of birth and death.
Hōnen also notes that the Dharma Teacher T’an-luan in his Commentary on “The Treatise on Rebirth in the Pure Land” distinguishes two types of practice, a difficult-to-practice way and an easy-to-practice way.
In the second section of his work, Hōnen follows the writings of the p.289Reverend Shan-tao, five works in a total of nine volumes,1 in distinguishing two categories of practice, namely, correct practices and sundry practices. The so-called sundry practices correspond to the Sacred Way teachings described by Tao-ch’o. It is moreover asserted that, now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, not one person in a thousand who carries out such sundry practices can hope to attain rebirth in the Pure Land.
In the remaining fourteen sections of the work, Hōnen describes the Sacred Way teachings, the difficult-to-practice way, and the sundry practices as productive of only small good, as teachings designed to accord with the minds of others, and as resulting in only limited benefit or blessing, but he describes the Nembutsu and its associated practices as productive of great good, as a teaching that accords with the Buddha’s own mind, and as resulting in unsurpassed blessing. He therefore advises ordinary mortals in the Latter Day of the Law to discard these sundry practices, to close the door to them, to ignore and abandon them in favor of the Nembutsu, using these four words “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” in an effort to put an end to such practices.
At first ignorant and unwise people throughout Japan, both members of the clergy and lay believers, and then everyone, like grass bowing before a great wind, began to heed this advice of Hōnen, setting aside the joyful acceptance with which they had earlier embraced the Lotus Sutra or the True Word teachings and abandoning all thought of further establishing them.
Then each person, fashioning a square-beaded rosary, set about chanting the name of Amida Buddha, some of them thirty thousand times a day, some sixty thousand times, some a hundred thousand times, some four hundred and eighty thousand times, some a million times. They engaged in no practice designed to produce roots of goodness in their lives other than constructing Nembutsu halls, until these stood as thick as rice or hemp plants, as bamboo or reeds.
In the end, even those believers of the Lotus Sutra or True Word teachings who were regarded as particularly knowledgeable, in order to gain converts or in order to be reborn in the Pure Land, all abandoned their original school and became Nembutsu practitioners, or, while continuing as members of their original school, paid reverence to the Nembutsu teachings.
Now I have this to say. Although the four kinds of believers in this country of Japan may differ from one another in form, their basic intent in all cases is to carry out this one single practice, the Nembutsu, hoping thereby to achieve rebirth in the western region. But, though ours may appear to be a land in which the Buddhist teaching flourishes greatly, serious doubts arise in this connection. These are occasioned by the fact that we see or hear reports that when the wise persons who are looked up to as the leaders of the Nembutsu school, and the greater and lesser feudal lords and other persons of outstanding worth who serve as the major lay supporters of the school, lie on their deathbeds, they do not in many cases find their expectations fulfilled.
The Reverend Shan-tao states categorically that out of ten persons who recite the Nembutsu, all ten will be reborn in the Pure Land, that whether they recite it ten times or throughout their lifetime, not one will fail to attain such rebirth or will be omitted from those who do so. But when we compare the actual death of these persons with the assertions of Shan-tao, we find them to be as different from one another as fire is from water.
The Nembutsu practitioners explain p.290the matter in this fashion. They say that there are four types of rebirth in the Pure Land. First is rebirth through fixing one’s thought on the Buddha Amida.2 The authority they cite for this is the Sutra of the Meditation to Behold the Buddhas.
Second is rebirth through right mindfulness of the Buddha Amida.3 For this they cite the Amida Sutra.
Third is rebirth through the morally neutral state of mind,4 explained in The Treatise Resolving Numerous Doubts.
Fourth is rebirth through a crazed and disordered state of mind,5 which they say is described in the Meditation Sutra, in a part pertaining to persons of the lowest of the nine grades of rebirth in the Pure Land.6
I would state my criticisms of this as follows. I will not for the moment comment on the first two categories, rebirth through thought on the Buddha and rebirth through right mindfulness of the Buddha. But I would ask what sutra or treatise the Meditation Master Huai-kan was relying on when he described the category of rebirth through the morally neutral state of mind. If he has no authority in the sutras or treatises for his assertions, then I would say that they are very difficult to accept.
With regard to the fourth category, rebirth through a crazed and disordered state of mind, the Nembutsu practitioners cite as their authority the passage in the Meditation Sutra that refers to persons of the lowest of the nine grades of rebirth in the Pure Land.
This passage says that when an evil person is on his deathbed, though he may encounter a good friend and counselor who understands the wonderful teaching and will explain for the person his own understanding of the true aspect of all phenomena, that person lacks the kind of right mindfulness that would allow him to comprehend what his friend is saying. He is pressed and tormented by the ill effects of the ten evil acts, the five cardinal sins, and the other bad actions he has performed and cannot understand the teaching. The good friend then says that, as a first step toward an understanding of the true aspect of all phenomena, the person should concentrate on Amida Buddha by invoking the Buddha’s name. The dying person thereupon raises his voice and completes [ten recitations of] the Buddha’s name.
But what is described here is the case of a person who, troubled by pains that are difficult to bear, loses his condition of right mindfulness. It does not refer to a person who is completely crazed and disordered in mind. If the person were actually crazed and disordered in mind, how could he carry out the ten recitations of the Nembutsu? If one were to classify the case, it should be placed in the category of rebirth through right mindfulness of the Buddha. It cannot be classified as an example of rebirth through a crazed and disordered state of mind.
The Reverend Shan-tao, whom you and the others of your school look up to as your original teacher, when speaking of this passage, says that the good friend “changes the teaching and urges vocal recitation of the name of Amida Buddha.”7 He does not describe it as an example of “rebirth through a crazed and disordered state of mind.”
Moreover, you and others through all the hours of day and night repeatedly utter a prayer that reads: “When our disciples face their final hour, may they not find their minds in a topsy-turvy condition, may they not find their minds confused and disordered, may they not lose their minds, may they be free of all pain and suffering in body and mind, may they enjoy ease and comfort in body and mind as though they have entered a state of calm meditation.” The term “confused and disordered” in this prayer must be the p.291same in meaning as the term “crazed and disordered,” must it not?
Furthermore, I do not understand the reason why present-day exalted leaders of the Nembutsu teachings and their eminent lay supporters, persons who have surely not committed the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins, when they are on the brink of death, should be afflicted by grave illnesses such as outbreaks of evil sores, or when on their deathbed should fall into a crazed and disordered state of mind.
The Reverend Shan-tao has stated categorically that of ten believers in the Nembutsu, ten will surely attain rebirth, that they are certain to gain rebirth in the Pure Land. There should be no doubt about the matter. Therefore if, of ten such persons, nine attain rebirth but one fails to do so, we are entitled to question the truth of his assertion. And how much more so when we hear reports and learn that such outstanding leaders of the Nembutsu school as Zenne, Ryūkan, Shōkō, Sasshō, Namu, and Shinkō8 all succumbed to severe illnesses such as outbreaks of evil sores and in their final hour died in a state in which their minds were crazed and disordered!
And among the Nembutsu practitioners of less importance, there are untold numbers who on their deathbeds sink into a crazed and disordered state of mind. This not only falls short of the Reverend Shan-tao’s confident prediction of ten persons out of ten attaining rebirth, but in fact comes nearer to his statement that “not even one person in a thousand”9 can be saved. It was the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra and True Word teachings of whom he predicted that not one person in a thousand would be saved. And yet we receive reports that such practitioners in most cases confront death in a state of right mindfulness.
According to the Nembutsu teaching, of the three periods of time, the Former Day of the Law, the Middle Day of the Law, and the Latter Day of the Law, it is the Latter Day of the Law when this doctrine will be particularly widespread. There will be persons of keen capacity and those of dull capacity, good persons and evil persons, keepers of the precepts and violators of the precepts. Among these, it is the persons of dull capacity, evil persons, and violators of the precepts particularly who will be able to attain rebirth in the Pure Land.
Therefore the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o writes, “Only this single doctrine of the Pure Land [offers a road by which one can again admittance].”10 The Reverend Shan-tao assures us that “ten persons out of ten will be reborn in the Pure Land.”11 And in The Essentials of Rebirth in the Pure Land we are told that this doctrine constitutes “the eyes and feet for those who live in this defiled latter age of ours.”
But if the Nembutsu doctrine is supposedly particularly appropriate to the age we live in and the capacities of the people in it, and thus no one who practices it should fail to achieve success, the discrepancies I have mentioned above lead me to have grave doubts. And if as a result I find myself having doubts about the original vows of Amida Buddha, then I cannot help doubting the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha [who preached Amida’s vows]. Indeed, I find myself in a position where I can go neither forward nor backward.
I have questioned the leaders of the Nembutsu school regarding this matter, as well as the leaders of the schools that advocate the Sacred Way teachings, but not a single one of them has been able to give me an answer.
Practitioners of the Nembutsu attempt to protect their school by saying: You criticize the Honorable Hōnen’s four injunctions to “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” the other p.292teachings as a kind of slander against the Law. But you do so because, in your limited wisdom, you fail to understand them correctly. Do you suppose that the Honorable Hōnen simply set forth these four injunctions on his own authority alone? The fact is that he derived them originally from the commentaries written by three earlier teachers of doctrine, T’an-luan, Tao-ch’o, and Shan-tao. And the commentaries of these three teachers are not mere arbitrary inventions. They derive originally from and are based on the three Pure Land sutras and The Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra by Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna.
In the first volume of the Two-Volumed Sutra, Amida Buddha states his eighteenth vow: “After I have attained Buddhahood . . . if they meditate on me ten times [and yet are not reborn there, may I not attain correct enlightenment].”
And the nineteenth vow reads: “After I have attained Buddhahood, if any among the living beings in the ten directions resolves to seek awakening, carries out various meritorious practices [and single-mindedly aspires to be reborn in my land, and if, when they approach the moment of their death, I do not appear before them, surrounded by a great assembly, may I not attain correct enlightenment].”
In the second volume of the same sutra it is stated: “[If any living beings hear his name and rejoice and arouse faith], single-mindedly dedicating their thoughts [with the resolution to be reborn in his land, they will immediately gain rebirth there and dwell in the stage of non-regression].” This refers to the fulfillment of the eighteenth vow.
Likewise in the second volume we read: “Those of the superior type are those who . . . exclusively bring to mind the Buddha Infinite Life.”
“Those of the intermediate type are those who . . . exclusively bring to mind the Buddha Infinite Life.”
“Those of the inferior type are those who . . . exclusively bring to mind the Buddha Infinite Life.”
This refers to the fulfillment of the nineteenth vow.
The Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra states: “The Buddha said to Ānanda, ‘You must hold fast to these words. Holding fast to these words means holding fast to the name of the Buddha Infinite Life.’”
And the Amida Sutra says: “One cannot be reborn in that Buddha land if one depends on the merit of the roots of little good. [Shāriputra, if good men or good women hear this explanation of the qualities of the Buddha Amida, and embrace his name, and keep it in mind single-mindedly and without distraction, be it] for one day, [for two, for three, for four, for five, for six], or for seven days, [then, when their lives come to an end, the Buddha Amida, together with his holy entourage, will appear before them].”
First, as to the passages cited from the Two-Volumed Sutra, they mean that though two types of rebirth are described, rebirth through the Nembutsu and rebirth through various other practices, the text says that one is to “exclusively bring to mind the Buddha Infinite Life,” which means that rebirth through other practices is hereby discarded. Therefore in the entrustment section of the sutra, when the Buddha entrusts the sutra to Maitreya, he is entrusting to him only the practice of the Nembutsu.
The Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra describes sixteen types of meditation12 that lead to rebirth in the Pure Land. Of these, the first fifteen involve various practices other than the Nembutsu, while the sixteenth, that appropriate for those in the three lowest of the nine grades of rebirth in the Pure Land, refers to p.293rebirth through the Nembutsu. Thus, when the Buddha entrusts the Nembutsu to the Venerable Ānanda, he means that the other practices are to be discarded.
In the Amida Sutra, the various other practices referred to in the Two-Volumed Sutra and the first fifteen types of meditation described in the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra are all lumped together and referred to as roots of little good, and it is stated as a matter of doctrine that one cannot attain rebirth in the Pure Land through such means.
In the Two-Volumed Sutra the Nembutsu is called a practice of unsurpassed blessing and is entrusted to Maitreya. In the Meditation Sutra the Nembutsu is termed a pundarīka flower13 and is entrusted to Ānanda. And in the Amida Sutra the Nembutsu is called a root of great good and is entrusted to Shāriputra. The entrustment passages with which these sutras conclude are entrusting the heart and core of the entire sutra, and they are entrusting the name of the sutra [which is the name of Amida, or the Buddha Infinite Life]. In the three Pure Land sutras it is stated that, although there are various roots of goodness, among them the Nembutsu ranks highest. Therefore these sutras are titled the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra, the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra, and the Amida Sutra.
Judging from The Commentary on the Mahayana Treatise and The Treatise on the Lotus Sutra, all the sutras invariably begin with the two characters for namu. And if we examine the Sanskrit texts, we see that the titles of the three Pure Land sutras contain the word namu.
In the passage [on the nineteenth vow] quoted earlier from the Two-Volumed Sutra, the phrase “carries out various meritorious practices” is meant to include all the eighty thousand sacred teachings of the Buddha other than the Nembutsu. And in the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra, in the passage that deals with the three types of meritorious acts14 and the nine grades of rebirth in the Pure Land, when it says that one should “read and recite the great vehicle,” this is meant to include all the sutras without exception. And when the Amida Sutra speaks of the Nembutsu as a root of great good and contrasts it with the other types of practice, which constitute roots of little good, surely the Lotus Sutra must be included among the roots of little good.
What these three Pure Land sutras as a whole are saying is that, although the Buddha, in order to go along with the desires of the practitioners, for a while described various other types of practices, when it came time to describe the Nembutsu, he clearly meant for them to close the gate to the teachings regarding these other practices, meant, that is, that they should “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” them. It is comparable to the situation when the Buddha, because he was preparing to preach the Lotus Sutra, stated in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra that his listeners were to discard the sutras that he had preached in the preceding forty and more years and instead turn to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
When Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna wrote his Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra, he classified all the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime into two categories, the difficult-to-practice way and the easy-to-practice way. The difficult-to-practice way refers to all the practices other than those advocated in the three Pure Land sutras. The easy-to-practice way refers to the Nembutsu.
Although these sutras and treatises state the matter very clearly, none of the Buddhist teachers of China understood their meaning. Only one such teacher, Shan-tao, was able to make out p.294the meaning. Therefore, when writing in his Teaching on Meditation on the three types of people, superior, intermediate, and inferior, referred to in the Two-Volumed Sutra, he says, “Living beings are none of them exactly alike in capacity and nature. Some are superior, some middling, some inferior. The Buddha urges them all to follow their particular capacity and nature and exclusively bring to mind the name of the Buddha Infinite Life.”
What he means by this passage is that the various other practices, indicated by the words “resolve to seek awakening and carry out various meritorious practices,” are ones that practitioners carry out before they encounter the Nembutsu, which relies on the power of another, upon Amida’s original vow. Therefore, what the Buddha had earlier told people to practice he now suddenly tells them to abandon. But though he does so, the practitioners do not necessarily heed him, and so he allows them to continue carrying out the other practices for a while. However, Shan-tao points out, in fact, no one can possibly achieve rebirth in the Pure Land by setting aside the Nembutsu and following such other practices.
Regarding the passage from the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra quoted above in which the Buddha addresses Ānanda, Shan-tao, in the fourth volume of his commentary on the sutra, explains it as follows: “Earlier Shakyamuni Buddha expounded two kinds of practices, meditative good acts and unconcentrated good acts. Nevertheless, if we examine this in light of Amida Buddha’s original vows, we can see that Shakyamuni Buddha wishes living beings to devote themselves exclusively to the practice of calling on the name of Amida.”15
Meditative good acts and unconcentrated good acts cover all the practices expounded in all the eighty thousand teachings comprising the provisional and true sutras, and the exoteric and esoteric sutras, and the Buddha is saying that all of these except the Nembutsu are to be discarded.
In his Hymns for Services, when Shan-tao refers to the roots of little good and root of great good described in the Amida Sutra, he says: “The Land of Perfect Bliss is an unconditioned realm of nirvana. Therefore it is most likely difficult to achieve rebirth there by following the ordinary good practices that accord with changing circumstances. For this reason, the Thus Come One has selected one essential practice to teach to living beings, instructing them to concentrate their thoughts exclusively on Amida alone.”
Among all the various teachers, Shan-tao alone has perceived the true meaning of the three Pure Land sutras. But although this was the Thus Come One’s true intent when he set forth the three Pure Land sutras, because people in the Former and Middle Days of the Law were keen in their roots and capacities, some attained rebirth through various other practices.
But now the roots and capacities of living beings have suffered a decline and we have entered the period of the Latter Day of the Law. Thus these other methods of practice have gradually lost their effectiveness, and only the Nembutsu is now appropriate. Furthermore, the Thus Come One Amida has been reborn in China as the Reverend Shan-tao and has explained all of this clearly.
The Reverend Hōnen, having been born in Japan, at first entered the temple on Mount Hiei and carried out training and practice there. Later, he left Mount Hiei and devoted himself exclusively to the Nembutsu, thereby making clear for us the true meaning of the three Pure Land sutras.
You criticize the use of these four words “discard, close, ignore, and p.295abandon,” claiming that they represent a slandering of the Law. You do so, I suppose, because you are not yet familiar with the commentaries of the Reverend Shan-tao or the texts of the three Pure Land sutras. You are like a dog that tries to bite at a clap of thunder, and are only creating for yourself more karma that will destine you for rebirth in hell. If there are matters here that you do not understand, you should consult the wise persons of the Pure Land school.
In response to these remarks of the Nembutsu believers, I would have to express my doubts by asking whether they really think that the arguments they have put forth are sufficient to excuse Hōnen from charges of slandering the Law when he advises others to “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” all other teachings.
The three Chinese Pure Land teachers,16 as well as Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna, say that in the text of the three Pure Land sutras the Buddha states that, in comparison to the Nembutsu, the so-called other practices are to be regarded as secondary, and the texts of these sutras bear out their contention. And if such practices are condemned by the sutra texts themselves, then the Nembutsu believers could hardly be blamed for condemning them as well.
But doubts arise when we ask just what is meant by these other practices. The Two-Volumed Sutra speaks of practices other than the Nembutsu, the Meditation on the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra speaks of the meditative good acts and unconcentrated good acts other than the Nembutsu, and the Amida Sutra speaks of practices other than the Nembutsu that represent roots of little good. If the Buddha had made it clear that the outstanding Mahayana sutras such as the Lotus, Nirvana, and Mahāvairochana sutras were to be included among such practices, and that, in comparison to the Nembutsu, they are to be condemned as roots of goodness that can never lead one to rebirth, then Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna, the three Chinese Pure Land teachers, and Hōnen would be committing no error by condemning them as well. But there is no indication that, when the three Pure Land sutras speak of practices that represent roots of little good or use similar terms, these terms are meant to include works such as the Lotus, Nirvana, or Mahāvairochana sutras. Therefore it is impossible to go along with this interpretation put forward by the three Pure Land teachers and Hōnen.
As we know from the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, the Buddha stated that “in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth.” Setting aside the Lotus Sutra, which was preached after this announcement, in the last eight years of the Buddha’s life, we cannot suppose that a single word or phrase of the sutras preached in the preceding forty-two years of the Buddha’s preaching life, whether Mahayana or Hinayana, provisional or true, can escape being included in this category in which the Buddha has “not yet revealed the truth.”
Moreover, the Buddha then goes on to mention by name the Āgama, Correct and Equal, Wisdom, and Flower Garland sutras that he preached in these preceding forty-two years. With regard to these Mahayana and Hinayana sutras already preached, the term “Āgama,” used in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, refers to the Hinayana sutras in which he expounded the impermanence of all things subject to birth and extinction. The words “Flower Garland teaching of the ocean-imprint meditation” refer to the Mahayana sutras in which he expounded the doctrine that there is no essential difference between the three entities [the mind, the Buddha, and living beings]. The phrase “teaching of p.296great wisdom” refers to the Mahayana sutras in which he expounded the eighteen kinds of non-substantiality. The term “correct and equal” refers to the Mahayana sutras in which he condemned those who follow the two vehicles.
Thus the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra designates a specific period of time during which they were preached and mentions these sutras by name, indicating that, in contrast to the Lotus Sutra, these various types of sutras are to be condemned. Therefore the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai was not simply expressing his own private opinion when he asserted that the schools that base their teachings on such sutras are likewise to be condemned.
It is quite true that these three Pure Land sutras that you speak of say that, in comparison to the Nembutsu, the other practices are to be condemned. But nowhere do they state that these practices include everything described in the sutras expounded during the entire fifty years of the Buddha’s preaching life other than the three Pure Land sutras. There is no passage comparable to the one in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra that mentions the Āgama, Correct and Equal, Wisdom, and Flower Garland sutras by name. Who understands that in the three Pure Land sutras, when the Buddha speaks of practices that produce only roots of little good, he is referring simply to those described in the Hinayana sutras or the sutras that state that the attainment of enlightenment requires numerous kalpas of practice? To state arbitrarily, without any proof in the matter, that these practices other than the Nembutsu that represent only roots of little good must include all the practices described by the Buddha in the Lotus and Nirvana sutras and all the other teachings of his lifetime, and that therefore one should “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” them—this, I cannot help thinking, is to go directly counter to the will of the Buddha!
If, for example, we speak of the followers of the ruler, then this includes every person and every region within the entire nation, not excepting the lowliest individual. But if we speak of the followers of an ordinary commoner, this surely does not include the lords of the realm or the various outlying regions.
If in fact the three Pure Land sutras surpassed all the other sutras set forth in the entire fifty years of the Buddha’s preaching life, then we might say that all these other sutras were to be condemned. But there is nothing in the texts of these three Pure Land sutras to indicate that they surpass all the other sutras of the Buddha’s lifetime. They are rather small affairs, preached to fit one particular type of personal capacity and one particular set of circumstances. How could they be used to condemn all the other teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime?
But because the three Chinese Pure Land teachers and Hōnen failed to understand this, they supposed that the Lotus and Nirvana sutras and all the other teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime were to be included among the practices condemned by the Pure Land sutras, and they then went on to declare that not one person in a thousand who carries out such practices in this latter age can hope to be saved. This is to mistake the true meaning of the Pure Land sutras themselves and to go counter to the will of the Buddha.
In addition, you say that the difficult-to-practice way mentioned in Nāgārjuna’s Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra includes the teachings set forth in the Lotus Sutra and the True Word sutras. Is this clearly stated in the text of the commentary? Even if it should be stated in the text of the commentary, unless there are reliable sutra passages to support this view, one p.297should regard it as highly questionable.
Perhaps the commentary was written when Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna was still an expounder of the provisional Mahayana teachings. Or one should consider the possibility that the passage in question was introduced into the text by the person who translated the commentary into Chinese. I say this because the bright mirror of the Buddha’s own golden words in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra clearly indicates that the teachings set forth in the preceding forty and more years of his preaching life represent the difficult-to-practice way, while those presented in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra [and thereafter] represent the easy-to-practice way.
Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna made his appearance in the world just as the Buddha had predicted and expounded the meaning of the various sutras. What reason would he have for going against the definition of the difficult-to-practice and easy-to-practice ways set forth by the Buddha himself, and expounding some other definition of his own?
In fact, if one reads the entire text of Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra from beginning to end, one will see that there is no passage whatsoever that indicates that the Lotus Sutra is to be included in the difficult-to-practice category. The commentary merely deals with the first two of the ten stages of development described in the Flower Garland Sutra and ends its discussion there. As one can see, the commentary is concerned with the fact that various sutras contend that the attainment of enlightenment requires numerous kalpas of practice, and therefore bodhisattvas may fall into this difficult-to-practice way or the way of persons of the two vehicles and thus never succeed in gaining Buddhahood. From this it is perfectly clear that the commentary deals with the period before the exposition of the Lotus Sutra.
The Pure Land teachers, failing to understand Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna’s meaning, somehow surmised that the difficult-to-practice way referred to in the commentary was meant to include the Lotus and True Word teachings. The three Chinese Pure Land teachers, as we can see from their commentaries, on the whole supposed that the Lotus Sutra was to be included in the categories known as the difficult-to-practice way, sundry practices, or Sacred Way teachings. But they did not, like Hōnen, make wild pronouncements [about the need to ignore and abandon such teachings].
Furthermore, those who hope to spread the teachings of the Buddha must take into consideration certain factors, namely, the teaching to be spread, the capacity of the people, the time, the country, and the sequence in which the teachings are propagated.
When the Thus Come One was in the world, although he expounded various Mahayana and Hinayana doctrines during the first forty and more years of his preaching life, he did not reveal his true intentions, because the time to do so had not yet arrived. Even had the people possessed the capacity to receive it, it was not the proper time, and therefore he did not expound the great Law.
But during the eight-year period at Eagle Peak [when the Lotus Sutra was expounded], although the capacity of the people was not yet perfect, the time to do so had come, and so he revealed his true intentions, and in doing so, he changed the people’s capacity from a capacity to receive the provisional teachings to a capacity to receive the true teaching.
It is clear from the transmission section of the Lotus Sutra and from the Nirvana Sutra that the true teaching should be regarded as primary and p.298the provisional teachings as incidental. Therefore we are perfectly justified in concluding that, although when the Buddha was in the world he initially concealed the true teaching and began by revealing the provisional teachings first, in the period following his demise, the true teaching should come first and the provisional teachings play only an incidental role.
However, in India during the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, there were believers in non-Buddhist teachings, as well as some states that were exclusively Hinayana in their beliefs, some that were exclusively Mahayana, and some that embraced both Mahayana and Hinayana. And when the Buddhist doctrines were transmitted to China, a situation prevailed that was similar to that in India.
In the case of Japan, there was no one who believed in non-Buddhist teachings,17 and no one whose capacity fitted him to receive the Hinayana teachings, only people whose capacity fitted them for Mahayana. And these people were not fitted by capacity to receive any Mahayana teachings other than the Lotus Sutra.
To be sure, when the teachings of the Buddha were first introduced to Japan, three schools of Hinayana teachings and three schools of provisional Mahayana teachings18 were propagated for a time. But in the reign of Emperor Kammu, when the Great Teacher Dengyō was active, the teachings of these six schools were shown to be unsuitable and all their followers discarded their attachment and turned to the Tendai school.
The scholars of the three Hinayana schools, the Dharma Analysis Treasury school, the Establishment of Truth school, and the Precepts school, no longer thought, as the doctrines of these schools taught, that one should pass through the seven stages of worthiness and the three ways, cut off the illusions of thought and desire, and thereby achieve the goals of the two vehicle teachings. They simply practiced these Hinayana school teachings as a kind of introduction to the Mahayana doctrines and never believed that through them they could achieve the highest goal.
Likewise, those who practiced the teachings of the three provisional Mahayana schools abandoned the doctrine, taught by these schools, that living beings by their nature fall into five distinct groups,19 and instead sought to understand the wonderful insight expressed in the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life and the meditation on the five elements.20
In addition, the lay believers, who were not learned enough to distinguish between Mahayana and Hinayana, provisional and true teachings, all gave their exclusive allegiance to the scholars of the Lotus Sutra and True Word teachings and contributed alms for their support. Thus the entire land of Japan, unlike India and China, was in effect populated by people whose capacity was fitted exclusively for the pure and perfect teaching. Most likely they resembled in capacity the living beings who for eight years on Eagle Peak listened to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra.
In this light it would appear then that the three Pure Land teachers of China had only the capacity to understand the provisional Mahayana teachings. But Hōnen understood neither the capacity fitted for the pure and perfect teaching, nor the pure and perfect teaching itself, nor that this is a land suited for the pure and perfect teaching. Instead he took the Nembutsu, a practice taught in the Meditation Sutra and similar sutras, which are among the provisional Mahayana sutras, and, following the commentaries written by the three Pure Land teachers of China, p.299who could not distinguish between provisional and true teachings, propagated it throughout this country of ours. To persons whose capacity fitted them for the true teaching he offered the provisional doctrines. He took a country suited for the pure and perfect teaching and made it a country of the provisional teachings. It was as though, to persons accustomed to the flavor of ghee, he offered mere curdled milk or butter. Great, in truth, were the errors he committed!

Winter Always Turns to Spring I, p. 535

To the lay nun Myōichi:

IF the sun and moon were not in the heavens, how could plants and trees grow? Human beings have both a father and a mother. It is hard for children to grow up when even one parent is missing. Your husband had to leave behind a daughter, a son who is ill, and you, their mother, who suffer from a poor constitution. To whom could he have entrusted his family before leaving this world?
At the time of his extinction, the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment lamented, “Now I am about to enter nirvana. The only thing that worries me is King Ajātashatru.” Bodhisattva Kāshyapa then asked him, “Since the Buddha’s mercy is impartial, your regret in dying should stem from compassion for all living beings. Why do you single out only King Ajātashatru?” The Buddha replied, “Suppose that a couple has seven children, one of whom falls ill. Though the parents love all their children equally, they worry most about the sick child.”1 T’ien-t’ai, commenting on this sutra passage in his Great Concentration and Insight, said “Even if the parents of seven children are never partial, they are still particularly concerned about the sick one.” In essence, the sutra is saying that, even if there are many children, the parents’ hearts are with the child who is ill. To the Buddha, all living beings are his children. Among them, the sinful man who slays his own parents and becomes an enemy of the Buddha and the sutras is like the sick child.
King Ajātashatru was the ruler of Magadha. He murdered his father, King Bimbisāra, a powerful patron of Shakyamuni Buddha, and became an enemy of the Buddha. In consequence, the heavenly gods forsook him, the sun and moon rose out of rhythm, and the earth shook violently to cast him off. All his subjects defied the Buddha’s teachings, and other kingdoms began to attack Magadha. All this happened because King Ajātashatru took the wicked Devadatta for his teacher. As a result, one day virulent sores broke out all over his body, and it was foretold that on the seventh day of the third month he would die and fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Saddened by this, the Buddha was reluctant to enter nirvana. He lamented, “If I can save King Ajātashatru, I can save all offenders in the same way.”
Your late husband had an ailing son and a daughter. I cannot help thinking that he may have grieved that, if he were to abandon them and leave this world, his aged wife, as feeble as a withered tree, would be left alone, and would probably feel very sorry for these p.536children. In addition, he may also have worried about Nichiren. Since the Buddha’s words are in no way false, the Lotus Sutra is sure to spread widely. In that regard, perhaps your husband felt that certainly something would happen and this priest would become highly respected. When I was exiled contrary to his expectations, he must have wondered how the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters could possibly have allowed it to happen. Were he still living, how delighted he would be to see Nichiren pardoned! How glad he would be to see that my prediction has been fulfilled, now that the Mongol empire has attacked Japan and the country is in a crisis. These are the feelings of ordinary people.
Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone heard or seen of winter turning back to autumn. Nor have we ever heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra who turned into an ordinary person. The sutra reads, “If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood.”2
Your husband gave his life for the Lotus Sutra. His entire livelihood depended on a small fief, and that was confiscated because of his faith in the Lotus Sutra. Surely that equals giving his life for the Lotus Sutra. The boy Snow Mountains was able to give his body for half a verse of a Buddhist teaching, and Bodhisattva Medicine King was able to burn his arms as an offering to the Buddha because both were sages, and it was like pouring water on fire. But your husband was an ordinary person, so it was like putting paper in fire. Therefore, he must certainly have received blessings as great as theirs.
He is probably watching his wife and children in the heavenly mirrors of the sun and moon every moment of the day and night. Since you and your children are ordinary persons, you cannot see or hear him; neither can the deaf hear thunder nor the blind see the sun. But never doubt that he is protecting you. Moreover, he may be close at hand.
Just when I was thinking that, if at all possible, I must somehow come and see you, you had a robe sent here to me. This was a totally unexpected circumstance. Since the Lotus Sutra is the noblest of all sutras, I may yet gain influence in this lifetime. If so, rest assured that I will look after your children whether you are still living or are watching from under the sod. While I was in the province of Sado and during my stay here [at Minobu], you sent your servant to help me. In what lifetime could I ever forget what you have done for me? I will repay this debt of gratitude by serving you in the next lifetime. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The fifth month

To the lay nun Myōichi

Woman Who Gave a Piece of Gold, The II, p. 681

FROM Kamakura in Sagami Province you have sent two strings of coins1 to me on this mountain peak in Minobu in the province of Kai.
Long ago, the so-called Woman Who Gave a Piece of Gold donated a gold coin to be used to gild a wooden statue [of a Buddha. Because of the benefits she received], for ninety-one long kalpas she was reborn with a golden body. The goldsmith at that time, who became her husband, was reborn as Mahākāshyapa, who in the future, the Buddha predicted, will become a Buddha named Light Bright Thus Come One.2
You, the Dharma Teacher Jōmyō, or Myōnichi,3 and your wife have offered two thousand copper coins to the Lotus Sutra. That woman made an offering to the Buddha, and this couple to the Lotus Sutra. The sutra is the teacher and the Buddha is the disciple.
The Nirvana Sutra says, “What the Buddhas take as their teacher is the Law. Therefore, the Buddhas honor, respect, and make offerings to it.”
The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states: “Even if a person were to fill the whole major world system with the seven treasures as an offering to the Buddha and the great bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas and arhats, the benefits gained by such a person cannot match those gained by accepting and upholding this Lotus Sutra, even just one four-line verse of it! The latter brings the most numerous blessings of all.”4
If the woman I have mentioned earlier, by making an offering to an inferior Buddha, could still be reborn for ninety-one kalpas with a golden body, then surely you, who have made offerings to a superior sutra, will be able to enter the realm of Buddhahood in your present lifetime, will you not?
But making offerings to those who slander the Law, such as the followers of the True Word or Zen schools or the Nembutsu believers, should be avoided. It is like paying honor to the asuras while putting one’s faith in the god Shakra [whom the asuras constantly war with].
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The twelfth day of the fourth month
Reply to the Sage Jōmyō

Wonderful Means of Surmounting Obstacles, The I, p. 842

IF we examine the essential and the theoretical teachings of the Lotus Sutra, we see that the theoretical teaching maintains, as [did the teachings that came] before, that the Buddha first attained enlightenment during his present lifetime; therefore, obstacles still beset the teaching. The essential teaching has freed itself from such impediments. However, compared with the five characters of the daimoku, it is a doctrine unsuited to the capacity of the people of the Latter Day of the Law. The wonderful means of truly putting an end to the physical and spiritual obstacles of all living beings is none other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

Reply to Shijō Kingo

Workings of Brahmā and Shakra, The I, p. 798

I RECEIVED on the fourteenth day of the fifth month the horseload of taros that you took the trouble to send me. Considering the labor involved in producing them, taros today are as precious as jewels or medicine. I will comply with the request you made in your letter.
Once there was a man named Yin Chi-fu.1 He had an only son, whose name was Po-ch’i. The father was wise, and so was the son. One would have thought that no one would try to estrange them, but Po-ch’i’s stepmother frequently slandered him to her husband. However, Chi-fu would not listen to her. Undaunted, she continued for several years to contrive a variety of plots against her stepson. In one such scheme, she put a bee into her bosom, rushed to Po-ch’i, and had him remove the insect, making sure as she did so that her husband would observe the scene. In an attempt to have her stepson killed, she then accused him of making advances to her.2
A king named Bimbisāra was a worthy ruler and the greatest lay supporter of the Buddha within the entire land of Jambudvīpa. Moreover, he reigned over Magadha, the state where the Buddha intended to preach the Lotus Sutra. Since the king and the Buddha were thus united in mind, it seemed certain that the Lotus Sutra would be expounded in Magadha. A man named Devadatta wished to prevent this by any means possible, but all his attempts ended in failure. After much thought, he spent several years befriending King Bimbisāra’s son, Prince Ajātashatru, and gradually obtained his confidence. Then he set out to estrange father and son. He deceived the prince into killing his own father, King Bimbisāra.
Now that Ajātashatru, the new king, had become of the same mind as Devadatta and the two had banded together, non-Buddhists and evil men from all five regions of India swarmed like clouds or mist gathering into Magadha. Ajātashatru flattered them and won them over by giving them land and treasures. Thus the king of the state became an archenemy of the Buddha.
Seeing this, the devil king of the sixth heaven of the world of desire descended with his innumerable followers to Magadha and possessed the bodies of Devadatta, Ajātashatru, his six ministers, and others. Therefore, although these people were human in appearance, they wielded the power of the devil king of the sixth heaven. They were more boisterous, frightful, and alarming than a high wind flattening the grasses and trees, a gale stirring up waves upon the sea, a great quake jolting the earth, or a huge fire devouring one house after another.
p.799A king named Virūdhaka, incited by Ajātashatru, put hundreds of Shakyamuni Buddha’s clan to the sword. King Ajātashatru unleashed a herd of drunken elephants and let them trample to death countless disciples of the Buddha. He also had many other disciples killed by concealing his soldiers in ambush at the roadsides, defiling well water with excrement, or persuading women to bring false charges3 against them. Shāriputra and Maudgalyāyana were severely persecuted.4 Kālodāyin was buried in horse dung.5 The Buddha was forced to survive for ninety days, one whole summer, on horse fodder.
People thought that perhaps not even the Buddha’s power could match that of those evil persons. Even those who believed in him swallowed their words and said nothing, and closed their eyes so that they might not see. They could only wave their hands helplessly,6 speechless with dismay. Finally, Devadatta beat to death the Thus Come One Shakyamuni’s foster mother, the nun Utpalavarnā,7 and then caused the Buddha’s body to bleed. Under these circumstances, there was no one who would side with the Buddha.
And yet somehow, despite all these many persecutions, the Buddha at length managed to preach the Lotus Sutra. A passage from this sutra states, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?”8 This passage means that, even while the Buddha was alive, the enemies of the Lotus Sutra offered fierce opposition; all the more will they harass those who, in the latter age, preach and believe in a single character or even a single brushstroke in the Lotus Sutra.
In light of this passage, it would seem that no one during the more than 2,220 years since the Buddha expounded the Lotus Sutra has lived it as the Buddha himself did. Only one who has met with great persecution can be said to have mastered the Lotus Sutra. The great teachers T’ien-t’ai and Dengyō would appear to have been votaries of the Lotus Sutra, but they did not meet persecutions as severe as the Buddha did in his lifetime. They encountered only minor opposition—T’ien-t’ai from the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north, and Dengyō from the seven major temples of Nara. Neither of them was persecuted by the ruler of the state, attacked by sword-brandishing multitudes, or abused by the entire nation. [According to the Lotus Sutra,] those who believe in the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha’s passing will suffer obstacles more terrible than those of the Buddha. Yet neither T’ien-t’ai nor Dengyō met oppression as harsh as what the Buddha did, let alone persecutions that were greater or more numerous.
When a tiger roars, gales blow; when a dragon intones, clouds gather.9 Yet a hare’s squeak or a donkey’s bray causes neither winds nor clouds to arise. As long as the foolish read the Lotus Sutra and the worthy lecture on it, the country will remain quiet and undisturbed. But it is stated that, when a sage emerges and preaches the Lotus Sutra exactly as the Buddha did, the nation will be thrown into an uproar, and persecutions greater than those during the Buddha’s lifetime will arise.
Now I am not a worthy, let alone a sage. I am the most perverse person in the world. However, my actions seem to be in exact accord with what the sutra teaches. Therefore, whenever I meet great difficulties, I am more delighted than if my deceased parents had returned to life, or than one who sees the person one hates meet with some mishap. I am overjoyed that I, a foolish man, should be regarded as a sage by the Buddha. Suppose there are wise persons who strictly observe the p.800two hundred and fifty precepts and are revered by the entire nation more than the lord Shakra is by all heavenly beings. Yet what if, in the eyes of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra, they are as sinister as Devadatta? They may appear respectworthy now, but what horrors await them in their next life!
If rumor spreads that you appear to be a votary of the Lotus Sutra, both those who are close to you and those who are not will unexpectedly admonish you as if they were your true friends, saying, “If you believe in the priest Nichiren, you will surely be misled. You will also be in disfavor with your lord.” Then, because the plots that people devise are fearsome even to worthy persons, you will certainly abandon your faith in the Lotus Sutra. So it is advisable that you do not carelessly let it be known that you are a believer. Those possessed by a great devil will, once they succeed in persuading a believer to recant, use that person as a means for making many others abandon their faith.
Shō-bō, Noto-bō, and the lay nun of Nagoe10 were once Nichiren’s disciples. Greedy, cowardly, and foolish, they nonetheless pass themselves off as wise persons. When persecutions befell me, they took advantage of these to convince many of my followers to drop out. If you allow yourself to be so persuaded, those in Suruga who seem to believe in the Lotus Sutra, as well as the others who are about to take faith in it, will all discard the sutra without exception. There are a few in this province of Kai who have expressed their desire to take faith. Yet I make it a rule not to permit them to join us unless they remain steadfast in their resolve. Some people, despite their shallow understanding, pretend staunch faith and speak contemptuously to their fellow believers, thus often disrupting the faith of others. Leave such people strictly alone. The time will certainly come when, by the workings of Brahmā, Shakra, and other gods, the entire Japanese nation will simultaneously take faith in the Lotus Sutra. At that time, I am convinced, many people will insist that they too have believed since the very beginning.
If your faith is firm, then you should single-mindedly resolve: “I maintain faith not for the sake of other people but for the benefit of my deceased father. Others will not perform memorial services for him; because I am his son, I am the one who must pray for his repose. I govern one village. I will spend one half of my revenue making offerings for the sake of my deceased father, and use the other half to feed my wife, children, and clansmen. Should an emergency arise, I will give my life for my lord.” Speak in a mild manner, no matter what the circumstances.
If people should try to weaken your belief in the Lotus Sutra, consider that your faith is being tested. Tell them sardonically, “I deeply appreciate your warning. However, you should save your admonishment for yourselves. I know well that our lord does not approve of my faith. The idea of your threatening me in his name is simply absurd. I was contemplating visiting you all and giving you some advice, but you came here before I could follow through. You will surely join your palms together and beseech me for help when you, along with your beloved wife and children, are dragged out before King Yama.”
What you say about Niida11 may well be true. I have also heard about the people at Okitsu.12 If the occasion arises, you should behave exactly as they did. When those of rank reproach you for your faith, think of them as worthy adversaries of the Lotus Sutra. Consider it an opportunity as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara plant, or the blind turtle encountering a p.801floating sandalwood log,13 and reply to them firmly and resolutely.
There have been instances in which those who governed a thousand or ten thousand chō of land had their lives summarily taken and their estates confiscated over trifling matters. If you give your life now for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, what is there to regret? Bodhisattva Medicine King burned his own body for twelve hundred years and became a Buddha. King Suzudan made a bed of his own body for his teacher for a thousand years; as a result, he was reborn as Shakyamuni Buddha.
Make no mistake. If you abandon your faith in the Lotus Sutra now, you will only make yourself the laughingstock of your foes. Shamelessly pretending friendship, they will try to maneuver you into recanting, with the intention of later laughing at you and letting others ridicule you as well. Let them say all they have to say. Then tell them, “Instead of advising me in the presence of many people, why don’t you admonish yourselves first?” With this remark, abruptly rise from your seat and depart.
Please let me know in a day or two what has happened since you wrote. There are so many things I want to say that I cannot write all of them here. I will do so in my future letters.
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The fifteenth day of the fifth month in the third year of Kenji (1277)

Reply to Ueno

Wu-lung and I-lung I, p. 1099

I HAVE received one horseload of polished rice (four to) and a sack of taros, and respectfully chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Myoho-renge-kyo is likened to the lotus. The great māndāra flower in heaven and the cherry blossom in the human world are both celebrated flowers, but the Buddha chose neither to compare to the Lotus Sutra. Of all the flowers, he selected the lotus blossom to symbolize the Lotus Sutra. There is a reason for this. Some plants first flower and then produce fruit, while in others fruit comes forth before flowers. Some bear only one flower but much fruit, others send forth many flowers but only one fruit, and still others produce fruit without flowering. Thus there are all manner of plants, but the lotus is the only one that bears flowers and fruit simultaneously. The benefit of all the other sutras is uncertain, because they teach that one must first make good causes and only then can one become a Buddha at some later time. With regard to the Lotus Sutra, when one’s hand takes it up, that hand immediately attains Buddhahood, and when one’s mouth chants it, that mouth is itself a Buddha, as, for example, the moon is reflected in the water the moment it appears from behind the eastern mountains, or as a sound and its echo arise simultaneously. It is for this reason that the sutra states, “If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood.”1 This passage means that, if there are a hundred or a thousand people who uphold this sutra, without a single exception all one hundred or one thousand of them will become Buddhas.
In your letter you mention the anniversary of the passing of your compassionate father, the lay priest Matsuno Rokurō Saemon. You say, “Since he left many sons behind, memorial services for him will be conducted in as many different ways. I fear, however, that such ceremonies will be slanderous unless strictly based on the Lotus Sutra.” Shakyamuni Buddha’s golden teaching states, “The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.”2 The Buddha Many Treasures gave testimony, declaring, “The Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law . . . all that you [Shakyamuni] have expounded is the truth!”3 And the Buddhas of the ten directions gave credence to the sutra’s verity by extending their tongues to the Brahmā heaven.4
To the southwest, across the ocean from Japan, there is a country named China. In that country, some people believe in the Buddha but not in gods, while others believe exactly the opposite. Perhaps a similar situation existed in the early days of our own country. p.1100Be that as it may, in China there once lived a calligrapher named Wu-lung. In his art he was without peer in the entire country, just as was Tōfu or Kōzei5 in Japan. He hated Buddhism and vowed that he would never transcribe any Buddhist scriptures. As he approached his end, he fell seriously ill. On his deathbed he expressed his last wishes to his son, saying, “You are my son. Not only have you inherited my skill, but you write with an even better hand than I. No matter what evil influence may work upon you, you must never copy the Lotus Sutra.” Thereupon blood spurted like fountains from his five sense organs. His tongue split into eight pieces, and his body fell apart in ten directions. Yet his relatives, ignorant of the three evil paths, did not realize that this was an omen that he would fall into hell.
The son’s name was I-lung. He, too, proved to be the best calligrapher in China. Obedient to his father’s will, he pledged that he would never transcribe the Lotus Sutra. The ruler of the time was named Ssu-ma.6 He believed in Buddhism and held the Lotus Sutra in especially high regard. He desired to have this sutra transcribed by an excellent calligrapher—none but the most skilled in all the country—so that he could have a copy of his own. So he summoned I-lung. I-lung explained that his father’s will forbade him from doing so and beseeched the ruler to excuse him from the task. Hearing this, the ruler called another calligrapher and had him transcribe the entire sutra. The result, however, was far from satisfying.
The ruler sent again for I-lung and said to him, “Since you say your father’s will forbids you, I will not compel you to copy the sutra. I do insist, however, that you at least obey my command to write the titles of its eight volumes.” I-lung begged repeatedly to be excused. The ruler, now furious, said, “Your father was as much my subject as you are. If you refuse to write the titles for fear of being unfilial to him, I will charge you with disobedience of a royal decree.” The ruler repeated his strict order several times. I-lung, though unwilling to be unfilial, realized that he could no longer disobey the royal command, so he wrote the titles [of the eight volumes]7 of the Lotus Sutra and presented his work to the ruler.
Returning home, I-lung faced his father’s grave and, shedding tears of blood, reported, “The ruler commanded me so strictly that, against your will, I wrote the titles of the Lotus Sutra.” In his grief at having been unable to escape the offense of being unfilial, he remained by the graveside for three days on end, fasting until he was on the verge of death. At the hour of the tiger (3:00–5:00 a.m.) on the third day, he was almost dead and felt as if he were dreaming. He looked up at the sky and saw a heavenly being, who was like a painting of the god Shakra and whose multitude of followers filled both heaven and earth. I-lung asked him who he was. The heavenly being replied: “Do you not recognize me? I am your father, Wu-lung. While I was in the human world, I adhered to non-Buddhist scriptures and harbored enmity toward Buddhism, particularly toward the Lotus Sutra. For this reason, I fell into the hell of incessant suffering.
“Every day I had my tongue wrenched out several hundred times. Now I was dead, now I was alive again. I kept crying out in agony, alternately looking up to heaven and flinging myself to the ground, but there was no one to heed my screams. I wanted to tell the human world of my anguish, but there was no means of communication. Whenever you insisted upon adhering to my will, your words would either turn into flames and torment me, or be transformed into swords that p.1101rained down from heaven upon me. Your behavior was unfilial in the extreme. However, since you were acting thus in order to abide by my will, I knew I could not entertain a grudge against you, for I was only receiving the retribution for my own deeds.
“While I was thinking thus, a golden Buddha suddenly appeared in the hell of incessant suffering and declared, ‘Even those who have destroyed enough good causes to fill the entire realm of phenomena, if they hear the Lotus Sutra just once, will never fail to attain enlightenment.’ When this Buddha entered the hell of incessant suffering, it was as if a deluge of water had been poured over a great fire. As my agony subsided a little, I joined my palms together in prayer and asked him what kind of Buddha he was. The Buddha replied, ‘I am the character myō, one of the sixty-four characters that compose the titles [of the eight volumes] of the Lotus Sutra, which your son, I-lung, is now writing.’ As eight characters form the title of each of the eight volumes,8 a total of sixty-four Buddhas appeared and shone like sixty-four full moons, and the utter darkness of the hell of incessant suffering was instantly transformed into a dazzling brilliance. Moreover, in accordance with the principle that any place, without changing its characteristics, is a Buddha land,9 the hell of incessant suffering immediately became the Capital of Eternally Tranquil Light. I and all the other inmates became Buddhas seated on lotus blossoms, and we are now ascending to the inner court of the Tushita heaven. This I am reporting to you before anyone else.”
I-lung said, “It was my hand that wrote the titles. How could you have been saved? Moreover, I did not write them with sincerity. How could it possibly have helped you?” His father replied: “How ignorant you are! Your hand is my hand, and your body is my body. The characters you write are the characters I write. Although you had no faith in your heart, you nevertheless wrote the titles with your hand. Therefore, I have already been saved. Think of a child who sets fire to something and, without the least intention of doing so, causes it to be burned. The same holds true with the Lotus Sutra. If one professes faith in it, one will surely become a Buddha, even though one may not expect it in the least. Now that you understand this principle, never slander the Lotus Sutra. Since we are among the laity, however, we are in a better position to repent of our past slanderous words, no matter how grave they may have been.”
I-lung reported all this to the ruler. The ruler said, “My wish has been answered with splendid results.” From then on, I-lung basked increasingly in the royal favor, and the entire populace of the country came to revere the Lotus Sutra.
The late Gorō10 and the late lay priest Matsuno were, respectively, your son and father. You are the lay priest’s daughter. I believe, therefore, that he must at this very moment be in the inner court of the Tushita heaven. Hōki-bō11 will read and explain this letter to you. Since I wrote in haste, it was impossible to furnish details.
With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The fifteenth day of the eleventh month

Reply to the lay nun Ueno

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