Index | Original | http://www.sgi-usa.org/buddhism/library/Nichiren/Gosho/OpeningEyesPart1.htm | Concordance
There are three categories of people that all men and women should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent. There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism.
Confucianism describes the Three Sovereigns1, the Five Emperors2 and the Three Kings3, whom it calls the Honorable Ones of Heaven. These men are depicted as the heads of the government officials and the bridges for the populace. In the age before the Three Sovereigns, people were no better than birds and beasts in that they did not even know who their own fathers were. But from the time of the Five Emperors on, they learned to know what both their father and mother were to themselves, treating them according to the dictates of filial piety. Thus Chung-hua served his father with reverence, though the latter was stubborn and hardheaded. Also, the governor of P’ei, after he became the emperor, continued to pay great respect to his father, the Venerable Sire. King Wu4 of the Chou dynasty made a wooden image of his father, the Earl of the West, and Ting Lan5 fashioned a statue of his mother. All of these men are models of filial piety.
The high minister Pi Kan6, seeing that the Yin dynasty was on the path to ruin, strongly admonished the ruler, though it cost him his head. Hung Yen7, finding that his lord, Duke Yi, had been killed, cut open his own stomach and inserted the duke’s liver in it before he died. These men may serve as models of loyalty.
Yin Shou was the teacher of Emperor Yao, Wu Ch’eng was the teacher of Emperor Shun, T’ai-kung Wang8 was the teacher of King Wen, and Lao Tzu was the teacher of Confucius9. These teachers are known as the four sages. Even the Honorable Ones of Heaven bow their heads to them in respect, and all people press their palms together in reverence. Sages such as these have left behind writings that run to over three thousand volumes in such works as the Three Records, the Five Canons and the Three Histories10. But all these writings in the end do not advance beyond the three mysteries. The first of the three mysteries is Being11. This is the principle taught by the Duke of Chou and others. The second mystery is Non-Being12 which was expounded by Lao Tzu. The third is Both Being and Non-Being13, which is the mystery set forth by Chuang Tzu. Mystery denotes darkness. Some say that, if we ask what existed before our ancestors were born, we will find that life was born out of the primal force, while others declare that eminence and ignobility, joy and sorrow, right and wrong, gain and loss occur simply as part of the natural order.
These are theories that are cleverly argued, but which fail to take cognizance of either the past or the future. Mystery, as we have seen, means darkness or obscurity, and it is for this reason that it is called mystery. It is a theory that deals with matters only in terms of the present. Speaking in terms of the present, the Confucians declare that one should abide by the principles of benevolence and righteousness14 and thereby insure safety to oneself and peace and order to the state. If one departs from these principles, they say, then one’s family will be doomed and one’s house overthrown. But although the wise and worthy men who preach this doctrine are acclaimed as sages, they know nothing more about the past than an ordinary person unable to see his own back, and they understand as little about the future as a blind man who cannot see what lies in front of him.
If, in terms of the present, one brings order to one’s family, carries out the demands of filial piety, and faithfully practices the five constant virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and good faith, then one’s associates will respect one and one’s name will become known throughout the country. If there is a wise ruler on the throne, he will invite such a person to become his minister or his teacher, or may even cede his position to him. Heaven too will come to protect and watch over such a person. Such were the so-called Five Elders15 who gathered about and assisted King Wu of the Chou dynasty, or the twenty-eight generals of Emperor Kuang-wu of the Later Han, who were likened to the twenty-eight constellations of the sky16. But since such a person knows nothing about the past or the future, he cannot assist his parents, his sovereign or his teacher in making provisions for their future lives, and he is therefore unable to repay the debt he owes them. Such a person is not a true worthy man or sage.
Confucius declared that there were no worthy men or sages in his country, but that in the land to the west there was one named Buddha who was a sage17." This indicates that non-Buddhist texts should be regarded as the first step toward Buddhist doctrine. Confucius first taught the doctrine of rites and music18 so that, when the Buddhist scriptures were brought to China, the concepts of the precepts, meditation and wisdom19 could be more readily grasped. He taught the ideals of ruler and minister so that the distinction between superior and subordinate could be made clear, he taught the ideal of parenthood so that the importance of filial piety could be appreciated, and he explained the ideal of the teacher so that people might be taught to follow.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo says: "The propagation of Buddhism truly depends on this. First the teachings on rites and music were expounded, and later the true way was introduced.20" T’ien-t’ai states: "In the Konkomyo Sutra it is recorded that ‘All the good teachings that exist in the world derive from this sutra. To have a profound knowledge of this world is itself Buddhism.21’" In the Maka shikan we read: "I [the Buddha] have dispatched the Three Sages22 to educate the land of China." In the Guketsu, we read: "The Shojohogyo Sutra states that Bodhisattva Gakko appeared in that land under the name Yen Hui, Bodhisattva Kojo appeared there as Confucius, and Bodhisattva Kashyapa appeared as Lao Tzu. Since the sutra is speaking from the point of view of India, it refers to China as ‘that land.’ "
Secondly, we come to the non-Buddhist teachings of India. In Brahmanism we find the two deities Shiva, who has three eyes and eight arms, and Vishnu. They are hailed as the loving father and compassionate mother of all living beings and are also called the Honorable One of Heaven and sovereign. In addition, there are three men, Kapila, Uluka and Rishabha23, who are known as the three ascetics. These ascetics lived somewhere around eight hundred years before the time of the Buddha. The teachings expounded by the three ascetics are known as the four Vedas, and number sixty thousand.
Later, in the time of the Buddha, there were the six non-Buddhist teachers, who studied and transmitted these non-Buddhist scriptures and acted as tutors to the kings of the five regions of India.24 Their teachings split into ninety-five or ninety-six different lines, forming school after school. The banners of their pride were lifted up higher than the heaven where there is neither thought nor no thought, and their dogmatic rigidity was harder than metal or stone. But in their skill and depth of understanding, they surpassed anything known in Confucianism. They were able to look into the past and perceive two, three, or even seven existences, a period of eighty thousand kalpas, and they could likewise know what would happen eighty thousand kalpas in the future. As the fundamental principle of their doctrine, some of these schools taught that causes produce effects, others taught that causes do not produce effects, while still others taught that causes both do and do not produce effects. Such were the fundamental principles of these non-Buddhist schools.
The devout followers of the non-Buddhist teachings observe the five precepts25 and the ten good precepts26, practice the kind of meditation that is still accompanied by outflows and, ascending to the worlds of form and formlessness27, believe they have attained nirvana when they reach the highest level of heavens. But although they make their way upward bit by bit like an inchworm, they fall back from the heaven where there is neither thought nor no thought, and descend instead into the three evil paths. Not a single one succeeds in remaining on the level of heavens, though they believe that once a person has attained that level, he will never descend from it. Each approves and practices the doctrines taught by his teacher and stoutly abides by them. Thus some of them bathe three times a day in the Ganges even on cold winter days, while others pull out the hairs on their head, fling themselves against rocks, expose themselves to fire, burn their bodies, or go about stark naked. Again there are those who believe they can gain good fortune by sacrificing many horses, or who burn grasses and trees, or make obeisance to every tree they encounter.
Erroneous teachings such as these are too numerous to be counted. Their adherents pay as much respect and honor to the teachers who propound them as the various deities pay to the god Taishaku or the court ministers pay to the ruler of the empire. But not a single person who adheres to these ninety-five types of higher or lower non-Buddhist teachings ever escapes from the cycle of birth and death. Those who follow teachers of the better sort will, after two or three rebirths, fall into the evil paths, while those who follow evil teachers will fall into the evil paths in their very next rebirth.
And yet the final conclusion of these non-Buddhist teachings constitutes an important means of entry into Buddhism. Some of them state, "A thousand years from now, the Buddha will appear in the world,"28 while others state, "A hundred years from now, the Buddha will appear in the world."29 The Nirvana Sutra remarks: "All scriptures or teachings, from whatever source, are ultimately the revelation of Buddhist truth. They are not non-Buddhist teachings." And in the Lotus Sutra it is written, "Before the multitude they seem possessed of the three poisons or manifest the signs of heretical views. My disciples in this manner use expedient means to save living beings."
Thirdly, we come to Buddhism. One should know that the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment is a great leader for all living beings, a great eye for them, a great bridge, a great helmsman, a great field of good fortune. The four sages and three ascetics of the Confucian and Brahmanical scriptures and teachings are referred to as sages, but in fact they are no more than ordinary people who have not yet been able to eradicate the three categories of illusion. They are referred to as wise men, but in fact they are no more than infants who cannot understand the principles of cause and effect. With their teachings for a ship, could one ever cross over the sea of the sufferings of birth and death? With their teachings for a bridge, could one ever escape from the maze of the six paths? But the Buddha, our great teacher, has advanced beyond even transmigration with change and advance30, let alone transmigration with differences and limitations31. He has wiped out even the very root of fundamental darkness,32 let alone the illusions of thought and desire that are as minor as branches and leaves.
This Buddha, from the time of his enlightenment at the age of thirty until his passing at the age of eighty, expounded his sacred teachings for a period of fifty years. Each word, each phrase he spoke is true; not a sentence, not a verse was false. The words of the sages and worthy men preserved in the scriptures and teachings of Confucianism and Brahmanism, as we have noted, are free of error, and the words match the spirit in which they were spoken. But how much more true is this in the case of the Buddha, no speaker of false words from countless kalpas in the past? In comparison to the non-Buddhist scriptures and teachings, the doctrines that he expounded in a period of fifty or so years represent the great vehicle, the true words of the great man. Everything that he preached, from the dawn of his enlightenment until the evening that he entered into nirvana, is none other than the truth.
However, when we examine the eighty thousand teachings of Buddhism33 expounded during a period of fifty or more years and recorded in scriptures, we find that they fall into various categories such as Hinayana and Mahayana, provisional and true sutras, exoteric and esoteric teachings, detailed and rough discourses, true words and false words, correct and incorrect views. But among these, the Lotus Sutra alone represents the correct teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, the truthful words of the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions. The World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment designated a specific period of the preceding forty years and more, and defined the various sutras preached during that period, numerous as the sands of the Ganges, as the sutras in which he had "not yet revealed the truth."34 He designated the Lotus Sutra preached during the eight years as the sutra in which he "now must reveal the truth."35 Thus Taho Buddha came forth from the earth to testify that "All that you have expounded [in the Lotus Sutra ] is the truth,"36 and the Buddhas that are emanations of Shakyamuni gathered together and extended their long tongues up to the Brahma heaven in testimony.37 These words are perfectly clear, perfectly understandable, brighter than the sun on a clear day or like the full moon at midnight. Look up to them and believe them, and when you turn away, cherish them in your heart!
The Lotus Sutra contains two important teachings.38 The Kusha, Jojitsu, Ritsu, Hosso and Sanron sects have never heard even so much as the name of these teachings. The Kegon and Shingon sects, on the other hand, have surreptitiously stolen these doctrines and made them the heart of their own teachings. The doctrine of ichinen sanzen,39 or three thousand realms in a single moment of life, is found in only one place, hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra . Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu were aware of it but did not bring it forth into the light. T’ien-t’ai Chih-che alone embraced it and kept it ever in mind.
The doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life begins with the concept of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds. But the Hosso and Sanron sects speak only of eight worlds40 and know nothing of the entirety of the Ten Worlds, much less of the concept of their mutual possession. The Kusha, Jojitsu and Ritsu sects derive their teachings from the Agon sutras. They are aware only of the six worlds and know nothing of the other four worlds. They declare that in all the ten directions there is only one Buddha, and do not even preach that there is any other Buddha in any of the ten directions. Of the principle that "all sentient beings alike possess the Buddha nature,"41 they of course say nothing at all. They refuse to acknowledge that even a single person possesses the Buddha nature. In spite of this, one will sometimes hear members of the Ritsu and Jojitsu sects declaring that there are Buddhas in the ten directions or that all living beings possess the Buddha nature. This is because the teachers of these sects who appeared after the passing away of the Buddha had stolen these Mahayana doctrines and incorporated them into the teachings of their own sects.
To illustrate, in the period before the appearance of Buddhism, the proponents of the non-Buddhist teachings in India were not so bound up in their own views. But after the appearance of the Buddha, when they had listened to and observed the Buddhist teachings, they became aware of the shortcomings of their own doctrines. They then conceived the clever idea of appropriating Buddhist teachings and incorporating them into their own doctrines, and as a result they fell into even deeper error than before. These are examples of the type of heretical teachings known as "appropriating Buddhism" or "misunderstanding Buddhism.[fubukkya and gakubuppaja]"42
The same thing occurred in the case of non-Buddhist scriptures in China. Before Buddhism was brought to China, Confucianism and Taoism were rather naive and childish affairs. But in the Later Han, Buddhism was introduced to China and challenged the native doctrines. In time, as Buddhism became more popular, there were certain Buddhist monks who, because they had broken the precepts, were forced to return to secular life, or who elected to join forces with the native creeds. Through such men, Buddhist doctrines were stolen and incorporated by the Confucian and Taoist teachings.
In volume five of the Maka shikan we read: "These days there are many devilish monks who break the precepts and return to lay life. Fearing that they will be punished for their action, they then go over to the side of the Taoists. Hoping to gain fame and profit, they speak extravagantly of the merits of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, usurping Buddhist concepts and reading them into their erroneous scriptures. They twist what is lofty and force it into a mean context, they destroy what is exalted and drag it down among the base, striving to put the two on an equal level."
Miao-lo, in his Guketsu comments on this passage as follows: "Though they are monks, they destroy the teachings of Buddhism. Some break the precepts and return to lay life, as Wei Yuan-sung43 did. Then, as laymen, they work to destroy the teachings of Buddhism. Men of this kind steal and usurp the correct teachings of Buddhism and use them to supplement and bolster the heretical writings. The passage on ‘twisting what is lofty...’ means that, adopting the outlook of the Taoists, they try to place Buddhism and Taoism on the same level, to make equals of the correct and the heretical, though reason tells us that this could never be. Having once been followers of Buddhist teachings, they steal what is correct and use it to bolster what is heretical. They twist the lofty eighty thousand teachings of the twelve divisions44 of the Buddhist canon and force them into the mean context of Lao Tzu’s two chapters and five thousand words, using them to interpret the base and heretical teachings of that text. This is what is meant by ‘destroying what is exalted and dragging it down among the base.’ " These comments should be carefully noted, for they explain the meaning of the foregoing description of events.
The same sort of thing happened within Buddhism itself. Buddhism was introduced to China during the Yung-p’ing era (AD. 58-75) of the Later Han dynasty, and, in time, established its supremacy over Confucian and Taoist teachings. But differences of opinion developed within Buddhism, resulting in the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north, which sprang up here and there like so many orchids or chrysanthemums. In the time of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties, however, the Great Teacher Chih-che overcame these various schools and returned Buddhism once more to its primary objective of saving all living beings.
Later, the teachings of the Hosso and Shingon schools were introduced from India, and the Kegon school also made its appearance. Among these schools, the Hosso school set itself up as an arch opponent of the T’ien-t’ai school, because their teachings are contradictory to each other like fire and water. However, when the Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang and the Great Teacher Tz’u-en45 closely examined the works of T’ien-t’ai, they came to realize that the views of their own school were in error. Although they did not openly repudiate their own school, it appears that in their hearts they switched their allegiance to the T’ien-t’ai teachings.
From the beginning the Kegon and Shingon schools were both provisional schools based upon provisional sutras. But the Tripitaka masters Shan-wu-wei and Chinkang-chih [who introduced the esoteric Shingon teachings to China] usurped the T’ien-t’ai doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life and made it the core of the teachings of their school, adding the practice of mudras and mantras46 and convincing themselves that their teachings surpassed T’ien-t’ai’s. As a result, students of Buddhism, unaware of the real facts, came to believe that the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life was to be found in the Dainichi Sutra that had been brought from India. Similarly, in the time of the Kegon patriarch Ch’eng-kuan, the T’ien-t’ai doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life was surreptitiously incorporated and used to interpret the passage in the Kegon Sutra that reads, "The mind is like a skilled painter." People were unaware that this was what had happened.
In the case of our own country of Japan, the Kegon and the other sects that comprised the six sects of Nara were introduced to Japan before the Tendai and Shingon sects. The Kegon, Sanron and Hosso sects argued and contended, as inimical to one another as water and fire. When the Great Teacher Dengyo appeared in Japan, he not only exposed the errors of the six sects, but also made it clear that the Shingon sect had stolen the principles of the Lotus Sutra as expounded by T’ien-t’ai and made them the heart of the teachings of its own sect. The Great Teacher Dengyo set aside the various tenets propounded by the leaders of the other sects and, solely in the light of the sutras, attacked their views. As a result, he was able to defeat eight eminent priests of the six sects, then twelve priests, then fourteen, then over three hundred, as well as the Great Teacher Kobo. Soon there was not a single person in all Japan who did not acknowledge allegiance to the Tendai sect, and the great temples of Nara, Toji and other temples throughout all the provinces became subordinate to the head temple of the Tendai sect at Mount Hiei. The Great Teacher Dengyo also made it clear that the founders of the various other schools in China, by acknowledging allegiance to the doctrines of T’ien-t’ai, had escaped committing the error of slandering the correct teachings of Buddhism.
Later, however, conditions in the world declined and people became increasingly shallow in wisdom. They no longer studied or understood the profound doctrines of the Tendai sect, and the other sects became more and more firmly attached to their prejudiced views. Eventually, the six sects and the Shingon sect turned upon and attacked the Tendai sect. The latter, growing ever weaker, in the end found that it was no match for the other sects. To aggravate the situation, absurd new sects such as Zen and Pure Land appeared and began attacking the Tendai sect as well, and more and more of its lay supporters transferred their allegiance to these erroneous sects. In the end, even those priests of the Tendai sect who were looked up to as men of eminent virtue all admitted defeat and lent their support to these sects. Not only Tendai but Shingon and the six sects as well were forced to yield their lands and estates to the new heretical sects, and the correct teachings [of the Lotus Sutra] fell into oblivion. As a result, the Sun Goddess, the God Hachiman, the Mountain King of Mount Hiei, and the other benevolent deities who guard the nation, no longer able to taste the flavor of the correct teachings, departed from the land. Demons came forward to take their place, and it became apparent that the nation was doomed.
Here, with my humble outlook, I have considered the differences between the teachings expounded by the Buddha Shakyamuni during the first forty and more years and those expounded in the Lotus Sutra during the last eight years of his life. Although both differ in many ways, contemporary scholars have already expressed the opinion, and it is my conviction as well, that the chief difference lies in the fact that the Lotus Sutra teaches that persons of the two vehicles [shomon (Learning) and engaku (Realization)], voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, can attain Buddhahood47, and that the Buddha Shakyamuni in reality attained enlightenment at an inconceivably distant time in the past.48
When we examine the text of the Lotus Sutra , we see that it predicts that Shariputra will become Flower Glow Thus Come One, that Mahakashyapa will become Light Bright Thus Come One, Subhuti will become Rare Form Thus Come One, Katyayana will become Jambunada Gold Light Thus Come One, Maudgalyayana will become Tamalapattra Sandalwood Fragrance Buddha, Purna will become Law Bright Thus Come One, Ananda will become Mountain Sea Wisdom Unrestricted Power King Buddha, Rahula will become Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers Thus Come One49, the five hundred and seven hundred voice-hearers [shomon and engaku disciples] will become Universal Brightness Thus Come Ones, the two thousand shomon who have more to learn or do not have more to learn will become Jewel Sign Thus Come Ones, the nuns Mahaprajapati and Yashodhara will become the Thus Come Ones Gladly Seen by All Living Beings and Endowed with a Thousand Ten Thousand Glowing Marks, respectively.50
Thus, if we examine the Lotus Sutra , we will realize that these persons are worthy of great honor. But when we search through the scriptures expounded in the period previous to the Lotus Sutra , we find to our regret that the situation is far different.
The Buddha, the World-Honored One, is a man of truthful words. Therefore he is designated the sage and the great man. In the non-Buddhist scriptures of India and China there are also persons called worthy men, sages or heavenly ascetics because they speak words of truth. But because the Buddha surpasses all these, he is known as the great man.
[When he expounded the Lotus Sutra ,] this great man said, "The Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the world for one great reason alone."51 He also said, "I have not yet revealed the truth,"52 "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth,"53 and "[I,] honestly discarding expedient means, [will preach only the unsurpassed way]."54, Taho Buddha added his testimony to the words of the Buddha, and the emanations of the Buddha put forth their tongues as a token of assent. Who, then, could possibly doubt that Shariputra will in the future become Flower Glow Thus Come One, that Mahakashyapa will become Light Bright Thus Come One, or that the other predictions made by the Buddha will come true?
Nevertheless, all the sutras preceding the Lotus Sutra also represent the true words of the Buddha. The Daihoko butsu Kegon Sutra states: "There are only two places where the Great Medicine King Tree, which is the wisdom of the Thus Come One, will not grow and bring benefit to the world. It will not grow in the vast void that is the deep pit into which persons of the two vehicles [shomon and the engaku] fall, or in the profoundly heretical and craving-filled waters wherein drown beings unfit for Buddhahood who destroy their own roots of goodness."
This passage may be explained as follows. In the Snow Mountains55 there is a huge tree that has numberless roots. It is called the Great Medicine King Tree and is the monarch of all the trees that grow in the land of Jambudvipa.56 It measures 168,000 yojanas57 in height. All the other trees and plants of Jambudvipa depend upon the roots, branches, flowers and fruit of this tree to attain their own flowering and fruition. Therefore this tree is employed as a metaphor for the Buddha nature, and the various other trees and plants stand for all living beings. But this great tree will not grow in a fiery pit or in the watery circle.58 The fiery pit is used as a metaphor for the mind of persons of the two vehicles, and the watery circle is used as a metaphor for the mind of icchantikas or persons of incorrigible disbelief. The scripture is saying that these two categories of beings will never attain Buddhahood.
The Daijuku Sutra states: "There are two types of persons who are destined to die and not to be reborn, and who in the end will never be able to understand or repay their obligations. One is the voice-hearer and the other is the cause-awakened one. Suppose that a person falls into a deep pit. That person will be unable to benefit himself or to benefit others. The voice-hearer and the cause-awakened one are like this. They fall into the pit of emancipation and can benefit neither themselves nor others."
The more than three thousand volumes of Confucian and Taoist literature of China on the whole stress two principles, namely, filial piety and loyalty to the sovereign. But loyalty is nothing more than an extension of filial piety. Filial piety(pronounced Ko) may be described as lofty (Ko). Though heaven is lofty(Ko), it is no loftier(Ko) than the ideal of filial piety. Filial piety may be called deep (also pronounced Ko). Though earth is deep(Ko), it is no deeper than filial piety(Ko). Sages and worthy men are the product of filial piety. It goes without saying, therefore, that persons who study the teachings of Buddhism must also [observe the ideal of filial piety and] understand and repay their obligations59. The disciples of the Buddha must without fail understand the four debts of gratitude and know how to repay them.
In addition, Shariputra, Mahakashyapa and the other disciples, who were persons of the two vehicles, carefully observed the two hundred and fifty precepts60 and the three thousand rules of conduct,61 mastered the three types of meditation62-known as flavor meditation, pure meditation and free-of-outflows meditation-and carried out the teachings of the Agon sutras, and freed themselves from the illusions of thought and desire in the threefold world. They must therefore have been models in the understanding and repaying of obligations.
And yet the World-Honored One declared that they were men who did not understand obligation. He said this because, when a man leaves his parents and home and becomes a monk, he should always have as his goal the salvation of his father and mother. But these men upheld the two vehicles, and although they thought they had attained emancipation, they did nothing to benefit others. And even if they had done a certain amount to benefit others, they had led their parents to a path whereby they could never attain Buddhahood. Thus, contrary to what one might expect, they became known as men who did not understand their obligations.
In the Vimalakirti Sutra we read: ‘‘Vimalakirti63 once more questioned Monjushiri, saying, ‘What are the seeds of Buddhahood?’ Monjushiri replied, ‘All the delusions and defilement’s are the seeds of Buddhahood. Even though a person commits the five cardinal sins and is condemned to the hell of incessant suffering, he is still capable of conceiving the desire for the great way.’ "
The same sutra also says: "Good man, let me give you a metaphor. The plains and highlands will never bring forth the stems and blossoms of the blue lotus or the water lily. But the muddy fields that are low-lying and damp-that is where you will find these flowers growing."
It also says: "One who has already become an arhat and achieved the level of truth that goes with arhatship64 can never conceive the desire for the way and gain Buddhahood. He is like a man who has destroyed the five sense organs and therefore can never again enjoy the five delights that go with them."
The point of this sutra is that the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity can become the seeds of Buddhahood, and the five cardinal sins such as the killing of one’s father can likewise become the seeds of Buddhahood. Even if the high plains should bring forth blue lotus flowers, the persons of the two vehicles would never attain Buddhahood. The text is saying that, when the goodness of the persons of the two vehicles is compared with the evils of ordinary persons, it will be found that, though the evils of ordinary persons can lead to Buddhahood, the goodness of the persons of the two vehicles never can. The various Hinayana sutras censure evil and praise good. But this sutra, the Vimalakirti, condemns the goodness of persons of the two vehicles and praises the evils of ordinary persons. It would almost appear that it is not a Buddhist scripture at all, but rather the teachings of some non-Buddhist school. But the point is that it wants to make absolutely clear that the persons of the two vehicles can never become Buddhas.
The Hodo darani Sutra states: "Monju said to Shariputra, ‘Can a withered tree put forth new blossoms? Can a mountain stream turn and flow back to its source? Can a shattered rock join itself together again? Can a scorched seed send out sprouts?’ Shariputra replied, ‘No.’ Monju said, ‘If these things are impossible, then why do you come with joy in your heart and ask me if Buddhahood has been predicted for you in the future?’ "
The passage means that, just as a withered tree puts forth no blossoms, a mountain stream never flows backward, a shattered rock cannot be joined, and a scorched seed cannot sprout, so the persons of the two vehicles can never attain Buddhahood. In their case the seeds of Buddhahood have been scorched.
In the Daibon hannya Sutra, [Subhuti] says: "All you sons of gods, if you have not yet conceived a desire for perfect enlightenment, now is the time to do so. If you should once enter the realm of the enlightenment of voice-hearers, you would no longer be capable of conceiving such a desire for perfect enlightenment. Why is this? Because you would be outside the world of birth and death, which itself would constitute an obstacle." This passage indicates that he is not pleased with the persons of the two vehicles because they do not conceive the desire for perfect enlightenment, but he is pleased with the heavenly beings because they do conceive such a desire.
The Shuramgama Sutra states: "If a person who has committed the five cardinal sins should hear of this shuramgama meditation65 and should conceive the desire for supreme enlightenment, then, he would still be capable of attaining Buddhahood. But, World-Honored One, an arhat who has put an end to outflows is like a broken vessel, and will never be capable of receiving and upholding this meditation."
The Vimalakirti Sutra says: "Those who give alms to you are cultivating for themselves no field of good fortune. Those who give alms to you will fall into the three evil paths." This passage means that the human and heavenly beings who give alms to the sage monks such as Mahakashyapa and Shariputra will invariably fall into the three evil paths. Sage monks such as these, one would suppose, must be the eyes of the human and heavenly beings and the leaders of all living beings, second only to the Buddha himself. It must have been very much against common expectation that the Buddha spoke out time and again against such men before the great assemblies of human and heavenly beings, as we have seen him do. Was he really trying to reprimand his own disciples to death? In addition, he employed countless different metaphors in expressing his condemnation of the men of the two vehicles, calling them donkey milk as compared to cow’s milk, clay vessels as compared to vessels of gold, or the glimmer of a firefly as compared to the light of the sun.
He did not speak of this in one word or two, in one day or two, in one month or two, in one year or two, or in one sutra or two, but over a period of more than forty years, in countless sutras, addressing himself to great assemblies of countless persons, condemning the persons of the two vehicles without a single extenuating word. Thus everyone learned that his condemnation was true. Heaven learned it and earth learned it, not merely one or two persons but hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands learned and heard of it, as did all the human and heavenly beings, the persons of the two vehicles and the great bodhisattvas gathered in assembly from the worlds of the ten directions, the worlds of form and formlessness, the six heavens of the world of desire66, the four continents67 and the five regions of India, and the heavenly beings, the dragon gods and the asuras of the threefold world. Then each of these beings returned to his own land, explaining the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha of the saha world one by one to the inhabitants of his respective land, so that there was not a single being in the countless worlds of the ten directions who did not understand that Mahakashyapa, Shariputra and those like them would never attain Buddhahood and that it was wrong to give them alms and support.
In the Lotus Sutra preached during the last eight years of his life, however, the Buddha suddenly regretted and retracted his earlier position and instead taught that persons of the two vehicles can in fact attain Buddhahood. Could the human and heavenly beings gathered in the great assembly to listen to him be expected to believe this? Would they not rather reject it and, in addition, begin to entertain doubts about all the sutras preached in this and earlier periods? They would wonder if all the teachings put forward in the entire fifty years of the Buddha’s preaching were not, in fact, false and erroneous doctrines.
To be sure, there is a passage in the Muryogi Sutra that says, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." Nevertheless, one might wonder if the heavenly devil had not taken on the Buddha’s form and preached this sutra of the last eight years, the Lotus Sutra . In the sutra, however, the Buddha describes quite specifically how his disciples of the two vehicles will attain Buddhahood and reveals the kalpas and the lands in which they will appear, the names they will bear, and the disciples they will teach. Thus it becomes apparent that Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, is saying two different things. This clearly means that he is contradicting his own words. This is why the Brahmanists laugh at the Buddha and call him the great prevaricator.
But just as the human and heavenly beings in the great assembly were feeling downcast in the face of this contradiction, the Thus Come One Taho, who dwells in the world of Treasure Purity in the east, appeared in a huge tower adorned with the seven kinds of treasures68 and measuring 500 yojanas high and 250 yojanas wide. The human and heavenly beings in the great assembly accused Shakyamuni Buddha of contradicting his own words, and although the Buddha answered in one way or another, he was in considerable embarrassment, being unable to dispel their doubts, when the treasure tower emerged out of the ground before him and ascended into the sky. It came forth like the full moon rising from behind the eastern mountain in the dark of night. The tower of seven kinds of treasures ascended into the sky, clinging neither to the earth nor to the roof of the heavens, but hanging in midair, and from within the tower a pure and far-reaching voice issued, speaking words of testimony. [As the Lotus Sutra describes it:] "At that time a loud voice issued from the treasure tower, speaking words of praise: ‘Excellent, excellent! Shakyamuni, World-Honored One, that you can take the great wisdom of equality, a Law to instruct the bodhisattvas, guarded and kept in mind by the Buddhas, the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, and preach it for the sake of the great assembly! It is as you say, as you say. Shakyamuni, World-Honored One, all that you have expounded is the truth!’ "
[Elsewhere the Lotus Sutra says:] "At that time the World-Honored One, in the presence of Monjushiri and the other immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas who from of old had dwelled in the saha world, as well as . . . human and non-human beings — before all these he displayed his great supernatural powers.69 He extended his long broad tongue70 upward till it reached the Brahma heaven, and from all his pores71 [he emitted immeasurable, countless beams of light that illuminated] all the worlds in the ten directions.
"The other Buddhas, seated on lion seats underneath the numerous jeweled trees, did likewise, extending their long broad tongues and emitting immeasurable beams of light."72
And it also says73: "Shakyamuni Buddha caused the Buddhas who were emanations of his body and had come from the ten directions to return each one to his original land, saying: ‘. . . The tower of Taho Buddha may also return to its former position.’ "
In the past, when the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment first attained the way74, Buddhas appeared in the ten directions to counsel and encourage him, and various great bodhisattvas were dispatched to him. When he preached the Hannya Sutra, he covered the major world system75 with his long tongue, and a thousand Buddhas appeared in the ten directions. When he preached the Konkomyo Sutra, the four Buddhas76 appeared in the four directions, and when he preached the Amida Sutra, the Buddhas of the six directions77 covered the major world system with their tongues. And when he preached the Daijuku Sutra, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions gathered in the Great Treasure Chamber that stands on the border between the worlds of form and desire.
But when we compare the auspicious signs that accompanied these sutras with those accompanying the Lotus Sutra , we find that they are like a yellow stone compared to gold, a white cloud to a white mountain, ice to a silver mirror, or the color black to the color blue -- the bleary-eyed, the squint-eyed, the one-eyed and the wrong-viewed will be likely to confuse them.
Since the Kegon Sutra was the first sutra to be preached, there were no previous words of the Buddha for it to contradict, and so it naturally raised no doubts. In the case of the Daijuku Sutra, the Daibon [hannya] Sutra, the Konkomyo Sutra and the Amida Sutra, the Buddha, in order to censure the ideal of the two vehicles demonstrated in the various Hinayana sutras, described the pure lands of the ten directions, and thereby inspired ordinary persons and bodhisattvas to aspire to attain them. Thus he caused the persons of the two vehicles to feel confounded and vexed.
Again, because there are certain differences between the Hinayana sutras and the Mahayana sutras mentioned above, we find that in some cases Buddhas appeared in the ten directions, in others great bodhisattvas were dispatched from the ten directions, or it was made clear that the particular sutra was expounded in the worlds of the ten directions, or that various Buddhas came from the ten directions to meet in assembly. In some cases, it was said that Shakyamuni Buddha covered the major world system with his tongue, while in others it was the various Buddhas who put forth their tongues. All of these statements are intended to combat the view expounded in the Hinayana sutras that in the worlds of the ten directions there is only one Buddha.
But in the case of the Lotus Sutra , it differs so greatly from the previous Mahayana sutras that Shariputra and the other voice-hearers, the great bodhisattvas, and the various human and heavenly beings, when they heard the Buddha preach it, were led to think, "Is this not a devil pretending to be the Buddha?"78 And yet those bleary-eyed men of the Kegon, Hosso, Sanron, Shingon and Nembutsu sects all seem to think that their own particular sutras are exactly the same as the Lotus Sutra . That is what I call wretched perception indeed!
While the Buddha was still in this world, there were undoubtedly those who set aside the sutras he had taught during the first forty and more years of his teaching life and embraced the Lotus Sutra . But after he passed away, it must have been difficult to find persons who would open and read this sutra and accept its teachings. To begin with, the sutras preached earlier run to countless words, while the Lotus Sutra is limited in length. The earlier sutras are numerous, but the Lotus Sutra is no more than a single work. The earlier sutras were preached over a period of many years, but the Lotus Sutra was preached in a mere eight years.
Moreover, the Buddha, as we have seen, has been called the great liar, and therefore one can hardly be expected to believe his words. If one makes a great effort to believe the unbelievable, one can perhaps bring oneself to believe in the earlier sutras but not in the Lotus Sutra . The people today appear to believe in the Lotus Sutra , but in fact they do not really believe in it. The reason is this: when someone assures them that the Lotus Sutra is the same as the Dainichi Sutra, or that it is the same as the Kegon Sutra or the Amida Sutra, they are pleased and place their faith in this person. If someone tells them that the Lotus Sutra is completely different from all the other sutras, they will not listen to him, or even if they should listen, they would not think that the person was really speaking the truth.
Nichiren has this to say. It is now over seven hundred years since Buddhism was introduced to Japan79. During that time, only the Great Teacher Dengyo truly understood the Lotus Sutra , but no one is willing to heed this fact which Nichiren has been teaching. It is just as the Lotus Sutra says: "If you were to seize Mount Sumeru and fling it far off to the measureless Buddha lands, that too would not be difficult.... But if after the Buddha has entered extinction, in the time of evil, you can preach this sutra, that will be difficult indeed!"80
The powerful assertions I am putting forward are in complete accord with the sutra itself. But as the Nirvana Sutra, which was designed to propagate the Lotus Sutra, states: in the defiled times of the latter age, those who slander the correct teaching will be as numerous as the specks of dirt in all the lands of the ten directions, while those who uphold the correct teaching will be as few as the specks of dirt that can be placed on a fingernail. What do you think of that? Would you say that the people of Japan can be squeezed into the space of a fingernail? Would you say that I, Nichiren, occupy the ten directions? Consider the matter carefully.
In the reign of a wise king, what is reasonable will prevail, but when a foolish king reigns, then what is unreasonable will have supremacy. One should understand that, in similar fashion, when a sage is in the world, then the true significance of the Lotus Sutra will become apparent.
In my remarks here, I have been contrasting the early sutras with the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and it would appear as though the early sutras are in a position to prevail. But if they really win out over the theoretical teaching, then it means that Shariputra and the other persons of the two vehicles will never be able to attain Buddhahood. That would surely be lamentable!
I turn now to the second important teaching of the Lotus Sutra .81 Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, was born in the kalpa of continuance, in the ninth period of decrease82, when the span of human life measured a hundred years. He was the grandson of King Simhahanu and the son and heir of King Shuddhodana. As a boy he was known as Crown Prince Siddhartha, or the Bodhisattva All Goals Achieved. At the age of nineteen he left his family, and at thirty he attained enlightenment. At his place of enlightenment, the World-Honored One first revealed the ceremony83 of Vairochana Buddha of the Lotus Treasury World, a Land of Actual Reward, and expounded the ten mysteries, the six forms,84 the perfect interfusion of all things, and the subtle and wonderful great teaching for immediate attainment of the ultimate fruit. At that time the Buddhas of the ten directions appeared on the scene, and all the bodhisattvas gathered about like clouds. In view of the place where Shakyamuni preached, the capacity of the listeners, the presence of the Buddhas, and the fact that it was the first sermon, is there any reason the Buddha could have concealed or held back the great doctrine? Therefore the Kegon Sutra says: "He displayed his power freely and expounded a sutra of perfection and fullness."
The work, which consists of sixty volumes, is indeed a sutra of perfection and fullness in its every character and stroke. It may be compared to the wish-granting jewel which, though it is a single jewel, is the equal of countless such jewels. For the single jewel can rain down ten thousand treasures which are equal to the treasures brought forth by ten thousand jewels. In the same way, one character of the Kegon Sutra contains all the meanings encompassed in ten thousand characters. The passage that expounds the identity of "the mind, the Buddha and all living beings" represents not only the core of Kegon teachings, but of the teachings of the Hosso, Sanron, Shingon and Tendai sects as well.
In such a superb sutra, how could there be any truths that are hidden from the hearer? And yet we find the sutra declaring that persons of the two vehicles and icchantikas can never attain Buddhahood. Here is the flaw in the jewel. Moreover, in three places the sutra speaks of Shakyamuni Buddha as attaining enlightenment for the first time in this world. It thus hides the fact that, as revealed in the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha actually attained enlightenment in the remote past. Thus, the Kegon Sutra is in fact a chipped jewel, a moon veiled in clouds, a sun in eclipse. How incomprehensible!
The sutras of the Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods, such as the Dainichi Sutra, since they were expounded by the Buddha, are splendid works, and yet they cannot begin to compare with the Kegon Sutra. Therefore one could hardly expect that doctrines concealed even in the Kegon Sutra would be revealed in these sutras. Thus we find that the Zo-agon Sutra speaks of Shakyamuni Buddha as having attained the way for the first time in his present existence, the Daijuku Sutra says, "It is sixteen years since the Thus Come One first attained the way," and the Vimalakirti Sutra states, "The Buddha first sat beneath the bodhi tree and through his might conquered the devil." Likewise, the Dainichi Sutra describes the Buddha’s enlightenment as having taken place "when I long ago sat in the place of meditation," and the Ninno hannya Sutra refers to it as an event of "twenty-nine years" in the past.
It is hardly surprising that these sutras should speak in this fashion. But there is something that is an astonishment to both the ear and the eye. This is the fact that the Muryogi Sutra also speaks in the same way. In the Muryogi Sutra, the Buddha denies the great doctrines, such as the Kegon Sutra concept of the phenomenal world as created by the mind alone, the concept of the ocean-imprint meditation85 set forth in the sutras of the Hodo period and the Hannya Sutra concept of mutual identification and non-duality, when he declares, "I have not yet revealed the truth." The Muryogi Sutra regards the practices taught in the previous sutras as the practice that requires many kalpas to complete. However, the same sutra says, "In the past I sat upright in the place of meditation for six years under the bodhi tree and was able to gain supreme perfect enlightenment," using the same type of language as the Kegon Sutra, the first sutra Shakyamuni preached after his enlightenment, when it talks of the Buddha having attained enlightenment for the first time in this world.
Strange as this may seem, we may suppose that, since the Muryogi Sutra is intended to serve as an introduction to the Lotus Sutra , it deliberately refrains from speaking about doctrines to be revealed in the Lotus Sutra itself. But when we turn to the Lotus Sutra , we find that, in the sections86 where the Buddha discusses in both concise and expanded form the replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, he says: "The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas,"87 "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines [and now must reveal the truth]," and "[I,] honestly discarding expedient means, [will preach only the unsurpassed way]." Moreover, Taho Buddha testifies to the verity of the eight chapters88 of the theoretical teaching, declaring that these are all true. We would suppose, therefore, that in them there would be nothing held back or concealed. Nevertheless, the Buddha hides the fact that he attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, for he says: "I first sat in the place of meditation and gazed at the tree and walked around it." This is surely the most astounding fact of all.
In the Yujutsu chapter, a multitude of bodhisattvas who had not been seen previously in the more than forty years of the Buddha’s preaching life suddenly appear, and the Buddha says, "I taught and converted them, and caused them for the first time to set their minds on the way." Bodhisattva Miroku, puzzled by this announcement, says: "[World-Honored One,] when the Thus Come One was crown prince, you left the palace of the Shakyas and sat in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya, and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment. Barely forty years or more have passed since then. World-Honored One, how in that short time could you have accomplished so much work as a Buddha?"
In order to dispel this doubt and puzzlement, Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, then preaches the Juryo chapter. Referring first to the version of the events presented in the earlier sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra , he says: "In all the worlds the heavenly and human beings and asuras all believe that the present Shakyamuni Buddha, after leaving the palace of the Shakyas, seated himself in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gaya and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment." But then, in order to dispel their doubts, he says: "But good men, it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood."89
All the other sutras such as the Kegon, Hannya and Dainichi not only conceal the fact that people of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, but they fail to make clear that the Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas in the past. These sutras have two flaws. First, because they teach that the Ten Worlds are separate from one another, they fail to move beyond the provisional doctrines and to reveal the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life as it is expounded in the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Second, because they teach that Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment for the first time in this world, referring only to his provisional aspect, they fail to reveal the fact, stressed in the essential teaching, that the Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago. These two great doctrines are the core of the Buddha’s lifetime teachings and the very heart and marrow of all the sutras.
The Hoben chapter, which belongs to the theoretical teaching, expounds the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, making clear that persons of the two vehicles can achieve Buddhahood. It thus eliminates one of the two errors found in the earlier sutras. But it nevertheless retains the provisional aspect, and fails to reveal the eternal aspect, of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Thus the true doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life remains unclear and the attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles is not properly affirmed. Such teachings are like the moon seen in the water, or rootless plants that drift on the waves.
When we come to the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra , then the belief that Shakyamuni first obtained Buddhahood during his present lifetime is demolished, and the effects of the four teachings are likewise demolished. When the effects of the four teachings90 are demolished, the causes91 of the four teachings are likewise demolished. Thus the cause and effect of the Ten Worlds as expounded in the earlier sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra are wiped out, and the cause and effect of the Ten Worlds in the essential teaching are revealed. This is the doctrine of original cause and original effect. It reveals that the nine worlds are all present in the beginningless Buddhahood, and that Buddhahood is inherent in the beginningless nine worlds. This is the true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, the true hundred worlds and thousand factors, the true three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
When we consider the matter in this light, we can see that the Vairochana Buddha seated on the lotus pedestal of the ten directions as described in the Kegon Sutra, the little Shakyamuni described in the Agon sutras92, and the provisional Buddhas described in the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods such as the Konkomyo, Amida and Dainichi sutras are no more than reflections of the Buddha of the Juryo chapter. They are like fleeting reflections of the moon that float on the surfaces of various large and small bodies of water. The scholars of the various schools of Buddhism, confused as to [the nature of the Buddhas of] their own school and, more fundamentally, ignorant of [the Buddha of] the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra , mistake the reflection in the water for the actual moon, some of them entering the water and trying to grasp it in their hands, others to snare it with a rope. As T’ien-t’ai says, "They know nothing of the moon in the sky, but gaze only at the moon in the pond."93
Nichiren has this to remark. Though the Lotus Sutra teaches that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, this view tends to be overshadowed by the opposite view propounded in the sutras that precede the Lotus Sutra . How much more so is this the case with the doctrine that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the remote past? For in this case, it is not the Lotus Sutra as a whole that stands in contradiction to the earlier sutras, but the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra that stands in contradiction both to the earlier sutras and to the first fourteen chapters of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, of the latter fourteen chapters of the essential teaching, all of them with the exception of the Yujutsu and Juryo chapters retain the view that the Buddha first attained enlightenment in his present lifetime.
The forty volumes of the Daihatsunehan Sutra, preached by the Buddha in the grove of sal trees just before his passing, as well as the other Mahayana sutras except the Lotus Sutra, have not one single word [to say about the fact that the Buddha attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago]. They speak of the Dharma body of the Buddha as being without beginning and without end, but they do not reveal the true nature of the other two bodies, the reward body and the manifested body.94
How, then, can we expect people to cast aside the vast body of writings represented by the earlier Mahayana sutras, the Nirvana Sutra and the major portion of the theoretical and essential teachings of the Lotus Sutra, and put all their faith simply in the two chapters Yujutsu and Juryo?
If we examine the origins of the school called Hosso, we find that, nine hundred years after the Buddha passed away in India, there was a great teacher of doctrine called Bodhisattva Asanga.95 At night, he ascended to the inner court of the Tushita heaven,96 where he came before Bodhisattva Miroku and resolved his doubts concerning the sacred teachings propounded by the Buddha during his lifetime. In the daytime, he worked to propagate the Hosso doctrines in the state of Ayodhya.97 Among his disciples were various great scholars such as Vasubandhu, Dharmapala, Nanda and Shilabhadra.98 The great ruler, King Shiladitya,99 bowed his head in reverence, and the people of all the five regions of India abandoned their arrogance and declared themselves followers of his teaching.
The Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang of China journeyed to India, spending seventeen years visiting 130 or more states in India. He rejected all the other teachings of Buddhism, but brought back the doctrines of the Hosso school to China and presented them to the wise sovereign, Emperor T’ai-tsung. Hsuan-tsang numbered among his disciples such men as Shen-fang, Chia-shang, P’u-kuang and K’uei-chi.100 He preached his teachings in Ta-tz’u-en-ssu temple and spread them through more than 360 districts of China.
In the reign of Emperor Kotoku, the thirty-seventh sovereign of Japan, Doji, Dosho101 and other priests went to China and studied these doctrines, and on their return preached them at Yamashina-dera temple.102 In this way, the Hosso sect was regarded as the leading sect of Buddhism throughout all three lands of India, China and Japan.
According to this sect, in all the teachings of the Buddha, from the Kegon Sutra, the earliest of the sutras, to the Lotus and Nirvana sutras that were preached last, it is laid down that those sentient beings who do not possess the innate nature of any enlightenment and those predestined for the two vehicles103 can never become Buddhas. The Buddha, they say, never contradicts himself. Therefore, if he has once declared that these persons will never be able to attain Buddhahood, then, even though the sun and moon may fall to the earth and the great earth itself may turn upside down, that declaration can never be altered. In the earlier sutras those sentient beings who do not possess the innate nature of any enlightenment or those predestined for the two vehicles were said to be incapable of attaining Buddhahood. Therefore, even in the Lotus or Nirvana Sutra it is never said that they can in fact do so.
"Close your eyes and consider the matter," the members of the Hosso sect would say. "If it had in fact been plainly stated in the Lotus and Nirvana sutras that those who do not possess the innate nature of any enlightenment or those predestined for the two vehicles can actually attain Buddhahood, then why would not the great scholars such as Asanga and Vasubandhu or the Tripitaka masters and teachers such as Hsuan-tsang and Tz’u-en have taken notice of this fact? Why did they not mention it in their own writings? Why did they not accept the belief and transmit it to later ages? Why did not Asanga question Bodhisattva Miroku about it? People like you, Nichiren , claim that you are basing your assertions on the text of the Lotus Sutra, but in fact you are simply accepting the biased views of men like T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo and interpreting the text of the sutra in the light of their teachings. Therefore you claim that the Lotus Sutra is as different from the earlier sutras as fire from water."
Again, there are the Kegon and Shingon schools, which are incomparably higher in level than the Hosso and Sanron schools.104 They claim that the doctrines that persons of the two vehicles may attain Buddhahood and that the Buddha achieved enlightenment in the remote past are to be found not only in the Lotus Sutra, but in the Kegon and Dainichi sutras as well.
According to these schools, the Kegon patriarchs Tu-shun, Chih-yen, Fa-tsang and Ch’eng-kuan, and the Shingon masters Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung were far more eminent than T’ien-t’ai or Dengyo. Moreover, they claim that Shan-wu-wei’s teachings descend in an unbroken line from the Buddha Mahavairochana or Dainichi. How could men like this, who are manifestations of the Buddha, possibly be mistaken, they ask. They point to the passage in the Kegon Sutra that reads: "Some people perceive that immeasurable numbers of kalpas have passed since Shakyamuni attained the Buddha way," or the passage in the Dainichi Sutra that says: "I105 [Mahavairochana Buddha] am the source and beginning of all things." Why, they ask, would anyone claim that it is the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra alone that expounds the doctrine that Shakyamuni attained enlightenment long ago? Persons who do so are like frogs at the bottom of a well who have never seen the great sea, or like mountain dwellers who know nothing of the capital. "You people look only at the Juryo chapter and know nothing of the Kegon, the Dainichi and the other sutras! Do you suppose that in India and China and Silla and Paekche106 [in Korea] people believe that these two doctrines are limited to the Lotus Sutra alone?"
As we have seen, the Lotus Sutra, which was preached over a period of eight years, is quite different from the earlier sutras preached over a period of some forty years. If one had to choose between the two, one ought by rights to choose the Lotus Sutra, and yet the earlier sutras in many ways appear to carry greater weight.
While the Buddha was still alive, there would have been good reasons for choosing the Lotus Sutra. But in the ages since his passing, the teachers and scholars have in most cases shown a preference for the earlier sutras. Not only is the Lotus Sutra itself difficult to believe, but in addition, with the coming of the latter age, gradually sages and worthy men disappear from the scene, and deluded persons increase in number. People are prone to make mistakes even in shallow, worldly affairs, so how much more likely are they to be mistaken about the profound Buddhist teachings that lead to enlightenment?
Vatsa and Vaipulya107 were keen and perceptive, but still they confused the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras. Vimalamitra and Madhava108 were very clever by nature, but they could not distinguish properly between the provisional teachings and the true teachings. These men lived during the thousand-year period known as the Former Day of the Law, not far removed in time from the Buddha himself, and in the same country of India, and yet they fell into error, as we have seen. How much more likely, therefore, that the people of China and Japan should do so, since these countries are far removed from India and speak different languages from it?
Now human beings have grown increasingly dull by nature, their life span diminishes steadily,109 and the poisons of greed, anger and stupidity continue to multiply. Many ages have passed since the Buddha’s death, and the Buddhist scriptures are all misunderstood. Who these days has the wisdom to interpret them correctly?
Therefore the Buddha predicted in the Nirvana Sutra that in the Latter Day of the Law, those who abide by the correct teachings will occupy no more land than can be placed on top of a fingernail, while those who slander the correct teachings will occupy all the lands in the ten directions.
In the Hometsujin Sutra110 we find a passage stating that those who slander the correct teachings will be as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, but those who abide by the correct teachings will be no more than one or two pebbles. Though five hundred or a thousand years go by, it will be difficult to find even a single person who believes in the correct teachings. Those who fall into the evil paths because of secular crimes will be as insignificant in number as the specks of dirt placed on a fingernail, but those who do so because of violations of the Buddhist teachings will be equal in number to the specks of dirt in all the lands in the ten directions. More monks than laymen, and more nuns than laywomen, will fall into the evil paths.
Here Nichiren considers as follows: Already over two hundred years have passed since the world entered the Latter Day of the Law. I was born in a remote land, and, moreover, a person of low station and a priest of humble learning. During my past lifetimes through the six paths, I have perhaps at times been born as a great ruler in the human or heavenly world, and have bent the multitudes to my will as a great wind bends the branches of small trees. And yet at such times I was not able to become a Buddha.
I studied the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras, beginning as an ordinary practitioner with no understanding at all and gradually moving upward to the position of a great bodhisattva.
For one kalpa, two kalpas, countless kalpas I devoted myself to the practices of the bodhisattva, until I almost reached the stage of non-regression [where one never fails to attain Buddhahood]. And yet I was dragged down by the powerful and overwhelming influences of evil, and I never attained Buddhahood. I do not know whether I was among the third group111 who failed to take faith when the sons of Daitsu Buddha preached [the Lotus Sutra] and again failed to attain Buddhahood during the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha, or whether I faltered and fell away from the teachings which I heard [long before Daitsu Buddha] at gohyaku-jintengo and thus have been reborn in this age.
While one is practicing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, one may surmount all kinds of difficulties occasioned by the evil forces of worldly life, or by the persecutions of rulers, non-Buddhists, or the followers of the Hinayana sutras. And yet one may encounter someone like Tao-ch’o, Shan-tao or Honen ,112 monks who seemed thoroughly conversant with the teachings of the provisional and the true Mahayana sutras but who were in fact possessed by devils. Such men seem to praise the Lotus Sutra most forcefully, but in fact they belittle the people’s ability to understand it113, claiming that its principles are very profound but human understanding is slight. They mislead others by saying that "not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood"114 through that sutra, or that "not one person in a thousand"115 can be saved by it. Thus, over a period of countless lifetimes, people are deceived as often as there are sands in the Ganges, until they [abandon their faith in the Lotus Sutra and] descend to the teachings of the provisional Mahayana sutras, abandon these and descend to the teachings of the Hinayana sutras, and eventually abandon even these and descend to the teachings and scriptures of the non-Buddhist doctrines. I understand all too well how, in the end, people have come in this way to fall into the evil paths.
I, Nichiren , am the only person in all Japan who understands this. But if I utter so much as a word concerning it, then parents, brothers and teachers will surely censure me and the ruler of the nation will take steps against me. On the other hand, I am fully aware that if I do not speak out, I will be lacking in compassion. I have considered which course to take in the light of the teachings of the Lotus and Nirvana sutras. If I remain silent, I may escape persecutions in this lifetime, but in my next life I will most certainly fall into the hell of incessant suffering. If I speak out, I am fully aware that I will have to contend with the three obstacles and four devils. But of these two courses, surely the latter is the one to choose.
If I were to falter in my determination in the face of persecutions by the sovereign, however, it would be better not to speak out. While thinking this over, I recalled the teachings of the Hoto chapter on the six difficult and nine easy acts. Persons like myself who are of paltry strength might still be able to lift Mount Sumeru and toss it about; persons like myself who are lacking in supernatural powers might still shoulder a load of dry grass and yet remain unburned in the fire at the end of the kalpa of decline;116 and persons like myself who are without wisdom might still read and memorize as many sutras as there are sands in the Ganges. But such acts are not difficult, we are told, when compared to the difficulty of embracing even one phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. Nevertheless, I vowed to summon up a powerful and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings, and never to falter in my efforts.
It is already over twenty years since I began proclaiming my doctrines. Day after day, month after month, year after year I have been subjected to repeated persecutions. Minor persecutions and annoyances are too numerous even to be counted, but the major persecutions number four. Among the four, twice I have been subjected to persecutions by the rulers of the country.117 The most recent one has come near to costing me my life. In addition, my disciples, my lay followers, and even those who have merely listened to my teachings have been subjected to severe punishment and treated as though they were guilty of treason.
In the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra we read: "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?" The second volume 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 ..." And the fifth volume says: "It [the Lotus Sutra] will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe." It also states: "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us," and "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]!’ " It is also stated in the same volume: "again and again we will be banished," and [in the seventh volume] "Some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him."
The Nirvana Sutra records: "At that time there were a countless number of Brahmanists who plotted together and went in a body to King Ajatashatru of Magadha and said, ‘At present there is a man of incomparable wickedness, a monk called Gautama.118 All sorts of evil persons, hoping to gain profit and alms, have flocked to him and become his followers. These people do not practice goodness, but instead use the power of spells and magic to win over men like Mahakashyapa, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.’"
T’ien-t’ai says: "It will be much worse in the future because the principles [of the Lotus Sutra] are so hard to teach."119 Miao-lo says: " ‘Hatred’ refers to those who have not yet freed themselves from impediments and ‘jealousy’120 to those who take no delight in listening to the doctrine." The teachers of the three schools of the south and seven schools of the north in China, as well as the countless other scholars of China, all regarded T’ien-t’ai with resentment and animosity. Thus Tokuitsu121 said: "See here, Chih-i,"122 whose disciple are you? With a tongue less than three inches long you slander the teachings that come from the Buddha’s long broad tongue that can cover even his face!"123
In the Toshun124 we read: "Question: While the Buddha was in the world, there were many who were resentful and jealous [of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra]. But in the age after his passing, when one preaches this sutra, why are there so many who try to make trouble for one? Answer: It is said that good medicine tastes bitter. This sutra, which is like good medicine, dispels attachments to the five vehicles and establishes the one ultimate principle. It reproaches those in the ranks of ordinary beings and censures those in the ranks of sagehood, denies [provisional] Mahayana and refutes Hinayana. It speaks of the heavenly devils as poisonous insects and calls non-Buddhists demons. It censures those who cling to Hinayana teachings, calling them mean and impoverished, and it dismisses bodhisattvas as beginners in learning. For this reason, heavenly devils hate to listen to it, non-Buddhists find their ears offended, persons of the two vehicles are dumbfounded, and bodhisattvas flee in terror. That is why all these types of persons try to make trouble [for a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra]. The Buddha was not speaking nonsense when he declared that hatred and jealousy would abound."
The Kenkai ron states: "The superintendents of priests [in the capital of Nara] say in their memorial to the throne, ‘Just as in a land west of China there was a Brahman named Demon Eloquence, so now in this eastern realm of Japan there is a shavepated monk who spits out crafty words. Evil spirits invisibly invite such people to deceive and mislead the world.’ I [Dengyo] reply to these charges by saying: ‘Just as in the Ch’i dynasty of China we heard of the arrogant superintendent of priests, Hui-kuang, so now in our own country we see these six superintendents of priests [who oppose me]. How true was [the Buddha’s prediction in] the Lotus Sutra that the situation would be much worse after his passing.’ "
The Hokke shuku the Great Teacher Dengyo also states: "Speaking of the age, [the propagation of the true teaching will begin] in the age when the Middle Day of the Law ends and the Latter Day opens. Regarding the land, [it will begin in a land] to the east of T’ang and to the west of Katsu.125 As for the people, [it will spread among] people stained by the five impurities who live in a time of conflict. The sutra says: ‘Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?’ There is good reason for this statement."
When a little boy is given moxibustion treatment, he will invariably hate his mother; when a seriously ill person is given good medicine, he will complain without fail about its bitterness. And we meet with similar complaints [about the Lotus Sutra], even in the lifetime of the Buddha. How much more severe is the opposition after his passing, especially in the Middle and Latter Days of the Law and in a far-off country like Japan? As mountains pile upon mountains and waves follow waves, so do persecutions add to persecutions and criticisms augment criticisms.
During the Middle Day of the Law, one man alone, T’ien-t’ai, understood and expounded the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras. The other Buddhist leaders of both northern and southern China hated him for it, but the two sage rulers of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties gave him an audience so he could establish the correctness of his views in debate with his opponents. Thus in time he ceased to have any more opponents. At the end of the Middle Day of the Law, one man alone, Dengyo, grasped the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras just as the Buddha had expounded them. The seven major temples of Nara rose up like hornets against him, but the two worthy sovereigns, Emperor Kammu and Emperor Saga, themselves investigating the views of both sides, made clear which was correct, and thereafter there was no further trouble.
It is now over two hundred years since the Latter Day of the Law began. The Buddha predicted that conditions would be much worse after his passing, and we see the portents of this in the quarrels and wranglings that go on today because unreasonable doctrines are prevalent. And as proof of the fact that we are living in a muddied age, I was not summoned [for a doctrinal debate with my opponents], but instead I was sent into exile and my very life was imperiled.
When it comes to understanding the Lotus Sutra, I have only a minute fraction of the vast ability that T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo possessed. But as regards my ability to endure persecution and the wealth of my compassion for others, I believe they would hold me in awe. [As a votary of the Lotus Sutra,] I firmly believe that I should come under the protection of the gods, and yet I do not see the slightest sign of this. On the contrary, I am subjected to increasingly severe punishments. In view of this, am I perhaps then not a votary of the Lotus Sutra after all? Or have the heavenly gods and benevolent deities perhaps taken leave and departed from this land of Japan? I find myself in much perplexity.
But then I recall the twenty lines of verse in the Kanji chapter of the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra [in which the eight hundred thousand million nayutas of bodhisattvas describe the persecutions they will endure after the Buddha’s death for the sake of the Lotus Sutra]. If I, Nichiren , had not been born in this land of Japan, then the words of the World-Honored One predicting such persecutions would have been a great prevarication, and those eight hundred thousand million nayutas of bodhisattvas would have been guilty of the same offense as that of Devadatta, of lying and misleading others.
The sutra says that "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us and will attack us with swords and staves," with rocks and tiles.126 Look around you in the world today-are there any priests other than Nichiren who are cursed and vilified because of the Lotus Sutra or who are attacked with swords and staves? If it were not for Nichiren , the prophecy made in this verse of the sutra would have been sheer falsehood.
The same passage says: "In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked,"127 and "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."128 If it were not for the priests of the Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu sects of our present age, then the World-Honored One would have been a teller of great untruths.
The passage likewise says: "Because in the midst of the great assembly. . ., they will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, . . . [slandering and speaking evil of us]."129 If the priests of today did not slander me to the authorities and have them condemn me to banishment, then this passage in the sutra would have remained unfulfilled.
"Again and again we will be banished," says the sutra. But if Nichiren had not been banished time and again for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, what would these words "again and again" have meant? Even T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo were not able to fulfill this prediction represented by the words "again and again," much less was anyone else. But because I have been born at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, the "age of fear and evil" described in the sutra, I alone have been able to live these words.
As other examples of prophecies that were fulfilled, in the Fuhozo Sutra it is recorded that the World-Honored One said that one hundred years after his passing, a great ruler named King Ashoka would appear. In the Maya Sutra he said that six hundred years after his passing, a man named Bodhisattva Nagarjuna would appear in southern India. And in the Daihi Sutra he said that sixty years after his passing, a man named Madhyantika130 would establish his base in the dragon palace. All of these prophecies came true. Indeed, if they had not who would have faith in the Buddhist teachings?
Thus the Buddha decided the time [when the votary of the Lotus Sutra should appear], describing it as "an age of fear and evil," "the latter age hereafter," "the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish," and "the last five-hundred-year period," as attested by both the two Chinese versions of the Lotus Sutra, Sho-hokke-kyo and Myoho-renge-kyo.131 At such a time, if the three powerful enemies predicted in the Lotus Sutra did not appear, then who would have faith in the words of the Buddha? If it were not for Nichiren , who could fulfill the Buddha’s prophecies concerning the votary of the Lotus Sutra? The three schools of southern China and seven schools of northern China, along with the seven major temples of Nara, were numbered among the enemies of the Lotus Sutra in the time of the Middle Day of the Law. How much less can the Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu priests of the present time hope to escape a similar label?
With this body of mine, I have fulfilled the prophecies of the sutra. The more the government authorities rage against me, the greater is my joy. For instance, there are certain Hinayana bodhisattvas, not yet freed from delusion, who draw evil karma to themselves by their own compassionate vow. If they see that their father and mother have fallen into hell and are suffering greatly, they will deliberately create the appropriate karma in hopes that they too may fall into hell and share in and take their suffering upon themselves. Thus suffering is a joy to them. It is the same with me [in fulfilling the prophecies]. Though at present I must face trials that I can scarcely endure, I rejoice when I think that in the future I will escape being born into the evil paths.
And yet the people doubt me, and I too have doubts about myself. Why do the gods not assist me? Heavenly gods and other guardian deities made their vow before the Buddha. Even if the votary of the Lotus Sutra were an ape rather than a man, they should address him as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and rush forward to fulfill the vow they made before the Buddha. Does their failure to do so mean that I am in fact not a votary of the Lotus Sutra? This doubt lies at the heart of this piece I am writing. And because it is the most important concern of my entire life, I will raise it again and again here and emphasize it more than ever, before I attempt to answer it.
Prince Chi-cha132 in his heart had promised to give the lord of Hsu the precious royal sword that he wore. Therefore, [when he later found that the lord of Hsu had died,] he placed the sword on his grave. Wang Shou,133 having drunk water from a river, carefully tossed a gold coin into the water as payment. Hung Yen, finding that his lord had been killed, cut open his stomach and inserted his lord’s liver in it before he died. These were worthy men, and they knew how to repay a debt of gratitude. How much more so, then, should this be the case with great sages like Shariputra and Mahakashyapa, who observed every one of the two hundred and fifty precepts and the three thousand rules of conduct, and had cut themselves off from the illusions of thought and desire134 and separated themselves from the threefold world? They are worthy to be the leaders of Bonten, Taishaku and the other heavenly gods, and the eyes of all living beings. During the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s preaching, these men were disliked and pushed aside with admonitions that they could never attain Buddhahood. But when they had tasted the medicine of immortality in the Lotus Sutra, they were like scorched seeds that sprout, a shattered rock joined together again, or withered trees that put forth blossoms and fruit. Through the Lotus Sutra, it was revealed that they would attain Buddhahood after all, though they had yet to enter the eight phases of a Buddha’s existence.135 How, then, can they not do something to repay the profound debt of gratitude that they owe to the sutra? If they do not do so, they will show themselves to be inferior to the worthy men I have mentioned earlier, and in fact be no more than animals who have no understanding of a debt of gratitude.
The turtle that Mao Pao136 saved did not forget to repay the kindness of the past. The great fish of the K’un-ming Pond,137 in order to repay the man who had saved his life, presented a bright jewel in the middle of the night. Even these creatures understood how to repay a debt of gratitude, so why shouldn’t men who are great sages?
The Venerable Ananda was the second son of King Dronodana,138 and the Venerable Rahula was the grandson of King Shuddhodana. Both men were born into very distinguished families and even attained arhatship. However, they were declared to be unable to attain Buddhahood. And yet, during the eight-year assembly at Eagle Peak, where the Lotus Sutra was preached, it was revealed that they would become Buddhas with names such as the Thus Come One Mountain Sea Wisdom [Unrestricted Power King] and the Thus Come One Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers. No matter how distinguished their families or what great sages they were, if it had not been for the revelation in the Lotus Sutra, who would have paid respect to them?
Emperor Chieh of the Hsia dynasty and Emperor Chou of the Yin dynasty139 were lords of an army of ten thousand chariots and commanded the allegiance of the entire populace of their kingdoms. But because they governed despotically and brought about the downfall of their dynasties, people speak of Chieh and Chou as the epitome of evil men. Even a person of low station or a leper, if he is likened to Chieh and Chou, will be enraged at the insult.
If it had not been for the Lotus Sutra, then who would ever have heard of the twelve hundred voice-hearers140 and the countless other voice-hearers [who would attain Buddhahood through the sutra], and who would have listened to their voices? No one would have read the Buddhist sutras compiled by the thousand voice-hearers,141 nor would there be any paintings or statues of them set up and worshipped. It is entirely due to the power of the Lotus Sutra that these arhats are revered and followed. If these voice-hearers were to separate themselves from the Lotus Sutra, they would be like a fish without water, a monkey without a tree, a baby without the breast, or a people without a sovereign. How then can they abandon the votary of the Lotus Sutra?
Through the sutras that precede the Lotus Sutra, the voice-hearers have acquired the heavenly eye and the wisdom eye in addition to their physical eyes. Through the Lotus Sutra, they have been provided with the Dharma eye and the Buddha eye.142 Their eyesight can penetrate any of the worlds in the ten directions. How then could they fail to see me, the votary of the Lotus Sutra, right here in the saha world? Even if I were an evil man who had said a word or two against them, or even if I cursed and reviled the voice-hearers for a year or two, a kalpa or two, or a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand or a million kalpas, and went so far as to threaten to take up swords and staves against them, so long as I maintain my faith in the Lotus Sutra and act as its votary, then they should never abandon me.
A child may curse his parents, but would the parents for that reason cast him aside? The young owls eat their mother, but the mother nevertheless does not abandon them. The hakei143 beast kills its father, but the father does nothing to prevent this. If even animals behave like this, then why should great sages abandon the votary of the Lotus Sutra?
The four great voice-hearers,144 in the passage that deals with their understanding, proclaimed:
Now we have become voice-hearers in truth,145
for we will take the voice of the Buddha way
and cause it to be heard by all.
Now we have become
for everywhere among
the heavenly and human beings, devils and Bontens
of the various worlds
we deserve to receive offerings.
The World-Honored One in his great mercy
makes use of a rare thing,146
in pity and compassion teaching and converting,
bringing benefit to us.
In numberless millions of kalpas
who could ever repay him?
Though we offer him our hands and feet,147
bow our heads in respectful obeisance,
and present all manner of offerings,
none of us could repay him.
Though we lift him on the crown of our heads,
bear him on our two shoulders,
for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands
reverence him with all our hearts;
though we come with delicate foods,
with countless jeweled robes,
with articles of bedding,
various kinds of potions and medicines;
with ox-head sandalwood
and all kinds of rare gems,
construct memorial towers
and spread the ground with jeweled robes;
though we were to do all this
by way of offering
for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands,
still we could not repay him.
In the various sutras preached during the earlier period of the Buddha’s teaching life, which have been compared to the first four flavors,148 the voice-hearers were depicted on countless occasions as subjected to all kinds of abuse and shamed before the great assembly of human and heavenly beings. Thus we are told that the sound of the Venerable Mahakashyapa’s weeping and wailing echoed through the major world system,149 that the Venerable Subhuti was so dumbfounded that he almost went off and left the alms bowl he had been carrying,150 that Shariputra spat out the food he was eating,151 and that Purna was berated for being the kind who would put filth in a precious jar.152
When the World-Honored One was at the Deer Park, he extolled the Agon sutras and enjoined his disciples to rely on the two hundred and fifty precepts as their teacher, warmly praising those who did so, and yet before long, as we have seen, he turned about and began condemning such men. He is guilty, we would have to say, of making two different and completely contradictory pronouncements.
Thus, for example, the World-Honored One cursed Devadatta, saying, "You are a fool who licks the spit of others!" Devadatta felt as though a poison arrow had been shot into his breast, and he cried out in anger, declaring, "Gautama is no Buddha! I am the eldest son of King Dronodana, the elder brother of the Venerable Ananda and kin to Gautama. No matter what kind of evil conduct I might be guilty of, he ought to admonish me in private for it. But to publicly and outrageously accuse me of faults in front of this great assembly of human and heavenly beings — is this the behavior appropriate to a great man or a Buddha? He showed himself to be my enemy in the past when he stole the woman I intended to marry,153 and he has shown himself my enemy at this gathering today. From this day forward, I will look upon him as my archenemy for lifetime after lifetime and age after age to come!"
When we stop to consider, we note that, of the great voice-hearers, some were originally from Brahman families who believed in non-Buddhist doctrines, or were leaders of various non-Buddhist followers who had converted kings to their teachings and were looked up to by their followers. Others were men of noble families or the possessors of great wealth. But they abandoned their exalted positions in life, lowered the banners of their pride, cast off everyday clothing and wrapped their bodies in the humble, dingy hued robes of a Buddhist monk. They threw away their white fly whisks, their bows and arrows, and took up a solitary alms bowl, becoming like paupers and beggars and following the World-Honored One. They had no dwellings to protect them from the wind and rain, and very little in the way of food or clothing by which to sustain life.
Moreover, all the people of the five regions of India and the four seas were disciples or supporters of the non-Buddhist religions, so that even the Buddha himself was on nine occasions forced to suffer major hardships.
Thus, for example, Devadatta hurled a great stone at him and King Ajatashatru loosed a drunken elephant on him. [Failing to receive support from] King Agnidatta, the Buddha was forced to eat horse fodder and, at a Brahman city, he was offered stinking rice gruel. Again, Chincha, the daughter of a Brahman, tying a bowl to her belly, claimed to be pregnant with his child.
Needless to say, the Buddha’s disciples were likewise forced to suffer frequent hardships. Thus, countless numbers of the Shakya clan were killed by King Virudhaka, and ten million of the Buddha’s followers were trampled to death by drunken elephants that were set upon them. The nun Utpalavarna was killed by Devadatta,154 the Venerable Kalodayin was buried in horse dung,155 and the Venerable Maudgalyayana was beaten to death by members of a Brahman group named Bamboo Staff. In addition, followers of the six non-Buddhist teachers banded together and slandered the Buddha before King Ajatashatru and King Prasenajit, saying, "Gautama is the most evil man in the whole land of Jambudvipa. Wherever he may be, the three calamities and seven disasters rampage without fail. As the numerous rivers gather together in the great sea and the groves of trees cluster on the great mountains, so crowds of evil men gather about Gautama. The men called Mahakashyapa, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Subhuti are examples. All those who are born in human form should place loyalty to the sovereign and filial piety above all else. But these men have been so misled by Gautama that they disregard the lessons of their parents, abandon their families and, defying the commandments of the king, go to live in the mountain forests. They should be expelled from this country. It is because they are allowed to remain that the sun, moon and stars manifest sinister phenomena and many strange happenings occur in the land."
The voice-hearers did not know how they could possibly bear such persecutions. Then, as if to add to their hardship, [the Buddha himself began to denounce them]. They found it difficult to follow him. Now and then, hearing him condemn them repeatedly in great assemblies of human and heavenly beings, and not knowing how to behave, they only became more confused.
On top of all this, they had to face the greatest hardship of all, as revealed in the Vimalakirti Sutra, [when the Buddha addressed the voice-hearers,] saying, "Those who give alms to you are cultivating for themselves no field of good fortune. Those who give alms to you will fall into the three evil paths." These words were spoken when the Buddha was staying at the Ambapali Garden. There Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly
Kings and the heavenly gods of the threefold world, along with earthly gods, dragon gods and other beings as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, had gathered in this great assembly, when the Buddha said, "The heavenly and human beings who give alms to Subhuti and the other monks will fall into the three evil paths." After the heavenly and human beings had heard this, would they be likely to go on giving alms to the voice-hearers? It would almost appear as though the Buddha were deliberately attempting through his words to inflict death upon those who upheld the two vehicles. The more sensible persons in the assembly were no doubt repelled by the Buddha’s action. Nevertheless, the voice-hearers were able to obtain enough of the alms given to the Buddha to keep themselves alive, meager though the amount was.
When I consider the situation, it occurs to me that, if the Buddha had passed away after preaching the various sutras delivered in the first forty and more years of his teaching life, and had never lived to preach the Lotus Sutra in the later eight years, then who would ever have offered alms to these venerable ones? They would have been living in the realm of hungry spirits.
But after more than forty years of preaching various sutras, it was as though the bright spring sun appeared to melt the frigid ice, or a great wind arose to dispel the dew from countless grasses. With one remark, in one moment, the Buddha wiped away his earlier pronouncements, saying, "I have not yet revealed the truth." Like a great wind scattering the dark clouds or the full moon in the vast heavens, or like the sun shining in the blue sky, he proclaimed, "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth." With the brilliance of the sun or the brightness of the moon, it was revealed in the Lotus Sutra that Shariputra would become the Thus Come One Flower Glow and Mahakashyapa would become the Thus Come One Light Bright. Because of the Lotus Sutra which is the phoenix among scriptures and the mirror that reflects the teachings, after the Buddha’s passing, the voice-hearers were looked up to by the human and heavenly supporters of Buddhism just as the Buddha would be.
If the water is clear, then the moon will not fail to be reflected there. If the wind blows, then the grass and trees will not fail to bow before it. And if there is a votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the sages, the voice-hearers, should not fail to go to his side, though they might have to pass through a great fire to do so, or make their way through a great rock. Though Mahakashyapa may be deep in meditation,156 he should not ignore the circumstances. Why does he do nothing about the situation? I am completely perplexed. Is this not the last five-hundred-year period? Is the prediction that the Lotus Sutra will spread abroad widely157 mere nonsense? Is Nichiren not the votary of the Lotus Sutra? Are the voice-hearers protecting those who disparage the Lotus Sutra as a mere written teaching and who put forth their great lies about what they call a special transmission?158 Are they guarding those who write "Discard, close, ignore, abandon!"159 urging people to close the gate to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and to throw away its scrolls, and who cause the ruin of the temples dedicated to the practice of the Lotus Sutra! The various heavenly deities swore before the Buddha to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra, but now that they see how fierce are the great persecutions of this muddied age, do they fail to come down? The sun and the moon are still up in the sky. Mount Sumeru has not collapsed. The sea tides ebb and flow and the four seasons proceed in their normal order. Why then is there no sign of aid for the votary of the Lotus Sutra? My doubts grow deeper than ever.
In the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha is shown predicting that various great bodhisattvas and heavenly and human beings will attain Buddhahood in the future. But trying to realize such predictions is like trying to grasp the moon in the water, like mistaking the reflection for the actual object — it has the color and shape of the object but not the reality. Likewise, the Buddha would seem to be displaying profound kindness in making such predictions, but in fact it is little kindness at all.
When the World-Honored One had first attained enlightenment and had not yet begun to preach, more than sixty great bodhisattvas, including Hoe or Dharma Wisdom, Kudokurin or Forest of Merits, Kongodo or Diamond Banner and Kongozo or Diamond Storehouse, appeared from the various Buddha lands of the ten directions and came before Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. There, at the request of the bodhisattvas Genju or Chief Wise, Gedatsugatsu or Moon of Deliverance and others, they preached the doctrines of the ten stages of security, the ten stages of practice, the ten stages of devotion, the ten stages of development,160 and so forth. The doctrines that these great bodhisattvas preached were not learned from Shakyamuni Buddha.161 At that time, Bontens and other deities of the worlds of the ten directions came together and preached the various teachings, but again those were not what they had learned from Shakyamuni.
These great bodhisattvas, deities, dragons and others who appeared at the assembly described in the Kegon Sutra were beings who had dwelt in "inconceivable emancipation"162 since before Shakyamuni Buddha began preaching. Perhaps they were disciples of Shakyamuni when he was carrying out bodhisattva practices in previous existences, or perhaps they were disciples of previous Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions. In any event, they were not disciples of the Shakyamuni who first attained enlightenment in this world and expounded his lifetime teachings.
It was only when the Buddha set forth the four teachings in the Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods that he finally acquired disciples. And although they were doctrines preached by the Buddha himself, they were not doctrines that revealed his true intention. Why do I say this? Because the specific and perfect teachings, as set forth in the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods, do not differ in meaning from the specific and perfect teachings as set forth in the Kegon Sutra. The specific and perfect teachings given in the Kegon Sutra are not the specific and perfect teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. They are the specific and perfect teachings of Hoe and the other great bodhisattvas mentioned earlier. These great bodhisattvas may appear to most people to have been disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, but in fact it would be better to call them his teachers. The World-Honored One listened to these bodhisattvas preaching and, after gaining wisdom and understanding, proceeded to set forth the specific and perfect teachings of the sutras of the Hodo and Hannya periods. But these differ in no way from the specific and perfect teachings of the Kegon Sutra.
Therefore we know that these great bodhisattvas were the teachers of Shakyamuni. These bodhisattvas are mentioned in the Kegon Sutra, where they are called "good friends." To call a person a good friend means that he is neither one’s teacher nor one’s disciple. The two types of teachings called Tripitaka and connecting teachings are offshoots of the specific and perfect teachings. Anyone who understands the specific and perfect teachings will invariably understand the Tripitaka and connecting teachings as well.
A teacher is someone who teaches his disciples things that they did not previously know. For example, in the ages before the Buddha, the heavenly and human beings and followers of Brahmanism were all disciples of the two deities and the three ascetics.163 Though their doctrines branched off to form ninety-five different schools, these did not go beyond the views of the three ascetics. Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, also studied these doctrines and for a time became a disciple of the Brahmanic teachers. But after spending twelve years in various painful and comfortable practices,164 he came to understand the principles of suffering, emptiness, impermanence and non-self.165 Therefore he ceased to call himself a disciple of the Brahmanic teachings and instead proclaimed himself the possessor of a wisdom acquired from no teacher at all. Thus in time the human and heavenly beings came to look up to him as a great teacher.
It is clear, therefore, that during the teaching period of the first four flavors, Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, was a disciple of Hoe and the other great bodhisattvas. Similarly, he was the ninth disciple of Bodhisattva Monju.166 This is also the reason why the Buddha repeatedly declares in the earlier sutras, "I never preached a single word."
When Shakyamuni Buddha was seventy-two, he preached the Muryogi Sutra on Eagle Peak in the kingdom of Magadha. At that time he denied all the sutras he had preached during the previous more than forty years, and all the fragmentary teachings derived from those sutras, saying, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." At that time, the great bodhisattvas and the various heavenly and human beings hastened to implore the Buddha to reveal the true doctrine. In fact, in the Muryogi Sutra he made a single pronouncement that appeared to suggest the true doctrine,167 but he did not elaborate on it. It was like the moment when the moon is about to rise. The moon is still hidden behind the eastern hills, and though its glow begins to light the western hills, people cannot yet see the body of the moon itself.
In the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in the section that concisely reveals the replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, the Buddha briefly explained the concept of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the doctrine that he had kept in mind for his final revelation. But because this was the first time he had touched on the subject, it was only dimly apprehended, like the first note of the cuckoo heard by someone drowsy with sleep, or like the moon appearing over the rim of the hill but veiled in thin clouds. Shariputra and the others, startled, called the heavenly beings, dragon deities and great bodhisattvas together, and, begging for instruction, said:
The heavenly beings, dragons, spirits and the others,
their numbers like Ganges sands,
the bodhisattvas seeking to be Buddhas
in a great force of eighty thousand,
as well as the wheel-turning kings168
[who] come from ten thousands of millions of lands,
all press their palms and with reverent minds
wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment.
The passage indicates that they requested to hear a doctrine such as they had not heard in the previous more than forty years, one that differed from the four flavors and the three teachings.169 With regard to the line "[they] wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment," it may be noted that the Nirvana Sutra states: "Sad170 indicates perfect endowment." The Mue mutoku daijo shiron gengi ki171 states: "Sad connotes six. In India the number six implies perfect endowment."172 In his commentary, Chi-tsang173 writes: "Sad is translated as perfect endowment.’’ In the eighth volume of his Hokke gengi, T’ien-t’ai remarks, "Sad is a Sanskrit word, which is translated as myo or wonderful." Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, in the heart of his thousand-volume Daichido ron, comments, "Sad signifies six." Nagarjuna was thirteenth in the lineage of the Buddha’s successors, the founder of the Shingon, Kegon and the other schools, a great sage of the first stage of development and the person whose true identity was the Thus Come One Dharma Clouds Freedom King [Tathagata Houn Jizaio].
The characters Myoho-renge-kyo are Chinese. In India, the Lotus Sutra is called Saddharma-pundarika-sutram. The following is the mantra concerning the heart of the Lotus Sutra composed by the Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei:
namah samanta-buddhanam om a a am ah
saddharma-pundarika-sutram jah hum vam hoh
vajra-arakshaman hum svaha
Hail to all the Buddhas! Three-bodied Thus Come One! Open the door to, show me, cause me to awaken to and to enter into, the wisdom and insight of all the Buddhas. You who are like empty space by nature and free from dust.
Cause me to enter into the Sutra of the White Lotus of the Correct Law, to dwell everywhere and to rejoice. You, Adamantine Protector, who are the entity of emptiness, aspect-free nature and desire-free nature.
This mantra, which expresses the heart of the Lotus Sutra, was found in the iron tower in southern India.174 In this mantra, the words saddharma mean "correct Law." Sad means sho or correct. Sho is the same as myo or wonderful, myo is the same as sho. Hence the titles Sho-hokke-kyo and Myoho-renge-kyo. And when the two characters namu are prefixed to the title Myoho-renge-kyo, we have the formula Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.175
Myo means perfect endowment. Six refers to the six paramitas representing all the ten thousand practices.176 When the persons ask to hear the teaching of perfect endowment, they are asking how they may gain the perfect endowment of the six paramitas and ten thousand practices of the bodhisattvas. In the phrase "perfect endowment," endowment refers to the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, while perfect means that, since there is mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, then any one world contains all the other worlds, indicating that this is "perfect." The Lotus Sutra is a single work consisting of eight volumes, twenty-eight chapters, and 69,384 characters. Each and every character is endowed with the character myo, each being a Buddha who has the thirty-two distinctive features and eighty characteristics.177 Each of the Ten Worlds manifests its own Buddhahood. As Miao-lo writes, "Since even Buddhahood is present in all living beings, then all the other worlds are of course present, too."178
The Buddha replied to the request of his listeners by saying that "the Buddhas wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings.’’ The term "all living beings" here refers to Shariputra and it also refers to icchantikas, persons of incorrigible disbelief. It also refers to the nine worlds. Thus the Buddha fulfilled his words, "Living beings are numberless. I vow to save them all,"179 when he declares: "At the start I took a vow, hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us, and what I long ago hoped for has now been fulfilled."
All the great bodhisattvas, heavenly beings and others, when they had heard the doctrine of the Buddha and comprehended it, said: "Since times past often we have heard the World-Honored One’s preaching, but we have never heard this kind of profound, wonderful and superior Law." One’s preaching’ refers to the fact that they had heard him preach the great doctrines of the Kegon Sutra and other sutras in the time previous to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. ‘We have never heard this kind of profound, wonderful and superior Law’ means that they had never heard the teaching of the one vehicle of Buddhahood propounded in the Lotus Sutra."180
They understood, that is, that none of the previous Mahayana sutras-including those of the Kegon, Hodo and Hannya periods, such as the Jimmitsu and Dainichi sutras- which are numerous as the sands of the Ganges, had ever made clear the great principle of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, which is the core of all the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime, or the bone and marrow of those teachings, the doctrines that those in the two vehicles will achieve Buddhahood and that the Buddha attained enlightenment in the remote past.
Footnotes | Part Two
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol. 2. Page 86.
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