A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life
A sage is one who fully understands the three existences of life-past, present and future. The Three
Sovereigns, the Five Emperors and the Three Sages referred to in Confucianism understood only the present; they knew neither
the past nor the future. Brahmanists, however, were able to see eighty thousand kalpas into the past and the future, thus
in a small way resembling sages. People of the two vehicles of Hinayana teachings were aware of the law of cause and effect
working throughout the past, present and future. Hence they were superior to the Brahmanists.
The Hinayana bodhisattvas passed three asamkhya kalpas in their practice; the bodhisattvas of the connecting
teaching did as many kalpas as there are dust particles; and the bodhisattvas of the specific teaching spent myriad kotis
of kalpas attaining each of the many stages of practice.
In the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha described the period of sanzen-jintengo
in the past. This teaching surpasses all the previous ones of his preaching life. Moreover, in the essential teaching of the
sutra, the Buddha revealed the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo, all the kalpas since the distant past, as well as matters
pertaining to countless kalpas in the future.
From the above it is clear that a thorough understanding of both the past and the future is intrinsic
to the nature of a sage. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, accurately predicted the near future, saying that he would
enter nirvana in three months’ time. Can there then be any doubt about his prediction for the distant future, that the
Lotus Sutra will spread abroad widely in the last five-hundred-year period after his passing! With such perception one can
see the distant future by looking at what is close at hand. One can infer what will be from what exists in the present. This
is the meaning of [the passage from the Lotus Sutra that says, "This reality consists of the appearance. . . and their consistency
from beginning to end."
Who should be acknowledged as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the last five-hundred-year period! I
did not trust my own wisdom, but because the rebellion and invasion that I had predicted have occurred, I can now trust it.
I do not declare this out of pride.
My disciples should know this: I, Nichiren, am the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Since I follow in the
footsteps of Bodhisattva Fukyo, those who despise and slander me will have their heads broken into seven pieces, whereas those
who believe in me will amass good fortune as high as Mount Sumeru.
Question: Why is it that those who slander you have not yet had their heads broken into seven pieces?
Answer: Since ancient times, of all those who slandered sages other than the Buddha, only one or two
have suffered punishment by having their heads broken. The offense of defaming Nichiren is not by any means limited to only
one or two persons. The entire populace of Japan have in fact [slandered Nichiren and] had their heads broken. What else do
you think caused the great earthquake of the Shoka era and the huge comet of the Bun’ei era! I am the foremost sage
in the entire land of Jambudvipa.
Nevertheless, all people, from the ruler on down to the common people, have despised and slandered me,
attacked me with swords and staves, and even exiled me. That is why Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the
Four Heavenly Kings incited a neighboring country to punish our land. This is clearly described in the Daijuku and Ninno sutras,
the Nirvana Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. No matter what prayers may be offered, if the people fail to heed me, this country
will suffer calamities such as those that occurred on Iki and Tsushima.
My disciples, you should believe what I say and watch what happens. These things do not occur because
I myself am respectworthy, but because the power of the Lotus Sutra is supreme. If I declare myself before the people, they
will think that I am boastful, but if I humble myself before them, they will despise the sutra. The taller the pine tree,
the longer the wisteria vine hanging from it. The deeper the source, the longer the stream. How fortunate, how joyful! In
this impure land, I alone enjoy true happiness.