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Major Writings of Nichiren Daishounin - Search All Gosho Here

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A Comparison of the Lotus Sutra and Other Sutras

Question: The Hosshi chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "[. . . this Lotus Sutra is] the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." What is the meaning of this passage?

Answer: More than two thousand years have passed since the Buddha expounded the Lotus Sutra in India. It took a little more than twelve hundred years before this sutra was introduced to China, and two hundred more years before it was brought from China to Japan. Since then, more than seven hundred years have already passed.

After the death of the Buddha, there were only three persons who realized the true meaning of this passage of the Lotus Sutra. In India, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna said in his Daichido Ron: "[The Lotus Sutra] is like a great physician who changes poison into medicine." This is the way he explained the meaning of the passage, ". . . the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." In China, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che interpreted this phrase in light of its context:

"Among all those [sutras] I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." And in Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyo elaborated on this phrase: "All the sutras of the first four of the five periods preached in the past, the Muryogi Sutra now being preached, and the Nirvana Sutra to be preached in the future, are easy to believe and easy to understand. This is because the Buddha taught these sutras in accordance with the capacity of his listeners. The Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and to understand because in it the Buddha directly revealed what he had attained."

Question: Can you explain what he meant by that?

Answer: The ease of believing and understanding in the one case is due to the fact that the Buddha taught in accordance with the capacity of the people. And the difficulty of believing and understanding in the other case is due to the fact that he taught in accordance with his own enlightenment.

Kobo Daishi and his successors at To-ji temple in Japan hold that, of all the exoteric teachings, the Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand. They assert, however, that in comparison to the esoteric teachings, the Lotus Sutra is easy to believe and easy to understand. Jikaku, Chisho and their followers contend that both the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra are among the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand, but that of these two, the Dainichi Sutra is by far the more difficult to believe and to understand.

All people in Japan agree with both of these contentions. However, in interpreting this passage ["the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand"], I, Nichiren, say that non-Buddhist scriptures are easier to believe and understand than Hinayana sutras, the Hinayana sutras are easier than the Dainichi and other [Hodo] sutras, the Dainichi and other [Hodo] sutras are easier than the Hannya sutras, the Hannya sutras are easier than the Kegon Sutra, the Kegon is easier than the Nirvana Sutra, the Nirvana is easier than the Lotus Sutra, and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra is easier than the essential teaching. Thus there are many levels of comparative ease and difficulty.

Question: What is the value of knowing them?

Answer: No other doctrine can surpass the Lotus Sutra, a great lantern that illuminates the long night of the sufferings of birth and death, a sharp sword that can sever the fundamental darkness inherent in life. The teachings of the Shingon, Kegon and other sects are categorized as those expounded in accordance with the people’s capacity. They are, therefore, easy to believe and understand. The teachings expounded in accordance with the people’s capacity are those sutras which the Buddha preaches in response to the desires of the people of the nine worlds, just as a wise father instructs an ignorant son in a way suited to the child’s understanding. On the other hand, the teaching expounded in accordance with the Buddha’s enlightenment is the sutra which the Buddha preaches directly from the world of Buddhahood, just as a saintly father guides his ignorant son to his own understanding.

In the light of this principle, I have carefully considered the Dainichi, Kegon, Nirvana and other [provisional] sutras, only to find that all of them are sutras expounded in accordance with the people’s capacity.

Question: Is there any evidence to support this contention?

Answer: The Shrimala Sutra says: "The Buddha brings to maturity those who have only practiced non-Buddhist teachings by enabling them to make good causes leading to the states of Humanity and Heaven. For those seeking the state of Learning, the Buddha imparts the vehicle which leads them to that state. To those seeking the state of Realization, the Buddha reveals the vehicle for that state. To those who seek the Mahayana teachings, the Buddha expounds them." This statement refers to those teachings which are easy to believe and easy to understand, such as the Kegon, Dainichi Hannya, Nirvana and other sutras.

[In contrast, the Lotus Sutra says,] "At that time, through Bodhisattva Yakuo, the World-Honored One addressed the eighty thousand great seekers of the Law: ‘Yakuo, do you see—within this great multitude of uncountable gods, dragon kings, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, humans and non-humans, as well as monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen — those who seek the rank of shravaka, those who seek the rank of pratyekabuddha, and those who seek the path to Buddhahood? If any of them in the presence of the Buddha hears a single verse or phrase of the Lotus Sutra and experiences a single moment of rejoicing, then I hereby confer on him a prophecy that he shall attain supreme enlightenment’."

In the provisional sutras, Shakyamuni taught five precepts for the beings of Humanity; ten good precepts for those of Heaven; the four infinite virtues for the god Bonten; a practice of impartial almsgiving for the Devil King; two hundred and fifty precepts for monks; five hundred precepts for nuns; the four noble truths for the people of Learning; the twelve-linked chain of causation for the people of Realization; and the six paramitas for bodhisattvas. This method of teaching is comparable to water that assumes the round or square shape of its container, or to an elephant which exerts just enough strength to subdue its enemy.

The Lotus Sutra is entirely different. It was preached equally for all, including the eight kinds of lowly beings and the four kinds of believers. This method of teaching is comparable to a measuring rod that is used to eliminate uneven places, or to the lion, king of beasts, which always exerts its full power in attack, regardless of the strength of its opponent.

When one examines all the various sutras in the clear mirror of the Lotus Sutra, it is evident that the three sutras of Dainichi Buddha and the three Jodo or Pure Land sutras are teachings expounded in accordance with the people’s capacity. Yet because the teachings of Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho have for some reason been widely accepted, this truth was obscured in Japan more than four hundred years ago. [To uphold these men’s teachings instead of the Lotus Sutra] is like exchanging a gem for a pebble or trading sandalwood for common lumber. Because Buddhism has by now become thoroughly confused, the secular world has also been plunged into corruption and chaos. Buddhism is like the body and society like the shadow. When the body is crooked, so is the shadow. How fortunate that all my disciples who follow the Buddha’s true intention will flow naturally into the ocean of all-encompassing wisdom! But the Buddhist scholars of our time put their faith in teachings expounded according to the people’s capacity and are therefore doomed to sink into the sea of suffering. I will explain in more detail on another occasion.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The twenty-sixth day of the fifth month
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A Father Takes Faith
 
As I had not heard from you in a long time, I was feeling quite anxious. But nothing could be more wonderful than this matter of Tayu- no-sakan and yourself. It is indeed marvelous!
 
It is the usual way of things that when the latter age begins, sages and worthy men all vanish, and only slanderers, flatterers, smiling backstabbers and those of crooked principles fill the land. So we read in the sutras. To illustrate, as the water dries up, [fish in] the pond will be disturbed, and when the wind blows, the sea will not remain calm. We also read that in the latter age, because droughts, epidemics and great rains and winds come in succession, even the large-hearted become narrow, and even those who seek the Way lapse into erroneous views. This being the case, the sutras tell us, father and mother, husband and wife, and elder brother and younger brother will be pitted against one another, like a hunter and a deer, a cat and a mouse, or a hawk and a pheasant--to say nothing of quarrels among strangers. Ryokan and other priests, inspired by devils, deceived your father Saemon-no-tayu and attempted to destroy the two of you, but you yourself proved to be wise and heeded my admonition. Therefore, just as two wheels support a cart or two legs carry a person, as two wings enable a bird to fly or as the sun and moon aid all living beings, the efforts of you two brothers have led your father to take faith in the Lotus Sutra. It is solely on account of you, Hyoe-no-sakan, that matters have worked out in this way.
 
According to the teachings of the true sutra, when the world enters the latter age and Buddhism falls into complete disorder, a great sage will appear in the world. For example, the pine tree, which withstands the frost, is called the monarch of trees, and the chrysanthemum, which continues to bloom after other plants have withered, is known as a sacred plant. When the world is at peace, worthy men do not become apparent, but when the age is in turmoil, both sages and fools are revealed for what they are. How pitiful the Hei no Saemon and the lord of Sagami failed to heed me, Nichiren! If they had, they would surely not have beheaded the envoys from the Mongol nation who arrived before last year. No doubt they regret it now.
 
The eighty-first sovereign, the great ruler known as Emperor Antoku, commissioned several hundred Shingon teachers, including the Tendai chief priest Myoun, to offer prayers in an attempt to subdue Minamoto no Yoritomo, the general of the right. But their curses "returned to their originators," as the sutra says. Myoun was beheaded by Yoshinaka, and Emperor Antoku was drowned in the western sea. The eighty- second, eighty-third and eighty-fourth sovereigns, the tonsured Retired Emperor of Oki, the Retired Emperor of Awa and the Retired Emperor of Sado, as well as the reigning emperor--these four rulers had the Tendai chief priest and Administrator of Monks Jien, as well as more than forty other eminent monks, including the Omuro and others of the Mii-dera, offer prayers to subdue the Taira general Yoshitoki. But again, the curses "returned to their originators," and these four rulers were banished to remote islands.
 
Concerning this great evil teaching [of Shingon]: The three Great Teachers--Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho--repudiated Shakyamuni's golden words that designate the Lotus Sutra as supreme, reading them to mean that the Lotus Sutra ranks second or third and that the Dainichi Sutra is the highest. Because the above-mentioned emperors placed their trust in these distorted views, they destroyed both the nation and themselves in this life and fell into the hell of incessant suffering in the next.
 
This next special prayer ritual will be the third. Among my disciples, those who have passed away are probably now observing this with the Buddha's eye. And you who have been spared, watch with your mortal eyes! The ruler and other high-ranking officials will be carried off to a foreign country, and those people who conducted the prayer ritual will die insane, or flee to other provinces, or hide themselves in the mountains and forests. The messenger of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni has twice been paraded through the street, and his disciples have been thrown into prison, killed, injured or driven from the provinces where they were living. Therefore, the guilt of those offenses will surely extend to each inhabitant of those provinces. For example, many will be afflicted with white leprosy, black leprosy or all manner of other terribly grave illnesses. My disciples should understand this matter thoroughly.
 
With my deep respect,
Nichiren
 
The ninth day of the ninth month
 
This letter is specifically intended for Hyoe- no-Sakan. It should also be shown to all my disciples in general. Do not disclose its contents to others.
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A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life

A sage is one who fully understands the three existences of life-past, present and future. The Three Sovereigns, the Five Emperors and the Three Sages referred to in Confucianism understood only the present; they knew neither the past nor the future. Brahmanists, however, were able to see eighty thousand kalpas into the past and the future, thus in a small way resembling sages. People of the two vehicles of Hinayana teachings were aware of the law of cause and effect working throughout the past, present and future. Hence they were superior to the Brahmanists.

The Hinayana bodhisattvas passed three asamkhya kalpas in their practice; the bodhisattvas of the connecting teaching did as many kalpas as there are dust particles; and the bodhisattvas of the specific teaching spent myriad kotis of kalpas attaining each of the many stages of practice.

In the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha described the period of sanzen-jintengo in the past. This teaching surpasses all the previous ones of his preaching life. Moreover, in the essential teaching of the sutra, the Buddha revealed the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo, all the kalpas since the distant past, as well as matters pertaining to countless kalpas in the future.

From the above it is clear that a thorough understanding of both the past and the future is intrinsic to the nature of a sage. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, accurately predicted the near future, saying that he would enter nirvana in three months’ time. Can there then be any doubt about his prediction for the distant future, that the Lotus Sutra will spread abroad widely in the last five-hundred-year period after his passing! With such perception one can see the distant future by looking at what is close at hand. One can infer what will be from what exists in the present. This is the meaning of [the passage from the Lotus Sutra that says, "This reality consists of the appearance. . . and their consistency from beginning to end."

Who should be acknowledged as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the last five-hundred-year period! I did not trust my own wisdom, but because the rebellion and invasion that I had predicted have occurred, I can now trust it. I do not declare this out of pride.

My disciples should know this: I, Nichiren, am the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Since I follow in the footsteps of Bodhisattva Fukyo, those who despise and slander me will have their heads broken into seven pieces, whereas those who believe in me will amass good fortune as high as Mount Sumeru.

Question: Why is it that those who slander you have not yet had their heads broken into seven pieces?

Answer: Since ancient times, of all those who slandered sages other than the Buddha, only one or two have suffered punishment by having their heads broken. The offense of defaming Nichiren is not by any means limited to only one or two persons. The entire populace of Japan have in fact [slandered Nichiren and] had their heads broken. What else do you think caused the great earthquake of the Shoka era and the huge comet of the Bun’ei era! I am the foremost sage in the entire land of Jambudvipa.

Nevertheless, all people, from the ruler on down to the common people, have despised and slandered me, attacked me with swords and staves, and even exiled me. That is why Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings incited a neighboring country to punish our land. This is clearly described in the Daijuku and Ninno sutras, the Nirvana Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. No matter what prayers may be offered, if the people fail to heed me, this country will suffer calamities such as those that occurred on Iki and Tsushima.

My disciples, you should believe what I say and watch what happens. These things do not occur because I myself am respectworthy, but because the power of the Lotus Sutra is supreme. If I declare myself before the people, they will think that I am boastful, but if I humble myself before them, they will despise the sutra. The taller the pine tree, the longer the wisteria vine hanging from it. The deeper the source, the longer the stream. How fortunate, how joyful! In this impure land, I alone enjoy true happiness.

A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering

When I asked him about what you told me the other day, I found it to be exactly as you said. You should therefore strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Listen with the ears of Shih K'uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou.

In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn't a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers run to the sea, but does its fullness make the rivers flow backward? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; neither does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As T'ien-t'ai stated, "All rivers flow to the sea, and logs make a fire roar."

You must realize that it is because of a deep karmic relationship from the past that you can teach others even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra reads, "It is extremely difficult to save those who are deaf to the True Law." The "True Law" means the Lotus Sutra.

A passage from the Hosshi chapter reads, "If there is someone, whether man or woman, who secretly teaches to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let it be known that he is the envoy of the Buddha." This means that anyone who teaches others even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is clearly the Buddha's envoy, whether he be priest or nun, lay man or woman. You are a lay believer and one of those described in the sutra. One who hears even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra and cherishes it deep in his heart may be likened to a ship which navigates the sea of suffering. The Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "Even a single phrase cherished deep in one's heart will without fail help him reach the opposite shore. To ponder one phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation..."

A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, "...as though one had found a ship to make the crossing." This "ship" might be described as follows: The Lord Buddha, a shipbuilder of infinitely profound wisdom, gathered the lumber of the four tastes and eight teachings, planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and assembled the planks, using both right and wrong, and completed the craft by driving home the spikes of the one, supreme teaching. Thus he launched the ship upon the sea of suffering. Unfurling the sails of the three thousand conditions on the mast of the Middle Way doctrine, driven by the fair wind of "all phenomena reveal the true entity," the vessel surges ahead, carrying all believers who can enter Buddhahood by their pure faith. Shakyamuni Buddha is the helmsman, Taho Buddha mans the sails, and the four Bodhisattvas led by Jogyo strain in unison at the creaking oars. This is the ship in "a ship to make the crossing," the vessel of Myoho-renge-kyo. Those who board it are the disciples and followers of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly. When you visit Shijo Kingo, please have an earnest talk with him. I will write you again.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The twenty-eighth day of the fourth month
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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 your lord's official letter [ordering you to submit a written oath renouncing your faith in the Lotus Sutra] and your own pledge not to write such an oath, I feel that your resolve is as rare as seeing the udumbara plant in blossom and as admirable as the fragrance of budding red sandalwood.

Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Mahakashyapa were great arhats who had acquired the three insights and the six supernatural powers. Moreover, they were bodhisattvas who, by hearing the Lotus Sutra, had attained the first stage of development and the first stage of security, achieving the perception of non-birth and non-extinction. Yet even these people deemed themselves unable to endure the great persecutions that attend the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the saha world during the Latter Day of the Law, and declined to accept the task. How then could a common mortal in the Latter Day, who has not yet eradicated the three categories of illusion, become a votary of this sutra?

Even though I, Nichiren, may have been able to withstand attacks by sticks and staves and tiles and stones, vilification and persecution by the sovereign, how could lay believers, who have wives and children and are ignorant of Buddhism, possibly do the same? They might have done better never to have taken faith in the Lotus Sutra in the first place. Should they prove unable to carry their faith through to the end, upholding it only for a short time, they will be mocked by others. So thinking, I had felt pity for you. Yet, during the repeated persecutions I suffered as well as throughout my two sentences of exile, you demonstrated unshakable resolve. That alone was wondrous enough, but now, despite your lord's threats, you have written a pledge to carry through with your faith in the Lotus Sutra even at the cost of your two fiefs. I can find no words sufficient to praise you.

The Buddha doubted whether even Bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju could undertake the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age, and he therefore entrusted the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to Jogyo and the other three leaders of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Now, pondering the meaning of this affair, I wonder if Bodhisattva Jogyo could have lodged himself in your body in order to assist me, Nichiren. Or perhaps it may be the merciful design of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.

The fact that those of your lord's retainers [who resent you] are growing more presumptuous must surely be the work of Ryokan and Ryuzo. Should you write an oath discarding your faith, that crowd will only become more arrogant than before, and they will certainly mention it to everyone they meet. Then all my disciples in Kamakura will be hounded until not a one remains.

It is the nature of common mortals not to know what awaits them in the future. Those who know it well are called worthies or sages. Passing over examples from the past, I will cite one from the present. Lord Hojo Yoshimasa relinquished both his domains and became a lay priest. I hear that, in the end, he abandoned all his many estates, forsook his sons and daughters as well as his wife and secluded himself from the world. You have neither sons nor brothers upon whom you can rely. All that you have is your two fiefs. This life is like a dream. One cannot know if he will live until tomorrow. Even if you should become the most wretched of beggars, never disgrace the Lotus Sutra. Since life is so short in any event, you should not weep over your fate. As you yourself wrote in your letter, you must act and speak without the least servility. Fawning or flattery will only do you more harm. Even if your fiefs should be confiscated or you yourself driven out, think that it is due to the workings of the Ten Goddesses, and wholeheartedly entrust yourself to them.

Had I, Nichiren, not been exiled but remained in Kamakura, I would certainly have been killed in the battle. In like manner, because remaining in your lord's service might prove to be to your detriment, Shakyamuni Buddha may well have contrived matters [so that you are forced to leave].

I have written a petition on your behalf. There are several priests [who are my disciples in Kamakura], but as they are too unreliable, I was thinking of sending Sammi-bo. However, since he has still not recovered from his illness, I am sending this other priest in his stead. Have either Daigaku Saburo, Taki no Taro or Lord Toki make a clean copy of the petition when he has time, and present it to your lord. If you can do so, this matter of yours will be resolved. You need not be in great haste; rather, you should band solidly together with your fellow believers. As for the others, let them clamor against you as they will. Then, if you can submit the petition, news of it may spread throughout Kamakura, and perhaps even reach the regent himself. This will mean misfortune changing into fortune.

I explained to you the teachings of the Lotus Sutra some time ago. Matters of minor consequence arise from good, but a matter of great import assuredly means that disaster will change into great fortune. If people read this petition, the enemies of Buddhism will be exposed. You have only to state briefly, "I do not intend to leave my lord's clan and return my fief of my own will. Yet, if my lord should confiscate it, I will regard it as an offering to the Lotus Sutra and an occasion for rejoicing." Say this in a scathing tone.

You must in no way behave in a servile fashion toward the magistrate. Tell him, "This fief of mine is not one which my lord bestowed upon me for any ordinary reason. He awarded it to me because I saved his life with the medicine of the Lotus Sutra when he fell seriously ill. If he takes it from me, his illness will surely return. At that time, even if he should apologize to me, Yorimoto, I will not accept it." Having had your say, take your leave in an abrupt manner.

Under no circumstances should you attend any gatherings. Maintain a strict guard at night. Be on close terms with the night watchmen, and request their assistance. 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 make an attempt on your life. No matter what, do not die shamefully.

Nichiren

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

An Outline of the Zokurui and Other Chapters

I have received your offering of seven kan of coins. The essence of the Zokurui (twenty-second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra is as follows. The Buddha, [rising from his seat in the Treasure Tower,] stood in open space and, in order to make a transfer of the Lotus Sutra, stroked no fewer than three times the heads of Bodhisattva Jogyo and his followers, Monju and his followers, Daibonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, the dragon kings, the ten demon daughters and others. They had clustered before the Buddha as thick as dew, crowding the four hundred billion nayuta worlds like the grasses of Musashino or the trees covering Mount Fuji. They knelt close to one another, bending their bodies so that their heads touched the ground and sweating with palms joined together. [Shakyamuni Buddha stroked their heads] just as a mother strokes the hair of her only child. Then, Jogyo, the gods of the sun and moon, and the others received the Buddha's auspicious command and pledged to propagate the Lotus Sutra in the latter age.

As for the Yakuo (twenty-third) chapter: in the past a bodhisattva called Kiken learned the Lotus Sutra from the Buddha Pure Bright Excellence of Sun and Moon. So deeply moved was he by this favor received from his teacher and by the loftiness of the sutra that he exhausted all his precious treasures in offerings. Still unsatisfied, he anointed himself with oil and burned his body as an offering to the Buddha for a period of twelve hundred years, just as today we burn oil by inserting a wick and lighting it. Then, in his next lifetime he made torches of his arms and burned them for seventy-two thousand years as an offering to the Lotus Sutra. So if a woman makes offerings to the Lotus Sutra now in the fifth five-hundred-year period, this bodhisattva's benefits will all be bequeathed to her without exception, just as a wealthy man transfers his entire fortune to his only son.

The Myoon (twenty-fourth) chapter tells of a bodhisattva called Myoon who dwells in the land of the Buddha Wisdom King of the Pure Flower Constellation in the east. In the past, in the age of the Buddha King Cloud Thunder-Sound, he was Lady Jotoku, the wife of King Myoshogon. At that time, Lady Jotoku made offerings to the Lotus Sutra and was reborn as Bodhisattva Myoon. When the Tathagata Shakyamuni expounded the Lotus Sutra in the saha world, this bodhisattva came to attend the ceremony and pledged to protect those women who would embrace the Lotus Sutra in the latter age.

The Kannon (twenty-fifth) chapter is also called the Fumon chapter. The first part describes the merit of those who put faith in Bodhisattva Kanzeon [or Kannon] - so the title Kannon chapter. The latter part expounds the merit of those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, [the teaching of universal enlightenment,] which Bodhisattva Kannon upholds - so the title Fumon [universal gate] chapter.

The Dharani (twenty-sixth) chapter describes how the two saints, the two heavenly gods, and the ten demon daughters will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The two saints are Yakuo and Yuze, and the two heavenly gods are Bishamon and Jikoku. The ten demon daughters are the ten major female demons, the mothers of all demons of the four continents. Moreover, these ten demon daughters have a mother, who is called Kishimojin.

It is the nature of demons to feed on human beings. Human beings are formed of thirty-six elements: excrement, urine, saliva, flesh, blood, skin, bone, the five major internal organs, the six internal organs, the hair of the head, the hair of the body, breath, life, and so forth. Demons of inferior capacity feed upon excrement and the like. Demons of intermediate capacity eat bones and similar parts, while demons of superior capacity live on human vitality. As demons of superior capacity, the ten demon daughters subsist on human vitality. They are the powerful demons who bring about epidemics.

There are two kinds of demons, good and evil. Good demons feed upon enemies of the Lotus Sutra, while evil demons feed upon the sutra's votaries. How should we interpret the great epidemics that have spread throughout Japan both last year and this year? From one view point, they are the work of good demons who are devouring enemies of the Lotus Sutra with the approval of Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings. Yet from another view, they are the work of evil demons who are feeding upon the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra at the urging of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. Good demons devouring enemies of the Lotus Sutra are like government soldiers punishing enemies of the ruler. But evil demons eating votaries of the Lotus Sutra are like robbers and night thieves murdering government soldiers.

For example, when Buddhism was brought to Japan, the chief minister Mononobe no Moriya and others who opposed it were struck down by epidemics, but Soga no Umako and others [who espoused Buddhism] also fell ill. Three successive emperors, Kimmei, Bidatsu and Yomei, believed in Buddhism and Shakyamuni Buddha in their hearts but outwardly worshiped the Sun Goddess and the Kumano shrines, abiding by the traditional rites of the nation. Because their faith in the Buddha and his teachings was weak, while their faith in the gods was strong, these three rulers were pulled by the stronger influence and died in smallpox epidemics.

You should ponder in light of these examples the two kinds of demons mentioned above, as well as the reasons why epidemics spread among the people of the world today and why some among my followers also fall ill and perish. It follows on the one hand that those who commit their lives for the sake of faith will not fall ill, or that even if they should fall ill, they will recover. On the other hand, if they encounter great evil demons, they may be deprived of their lives. Their case will then be like that of Hatakeyama Shigetada, who was finally destroyed by the sheer number of his enemies, though he was the most powerful general in Japan.

Evil demons have possessed all the Shingon teachers in Japan, and because the Zen and Nembutsu priests all oppose Nichiren, these demons are rampant throughout the country. What is more, the followers of Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the ten demon daughters have also swarmed into Japan, and both sides are battling fiercely to defeat one another.

As the ten demon daughters pledged to protect the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in general, one would think they should protect all those who embrace the sutra [but this is not always so]. Even among people who embrace the Lotus Sutra, some are Shingon teachers who read and recite it while asserting the superiority of the Dainichi Sutra. Such people are actually slandering the Lotus Sutra. And the same principle applies as well to [all those who practice it while believing in the superiority of any other sect.

Even among those who embrace the Lotus Sutra according to its words, there are some who resent the votary of the Lotus Sutra either because of their greed, anger and stupidity, or because of worldly matters, or because of his various actions. Although such people believe in the Lotus Sutra, they will not obtain the benefit of faith but will instead incur retribution. To explain, if a son disobeys his father and mother, he will be acting in an unfilial manner, except in a case where they are plotting a rebellion. Though a father may steal his own son's beloved wife, or a mother may steal her own daughter's beloved husband, if the son or daughter should deviate even in the slightest from the path of filial piety, they will create causes that will lead them to be abandoned by Heaven in this life and to fall into the Avichi Hell in the next. Graver still is the act of going against a worthy ruler, who is superior to a father or mother. And even graver is that of going against a secular teacher, who is a hundred thousand billion times superior to one's parents or sovereign. How grave a matter must it be, then, to go against a Buddhist teacher who has forsaken the secular world; and even more so, the teacher of the Lotus Sutra!

It is said that the Yellow River becomes clear once in a thousand years, and that a sage likewise appears in the world once in a thousand years. A Buddha makes his advent in the world once in countless kalpas. Yet even if one should meet a Buddha, it is far more difficult to encounter the Lotus Sutra. And even if one should encounter the Lotus Sutra, it is rarer still for a common mortal of the latter age to meet the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The reason is that the votary of the Lotus Sutra who expounds it in the latter age surpasses [the Buddhas and bodhisattvas appearing in the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras and the twelve hundred and more honored ones of the Dainichi Sutra - who did not expound the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo states in his commentary, "Those who make offerings [to the votary of the Lotus Sutra] will have good fortune surpassing that of the ten honorable titles, while those who trouble [him] will have their heads split into seven pieces."

The epidemics that the Japanese nation has suffered since last year, as well as those of the past Shoka era, are totally without precedent in the reigns of the more than ninety emperors who have ruled since the beginning of the imperial era. These calamities appear to stem from the fact that the people hate the presence of a sage in this country. This is exactly what is meant when it is said that a dog that barks at a lion will have its intestines ripped open, and that an asura who tries to swallow the sun and the moon will have his head broken. Two thirds of all the people in Japan have already fallen ill in the epidemics and half of these have perished. The remaining third may not be afflicted in body, but they are afflicted in mind. Visibly or invisibly, their heads have surely been broken.

There are four kinds of punishment - general and individual, inconspicuous and conspicuous. If the people nurture hatred for a sage, general punishment will be visited upon the entire country, extending to the four continents, the six heavens of the world of desire and the four meditation heavens. When enmity is directed toward a worthy man, only those who harbor it will suffer punishment. The epidemics now spreading in Japan are general punishment. Surely the people must have opposed a sage living in this country. Because a mountain contains a jewel, its plants and trees do not wither. Because a country has a sage, that country is protected from ruin. Ignorant people do not realize that plants and trees on a mountain do not wither because of the presence of a jewel. Nor do they realize that a country falls because of enmity toward a sage.

Though the sun and the moon shine, their light will not benefit the blind. Of what use is the sound of voices to the deaf? The people in Japan are all as though blind or deaf. How immense would be the benefit if one could open all these eyes and ears, could cause all the eyes to see and the ears to hear! Who could possibly fathom this benefit? And I may add that although parents may give birth to a child who is endowed with both sight and hearing, if there is no teacher to instruct him, then his eyes and ears will be no better than those of an animal.

Among the ten directions, all the people in Japan aspire to the west. Among all Buddhas, they revere Amida Buddha; and among all practices, they invoke Amida's name. Some make these three concerns their basis yet engage in other practices, while others devote themselves to the Nembutsu alone. In the more than twenty years since the fifth year of the Kencho era (1253) up until the present, I have first clarified the Buddha's lifetime teachings in terms of their relative merit, sequence of preaching, and profundity, and upon that basis, I have asserted the superiority of the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra over the invocation of the name of Amida Buddha. Yet no one, from the ruler on down to the common people, has heeded my words. They have questioned their teachers about me, appealed to their lords, talked with their companions, and spoken to their wives, children and retainers, so that rumors concerning me have spread to every province, district, village and hamlet, as well as to its temples and shrines. As a result, everyone has come to know my name; and they all say that, if one compares the Lotus Sutra to the Nembutsu, the Nembutsu is superior and the Lotus Sutra is no match for it, and that other priests are worthy of respect while I, Nichiren, am contemptible. So, the ruler regards me with hostility, the people have come to hate me, and all Japan has become a great foe of both the Lotus Sutra and its votary. But if I say this, not only the people of Japan in general but also the ignorant among my followers will think that I am inventing groundless falsehoods in an attempt to make people believe me. However, I am saying all this for the benefit of those men and women who believe in the principle of Buddhism, and I will leave it to them to make their own judgment.

The Myoshogonno (twenty-seventh) chapter is especially applicable to women, for it explains how a wife encouraged her husband [to take faith in the Lotus Sutra]. In the latter age as well, though her name may differ, a wife who leads her husband to take faith will enjoy the same benefit as Lady Jotoku. All the more fortunate is a case like yours, in which both wife and husband have faith! It is like a bird possessing two wings or a cart having two wheels. What is there that you two cannot achieve? Because there is a heaven and an earth, a sun and a moon, the sun shines and the rain falls, and the plants and trees of benefit will surely blossom and bear fruit.

Next we come to the Kambotsu (twenty-eighth) chapter. Though there were many monks among the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, Mahakashyapa and Ananda always accompanied him on his right and left, just like the ministers of the right and left who attend the ruler. This was when the Buddha expounded the Hinayana sutras. Moreover, among all the innumerable bodhisattvas, Fugen and Monju were distinguished as Lord Shakyamuni's ministers of the right and left. It was strange, therefore that Bodhisattva Fugen, one of Shakyamuni's two ministers, should be absent during the eight years when the Buddha expounded the Lotus Sutra, which surpasses all the other sutras of his lifetime teachings, in the ceremony where the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions gathered in numbers exceeding those of the dust particles that comprise the earth. But when the Myoshogonno chapter had been expounded and the preaching of the Lotus Sutra was drawing to a close, Bodhisattva Fugen came hurrying belatedly from the land of the Buddha King Surpassing the Awesome Excellence of Gems in the east, accompanied by the sounds of billions of musical instruments and leading a retinue of countless numbers of the eight kinds of lowly beings. Probably fearing the Buddha's displeasure at his tardy arrival, he assumed a serious expression and pledged in all earnestness to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age. The Buddha, no doubt pleased with Fugen's extraordinary sincerity in vowing to spread the Lotus Sutra throughout the continent of Jambudvipa, thereupon praised him - more warmly, in fact, than he had earlier praised the other bodhisattvas of high rank.

It is no ordinary thing for a woman in the latter age to have resolved to make an offering to each of the twenty-eight chapters of this wonderful Lotus Sutra. At the ceremony of the Hoto (eleventh) chapter, the Tathagatas Taho and Shakyamuni, the Buddhas of the ten directions and all bodhisattvas gathered together. When I ponder where the Hoto chapter is now, I see that it is to be found in the eight-petaled lotus of the heart within the breast of Lady Nichinyo. This is like the lotus seed containing the lotus flower within it or an empress carrying a crown prince in her womb. When someone, having observed the ten good precepts, is destined to be born a crown prince and awaits his birth in the empress's womb, the heavenly gods will protect him. That is why a crown prince is called the Son of Heaven. Each of the 69,384 characters of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra is like a crown prince and is the seed of a Buddha.

There are shadows in the darkness, but people cannot discern them. There are trails in the sky where birds fly, but people cannot recognize them. There are paths in the sea along which fish swim, but people cannot perceive them. All people and things of the four continents are reflected in the moon without a single exception, but people cannot see them. But they are visible to the divine eye. In like manner, common mortals cannot see that the Hoto chapter exists within the body of Lady Nichinyo, but Shakyamuni, Taho and the Buddhas of the ten directions perceive it. I, Nichiren, also presume this to be the case. How worthy of respect!

King Wen of the Chou dynasty was victorious in battle because he took care to provide for elderly people. Toward the end of the thirty-seven reigns spanning eight hundred years that his descendants ruled, there were some incidents of misgovernment, but on the whole the Chou dynasty prospered due to that fundamental virtue. King Ajatashatru, though a most evil man, was able to hold the throne for ninety years owing to the merit of his father, King Bimbisara, who had made offerings to the Buddha for several years. The same principle holds true today. I do not think the present regime will last long, as it opposes the Lotus Sutra. Yet, probably because of the excellent administrations of the late Gon no Tayu and the former governor of Musashi, it appears to be secure for the time being. But in this case, too, the present government will eventually collapse if it continues its enmity toward the Lotus Sutra. The government officials mistakenly think that the Nembutsu priests are friendly to the Lotus Sutra while Nichiren is hostile to the Nembutsu; and they claim to believe in both teachings. I, Nichiren, say in rebuttal: if nothing is vitally wrong with the present government, then why have such unprecedented epidemics, famines and wars broken out? Why have the authorities twice subjected the votary of the Lotus Sutra to grave punishment without allowing him to confront the other sects in open debate? How pitiful!

Even under such circumstances, you as a woman have inherited the life of the Lotus Sutra. In fact you have inherited the life of the parents of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the Buddhas of the ten directions. Is there anyone else in the world who enjoys such good fortune?

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The twenty-fifth day of the sixth month

Aspiration for the Buddha Land
 
It is now the last ten-day period of the eleventh month. While I was living in Kamakura in Sagami Province, I thought that the changing of the four seasons was the same in all provinces, but in the two months that have passed since I arrived in this northern province of Sado, the icy winds have been blowing without pause, and although there are times when the frost and snow stop falling, one never sees the sunlight. I feel the eight cold hells in my present body. The hearts of the people here are like those of birds and beasts; they recognize neither sovereign, teacher nor parent. Even less do they distinguish between truth and error in Buddhism, or between good and evil teachers. But I will say no more of this.
 
When I sent back from Teradomari the lay priest whom you had dispatched on the tenth day of the tenth month to accompany me, I wrote and entrusted to him certain teachings for you. As you have probably surmised from these, the advent of the Great Law is already before our very eyes. In the two thousand two hundred years and more since the Buddha's passing, in all of India, China, Japan and the entire world, [as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states:] "Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna clearly perceived the truth in their hearts, but they did not teach it. Instead, they preached the provisional Mahayana teachings, which were suited to their times." T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo gave a general indication of it but left its propagation for the future. Now this secret Law, the one great reason for which all Buddhas make their advent, will be spread for the first time in this country. And is not Nichiren the very person who propagates it?
 
The portents of its rise have already appeared. The great earthquake of the past Shoka era was a major omen of a kind never before witnessed in previous ages, one totally unprecedented in the twelve generations of divine rule, the ninety reigns of human emperors, and the two thousand two hundred years and more since the Buddha's passing. The Jinriki chapter [of the Lotus Sutra] states, "Because [there will be those who] faithfully uphold this sutra after the Buddha's passing, all the Buddhas rejoice and display their limitless mystic powers." It also refers to "all the laws of the Buddha." Once this great Law spreads, the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings as well as the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra will no longer provide even the slightest benefit. The Great Teacher Dengyo states, "When the sun rises, the stars go into hiding." And the preface written by the priest Tsun-shih reads, "At the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, [Buddhism rises in the east and] illuminates the west." This great Law has already appeared. The signs heralding its advent far surpass those of previous ages. In pondering the significance of this, I realize it is because the time [for propagation] has arrived. The sutra states: "[Among these bodhisattvas] were four who led the entire multitude. The first was called Jogyo..." It also reads, "One who is able to uphold this sutra in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law...," and "To seize Mount Sumeru and fling it far off..."
 
I would like you to gather and keep together in one place the five notebooks I mentioned to you, which contain essential passages from the various sutras and from the Daichido Ron. Please make sure that the essential passages from the treatises and commentaries as well do not become scattered and lost. Tell the young priests not to neglect their studies. You must not lament too bitterly over my exile. The Kanji and Fukyo chapters clearly state [that the votary of the Lotus Sutra will meet persecution]. Life is limited, and we must not begrudge it. What we should aspire to, after all, is the Buddha land.
 
Nichiren
 
The twenty-third day of the eleventh month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271)
I am sending back some of the young priests [who accompanied me here to Sado]. You can ask them what this province is like and about the circumstances under which I live. It is impossible to describe these matters in writing.
http://quilted-robe.tripod.com/

Banishment to Sado
 
On the twelfth day of the ninth month, I incurred the wrath of the government authorities, and I am to leave for the province of Sado on the tenth day of the tenth month of this year.
 
My original aim in studying was to master the Buddhist teachings, so that I might attain Buddhahood and thereby also save the people to whom I am indebted. I always assumed that, on the path of attaining Buddhahood, one is certain to meet some great trial that will demand of him that he be willing to give up his life; only then can one become a Buddha. And already, just as the sutra states, I have been cursed and vilified, attacked with swords and staves, rocks and tiles, and banished again and again. I therefore believe that I am reading the Lotus Sutra with my entire being. My faith increases all the more and I am confident of my future existence. Should I die, I will surely save each one of you as well.
 
In India a person called the Venerable Aryasimha was beheaded by King Dammira, and Bodhisattva Aryadeva was murdered by a Brahman. In China, a person called Chu Tao-sheng was banished to Mount Su, and the Learned Doctor Fa-tao was branded on the face and exiled south of the Yangtze River. All these men suffered persecution on account of the virtue of the Lotus Sutra and for the sake of the Buddhist Law.
 
I, Nichiren, am the son of a chandala family who lived near the seashore in Tojo in Awa Province, in the remote countryside of the eastern part of Japan. To discard my body, which would otherwise decay in vain, for the sake of the Lotus Sutra will be like exchanging rocks for gold. None of you should lament for me. Please convey what I have said to the priest Dozen-bo. I had also thought of writing to the nun of the manor, but because of my present circumstances, she may no longer wish to be reminded of me. Should the opportunity arise, please tell her what I have said.
 
Nichiren
 
The tenth month
 

Beneficial Medicine for All Ills
 
I have received your gift of two baskets of leached persimmons and a basket of eggplants. About the lay priest your husband's illness: in China there were physicians called Huang Ti and Pien Ch'ueh, and in India there were the doctors Jisui and Jivaka. These men were each the treasures of their age and teachers to the physicians of later times. Yet they could not even begin to compare to the person called the Buddha, a physician without peer. This Buddha revealed the medicine of immortality: the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. Moreover, he taught that these five characters are "beneficial medicine for the illnesses of all the people of Jambudvipa."
 
Your husband is a person of Japan, which is included within Jambudvipa, and now he suffers from bodily illness. Yet the sutra passage clearly refers to beneficial medicine for all ills. In addition, this sutra of the Lotus is the greatest of all medicines. A wicked ruler called King Virudhaka killed more than five hundred women of the Buddha's clan, whereupon the Buddha sent his disciple Ananda to Eagle Peak to obtain the blue lotus flower. When he touched it to the bodies of the women, they returned to life and after a week were reborn in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Because the flower called the lotus is endowed with such splendid virtue, the Buddha likened it to the Mystic Law.
 
A person's death does not necessarily come about through illness. In our own times, the people of Iki and Tsushima, though not suffering from illness, were all slaughtered by the Mongols in a single stroke. Likewise, illness does not necessarily result in death. Now, this illness of your husband's may be due to the Buddha's design, for the Vimalakirti and Nirvana sutras both speak of sick people attaining Buddhahood. From illness arises the mind that seeks the Way.
 
Among all diseases, the five cardinal sins, the incorrigible disbelief of the icchantika and slander of the Law are the grave ailments that especially pained the Buddha. The people of Japan today, without a single exception, are afflicted with the most serious of all diseases, the grave illness of major slander. I refer to the followers of the Zen, Nembutsu and Ritsu sects, and to the Shingon teachers. Precisely because their ailment is so serious, they neither recognize it themselves nor are others aware of it. And because this illness grows worse, warriors from throughout the four seas will attack at any moment, and the ruler, his ministers and the common people will all be destroyed. To behold this with one's very eyes is indeed a painful thing.
 
In his present life, the lay priest, your husband has not appeared to have had especially strong faith in the Lotus Sutra. But now that the forces of karma accumulated in the past have caused him to suffer this long illness, he seeks the Way day and night without cease. Whatever minor offenses he may have committed in this lifetime must surely have already been eradicated, and by virtue of his dedication to the Lotus Sutra, the great evil of [his past] slander will also be dispelled. Were he to go right now to Eagle Peak, he would feel as delighted as if the sun had come out and illuminated all the ten directions; and he would find himself rejoicing, wondering how an early death could be so happy a thing. No matter what might befall him on the road between this life and the next, he should declare himself to be a disciple of Nichiren. To give an analogy: though Japan is a small country, if one should but announce that he is a vassal of the lord of Sagami, he will command unquestioning awe. I, Nichiren, am the most recalcitrant priest in Japan, but with respect to my faith in the Lotus Sutra, I am the foremost sage in the entire world. My name has reached the pure lands of the ten directions, and heaven and earth surely know of it. If your husband declares that he is Nichiren's disciple, no evil demon can possibly claim ignorance of the name.
 
I have no words to express my thanks to you for your sincerity in sending offerings on many occasions.
 
With my deep respect.

Monkeys rely on trees, and fish depend on water. You, a woman, rely upon your husband. Being loath to part from him, you have shaved off your hair and dyed the sleeves of your robe black. How could the Buddhas of the ten directions not have pity upon you? Nor could the Lotus Sutra ever abandon you. Believing this, you must entrust yourself to it.
 
Nichiren

The sixteenth day of the eighth month

Bestowal of the Mandala of the Mystic Law

I am bestowing upon you the Gohonzon of Myoho-renge-kyo. Though [the daimoku of] this mandala is written in but five or seven characters, it is the teacher of all Buddhas throughout the three existences and the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women. It will be a lamp in the darkness of the road to the next world and a fine horse to carry you over the mountains of death. It is like the sun and the moon in the heavens or Mount Sumeru on earth. It is a ship to ferry people over the sea of suffering. It is the teacher who leads all people to enlightenment. This mandala has never yet been revealed or propagated anywhere in the world in the more than 2,220 years since the Buddha’s passing.

[The prescription of] medicine differs according to the illness. Ordinary medicine will help a slight ailment, but for grave illnesses, elixir should be used. During the 2,220 or more years since the Buddha’s death, the people’s illnesses, that is, their illusions and negative karma, were not serious, and a succession of learned priests appeared in order to act as physicians and dispense medicine appropriately as these illnesses required. These learned priests came from the Kusha, Jojitsu, Ritsu, Hosso, Sanron, Shingon, Kegon, Tendai, Jodo and Zen sects. Each of these sects prescribed its own medicine. For example, the Kegon sect set forth the principle of the six forms and the ten mysteries, the Sanron sect advocated the middle path of the eight negations, the Hosso sect stressed the perception that all phenomena derive from consciousness only, the Ritsu sect upheld the two hundred and fifty precepts, the Jodo sect invoked the name of Amida Buddha, the Zen sect expounded the attainment of Buddhahood by perceiving one’s true nature, the Shingon sect propounded the meditation on the five elements, and the Tendai sect established the theory of ichinen sanzen.

Now, however, we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, and the medicines of these various sects no longer cure the people’s illnesses. Moreover, all the Japanese have become icchantika and people of grave slander. Their offense is even worse than that of killing one’s father or mother, fomenting rebellion or injuring a Buddha. Japan is filled with individuals whose offenses exceed even those of one who were to single-handedly remove the eyes of all the human beings of a major world system, or raze all temples and stupas in the worlds of the ten directions. Consequently, the heavenly deities glare down furiously upon our nation day after day while the earthly deities tremble in continual rage. Nevertheless, all the people of our day believe themselves to be without fault, and none doubts that he will be reborn in the Pure Land and attain enlightenment.

The blind cannot see or comprehend the shining sun, and someone who is sound asleep will not even feel an earthquake reverberating like a great drum. So too it is with all the people of Japan [who do not realize their own offenses]. The offenses committed by the men are heavier than those committed by the women. In like manner, the nuns’ offenses are heavier than the laymen’s and the priests’ more serious than the nuns’. Among the priests, the offenses of those who observe the precepts are worse than those of the priests who violate them, and those of the learned priests are graver still. Such priests are like those with white leprosy among lepers, and among those with white leprosy, the most malignant.

Then, what great physician or what efficacious medicine can cure the illnesses of all people in the Latter Day of the Law? They cannot be cured by the mudras and mantras of Dainichi Buddha, the forty-eight vows of Amida Buddha or the twelve great vows of Yakushi Buddha, not even his pledge to "heal all ills." Not only do such medicines fail to cure these illnesses; they aggravate them all the more.

The Lord Shakyamuni assembled Taho Buddha as well as all the other Buddhas, who were his own emanations, from throughout the ten directions and left one great medicine -- the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo-for the people of the Latter Day of the Law. He refused to entrust it to any of the bodhisattvas such as Hoe, Kudokurin, Kongosatta, Fugen, Monju, Yakuo and Kannon, let alone to Mahakashyapa, Shariputra [or any other man of the two vehicles]. Rather, there were four great bodhisattvas, including Jogyo, who had been disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha since gohyaku-jintengo. Not even for a moment had they ever forgotten the Buddha. Shakyamuni summoned these bodhisattvas and transferred Myoho-renge-kyo to them.

A woman who takes this efficacious medicine will be surrounded and protected by these four great bodhisattvas at all times. When she rises to her feet, so will the bodhisattvas, and when she walks along the road, they will also do the same. She and they will be as inseparable as a body and its shadow, as fish and water, as a voice and its echo, or as the moon and its light. Should these four great bodhisattvas desert the woman who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they would incur the wrath of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions. You may be certain that their offense would be greater than even that of Devadatta, their falsehood more terrible than Kokalika’s. How reassuring! Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

Bodhisattva Hachiman

I have received the white quilted robe and the ten ryo of cotton that you were kind enough to send. The year is drawing to a close, and here in the mountains where I live, the wind blows fiercely and my little dwelling is as full of holes as a wicker basket. I have the leaves of plants for my floor covering and wear clothes made of paper, so that my body becomes as cold as a stone, and the things I have to eat are like ice. When I received the quilted robe, I thought that I would put it on immediately and get warm, but you had written that it was for New Year’s Day of the coming year. I wonder if even the Venerable Mahakashyapa, who retired to Mount Kukkutapada to await the coming of the Honored One of Compassion 5,670 million years in the future, could feel as impatient as I do.

But enough of that. Shiiji Shiro told me that you have been discussing the Buddhist teachings in the presence of your lord, which delights me no end. In reward, I will write to you now about a very important doctrine.

Most people, both the wise and the ignorant, will tell you that Great Bodhisattva Hachiman is a manifestation of Amida Buddha, and this claim is not without reason. In the documents of middle antiquity and in oracles from Hachiman himself, there have been a few instances when he was identified with Amida Buddha. This has come about because people have each at heart become Nembutsu believers, so that they are like someone who mistakes a red stone for a lump of gold or who sees a stump in the field and thinks it is a hare.

The truth is that Hachiman is a manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha. I say this because in the province of Osumi there is an inscription on a stone to that effect. That stone is now broken into two. On one part are written the two characters that comprise the name Hachiman. The other part bears this inscription: "Long ago on Eagle Peak he preached the Lotus Sutra. Now he has manifested himself as the Great Bodhisattva and resides in the main shrine." This is the first proof that Hachiman is Shakyamuni Buddha.

But there is even more definite proof Great Bodhisattva Hachiman’s father was Emperor Chuai, the fourteenth human sovereign of Japan, and his mother was Empress Jingu, the fifteenth sovereign. [Their son,] Emperor Ojin, the sixteenth sovereign, was the one now known as Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.

His father, Emperor Chuai, being commanded by the Sun Goddess, was about to cross the ocean to attack the kingdom of Silla [on the Korean Peninsula]. But the king of Silla put a curse on him, and as a result Emperor Chuai passed away at Hakata. At that time his consort, Empress Jingu, was already pregnant with the prince. But in order to avenge the late emperor, she amassed a force of several tens of thousands of horsemen and crossed the sea to the kingdom of Silla.

While the ship was still on the waves, she could feel that the hour had come for her child to be born. At that time Empress Jingu addressed the babe in her womb, saying, "Are you a prince, or are you a girl child? If you are a prince, then listen well to what I say. I am crossing over to the land of Silla in order to attack the enemy of your father, Emperor Chuai. Since I am only a woman, I want you to act as my commander in chief. If you are destined to be the sovereign of Japan, then you must not be born just now, but must remain in my womb during the time of battle and from there serve as commander in chief to my tens of thousands of horsemen and carry out the attack on your father’s enemy. But if you do not heed my words and instead insist upon being born at once, then I will cast you into the sea. You must not bear a grudge against me!"

The child accordingly remained in the womb as before. At that time the empress donned a belt made of stones in order to chill her womb and proceeded on her way to Silla where she subjugated the kingdom. When she returned to Japan, she went to the Usa Shrine in the province of Buzen, and there her child was born. He had been in the womb for three years, six months and three days, and was born on the eighth day of the fourth month of a year with the cyclical sign kinoe-tora. This was the child who was later to be known as Emperor Ojin. At the age of eighty, he passed away on the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru. He is the chief god of Mount Otoko, a guardian deity to the dynasty that rules our country. His enshrined form is not particularly unusual, but he is nevertheless revered for his mysterious powers. He is the deity now known as Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.

Now Shakyamuni Buddha was born in the kalpa of continuance in the ninth period of decrease, when the human life span measured a hundred years. His father was King Shuddhodana and his mother, Lady Maya. He was born in the state of Kapilavastu in central India, in a place called the Lumbini Gardens, on the eighth day of the fourth month of a year with the sign kinoe-tora. After living for eighty years, he passed away on the banks of the Ajitavati River at Kushinagara in eastern India on the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru. It was the same with the present Great Bodhisattva Hachiman. Though one was born in India and the other in Japan, and though they had different fathers and mothers, both were born on the eighth day of the fourth month of a year with the sign kinoe-tora and died on the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru.

During the 2,220 and more years since the Buddha passed away, whether in India, China, Japan or anywhere else in the entire land of Jambudvipa, those born as sages and worthy men are all said to have been manifestations of Shakyamuni Buddha. But no one has ever heard of such a coincidence as the one I have just pointed out.

In addition to this strange coincidence, there is the matter of Great Bodhisattva Hachiman’s vow. When he preached the Lotus Sutra [as Shakyamuni Buddha] in India, he said, "Honestly discarding expedient means... ," and in Japan he vowed that he would make his residence on the heads of honest persons. Nevertheless, on the fourteenth day of last month, the eleventh month, at the Hour of the Rat (around 12:00 P.M.), he burned down his sacred shrine and ascended to the heavens. if we consider the reason, we Will see that, though this deity had vowed to reside on the heads of honest persons, there were no longer any honest persons on whose heads he might reside. Being thus left without a dwelling place, he ascended to the heavens.

But the strangest thing of all in this country of Japan is the fact that, although its people have been born in a land related to Shakyamuni Buddha, they have discarded this Buddha, and all, every one of them alike, have become followers of Amida Buddha. They have cast aside Shakyamuni, with whom they have a deep bond, and pay reverence to Amida Buddha, with whom they have no connection at all.

In addition, they have taken the day when Shakyamuni Buddha, their father, passed away, and assigned it to Amida Buddha, and taken the day when he was born, and assigned it to Yakushi [Buddha]. And though they appear to pay reverence to Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, they claim that his true identity is Amida Buddha. Not only have they discarded both true identity and manifestation, but they treat as an enemy anyone who tries to point out their error. That is no doubt the reason why this deity, Hachiman, being powerless to correct the situation, has ascended to the heavens.

The moon will cast its image on water, but its reflection will not dwell in muddy water. However, it will be mirrored even in the drops of dew on the trees above and on the leaves of the grass, if the dew is clear and pure. And in the same way, Hachiman will undoubtedly take up his residence on the head of an honest person, even though that person may not be the ruler of the nation.

Hachiman has vowed to take up residence on the heads of a hundred rulers. And yet he did not reside on the heads of the five rulers of our nation, namely, the eighty-first sovereign, Emperor Antoku; the eighty-second sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Oki; the eighty-third sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Awa; the eighty-fourth sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Sado; and the eighty-fifth sovereign, the Emperor of Higashi Ichijo. He declined to do so because they had the heads of men who are fawning and crooked. Instead, he took up residence on the heads of Yoritomo and Yoshitoki, though these men were mere servants of the throne. This was no doubt because they were honest men.

On considering this, we can see that because persons who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra are following an honest doctrine, Shakyamuni Buddha himself will protect them. How then could it happen that Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, who is his manifestation, would fail to protect them?

Though water may be pure at the outset, if it becomes muddied, the moon will not shine in it. But even though night soil is filthy, when it clears, the moon will not begrudge its reflection. The muddied water may be pure in nature, yet the moon will not shine in it. But the night soil, though impure in nature, will reflect the moon’s rays if it clears.

The muddy water may be likened to learned priests and eminent scholars who keep the precepts but turn their backs on the Lotus Sutra. The night soil may be likened to ignorant people without precepts whose greed is profound and whose anger is intense, but who put undivided faith in the Lotus Sutra alone.

The scripture known as the Nirvana Sutra lists the beings that have been able to attain the way through the Lotus Sutra, and the list includes such filthy creatures as dung beetles, vipers and scorpions. To express the wonderful power of the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. says that it enables "even such creatures as dung beetles to attain Buddhahood."

The Nirvana Sutra also refers to persons who cannot become Buddhas even through the Lotus Sutra, defining them as icchantika, or those of incorrigible disbelief, who appear to be like arhats or like great bodhisattvas. They are like the muddy water that, though originally pure, will not reflect the moonlight. Thus Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, because he hates dishonesty, has ascended to the heavens. But when he sees the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, how could he begrudge shedding his light on them?

My followers should believe the truth of this matter firmly. Great Bodhisattva Hachiman dwells with us here. Have no doubt about it! Have no doubt about it!

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The sixteenth day of the twelfth month

Reply to the wife of Shijo Kingo

Chapter 3: Simile and Parable [Hiyu]

The fifth volume of the Hokke Mongu states, "The Buddha's great compassion is never exhausted, his skillful wisdom operates without limit. That is why the Buddha preaches parables. Moving the trees, he shows us the wind; raising his fan, he reveals the moon. This is how he awakens us to the truth." The [Buddha's] 'great compassion' is like the mercy and compassion that a mother feels for her child. As Chang-an states, 'One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.' (Gosho Zenshu p. 721)

The sutra states, "At that time, Shariputra's mind danced with joy. Then he immediately stood up, pressed his palms together, gazed up in reverence at the face of the World Honored One." (LS p. 47, 3LS p. 77)

'Shariputra' represents the physical and spiritual activities of all persons in the ten worlds. Now Nichiren and his disciples who chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo are all Shariputras. One 'dances with joy' when one comes to the realization that the phenomena of the body and mind are the Mystic Law. 'Pressing' refers to myo or Mystic, while 'palms' refer to ho or the Law. 'Together' means the 'world of Buddhahood' and 'palms' mean the other nine worlds. (Gosho Zenshu p. 722)

The sutra states, "But now I have heard from the Buddha what I never heard before, a Law never before known in the past, and it has ended all my doubts and regrets. My body and mind are at ease and I have gained a wonderful feeling of peace and security." (LS p. 48, 3LS p. 78)

'I have heard from the Buddha' refers to the disciples of Nichiren. This passage explains the doctrines of 'threefold contemplation in a single mind' and the 'three thousand realms in a single moment of life' whereby we attain Buddhahood in our present form. Provisional teachings offer neither ease nor peace. According to the orally transmitted teachings, 'my body and mind are at ease' indicates the principle of 'earthly desires are enlightenment' and the 'sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.' 'Body' here indicates that the sufferings are nirvana and 'mind' that 'earthly desires are enlightenment.' The joy of mouth is chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. The joy of mind arises from the elimination of the obstacle of darkness. (Gosho Zenshu p. 723)

The sutra states, "When I heard the sound of this Law." (LS p. 50, 3LS p. 80)

'Hearing' means to take faith in the Lotus Sutra and 'a voice' indicates the voice and sound [i.e. rhythm] of all phenomena, which signifies the Mystic Law. Regarding this 'voice,' the fourth chapter says 'we will take the voice of the Buddha way and cause it to be heard by all.' 'All' means human beings living in the phenomenal world, and 'voice' means Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. (Gosho Zenshu p. 723)

The sutra states, "This house has only one gate." (LS p. 56, 3LS p. 86)

Chapter Five of the Hokke Mongu states, 'This house has only one gate' serves to illustrate [the meaning of] the earlier passage 'by means of various teachings, I declare the Buddha way.' This gateway, moreover, has two meanings. It is also the gateway out from the house and [also] the gateway to the cart. The house represents birth and death, while the gateway is the essential path of exit. [From this view,] it represents the conclusion of the provisional teachings. The cart is the teaching of the Mahayana. The gateway [viewed as opening into the Mahayana] represents the conclusion of the perfect teaching.

The 'one gate' [leading out of the burning house] means faith in the Lotus Sutra. The [great white ox] cart indicates the Lotus Sutra itself. The ox represents Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The [burning] house represents earthly desires. [Mounting the great white ox cart,] we travel the cycle of birth and death secure upon the earth of our inherent enlightened nature. (Gosho Zenshu p. 724)

The five elements that make up the bodies of living beings, such as we, are reflections of Myoho Renge kyo, and therefore we should use this Treasure Tower chapter as our mirror. (Gosho Zenshu p. 724)

The sutra Chapter states, "[The children will find constant enjoyment] in mounting this jeweled vehicle and proceeding directly to the place of practice." (LS p. 71, 3LS p. 100)

Embracing the Lotus Sutra is called 'proceeding directly to the place of practice. [wisdom throne]' It is not the case that he [votary] leaves his present place and goes elsewhere. Now the dwellings of Nichiren and his disciples who chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, whether in the mountains, valleys or the wide plains, is in every case the Land of Tranquil Light. (Gosho Zenshu p. 781)

Chapter 4 - Faith and Understanding [Shinge]

Chapter six of the Hokke Mongu states, "In the Cheng-fa-hua [ching], this chapter is titled 'Faith and Joy.' While the meaning comes through, 'joy' is not equal to 'understanding.' This present [chapter] expresses the acceptance and understanding [of the four great voice-hearers on hearing the teaching of the one vehicle]. How could 'joy' be most appropriate?"

Among the titles of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, this chapter has the title 'Faith and Understanding.' The three thousand realms in a single instant arise from the character 'faith.' The attainment of the Way by all Buddhas of the three existences also derives from the character 'faith.' This character 'faith' or 'belief' is a sharp sword that can sever fundamental darkness. As expressed in the statement, 'Having no doubt is called belief,' faith is a sharp sword to sever and destroy doubts and delusions. 'Understanding' is another word for wisdom. Faith is like the price [of a jewel], and wisdom, like the jewel itself. (Gosho Zenshu p. 724)

The single character 'faith' will purchase the wisdom of all Buddhas of the three existences of past, present and future. 'Wisdom' means Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Faith is the cause of wisdom and represents the stage of verbal identity. Apart from faith, there can be no understanding, and apart from understanding, there can be no faith. The character 'faith' is defined as the seed of wonderful enlightenment. Now because Nichiren and his disciples believe and accept Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, they obtain a great precious jewel, as stated in the sutra, "This cluster of unsurpassed jewels has come to us unsought." (LS p. 87, 3LS p. 116)  Faith is the seed of wisdom, and disbelief is the cause for falling into hell. 'Faith' corresponds to the principle of true being that is unchanging. The reason is that 'faith' means one arrives at 'understanding that all laws are the Mystic Law' and believes in this as the single principle of the true aspect. 'Understanding' corresponds to the wisdom of true being that accords with conditions. It indicates the wisdom of the Buddha of absolute freedom. (Gosho Zenshu p. 725)

Chapter Nine of the Hokke Mongu states, "Having no doubt is called belief; a clear grasp is called understanding." Chapter Six of the Hokke Mongu states, "When people of intermediate capacity heard the Buddha expound the [of the three carts and burning house], their doubts and confusion were removed, for the first time, and they entered understanding of the Mahayana Teaching; therefore this is called 'faith.' Because they advanced in the Mahayana Teaching, that is called 'understanding.'"

The commentary also states, "Here the two words [faith and understanding] are treated separately with respect to the Mahayana teaching and applied to 'discerning the Way' and 'cultivating the Way.' Because doubts are removed, that is 'faith,' and because one further advances, that is 'understanding.' 'Faith' applies to both discerning and cultivating, while 'understanding' only applies to cultivation. Therefore, cultivation of the Way is called 'understanding.'"

The sutra states, "This is my son, and I in truth am his father. Now everything that belongs to me, all of my wealth and possessions, shall belong entirely to this one of mine." (LS p. 85, 3LS p. 114)

I, Nichiren am the father of all the people of Japan. (Gosho Zenshu p. 726)

The sutra states, "This cluster of unsurpassed jewels has come to us unsought." (LS p. 87, 3LS p. 116)

Now from the standpoint of Nichiren and his disciples, 'unsurpassed' indicates Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which is most unsurpassed among the unsurpassed. The sutra speaks of the 'unsurpassed cluster of jewels' to indicate the Mystic law. [This phrase] means that Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the treasure in which are clustered all the beneficial practices and meritorious deeds of all Buddhas of the three existences. Faith enables us, without painful practices or merit accumulated through austerities, to receive the peerless treasure through a single utterance. This is the meaning of '[H]as come to us unsought.' (Gosho Zenshu p. 728)

The sutra states, "Now we have become voice-hearers in truth, for we will take the voice of the Buddha way and cause it to be heard by all." (LS p. 94, 3LS p. 124)

Thus, Shariputra expressed his understanding of the Law by saying in [the 3rd] chapter 'listening to the voice.' 'Listening' means to take faith in the sutra and 'the voice' indicates the voice and sound of all phenomena which signifies the Mystic Way. Regarding this voice, [this] chapter states [the above phrase]. 'All' means humans living in the phenomenal world and 'voice' means Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. (Gosho Zenshu p. 728)

Chapter 6 - Prediction [Juki]

The word 'prediction' [prophecy] refers to Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. (Gosho Zenshu p. 730) It is the bestowal of the prophecy of the Law and therefore it is a bestowal of prophecy upon the Dharma realm. (Gosho Zenshu p. 731)

The sutra states, "This disciple of mine, Masha-Kashyapa in future existences will be able to enter the presence of the three thousand billion Buddhas, World Honored Ones, to offer alms, pay reverence, honor and praise them, widely proclaiming the innumerable greater doctrines of the Buddhas. And in his final incarnation he will be able to become a Buddha named Light Bright Thus Come One." (LS p 107, 3LS p. 135)

Now Nichiren and his disciples illuminate the murk and slander of the Law with the light brightness of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. This is in fact a virtue of Kashayapa the "Light Bright Thus Come One." (Gosho Zenshu p. 731)

The sutra states, "At that time the World Honored One, understanding the thoughts in the minds of his major disciples [Maudgalyayana, Subhuti and Mahakatyayana], made this announcement to the monks: 'Subhuti here in future existences... will attain Buddhahood." (LS p. 110, 3LS p. 137)

Ultimately, Shakyamuni's four great disciples of average capacity represent the four phases of our lives. Kashayapa represents birth, Katyana, old age; Maudgalyayana, illness; and Subhuti, death.

The sutra states, "The four evil paths of existence, hell and the realms of hungry spirits, beasts and asuras, will not exist there." (LS p.113, 3LS p.141)

The prophecy of falling into hell is made [for one who follows an evil teacher], and a prophecy of evil karma is conferred upon one who makes that evil cause." (Gosho Zenshu p. 730)

The sutra, "This disciple of mine, the great Maudgalayana here, when he has cast aside his present body, will see eight thousand two hundred ten million Buddhas, World Honored Ones." (LS p 115, 3LS p.143)

The chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo corresponds to 'casting aside his body'. And when we interpret this passage, takes on the meaning of offering the five elements of one's own body to the universe, not casting off one's own body. Giving up one's own present body to become a Buddha is an interpretation of the sutra from the theoretical teachings. The sutra refers to the discarding of the theoretical teaching as 'casting aside this body.'" (Gosho Zenshu p. 731)

Chapter 7 - Phantom City [Kejoyu]

'Phantom' refers to our body, and 'city,' to our mind. To expound the impermanence of body and mind is the heart of the provisional teachings. The intent of the Lotus Sutra is to teach that the impermanent abides eternally. Thus the phantom city is itself the treasure land. Today, when Nichiren and his disciples chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we open both body and mind to reveal them as the Mystic Law. This is called the phantom city being itself the treasure land. (Gosho Zenshu p. 732)

The ten worlds are all Phantom Cities and each one is a Treasure Land. Or again, the Phantom City is the nine worlds and the Treasure Land is the state of Buddhahood. From the Phantom City to the Treasure Land is a distance of five hundred yojanas. (LS p.135) This distance represents the delusions arising from thoughts and desire, of delusions as innumerable and dust particles and grains of sand, and the delusions arising from ignorance which impede Buddhist practice. The five hundred yojanas of earthly desires, in essence, indicate the five characters of Myoho Renge Kyo, means the Phantom City is the Treasure Land. In the phrase 'the Phantom City is precisely the place of Jewels,' the word 'precisely' means Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. (Gosho Zenshu p. 732)

Each life-moment in the Phantom City is a life-moment in the Treasure Land. The provisional teachings expound our mental and physical existences as impermanent. The Lotus Sutra teaches that they constantly exist. When one eliminates attachment to impermanence then the Phantom City is 'wiped out.'

The Phantom City is our skin and flesh, while the Treasure Land is our bones. The opening and realization that one's body and mind are the True Law is the reality of the Phantom City being the place of Jewels. 'Reality' means the simultaneity and coexistence of the impermanent and the constantly existing, according with conditions yet unchanging, understanding and illumination in a single thought-moment. 'Single thought moment' here means a single thought moment in which one believes without doubt in Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. [In the expression, 'the conjured city is precisely the place of jewels,'] one should fix one's mind on the single word 'precisely' [soku] and ponder it. (Gosho Zenshu p. 732)

There is nothing that exists eternally on this earth. Whether something exists or not depends solely upon the time. (Gosho Zenshu p. 732)

The sutra states "There was a Buddha, most honored of two-legged beings, named Great Universal Wisdom Excellence." (LS p. 118, 3LS p. 146)

The votaries who chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo are the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence. (Gosho Zenshu p. 733)

The sutra states, "Their grandfather who was a wheel-turning sage king," (LS p. 120, 3LS p. 148)

The 'wheel turning sage-king' is one who passes through the cycle of birth and death, unchanging throughout the three existences of past, present, and future. The wheel-jewel refers to our words and voices. With regard to the wheels of gold, copper, silver and iron; gold indicates life, silver represents death, or bleached bones. Copper gives the appearance of old age, and iron indicates sickness. Thus, the four wheels [of the four wheel turning kings] signify the Buddha's acts of enabling all persons to open, show, awaken to, and enter the Buddha wisdom." (Gosho Zenshu p. 733)

The sutra states, "At that time the leader, knowing that the people have become rested and are no longer fearful or weary, wipes out the phantom city." (LS p. 136, 3LS p. 163)

The entity of one's person, which shall undergo dissolution, is the conjured city. Because one sees this dissolution as extinction, it remains the phantom city. But when one perceives it to be the extinction that is non-extinction, which is called the place of jewels. The Juryo chapter expounds this with the words 'as an expedient means I appear to enter nirvana but in truth I do not pass into extinction.' (LS p. 229) To eradicate the view of extinction is called 'wipes out.' One should ponder in this light the teaching that the three provisional vehicles are precisely the one true [vehicle]. In another sense, 'The leader…wipes out the phantom city' means eradicating the palaces of those who slander the Law.

Now when Nichiren and his disciples chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo they are asserting that the phantom city is identical to the treasure land. These mountains, valleys, and broad plains, where we live, every one of them, is the treasure land of Eternally Tranquil Light. (Gosho Zenshu p. 734)

The sutra states, "Now you must press forward diligently so that together you may reach the place where the treasure is." (LS p. 141, 3LS p. 168)

Nichiren and his disciples who chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo will 'reach the place where the treasure is.' 'Together' means that when one is 'together' with Nichiren, one can reach the place of Treasures [Buddhahood] while those who are not with Nichiren will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Now when Nichiren and his disciples chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, they are asserting that the phantom city is the place of jewels. (Gosho Zenshu p. 734)

Chapter 8 - Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples [Gohyaku Deshi Juki]

Now when Nichiren and his disciples chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo they are bestowing on both learners and adepts a prophecy that, as Shakyamuni said, 'all persons [will be] equal to me, without any distinction between us,' are they not? On all of them, wise and ignorant alike, we bestow the prophecy of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, 'forcing them to listen, even though it angers them.' (Gosho Zenshu p 735)

The sutra states, "World Honored One, it was like the case of a man who went to the house of a close friend and, having become drunk on wine, lay down to sleep. At that time the friend, had to go out on official business. He took a priceless jewel, sewed it in the lining of the man's robe, and left it with him when he [the friend] went out. The man was asleep drunk and knew nothing about it [the jewel]. When he got up, he set out on a journey to other countries." (LS p 150, 3LS p177)

The wine [on which the poor man gets drunk] represents ignorance. 'Become drunk' indicates disbelief, while 'got up' indicates faith. Now when Nichiren and his disciples chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they awaken from the stupor of fundamental darkness. When we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, our ignorance changes to revelation because of the Mystic Law. (Gosho Zenshu p 735)

The sutra states, "When the poor man saw the jewel, his heart was filled with great joy." (LS p 152, 3LS p 179)

The 'poor man' represents all the people of Japan [all humanity]; 'the jewel' indicates the Daimoku, or the Gohonzon; 'at heart' means both body and mind. 'Great joy' indicates the enlightened state of faith in which earthly desires are transformed into enlightenment and the sufferings of birth and death into nirvana. When we first realize that our own mind is inherently Buddha, that is called 'great joy.' Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the 'great joy' among joys. (Gosho Zenshu p 788)
 

Clear Sake Gosho

I have received all your gifts: one container of clear sake, ten metal pouring pots, one hundred steamed rice cakes, one bucket containing perhaps two sho of syrup, a basket of koji oranges and ten skewers of dried persimmons. I have read your message that your joy at the beginning of spring has unfolded like the cherry blossoms and waxed full like the moon.

Your late son Goro comes inevitably to mind. The blossoms that once fell are about to bloom again, and the withered grasses have begun to sprout anew. Why does the late Goro not return as well? Ah, if he were to come back with the evanescent flowers and grasses, then even though we are not Hitomaro, we would wait by the blossoms; even though we are not tethered steeds, we would never leave the grass!

A certain sutra passage says that children are one’s enemies. Perhaps there is reason for this. The bird known as the owl devours its mother, and the beast called hakei destroys its father. A man called An Lu-shan was killed by his son, Shih Shih-ming, and the warrior Yoshitomo killed his father, Tameyoshi. Thus the sutra has grounds for saying that children are one’s enemies.

Another sutra passage says that children are a treasure. King Myoshogon was destined, after his life had ended, to fall into the hell called the great citadel of incessant suffering, but he was saved by his son, the crown prince Jozo. Not only was he able to escape the sufferings of that great hell, but he became a Buddha called Sal Tree King. A woman called Shodai-nyo, for the faults of greed and stinginess, was confined in the realm of hungry spirits, but she was saved by her son Maudgalyayana and was freed from that realm. Thus the sutra’s statement that children are a treasure is in no way false.

The late Goro was sixteen years old. Not only did he surpass others in his disposition and good looks, but he was fully endowed with a man’s strengths and was praised by all. Moreover, his obedience to his parent’s will was like water taking the shape of its container or a shadow following a body. You relied upon him as the pillar of your household; you thought of him as your staff upon the road. All the wealth in your family coffers existed for this child; so did the family retainers. You must have been firmly convinced that, when you died, you would be carried by him on his back to the graveyard, and that there would be nothing left for you to worry about. But lamentably, he has preceded you in death. "Why, why did this happen? It must be a dream, an illusion! I will wake up, I will wake up!" you must have thought. But without your having awakened, already one year has given way to the next. You do not know how long you will have to wait. You must feel that, if only he had left word where you could go and meet him, then without wings, you would soar to the heavens, or without a boat, you would cross over to China. If you heard he was in the bowels of the earth, then how could you fail to dig into the ground?

And yet there is a way to meet him readily. With Shakyamuni Buddha as your guide, you can go to meet him in the pure land of Eagle Peak. The sutra states, "If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood." This means that even if one were to point at the earth and miss it, even if the sun and moon should fall to the ground, even if an age should come when the tides cease to ebb and flow, or even if flowers should not turn to fruit in summer, it could never happen that a woman who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo would fail to be reunited with her beloved child. Continue in your devotion to faith and bring this about quickly!

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The thirteenth day of the first month

Reply to Ueno-ama Gozen
 

Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha Made by Shijo Kingo

In your diary you write that you have fashioned a wooden image of Shakyamuni Buddha. With regard to the eye-opening ceremony appropriate for such a statue, the Fugen Sutra states, "This Mahayana sutra is the treasure storehouse of all Buddhas, the eye of all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences." It also says, "This Mahayana sutra is the eye of all Buddhas because, through its teachings, they acquire the five types of vision."

Concerning the phrase "acquire the five types of vision" in this sutra, this refers to the eye of common mortals, the divine eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye of the Law and the eye of the Buddha. These five types of vision are naturally acquired by one who upholds the Lotus Sutra, just as the person who becomes the ruler of a state will naturally be obeyed by all the people of that state, or as the lord of the great ocean will as a matter of course be followed by ocean-dwelling fish.

The Kegon, Agon, Hodo, Hannya and Dainichi sutras may possess the five types of vision in name, but they do not possess them in reality. The Lotus Sutra possesses them in both name and reality. And even if it did not possess them in name, you may be certain that it would possess them in reality.

With regard to the three bodies or properties of a Buddha, the Fugen Sutra states, "The three enlightened properties of the Buddha's life arise from the Hodo. This seal of the great Dharma assures entry into the sea of nirvana. A Buddha's three pure properties arise from this vast ocean. These three properties are the fertile field of good fortune for all human and heavenly beings, and the object most supremely 'worthy of offerings.'"

The three properties or bodies are: first, the Dharma body of the Tathagata; second, the bliss body of the Tathagata; and third, the manifested body of the Tathagata. These three types of Tathagata bodies are invariably possessed by all Buddhas. If we use the moon as an illustration, we may say that the moon itself is comparable to the Dharma body, its light to the bliss body, and its reflection to the manifested body. Just as a single moon has these three different aspects, so a single Buddha possesses the virtues of these three different bodies.

These doctrines of the five types of vision and the three bodies are not expounded anywhere outside of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai has said, "The Buddha, throughout the three existences, consistently possesses the three bodies. But in the various teachings, he kept it secret and did not transmit it." In this passage of commentary, the phrase "in the various teachings" refers not only to the Kegon, Hodo and Hannya sutras, but to the entire body of sutras other than the Lotus Sutra. And the phrase "he kept it secret and did not transmit it" means that, in the entire body of scripture outside of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Lord Shakyamuni concealed this doctrine and nowhere expounded it. Therefore, in performing the eye-opening ceremony for painted or wooden Buddha images, the only authority to rely on is the Lotus Sutra and the Tendai sect.

In addition, the doctrine of ichinen sanzen is based on the concept of the three realms of existence. The three realms of existence are: first, the realm of living beings; second, the realm of the five components; and third, the realm of the environment. We will set aside the first two for the moment. The third, the realm of the environment, refers to the realm of plants and trees. And the realm of plants and trees includes those plants and trees from which are produced the five shades of pigment used in painting. From this pigment, painted images are created, and from trees, wooden statues are made.

It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that makes it possible to infuse such paintings and statues with a "soul" or spiritual property. This was the realization of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai. In the case of living beings, this doctrine is known as attaining Buddhahood in one's present form; in the case of painted and wooden images, it is known as the enlightenment of plants and trees. This is why [the Great Teacher Chang-an] wrote, "There has never been anything to compare to the brightness and serenity of shikan-style meditation," and why [the Great Teacher Miao-lo] stated, "They are nevertheless shocked and harbor doubts when they hear for the first time the doctrine that insentient beings possess the Buddha nature."

This doctrine [of ichinen sanzen] was never heard of in the ages [before the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai], nor was it known in the ages that followed. And even if it did make its appearance, one may be certain that it had been stolen from him.

However, some two hundred years or more after the time of T'ien-t'ai, Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung founded the so-called Shingon sect on the basis of the Dainichi Sutra. And then, although there is no mention of any such doctrine in the Dainichi Sutra as the Buddha expounded it, they stole the doctrine of ichinen sanzen from the Lotus Sutra and T'ien-t'ai's interpretation thereof, and proceeded to make it the very heart and core of the Shingon sect. Moreover, they pretended that the doctrine had originated in India, and in this way deceived and misled the latter-day scholars of China and Japan. No one knows the truth of the matter, but all alike assent to and put faith in the assertions of the Shingon sect. This has been going on now for more than five hundred years.

This being the case, the wooden and painted images that were made and consecrated before the time of the Shingon sect, [when the T'ien-t'ai practices were followed,] have manifested extraordinary powers, but those in temples and pagodas built after Shingon [practices were adopted for the eye-opening ceremony] produce very little benefit. Since there are many instances of this, I will not go into detail.

This Buddha of yours, however, is a living Buddha. It differs in no respect from the wooden image of the Buddha made by King Udayana, or that fashioned by King Bimbisara. Surely Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings will attend you as a shadow accompanies a body and protect you always. (This is the first point I wish to make.)

Your diary also indicates that each year, during the ninety day period from the eighth day of the fourth month through the fifteenth day of the seventh month, you perform acts of devotion to the god of the sun. The god of the sun lives in a palace made of the seven kinds of gems. This palace occupies an area of 816 ri or 51 yojana. In the midst of it, the god of the sun dwells, attended by two consorts, Sho and Musho. To his right and left are ranged the seven luminaries and the nine luminaries, and in front of him stands the goddess Marishiten. The god of the sun rides in a chariot made of the seven gems and drawn by eight fine horses, and in the space of one day and one night he circles about the four continents, acting as an eye to all the living beings who dwell in them.

In the case of the other Buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities, we hear that they bestow superb blessing, but with our common-mortal eyes we have yet to see it. In the case of the sun deity, however, there can be no doubt, for his blessings are before our very eyes. Were it not for Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, how could such blessings as these be bestowed? And were it not for the power of the wonderful sutra of the one vehicle, how could such marvels appear before us? It is wondrous to contemplate!

In inquiring how one can repay this deity for his favor, one finds that, in the ages before the appearance of Buddhism, people of a discerning nature all bowed before him or presented offerings, and all of them received evidence of blessings in return. At the same time, persons who turned against him were all punished.

Now if we consider what the Buddhist writings have to say, we may note that the Konkomyo Sutra states: "The god of the sun and the god of the moon, because they listen to this sutra, are able to obtain vitality in abundance." And the Saisho-o Sutra states: "Through the power of this sutra king, these luminaries are able to circle around the four continents."

You should understand, therefore, that it is the power of the Buddhist Law that enables the deities of the sun and moon to make their rounds of the four continents. The Konkomyo and Saisho-o sutras are mere expedient teachings leading to the Lotus Sutra. In comparison to the Lotus Sutra, they are like milk in comparison to ghee, or metal in comparison to precious gems. And yet, inferior as these sutras are, they enable the heavenly deities to circle the four continents. How much more power can these deities gain, then, by tasting the sweet ghee of the Lotus Sutra!

Therefore in the Jo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, we find that the deities of the sun and moon are ranged side by side with the god of the stars. And in the Hosshi chapter, it is predicted that the deity of the sun will attain the highest level of enlightenment and be known as the Fire-sustaining Tathagata.

In addition to all this, your late father initiated this worship of the sun deity, and you have succeeded him in the second generation, carrying on these ceremonies over a long period of time. So how could the deity possibly abandon you?

I, Nichiren, have also put my trust in this deity, and in this manner have carried on my struggles in Japan over the past several years. Already I have the feeling that I have achieved victory. Such clear blessings can only be attributed to this deity.

There are many other admirable points in your diary, but I cannot go into them all in this letter.

As for the thing that I admire most: in your letters in the past you have from time to time mentioned your concern for your parents. And when I read your present letter, I could not hold back my tears, so moved was I by pity at your sorrow over the thought that your parents might perhaps be in hell.

Among the Buddha's disciples was one called the Venerable Maudgalyayana. His father was named Kissen Shishi and his mother was named Shodai-nyo. His mother, after passing away, fell into the realm of hungry spirits. While Maudgalyayana was still an ordinary mortal, he was unaware of this fact, and so had no reason to grieve over it. But after he became a disciple of the Buddha, he achieved the status of arhat and, acquiring the divine eye, was able to perceive that his mother was in the realm of hungry spirits. When he became aware of this, he made offerings of food and drink to her, but these only turned into flame and increased her torment. Thereupon he rushed back to the Buddha and reported what had happened. Think how he must have felt at that time!

Now you are an ordinary mortal, possessing no more than the mortal eye, and so you cannot see what realm your parents now occupy and grieve at the thought that perhaps they are in hell. This in itself is a manifestation of filial devotion. Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings are certain to look upon you with pity.

The Kegon Sutra says, "Those who do not understand their obligations will in many cases meet with an untimely death." And the Kambutsu Sokai Sutra says, "This [failure to repay a debt of gratitude] is the cause that leads to rebirth in the Avichi Hell." But now you have already manifested a sincere concern for your parents, and the heavenly gods are certain to heed your prayers. (This is the second point I wish to stress to you.)

In your letter, you also mention certain things which, on thoroughly considering the heart of the matter, I believe you ought not to do. I, Nichiren, am hated by the people of Japan. This is entirely due to the fact that the lord of Sagami regards me with animosity. I grant that the government has acted quite without reason, but even before I encountered my difficulties, I foresaw that troubles of that kind would occur, and I resolved that, whatever might happen to me in the future, I must not bear any hatred toward others. This determination has perhaps acted as a kind of prayer, for I have been able to come safely through any number of trials. And now I am faced with no such difficulties.

Whose aid was it that allowed me to escape death from hunger when I was exiled to the province of Sado, or that makes it possible for me to recite the Lotus Sutra here in the mountains as I have up until now? It is your aid alone. And if we inquire who has made it possible for you to offer this aid, we would have to say that it is the lord Ema Nyudo. Though he himself is not aware of this fact, it has undoubtedly acted as a kind of prayer on my behalf. And if that is so, then your lord's prayer has also become a kind of prayer on your behalf as well.
 
Moreover, it is thanks to your lord that you have been able to fulfill your obligations to your parents. Regardless of what might happen, it would not be right to leave the service of someone to whom you are so indebted. If he repeatedly rejects you, then there is no help for it. But you yourself must not abandon him, no matter how your life may be placed in danger.

In the passage from the sutra that I quoted above, it says that those who do not understand their obligations may meet with an untimely death. Conversely, those who discharge their filial duties will not meet with such a death.

The bird known as a cormorant is capable of eating iron, but though its insides can digest iron, they do no harm to the embryo chicks in the body of the mother. There are fish that eat pebbles, but this does not kill the unspawned young in the fish's body. The tree called sandalwood cannot be burned by fire, and the fire in the heavens of purity cannot be quenched by water. The body of Shakyamuni Buddha could not be burned, though thirty-two strong men applied torches to it, and when fire emanated from the Buddha's body, the dragon deities of the threefold world all poured down rain in an effort to put it out, but it would not be extinguished.

Now you have aided Nichiren in his acts of merit. Therefore, it will be very difficult for evil persons to do you harm. And if by chance something should happen to you, then you may be certain that it is a retribution in this present life for the hatred that you manifested in some previous existence toward a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Retribution of that kind can never be avoided, no matter how deep one may be within the mountains or how far away at sea. That is why Bodhisattva Fukyo was attacked with staves and sticks, and why the Venerable Maudgalyayana was killed by a group of Brahmans of the Bamboo Staff school. Therefore, what cause have you to grieve?

To avoid unforeseen troubles, it is best to endure patiently. After you read this letter, during the hundred days that follow, you must not heedlessly go out drinking at night with your associates or others at places besides your own home. If your lord should summon you during the daytime, then go to him with all haste. If the summons should come at night, then plead some sudden illness for the first three times he calls you. If he persists in calling you more than three times, then inform your retainers or someone else and have them watch out for trouble at the crossroads before you set out to answer the summons.

If you conduct yourself in this circumspect manner, and the Mongols attack our country in the meantime, then people's feelings toward you will change from what they were in the past, and they will no longer think of attacking you as they would an enemy.

With regard to what you have written me, even if you should be at fault, you should not think lightly of leaving your lord's service - even less so if you are guilty of no error. In that case you must pay no heed, regardless of what others may say.

As for your desire to become a lay priest, there will be plenty of time to do that later. Even then, if circumstances should arise that do not suit you in body or mind, evil influences will again seek to work upon you. These days there are women who become nuns in order to deceive others, and men who become lay priests and commit great evil. You must never become involved in such matters.

Even though you are suffering from no illness, you should receive moxibustion treatment on one or two places on your body so that later you can plead illness if it should become necessary. And if some kind of disturbance should occur, for the time being send someone else to observe what is going on.

It is difficult to write in detail all that I would like to tell you. That is why I have not gone into matters of doctrine here. As for the sutra, I will copy it out for you when the weather gets a little cooler.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The fifteenth day of the seventh month in the second year of Kenji (1276), cyclical sign hinoe-ne

Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man
- Shogu Mondo Sho -
PART ONE
Having received life, one cannot escape death. Yet though everyone, from the noblest, the emperor, down to the lowliest commoner, recognizes this as a fact, not one person in a thousand or ten thousand truly takes the matter seriously or grieves over it. Suddenly confronted with evidence of the impermanence of life, we may be frightened at the thought that we have remained so distant from Buddhism and lament that we have been too engrossed in secular affairs. Yet we assume that those who have preceded us in death are wretched and that we who remain alive are superior. Busy with that task yesterday and this affair today, we are helplessly bound by the five desires of our worldly nature. Unaware that time passes as quickly as a white colt glimpsed through a crack in the wall, ignorant as sheep being led to the slaughter, held hopeless prisoners by our concern for food and clothing, we fall heedlessly into the snares of fame and profit and in the end make our way back to that familiar village in the three evil paths, only to set out on the road again, reborn time after time in the six paths of existence. What person of feeling could fail to grieve at such a state of affairs, or could fail to be moved to sorrow!
 
Alas! Neither young nor old know what fate awaits them--such is the way of our saha world. All those who meet are destined to part again--such is the rule in this floating world we live in. Although none of this had just struck me for the first time, [I was appalled at] seeing all those who took early leave of this world in the beginning of the Shoka era. Some of them left little children behind them, while others were forced to abandon their aged parents. How sad their hearts must have been when, though still in the prime of life, they were obliged to set off on their journey to the Yellow Springs. It was painful for those who departed, and painful for those left behind.
 
The king of Ch'u's passion for the goddess remained as a wisp of morning cloud, and Liu's grief at remembering his meeting with the immortal visitor was consoled by the sight of his descendants of the seventh generation. But how can a person like myself win release from sorrow? I find myself recalling the poet of old who hoped that, because he was a humble-hearted dweller in the mountains, he might be free of such sadness. Now, gathering together my thoughts as the men of Naniwa gather seaweed to extract salt, I give them form with my writing brush as a memento for people in later ages.
 
How sad, how lamentable it is! From the beginningless past, we have been drunk on the wine of ignorance, reborn again and again in the six paths of existence and the four forms of birth. Sometimes we gasp amid the flames of the hell of burning heat or the hell of great burning heat; sometimes we are frozen in the ice of the hell of the blood-red lotus or the hell of the great blood-red lotus. Sometimes we must endure the hunger and thirst that torment those in the realm of Hunger, for five hundred lifetimes not so much as hearing the words "food" or "drink." Sometimes we suffer being wounded and killed in the realm of Animality, wounding and killing that occur when the small are swallowed up by the large or the short engulfed by the long. Sometimes we face the contention and strife of the realm of Anger; sometimes we are born as human beings and undergo the eight sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, death, the pain of parting from loved ones, the pain of encountering those whom we hate, the pain of failing to obtain what we desire, and the pain that arises from the five components of body and mind. And sometimes we are born in the realm of Heaven and experience the five signs of decay.
 
And so we go round and round like a cartwheel in this threefold world. Even among people once related as father and child, parents reborn do not know that they were parents or children that they were children; and though husband and wife re-encounter one another, they do not know that they have already met. We go astray as though we had the eyes of sheep; we are as ignorant as though we had the eyes of wolves. We do not know our past relationship with the mother who gave us birth, and we are unaware when we ourselves will succumb to death.
 
And yet we have obtained birth in the human world, something difficult to achieve, and have encountered the sacred teachings of the Buddha, which are rarely to be met. We are like the one-eyed turtle finding a floating log with a hole in it that fits him exactly. How regrettable it would be, then, if we did not take this opportunity to sever the bonds of birth and death, making no attempt to free ourselves from the cage of the threefold world!
 
Then a wise man appeared and addressed the unenlightened man, saying, "You are quite right to lament as you do. But those who understand the impermanence of this world in this way and turn their hearts to goodness are rarer than ch'i-lin's horns, while those who fail to understand and instead give themselves to evil thoughts are more numerous than the hairs on a cow. If you wish to arouse the aspiration for enlightenment and to quickly free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death, then I know of the finest doctrine that there is for such a purpose. If you wish, I will explain it to you so that you may know of it."
 
The unenlightened man rose from his seat, pressed his palms together and said, "For some time now I have been studying the classics of secular literature and giving all my attention to matters of poetry, so I have no detailed knowledge of the Buddhist teachings. I hope that you will be kind enough to explain them to me, sir."
 
At that time the wise man said, "You must listen with the ears of Ling Lun, borrow the eyes of Li Chu, and still your mind, and I will explain things to you. The sacred teachings of Buddhism number no less than eighty thousand, but the father and mother of all the sects, the most important teaching, is that concerning the precepts and rules of conduct. In India, the bodhisattvas Vasubandhu and Ashvaghosha and, in China, the priests Hui-k'uang and Tao-hsuan placed great emphasis on these. And in our own country, during the reign of the forty-fifth sovereign, Emperor Shomu, the Chinese priest Ganjin brought to Japan the teachings of the Ritsu sect, along with those of the Tendai sect, and established an ordination platform for administering the precepts at Todai-ji temple. From that time down to the present, the precepts have been revered over many long years, and the honor paid to them increases daily.
 
"In particular, there is the eminent priest Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji. Everyone, from the supreme ruler down to the common people, looks up to him as a living Buddha, and on observing his conduct, we find that it is indeed in keeping with such a reputation. He directed charitable activities at Ijima-no-tsu, collected rice at the Mutsura Barrier and used the funds to build roads in the various provinces. He set up barriers along the seven highways, collected a toll from everyone who passed by, and used the money to build bridges across a number of rivers. In such acts of compassion he is equal to the Buddha, and his virtuous deeds surpass those of the sages of the past. If you wish to quickly free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death, then you should observe the five precepts and the two hundred and fifty precepts, deepen your compassion for others, refrain from killing any living thing, and, like the eminent priest Ryokan, engage in building roads and bridges. This is the finest of all teachings. Are you prepared to embrace it?"
 
The unenlightened man pressed his palms together more fervently than ever and said, "Indeed, I want very much to embrace it! Please explain it to me thoroughly. You speak of the five precepts and the two hundred and fifty precepts, but I do not know what they are. Please describe them to me in detail."
 
The wise man said, "Your ignorance is abysmal! Even a child knows what the five precepts and the two hundred and fifty precepts are. However, I will explain them for you. The five precepts comprise, first, the prohibition against taking life; second, the prohibition against stealing; third, the prohibition against lying; fourth, the prohibition against unlawful sexual intercourse; and fifth, the prohibition against drinking intoxicants. The two hundred and fifty precepts are numerous, and so I will not go into them here."
 
At this the unenlightened man bowed low and with the deepest respect said, "From this day forward, I will devote myself to this doctrine with all my heart."
 
This man had an old acquaintance, a lay Buddhist believer living in retirement, who paid him a visit to cheer him up. At first the visitor spoke about the affairs of the past, likening them to a dream that is endless and hazy, and then he talked of the future, pointing out how vast and dark it is, how difficult to predict. After he had sought in this way to divert his listener and explain his own views, he said, "Most of us who live in this world of ours find we cannot help thinking about the life to come. May I ask what kind of Buddhist doctrine you have embraced in order to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death or to pray for the welfare of those who have gone on to another life?"
 
The unenlightened man replied, "The other day an eminent priest called on me and instructed me in the five precepts and the two hundred and fifty precepts. In truth I am deeply impressed with his teachings and find them most admirable. Although I know I can never equal the eminent priest Ryokan, I have determined to do all I can to repair roads that are in poor condition and to build bridges over rivers that are too deep for wading."
 
Then the lay believer gave him words of advice, saying, "Your concern for the Way would seem to be admirable, but your approach is foolish. The doctrine you have just described to me is the lowly teaching of the Hinayana. That is why the Buddha has set forth eight analogies and why Bodhisattva Monju has described seventeen differences between the Hinayana and the Mahayana. The Buddha has said, for example, that the Hinayana is like the light of a firefly compared to the brilliance of the sun, or like plain crystal compared to emerald. Moreover, the teachers of India, China and Japan have written not a few treatises refuting the Hinayana teachings.
 
"Next, concerning your reverence for those who observe these practices, a teaching is not necessarily worthy of honor simply because its practitioners are respected. It is for this reason that the Buddha laid down the principle, 'Rely on the Law and not upon persons.'
 
"I have heard it said that the sages of ancient times who observed the precepts could not bear even to utter the words 'kill' or 'hoard,' but would substitute some pure-sounding circumlocution, and when they happened to catch sight of a beautiful woman, they would meditate upon the thought of a corpse. But if we examine the behavior of the monks of today who supposedly observe the precepts, we find that they hoard silks, wealth and jewels and concern themselves with lending money at interest. Since their doctrines and their practices differ so greatly, who would think of putting any faith in them!
 
"And as for this matter of building roads and constructing bridges, it only causes people trouble. The charitable activities at Ijima-no-tsu and the collecting of rice at the Mutsura Barrier have brought unhappiness to a great many people, and the setting up of barriers along the seven highways of the various provinces has imposed a hardship upon travelers. These are things that are happening right in front of your eyes. Can't you see what is going on?"
 
The unenlightened man thereupon flushed with anger and said, "You with your little bit of wisdom have no cause to speak ill of that eminent priest and to defame his teachings! Do you do so knowingly or are you simply a fool? It is a fearful thing you are doing!"
 
Then the lay believer laughed and said, "Alas, you are the foolish one! Let me briefly explain to you the biased views of that sect. You should understand that when it comes to the Buddhist teaching, there is the Mahayana division and the Hinayana division, and that in terms of sects there are those based upon the provisional teachings and those based upon the true teaching. Long ago, when the Buddha taught the Hinayana doctrines in the Deer Park, he was opening the gate to a phantom city. But later, when the mats were spread for the teaching of the Lotus Sutra on Eagle Peak, then those earlier doctrines ceased to be of any benefit."
 
The unenlightened man looked at the lay believer in perplexity and said, "Both the documentary evidence and the evidence of actual fact indeed support what you have said. But then what kind of Buddhist teaching ought one to embrace in order to free oneself from the sufferings of birth and death and quickly attain Buddhahood?"
 
The other replied, "Although I am only a layman I have given myself earnestly to the practice of Buddhism, and from the time of my youth, I have listened to the words of many teachers and have done a certain amount of reading in the sacred scriptures. For those of us of this latter age, who have committed all manner of evil, there is nothing that can compare with the Nembutsu teachings that lead to rebirth in the Pure Land. Thus, Supervisor of Monks Eshin says, 'The teachings and practices that lead to rebirth in the Land of Perfect Bliss are the eyes and feet for those who live in this defiled latter age of ours.' The eminent priest Honen collected the most important passages from the various sutras and spread the doctrine of exclusive devotion to the practice of the Nembutsu. In particular, the original vows of the Buddha Amida surpass the vows of all other Buddhas in their worth and importance. From the first vow, that the three evil paths will not exist in his land, down to the last vow, that bodhisattvas will be enabled to attain the three types of perception, all of Amida's compassionate vows are to be greatly welcomed. But the eighteenth vow is particularly effective on our behalf. In addition, even those who have committed the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins are not excluded, nor is any distinction made between those who have recited the Nembutsu only one time and those who have recited it many times. For this reason, everyone from the ruler down to the common people favors this sect far above the other sects. And how many countless people have gained rebirth in the Pure Land as a result of it!"
 
The unenlightened man said, "Truly one should be ashamed of the small and yearn for the great, abandon the shallow and embrace the profound. This is not only a principle of Buddhism but a rule of the secular world as well. Therefore I would like to shift my allegiance without delay to this sect you have described. Please explain its principles to me in greater detail. You say that even those who have committed the five cardinal sins or the ten evil acts are not excluded from the Buddha's compassionate vows. What, may I ask, are the five cardinal sins and the ten evil acts?"
 
The wise lay believer replied, "The five cardinal sins are killing one's father, killing one's mother, killing an arhat, shedding a Buddha's blood, and disrupting the harmony of the Buddhist Order. As for the ten evil acts, there are three acts of the body, four acts of the mouth, and three acts of the mind. The three evil acts of the body are killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse. The four evil acts of the mouth are lying, flattery, defaming and duplicity. The three evil acts of the mind are greed, anger and stupidity."
 
"Now I understand them," said the unenlightened man. "From this day forward, I will place all my trust in this power of another, of the Buddha Amida, to bring me to rebirth in the Pure Land."
 
At that time there was a practitioner of the esoteric sect who was extraordinarily diligent in upholding its teachings. He too came to call on the unenlightened man to console him. At first he spoke only of "wild words and ornate phrases," but in the end he discoursed on the differences between the two types of Buddhist teachings, those of the exoteric sects and those of the esoteric sect. He inquired of the unenlightened man, "What sort of Buddhist doctrines are you practicing and what sutras and treatises do you read and recite?"
 
The unenlightened man replied, "Recently, in accordance with the instruction of a lay believer I know, I have been reading the three Pure Land sutras and have come to put profound trust in Amida, the lord of the Western Paradise."
 
The practitioner said, "There are two kinds of Buddhist teachings, the exoteric teachings and the esoteric teachings. The most profound doctrines of the exoteric teachings cannot compare even to the elementary stages of the esoteric teachings. From what you tell me, it seems that the doctrine you have embraced is the exoteric teaching put forth by Shakyamuni Buddha. But the doctrine that I adhere to is the secret teaching of Dainichi Buddha, the King of Enlightenment. If you are truly fearful of this burning house that is the threefold world we live in and long for the wonderful land of Tranquil Light, then you should cast aside the exoteric teachings at once and put faith in the esoteric teachings!"
 
The unenlightened man, greatly startled, said, "I have never heard of this distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrines. What are the exoteric teachings? What are the esoteric teachings?"
 
The practitioner replied, "I am a hardheaded and foolish person and am not learned at all. Nevertheless, I would like to cite one or two passages and see if I can dispel your ignorance. The exoteric teachings are the doctrines preached in response to the request of Shariputra and the other disciples by a Buddha in the manifested-body aspect. But the esoteric teachings are those which the Buddha Dainichi, a Buddha in the Dharma-body aspect, preached spontaneously out of his boundless joy in the Dharma, with Kongosatta as his listener. These teachings constitute the Dainichi Sutra and the others of the three esoteric sutras."
 
The unenlightened man said, "What you say stands to reason. I think I should correct my former error and hasten to embrace these more worthy teachings!"
 
There was a mendicant priest who drifted about from province to province like floating grass, who rolled on from district to district like tumbleweed. Before anyone realized it he appeared on the scene and stood leaning on the pillar of the gate, smiling but saying nothing.
 
The unenlightened man, wondering at this, asked what he wanted. At first the priest made no reply, but after the question was repeated he said, "The moon is dim and distant, the wind brisk and blustery." His appearance was quite out of the ordinary and his words made no sense, but when the unenlightened man inquired about the ultimate principle behind them he found that they represented the Zen teachings as they are expounded in the world today.
 
He observed the priest's appearance, listened to his words, and asked what he considered a good cause for entering the Buddha Way. The mendicant priest replied, "The teachings of the sutras are a finger pointing at the moon. Their doctrinal nets are so much nonsense that has been captured in words. But there is a teaching that enables you to find rest in the essential nature of your own mind--it is called Zen."
 
"I would like to hear about it," said the unenlightened man.
 
"If you are truly in earnest," said the priest, "you must face the wall, sit in Zen meditation, and make clear the moon of your original mind. That the Zen lineage of the twenty-eight patriarchs was passed on without break in India, and that the line of transmission was handed down through the six patriarchs in China is clear for all to see. It would be pitiful indeed if you should fail to understand what they have taught and remain caught in the nets of doctrine! Since the mind itself is Buddha and Buddha is none other than the mind, what Buddha could there be outside yourself?"
 
When the unenlightened man heard these words, he began to ponder various things and to quietly consider the principles he had heard. He said, "There are a great many different Buddhist doctrines, and it is very difficult to determine which are sound and which are not. It is only natural that Bodhisattva Jotai should have gone east to inquire about the truth, that
 
Zenzai Doji should have sought for it in the south, that Bodhisattva Yakuo burned his arms as an offering, and that Gyobo Bonji stripped off his skin. A good teacher is truly difficult to find! Some say that one should go by the teachings of the sutras, while others say that the truth lies outside the sutras. In pondering the rights and wrongs of these doctrines, he who has not yet fathomed the depths of Buddhism and stands gazing over the waters of the Law is in doubt as to how deep they may be; he who assesses a teacher does so with all the anxiety of a person walking on thin ice. That is why the Buddha has left us those golden words, 'Rely on the Law and not upon persons,' and why it is said that those who encounter the True Law are as few as the grains of earth that can he placed on a fingernail. If there is someone who knows which of the Buddhist teachings are true and which are false, then I must seek him out, make him my teacher and treat him with appropriate respect."
 
They say that it is as difficult to be born in the realm of human beings as it is to thread a needle by lowering the thread from the heavens, and as rare to see and hear the Buddha's teachings as it is for a one-eyed turtle to encounter a floating log with a hole just the right size to hold him. [Having this in mind] and believing that one must regard the body as insignificant and the Law as supreme, the unenlightened man climbed numerous mountains, impelled by his anxiety, going from one temple to another as his feet would carry him. In time he arrived at a rocky cave with green mountains rising sheer behind it. The wind in the pines played a melody of eternity, happiness, true self and purity, and the emerald stream that bubbled along in front sent its waves striking against the bank with echoes of the perfection of these four virtues. The flowers carpeting the deep valley bloomed with the hue of the true aspect of the Middle Way, and from the plum blossoms just beginning to open in the broad meadow wafted the fragrance of the three thousand realms. Truly it was beyond the power of words to describe, beyond the scope of the mind to imagine. One might have thought it the place where the Four White-haired Recluses of Mount Shang lived, or the site where some ancient Buddha had walked about after meditation. Auspicious clouds rose up at dawn, a mysterious light appeared in the evening. Ah, the mind cannot grasp it nor words set it forth!
 
The unenlightened man wandered about, pondering what was before him, now pausing in thought, now resuming his steps. Suddenly he came upon a sage. Observing his actions, he saw that the sage was reciting the Lotus Sutra; his voice stirred the seeker deeply. Peering in at the quiet window of the sage's retreat, he found that the sage was resting his elbows on his desk, pondering the sutra's profound meaning.
 
The sage, divining that the unenlightened man was searching for the Law, asked in a gentle voice, "Why have you come to this cave among these far-off mountains?"
 
The other replied, "Because I attach little importance to life but great importance to the Law."
 
"What practices do you follow?" asked the sage.
 
The unenlightened man answered, "I have lived all my life amid the dust of the secular world and have not yet learned how to free myself from the sufferings of birth and death. As it happened, however, I encountered various good teachers, from whom I learned first the rules of discipline and then the Nembutsu, Shingon and Zen teachings. But though I have learned these teachings, I am unable to determine their truth or falsity."
 
The sage said, "When I listen to your words, I find that it is indeed just as you have said. To hold life lightly but value the Law is the teaching of the sages of former times, and one that I myself know well.
 
"From the realm where there is neither thought nor no thought above the clouds to the very bottom of hell, is there any being who receives life and yet succeeds in escaping death? Thus, even in the unenlightened secular writings we find it said, 'Though you may set out at dawn on the journey of life with pride in the beauty of your rosy cheeks, by evening you will be no more than a pile of white bones rotting on the moor.' Though you may move among the most exalted company of court nobles, your hair done up elegantly like clouds and your sleeves fluttering like eddies of snow, such pleasures, when you stop to consider them, are no more than a dream within a dream. You must come to rest at last under the carpet of weeds at the foot of the hill, and all your jeweled daises and brocade hangings will mean nothing to you on the road to the afterlife. The famed flower-like beauty of Ono no Komachi and Soto'ori Hime was in time scattered by the winds of impermanence. Fan K'uai and Chang Liang, in spite of their skill in the military arts, in the end suffered beneath the staves of the guardians of hell. That is why men of feeling in former times wrote poems such as these:
 
How sad, the evening smoke
 
from Mount Toribe!
 
Those who see off the dead one--
 
how long will they remain?
 
Dew on the branch tips,
 
drops on the trunk--
 
all sooner or later
 
must vanish from this world.
 
"This rule of life, that if one does not die sooner he will surely die later, should not at this late date come as a surprise to you. But the thing that you should desire above all is the Way of the Buddha, and that which you should continually seek are the teachings of the sutras. Now from what you have told me about the Buddhist doctrines you have encountered, I can see that some of them belong to the Hinayana division of Buddhism and some to the Mahayana. But, leaving aside for the moment the question of which is superior and which inferior, I can say that, far from bringing you deliverance, the practice of these teachings will lead to rebirth in the evil paths of existence."
 
At this the unenlightened man exclaimed in surprise, "But were not all the sacred teachings that the Buddha expounded throughout his lifetime designed to benefit living beings? From the time of the preaching of the Kegon Sutra at the seven places and eight assemblies, down to the ceremony in which the Nirvana Sutra was expounded on the banks of the Hiranyavati River, all the doctrines were taught by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Though one may perhaps be able to distinguish certain small degrees of relative merit among them, how could any of them possibly be the cause for rebirth in the evil paths?"
 
The sage replied, "The sacred teachings that the Buddha proclaimed in the course of his lifetime may be divided into the categories of provisional and true, Hinayana and Mahayana. In addition, they may be classified according to the two paths of the exoteric and the esoteric. Thus they are not all of the same sort. Let me for a moment explain the general nature of the problem and thus relieve you of your misunderstandings.
 
"When Shakyamuni, the lord of the threefold world, was nineteen years old, he left the city of Gaya, and went into retreat on the Dandaka Mountain where he carried out various difficult and painful austerities. He attained enlightenment at the age of thirty, and at that time instantly banished the three categories of illusion and brought to an end the vast night of ignorance. It might appear that he should at that time have preached the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra in order to fulfill his original vow. But he knew that the people varied greatly in their capacities and that they did not have the receptivity to understand the Buddha vehicle. Therefore he devoted the following forty years or more to developing the people's inherent capacity. Then, in the last eight years of his life, he fulfilled the purpose of his advent in the world by preaching the Lotus Sutra.
 
"Thus it was that when the Buddha was seventy-two he preached the Muryogi Sutra as an introduction to the Lotus Sutra and therein stated: 'In the past I sat upright in the place of meditation under the Bodhi tree for six years and attained the supreme enlightenment. When I observed all phenomena with the eye of a Buddha, I knew that I could not expound my enlightenment just as it was. Why was that? Because I knew that people differ in their natures and their desires. And because they differ in their natures and desires, I expounded the Law in various ways. Expounding the Law in various ways, I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth.'
 
"The meaning of this passage is that, when the Buddha was thirty years of age and sat in the place of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he observed the inner heart of all beings with the eye of a Buddha and realized that it was not the proper time to preach to them the Lotus Sutra, which reveals the direct way to the attainment of Buddhahood for all beings. Therefore, as one would wave an empty fist about to humor a little baby, he resorted to various expedient means, and for the following forty years or more he refrained from revealing the truth. Thus he defined the period of the expedient teachings as clearly as the sun rising in the blue sky or the full moon coming up on a dark night.
 
"In view of this passage, why should we, with the very same faith that could just as easily be directed toward the Lotus Sutra, cling to the provisional teachings of the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra, those doctrines defined by the Buddha to be empty, and as a result keep returning to the same old dwelling in the threefold world, with which we are already so familiar?
 
"Therefore, in the Hoben chapter in the first volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha says, 'Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme Way.' This passage indicates that one should honestly discard the teachings that the Buddha set forth in the various sutras preached in the previous forty-two years, namely, the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu doctrines to which you referred.
 
"The meaning of this passage is perfectly clear. And in addition, we have the warning delivered in the Hiyu chapter in the second volume, 'Desire only to receive and keep the scripture of the Great Vehicle, not accepting even a single verse from any of the other sutras.' This passage is saying that, no matter what year of the Buddha's life a sutra may have been preached in, one should not accept even a single verse from any of the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra.
 
"The varying doctrines of the eight sects are as numerous as so many orchids and chrysanthemums, and priests and lay believers differ in appearance, yet they all agree in claiming to cherish the Lotus Sutra. But how do they interpret these passages from the Lotus Sutra that I have just cited? These passages speak of 'honestly discarding' the earlier teachings and forbid one to accept so much as a single verse from any of the other sutras. But are the doctrines of Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu not based on the 'other sutras'?
 
"Now this sutra of Myoho-renge-kyo I have been speaking of represents the true reason why all Buddhas make their advent in the world and teaches the direct way to the attainment of Buddhahood for all beings. Shakyamuni Buddha entrusted it to his disciples, Taho Buddha testified to its veracity, and the various other Buddhas extended their tongues up to the Brahma Heaven, proclaiming, 'All that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the truth.' Every single character in this sutra represents the true intention of the Buddhas, and every dot of it is a source of aid to those who repeat the cycle of birth and death. There is not a single word in it that is untrue.
 
"Is not he who fails to heed the warnings of this sutra in effect cutting off the tongues of the Buddhas and deceiving the worthies and sages? This offense is truly fearful. Thus, in the second volume it says, 'One who refuses to take faith in this sutra and instead slanders it immediately destroys the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.' The meaning of this passage is that, if one turns his back on even one verse or one phrase of this sutra, he is guilty of a crime equal to that of killing all the Buddhas of the ten directions in the three existences of past, present and future.
 
"If we use the teachings of the sutras as a mirror in which to examine our present world, we will see that it is a difficult thing to find one who does not betray the Lotus Sutra. And if we understand the true meaning of these matters, we can see that even a person who merely refuses to have faith cannot avoid being reborn in the hell of incessant suffering. How much more so is this true, then, for someone like the eminent priest Honen, the founder of the Nembutsu sect, who urged people to discard the Lotus Sutra in favor of the Nembutsu! Where, may I ask, in all the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of sutras is there any passage that instructs us to discard the Lotus Sutra?
 
"The priest Shan-tao, who was revered as a practitioner who had mastered the Nembutsu meditation and honored as a living incarnation of Amida Buddha, designated five kinds of incorrect practices that are to be discarded and said of the Lotus Sutra that it cannot save 'one in a thousand'; by which he meant that if a thousand people put faith in that sutra, not a single one of them will attain Buddhahood. And yet the Lotus Sutra itself says, 'Among those who hear of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood.' This indicates that if they hear this sutra, then all beings in the Ten Worlds, along with their environments, will attain the Buddha Way. Hence the sutra predicts that Devadatta, though he has committed the five cardinal sins, will in the future become a Buddha called Heavenly King, and tells how the dragon king's daughter, though as a woman subject to the five obstacles and thought to be incapable of attaining Buddhahood, was able instantly to achieve enlightenment in the southern realm. Thus even the dung beetle can ascend through the six stages of practice and is in no way excluded from achieving Buddhahood.
 
"In fact, Shan-tao's words and the passages of the Lotus Sutra are as far apart as heaven and earth, as different as clouds from mud. Which one are we to follow? If we stop to ponder the logic of the matter, we will realize that Shan-tao is the deadly enemy of all Buddhas and sutras and the foe of wise priests and humble lay believers alike. If the words of the Lotus Sutra are true, then how can he escape the hell of incessant suffering?"
 
At these words, the unenlightened man flushed with anger and said, "You are a person of no more than humble station in life, and yet you dare to utter such ugly accusations! I find it very difficult to judge whether you speak out of true understanding or out of delusion, and to tell whether your words stand to reason or not. It behooves us to remember that the priest Shan-tao is said to have been a manifestation of Amida the Well Attained or of his attendant, Bodhisattva Seishi. And the same is said of the eminent priest Honen, or that he was a reincarnation of Shan-tao. These were both outstanding men of antiquity, and in addition they had acquired extraordinary merit through their religious practices and commanded the most profound degree of understanding. How could they possibly have fallen into the evil paths?"
 
The sage replied, "What you say is quite correct, and I too had great respect for these men and believed in them as you do. But in matters of Buddhist doctrine one cannot jump to conclusions simply on the basis of the eminence of the person involved. The words of the sutras are what must come first. Do not make light of a teaching just because the person who preaches it is of humble station. The fox of the kingdom of Bima who recited the twelve-character verse that goes, 'There are those who love life and hate death; there are those who love death and hate life,' was hailed as a teacher by the god Taishaku, and the demon who recited the sixteen-character verse that begins, 'All is changeable, nothing is constant,' was treated with great honor by Sessen Doji. This was done, however, not because the fox or the demon was of such eminence, but simply out of respect for the doctrines they taught.
 
"Therefore, in the sixth volume of the Nirvana Sutra, his final teaching delivered in the grove of sal trees, our merciful father, Lord Shakyamuni, said, 'Rely on the Law and not upon persons.' Even when great bodhisattvas such as Fugen and Monju, men who have returned to the stage just preceding full enlightenment, expound the Buddhist teachings, if they do not do so with the sutra text in hand, then one should not heed them.
 
"The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states, 'That which accords with the sutras is to be accepted and heeded. But put no faith in anything that in word or meaning fails to do so.' Here we see that one should accept what is clearly stated in the text of the sutras but discard anything that cannot be supported by the text. The Great Teacher Dengyo says, 'Depend upon the preachings of the Buddha and do not put faith in traditions handed down orally,' which expresses the same idea as the passage from T'ien-t'ai's commentary. And Bodhisattva Nagarjuna says, 'Rely on treatises that are faithful to the sutra; do not rely on those that distort the sutra.' This passage may be understood to mean that even among the various sutras, one should discard the provisional teachings put forth prior to the Lotus Sutra and put one's faith in this sutra, the Lotus. Thus both sutras and treatises make it perfectly clear that one should discard all scriptures other than the Lotus.
 
"Nowhere in all the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of sutras listed in the K'ai-yuan era catalogue do we find a single scriptural passage that expresses disapproval of the Lotus Sutra and advises one to discard it or to cast it aside, nor any passage that says it is to be classified among the incorrect practices and abandoned. [If you disagree,] you had better find some reliable passage from the sutras [that will support your view], so that you may rescue Shan-tao and Honen from their torments in the hell of incessant suffering.
 
"The practitioners of the Nembutsu in our present day, priests as well as ordinary lay men and women, not only violate the words of the sutras but also go against the instructions of their own teachers. Shan-tao produced a commentary in which he described five kinds of incorrect practices that should be abandoned by practitioners of the Nembutsu. Speaking of these incorrect practices, the Senchaku Shu says: 'Concerning the first of the incorrect practices, that of reading and reciting sutras, he [Shan-tao] states that with the exception of the recitation of the Kammuryoju Sutra and the other Pure Land sutras, the embracing, reading and recitation of all sutras, whether Mahayana or Hinayana, exoteric or esoteric, is to be regarded as an incorrect practice.... Concerning the third of the incorrect practices, that of worshiping, he states that with the exception of worshiping the Buddha Amida, the worshiping or honoring of any of the other Buddhas, bodhisattvas or deities of the heavenly and human worlds is to be regarded as an incorrect practice. Concerning the fourth of the incorrect practices, that of calling on the name, he states that with the exception of calling on the name of the Buddha Amida, calling on the name of any other Buddha, bodhisattva or deity of the heavenly and human worlds is to be regarded as an incorrect practice. Concerning the fifth of the incorrect practices, that of praising and giving offerings, he states that with the exception of praises and offerings directed to the Buddha Amida, the praising of and giving of offerings to any other Buddha, bodhisattva or deity of the heavenly and human worlds is to be regarded as an incorrect practice.'
 
"This passage of commentary is saying that with regard to the first incorrect practice, that of reading and reciting sutras, there are fixed rules for priests and lay believers of the Nembutsu, both men and women, concerning which sutras are to be read and which are not to be read. Among the sutras that are not to be read are the Lotus, Ninno, Yakushi, Daijuku, Hannya Shin, Tennyo Jobutsu and Hokuto Jumyo sutras, and, in particular, among the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, the so-called Kannon Sutra [actually the Kanzeon Bosatsu Fumon chapter], which is commonly read by so many people. If one reads so much as a single phrase or a single verse of these sutras, then, although he may be a devoted practitioner of the Nembutsu, he is in fact grouped among those who follow incorrect practices and cannot be reborn in the Pure Land. Yet now, as I observe the world with my own eyes, among those who chant the Nembutsu I see many people who read these various sutras, thus going against their teachers and thereby committing one of the seven cardinal sins.
 
In addition, in the passage concerning the third kind of incorrect practice, that of worshiping, it is said that with the exception of the worship of Amida flanked by two honored bodhisattvas, the worshiping or honoring of any of the earlier mentioned Buddhas, bodhisattvas or heavenly deities and benevolent gods is to be regarded as an incorrect practice and is forbidden to practitioners of the Nembutsu. But Japan is a land of the gods. It was created by the august deities Izanagi and Izanami, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami deigns to have her dwelling here, and the Mimosuso River for many long ages down to the present has continued to flow [through the grounds on which her shrine is located]. How could anyone who was born in this country heed such an erroneous doctrine! In addition, as we have been born under the all-encompassing sky and enjoy the benefits of the three kinds of luminous bodies, the sun, the moon and the stars, it would be a most fearful thing if we should show disrespect to the gods of these heavenly bodies.
 
"Again, in the passage concerning the fourth kind of incorrect practice, that of calling on the name, it says that there are certain names of Buddhas and bodhisattvas that the Nembutsu believer is to call on, and certain names of Buddhas and bodhisattvas that he is not to call on. The names he is to call on are those of the Buddha Amida and his two honored attendants. The names he is not to call on are those of Shakyamuni, Yakushi, Dainichi and the other Buddhas; those of Jizo, Fugen, Monju, the gods of the sun, moon and stars; the deities of the shrines in Izu and Hakone, Mishima Shrine, Kumano Shrine, and Haguro Shrine; the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami; and the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman. If anyone so much as once recites any of these names, then, although he may recite the Nembutsu a hundred thousand or a million times, because he committed the error of calling on the name of one of these Buddhas, bodhisattvas, the gods of the sun and moon, and other deities, he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering and fail to be reborn in the Pure Land. But when I look about at the world, I find Nembutsu believers who call on the names of these various Buddhas, bodhisattvas, heavenly deities and benevolent gods. Thus, in this matter as well, they are going against the instructions of their own teachers.
 
"In the passage concerning the fifth incorrect practice, that of praising and giving offerings, the Nembutsu believer is enjoined to make offerings to the Buddha Amida and his two bodhisattva attendants. But if he should offer even a little bit of incense or a few flowers to the earlier mentioned Buddhas, bodhisattvas or heavenly deities and benevolent gods, then, although the merit he has gained from the Nembutsu practice may be laudable, because of the error he has committed, he is condemned to be classified among those who carry out incorrect practices. And yet, when I look around the world, I see the Nembutsu believers paying visits to various shrines and offering streamers of paper or cloth, or entering various Buddhist halls and bowing in reverence there. In this, too, they are going against the instructions of their teachers. If you doubt what I say, then look at the text of the Senchaku Shu. It is very clear on these points.
 
"Again, the Kannen Homon Sutra by the priest Shan-tao says, 'With regard to intoxicants, meat and the five strong-flavored foods, one must vow never to lay a hand on them, never to let his mouth taste them. One must pledge, "If I should go against these words, then may foul sores break out on both my body and mouth." The meaning of this passage is that the Nembutsu believers, men and women lay believers, nuns and priests alike, must not drink wine and must not eat fish or fowl. In addition, they must not eat any of the five strong-flavored foods, the pungent or strong-smelling foods such as leeks or garlic. If any Nembutsu believers fail to abide by this rule, then in their present life they will find foul sores breaking out on their bodies, and in the next life they will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. In fact, however, we find many Nembutsu laymen and laywomen, nuns and priests, who pay no heed to this prohibition but drink as much wine and eat as much fish and fowl as they please. They are in effect swallowing knives with which to wound themselves, are they not?"
 
Thereupon the unenlightened man said, "In truth, as I listen to your description of the doctrine, I can see that even if the Nembutsu teaching could in fact lead one to rebirth in the Pure Land, its observances and practices are very difficult to carry out. And of course, since the sutras and treatises upon which it is based all belong to the category of provisional expositions, it is perfectly clear that it can never lead to rebirth in the Pure Land. But surely there is no reason to repudiate the Shingon teachings. The Dainichi Sutra constitutes the secret teaching of Dainichi Buddha, the King of Enlightenment. It has been handed down in an unbroken line of transmission from Dainichi Buddha to Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k'ung. And in Japan the Great Teacher Kobo spread the teachings concerning the mandalas of the Diamond World and the Womb World. These are secret and arcane teachings that concern the thirty-seven honored ones. Therefore, the most profound doctrines of the exoteric teachings cannot compare even to the elementary stages of the esoteric teachings. Hence the Great Teacher Chisho, of the Later Toin Hall, stated in his commentary, 'Even the Lotus Sutra cannot compare [to the Dainichi Sutra], much less the other doctrines.' Now what is your view on this matter?"
 
The sage replied, "At first I too placed my trust in Dainichi Buddha and desired to carry out the teachings of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism. But when I investigated the basic doctrines of the sect, I found that they are founded on views that in fact are a slander of the Law!
 
"The Great Teacher Kobo of Mount Koya, of whom you have spoken, was a teacher who lived in the time of Emperor Saga. He received a mandate from the emperor directing him to determine and explain the relative profundity of the various Buddhist teachings. In response, he produced a work in ten volumes entitled Jojushin Ron. Because this work is so broad and comprehensive, he made a condensation of it in three volumes, which bears the title Hizo Hoyaku. This work describes ten stages in the development of the mind, from the first stage, the 'mind of lowly man, goatish in its desire' to the last stage, the 'glorious mind, the most secret and sacred.' He assigns the Lotus Sutra to the eighth stage, the Kegon Sutra to the ninth stage, and the Shingon teachings [of the Dainichi Sutra] to the tenth stage. Thus he ranks the Lotus Sutra as inferior even to the Kegon Sutra, and as two stages below the Dainichi Sutra. In this work, he writes, 'Each vehicle that is put forward is claimed to be the vehicle of Buddhahood, but when examined from a later stage, they are all seen to be mere childish theory.' He also characterizes the Lotus Sutra as a work of 'wild words and ornate phrases,' and disparages Shakyamuni Buddha as being lost in the realm of darkness.
 
"As a result, Kobo's disciple in a later age, Shokaku-bo, the founder of the temple Dembo-in, was led to write that the Lotus Sutra is not fit even to be a sandal-bearer to the Dainichi Sutra, and that Shakyamuni Buddha is not worthy to serve as an ox-driver to Dainichi Buddha.
 
"Still your thoughts and listen to what I say! In all the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of sutras that the Buddha preached during his lifetime, or the three thousand or more volumes of the Confucian and Taoist scriptures, is there anywhere a passage clearly stating that the Lotus Sutra is a doctrine of 'childish theory,' or that it ranks two stages below the Dainichi Sutra, being inferior to the Kegon Sutra as well, or that Shakyamuni Buddha was lost in the realm of darkness and is not worthy even to serve as an ox-driver to Dainichi Buddha? And even if such a passage did exist, one would certainly have to examine it with great care!
 
"When the Buddhist sutras and teachings were brought from India to China, the manner of translation depended upon the inclination of the particular translator, and there were no fixed translations for the sutras and treatises. Hence the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva of the Later Ch'in dynasty always used to say, 'When I examine the Buddhist teachings as they exist in China, I find that in many cases they differ from the Sanskrit originals. If the sutra translations that I have produced are free from error, then, after I am dead and cremated, my body, since it is impure, will no doubt be consumed by the flames, but my tongue alone [with which I have expounded the true meaning of the sutras] will not be burned.' And when he was finally cremated, his body was reduced to a pile of bones, but his tongue alone remained, resting on top of a blue lotus blossom and emitting a brilliant light that outshone the rays of the sun. How wonderful a happening!
 
"Thus it came about that the translation of the Lotus Sutra made by the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva in particular spread easily throughout China. And that is why, when the Great Teacher Dengyo of Enryaku-ji attacked the teachings of the other sects, he refuted them by saying, 'We have proof in the fact that the tongue of the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva, the translator of the Lotus Sutra, was not consumed by the flames. The sutras that you rely upon are all in error!'
 
"Again, in the Nirvana Sutra the Buddha says, 'When my teachings are transmitted to other countries, many errors are bound to be introduced.' Even if among sutra passages we were to find the Lotus Sutra characterized as useless or Shakyamuni Buddha described as a Buddha who was lost in the realm of darkness, we should inquire very carefully to see whether the text that makes such statements belongs to the provisional or the true teaching, to the Mahayana or the Hinayana, whether it was preached in the earlier or the later part of the Buddha's life, and who the translator was.
 
"It is said that Lao Tzu and Confucius thought nine times before uttering a single word, or three times before uttering a single word. And Tan, the Duke of Chou, was so eager to receive his callers that he would spit out his food three times in the course of a meal and wring out his hair three times in the course of washing it [to show them the greatest courtesy]. If even the people described in the shallow, non-Buddhist writings behaved with such care and circumspection, then how much more so should those who study the profound doctrines of the Buddhist scriptures!
 
"Now nowhere in the sutras and treatises do we find the slightest evidence to support this contention [that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi Sutra]. The Great Teacher Kobo's own commentary says that one who slanders persons and disparages the Law will fall into the evil paths. A person like Kobo will invariably fall into hell-there can be no doubt of it."
 
The unenlightened man seemed to be dazed, and then suddenly began to sigh. After some time, he said, "The Great Teacher Kobo was an expert in both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist writings and a teacher and leader of the masses. In virtuous practices he excelled the others of his time, and his reputation was known everywhere. It is said that when he was in China, he hurled a three-pronged diamond-pounder all the way across the more than eighty thousand ri of the ocean until it reached Japan, and that when he expounded the meaning of the Heart Sutra, so many sufferers from the plague recovered their health that they filled the streets. Thus he was surely no ordinary person, but a manifestation of a Buddha in temporal form. We can hardly fail to hold him in esteem and put faith in his teachings."
 
The sage replied, "I at first thought the same way. But after I entered the path of the Buddha's teachings and began to distinguish what accords with its principles from what does not, I realized that the ability to perform miraculous acts at will does not necessarily constitute a basis for determining the truth or falsity of Buddhist teachings. That is why the Buddha laid down the rule that we should 'rely on the Law and not upon persons,' which I mentioned earlier.
 
"The ascetic Agastya poured the Ganges River into one ear and kept it there for twelve years, the ascetic Jinu drank the great ocean dry in a single day, Chang Chieh exhaled fog, and Luan Pa exhaled clouds. But this does not mean that they knew what is correct and what is not in the Buddhist teachings, or that they understood the principle of cause and effect. In China, when the Dharma Teacher Fa-yun lectured on the Lotus Sutra, in no time at all flowers came raining down from the heavens. But the Great Teacher Miao-lo said that although Fa-yun had produced such a response, his words were not in accord with the truth [of the Lotus Sutra]. Thus Miao-lo accused him of having failed to understand the truth of Buddhism.
 
"The Lotus Sutra rejects the three types of preaching--that done by the Buddha in the past, the present and the future. It refutes the sutras preached before it, saying that in them the Buddha had 'not yet revealed the truth.' It attacks the sutras of the same period by declaring itself superior to those 'now being preached,' and repudiates the sutras expounded later by stating that it excels all those 'to be preached.' In truth, the Lotus Sutra is first among all sutras preached in the three categories of past, present and future.
 
"In the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra, we read, 'Yakuo, I tell you this. Among all the sutras that I preach, the Lotus Sutra holds first place.' This passage means that at the gathering on Eagle Peak the Buddha addressed Bodhisattva Yakuo and told him that, beginning with the Kegon Sutra and ending with the Nirvana Sutra, there were countless sutras numbering as many as the sands of the Ganges, but that among all these, the Lotus Sutra that he was then preaching held first place. But evidently the Great Teacher Kobo misread the word 'first' as 'third.'
 
"In the same volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha says, 'For the sake of the Buddha Way I have in countless different lands from the beginning until now widely preached various sutras, but among them this sutra is foremost.' This passage means that Shakyamuni Buddha has appeared in countless lands, taking different names and assuming varying life spans. And it establishes that, among all the sutras he has preached in the various forms in which he manifested himself, the Lotus Sutra holds first place.
 
"In the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra it is stated that the Lotus Sutra 'holds the highest place,' making clear that this sutra stands above the Dainichi, Kongocho, and all the other countless sutras. But evidently the Great Teacher Kobo read this as 'holds the lowest place.' Thus Shakyamuni and Kobo, the Lotus Sutra and the Hizo Hoyaku, are in fact completely at odds with each other. Do you intend to reject Shakyamuni and follow Kobo? Or will you reject Kobo and follow Shakyamuni? Will you go against the text of the sutra and accept the words of an ordinary teacher? Or will you reject the words of an ordinary teacher and honor the golden words of the Buddha? Think carefully before you decide what to accept and what to reject!
 
"Furthermore, in the Yakuo chapter in volume seven, ten similes are offered in praise of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. The first simile concerns water, and in it streams and rivers are likened to the other various sutras, and the great ocean to the Lotus Sutra. Thus if anyone should assert that the Dainichi Sutra is superior and the Lotus Sutra inferior, he is in effect saying that the great ocean holds less water than does a little stream! Everyone in the world today understands that the ocean exceeds the various rivers in size, and yet they fail to realize that the Lotus Sutra is the first among sutras.
 
"The second simile concerns mountains. Ordinary mountains are likened to the other sutras and Mount Sumeru to the Lotus Sutra. Mount Sumeru measures 168,000 yojana from top to bottom; what other mountain could compare with it? To say that the Dainichi Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra is like saying that Mount Fuji is bigger than Mount Sumeru.
 
"The third simile deals with the moon and stars. The other sutras are likened to the stars and the Lotus Sutra is likened to the moon. Comparing the moon and the stars, can anyone be in doubt as to which is superior?
 
"Later on in the series of similes, we read, 'In the same way, this sutra, the Lotus, holds first place among all the various sutras and doctrines, whether they were preached by Buddhas, by bodhisattvas or by shomon disciples.'
 
"This passage tells us that the Lotus Sutra is not only the foremost among all the doctrines preached by Shakyamuni Buddha in the course of his lifetime, but that it also holds first place among all the teachings and sutras preached by Buddhas such as Dainichi, Yakushi or Amida, and by bodhisattvas such as Fugen or Monju. Therefore, if anyone should assert that there exists a sutra superior to the Lotus, you must understand that he is expounding the views of the followers of non-Buddhist teachings or of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.
 
"Moreover, as to the identity of Dainichi Buddha, when Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, who had been enlightened from remote ages past, for forty-two years dimmed his light and mingled with the dust of the world, adapting himself to the capacities of the people of the time, he, a Buddha who unites the three bodies in one, temporarily assumed the form of Vairochana. Therefore, when Shakyamuni Buddha revealed the true aspect of all phenomena, it became clear that Vairochana was a temporary form that Shakyamuni had manifested in response to the capacities of the people. For this reason, the Fugen Sutra says that Shakyamuni Buddha is given the name Vairochana Pervading Everywhere, and that the place where that Buddha lives is called Eternally Tranquil Light.
 
"Now the Lotus Sutra expounds the doctrines of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, ichinen sanzen, the unification of the three truths, and the inseparability of the four kinds of lands. Moreover, the very essence of all the sacred teachings expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha in his lifetime--the doctrines that persons of the two vehicles can achieve Buddhahood and that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the inconceivably remote past--is found only in this one sutra, the Lotus. Is there any mention of these most important matters in the three esoteric sutras you have been talking about, the Dainichi Sutra, the Kongocho Sutra and so forth? Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k'ung stole these most important doctrines from the Lotus Sutra and contrived to make them the essential points of their own sutras. But in fact this is a fraud; their own sutras and treatises contain no trace of these doctrines. You must make haste and remedy your thinking on this point!
 
"The fact is that the Dainichi Sutra includes each of the four types of teachings and expounds the kind of precepts whose benefit is exhausted when the bodily form comes to an end. It is a provisional teaching, designated by Chinese teachers as a sutra belonging to the Hodo category, the group of sutras which, according to T'ien-t'ai's classification, were preached in the third period. How shameful [to hold it above the Lotus]! If you really have a mind to pursue the Way, you must hurry and repent of your past errors! In the final analysis, this sutra of Myoho-renge-kyo sums up all the teachings and meditational practices of Shakyamuni Buddha's entire lifetime in a single moment of life, and encompasses all the living beings of the Ten Worlds and their environments in the three thousand realms."

Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man II
- Shogu Mondo Sho -
PART TWO
 
At this, the unenlightened man looked somewhat mollified and said, "The words of the sutra are clear as a mirror; there is no room to doubt or question their meaning. But although the Lotus Sutra surpasses all the other sutras that the Buddha taught before, at the same time, or after, and represents the highest point in his preaching life, still it cannot compare with the single truth of Zen, which cannot be bound by words or confined in the text of a sutra, and which deals with the true nature of our minds. In effect, the realm where the countless doctrines are all cast aside and where words cannot reach is what is called the truth of Zen.
 
"Thus, on the banks of the Hiranyavati River, in the grove of sal trees, Shakyamuni Buddha stepped out of his golden coffin, twirled a flower, and when he saw Mahakashyapa's faint smile, entrusted this teaching of Zen to him. Since then, it has been handed down without any irregularity through a lineage of twenty-eight patriarchs in India, and was widely propagated by a succession of six patriarchs in China. Bodhidharma is the last of the twenty-eight patriarchs of India and the first of the six patriarchs of China. We must not allow this transmission to be lost, and founder in the nets of doctrine!
 
"So in the Daibontenno Mombutsu Ketsugi Sutra, the Buddha says, 'I have a subtle teaching concerning the Eye and Treasury of the True Law, the Wonderful Mind of Nirvana, the True Aspect of Reality That Is without Characteristics. It represents a separate transmission outside the sutras, independent of words or writing. I entrust it to Mahakashyapa.'
 
"Thus we see that this single truth of Zen was transmitted to Mahakashyapa apart from the sutras. All the teachings of the sutras are like a finger pointing at the moon. Once we have seen the moon, what use do we have for the finger? And once we have understood this single truth of Zen, the true nature of the mind, why should we concern ourselves any longer with the Buddha's teachings? Therefore a man of past times has said, 'The twelve divisions of the sutras are all idle writings.'
 
"If you will open and read the Platform Sutra of Hui-neng, the sixth patriarch of this sect, you will see that this is true. Once one has heard even a single word and thereby grasped and understood the truth, what use does he have for the teachings? But how are we to understand this principle?"
 
The sage replied, "You must first of all set aside the doctrines for the moment and consider the logic of the matter. Can anyone, without inquiring into the essential meaning of the Buddha's lifetime teachings or investigating the basic principles of the ten sects, presume to admonish the nation and teach others? This Zen that you are taking about is something that I have studied exhaustively for some time. In view of the extreme doctrines that it teaches, I must say that it is a highly distorted affair.
 
"There are three types of Zen, known respectively as Tathagata Zen, doctrinal Zen, and patriarchal Zen. What you are referring to is patriarchal Zen, and I would therefore like to give you a general idea of it. So listen, and understand what it is about.
 
"It speaks of transmitting something apart from the teachings. But apart from the teachings there are no principles, and apart from principles there are no teachings. Don't you understand the logic of this, that principles are none other than teachings and teachings none other than principles? This talk about the twirled flower, the faint smile, and something being entrusted to Mahakashyapa is in itself a teaching, and the four-character phrase about its being 'independent of words or writing' is likewise a teaching and a statement in words. This sort of talk has been around for a long while in both China and Japan. It may appear novel to you, but let me quote one or two passages that will clear up your misconceptions.
 
"Volume eleven of the Hochu states: 'If one says that we are not to hamper ourselves by the use of verbal expressions, then how, for even an instant in this saha world, can we carry on the Buddha's work? Do not the Zen followers themselves use verbal explanations when they are giving instruction to others? If one sets aside words and phrases, then there is no way to explain the meaning of emancipation, so how can anyone ever hear about it?'
 
"Farther on, we read: 'It is said that Bodhidarma came from the west and taught the "direct pointing to the mind of man" and "perceiving one's true nature and attaining Buddhahood." But are these same concepts not found in the Kegon Sutra and in the other Mahayana sutras? Alas, how can the people of our time be so foolish! You should all put faith in the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddhas, the Tathagatas, tell no lies!'
 
"To restate the meaning of this passage: if one objects that we are hampering ourselves with doctrinal writings and tying ourselves down with verbal explanations, and recommends a type of religious practice that is apart from the teachings of the sutras, then by what means are we to carry on the Buddha's work and make good causes in this saha world of ours? Even the followers of Zen, who advocate these views, themselves make use of words when instructing others. In addition, when one is trying to convey an understanding of the Buddhist Way, he cannot communicate the meaning if he sets aside words and phrases. Bodhidharma came to China from the west, pointed directly to people's minds, and declared that those minds were Buddha. But this principle is enunciated in various places even in the provisional Mahayana sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra, such as the Kegon, Daijuku and Daihannya sutras. To treat it as such a rare and wonderful thing is too ridiculous for words. Alas, how can the people of our time be so distorted in their thinking! They should put their faith in the words of truth spoken by the Tathagata of perfect enlightenment and complete reward, who embodies the principle of the Middle Way that is the true aspect of all things.
 
"In addition, the Great Teacher Miao-lo in the first volume of his Guketsu comments on this situation by saying, 'The people of today look with contempt on the sutra teachings and emphasize only the contemplation of truth, but they are making a great mistake, a great mistake indeed!'
 
"This passage applies to the people in the world today who put meditation on the mind and the dharmas first and do not delve into or study the teachings of the sutras. On the contrary, they despise the teachings and make light of the sutras. This passage is saying that this is a mistake.
 
"Moreover, I should point out that the Zen followers of the present age are confused as to the teachings of their own sect. If we open the pages of the Zoku Koso Den, we find that in the biography of the Great Teacher Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Zen in China, it states, 'By means of the teachings one can understand the essential meaning.' Therefore, one should study and practice the principles embodied in the sacred teachings preached by the Buddha in the course of his lifetime and thereby gain an understanding of the substance of the various doctrines and the nature of the different sects.
 
"Furthermore, in the biography of Bodhidharma's disciple, Hui-k'o, the second of the six Chinese patriarchs, it states that the Meditation Master Bodhidharma handed over the four volumes of the Ryoga Sutra to Hui-k'o, saying, 'Observing this land of China, I find only this sutra to be of real worth. If you base your practice on it, you will be able to bring salvation to the world.' Here we see that, when the Great Teacher Bodhidharma came from India to China, he brought the four volumes of the Ryoga Sutra and handed them over to Hui-k'o, saying, 'When I observe the situation in this country, I see that this sutra is of outstanding superiority. You should abide by it and put it into practice and become a Buddha.'
 
"As we have just seen, these patriarch-teachers placed primary emphasis on the sutra texts. But if we therefore say that one must rely on the sutras, then we must take care to inquire whether those sutras belong to the Mahayana or the Hinayana, whether they are provisional teachings or true teachings.
 
"When it comes to making use of sutras, the Zen sect relies on such works as the Ryoga Sutra, the Shuryogon Sutra, and the Kongo Hannya Sutra. These are all provisional teachings that were preached before the Lotus Sutra, doctrines that conceal the truth.
 
"These various sutras expound partial truths such as 'the mind itself is Buddha and Buddha is none other than the mind.' The Zen followers have allowed themselves to be led astray by one or two such sentences and phrases, failing to inquire whether they represent the Mahayana or the Hinayana, the provisional or the true teachings, the doctrines that reveal the truth or the doctrines that conceal it. They merely advance the principle of non-duality without understanding the principle of duality, and commit an act of great arrogance, claiming that they themselves are equal to the Buddha. They are following in the tracks of the Great Arrogant Brahman of India and imitating the old ways of the Meditation Master San-chieh of China. But we should recall that the Great Arrogant Brahman, while still alive, fell into the hell of incessant suffering, and that San-chieh, after he died, turned into a huge snake. How frightful, how frightful indeed!
 
"Shakyamuni Buddha, with his understanding that had penetrated the three existences, and by the light of the clear wisdom-moon of perfect enlightenment and complete reward, peered into the future and, in the Zobo Ketsugi Sutra, made this prediction: 'Among the evil monks there will be those who practice meditation and, instead of relying on the sutras and treatises, heed only their own view of things, declaring wrong to be right. Unable to distinguish between what is correct and what is heretical, all they will do is face the clergy and lay believers and declare in this fashion, "I can understand what is right, I can see what is right." You should understand that it is people like this who will destroy my teachings in no time at all.'
 
"This passage is saying that there will be evil monks who put all their faith in Zen and do not delve into the sutras and treatises. They will base themselves on heretical views and fail to distinguish between false and true doctrines. Moreover, they will address themselves to men and women believers, monks and nuns, declaring, 'I can understand the doctrines, but other people do not,' in this way working to spread the Zen teachings. But you should understand that these people will destroy the True Law of the Buddha. If we examine this passage and observe the state of the world today, we see that the two match each other as perfectly as do the two pieces of a tally. Be careful! There is much to fear here!
 
"You spoke earlier of twenty-eight patriarchs of India who orally transmitted this Zen doctrine, but on what evidence is such a statement based? All the texts I have seen speak of twenty-four or, in some cases, twenty-three persons who transmitted the Buddha's teachings. Where is the translation that establishes the number of patriarchs as twenty-eight? I have never seen such a statement. This matter of the persons who were involved in the line of transmission of the Law is not something that one can simply write about arbitrarily. The Buddha himself left a clear record of what the line of transmission would be.
 
"Thus in the Fuhozo Den, it states: 'There will be a monk by the name of Aryasimha living in the kingdom of Kashmir who will strive vigorously to accomplish the Buddha's work. At that time the ruler of the kingdom will be named Mirakutsu, a man who gives himself up wholly to false views and has no reverence or faith in his heart. Throughout the kingdom of Kashmir he will destroy Buddhist temples and stupas and slaughter monks. He will take a sharp sword and use it to cut off Aryasimha's head. But no blood will spurt from his neck; only milk will come flowing out. With this, the line of persons who transmit the Law will be cut off.'
 
"To restate this passage: The Buddha says that, after he passes into nirvana, there will be a succession of twenty-four persons who will transmit his Law. Among these, the last to carry on the line of transmission will be a monk named Aryasimha, who will work to spread the Buddha's Law throughout the kingdom called Kashmir. The ruler of this state will be a man named King Dammira. He will be a person of false views and profligate ways, who has no faith in the Buddha's Law and no reverence for the monks. He will destroy Buddhist halls and stupas and use a sword to cut off the heads of the monks. And when he cuts off the head of the monk Aryasimha, there will be no blood in his neck; only milk will come flowing out. The Buddha declares that at this time the line of persons who transmit the Law will be cut off.
 
"The actual events did not in any way differ from the Buddha's predictions; the Venerable Aryasimha's head was in fact cut off. And as his head fell to the ground, so too did the arm of the king.
 
"It is a gross error to speak of twenty-eight patriarchs. This is the beginning of the errors of the Zen sect. The reason that Hui-neng lists twenty-eight patriarchs in his Platform Sutra is that, when he decided to treat Bodhidharma as the first patriarch of Chinese Zen, he found that there were too many years between the time of Aryasimha and that of Bodhidharma. He therefore arbitrarily inserted the names of three Zen teachers to fill up the interval, so that he could make it seem as though the Law had been transmitted from India to China without any break or irregularity in the line of transmission. It was all a fabrication designed to make people respect the Zen teachings.
 
"This deception was put forth long ago in China. Thus, the eleventh volume of the Hochu states: 'In our [T'ien-t'ai] school, we recognize a transmission through twenty-three patriarchs. How could there be any error in this view? Concerning the claim that there were twenty-eight patriarchs, we can find no translation of a source that supports such a view. Recently Zen priests have even produced carvings in stone and woodblock engravings, each with a sacred verse attached, which represent the seven Buddhas and the twenty-eight patriarchs, handing these down to their disciples. Alas, how can there be such blatant falsehoods! If persons of understanding have any power at all, they should do everything they can to correct such abuses!'
 
"This text is saying that to assert a transmission through a line of twenty-eight patriarchs and to produce stone carvings and woodblock engravings of them to indicate the line of transmission are highly mistaken undertakings, and that anyone who understands this should work to correct such errors. This is why I say that patriarchal Zen is a gravely erroneous affair.
 
"Earlier, you quoted a passage from the Daibontenno Mombutsu Ketsugi Sutra to prove your contention that Zen is 'a separate transmission outside the sutras.' But by quoting a sutra passage you were already contradicting your own assertion. Moreover, this sutra represents the provisional teachings, and, in addition, it is not listed either in the K'ai-yuan or the Chen-yuan era catalogues of Buddhist works. Thus we see that it is a work unlisted in the catalogues and a provisional teaching as well. Hence the scholars of our time do not refer to it; it cannot be used to prove anything.
 
"Coming now to the Lotus Sutra, we should note the groups which benefited when it was preached. When the doctrine of the hundred worlds and the thousand factors, or ichinen sanzen, was expounded in the theoretical teaching, the people of the two vehicles, who had been likened to rotten seeds [that can never put forth shoots], had the seeds of Buddhahood sprout. In the previous forty-two years of the Buddha's preaching, these persons had been despised because it was thought that 'never would they attain Buddhahood.' In every gathering and assembly, they heard nothing but curses and slander spoken against them and were shunned by all those of the human and heavenly realms, until it seemed that they were destined to die of hunger. But now, when the Lotus Sutra was preached, it was predicted that Shariputra would become the Flower Light Tathagata, that Maudgalyayana would become the Tamalapattra Sandalwood Fragrance Tathagata, that Ananda would become the Mountain Sea Wisdom Unrestricted Power King Buddha, that Rahula would become the Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers Tathagata, that the five hundred arhats would become Universal Brightness Tathagatas, and that the two thousand shomon disciples would become Treasure Form Tathagatas. And on the day when the Buddha's life span from the time he attained enlightenment in the remote past was revealed, the bodhisattvas who were as countless as particles of dust increased in their understanding of the Way, discarded their still remaining illusions, and attained the last stage before the level of supreme enlightenment.
 
"Now if we examine the commentary of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, it states: 'The other sutras tell us that, although the bodhisattvas may become Buddhas, those persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku can never do so. Good people can become Buddhas, we are told, but there is no indication that evil ones can do likewise. Men, it is said, can become Buddhas, but women are branded as emissaries from hell. Persons in the human or heavenly realms can attain Buddhahood, but it is nowhere stated that nonhuman creatures can do so. And yet, in this sutra, it is stated that all of these beings can attain Buddhahood.'
 
"What a wonderful thing this is! Though we have been born in the impure world in the Latter Day of the Law, we have committed neither the five cardinal sins nor the three cardinal sins as Devadatta did. And yet it was predicted that even Devadatta would in time become the Heavenly King Tathagata, so how much more should it be possible for persons like us, who have committed no such sins, to attain Buddhahood! And the eight-year-old dragon king's daughter, without changing her reptilian form, attained the wonderful fruit of Buddhahood in the southern realm. Therefore, how much more likely is it that women who have been born into the human realm should be able to do so!
 
"It is most difficult to be born in human form, and extremely rare to encounter the True Law. Now, if you want to rid yourself quickly of erroneous beliefs and adhere to what is correct, transform your status as a common mortal and attain that of Buddhahood, then you should abandon the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu teachings and embrace this wonderful text of the single vehicle. If you do so, you will without a doubt be able to shake off the dust and defilement of delusion and impurity, and manifest yourself as a pure embodiment of enlightenment."
 
Then the unenlightened man said, "Listening to the teachings and admonitions of a sage like you, I find that the misunderstandings I have labored under in recent days are all suddenly dispelled. It is as though inherent wisdom had awakened within me. When right and wrong are made so clear, who could fail to take faith?
 
"And yet, when I look at the world around me, I find that, from the supreme ruler on down to the numberless common people, all place deep trust in the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu teachings. Since I have been born in this land, how could I go against the example of the ruler?
 
"Moreover, my parents and ancestors all put their faith in the principles of the Nembutsu and other teachings, and in that faith they ended their lives and vanished into the clouds of the other world.
 
"Here in Japan, there are, to be sure, a great many people, both eminent and humble. Yet, while those who adhere to the provisional teachings and the sects based upon them are numerous, I have yet to hear the name of a single individual who puts faith in the teachings that you have been explaining. Therefore, leaving aside the question of which teachings will lead to good places in the next life and which will lead to bad ones, and not attempting to inquire which teachings are true and which false, we find that the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of the Buddhist scriptures and the three thousand or more volumes of the Confucian and Taoist writings all emphasize the importance of obeying the orders of the ruler and complying with the wishes of one's parents.
 
"In India, Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, expounded the principles of carrying out filial conduct and repaying one's obligations, and in China, Confucius set forth the way of giving loyal service to the ruler and honoring one's parents as filial offspring should. A person who is determined to repay the debt of gratitude he owes his teacher would not hesitate to slice off a piece of his own flesh or cast his body away. Among those who were aware of the debt of gratitude they owed to their lords, Hung Yen cut open his stomach, and Yu Jang fell on his sword. And among those who were truly mindful of their obligations to their parents, Ting Lan fashioned a wooden image of his deceased mother, and Han Po-yu wept [upon realizing how feeble his aged mother had become] when she beat him with her staff. Though Confucianism, Brahmanism and Buddhism all differ in their doctrines, they are alike in teaching one to repay debts of kindness and give thanks for favors received.
 
"Thus if I were to be the first one to place faith in a doctrine that neither the ruler, my teacher, nor my parents put faith in, I would surely be guilty of the charge of turning against them, would I not? At the same time, the passages from the sutras that you have quoted make perfectly clear the truth of this doctrine, and all my doubts about it have been resolved. And if I do not prepare myself for the life hereafter, then in my next existence I will find myself submerged in suffering. Whether I try to go forward or to retreat, my way is beset by difficulties. What am I to do?"
 
The sage replied, "You understand this doctrine, and yet you can say a thing like that! Have you failed to comprehend the logic of the matter? Or is it simply beyond your understanding?
 
"Ever since I began to study the Law handed down from Shakyamuni Buddha and undertook the practice of the Buddhist teachings, I have believed it is most important to understand one's obligations to others, and made it my first duty to repay such debts of kindness. In this world, we owe four debts of gratitude. One who understands this is worthy to be called human, while one who does not is no more than a beast.
 
"As I wish to help my father and mother in their next existence and repay the debt that I owe to my country, I am willing to lay down my life, simply because I understand the debt that I owe them and for no other reason.
 
"Now let me ask you to close your eyes, still your mind, and apply your thoughts to the logic of the matter. If, knowing the best path, one sees his parents or sovereign taking an evil path, can he fail to admonish them? If a fool, crazed with wine, is about to drink poison, can one, knowing this, not try to stop him? In the same way, if one understands the truth of the Buddhist teachings and knows the sufferings of fire, blood and swords, can he fail to lament at seeing someone to whom he owes a debt of gratitude about to fall into the evil paths? Rather he should cast away his body and lay down his life in an effort to save such a person. He will never grow weary of admonishing him, nor will there be limits to his grief.
 
"The sufferings that meet our eyes in this present world are lamentable enough. How much more lamentable are those that one will encounter on the long road of death! How can we fail to be pained at the thought of it? A thing to be boundlessly feared is the life hereafter; a matter of greatest concern is the existence to come!
 
"And yet you say that, without inquiring into what is right and what is wrong, you will follow your parents' orders; without attempting to determine what is correct and what is erroneous, you will obey the words of the sovereign. To a fool, such conduct may appear to be loyal and filial, but in the opinion of a wise man, there can be no greater disloyalty, no greater departure from filial piety!
 
"Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, was a descendant of wheel-turning kings, the grandson of King Simhahanu, and the heir of King Shuddhodana, and should by rights have become a great ruler of the five regions of India. But he awakened to the truth of the impermanence of life and grew to abhor the world, desiring a way to escape this realm of suffering and attain emancipation. King Shuddhodana, grieving at this, cleverly contrived to have the sights of the four seasons displayed to their best advantage in the four directions so that the prince might be diverted from his intention.
 
"First, in the east, where a break appeared in the trailing mist, he pointed out the wild geese crying as they made their way back north; the plums blooming by the window, their fragrance wafting through the beaded blinds; the entrancing hues of the flowers; the countless calls of the bush warblers; and the other sights of spring.
 
"In the south he showed him the crystal colors of the fountains, the deutzia flowers blooming beside the clear-flowing streams, the cuckoos of Shindoda forest, and the other signs of summer.
 
"In the west there were the autumn-reddened leaves mingling with the evergreens to weave a pattern of brocade, the breezes blowing gently over the reed flowers, or the stormy winds that swept wildly through the pines. And as if to remind one of the departed summer, there were the fireflies glimmering by the swampside, so numerous that one might mistake them for the stars in the heavens, and the repeated voices of the pine cricket and the bell cricket, bringing one to tears.
 
"And in the north, before one knew it, there was the melancholy color of withered fields, the rims of the ponds sealed with ice, and the sad sound of the little streams in the valley.
 
"Not only did the king attempt to console his son's mind by presenting the world to him in this way, he also assigned five hundred soldiers to guard each of the four gates of the palace. But, in the end, when the prince was nineteen, at midnight on the eighth day of the second month, he summoned his groom Chandaka, ordered him to saddle his horse, Kanthaka, and made his way out of the city of Gaya.
 
"He entered the Dandaka Mountain, where for twelve years he gathered firewood on the high slopes, drew water in the deep valleys, and performed various austerities and difficult practices. At the age of thirty he attained the wonderful fruit of enlightenment, becoming the only one worthy of honor in the threefold world and the lord of all the teachings that he expounded throughout his life. He brought salvation to his father and mother and opened the way for all living beings. Could such a man be called unfilial?
 
"The ninety-five schools of Brahman believers were the ones who accused the Buddha of being unfilial. But by disobeying the command of his father and mother and entering the realm of the unconditioned, he was, on the contrary, able to lead his father and mother to salvation, thus demonstrating that he was in fact a model of filial piety.
 
"King Myoshogon, the father of Jozo and Jogen, adhered to the teachings of the Brahmans and turned his back on the Law of the Buddha. His two sons and heirs disobeyed their father's orders and became disciples of Unraionno Buddha, but in the end they were able to guide their father so that he became a Buddha called Sharajuo, or King of Sal Trees. Could anyone say, then, that these were unfilial sons?
 
"There is a passage in the sutras that says, 'By renouncing one's obligations and entering nirvana one can truly repay those obligations in full.' Thus we see that he who casts aside all bonds of indebtedness and love in this present life and enters into the true path of Buddhism is the one who really understands the meaning of obligations.
 
"Moreover, I know the depth of the obligation owed to one's ruler far better than you do. If you really wish to show that you understand your debt of gratitude, then you should admonish the ruler from the depths of your heart and forcefully advise him. To follow his orders even when these are contrary to what is right is the act of an utter sycophant and the height of disloyalty!
 
"King Chou of the Yin dynasty was an evil ruler, and Pi Kan, his loyal minister. When Pi Kan saw that the king was going against what was right in ruling the nation, he vigorously admonished him. As a result Pi Kan's breast was ripped open, but after his death, King Chou was overthrown by the king of the Chou. To the present day, Pi Kan has been known as a loyal minister, and King Chou as an evil ruler.
 
"When Kuan Lung-p'eng admonished his sovereign, King Chieh of the Hsia dynasty, he was beheaded. But King Chieh has come to be known as an evil ruler, and Kuan Lung-p'eng as a loyal minister. We are taught that, if one admonishes his sovereign three times and still his advice is not heeded, then he should retire to the mountain forests. Why do you nevertheless remain silent while the ruler commits misdeeds in your full view?
 
"I have gathered together a few examples of worthy men of ancient times who did in fact retire from the world to dwell in the mountain forests. Open your foolish ears and listen a moment! During the Yin dynasty, T'ai-kung Wang hid himself in a valley called P'o-ch'i; in the Chou dynasty, Po I and Shu Ch'i hid themselves on Mount Shou-yang; Ch'i Li-chi of the Ch'in dynasty retired to Mount Shang-lu; Yen Kuang of the Han dynasty lived in a solitary lodge; and Chieh Tzu-sui of the state of Chin became a recluse on Mount Mien-shang. Are we to call these men disloyal? Anyone who would do so is a fool! If you understand what it means to be loyal, you will admonish your sovereign, and if you want to be filial, you must speak up!
 
"Earlier you said that those who adhere to the provisional teachings and to the sects based on them are very numerous, while those who adhere to the sect I have been recommending are few, and you ask why one would abandon the teachings favored by many and take up those favored by few. But the many are not necessarily worthy of honor, nor the few, deserving of contempt.
 
"People of wisdom and goodness are rare indeed, while fools and evil persons are numerous. A ch'i-lin is the finest of beasts and a phoenix the finest of birds, yet they are very few in number. On the other hand, cows and sheep, crows and pigeons are among the lowlier and commoner of creatures, and yet they are extremely plentiful. If the many are always worthy while the few are to be despised, should one then cast aside a ch'i-lin in favor of cows and sheep, or pass over a phoenix and instead select crows and pigeons?
 
"The mani jewel and the diamond are the most wondrous of all precious stones. These gems are rare, while broken tiles and shards, clods of earth and common stones are the most useless of objects, and at the same time abound. Now if one follows your advice, ought he to discard the precious jewels and instead content himself with broken tiles and shards? How pitiful and meaningless that would be!
 
"A sage ruler is a rare thing, appearing only once in a thousand years, while a worthy minister appears once in five hundred years. The mani jewel is so rare that we have only heard of it, and who, for that matter, has ever actually seen a ch'i-lin or a phoenix? In both secular and religious realms, as is plain to see, good persons are rare while evil persons are numerous. Why, then, do you insist upon despising the few and favoring the many? Dirt and sand are plentiful, but rice and other grains are rare. The bark of trees is available in great quantities, but hemp and silk fabrics are hard to come by. You should put the truth of the teaching before everything else; certainly you should not base your judgment on the number of adherents."
 
The unenlightened man thereupon moved off his mat in a gesture of respect, straightened his sleeves, and said, "I have heard what you stated about the principles of the sacred teachings. Truly it is more difficult to be born as a human being than it is to lower a thread from the heavens above and pass it through the eye of a needle at the bottom of the sea, and it is rarer for one to be able to hear the Law of the Buddha than it is for a one-eyed turtle to encounter a floating log [with a hollow in it that fits him exactly]. Now I have already obtained birth in the human realm, something difficult to achieve, and have had the privilege of hearing the Buddhist teachings, which are seldom encountered. If I should pass my present life in idleness, then in what future life could I possibly free myself from the sufferings of birth and death and attain enlightenment?
 
"Though in the course of a kalpa the bones I have left behind in successive existences may pile up higher than a mountain, to this day I have not yet sacrificed so much as a single bone for the sake of the Buddha's Law. And though, in the course of these many lifetimes, I have shed more tears over those I loved or was indebted to than there is water in the sea, I have never spilled so much as a single tear for the sake of my future existences. I am the most stupid of the stupid, truly a fool among fools! Though I may have to cast aside my life and destroy this body of mine, I am determined to hold life lightly and to enter the path of the Buddha's teachings, to assist in bringing about the enlightenment of my father and mother and to save my own person from the bonds of hell. Please teach me exactly how I should go about it! How should one practice if he takes faith in the Lotus Sutra? Of the five practices, which one should I concentrate on first? Please give me careful instruction in your worthy teachings!"
 
The sage replied, "You have been imbued with the fragrance of your orchid-room friend; you have become upright like mugwort growing in a field of hemp. Truly, the bare tree is not really bare: once spring comes, it bursts into blossom. The withered field is not really withered: with the coming of summer, it turns fresh and green again! If you have repented of your former errors and are ready to adhere to the true doctrine, then without doubt you can swim in the calm and quiet deeps [of nirvana], and dwell at ease in the palace of the unconditioned.
 
"Now in widely propagating the Buddhist teachings and bringing salvation to all people, one must first take into consideration the teaching, the capacity of the people, the time, the country, and the sequence of propagation. The reason is as follows. In terms of the time, there are the periods of the Former, the Middle and the Latter Days of the Law, and in terms of the teachings, there are the Hinayana and the Mahayana doctrines. In terms of the practices to be adopted, there are shoju and shakubuku. It is a mistake to practice shakubuku at a time when shoju is called for, and equally erroneous to practice shoju when shakubuku is appropriate. The first thing to be determined, therefore, is whether the present period is the time for shoju or the time for shakubuku.
 
"Shoju is to be practiced when throughout the entire country only the Lotus Sutra has spread, and when there is not even a single misguided teacher expounding erroneous doctrines. At such a time, one may retire to the mountain forests, practice the meditation on the dharmas, or carry out the five, the six or the ten practices. But the time for shakubuku is very different from this. It is a time when many different sutras and teachings spring up here and there like so many orchids and chrysanthemums, when the various sects command a large following and enjoy renown, when truth and error stand shoulder to shoulder, and when Mahayana and Hinayana dispute which is superior. At such a time, one must set aside all other affairs and devote one's attention to rebuking slander of the Law. This is the practice of shakubuku.
 
"If, failing to understand this principle, one were to practice shoju or shakubuku at an inappropriate time, then not only would he be unable to attain Buddhahood, but he would fall into the evil paths. This is firmly laid down in the Lotus and Nirvana sutras, and is also clearly stated in the commentaries by T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo. It is, in fact, an important principle of Buddhist practice.
 
"We may compare these two ways of practice to the two types of measures, the civil and the military, used in governing a nation. There is a time when military measures should take precedence, and a time when civil measures ought to be emphasized. When the world is at peace and calm prevails within the country, then civil measures should take precedence. But when the barbarian tribes to the east, west, north and south, fired by wild ambitions, rise up like hornets, then military measures should come first.
 
"Though one may understand the importance of both civil and military arts, if he does not understand the time, donning armor and taking up weapons when all countries are calm and peaceful and there is no trouble anywhere throughout the world, then his actions will be wrong. On the other hand, one who lays aside his weapons on the battlefield when enemies are marching against his ruler and instead takes up a writing brush and inkstone is likewise failing to act in accordance with the time.
 
"The methods of shoju and shakubuku are also like this. When the True Law alone is propagated and there are no erroneous doctrines or misguided teachers, then one may enter the deep valleys and live in quiet contentment, devoting his time to reciting and copying the sutra and to the practice of meditation. This is like taking up a writing brush and inkstone when the world is at peace. But when there are provisional sects or slanderers of the Law in the country, then it is time to set aside other matters and devote oneself to rebuking slander. This is like taking up weapons on the battlefield.
 
"Therefore the Great Teacher Chang-an in his commentary on the Nirvana Sutra states: 'In past times the age was peaceful and the Law spread throughout the country. At that time it was proper to observe the precepts and not to carry staves. But now the age is perilous and the Law is overshadowed. Therefore it is proper to carry staves and to disregard the precepts. If both past and present were perilous times, then it would be proper to carry staves in both periods. And if both past and present were peaceful times, then it would be proper to observe the precepts in both of them. You should distinguish between the shoju and the shakubuku methods and never adhere solely to one or the other.' The meaning of this passage of commentary is perfectly clear.
 
"In past times the world was honest, people were upright, and there were no erroneous teachings or erroneous doctrines. Therefore one could behave in a dignified manner and carry out his religious practices peacefully and amicably. There was no need to take up staves and berate others, no occasion to attack erroneous teachings.
 
"But the present age is a defiled one. Because the minds of people are warped and twisted, and provisional teachings and slander alone abound, the True Law cannot prevail. In times like these, it is useless to practice the reading, reciting and copying [of the Lotus Sutra] or to devote oneself to the methods and practices of meditation. One should practice only shakubuku, and if he has the capacity, use his influence and authority to destroy slander of the Law, and his knowledge of the teachings to refute erroneous doctrines.
 
"As we have seen, it is said that one should distinguish between the shoju and the shakubuku methods and never adhere solely to one or the other. Therefore, we must look at the world today and consider whether ours is a country in which only the True Law prevails, or a country in which erroneous doctrines flourish.
 
"In answering this we should note that Honen of the Pure Land sect says that one should 'discard, close, ignore and abandon' the Lotus Sutra in favor of the Nembutsu. And Shan-tao in his writings calls the Lotus Sutra an 'incorrect practice,' saying that 'not one in a thousand' can be saved by it, by which he means that if a thousand people take faith in it not a single one of them will gain enlightenment.
 
"Kobo of the Shingon sect states in his writings that the Lotus Sutra is inferior even to the Kegon Sutra and ranks two steps beneath the Dainichi Sutra, designating it a piece of 'childish theory.' And Shokaku-bo of the same sect declares that the Lotus Sutra is not fit even to serve as the sandal-bearer of the Dainichi Sutra, and that Shakyamuni Buddha is not worthy to be an ox-driver to Dainichi Buddha.
 
"The priests of the Zen sect disparage the Lotus Sutra by calling it so much saliva that has been spit out of the mouth, a finger pointing at the moon, or a net of doctrine [that serves only to entangle]. The priests of the Ritsu, a Hinayana sect, call the Lotus Sutra an erroneous teaching and label it the preaching of the Devil.
 
"Are persons such as these not slanderers of the Law? One can never be too severe in condemning them, or admonish them too strongly!"
 
The unenlightened man said, "Throughout the more than sixty provinces of Japan, there are many kinds of people and a variety of Buddhist doctrines. What with the Nembutsu believers, the Shingon teachers, and the followers of Zen or the Ritsu teachings, there is truly hardly a single person who does not slander the Law. But then, why should I criticize other people? My task, it seems to me, is simply to cherish deep faith within my own heart and to look on other people's errors as no concern of mine."
 
The sage replied, "What you say is quite true, and I would be inclined to hold the same opinion. But when we examine the sutras, we find that they tell us not to begrudge our lives [for the sake of the Law], and also say that [one should spread the Buddha's teachings] even though it may cost him his life. The reason they speak in this way is because, if one does not hesitate on account of others but propagates the principles of Buddhism just as they are set forth in the sutras, then in an age when there are many people who slander the Law, three types of enemies will invariably appear and in many cases deprive him of life. But if, as the sutras tell us, one observes deviations from the Buddhist Law and yet fails to censure them or to appeal to the ruler to take measures against them, then he is being untrue to the teachings and is not worthy to be looked on as a disciple of the Buddha.
 
"The third volume of the Nirvana Sutra says, 'If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism. But if he takes the slanderer severely to task, drives him off or punishes him, then he is my disciple and one who truly understands my teachings.'
 
"The meaning of this passage is that, if a person striving to propagate the True Law of the Buddha should hear others propounding the teachings of the sutras in a mistaken manner and fail to reproach them himself or, lacking the power to do that, fail to appeal to the sovereign and in this way take measures to correct them, then he is an enemy of the Buddha's Law. But if, as the sutras direct, he is not afraid of others but censures these slanderers himself and appeals to the sovereign to take measures against them, then he may be called a disciple of the Buddha and a true priest.
 
"Being therefore determined to avoid the charge of 'betraying Buddhism,' although I have incurred the hatred of others, I have dedicated my life to Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra, extending compassion to all living beings and rebuking slanders of the Law. Those who cannot understand my heart have tightened their lips and glared at me with furious eyes. But if you are truly concerned about your future existence, you should think lightly of your own safety and consider the Law above all. Thus the Great Teacher Chang-an states, '[The sutra says, "...it is proper that he should relate the words of his ruler] without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life." This means that one's body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. One should give his life in order to propagate the Law.'
 
"This passage is saying that, even if one must give up his life, one should not conceal the True Law; this is because one's body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. Though one's body be destroyed, one should strive to propagate the Law.
 
"How sad is this lot of ours, that all who are born must perish! Though one may live to a great age, in the end he cannot escape this impermanence. In this world or ours, life lasts a hundred years or so at most. When we stop to think of it, it is a mere dream within a dream. Even in the heaven where there is neither thought nor no thought, where life lasts eighty thousand years, no one escapes the law of mutability, and in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, too, where life lasts a thousand years, it is swept away at last by the winds of change and decay. How much sadder, then, is the lot of the human beings living on this continent of Jambudvipa, whose life is more fleeting than the dew, more fragile than the plantain leaf, more insubstantial than bubbles or foam! Like the moon reflected in the water, one is not even certain whether he exists or not; like the dew on the grass, he may vanish at any moment.
 
"Anyone who grasps this principle should know that it is of utmost importance to take thought for the existence to come. In the latter age of the Buddha Kangi, the monk Kakutoku propagated the True Law. Countless monks who were guilty of violating the precepts deeply resented this votary and attacked him, but the ruler, King Utoku, determined to protect the True Law, fought with these slanderers. In the end, he lost his life and was reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku, where he became the foremost disciple of that Buddha. Similarly King Sen'yo, because he honored the Mahayana teachings and punished the slander of five hundred Brahmans, was able to reach the stage of non-regression. How reassuring, that those who respect the monks of the True Law and admonish those who are evil and in error receive such blessings as these!
 
"But if, in our present age, one were to practice shoju [rather than shakubuku], then without doubt that person would fall into the evil paths together with those who slander the True Law. The Great Teacher Nan-yueh in his Shi Anrakugyo states, 'If there should be a bodhisattva who protects evil persons and fails to chastise them ... then when his life comes to and end, he will fall into hell along with those evil persons.'
 
"The meaning of this passage is that, if a practitioner of Buddhism should fail to chastise evil persons who slander the Law but give himself up entirely to meditation and contemplation, not attempting to distinguish between correct or incorrect doctrines, provisional or true teachings, but rather pretending to be a model of compassion, then such a person will fall into the evil paths along with the other doers of evil. Now a person who fails to correct the Shingon, Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu adherents who are slanderers of the Law and instead pretends to be a model of compassion will meet just such a fate as this."
 
Thereupon the unenlightened man, cherishing his resolve in mind, spoke out in these words: "To admonish one's sovereign and set one's family on the correct course is the teaching of the worthies of former times and is clearly indicated in the texts you have cited. The non-Buddhist writings all emphasize this point, and the Buddhist scriptures are in no way at variance with it. To see evil and fail to admonish it, to be aware of slander and not combat it, is to go against the words of the sutras and to disobey the Buddhist patriarchs. The punishment for this offense is extremely severe, and therefore, from now on, I will devote myself to faith.
 
"But it is truly difficult to put this sutra, the Lotus, into practice. If there is some essential point to be observed, could you explain it to me?"
 
The sage replied, "I can tell that your aspiration for the Way is very earnest and sincere. The essential thing needed for attaining the enlightenment of all Buddhas is nothing other than the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. It was solely because of these five characters that King Dan relinquished his jeweled throne [and attained Buddhahood], and the dragon king's daughter transformed her reptilian characteristics [into those of a Buddha].
 
"When we stop to consider it, we find that the sutra itself says, concerning how much or how little of it is to be embraced, that a single verse or phrase is sufficient, and, concerning the length of practice [necessary to reach enlightenment], that one who rejoices even for a moment on hearing it [is certain to become a Buddha]. The eighty thousand teachings in their vast entirety and the many words and phrases of the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra were all expounded simply in order to reveal these five characters. When Shakyamuni Buddha in the clouds above the Sacred Mountain, in the mists of Eagle Peak, summed up the essence of the doctrine and entrusted it to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, what do you suppose that teaching was? It was nothing other than these five characters, the essential law.
 
"The six thousand leaves of commentary by T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo, like strings of jewels, and the several scrolls of exegesis by Tao-sui and Hsing-man, like so much gold, do not go beyond the meaning of this teaching. If you truly fear the realm of birth and death and yearn for nirvana, if you carry out your faith and thirst for the Way, then the sufferings of change and impermanence will become no more than yesterday's dream, and the awakening of enlightenment will become today's reality. If only you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to come? This is the truth, and it is of great profundity. You should believe and accept it."
 
The unenlightened man, pressing his palms together and kneeling respectfully, said, "These priceless words of yours have moved me deeply, and your instruction has awakened my mind. And yet, in light of the principle that superior things encompass those that are inferior, it would seem that the broad should also encompass the narrow and the many should take in the few. However, when we examine the matter, we find that these five characters you have mentioned are few, while the words in the sutra text are many, and that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is narrow, while its eight scrolls are very broad. How then can the two be equal in the blessings that they bring?"
 
The sage said, "How foolish you are! Your attachment to this belief that one should abandon the few in favor of the many towers higher than Mount Sumeru, and your conviction that the narrow should be despised and the broad honored is deeper than the vast ocean! In the course of our discussion, I have already demonstrated that something is not necessarily worthy of honor simply because it is many in number or despicable simply because it is few. Now I would like to go a step farther and explain how the small can actually encompass the great, and the one be superior to the many.
 
"The seed of the nyagrodha tree, though one-third the size of a mustard seed, can conceal five hundred carts within itself. Is this not a case of the small containing the large? The wish-granting jewel, while only one in number, is able to rain down ten thousand treasures without a single thing lacking. Is this not a case of the few encompassing the many? The popular proverb says that 'one is the mother of ten thousand.' Do you not understand the principle behind these matters? The important thing to consider is whether or not a doctrine conforms with the principle of the true aspect of reality. Do not be blindly attached to the question of many or few!
 
"But since you are so extremely foolish, let me give you an analogy. Myoho-renge-kyo is the Buddha nature of all living beings. The Buddha nature is the Dharma nature, and the Dharma nature is enlightenment. The Buddha nature possessed by Shakyamuni, Taho and all the Buddhas of the ten directions; by Jogyo, Muhengyo and the other Bodhisattvas of the Earth; by Fugen, Monju, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the others; by Bonten and Taishaku; by the deities of the sun, the moon, the morning star, the seven stars in the Big Dipper in the northern sky, the twenty-eight constellations and the countless other stars; by the heavenly gods, the earthly deities, the dragon deities, the eight kinds of lowly beings, and the human and heavenly beings who gathered in the great assembly to hear the Buddha's preaching; by King Emma--in short, by all living beings from the realm where there is neither thought nor no thought above the clouds down to the flames in the lowest depths of hell--the Buddha nature that all these beings possess is called by the name Myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, if you recite these words of the daimoku once, then the Buddha nature of all living beings will be summoned and gather around you. At that time the three properties of the Dharma nature within you--the properties of the Law, of wisdom, and of action--will be drawn forth and become manifest. This is called attaining Buddhahood. To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, the many birds flying in the sky all gather around him at once; seeing this, the bird in the cage strives to get out."
 
The unenlightened man said, "You have now explained to me in detail the benefits of the daimoku and the significance of the Mystic Law. But I would like to ask whether these matters are explained in this manner in the sutra."
 
The sage replied, "Since you have already understood the principle involved, there is really no need to go on and inquire what scriptural passages it is based on. However, I will cite a passage from the sutra as you request.
 
"In the eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra, in the Dharani chapter, the Buddha says, 'If only you protect those persons who receive and embrace the name of the Lotus Sutra, you will enjoy good fortune beyond measure.' In this passage, the Buddha is praising Kishimojin and her ten daughters for their vow to protect the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. He is saying: 'You have taken a vow to protect those who embrace the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra. The blessings that you will receive as a result are beyond even the power of the Buddha wisdom, which completely comprehends the three existences, to fathom.' While by rights nothing should be beyond the grasp of the Buddha wisdom, the Buddha says here that the blessings that accrue from receiving and embracing the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra are the one thing it cannot measure.
 
"The blessings of the entire Lotus Sutra are all contained solely within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. While the words in the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra differ according to the contents of the twenty-eight chapters, the five characters of the daimoku remain the same throughout. To illustrate, within the two characters Nihon, or Japan, are included the more than sixty provinces and two islands [Iki and Tsushima]. Are there any districts or provinces that are not contained within this name?
 
"If one uses the term 'birds,' people know that one is talking about creatures that fly in the sky; if one says 'beasts,' people understand that one is referring to animals that run over the ground. In all things, names are of great importance precisely because they can convey general meanings in this way. This is what the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai meant when he said that names convey the basic nature of a thing while phrases describe how it differs from other things, or when he said that names designate the fundamental character of a thing.
 
"In addition, names have the virtue of being able to summon the things to which they refer, and things as a matter of function respond to the name that refers to them. In similar fashion, the name or daimoku of the Lotus Sutra has the power [to summon the Buddha nature to which it refers]."
 
The unenlightened man said, "If it is as you say, then the blessings of the daimoku are very great indeed. But these blessings must differ according to whether or not one understands the significance of the daimoku. I am a man who carries a bow and arrows and devotes himself to the profession of arms. I have no understanding of the true nature of the Buddhist teachings. How could a person such as I gain any great amount of good fortune?"
 
The sage replied, "According to the principle of the perfect and immediate enlightenment, there is no essential difference between the earlier and later stages of practice, and the blessings of the advanced stages are inherent in the initial stages as well. To carry out one practice is to carry out all practices, and there is no blessing that is not included thereby.
 
"If the situation were as you say and one could not obtain good fortune until after he had understood the truth of Buddhism, then no one, from the bodhisattvas who have all but attained enlightenment on down to those who understand the teachings only in terms of names and words, would be able to obtain any good fortune at all. This is because, as the Lotus Sutra says, '[The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared] between Buddhas.'
 
"In the Hiyu chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha declares: 'Even you, Shariputra, where this sutra is concerned, gained entrance through faith. How much more is this the case for the other shomon disciples!'
 
"This passage is saying that even Shariputra, who was known for his great wisdom, was, with respect to the Lotus Sutra, able to gain entry through faith and not through the power of his wisdom and understanding. How much more so, therefore, does this hold true with the other shomon disciples!
 
"Thus, with the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, Shariputra, because he had faith, was able to rid himself of the name of one who would never be able to attain Buddhahood and was told that he would in time become the Flower Light Tathagata.
 
"It is like the case of a baby being given milk to drink. Even though the baby may not understand the flavor of milk, the milk naturally nurtures the baby's growth. Similarly, if a doctor gives medicine to a patient, even though the patient may not know the origin and nature of the medicine, if he takes it, then in the natural course of events his illness will be cured. But if he objects that he does not know the origin of the medicine that the doctor gives him and for that reason declines to take it, do you think his illness will ever be cured? Whether he understands the medicine or not, so long as he takes it, he will in either case be cured.
 
"The Buddha has already been called an excellent physician, and the Law has been likened to beneficial medicine and all living beings to people suffering from illness. The Buddha took the teachings that he had preached in the course of his lifetime, ground and sifted them, blended them together and compounded an excellent medicine, the pill of the Mystic Law. Regardless of whether one understands it or not, so long as he take the pill, can he fail to be cured of the illness of delusion? Even though the patient may not understand the medicine or even know the nature of the disease from which he suffers, if he takes the medicine, he is bound to recover.
 
"It is the same way with the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. Though he may not understand the principles of Buddhism and may not know that he is suffering from delusion, if only he has faith, then without a doubt he will be able to free himself simultaneously from the illnesses of the three categories of illusion--illusions of thought and desire, illusions innumerable as particles of dust and sand, and illusions about the true nature of existence. He will reach the lands of Actual Reward and Tranquil Light and cause the three properties of the Buddha that he inherently possesses to shine.
 
"Therefore, the Great Teacher Dengyo says: 'Neither teachers nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the Lotus Sutra they can do so in their present form.' This means that both the teacher who expounds the principles of the Lotus Sutra and the disciple who receives his teachings will, in no long time, together attain Buddhahood through the power of the Lotus Sutra.
 
"The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai produced the Hokke Gengi, Hokke Mongu, and Maka Shikan, thirty volumes of commentary on the Lotus Sutra. And the Great Teacher Miao-lo in addition produced the thirty volumes of the Hokke Gengi Shakusen, Hokke Mongu Ki and Maka Shikan Bugyoden Guketsu as annotations on T'ien-t'ai's works. Together these works are known as 'the sixty volumes of the Tendai school.'
 
"In the Hokke Gengi, T'ien-t'ai established the five major principles of name, entity, quality, function and teaching, and in their light explained the power and efficacy of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. In the section on the third of the five major principles, that dealing with the quality of the Lotus Sutra, he writes, 'When one pulls on the main cord of a net, there are no meshes that do not move, and when one raises a single corner of a robe, there are no threads in the robe that are not lifted up.' The meaning of this passage is that, when one carries out the single practice of exercising faith in Myoho-renge-kyo, there are no blessings that fail to come to one, and no good karma that does not begin to work on one's behalf. It is like the case of a fishing net: though the net is composed of innumerable small meshes, when one pulls on the main cord of the net, there are no meshes that do not move. Or it is like a garment: though the garment is comprised of countless tiny threads, when one pulls on a corner of the garment, there are no threads that are not drawn along.
 
"In the Hokke Mongu, T'ien-t'ai explains all the various words and phrases in the Lotus Sutra, from the opening words, 'Thus have I heard,' to the final words, '...they bowed and departed.' He explains them in terms of four categories, namely, causes and circumstances, correlated teachings, the theoretical and essential teachings, and the observation of the mind.
 
"Next, in the Maka Shikan, he expounds the meditation on the region of the unfathomable, namely on the three thousand realms within a single mind, based on his thorough understanding of the Lotus Sutra. This is a practice that derives from the Buddha's original enlightenment and represents a principle of truth inherent in one's being. I shall not go into it in detail here.
 
"What an occasion for rejoicing! Though born into an evil age that is stained with the five impurities, we have been able to hear the true words of the one vehicle. We read that a person who has planted roots of good fortune equal in number to the sands of the Hiranyavati or the Ganges River is able to encounter this sutra and take faith in it. Now you have aroused the mind that rejoices in faith. Thus without a doubt, just as a box and its lid fit together, so will your own faith evoke the Buddha's compassionate response, and the two will unite as one."
 
The unenlightened man bowed his head, pressed his palms together and said: "From now on I will receive and embrace this king of the sutras, the Lotus of the one truth, and revere the Buddha, who in the threefold world is alone worthy of honor, as my true teacher. From my present body as a common mortal until the time when I attain the body of a Buddha, I will never venture to turn aside from this faith. Though the clouds of the five cardinal sins should hang heavy above me, I will strive to emulate the example of Devadatta in attaining Buddhahood. Though the waves of the ten evil acts should buffet me, I will desire to be like those who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra by listening to the princes' preaching."
 
The sage said, "The human heart is like water that assumes the shape of whatever vessel it occupies, and the nature of beings is like the reflection of the moon undulating on the waves. Now you insist that you will be firm in this faith, but another day you are bound to waver. Though devils and demons may come to tempt you, you must not allow yourself to be distracted. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven hates the Buddha's Law, and the non-Buddhist believers resent the path of the Buddhist teachings. But you must be like the golden mountain that glitters more brightly when scraped by the wild boar, like the sea that encompasses all the various streams, like the fire that burns higher when logs are added, or like the gura insect that grows bigger when the wind blows. If you follow such examples, then how can the outcome fail to be good?"

Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment

I deeply appreciate your visit here and your constant concern over the numerous persecutions which have befallen me. I have met these great persecutions as the votary of the Lotus Sutra and do not regret them in the slightest. No life could be more fortunate than mine, no matter how many times one might repeat the cycle of birth and death. [Were it not for these troubles,] I might have remained in the three or four evil paths. But now, to my great joy, I am sure to sever the cycle of the sufferings of birth and death and attain the fruit of Buddhahood.

T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo were subjected to hate and jealousy merely because they propagated the doctrine of the theoretical ‘three thousand realms in a single moment of life’ of the first half of the Lotus Sutra. In Japan this doctrine was propagated and handed down successively by Dengyo, Gishin, Encho, Jikaku and others. Among the many disciples who followed the Great Teacher Jie, the eighteenth chief priest of the Tendai sect, were Danna, Eshin, Soga, and Zen’yu. At that time the sect’s teachings were divided in two: the administrator of monks Danna transmitted the doctrinal studies while the supervisor of monks Eshin devoted himself to the meditative practices. Doctrinal studies are comparable to the moon and meditative practices to the sun. Doctrinal studies are shallow, while meditative practices are deep. The teachings expounded by Danna were therefore broad but shallow, while Eshin’s teachings were deep but limited.

The teaching that I, Nichiren, am now propagating may seem limited, but it is actually exceedingly profound. This is because it goes deeper than the teachings expounded by T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo. It consists of the three important matters contained in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching. To practice only the seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo may appear limited, yet since this Law is the master of all the Buddhas of the three existences, the teacher of all the bodhisattvas in the ten directions, and the guide that enables all living beings to attain the Buddha way, its practice is incomparably profound.

The sutra states, "The wisdom of the Buddhas is infinitely profound and immeasurable." "The Buddhas" means every Buddha throughout the ten directions in the three existences. It represents every single Buddha and bodhisattvas of any sutra or sect whatsoever, including both the Thus Come One Dainichi of the Shingon sect and Amida of the Pure Land sect, every Buddha of the past, the future or the present, including the present Thus Come One Shakyamuni himself. The sutra refers to the wisdom of all these Buddhas.

What is meant by the ‘wisdom’ of the Buddhas! It is the entity of the true aspect, or the ten factors, of all phenomena, the entity that leads all beings to Buddhahood. What then is the entity! It is nothing other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. A commentary states that the profound principle of the true aspect is the originally inherent Law of Myoho-renge-kyo. The true aspect of all phenomena indicates the two Buddhas Shakyamuni and Taho [seated together in the treasure tower]. Taho represents all phenomena and Shakyamuni, the true aspect. The two Buddhas also indicate the two principles of the truth as object and the wisdom to grasp it. Taho signifies the truth , as object and Shakyamuni, the wisdom. Although these are two, they are fused into one in the Buddha’s enlightenment.

These teachings are of prime importance. They mean that earthly desires are enlightenment and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Even during the physical union of man and woman, when one chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then earthly desires are enlightenment and the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Sufferings are nirvana only when one realizes that life throughout its cycle of birth and death is neither born nor destroyed. These principles are what is meant by the following passages. The Fugen Sutra states, ‘Without cutting off earthly desires and separating themselves from the five desires, they can purify their senses and wipe away their offenses.’ It is stated in the Maka shikan that ‘the ignorance and dust of desires are enlightenment and the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.’ The Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra says, ‘At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?’ And the Hoben chapter states, ‘All the characteristics of the world are eternal.’ The entity is none other than Nam-myoho- renge-kyo.

It was this most august and precious Lotus Sutra which in past existences I put under my knees, despised, scowled upon in disgust and refused to believe in. In one way or another, I maliciously ridiculed people who studied the Lotus Sutra and who taught it to others, even if only to a single person, thereby passing on the Law for the future. In addition, I did everything I could to hinder people from embracing the sutra by asserting that they should set it aside for a while because, though it might be suitable for practice in their next lifetime, it would be too difficult for them to practice in this lifetime. Slanderous acts such as these have now brought on the many severe persecutions I have suffered in my lifetime. Because I once disparaged the Lotus Sutra, the highest of all sutras, I am now looked down upon and my words go unheeded. The Hiyu chapter states that other people will neither concern themselves with nor have sympathy for one even though one sincerely tries to be friendly with them.

As a votary of the Lotus Sutra, you suffered severe persecutions, yet still you came to my assistance. In the Hosshi chapter the Buddha states that he will send the four kinds of believers, magically conjured, monks and nuns and laymen and laywomen [for the sake of the teachers of the Law]. If you are not one of these laymen, then to whom else could the passage possibly refer? You have not only heard the Law, but have taken faith in it and since then have followed it without turning aside. How wondrous! How extraordinary! Then how can there be any doubt that I, Nichiren, am the teacher of the Lotus Sutra? In other words, I almost resemble "the envoy of the Thus Come One"; I am carrying out "the Thus Come One’s work." I have propagated the five characters of the daimoku which were entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo when the two Buddhas were seated together within the treasure tower. Does this not indicate that I am an envoy of Bodhisattva Jogyo? Moreover, following me, you as a votary of the Lotus Sutra also tell others of this Law. What else could this be but the transmission of the Law?

Carry through with your faith in the Lotus Sutra. You cannot strike fire from flint if you stop halfway. Bring forth the great power of faith and establish your reputation among all the people of Kamakura and the rest of Japan as ‘Shijo Kingo of the Hokke sect.’ Even a bad reputation will spread far and wide. A good reputation will spread even farther, particularly if it is a reputation for devotion to the Lotus Sutra.

Explain all this to your wife, and work together like the sun and the moon, a pair of eyes or the two wings of a bird. With the sun and the moon, how can you fall into the path of darkness? With a pair of eyes, how can you fail to behold the faces of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the Buddhas of the ten directions? With a pair of wings, you will surely be able to fly in an instant to the treasure land of Tranquil Light. I will write in more detail on another occasion.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The second day of the fifth month

Reply to Shijo Kingo

Easy Delivery of a Fortune Child
 
I have heard that you will soon give birth. In compliance with your request for the gohifu of easy delivery, I have prepared one, choosing from among the lore I have inherited. However, you must have firm faith in order to receive its benefits. Even a medicine of rare virtue will have little effect if poison is added to it. Of what use will a sword be to a coward?

Above all, you and your husband are both followers of the Lotus Sutra. You will surely bear a jewel of a child who will carry on the seed of the propagation of the Lotus Sutra. I wholeheartedly congratulate you. The child will inherit both the physical and spiritual aspects of your lives. How could you suffer prolonged labor? The child will surely be delivered easily. If you take this gohifu,, there can be no doubt. The darkness becomes bright when a lamp is lighted, and muddy water becomes clear when the moon shines on it.

Is there anything brighter than the sun and the moon? Is there anything purer than the lotus flower? The Lotus Sutra is the sun and the moon and the lotus flower. Therefore, it is called Myoho-renge-kyo (the Sutra of the Lotus Sutra of the Mystic Law). Nichiren is also like the sun and the moon, and also like the lotus flower.

If the water of one's faith is clear, the moon of blessings will cast its reflection on it and, without a doubt, protect one. You are assured of an easy delivery. A passage from the Lotus Sutra states, "A wondrous Law such as this ...," and another says, "With easy labor they shall bear a fortune child." I have explained in detail to Ben-ko about the orally transmitted instructions regarding the gohifu. Thus, Ben-ko is the envoy of the Buddha. Be earnest in your faith.

The sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami bestowed a gem upon the storm god Susanoo no Mikoto, who in turn obtained a gem of a boy child. For this reason, she called the child her own son and named him Masaya Akatsu [Truly I Conquer]. Because I, Nichiren, have provided your child with the seed for an easy birth, the child will be like my own. The Lotus Sutra says that there is "a precious gem whose value is that of a major world system," and also proclaims: "We have gained the supreme cluster of jewels without expecting it." Shakyamuni Buddha declares, "The living beings in it [the threefold world] are all my children." My intention also accords exactly with what the Buddha expressed in these passages. How happy and how auspicious is the approaching birth of your child! I will write again on another occasion.

Respectfully,

Nichiren

The seventh day of the fifth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271).

Encouragement to a Sick Person
 
I have heard that you are suffering from illness. Is this true? The uncertainty of this world is such that even the healthy cannot remain forever, let alone those who are ill. Thoughtful persons should therefore prepare their minds for the life to come. Yet one cannot prepare his mind for the next life by his own efforts alone. Only on the basis of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the original teacher of all living beings, will he be able to do so.
 

However, the Buddha's teachings are various, perhaps because people's minds also differ greatly. In any event, Shakyamuni taught for no more than fifty years. Among the teachings he expounded during the first forty years and more, we find the Kegon Sutra, which says, "The mind, the Buddha and all living beings - these three things are without distinction"; the Agon sutras, which set forth the principles of suffering, emptiness, impermanence and egolessness; the Daijuku Sutra, which asserts the interpenetration of the defiled aspect and the pure aspect; the Daibon Hannya Sutra, which teaches mutual identification and non-duality; and the Muryoju, Kammuryoju and Amida sutras, which emphasize rebirth in the Land of Perfect Bliss. All these teachings were doubtless expounded in order to save all living beings in the Former, Middle and Latter Days of the Law.
 
Nevertheless, for some reason of his own, the Buddha declared in the Muryogi Sutra, "[Expounding the Law in various ways,] I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." Like a parent who has second thoughts about the transfer deed he has written out earlier, he looked back with regret upon all the sutras he had expounded during the past forty years and more, including those which taught rebirth in the Land of Perfect Bliss, and declared [that no matter how earnestly one may practice them,] "...in the end one will never attain supreme enlightenment, even after the lapse of countless, limitless, inconceivable asogi kalpas." He reiterated this in the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra, saying, "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme Way." By "discarding the provisional teachings," he meant that one should discard the Nembutsu and other teachings preached during the period of those forty-some years.
 
Having thus obviously regretted and reversed his previous teachings, he made clear his true intention, saying, "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth," and "The Tathagata long kept silence with regard to this essential truth and was in no haste to preach it." Thereupon Taho Buddha emerged from below the earth and added his testimony, declaring what Shakyamuni had said to be true, and the Buddhas of the ten directions assembled in the eight directions, extending their long, broad tongues until they reached the palace in the Brahma Heaven. All the beings of the two worlds and the eight kinds, who were gathered at the two places and three assemblies, without a single exception witnessed this.
 
Yet, setting aside evil persons and non-Buddhists, who do not believe in Buddhism, even among the followers of Buddhism we find those who [reject this testimony and instead] have devout faith in the provisional teachings preached before the Lotus Sutra, such as the Nembutsu. They devote themselves to reciting it ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand or as many as sixty thousand times each day, but do not chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, not even once in ten or twenty years. [In light of the above sutra passages,] are they not like a person who clings to the transfer deed already nullified by his parent and refuses to accept its revised version? They may appear to others as well as to themselves to have faith in the Buddha's teachings, but if we go by what the Buddha actually taught, they are unfilial persons.
 
This is why the second volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "Now this threefold world is all my domain. The living beings in it are all my children. Yet this world has many cares and troubles from which I alone can save them. But, even though I teach and instruct them, they neither believe nor accept." This passage means that to us living beings, the Tathagata Shakyamuni is our parent, teacher and sovereign. Amida, Yakushi and other Buddhas may be a sovereign to us living beings, but they are neither a parent nor a teacher. Shakyamuni is the one and only Buddha who is endowed with all three virtues and to whom we owe the most profound debt of gratitude. There are parents and parents, yet none of them can equal him. There are all manner of teachers and sovereigns, but none so admirable as he. Could those who disobey the teaching of the one who is their parent, teacher and sovereign not be abandoned by both heavenly gods and earthly deities? They are the most unfilial of all children. It is for this reason that the Buddha said, "But, even though I teach and instruct them, they neither believe nor accept." Even though they may follow the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra and practice them for a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand or a hundred thousand kalpas, if they do not believe in the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even once, they can only be termed unfilial. They will therefore be abandoned by the sacred ones of the three existences and the ten directions and hated by the deities of both heaven and earth. This represents the first [of the five guides for propagation].
 
Even those people who commit the five cardinal sins, the ten evil acts, etc., or innumerable other wrongdoings may attain the Way if only their faculties are keen. Devadatta and Angulimala are representative of such people. And even those of dull faculties may attain the Way, provided they are free of misdeeds. Shuddhipanthaka is an example. Our faculties are even duller that those of Shuddhipanthaka. We can discern the colors and shapes of things no better than a sheep's eye. In the vast depths of our greed, anger and stupidity, we commit the ten evil acts every day, and although we may not commit the five cardinal sins, we perpetrate similar offenses daily.
 
Moreover, every single person is guilty of slander of the Law, an offense exceeding even the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins. Although few people slander the Lotus Sutra with actual words of abuse, there is none who values it. Some appear to value the sutra, but in fact, they do not believe in it as deeply as they do in the Nembutsu or other teachings. And even those with profound faith do not reproach the enemies of the Lotus Sutra. No matter what great good deed one may perform, even if he reads and transcribes the entirety of the Lotus Sutra a thousand or ten thousand times or masters the meditation to perceive ichinen sanzen, should he but fail to denounce the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, he will be unable to attain the Way. To illustrate, it is like the case of someone in the service of the imperial court. Even though he may have served for a decade or two, if he knows someone to be an enemy of the emperor but neither reports him to the throne nor feels personal enmity toward him, all the merit of his past services will be thereby negated, and he will instead be charged with a crime. You must understand that people of this age are slanderers of the Law. This represents the second [of the five guides for propagation].
 
The thousand years beginning from the day after the Buddha's passing are called the Former Day of the Law, a period when those who upheld the precepts were many, and people attained the Way. The thousand years of the Former Day are followed by the Middle Day of the Law, which also lasts a thousand years. During this period, many people broke the precepts and few attained the Way. The Middle Day is followed by the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law. During this period, people neither uphold the precepts nor break them; only those without precepts fill the country. Moreover, it is called a defiled age, an age rife with disorder. In an uncorrupted age, called a pure age, the wrong is discarded while the right is observed, just as crooked timber is planed according to the markings of a carpenter's line. During the Former and Middle Days of the Law, the five impurities begin to appear, and in the Latter Day, they are rampant. They rage not only like huge waves, whipped by a strong gale, battering the shore, but also like waves crashing one against another. [Among the five impurities,] the impurity of thought is such that, as the Former and Middle Days of the Law gradually pass, people transmit an insignificant heretical teaching while destroying the unfathomable True Law. It therefore follows that more people fall into the evil paths because of errors with respect to Buddhism than because of secular misdeeds.
 
Now the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law have already passed, and it has been more than two hundred years since the Latter Day began. Now is the time when, because the impurity of thought prevails, more people fall into the evil paths with the intention of creating good causes than they do by committing evil. As for evil acts, even ignorant people may recognize them for what they are, and refrain from committing them. This is like extinguishing a fire with water. But people think that good deeds are all equal in their goodness; thus they adhere to lesser good and do not realize that, in so doing, they bring about major evil. Therefore, even when they see sacred structures related to Dengyo, Jikaku and others that are neglected and in disrepair, they leave them as they are for the simple reason that they are not halls dedicated to the Nembutsu. Instead, they build Nembutsu halls beside those sacred structures, confiscate the lands that have been donated to them and offer them instead to the halls they have erected. According to a passage of the Zobo Ketsugi Sutra, such deeds will bring few benefits. You should understand from the above that even if one performs a good deed, should it be an act of lesser good that destroys great good, then it will cause one to fall into the evil paths.
 
The present age coincides with the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. Gone completely are those people with the capacity to attain enlightenment through either the Hinayana or provisional Mahayana sutras. There now remain only those whose capacity is suited solely to the true Mahayana sutras. A small boat cannot carry a large rock. Those who are evil or ignorant are like a large rock, while the Hinayana and provisional Mahayana sutras as well as the Nembutsu are like a small boat. If one tries to cure virulent sores with hot-spring baths, because the ailment is so serious, such mild treatment will be to no avail. For us in this defiled age of the Latter Day, embracing the Nembutsu and other teachings is like working rice paddies in winter; it does not suit the time. This represents the third [of the five guides for propagation].
 
One should also have a correct understanding of the country. People's minds differ according to their land. For example, a mandarin orange tree south of the Yangtze River becomes a triple-leaved orange tree if it is transplanted to the north of the Huai River. Even plants and trees, which have no mind, change with their location. How much more, then, must beings with minds differ according to the place!
 
A work by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang called Daito Saiiki Ki, or Record of the Western Regions, describes many countries in India. According to the nature of the country, there are countries whose inhabitants are undutiful to their parents, and others where people observe filial piety. In some countries, anger prevails, while in others, stupidity is rampant. There are countries devoted solely to Hinayana, others devoted solely to Mahayana, and still others where both Mahayana and Hinayana are pursued. There are countries wholly given over to the killing of living creatures, countries wholly given over to thieving, countries where rice abounds, and countries which produce much millet. So great is the variety of countries [in India].
 
Then, what teaching should our country of Japan learn if its people are to free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death? As for this question, the Lotus Sutra states, "After the passing of the Tathagata, I will cause this sutra to spread widely throughout the continent of Jambudvipa and never allow it to perish." This passage means that the Lotus is a sutra related to the people of Jambudvipa, the continent of the south. Bodhisattva Miroku said, "There is a small country in the eastern quarter whose people are related solely to the Mahayana." According to this passage from his treatise, within Jambudvipa, there is a small country in the eastern quarter where the capacity of the people is especially suited to the Mahayana sutra. Seng-chao in his commentary remarks, "This sutra is related to a small country in the northeast." This indicates that the Lotus Sutra has a connection to a country in the northeast. The Eminent Priest Annen states, "All in my country of Japan believe in the Mahayana." Eshin in his Ichijo Yoketsu says, "Throughout all Japan, all people share the same capacity to attain Buddhahood through the perfect teaching [of the Lotus Sutra]."
 
Thus, according to the opinions of my virtuous predecessors, such as Shakyamuni Buddha, Bodhisattva Miroku, the Tripitaka Master Shuryasoma, The Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva, the Dharma Teacher Seng-chao, the Eminent Priest Annen and the Supervisor of Monks Eshin, people in the country of Japan have a capacity suited solely to the Lotus Sutra. Those who put into practice even a phrase or a verse of this sutra are certain to attain the Way, for it is the teaching related to them. This may be likened to iron particles drawn by a magnet or dewdrops collecting on a mirror. Other good practices such as the Nembutsu are unrelated to our country. They are like a magnet that cannot attract iron or a mirror that is unable to gather dew. For this reason, Annen states in his interpretation, "If it is not the true vehicle, one is doubtless deceiving both oneself and others." This passages means that one who instructs the people of Japan in a teaching other than the Lotus Sutra is deceiving not only oneself but others, too. One therefore must always consider the country when propagating the Buddhist teachings. One should not assume that a teaching suited to one country must necessarily be suited to another as well. This constitutes the fourth [of the five guides for propagation].
 
Furthermore, in a country where Buddhism has already spread, one must also take into account the sequence of propagation. It is the rule in propagating Buddhism that one must always learn the characteristics of the teachings that have already spread. To illustrate, when giving medicine to a sick person, one should know what kind of medicine was administered before. Otherwise, different kinds of medicine may conflict and work against one another, killing the patient. Likewise, different teachings of Buddhism may conflict and interfere with each other, destroying the practitioner. In a country where non-Buddhist teachings have already spread, one should use Buddhism to refute them. For example, the Buddha appeared in India and defeated the Brahmans; Kashyapa Matanga and Chu-fa-lan went to China and attacked the Taoists; and Prince Jogu was born in the country of Japan and put Moriya to the sword.
 
The same principle applies in the realm of Buddhism itself. In a country where the Hinayana has spread, one must vanquish it by means of the Mahayana sutras, just as Bodhisattva Asanga refuted the Hinayana teachings upheld by Vasubandhu. In a country where provisional Mahayana has been propagated, one must conquer it with the true Mahayana, just as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai Chih-che defeated the three schools of southern China and the seven schools of northern China. As for the country of Japan, it has been more than four hundred years since the two sects of Tendai and Shingon have spread here. [During this period,] it has been determined that all four categories of Buddhists - priests, nuns, laymen and laywomen - have capacities suited to the Lotus Sutra. All people, whether good or evil, wise or ignorant, are endowed with the benefit of the fiftieth hearer. They are like the K'unlun Mountains, where no worthless stone is to be found, or the mountain island of P'eng-lai, where no harmful potion is known.
 
However, within the past fifty years or so, a man of flagrant slander named Honen appeared. He deceived all the people by showing them a stone that resembled a jewel and persuading them to discard the jewel they already possessed in favor of it. This is what the fifth volume of the Maka Shikan means when it refers to "treasuring tiles and pebbles and calling them bright jewels." All the people are clutching ordinary rocks in their hands, convinced that they are precious jewels. That is to say, they have discarded the Lotus Sutra to chant the name of Amida Buddha. But when I point this out, they become furious and revile the votary of the Lotus Sutra, thereby increasing all the more their karma to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Here I have explained the fifth [of the five guides for propagation].
 
You, heeding my assertion, discarded the Nembutsu and embraced the Lotus Sutra. But by now you must surely have reverted to being a follower of the Nembutsu. Remember that to discard the Lotus Sutra and become a believer in the Nembutsu is to be like a rock from a mountain peak hurtling down to the valley below, or like rain in the skies falling to the ground. There is no doubt that such a person will fall into the great Avichi Hell. Those related to the sons of Daitsu Buddha had to spend the duration of sanzen-jintengo, and those who received the seed of Buddhahood in the remote past, the length of gohyaku-jintengo, [in the evil paths]. This was because they met with very evil companions and discarded the Lotus Sutra, falling back to the provisional teachings such as the Nembutsu. As the members of your family seem to be Nembutsu adherents, they certainly must be urging it upon you. That is understandable, since they themselves believe in it. You should consider them, however, as people deluded by the followers of the diabolical Honen. Arouse strong faith, and do not heed what they say. It is the way of the great devil to assume the form of a venerable monk or to take possession of one's father, mother or brother in order to obstruct one's next life. Whatever they may say, no matter how cleverly they may try to deceive you into discarding the Lotus Sutra, do not assent to it.
 
Stop and consider. If the passages of proof [offered to support the claim] that the Nembutsu does in truth lead to rebirth in the Pure Land were reliable, then in the past twelve years during which I have been asserting that the Nembutsu believers will fall into the hell of incessant suffering, would they consistently have failed to refute me, no matter with whom they lodged their protests? Their contention must be feeble indeed! Teachings such as those left behind by Honen and Shan-tao have been known to me, Nichiren, since I was seventeen or eighteen. And the arguments that people put forth these days are no improvement.
 
Consequently, since their teachings are no match for mine, they resort to sheer force of numbers in trying to fight against me. Nembutsu believers number tens of millions, and their supporters are many. I Nichiren, am alone, without a single ally. It is amazing that I should have survived until now. This year, too, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, between the hours of the Monkey and the Cock (around 5:00 P.M.), on the highway called Matsubara in Tojo in the province of Awa. I was ambushed by hundreds of Nembutsu believers. I was alone except for about ten men accompanying me, only three or four of whom were capable of offering any resistance at all. Arrows fell on us like rain, and swords descended like lightning. One of my disciples was slain in a matter of a moment and two others were gravely wounded. I myself sustained cuts and blows, and it seemed that I was doomed. Yet, for some reason, my attackers failed to kill me; thus I have survived until now.
 
This has only strengthened my faith in the Lotus Sutra. The fourth volume [of the sutra] says, "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra bound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!" The fifth volume states, "The people will resent [the Lotus Sutra] and find it extremely difficult to believe." In the country of Japan there are many who read and study the Lotus Sutra. There are also many who are beaten in punishment for attempting to seduce other men's wives, or for theft or other offenses. Yet not one person has ever suffered injury on account of the Lotus Sutra. It is clear, therefore, that those Japanese who embrace the sutra have yet to experience the truth of the above sutra passages. I, Nichiren, alone have read the sutra with my entire being. This is the meaning of the passage that says, "We do not hold our own lives dear. We value only the supreme Way." I, Nichiren, am therefore the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan.
 
Should you depart from this life before I do, you should report to Bonten, Taishaku, the Four Great Heavenly Kings and Great King Emma. Declare yourself to be a disciple of the priest Nichiren, the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. Then they cannot possibly treat you discourteously. But if you should be of two minds, alternately chanting the Nembutsu and reciting the Lotus Sutra, and fear what other may say about you, then, even though you may identify yourself as Nichiren's disciple, they will never accept your word. [If that should happen,] do not resent me later. Yet, since the Lotus Sutra answers one's prayers for matters of this life as well, you may still survive your illness. In that case, I will by all means visit you as soon as possible and talk with you directly. Words cannot all be set down in a letter, and a letter will not adequately convey one's thoughts, so I will stop for now.
 
With my deep respect,

Nichiren
 
The thirteenth day of the twelfth month in the first year of Bun'ei (1264)
 
Establishment of the Legitimate Teaching for the Protection of the Country

- Rissho Ankoku Ron -

Once there was a traveler who spoke these words in sorrow to his host:
 
In recent years, there are unusual disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence, all affecting every corner of the empire and spreading throughout the land. Oxen and horses lie dead in the streets, the bones of the stricken crowd the highways. Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and in every family someone grieves.
 
All the while some put their whole faith in the "sharp sword" of the Buddha Amida and intone the name of this lord of the Western Land; others believe that hearing the name of the Buddha Yakushi will "heal all ills," and recite the sutra that describes this Thus Come One of the Eastern Region. Some, putting their trust in the passage in the Lotus Sutra that says, "His illness will be wiped out and he will know neither old age nor death," pay homage to the wonderful words of that sutra; others, relying upon the sutra passage that reads: "The seven disasters vanish, the seven blessings at once appear," conduct ceremonies at which a hundred priests expound the sutra at a hundred preaching platforms. There are those who follow the esoteric teachings of the Shingon sect and conduct rituals by filling five jars with water; and others who devote themselves entirely to seated meditation and try to perceive the emptiness of all phenomena as clearly as the moon. Some write out the names of the seven guardian spirits and paste them on a thousand gates, others paint pictures of the five mighty bodhisattvas and hang them over ten thousand thresholds, and still others pray to the heavenly gods and earthly deities in ceremonies conducted at the four corners of the capital and on the four boundaries of the nation. The rulers, taking pity on the plight of the common people, carry out government on the national and local levels in a benevolent manner.
 
But despite all these efforts, they merely exhaust themselves in vain. Famine and epidemics rage more fiercely than ever, beggars are everywhere in sight, and scenes of death fill our eyes. Corpses pile up in mounds like observation platforms, dead bodies lie side by side like planks on a bridge.
 
If we look about, we find that the sun and moon continue to move in their accustomed orbits, and the five planets follow the proper course. The three treasures of Buddhism continue to exist, and the period of a hundred reigns has not yet expired. Then why is it that the world has already fallen into decline and that the laws of the state have come to an end? What is wrong? What error has been committed?
 
The host then spoke: I have been brooding alone upon this matter, indignant in my heart, but now that you have come, we can lament together. Let us discuss the question at length.
 
When a man leaves family life and enters the Buddhist way, it is because he hopes to attain Buddhahood through the teachings of the Buddha. But attempts now to move the gods fail to have any effect, and appeals to the power of the Buddhas produce no results. When I observe carefully the state of the world today, I see people who give way to doubt because of the lack of understanding [on the part of eminent priests]. They look up at the heavens and mouth their resentment, or gaze down at the earth and sink deep into anxiety.
 
I have pondered the matter carefully with what limited resources I possess, and have searched rather widely in the scriptures for an answer. The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right; to a man, they give their allegiance to evil. This is the reason that the benevolent deities have abandoned the nation and departed together, that sages leave and do not return. And in their stead come devils and demons, disasters and calamities that arise one after another. I cannot keep silent on this matter. I cannot suppress my fears.
 
The guest said: These disasters that befall the empire, these calamities of the nation -- I am not the only one pained by them; the whole populace is weighed down with sorrow. Now I have been privileged to enter your home and to listen to these enlightening words of yours. You speak of the gods and sages taking leave and of disasters and calamities arising side by side -- upon what sutras do you base your views? Could you describe for me the passages of proof?
 
The host said: There are numerous passages that could be cited and a wide variety of proofs. For example, in the Konkomyo Sutra we read: "[The Four Heavenly Kings said to the Buddha,] ‘Though this sutra exists in the nation, its ruler has never allowed it to be propagated. In his heart he turns away from it, and he takes no pleasure in hearing its teachings. He does not make offerings to it, honor or praise it. Nor is he willing to honor or make offerings to the four kinds of Buddhists who embrace the sutra. In the end, he makes it impossible for us and the countless other heavenly beings who are our followers to hear this profound and wonderful teaching. He deprives us of the sweet dew of its words and cuts us off from the flow of the correct teaching, so that our majesty and strength are drained away. Thus the number of beings who occupy the evil paths increases and the number who dwell in the human and heavenly realms decreases. People fall into the river of the suffering of birth and death and turn their backs on the road to nirvana.
 
" ‘World-Honored One, we, the Four Heavenly Kings, as well as our various followers and the yakshas and other beings, observing this state of affairs, have decided to abandon this nation, for we have no heart to protect it. And it is not we alone who cast aside this ruler. All the great benevolent deities who guard and watch over the countless different regions of the country will also invariably reject him. And once we and the others abandon and desert this nation, then many different types of disasters will occur in the country and the ruler will fall from power. Not a single person in the entire population will possess a heart of goodness; there will be nothing but binding and enslaving, killing and injuring, anger and contention. Men will slander each other or fawn upon one another, and the laws will be twisted until even the innocent are made to suffer. Pestilence will become rampant, comets will appear again and again, two suns will come forth side by side and eclipses will occur with unaccustomed frequency. Black arcs and white arcs will span the sky as harbingers of ill fortune, stars will fall, the earth will shake, and noises will issue from the wells. Torrential rains and violent winds will come out of season, there will be constant famine, and grains and fruits will not ripen. Marauders from many other regions will invade and plunder the nation, the people will suffer all manner of pain and affliction, and there will be no place where one may live in safety.’"
 
The Daijuku Sutra says: "When the teachings of the Buddha truly become obscured and lost, then people will all let their beards, hair and fingernails grow long, and the laws of the world will be forgotten and ignored. At that time, loud noises will sound in the air and the earth will shake; everything in the world will begin to move as though it were a waterwheel. City walls will split and tumble, and all houses and dwellings will collapse. Roots, branches, leaves, petals and fruits will lose their medicinal properties. With the exception of the heavens of purity, all the regions of the world of desire will become deprived of the seven flavors and the three kinds of vitality, until not a trace of them remains any more. All the good discourses that lead people to emancipation will at this time disappear. The flowers and fruits that grow in the earth will become few and will lose their flavor and sweetness. The wells, springs and ponds will all go dry, the land everywhere will turn brackish and will crack open and warp into hillocks and gullies. All the mountains will be swept by fire and the heavenly beings and dragons will no longer send down rain. The seedlings of the crops will all wither and die, all the living plants will perish, and even the weeds will cease to grow any more. Dust will rain down until all is darkness and the sun and the moon no longer shed their light.
 
"All the four directions will be afflicted by drought, and evil omens will appear again and again. The ten evil acts will increase greatly, particularly greed, anger and stupidity, and people will think no more of their fathers and mothers than does the roe deer. Living beings will decline in numbers, in longevity, physical strength, dignity and enjoyment. They will become estranged from the delights of the human and heavenly realms and all will fall into the paths of evil. The wicked rulers and monks who perform these ten evil acts will curse and destroy my correct teaching and make it difficult for those in the human and heavenly realms to stay there. At that time the benevolent deities and heavenly kings, who would ordinarily take pity on living beings, will abandon this impure and evil nation and all will make their way to other regions."
 
The Ninno Sutra states: "When a nation becomes disordered, it is the spirits which first show signs of rampancy. Because the spirits become rampant, all the people of the nation become disordered. Invaders come to plunder the country and the common people face annihilation. The ruler, the high ministers, the crown prince, the other princes and the hundred officials all quarrel with each other over right and wrong. Heaven and earth manifest prodigies and strange occurrences; the twenty-eight constellations, the stars, the sun and the moon appear at irregular times and in irregular positions, and numerous outlaws rise up."
 
The same sutra also states: "Now when I use the five types of vision to clearly perceive the three existences, I see that all the kings in their past existences served five hundred Buddhas, and that is the reason that they were able to become emperors and sovereigns. And that also is the reason that all the various sages and arhats are born in their nations and bring great benefits. But if a time should come when the good fortune of these rulers runs out, then all the sages will abandon them and depart. And once the sages have departed, then the seven disasters are certain to arise."
 
The Yakushi Sutra states: "If disasters and calamities should befall members of the ruling Kshatriya class and anointed kings, such disasters will be as follows: the calamity of disease and pestilence among the populace; the calamity of invasion and plunder from foreign lands; the calamity of revolt within one’s own domain; the calamity of irregularities and strange occurrences among the stars and constellations; the calamity of eclipses of the sun and moon; the calamity of unseasonable wind and rain; and the calamity of rain that fails to fall even when the season for it has come and gone."
 
In the Ninno Sutra, [the Buddha addresses King Prasenajit in these words]: "Great King, the region where my teachings now hold sway consists of one billion Sumeru worlds with one billion suns and moons. Each of these Sumeru worlds comprises four continents. In the southern continent of Jambudvipa, there are sixteen major countries, five hundred middle-sized countries, and ten thousand small countries. In these countries, there are seven types of fearful disasters that may occur. All the rulers of these countries agree that these are indeed disasters. What, then, are these disasters?
 
"When the sun and moon depart from their regular courses, when the seasons come in the wrong order, when a red sun or a black sun appears, when two, three, four or five suns appear at the same time, when the sun is eclipsed and loses its light, or when one, two, three, four or five coronas appear around the sun, this is the first disaster.
 
"When the twenty-eight constellations do not move in their regular courses, when the Metal Star, the Broom Star, the Wheel Star, the Demon Star, the Fire Star, the Water Star, the Wind Star, the Ladle Star, the Southern Dipper, the Northern Dipper, the great stars of the Five Garrisons, and all the many stars that govern the ruler, the three high ministers and the hundred other officials -- when each of these stars manifests some peculiar behavior, this is the second disaster.
 
"When huge fires consume the nation and the people are all burned to death, or when there are outbreaks of demon fire, dragon fire, heavenly fire, mountain god fire, human fire, tree fire or bandit fire -- when these prodigies appear, this is the third disaster.
 
"When huge floods drown the population, when the seasons come out of order and there is rain in winter, snow in summer, thunder and lightning in the winter season, and ice, frost and hail in the sixth month, when red, black or green rain falls, when mountains of dirt and stones come raining down, or when it rains dust, sand or gravel, when the rivers and streams run backward, when mountains are afloat and boulders are washed away-when freakish happenings of this kind occur, this is the fourth disaster.
 
"When huge winds blow the people to their death and the lands, the mountains and rivers and the trees and forests are all at one time wiped out, when great winds come out of season or when black winds, red winds, green winds, heavenly winds, earthly winds, fire winds and water winds blow -- when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the fifth disaster.
 
"When heaven and earth and the whole country are stricken by terrible heat so that the air seems to be on fire, when the hundred plants wither and the five kinds of grain fail to ripen, when the earth is red and scorched and the inhabitants all perish-when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the sixth disaster.
 
"When enemies rise up on all four sides and invade the nation, when rebels appear in the capital and the outlying regions, when there are fire bandits, water bandits, wind bandits and demon bandits, and the population is subjected to devastation and disorder, and fighting and plundering break out everywhere-when prodigies of this type occur, this is the seventh disaster."
 
The Daijuku Sutra says: "Though the ruler of a state may have for countless existences in the past practiced the giving of alms, observed the precepts and cultivated wisdom, if he sees that my teaching is in danger of perishing and stands idly by without doing anything to protect it, then all the inestimable roots of goodness that he has planted through the practices just mentioned will be entirely wiped out, and his country will become the scene of three inauspicious occurrences. The first is high grain prices, the second is warfare, and the third is epidemics. All the benevolent deities will abandon the country, and although the king may issue commands, the people will not obey them. The country will constantly be invaded and vexed by neighboring nations. Violent fires will rage out of control, fierce winds and rains will abound, the waters will swell and overflow, and the inhabitants will be blown about by winds or swept away by floods. The paternal and maternal relatives of the ruler will join in plotting revolt. Before long, the ruler will fall gravely ill, and after his life has come to an end, he will be reborn in the great hell.... And the same fate will befall the ruler’s consort, his heir, the high ministers of the state, the lords of cities, the village heads and generals, the magistrates of districts, and the government officials."
 
The passages I have quoted from these four sutras are perfectly clear -- what person in ten thousand could possibly doubt their meaning? And yet the blind and the deluded recklessly trust to heretical doctrines and fail to recognize the correct teachings. Therefore, throughout the empire these days people are inclined to turn away from the Buddhas and the sutras and no longer endeavor to protect them. Because of this, the benevolent deities and sages abandon the nation and leave their accustomed places. As a result, demons and followers of heretical doctrines create disaster and inflict calamity upon the populace.
 
The guest thereupon flushed with anger and said: Emperor Ming of the Later Han dynasty, having comprehended the significance of his dream of a golden man, welcomed the teachings [of Buddhism] brought by white horses. Prince Jogu, having subjugated the rebellion of Moriya, [an opponent of Buddhism,] proceeded to construct temples and pagodas. Since that time, from the ruler down to the common people, all have worshipped the Buddha images and devoted their attention to the scriptures. As a result, in the monasteries of Mount Hiei, and of the southern capital at Nara, at the temples of Onjo-ji and To-ji, throughout the land within the four seas, in the five provinces of the capital area and the seven marches, Buddha images and Buddhist scriptures have been ranged like stars in the sky and halls of worship have spread over the land like clouds. Those who belong to the lineage of Shariputra meditate on the moon atop Eagle Peak, while those who adhere to the traditions of Haklenayashas transmit the teachings of Mount Kukkutapada. How, then, can anyone say that the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime are despised or that the three treasures of Buddhism have ceased to exist? If there is evidence to support such a contention, I would like to hear all the facts!
 
The host, anxious to clarify his words, replied: To be sure, Buddhist halls stand rooftop to rooftop and sutra storehouses are ranged eave to eave. Priests are as numerous as bamboo plants and rushes, monks as common as rice and hemp seedlings. The temples and priests have been honored from centuries past, and every day respect is paid them anew. But the monks and priests today are fawning and devious, and they confuse the people and lead them astray. The ruler and his subjects lack understanding and fail to distinguish between the heretical and the correct.
 
The Ninno Sutra, for example, says: "Evil monks, hoping to gain fame and profit, in many cases appear before the ruler, the crown prince or the other princes and take it upon themselves to preach doctrines that lead to the violation of the Buddhist Law and the destruction of the nation. The ruler, failing to perceive the truth of the situation, listens to and puts faith in such doctrines, and proceeds to create regulations that are perverse in nature and that do not accord with the rules of Buddhist discipline. In this way he brings about the destruction of Buddhism and of the nation."
 
The Nirvana Sutra states: "Bodhisattvas, have no fear of mad elephants. What you should fear are evil friends! 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 Lotus Sutra says:
 
In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart. Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement, who will claim they are practicing the true way, despising and looking down on all humankind. Greedy for profit and support, they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers…. Because in the midst of the great assembly they constantly try to defame us, they will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, as well as the other monks, slandering and speaking evil of us, saying, "These are men of perverted views who preach non-Buddhist doctrines!"
 
In a muddied kalpa, in an evil age there will be many things to fear. Evil demons will take possession of others and through them curse, revile and heap shame on us…. The evil monks of that muddied age, failing to understand the Buddha’s expedient means, how he preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; again and again we will be banished.
 
The Nirvana Sutra says: "After I have passed away and countless hundreds of years have gone by, the sages of the four stages too will have all passed away. After the Former Day of the Law has ended and the Middle Day of the Law has begun, there will be monks who will give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline. But they will scarcely ever read or recite the sutras, and instead will crave all kinds of food and drink to nourish their bodies. Though they wear the clothes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who, narrowing their eyes, stalk softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice. And constantly they will reiterate these words: ‘I have attained arhatship!’ Outwardly they will seem to be wise and good, but within they will harbor greed and jealousy. [And when they are asked to preach the teachings,] they will remain silent, like Brahmans who have taken a vow of silence. They are not true monks -- they merely have the appearance of monks. Consumed by their erroneous views, they slander the correct teaching."
 
When we look at the world in the light of these passages of scripture, we see that the situation is just as they describe it. If we do not admonish the evil priests, how can we hope to do good?
 
The guest, growing more indignant than ever, said: A wise monarch, by acting in accord with heaven and earth, perfects his rule; a sage, by distinguishing between right and wrong, brings order to the world. The monks and priests of the world today enjoy the confidence of the entire empire. If they were in fact evil monks, then the wise ruler would put no trust in them. If they were not true sages, then worthies and learned men would not look up to them. But now, since worthies and sages do in fact honor and respect them, they must be nothing less than paragons of their kind. Why then do you pour out these wild accusations and dare to slander them? To whom are you referring when you speak of "evil monks"? I would like an explanation!
 
The host said: At the time of the Retired Emperor Gotoba there was a priest named Honen who wrote a work entitled the Senchaku shu or The Nembutsu Chosen above All. He contradicted the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime and brought confusion to people in every direction. The Senchaku shu states: "Regarding the passage in which the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o distinguished between the Sacred Way teachings and the Pure Land teachings and urged people to abandon the former and immediately embrace the latter: First of all, there are two kinds of Sacred Way teachings, [the Mahayana and the Hinayana].... Judging from this, we may assume that the esoteric Mahayana doctrines and the true Mahayana teachings are both included in the Sacred Way. If that is so, then the present-day sects of Shingon, Zen, Tendai, Kegon, Sanron, Hosso, Jiron and Shoron -- all these eight schools are included in the Sacred Way that is to be abandoned.
 
"The Dharma Teacher T’an-luan in his Ojo ron chu states: ‘I note that Bodhisattva Nagarjuna’s Jujubibasha ron says: "There are two ways by which the bodhisattva may reach the state of avaivartika or non-retrogression. One is the difficult-to-practice way, the other is the easy-to-practice way."
 
"The difficult-to-practice way is the same as the Sacred Way, and the easy-to-practice way is the Pure Land Way. Students of the Pure Land sect should first of all understand this point. Though they may previously have studied teachings belonging to the Sacred Way, if they wish to become followers of the Pure Land teachings, they must discard the Sacred Way and give their allegiance to the Pure Land teachings."
 
Honen also says: "Regarding the passage in which Priest Shan-tao distinguished between correct and sundry practices and urged people to abandon the sundry practices and embrace the correct practices: Concerning the first of the sundry practices, that of reading and reciting sutras, with the exception of the recitation of the Kammuryoju Sutra and the other Pure Land sutras, the embracing, reading and recitation of all sutras, whether Mahayana or Hinayana, exoteric or esoteric, is to be regarded as a sundry practice.... Concerning the third of the sundry practices, that of worshipping, with the exception of worshipping the Buddha Amida, the worshipping or honoring of any of the other Buddhas, bodhisattvas or deities of this world is to be regarded as a sundry practice.... In the light of his statement, I declare that one should abandon such sundry practices and concentrate upon the practice of the Pure Land teachings. What reason would we have to abandon the correct practices of the Pure Land teachings, which insure that, out of a hundred persons, all one hundred will be reborn in the Pure Land, and cling instead to the various sundry practices and procedures, which could not save even one person in a thousand? Followers of the Way should ponder this carefully!"
 
Honen further states: "In the Jogen nyuzo roku44 or Chen-yuan Era Catalogue of the Buddhist Canon we find it recorded that, from the 600 volumes of the Daihannya Sutra to the Hojoju Sutra, the exoteric and esoteric sutras of Mahayana or the great vehicle total 637 works in 2,883 volumes. The phrase [from the Kammuryoju Sutra] of ‘reading and reciting the great vehicle’ should be applied to all these works. You should understand that, when the Buddha was preaching according to the capacity of his various listeners, he for a time taught the two methods of concentrated meditation and unconcentrated meditation. But later, when he revealed his own enlightenment, he ceased to teach these two methods. The only teaching that, once revealed, shall never cease to be taught is the single doctrine of the Nembutsu."
 
Honen also states: "Regarding the passage which says that the practitioner of the Nembutsu must possess three kinds of mind : It is found in the Kammuryoju Sutra. In his commentary on that sutra, [Shan-tao says:] ‘Someone may ask: "If there are those who differ in understanding and practice from the followers of the Nembutsu, persons of heretical and mistaken belief, [how should we confront them?]" I will now make certain that their perverse and differing views will not cause trouble. These persons of evil views with different understanding and different practices are compared to a band of robbers who call back the traveler who has already gone one or two steps along his journey.’ In my opinion, when this commentary speaks of different understanding, different practices, varying doctrines and varying beliefs, they are referring to the teachings of the Sacred Way."
 
Finally, in a concluding passage, Honen says: "If one wishes to escape quickly from the sufferings of birth and death, one should confront these two superior teachings and then proceed to put aside the teachings of the Sacred Way and choose those of the Pure Land. And if one wishes to follow the teachings of the Pure Land, one should confront the correct and sundry practices and then proceed to abandon all of the sundry practices and devote one’s entire attention to the correct practices."
 
When we examine these passages, we see that Honen quotes the erroneous explanations of T’an-luan, Tao-ch’o and Shan-tao, and establishes the categories-the Sacred Way and Pure Land teachings, the difficult-to-practice and easy-to-practice ways. He then takes all the 637 works in 2,883 volumes that comprise the Mahayana sutras of the Buddha’s lifetime, including those of the Lotus Sutra and Shingon, along with all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deities of this world, and assigns them all to the categories of the Sacred Way teachings, the difficult-to-practice way and the sundry practices, and urges people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. With these four injunctions, he leads all people astray. And on top of that, he groups together all the sage monks of the three countries [of India, China and Japan] as well as the students of Buddhism of the ten directions, and calls them a "band of robbers," causing the people to insult them!
 
In doing so, he turns his back on the passage in the three Pure Land sutras, the sutras of his own sect, which contains Amida’s vow to save the people "excepting only those who commit the five cardinal sins or who slander the correct teaching." At the same time, he shows that he fails to understand the warning contained in the second volume of the Lotus Sutra, the heart and core of the entire body of teachings the Buddha expounded in the five periods of his preaching life, which reads: "If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra. . . When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell."
 
And now we have come to this latter age, when people are no longer sages. Each enters his own dark road, and all alike forget the direct way. How pitiful that no one cures them of their blindness! How painful to see them vainly lending encouragement to these false beliefs! And as a result, everyone from the ruler of the nation down to the common people believes that there are no true sutras outside the three Pure Land sutras, and no Buddhas other than the Buddha Amida with his two attendants.
 
Once there were men like Dengyo, Gishin, Jikaku and Chisho who journeyed ten thousand miles across the waves to China to acquire the sacred teachings, and there visited the mountains and rivers to pay reverence to Buddhist statues [and carry them back]. In some cases they built holy temples on the peaks of high mountains in which to preserve those scriptures and statues; in other cases they constructed sacred halls in the bottoms of deep valleys where such objects could be worshipped and honored. As a result, the Buddhas Shakyamuni and Yakushi shone side by side, casting their influence upon present and future ages, while the bodhisattvas Kokuzo and Jizo brought benefit to the living and the dead. The rulers of the nation contributed districts or villages so that the lamps might continue to burn bright before the images, while the stewards of the great estates gave their fields and gardens as an offering.
 
But because of this book by Honen, this Senchaku shu, the lord of teachings, Shakyamuni, is forgotten and all honor is paid to Amida, the Buddha of the Western Land. The transmission of the Law [from Shakyamuni Buddha] is ignored, and Yakushi, the Buddha of the Eastern Region, is neglected. All attention is paid to the three Pure Land sutras in four volumes, and all the other wonderful scriptures that Shakyamuni expounded throughout the five periods of his preaching life are cast aside. If temples are not dedicated to Amida, then people no longer have any desire to support them or pay honor to the Buddhas enshrined there; if monks are not practitioners of the Nembutsu, then people quickly forget all about giving those monks alms. As a result, the halls of the Buddha fall into ruin, scarcely a wisp of smoke rises above their moss-covered roof tiles; and the monks’ quarters stand empty and dilapidated, the dew deep on the grasses in their courtyards. And in spite of such conditions, no one gives a thought to protecting the Law or to restoring the temples. Hence the sage monks who once presided over the temples leave and do not return, and the benevolent deities who guarded the nation depart and no longer appear. This has all come about because of this Senchaku shu of Honen. How pitiful to think that, in the space of a few decades, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people have been deluded by these devilish teachings and in so many cases confused as to the true teachings of Buddhism. If people favor what is only incidental and forget what is primary, can the benevolent deities be anything but angry? If people cast aside what is perfect and take up what is biased, can the world escape the plots of demons? Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil [doctrine] that is the source of all the trouble!
 
This time the guest was truly enraged and said: In the ages since our original teacher, the Buddha Shakyamuni, preached the three Pure Land sutras, the Dharma Teacher T’an-luan had originally studied the four treatises but abandoned them and put all his faith in the Pure Land teachings. Similarly, the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o ceased to spread the multifarious doctrines of the Nirvana Sutra and devoted all his attention to propagating the practice that leads one to the western Pure Land. Priest Shan-tao discarded the sundry practices and established the single practice of the Nembutsu, and the supervisor of monks Eshin collected essential passages from various sutras to form his work, making the single practice of the Nembutsu the essence of his teaching. Such was the manner in which these men honored and respected the Buddha Amida, and uncountable numbers of people as a result were able to gain rebirth in the Pure Land.
 
Of particular note was the sage Honen, who as a child entered the monastery on Mount Hiei. By the time he was seventeen, he had worked his way through all sixty volumes of Tendai literature and had investigated all the eight sects and mastered their essentials. In addition, he had read through the entire body of sutras and treatises seven times, and exhausted all the works of exegesis and biography. His wisdom shone like the sun and moon, and his virtue exceeded that of the earlier teachers.
 
In spite of all this, he was in doubt as to the proper path to emancipation and could not make out the true meaning of nirvana. Therefore he read and examined all the texts he could, pondered deeply and considered every possibility, and in the end put aside all the sutras and concentrated on the single practice of the Nembutsu. In addition, he received confirmation of his decision when Shan-tao miraculously appeared to him in a dream , and he proceeded to spread his doctrines among friends and strangers in all four corners of the land. Thereafter, he was hailed as a reincarnation of Bodhisattva Seishi, or was revered as Shan-tao reborn. In every quarter people of eminent and lowly birth alike bowed their heads in respect, and men and women from all over Japan sought him.
 
Since that time, the springs and autumns have succeeded each other and the years have accumulated. And yet you insist upon putting aside the venerable teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha [contained in the Pure Land sutras] and willfully speak evil of the passage describing the oath of the Buddha Amida. Why do you try to blame the sacred age of Honen for the disasters of recent years, going out of your way to slander the former teachers of Pure Land doctrines and to heap abuse on the sage Honen? You are, as the saying goes, deliberately blowing back the fur and hunting for flaws in the leather, deliberately piercing the skin in hopes of drawing blood. From ancient times to the present, the world has never seen such a speaker of evil! You had better learn a little caution and restraint. When you pile up such grave offenses, how can you hope to escape punishment? I am afraid even to sit here in your company. I must take up my staff and be on my way!
 
The host, smiling, restrained his guest and said: Insects that live on smartweed forget how bitter it tastes; those who stay long in privies forget how foul the smell is. Here you listen to my good words and think them wicked, point to a slanderer of the Law and call him a sage, mistrust a correct teacher and take him for an evil monk. Your confusion is great indeed, and your offense anything but light. Listen to my explanation of how this confusion arose and let us discuss the matter in detail.
 
Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the five periods of doctrines, established the order in which they were preached, and divided them into the provisional and the true teachings. But T’an-luan, Tao-ch’o and Shan-tao embraced the provisional teachings and forgot about the true ones, went by what had been taught in the earlier period of the Buddha’s life and discarded what was taught later. They were not the kind of men who delve into the deep places of Buddhist doctrine.
 
Honen in particular, though he followed the practices advocated by these earlier men, was ignorant as to the source from whence they came. How do we know this? Because he lumped together all the 637 Mahayana scriptures in 2,883 volumes, and along with them all the various Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the deities of this world, and urged people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them, with these four injunctions corrupting the hearts of all people. Thus he poured out perverted words of his own invention and took absolutely no cognizance of the explanations put forth in the Buddhist scriptures. His is the worst kind of baseless talk, a clear case of defamation. There are no words to describe it, no way to censure it that is not too mild. And yet people all put faith in this baseless talk of his, and without exception pay honor to his Senchaku shu. As a consequence, they revere the three sutras of the Pure Land and cast all the other sutras aside; they look up to one Buddha alone, Amida of the Land of Perfect Bliss, and forget about the other Buddhas. A man such as Honen is in truth the archenemy of the Buddhas and the scriptures, and the foe of sage monks and ordinary men and women alike. And now his heretical teachings have spread throughout the eight regions of the country; they have penetrated every one of the ten directions.
 
You became quite horrified when I blamed an earlier period for the disasters that have occurred in recent years. Perhaps I should cite a few examples from the past to show you that you are mistaken in your feelings.
 
The second volume of the Maka shikan quotes a passage from the Shih chi or Records of the Historian which says: "In the closing years of the Chou dynasty, there were persons who let their hair hang down, went about naked to the waist, and did not observe the rites and regulations." The Guketsu, in the second volume, explains this passage by quoting from the Tso chuan or Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals as follows: "When King P’ing of the Chou first moved his capital to the east, he saw men by the Yi River who let their hair hang down and performed sacrifices in the fields. Someone who had great understanding said: ‘In less than a hundred years the dynasty will fall, for the rites are already neglected.’ "From this it is evident that the portent appears first, and later the disaster itself comes about.
 
[The Maka shikan passage goes on to say:] "Juan Chi was a man of extraordinary talent, but he let his hair grow like a mass of brambles and left his belt undone. Later, the sons of the aristocracy all imitated him, until those who behaved in a churlish and insulting manner were thought to be acting quite naturally, and those who were restrained and proper in their behavior were ridiculed as mere peasants. This was a sign that the Ssu-ma family [the rulers of the Western Chin dynasty] would meet with their downfall."
 
Similarly, the Nitto junrei ki or Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law by the Great Teacher Jikaku records that in the first year of the Hui-ch’ang era (841), Emperor Wu-tsung of the T’ang dynasty commanded the priest Ching-shuang of Chang-ching-ssu temple to transmit the Nembutsu teachings of the Buddha Amida in the various temples. Ching-shuang spent three days in each temple, going about from one temple to another without ever ceasing.
 
In the second year of the same era, soldiers from the land of the Uighurs invaded the borders of the T’ang empire. In the third year of the same era, the regional commander in the area north of the Yellow River suddenly raised a revolt. Later, the kingdom of Tibet once more refused to obey orders from China, and the Uighurs repeatedly seized Chinese territory. On the whole, the conflicts and uprisings were like those that prevailed at the time when the Ch’in dynasty and the military leader Hsiang Yu were overthrown, and the towns and villages were devastated by fire and other disasters. What was even worse, Emperor Wu-tsung carried out a vast campaign to wipe out Buddhist teachings and destroyed a great many temples and monasteries. He was never able to put down the uprisings, and died in agony shortly after. (This is the essence of Jikaku’s original passage.)
 
In view of these events, we should consider the fact that Honen lived in the time of the Retired Emperor Gotoba, around the Kennin era (1201-1204). And what happened to the retired emperor is evident before our very eyes. Thus T’ang China provided an earlier example of the fall of an emperor, and our own country offers similar proof. You should neither doubt this nor consider it strange. The only thing to do now is to abandon the evil ways and take up those that are good, to cut off this affliction at the source, to cut it off at the root!
 
The guest, looking somewhat mollified, said: Though I have not yet probed deeply into the matter, I believe I understand to some degree what you are saying. Nevertheless, throughout the area from Kyoto, the capital, to Kamakura, the headquarters of the shogun, there are numerous eminent Buddhist leaders and key figures in the clergy. And yet none of them has so far appealed to the shogun concerning this affair or submitted a memorial to the throne. You, on the other hand, a person of humble position, think nothing of spewing out offensive accusations.
 
Your assertion goes too far and your behavior is unreasonable.
 
The host said: Though I may be a person of little ability, I have reverently given myself to the study of the Mahayana. A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines around the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet. I was born as the son of the one Buddha, Shakyamuni, and I serve the king of scriptures, the Lotus Sutra. How could I observe the decline of the Buddhist Law and not be filled with emotions of pity and distress?
 
Moreover, the Nirvana Sutra states: "If even a good monk sees someone destroying the teaching and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then you should realize that that monk is betraying the Buddha’s teaching. But if he ousts the destroyer of the Law, reproaches him or punishes him, then he is my disciple and a true voice-hearer."
 
Although I may not be a "good monk," I certainly do not want to be accused of "betraying the Buddha’s teaching." Therefore, in order to avoid such charges, I have cited a few general principles and given a rough explanation of the matter.
 
Earlier, in the Gennin era (1224-1225), petitions to the throne were submitted time and again by the two temples of Enryaku-ji and Kofuku-ji. And as a result an imperial command and a letter of instruction from the shogunate were handed down, ordering that the woodblocks used in printing Honen’s Senchaku shu be confiscated and brought to the Great Lecture Hall of Enryaku-ji. There they were burned in order to repay the debt owed to the Buddhas of the three existences. In addition, orders were given that the menials who are attached to the Kanjin-in Shrine should dig up and destroy Honen’s grave. Then, Honen’s disciples Ryukan, Shoko, Jokaku, Sassho and others were condemned by the imperial court to exile in distant regions, and were never pardoned.
 
In view of these facts, how can you say that no one has submitted a complaint to the authorities concerning these matters?
 
The guest, continuing to speak in a mild manner, replied: One could hardly say that Honen is the only one who disparages sutras and speaks ill of other priests, [since you do the same thing yourself]. However, it is true that he takes the 637 Mahayana scriptures in 2,883 volumes, along with all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the deities of this world, and urges people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. There is no doubt that these four injunctions are his very words; the meaning of the passage is quite clear. But you keep harping on this one little "flaw in the jewel" and severely slandering him for it. I do not know whether he spoke out of delusion or out of true enlightenment. Between you and Honen, I cannot tell which is wise and which is foolish, or determine whose assertions are right and whose are wrong.
 
However, you assert that all the recent disasters are to be traced to the Senchaku shu, speaking quite volubly on that point and elaborating on the meaning of your assertion. Now surely the peace of the world and the stability of the nation are sought by both ruler and subject and desired by all the inhabitants of the country. The nation achieves prosperity through the Buddhist Law, and the Law is proven worthy of reverence by the people who embrace it. If the nation is destroyed and the people are wiped out, then who will continue to pay reverence to the Buddhas? Who will continue to have faith in the Law? Therefore one must first of all pray for the safety of the nation and then work to establish the Buddhist Law. Now if you know of any means whereby disasters can be prevented and troubles brought to an end, I would like to hear about it.
 
The host said: There is no doubt that I am the foolish one -- I would never dare claim to be wise. However, I would just like to quote some passages from the scriptures and offer some brief thoughts. Concerning the means for insuring order in the nation, there are numerous passages in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts, and it would be difficult to cite them all here. Since taking up the study of Buddhism, however, I have frequently given thought to this matter, and it seems to me that prohibiting those who slander the Law and paying respect to the followers of the correct way is the best way to assure stability within the nation and peace in the world at large.
 
In the Nirvana Sutra we read: "The Buddha said, ‘With the exception of one type of person, you may offer alms to all kinds of persons and everyone will praise you’"
 
"Chunda said, ‘What do you mean when you speak of "one type of person"?'
 
"The Buddha replied, ‘I mean the type described in this sutra as violators of the precepts.’
 
"Chunda spoke again, saying, ‘I am afraid I still do not understand. May I ask you to explain further?’
 
"The Buddha addressed Chunda, saying: ‘By violators of the precepts I mean the icchantika. In the case of all other types of persons, you may offer alms, everyone will praise you, and you will achieve great rewards.’
 
"Chunda spoke once more, asking, ‘What is the meaning of the term icchantika?’
 
"The Buddha said, ‘Chunda, suppose there should be monks or nuns, lay men or women who speak careless and evil words and slander the correct teaching, and that they should go on committing these grave acts without ever showing any inclination to reform or any sign of repentance in their hearts. Persons of this kind I would say are following the path of the icchantika.’
 
"Again there may be those who commit the four grave offenses or are guilty of the five cardinal sins, and who, though aware that they are guilty of serious faults, from the beginning have no trace of fear or contrition in their hearts or, if they do, give no outward sign of it. When it comes to the correct teaching, they show no inclination to protect, treasure and establish it over the ages, but rather speak of it with malice and contempt, their words replete with error. Persons of this kind too I would say are following the path of the icchantika. With the exception of this one group of people called icchantika, however, you may offer alms to all others and everyone will praise you.’ "
 
Elsewhere in the same sutra, the Buddha spoke in these words: "When I recall the past, I remember that I was the king of a great state in this continent of Jambudvipa. My name was Sen’yo, and I loved and venerated the great vehicle scriptures. My heart was pure and good and had no trace of evil, jealousy or stinginess. Good men, at that time I cherished the great vehicle teachings in my heart. When I heard the Brahmans slandering these correct and equal sutras, I had them put to death on the spot. Good men, as a result of that action, I never thereafter fell into hell."
 
In another passage it says: "In the past, when the Thus Come One was the ruler of a nation and practiced the way of the bodhisattva, he put to death a number of Brahmans."
 
Again it says: "There are three degrees of killings: the lower, middle and upper degrees. The lower degree constitutes the killing of any humble being, from an ant to any of the various kinds of animals. But the killing of an animal into which a bodhisattva has deliberately chosen to be born [to help other living beings] is excluded. As a result of a killing of the lower degree, one will fall into the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals, and will suffer all the pains appropriate to a killing of the lower degree. Why should this be? Because even the animals and other humble beings possess the roots of goodness, insignificant though those roots may be. That is why a person who kills such a being must suffer full retribution for his offense.
 
"Killing any person from an ordinary mortal to an anagamin constitutes what is termed the middle degree. As a consequence of such an act of killing, one will fall into the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals, and will suffer all the pains appropriate to a killing of the middle degree. The upper degree of killing refers to the killing of a parent, an arhat, a pratyekabuddha or a bodhisattva who has reached the stage of non-retrogression. For such a crime one will fall into the great Avichi hell. Good men, if someone were to kill an icchantika, that killing would not fall into any of the three categories just mentioned. Good men, the various Brahmans that I have said were put to death -- all of them were in fact icchantikas."
 
In the Ninno Sutra we read: "The Buddha announced to King Prasenajit, ‘Thus I entrust the protection of my teachings to the ruler of the nation rather than to the monks and nuns. Why do I do so? Because they do not possess the kind of power and authority that the king has."’
 
The Nirvana Sutra states: "Now I entrust the correct teaching, which is unexcelled, to the rulers, the ministers, the high officials, and the four kinds of Buddhists. If anyone should vilify the correct teaching, then the ministers and four kinds of Buddhists should reprimand him and bring him to order."
 
It also states: "The Buddha replied, ‘[Bodhisattva] Kashyapa, it is because I was a defender of the correct teaching that I have been able to attain this diamond-like body.... Good man, defenders of the correct teaching need not observe the five precepts or practice the rules of proper behavior. Rather they should carry knives and swords, bows and arrows, prongs and lances’."
 
Again the Buddha said: "Even though there may be those who observe the five precepts, they do not deserve to be called practitioners of the great vehicle. But even if one does not observe the five precepts, if one defends the correct teaching, then one may be called a practitioner of the great vehicle. Defenders of the correct teaching ought to arm themselves with knives and swords, weapons and staves. Even though they carry swords and staves, I would call them men who observe the precepts."
 
The Buddha likewise said: "Good man, in past ages in this very city of Kushinagara a Buddha appeared whose name was the Thus Come One Kangi Zoyaku or Joy Increasing. After this Buddha passed away, the correct teaching that he had taught remained in the world for countless millions of years. Finally, only forty more years were left before the Buddhist teaching was due to come to an end.
 
"At that time there was a monk named Kakutoku or Realization of Virtue who observed the precepts. There were many monks at this time who violated the precepts, and when they heard this monk preaching, they all conceived evil designs in their hearts and, arming themselves with swords and staves, approached this teacher of the Law.
 
"At this time the ruler of the kingdom was named Utoku or Possessor of Virtue. He received reports of what was happening, and, in order to defend the teaching, he went at once to the place where the monk was preaching the Law and fought with all his might against the evil monks who did not observe the precepts. As a result, the monk who had been preaching was able to escape grievous injury. But the king received so many wounds from the knives and swords, prongs and lances, that there was not a spot on his body the size of a mustard seed that remained unharmed.
 
"At this time the monk Realization of Virtue praised the king, saying, ‘Splendid, splendid! You, O king, are now a true defender of the correct teaching. In ages to come, this body of yours will surely become a boundless vessel of the Law!’
 
"At that time, the king had already heard the teaching, and he felt great joy in his heart. Thereupon his life came to an end, and he was reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku, where he became the principal disciple of the Buddha. Moreover, all the military leaders, citizens and associates of the king who had fought beside him or had rejoiced in his effort were filled with an unflagging determination to achieve enlightenment, and when they died, all of them were reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku." Later, the monk Realization of Virtue also died, and he too was reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku, where he became second among the Buddha’s voice-hearer disciples. Thus, if the correct teaching is about to come to an end, this is the way one ought to support and defend it.
 
"Kashyapa, the king who lived at that time was I myself, and the monk who preached was the Buddha Kasho. Kashyapa, those who defend the correct teaching enjoy this kind of boundless reward. As a consequence, I have been able to obtain the distinguishing characteristics that I possess today, to adorn myself with them, and to put on the body of the Law that can never be destroyed."
 
Then the Buddha declared to Bodhisattva Kashyapa: "For this reason, laymen believers and others who wish to defend the Law should arm themselves with swords and staves and protect it in this manner.
 
"Good man, in the age of impurity and evil after I have passed away, the nation will fall into devastation and disorder, men will plunder and steal from one another, and the common people will be reduced to starvation. Because of hunger, many men at that time will declare their determination to leave their families and become monks. Men such as these may be called shavepates. When this crowd of shavepates see anyone who is attempting to protect the correct teaching, they will chase after him and drive him away, or perhaps even kill him or do him injury. That is why I now give permission for monks who observe the precepts to associate with and keep company with white-robed laymen who bear swords and staves. Even though they carry swords and staves, I would call them men who observe the precepts. But although they may carry swords and staves, they should never use them to take life."
 
The Lotus Sutra says: "If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra, immediately he will destroy all the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.... When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell."
 
The meaning of these passages from the sutras is perfectly clear. What need is there for me to add any further explanation? If we accept the words of the Lotus Sutra, then we must understand that slandering the Mahayana scriptures is more serious than committing the five cardinal sins countless times. Therefore one who does so will be confined in the great citadel of the Avichi hell and cannot hope for release for an immeasurable length of time. According to the Nirvana Sutra, even though you may give alms to a person who has committed the five cardinal sins, you must never give alms to a person who has slandered the Law. One who kills so much as an ant will invariably fall into the three evil paths, but one who helps eradicate slander of the Law will ascend to the state from which there can be no retrogression. Thus the passage tells us that the monk Realization of Virtue was reborn as the Buddha Kasho, and that King Possessor of Virtue was reborn as the Buddha Shakyamuni.
 
The Lotus and the Nirvana sutras represent the very heart of the doctrines that Shakyamuni preached during the five periods of his teaching life. Their warnings must be viewed with the utmost gravity. Who would fail to heed them? And yet those people who forget about the correct way and slander the Law put more trust than ever in Honen’s Senchaku shu and grow blinder than ever in their stupidity.
 
Thus some of them, remembering how their master looked in life, fashion wooden sculptures and paintings of him, while others, putting faith in his perverse teachings, carve woodblocks with which to print his ugly words. These writings they scatter about throughout the area within the seas , carrying them beyond the cities and into the countryside until, wherever honor is paid, it is to the practices of this school, and wherever alms are given, it is to the priests of this sect.
 
As a result, we see people cutting off the fingers of the images of Shakyamuni and refashioning them to form the gesture of Amida, or converting the temples formerly dedicated to Yakushi, the Buddha of the Eastern Region, and replacing his statues with those of Amida, the Buddha of the Western Land. Or we find the ceremony of copying the Lotus Sutra, which has been carried out for over four hundred years on Mount Hiei, being suspended and the copying of the three Pure Land sutras substituted in its place, or the annual lectures on the doctrines of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai being replaced by lectures on the teachings of Shan-tao. Indeed, the slanderous people and their associates are too numerous to count! Are they not destroyers of the Buddha? Are they not destroyers of the Law? Are they not destroyers of the Buddhist order? And all their heretical teachings derive from the Senchaku shu!
 
Alas, how pitiful, that people should turn their backs on the true words of prohibition spoken by the Thus Come One! How tragic, that they should heed the gross and deluded words of this ignorant monk! If we hope to bring order and tranquillity to the world without further delay, we must put an end to these slanders of the Law that fill the country!
 
The guest said: If we are to put an end to these people who slander the Law and do away with those who violate the prohibitions of the Buddha, then are we to condemn them to death as described in the sutra passages you have just cited? If we do that, then we ourselves will be guilty of inflicting injury and death upon others, and will suffer the consequences, will we not?
 
In the Daijuku Sutra, the Buddha says: "If a person shaves his head and puts on clerical robes, then, whether that person observes the precepts or violates them, both heavenly and human beings should give him alms. In doing so, they are giving alms and support to me, for that person is my son. But if men beat that person, they are beating my son, and if they curse and insult him, they are reviling me."
 
If we stop to consider, we must realize that, regardless of whether one is good or bad, right or wrong, if he is a priest, then he deserves to have alms and nourishment extended to him For how could one beat and insult the son and still not cause grief and sorrow to the father? The Brahmans of the Bamboo Staff school who killed the Venerable Maudgalyayana have for a long time been sunk in the depths of the hell of incessant suffering. Because Devadatta murdered the nun Utpalavarna, he has for a long time gasped in the flames of the Avichi Hell. Examples from earlier ages make the matter perfectly clear, and later ages fear this offense most of all. You speak of punishing those who slander the Law, but to do so would violate the Buddha’s prohibitions. I can hardly believe that such a course would be right. How can you justify that?
 
The host said: You have clearly seen the sutra passages that I have cited, and yet you can ask a question like that! Are they beyond the power of your mind to comprehend? Or do you fail to understand the reasoning behind them? I certainly have no intention of censuring the sons of the Buddha. My only hatred is for the act of slandering the Law. According to the Buddhist teachings, prior to Shakyamuni slanderous monks would have incurred the death penalty. But since the time of Shakyamuni, or One Who Can Forbear, the giving of alms for slanderous monks is forbidden in the sutra teachings. Now if all the four kinds of Buddhists within the four seas and the ten thousand lands would only cease giving alms to wicked priests and instead all come over to the side of the good, then how could any more troubles rise to plague us or disasters come to confront us?
 
With this the guest moved off his mat in a gesture of respect, straightened the collar of his robe, and said: The Buddhist teachings vary greatly and it is difficult to investigate each doctrine in full. I have had many doubts and perplexities and have been unable to distinguish right from wrong.
 
Nevertheless, this work by the sage Honen, the Senchaku shu, does in fact exist. And it lumps together all the various Buddhas, sutras, bodhisattvas and deities and says that one should "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. The meaning of the text is perfectly clear. And as a result of this, the sages have departed from the nation, the benevolent deities have left their dwelling places, hunger and thirst fill the world, and disease and pestilence spread abroad.
 
Now, by citing passages from a wide variety of scriptures, you have clearly demonstrated the rights and wrongs of the matter. Therefore I have completely forsaken my earlier mistaken convictions, and my ears and eyes have been opened on point after point.
 
There can be no doubt that all persons, from the ruler down to the common people, rejoice in and desire the stability of the nation and the peace of the world. If we can quickly put an end to the alms that are given to these icchantikas and insure that continuing support is instead given to the host of true priests and nuns, if we can still these "white waves" that trouble the Ocean of the Buddha and cut down these "green groves" that overgrow the Mountain of the Law, then the world may become as peaceful as it was in the golden ages of Fu Hsi and Shen Nung, and the nation may flourish as it did under the sage rulers Yao and Shun. After that, there will be time to dip into the Waters of the Law and to decide which are shallow doctrines and which are deep, and to pay honor to the pillars and beams that support the House of the Buddha.
 
The host exclaimed with delight: The dove has changed into a hawk, the sparrow into a clam! How gratifying! You have transformed yourself through your association with [me,] a friend in the orchid room, just as the mugwort growing in the hemp field becomes straight. If you will truly give consideration to the troubles I have been describing and put entire faith in these words of mine, then the winds will blow gently, the waves will be calm, and in no time at all we will enjoy bountiful harvests. But a person’s heart may change with the times, and the nature of a thing may alter with its surroundings. Just as the moon on the water will be tossed about by the waves, or the soldiers in the vanguard will be cowed by the swords of the enemy, so, although at this moment you may say you believe in my words, I fear that later you will forget them completely. Now if we wish first of all to bring security to the nation and to pray for our present and future lives, then we must hasten to examine and consider the situation and take measures as soon as possible to remedy it.
 
Why do I say this? Because, of the seven types of disasters described in the Yakushi Sutra, five have already occurred. Only two have yet to appear, the calamity of invasion from foreign lands and the calamity of revolt within one’s own domain. And of the three calamities mentioned in the Daijuku Sutra, two have already made their appearance. Only one remains, the disaster of warfare.
 
The different types of disaster and calamity enumerated in the Konkomyo Sutra have arisen one after the other. Only that described as marauders from other regions invading and plundering the nation has yet to materialize. This is the only trouble that has not yet come. And of the seven disasters listed in the Ninno Sutra, six are now upon us in full force. Only one has not yet appeared, the calamity that occurs "when enemies rise up on all four sides and invade the nation."
 
Moreover, as the Ninno Sutra says, "When a nation becomes disordered, it is the spirits which first show signs of rampancy. Because the spirits become rampant, all the people of the nation become disordered."
 
Now if we examine the present situation carefully in the light of this passage, we will see that the various spirits have for some time been rampant, and many of the people have perished. If the first predicted misfortune in the sutra has already occurred, as is obvious, then how can we doubt that the later disasters will follow? If, in punishment for the evil doctrines that are upheld, the troubles that have yet to appear should fall upon us one after the other, then it will be too late to act, will it not?
 
Emperors and kings have their foundation in the state and bring peace and order to the age; ministers and commoners hold possession of their fields and gardens and supply the needs of the world. But if marauders come from other regions to invade the nation, or if revolt breaks out within the domain and people’s lands are seized and plundered, how can there be anything but terror and confusion? If the nation is destroyed and families are wiped out, then where can one flee for safety? If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?
 
It seems to me that, when people are in this world, they all fear what their lot may be in the life to come. So it is that they put their faith in heretical doctrines, and pay honor to slanderous teachings. It distresses me that they should be so confused about right and wrong, and at the same time I feel pity that, having embraced Buddhism, they should have chosen the wrong kind. With the power of faith that is in their hearts, why must they recklessly give credence to heretical doctrines? If they do not shake off these delusions that they cling to but continue to harbor distorted views, then they will quickly leave this world of the living and surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
 
Thus the Daijuku Sutra says: "Though the ruler of a state may have for countless existences in the past practiced the giving of alms, observed the precepts and cultivated wisdom, if he sees that my teaching is in danger of perishing and stands idly by without doing anything to protect it, then all the inestimable roots of goodness that he has planted through the practices just mentioned will be entirely wiped out. . . . Before long, the ruler will fall gravely ill, and after his life has come to an end, he will be reborn in the great hell. . . . And the same fate will befall the ruler’s consort, his heir, the high ministers of the state, the lords of cities, the village heads and generals, the magistrates of districts, and the government officials."
 
The Ninno Sutra states: "If persons destroy the teachings of the Buddha, they will have no filial sons, no harmony with their six kinds of relatives, and no aid from the heavenly deities and dragons. Disease and evil spirits will come day after day to torment them, disasters will descend on them incessantly, and misfortunes will dog them wherever they go. And when they die, they will fall into the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals. Even if they should be reborn as human beings, they will be destined to become soldiers or slaves. Retribution will follow as an echo follows a sound or a shadow follows a form. Someone writing at night may put out the lamp, but the words he has written will still remain. It is the same with the effect of the deeds which we carry out for ourselves in the threefold world."
 
The second volume of 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 Avichi hell." And in the Fukyo chapter in the seventh volume, it says: "For a thousand kalpas they underwent great suffering in the Avichi hell."
 
In the Nirvana Sutra we read: "If a person separates himself from good friends, refuses to listen to correct teachings and instead embraces evil teachings, then as a result he will sink down into the Avichi hell, where the size of his body will become eighty-four thousand yojanas in total length and breadth."
 
When we examine this wide variety of sutras, we find that they all stress how grave a matter it is to slander the Law. How pitiful, that people should all go out of the gate of the correct teaching and enter so deep into the prison of these heretical doctrines! How stupid, that they should fall one after another into the snares of these evil doctrines, and remain for so long entangled in this net of slanderous teachings! They lose their way in these mists and miasma’s, and sink down amid the raging flames of hell. How could we not grieve? How could we not suffer?
 
Therefore you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? The regions in the ten directions will all become treasure realms, and how could a treasure realm ever suffer harm?
 
If you live in a country that knows no decline or diminution, in a land that suffers no harm or disruption, then your body will find peace and security and your mind will be calm and untroubled. You must believe my words, heed what I say!
 
The guest said: Since it concerns both this life and the lives to come, who could fail to be cautious in a matter such as this? Who could fail to agree with you? Now when I examine the passages you have cited from the sutras and see exactly what the Buddha has said, I realize that slandering is a very grave fault indeed, that violating the Law is in truth a terrible offense. I have put all my faith in one Buddha alone, Amida, and rejected all the other Buddhas. I have honored the three Pure Land sutras and set aside the other sutras. But this was not due to any distorted ideas of my own conception. I was simply obeying the words of the eminent men of the past. And the same is true of all the other persons in the ten directions.
 
But now I realize that to do so means to exhaust oneself in futile efforts in this life, and to fall into the Avichi hell in the life to come. The texts you have cited are perfectly clear on this point and their arguments are detailed -- they leave no room for doubt. From now on, with your kind instruction to guide me, I wish to continue dispelling the ignorance from my mind. I hope we may set about as quickly as possible taking measures to deal with these slanders against the Law and to bring peace to the world without delay, thus insuring that we may live in safety in this life and enjoy good fortune in the life to come. But it is not enough that I alone should accept and have faith in your words — we must see to it that others as well are warned of their errors!
 
 
 
General Stone Tiger

On the twenty-second of this month I received all that you sent me from Shinano--three kan of coins, a sack of polished rice, fifty rice cakes, one large and one small bamboo container of sake, five bundles of dried persimmons and ten pomegranates, as well as the list you enclosed with these gifts.

A sovereign is supported by the people, and they in turn live under his protection. Clothes protect us from cold and food sustains us, just as oil keeps a fire burning and water supports fish. Birds nest high in the trees in fear that men will harm them, but they come down to feed and are caught in snares. Fish living at the bottom of a pond fear that it is too shallow and dig holes to hide in, yet lured by bait, they take the hook. No treasure possessed by man is more precious than food and drink, clothing and medicine.

I, Nichiren, am not as healthy as others, and in addition, I dwell in this remote mountain forest. This year was especially difficult, with widespread epidemics and famine in spring and summer, which worsened in autumn and winter. My sickness grew worse again, too, but you prescribed various medicines and sent them to me along with quilted silk clothes. Thanks to your remedies, I improved steadily; I have now recovered and feel much better than before. The Yuga-ron of Bodhisattva Maitreya and the Dairon of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna both state that if one's illness is caused by immutable karma, even the most excellent medicine will turn to poison, but if he believes in the Lotus Sutra, poison will change into medicine. Although unworthy, Nichiren propagates the Lotus Sutra; hence devils have competed to deprive him of food. Understanding this, I have no complaint, but I believe that I survived this time only because Shakyamuni Buddha sent you to assist me.

So much for that. I was extremely concerned about your journey home last time, and I am overjoyed to hear that you arrived safely in Kamakura. Such was my anxiety that I asked everyone who came here from Kamakura about you. One said that he had met you at Yumoto, another that he had encountered you further on at Kozu, and when a third told me that he had seen you in Kamakura, I felt greatly relieved. From now on, you must not come to visit me in person unless absolutely necessary. When you have something urgent to tell me, send a messenger. Indeed, I was deeply worried about your last trip. An enemy will try to throw you off guard so that he may attack. If you should have to travel, do not spare the cost of a good horse. Bring along your best soldiers to defend you against a surprise attack, and ride a horse which can easily carry you in your armor.

In the eighth volume of the Maka Shikan and in the eighth volume of Miao-lo's Guketsu it is said, "The stronger one's faith, the greater the gods' protection." This means that the protection of the gods depends on the strength of one's faith. The Lotus Sutra is a keen sword, but its might depends upon the one who wields it.

Among those who propagate this sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, who could compare with Shariputra, Mahakashyapa, Kannon, Myo'on, Monju and Yakuo? Shariputra and Mahakashyapa, who were of the two vehicles, had destroyed all illusions of thought and desire, thus freeing themselves from the six paths. The others, all bodhisattvas, had eradicated the forty-one illusions and were approaching perfection, like the harvest moon on the night before it reaches fullness. Nevertheless Shakyamuni Buddha refused to entrust the mission of propagation to any of these people and gave it instead to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Thus these Bodhisattva of the Earth are the ones who had thoroughly forged their faith.

The mother of the mighty warrior General Li Kuang was devoured by a ferocious tiger. He spied the beast and shot it with an arrow, but then discovered that what he had seen was only a rock. The arrow lodged itself deep in the rock. He was surprised and tried to duplicate his feat but could not penetrate the stone a second time. Later he came to be known as General Stone Tiger. Your strength of purpose is comparable to his. Though enemies lurk in wait for you, your resolute faith in the Lotus Sutra has forestalled persecutions before they could begin. Realizing this, you must strengthen your faith more than ever. It is impossible to say all I want to in one letter.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The twenty-second day of the tenth month in the first year of Koan (1278)
Good Fortune in This Life
At the beginning of spring, I received your New Year's greetings from your messenger. I also send you my heartfelt best wishes. I have received your various gifts, including seventy rice cakes, a bamboo container of sake, a horseload of potatoes, one paper sack of dried seaweed, two bundles of radishes and seven yams. These offerings demonstrate your profound sincerity.
The eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "His wishes shall not be in vain, and he will receive his reward of good fortune in his present life." It also states, "Truly he will have manifest reward in his present life." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai says, "The Son of Heaven utters not a single word in vain," and "The words of the Dharma King contain no falsehood." A wise ruler will never lie, even if it should bring about his ruin. How much less would Shakyamuni Buddha ever speak falsely! When he was King Fumyo [in a previous existence], he returned to the palace of King Hanzoku [to be executed], because he upheld the precept against lying. When he met King Kali [in another past existence], he declared that those people who speak but little of the truth or who tell great lies will fall into hell. Moreover, the Lotus Sutra is the sutra in which the Buddha himself declares, "[The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and] now must reveal the truth," and, in addition, it was expounded at the assembly where Taho Buddha and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions had gathered like the sun, the moon, and the countless stars all ranged side by side. If there should be any falsehood in the Lotus Sutra, what then can people believe in?
A person who offers even a flower or stick of incense to so splendid a sutra has served ten billion Buddhas in his previous existences. Moreover, in the Latter Day of the Law of Shakyamuni Buddha, when the world is in chaos and the ruler, his ministers and the common people all hate the votary of the Lotus Sutra with one accord, so that he must live like a fish in a small pond in a time of drought or a deer stalked by a throng of hunters, one who visits this votary will obtain far greater blessings than he would acquire by serving the living Shakyamuni Buddha with his mind, mouth and body for the space of an entire kalpa. All this is clear from the Buddha's golden words.
The sun is bright and the moon, luminous. The words of the Lotus Sutra are also bright and luminous, luminous and bright, like the reflection of a person's face in a polished mirror or the image of the moon on the surface of clear water. This being the case, could the Buddha's decree, "He will receive his reward of good fortune in his present life," or his edict, "Truly he will have manifest reward in his present life," possibly be false for you, Nanjo Shichiro Jiro, alone? The Buddha declared that even in an age when the sun should rise in the west or even in a time when the moon should emerge from the ground, his words would never prove false. Judging from this, there cannot be the least doubt that the spirit of your late father is now in the presence of Lord Shakyamuni, and that you yourself will receive great blessings in this life. How wonderful, how splendid!
Nichiren
The nineteenth day of the first month of the second year of Kenji (1276)
 
 

Great Evil and Great Good
 
Great events do not have small omens. When great evil occurs, great good will follow. Since the worst slander already prevails throughout the country, the supreme True Law will spread without fail. What have any of you to regret? Although you are not the Venerable Mahakashyapa, you should leap for joy! Although you are not Shariputra, you should rise and dance! When Bodhisattva Jogyo emerged from the earth, he leapt forth joyfully, and when Bodhisattva Fugen arrived, the ground trembled in six directions. There are many things I wish to tell you, but as they are too numerous, I shall stop here. I will write to you again.
 
Happiness In This World
 
There is no greater happiness for human beings than chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The sutra says, "The people there [in my land] are happy and at ease." "Happy and at ease" here means the joy derived from the Law. You are obviously included among the "people," and "there" indicates the entire world, which includes Japan. "Happy and at ease" means to know that our lives--both our bodies and minds, ourselves and our surroundings--are the entities of ichinen sanzen and the Buddha of absolute freedom. There is no greater happiness than having faith in the Lotus Sutra. It promises us "peace and security in this life and good circumstances in the next." Never let life's hardships disturb you. After all, no one can avoid problems, not even saints or sages.
 
Just chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and when you drink sake, stay at home with your wife. Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. Then you will experience boundless joy from the Law. Strengthen your faith more than ever.
 
With my deep respect,
Nichiren
 
The twenty-seventh day of the sixth month in the second year of Kenji (1276)
 
Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light
I have received your various gifts. Nothing would please me more than to know that you have communicated with the late Lord Ueno, but I know that that is impossible. Perhaps only in a dream or a vision can you see him. Your late husband must certainly be in the pure land of Eagle Peak, listening and watching over this saha world day and night. You, his wife, and your children have only mortal senses, so you cannot see or hear him, but be assured that you will eventually be reunited [on Eagle Peak].
Counting all your previous lives, you must have shared the bonds of matrimony with more men than there are grains of sand in the ocean. However, the man to whom you were wed in this life is your true husband. He is the only one who brought you to practice the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. You should revere him as a Buddha. While he was in this world, he was a living Buddha, and now, he is a Buddha in death. His Buddhahood transcends both life and death. This is the meaning of the doctrine that is of utmost importance: attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form. The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: ‘If one can uphold this [sutra], he will be upholding the Buddha’s body.’
Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside ourselves; both lie within our own hearts. Awakened to this truth, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, one is called a common mortal. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth, and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra will realize that hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light.
Even though one may practice the provisional teachings for immeasurable millions of years, one will only fall into hell if one turns against the Lotus Sutra. These are not my own words; they were proclaimed by Shakyamuni Buddha and confirmed by Taho Buddha and by all the Buddhas of the ten directions, who are Shakyamuni’s emanations. To practice the provisional teachings is to be like a man scorched by fire who enters deeper and deeper into the flames, or like a drowning man sinking to the bottom of the deep waters. Not to embrace the Lotus Sutra is like jumping into fire or water. Those who rely on such evil teachers as Honen, Kobo and other slanderers of the Lotus Sutra and believe in the Amida or Dainichi Sutra are falling farther and farther into the fire or sinking deeper and deeper toward the bottom of the water. How can they possibly escape from agony! They will doubtless fall into the fiery pits-into the hell of repeated rebirth for torture, the hell of the black cords, and the hell of incessant suffering- and sink to the depths of the ice-to the hell of the blood red lotus and the hell of the great blood-red lotus. The second volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avichi 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."
Your late husband has escaped such agonies, for he was a supporter of Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus Sutra. A passage from the sutra reads: "If someone . . . should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn him.... If one were washed away by a great flood and called upon his name, one would immediately find oneself in a shallow place." Another passage reads, "It cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water." How reassuring! How encouraging!
You may think of hell, the iron rods of the guards of hell or the accusing cries of the demon wardens as existing way off in some faraway place, but they are not like that. This teaching is of prime importance, and yet I will impart it to you just as Bodhisattva Monju revealed to the dragon king’s daughter the secret teaching of the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present body. Now that you are about to receive that teaching, strive even more earnestly in your faith. One who practices still more earnestly whenever one hears the teachings of the Lotus Sutra is a true seeker of the way. T’ien-t’ai states, "From the indigo, an even deeper blue." This passage means that something dyed repeatedly with indigo becomes even bluer than the indigo plant itself. For us the Lotus Sutra is the indigo plant, and the growing intensity of our practice is "an even deeper blue."
The word jigoku or "hell" can be interpreted to mean digging a hole in the ground. A hole is always dug for one who dies; this is what is called "hell." The flames that reduce one’s body to ashes are the fires of the hell of incessant suffering. One’s wife, children and relatives hurrying one’s body to the grave are the guards and wardens of hell. The plaintive cries of one’s family are the voices of the guards and wardens of hell. One’s two-and-a-half-foot-long walking stick is the iron rod of torture in hell. The horses and oxen that carry one’s body are the horse-headed and ox-headed demons, and the grave itself is the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. The eighty-four thousand earthly desires are eighty-four thousand cauldrons in hell. One’s body as it leaves home is departing on a journey to the mountain of death, while the river beside which one’s filial children stand in grief is the river of three crossings. It is useless to look for hell anywhere else.
Those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, however, can change all this. For them, hell changes into the Land of Tranquil Light, the burning fires of agony change into the torch of wisdom of the Buddha in his reward body; the dead person becomes a Buddha in his body of the Law; and the fiery inferno becomes the "room of great pity and compassion" where the Buddha in his manifested body abides. Moreover, the walking stick is transformed into the walking stick of the true entity or the Mystic Law, the river of three crossings becomes the ocean of "the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana," and the mountain of death becomes the towering peak of "earthly desires are enlightenment." Please think of your husband in these terms. To realize all this is attain Buddhahood in one’s present form, and to awaken to it is to open the Buddha wisdom. Devadatta changed the Avichi hell into the blissful land of tranquil light, and the dragon king’s daughter also was able to attain Buddhahood without changing her form. Their achievements were none other than the results of understanding the above truth. This is because the Lotus Sutra saves both those who oppose and those who follow it. Such great benefits are contained in the single character myo.
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna states, "[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who changes poison into medicine." The Great Teacher Miao-lo states, ‘How can one find the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light anywhere outside Buddhagaya! This saha world does not exist outside the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light.’ He also says, ‘The true entity is invariably revealed in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably possess the ten factors. The ten factors invariably function within the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably entail both life and its environment.’ The Lotus Sutra reads, ‘The true entity of all phenomena [can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature . . . and] their consistency from beginning to end.’ A passage from the Juryo chapter states, ‘It has been immeasurable, boundless [hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas] since I in fact attained Buddhahood.’ Here, ‘I’ means all beings in the Ten Worlds. All beings of the Ten Worlds are essentially Buddhas; so they dwell in the pure land. A passage from the Hoben chapter reads, ‘All those phenomena are aspects of an abiding Law, and all the characteristics of the world are eternal.’ It is the way of the world that birth and death are the eternally unchanging characteristics of life throughout the three existences of the past, present and future. This is nothing to grieve over or be surprised at. The single ideogram ‘characteristics’ represents the eight characteristics or phases of the Buddha’s existence. Even these eight phases are subject to the law of birth and death. The votaries of the Lotus Sutra are enlightened to all this, thereby attaining Buddhahood in their present forms. Since your deceased husband was a votary of this sutra, he doubtless attained Buddhahood as he was. You need not grieve so much over his passing. But to grieve is natural, since you are an ordinary person. Even sages are sometimes sad. Although Shakyamuni Buddha’s greatest disciples had been awakened to the truth of life, they could not help lamenting his passing. Perhaps they behaved as ordinary people do.
By all means perform as much good as you possibly can for the sake of your deceased husband. The words of a wise man of old, ‘Base your heart on the ninth consciousness and carry out your practice on the six consciousnesses,’ are indeed well said. This letter contains teachings I have so far kept secret. Keep them deep within your heart.
Respectfully,
Nichiren
The eleventh day of the seventh month
Reply to the wife of the late Lord Ueno
 
 
 
Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life

- Shoji Ichidaiji Kechimyaku Sho -

I have just carefully read your letter. To reply, the ultimate law of life and death as transmitted from the Buddha to all living beings is Myoho-renge-kyo. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo were transferred from the two Buddhas inside the Treasure Tower, Shakyamuni and Taho, to Bodhisattva Jogyo, carrying on a heritage unbroken since the infinite past. Myo represents death and ho represents life. Life and death are the two phases passed through by the entities of the Ten Worlds, the entities of all sentient beings which embody the law of cause and effect (renge).

T'ien-t'ai said, "You must realize that the interrelated actions and reactions of sentient beings and their environments all manifest the law of simultaneity of cause and effect." Sentient beings and their environments" here means the reality of life and death. The law of simultaneity of cause and effect is clearly at work in everything that lives and dies.

The Great Teacher Dengyo said, "Birth and death are the mysterious workings of the life essence. The ultimate reality of life lies in existence and nonexistence." No phenomena -- heaven or earth, Yin or Yang, the sun and moon, the five planets, or any life-condition from Hell to Buddhahood -- are free from birth and death. Thus the life and death of all phenomena are simply the two phases of Myoho-renge-kyo. In his Maka Shikan, T'ien-t'ai says, "The emergence of all things is the manifestation of their intrinsic nature, and their extinction, the withdrawal of that nature into the state of latency." Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas, too, are the two phases of life and death.

Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment countless aeons ago, the Lotus Sutra which leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from each other. Therefore, to chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate law of life and death. To carry on this heritage is the most important task for Nichiren's disciples, and that is precisely what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra. For one who summons up his faith and chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the profound insight that now is the last moment of his life, the sutra proclaims: "After his death, a thousand Buddhas will extend their hands to free him from all fear and keep him from falling into evil paths." How can we possibly hold back our tears at the inexpressible joy of knowing that not just one or two, nor only one hundred or two hundred, but as many as a thousand Buddhas will come to greet us with open arms!

One who does not have faith in the Lotus Sutra will instead find his hands firmly gripped by the guards of hell, just as the sutra warns, "...After he dies, he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering." How pitiful! The ten kings of hell will then pass judgment on him, and the heavenly messengers who have been with him since his birth will berate him for his evil deeds.

Just imagine that those thousand Buddhas extending their hands to all Nichiren's disciples who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are like so many melons or moonflowers extending their slender vines. My disciples have been able to receive and embrace the Lotus Sutra by virtue of the strong ties they formed with this teaching in their past existences. They are certain to attain Buddhahood in the future. The heritage of the Lotus Sutra flows within the lives of those who never forsake it in any lifetime whatsoever -- whether in the past, the present or the future. But those who disbelieve and slander the Lotus Sutra will "destroy the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world." Because they cut themselves off from the potential to attain enlightenment, they do not share the ultimate heritage of faith.

All disciples and believers of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with one mind (itai doshin), transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren's propagation. When you are so united, even the great hope for kosen-rufu can be fulfilled without fail. But if any of Nichiren's disciples should disrupt the unity of itai doshin, he will destroy his own castle from within.

Nichiren has been trying to awaken all the people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the heritage and attain Buddhahood. But instead they attacked me time and again, and finally had me banished to this island. You have followed Nichiren, however, and met with sufferings as a result. It pains me deeply to think of your anguish. Gold can neither be burned by fire nor corroded or swept away by water, but iron is vulnerable to both. A wise person is like gold and a fool like iron. You are like pure gold because you embrace the "gold" of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra reads in part, "Sumeru is the loftiest of all mountains. The Lotus Sutra is likewise the loftiest of all the sutras." It also states, "The good fortune of the believer cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water."

It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this. Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas certainly realize this truth. The sutra's statement, "In lifetime after lifetime they were always born together with their masters in the Buddha's lands throughout the universe," cannot be false in any way.

How admirable that you have asked about the transmission of the ultimate law of life and death! No one has ever asked me such a question before. I have answered in complete detail in this letter, so I want you to take it deeply to heart. The important point is to carry out your practice confident that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the very lifeblood which was transferred from Shakyamuni and Taho to Bodhisattva Jogyo.

The function of fire is to burn and give light. The function of water is to wash away filth. The winds blow away dust and breathe life into plants, animals and human beings. The earth nourishes the grasses and trees, and heaven provides nourishing moisture. Myoho-renge-kyo too works in all these ways. It is the cluster of blessings brought by the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The Lotus Sutra says that Bodhisattva Jogyo should now appear to propagate this teaching in the Latter Day of the Law, but has this actually happened? Whether or not Bodhisattva Jogyo has already appeared in this world, Nichiren has at least made a start in propagating this teaching.

Be resolved to summon forth the great power of your faith, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of your death. Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate law and manifest it in your life. Only then will you realize that earthly desires are enlightenment and the sufferings of life and death are nirvana. Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra.

I am always ready to clear up any further questions you may have.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren, the Shramana of Japan
 
The eleventh day of the second month in the ninth year of Bun'ei (1272)
 
How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood Through the Lotus Sutra
 
Question: Of the eight sects, the nine sects or the ten sects, which is the true sect founded by Shakyamuni Buddha?
 
Answer: The Hokke [Lotus] sect is the sect founded by Shakyamuni. We know this because of the statement that, of all the sutras he "had preached, now preaches and would preach" in the future, the Lotus Sutra was foremost. These words were spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Therefore [the sect based on] the Lotus Sutra is known as the Buddha-founded sect, and is also called the Hokke sect. It is also known as the Tendai sect.
 
For this reason, the Great Teacher Dengyo states in his commentary, "The Hokke sect, which T'ien-t'ai elucidated, represents the sect founded by Shakyamuni, the World-Honored One." In none of the sutras other than the Lotus does one find a passage concerning [the relative superiority of] all the sutras that the Buddha "has preached, now preaches and will preach." Here, the sutras that the Buddha "has preached" refer to the various sutras expounded by the Buddha in the more than forty years before he preached the Lotus Sutra. Those he "now preaches" refer to the Muryogi Sutra. Those he "will preach" refer to the Nirvana Sutra. The Buddha thus firmly decreed that, transcending these three categories of sutras, the Lotus Sutra alone constitutes the sect that assures the attainment of Buddhahood.
 
The various other sects were founded by bodhisattvas or teachers in the period after the Buddha had entered nirvana. Should we now turn our backs upon the Buddha's decree and follow the sects established by the bodhisattvas and teachers? Or should we ignore the words of the bodhisattvas and teachers and follow the sect established by the Buddha? Or should we entrust ourselves to either course as the feeling strikes us, and uphold whatever sutra or doctrine suits our inclination? The Buddha knew long ago that we would have doubts of this kind, and therefore he clearly designated the sutra to be embraced by persons who are truly aspiring to the Way in this defiled and evil age of the Latter Day of the Law.
 
A sutra says: "Rely on the Law and not upon persons. Rely on the meaning [of the teaching] and not upon the words. Rely on wisdom and not upon discriminative thinking. Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final." The meaning of this passage is that one should rely not upon the words of the bodhisattvas and teachers, but should heed what was established by the Buddha. It further means that one should rely not upon the teachings of the Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu sects, which are based upon the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras, but uphold the sutras that are complete and final. And by relying upon "sutras that are complete and final," it means upholding the Lotus Sutra.
 
Question: Observing Japan at the present time, one can see that the obstacles presented by the five impurities are very grave, that quarrels and disputes occur incessantly, and that people's minds are consumed with anger and their thoughts filled with jealousy. In such a country and at such a time as this, what sutra ought to be propagated?
 
Answer: This is a country in which the Lotus Sutra should be propagated. Therefore the Lotus Sutra itself says: "I will cause this sutra to spread widely throughout the continent of Jambudvipa and never allow it to perish."
 
The Yuga Ron states that there is a small country situated to the northeast where the Mahayana teachings of the Lotus Sutra should be spread. And the Eminent Priest Annen states, "This refers to our country of Japan." From the point of view of India, Japan is indeed situated to the northeast.
 
Moreover, the Supervisor of Monks Eshin states in his Ichijo Yoketsu: "Throughout Japan, all people share the same capacity to attain Buddhahood through the perfect teaching, and therefore those in the countryside as well as those at court, the far as well as the near, should alike take faith in the one vehicle. Priests and lay believers, the eminent and the lowly, may all thereby look forward to the attainment of Buddhahood."
 
The meaning of this passage is that the people of Japan, whether they live in Kyoto, Kamakura, Tsukushi, Chinzei or Michinoku, whether they live nearby or far away, are endowed with the capacity to attain Buddhahood solely through the one-vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and that Japan is therefore a country where high and low, eminent and humble, those who observe the precepts and those who break them, men and women alike, will all be able to attain Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra. Just as no ordinary stones will be found in the K'un-lun Mountains and no poisons in the mountain island of P'eng-lai, so Japan is purely and wholly a country of the Lotus Sutra.
 
And yet we find people who, while declaring with their mouths that the Lotus is inherently a wonderful sutra and that no one could therefore refuse to take faith in it, nevertheless spend night and day, morning and evening, reciting the name of Amida Buddha. They are like people who sing the praises of a particular medicine and yet morning and evening dose themselves on poison. Or there are those who declare that the Nembutsu and the Lotus Sutra are essentially one. They are like persons who claim that ordinary stones are the same as gems, senior monks identical to junior monks, and poison equivalent to medicine.
 
In addition, there are many persons who hate, envy, are hostile to, slander, despise and look down on the Lotus Sutra. The sutra says, "In the world at that time the people will resent [the Lotus Sutra] and find it extremely difficult to believe." And it also says "Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!" These predictions of the sutra have come about without the slightest deviation.
 
Therefore the Great Teacher Dengyo writes in his commentary: "If we speak about the age, the propagation of the true teaching will begin when the Middle Day of the Law ends and the Latter Day opens. If we inquire about the land, it will be to the east of T'ang and to the west of Katsu. If we ask about the people [among whom it will spread], they will be beings stained by the five impurities who live in a time of conflict. The sutra says, 'Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!' There is good reason for this statement."
 
From these passages of the sutras and commentaries, one should know the following: In Japan, in one mountain monastery after another, in temple after temple, at court and in the countryside, in both near and distant regions, though scriptural teachings other than the Lotus Sutra, such as those of the Shingon, Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu sects, are being propagated, these are not doctrines that suit the country or that conform to the Buddha's true intention, nor can they free us from the sufferings of birth and death.
 
Question: The Kegon sect propounds the doctrine of the five teachings and declares all the other sutras to be inferior, and the Kegon Sutra, superior. The Shingon sect puts forth the doctrine of the ten stages of mind, declaring that all the other sutras, being exoteric teachings, are inferior, while the Shingon sect, because it represents the esoteric teachings, is superior. The Zen sect rejects all the sutras as belonging to the realm of written teachings and asserts "a separate transmission outside the sutras, independent of words or writing." Because enlightenment, they say, is gained merely by sitting and facing the wall, the Zen sect alone is superior. The Pure Land sect sets forth two kinds of practices, correct and sundry. The Lotus Sutra and the various other sutras are rejected as belonging to the category of sundry practices, and hence one is urged to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. The three Pure Land sutras, on the other hand, they claim are adapted to the people's capacity and are wonderful sutras belonging to the realm of correct practices. Thus each sect in its conceit maintains its own one-sided attachment. But which one represents the true intention of Shakyamuni Buddha?
 
Answer: Each sect declares its own sutra to be superior, all other sutras being dismissed as inferior, and on this basis labels itself the correct sect. But their arguments are based merely upon the words of the teachers of doctrine and not upon the Buddha's teaching. Only the Lotus Sutra was proclaimed superior by the Buddha himself when he expounded the simile of the five flavors, likening them to the teachings of the five periods. He also declared that of all the various sutras that he "has preached, now preaches and will preach," in terms of the path of attaining Buddhahood, none could rival the Lotus Sutra. These statements are in truth the Buddha's own golden words.
 
Therefore, when people declare that their own sutra surpasses the Lotus Sutra, or that their own sect is superior to the Hokke sect, they are like persons of inferior rank calling someone of high rank a commoner, or retainers whose families have for generations been in the service of a certain lord turning against him and declaring him to be their servant. How can they escape grave retribution?
 
On the other hand, the assertion that the various other sutras rank below the Lotus Sutra is not based upon the words of the teachers of doctrine, but is plainly stated in the text of the sutra itself. In this respect, it is like a ruler asserting that he is superior to his subjects, or a samurai calling a menial a person of low rank. What fault is committed thereby? This sutra, the Lotus, represents the true intention of the Buddha and the prime concern of T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo.
 
Question: The teachings of the Buddha's lifetime were all intended to benefit the people. And because the people differ from one another in their innate nature, he expounded the various teachings. Nevertheless, his basic intention in all cases was simply to enable everyone to attain the Way. Therefore [people reason as follows:] the sutra that is pertinent to oneself may be quite irrelevant to other persons, while the sutra that is pertinent to them will be irrelevant to oneself. Thus, for example, for persons who can attain the Way through the Nembutsu teachings of the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, the Kammuryoju and related sutras will be of greatest benefit while the Lotus Sutra will be of no help. Conversely, for those who can reach Buddhahood and attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra, the other sutras will be irrelevant while the Lotus Sutra will be of greatest benefit. When the Buddha said, "In these more than forty years, I have nor yet revealed the truth," when he said, "Though they [the Buddhas] may set forth various paths, they do so in truth for the sake of the Buddha vehicle", or when he said, "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme Way," he was addressing persons with the capacity to attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra. Everyone in the world agrees that this argument is logical. How should we understand this matter? If this view is correct, then there is really no difference between the Mahayana and the Hinayana, and no real lack of similarity between the provisional and true teachings. Thus I find myself in great doubt as to which sutra the Buddha defined as representing his true intention, and which in fact he proclaimed to be the teaching for attaining Buddhahood.
 
Answer: From the very beginning, the Buddha's intention in appearing in the world was to preach the wonderful Law [of the Lotus Sutra]. But because the people differed so greatly in their capacity and were not ripe to receive it, the Buddha first pondered for a period of three weeks, then spent the following forty years and more preparing and readying the people, and then finally preached this wonderful Law. The Buddha said, "If I merely praise the Buddha vehicle, the people, being sunk in misery, will not be able to believe in this Law and, lacking faith, will slander it and thus fall into the three evil paths." And he also said, "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth."
 
The meaning of these passages is that the Buddha from the very beginning intended to preach this doctrine of the Buddha vehicle. But he knew that the people, having no inclination to hear the Buddha's Law, would not put their faith in it, but on the contrary would undoubtedly slander it. Therefore, in order to elevate the people's capacities to the same level, he first spent a period of forty or more years preaching the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras, and then at the very last preached the Lotus Sutra. At that time, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the others of the twelve thousand shomon disciples, or voice hearers; Monju, Miroku and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas; the billions of wheel-turning kings; as well as Bonten, Taishaku and the countless other heavenly deities, who had all been present during the Buddha's more than forty years of preaching, each exclaimed with regard to the teachings they had heard before, "We failed to receive the Tathagata's immeasurable wisdom and insight!" But when they heard him preach the Lotus Sutra, they rejoiced, exclaiming, "We have gained the supreme cluster of jewels without expecting it!" Therefore they said, "From past times we have often heard the World-Honored One preach, but we have never before heard such a profound and wonderful superior Dharma!" And they also said, "The Buddha has preached a rare Dharma, one that we have never heard before."
 

The intent of these passages is to praise the Lotus Sutra by saying that, though the members of the assembly had heard the Buddha preach a considerable number of times during the preceding forty-two years and more, they had never heard anything like the Law of the Lotus Sutra, and that the Buddha had never before preached a doctrine such as this.
 
The doctrines heard by the assembly in the preceding forty-two years cannot in any way be compared with those of this sutra they were now hearing. Therefore it is a grave error to assert that this sutra was preached for the sake of persons who can attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra, but that it is useless for persons who can gain the Way through the sutras preached earlier. In the case of the sutras preached during the previous forty-two years, since they were provided as expedient means for individuals each with a particular capacity or karmic affinity, one can perhaps speak of them as being relevant to some persons but not to others. But in the case of the Lotus Sutra, the different capacities that had enabled individuals to benefit from hearing one or another of the earlier sutras were all drawn together and readied so that they became identical and pure; the sutra was preached to such people. Therefore there can be no question of it being relevant to some persons and irrelevant to others.
 
How lamentable that the distinctions between Mahayana and Hinayana, or between provisional and true teachings, should become confused in this manner, so that the purpose of the Buddha's advent has been lost, and people go about declaring that the Lotus Sutra is useless for persons with the capacity to attain the Way through the earlier sutras. One should guard against and fear such errors! In past times there was a man known as the Great Teacher Tokuichi who taught just this sort of doctrine to others and fully believed it in his own mind, reading the Lotus Sutra in the light of such an interpretation. But the Great Teacher Dengyo attacked him, saying, "Even though he praises the Lotus Sutra, he destroys its heart." After that, the Great Teacher Tokuichi's tongue split into eight pieces and he died.
 
Question: In a commentary by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, we find it stated that [although persons of the two vehicles can attain enlightenment through the Lotus Sutra,] bodhisattvas are assured of attaining it through various of the earlier sutras. From this it must follow that the Lotus Sutra was preached merely for the sake of persons of the two vehicles and not for bodhisattvas, since the bodhisattvas were already assured of enlightenment by the earlier sutras. If so, then one should understand that the words of the Buddha, "I have not yet revealed the truth," "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, [I will expound only the supreme Way,]" and all the pronouncements found in the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, must have been spoken entirely for the sake of persons of the two vehicles and are not relevant to even a single bodhisattva. Is this correct?
 
Answer: The doctrine that the Lotus Sutra was preached solely for the sake of persons of the two vehicles and not for bodhisattvas was expounded in China in the time before that of T'ien-t'ai by the ten leading scholars representing the three schools to the south and the seven schools to the north. But T'ien-t'ai refuted this doctrine and put an end to it, so that it is no longer propagated today. If you say that there are no bodhisattvas who profit from the Lotus Sutra, then how do you account for the passage that says, "When the bodhisattvas hear this Law, the nets of their doubt will all be swept away"? In view of this, can you possibly say that bodhisattvas derive no benefit from the sutra?
 
Or perhaps you will argue that the Lotus Sutra can benefit the bodhisattvas of dull faculties, as it does persons of the two vehicles, but that the bodhisattvas of keen faculties have already received sufficient benefit from the earlier sutras. If so, then how do you account for the passage in the sutra that says, "Whether they are sharp-witted or dull, I shower the rain of the Law on them equally," or the passage that says, "The perfect enlightenment of all bodhisattvas in every case belongs to this sutra"? The meaning of these passages is that, regardless of whether their faculties are sharp or dull, whether they abide by the precepts or break them, whether they are of exalted birth or humble, all bodhisattvas, all ordinary common mortals, and all persons of the two vehicles shall become Buddhas and attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra.
 
If you say that those bodhisattvas who have attained the Way through the Lotus Sutra are all persons of dull faculties, are you then prepared to say that Fugen, Monju, Miroku, Yakuo and all the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas are of dull faculties? And if you maintain that the bodhisattvas of keen faculties had already attained the Way through the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, then just who are those clever bodhisattvas?
 
Moreover, this enlightenment attained by bodhisattvas through the earlier sutras--is it the same as the enlightenment attained through the Lotus Sutra? If so, then it is the enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra and does not belong to the earlier sutras. And if it is an enlightenment other than that of the Lotus Sutra, then among which of the sutras that the Buddha "has preached, now preaches and will preach" in the future is it contained? In any event, if it is not the enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra, then it can only be a kind of limited enlightenment and not true enlightenment.
 
Therefore the Muryogi sutra states, "For this reason, the enlightenment attained by the beings is characterized by differences of degree." And it also says, "[If one cannot hear of this sutra...,] in the end he will never attain supreme enlightenment." In these passages the Buddha is saying that the people attained different degrees of enlightenment through the sutras expounded prior to the Lotus Sutra, but in the end they did not attain the supreme enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra itself.
 
Question: Some 2,230 years and more have now passed since Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana. Among all the various sutras, which sutra is fitted for an age like this, and will spread and benefit all living beings?
 
The Daijuku Sutra speaks of five successive five-hundred-year periods, of which our present age corresponds to the fifth period. This fifth of the five-hundred-year periods is described as an "age of conflict" when "the Pure Law will become obscured and lost." The Buddha here is saying that at that time people's hearts will be contentious and evil, and they will be overwhelmed with greed and anger, so that strife and battle alone flourish, and, among the various Buddhist doctrines, those that had earlier spread widely such as the Pure Law of the Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu sects and of those who observe the precepts will become obscured and lost.
 
If we observe the first, second, third and fourth of the five-hundred-year periods, we will see that, although [the teachings that spread in these ages were those in which] "the truth had not yet been revealed" concerning the way of attaining Buddhahood, the state of things in the world in each of the four periods did not differ from the Buddha's predictions even in the slightest. Considered in this light, his golden words about our present time being an "age of conflict" when "the Pure Law will become obscured and lost" could not possibly be false.
 
Yet, if that is so, are we then to assume that, now in the Latter Day of the Law, none of the Buddhist doctrines are of any efficacy, or that none of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas can benefit the people? Are we then to do nothing and pay no homage to any Buddha or bodhisattvas? Are we to practice no teaching whatsoever but to be left with nothing at all to turn to? How are we to make provision for the existences that are to come?
 
Answer: Now, the Latter Day of the Law, is the time when the seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo--the heart of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra that Shakyamuni Buddha who achieved enlightenment in the remote past, along with the bodhisattvas Jogyo, Muhengyo and the others, is to propagate--will alone spread throughout this country, bringing advantage and benefit to all persons, and the blessings of Bodhisattva Jogyo will flourish greatly. This will happen because it is clearly stated in the sutra. Those who are firm in their aspiration for the Way and sincere in their seeking mind should investigate this matter in detail and seek instruction concerning it.
 
The people of the Pure Land sect claim that "in the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law, all the other sutras will perish, and only the single teaching of the Buddha Amida will remain." They also say that "the present time, the Latter Day of the Law, is an evil age marked by the five impurities, when only the single doctrine of the Pure Land provides a road that leads to salvation." Though they falsely attribute these statements to the Daijuku Sutra, no such passages appear in that sutra. Moreover, there is no reason why they should. It is logically apparent that, while he was in the world, the Buddha would have had no reason for declaring that in the present, Latter Day of the Law, an evil age marked by the five impurities, only the Pure Land teachings would constitute the road to salvation.
 
Their basic sutra states, "In the age to come, the scriptural path will perish,... I [Shakyamuni] leave this one sutra, which shall endure a hundred years." But nowhere does it state that those hundred years fall within the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law. Moreover, if we examine the Byodogaku Sutra and the Dai Amida Sutra, it appears that the hundred year period referred to represents the hundred years that follow the first millennium after the Buddha's passing. But people all regard Shan-tao's mistaken interpretation as quite reasonable, though in fact they are all in error.
 
Right-thinking people should consider the matter in the light of everyday reason. In a time of severe drought, is it the great ocean that dries up first, or is it the little streams? The Buddha himself explained this, likening the Lotus Sutra to the great ocean, and the Kammuryoju Sutra, Amida Sutra and similar texts to little streams. Therefore the Pure Law of the little streams that are the Nembutsu and similar teachings will surely disappear first, as a sutra passage states. When the Daijuku Sutra says that, in the fifth of the five five-hundred-year periods, "the Pure Law will become obscured and lost," and when the Muryoju Sutra says that "the scriptural path will perish...," they are simply saying the same thing. Therefore we are to understand that in the Latter Day of the Law, the scriptural path will perish beginning with the Muryoju Sutra and sutras of that type. "The scriptural path will perish" means that the sutras will lose their power to benefit the beings. It does not mean that the actual scrolls of the sutras will cease to exist. At present, more than two hundred years have passed since the time began when the scriptural path is to perish. In this period, the Lotus Sutra alone can benefit people and lead them to enlightenment.
 
This being the case, it becomes obvious that one ought to embrace this sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In the Yakuo chapter, the Buddha states: "In the fifth five hundred years after my death, widely declare and spread [the Lotus Sutra] and never allow its flow to cease." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai comments on this by saying, "In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic Way shall spread and benefit mankind far into the future." And the Great Teacher Miao-lo further says, "It is the time when the great teaching will be propagated." All these passages indicate that during the fifth five hundred years, the Lotus Sutra will be propagated, and thereafter will continue to exist throughout the world and never disappear.
 
In the Anrakugyo chapter we read: "In the latter age when the Law is on the point of disappearing, one who accepts and upholds, reads and recites this sutra..." And the Jinriki chapter says: "At that time the Buddha addressed Jogyo and the great host of bodhisattvas, saying, '...Even if, [by means of these mystic powers, I were for countless unlimited hundreds of trillions of asogi kalpas] to expound the benefits of this sutra to ensure its propagation, I could never explain them fully. I have briefly described in this sutra all the laws of the Buddha, all the invincible mystic powers of the Buddha, all the secret storehouses of the Buddha and all the profound practices of the Buddha.'"
The meaning of these various passages is that, whether one speaks of it as the fifth five-hundred-year period following the Buddha's passing, or calls it the future age, or the defiled and evil age, it is apparent that at the present time, when the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law have ended and we are two hundred years or more into the Latter Day, only the Lotus Sutra should be propagated. The reason for this is that, in this age, the people's minds have become twisted, and the teachings of the Law produce no actual effect. The Buddhas and gods no longer manifest their awesome powers, and prayers for this life and for future existences go unanswered. At such a time the devil king, or the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, will take advantage of the situation and come rampaging, and the nation will be troubled by constant famine and drought. Disease and plague will rage everywhere, and we will suffer the disasters of invasion from abroad and internal revolt, our nation being constantly at war within, and later invaded by forces coming from a foreign country to assault us. In such an "age of conflict," when the Pure Law of the other sutras ceases to be effective, the wonderfully efficacious medicine of the Lotus Sutra will provide the cure for all these grave disasters.
 
If one uses the Lotus Sutra to pray for the welfare of the land, it will prove to be a Great Pure Law for the safety and protection of the nation, insuring joy and prosperity to everyone from the ruler on down to the common people. King Ajatashatru and King Ashoka started out as evil rulers. But the former heeded the counsel of his high minister Jivaka, while the latter put faith in the guidance of the Venerable Yasha, and as a result both were able to leave behind them a reputation as worthy monarchs. Likewise the emperor of the Ch'en dynasty, who cast aside the three southern schools and the seven northern schools and relied on the Dharma Teacher Chih-i, and Emperor Kammu, who spurned the eminent priests of the six sects and instead heeded the Dharma Teacher Saicho, are known to this day as worthy rulers. The Dharma Teacher Chih-i is the man who was later honored with the title of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, while the Dharma Teacher Saicho later became known as the Great Teacher Dengyo.
 
The present ruler of Japan is in a position to do the same. If he will put his faith in this Great Pure Law, which insures "peace and security in this life and good circumstances in the next," and propagate it throughout the nation, then he will be looked up to by all the other nations, and his name will be handed down in later ages as that of a worthy man. Indeed, he may come to be regarded as a manifestation of Bodhisattva Muhengyo. And the wise man who works to propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, no matter how lowly his station, should be looked upon as a manifestation of Bodhisattva Jogyo, or perhaps as an envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha.
 
The bodhisattvas Yakuo, Yakujo, Kannon and Seishi, on the other hand, were envoys of the Buddha during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law. Because their turn has already passed, they can no longer benefit people as they did in that time of high antiquity. Just observe what happens when prayers are offered to them at present! All such prayers go unanswered. Now, in the present age, the Latter Day of the Law, it is the turn of the bodhisattvas Jogyo, Muhengyo and the others.
 
Only when one understands all this clearly and has faith in it can the power of the Law be manifested and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas bring benefit to the people. To illustrate, in kindling a fire, three things are needed: a good piece of steel, a good flint and good tinder. The same is true of prayer. Three things are required--a good teacher, a good believer and a good doctrine--before the prayers can be effective and disasters banished from the land.
 
A "good teacher" is a priest who is innocent of any wrongdoing in secular affairs, who never fawns upon others even in the slightest, who has few desires and is satisfied with little, and who is compassionate, a priest who trusts to the scriptures, reads and upholds the Lotus Sutra and also encourages others to embrace it. Such a priest the Buddha has praised by calling him, among all priests, the finest teacher of the Dharma.
 
A "good believer" is one who does not depend upon persons of eminence nor despise persons of humble station, who does not rely on the backing of his superiors nor look down on his inferiors, who, not relying upon the opinions of others, upholds the Lotus Sutra among all the various sutras. Such a person the Buddha has called the best of all people.
 
As for a "good doctrine," the Buddha has told us that this sutra, the Lotus, represents the foremost among all doctrines. Among all the sutras the Buddha "has preached," among those he "now preaches," and among those he "will preach," this sutra is designated as foremost, and therefore it is a "good doctrine."
 
The scriptural doctrines of the Zen, Shingon and other sects stand in second or third place by comparison, and indeed, the doctrines of the Shingon sect in particular deserve to be put in seventh place! And yet in Japan, these second-rate, third-rate, or even seventh-rate doctrines are used as the basis for prayers and supplications, though any proof of their efficacy has yet to be seen.
 
This wonderful Law [of the Lotus Sutra], which is foremost and unexcelled, should in fact be the basis of prayers. The Buddha himself has declared that "honestly discarding the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme Way," and that "only this one teaching is true." Who, then, could have doubts in the matter?
 
Question: If ignorant persons should come and ask what path leads to emancipation from the sufferings of birth and death, what teachings of which sutras should one explain for them? What has the Buddha taught concerning this point?
 
Answer: You should teach them the Lotus Sutra. Thus, for example, the Hosshi chapter says: "If someone should ask you which persons in a future age will be able to attain Buddhahood, you should show him that these very persons in a future age will surely be able to attain Buddhahood." And the Anrakugyo chapter says: "If one should be closely questioned, one should not reply by means of the doctrines of the lesser vehicle, but explain solely by means of the teachings of the great vehicle." The meaning of these passages is that, if someone should ask what kind of persons are capable of attaining Buddhahood, you should reply that persons who embrace the Lotus Sutra are certain to attain Buddhahood. This represents the Buddha's true intention.
 
Here a question may arise: "People differ widely in their capacity and inclination. Some will want to hear the Nembutsu teachings, while others will want to hear the Lotus Sutra. If one expounds the Lotus Sutra to those who want to hear about the Nembutsu, what benefit will they derive from it? If someone has come and specifically asked to hear about the Nembutsu, should one insist on teaching that person the Lotus Sutra? The true intention of the Buddha was to preach the Law in accordance with people's capacities so that they could gain benefit thereby, was it not?"
 
If someone should raise objections of this kind, one should explain as follows. As a matter of principle, in the world of the Latter Day of the Law, without considering whether or not it conforms to the capacity of ignorant persons, one should go ahead and teach them the five characters that compose the title of the Lotus Sutra and enable them to embrace it.
 
As for the reason, when Shakyamuni Buddha spread the Lotus Sutra long ago as a bodhisattva named Fukyo, the laymen and laywomen, the nuns and the monks, all refused to heed his words. On the contrary, he was cursed and reviled, beaten and driven away, being subjected to numerous types of persecution. But though he was hated and envied, he did not allow it to daunt him in the slightest, but kept on assertively preaching the Lotus Sutra, and for that reason he appeared in our present world as Shakyamuni Buddha. The persons who had cursed Bodhisattva Fukyo did not find their mouths twisting out of shape, and those who had beaten him likewise suffered no stiffening of their arms. [After death, they fell into hell, but eventually were able to take faith in the Lotus Sutra.]
 
The Venerable Aryasimha, who inherited Shakyamuni's teachings, was murdered by a Brahman, and the Tripitaka Master Fa-tao was branded on the face and exiled to the region south of the Yangtze River. How much more so, in the Latter Day of the Law, will an insignificant monk who attempts to propagate the Lotus Sutra encounter such difficulties! Indeed, the sutra makes this very clear. Therefore, although the people may not heed it or may say that it does not suit their capacity, one should nevertheless persist in expounding to them the five-character title of the Lotus Sutra, because there is no other way apart from it to attain Buddhahood.
 
Again, someone might raise objections, saying, "Rather than to insist upon preaching the Lotus Sutra when it does not accord with the people's capacity, and thus cause them to slander it so that they fall into the evil paths, it would be better to preach the Nembutsu, which does suit their capacity, and thus awaken in them the aspiration for enlightenment. If someone not only fails to bring benefit to others but on the contrary causes them to commit slander and fall into hell, he is no votary of the Lotus Sutra but rather a person of false views."
 
In reply to such objections, one should point out that in the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha states that whatever the people's capacity may be, in the Latter Day of the Law, one should persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra. Ask the questioner how he interprets that injunction. Does he claim that Shakyamuni Buddha, Bodhisattva Fukyo, T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo are "persons of false views" or non-Buddhists?
 
Then again, with regard to persons of the two vehicles, who will not fall into the evil paths and have also escaped from rebirth in the threefold world, the Buddha declares that it is better to arouse the mind of a dog or a fox than to have the mentality of the two vehicles. He also warns that it is better to commit the five cardinal sins or the ten evil acts and fall into hell than to have the mind of the two vehicles. Not falling into the evil paths might appear to be a considerable benefit, but the Buddha did not regard this as his true intention. Even if one should fall into hell [as a result of slandering the Lotus Sutra], because one has heard the Lotus Sutra, which enables the attainment of Buddhahood, one has thereby received the seed of Buddhahood and will invariably become a Buddha.
 
Thus, T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo, following this principle, state in their commentaries that one should persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra. It is like the case of a man who stumbles and falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground to rise to his feet again. In the same way, though persons [who slander the Lotus Sutra] may fall into hell, they will quickly rise up again and attain the state of Buddhahood.
 
The people of today in any event already reject the Lotus Sutra, and because of that error they will undoubtedly fall into hell. Therefore one should by all means persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra and causing them to hear it. Those who put their faith in it will surely attain Buddhahood, while those who slander it will establish a "poison-drum relationship" with it and will likewise attain Buddhahood.
 
In any event, the seeds of Buddhahood exist nowhere apart from the Lotus Sutra. If it were possible to attain Buddhahood through the provisional teachings, then why would the Buddha have said that one should insist on preaching the Lotus Sutra, and that both those who slander it and those who put faith in it will benefit? Or why would he say, "We do not hold our own lives dear. [We value only the supreme Way]"? Persons who have set their minds upon the Way should clearly understand these matters.
 
Question: If ignorant persons put faith in the Lotus Sutra, can even they attain Buddhahood in their present form? And in what pure land will they be reborn?
 
Answer: In embracing the Lotus Sutra, of those who profoundly grasp the sutra's essence, practice the seated meditation described in the Maka Shikan, and concentrate on the meditative disciplines pertaining to the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the ten objects and the ten meditations there may be some who indeed attain Buddhahood in their present form and achieve enlightenment. As for other types of people, it would appear that even if they do not understand the heart of the Lotus Sutra and are ignorant but have a mind of earnest faith, then they will invariably be reborn in a pure land. For it says in the Lotus Sutra, "They will be reborn in the presence of all the Buddhas of the ten directions," and "She shall directly go to the tranquil and happy land." These passages give clear proof that one who has faith in the Lotus Sutra will be reborn in a pure land.
 
Someone may raise objections, saying, "Since one is only one person, I do not understand how one can be reborn in the presence of the Buddhas of all the ten directions. Surely one is limited to one direction. Therefore, which direction should I trust to and be reborn in?"
 
To this one would reply that there is a very good reason why the sutra speaks of ten directions and does not specify which one. This is because, when the life of one who believes in the Lotus Sutra comes to an end, among all the worlds of the ten directions, that person will be reborn in the land of a Buddha who is preaching the Lotus Sutra, and will never be reborn in a pure land where the other sutras, such as the Kegon, Agon, Hodo or Hannya sutras, are being preached.
 
There are many pure lands in the ten directions. There are pure lands where the way of the shomon disciple is preached, pure lands where the way of the pratyekabuddha is preached, and pure lands where the way of the bodhisattva is preached. Those who have faith in the Lotus Sutra will never be reborn in any of these, but will at once be reborn in a pure land where the Lotus Sutra is being preached. They will take their seats among the assembly, listen to the Lotus Sutra and as a result become Buddhas.
 
Yet in spite of this, there are those who urge others to set aside the Lotus Sutra in this lifetime, saying that it is not suited to their capacity, and that they will master its teachings when they are reborn in the western pure land. It is obvious, however, that such persons will never master the Lotus Sutra even in Amida's pure land, nor will they be reborn in any of the other pure lands of the ten directions. Rather, because the offense of turning one's back upon the Lotus Sutra is a grave one, they will fall into hell and remain there for a long time. The sutra is referring to such people when it says, "After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell."
 
Question: The sutra states, "She shall directly go to the tranquil and happy land where Amida Buddha dwells..." In this passage, the Buddha is saying that a woman who embraces the Lotus Sutra will be reborn in the pure land of Amida Buddha. It is said that by reciting the Nembutsu, one will also be reborn in the pure land of Amida Buddha. Since one is reborn in the pure land in either case, may we not assume that the Nembutsu and the Lotus Sutra are equivalent?
 
Answer: The Kammuryoju Sutra belongs to the provisional teachings, while the Lotus Sutra represents the true teaching. In no way can they be equivalent. The reason is that, when the Buddha appeared in the world, though he spent forty years and more preaching various doctrines, he had a great aversion to persons of the two vehicles, to evil persons and to women, and said not a single word about the possibility of their attaining Buddhahood. In this one sutra, [the Lotus,] however, he stated that even those persons of the two vehicles, for whom the seeds of Buddhahood had rotted; Devadatta, who had committed three of the [five] cardinal sins; and women, who are ordinarily hindered by the five obstacles, could all become Buddhas. This is clearly stated in the text of the sutra.
 
The Kegon Sutra states: "Women are messengers of hell who can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood. They may look like bodhisattvas, but at heart they are like yaksha demons." The Gonjikinyo Sutra says that even though the eyes of the Buddhas of the three existences should come out and fall to the ground, the women of the world could never attain Buddhahood. Another sutra says, "Women are great demon spirits who devour all people." And Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his Daichido Ron says that just looking upon a woman once forms the karma to fall into hell for a long time. Thus, although I do not know if it is true or not, it is said that the priest Shan-tao, though he was a slanderer of the Law, spent his entire lifetime without ever looking at a woman. And Narihira was comparing women to demons in his poem:
 
My horror of that ruined,
 
Creeper-grown house
 
Is because, even briefly,
 
It swarms with demons!
 
Moreover, women are burdened with the five obstacles and the three obediences, and so their sins are said to be profound. The five obstacles mean that first, a woman cannot become a Bonten; second, she cannot become a Taishaku; third, she cannot become a devil king; fourth, she cannot become a wheel-turning king; and fifth, she cannot become a Buddha. The three obediences mean that when a woman is young, she cannot follow her own desires but must obey her parents. When she reaches maturity, she cannot follow her own desires but must obey her husband. And when she is old, she cannot follow her own desires but must obey her sons. Thus, from the time she is a child until she becomes an old woman, she cannot do as she pleases, but must obey these three categories of persons. She cannot say what she thinks, she cannot see what she wants to see, she cannot hear what she wants to hear. This is what is meant by the three obediences.
 
For this reason, Jung Ch'i-ch'i numbered among his "three pleasures" the fact that he had not been born a woman. Women are thus despised in both the inner and outer scriptures. And yet, in the case of this sutra [the Lotus], even though they neither read nor copy the text, women who receive and uphold it in body, mouth and mind, and in particular chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with their mouths, will be able to attain Buddhahood readily, as did the dragon king's daughter or Gautami and Yashodhara, who lived at the same time as the Buddha. This is the meaning of the passage [you have cited] from the sutra.
 
Moreover, concerning the phrase "the tranquil and happy land," all the various pure lands are indicated by the words "tranquil and happy." And again, the Amida Buddha spoken of here is not the Amida Buddha of the Kammuryoju Sutra. The Amida Buddha of the Kammuryoju Sutra was originally a monk named Hozo, the master of forty-eight vows and a Buddha who attained the Way ten kalpas in the past. In the Lotus Sutra, the Amida mentioned in the theoretical teaching was the ninth son among the sixteen princes who were sons of Daitsuchisho Buddha, an Amida Buddha who made a great vow to propagate the Lotus Sutra. The Amida who appears in the essential teaching is an emanation of Shakyamuni Buddha. Therefore the commentary says, "One should understand that this does not refer to [the Amida of] the Kammuryoju and other sutras."
 
Question: The Lotus Sutra says, "[The portal to this wisdom] is difficult to understand and difficult to enter." The persons of our time cite this passage to argue that the Lotus Sutra is not fitted to the capacities of the people, and this seems to me very reasonable. What is your opinion?
 
Answer: Such an assertion is quite unfounded. The reason is because it is put forward by persons who have not grasped the true meaning of this sutra.
 
The sutras that were preached prior to the Lotus Sutra were indeed difficult to understand and difficult to enter. But when we come to the assembly where the Lotus Sutra was preached, then we can say that the Buddha's teaching became easy to understand and easy to enter. For this reason, the Great Teacher Miao-lo says in his commentary: "The sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra did not fully reveal the Buddha's meaning, and therefore it is said that they are difficult to understand. But in this present teaching, it is indicated that all persons whosoever can in fact enter the realm of truth. Hence the teaching is easy to understand."
 
The meaning of this passage is that, in the case of the sutras preached previous to the Lotus Sutra, because the people's capacity was inferior, these sutras were difficult to understand and difficult to enter. But by the time the Buddha preached the present sutra, the Lotus, the people's capacity had become sharper, and therefore the teaching was easy to understand and easy to enter.
 
In addition, if those sutras that declare themselves to be difficult to understand and difficult to enter do not fit the people's capacity, then you ought first of all to abandon the Nembutsu teaching. I say this because in the Muryoju Sutra we read, "[To embrace this sutra is] the most difficult of difficult things. Nothing is more difficult than this." And the Amida Sutra speaks of itself as a doctrine that is "difficult to believe." The meaning of these passages is that to receive and uphold these sutras is the most difficult of difficult things, that nothing could in fact be more difficult, and that their doctrines are difficult to believe.
 
Question: A sutra passage reads, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." And another sutra passage reads, "[If one cannot hear of this sutra...,] in the end he will never attain supreme enlightenment, even after the lapse of countless, limitless, inconceivable asogi kalpas." Just what are these passages saying?
 
Answer: The meaning of these passages is that, among the various doctrines that Shakyamuni Buddha expounded in the fifty years of his preaching life, he did not expound the truth in the Kegon Sutra, which represents his first teaching, nor did he expound the truth in the Hodo and Hannya sutras that he preached later on. For this reason, people who carry out the practice taught by the Zen and Nembutsu sects or who uphold the precepts will never attain Buddhahood, even though countless and limitless kalpas may pass.
 
After the Buddha had spent forty-two years preaching, he then expounded the Lotus Sutra, and in that sutra he said, "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth." When they heard and understood these words of the Buddha, Shariputra and the others of the twelve hundred arhats, the twelve thousand shomon disciples, Miroku and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, Bonten, Taishaku and the others of the billions of heavenly beings, and King Ajatashatru and the countless and innumerable other kings said, "From past times we have often heard the World-Honored One preach, but we have never before heard such a profound and wonderful superior Dharma!" Thus they declared that, although they had constantly attended the Buddha and heard him preach various doctrines over forty-two years, they had never heard anything like this wonderful Lotus Sutra.
 
How can people in the world so misunderstand such clear passages as to think that the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras are equal? Not only that, but they say that the Lotus Sutra, because it does not suit the people's capacity, is like brocade worn in the dark of night or like last year's calendar. When they happen to encounter someone who upholds the sutra, they look on him with scorn and contempt, hate and envy, and purse their lips in disapproval of him. This is nothing less than slander of the Law. How then could they be reborn in the Pure Land and attain Buddhahood? It appears that such persons will surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
 
Question: Generally speaking, people who have a correct understanding of the Buddhist teachings and who act in accordance with the Buddha's will are looked up to by the world and respected by all. And yet in our present age, in the case of persons who uphold the Lotus Sutra, the world joins in hating and envying them, treats them with contempt and scorn, sometimes driving them away, sometimes condemning them to exile, never dreaming of giving them alms but rather hating them as though they were deadly enemies. It would almost seem as though the followers of the Lotus Sutra were evil-minded persons who were going against the Buddha's will and interpreting the Buddhist teachings in a distorted manner. How is this explained in the sutras?
 
Answer: According to the sutra text, the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law who are so faithful in upholding the sutra that they are hated by others are the true priests of the Mahayana. They are the teachers of the Dharma who will propagate the Lotus Sutra and bring benefit to others. As for priests who are thought well of by others, who go along with other people's desires and so come to be revered, one should regard them as the enemies of the Lotus Sutra and as evil teachers to the world. A sutra passage likens persons of this type to a hunter who spies sharply about him as he stalks a deer, or to a cat who hides its claws as it creeps up on a mouse. In just such a way, we are told, do they flatter, deceive and mislead the men and women lay believers.
 
In addition, the Kanji chapter mentions three groups of people who are enemies of the Lotus Sutra. The first group consists of laymen and laywomen. These lay men and women will hate and curse the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, beat them, put them to the sword, drive them from their dwellings or slander them to the authorities so that they are exiled to distant places. They behave toward them with pitiless enmity.
 
The second group consists of monks. These men are arrogant at heart, and though they have little true understanding, they pretend to be very wise and are looked upon by the people of the world as great authorities. When these men see the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, they hate and envy them, treat them with contempt and scorn, and speak evil of them to others, as if they were inferior to dogs or foxes. In their opinion, they alone have truly understood the Lotus Sutra.
 
The third group is made up of monks living in secluded places. These monks have all the outward signs of being very worthy men. They possess only the prescribed three robes and one begging bowl, and live in seclusion in a quiet spot in a mountain forest, so that everyone looks up to them as though they were the arhats living at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, and all people revere them as though they were Buddhas. When these men see the monks who read and uphold the Lotus Sutra in accordance with its teachings, they hate and envy them, calling them great fools or holders of grave heretical views, claiming that they are completely lacking in compassion and that they preach doctrines that do not belong to Buddhism. And because the ruler looks up to such men and believes what they say, everyone on down to the common people gives alms to them as though they were Buddhas. Thus the Buddha taught that persons who read and uphold the Lotus Sutra in accordance with its teachings, will invariably be hated by these three types of enemies.
 
Question: Is there any evidence to indicate that one should in particular embrace the name of the Lotus Sutra in the same way that people embrace the name of a particular Buddha?
 
Answer: The sutra states, "The Buddha addressed the demon daughters saying, 'Excellent! Excellent! Merely by protecting those who receive and uphold the name of the Lotus Sutra, you will enjoy good fortune beyond measure.'" The meaning of this passage is that, when the ten demon daughters made a vow to protect those who embrace the title of the Lotus Sutra, the Greatly Enlightened World-Honored One praised them, saying, "Excellent! Excellent! The blessings you will enjoy for protecting those who receive and uphold Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will be impossible to fathom! They will be splendid blessings! Truly wonderful!" This passage implies that we human beings, whether we are walking, standing, sitting or lying down, should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
 
As for the meaning of Myoho-renge-kyo: The Buddha nature inherent in us, ordinary beings; the Buddha nature of Bonten, Taishaku and the other deities; the Buddha nature of Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the other shomon disciples; the Buddha nature of Monju, Miroku and the other bodhisattvas; and the Mystic Law that is the enlightenment of all the Buddhas of the three existences, are one and identical; this principle is called Myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, when once we chant Myoho-renge-kyo, with just that single sound we summon forth and manifest the Buddha nature of all Buddhas; all dharmas; all bodhisattvas; all shomon disciples; all the deities such as Bonten, Taishaku, King Emma; the sun, the moon, the myriad stars, the heavenly gods and earthly deities, on down to hell-dwellers, hungry spirits, beasts, asuras, humans, gods and all other living beings. This blessing is immeasurable and boundless.
 
When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of worship, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; this is what is meant by "Buddha." To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge. The Buddha nature of Bonten and Taishaku, being called, will protect us, and the Buddha nature of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, being summoned, will rejoice. This is what the Buddha meant when he said, "One who embraces it [the Lotus Sutra] even for a short time will delight me and all other Buddhas."
 
All Buddhas of the three existences, too, attain Buddhahood by virtue of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. These five characters are the reason why the Buddhas of the three existences make their advent in the world; they are the Mystic Law whereby all living beings can attain the Buddha Way. You should understand this matter thoroughly, and, on the path of attaining Buddhahood, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo without arrogance or attachment to biased views.
 
Nichiren
 
 
Introduction and Preface to the Ongi Kuden
 Namu Myoho Renge Kyo [Devotion to the Lotus Sutra]

“Namu derives from Sanskrit, and here [in Japan] it is rendered as kimyo , meaning ‘to devote one’s life.’  This means to devote one’s life to the Person and the Law.  Devotion to the Law means to devote one’s life to the Lotus Sutra.  Devotion to the Person means to devote one’s life to Shakyamuni.  Devotion of one’s life means both the physical law of life and the spiritual law of life.  The ultimate principle embodies the oneness of these two.  In addition, devotion, (ki) indicates dedicating our lives to the principle of the eternal and unchanging truth revealed in the theoretical teachings of the Lotus Sutra.  ‘Life’ (myo) means to base ourselves upon wisdom that functions in accord with changing circumstances as revealed in the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra.  Thus, to ‘devote one’s own life’ is the very meaning of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  T'ien-t'ai states ‘The eternal and unchanging truth and wisdom that functions in accord with changing circumstances are at each moment both contained within life, which embodies and permeates all phenomena.’”
Additionally, ‘to devote’ expresses our physical aspect and ‘life’ our spiritual aspect. The supreme principle reveals that the physical and the spiritual are one and inseparable within the ultimate reality of life.  T'ien-t'ai states that because we devote our lives to the ultimate reality, our devotion is called the Buddha vehicle. Also, while  “ of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo derives from Sanskrit, Myoho Renge Kyo derives from the Chinese language.  Therefore Nam Myoho Renge Kyo comprises both Chinese and Sanskrit.  Moreover, in Sanskrit, one says Saddharma pundarika sutram which is rendered as  Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  Sad translates as Myo, dharma as Ho, pundarika as Renge and sutram to Kyo.  These nine characters correspond to the nine honored ones and express the principle that the nine worlds inherently possess the Buddha nature.  Myo represents the nature of enlightenment, while ho, indicates darkness or delusion.  The oneness of delusion and enlightenment is called Myoho, the Mystic Law.  Renge represents the principles of cause and effect, and also indicates the simultaneity of cause and effect.  Kyo indicates the words and speech, sounds and voices of all sentient beings.  Chang-an states, ‘The voice does the Buddha’s work.’, and is therefore called kyo.  Kyo also signifies that life spans the three existences of past, present and future.  All things are Myoho, all things are Renge, all things are Kyo.  Renge means the Buddha’s body encompassed by the nine honored ones on the eight petalled lotus.  You should ponder this carefully.” (Gosho Zenshu p.708)
 
Jozo and Jogen

I have received one sack of unpolished rice, one basket of melons, some yams and various other gifts.

Once there was a person who exerted himself in the service of a wealthy man named Rakutoku. Day and night he, his wife and their children were treated harshly and driven hard. Unable to bear the excessive ill-treatment, he hid himself and fled to another country. After serving for a time in the court of a great king in that country, he became an influential retainer and eventually the chief minister to the king. Later, employing the might of this country, he defeated the country where his former master resided. At that time, seeing this chief minister, the former master was greatly frightened and regretted his ill-treatment. Placing himself in the service of the chief minister, he brought him various treasures. And, with no thought for the defeat he had experienced, he now strove only to ensure that his life would be spared.

The case of the Lotus Sutra is the same. The Lotus Sutra is the master of Yakushi Buddha in the east, as well as the master of all Buddhas in the south, west, north and the worlds above and below. Shakyamuni Buddha and the other Buddhas revere the characters of the Lotus Sutra in the same way that people fear their sovereign and the stars venerate the moon.

We ordinary persons, however, have long been under the influence of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. We have been forced into confinement in the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals, and, without a moment of relief, day and night we are tortured by the wardens of hell. Even so, if we could somehow place ourselves under the protection of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha and the Buddhas of the ten directions would treat us as their children, and thus even the heavenly kings Bonten and Taishaku. would refrain from approaching us out of fear. How much more, then, would the Devil of the Sixth Heaven fear us! Even though the devil king had formerly been our master, he would now stand in reverential awe of us. And, terribly fearful that should he cause trouble for us, his situation would worsen when he presented himself to the Lotus Sutra and the Buddhas of the ten directions, he would make us offerings. For this reason he spares no effort whatsoever to prevent all the living beings of the six paths from accepting the Lotus Sutra.

Therefore, how could this be? You have taken pity on Nichiren, who is hated by all people, sending various articles all the way to me in these mountains on more than just one or two occasions. This is no ordinary matter. Indeed, Shakyamuni Buddha himself may have entered your body. Or perhaps your deceased son has become a Buddha and, in order to guide his father and mother, has entered your hearts.

King Myoshogon was an evil king. However, because his two sons, Jozo and Jogen, guided him to the way, he and his wife were both able to place their trust in the Lotus Sutra and become Buddhas. Mysteriously enough, your own circumstances are much the same.

Kai-ko said: "He [the deceased son] was above the ordinary in both features and form. In addition, he was honest at heart and rich in wisdom. I felt it a terrible pity that someone such as he, outstanding in every respect, should die so young. Reconsidering the matter, however, I realized that it was because of this boy’s death that his mother became a seeker of the way and his father began to practice, praying for his repose. How marvelous, I thought. Moreover, the fact that they have put their trust in the Lotus Sutra, which all people detest, must mean that their deceased son has been at their side and encouraged them to do so." I also believe this to be the case.

Before, I had thought that your sincerity was just an ordinary matter, but now, for the first time, I have sensed the depth of your faith. If anything should happen to you, just as the moon emerges to shine in the dark night, so the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo will appear as a moon for you. Be convinced that Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddhas of the ten directions and the son who preceded you in death will appear in this moon. I will explain in greater detail on another occasion.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The seventh day of the seventh month
 
King Rinda

I have received the two sacks of parched rice you sent. Rice may seem like a very small thing, yet it is what sustains human life. And the Buddha says that life is something that cannot be purchased even for the price of an entire major world system.

Rice is what sustains life. It is like the oil that sustains the life of the lamp. The Lotus Sutra is a lamp, and its votary is the oil that sustains it. Or again, the lay supporters are the oil that sustains the lamp of the votary.

Among all the hundred flavors, the flavor of cow’s milk is the finest. The seventh volume of the Nirvana Sutra says: "Of all flavors, the finest is that of milk." When milk is treated, it becomes cream, and when cream is treated, it eventually becomes ghee. Of the five flavors represented by this process ghee is the finest.

If we employ these five flavors as similes for the various Buddhist teachings, we might say that the three thousand volumes of the Confucian school and the eighteen major scriptures of Brahmanism correspond to the flavors of ordinary foods. In comparison to these, even the Agon sutras are like the flavor of ghee.

[Among the Buddhist teachings,] the Agon sutras may be compared to the flavor of milk; the Kammuryoju and the other sutras of the Hodo period may be compared to the flavor of cream; the Hannya sutras may be compared to the flavor of curdled milk; the Kegon Sutra may be compared to the flavor of butter; and the Muryogi, Lotus and Nirvana sutras may be compared to the flavor of ghee.

Again, if the Nirvana Sutra is compared to the flavor of ghee, then the Lotus Sutra may be compared to a lord who rules over the five flavors. Thus the Great Teacher Miao-lo states: "If we discuss the matter from the point of view of the doctrines taught, then the Lotus Sutra stands as the true lord of all the teachings, since it alone preaches ‘opening the provisional and revealing the distant.’ This is the reason that it alone is permitted the word myo or ‘wonderful’ [in its title]. And he also says: "Therefore we understand that the Lotus Sutra is the true lord of the ghee."

These passages of commentary point out quite rightly that the Lotus Sutra is not to be included among the five flavors. The main import of these passages is that the five flavors are used to nourish life. But life itself is lord over all the five flavors.

The Tendai sect puts forth two views on this matter. The first is that the Kegon, Hodo, Hannya, Nirvana and Lotus sutras are all comparable to the flavor of ghee. This view would seem to be based on the opinion that the sutras preached previous to the Lotus Sutra and the Lotus Sutra itself are similar in nature. The scholars of the world are familiar only with this particular view, and are not familiar with the doctrine that the Lotus Sutra is the lord of the five flavors. Hence they are deceived and led astray by the other sects of Buddhism.

The view that, although the Lotus and other sutras differ with regard to whether or not they open up and incorporate the expedient means, they all represent the perfect teaching -- this is a doctrine that reflects the meaning of the theoretical teaching. However, the view that the various sutras mentioned above correspond to the five flavors, while the Lotus Sutra represents the lord of the five flavors -- this is a doctrine that reflects the essential teaching. This doctrine was touched upon by T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo in their writings, but it was not clearly enunciated. This is why there are few scholars who are aware of it.

In the passage of commentary by Miao-lo quoted above, the words "If we discuss the matter from the point of view of the doctrines taught" refer to the daimoku or title of the Lotus Sutra, which is what is meant by "the doctrines taught." The words "opening the provisional" correspond to the character ge in the five-character daimoku, Myoho-renge-kyo. The words "revealing the distant" correspond to the character ren in the five-character daimoku. The words "it alone is permitted the word myo" correspond to the character myo. And the words "This is the reason" refer to the fact that when we speak of the Lotus Sutra as the essence of the lifetime teachings of the Buddha, we have in mind the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore one should understand that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra represents the soul of all the sutras; it represents the eye of all the sutras.

The Lotus Sutra should by rights be employed in eye-opening ceremonies to insure their effectiveness. But instead of that, the Dainichi and other sutras are employed in eye-opening ceremonies for all the various wooden or painted images of Buddhas. As a result, none of the Buddha images in the temples and pagodas of Japan, though their forms resemble that of the Buddha, are really Buddhas in mind. Rather they have the minds of ordinary beings who live in the nine lower worlds. The custom of revering stupid and ignorant teachers as though they were wise men began with this.

Such practices simply waste the funds of the nation; they do not produce effective prayers. On the contrary, the Buddhas are thereby transformed; they turn into devils and demons. This is what is causing distress to the ruler of the nation and the common people.

And now, because the votary of the Lotus Sutra and his lay supporters have appeared, people behave like the many kinds of ordinary beasts who hate the lion, king of beasts, or like the plants and trees that tremble before the icy wind. But I will say no more of that.

Why is the Lotus Sutra superior to other sutras? Why is it needed for the sake of all living beings? Let me give a simile.

The plants and trees have the earth as their mother, the sky as their father, the sweet rains as their food, the wind as their spirit, and the sun and moon as their wet nurses, and in this way they grow to maturity, bring forth flowers and bear fruit. in the same manner, all living beings have the true aspect [of all phenomena] as their earth, the aspect-free nature as their sky, the one vehicle as their sweet rain, and the pronouncement that the Lotus Sutra is foremost among all the sutras that the Buddha preached, now preaches or will preach, as their great wind. "Adorned with the power of meditation and wisdom" as their sun and moon, they nurture the blessings of perfect enlightenment, put forth the flowers of great pity and great compassion, and bear the fruit of peaceful Buddhahood. Such is the way that all living beings are nourished.

Then again, all living beings sustain life through the things they eat. There are many kinds of food. Some beings feed on dirt, some feed on water, some eat fire and some eat wind. The insect called a kalakula feeds on wind, the creature called a mole feeds on dirt. Then there are some demons that eat human skin and flesh, bone and marrow, some that eat urine and dung, some that eat lives and some that eat voices. There are fish that eat stones and the baku beast that eats iron. And the gods of the earth, the heavenly deities, the dragon gods, the deities of the sun and moon, the heavenly kings Taishaku and Daibonten, the beings of the two vehicles, the bodhisattvas and the Buddhas taste and savor the Buddhist Law and make it their body and spirit.

Let me give another simile. Once in the past there lived a great ruler named King Rinda, a wise monarch who ruled over the entire land of Jambudvipa. Now what was it that this king lived on? He listened to the sound of white horses neighing, and thus nourished the growth of his body, provided rest and tranquillity for his body and mind, and ruled over his kingdom. This occurred in the same way that the creatures called frogs listen to the cries of their mothers and are thus enabled to grow; that the autumn bush clover blooms when it hears the crying of the deer; that the ivory plant puts forth buds when it hears the sound of thunder; or that the pomegranate flourishes when it encounters a stone.

This being the case, King Rinda had gathered together a number of white horses and was taking care of them. And because these white horses would neigh only when they caught sight of white swans, he also gathered together a number of white swans that he kept in his care. As a result, not only did the king himself enjoy peace and tranquillity, but the hundreds of officials and the thousands of attendants who served him also prospered. Throughout the realm, the wind and rain came in their proper season, and other countries bowed their heads in submission. This situation continued for a number of years.

But, perhaps because of an error in his rule, or perhaps because the rewards accruing from his karma were exhausted, the thousands and ten thousands of white swans suddenly disappeared, and the countless numbers of white horses ceased their neighing. And because the king could no longer hear the neighing of the white horses, he was like a flower that wilts or the moon when it is eclipsed. His skin changed color, his strength waned away, his six sense organs grew dull and clouded, and he became like a senile old man. His queen, too, became old and feeble. The hundreds of officials and the thousands of attendants lamented, not knowing what to do. The skies clouded over, the earth trembled, great winds and droughts appeared, and famines and pestilence occurred, until so many persons had died that their flesh piled up in mounds and their bones were like heaps of tiles. Moreover, the country was beset by attacks from other nations.

At this time the king, lamenting over what to do, concluded that the only recourse was to pray to the Buddhas and gods. From times past there had been non-Buddhist believers in the kingdom, and they were numerous in many regions of the land. There were also many persons who honored the Law of the Buddha and regarded it as a treasure of the state. The king, declaring that he would honor the teachings of whichever group was successful at attracting the white swans and causing the white horses to neigh, first commanded the non-Buddhist believers to try the effectiveness of their teachings. But though they carried out their efforts over several days, not a single white swan appeared, and the white horses failed to neigh.

Then the king ordered the non-Buddhists to cease their prayers and the Buddhists to make the attempt with theirs. At that time there was a young monk known as Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha or Horse Neigh. When he was summoned before the king, he said, "If Your Majesty will abolish the erroneous doctrines of the non-Buddhists throughout the kingdom and work to spread the Law of the Buddha, it will be easy enough to make the horses neigh!"

The king issued an edict that this should be done. Then Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha addressed prayers to the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions, whereupon a white swan immediately appeared. When the white horses caught sight of the white swan, they whinnied in a single voice. No sooner had the king heard the single neigh of the horses than he opened his eyes. As two white swans, and then hundreds and thousands of them appeared, the hundreds and thousands of white horses were instantly filled with joy and began neighing. The king’s complexion was restored to its original state, like the sun recovering from an eclipse, and the strength of his body and the perceptive powers of his mind became many hundreds and thousands of times greater than they had been before. The queen was overjoyed, the great ministers and high officials took courage, the common people pressed their palms together in reverence, and the other countries bowed their heads.

The situation in the world today is no different from this. The period during the seven reigns of the heavenly deities and the five reigns of the earthly deities, that is, the first twelve reigns in Japanese history, was like the kalpa of formation. The power of good fortune and the power derived from the keeping of the precepts that had been accumulated in previous existences were such that, although the people of the time made no great effort toward goodness, the country was still well governed and people lived long lives.

Then came the period of human sovereigns. During the first twenty-nine reigns, the power derived from observing the precepts in past existences began to weaken. Government affairs proceeded poorly, and for the first time the country was visited by the three calamities and seven disasters. But because the texts describing how the three sovereigns and five emperors of antiquity had governed the world were introduced from China, these could be used in paying honor to the gods and overcoming the calamities and disasters that beset the nation.

When Emperor Kimmei, the thirtieth human sovereign, came to the throne, the power derived from good fortune and the observance of the precepts in past existences had further weakened in the country. Many people appeared who were completely dominated by their evil minds. Good minds were weakened and evil minds prevailed. The teachings of the Confucian texts were so ineffectual, and the weight of people’s offenses was so great, that as a result the Confucian texts were abandoned and people turned instead to the Buddhist scriptures.

For example, Moriya paid honor to numerous gods who had appeared during the seven reigns of the heavenly deities and the five reigns of the earthly deities, praying that the Buddhist teachings would not spread and that the Confucian texts would be honored as they had been before. Prince Shotoku, on the other hand, took Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, as his object of worship, and adopted the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras as his scriptures. The two parties vied for supremacy, but in the end the gods were defeated, the Buddha emerged victorious, and just as had happened in India and China, the land of the gods for the first time became a land of the Buddha. The passage in the sutra that reads, "Now this threefold world is all my domain," was in the process of being fulfilled.

During the twenty-some reigns from Emperor Kimmei to Emperor Kammu, a period of 260 years or more, the Buddha was looked up to as the sovereign, and the gods were regarded as his years or more, the Buddha was looked up to as the sovereign, and the gods were regarded as his ministers. In this way the world was governed. But although the Buddhist teachings held a superior place and the gods an inferior one, the world was not well governed.

People began to question why this should be so; and in the reign of Emperor Kammu there appeared a sage known as the Great Teacher Dengyo who pondered the problem. "The gods have been defeated and the Buddha has emerged victorious," he asserted. "The Buddha is looked upon as the sovereign and the gods as his ministers; the relations between superior and inferior are correctly ordered in accordance with the rules of propriety, and therefore the nation should be well governed." How strange, then, that there is such unrest in the country! With this in mind, I began to examine all the sutras, and I realized that there is indeed a reason for such a state of affairs.

"The teachings of Buddhism have been guilty of a grave error. Among all the sutras, the Lotus Sutra ought to hold the position of sovereign, with the other sutras such as the Kegon, Daibon, Jimmitsu and Agon sutras occupying the position of minister or attendant or ordinary person. And yet the Sanron sect asserts that the Hannya sutras are superior to the Lotus Sutra, the Hosso sect holds that the Jimmitsu Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra, the Kegon sect holds that the Kegon Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra, while the Ritsu sect proclaims itself the mother of all the other sects. There is not a single votary of the Lotus Sutra, and those who do read and recite the Lotus Sutra have been, contrary to all expectations, derided and dismissed by the people of the world."

He proclaimed that because of this heaven was angered and the benevolent deities who would have guarded the nation found their powers weakened. And he declared that even though people praise the Lotus Sutra, they destroy its heart.

Then the priests of the seven major temples of Nara, of the fifteen great temples, and of all the temples and mountain monasteries throughout the country of Japan, hearing these words, were greatly incensed. "Mahadeva of India and the Taoist priests of China have appeared in our country!" they exclaimed. "They have taken on the form of this little monk known as Saicho! If anyone should encounter him, break his head in two and cut off his arms, beat him and curse him!"

But Emperor Kammu, being a wise ruler, inquired into and clearly perceived the truth of the matter, and concluded that the six sects of Nara were in error. For the first time he established a temple on Mount Hiei, making it the headquarters of the Tendai-Hokke sect. And he not only founded an ordination platform for the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment, but declared the Hokke sect to be superior to the six older sects connected with the seven major temples of Nara and the fifteen great temples.

In effect, the six sects came to be regarded as mere expedient teachings leading to the Lotus Sutra. It was like the earlier instance in which the gods yielded to the Buddha and became mere doorkeepers of Buddhism. Something like the same situation prevailed in Japan. For the first time it was made clear in this country that, as the sutra says, "[among those sutras] the Lotus is the foremost." A person who "is able to secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person" is the envoy of the Buddha, it declares, and for the first time such an envoy appeared in this country. For a period of twenty or more years, during the reigns of the three emperors Kammu, Heizei and Saga, throughout the entire country of Japan everyone was a votary of the Lotus Sutra.

But, just as the foul-smelling eranda tree exists in relation to the fragrant sandalwood, and just as Devadatta exists in relation to Shakyamuni, so at the same time as the Great Teacher Dengyo there appeared a sage known as the Great Teacher Kobo. He journeyed to China, studied the Dainichi Sutra and the teachings of the Shingon school, and then returned to Japan.

While the Great Teacher Dengyo was still alive, Kobo did not forcefully assert his contention that the Dainichi Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra. But after the Great Teacher Dengyo passed away, which was on the fourth day of the sixth month in the thirteenth year of the Konin era (822), he apparently concluded that the time had come to do so. Thus, in the fourteenth year of the Konin era, on the nineteenth day of the first month, the Great Teacher Kobo produced a document in which he ranked the Shingon teachings first, the teachings of the Kegon Sutra second, and those of the Lotus Sutra third. He also asserted that the Lotus Sutra is a doctrine of childish theory, that Shakyamuni Buddha is in the region of darkness, and that the men of the Tendai sect are thieves.

In this manner he attempted to deceive Emperor Saga by placing his own Shingon sect side by side with the seven older sects and asserting that the seven older sects represent mere expedient teachings, while the Shingon sect represents the ultimate truth.

In the period that followed, everyone throughout the country of Japan became a follower of the Shingon sect. In addition, a disciple of the Great Teacher Dengyo named Jikaku journeyed to China, where he made a thorough study of the secret doctrines of the Tendai and Shingon schools before returning to Japan. He wrote commentaries on two works, the Kongocho Sutra and the Soshitsuji Sutra, and founded a temple called Zento-in on Mount Hiei. In his commentaries he asserted that the Dainichi Sutra should be ranked first and the Lotus Sutra second, and he put forth countless other erroneous statements, just as Kobo had done earlier. I have touched upon this matter somewhat in my earlier letters.

This eminent teacher was followed by another, the Great Teacher Chisho, who propagated his teachings from the temple known as Onjo-ji. Among all the temples today, this one appears to me to be causing the greatest damage to the nation.

Among the three thousand priests of Mount Hiei there were some who, if Jikaku and Chisho had not insisted upon the point, would never have acknowledged the superiority of the Shingon teachings. But all of them had their mouths stopped and their minds deceived by Jikaku, also known as the Great Teacher Ennin; no one was able to say a word in opposition.

Moreover, the support lent by the ruler and his ministers surpassed even what it had been in the time of Dengyo and Kobo, so that Mount Hiei, the seven temples of Nara and indeed the whole country of Japan joined in declaring that the Lotus Sutra was inferior to the Dainichi Sutra. In the various temples where the Lotus Sutra had earlier been propagated, the teachings of the Shingon sect were now disseminated, and hailed as superior to the Lotus Sutra.

Four hundred years or more have passed since this situation developed. These erroneous opinions have continued to spread, and five sovereigns, from the eighty-first ruler of Japan to the eighty-fifth, have lost their thrones. Because the Buddhist way has fallen into decline, the way of the sovereign has likewise declined.

In addition, the major erroneous doctrine known as the Zen sect and the minor erroneous doctrine called the Nembutsu sect have joined the great evil doctrine called Shingon, and these evil sects now stand side by side, holding sway over the entire country. The goddess Tensho Daijin has lost heart and no longer protects her charges; Great Bodhisattva Hachiman has been sapped of his power and authority and has ceased to guard and defend the nation. In the end we are doomed to become the prey of foreign lands.

I, Nichiren, viewing this state of affairs and fearful of the warning about one who "is betraying Buddhism," and about one who "will fall into hell along with...," have attempted to inform the ruler of the nation of the general situation. But he, led astray by erroneous doctrines, refuses to believe me. On the contrary, he has become a deadly enemy.

Although I try to point out that this country is full of people who would like to do away with the Lotus Sutra, no one understands me, and so they merely go on committing errors of stupidity. And now, in addition, a votary of the Lotus Sutra has made his appearance, so that the people of Japan, on top of their stupidity, give way to anger, favoring erroneous teachings and viewing the correct teaching with hatred. In a country where the three poisons [of greed, anger and stupidity] prevail to such a degree, how can there be peace and stability?

In the kalpa of decline, the three major calamities will occur, namely, the calamities of fire, water and wind. And in the kalpa of decrease, the three minor calamities will occur, namely, famine, pestilence and warfare. Famine occurs as a result of greed, pestilence as a result of stupidity, and warfare as a result of anger.

At present the people of Japan number 4,994,828 men and women, all of them different persons but all alike infected by the three poisons. And these three poisons occur because of their relationship with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. So all of these people at the same moment set out to curse, attack, banish and do away with Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions. This is what leads to the appearance of the three minor calamities.

And now I wonder what karma from past existences has caused Nichiren and his associates to become the proponents of the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra? It seems to me that at present Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, Tensho Daijin, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman and all the major and minor gods of the 3,132 shrines throughout Japan are like King Rinda of past times, that the white horses are Nichiren, and the white swans are my followers. The neighing of the white horses is the sound of our voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. When Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the others hear this sound, how could they fail to take on a healthy color and shine with a brilliant light? How could they fail to guard and protect us? We should be firmly convinced of this!

In the memorial service held this last third month, you donated numerous strings of coins. As a result, this year we have been able to support over a hundred men at this mountain dwelling, and they are able to read and recite the Lotus Sutra and discuss its doctrines all day long. In this latter age and evil period, this represents the foremost Buddhist practice in the entire Jambudvipa world. How pleased must the spirits of your departed ancestors be! Shakyamuni Buddha said that a person who observes filial piety deserves to be called a World-Honored One. Are not you yourself just such a World-Honored One?

The matter of the late Daishin Ajari was surely most regrettable. But we should consider that what has happened will serve to further spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

If my life is spared, there are many other things I want to write to you about on some future occasion.

Nichiren

The seventeenth day of the eighth month in the second year of Koan (1279), cyclical sign tsuchinoto-u
 
Lessening the Karmic Retribution

There were two brothers called Suri and Handoku. Both of them answered to the name Suri Handoku. You three believers are like them. When any one of you comes, I feel as though all three of you were with me.

The Nirvana Sutra teaches the principle of lessening karmic retribution. If one's heavy karma from the past is not expiated within this lifetime, he must undergo the sufferings of hell in the future, but if he experiences extreme hardship in this life, the sufferings of hell will vanish instantly. When he dies, he will obtain the blessings of Rapture and Tranquillity, as well as those of the three vehicles and the supreme vehicle. Bodhisattva Fukyo was not abused and vilified, stoned and beaten with staves without reason. He had probably slandered the True Law in the past. The phrase "after expiating his sins" indicates that because Bodhisattva Fukyo met persecution, he could eradicate his sins from previous lifetimes.

The twenty-four successors were all emissaries from the Buddha, who had predicted their advent. Of these, the fifteenth, Bodhisattva Kanadeva, was killed by a Brahman, and the twenty-fourth, Aryasinha, was beheaded by King Danmira. Buddhamitra and Bodhisattva Nargarjuna also suffered many persecutions. Yet others propagated Buddhism under the protection of devout kings, without encountering persecution. This would seem to show that there are both good and evil countries in the world, and accordingly there are two ways of propagation, shoju and shakubuku. Persecutions occurred even in the Former and Middle Days of the Law -- even in India, the center of Buddhism. Now is the beginning of the Latter Day, and this country is far away from India. I therefore expected that persecutions would arise, and I have long been awaiting them.

I expounded this principle a long time ago; so it should not be new to you. Kangyo-soku is one of the six stages of practice in the perfect teaching. It means that one does as he speaks and speaks as he does. Those at the stages of ri-soku and myoji-soku believe in the perfect teaching, but even though they praise it, their actions fail to reflect their words. For example, many people study the books of the Three Great Rulers and the Five Emperors, but there is not one case in ten million where society is governed as those ancient Chinese sages taught. Thus it is very difficult to establish peace in society. One may be letter-perfect in reciting the Lotus Sutra, but it is far more difficult to practice as it teaches. The Hiyu chapter states, "They will despise, hate, envy and bear grudges against those who read, recite, transcribe and embrace this sutra." The Hosshi chapter reads, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" The Kanji chapter reads, "They will attack us with swords and staves...we will be banished again and again." The Anrakugyo chapter states, "The people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe." These quotations are from the sutra, but there is no way of knowing when these prophecies will be fulfilled. In the past, Bodhisattva Fukyo and Priest Kakutoku read and lived these passages. But aside from the Former and Middle Days of the Law, now in the Latter Day, in all Japan only Nichiren seems to have done so. From my present situation, I can well imagine how followers, relatives, disciples and believers must have grieved when so many of their saints met persecution in the ancient days of evil kings.

Nichiren has now read the entirety of the Lotus Sutra. Even a single phrase or passage will assure one's Enlightenment; since I have read the entire sutra, my benefits will be far greater. Though I may sound presumptuous, my most fervent wish is to enable the whole nation to attain enlightenment. However, in an age when none will heed me, it is beyond my power. I will close now to keep this brief.

Nichiren

The fifth day of the tenth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271)

 
 
Letter from Echi
 
The government’s persecution of me has clearly demonstrated my faith in the Lotus Sutra. There is no doubt that the moon wanes and waxes and that the tide ebbs and flows. In my case, too, since punishment has already occurred, benefit must be forthcoming. What is there to lament?
 
At the Hour of the Cock (around 6:00 P.M.) on the twelfth day, I incurred the wrath of the government authorities. Placed in the custody of the lord of Musashi, I left Kamakura at the Hour of the Ox (around 2:00 A.M.) on the thirteenth day for exile in the province of Sado. At present, I am in a place called Echi, which is the domain of Lord Homma, under the supervision of a person called Uma Tara, a deputy of Lord Homma Rokuro Zaemon-no-jo of Echi. I will probably be staying here for four or five days.
 
Your grief is understandable, but because I have been certain from the beginning that this would occur, I myself do not grieve. Rather, I regret that I have yet to be beheaded. Had I been decapitated on account of the Lotus Sutra in a past existence, I would not have been born as such a lowly person in this life. By undergoing repeated persecution, just as is noted in the sutra when it says, "again and again we will be banished," I can erase the grave offenses of my past and, for the first time, attain Buddhahood. I therefore engage in these difficult practices of my own accord.
 
Nichiren
 
Letter from Sado

This letter is addressed to Toki Jonin. It should also be shown to Shijo Kingo, Tonotsuji Juro, Sajiki no Ama and my other disciples. Send me the names of those killed in the battles at Kyoto and Kamakura. Also please have those who are coming here bring me the Geten Sho, volume two of the Hokke Mongu and volume four of the Hokke Gengi, as well as the collected Imperial reports and edicts.

The most dreadful things in the world are the pain of fire, the flashing of swords and the shadow of death. Even horses and cattle fear being killed; no wonder human beings are afraid of death. Even a leper clings to life; no wonder a healthy person struggles to live. The Buddha taught that offering one's little finger for the sutra is more rewarding than covering an entire galaxy with seven kinds of jewels. Sessen Doji offered his life, and Gyobo Bonji ripped off his own skin to seek the truth of Buddhism. Since nothing is more precious than life itself, those who dedicate their l ives to the Buddhist practice are certain to attain Buddhahood. If they are prepared to offer their lives, why should they begrudge any other treasure for the sake of Buddhism? On the other hand, if one is loath to part with his material possessions, how can he possibly give away his life, which is far more valuable?

Society dictates that one should repay a great obligation to another even at the cost of his own life. Many warriors die for their lords, perhaps even more than one would imagine. A man will die to defend his honor; a woman will die for a man. Fish want to survive; they deplore their pond's shallowness and dig holes to hid in, yet tricked by bait, they take the hook. Birds in a tree fear that they are too low and perch in the top branches, yet bewitched by bait, they too are caught in snares. Human beings are equally vulnerable. They give their lives for shallow, worldly matters but rarely for the noble cause of Buddhism. Small wonder they do not attain Buddhahood.

Buddhism should be spread by the method of either shoju or shakubuku, depending upon the age. These are analogous to the two worldly arts of the pen and the sword. The bodhisattvas of old practiced the Law as befitted the times. Sessen Doji offered his own body when told that he would be taught the Law in return. Prince Satta gave his own flesh and blood to carry out his bodhisattva practice. But should one sacrifice his life at a time when it is not required? In an age when there is no paper, one should use his own skin. In an age when there are no pens, one should use his own bones. In an age when society accepts the True Law and honors the percepts while denouncing those who break or ignore them, one should strictly follow them all. In an age when Confucianism or Taoism is used to assail Buddhism, one should risk his life to debate with the emperor, as did the priests Tao-an, Hui-yuan and Fa-tao. In and age when people confuse Hinayana and Mahayana, provisional and true teachings or exoteric and esoteric doctrines, as though unable to distinguish gems from pebbles or cows' milk from asses' milk, one should strictly differentiate between them, following the example of the Great Teachers T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo.

It is the nature of beasts to threaten the weak and fear the strong. Our contemporary scholars are just like them. They despise a wise man without power but fear the evil rulers. They are merely servile courtiers. Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove his real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with heretical priests tries to destroy true Buddhism and banish a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion will surely attain Buddhahood as Nichiren did. I say this not out of arrogance but because I am committed to true Buddhism. An arrogant man will be overcome with fear when he meets a strong enemy, just like the haughty ashura who shrank and hid himself in a lotus flower blossoming in Munetchi Lake when reproached by Taishaku. Even a word or phrase of true Buddhism will lead one to the path of enlightenment, if it suits the times and the capacity of the people. Even though one may study a thousand sutras and ten thousand doctrines, he cannot attain Buddhahood, should those teachings not fit the times and the people's capacity.

Now, twenty-six years since the battle of Hoji, the Kamakura government is again plagued by internal strife. Rebellions have already broken out twice on the eleventh and the seventeenth day of the second month of this year. Neither non-Buddhists nor the enemies of Buddhism can destroy the Buddha's True Law, but the Buddha's disciples definitely can. As the sutra says, a parasite in the lion's bowels will devour the lion. A man of great fortune cannot be ruined by his enemies but only by those close to him. The current rebellion is what the Yakushi Sutra means by "the disaster of internal strife." The Ninno Sutra states, "When the sage departs, the seven types of calamity will invariably arise." The Konkomyo Sutra states, "The thirty-three heavenly gods become furious because the king permits evil to run rampant." Although Nichiren is not a sage, he is equal to one, for he embraces the Lotus Sutra exactly as the Buddha taught. Furthermore, since he has long understood the ways of the world, all the prophecies he wrote have come true without exception. Therefore you should not doubt what he has told you concerning your future existence.

Nichiren is the pillar, sun, moon, mirror and eyes of the ruling clan of Kanto. On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year when I was arrested, I boldly declared that if the country should lose Nichiren, the seven disasters would occur without fail. Didn't this prophecy come true just sixty and then one hundred fifty days later? And those battles were only the first signs. What lamenting there will be when the full effect appears People foolishly wonder why Nichiren is persecuted by the government if he is truly a wise man. Yet it is all just as I expected. King Ajatashatru killed his father and nearly murdered his mother, for which he was hailed by the six royal ministers. When Devadatta killed an arhat and shed the Buddha's blood, Kokalika and others were delighted. Nichiren is father and mother to the ruling clan and is like a Buddha or an arhat to this age. The sovereign and his subjects who rejoice at his exile are truly the most shameless of all. Those heretical priests who have been bewailing the exposure of their errors may be overjoyed for the moment, but eventually they will suffer no less than Nichiren and his disciples. Their joy is like Fujiwara Yasuhira's when he killed his brother and Minamoto Yoshitsune. The devil who shall destroy the ruling clan has already entered the country. This is the meaning of the passage from the Lotus Sutra which reads, " The devil enters one's body."

The persecutions Nichiren has faced are the result of karma formed in previous lifetimes. The Fukyo chapter states, "... after expiating his sins," indicating that Bodhisattva Fukyo was vilified and beaten by countless slanderers because of his past karma. So, too, it is with Nichiren, who in this life was born poor and lowly to a chandala family. In my heart I cherish some faith in the Lotus Sutra, but my body, while outwardly human, is fundamentally that of an animal, which once subsisted on fish and fowl and was conceived of the male and female fluids. My spirit dwells in this body like the moon reflected in a muddy pond or gold wrapped in a filthy bag. Since my heart believes in the Lotus Sutra, I do not fear even Bonten or Taishaku, but my body is still that of an animal. With such disparity between my body and my mind, no wonder the foolish despise me. Without doubt, when compared to my body, my mind shines like the moon or gold. Who knows what slander I may have committed in the past? I may possess the soul of Priest Shoi or the spirit of Mahadeva. Maybe I am descended from those who contemptuously persecuted Bodhisattva Fukyo or am among those who forgot their original faith in the Lotus Sutra. I may even be related to the five thousand arrogant people who would not remain to hear the sutra, or belong to the third and lowest group of Daitsu Buddha's disciples. It is impossible to fathom one's karma. Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Wise men and saints are tested by abuse. My present exile is not because of any crime. It is solely so that I may expiate in this lifetime my past heavy slanders and be freed from the three evil paths in the next.

The Hatsunaion Sutra states, "In the coming age, there will be those who enter the priesthood, don surplices and make a show of studying my teachings. However, being neither diligent nor serious about their practice, they will slander the Mahayana sutras. You should be aware that these people are the ones who are following the heretical religions of today." Those who read this passage should reflect deeply on their own practice. The Buddha is saying that those of our contemporary priests who are lazy and remiss were disciples of the six non-Buddhist teachers in Shakyamuni's day. The followers of Honen who call themselves the Nembutsu sect not only turn people away from the Lotus Sutra, telling them to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" it, but advocate chanting only the name of Amida, a Buddha described in the provisional teachings. The followers of Dainichi, known as the Zen sect, claim that the true teachings of Buddhism have been transmitted apart from the sutras. They ridicule the Lotus Sutra as nothing more than a finger pointing to the moon or a meaningless string of words. These priests were certainly followers of the six non-Buddhist teachers, only now they have entered the stream of Buddhism. According to the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha had enabled everyone to attain enlightenment by teaching the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Yet, alas, when he illuminated the hundred and thirty-six hells underground, instead of finding them empty, he saw that the slanderers of Buddhism who were people of incorrigible disbelief were still being confined there by the guards of hell. They proliferated until they became the people of Japan today.

Since Nichiren himself committed slander in the past, he became a Nembutsu priest in this lifetime, and for several years he also laughed at those who practiced the Lotus Sutra, saying, "Not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood through that sutra" or "Not one person in a thousand can reach enlightenment through its teachings." Awakening from my slanderous condition, I feel like a drunken son, who, in his stupor, strikes his parents but thinks nothing of it. When he returns to his senses, he regrets it bitterly but to no avail. His offense is extremely difficult to erase. Even more so are past slanders of the Law, which stain the depth of one's heart. A sutra states that both the crow's blackness and the heron's whiteness are actually the deep stains of their past karma. The Brahmans and other non-Buddhists refused to recognize this causality and claimed it was the work of nature, and today, when I expose people's slanders in an effort to save them, they deny it with every excuse possible and argue back with Honen's words about barring the gates to the Lotus Sutra. From Nembutsu believers this is scarcely surprising, but even the Tendai and Shingon priests actively support them. On the sixteenth and the seventeenth day of the first month of this year, hundreds of priests and believers from the Nembutsu and other sects came to debate with Nichiren. Representing the Nembutsu, Insho-bo said, "Saint Honen did not instruct us to discard the Lotus Sutra. He simply wrote that everyone should chant the Nembutsu, and its great blessings will assure their ascension to the pure land. Even the Tendai priests of Onjo-ji and Enryaku-ji temples exiled to this island praise Saint Honen and say how excellent his teaching is. How do you dare try to refute it?" The local priests are even more ignorant than their counterparts in Kamakura. They are absolutely pitiful.

How terrible are the slanders Nichiren committed in his past and present existences! Since you have been born into this evil country and become the disciple of such a man, there is no telling what you may have to endure. The Hatsunaion Sutra reads, "Men of devout faith, because you committed countless sins and accumulated much evil karma in the past, you must expect to suffer retribution for everything you have done. You may be reviled, cursed with an ugly appearance, be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished or heretical family, or be persecuted by your sovereign." It further states, "It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can diminish in this lifetime his suffering and retribution." Were it not for Nichiren, these passages from the sutra would virtually make the Buddha a liar. For none, save Nichiren have experienced all eight sufferings described in the sutra: (1) to be slighted; (2) to posses an ugly physical form; (3) to lack clothing; (4) to lack food; (5) to seek wealth in vain; (6) to be born to a poor family; (7) to be born to a heretical family; and (8) to be persecuted by one's sovereign. One who climbs a high mountain must eventually descend. One who slights another will in turn be despised. One who deprecates those of handsome appearance will be born ugly. One who robs another of food and clothing is sure to fall into the world of hunger. One who mocks noble men or anyone who observes the precepts will be born to a poor family. One who slanders a family that embraces the True Law will be born to a heretical family. One who laughs at those who cherish the precepts will be born a commoner and meet with persecution from his sovereign. This is the general law of cause and effect.

Nichiren's suffering, however, are not ascribable to this causal law. In the past he despised the votaries of the Lotus Sutra and ridiculed the sutra itself, sometimes with exaggerated praise and other times with contempt. He has met all eight of these terrible sufferings for such acts against the Lotus Sutra which is as magnificent as two jewels combined, two moons shining side by side, two stars conjoined or one Mount Hua placed atop another. Usually these sufferings would torment a person over many lifetimes, appearing one at a time. but Nichiren has denounced the enemies of the Lotus Sutra so severely that all eight descended upon him at once. His situation is like that of a peasant heavily in debt to his lord and others. As long as he remains on the estate, they are likely to defer his debts from one year to the next, rather than mercilessly hounding him. But as soon as he tries to leave, everyone will rush over and demand that he repay everything at once. Thus the sutra states, "It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can diminish...his suffering and retribution."

The Lotus Sutra reads, "There are many ignorant people who will vilify and attack us, the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, with swords, staves and stone... they will denounce us to the sovereign, ministers, Brahmans and other influential men... we will be banished again and again." Without hell's guards to torment them, slanderers could never emerge from hell. Were it not for the authorities who now persecute Nichiren, he could not expiate his past sin of slandering the Law. Nichiren is like Bodhisattva Fukyo who lived in ages past, and the people of this day are like the priests, nuns and lay men and women who disdained and persecuted Fukyo. The people are different, yet the cause is the same. Different people may kill their parents, but they all fall into the same hell of incessant suffering. Since Nichiren is making the same cause as Fukyo, he is certain to become a Buddha equal to Shakyamuni. Moreover, those who now persecute him are like Bhadrapala and the others who persecuted Fukyo. They will be tortured in the depths of hell for a thousand aeons. I therefore pity them deeply and wonder what can be done for them. Those who at first disdained and persecuted Fukyo later took faith in his teachings and became his followers. The greater part of their slander was thus expiated, but even the small part which remained caused them to suffer as terribly as one who had killed his parents a thousand times over. The people of this age refuse to repent at all and must therefore suffer for interminable aeons as described in the Hiyu chapter, perhaps even for the duration of sanzen- or gohyaku-jintengo.

There are also those who appeared to believe in Nichiren but began doubting when they saw him persecuted. They have not only forsaken the Lotus Sutra but actually think themselves wise enough to instruct Nichiren. The pitiful thing is that these perverse people must suffer in the depths of hell even longer than the Nembutsu believers. Ashura contended that the Buddha had only eighteen sensory functions but that he himself had nineteen. Brahmans claimed that the Buddha offered only one way to enlightenment but they had ninety-five. In the same way, the renegade disciples say that although Priest Nichiren is their teacher, he is too rigid, and they will spread the Lotus Sutra in a more flexible way. In so asserting, they are being as ridiculous as fireflies laughing at the sun and moon, an anthill belittling Mount Hua, small inlets despising the boundless sea, or a magpie mocking the Chinese phoenix. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

The twentieth day of the third month in the ninth year of Bun'ei (1272)

There is very little writing paper here in the province of Sado, and to write to you individually would take too long. However, if even one person fails to hear me, it will cause resentment. Therefore, I want all sincere believers to meet and read this letter together for encouragement. When disaster strikes, our personal troubles seem insignificant. I do not know how accurate the reports reaching me are, but there must surely be intense grieving over those killed in the recent battles. What has become of Izawa no Nyudo and Sakabe no Nyudo? Send me news of Kawanobe, Yamashiro, Tokugyo-ji and the others. Also, please be kind enough to send me the Essentials of Government in the Chen-kuan Era, the Anthology of Tales, and the Esoteric Teachings of the Eight Sects. Without these, I cannot even write letters.
 
 
Letter of Petition from Yorimoto

On the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month I respectfully read your official letter of the twenty-third, which I received through the intermediaries Shimada no Saemon Nyudo and Yamashiro no Mimbu Nyudo. In the letter you state: "I am shocked to hear that all those present on that occasion are unanimous in saying that you behaved in a disorderly manner at the place where Priest Ryuzo was preaching. They say you interrupted with a group of your cohorts, all wearing weapons."

That is a groundless falsehood. I do not know who told you so, but surely it would be fitting if, out of pity for me, you were to summon them to confront me in your presence and inquire into the truth or falsehood of their accusations.

Briefly, the root of this matter is as follows. On the ninth day of the sixth month, Sammi-ko, who is a disciple of the sage Nichiren, came to my residence and said: "Recently a priest named Ryuzo-bo has arrived from Kyoto and settled in Kuwagayatsu, west of the gate of the Daibutsu-den. He preaches day and night, urging those who have questions about Buddhism to come and hold discourse with him in order to settle their doubts about this life and the next. All the people in Kamakura, high and low, revere him as they would Shakyamuni Buddha. However, I hear that no one has ever actually debated with him. I want to go to Kuwagayatsu to debate with him and clarify whatever doubts the people might have about their next life. Won't you come and listen?"

At that time I was busy with official matters, so I did not originally intend to accompany him. However, I had heard that it concerned the Buddhist teachings, and I often went to hear preaching on that subject. Being a lay believer, however, I never said a single word. Therefore, I believe that a strict investigation on your part should be sufficient to reveal that I was not in any way abusive.

In any event, during his sermon, Ryuzo-bo said, "If anyone among you has a question about the Buddhist teachings, please do not hesitate to ask." Thereupon Sammi-ko, the disciple of the priest Nichiren, raised the following question: "That death is inevitable from the time of birth is certainly no cause for surprise; in addition, especially in recent times, countless people in Japan have perished in calamities. No one can fail to realize this transience, which lies before our very eyes. Under these circumstances I heard that you, a respected priest, had come from Kyoto to dispel the doubts of the people, so I came to listen. I was feeling hesitant, thinking it rude to ask a question in the middle of your sermon, so I am happy that you have invited anyone who has doubts to speak freely.

"What puzzles me first of all is this: I am a lowly person, born in the Latter Day of the Law in a remote land [far from the birthplace of Buddhism]. Yet fortunately Buddhism, which originated in India, has already been introduced to this country. One should embrace it by all means. However, the sutras amount to no less than five or seven thousand volumes. Since they are the teachings of a single Buddha, they must essentially be one sutra. But Buddhism is divided into eight sects, if one includes Kegon and Shingon, or ten sects, if one includes Jodo and Zen. Although these sects represent different gates of entry, I would presume that their truth must ultimately be one.

"However, the Great Teacher Kobo, the founder of the Shingon sect in Japan, said, 'The Lotus Sutra, when compared to the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, not only represents a different gate but is a doctrine of childish theory, and the Buddha who expounded it is still in the region of darkness.' He also stated, 'The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai of the Hokke [Lotus] school and others have vied with one another to steal the ghee [of the Shingon].' The Great Teacher Tz'u-en, the founder of the Hosso school, said, 'The Lotus Sutra is expedient while the Jimmitsu Sutra is true; those sentient beings without the nature of enlightenment can never attain Buddhahood throughout eternity.'

"Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon school said, 'The Kegon Sutra represents the root teaching and the Lotus Sutra, the branch teachings.' He also said, 'The Kegon Sutra is the teaching of enlightenment for the people of the sudden teaching, and the Lotus Sutra, the teaching of enlightenment for the people of the gradual teaching.' The Great Teacher Chi-hsiang of the Sanron school said, 'Of all the Mahayana sutras, the Hannya sutras are supreme.' Priest Shan-tao of the Jodo or Pure Land school said, 'Of those who practice the Nembutsu, ten persons out of ten and a hundred persons out of a hundred will be reborn in the Pure Land. However, not one in a thousand can be saved by the Lotus and other sutras.' Priest Honen urged people to 'discard, close, ignore and abandon' the Lotus Sutra in favor of the Nembutsu, and also likened the votaries of the Lotus Sutra to 'a band of robbers.' And the Zen sect declares itself to represent 'a special transmission outside the sutras, independent of the written word.'

"Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, said of the Lotus Sutra, 'The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.' And Taho Buddha declared of Myoho-renge-kyo, 'All that you [Shakyamuni] have expounded is the truth.' The sutra also states that the various Buddhas of the ten directions, who were emanations of Shakyamuni, extended their tongues to the Brahma Heaven.

"The Great Teacher Kobo wrote that the Lotus Sutra is a doctrine of childish theory. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the Buddhas of the ten directions unanimously declared that all its teachings are true. Which of all these statements are we to believe?

"Priests Shan-tao and Honen said of the Lotus Sutra that 'not one in a thousand can be saved by it,' and that one should 'discard, close, ignore and abandon' it. However, Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the Buddhas of the ten directions, who are emanations of Shakyamuni, assert that [of those who embrace the Lotus Sutra,] none shall fail to attain Buddhahood, and that all shall achieve the Buddha Way. Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas, and Priests Shan-tao and Honen, are in their statements as far apart as fire and water, or clouds and mud.

"Which of them are we to believe? Which of them are we to reject?

"In particular, of the forty-eight vows of the monk Hozo mentioned in the Muryogi Sutra, which both Shan-tao and Honen revere, the eighteenth vow states, 'Should I attain Buddhahood...excepting only those who commit the five cardinal sins or who slander the True Law.' Surely this means that even if Amida Buddha's original vow is true and enables one to attain rebirth in the Pure Land, those who slander the True Law are excluded from rebirth in the land of Amida Buddha."

"Now the second volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, 'One who refuses to take faith in this sutra [and instead slanders it]...After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell.' If these scriptural passages are true, then how can Shan-tao and Honen, who both regarded the Nembutsu sect as representing the essence of Buddhism, escape falling into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell? And if these two priests fall into hell, there can be no doubt that the scholars, disciples and lay believers who follow in their footsteps will also as a matter of course fall into the evil paths. These are the matters >

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Transfer interrupted!
What is your opinion, Priest Ryuzo?" In this manner, Sammi-ko posed his question.

Priest Ryuzo answered, "How could I doubt the worthies and learned men of high antiquity? Ordinary priest that I am, I believe them with profound reverence." Then Sammi-ko retorted, saying, "These words do not impress me as those of a wise man. Everyone believes in those Buddhist teachers who were revered in their own time. But the Buddha enjoins us in the Nirvana Sutra as his final instruction, 'Rely on the Law and not upon persons.' The Buddha taught us to rely on the sutras if the Buddhist teachers should be in error. You say those teachers could not possibly be in error, but between the Buddha's golden words and your personal opinion, I am committed to the former."

Then Priest Ryuzo asked, "When you speak of the many errors of the Buddhist teachers, to which teachers do you refer?" Sammi-ko answered, "I refer to the doctrines of the Great Teacher Kobo and Priest Honen, whom I mentioned before." Priest Ryuzo exclaimed, "That is impossible! I would not dare discuss the teachers of our nation. The people in this audience all follow in their footsteps. If they are angered, they will surely create an uproar. That would be a fearsome thing."

Then Sammi-ko attacked him, saying, "Because you asked me to specify which teachers were in error, I mentioned those whose teachings contradict the sutras and treatises. But now you suddenly have reservations and refuse to discuss the matter. I think that you merely perceive your own dilemma. In matters of doctrine, to fear others or stand in awe of society's opinion, and not expound the true meaning of the scriptural passages in accordance with the Buddha's teaching, is the height of foolishness. You do not appear to be a wise man. As a priest, how can you not speak out when evil doctrines spread throughout the land, when the people fall into the evil paths and the country stands on the brink of ruin? That is why the Lotus Sutra reads, 'We do not hold our own lives dear,' and the Nirvana Sutra says, '...even though it may cost him his life.' If you are a true sage, how can you begrudge your life in fear of the world or of other people?

"Even in non-Buddhist literature we find mention of a man named Lung-p'eng, who was beheaded, and of the worthy Pi Kan, who had his chest torn open. But because Lung-p'eng remonstrated with King Chieh of the Hsia dynasty and Pi Kan admonished King Chou of the Yin dynasty, their names have been handed down in history as those of worthy men.

"The Buddhist scriptures tell us that Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten with staves, the Venerable Aryasimha was beheaded, the monk Chu Tao-sheng was banished to a mountain in Suchou, and the Learned Doctor Fa-tao was branded on the face and exiled to the area south of the Yangtze River. Yet because they propagated the True Law, they gained the name of sages."

The Priest Ryuzo replied, "Such people cannot possibly appear in the latter age. We are the sort who fear society and dread the opinions of others. Even though you speak so boldly, I doubt that you actually live up to your words."

Priest Sammi-ko retorted, "How can you possibly know another's mind? Let me tell you that I am a disciple of the sage Nichiren, who is now widely known throughout the country. Although the sage, my master, is a priest in the latter age, unlike the eminent priests of our day, he neither seeks invitations, nor does he flatter people, nor has he earned the slightest bad reputation in secular matters.

"He simply declares, in light of the sutras, that because the evil teachings of such sects as the Shingon, Zen and Jodo as well as slanderous priests fill this country, and everyone from the ruler on down to the multitudes of common people has taken faith in them, the people have all become archenemies of the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings. In this life they will be forsaken by the gods of heaven and earth and suffer invasion by a foreign country, and in the next life they will fall into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell.

"He has said that if he declares such a thing, he will incur great enmity, but that if he does not, he cannot escape the Buddha's condemnation. The Nirvana Sutra says, 'If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism.' Realizing that if in fear of the world's opinion he did not speak out, he would fall into the evil paths, my master has risked his life for more than two decades, from the Kencho era through this third year of the Kenji era (1277), without slackening in the least. Therefore he has undergone countless persecutions at the hands of individuals, and twice he has even incurred the ruler's displeasure. I myself was one of those who accompanied him when the wrath of the authorities fell upon him on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of the Bun'ei era (1271), and I was considered equally guilty and came close to being beheaded myself. Despite all this, do you still say that I hold my own life dear?"

As Ryuzo-bo closed his mouth and turned pale, Sammi-ko persisted: "With such paltry wisdom it is unwarranted for you to declare that you will dispel the people's doubts. The monks Kugan and Shoi thought they knew the True Law and intended to save the people, but they fell into the hell of incessant suffering along with their disciples and lay believers. If you, with your limited knowledge of Buddhist doctrines, preach in an attempt to save many people, then surely you and your followers will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. You had better reconsider such preaching from this day forth. I had not felt that I should speak in this way; but I, too, cannot be exempted from the Buddha's warning that if one sees a misguided priest sending others into hell with his evil teachings and fails to reproach that priest and expose his errors, then he himself is an enemy of Buddhism. Moreover, I feel pity that all those, both high and low, who listen to your preaching will fall into the evil paths. Therefore I am speaking out in this way. A wise man is so called because he admonishes the ruler when the country is endangered or because he corrects others' mistaken views. But in your case I can do nothing, because, no matter what error you may see, you will no doubt refuse to correct it for fear of society's reaction. Even if I had Monju's wisdom and Purna's eloquence, they would be wasted on you." So saying, Sammi-ko rose to leave; but the members of the audience, rejoicing, joined their palms together and sought to detain him, imploring him to teach them the Buddhist doctrines for a little while. However, Sammi-ko left.

I have no further details to add, so you may surmise what really happened. How could a person who believes in the Lotus Sutra and aspires to the Buddha Way possibly contemplate misbehavior or deliberately use foul language when the Buddhist teaching is being expounded? However, I leave this to your judgment.

Having declared myself to be a follower of the sage Nichiren, I returned home and reported to you exactly what had happened during the debate. Moreover, no one was present on that occasion whom I did not know. What you heard must have been the fabrication of those who harbor jealousy against me. If you quickly summon them to face me in your presence, the truth of the matter will be brought to light.

In your official letter you also state, "I revere the elder of Gokuraku-ji temple as the World-Honored One reborn," but this I cannot accept. The reason is: if what the sutra states is true, the sage Nichiren is the envoy of the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past, the provisional manifestation of Bodhisattva Jogyo, the votary of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and the great leader in the fifth five-hundred-year period [following the Buddha's passing]. In an attempt to have this sage executed, Priest Ryokan submitted a letter of petition to the authorities proposing that he be beheaded; but for some reason the execution was not carried out, and he was instead exiled far away to Sado Island. Was this not the doing of Priest Ryokan? I am sending you a copy of his petition together with this letter.

Even though Priest Ryokan preaches day and night on each of the six days of purification against killing even a blade of grass, he actually proposed that the priest who propagates the true teaching of the Lotus Sutra be beheaded. Has he not contradicted his own words? Is Priest Ryokan himself not possessed by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven?

Let me explain how this situation came about. Whenever Priest Ryokan preached, he would lament, saying, "I am endeavoring to help all people in Japan become 'observers of the precepts' and to have them uphold the eight precepts so that an end can be put to all the killings in this country and the drunkenness in the realm; but Nichiren's slander has prevented me from achieving my desire." Hearing of this, the sage Nichiren declared, "Somehow I must overthrow the delusion of his great arrogance and save him from the agonies of the hell of incessant suffering." Hearing this, I, Yorimoto, and his other disciples all anxiously advised him, saying: "Even though you speak out of profound compassion as a champion of the Lotus Sutra, since Priest Ryokan is revered throughout Japan, especially by the samurai in Kamakura, you should perhaps refrain from making strong statements."

Then, at the time of the great drought, the government ordered Priest Ryokan to perform a ceremony for rain on the eighteenth day of the sixth month in the eighth year of the Bun'ei era (1271), cyclical sign kanoto-hitsuji, in order to save the people. Hearing this news, the sage Nichiren said, "Although prayers for rain are a trifling matter, perhaps I should take this opportunity to demonstrate to everyone the power of the Law that I embrace." He sent a message to Priest Ryokan's place, saying: "If Priest Ryokan brings about rainfall within seven days, I, Nichiren, will stop teaching that the Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant suffering and become his disciple, observing the two hundred and fifty precepts. But if no rain falls, that will show clearly that Priest Ryokan is deliberately confusing and misleading others, though he appears to be observing the precepts. In ancient times there were many instances in which the supremacy of one teaching over another was determined through prayers for rain, such as the challenge between Gomyo and the Great Teacher Dengyo, or between Shubin and Kobo."

The sage Nichiren sent this message to the priest Ryokan through the intermediaries Suo-bo and Irusawa no Nyudo, who are Nembutsu believers. This priest and lay priest are Ryokan's disciples, as well as Nembutsu believers, and do not yet believe in Nichiren's teaching. So the sage Nichiren said to them: "We will decide whose teachings are correct through this prayer for rain. If it rains within seven days, you can believe that you will be reborn in the Pure Land by virtue of the eight precepts and the Nembutsu, which you already uphold. But if it does not rain, you should place your faith in the Lotus Sutra alone." Delighted to hear this, the two delivered the message to the priest Ryokan at Gokuraku-ji temple.

With tears of joy, the priest Ryokan, along with more than 120 of his disciples, offered prayers, with the sweat of their faces rising up in steam and their voices resounding to the heavens. They chanted the Nembutsu, the Shou Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, and Ryokan preached on the eight precepts in an effort to produce rainfall within seven days. When no sign of rain appeared after four or five days, he grew frantic and summoned hundreds of his disciples from Taho-ji temple to join him, exhausting all his powers of prayer. But within seven days not a drop of rain fell.

At that time, the sage Nichiren sent a messenger to him on no less than three occasions, saying: "A wanton woman called Izumi Shikibu and a priest named Noin who broke the precepts were each able to cause rain immediately with just a thirty-one-syllable poem that made little sense and was full of excess flourishes. Why is it, then, that Priest Ryokan - who observes all the precepts and rules, has mastered the Hokke and Shingon doctrines and is renowned as the foremost in compassion - cannot produce rainfall within seven days, even when assisted by hundreds of his followers? Consider this: if one cannot cross a moat ten feet wide, can he cross one that is twenty or thirty feet? If you cannot bring about rainfall, which is easy, how can you attain rebirth and enlightenment in the Pure Land, which is difficult?

"Accordingly you should from this point on revise your prejudiced views which lead you to hate Nichiren. If you fear for your next life, come to me immediately as you have promised. I will teach you the Law that causes rain to fall and the path that leads to Buddhahood. Have you not failed to produce rain within seven days? The drought intensifies and the eight winds blow all the more violently, while the people's grief grows deeper and deeper. Stop your prayers immediately." When the messenger conveyed Nichiren's message word for word at the Hour of the Monkey (3:00 - 5:00 P.M.) on the seventh day, Priest Ryokan wept and his disciples and followers also cried aloud in their chagrin.

When the priest Nichiren incurred the wrath of the Kamakura government and was asked about this matter, he told the story as it really happened. So he said: "If Priest Ryokan had had any sense of shame, he would have disappeared from public view and retired to a mountain forest. Or, if he had become my disciple as he had promised, then he would have shown at least a little seeking spirit. But in actuality, he made endless false accusations against me in an attempt to have me executed. Is this the conduct of a noble priest?" I, Yorimoto, also personally observed the situation. Where other affairs are concerned, I would not dare to address my lord in this fashion, but in this matter alone, however I may consider it, I find I cannot remain silent.

You state in your official letter, "After meeting the priest Ryuzo and the elder of Gokuraku-ji temple, I look up to them as I would to Shakyamuni or Amida Buddha." Addressing this statement, too, with the utmost respect, I must point out that while in Kyoto, Priest Ryuzo was feeding morning and evening on human flesh; and when this became known, the priests of Enryaku-ji temple of Mount Hiei rose up against him, saying: "The world has entered the latter age and evil demons are rampant throughout the country. We must subdue them with the power of the Mountain King." They burned down his residence and intended to punish him, but he quickly escaped and no one knew of his whereabouts. Now he has reappeared in Kamakura and is again eating human flesh, causing right-minded people to tremble in fear. Nevertheless, you say you respect him as a Buddha or a bodhisattva. How can I, as your retainer, refrain from pointing out my lord's error? I wonder what the level-headed people in our clan think about this matter.

In the same letter you also state, "To defer to one's lord or parents, whether they are right or wrong, is exemplary conduct according with the will of Buddhas and gods and also with social propriety." As this matter is of the utmost importance, I will refrain from expressing my own opinion and instead cite authoritative works [of sages and worthy men]. The Classic of Filial Piety states, "[In a case of moral wrong,] a son must admonish his father, and a minister must admonish his lord." Cheng Hsuan says, "If a lord or a father behaves unjustly and his minister or son fails to remonstrate with him, then the state or the family will come to ruin." The Shinjo states, "If one fails to remonstrate against his ruler's tyranny, he is not a loyal minister. If one fails to speak out for fear of death, he is not a man of courage."

The Great Teacher Dengyo states, "In general, where unrighteousness is concerned, a son must admonish his father and a minister must admonish his lord. Truly one should know this: as is the case with lord and minister or with father and son, so it is with master and disciple. A disciple must speak out when his master goes astray." The Lotus Sutra states, "We do not hold our own lives dear. We value only the supreme Way." The Nirvana Sutra reads, "For example, if an envoy who is skilled in discussion and knows how to employ clever expedients should be sent to a foreign country to carry out a mission for his sovereign, it is proper that he should relate the words of his ruler without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life. And a wise man should do the same in teaching Buddhism." The Great Teacher Chang-an says, "'[He should relate the words of his ruler] without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life.' This means that one's body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. One should give his life in order to propagate the Law." He also states, "He who destroys or brings confusion to the Buddhist Law is an enemy of the Law. If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, he is in fact his enemy. But he who is willing to reprimand and correct the offender...makes it possible for the offender to rid himself of evil, and so he acts like a parent to the offender." My fellow samurai may think that I, Yorimoto, am lacking in propriety [toward you], but in all other, worldly, affairs, I will resolutely heed the words of my lord and my parents.

I can only lament when I see my lord, to whom I am so profoundly indebted, being deceived by those who embrace evil teachings and in danger of falling into the evil paths. Because King Ajatashatru took Devadatta and the six non-Buddhist teachers as his mentors and opposed Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, all the people of the kingdom of Magadha became enemies of Buddhism, and the 580,000 clansmen of the king also opposed the Buddha's disciples. Among them, only Minister Jivaka was the Buddha's disciple. The great king disapproved of his minister's devotion to the Buddha just as my lord disapproves of me, Yorimoto. But in the end he discarded the heretical doctrines of the other six ministers and took faith in the true teaching that Jivaka espoused. Perhaps, in the same way, I will save you in the end.

When I speak thus, you may wonder how I dare compare you to Ajatashatru, who committed the five cardinal sins. But it is clear in the light of the sutra that your offense is a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand times more grave than his, though I hesitate to say such a thing.

The Lotus Sutra states, "Now this threefold world is all my domain. The living beings in it are all my children." If this scriptural statement is correct, then Lord Shakyamuni is the father and mother, teacher and sovereign of all the people in Japan. Amida Buddha does not possess these three virtues. However, you ignore the Buddha of the three virtues and invoke the name of another Buddha [Amida] day and night, morning and evening, sixty or eighty thousand times a day. Is this not an unfilial deed? It was Shakyamuni Buddha himself who originally taught that Amida had vowed to save all people; but in the end he regretted it and said, "I alone can save them." After that, he never again taught that there are two or three Buddhas who can save the people. No one has two fathers or two mothers. What sutra says that Amida is the father of this country? What treatise indicates him as its mother?

The teachings of Nembutsu such as the Kammuryoju Sutra were expounded provisionally, in preparation for the Lotus Sutra. They are like the scaffolding used when building a pagoda. Some think that because [the Nembutsu teachings and the Lotus Sutra] are both a part of Buddhism, they differ only in that one was expounded earlier and one later; but these people are laboring under a profound misconception. They are like someone foolish enough to value the scaffolding even after the pagoda has been completed, or like someone who says that the stars appear brighter than the sun. Concerning such people, the sutra states, "Even though I teach and command, they neither believe nor accept," and "After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell."

All the inhabitants of Japan at present are people who reject Shakyamuni Buddha while invoking the name of Amida Buddha, who discard the Lotus Sutra and believe in the Kammuryoju and other sutras. Or they are lay men and women who make offerings to these slanderers, or renowned priests and even the ruler of the country who revere as wise men those who in fact commit the five or seven cardinal sins or the eight offenses. Of such people as all these, the sutra states, "In this way they will be reborn again and again [in the hell of incessant suffering] for kalpas without number."

Being aware to some small degree of these errors, I have ventured to bring them to your attention. Among those in service, despite their differences in rank, there are none who do not honor their lords, each according to his station. If, while personally knowing that my lord will fare badly in both this life and the next, I were to remain silent in fear of my fellow samurai or of the world at large, then would I not be guilty of complicity in your offense?

No one can deny that the Nakatsukasas of two generations, my father and myself, have dedicated our lives for the sake of our lord. When your father incurred the wrath of the authorities, his hundreds of retainers all shifted their allegiance; among them, my late father Yorikazu alone remained faithful to the end, accompanying him [into exile] to the province of Izu. Shortly before the battle that took place in Kamakura on the twelfth day of the second month in the eleventh year of the Bun'ei era (1274), I, Yorimoto, was in the province of Izu, but no sooner had I received word at the Hour of the Monkey on the tenth day than I hastened alone over the Hakone pass and joined with seven others who vowed before you to put an end to their lives. But the world at length grew calm again, and my lord now lives in peace. Since that time, you have included me among those who enjoy your trust in all matters, whether trifling or significant. How, then, could I estrange myself from you? I would obediently follow you even into the next life. If I should attain Buddhahood, I would save my lord as well, and if you were to attain Buddhahood, I expect you would do the same for me.

So I listened to the sermons of various priests and inquired into which teaching leads to Buddhahood. And I came to believe that, according to the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the sage Nichiren is the sovereign of the threefold world, the father and mother of all people, and the emissary of Shakyamuni Buddha - Bodhisattva Jogyo.

More than four hundred years have now passed since the evil teaching called the Shingon school was introduced to Japan. The Great Teacher Dengyo brought it from China in the twenty-fourth year of the Enryaku era (805), but he considered it undesirable for this country, and therefore did not allow it to be designated as a sect in its own right, defining it merely as an expedient teaching of the Tendai-Hokke sect. Later when the Great Teacher Dengyo had passed away, the Great Teacher Kobo, not to be outdone by him, took advantage of the opportunity to establish the Shingon teaching as an independent sect; but Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei would not accept it. However, Jikaku and Chisho were of limited insight, and although they lived on Mount Hiei, their hearts inclined toward Kobo of To-ji temple. Perhaps for this reason, they turned against their teacher Dengyo and for the first time established the Shingon sect at Enryaku-ji temple. This marked the beginning of our country's ruin.

For the more than three hundred years that followed, some insisted on the superiority of the Shingon teaching over the Lotus Sutra; others, on the superiority of the Lotus Sutra over the Shingon teaching; and still others, on the equality of both teachings. As the dispute continued unresolved, the imperial rule remained unaffected and did not come to an end. However, in the time of the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, the seventy-seventh sovereign, the chief priest of the Tendai sect, Myoun, became exclusively committed to the Shingon teaching and was killed by Minamoto no Yoshinaka. This is an example of the passage that states, "May his head be split in seven pieces."

Then, in the time of the Retired Emperor Gotoba, the eighty-second sovereign, the Zen and Nembutsu sects appeared and spread throughout the land, as had the great evil teaching of Shingon. So the vows made by the Sun Goddess and the god Hachiman to protect one hundred sovereigns throughout one hundred reigns were broken, and the imperial authority came to an end. Through the workings of the Sun Goddess and the god Hachiman, affairs of state then came to be entrusted to the Gon no Tayu, Hojo Yoshitoki of the Kanto region.

These three evil teachings spread to Kanto, where they gained support within the ruling clan to a surprising degree. Therefore the two heavenly gods Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings were enraged and admonished the rulers by means of unprecedented disturbances in the heavens and calamities on earth. When their admonitions went unheeded, they commanded a neighboring country to punish those who slandered the Lotus Sutra. The Sun Goddess and the god Hachiman were powerless to help. The sage Nichiren alone was aware of all this.

Such being the strictness of the Lotus Sutra, I have set aside all trivial concerns and served you devotedly until this day in my desire to lead my lord to enlightenment. Are not those who accuse me falsely thereby disloyal to you? If I leave the clan and abandon you now, you will immediately fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Then, even if I myself were to attain Buddhahood, I could only grieve, feeling that I had done so in vain.

As for the Hinayana precepts, the two hundred and fifty precepts were expounded for the heavenly gods by the great arhat Purna; but Vimalakirti reprimanded him, saying, "You should not place impure food in a jeweled vessel." Angulimala reproached Monju, saying, "You will never realize the truth of Emptiness expounded in the Mahayana teachings through [Hinayana] practices, which are as insignificant as mosquitoes and gadflies." Monju later set forth seventeen flaws in the Hinayana precepts, and the Buddha likewise repudiated them with the eight analogies. The Great Teacher Dengyo denounced them as donkey's milk and likened them to a toad. The later disciples of Ganjin accused the Great Teacher Dengyo of calumny and appealed directly to Emperor Saga; but because what Dengyo had said is clearly indicated in the sutras, their efforts were to no avail. The petition submitted to the emperor by the sects of Nara proved futile, and the great ordination platform [for conferring the Mahayana precepts] was erected at Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei; so the Hinayana precepts have already long since been discarded. Even if I, Yorimoto, should compare Priest Ryokan to a mosquito, a gadfly or a toad, because such assertions are clearly based on the sutras, you would have no reason to find fault with me.

Now it is unimaginably grievous to me that you would order me to submit a written oath [discarding my faith in the Lotus Sutra]. If I, Yorimoto, were to follow the trend of the times, which goes against the Buddhist Law, and write such an oath, you would immediately incur the punishment of the Lotus Sutra. When the sage Nichiren, the envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha, was exiled because of the false charges leveled against him by the priest Ryokan, fighting broke out within one hundred days, just as he had predicted - and a great number of warriors perished. Among them were the scions of the Nagoe clan. Is not the priest Ryokan solely to blame for their deaths? And if you now pay heed to the views of the priests Ryuzo and Ryokan and force me to write this oath, will you not be equally guilty?

I am not sure whether those who slander me are simply ignorant of this causal principle or whether they are intentionally trying to do you harm. In any event, I urge you to summon those who are plotting to use me in order to provoke some major incident, and have them confront me in your presence.

With my deep respect,

The twenty-fifth day of the sixth month in the third year of Kenji (1277), cyclical sign hinoto-ushi

Submitted by Shijo Nakatsukasa-no-jo Yorimoto
 
 
Letter to Akimoto
 
I have received the thirty cylindrical vessels and the sixty plates that you were kind enough to send.
 
A vessel is a kind of utensil. Because the great earth is hollowed out, water collects on it; and because the blue sky is pure, the moon shines in it. When the moon rises, the water glows with a pure light; and when the rain falls, the plants and trees flourish.
 
A vessel is hollowed out like the earth, and water can be collected in it the way water is stored in a pond. And the reflection of the moon floats on the surface of the water in the same way that the Lotus Sutra pervades our being.
 
But a vessel is susceptible to four faults. The first is called fuku which means that the vessel overturns or is rendered useless because a lid is put on it. The second is called ro, which means that the water leaks out. The third is called u, which means that the contents are contaminated. Though the water itself may be pure, if filth is dumped into it, then the water in the vessel ceases to be of any use. The fourth is called zo or "mixed." If rice is mixed with filth or pebbles or sand or dirt, then it is no longer fit for human consumption.
 
The vessel here stands for our bodies and minds. Our minds are a kind of vessel, and our mouths too are vessels, as are our ears. The Lotus Sutra is the Dharma water of the Buddha’s wisdom. But when this water is poured into our minds, then we may jar and upset it. Or we may shut it out by placing our hands over our ears, determined not to listen to it. Or we may spit it out of our mouths, determined not to let our mouths chant it. In such cases, we are like a vessel that has overturned or has had a lid placed on it.
 
Again, although we may have a certain amount of faith, we may encounter evil influences and find our faith weakening. Then we will deliberately abandon our faith, or, even though we maintain our faith for a day, we will set it aside for a month. In such cases, we are like vessels that let the water leak out.
 
Or we may be the kind of practitioners of the Lotus Sutra whose mouths are reciting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo one moment, but Namu Amida Butsu the next. This is like mixing filth with one’s rice, or putting sand or pebbles in it. This is what the Lotus Sutra is warning against when it says: "Desiring only to accept and embrace the sutra of the great vehicle and not accepting a single verse of the other sutras..."
 
The learned authorities in the world today suppose that there is no harm in mixing extraneous practices with the practice of the Lotus Sutra, and I, Nichiren, was once of that opinion myself. But the passage from the sutra [that I have just quoted] does not permit such a view. Suppose that a woman who had been the consort of a great king and had become pregnant with his seed should then turn round and marry a man of the common people. In such a case, the seed of the king and the seed of the commoner would become mixed together, and, as a result, the aid and assistance of heaven and the protection of the patron deities would be withdrawn and the kingdom would face ruin. The child born from two such fathers would be neither a king nor a commoner, but a kind of subhuman being.
 
This is one of the most important points in the Lotus Sutra. The doctrine of the sowing of the seed and its maturing and harvesting is the very heart and core of the Lotus Sutra. All the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions have invariably attained Buddhahood through the seeds represented by the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. The words Namu Amida Butsu are not the seeds of Buddhahood, nor can the mantras or the five precepts act as such seeds. One must be perfectly clear about this point, because this is the fault referred to as "mixed."
 
If a vessel is free of these four faults of overturning, leaking, being contaminated and being mixed, then it can be called a perfect vessel. If the embankments around a moat do not leak, then the water will never escape from the moat. And if the mind of faith is perfect, then the water of wisdom, the great impartial wisdom, will never dry up.
 
Now these vessels that you have sent me are sturdy and thick, and in addition they are coated with pure lacquer. They symbolize the firmness and sturdiness of the power of your faith in the Lotus Sutra.
 
It is said that Bishamonten presented four bowls to the Buddha and as a result became known as the foremost deity of good fortune in all the four continents of the world. Lady Jotoku presented eighty-four thousand bowls as an offering to the Buddha Unraionno, and as a result became the bodhisattva Myoon. And now, since you have presented these thirty vessels and sixty plates, is there any doubt that you will become a Buddha?
 
The country of Japan is known by ten different names, such as Fuso, Yamato, Mizuho and Akitsushima. In addition, it may be described as a country of sixty-six provinces and two islands that measures over three thousand ri in length, and varies in width from a hundred ri to five hundred ri. It is divided into the five provinces of the capital area and the seven marches, and it has 586 districts and 3,729 villages. In terms of fields it includes 11,120 cho of superior lands and 885,567 cho of other kinds. The population numbers 4,989,658 persons. There are 3,132 shrines and 11,037 temples. Men number 1,994,828 and women 2,994,830.
 
Among all these men, Nichiren alone deserves to be regarded as foremost. In what sense is he foremost? He is foremost in being hated by men and women. The reason is that, although the provinces of Japan are numerous and their inhabitants are likewise numerous, they are alike in heart and their mouths all utter Namu Amida Butsu. They look upon Amida Buddha as their object of worship, hate all the other nine directions, and long only for the west. Thus those who practice the Lotus Sutra, those who carry out Shingon practices, those who observe the precepts, those who are wise and those who are foolish all look upon these practices as secondary and upon the Nembutsu as their primary practice and, hoping in this way to expiate their offenses, they recite the Buddha’s name. Hence some of them recite it 60,000 times, 80,000 times or 480,000 times, while others recite it 10 times, 100 times or 1,000 times.
 
But I, Nichiren, one man alone, declare that the recitation of the name of Amida Buddha is an action that leads to rebirth in the hell of incessant suffering, that the Zen sect is the invention of the Devil of Heaven, that Shingon is an evil doctrine that will destroy the country, and that the Ritsu sect and the observers of the precepts are traitors to the nation.
 
Because I do so, from the sovereign on down to the common people, all persons fear me more than they would an enemy of their parents, an enemy from a past existence, a plotter of treason, a night raider or a bandit. They rage, they curse, they strike at me. Those who slander me are given grants of land, while those who praise me are driven from their areas or fined, and the people who desire to kill me are singled out for rewards. And on top of all this, I have twice incurred the wrath of the authorities.
I am not only the strangest person alive in the world today; in the reigns of the ninety human sovereigns, in the seven hundred or more years since the Buddhist teachings were first introduced to Japan, there has never been such a strange person.
 
I, Nichiren, am like the great comet of the Bun’ei era (1264), a disorder of the heavens such as had never happened in Japan before that time. I, Nichiren, am like the great earthquake of the Shoka era (1257), a freak of the earth that had never occurred in this land until that time.
 
In Japan since the history of the country began, there have been twenty-six perpetrators of treason. The first was Prince Oyama, the second was Oishi no Yamamaru, and so on down to the twenty-fifth, Yoritomo, and the twenty-sixth, Yoshitoki. The first twenty-four of these men were struck down by the imperial forces and had their heads exposed at the prison gate or their corpses left to rot in the mountain fields. But the last two succeeded in overthrowing the sovereign and gaining complete control of the nation, and at that time the imperial rule came to an end.
 
And yet these various perpetrators of treason are less hated by the mass of people than is Nichiren. If you ask why that should be, I will tell you. The Lotus Sutra contains a passage declaring that that sutra is first among all the sutras. However, the Great Teacher Kobo declares that the Lotus Sutra ranks third, while the Great Teacher Jikaku declares that the Lotus Sutra ranks second, and the Great Teacher Chisho agrees with Jikaku. Hence at present, when the priests of Mount Hiei, To-Ji and Onjo-ji confront the Lotus Sutra, they read the passage that says the Lotus Sutra is first, but what they understand when they read it is that the Lotus Sutra is second or third in standing.
 
The members of the courtier and warrior families have no detailed information about this matter. But since the eminent priests upon whom they rely in matters of faith all subscribe to this opinion, the lay followers share the same view as their teachers.
 
With regard to other groups, the Zen sect describes itself as a teaching transmitted apart from the sutras, and hence speaks with scorn of the Lotus Sutra. The Nembutsu sect asserts that "not one person in a thousand..." and that "not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood" through any other teaching, by which it means that, in comparison to the Nembutsu, the Lotus Sutra is too lofty to practice and therefore ought to be rejected. The Ritsu sect is composed of Hinayana doctrines. Even in the Former Day of the Law the Buddha would not condone the spread of such teachings, so surely he would never approve of them being propagated in the Latter Day of the Law, causing the ruler of the nation to be confused and misled.
 
Three women of antiquity -- Ta Chi, Mo Hsi and Pao Ssu -- misled the rulers of the three dynasties and caused them to lose their thrones. And in the same way, these evil doctrines are propagated throughout the nation and cause the Lotus Sutra to lose its proper place. As a result, the great sovereigns Antoku, Takahira and the others were cast aside by Tensho Daijin and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman and drowned in the sea or were exiled to distant islands. They were overthrown by families who for generations in the past had been their followers, and this was because they had lost the protection of the heavenly deities. They put their faith in those who are enemies of the Lotus Sutra. But because there was no one who understood this, they had no way to learn of their error. This is illustrated in the statement that wise men can perceive the cause of things, just as snakes know the way of snakes.
 
I, Nichiren, am no wise man. But just as a snake can understand the mind of a dragon and crows can foretell the coming of good or bad fortune in the world, so I was able to fathom the course that events would take. And I knew that if I spoke out on the matter, I would instantly meet with punishment, while if I did not speak out, I would fall into the great Avichi hell.
 
In studying the Lotus Sutra, there are three principles that must be understood. The first is that regarding slanderers. Monk Shoi, Monk Kugan, the scholar Vimalamitra and the Great Arrogant Brahman are examples. These men dressed their bodies in the three robes, lifted a single begging bowl up before their eyes, and meticulously observed the two hundred and fifty precepts, and yet they were in fact enemies of the Mahayana and in the end fell into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
 
In recent times in Japan there have been men like Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho who observed the precepts just as those earlier monks did and who did not differ from them in wisdom. But because they asserted that "The Shingon teaching of the Dainichi Sutra ranks first and the Lotus Sutra ranks second or third," if my view of the matter should by any chance be correct, they are now in the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
 
It is a fearful thing to utter such words, and still more does one hesitate to put them into writing. But, when the Buddha himself has declared that the Lotus is foremost, if one learns of a person who ranks it second or third and, out of fear of other people or of government authorities, fails to speak out, then "one is in fact an enemy," that is, one is acting as a fearful enemy to all living beings. This is stated in both the sutras and the commentaries, and so I speak out.
 
To speak out without fearing and without flinching before society – this is what the sutra means when it says, "We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way."
 
It is not that one does not recall the evil accusations, the sticks and stones that were suffered by Bodhisattva Fukyo. It is not that one is unafraid of the world. It is just that the censures of the Lotus Sutra are even more severe. It is like the case of Sukenari and Tokimune, who acted as they did even though they found themselves in the camp of the shogun because they longed to avenge themselves upon their enemy and were ashamed at the thought of failing to do so.
 
The above is the principle relating to slanderers.
 
As for the families of slanderers, the family members may pass their entire lives without slandering the Lotus Sutra. But even though they practice it every hour of the day and night, the fact that they were born into the family of a slanderer means that they will invariably be reborn in the hell of incessant suffering. For example, those persons who were born into the family of Monk Shoi or Monk Kugan and became their disciples or lay supporters all fell, against their will, into the hell of incessant suffering. Or it is like the family members of Yoshimori. Setting aside the question of those who gave their lives in battle, even the children still in their mothers’ wombs, torn from their mothers’ bellies, were killed before birth.
 
Now I, Nichiren, have mentioned the three great teachers Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho, who boldly state in their writings that the Lotus Sutra represents the region of darkness, that it is a false and deluded doctrine. If what the Lotus Sutra itself says is correct, then what do you suppose will become of all the priests at Mount Hiei, To-ji, Onjo-ji, the seven major temples of Nara and the other 11,037 temples throughout Japan? If the examples cited earlier are any indication, they will without a doubt fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
 
Such is the principle relating to the families of slanderers.
 
Next we come to the country of slanderers. Those persons who happen to live in a country where there are slanderers of the Law will all -- everyone in the entire country -- be condemned to the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. Just as all the various waters gather in the great ocean, so all kinds of misfortune gather about such a country. They will abound in the way that grass and trees abound on a mountain.
 
When the three calamities pile up month after month and the seven disasters appear day after day, then hunger and thirst will prevail and the country will be changed into a realm of hungry spirits. When plague and disease sweep over the land, the country will become a realm of hell. When warfare breaks out, it will be transformed into a realm of asuras. And when parents, brothers and sisters, ignoring the fact that they are kin, begin taking each other for a husband or wife, the country will become a realm of beasts. Under such circumstances, one does not have to wait until death to fall into the three evil paths. While one is still alive, the country in which one lives will be changed into these four evil realms.
 
Such is the principle relating to a country where slanderers live.
 
The people in such a country will be like those who lived in the Latter Day of Daishogon Buddha, or in the defiled age of Shishionno Buddha. Or, if what the Hoon Sutra tells us is true, people will eat the flesh of their own deceased parents or brothers or sisters or of any other dead person, and they will eat live creatures as well.
 
Japan at present is just such a country. The entire nation is full of Shingon teachers, members of the Zen sect and observers of the precepts who eat people. And this has come about wholly as a result of the false doctrines of Shingon.
 
Ryuzo-bo is merely one of the countless number of eaters of people whose case has happened to come to light. In a spirit similar to his, people procure human flesh and mix it with boar or deer meat, or cut it up and blend it with fish or fowl, pound it or pickle it and then sell it. It is impossible to tell how many people have eaten it. All this has happened because the country has been cast aside by the heavenly gods and abandoned by the benevolent deities who watch over and protect it. In the end, this country will be attacked by other nations, its inhabitants will fall to fighting among themselves, and it will be transformed into a veritable hell of incessant suffering.
 
Because I, Nichiren, have for some time been able to see the great error of its ways, because I wish to avoid the offense of complicity in slander, because I fear the accusations of the Buddhas, and because I understand my obligations and wish to repay the debt of gratitude I owe my country, I have announced and made known all of this to the ruler of the country and to all its inhabitants.
 
The precept against the killing of living creatures is the first among all the various precepts. The five precepts begin with the precept against taking life, and the eight precepts, the ten precepts, the two hundred and fifty precepts, the five hundred precepts, the ten major precepts of the Bommo Sutra, the ten inexhaustible precepts of the Kegon Sutra and the ten precepts of the Yoraku Sutra, all begin with the precept against killing. And among the three thousand penalties prescribed by the Confucian school, capital punishment stands in first place.
 
The reason is that "Nothing throughout the entire major world system matches the value of a living being," which means that not even all the jewels and treasures that fill the entire major world system can equal the value of a life. One who kills a mere ant will fall into hell, to say nothing of those who kill fish or birds! One who cuts a mere blade of green grass will fall into hell, to say nothing of those who cut up dead bodies!
 
And yet, grave as are these prohibitions against taking life, it is stated that if a person acts as an enemy of the Lotus Sutra, then one who puts such a person to death is performing an act of outstanding benefit. And if this is so, then how could it possibly be right to offer alms and support to such a person? This is why King Sen’yo put to death 500 Brahman teachers, why the monk Kakutoku put to death a countless number of slanderers of the Law, and why the great monarch Ashoka put to death 108,000 non-Buddhists.
 
These rulers and monks were looked upon as the most worthy kings in the entire land of Jambudvipa, as the wisest of all among the observers of the precepts. King Sen’yo was later reborn as Shakyamuni Buddha, the monk Kakutoku was reborn as Kasho Buddha, and the great monarch Ashoka was recognized as a man who had attained the way.
 
Today Japan resembles the countries of these persons. It is a country where, whether they are observers of the precepts, breakers of the precepts or persons without precepts, whether they are rulers, ministers or common people, everyone joins together as one in slandering the Lotus Sutra. The situation is such that, even if one should strip off his own skin and transcribe the Lotus Sutra on it, or should offer his own flesh as alms, the country would still be certain to perish and that person himself would fall into hell, so great is his offense. The only remedy is to bar the way to the Shingon sect, the Nembutsu sect, the Zen sect and the observers of the precepts, and to devote oneself to the Lotus Sutra!
 
Those men who can recite from memory the sixty volumes of the Tendai sect and who are thought by the ruler of the nation and the other authorities to be men of wisdom: is it because their wisdom fails them, or because, though they understand the true situation, they fear the world, that they praise the Shingon sect and join forces with the Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu followers? Their guilt is a hundred, a thousand times greater than that of these followers! They may be compared to Shigeyoshi or Yoshimura.
 
The Great Teacher Tz’u-en wrote the ten-volume Hokke genzan, in which he praised the Lotus Sutra, and yet he fell into hell. This man was a leading disciple of the Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang, who was the teacher of Emperor T’ai-tsung, and was said to have been a reincarnation of the eleven-faced Kannon. The subject matter of his writings resembled the Lotus Sutra, but at heart it was identical with the sutras preached previous to the Lotus Sutra, and that was the reason he fell into hell.
 
The Great Teacher Chia-hsiang wrote the ten-volume Hokke genron, and that would under ordinary circumstances have condemned him to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. But he set aside his own manner of reading the Lotus Sutra and served the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, and thus was able to escape the pains of hell.
 
The men of the Hokke sect today are like these men. Mount Hiei should be a stronghold of the Lotus Sutra, and Japan should be a country devoted to the teachings of the single vehicle. And yet the Great Teacher Jikaku stole the post of chief priest of the sect that should have been devoted to the Lotus Sutra and instead became a chief priest of Shingon teachings, and all the three thousand priests of the mountain became his followers.
 
The Great Teacher Kobo stole the allegiance of Emperor Saga, who earlier had been a lay supporter of the Hokke sect, and turned the imperial palace into a temple of the Shingon sect.
 
Emperor Antoku, who relied on the chief priest Myoun as his teacher, had him pray with incantations for the defeat of the court minister Yoritomo. However, not only were these men punished by General of the Right Yoritomo, but in the end Emperor Antoku drowned in the western sea and Myoun was put to death by Yoshinaka.
 
The sovereign Takahira summoned the administrator of monks Jien, the Tendai chief priest, and other eminent priests of To-ji, Omuro and other temples, forty-one men in all, and had them erect a great altar in the imperial palace and perform incantations to overpower Yoshitoki, the acting administrator of the western sector of the capital. But on the seventh day, which fell on the fourteenth day of the sixth month, the capital was overwhelmed by Yoshitoki’s forces, the sovereigns were exiled to the province of Oki or to the island of Sado, the chief priest and the priests of Omuro and the others were severely reprimanded, and in some cases worried themselves to death.
 
The people of our time fail to understand the true origin of these events. This is entirely because they are confused as to the relative merit of the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra.
 
And now, when Japan faces the threat of an attack from the great empire of the Mongols, we are told that the authorities are employing these same inauspicious doctrines in an attempt to overpower the Mongols through incantations. The daily records also make it clear that this is so. Can anyone who understands the true situation fail to sigh in sorrow?
 
How tragic, that we should be born in a country where people slander the True Law and should encounter such great hardships! Though we may escape being slanderers ourselves, how can we escape censure for belonging to a family of slanderers or a country of slanderers?
 
If you would escape censure for being a member of a family that includes slanderers, then speak to your parents or your brothers about this matter. Perhaps they will hate you for it, but perhaps they will put faith in your words.
 
If you would escape censure for living in a country where there are slanderers, then you should remonstrate with the sovereign, though you may be condemned to death or to exile. "We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way," says the Lotus Sutra. And the commentary states, "One’s body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. One should give one’s life in order to propagate the Law."
 
The reason you have not succeeded in attaining Buddhahood from countless distant kalpas in the past down to the present is that, when a situation such as this has arisen, you have been too fearful to speak out. And in the future as well, this principle will prevail.
 
Now I, Nichiren, understand these things because of what I myself have undergone. But even if there are those among my disciples who understand them, they fear the accusations of the times and, believing that their lives, which are as frail as dew, are in fact to be relied upon, backslide, keep their beliefs hidden in their hearts or behave in other such ways.
 
A passage in the Lotus Sutra says that the sutra is "the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand," and I have learned the value of this passage through my own experience. Slanderers are as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth; believers are as few as the dirt that can be piled on a fingernail. Slanderers are a huge sea, upholders, one drop of water.
 
On Mount T’ien-t’ai there is a place called the Dragon Gate, which is a waterfall a thousand feet in height. At the beginning of spring the fish gather there and attempt to ascend the waterfall, and if there is one fish in a hundred or a thousand that succeeds in ascending the waterfall, it will become a dragon.
 
The current of this waterfall is swifter than an arrow or a flash of lightning. Not only is the waterfall difficult to ascend, but at the beginning of spring fishermen gather by the waterfall and spread hundreds and thousands of nets to catch the fish, or shoot arrows at the fish or scoop them up. Eagles, hawks, kites, owls, tigers, wolves, dogs and foxes gather there as well, day and night snatching up the fish and devouring them. Thus ten or twenty years may go by without a single fish changing into a dragon. It is like a person of common and humble station dreaming of being admitted to the palace of the emperor, or a woman of humble birth hoping to become empress.
 
And you should understand that taking faith in the Lotus Sutra is even more difficult than this.
 
The Buddha has constantly warned us, saying that no matter how great an observer of the precepts a person may be, no matter how lofty in wisdom and well versed in the Lotus Sutra and the other scriptures, if that person sees an enemy of the Lotus Sutra but fails to attack and denounce him or report him to the ruler of the nation, instead keeping silent out of fear of others, then he will invariably fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. Suppose, by way of analogy, that one oneself commits no treasonable act, but knows of someone who is plotting treason. If one fails to inform the ruler, then one is guilty of the same crime as the person who is plotting treason.
 
The Great Teacher Nan-yueh has stated: "If one sees a foe of the Lotus Sutra and yet fails to censure him, one becomes a slanderer of the Law and will fall into the hell of incessant suffering." Even a man of great wisdom, if he sees such a person and fails to speak out, will fall into the depths of the hell of incessant suffering, and as long as that hell shall endure, he will never escape.
 
I, Nichiren, fearing these admonitions of the Buddha, accordingly accused all those throughout the nation who were deserving of it, and more than once I was condemned to exile or to the death penalty. Believing that my past offenses had now been eradicated and that I was blameless of any fault, I left Kamakura to take up residence in this mountain, and since then seven years have passed.
 
Let me describe this mountain. In Japan there are seven marches, and it is in the march called the Takaido, which is made up of fifteen provinces. Within these is the province of Kai, where there are three village districts called Iino, Mimaki and Hakiri, and it is in the one called Hakiri. It is a remote mountain region that stretches over an area of more than twenty ri in the northwestern part of the district.
 
The northern part is Mount Minobu, the southern, Mount Takatori, the western, Mount Shichimen, and the eastern, Mount Tenshi. They are like boards set up on all four sides. Around the outside of this area run four rivers, the Fujigawa running north to south and the Hayakawa running west to east at the rear of the area, and before the area the Hakirigawa, which runs west to east, and its tributary, which has a waterfall and is called the Minobugawa. You might suppose that Eagle Peak had been moved from central India and set down here, or that Mount T’ien-t’ai had been brought from China.
 
In the midst of these four mountains and four rivers is a flat area no broader than the palm of a hand, and here I have built a little hut to shield me from the rain. I have peeled bark off trees to make my four walls, and wear a robe made of the hides of deer that died a natural death. In spring I break off ferns to nourish my body, and in autumn I gather fruit to keep myself alive. But since the eleventh month of last year the snow has been piling up, and now, when we are into the first month of the new year, it goes on snowing. My hut is seven feet in height, but the snow is piled up to a depth of ten feet. I am surrounded by four walls of ice, and icicles hang down from the eaves like a necklace of jewels adorning my place of religious practice, while inside my hut snow is heaped up in place of rice.
 
Even in ordinary times people seldom come here, and now, with the snow so deep and the roads blocked, I have no visitors at all. So at the moment I am atoning for the karma that destines me to fall into the eight cold hells and, far from attaining Buddhahood in this present life, I am like the cold-suffering bird. I no longer shave my head, so I look like a quail, and my robe gets so stiff with ice that it resembles the icy wings of the mandarin duck.
 
To such a place, where friends from former times never come to visit, where I have been abandoned even by my own disciples, you have sent these vessels, which I heap with snow, imagining it to be rice, and from which I drink water, thinking it to be gruel. Please let your thoughts dwell on the effects of your kindness. There is much more I would like to say.
 
With my deep respect,
Nichiren
 
The twenty-seventh day of the first month in the third year of Koan (1280)
 
Reply to Akimoto Taro Hyoe
 
Letter to Domyo Zemmon

I have received your request for prayers for your father, and I will offer them in the presence of the Buddha. Concerning prayer, there are conspicuous prayer and conspicuous response, conspicuous prayer and inconspicuous response, inconspicuous prayer and inconspicuous response, and inconspicuous prayer and conspicuous response. However, the essential point is that, so long as you carry out faith in this sutra, all your wishes will be fulfilled in both present and future existences. The third volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "Even though the devil and his subjects are there, they will protect the Buddhist Law." And the seventh volume states, "...his illness will vanish immediately, and he will find perpetual youth and eternal life." You must not doubt these golden words. I deeply appreciate Myoichi-ama's visit to this mountain. I have given her a written scroll, which I would like you to read. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

The tenth day of the eighth month in the second year of Kenji (1276), cyclical sign hinoe-ne.
 

Letter to Endo Saemon-no-jo
 
I have recently received an official pardon and am now returning to Kamakura. Can this be the year in which the passage, "By now the original vows that I made have already been fulfilled," comes true for me?
 
Had it not been for your protection, could I possibly have sustained my life? Could I have survived to be pardoned? All the achievements of my lifetime are solely thanks to you. The Lotus Sutra says, "The young sons of the heavenly deities will wait on and serve him. Swords and staves will not touch him, and poison will have no power to harm him." How reassuring this sutra is!
 
Such being the case, you must be an envoy sent by the heavenly gods Bonten and Taishaku. I will bestow my seals upon you as a promise that you will be reborn in [the Pure Land of] Eagle Peak. You should take one of them with you to your next existence. [When you arrive] at Eagle Peak, call out, "Nichiren, Nichiren!" and I will come to meet you at that time.
 
I will write to you again from Kamakura.
 
Nichiren
 
Letter to Gijo-bo
 
I have carefully reviewed your question about the Buddhist doctrines. The blessing of the Lotus Sutra can only be understood between Buddhas. It is the kind of enlightenment that even the wisdom of Shakyamuni Buddha’s emanations throughout the ten directions can barely fathom, if at all. This is why, as you well know, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai construed the character myo [of Myoho-renge-kyo] to mean that which is beyond ordinary comprehension. The Lotus Sutra proclaims a great diversity of practices, but only T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo were able to understand the heart of the sutra. Among these men, the Great Teacher Dengyo was the reincarnation of T’ien-t’ai [and therefore well versed in the T’ien-t’ai doctrine]. Nevertheless, he sent envoys to T’ang China on many occasions in an effort to resolve the common doubts of others concerning the sutra. The essence of the sutra is the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, one hundred worlds and one thousand factors, and the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. This is a doctrine of great importance which was revealed in the work entitled Maka shikan.

The teaching of the Juryo chapter bears special significance for me, Nichiren. T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo understood it in a general way but did not reveal it in words, and the same was true of Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu. The Jigage section of the chapter states, ‘...single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives...’ I, Nichiren, have called forth Buddhahood from within my life by living this sentence. This means that I myself embodied the Three Great Secret Laws, or the reality of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, implied in the Juryo chapter. But let us keep this to ourselves!

Dengyo, the Great Teacher of Mount Hiei, journeyed to China to receive instruction in the profound meaning of this sentence from the sutra. ‘Single’ of ‘single-mindedly’ means the one pure way, and ‘mind’ indicates all phenomena and existences. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explained the Chinese character for ‘mind’ by saying that it consists of four brush strokes representing the moon and three stars and implies that the mind that resides in the effect [of Buddhahood] is pure and clean. My interpretation of the passage is that ‘single’ stands for myo (mystic), ‘mind’ for ho (law), ‘desiring’ for ren (lotus), ‘see’ for ge (flower), and ‘Buddha’ for kyo (sutra). In propagating these five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, one should ‘not hesitate even if it costs them their lives.’

‘Single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha’ also means to see the Buddha in one’s own mind, to concentrate one’s mind on seeing the Buddha, and that to see one’s own mind is to see the Buddha. I have attained the fruit of Buddhahood, the eternally inherent three bodies, [by living this sentence]. In achieving this I am sure I surpass T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, Nagarjuna and Mahakashyapa. The Buddha admonishes that one should by all means become the master of one’s mind rather than let one’s mind master oneself. This is why I have emphatically urged you not to hesitate to give up your body and your life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nichiren

The twenty-eighth day of the fifth month in the tenth year of Bun’ei (1273)
 

Letter to Horen
 
The Hosshi chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "If there should be an evil person who, his mind destitute of goodness, should for the space of a kalpa appear in the presence of the Buddha and constantly curse and revile the Buddha, that person’s offense would still be rather light. But if there were a person who spoke only one evil word to curse or defame the lay persons or monks or nuns who read and recite the Lotus Sutra, then his offense would be very grave."

The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this: "The benefits conferred by this sutra are lofty and its principles are the highest. Therefore this statement is made with regard to it. Nothing like this is said about any other sutra."

With regard to the meaning of this sutra passage, the definition of a kalpa is as follows. Suppose that the span of human life is eighty thousand years, and that it decreases one year every hundred years, or ten years every thousand years. Let us suppose that it decreases at this rate until the life span has reached ten years.
At this point, a person ten years old would be like an eighty-year-old man of today. Then the process would reverse, and, after a hundred years, the life span would increase to eleven years, and, after another hundred years, to twelve years. After a thousand years it would have increased to twenty years, and this would continue until it once more reached eighty thousand years. The time required to complete this combined process of decrease and increase is called a kalpa. There are various other definitions of a kalpa, but, for the time being, I will use the word kalpa in the sense defined above.

There are persons who, throughout this period of a kalpa, manifest hatred toward the Buddha by carrying out various activities in the three categories of body, mouth and mind. Such a person was Devadatta.
The Buddha was the son and heir of King Shuddhodana, and Devadatta was a son of King Dronodana. These two kings were brothers, so Devadatta was a cousin of the Buddha.

In the present as in the past, among sages as among ordinary men, trouble arising over a woman has been one of the prime causes of enmity. When Shakyamuni Buddha was still known as Prince Siddhartha, and Devadatta had been designated prince and heir to his father, it happened that a high minister named Yasha had a daughter named Yashodhara. She was the most beautiful woman in all of the five regions of India, a veritable goddess whose fame was known throughout the four seas. Siddhartha and Devadatta vied with each other to win her hand in marriage; hence discord arose between them.

Later, Siddhartha left his family and became a Buddha, and Devadatta, taking the monk Sudaya as his teacher, left his family to become a monk.

The Buddha observed the two hundred and fifty precepts and abided by the three thousand rules of conduct, so that all heavenly and human beings looked up to him with admiration and the four kinds of believers honored and revered him. Devadatta, however, did not command such respect from others, so he began to consider whether there was not some way he could gain worldly fame that would surpass that of the Buddha. He came across five criteria by which he might surpass the Buddha and gain recognition from society. As noted in the Shibun ritsu, they were: (1) to wear robes of rags; (2) to seek food only by begging; (3) to eat only one meal a day; (4) to sit out always in the open; and (5) to take neither salt nor the five flavors. The Buddha would accept robes given to him by others, but Devadatta. wore only robes made of rags. The Buddha would accept meals that were served to him, but Devadatta lived on alms alone. The Buddha would eat once, twice or three times a day, but Devadatta would eat only once. The Buddha would take shelter in graveyards or under trees, but Devadatta sat out in the open all day long. The Buddha would on occasion consent to take salt or the five flavors, but Devadatta accepted none of them. And because Devadatta observed these rules, people came to believe that he was far superior to the Buddha, and that they were as far apart as clouds and mud.

In this way Devadatta sought to deprive the Buddha of his standing. The Buddha was supported by the lay believer King Bimbisara. Every day the king supplied five hundred cartloads of alms to the Buddha as well as to his disciples, doing so over a period of years without missing a single day. Devadatta, jealous of such devotion and hoping to secure it for himself, won Prince Enemy Before Birth over to his side and persuaded him to kill his father.

He himself set out to kill the Buddha, hurling a rock and striking the Buddha with it. Such was the deed he carried out with his body. In addition, he slandered and cursed the Buddha, calling him a liar and a deceiver; such was the deed he committed with his mouth. And, in his heart, he thought of the Buddha as a foe from his previous lifetime; such was the deed he engaged in with his mind. The great evil of these three interacting deeds has never been surpassed.

Suppose that a terribly evil man, like Devadatta, were to engage in these three types of deeds, and, for an entire medium kalpa, curse and revile Shakyamuni Buddha, striking him with staves and behaving toward him with jealousy and envy. The enormous guilt he would incur would be weighty indeed.

This great earth of ours is 168,000 yojana thick, and therefore it is capable of supporting the waters of the four great seas, the dirt and stones of the nine mountains, every kind of plant and tree, and all living creatures, without ever collapsing, tipping or breaking apart. And yet, when Devadatta, a human being whose body measured five feet, committed no more than three cardinal sins, the great earth broke open and he fell into hell; the hole through which he fell still exists in India. The Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang states in the text known as Saiiki ki, or Record of the Western Regions, that when he journeyed from China to India for the sake of his practice, he saw it there.

However, it is said that if one neither at heart thinks ill of the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age nor in one’s bearing shows envy toward him, but merely reviles him in a joking manner, then the consequences will be even worse than those brought about by Devadatta when, by committing the three types of deeds, he cursed and reviled the Buddha for an entire medium kalpa. How much worse, then, would the consequences be if the people of the present age were to set about conducting themselves like Devadatta, carrying out these three types of deeds with truly evil hearts over a period of many years--cursing and reviling the votary of the Lotus Sutra, subjecting him to defamation and insult, envying and feeling jealous of him, beating and striking him, putting him to death under false charges and murdering him!

Question: When someone displays animosity toward the votary of the Lotus Sutra in this latter age, what hell will that person fall into?

Answer: The second volume of the Lotus Sutra states:

If this person [should slander a sutra such as this,] or on seeing those who read, recite, copy and uphold this sutra, should despise, hate, envy or bear grudges against them, [the penalty this person must pay--listen, I will tell you now:] When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell, be confined there for a whole kalpa, and when the kalpa ends, die there again. He will keep repeating this cycle for a countless number of kalpas.
Five hundred yojana beneath the surface of the earth is the palace of King Emma. And fifteen hundred yojana beneath the palace of King Emma are the eight great hells and the other hells that comprise the 136 hells. Of these 136 hells, 128 are for the consignment of persons who have committed minor offenses; the eight great hells are for those who have committed grave offenses. Of the eight great hells, seven are for persons who have committed one or more of the ten evil acts. The eighth hell--the hell of incessant suffering--is for the consignment of three types of persons: those who have committed one or more of the five cardinal sins, those who have been unfilial, and those who have slandered the Law. The passage I have just quoted makes it clear that persons who curse, revile or slander the votary of the Lotus Sutra in this latter age, even if they do so merely in jest, will fall into this hell.

The Hosshi chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "If there is someone who seeks the Buddha way and during a certain kalpa [presses palms together in my presence and recites numberless verses of praise, because of these praises of the Buddha he will gain immeasurable blessings]. And if one lauds and extols those who uphold this sutra, his good fortune will be even greater."

The Great Teacher Miao-lo remarks: "Those who vex or trouble [the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra] will have their heads split into seven pieces, but those who give alms to them will enjoy good fortune surpassing the ten honorable titles." Among human beings, the foremost is the ruler known as wheel-turning king. When a wheel-turning king is about to appear in the world, an omen precedes him, a huge tree known as an udumbara growing up in the midst of the ocean, bearing flowers and fruit.

When a gold wheel-turning king appears, the mountains and seas of the four continents become level; the great earth becomes soft as cotton; the seas become sweet as amrita, the mountains become mountains of gold; and the plants and trees turn into the seven kinds of treasures.

The wheel-turning king can travel throughout the entirety of the four continents in an instant; therefore the heavenly beings guard and protect him, the spirits gather about and serve him, and the dragon kings cause rain to fall at the proper time. If an ordinary person of inferior capacity follows such a ruler, then he, too, can travel throughout the four continents in an instant. All of these things come about solely because the wheel-turning king abides by the ten good precepts; these are the rewards that result from that observance.

Incomparably superior to the wheel-turning kings are Bishamon and the others who comprise the Four Heavenly Kings. These are the great kings who preside freely over the four continents.

The heavenly being called Taishaku is the lord of the Trayastrimsha heaven. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven dwells at the summit of the world of desire and rules over the threefold world. These beings were able to obtain their positions because they observed the highest class of the ten good precepts and carried out the highly virtuous act of making impartial offerings.

The heavenly king known as Daibonten is the most highly honored among the heavenly beings in the threefold world. He dwells at the summit of the world of form, is attended by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven and Taishaku, and holds a major world system in his hand. In addition to having practiced the kind of meditation that is still accompanied by illusions, he has cultivated the four infinite virtues -- pity, compassion, joy and indifference.
The voice-hearer is one like Shariputra or Mahakashyapa who, in addition to observing the two hundred and fifty precepts and practicing meditation without illusions, has concentrated his attention on the concepts of suffering, emptiness, impermanence and nonself. He has cut off all the illusions of thought and desire arising in the threefold world and can move entirely at liberty through water or fire. For these reasons, he has Bonten and Taishaku as his attendants.

The cause-awakened one is one who is incomparably superior to the voice-hearer, one whose advent in the world rivals that of a Buddha. Long ago there was a hunter who lived in an age of famine. At that time he gave a bowl of food consisting of millet as an offering to a pratyekabuddha named Rida. As a result, this hunter was reborn as a rich man in the human and heavenly realms for a period of ninety-one kalpas. In our present world, he was called Aniruddha, and was known as the foremost in divine insight among the Buddha’s disciples.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "A meal of millet is a trifling thing. But because the donor gave all that he possessed, and because the recipient was a superior being, the donor was able to obtain marvelous recompense."

The meaning of this passage of commentary is that, though a meal of millet may be insignificant, because it was given as an offering to a pratyekabuddha, a person of great worth, the donor was reborn again and again with wonderful rewards.

Next are those known as bodhisattvas, represented by Monju and Miroku. These great bodhisattvas are remarkable beings who are incomparably superior to the pratyekabuddhas. Buddhas are beings who have completely dispelled the darkness associated with the forty-two stages of ignorance and have attained the level of perfect enlightenment; they are like the full moon on the fifteenth night of the eighth month. These bodhisattvas have dispelled the darkness of forty-one stages of ignorance, thus reaching the mountain summit of near-perfect enlightenment, the next to the last stage; they are like the moon on the fourteenth night.

The great being known as a Buddha is a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand times superior to the various persons described above. A Buddha is invariably distinguished by thirty-two features. Among these features are a pure and far-reaching voice, an unseen crown of the head, a knot of flesh on the head like a topknot, a tuft of white hair between the eyebrows, and markings of the thousand-spoked wheel. Of these thirty-two features, each one was acquired as the result of a hundred blessings.

What do we mean by a hundred blessings? Let us suppose that all the persons in Japan, in China, and in the sixteen great countries, the five hundred middle-sized countries, and the ten thousand small countries that make up the five regions of India are blind, indeed, that all living beings throughout the continent of Jambudvipa, the four continents, the six heavens of the world of desire, and throughout the entire major world system are blind. And let us suppose that there is a great physician who is capable of bestowing a splendid benefit by opening, in one instant, the eyes of all these beings, and making them as they once were. That act would count as the bestowal of a single blessing. And when a hundred such blessings are accumulated, it leads to the appearance of one of the thirty-two features.

From this it is apparent that the benefits represented by merely one of these features are greater in number than all the plants and trees within a major world system, or all the drops of rain that fall upon the four continents.
In the time of the kalpa of decline, a great wind known as samghata arises, pulling up Mount Sumeru by the roots, lifting it to the highest heaven in the world of form, and then reducing it to particles of dust. But despite all that, not a single hair on the body of the Buddha so much as stirs.

In the breast of the Buddha is a great fire, made up of the Great Wisdom of Equality, the Shining Light of Great Knowledge, and the Fire Pit of Meditation. When the Buddha enters nirvana, this great fire blazes forth from his breast and consumes his body. Though the heavenly deities and the dragons and other beings of the six heavens of the world of desire and the four seas, distressed at the thought of losing the Buddha, gather round and cause torrential rains to fall, until the earth of the entire major world system is under water and Mount Sumeru is about to be washed away, still they cannot put out this huge fire.

The Buddha is thus a person of great virtue. But King Ajatashatru, gathering together evil men from the sixteen great states of India, plotting with heretics from all around, and acknowledging Devadatta as his teacher, turned numberless hordes of evil from the sixteen great states of India, plotting with heretics from all around, and acknowledging Devadatta as his teacher, turned numberless hordes of evil persons loose, causing them to curse, attack and kill the Buddha’s disciples. Not only that, but he turned against his father, a worthy ruler who was guilty of no fault, pinning him down in seven places with foot-long spikes. He also approached the queen--the mother who gave him birth-snatched away her jeweled hairpins, and held a sword to her head. Because of these terrible crimes, his body broke out in virulent sores in seven places.

It was fated that when twenty-one days had passed, on the seventh day of the third month, the earth would break open and he would fall into the hell of incessant suffering, to remain there for an entire kalpa. But because he sought out the Buddha, not only did his sores heal, but he was able to escape from the pains of the hell of incessant suffering and to live forty years longer.

The high minister Jivaka was an emissary of the Buddha, and as a result he was able to step into the flames and rescue the son of the rich man of Champa. From this it would appear that once one has made offerings and paid homage to the Buddha, regardless of whether one is an evildoer or a woman, one will be able without fail to attain Buddhahood and achieve the way.

Devadatta had thirty of the distinctive features, but lacked the tuft of white hair and the markings of the thousand-spoked wheel. Because he lacked two of the features that distinguish the Buddha, he was afraid that his disciples would belittle him. So he gathered fireflies and stuck them between his eyebrows to resemble the tuft of white hair. And for the markings of the thousand-spoked wheel, he had a blacksmith make pieces of iron in the shape of chrysanthemum blossoms and tried to stick them on the soles of his feet, but he succeeded only in burning his feet. The burns grew worse until he was at the point of death, when he confessed to the Buddha what he had done. The Buddha then stroked the burns with his hand and all the pain went away.
One might suppose that Devadatta would then repent and reform his ways, but instead he went about telling people that Gautama practiced petty healing tricks and that he resorted to magic.

And yet the Buddha harbored no grudges, even against such enemies. How, then, could he ever cast aside anyone who had even once put faith in him?

This is how great the Buddha was. Therefore, when he was depicted in wooden statues or in paintings, his image walked about like the wooden statue carved by King Udayana, or preached the various sutras like the painted image fashioned by Matanga.

So venerable is this personage known as Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. And yet the blessings to be obtained by honoring him not for an hour or two, not for a day or two, but for the entire space of a kalpa--pressing one’s palms together, raising one’s eyes to the face of the Buddha, bowing one’s head, abandoning all other concerns, going about it as though attempting to put out the fire in one’s own head, as though thirsty and seeking water, as though hungry and seeking a meal--the blessings to be obtained by incessantly making offerings and paying homage to the Buddha in this way cannot match those to be obtained by praising and making offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra in this latter age, even though it be only one word spoken in jest, the sort of unenthusiastic praise a stepmother might offer to her stepchild.

The blessings to be obtained from the latter act, it is stated, are a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand times greater than those to be obtained by conducting oneself with a believing heart in the three categories of body, mouth and mind, and offering alms to the living body of the Buddha for an entire kalpa. This is what the Great Teacher Miao-lo means when he writes that one will "enjoy good fortune surpassing the ten honorable titles."

The ten honorable titles are ten epithets that are applied to the Buddha. Miao-lo is saying that the blessings to be obtained by making offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age are greater than those to be obtained by making offerings to the Buddha of the ten honorable titles. This is one of the twenty ways cited by the Great Teacher Miao-lo in which the Lotus Sutra surpasses all other sutras.

The two doctrines outlined above were preached by the Buddha himself, and yet they may be difficult to believe. How, you may ask, could one possibly acquire greater blessings by making offerings to an ordinary person than by making offerings to a Buddha?

And yet if you declare that these doctrines are mere lies, then you call into doubt the golden words spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha himself, you make light of the testimony to their truth given by Taho Buddha, and you disregard the sign manifested by the Buddhas of the ten directions when they extended their tongues. And if you do these things, you will fall into the Avichi hell alive. You will be as nervous and uneasy at heart as a person who tries to ride an unruly horse over a rocky slope.

On the other hand, if you believe these doctrines, you will become a Buddha of perfect enlightenment. How, then, are you to go about nurturing faith in the Lotus Sutra? For if you try to practice the teachings of the sutra without faith, it would be like trying to enter a jeweled mountain without hands [to pick up its treasures], or like trying to make a thousand-mile journey without feet. The answer is simply to examine the proof that is at hand, and thus to take hold of faith that is far off.

On the first day of the first month of the Buddha’s eightieth year, when he had finished preaching the Lotus Sutra, he made this announcement: "Ananda, Miroku, Mahakashyapa--I came into the world in order to preach the Lotus Sutra. I have accomplished my original intention, and now there is no further reason for me to remain in the world. Three months from now, on the fifteenth day of the second month, I will enter nirvana."

Everyone, both those among the Buddha’s followers and outsiders, doubted this pronouncement. But since the Buddha’s words are never spoken in vain, when the fifteenth day of the second month at last came, he did in fact enter nirvana. As a result, people recognized that the golden words of the Buddha were true, and they began to have a certain amount of faith in his words.

The Buddha made another prediction, saying, "A hundred years after I pass away, a great ruler named King Ashoka will appear. He will rule over one-third of the continent of Jambudvipa, and will erect eighty-four thousand stupas and pay honor to my remains." People doubted this statement as well, but just as the Buddha had predicted, the king appeared; and from this time onward, people believed.

The Buddha also said, "Four hundred years after I pass away, there will be a great ruler named King Kanishka. He will gather together a group of five hundred arhats, and they will compile the work known as the Daibibasha ron." This prediction also came about just as the Buddha had stated.

As a result of these proofs, people came to believe the predictions of the Buddha. if, therefore, the two doctrines I cited earlier are nothing but lies, then everything that is in the Lotus Sutra must be a lie.

In the Juryo chapter the Buddha says that he became a Buddha in the distant past of gohyaku-jintengo. We are ordinary human beings; we can hardly remember what has happened to us since our birth in this present existence, much less what happened one or two lifetimes back. How, then, can we be expected to have faith in what happened in the past of gohyaku-jintengo?

Moreover, the Buddha made a prediction to Shariputra, saying, "In ages to come, after a countless, boundless, inconceivable number of kalpas have passed,... you will be able to become a Buddha with the name Flower Glow." And he also made a prediction concerning Mahakashyapa, saying, "In future existences ... And in his final incarnation he will be able to become a Buddha named Light Bright."

But these passages in the sutra concern events in the distant future, and so it is difficult to expect ordinary persons like ourselves to have faith in them. It is thus difficult for ordinary persons, who have no knowledge of the distant past or future, to have faith in this sutra. That being the case, even if we were to carry out its practice, what meaning could it have for us?

In light of all this, it would seem that when one who is able to show clearly visible proof in the present expounds the Lotus Sutra, there will also be persons who will believe.

In the declaration concerning sutra readings that you, Horen Shonin, have sent to me, you state: "To mark the thirteenth year of the departure of my late beloved father I have performed a five-time recitation of the one-vehicle sutra of Myoho-renge-kyo."

Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, is known by the title World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment. The character that signifies "honored" can be interpreted as "lofty," and the character for "lofty" can be interpreted as "filial piety." Shakyamuni Buddha is honored with the title World-Honored one because, among all the persons noted for their filial devotion, he is the most outstanding.

The body of Shakyamuni Buddha was golden-hued and endowed with thirty-two features. Among these thirty-two was an unseen crown of the head, which means that although the Buddha was sixteen feet tall, the Brahman of the Bamboo Staff school was unable to measure his height, and the deity Bonten was unable to see the top of his head. Hence the name an unseen crown of the head." And he gained this characteristic because he was a great man who was foremost in filial devotion.

There are two classics on filial piety. One is a non-Buddhist work, the Classic of Filial Piety, by the sage known as Confucius. The other is a Buddhist text, the work known now as the Lotus Sutra. Though one text is Buddhist and the other not, with regard to this point, their import is the same.

What inspired Shakyamuni to devote himself to religious practice over kalpas equal in number to dust particles in an effort to attain Buddhahood? It was nothing other than the ideal of filial devotion. All the living beings of the six paths and the four forms of birth are our fathers and mothers. Therefore, as long as Shakyamuni was unable to treat them all with filial devotion, he refrained from becoming a Buddha.

The Lotus Sutra offers a secret means for leading all living beings to Buddhahood. It leads one person in the realm of hell, one person in the realm of hungry spirits, and thus one person in each of the nine realms of existence to Buddhahood, and thereby the way is opened for all living beings to attain Buddhahood. The situation is like the joints in a piece of bamboo: if one joint is ruptured, then all the joints will split. Or it is like the move known as shicho in the game of go: if one stone is declared "dead," then many stones will "die." The Lotus Sutra also is like these. Metal has the power to cut down trees and plants, and water has the power to extinguish any kind of fire. In like manner, the Lotus Sutra has the power to bring all living beings to the state of Buddhahood.
Among the living beings of the six paths and the four forms of birth there are both men and women. And these men and women all were our parents at some point in our past existences. Therefore, as long as even one of these fails to attain Buddhahood, then we ourselves cannot become a Buddha.
Hence persons of the two vehicles are referred to as those who do not know how to repay their debt of gratitude, and it is taught that they will never be able to attain Buddhahood. This is because they do not universally manifest their sense of filial devotion.

The Buddha became enlightened to the Lotus Sutra, and as a result of the filial devotion that he showed to the mothers and fathers of the six paths and the four forms of birth, his person was endowed with blessings.
And these blessings enjoyed by the Buddha can be transferred by him to persons who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra. It is like the food eaten by a loving mother, which turns into milk for the nourishment of her baby. For the Buddha has said: "Now this threefold world is all my domain, and the living beings in it are all my children."
Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, takes these blessings and, in the form of the words that make up the Lotus Sutra, brings them to the mouths of all living beings for them to taste. A baby does not know the difference between water and fire, and cannot distinguish medicine from poison. But when he sucks milk his life is nourished and sustained. Although one may not be versed in the Agon sutras the way Shariputra was, although one does not have the understanding of the Kegon Sutra that Bodhisattva Gedatsugatsu had, and although one has not committed to memory all the sacred teachings set forth by the Buddha in the course of his lifetime, as had Bodhisattva Monju, if one listens to even one character or one phrase of the Lotus Sutra, one cannot fail to attain Buddhahood.

The five thousand persons of overweening pride lacked faith, having listened to the Lotus Sutra but failed to understand it. But because they did not slander it, after three months had passed they were able to attain Buddhahood. These are the persons referred to when the Nirvana Sutra says: "Whether they have faith or do not have faith, all shall be reborn in the immovable land of Buddhahood."

In the case of the Lotus Sutra, even though a person may not have faith in it, so long as he does not slander it, then once he has heard it, he will attain Buddhahood, strange as it may seem. It is like a person bitten by the reptile known as the seven-step snake. He may go one step, or as many as seven steps, but by that time the poison will have had its effect upon him, strange as it may seem, and he will be unable to take an eighth step. Or it is like the seven-day embryo in the womb. Within seven days time, the embryo will invariably change shape. It will never retain the same shape for eight days.

And you, Horen Shonin, are at present in a similar situation. The blessings of Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, have already been transferred to your person. And your person is a continuation of the face and form of your departed father.

It is like a seed that puts forth sprouts, or a flower that produces fruit. Though the flower falls, the fruit remains; though the seed is hidden from sight, the sprout is visible to us.

Thus the blessings that you yourself enjoy are in fact treasures belonging to your late father. When the pine flourishes, the cypress will rejoice; when the grasses wither, the orchids weep. And if even feelingless beings such as plants and trees can behave in this way, then how much more so those who have feelings, let alone those who are bound together as father and son?

In your declaration regarding sutra readings, you state: "From the morning when my compassionate father closed his eyes to the thirteenth anniversary of his passing, I have recited the Jigage before Shakyamuni Buddha and have transferred the merits to the spirit of the departed."

At present it would appear that the people of Japan put faith in the Law of the Buddha. But in ancient times, before the Buddhist Law was introduced to this country, people knew nothing about either the Buddha or his Law. It was only after the battle between Moriya and Prince Jogu that some persons took faith in Buddhism, though others did not.

The situation was similar in China. After Matanga had introduced Buddhism to China, he held a debate with the Taoists. When the Taoists were defeated in debate, then for the first time there were persons who put their faith in Buddhism, though there were many more who did not.

In China there was a man named Wu-lung who was highly skilled at calligraphy and was often requested to write things for other people. But regardless of where the request came from, he absolutely refused to write out any passages from the Buddhist sutras. When he was on his deathbed, he summoned his son I-lung to his side and said, "You have been born into our family and have inherited talent in the art of calligraphy. Out of filial devotion to me, you must never transcribe the Buddhist sutras. In particular, do not transcribe the Lotus Sutra! Lao Tzu, whom I honor as my teacher, bears the title Honorable One of Heaven. Heaven cannot have two suns in it; and yet, in the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha declares that ‘I am the only person [who can rescue and protect others]!’ I find such a claim suspicious in the extreme! If you fail to heed my dying words and transcribe any of the Buddhist texts, I will instantly change into an evil spirit and put an end to your life!"

After he said this, his tongue split into eight pieces, his head broke into seven parts, blood spurted from his five sense organs, and his life came to an end. But his son, unable to judge good from bad, was unaware that his father had manifested these evil signs and had fallen into the Avichi hell because he had slandered the Law. Therefore, the son abided by the dying words of his father, never transcribing Buddhist sutras, much less allowing himself to recite such texts.

And so he continued awhile in this manner. The ruler of that time was called Ssu-ma. This ruler, wishing to have some sutra texts transcribed in connection with a Buddhist celebration, inquired as to who was the most skilled calligrapher in all of China, and was informed that it was I-lung. He summoned I-lung and explained his wishes, but I-lung repeatedly refused the work. The ruler, unable to prevail upon him, resigned himself to employing someone else to write out the sutra text, but he was dissatisfied with the results. Summoning I-lung once more, he said, "You inform me that it is out of respect for your father’s dying wishes that you refuse to undertake the sutra transcriptions I have requested. Though I hardly regard that as a valid excuse, I will accept it for the time being. I therefore ask only that you write out the title of the sutra."

Three times the ruler issued his command, but I-lung continued to decline. The ruler, his countenance clouded over with anger, said, "All of heaven and earth are within the jurisdiction of the ruler! And if that is so, then your late father, too, is a subject of mine, is he not? You have no right to slight an official undertaking simply because of private reasons! You must transcribe at least the title of the sutra. If you refuse, even though the place may be the site of a Buddhist celebration, I will have you beheaded at once!"

Therefore I-lung transcribed just the title of the sutra. He wrote "Myoho-renge-kyo, Volume One," and so on for each volume, down to Volume Eight.

When evening came, he returned to his home and said to himself with a sigh, "I have violated my father’s dying words and, because the ruler’s command left me no choice, have transcribed a Buddhist sutra and behaved in an unfilial way. The gods of heaven and the deities of earth must surely be looking upon me with anger and regarding me as an unfilial son!"

So saying, he retired for the night. In that night’s dream a brilliant light appeared, shining like the morning sun, and a heavenly being stood in his courtyard, accompanied by countless followers. In the air above the head of the heavenly being there were sixty-four Buddhas. I-lung pressed his palms together and said, "Who may this heavenly being be?"

The being replied, "I am your father, Wu-lung. Because I slandered the Law of the Buddha, my tongue split into eight pieces, blood spurted from my five sense organs, my head broke into seven parts, and I fell into the hell of incessant suffering. The terrible torments I endured at the time of my death were hardly bearable, but the sufferings that followed while I was in the hell of incessant suffering were a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand times worse! The pains a person would feel in the human realm if he were to have his fingernails pried off with a dull knife or his head cut off with a saw, if he were forced to walk over live coals or were confined in a cage of thorns, would be as nothing compared to my pains. I longed for some way to tell you of my plight but could think of none. How inexpressible was my regret at the fact that, at the time of my death, I warned you never to transcribe the words of the Buddhist sutras and that I left that as my last instruction! But it was too late for regrets, and no matter how I despised myself for what I had done, or cursed my tongue, it was to no avail.

"Then yesterday morning the single character myo, which begins the title of the Lotus Sutra, came flying through the air above the cauldron that is the hell of incessant suffering, and there changed into a golden-hued Shakyamuni Buddha. This Buddha possessed the thirty-two features and his face was like the full moon. He spoke in a loud voice, saying, ‘Even those who have destroyed enough good causes to fill the universe, if they hear the Lotus Sutra just once, will never fail to attain enlightenment.’"

"Then from this one character myo a heavy rain began to fall that extinguished the flames of the hell of incessant suffering. King Emma tipped his crown in a gesture of respect, the wardens of hell put aside their staffs and stood at attention, and all the transgressors in hell looked around in astonishment and asked what had happened."

"Then the character ho appeared in the air and underwent the same kind of transformation, followed by the character ren, the character ge, and the character kyo. In this way sixty-four characters appeared and became sixty-four Buddhas. Sixty-four Buddhas appearing in the hell of incessant suffering were like sixty-four suns and moons coming out in the sky. Amrita, or sweet dew, then descended from the sky and fell upon the transgressors."

"The transgressors asked the Buddhas why these wonderful things were happening. The sixty-four Buddhas answered, saying, ‘Our golden-hued bodies do not come either from sandalwood or from jeweled mountains. They come from the eight times eight characters, the sixty-four characters that make up the titles of the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, which were transcribed by I-lung, the son of Wu-lung, who is here in the hell of incessant suffering. The hand of I-lung is part of the body fathered by Wu-lung, and the characters written by that hand are as though written by Wu-lung himself’

"When the Buddhas had spoken in this way, the transgressors in the hell of incessant suffering said, ‘When we were in the saha world, we, too, had sons and wives and followers. We have wondered why none of them performed religious acts for our repose, and thought that, perhaps, although they were performing acts of goodness, the effect was too weak to reach us here. We sighed and sighed but to no purpose. One day, two days, one year, two years, half a kalpa, a whole kalpa went by, and then at last we met with a good friend who was able to save us.’"

"So all of us have become followers and are about to ascend to the Trayastrimsha heaven. I have come to pay my respects to you before we go." Thus spoke the heavenly king. In his dream I-lung was filled with joy. After he and his father had parted, he had wondered in what world he would see him again. But now he could see the figure of his father and encounter the Buddhas as well. The sixty-four Buddhas then announced, "We are serving no particular master. You shall be our patron. From today on, we will guard and protect You as though you were our parent. You must continue to be diligent. When your life ends, we will without fail come and lead you to the inner court of the Tushita heaven." Such was the promise they made. I-lung, filled with awe, swore an oath, saying, "From this day forth, I will never transcribe so much as a single character of non-Buddhist scriptures." It was similar to the oath taken when Bodhisattva Vasubandhu vowed never again to recite Hinayana sutras, or when Nichiren declared that he would never recite the name of Amida Buddha.

After I-lung awakened from his dream, he reported to the ruler what had happened. The ruler then issued a proclamation, saying, "The Buddhist ceremony that I undertook is hereby completed. You will write a prayer describing the events that have taken place." I-lung did as he was instructed. As a result, people in China and Japan came to take faith in the Lotus Sutra. These events are described in the Chinese work entitled Hokke denki, or The Lotus Sutra and Its Traditions.

What I have said here pertains to the blessings that derive from transcribing the sutra. For those who carry out one or another of the five practices, the act of transcribing the sutra produces the lowest grade of blessings. How much more immeasurable, then, are the blessings to be won by reading or reciting the sutra.

As to the blessings derived by you, who, as chief mourner, have recited the Jigage every morning for a period of thirteen years, they "can only be understood and shared between Buddhas."

The Lotus Sutra represents the bone and marrow of all the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime, and the Jigage section represents the soul of the twenty-eight chapters of the sutra. The various Buddhas of the three existences look upon the Juryo chapter as their very life, and the bodhisattvas of the ten directions likewise regard the Jigage as their eyes.

But it is not for me to describe the blessings deriving from the Jigage. Rather I refer to the subsequent Fumbetsu kudoku chapter, which elaborates on them. It says that those persons who became Buddhas after hearing the Jigage are equal in number to the particles of dust in a minor world system or a major world system. Moreover, those who attained enlightenment by listening to the six chapters from the Yakuo chapter on are merely those who had remained unenlightened after gaining blessings from the Jigage. And in the forty volumes of the Nirvana Sutra the Buddha once more explained the blessings to be derived from the Jigage to the fifty-two types of beings who were gathered there.

So it becomes clear that the great bodhisattvas, heavenly beings and others, numerous as the particles of dust in the worlds of the ten directions, who gathered together like clouds on the occasion of the Buddha’s preaching [of the Kegon Sutra] at the place of enlightenment; and the various sages who attended on the occasion of his preaching of the Daijuku and Daibon sutras; and the twelve hundred and more honored ones who listened to the Dainichi Sutra and the Kongocho Sutra--it becomes clear that at some time in the past these persons listened to the Jigage section of the Lotus Sutra. But because their faith was weak, they failed to attain enlightenment, even though incalculably long periods--sanzen-jintengo and gohyaku-jintengo--passed by. However, when they encountered Shakyamuni Buddha, the blessings of the Lotus Sutra began to work for them, so that they were able to gain enlightenment through the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, and did not have to wait until the assembly at Eagle Peak to do so.

Consequently, the Buddhas throughout the ten directions looked up to the Jigage as their teacher and attained Buddhahood. The Jigage is like a father and a mother to the persons of the world.

A person who embraces the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra is sustaining the life of the Buddhas. Would any Buddha, then, abandon a person who embraces the very sutra through which that Buddha attained enlightenment? If any Buddha should abandon such a person, it would be as though he were abandoning himself.
Suppose there was a woman who had given birth to three thousand outstanding warriors of the caliber of Tamura or Toshihito. Would one choose to make an enemy of such a woman? To do so would be like handing three thousand generals over to the side of one’s opponent, would it not? So, in the same way, anyone who would treat a person who embraces the Jigage of the Lotus Sutra as an enemy would be making an enemy of all the Buddhas of the three existences.

All the characters in which the Lotus Sutra is written represent living Buddhas. But because we have the eyes of common mortals, we see them as characters. It is like the example of the Ganges River. Hungry spirits see the waters of the river as fire; human beings see them as water; and heavenly beings see them as sweet dew. The waters are the same in all cases, but each type of being sees them in a different way, according to the effects of its karma.

As for the characters of the Lotus Sutra, a blind person cannot see them at all. A person with the eyes of a common mortal sees them as black in color. Persons in the two vehicles see them as void. Bodhisattvas see various different colors in them, while a person whose seeds of Buddhahood have reached full maturity sees them as Buddhas. So the sutra states: "If one can uphold this [sutra], he will be upholding the Buddha’s body." And T’ien-t’ai says: "This sutra of Myoho-renge-kyo, before which I bow my head, in its single case, with its eight scrolls, twenty-eight chapters, and 69,384 characters, is in each and everyone of its characters the true Buddha, who preaches the Law for the benefit of living beings."

In light of all this, we can say that each morning, [when he recites the jigage,] the priest Horen is sending forth golden-hued characters from his mouth. These characters are 510 in number, and each character changes into a sun, and each sun changes into a Shakyamuni Buddha. They emit great beams of light that penetrate the earth and shine upon the three evil paths and the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. They also shine toward the east, west, north and south, and upward, ascending to the realm where there is neither thought nor no thought. They visit the realm where your departed father is dwelling, wherever it may be, and there hold discourse with him.

"Who do you think we are?" they say. "We are the characters of the Jigage of the Lotus Sutra that your son Horen recites each morning. These characters will be your eyes, your ears, your feet, your hands!" Thus do they earnestly converse with him.

And at that time your departed father will say, "Horen is not my son. Rather he is a good friend to me." And he will turn and pay respects in the direction of the saha world. For what you are doing is truly an act of filial devotion.

We speak of embracing the Lotus Sutra. But although there is only one sutra, the manner in which we embrace it may vary from one period to the next. There may be times when a person literally rends his flesh and offers it to his teacher, and in this way attains Buddhahood. Or at other times a person may offer his body as a couch to his teacher, or as so much firewood. At yet other times a person may bear the blows of sticks and staves for the sake of the sutra, or may practice religious austerities or observe various precepts. And there may be times when, even though a person does the things described above, he still does not attain Buddhahood. It depends upon the time and is not something fixed.

Therefore the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai declares that on, should use whatever method "accords with the time." And the Great Teacher Chang-an says: "You should let your choices be fitting and never adhere solely to one or the other."

Question: At what times should one offer one’s body, and at what times should one observe the precepts?

Answer: A person of wisdom is one who, understanding the time, spreads the teachings of the Lotus Sutra accordingly; this is his most important task. If a person’s throat is dry, what he needs is water; he has no use for bows and arrows, weapons and sticks. If a person is naked, he wants a suit of clothes but has no need for water. From one or two examples you can guess the principle that applies in general.

Suppose there is a great demon who is working to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. In such a case one should offer one’s own body as alms to the demon; there is no need to offer any other food or clothing.
Or suppose there is an evil ruler who is bent upon destroying the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. In such a case, even at the cost of one’s life one must not follow him. And if there should be eminent priests who keep the precepts and practice religious austerities, and who appear to be spreading the teachings of the Lotus Sutra but are, in fact, subverting them, you should perceive the truth of the matter and reprimand them.

The Lotus Sutra says: "We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way." And the Nirvana Sutra states: "It is proper that he [the ruler’s envoy] should relate the words of his ruler without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life." The Great Teacher Chang-an comments on this: "‘[He should relate the words of his ruler] without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life’ means that one’s body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. One should give one’s life in order to propagate the Law."

Judging from outward appearances, at present I, Nichiren, am the most perverse man in all of Japan. Among a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand and a hundred thousand persons of the four categories of believers in the sixty-six provinces and two outlying islands of our country, I am detested by the entire populace of both high and low station. In the seven hundred or more years since the Law of the Buddha was first introduced to Japan, there has never been anyone who was hated to such a degree because of the Lotus Sutra. I have never heard that such persons existed in India or China, nor do I believe that they could have existed. Thus, I am the most perverse man in the entire continent of Jambudvipa.

And because of this, people fear the authority of the government officials and regard with apprehension the sneers of the populace. Even my own kindred dare not visit me, to say nothing of those who are not related to me. Persons who have been helped by me, not only in religious matters but in secular affairs as well, fearful of the eyes of others and hoping thereby to put an end to talk, make a show of condemning me, though I do not think they do so in their hearts.

Several times I have met with difficulties, and twice I have incurred the wrath of the government authorities. Not only have I myself suffered punishment, but some of those who are associated with me have had to suffer official punishment, have had their lands confiscated, have been dismissed from service by their lords or have been abandoned by their parents and brothers. As a result of all this, I have been cast aside by those who followed me in the past, and at present am without followers.

In particular, in the case of the most recent instance of punishment from the government, it was certain that I would be executed, but instead, for some unknown reason, the government authorities banished me to the island province of Sado. Among those sent to Sado, most die; few live. And after I had finally managed to reach my place of exile, I was looked upon as someone who had committed a crime worse than murder or treason.
After leaving Kamakura for Sado, each day I seemed to face more and more powerful enemies. The persons I encountered were all advocates of the Nembutsu, and as I made my way through the fields and over the mountains, the sound of the grasses and trees by the wayside rustling in the wind I supposed to be the attacks of my enemies.

At last I reached the province of Sado. There, true to the nature of that northern land, I found the wind particularly strong in winter, the snows deep, the clothing thin and the food scarce. I well understood then how the mandarin orange tree, uprooted and transplanted to a different locale, can quite naturally turn into a triple-leafed orange tree.

My dwelling was a dilapidated grass hut in the midst of a field thick with eulalia and pampas grass where corpses were buried. Rain leaked in; the walls did not keep out the wind. Day and night the only sound reaching my ears was the sighing of the wind by my pillow; each morning the sight that met my eyes was the snow that buried the roads far and near. I felt as though, still living, I had passed through the realm of hungry spirits and fallen into one of the cold hells. I experienced the same thing as Su Wu, who was detained for nineteen years in the land of the northern barbarians and ate snow to keep himself alive, or Li Ling, who dwelled for six years in a rocky cave, clothed in a coat of straw.

Now, as it happens, the sentence of exile has been lifted. But I found that there was no safety for me in Kamakura, nor could I remain there for any length of time. And so, beneath the pines and among these mountain rocks, I have hidden my body and set my mind at peace. But, except for having the earth itself to eat and the grass and trees to wear, I am cut off from all provisions of food and clothing. What feelings prompted you, I wonder, to come pushing through the wilderness to visit me in such a place?

Have the spirits of my departed father and mother perhaps taken possession of you? Or is this some blessing brought about by the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment? I cannot hold back my tears!

Question: You pointed to the great earthquake of the Shoka era and the great comet of the Bun’ei era and said that our country would face danger from revolt within and invasion from abroad because it failed to heed the Lotus Sutra. May I ask your reasons?

Answer: Heavenly calamities and strange occurrences on earth such as these two are not to be found anywhere in the three thousand or more volumes of non-Buddhist writings. The major comets or major earthquakes described in the Three Records, the Five Canons and the Shih chi, or Records of the Historian, are comets with tails one or two feet in length, ten or twenty feet, or perhaps fifty or sixty feet, but not one with a tail that stretches across the whole sky. The same applies for the magnitude of the earthquakes described therein. And if we examine the Buddhist scriptures, we find that during the entire period since the Buddha passed away, no such major portents as these have ever appeared.

Even in India, when King Pushyamitra wiped out the teachings of Buddhism in the five regions of India, burned the temples and pagodas in the sixteen major states, and cut off the heads of monks and nuns, no such portents as these appeared. Likewise in China, when the emperor of the Hui-ch’ang era abolished over forty-six hundred temples and monasteries and forced 260,500 monks and nuns to return to secular life, there were no manifestations of this kind. In our own country, when the Buddhist teachings were introduced during the reign of Emperor Kimmei, Moriya showed enmity toward the Buddhist Law, and later Priest Kiyomori burned the seven major temples of Nara, and the priests of Mount Hiei burned and destroyed Onjo-ji temple, but even then no such major comet appeared.

It seemed to me that it was essential for people to know that an even more portentous event was about to occur in this world of ours, Jambudvipa. Therefore I composed a work entitled "Rissho Ankoku ron" and presented it to His Lordship, the lay priest of Saimyo-ji. In that document I stated (and here I summarize): "This great portent [great earthquake] is a sign that our country is about to be destroyed by some other country. This will happen because the priests of the Zen, Nembutsu and other sects are attempting to destroy the Lotus Sutra. Unless the heads of these priests are cut off and cast away at Yui Beach in Kamakura, the nation will surely be destroyed."
Later, when the great comet of the Bun’ei era appeared, I had the proof of disaster in my very hand, and I became more convinced than ever of what was about to take place.

On the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of the Bun’ei era (1271), when I incurred the wrath of the authorities, I repeated my warning, saying, "I am the pillar of Japan. If you lose me, you lose the country!" I knew that my advice was unlikely to be heeded at that time, but I wanted to give it anyway for future reference.

Again, on the eighth day of the fourth month of last year (1274), when I had an interview with Hei no Saemon-no-jo, he asked when the Mongol forces would invade Japan. I replied that the sutra texts gave no clear indication of the month and day, but that since the eyes of heaven were so filled with anger these days, it would surely be no later than the present year.

People may wonder how I happen to know such things. I am a person of little worth, but I am working to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. When the ruler and the ministers and the common people of a country show animosity toward the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the gods of earth and the gods of heaven, who were present when the Lotus Sutra was preached and who took a vow to protect its votary, will, respectively, begin to shake with anger and emit beams of light as a threat to the nation. And if, in spite of all remonstrance, the ruler and his ministers fail to heed the warnings, then, in the end, the gods will take possession of human beings and will cause revolt within the nation and attack from abroad.

Question: What proof can you offer for these assertions?

Answer: A sutra says: "Because evil men are respected and favored and good men are subjected to punishment, the stars and constellations along with the winds and rains, all fail to move in their proper seasons."

In effect, heaven and earth are a mirror of the nation. In our state now there are heavenly calamities and strange occurrences on earth. Let it be known that the ruler of the state must be committing some error. The situation is revealed as though in a mirror, so there is no disputing it. If the ruler of the state is guilty of minor errors only, then only minor calamities will be revealed in the heavenly mirror. But the fact that we are now witnessing major calamities must mean that the ruler is committing major errors.

The Ninno Sutra speaks of innumerable types of minor disasters, twenty-nine types of medium disasters, and seven types of major disasters. One name for this sutra is Ninno or Benevolent King, but another name is the Mirror of Heaven and Earth. And this sutra can be used as a "mirror of heaven and earth" in which to catch a clear reflection of the nation’s ruler. Moreover, the sutra states: "Once the sages have departed, then the seven disasters are certain to arise."

One should understand from this that there is a great sage in this country of ours. And one should also understand that the ruler of the nation does not put faith in the sage.

Question: In earlier times, when Buddhist temples were destroyed, why did no omens such as we see at present appear?

Answer: The omens that appear are large or small depending upon whether the errors that cause them are grave or minor. The omens that have appeared this time are greatly to be wondered at. They have appeared not just once or twice, not on merely one or two occasions. Rather they have become more and more frequent with the passing of time. From this you should understand that the errors being committed by the ruler of the nation are more serious than those committed by rulers in earlier times, and that it is a graver error for a ruler to treat a sage with enmity than it is for him to kill many of the common people, or to kill many of his ministers, or to kill his parents.

In Japan at present, the ruler, his ministers. and the common people are committing major offenses such as have not been known in India, China or anywhere in the whole continent of Jambudvipa in the 2,220 years or more since the passing of the Buddha. It is as though all the persons throughout the worlds of the ten directions who are guilty of committing any of the five cardinal sins were to be gathered together in a single spot.

The priests of this country have all become possessed by the spirits of Devadatta and Kokalika; the ruler of the nation has become a reincarnation of King Ajatashatru or King Virudhaka. And in the case of the ministers and the common people, it is as though one gathered together evil men like the ministers Varshakdra and Chandrakirti, or like Sunakshatra and Girika, and had them constitute the people of Japan.

In ancient times, when there were two or three persons guilty of any of the five cardinal sins or of unfilial conduct, the ground where those persons were standing split apart and they were swallowed up. But now the whole country is filled with such persons. Therefore, the entire earth under Japan would have to split apart in one instant and the whole country fall into the hell of incessant suffering. There would be no point in its simply opening up to swallow one or two persons.

It is like the case of an aging person who pulls out a white hair here and there. When he becomes truly old, his whole head turns white and it is no longer any use trying to pull out the hairs one by one. The only thing to do then is to shave off all the hair in one stroke.

Question: Your argument is that, though you are a votary of the Lotus Sutra, your advice is not heeded, and therefore these heavenly calamities and strange occurrences on earth arise. But the eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "Their heads will split into seven pieces." And the fifth volume states: "If people speak ill of and revile him, their mouths will be closed and stopped up." Why is it that, though you have been cursed and treated with animosity for many years now, these latter things have not occurred?

Answer: By way of answer, let me ask in turn if the persons who cursed and reviled and beat Bodhisattva Fukyo had their mouths stopped or their heads split apart?

Question: [They did not.] But in that case, the text of the sutra is not consistent with itself, is it?

Answer: There are two types of persons who show animosity toward the Lotus Sutra. The first are persons who cultivated the roots of goodness in former existences, who in their present existence are searching for some connection with Buddhism, who conceive a desire for enlightenment and are capable of attaining Buddhahood. It is these persons whose mouths are stopped or whose heads split apart.

The other type are persons who have slandered the Law in their previous existences, slander it in their present existence, and for existence after existence go on creating karma that will condemn them to the hell of incessant suffering. These persons, even though they may curse, will not have their mouths stopped. They are like men who have already been sentenced to execution and are awaiting their turn in prison. While they are in prison, regardless of what evil acts they may commit, they will receive no further punishment other than the death sentence already passed upon them. However, with regard to persons who are eventually to be released, if they commit evil acts in prison, then they will receive warnings.

Question: Since this is a very important point, may I ask you to explain it in detail?

Answer: It is explained in the Nirvana Sutra and in the Lotus Sutra.
 
 
Nichiren
 
Letter to Ichinosawa Nyudo

In the first year of the Kocho era (1261), when the reverse marker of Jupiter was in the sector of the sky with the cyclical sign kanoto-tori, on the twelfth day of the fifth month, I incurred the displeasure of the government authorities and was exiled to the village of Ito in the province of Izu. It is the place where the subcommander of the Imperial Guard Minamoto no Yoritomo was banished. However, before long, in the third year of the Kocho era (1263), the year with the cyclical sign mizunoto-i, on the twenty-second day of the second month, I was pardoned and allowed to return to Kamakura.

Then, in the eighth year of the Bun'ei era (1271), the year with the cyclical sign kanoto-hitsuji, on the twelfth day of the ninth month, I once more incurred the displeasure of the government and was summarily sentenced to have my head cut off. Because of certain circumstances, the execution was temporarily postponed. Instead, I was placed in the custody of the former governor of Musashi, who held the island province of Sado in the north as part of his feudal domain. In accordance with the designs of his retainers, I was sent to that island.

The inhabitants of the island are a wild and barbarous lot, with no understanding of the law of cause and effect. Needless to say, they treated me very roughly. Nevertheless, I did not harbor the slightest resentment against them. The reason is this: Even the ruler of the country of Japan, the lord of Sagami, whom one would expect to have at least some understanding of principles, failed to investigate the circumstances of my case, though I was in fact attempting to aid the nation. Instead, contrary to all reason and justice, he had me condemned to death. Therefore, even the good men among his subjects were not to be counted upon, and so there was surely no point in hating the evil ones.

Since the time I began declaring this teaching, I have resolved to dedicate my life to the Lotus Sutra and to spread my name in the pure lands of the Buddhas of the worlds in the ten directions. Hung Yen took the liver of his dead lord, Duke Yi of Wei, cut open his own stomach and inserted the liver before he died. Yu Jang, because his lord, Chih Po, had suffered disgrace, fell on his sword to avenge the wrong. These men went to such lengths to repay what was no more than a worldly debt of gratitude. The reason why people continue to transmigrate through the six paths for countless kalpas without ever being able to attain Buddhahood is because they begrudge their bodies and do not lay down their lives for the sake of the Lotus Sutra.

The bodhisattva called Kiken for a period of twelve hundred years burned his own body as an offering to the Buddha Pure Bright Excellence of Sun and Moon, and for seventy-two thousand years he burned his arms as an offering to the Lotus Sutra, after which he was reborn as Bodhisattva Yakuo. Bodhisattva Fukyo over a period of many kalpas suffered abuse and ridicule and was attacked with sticks and staves, tiles and rocks, all for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. But was he not reborn as Shakyamuni Buddha? Thus we can see that the path to Buddhahood requires different forms of practice depending upon the age.

In our present day, the Lotus Sutra is of course supreme as it was in the past. And yet, because the way of practicing it differs from age to age, even if one were to retire to the mountain forests and read and recite it, or live in the villages and expound its doctrines, or observe all the various precepts or even burn one's arms in offering, he would nevertheless fail to attain Buddhahood.

It would seem as though the teachings of Buddhism are now flourishing in Japan. And yet there is something strange in regard to these teachings, though people are unaware of it. They are like insects that unwittingly fly into a flame, or birds that enter the mouth of a serpent.

The teachers of the Shingon sect and the adherents of the Kegon, Hosso, Sanron, Zen, Pure Land and Ritsu sects all believe that they have grasped the Law and freed themselves from the sufferings of birth and death. But the founders who first established these sects failed to discern the true meaning of the sutras upon which they based their teachings. They proceeded only in a shallow manner, employing the sutras in a way that fitted with their own ideas. In doing so, they went against the Lotus Sutra, which means that their teachings were not in accord with the true intention of the Buddha. They were unaware of this, however, and as they proceeded to propagate their doctrines, both the rulers of the nation and the common people came to believe in them. In addition, these doctrines spread to other countries, and many years have gone by since they were first propagated. As a result, the scholars of this latter age, unaware that the founders of these sects were in error, look up to those who practice and propagate their teachings as men of wisdom.

If the source is muddy, the stream will not flow clear; if the body is bent, the shadow will not stand upright. Shan-wu-wei and the others who founded the Shingon sect were already destined for hell. Perhaps among them there were some who repented in time and hence managed to avoid falling into hell. Or perhaps there were some who merely propagated the teachings of their own sutras and neither praised nor attacked the Lotus Sutra, and thus, though they could not free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death, were nevertheless able to avoid falling into the evil paths. But the people of this latter age are not aware of these matters, and instead all alike put their faith in these teachings. They are like people who board a damaged vessel and set out upon the great sea, or like people who, drunk with wine, lie down to sleep in the midst of a fire.

When I, Nichiren, perceived this state of affairs, I immediately aroused the aspiration for enlightenment [in order to save them] and began to speak out regarding the matter. I was aware from the beginning that, no matter how I addressed them, the people of the time would probably not believe me, and that I would on the contrary most likely be sentenced to exile or execution.

The nation of Japan today has turned its back on the Lotus Sutra and cast aside Shakyamuni Buddha. For that reason, its people are not only bound to fall into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell in their next existence, but they will surely encounter great troubles in their present existence as well. That is to say, invaders will come from a foreign land, and everyone, from the ruler on down to the common people, will lament with a single voice.

To illustrate, if a thousand brothers join together to slay their parent, the burden of guilt will not be divided among them in a thousand portions. Rather each of every one of the brothers must [receive the full karmic retribution, and all alike will] fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering, to remain there for the space of a kalpa. And the same is true of [the people of] this country of Japan.

Since the far-off time of gohyaku-jintengo, this saha world has been the domain of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. Of the vast earth, the skies, the mountains and seas, the plants and trees, there is not a single portion that belongs to any other Buddha. And all the living beings within it are likewise the children of Shakyamuni.

For example, it is said that at the beginning of the Kalpa of Formation, the god Bonten descends from on high and gives birth to the various beings who inhabit the six paths. Just as Bonten is then the parent of all those beings, in the same way Shakyamuni Buddha is the parent of all living beings in this world. Moreover, the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni is the enlightened teacher for all the living beings in this country of ours. It is thanks to our teacher that we can understand who our parents are. It is owing to Shakyamuni that we can distinguish black from white.

But because of the teachings of men like Shan-tao and Honen, who have been possessed by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, the practitioners of the Nembutsu proceed to build Amida halls throughout the country. They build Amida halls in each district, each village and each hamlet, or the general populace build Amida halls in their own houses, or people make painted or wooden images of Amida Buddha to put up in their houses and dwellings. The name of Amida is on everyone's lips, some chanting it in a loud voice, some chanting it ten thousand times, some chanting it sixty thousand times [a day]. And persons with a degree of wisdom make haste to encourage them in these practices. This is like adding dried grass to a fire, or loosing winds to blow upon the waters and stir them up.

Of the inhabitants of this country, there is not one who is not a disciple and subject of the Lord Shakyamuni. If a person does not paint or carve a single image of Amida or of any Buddha other than Shakyamuni, or does not chant Amida's name, then, although he may be an evil person, he still has not clearly shown that he has rejected Shakyamuni Buddha. But all those persons who worship Amida Buddha exclusively have already clearly shown that they have rejected Shakyamuni Buddha. Those who chant the vain and profitless formula of the Nembutsu--they are the truly evil ones!

This Buddha, who is neither father nor mother to them, nor sovereign nor teacher, they treat with the kind of tenderness one might show to a beloved wife. At the same time, they cast aside Shakyamuni, our real sovereign, parent and enlightened teacher, and fail to open their mouths to recite the Lotus Sutra, which is like a wet nurse to us. How can they be called anything but unfilial?

And these unfilial persons number not just one or two, a hundred or a thousand; they include not just the inhabitants of one or two provinces. From the ruler on down to the common people, everyone in the entire land of Japan, without a single exception, is guilty of committing three of the cardinal sins!

As a result, the sun and moon change color and glare down on this, the earth shakes and heaves in anger, great comets fill the sky, and huge fires break out all over the land. Yet these persons fail to perceive their error and instead take pride in what they do, saying, "We unceasingly recite the Nembutsu, and in addition we build Amida halls and pay honor to Amida Buddha!"

Such ways may seem wise, but in fact they are worthless. Suppose there is a young couple. The husband is so in love with his wife, and the wife thinks so tenderly of her husband, that they completely forget about their parents. As a result, the parents go about in thin clothing, while the bedroom of the young couple is warm and snug. The parents have nothing to eat, while the young couple's stomachs are full. Such young people are committing the worst kind of unfilial conduct, and yet they fail to see that they are doing wrong. And a wife who would deliberately turn her back on her own mother, a husband who would go against his own father--are they not guilty of an even graver offense?

Amida Buddha dwells in a region ten billion Buddha lands away and has not the slightest connection with this saha world. However one may claim [that such a connection exists], there is no basis for it. It is like trying to mate a horse with an ox, or a monkey with a dog!

I, Nichiren, am the only person who is aware of this. If, begrudging my life, I should refrain from speaking out, I would not only be failing to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to my country, but I would also be acting as the enemy of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. On the other hand, I knew from the outset that if I set aside my fears and declared matters exactly as they are, I would be sentenced to death. And even if I should escape the death penalty, I would surely be condemned to exile. So great is the debt of gratitude I owe the Buddha, however, that I have not let myself be intimidated by others but have spoken out on these matters.

Just as I anticipated, I was exiled no less than twice. During the second of these sentences, in the summer of the ninth year of the Bun'ei era (1272), I was sent to a place called Ichinosawa in Ishida Village in the province of Sado. The headman and his men in the region to which I had been assigned, in both official and unofficial matters, treated me with greater malice than if I had been a lifelong enemy of their parents or a foe from some previous existence. But the nyudo of the lodgings where I was put up, as well as his wife and servants, though they seemed fearful at first, privately came to look on me with pity, perhaps because of some bond formed between us in a previous existence.

The rations of food that I received from the headman were very scanty. And since I had a number of disciples with me, we often had no more than two or three mouthfuls of rice to a person. Sometimes we portioned out the food on square trays made of bark, and sometimes we simply received it in the palms of our hands and ate it then and there. The master of the house in private treated us with compassion. Though outwardly he appeared to be fearful of the authorities, at heart he had great pity for us, something that I will never forget in any future lifetime. At the time, he meant more to me than the very parents who gave me birth. However great the obligations I incurred with respect to him, I must endeavor to somehow repay them. Even more, I must not fail to do what I had promised him.

The nyudo was deeply concerned at heart about the life to come, and had for a long time devoted himself to chanting the Nembutsu. Moreover, he had constructed an Amida hall and dedicated his lands in offering to Amida Buddha. He was also afraid of how the steward of the area might react, and so he did not come forward and take faith in the Lotus Sutra. From his point of view, this was probably the most reasonable course to take. But at the same time, he will without doubt fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. I had thought, for example, that even if I were to send him a copy of the Lotus Sutra, he would not be willing to abandon the practice of the Nembutsu out of his fear of worldly opinion, and so it would simply be like adding water to fire. There was no doubt that the flood of his slander of the Law would extinguish the small flame of his faith in the Lotus Sutra. And if he were to fall into hell, I, Nichiren, would in turn be to blame. Thus, while asking myself anxiously again and again what ought to be done, I have so far not sent him a copy of the Lotus Sutra.

[In the midst of all this,] I received word that the copy of the Lotus Sutra that I had earlier intended to send him had been destroyed in a fire at Kamakura. More than ever it seemed as though the nyudo had no connection with the Lotus Sutra, and I wondered at myself for ever having promised to send him a copy.

Moreover, when the nun of Kamakura was leaving Sado to return home, she found herself in difficulty for money to cover her journey. Although reluctant to do so, I asked the nyudo to provide for her expenses, though I regret having made such a request. I could of course simply return the sum of money to him along with interest. But my disciples point out that I would still be failing to keep my original promise. I am faced with difficulties any way I turn, and yet I am afraid that people may think I am given to irresponsible and deceitful behavior. Therefore I feel I have no choice but to send a copy of the entire Lotus Sutra in ten volumes. Since the nyudo's grandmother seems at heart to be more deeply drawn to the sutra than does the nyudo himself, I entrust it to you for her sake.

The things I, Nichiren, say sound like the words of a fool, and so no one heeds them. Nevertheless, I must note that in the tenth month of the eleventh year of the Bun'ei era (1274), cyclical sign kinoe-inu, when the kingdom of the Mongols launched an attack on Tsukushi, the defenders of the island of Tsushima held fast, but So, the vice governor of Tsushima, fled. As a result, the Mongols were able to attack the peasants and other commoners, killing or taking prisoners among the men, and herding the women together and tying them by the hands to their ships or taking them prisoner. Not a single person escaped.

In the attack on the island of Iki the same thing happened. And when the Mongol ships pressed on [to Tsukushi], the magistrate who was in charge of the area, the former governor of Buzen, fled in defeat. Several hundred of the Matsurato men were struck down or taken prisoner, and the population of one costal village after another suffered the same fate as the people of Iki and Tsushima.

And when the Mongols attack the next time, what will it be like? When thousands and millions of fighting men from their country come swarming and pressing upon Japan, what will happen?

Their forces in the north will first of all attack the island of Sado. In no time at all, they will kill the stewards and constables of the area. And when the common people attempt to flee to the northern mountains, they will be killed or taken prisoner, or will perish in the mountains.

We must stop to consider why such terrible things should occur. The reason, as I stated earlier, is that every single person in this country has committed three of the cardinal sins. Therefore, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings have entered into the body of the Mongol ruler and are causing him to chastise our nation.

I, Nichiren, may be a fool, but, having declared myself to be the messenger of Shakyamuni Buddha and the votary of the Lotus Sutra, it is nothing short of amazing that my words go unheeded. And because of this failure, the nation now faces ruin. Not only are my words not heeded, but I have been driven out of province after province, been dragged about, attacked and beaten, or sent into exile, and my disciples have been killed or had their lands taken away from them.

If someone were to mete out such treatment to an actual messenger of his parents, could that person's actions possibly be condoned? And I, Nichiren, am parent to all the people of Japan, I am their sovereign, I am their enlightened teacher! Should they turn against one like me?

It is absolutely certain that those who chant the Nembutsu are destined to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. You may depend on it!

When the Mongols come to make their assault, what will you do? Even if you should put this copy of the Lotus Sutra on your head or hang it around your neck and flee to the northern mountains, the fact remains that over a period of many years you have given support to the Nembutsu believers and have recited the Nembutsu yourself, and in doing so have made yourself the enemy of Shakyamuni Buddha and of the Lotus Sutra.

If at that time you should lose your life, you must bear no resentment toward the Lotus Sutra. And when you are brought before King Emma in his palace, what will you say? At that time, though you may feel foolish in saying so, you will probably declare that you are a follower of Nichiren.

But enough of that. As for this copy of the Lotus Sutra that I am sending, you should ask Gakujo-bo to read it for you regularly. But whatever anyone may say, you must not allow any of the Nembutsu priests, Shingon teachers or observers of the precepts to look at it. And though people may claim to be disciples of Nichiren, if they do not possess some proof of that fact from my hand, you must not trust them.

With my deep respect,
Nichiren

The eighth day of the fifth month
 
Letter to Jakunichi-bo

I deeply appreciate your sending a letter to this distant place. It is extremely rare to be born as a human being. Not only are you endowed with human life, but you have had the rare fortune to encounter Buddhism. Moreover, out of the Buddha's many teachings, you have found the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra and become its votary. Truly you have served tens of billions of Buddhas in your past existences!

Nichiren is the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. In this land only he has lived the twenty-line verse of the Kanji chapter. Eight hundred billion myriad bodhisattvas pledged with this verse to propagate the Lotus Sutra but not one of them fulfilled it. The parents who gave life to this extraordinary person, Nichiren, are the most blessed of all people in Japan. It is destiny that they should have been my parents, and I, their child. Since Nichiren propagates the Lotus Sutra as the envoy of Shakyamuni, then his parents must also share this relationship. They are like King Myoshogon and Lady Jotoku who followed their sons, Jozo and Jogen, in the practice of Buddhism. Could the two Buddhas Shakyamuni and Taho have been reborn as Nichiren's parents? Or if not, could his parents have been among the eight hundred billion myriad bodhisattvas or the Four Bodhisattvas led by Jogyo? It is beyond comprehension.

Names are important for all things. That is why the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai placed "designation" first among the five major principles. Giving myself the name Nichiren signifies that I attained enlightenment by myself. This may sound boastful, but there are specific reasons for what I say. The sutra reads, "Just as the light of the sun and moon illuminates all obscurity, this person will practice among the people and dispel the darkness of all mankind." Consider exactly what this passage reveals. "This person will practice among the people..." means that the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law will witness the advent of Bodhisattva Jogyo, who will illuminate the darkness of human ignorance and earthly desires with the torch of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren's endeavors to have all the Japanese embrace the Lotus Sutra are the work of Bodhisattva Jogyo. His unremitting efforts never slacken, even here on this mountain.

The passage continues, "After my death, you must embrace this sutra. Those who do so shall travel the straight road to Buddhahood." Therefore, those who become Nichiren's disciples and followers should realize the profound karmic relationship they share with him and spread the Lotus Sutra in the same spirit. Being a votary of the Lotus Sutra is a bitter and yet unavoidable destiny.

Fan K'uai, Chang Liang, Taira no Masakado and Fujiwara no Sumitomo never acted cowardly because they cared so deeply about their honor and abhorred disgrace. But disgrace in this life is nothing. What counts is disgrace which appears in the next life. Advance on the Lotus Sutra's path to enlightenment, bearing in mind the time when devils, demons and the guards of hell will strip you of your garments on the bank of the river of three crossings. The Lotus Sutra is the robe which will keep you from disgrace after this life. The Lotus Sutra reads, "...the naked have obtained clothing."

Believe in the Gohonzon with all your heart, for it is the robe to protect you in the next life. No wife would ever leave her husband unclothed, nor could any parents fail to feel compassion for their child shivering in the cold. Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra are like one's wife and parents. You have helped Nichiren and saved him from disgrace in this life; in return, he will protect you from disgrace in the next. Death came to someone yesterday, it may come to us today. Blossoms turn into fruit and brides become mothers-in-law. Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and deepen your faith.

I cannot thank you enough for your frequent letters. Jakunichi-bo, please convey all these teachings in detail to the other disciples.

Nichiren

The sixteenth day of the ninth month
 
 
Letter to Konichi-bo

In the ninth month of the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), when the  reverse marker of Jupiter was in the sector of the sky with the  cyclical sign kanoto-hitsuji, I incurred the displeasure of the ruler and  was exiled to Sado Island in the northern sea. While I was living in  Kamakura in Sagami Province, I used to long vaguely for Awa  province because it was my birthplace. Yet, although it was my  home, the feelings of the people there made it somehow difficult for  me to be on close terms with them, so I rarely went to visit. Then I  was arrested and was to have been put to death, but instead, I was  banished from Sagami Province. It seemed that unless some  extraordinary circumstance arose, I would never be able to return to  Kamakura, and that therefore I would never be ale to visit my  parents' grave again. Thinking of this, I was belatedly consumed by  remorse. Why, I lamented, before finding myself in this predicament,  had I not crossed seas and traversed mountains every day, or at  least once a month, to visit my parents' grave and to inquire after my  teacher?

Su Wu was a prisoner in the land of the northern barbarians for  nineteen years. He envied the geese migrating southward.  Nakamaro went to China as an emissary of the Japanese imperial  court. Years passed, but he was not permitted to return home.  Whenever he saw the moon rise in the east, he would console  himself by thinking that the same moon must be shining above Mount  Mikasa in his native province and that the people there must even at  that moment be gazing at it. Just when I was overwhelmed by similar  longings for home, I received from my native province the robe you  had entrusted to someone journeying to Sado Island. Su Wu's life  was sustained by a mere letter tied to a goose's leg, while I actually  received such clothing! His joy could not possibly have compared to  mine.

The people of this country are continually deceived by the Nembutsu  priests, or by the Zen, Ritsu or Shingon sect. Thus they act  outwardly as though they revere the Lotus Sutra, but in their hearts  they do not believe in it. So although I, Nichiren, do not think that I  have done anything particularly wrong, when I assert the supremacy  of the Lotus Sutra, they all resent me, just as the people in the  Latter Day of the Law of Ionno Buddha detested Bodhisattva Fukyo.  From the ruler on down to the common people, they hate even to  hear my name, let alone see my person, therefore, though I was  innocent of any wrongdoing, having been exiled, I could not possibly  be pardoned. To compound matters, I had denounced the Nembutsu --which the people of Japan revere more deeply than their own  parents and more highly than the sun and moon--as the karmic  cause that leads to the hell of incessant suffering. I attacked the Zen  sect as the work of devils, and Shingon as a heresy that will ruin the  nation, and insisted that the temples of the Nembutsu priests, the  Zen sect, and the Ritsu priests be burned down, and the priests of  the Nembutsu beheaded. I even went so far as to assert that the  two deceased lay priests of Saimyo-ji and Gokuraku-ji temples had  fallen into the Avichi Hell. Such was the gravity of my offense.  Having voiced such serious charges to all people both high and low,  even had I spoken in error, I could never again rise in the world.  Even worse, I repeated such remarks morning and evening and  discussed them day and night. I also sternly informed Hei no  Saemon and several hundred officers that no matter what  punishment I might incur, I would not cease declaring these matters.  Therefore, even if a boulder at the bottom of the sea, which requires  a thousand men to move it, were to surface by itself, or if rain falling  from the sky should fail to reach the ground, still I, Nichiren, could  not possibly have returned to Kamakura.

Nevertheless, I encouraged myself by thinking that if the teaching of  the Lotus Sutra were indeed true and the gods of the sun and moon  did not abandon me, I might yet have an opportunity to return to  Kamakura and also visit my parents' grave. Climbing a high  mountain, I would shout these words aloud: "What has happened to  Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four  Heavenly Kings? Are Tehsho Daijin and Hachiman no longer in this  country? Do you intend to break the vow you made in the Buddha's  presence and forsake the votary of the Lotus Sutra? Even if you fail  to protect me, Nichiren, I will have no regrets, no matter what may  happen to me. Remember, however, what you each solemnly  pledged in the presence of the Lord Shakyamuni, Taho Buddha and  all the Buddhas of the ten directions. If you do not protect me,  Nichiren, now, but instead abandon me, will you not be making a  great lie out of the Lotus Sutra, in which the Buddha declared that he  was 'honestly discarding the provisional teachings?' You have  deceived all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions and the three  existences, an offense even graver than Devadatta's outrageous  falsehoods and more blameworthy than Kokalika's deceptions. Now  you may be respected as Great Bonten and live at the top of the  world of form, or be revered as the Thousand-eyed God and dwell  on the summit of Mount Sumeru. But if you discard me, Nichiren, you  will become firewood to feed the flames of the Avichi Hell and be  forever confined to the great citadel of incessant suffering. If you  dread committing this offense, make haste to manifest some sign to  the country [showing my teachings to be correct], so that I may be  permitted to return home!"

Then in the eleventh month, shortly after my arrest on the twelfth day  of the ninth month, a rebellion broke out, and on the eleventh day of  the second month in the following year, several generals, mighty  protectors of Japan, were executed for no apparent reason. It was  clear the Heaven had meted out its punishment. Apparently shaken  by this incident, the authorities released my imprisoned disciples.

However, I myself had not yet been pardoned, so I continued to  berate the heavenly gods all the more vehemently. Then one day, a  white-headed crow flew overhead. I remembered that Prince Tan of  Yen had been released when a horned horse and a white-headed  crow appeared, and recalled Priest Nichizo's poem: "Even the  mountain crow's head/Has turned white./The time for my return  home/Must have come at last." I was now convinced that I would be  released before long. As I had expected, the government issued a  letter of pardon on the fourteenth day of the second month in the  eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274), which arrived in the province of  Sado on the eighth day of the third month.

I left [my place of residence on] Sado on the thirteenth day of that  month and reached a harbor called Maura, where I spent the night of  the fourteenth. I should have arrived at the harbor of Teradomari in  Echigo Province on the fifteenth, but a gale prevented my boat from  making port. Fortunately, however, after two days at sea, we  reached Kashiwazaki, and on the following day I arrived at the  provincial seat of Echigo. Thus, after traveling for twelve days, I  finally returned to Kamakura on the twenty-sixth day of the third  month. On the eighth day of the fourth month, I had an interview with  Hei no Saemon. As I had expected all along, my warnings went  unheeded. Altogether I had remonstrated with the authorities three  times for the sole purpose of saving Japan from ruin. Mindful that  one whose warnings are thrice ignored should retire to a mountain  forest, I left Kamakura on the twelfth day of the fifth month.

I had thought at that time of going to my birthplace to visit my  parents' grave once again. However, it is the tradition of both  Buddhism and the secular world that one should return home in  glory. Had I returned without any honor worthy of mention, would I  not have proven to be n unfilial son? And in view of the fact that I  had already overcome such hardships and returned to Kamakura, I  thought that I might have some future opportunity to go home in  triumph, and that I would wait until such time to visit my parents'  grave. Because I feel deeply about this, I have yet to travel to my  birthplace. But I am so homesick that whenever someone says that  the wind is blowing from the east, I rush out from my dwelling to feel  it, and if told that clouds are gathering in the eastern sky, I stand in  the garden to watch them. With such emotions my heart warms even  toward someone I would not otherwise be friendly with if that person  is from my native province. Imagine, then, how beside myself I was  with joy at receiving your letter! I opened and read it in great haste,  only to learn that you had lost your son Yashiro on the eighth day of  the sixth month, the year before last. I had been delighted before I  opened you letter, but then, having read the sad news, I wished I  had not opened it in such a hurry. I felt regret such as Urashima no  Ko must have experienced upon opening his casket.

I never think lightly of the people from my native province or cease  to care about what happens to them, even if they have caused me  sorrow or treated me cruelly. Your son specially impressed me. His  handsome appearance made him stand out among the others, and in  his thoughtful air there seemed to be no trace of obstinacy. It was  during one of my lectures on the Lotus Sutra [that I saw him for the  first time]. Since there were many strangers present, I did not  venture to address him. When my lecture ended, my listeners left,  as did you son. But later he sent a messenger to convey the  following:

"I am from a place called Amatsu in the province of Awa. Since my  childhood, I have always greatly admired your commitment. My  mother also thinks highly of you. You may think that I am speaking  with undue familiarity, but there is something about which I would like  to seek your counsel in confidence. I know that I should wait until  after we have met several times and become better acquainted.  However, as I am in the service of a certain warrior, I have little time  to spare, and moreover, the matter is quite urgent. Therefore, while  fully aware that I am being rude, I implore you to grant me an  interview."

In this way he courteously asked to consult with me. Moreover,  since he was from my native province, I told him he need not stand  on ceremony and invited him to my place. He talked in great detail  about the past and future. Then he said: "Impermanence is the way  of the world. No one knows when he may die. Moreover, I am  committed to a warrior's service, and I cannot avoid a challenge to  combat that I have lately received. I dread what may await me in my  next life. I beg you to help me."

I gave him instruction, quoting sutra passages. Then he lamented,  saying, "I can do nothing for my deceased father. But should I die  before my widowed mother, I would be an unfilial son. Should  anything happen to me, please ask your disciples to look after her."

In this respectful way he made his request. Am I right in assuming  that nothing untoward happened on that occasion but that some later  incident brought about his death?

No one born human, whether high or low, is free from sorrow and  distress. Yet, troubles vary according to the time and differ  according to the person. In this respect, sorrow is like illness: No  matter what malady one may suffer from, as it worsens, he will think  that no illness could be more dreadful than his. There is the sorrow  of parting from one's lord, of parting from one's parent, and of parting  from one's spouse, none of which can be lightly dismissed.  However, one may serve another lord, or find comfort in remarrying.  But the sorrow of having lost one's parent or child seems only to  deepen as the days and months pass. Yet, although death is  sorrowful in any case, for parents to die and their children to live on  is the natural course of things. It is pitiful indeed for an aged mother  to be preceded by her child in death! You may well feel resentment  toward both gods and Buddhas. Why did they not take you instead  of your son? Why did they let you survive only to be tormented by  such grief? Truly, it is hard to bear.

Even animals of little intelligence cannot endure to part from their  young. The golden pheasant at the Bamboo Grove Monastery  plunged into flames and died in order to save her eggs. The stag at  Deer Park offered himself to the king in order to save a female  deer's unborn fawn. How much greater, then, must be the love of  human beings toward their children! Thus, Wang Ling's mother  smashed her own skull [and died in order to prevent her son from  becoming a traitor], and the consort of Emperor Shen Yao had her  abdomen cut open for the sake of an unborn prince. When you  consider these examples, I am certain you must feel that you  yourself would not hesitate to plunge into fire or smash your own  skull if by so doing you could see your son again. In imagining your  grief, my tears will not cease to flow.

You say in your letter, "Because my son killed others, I would like  you to tell me into what kind of place he may be reborn." A needle  sinks in water, and rain will not remain in the sky. Those who kill  even an ant are destined for hell, and those who merely cut up dead  bodies cannot avoid the evil paths. All the more must they suffer  who kill human beings. However, even a large rock can float on the  sea when carried aboard a boat. Does not water extinguish even a  great fire? Even a small error will destine one to the evil paths if one  does not repent of it. Yet even a grave offense can be eradicated if  one repents of it sincerely.

Let me cite a few examples. The monk who stole millet was reborn  as an ox for five hundred consecutive lifetimes. The person who  plucked water oats fell into the three evil paths. The more than  eighty thousand kings, including Rama, Batsudai, Birushin, Nagosa,  Katei, Bishakya, Gakko, Komyo, Nikko, Ai and Jitanin, all ascended  the throne by killing their fathers. As they did not encounter good  teachers, their offenses could not be eradicated and, in the end,  they fell into the Avichi Hell.

There was a wicked man named Ajita in Varanasi. Falling in love  with his own mother, he killed his father and made her his wife.  When the arhat who had been his father's teacher admonished him,  he killed that arhat, and when his mother took another man for a  husband he killed his mother as well. Thus he committed three of the  five cardinal sins. Shunned by his neighbors, he had no place to  turn. He went to the Jetavana Monastery and sought admittance to  the Order, but the monks refused. The evil in his heart grew more  rampant than ever, and he burned down many of the monks'  quarters. Finally, however he met Shakyamuni Buddha and was  permitted to become a monk.

There was a kingdom called Saiseki in northern India that was ruled  by a king named Ryuin. Ryuin killed his father, but later, horrified by  his own act, he abandoned his country, presented himself before the  Buddha and repented of his wrongdoing; thereupon the Buddha  forgave him.

King Ajatashatru was by nature given to the three poisons of greed,  anger and stupidity, and was forever committing one or another of  the ten evil acts. Moreover, he killed his father, attempted to take his  mother's life, and, accepting Devadatta as his teacher, massacred  countless disciples of the Buddha. Due to his accumulated  misdeeds, on the fifteenth day of the second month, the very day on  which the Buddha was to pass away, virulent boils broke out in  seven areas of his royal body, a sign that he will fall into the hell of  incessant suffering. The king writhed in agony; he felt as if he were  being burned by a great fire or doused with boiling water. His six  ministers presented themselves before him and summoned the six  non-Buddhist teachers, asking them to cure him of his foul sores.  This was just like the people of Japan today relying on the Zen and  Ritsu leaders or the Nembutsu and Shingon Priests as good  teachers in the belief that the prayers of these man can subdue the  Mongols and help them in their next life. Moreover, Ajatashatru's first  teacher, Devadatta, had memorized the sixty thousand non-Buddhist  and eighty thousand Buddhist teachings. His understanding of both  secular and religious matters was as clear as the sun, the moon or a  burnished mirror. He was like the learned priests of the Tendai sect  in the world today who are well versed in both the exoteric and  esoteric teachings and know all the Buddhist scriptures by heart.  Because Ajatashatru was guided by such teachers and ministers, he  had refused to become the Buddha's follower. And for this reason,  his country, Magadha, had suffered repeated disturbances in the  heavens and frequent strange occurrences on earth, being ravaged  incessantly by violent winds, severe droughts, famine and  pestilence. Moreover, it had been attacked by another country. Now,  in addition to all this, he was suffering from virulent boils. When his  kingdom appeared to be on the verge of ruin, he suddenly presented  himself before the Buddha and repented of his evildoings, and his  offenses were eradicated.

In any event, even though one's parents may be evildoers, if that  person himself is virtuous, his parents' offenses will be forgiven. On  the other hand, although the child may be an evildoer, if the parents  are good people, their child's faults will be pardoned. Hence, even  though your late son Yashiro committed evil, if you, the mother who  gave birth to him, grieve for him and offer prayers for him day and  night in the presence of Shakyamuni Buddha, how can he not be  saved? Rather, as a believer in the Lotus Sutra, he will surely lead  his parents to Buddhahood.

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra should beware of and guard  themselves against the sutra's enemies. Know that the Nembutsu  priests, the upholders of the precepts, and the Shingon teachers--in  fact, all those who refuse to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo--are the  enemies of the Lotus Sutra, no matter how earnestly they may read  it. If you do not know your enemies, you will be deceived by them.  How I wish I could see you personally and talk to you about these  matters in detail! Whenever you see Sammi-bo or Sado-ko, who will  visit your area from Minobu, have them read this letter to you. Place  it in the custody of Myoe-bo. Those lacking in wisdom would no  doubt mock me or criticize this letter as mere clever words on my  part. Or they would compare me with others, saying, "This priest  could never match the Great Teacher Kobo or surpass the Great  Teacher Jikaku!" Consider those who say such things ignorant.

Nichiren

Written in the third month in the second year of Kenji (1276), cyclical  sign hinoe-ne, in the mountains of Hakiri Village in the Nambu area  of Kai Province.
 

Letter to Ko-no-ama Gozen
 
I have received three hundred mon of coins from the wife of Abutsu-bo. Since both of you are of the same mind, have someone read this letter to you and listen to it together.
 
I have also received the unlined summer robe you sent to me here in the recesses of this mountain in Hakiri Village, Kai Province, all the way from the province of Sado where you live. The Hosshi chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "If there is one who, in his quest for the Buddha Way, shall throughout one kalpa join his palms and in my presence praise me with countless verses, because of this praise of the Buddha he will gain immeasurable benefit. But one who praises the bearers of this sutra will have blessings surpassing even that." This means that the benefit of making offerings to a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law surpasses that of serving in all sincerity as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni with one's body, mouth and mind for an entire medium kalpa. Although this may seem unbelievable, you should not doubt it, because such are the Buddha's golden words.
 
The Great Teacher Miao-lo further clarifies this passage from the sutra by saying, "If there is one who troubles [a preacher of the Dharma], then his head will be split into seven pieces; if there is one who makes offerings [to the preacher], his good fortune will surpass that of the ten honorable titles." In other words, the benefit of making offerings to a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law exceeds that of making offerings to a Buddha endowed with the ten honorable titles. On the other hand, one who persecutes a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the impure age will have his head broken into seven pieces.
 
I, Nichiren, am the most extraordinary person in Japan. The reason I say so is this. The seven reigns of heavenly gods I will set aside, and the five reigns of earthly gods are beyond my knowledge, but throughout the ninety reigns from the time of the first human emperor Jimmu until the present, or during the more than seven hundred years since the reign of Emperor Kimmei [when Buddhism was introduced to this country], no one has ever been so universally hated as Nichiren on account of either secular or Buddhist matters. Mononobe no Moriya burnt down temples and pagodas, and Kiyomori Nyudo had Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji temples destroyed, but the people of their clans did not harbor hatred toward them. Masakado and Sadato rebelled against the imperial court, and the Great Teacher Dengyo incurred antagonism from the priests of the seven major temples of Nara, but these men were not hated by priests, nuns, laymen and laywomen throughout the whole of Japan. In my case, however, parents, brothers, teachers and fellow priests - every single person from the ruler on down to the common people - treat me as if I were their parents' enemy, and show me more hostility than if I were a rebel or a robber.
 
Thus, at times I have been vilified by several hundred people; and at other times, besieged by several thousand, I have been attacked with swords and staves. I have been driven from my residence and banished from my province. Finally I twice incurred the regent's displeasure, being exiled once to Izu Province and again to Sado Island. When I was banished to Sado in the northern sea, I had neither provisions to sustain me nor even clothes as coarse as those made of wisteria vines to cover my body. The people there, both priests and laity, hated me even more than did the men and women of Sagami Province. Abandoned in the wilderness and exposed to the snow, I sustained my life by eating grass.
 
I felt as though I were personally experiencing the sufferings of Su Wu, who survived by eating snow while living in captivity in the land of the northern barbarians for nineteen years, or of Li Ling, who was imprisoned in a rocky cave on the shore of the northern sea for six years. I underwent this ordeal not because of any fault of my own but solely because of my desire to save all the people of Japan.
 
However, while I was in exile there, you and your husband Ko Nyudo, avoiding the eyes of others, brought me food by night. You were ready to give your lives for my sake without fearing punishment from the provincial officials. Therefore, although life in Sado was harsh, I was loath to leave, feeling as if my heart were being left behind, and I seemed to be pulled back with each step I took.
 
I wonder what karmic bonds we formed in the past. Just when I was thinking how mysterious it was, you sent your most precious husband as your messenger to this distant place. I thought it must be a dream or an illusion. Even though I cannot see you, I am convinced that your heart remains here with me. Whenever you yearn for me, Nichiren, look toward the sun which rises in the morning and the moon which appears in the evening. I will invariably be reflected in the sun and the moon. In the next life, let us meet in the pure land of Eagle Peak. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
 
Nichiren
 
The sixteenth day of the sixth month
 
Letter to Misawa

Please tell the people of Suruga that they should unite firmly in faith.

I have received your offerings of a hundred oranges, kelp, green laver, ogo and other produce which you took the trouble of sending to me in this remote mountainous place. I have also received the quilted robe made by Utsubusa-no-ama.

I have read your letter most attentively. Although the people who study Buddhism outnumber the dust particles of the earth, those who actually become Buddhas are fewer than the number of dust particles one can place on his fingernail. This the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni clearly states in the Nirvana Sutra. On reading it, I wondered why it should be so difficult, but after some thought, I realized the most plausible answer. Although one studies Buddhism, it is difficult to practice it correctly because of the foolishness of his mind, or because, even though one may be wise, he follows an evil teacher and fails to realize that he is being misled. Moreover, even though one may encounter a good teacher and the sutra of the true teaching and thereby learn the True Law, inevitably, at the time when he resolves to free himself from the sufferings of birth and death and attain Buddhahood, he will encounter the three obstacles and four devils, just as surely as a shadow follows the body and rain is accompanied by clouds. Even if you should manage to overcome the first six, if you are defeated by the seventh, you will not be able to become a Buddha.

Let us leave the first six for now. The seventh is caused by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. When a common mortal of the Latter Day of the Law is ready to attain Buddhahood, having realized the true meaning of all the Buddha’s teachings and understood the profound teaching of the Maka Shikan, this devil is greatly surprised. He says to himself, "This is most vexing. If I allow this person to remain in my domain, he will not only free himself from the sufferings of birth and death but lead others to enlightenment as well. Moreover, he will take over my realm and change it into a pure land. What shall I do?" The devil then summons all his underlings from the threefold world of desire, form and formlessness and tells them, "Each of you now go and harass that votary, according to your respective skills. If you should fail to make him abandon his Buddhist practice, then enter into the minds of his disciples, patrons and the people of his land and thus try to persuade or threaten him. If these attempts are also unsuccessful, I myself will go down and enter the mind and body of his sovereign to persecute that votary. Together, how can we fail to prevent him from attaining Buddhahood?"

I, Nichiren, have long been aware of all this, and therefore know how difficult it is for a common mortal of the Latter Day to become a Buddha in this lifetime. The sutras describe in many places how Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment, and the obstacles he suffered because of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven seem absolutely unbearable. The fiendish acts of Devadatta and of King Ajatashatru were due solely to the workings of that devil. The Lotus Sutra says, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" A common mortal like Nichiren would not be able to bear any of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni’s sufferings for a single day or even for a single moment, let alone all the various persecutions which befell him during a period of more than fifty years. Moreover, it is taught that in the Latter Day of the Law, persecutions will be ten billion times greater than those in Shakyamuni’s day. I wondered how I could possibly withstand them. A sage, however, is said to be capable of predicting what will occur in the future. With regard to the three periods of past, present and future, and understanding of the future is the mark of a true sage. I, Nichiren, may not be a sage, but I have for some time known that Japan would in our day bring ruin upon itself [because of its attachment to heretical teachings].

I knew that if I dared to say this openly, then surely I must be the votary of the Lotus Sutra whom the Buddha prophesied would appear after his death and fulfill the Buddha’s teaching, "...how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" But if though knowing what the future holds, I remained silent, I would be condemned to be born a mute or a stutterer in lifetime after lifetime. I myself would become a great enemy of the Lord Shakyamuni and a traitor to the ruler of Japan. After death, I would fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. For years, therefore, I have continually admonished myself that, even though I might lack food or clothing, or be rebuked by my parents, brothers, teacher and friends, or be persecuted by the ruler and all the people, if I were going to waver even in the slightest on that account, I would have done better never to have spoken out in the first place.

Since the infinite past, I may have met the Lotus Sutra several times and set my heart on attaining enlightenment. However, while I may have been able to bear one or two minor difficulties, I must have given up when faced with a succession of great obstacles. In this life, I knew that if I were truly resolved to withstand the harshest trials, then I must speak out. This I did, and I encountered major persecutions one after another, just as the sutra predicts.

My resolution is now inflexible. Determined to endure any hardship, I have fulfilled the Buddha’s prediction, and I have no doubt [that I am the votary of the Lotus Sutra]. Now I am living here in these desolate mountains and forests. Even if you should abandon your faith in the Lotus Sutra, how could I regard as strangers people who, if only for a day or even for a moment, have helped me survive? Never have I cared what happens to me personally. I promised that no matter what might befall me, I would maintain my faith without regressing, and if I became a Buddha, I would lead all of you to enlightenment. You have less knowledge of Buddhism than I, and moreover, you are lay believers with lands, families and retainers. Therefore, it may be extremely difficult for you to sustain your faith throughout life. This is why I have always told you that because of your position, it would be better to feign ignorance of this teaching. No matter what may happen in the future, be assured that I will never forsake or neglect you.

As for my teachings, regard those before my exile to Sado as equivalent to the Buddha’s pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. I had thought that if the ruler of this country desired to govern well, he would summon the priests of the Shingon sect for an open debate with me, and that, on that occasion, I would reveal for the first time the true teaching of supreme importance. Before my exile, I withheld this teaching even from my disciples for fear that if I should tell them, even in confidence, they might inadvertently disclose it to the Shingon priests, who would then avoid the debate. This is why I refrained from revealing the true teaching to all of you as well.

Then on the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun’ei (1271), I was very nearly beheaded at Tatsunokuchi. From that time, I felt pity for my followers because I had not yet revealed the true teaching to any of them. With this in mind, I secretly conveyed my teaching to my disciples from the province of Sado. After the Buddha’s death, great scholars and teachers of Buddhism such Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo, Dengyo and Gishin knew this teaching, but kept it in their hears and did not express it in words. The reason was that the Buddha had forbidden them to spread it, stating, "After my death, this great Law should not be revealed until the Latter Day of the Law arrives." I, Nichiren, may not be an envoy sent by the Buddha, but my appearance in this world coincides with the age of the Latter Day. Moreover, quite unexpectedly, I came to realize this teaching, which I now expound to prepare the way for a sage.

With the appearance of this teaching, all the teachings advocated by the scholars and teacher of Buddhism during the Former and Middle Days of the Law will be like stars after sunrise or an awkward apprentice beside a skilled craftsman. It is predicted that once this Law is revealed in this era, the Buddha images as well as the priests of the temples built in the Former and Middle Days will all lose their power to benefit people, and only this one great Law shall spread all over the world. Since all of you have a bond with this teaching, you should feel reassured.

Utsubusa came a long distance to visit me despite her advanced age, but since I was told that it was merely a casual visit on her way back from the shrine of her ancestors, I would not see her, although I pitied her greatly. Had I permitted her to see me, I would have been allowing her to commit slander against the Lotus Sutra. The reason is that all gods are subjects, and the Buddha is their lord. It is against even the code of society to visit one’s lord on the way back from calling on one of his subjects. Moreover, Utsubusa is a nun, a follower of the Buddha. She should have the Buddha foremost in mind. Because she made this and other mistakes as well, I refused to see her. She was not the only one, however. I refused to see many others who stopped by to visit me on their return from the hot spring resort at Shimone. Utsubusa is the same age that my parents would be. I feel deeply sorry to have disappointed her, but I want her to understand this point.

After you came here to see me the year before last, I received word - true or not, I do not know - that you were ill, and I wanted to send a messenger to inquire after you. However, my disciples said that much as they understood how I felt, they advised against it, as it might embarrass you. Therefore I abandoned the idea, acknowledging that such is the way of the world. I thought that if you were really ill, you would inform me, since you have always been sincere and faithful. I did not hear from you, however, so I myself deliberately refrained from inquiring after you, although I have been anxious about you all this time. Change is the way of all things, but last year and this year too the world has changed so greatly that I feared I might not be able to see you any more. Just when I was longing to hear from you, your letter arrived. Nothing could have given me greater pleasure. Please tell the Lady Utsubusa about all that I have written here.

I would like to explain further about my teaching, but this letter is already too long. Earlier I mentioned the Zen, Nembutsu and Ritsu sects. However, of the many sects of Buddhism, Shingon is the very teaching which brought ruin upon China and will destroy Japan as well. Not only were six priests - Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung of China, and Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho of Japan - confused as to the relative superiority of the Lotus Sutra and the three sutras of Dainichi, but also the first three made false objects of worship representing the two worlds and misled people to believe that these mandalas had originated in India. Being so deceived, the latter three priests learned the doctrines of Shingon, brought them to Japan and spread them throughout the land, from the ruler down to the common people. Emperor Hsuan-tsung of China lost his empire because of the Shingon doctrines, and our country is also steadily declining. The retired eighty-second emperor, Gotoba, was robbed of his power by the Kamakura government despite Bodhisattva Hachiman’s oath to protect one hundred successive rulers. This misfortune was solely the result of the prayers offered by eminent priests who followed the three Shingon priests - Kobo and the others - on behalf of the imperial court. These evil prayers "returned to the originators."

Because the Kamakura shogunate attacked the evil doctrine of Shingon and its evil men, it might have ruled our land for eighteen generations more, in accordance with the oath of Bodhisattva Hachiman. However, it has now turned to the men of the same evil doctrine it once opposed. Therefore, as Japan no longer has a ruler worthy of protection, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings have replied to this slander by ordering a foreign country to invade Japan. They have also dispatched the votary of the Lotus Sutra as their envoy. The ruler, however, does not heed his warnings. On the contrary, he sides with the evil priests, thus creating chaos in both religious and secular realms. As a result, he has become a formidable enemy of the Lotus Sutra. And as his slander has long continued, this country is on the verge of ruin.

Today’s epidemic is no less than the harbinger of defeat in a great war which is to come. How pitiful! How tragic!

Nichiren

The twenty-third day of the second month
 
Letter to Myomitsu Shonin
- Myomitsu Shonin Goshosoku -
I have received the five kan of blue-duck coins you sent.
The first of the five precepts is not to take life, and the first of the six paramitas is that of almsgiving. The ten good precepts, the two hundred and fifty precepts, the ten major precepts and all the other rules of conduct begin with the prohibition against the taking of life.
Every being, from the highest sage on down to the smallest mosquito or deer fly, holds life to be its most precious possession. To deprive a being of life is to commit the gravest kind of sin.
When the Buddha appeared in this world, he made compassion for living beings his basis. And as an expression of compassion for living beings, not to take life and to provide sustenance for the living are the most important precepts.
In providing another with sustenance, one obtains three kinds of benefits. First, one sustains one's life. Second, one brings color to one's face. Third, one gains strength.
"To sustain one's life" means that one is born in the human or heavenly realms and receives the karmic reward of long life. When he becomes a Buddha, he manifests himself as a Dharma-body Tathagata, whose body is as vast as space.
Because he "gains strength," having been born in the human or heavenly realms, he becomes a person of virtue and influence, attracting many followers. When he becomes a Buddha, he manifests himself as a bliss-body Tathagata, dwelling on a lotus pedestal where he shines like the full moon when it appears in a clear sky on the fifteenth night of the eighth month.
And because "he brings color to his face," having been born in the human or heavenly realms, he acquires the thirty-two features and becomes as lovely and striking as a lotus flower. When he becomes a Buddha, he displays himself as a manifested-body Tathagata, like Shakyamuni Buddha.
If we inquire into the origin of Mount Sumeru, we find that it began with a single speck of dust, and likewise the great ocean began with a single drop of dew. One added to one becomes two, two becomes three, and so on to make ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or an asogi. Yet one is the mother of all.
As for the beginning of Buddhism in the country of Japan: after the seven generations of heavenly gods and the five generations of earthly gods, the hundred reigns of human sovereigns began, the first of whom was called Emperor Jimmu. In the time of the thirtieth sovereign following Jimmu, Emperor Kimmei, the Buddhist scriptures were introduced to Japan from the kingdom of Paekche, along with a statue of Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, as well as priests and nuns.
Then Prince Shotoku, the son of Emperor Yomei, began to study the Buddhist writings. He had a copy of the Lotus Sutra brought from China, wrote a commentary on the text, and endeavored to propagate its teachings.
Later, in the time of the thirty-seventh sovereign, Emperor Kotoku, the Administrator of Monks Kanroku introduced the Sanron and Jojitsu sects from the kingdom of Silla to Japan. And during the same period the priest Dosho introduced the Hosso and Kusha sects from China, and a priest named the Preceptor Shinjo introduced the Kegon sect.
In the reign of the forty-fourth sovereign, Empress Gensho, a holy man from India introduced the Dainichi Sutra, and in the time of the forty-fifth sovereign, Emperor Shomu, the priest Ganjin came from China, introducing the Ritsu sect to Japan. At the same time, he brought with him copies of the Hokke Gengi, Hokke Mongu, Maka Shikan, Jomyo Sho, and other works of the T'ien-t'ai school. But he did not propagate the teachings of the Shingon and Hokke [Tendai] schools.
In the reign of the fiftieth sovereign, Emperor Kammu, there was a young priest named Saicho, who was later to be known as the Great Teacher Dengyo. Before going to China, he spent fifteen years studying on his own the writings and commentaries of the Shingon and Tendai schools. Later, in the seventh month of the twenty-third year of the Enryaku era (804), he sailed for China. He returned to Japan in the sixth month of the following year, and thereafter instructed several dozen learned priests of the seven major temples of Nara in the teachings of the Tendai and Shingon sects.
Four hundred years have passed since then. In all, it has been more than seven hundred years since Buddhism was first introduced to Japan. During that time, there have been persons who urged the populace to call upon the name of Amida, to call upon the name of Dainichi, or to invoke the name of Shakyamuni. But there has never been anyone who urged them to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
And this does not apply to Japan alone. In India, in the thousand years following the death of the Buddha, there were great scholars such as Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Ashvagosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu who worked to propagate Buddhism throughout the five regions of India. And in the first several hundred years after Buddhism was introduced to China, people such as Kashyapa Matanga, Chu-fa-lan, the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva, Nan-yueh, T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo wrote commentaries and expounded the teachings of the sutras. But none of these persons ever urged that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra be chanted in the same manner as the name of Amida. They only chanted it themselves, or, when lecturing on the Lotus Sutra, the lecturer himself alone recited it.
The teachings of the eight sects and the nine sects differ from one another, yet generally speaking, we find that in the majority of cases, the founders and leaders of these sects recited the name of Amida. Next in number were those who recited the name of Bodhisattva Kannon, and next those who invoked the name of Shakyamuni Buddha, followed by those who called upon the name of Dainichi, Yakushi, or others. But for some reason there were none who chanted the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, the very heart and core of the Buddha's entire lifetime of teachings.
You should inquire very carefully into the reason why this was so. A renowned physician, for example, though he discerns the causes of all kinds of illnesses as well as the relative efficacy of various medicines, nevertheless refrains from indiscriminately applying the most powerful medicine but instead employs other medicines, depending upon the nature of the illness. Thus perhaps it was because, during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law following the death of the Buddha, the sickness of delusion had not yet become critical, and therefore no one urged that the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the finest medicine in all the Buddha's lifetime of teachings, be applied. But now we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, and people are all suffering from grave illness. This illness can hardly be cured by such minor medicines as invocations to Amida, Dainichi or Shakyamuni.
Though the moon is beautiful, the full splendor of its light can only be seen in autumn. Though the cherry blossoms are lovely, they open only in spring. All things are regulated by the time. And since that is so, may we not suppose that, during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law, the time had not yet come for the daimoku to spread?
However, it is the messengers of the Buddha who propagate his teachings. And these disciples of the Buddha have different doctrines that they received from him. Thus, the scholars who appeared during the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law and the teachers who appeared during the thousand years of the Middle Day of the Law were in most cases men who had been entrusted with Hinayana or provisional Mahayana doctrines or with the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra or other ancillary doctrines. Bodhisattva Jogyo, who is entrusted with the daimoku, the core of the essential teaching, had not yet made his advent in the world.
But now he will appear in the Latter Day of the Law and propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to all the nations and to all the people of the world. Surely it will spread in the same way that the invocation of Amida's name has spread throughout Japan at the present time.
I, Nichiren, am not the founder of any sect, nor am I a latter-day follower of any older sect. I am a priest without precepts, neither keeping the precepts nor breaking them. I am an ordinary creature like an ox or a sheep, divorced from both the possession of wisdom and the absence of it.
Why did I first begin to chant as I do? Bodhisattva Jogyo is the one destined to make his advent in this world to propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. But before he had even appeared, I began, as though speaking in a dream, hardly knowing what I was doing, to chant the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and so I chant them now. In the end, is this a good thing I do, or a bad thing? I do not know, nor can anyone else tell for certain.
But when I reverently open the Lotus Sutra and peruse it, I see that even the bodhisattvas Monju, Miroku, Kannon and Fugen, who had reached the stage of togaku, were scarcely able to uphold so much as a single phrase or verse of this sutra, because the sutra itself states that it can "only be understood and shared between Buddhas."
The Kegon Sutra represents the first exposition of the sudden teaching preached immediately following the Buddha's enlightenment, a sutra embodying the complete and perfect teaching, yet it was entrusted to the four bodhisattvas, including Dharma Wisdom, to expound. The Hannya sutras, though not on the same level as the Kegon Sutra, nevertheless represent the loftiest among the other sutras that the Buddha had preached thus far. And yet Subhuti was the one entrusted with the task of expounding them.
Only the Lotus Sutra represents the wonderful teaching preached directly from the golden mouth of Shakyamuni Buddha, who is perfectly endowed with the three bodies. Therefore even the bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju were hardly able to expound so much as a single phrase or verse of it. How much more difficult then must it be for us, who are no more than common mortals living in the Latter Day of the Law, to embrace in our own persons even one or two words of this sutra!
Because the founders of the various sects read and lectured on the Lotus Sutra, their respective disciples all assumed that their own teacher had grasped the heart of the Lotus Sutra. However, if we look carefully into the essence of the matter, we find that the Great Teacher Tz'u-en read the Lotus Sutra while making the Jimmitsu Sutra and the Yuishiki Ron his teachers, and the Great Teacher Chia-hsiang read the Lotus Sutra while making the Hannya sutras and the Chu Ron his teachers. Men like Tu-shun and Fa-tsang read the Lotus Sutra while making the Kegon Sutra and the Jujubibasha Ron their teachers. And Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung read the Lotus Sutra while making the Dainichi Sutra their teacher. All these men thought that they had read the Lotus Sutra. But in fact they had not read so much as a single phrase or verse of it.
In the end, as the Great Teacher Dengyo put it, "Even though he praises the Lotus Sutra, he destroys its heart." They were like non-Buddhist believers who, though they read the Buddhist sutras, interpret them to be the same as the non-Buddhist teachings; or like bats which, in their blindness, mistake day for night. Or they were like a red-faced man who, looking into a clear mirror, supposes that the whole mirror has turned red, or like a round-faced man who, seeing his reflection in a narrow sword blade, thinks that his face has become long and narrow.
But I, Nichiren, am different from such persons. I firmly uphold the teaching that the Lotus Sutra is supreme among all the sutras that the Buddha "has preached, now preaches and will preach." Moreover, I chant the daimoku, which is the heart and core of the entire sutra, and I urge others to do likewise. [When one does so,] he will be like mugwort growing in a field of hemp or wood marked with a carpenter's inking line. Though the mugwort and the wood may not be straight to begin with, they will as a matter of course become so.
In the same way, one who chants the daimoku as the Lotus Sutra teaches will never have a twisted mind. For you must know that, unless the mind of the Buddha enters into our body, we cannot in fact chant the daimoku.
The Buddhist teachings that have been disseminated by other persons are in all cases those that they have learned and received from their respective teachers. It is like the case of the fiefs possessed by the shogun's immediate vassals of the estates administered by the stewards in the various provinces. Though their lands may measure no more than one or two cho, they in all cases received them through the favor of the late shogun. How much more indebted to him are persons whose holdings measure a hundred cho, a thousand cho, a whole province or two whole provinces!
One who carries on the doctrines of a good teacher is called a worthy man. One who realizes the truth for himself without the aid of a teacher is called a sage. In the lands of India, China and Japan since the passing of the Buddha, there have been two sages. They were T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo. These two men deserve to be called sages.
They also deserve to be called worthy men. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai carried on the doctrines of Nan-yueh; in that sense he was a worthy man. But he also realized the supreme vehicle of Buddhahood by himself at the place of meditation; in this sense he was a sage.
Similarly, the Great Teacher Dengyo received instruction in the Shikan teachings and the great precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment from his teachers Tao-sui and Hsing-man. In that sense he was a worthy man. But even before he journeyed to China, while still in Japan, he had already understood and mastered all the doctrines of the Shingon and Shikan sects without the aid of a teacher, and had come to realize that the wisdom of the Tendai sect surpassed that of the six sects or the seven sects. In this sense he was a sage.
So it is that one of the Confucian classics declares: "Those who are born with an understanding of this are the highest." (By "highest" is meant the sage.) "Those who study and thereby reach this understanding are the next." (By "next" is meant the worthy man.) And one of the Buddhist sutras contains the passage, "In my religious practices, I am without the aid of a teacher."
Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, is the foremost sage of this saha world. T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo were both sages as well as worthy men. Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Lao Tzu and Confucius were all both sages and worthy men, either of the Hinayana teachings, the provisional Mahayana teachings, or of non-Buddhist teachings; however, none of them was a sage or worthy man of the Lotus Sutra.
Now I, Nichiren, am neither a sage nor a worthy man; I neither adhere to the precepts nor am I without precepts; I neither possess wisdom nor lack it. Nevertheless, I was born some 2,220 years after the passing of the Buddha, in the last five-hundred-year period, when the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is destined to spread. And before any other person of the various sects--whether here in Japan or in the far-off lands of India and China--could begin the invocation of the daimoku, I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in a loud voice and have continued to do so for more than twenty years.
During that time, I have been cursed and beaten, and at times have sustained injury. Twice I have been exiled, once I was condemned to death, and the other great trials that I have suffered are too numerous to mention; I have been like a soybean plunked into a large pot of boiling water or a big fish in a tiny puddle.
The Lotus Sutra says: "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!" It also states: "In the world at that time the people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe." And it says: "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us," and "They will attack us with swords and staves, and with rocks and tiles,... again and again we will be banished."
If I, Nichiren, had not been born in the land of Japan, then these passages of the sutra would have been mere words on the Buddha's part--empty of all significance. They would have been like blossoms that open but form no fruit, or like thunder that rumbles but never ushers in rain. These golden words of the Buddha would have been in vain, and the Lotus Sutra, which speaks honestly, would have been found to incorporate great falsehoods. When I consider all this, it seems to me that I must be the equal of the sages T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo, and that I stand above Lao Tzu and Confucius.
In this entire country of Japan, I am the only person who has chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I am like the single speck of dust that marks the beginning of Mount Sumeru or the single drop of dew that spells the start of the great ocean. But then two people, three people, ten people, a hundred people will join in chanting it, until it spreads to one province, two provinces, and all the sixty-six provinces of Japan, and reaches the two islands of Iki and Tsushima as well. Those persons who have spoken slanderously of me will in time chant in the same way; and everyone from the ruler on down to the multitude of common people will, as described in the Jinriki chapter of the Lotus Sutra, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a single voice. Though the trees may desire to be still, the wind will not cease to blow; though we may wish spring to linger, it must give way to summer.
Though the people of Japan think highly of the Lotus Sutra, because of their animosity toward me, the priest Nichiren, they refuse to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. But when the invaders from the great kingdom of the Mongols strike once or twice again as they did at Iki and Tsushima, attacking and killing the men and taking the women prisoner, battling their way as far as the capital Kyoto and the city of Kamakura, seizing the sovereign himself, along with his high ministers and hundred officials, flinging them in the dirt before their oxen and horses, and kicking and violently abusing them--how then will the people of Japan be able to keep from chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?
In the past, I was struck several times in the face with the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra, but I felt no resentment at it. In fact, I was actually delighted. For to be attacked in the manner described in the Fukyo chapter, to suffer assault as predicted in the Kanji chapter, to is a great honor indeed.
But how vexing such attacks must be to Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings, who inscribed an oath in the presence of the Buddha that they would not permit evil men to strike the votary of the Lotus Sutra! It would be no small matter if those who slander me were to incur no punishment from Heaven in their present body. So those deities [who fail to punish them] will not only be destroyed throughout past, present and future, but even now are surely being called upon to account to the Buddha for their actions. And when that happens, it will be no fault of Nichiren's! Rather, by siding with those priests who slander the Law, they are summoning disaster upon themselves.
In view of all this, your sincerity in sending a gift of five stings of blue-duck coins whenever the opportunity arises truly entitles you to be known as one who propagates the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. As first one person, then two persons, then a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand and then all the people throughout the country come to chant the daimoku, before you know it their blessings will accumulate in your person. Those blessings will be like the drops of dew that gather to form the great ocean or the specks of dust that pile up to become Mount Sumeru.
The ten demon daughters in particular have vowed to protect those who recite the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra; it would follow from this that these goddesses must look upon you, Myomitsu Shonin, and your wife as a mother looks upon an only child. They will prize you as a yak cherishes its own tail, and watch over you day and night. How reassuring!
There is much more that I would like to say, but I do not have time to go into detail. Please explain these things carefully to your wife. I do not write these words merely to flatter.
The more gold is heated in the flames, the brighter will be its color; the more a sword is whetted, the sharper it will become. And the more one praises the blessings of the Lotus Sutra, the more his blessings will increase. Bear in mind that the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra contain only a few passages elucidating the truth, but a great many words of praise.
Nichiren
The fifth day of the intercalary third month
 

Letter to Nakaoki Nyudo
I have received the one kan of coins which you sent me and respectfully reported it in the presence of Myoho-renge-kyo.
 
The country of Japan is located in Jambudvipa to the south of Mount Sumeru. Jambudvipa measures seven thousand yojana in both length and breadth. In it there are eighty-four thousand countries, namely, the five regions of India, sixteen major kingdoms, five hundred intermediate kingdoms, and ten thousand minor kingdoms, as well as countless smaller countries like scattered grains of millet and islands like particles of dust. All of these lands lie in the great ocean like fallen leaves floating here and there on a pond. Our country of Japan is a small island in the great sea. It was once so small that it would disappear from sight when the tide rose - becoming barely visible only when the tide ebbed - until the two deities enlarged it to its present size. Its first human ruler was a great emperor named Jimmu. For some thirty reigns after him, neither a Buddha nor sutras nor priests existed in this country, only ordinary people and gods. Because there was no Buddhism, the people neither knew of hell nor aspired to the pure land. Even when death parted them from their parents or siblings, they had no idea what would become of the deceased. They must have thought of death as something like the vanishing of dew or like the setting of the sun and moon.
 
Then, during the reign of the thirtieth emperor, the great ruler Kimmei, King Songmyong of Paekche, a state northwest of Japan, sent to this country a gilded bronze image of Shakyamuni Buddha, a set of sutras expounded by that Buddha, and several priests who were to read them to the people. However, the Buddha was a statue and not a living person, and the sutras bore no resemblance to non-Buddhist writings. The priests spoke, but no one could understand what they preached. Moreover, their appearance was neither that of men nor of women. For all these reasons, the people were doubtful and dismayed. The ministers of the left and the right met in the emperor's presence and discussed the matter from various angles. The opinion prevailed that Buddhism should not be adopted, so the statue of the Buddha was discarded and the priests were imprisoned.
 
Then, on the fifteenth day of the second month in the second year of Emperor Bidatsu's reign, Prince Shotoku, son of Emperor Yomei, faced east and chanted "Namu Shakyamuni Buddha," whereupon the Buddha's relics materialized in his hand. In the sixth year of Emperor Bidatsu's reign, the prince read and recited the Lotus Sutra. Since then more than seven centuries have passed and more than sixty emperors have reigned, and Buddhism has gradually spread throughout Japan. Among the sixty-six provinces and the two islands, there is no place where it has not reached. In every province, every district, and every town, village, and hamlet, Buddhist halls, pagodas, and temples have been built, and Buddhism now dwells in 171,037 places. Men of wisdom as brilliant as the sun and moon have spread Buddhism in generation after generation, and worthy men who shine like the myriad stars fill every province. For their own sakes, they practice Shingon, the Hannya sutras or the Ninno Sutra, or chant the name of Amida Buddha, or believe in Kannon, Jizo or the three thousand Buddhas, or read and recite the Lotus Sutra. But when they encourage the practice of ignorant priests and lay people, they merely say: "Just chant 'Namu Amida Butsu.' Suppose a woman has a baby. If the child falls into a moat or a river, or if he is lonely, he will cry 'Mother! Mother!' Hearing this, the mother will never fail to set everything else aside and come to his aid. The same holds true with Amida Buddha. We are infants and he is our mother. So, if you fall into the pit of Hell or the moat of Hunger, just chant 'Namu Amida Butsu,' and he will never fail to come save you - just as an echo follows a sound." This is what all these men of wisdom have always taught. Therefore, our country of Japan has long since followed the custom of chanting that phrase.
 
Now I, Nichiren, am neither a resident of the capital, the center of the country, nor the son of a general on the frontiers. I am merely the son of a commoner and come from a remote province. But I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which not a single person in Japan has ever chanted during the past more than seven hundred years. Next, I have declared that to chant the name of Amida Buddha as people do, revering him as they would their parents, the sun and moon, or their lords, feeling as though they had found a ship on which to make a crossing or found water when they were thirsty or food when they were hungry, creates the karma that will cause them to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. They were therefore as startled and resentful as if stones had been cooked in with their food, as if their horse had stumbled over a rock and bolted, as if a gale had begun to blow while they were crossing a body of water, as if a great fire had broken out in a populated area, as if they had suddenly been attacked by an enemy, or as if a harlot had become an empress.
 
However, for twenty-seven years, from the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of Kencho (1253) up until now, the eleventh month of the second year of Koan (1279), I have not once retreated but continued to speak out all the more strongly - just as the moon waxes or as the tide rises. At first, when I, Nichiren, alone chanted the daimoku, those who saw me, met me, or heard me stopped up their ears, glared at me with furious eyes, contorted their mouths, clenched their fists, and ground their teeth. Even my parents, brothers, teachers and friends became my enemies. Then the steward and the lord of the manor where I lived turned against me. Later the whole province was in an uproar, and eventually the entire populace grew alarmed. Meanwhile, some people began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo either to mimic or to mock me, or seemingly out of faith, or seemingly to disparage me. Now one tenth of the people in Japan chant only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The remaining nine tenths are those who chant both the daimoku and Amida Buddha's name, those who are wavering between the two, and those who chant only the Nembutsu. People of this last group revile me as though I were an enemy of their parents or their lord, or a sworn foe from a past existence. Heads of villages, districts, and provinces hate me as though I were a traitor.
 
As I continued to proclaim my teaching in this way, I was driven out of place after place, forced to move on throughout Japan like a log adrift on the sea at the wind's mercy, or like a tiny feather that soars high into the air and then hovers about, now rising, now falling. At times I was thrashed, arrested, wounded, or exiled far away. At times my disciples were killed or I myself was banished. Then, on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), I incurred the wrath of the government and was subsequently exiled to the northern island province of Sado.
 
Though I had never violated the secular laws even in the slightest, the authorities accused me, saying, "This priest has gone so far as to declare that the late lay priests Saimyo-ji and Gokuraku-ji have fallen into hell. He is worse than a traitor." They were about to behead me at a place called Tatsunokuchi in Kamakura in Sagami Province, but then they apparently reconsidered, thinking: "True, his crime is indeed heinous, but he is a votary of the Lotus Sutra nonetheless. If we kill him rashly, there is no telling what disaster might occur. On the other hand, if we leave him on a remote island, he will surly perish of some cause or other. Not only is he hated by the ruler, but the common people all regard him as they would an enemy of their parents. He will probably be killed or die of hunger either on his way to Sado or after he has arrived in that province." Thus they decided to dispose of me in this way.
 
However, possibly due to the protection of the Lotus Sutra and the Ten Goddesses, or perhaps because Heaven realized my innocence, although many of the islanders hated me, there was an old man named Nakaoki no Jiro Nyudo [who befriended me]. He was as wise as he was advanced in years, and he enjoyed robust health and commanded the esteem of the local people. Probably because this venerable man said of me, "This priest can be no ordinary person," his sons did not strongly resent me. Since most of the other people were in the service of the retainers of the Nakaoki family, they too made no attempt to harm me on their own authority and carefully obeyed the government's instructions.
 
Though water may be muddied, it will become clear again. Though the moon may hide behind the clouds, it will surely reappear. Similarly, in time my innocence became apparent, and my predictions proved not to have been in vain. Perhaps on that account, although the members of the Hojo family and influential lords insisted that I should not be pardoned, I was finally released from my sentence of exile at the sole decision of Regent Hojo Tokimune and returned to Kamakura.
 
I, Nichiren, am the most loyal subject in all of Japan. I do not believe that there has ever been, nor ever will be, anyone who can equal me in this respect. The reason I say so is as follows. When the great earthquake struck during the Shoka era (1257-1259) and the huge comet appeared in the first year of Bun'ei (1264), a number of wise men, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, performed divinations, but they could neither determine the causes of these disasters nor foretell what was to come. As for me, Nichiren, I secluded myself in a scripture library, and after pondering the texts, I concluded that because the people revere the priests of provisional Mahayana and Hinayana teachings such as Shingon, Zen, Nembutsu, and Ritsu, and make light of the Lotus Sutra, Bonten and Taishaku would rebuke them by ordering a country in the west to attack Japan. I submitted a written warning to this effect to the late lay priest Saimyo-ji. People of all religions scoffed at it and dismissed it, but nine years later, in the fifth year of Bun'ei (1268), an official declaration arrived from the great Mongol Empire announcing its intention to attack Japan. Because my prediction had thus come true, the Nembutsu believers, Shingon teachers, and others resented me and plotted against my life.
 
To give an analogy, in China, among the concubines of Emperor Hsuan-tsung, there was a beautiful woman known as the Lady of the Shang-yang Palace. She was the greatest beauty in the empire. The emperor's consort, Yang Kuei-fei, saw her and thought, "If she is allowed to serve near the emperor, she will surely steal his favor away from me." So she forged an imperial edict and had the lady's parents and brothers either banished or executed. The lady herself was imprisoned and tortured for no less than forty years.
 
My own case is similar to this. "If Nichiren's warnings become widely known, the government will have to ask him to pray for the defeat of the great Mongol Empire. And if Japan should in fact be victorious, he will become the foremost priest in this country. We, on the other hand, will lose our influence and prestige." So thinking, perhaps the priests of the other sects brought false charges against me. Unaware of their motives, the regent believed their words and is now about to bring the nation to ruin.
 
In a similar way, the second emperor of the Ch'in dynasty of China, instigated by Chao Kao's slanderous tongue, had Li Ssu executed, and later he himself perished at the hands of Chao Kao. And Emperor Daigo of Japan, prompted by the slanderous words of the minister of the left, Fujiwara no Tokihira, banished the minister of the right. Afterward the emperor fell into hell.
 
The present regent is just like these two emperors. He believes the words of the Shingon teachers, the Zen sect, the Ritsu priests, those who observe the precepts and the Nembutsu priests, all of them enemies of the Lotus Sutra, and treats me, Nichiren, with animosity. Although I am of lowly birth, I embrace the Lotus Sutra, which Shakyamuni, Taho, all the Buddhas of the ten directions, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, the dragon deities, Tensho Daijin, and Bodhisattva Hachiman protect and treasure, just as people treasure and are unwilling to part with their eyes, as the heavenly gods revere Taishaku, or as a mother loves her child. Therefore, all these Buddhas and gods will punish those who persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra, even more severely than one would chastise an enemy of his parents or than the government punishes rebels.
 
Now you two are the late Jiro Nyudo's son and daughter-in-law. It is perhaps because you are the son and daughter-in-law of so profoundly wise a man that, following in his footsteps, you not only believe in the Lotus Sutra, which the ruler of the country himself rejects, but also provide for the votary of the Lotus Sutra, each year bringing me offerings and traveling a thousand ri to see me. Moreover, on the thirteenth anniversary of the death of your infant daughter, you erected a sixteen foot sotoba with the seven characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo inscribed on it. When the north wind blows, it is said, fish in the southern sea who are touched by it will be released from their sufferings; and when the wind comes from the east, birds and deer in the western mountains who come in contact with it will escape from the path of Animality and be born in the inner court of the Tushita Heaven. How much greater still will be the blessings of those human beings who rejoice at this sotoba, touch it with their hands, or gaze upon it with their eyes! I believe that because of the benefit derived from your erecting this sotoba, your deceased parents must be illuminating the pure land as brilliantly as would the sun and moon in the heavens. Furthermore, you yourselves, their filial son and his wife, as well as your children, will live to be one hundred and twenty, and after death, you will be with your parents in the pure land of Eagle Peak. You should consider this to be as certain as the fact that the moon is reflected in clear water, or that a hand drum produces a sound when struck. Should you erect any sotobas in the future, be sure to have the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra inscribed on them as well.
 
Written at Mount Minobu
 
Nichiren
 
The thirtieth day of the eleventh month in the second year of Koan (1279), cyclical sign tsuchinoto-u
 
To the wife of Nakaoki Nyudo
 
 
Letter to Nichimyo Shonin
 
Once there was a person named Gyobo Bonji. He traveled from country to country for twelve years in search of the teachings of a Buddha. In those days none of the three treasures -- the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood -- had yet appeared. Nevertheless, Bonji continued his quest for Buddhism as desperately as a thirsty man seeks water or as a starving person looks for food. One day a Brahman came to him and said, "I possess a verse of the sacred teaching. If you are a true seeker of Buddhism, I will impart it to you." Bonji beseeched him to do so. The Brahman said, "To prove your sincerity, first peel off your skin for parchment, break off one of your bones for a writing brush, grind up its marrow for pigment, and draw your blood to mix the ink. If you are willing to do all this, I will teach you the Buddha’s verse."
Bonji was overjoyed. He peeled off his skin, dried it and made parchment of it. When he had done all the things demanded of him just as he had been told, the Brahman suddenly vanished. Bonji bewailed his fate, now gazing up to heaven, now flinging himself to the ground. The Buddha, feeling his sincerity, emerged from beneath the earth and taught him: "Practice that which accords with the Law; do not practice that which contradicts it. One who practices the Law will dwell in peace and security both in this life and the next." The moment Bonji heard this, he became a Buddha. This teaching consists of twenty Chinese characters.
 
Once [in one of his previous existences] when Shakyamuni was a wheel-turning king engaged in bodhisattva practice, he revered an eight-character phrase which stated: "He who is born is destined to die. To extinguish this cycle is to enter the joy of nirvana." As an offering to the eight characters, he transformed his own body into a thousand burning candles. Moreover, he inscribed those characters on stone walls and main roads so that those who read them would arouse the aspiration for enlightenment. The light of those candles reached as high as the Trayastrimsha Heaven, where it served as illumination for Taishaku and the other deities.
 
In another past existence Shakyamuni was carrying out bodhisattva austerities in search of Buddhism. One day a leper said to him, "I possess the true teaching which consists of twenty characters. If you will massage my leprous body, embrace and lick it, feeding me two or three pounds of your own flesh every day. I will impart the teaching to you." Shakyamuni did exactly as the leper said. As a result, he obtained the twenty-character teaching and attained Buddhahood. The teaching went, "The Tathagata is enlightened to the truth of nirvana, and has forever freed himself from the sufferings of birth and death. Anyone who wholeheartedly listens to him will surely obtain immeasurable happiness."
 
There was once a person called Sessen Doji who lived in the Snow Mountains. Although he had mastered all non-Buddhist teachings, he had not yet encountered Buddhism. Then, one day, he happened to hear a terrifying demon recite a verse which began: "All is changeable, nothing is constant. This is the law of birth and death." The demon, however, spoke only the first eight characters of the verse, leaving the rest unsaid. Although Sessen Doji was exceedingly glad to have heard the first eight characters, he felt as though he had been given only half the wish-granting jewel. It was like a plant which flowers but bears no fruit. When he asked for the remaining eight characters, the demon replied, "I have had nothing to eat for several days. I am too dazed with hunger to preach the remaining eight characters. First give me some food!" Doji asked, "What do you eat?" The demon answered, "I feed on the warm flesh and blood of human beings. Though I can fly anywhere throughout the four continents in the space of a moment, I can obtain no warm flesh and blood. Human beings are protected by heaven, so I cannot kill them unless they commit evil."
 
Sessen Doji said, "I will make you an offering of my own body, so teach me the remaining eight characters." The demon said, "You are a cunning fellow, aren’t you? Surely you are trying to deceive me." Doji replied, "If one is offered gold and silver in exchange for tiles and stones, should he not accept it? If I die to no purpose on this mountain, then my body will be devoured by kites, owls, wolves and tigers, and will bring me no benefit whatsoever. On the other hand, if I give my life for the remaining eight characters, it will be like exchanging filth for food."
 
The demon was still suspicious. Doji assured him, saying, "I have guarantors to vouch for my honesty. Like the Buddhas of ages past, I call upon Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and the moon and the Four Heavenly Kings to be my witnesses." Finally the demon consented to impart the second half of the verse. Doji removed his deerskin garment and spread it out for the demon to sit upon. Then he knelt down and joined his palms together in supplication, begging the demon to be seated. The fierce demon complied and began to recite, "Extinguishing the cycle of birth and death, one enters the joy of nirvana." When Doji had learned the entire verse, he inscribed it on trees and stones. This completed, he cast himself into the demon’s mouth. Doji was actually Shakyamuni in one of his past existences, while the demon was Taishaku in disguise.
 
Bodhisattva Yakuo burnt his elbows for seventy-two thousand years as an offering to the Lotus Sutra. Bodhisattva Fukyo was for many years abused, humiliated, beaten and stoned by countless monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen because he venerated them by uttering the twenty-four characters which read: "I deeply respect you. I would not dare despise you or be arrogant, for you will all practice the bodhisattva way and surely attain Buddhahood." Bodhisattva Fukyo was the Lord Shakyamuni in one of his past lifetimes. King Suzudan performed menial labor in the service of the hermit Ashi for a thousand years in order to receive the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. He even went so far as to make a bed of his own body for his master. As a result, he was reborn as Shakyamuni Buddha.
 
Myoho-renge-kyo consists of eight volumes. Reading these eight volumes is in effect equal to reading sixteen, for the sutra was expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha and verified by Taho Buddha. The sixteen volumes, in turn, represent innumerable volumes, for their truth was verified by all the Buddhas of the ten directions. In the same way, each character in the sutra equals two, for it was uttered by Shakyamuni and confirmed by Taho. Again, a single character equals innumerable others, for the validity of the sutra was attested to by all the Buddhas of the ten directions. A single wish-granting jewel can cause as many treasures to rain down as would two such jewels or, even more, a would innumerable jewels. Likewise, each character in the Lotus Sutra is like a jewel, and since it stands for innumerable others, it is like an uncountable number of jewels. The character myo [of Myoho-renge-kyo] was uttered by two tongues, the tongues of Shakyamuni and Taho. The tongues of these two Buddhas are like an eight-petaled lotus flower one petal overlapping another, on which rests a jewel, the character of myo.
 
The jewel of the character myo contains all the benefits which Shakyamuni Buddha received by practicing the six paramitas in his past existences: the benefits he obtained through the practice of almsgiving by offering his body to a starving tigress and by giving his life in exchange for that of a dove; the benefits he obtained when he was King Shudama, who, in order to observe the precepts, kept his word though it meant his death; the benefits he obtained as a hermit called Ninniku by enduring the tortures inflicted upon him by King Kari; the benefits he obtained as Prince Nose and as the hermit Shojari, and all his other benefits. We, people in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law, have not formed even a single good cause, but Shakyamuni, [by bestowing upon us the character myo,] has granted us as many benefits as if we ourselves had fulfilled all the practices of the six paramitas. This precisely accords with his statement. "Now this three-fold world is all my domain. The living beings in it are all my children." Bound as we common mortals are by earthly desires, we can instantly attain the same virtues as the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, for we receive all the virtues which he accumulated. The sutra states, "At the start I pledged to make all people perfectly equal to me, without any distinction between us." This means that those who believe in and practice the Lotus Sutra are equal to Shakyamuni Buddha.
 
To illustrate, a father and mother unite in conjugal harmony to give birth to a child. No one can dispute that the child is the flesh and blood of its parents. A calf begotten by an ox king will become an ox king; it will never become a lion king. A cub sired by a lion king will become a lion king; it will never become a human king or heavenly king. Now the votaries of the Lotus Sutra are the children of Shakyamuni Buddha, as the sutra states, "The living beings in it are all my children." It is not difficult for them to become kings of the Law just as Shakyamuni Buddha did.
 
Unfilial children, however, are not allowed to succeed their parents. King Yao had an heir named Tan Chu, and King Shun had a prince named Shang Chun. As both sons were lacking in filial piety, they were disowned by their respective fathers and demoted to the rank of commoners. Ch’ung Hua and Yu were the children of commoners, but both were extremely filial. Hearing of this, King Yao and King Shun summoned Ch’ung Hua and Yu, respectively, and abdicated their thrones to them. Commoners became royalty in a day. Just as a commoner can become a king, so can an ordinary person become a Buddha instantly. This is the heart of the doctrine of ichinen sanzen.
 
How, then, can we obtain this benefit? Should we peel off our skins as Gyobo Bonji did, follow Sessen Doji’s example and offer our bodies to a demon, or emulate Bodhisattva Yakuo in burning our elbows? As the Great Teacher Chang-an stated, "You should distinguish between the shoju and shakubuku methods and never adhere solely to one or the other." What practice one should perform in order to master the True Law and attain Buddhahood depends upon the times. Were there no paper in Japan, then you should peel off your skin. Had the Lotus Sutra not yet been introduced to our country and the only individual to appear who knew it was a demon, then you should offer your body to him. Were there no oil available in our land, then you should burn your elbows. But of what use is it to peel off one’s skin when the country is abundantly supplied with excellent paper?
 
Hsuan-tsang journeyed throughout India in search of the Law for seventeen years, covering a distance of a hundred thousand ri. Dengyo remained in China for only two years, but he traveled three thousand ri across the billowing sea to arrive there. They were both men, sages and worthies at that, and theirs was a more virtuous age. Never have I heard of a woman who journeyed a thousand ri in search of Buddhism as you did. True, the dragon king’s daughter attained enlightenment without changing her dragon form, and the nun Mahaprajapati received a prediction that she would become a Buddha in the future. I am not certain, but they may have been female forms assumed by Buddhas or bodhisattvas. After all, those events occurred in the Buddha’s lifetime.
 
A woman’s nature differs from a man’s just as fire differs from water, fire being hot and water cold. Fishermen are skilled in catching fish, and hunters are proficient in trapping deer. A sutra states that it is a woman’s nature to be jealous, but no sutra says that women are good at seeking Buddhism. A woman’s mind is compared to a breeze; even if it were possible to bind the wind, one could never grasp a woman’s mind. A woman’s mind is likened to characters written on the surface of water; they do not remain a moment. A woman is compared to a liar; one cannot tell whether a liar’s words are true or false. A woman’s mind is compared to a river, for all rivers meander.
 
The Lotus Sutra, however, is the teaching which contains Shakyamuni’s declaration that he would now "honestly discard the provisional teachings." It is the sutra of which Taho Buddha said, "All that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the truth." It demands that its believers be "honest and upright, gentle in mind," "gentle, peaceful and upright," and so on. Those who believe in this sutra, therefore, must have minds which are as straight as a tight-stretched bowstring or a carpenter’s inking line. One may call dung sandalwood, but it will not have the sandalwood’s fragrance. A liar never becomes a truthful person simply because one calls him honest. All the sutras are the Buddha’s golden teachings, his true words. When compared with the Lotus Sutra, however, they are false, flattering, abusive or forked-tongued. The Lotus Sutra alone is the truth of truths. Only honest people are able to take faith in this sutra, a teaching free from all falsehood. Certainly you are a woman of true words.
 
Think of it! Even were one to meet a person who could cross the ocean carrying Mount Sumeru on his head, one could never find a woman like you. Even though one might find a person who could steam sand and make boiled rice of it, one could never meet a lady of your virtue. Let it be known that Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha, all the Buddhas of the ten directions, great bodhisattvas such as Jogyo and Muhengyo, Bonten, Taishaku, the Four Heavenly Kings and other deities will protect you and be with you always, just as a shadow accompanies the body. You are undoubtedly the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra among the women of Japan. Therefore, following the example of Bodhisattva Fukyo, I bestow on you the Buddhist name, Nichimyo Shonin.
 
From Kamakura in Sagami Province to the northern province of Sado is a journey of more than a thousand ri over treacherous mountains and the raging sea. The wind and rain make untimely onslaughts; bandits  in the mountains and pirates lie in wait on the sea. The people at every stage and every post town are as bestial as dogs or tigers, and you must have felt as though you were undergoing the sufferings of the three evil paths. Moreover, we live in troubled times. Since last year our country has been filled with rebels, and finally, on the eleventh day of the second month of this year, a battle broke out. It is now almost the end of the fifth month, but society has not yet been restored to tranquillity. Nevertheless, despite all the risks involved, you traveled to Sado carrying your infant daughter, since her father, from whom you have long been separated, was not to be depended upon for her care.
 
I cannot even imagine the hardships you must have suffered during your journey, much less describe them in words, so I will lay down my writing brush.
 
Nichiren
 
The twenty-fifth day of the fifth month in the ninth year of Bun’ei (1272)
 
Letter to Niike

Letter to Niike (MW Vol. I, pp. 253 - 262; Gosho Zenshu pp. 1439 - 1444) What joy to have been born in the Latter Day of the Law and to have shared in the propagation of true Buddhism! How pitiful are those who, though born in this time, cannot believe in the Lotus Sutra!

No one can escape death once he is born as a human being, so why do you not practice in preparation for the next life? When I observe what people are doing, I realize that although they profess faith in the Lotus Sutra and clasp its scrolls, they act against the spirit of the sutra and thereby readily fall into the evil paths. To illustrate, a person has five major internal organs, but should even one of them become diseased, it will infect all the others and eventually he will die. The Great Teacher Dengyo stated, "Even though one praises the Lotus Sutra, he destroys its heart." He meant that even if one embraces, reads and praises the Lotus Sutra, if he betrays its intent, he will be destroying not only Shakyamuni but all other Buddha in the universe.

The sum of our worldly misdeeds and evil karma may be as great as Mount Sumeru, but once we take faith in this sutra, they will vanish like frost or dew under the sun of the Lotus Sutra. However, if one commits even one or two of the fourteen slanders set forth in this sutra, his offense is almost impossible to expiate. Killing a single Buddha would be a far greater offense than destroying all living beings in the universe, and to violate the sutra's spirit is to commit the sin of destroying all Buddhas. One who commits any of these fourteen is a slanderer.

Hell is a dreadful dwelling of fire, and Hunger is a pitiful state where starving people devour their own children. Anger is strife, and Animality is to kill or be killed. The hell of the blood-red lotus is so called because the intense cold of this hell makes one double over until his back splits open and the bloody flesh emerges like a crimson lotus flower. And there are hells even more horrible. Once one falls into such an evil state, even a throne or the title of general means nothing. He is no different from a monkey on a string, tormented by the guards of hell. What use are his fame and fortune then? Can he still be arrogant and persist in his false beliefs?

Stop and ponder! How rare is the faith that moves one to give alms to a priest who knows the heart of the Lotus Sutra! He will not stray into the evil paths if he does so even once. Still greater are the benefits arising from ten or twenty contributions, or from five years, ten years, or a lifetime of contributions. They are even beyond the measure of the Buddha's wisdom. The Buddha taught that the blessings of a single offering to the votary of this sutra are a hundred thousand myriad times greater than those of offering boundless treasure to Shakyamuni for more than eight billion aeons. When you embrace this sutra, you will overflow with happiness and shed tears of joy. It seems impossible to repay our debt to Shakyamuni, but by your frequent offerings to me deep in these mountains you will repay the merciful kindness of the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha. Strive ever harder in faith and never give in to negligence. Everyone appears to believe sincerely when he first embraces the Lotus Sutra, but as time passes, he tends to become less devout; he no longer reveres nor serves the priest and arrogantly forms distorted views. This is most frightening. Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets. For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop on the twelfth, how can you admire the moon over the capital? No matter what, be close to the priest who knows the heart of the Lotus Sutra, keep learning from him the truth of Buddhism and continue your journey of faith.

How swiftly the days pass! It makes us realize how short are the years we have left. Friends enjoy the cherry blossoms together on spring mornings and then they are gone, carried away like the blossoms by the winds of impermanence, leaving nothing but their names. Although the blossoms have scattered, the cherry trees will bloom again with the coming of spring, but when will those people be reborn? The companions with whom we composed poems praising the moon on autumn evenings have vanished with the moon behind the shifting clouds. Only their mute images remain in our hearts. The moon has set behind the western mountains, yet we shall compose poetry under it again next autumn. But where are our companions who have passed away? Even when the approaching Tiger of Death roars, we do not hear. How many more days are left to the sheep bound for slaughter?

Deep in the Snow Mountains lives a bird called Kankucho which, tortured by the numbing cold, cries that it will build a nest in the morning. Yet, when the day breaks, it sleeps away the hours in the warm light of the morning sun without building its nest. So it continues to cry vainly throughout its life. The same is true of people. When they fall into hell and suffocate in its flames, they long to be reborn as humans and vow to put everything else aside and serve the three treasures in order to attain enlightenment in their next life. But even on the rare occasions when they happen to be reborn human, the winds of fame and fortune blow violently and the lamp of Buddhist practice is easily extinguished. The squander their wealth without a qualm on meaningless trifles but begrudge even the smallest contribution to the Buddha, the Law, and the Priest. This is very serious, for then they are being hindered by messengers from hell. This is the meaning of "Good by the inch invites evil by the yard."

Furthermore, since this is a land whose people slander the Lotus Sutra, the gods who would be protecting them thirst for the Law and ascend to heaven, forsaking their shrines. The empty shrines are the occupied by demons who mislead the worshippers. The Buddha, his teachings completed, returned to eternal paradise. Temples and shrines were abandoned to become the dwellings of devils. These imposing structures stand in rows, built at state expense, and still the people suffer. These are not merely my own words; they are found in the sutras, so you should learn them well.

Neither Buddhas nor gods would ever accept contributions from those who slander the Law. Then how can we human beings accept them? The deity of Kasuga Shrine proclaimed through an oracle that he would accept nothing from those with impure hearts, though he should have to eat the flames of burning copper; that he would refuse to set foot in their homes, though he should have to sit on red-hot copper. He would rather come down to a miserable hut with weeds choking the passageway, or to a poor thatched cottage. He declared that he would never visit the unfaithful even if they hung sacred festoons for a thousand days to welcome him, but that he would go to a house where the people believe, no matter how others might shun their wretchedness. Lamenting that slanderers overturn this country, the gods abandoned it and ascended to heaven. "Those with impure hearts" means those who refuse to embrace the Lotus Sutra, as is stated in the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra. If the gods themselves regard alms from slanderers as "flames of burning copper," how could we common mortals possibly consume them? If someone were to kill our parents and then try to offer us some gift, could we possibly accept it? Not even sages or saints con avoid the hell of incessant suffering if they accept offerings from slanderers. Nor should you associate with slanderers, for if you do, you will share the same guilt as they. This you should fear above all.

Shakyamuni is the father, sovereign and teacher of all other Buddhas and all gods, of the whole assembly of men and heavenly beings, and of all sentient beings, What god would rejoice if Shakyamuni were killed? Today all the people of our country have proved to be enemies of Shakyamuni, but more than lay men or women, it is the priests with twisted understanding who are the Buddha's worst enemies. There are two kinds of understanding, true and perverted. No matter how learned a person may appear, if his ideas are warped you should not listed to him. Nor should you follow priests merely because they are venerable or of high rank. But if a person has the wisdom to know the spirit of the Lotus Sutra, no matter how lowly he may appear, worship him and serve him as though he were a living Buddha. This is stated in the sutra. That is why the Great Teacher Dengyo said that the lay men and women who believe in this sutra, even if they lack knowledge or violate the precepts, should be seated above Hinayana priests who strictly observe all 250 commandment. The priests of this Mahayana sutra should therefore be seated even higher. Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple is believed to be a living Buddha, but men and women who believe in the Lotus Sutra should be seated high above him. It seems extraordinary that this Ryokan, who observes the 250 commandments, should become angry and glower whenever he sees or hears about Nichiren. The sage, it seems, has been possessed by a devil. He is like a basically even tempered person who, when drunk reveals an evil side and causes trouble. The Buddha taught that giving alms to Mahakashyapa, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Subhuti, who did not yet know of the Lotus Sutra, would lead one to fall into the three evil paths. He said that these four great disciples were more base than wild dogs or jackals. They adamantly upheld the 250 Buddhist commandments, and their observance of the three thousand standards was as perfect as the harvest moon. But until they embraced the Lotus Sutra they were still like wild dogs to the Buddha. In his comparison, our priests are so base that they are beyond description.

So flagrantly do the priests of Kencho-ji and Engaku-ji temples break the code of conduct that it resembles a mountain which has collapse into rubble. Their licentious behavior is like that of monkeys. It is utterly futile to look for salvation in the next life by giving alms to such priests. There is no doubt that the protective gods have abandoned our land. Long ago the gods, bodhisattvas, and men of Learning pledged together in the presence of Shakyamuni that if there be a land hostile to the Lotus Sutra, they would become frost and hail in summer to drive the country into famine, or pestilence to devour the crops; or cause droughts, or floods to ruin the fields and farms; or become typhoons and sweep the people to their deaths; or transform themselves into demons and plague the people. Bodhisattva Hachiman was among those present. Does he not fear breaking the oath made at Eagle Peak? Should he break his promise, he would surely be doomed to the hell of incessant suffering -- a fearful, terrible thing to contemplate. Until the envoy of the Buddha actually appeared to expound the Lotus Sutra, the rulers of the land were not hostile to it, for they revered all the sutras equally. However, now that I am spreading the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha's envoy, everyone -- from ruler to the lowliest subject --has become a slanderer. So far Hachiman has done everything possible to prevent hostility toward the Lotus Sutra from developing among our people, as reluctant to abandon them as parents would be to abandon an only child, but now in fear of breaking the pledge he made at Eagle Peak, he has razed his shrine and ascended to heaven. Even so, should there be a votary of the Lotus Sutra who would give his life for it, Hachiman will watch over him. But since both Tensho Daijin and Hachiman have gone, how could the other gods remain in their shrines? Even if they did not wish to leave, how could they stay another day if I reproach them for not keeping their promise? A person may be a thief and as long as no one knows, he can live wherever he wishes. But when denounces as a thief by someone who knows him, he is forced to flee at once. In the same way, because I know of their vow, the gods are compelled to abandon their shrines. Contrary to popular belief, the land has become inhabited by demons. How pitiful!

Many have expounded the various teachings of Shakyamuni, but until now, no one, not even T'ien-t'ai or Dengyo, has taught the most important of all. That is as it should be, for that teaching appears and spreads with the advent of Bodhisattva Jogyo during the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law.

No matter what, always keep your faith in the Lotus Sutra steadfast. Then, at the last moment of your life, you will be welcomed by a thousand Buddhas, who will take you swiftly to the paradise at Eagle Peak where you will experience the true happiness of the Law. If your faith weakens and you do not attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, do not reproach me. If you do, you would be like the patient who refuses the medicine his physician prescribes and takes the wrong medicine instead. It never occurs to him that it is his fault, and he blames the physician when he does not recover. Faith in this sutra means that you will surely attain Buddhahood if you are true to the entirety of the Lotus Sutra, adhering exactly to its teachings without adding any of your own ideas or following the arbitrary interpretations of others.

Attaining Buddhahood is nothing extraordinary. If you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with your whole heart, you will naturally become endowed with the Buddha's thirty-two features and eighty characteristics. Shakyamuni stated, "At the start I pledged to make all people perfectly equal to me, without any distinction between us" Therefore, it is not difficult to become a Buddha. A bird's egg contains nothing but liquid, yet by itself this develops into a beak, two eyes, and all the other parts which form a bird, and can fly into the sky. We, too are like the egg, ignorant and base, but when nurtured by the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we develop the beak of the Buddha's thirty-two features and the feathers of his eighty characteristics and are free to soar into the skies of the ultimate reality. The Nirvana Sutra states that all people are enclosed by the shell of ignorance, lacking the beak of wisdom. The Buddha comes back to this world, just as a mother bird returns to her nest, and cracks the shell so that all people, like fledglings, may leave the nest and soar into the skies of enlightenment.

"Knowledge without faith" describes those who may be knowledgeable about the Lotus Sutra but do not believe in it. These people will never attain Buddhahood. Those of "faith without knowledge" may lack knowledge but believe, and can attain Buddhahood. These are not merely my own words but are explicitly stated in the sutra. In the second volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha said to Shariputra, "It is by faith and not by your own intelligence that you can attain enlightenment." This explains why even Shariputra, unsurpassed in his intelligence, was able to attain Buddhahood only by embracing and firmly believing in the sutra. Knowledge alone could not bring him to enlightenment. If Shariputra could not reach enlightenment through his vast knowledge, how can we, of little knowledge, dare to dream that we may attain Buddhahood if we do not have faith? The sutra explains that people in the Latter Day of the Law will be arrogant, though their knowledge of Buddhism is trifling, and will show disrespect to the Priest, neglect the Law and thereby fall into the evil paths. If one truly understands Buddhism, he should show this in his respect for the Priest, reverence for the Law and offerings to the Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha is not among us now, so you must respect the person with enlightened wisdom as you would the Buddha himself. If you sincerely follow him, your blessings will be bountiful. If one wishes for happiness in his next existence, he should renounce his desire for fame and fortune and respect the priest who teaches the Lotus Sutra as a living Buddha, no matter how humble that priest's station. Thus it is written in the sutra.

The Zen sect today violates the five great principles of humanity -- benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and faith. To honor the wise and virtuous, to respect the elderly and protect the young, are recognized universally as humane conduct in both Buddhist and secular realms. But the Zen priests, who are nothing but uneducated rabble, are not even intelligent enough to distinguish black from white. They have now donned gaudy priestly garments and become so conceited that they belittle the learned and virtuous priests of the Tendai and Shingon sects. They observe none of the proper manners and think that they rank higher than all others. These people are so insolent that even the animals are more respectable. Regarding this, the Great Teacher Dengyo wrote that the otter shows his respect before eating the fish he has caught, the crow in the forest carries food to its parents and grandparents, the dove takes care to perch three branches lower than its father, wild geese keep perfect formation when they fly together, and lambs kneel to drink their mother's milk. He asks, if lowly animals conduct themselves with such propriety, how can human beings be so lacking in courtesy? Judging from the words of Dengyo, it is only natural that the Zen priests should be confused about Buddhism when they are ignorant even of how men should behave. They are acting like devils.

Understand clearly what I have taught you here and practice without negligence all the teachings of the Lotus Sutra's eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters. When you long to see me, pray toward the sun and at the same time, my image will be reflected there. Have the priest who is my messenger read this letter to you. Trust him as a priest with enlightened wisdom and ask him any questions you may have about Buddhism. If you do not question and resolve your doubts, you cannot dispel the dark clouds of illusion, any more than you could travel a thousand miles without legs. Have him read this letter again and again and ask whatever questions you wish. In expectation of seeing you again, I will conclude here.

Respectfully, Nichiren

The second month in the third year of Koan (1280)

Letter to Priest Nichiro in Prison
 
Tomorrow, I am to leave for the province of Sado. In the cold tonight, I think of how it must be for you in prison, and feel pity for you. How admirable, that you have read the entirety of the Lotus Sutra with both body and mind! You will therefore be able to save your father and mother, your six kinds of relatives, and all living beings. Others read the Lotus Sutra with their mouths alone, reading only the words, but do not read it with their hearts. And even if they read it with their hearts, they do not read it with their actions. Praiseworthy indeed are those like you who read the sutra with both body and mind! The Lotus Sutra says [concerning one who reads this scripture]: "The young sons of the heavenly deities will attend and serve him. Swords and staves shall not touch him, and poison will have no power to harm him." Thus no injury will befall you. When you are released from prison, come to me quickly. I look forward eagerly to seeing you again.
 
With my deep respect,
Nichiren
 
The ninth day of the tenth month in the eighth
 
Letter to Shomitsu-bo
 
With regard to the Dainichi Sutra, Shan-wu-wei, Pu-k'ung and Chin-kang-chih declared that the principle of the Dainichi Sutra is the same as the principle of the Lotus Sutra, but in the matter of mudras and mantras, the Lotus Sutra is inferior. On the other hand, the Chinese priests Liang-hsu, Kuang-hsiu and Wei-chuan declared that the Dainichi Sutra cannot compare to the Kegon, Lotus or Nirvana Sutra, but is merely one of the sutras belonging to the Hodo category.
 
The Great Teacher Kobo of Japan states, "The Lotus Sutra is inferior even to the Kegon Sutra, and so of course it cannot compare to the Dainichi Sutra." He also says: "The Lotus Sutra was preached by Shakyamuni, while the Dainichi Sutra was preached by the Buddha Mahavairochana or Dainichi. The lord of teachings who proclaims the sutra is different in the two cases. In addition, Shakyamuni Buddha is a mere messenger of Dainichi Buddha. He preached the exoteric doctrines, which represent no more than the first step toward the esoteric doctrines." And again he states, "The Buddha of the Juryo chapter, which is the heart of the Lotus Sutra, is a Buddha in terms of the exoteric teachings; but from the point of view of the esoteric teachings, he is no more than a common mortal who is bound by and entangled in illusions and desire."
 
Nichiren, after pondering the matter, has this to say: The Dainichi Sutra is one of the newer translations and was transmitted to China by the Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei of India in the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the T'ang, in the fourth year of the K'ai-yuan era (716). The Lotus Sutra is one of the older translations, transmitted to China by the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva in the time of the Later Ch'in (384-417). The two are separated by an interval of more than three hundred years.
 
A hundred years or more after the Lotus Sutra was brought to China, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai Chih-che established in the realm of doctrinal studies the classification of the five periods and the four teaching. He refuted the doctrinal interpretations that had been put forward by the scholars of the preceding five hundred years or more, and through his practice of meditation he awakened to the truth of ichinen sanzen, realizing for the first time the principle of the Lotus Sutra. The Sanron school that had preceded the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai and the Hosso school that appeared after his time both taught the doctrine of the eight worlds but made no mention of the Ten Worlds. So these sects could not possibly have established the doctrine of ichinen sanzen.
 
The Kegon school had its beginnings among the various teachers of northern and southern China before T'ien-t'ai's advent. These teachers declared that the Kegon Sutra was superior to the Lotus Sutra, but at that time they did not refer to themselves as the Kegon school. It was Fa-tsang and Ch'eng-kuan, men of the reign of Empress Tse-t'ien, the consort of Emperor Kao-tsung of the T'ang, who first began using the term Kegon school.
 
This school, in its doctrinal interpretations, posits the five teachings, and, in its mediational practices, sets forth the principles of the ten mysteries and the six forms. All these teachings appear to be extremely impressive, and one might think that by means of them Ch'eng-kuan would have been able to refute the teachings of T'ien-t'ai. But in fact what Ch'eng-kuan did was to borrow T'ien-t'ai's doctrine of ichinen sanzen and define it as the true intent of the passage in the Kegon Sutra that reads, "The mind is like a skilled painter." We might say, then, that the Kegon school was actually defeated by T'ien-t'ai, or perhaps we should say that it was guilty of stealing the doctrine of ichinen sanzen. Ch'eng-kuan was, to be sure, a strict observer of the precepts. Not a single precept of either the Mahayana or Hinayana codes did he violate in any way. And yet he stole the doctrine of ichinen sanzen, a fact that ought to be made known by word of mouth.
 
Whether or not the term "Shingon school" was used in India is a matter of serious doubt. It may simply be that, because there is a group of sutras known as the Shingon sutras, Shan-wu-wei and others affixed the term "school" to the teachings based on these sutras when they introduced them to China. One should be well aware of this point.
 
In particular one should note that, when Shan-wu-wei came to judge the relative merits of the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra, he set forth the interpretation that the two are equal in principle but that the latter is superior in terms of practice. By this he meant that, although the principle of ichinen sanzen is the same in both the Lotus and the Dainichi sutras, the Lotus Sutra contains no mention of mudras and mantras, and is therefore, in terms of the practices to be carried out, inferior to the Dainichi Sutra. So long as it lacks actual descriptions of the formulas for practice, one cannot say that it represents the esoteric teachings in both theory and practice.
 
Nowadays many people in Japan, as well as many leaders of the different sects, subscribe to this opinion of Shan-wu-wei, including the leaders of the Tendai sect, who should be the last to do so. In this they are just like the members of the various sects who, although jealous [of the Nembutsu believers], have all begun themselves to call out the name of Amida, and have completely abandoned the particular object of worship revered in their own sects. So the Tendai priests have all sunk to the level of Shingon believers.
 
I am very suspicious of the logic underlying Shan-wu-wei's argument. This Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei declares that the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra are equal in principle but that the latter is superior in terms of practice. He is taking the doctrine of ichinen sanzen first enunciated by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai and reading it into the Dainichi Sutra and on that basis arbitrarily declaring that the two sutras are alike. But should we accept such an assertion?
 
For example, long ago, Hitomaro composed a poem that goes:
 
How I think of it -
 
dim, dim in the morning mist
 
of Akashi Bay,
 
that boat moving out of sight
 
beyond the islands.
 
Ki no Shukubo, Minamoto no Shitagau, and others have praised this poem, declaring it to be "the father and mother of poetry." Now suppose someone should announce that he had composed a poem and, without changing a single syllable, should proceed to recite this poem by Hitomaro and then boast that his talent was in no way inferior to that of Hitomaro. Would anyone be likely to agree with his claim? Uneducated people like hunters and fishermen might just possibly do so.
 
Now this principle of ichinen sanzen that was first put forward by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai is the father and mother of the Buddhas. Yet, a hundred years or so later, Shan-wu-wei steals this doctrine and proceeds to declare in his writings that the Dainichi Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are equal in principle and that the principle they have in common is this one of ichinen sanzen. Should any person of wisdom or understanding give credence to such a claim?
 
He further asserts that the Dainichi Sutra is superior in terms of practice because the Lotus Sutra contains no mention of mudras and mantras. Now is he speaking of the relative worth of the Sanskrit versions of the Dainichi and Lotus sutras? Or is he speaking of the relative worth of the Chinese versions of these two sutras?
 
The Learned Doctor Pu-k'ung's translation of the Hokke Gengi, or Rituals Based on the Lotus Sutra, indicates that the Lotus Sutra does in fact contain mudras and mantras. Similarly, the older translation of the Ninno Sutra by Kumarajiva contains no mudras or mantras; but the later translation of the same sutra by Pu-k'ung does contain mudras and mantras.
 
These various sutras as they existed in India no doubt had a countless number of such practices associated with them. But because India and China are far apart and it was difficult to transport everything, the sutras were abridged [when they were brought to China].
 
Although the Lotus Sutra does not mention mudras and mantras, it has the merit of declaring that persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku can attain Buddhahood, and even records the kalpas when this will happen, the lands where it will take place, and the names that the various shomon disciples will bear when they become Buddhas. And it also declares that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the incomparably distant past. The Dainichi Sutra may describe mudras and mantras, but it says nothing about the attainment of Buddhahood by those of the two vehicles of shomon and engaku, or the Buddha's original enlightenment in the far distant past.
 
If we compare this doctrine of the attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles with the matter of mudras and mantras, we will see that they are as far apart in importance as heaven and earth. In all the various sutras that the Buddha preached in the forty or more years before he preached the Lotus Sutra, persons of the two vehicles of shomon and engaku are described as [incapable of attaining Buddhahood, like] rotten seeds that will never sprout. They are condemned not merely in a word or two but in innumerable passages in sutra after sutra. In the Lotus Sutra, however, all these passages are refuted; and it is proclaimed that persons of the two vehicles can in fact attain Buddhahood.
 
As for mudras and mantras, where in any sutra has one ever encountered a passage condemning them? And since they have never been condemned, the Dainichi Sutra, as many other sutras do, feels no hesitation in mentioning mudras and mantras, and therefore teaches them.
 
A mudra is a gesture made with the hand. But if the hand does not become Buddha, how can mudras made with the hand lead one to Buddhahood? A mantra is a motion made with the mouth. But if the mouth does not become Buddha, how can mantras made with the mouth lead one to Buddhahood? If the persons of the two vehicles do not encounter the Lotus Sutra, then even though they may perform the mudras and mantras of the twelve hundred and more honored ones for innumerable kalpas, they will never attain Buddhahood in body, mouth or mind.
 
One who would declare as superior a text that contains no mention of the fact that persons in the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, though this is a highly superior teaching, but instead describes mudras and mantras, though these are a matter of inferior significance, must be a thief in terms of principle and a heretic in terms of practice - the kind who regards inferior things as superior. Because he committed this error, Shan-wu-wei was censured by Emma, the king of hell. Later he repented of it, revered the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, and put his faith in the Lotus Sutra; so he escaped the realm of evil.
 
The Buddha's original enlightenment in the far distant past is not even hinted at in the Dainichi Sutra. And yet this original enlightenment is the source of all Buddhas. Thus if we take the vast ocean as a symbol of the Buddha's original enlightenment in the distant past, then the fish and birds that inhabit it are comparable to the twelve hundred and more honored ones of the Shingon teachings. Without the revelation of the Buddha's enlightenment countless ages ago, the twelve hundred and more honored ones would become like so many bits of floating weed that lack any root, or like the nighttime dew that lasts only until the sun rises.
 
People of the Tendai sect fail to understand this matter and thus allow themselves to be deceived by the Shingon teachers. And the Shingon teachers themselves, unaware that their own sect is in error, go on vainly accumulating distorted ideas that can only lead to the evil paths of existence.
 
The priest Kukai [Kobo] not only failed to understand this principle, but in addition he borrowed a false interpretation of the Kegon sect that had already been refuted in the past; and adopted the erroneous view that the Lotus Sutra is inferior even to the Kegon Sutra. This is like talking about the length of turtles' fur or the existence of rabbits' horns. Since turtles in fact have no fur growing on their shells, can we argue about how long the fur is? Since rabbits have no horns on their heads, how can we go about discussing the existence of such horns?
 
Even someone [like Shan-wu-wei] who declared that the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra are the same in principle could not escape the censure of King Emma. How then can someone who says that the Kegon Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi Sutra, and that the Lotus Sutra is in turn inferior to the Kegon Sutra, escape the charge of slandering the Law? Though the individuals involved may differ, the slander is the same. From this we can discern the reason why Kukai's principal disciple, the Administrator of Monks Kakinomoto no Ki, turned into a blue demon [after his death]. Unless Kukai has repented of his mistaken opinions and rectified them, he no doubt still remains in the realm of evil. What then will be the fate of his followers?
 
Question: Priest, why do you alone spew forth such evil words about other people?
 
Answer: I, Nichiren, am not condemning others. I am only pointing out the questionable places in their doctrines. If anyone wants to get angry at me, then let him!
 
Long ago, the doctrines of Brahmanism spread throughout the five regions of India and prevailed there for eight hundred or a thousand years, so that everyone, from the wheel-turning kings on down to the myriad common people, bowed his head in reverence. And yet all its ninety-five schools were from first to last refuted by the Buddha. The fallacious doctrines of the priests of the Shoron school prevailed for more than a hundred years, but were later refuted; and the mistaken opinions of the Buddhist leaders of northern and southern China, after being accepted for more than three hundred years, were likewise refuted. In Japan, the doctrines of the six sects of Nara were refuted after prevailing for more than two hundred and sixty years; in fact, the Great Teacher Dengyo refutes them in some of his writings.
 
In Japan, there are five sects that belong to Mahayana Buddhism, namely, the Hosso, Sanron, Kegon, Shingon and Tendai sects. There are three Hinayana sects, the Kusha, Jojitsu and Ritsu sects. Next, though the Shingon, Kegon, Sanron and Hosso sects derive from Mahayana Buddhism, if one examines them closely, one will find that in fact they all belong to the Hinayana.
 
A sect may be defined as something that encompasses all the three types of learning, namely precepts, meditation and wisdom. Leaving aside meditation and wisdom for the moment, we should note that by means of the precepts they uphold, the various sects can be clearly divided into those of Mahayana and those of Hinayana. Neither the To-ji branch of the Shingon sect, nor the Hosso, Sanron or Kegon sect, has its own ordination platform for the administering of the precepts, and therefore they must use the platform at Todai-ji in Nara. This means that they are binding themselves to the precepts put forth by the Ritsu sect, a Hinayana sect, which are no better than donkey's milk or stinking excrement. In terms of the precepts that they observe, therefore, all these sects are to be classified as Hinayana.
 
The Great Teacher Dengyo received instruction in the teachings of the two sects of Tendai and Shingon [in China] and brought them back to Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei. But in urging the establishment of an ordination platform for administering the precepts, Dengyo referred to the perfect meditation, perfect wisdom and perfect precepts of the perfect and immediate enlightenment of the Tendai sect. So it appears that he did not think it proper to use the term Shingon sect alongside the name Tendai sect. In the memorial that he submitted to the imperial court, he refers to the Shikan (concentration and insight) and Shingon (Vairochana discipline) practices of the Tendai-Hokke sect. And the oath concerning the precepts that Dengyo handed down to his disciple Jikaku in fact speaks of "the Shikan and Shingon of the Tendai-Hokke sect," with the term "Shingon sect" clearly omitted.
 
The Tendai-Hokke sect is known as the Buddha-founded sect, having been established by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. The Shingon sect was the invention of common mortals, and its scholars and teachers of later times were the ones who began to use the term "sect" to describe themselves. However, they ascribed the founding of the sect to the Buddha Dainichi and Bodhisattva Miroku. But only the single sect devoted to the Lotus Sutra conforms to the true intent of Shakyamuni Buddha.
 
The Hinayana teachings are divided into two sects, eighteen sects, or even twenty sects; but in essence they all expound a single principle, namely, the impermanence of all phenomena.
 
The Hosso sect teaches that all phenomena arise from the mind alone but have actual existence. There are countless different sects belonging to the Mahayana teachings, but insofar as they subscribe to this view - that the mind alone produces all phenomena but that phenomena have actual existence - then they may be regarded as constituting a single sect. The Sanron sect teaches that all phenomena arise from the mind alone and are without real existence. Again, there are countless different Mahayana sects, but insofar as they subscribe to this view - that the mind alone produces all phenomena and that phenomena have no real existence - then they may be regarded as constituting a single sect. So all these sects stress one or the other of two partial truths of the Mahayana: that phenomena have actual existence or that they are non-substantial (ku) in nature.
 
As for the Kegon and Shingon sects, if we were to speak generously of them, we could say that they represent the doctrine of the Middle Way that is independent of non-substantiality and temporary existence, while if we were to speak strictly of them, we would have to say that they are on a level with the two above-mentioned Mahayana views of phenomena. In terms of their content, the Dainichi Sutra cannot compare even with the Kegon or Hannya sutras. But because so many distinguished persons still put their faith in the Dainichi Sutra, the situation is rather like that of a king who bestows his love on a woman of humble station. The Dainichi Sutra is like a woman of humble station because its principles do not go beyond the doctrine of the Middle Way that is independent of non-substantiality and temporary existence. And the scholars and teachers who have upheld the Dainichi Sutra are comparable to a king because they command respect and influence among the people.
 
Since we are now living in the latter age when people are shallow in wisdom and puffed up with pride, it is unlikely that anyone will heed the points I have made in the discussion above. But when a sage or worthy man appears, then the full truth of the matter will no doubt become clear. Because I feel pity for you, I have written this letter as a guide. I hope you will study it when you have time.
 
The points touched on here are very important matters of doctrine. When you pay your respects to Bodhisattva Kokuzo, you should make a regular practice of reading this aloud.
 
Sent to Shomitsu-bo
 
Nichiren
 
Letter to the Brothers
- Kyodai Sho -
 
The Lotus Sutra is the heart of the eighty thousand teachings and the core of the twelve types of sutras. All the Buddhas, whether of the past, present or future, attain enlightenment because they take this sutra as their teacher. Throughout the universe, they lead the people with the sight they have obtained from the supreme vehicle. Entering the sutra repository and examining the complete collection contained therein, I found that there were two versions of the sutras and treatises brought to China between the Yung-p'ing era of the Latter Han and the end of the T'ang dynasty. There were 5,048 volumes of the older translations and 7,399 volumes of the newer translations. Each sutra, by virtue of its contents, claimed to be the highest teaching of all. However, comparison reveals that the Lotus Sutra is as superior to all the other sutras as heaven is to the earth. It rises above them like a cloud above the ground. If other sutras should be compared to stars, the Lotus Sutra is like the moon. If they are as torches, stars or the moon, the Lotus Sutra is then as bright as the sun.
 
More specifically, the Lotus Sutra contains twenty important principles. The first two are the teachings of sanzen-jintengo and gohyaku-jintengo. Sanzen-jintengo is explained in the seventh chapter entitled Kejoyu-hon. Suppose someone grinds a galaxy into dust. Then he takes this dust with him and goes one thousand galaxies toward the east, where he drops one particle. He then proceeds another thousand galaxies eastward and drops the second particle. He continues on in this manner, dropping another particle and another until he has exhausted the entire galaxy of dust particles. Then he gathers up all the galaxies along his journey, whether they received a particle or not, and reduces them all to dust. He places these dust particles in a row, allowing one entire aeon to pass for the placement of each particle. When the first aeon has passed he places the second particle, and then the third, until as many aeons have passed as there are particles of dust. The total length of time represented by the passage of all those aeons is called sanzen-jintengo.
 
It was this long ago--in the remote past indicated by sanzen-jintengo--that the three groups of Shakyamuni's disciples, including Shariputra, Mahakashyapa, Ananda and Rahula, learned the Lotus Sutra from a bodhisattva who was the sixteenth son of Daitsu Buddha. However, deluded by evil people, they eventually abandoned the Lotus Sutra. They fell back into the Kegon, Hannya, Daijuku or Nirvana Sutra, or further down into the Dainichi, Jinmitsu or Kanmuryoju Sutra, or even backslid to the Hinayana teachings of the Agon sutras. Continuing this descent, they fell down through relatively blessed lives of Rapture or Tranquility and finally into the paths of evil. During this period of sanzen-jintengo they were most often born into the hell of incessant suffering. Sometimes they were born in the seven major hells, or less frequently, in the hundred and some other hells. On very rare occasions they were born into lives of Hunger, Animality or Anger, and only after myriads of aeons they were able to be born again as humans into lives of Tranquility or Rapture.
 
The third chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, "They dwell in hell so long that they come to think it as natural as playing in a garden, and the other evil paths seem like their own home." Those who commit the ten evil acts fall into the hell of Tokatsu or Kokujo and there must spend five hundred lifetimes or one thousand hell-years. Those who commit the five cardinal sins fall into the hell of incessant suffering, and after staying there for one medium aeon, are born again in this world.
 
Why is it, then, that those who abandon the Lotus Sutra fall into the hell of incessant suffering and have to stay there for such an unimaginably great number of aeons? The sin of discarding one's faith in the sutra must at the time seem nowhere near as terrible as killing one's parents. However, even if one killed his parents in one, two, ten, one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, one million or even one billion lifetimes, he would not have to remain in hell for a period as long as sanzen-jintengo. Even if one were to kill one, two, ten, one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, or as many as one billion Buddhas, would he have to dwell in hell for as long as gohyaku-jintengo? The three groups of men of Learning, however, had to suffer through the period of sanzen-jintengo, and the great bodhisattvas, through that of gohyaku-jintengo, because of the sin they committed by discarding the Lotus Sutra. This shows what an unimaginably terrible sin it is.
 
To put this simply, if one strikes at the air, his fist will not hurt, but when he hits a rock, he feels pain. The sin of killing an evil person is minor, compared to the sin of killing a good person, which is grave. If one kills someone who is not his kin, it is like striking mud with his fist, but if he kills his own parents, it is like hitting a rock. A dog may bark at a deer and not have its skull broken, but if it barks at a lion, its intestines will rot. The Ashura tried to swallow the sun and the moon and had his head split into seven pieces. Because Devadatta harmed the Buddha, the earth split open and swallowed him alive. The seriousness of a sin depends on whom one harms.
 
The Lotus Sutra is the eye of every Buddha. It is the eternal master of Shakyamuni himself. If one discards one character or even a single dot, his sin is graver than that of one who kills his parents ten million times over, or even of one who sheds the blood of Buddhas everywhere in the universe. This is why those who forsook the Lotus Sutra had to suffer for as long as sanzen-jintengo or gohyaku-jintengo. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to meet a person who teaches this sutra exactly as it reads. It is even more difficult than for a one-eyed turtle to find a piece of floating sandalwood or for someone to dangle Mount Sumeru from the sky with a fiber from a lotus stem.
 
The Great Teacher Tz'u-en was the disciple of Priest Hsuan-chuang and the teacher of Emperor T'ai-tsung. He was a saint who was not only well-versed in the Sanskrit and Chinese scriptures but had memorized all of the Buddha's sutras. It is said of him that the Buddha's ashes fell from the tip of his writing brush and that light shone forth from his teeth. His contemporaries respected him as though he were the sun and the moon, and men in later ages earnestly sought out his teachings as guides for living. Even so, the Great Teacher Dengyo denounced him, writing, "Even though he praises the Lotus Sutra, he destroys its heart." The quotation means that even though he intended to praise the Lotus Sutra, in the end, he destroyed it.
 
Priest Shan-wu-wei was once the king of Udyana in India. He abdicated the throne, became a priest, and in the course of his Buddhist practice journeyed through more than fifty countries in India, finally mastering all the esoteric and exoteric teachings of Buddhism. Later he went to China and became the teacher of Emperor Hsuan-tsung. Every Shingon priest in both China and Japan has since become his follower. Though he was such a noble person, he died suddenly, tormented by Enma, the king of hell, although no one knows why.
 
Nichiren considers that this happened because Shan-wu-wei was at first a votary of the Lotus Sutra, but when he read the Dainichi Sutra, he declared it superior to the Lotus Sutra. Similarly, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and others were not doomed to wander through the evil paths for the period of sanzen-jintengo or gohyaku-jintengo because they had committed the ten evils or the five cardinal sins. Nor was it because they had committed any of the eight rebellious acts. It was because they met someone who was an evil influence, and discarded the Lotus Sutra to take faith in the provisional teachings.
 
According to the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, "If one befriends an evil person, he will lose his mind." "Mind" means the heart which believes in the Lotus Sutra, while "lose" means to betray one's faith in the Lotus Sutra and follow other sutras. The Lotus Sutra reads, "...but when they are given the medicine, they refuse to take it." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai stated, "Those who had lost their minds would not take the excellent medicine, even though it was given them. Lost in suffering, they fled to other countries."
 
Since this is so, the believers of the Lotus Sutra should fear those who plague their practice more then they fear bandits, burglars, midnight killers, tigers, wolves or lions--even more than invasion by the Mongols. This world is the province of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. All of its people have been related to him since time without beginning. He has not only built the prison of twenty-five realms within the six paths and confined all mankind, but also made wives and children into shackles and parents and sovereigns into nets that block off the skies. To confound the Buddha nature which is the people's true mind, he causes them to drink the wine of greed, anger and stupidity, and feeds them nothing but poisoned dishes that leave them prostrate on the ground of the three evil paths. When he happens on one with a seeking mind, he acts to obstruct him. If he sees that he is powerless to make a believer in the Lotus Sutra fall into evil, he tries to deceive him gradually by luring him toward the Kegon Sutra, which resembles the Lotus Sutra. This was done by the priests Tu-shun, Chih-yen, Fa-tsang and Ch'eng-kuan. Then, the priests Chia-hsiang and Seng-ch'uan craftily deceived the believers in the Lotus Sutra into falling back upon the Hannya sutras. Hsuan-chuang and Tz'u-en led them toward the Jinmitsu Sutra, while Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung, Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho deluded them into following the Dainichi Sutra. Bodhidharma and Hui-k'o caused them to stray into the Zen sect, while Shan-tao and Honen tricked them into believing the Kanmuryoju Sutra. In each case the Devil of the Sixth Heaven possessed these Buddhist scholars in order to deceive the believers, just as foretold in the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra: "The devil enters one's body."
 
The devil of fundamental darkness can even enter the life of a bodhisattva who has reached the highest stage of practice and prevent him from attaining the Lotus Sutra's ultimate blessing--Buddhahood itself. Thus he can easily obstruct those in any lower stage of practice. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven enters the lives of a man's wife and children and deludes him. He also possesses the sovereign in order to threaten the votary of the Lotus Sutra, or causes parents to hinder the faith of devoted children.
 
Prince Siddhartha wanted to renounce his title, but his son, Rahula, had already been conceived. His father, King Shuddhodana, therefore admonished him to wait until after the child was born before he left to become a monk. However, a devil delayed the childbirth for six years.
 
In the distant past, Shariputra began his practice of bodhisattva austerities during the Latter Day of Sendara Buddha. He had already practiced for sixty aeons when the Devil of the Sixth Heaven became worried that in another forty aeons, Shariputra would complete his bodhisattva practice. The devil disguised himself as a Brahman, and begged Shariputra for his eye. Shariputra gave him an eye, but from that moment, he lost his will to practice and then gave up, thereby falling into the hell of incessant suffering for countless aeons. Sixty-eight million believers in the Latter Day of Daishogon Buddha were deceived by Priest Kugan and three other priests so that they denounced Priest Fuji and as a result fell into the same hell for as many aeons as there are particles of dust on earth. The men and women in the Latter Day of Shishionno Buddha followed Priest Shoi who observed the precepts, but mocked Kikon and also remained in hell for countless aeons.
 
It is the same with Nichiren's disciples. The Lotus Sutra reads, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" It also reads, "The people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe." The Nirvana Sutra reads, "By suffering sudden death, torture, slander or humiliation, beatings with a whip or rod, imprisonment, starvation, adversity or other relatively minor hardships in this lifetime, he will not have to fall into hell." The Hatsunaion Sutra reads, "You may be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished or heretical family, or be persecuted by your sovereign. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can diminish in this lifetime his suffering and retribution."
 
This means that we, who now believe in the True Law, once committed the sin of persecuting its votary in the past, and should therefore be destined to fall into a terrible hell in the future. However, the blessings gained by practicing the True Law are so great that we can change our karma to suffer terribly in the future by meeting relatively minor sufferings in this life. As the sutra describes, one's past slander may cause him to be born into a poor or heretical family or be persecuted by his sovereign. A "heretical family" is one which slanders the True Law and "persecution by one's sovereign" means to live under the rule of an evil king. These are the two sufferings confronting you now. In order to expiate your past slanders, you are opposed by your parents who hold heretical views, and must live in the age of a sovereign who persecutes the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra makes this absolutely clear. Cast off any thoughts you may have to the contrary. If you doubt that you committed slander in the past, you will not be able to withstand the minor sufferings of this life. Then, you might give in to your father's opposition and desert the Lotus Sutra against your will. Remember that should this happen, you are certain to fall into the hell of incessant suffering and drag your parents into it as well, causing all of you indescribable grief. To grasp this requires a great seeking spirit.
 
Each of you has continued your faith in the Lotus Sutra and can therefore rid yourselves of your heavy sins from the past. For example, the flaws in iron come to the surface when it is forged. Put into flames, a rock just turns to ashes, but gold is rendered into pure gold. This persecution more than anything else will prove your faith genuine, and the Jurasetsu (Ten Goddesses) of the Lotus Sutra will surely protect you. The demon who appeared to test Sessen Doji was actually Taishaku. The dove saved by King Shibi was Bishamon. It is even possible that the Jurasetsu have possessed your parents in order to test your faith. Any weakness will be cause for regret. The cart which overturns on the road ahead is a warning to the one behind.
 
In an age like this no one can help but thirst for the true way. You may hate this world, but you cannot escape. All Japanese are certain to meet with terrible fortune in the immediate future. The revolt which broke out on the eleventh day of the second month in the ninth year of Bun'ei (1272) was like blossoms being lashed by a gale or like bolts of silk burning in an inferno. Who can help but abhor a world like ours?
 
In the tenth month in the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274), the people on Iki and Tsushima islands were slaughtered at one stroke. How can we say that this is no concern of ours? The soldiers who went off to confront the invaders--how forlorn they must have been! They had to leave behind their aged parents, little children, young wives and cherished homes to go out and defend a strange and foreboding sea. They saw clouds on the horizon and imagined them to be the enemy's banners. They saw ordinary fishing boats, thought them Mongol warships and were paralyzed with fear. Once or twice a day they climbed the hills to look out over the sea. Three or four times in the middle of the night they saddled and unsaddled their horses. They felt the stark reality of the shura in their own lives. All this and the persecutions you have suffered as well can ultimately be blamed on the fact that this country's sovereign has become an enemy of the Lotus Sutra. His opposition was instigated by the slanderous priests who follow the Hinayana precepts or the Nembutsu and Shingon doctrines. You must endure this trial and see for yourselves the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren will also loudly call upon the Buddhist gods. Now more than ever, you must neither show nor feel any fear.
 
Women are faint-hearted, and your wives have probably given up. Yet you must grit your teeth and never slacken in your faith. Be as fearless as Nichiren when he faced Hei no Saemon. Although theirs was not the road to enlightenment, the sons of Lord Wada and Lord Wakasa, as well as the warriors under Masakado and Sadato, fought to the death to preserve their honor. Death comes to all, even should nothing untoward ever happen. Therefore you must never be cowardly or make yourselves the subject of ridicule.
 
I am deeply worried about you both. Therefore I will relate a story which is important for you. There were two princes named Po-i and Shu-ch'i who were sons of the king of Hu-chu in China. Their father had willed his title to the younger brother, Shu-ch'i, yet after he passed away Shu-ch'i refused to ascend to the throne. Po-i urged Shu-ch'i to assume the title, but Shu-ch'i insisted that Po-i, the elder brother, do so instead. Po-i persisted, asking how the younger brother could contradict