The Selection of the Time
Nichiren, disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha
One who wishes to study the teachings of Buddhism must first learn to understand the time. In the past,
when the Buddha Daitsuchisho appeared in the world, he remained for a period of ten small kalpas without preaching a single
sutra. Thus the Lotus Sutra says, "He sat for ten small kalpas." And later, "Because the Buddha knew that the time had not
yet come, though entreated by others, he sat in silence."
Likewise Lord Shakyamuni of the present world spent the first forty years and more of his preaching
life without expounding the Lotus Sutra, because, as the sutra says, ". . . the time to expound it had not yet come."
Lao Tzu remained in his mother’s womb for eighty years, waiting to be born, and Bodhisattva Miroku
abides in the inner court of the Tushita Heaven for a period of 5,670 million years, awaiting the time for his advent in the
world. The cuckoo sings when spring is waning, the cock waits until the break of day to crow. If even these lowly creatures
have such an understanding of time, then how can a person who wishes to practice the teachings of Buddhism fail to make certain
what time it is?
When Shakyamuni Buddha prepared to preach at the place where he had gained enlightenment, the various
Buddhas made their appearance in the ten directions and all the great bodhisattvas gathered around. Bonten, Taishaku and the
Four Heavenly Kings came with their robes fluttering. The dragons and others of the eight kinds of lowly beings pressed their
palms together, the common mortals of superior capacity bent their ears to listen, and the bodhisattvas who in their present
bodies have attained the stage where they perceive the non-birth and non-extinction of the phenomenal world, along with Bodhisattva
Gedatsugatsu, all begged the Buddha to preach. But the World-Honored One did not reveal a single word concerning the doctrines
that persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku can attain Buddhahood, or that he himself had attained enlightenment countless
ages in the past, nor did he set forth the most vital teachings of all, those concerning ichinen sanzen and the fact that
one can attain Buddhahood in his present form. There was only one reason for this: the fact that, although his listeners possessed
the capacity to understand such doctrines, the proper time had not yet come. Or, as the Lotus Sutra says, ". . . because the
time to expound it had not yet come."
But when Shakyamuni Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra to the gathering on Eagle Peak, the great king Ajatashatru,
the most unfilial person in the entire world, was allowed to sit among the listeners. Devadatta, who had spent his whole life
slandering the Law, was told that in the future he would become a Buddha called Heavenly King, and the dragon king’s
daughter, though impeded by the five obstacles, became a Buddha without changing her dragon form. Those predestined for the
realms of shomon and engaku were told that they would in fact become Buddhas, like scorched seeds that unexpectedly sprout
and put forth flowers and fruit. The Buddha revealed that he had attained enlightenment countless ages in the past, which
puzzled his listeners as greatly as if he had asserted that an old man of a hundred was the son of a man of twenty-five. And
he also expounded the doctrine of ichinen sanzen, explaining that the nine worlds have the potential for Buddhahood, and that
Buddhahood retains the nine worlds.
Thus a single word of this Lotus Sutra that he preached is as precious as a wish-granting jewel, and
a single phrase is the seed of all Buddhas. We may leave aside the question of whether Shakyamuni’s listeners at that
point possessed the capacity to understand such doctrines or not. The fact is that the time had come for him to preach them.
As the Lotus Sutra says, "Now this is the very time when I must decisively preach the teaching of the great vehicle."
Question: If one preaches the great Law to persons who do not have the capacity to understand it, then
the foolish ones among them will surely slander it and will fall into the evil paths of existence. Is the person who does
the preaching not to blame for this?
Answer: If a man builds a road for others and someone loses his way on it, is that the fault of the
road-builder? If a skilled physician gives medicine to a sick person but the sick person repelled by the medicine, refuses
to take it and dies, should one blame the physician?
Question: The second volume of the Lotus Sutra says, "When you are among ignorant men, do not preach
this sutra!" The fourth volume says, "[This scripture] must not be distributed or recklessly transmitted to others." And the
fifth volume states, "This Lotus Sutra is the secret storehouse of Buddhas. Among the sutras, it holds the highest place.
It should be guarded through the long night and never recklessly expounded." These passages from the sutra would seem to indicate
that one should not expound the Law to those who do not have the capacity to understand it.
Answer: I refer you to the passage in the Fukyo chapter that states, "He would say to people, ‘I
deeply respect you.’" The chapter also says, "But among the four kinds of people he addressed, there were some who flared
up in anger, whose minds were possessed by foul thoughts, and they cursed and abused him, saying, ‘This stupid monk!’"
It also says, "Some among the people would beat him with sticks and staves, and stone him with rocks and tiles." And in the
Kanji chapter it says, ‘There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us, and will attack us with
swords and staves." These passages imply that one should preach the Law even though he may be reviled and cursed and even
beaten for it. Since the sutra so teaches, is the one who preaches to blame?
Question: Now these two views appear to be as incompatible as fire and water. May I ask how one is to
resolve this dilemma?
Answer: T’ien-t’ai says that one should use whatever method "accords with the time." And
Chang-an says, "You should distinguish between the shoju and shakubuku methods and never adhere solely to one or the other."
What these remarks mean is that at times, the Buddha’s teaching will be met with slander and one therefore refrains
from expounding it for the present, and at other times, even though one encounters slander, one nevertheless makes a point
of preaching anyway. There are times when, although a few persons may have the capacity to believe, the great majority will
only slander the Buddha’s teaching, and one therefore refrains from expounding it for the present. And there are other
times when, although the great majority of persons are bound to slander the Buddha’s teaching, one nevertheless makes
a point of preaching anyway.
When Shakyamuni Buddha first attained enlightenment and prepared to preach, the great bodhisattvas Hoe,
Kudokurin, Kongodo, Kongozo, Monju, Fugen, Miroku and Gedatsugatsu, as well as Bonten, Taishaku, the Four Heavenly Kings,
and countless numbers of common mortals of superior capacity came to hear him. When he preached at the Deer Park, Ajnata Kaundinya
and the others of the five ascetics, along with Mahakashyapa and his two hundred fifty followers, Shariputra and his two hundred
fifty followers, and eighty thousand heavenly beings all gathered to listen.
At the ceremony of the great assembly for the Hodo sutras, Shakyamuni’s father, King Shuddhodana,
displayed a sincere desire for Buddhism, and Shakyamuni therefore entered the palace and preached the Kambutsu Zammai Sutra
for him. And for the sake of his deceased mother, Queen Maya, he secluded himself in the Trayastrimsha Heaven for a period
of ninety days and there preached the Maya Sutra. Where his father and mother were concerned, one would think he could not
possibly withhold even the most secret teaching of the Law. And yet he did not preach the Lotus Sutra for them. In the final
analysis, the Buddha’s preaching of the Lotus Sutra has nothing to do with the capacities of his listeners. As long
as the proper time had not yet come, he would on no account expound it.
Question: When is the time for the preaching of the Hinayana sutras and the provisional sutras, and
when is the time for the preaching of the Lotus Sutra?
Answer: Even bodhisattvas, from those in the ten stages of faith to those on the verge of full enlightenment,
find itdifficult to judge matters concerning time and capacity. How then can ordinary beings such as ourselves be able to
judge such matters?
Question: Is there no way to determine them?
Answer: Let us borrow the eye of the Buddha to consider this question of time and capacity. Let us use
the sun of the Buddha to illuminate the nation.
Question: What do you mean by that?
Answer: In the Daijuku Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha, the World-Honored One, addresses Bodhisattva Gatsuzo
and predicts the future. Thus he says that the first five hundred years after his passing will be the age of enlightenment,
and the next five hundred years, the age of meditation (making one thousand years). The next five hundred years will be the
age of reading, reciting and listening, and the next five hundred years, the age of building temples and stupas (making two
thousand years). Concerning the next five hundred years after that, he says, "Quarrels and disputes will arise among the adherents
to my teachings, and the Pure Law will become obscured and lost."
These five five-hundred-year periods, which total twenty-five hundred years, are delineated in different
ways by different people. The Meditation Master Tao-ch’o of China declares that during the first four of the five five-hundred-year
periods, which constitute the Former and Middle Days of the Law, the Pure Law of the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings will
flourish, but that after the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, these teachings will all perish. At that time, only those
who practice the Pure Land teaching, the Pure Law of the Nembutsu, will be able to escape the sufferings of birth and death.
The Japanese priest Honen defines the situation in this way. According to him, the Lotus, Kegon, Dainichi
and various Hinayana sutras which have spread in Japan, along with the teachings of the Tendai, Shingon, Ritsu and other sects,
constitute the Pure Law of the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law referred to in the passage from
the Daijuku Sutra cited above. But once the world enters the Latter Day of the Law, all these teachings will be completely
obliterated. Even though men should continue to practice such teachings, not a single one of them will succeed in escaping
from the sufferings of birth and death. Thus Nagarjuna in his Jujubibasha Ron and the priest T’an-luan refer to such
teachings as the "difficult-to-practice way"; Tao-ch’o declares that not a single person has ever attained enlightenment
through them; and Shan-tao says that not one person in a thousand can be saved by them. After the Pure Law of these teachings
has become obscured and lost, then the Great Pure Law -- namely, the three Pure Land sutras and the single practice of calling
upon the name of Amida Buddha -- will make its appearance, and when people devote themselves to this practice, even though
they may be evil or ignorant persons, "If there are ten of them, then all ten will be reborn in the Pure Land, and if there
are a hundred of them, then all hundred will be reborn there." This is the meaning of the passage: "Only the single doctrine
of the Pure Land constitutes the road that leads to salvation."
Honen therefore declares that if men desire happiness in the next life, they should withdraw their support
from Mount Hiei, To-ji, Onjo-ji and the seven major temples of Nara, as well as from all the various temples and monasteries
throughout the islands of Japan, and should seize all the fields and land holdings that have been donated to these temples
and devote these resources to the building of Nembutsu halls. If they do so, they will be certain to be reborn in the Pure
Land. Thus he urges them to recite the words Namu Amida Butsu.
It has now been more than fifty years since these teachings spread throughout our country. My refutation
of these evil doctrines is now a thing of the past. There is no doubt that our present age corresponds to the fifth five-hundred-year
period described in the Daijuku Sutra, when "the Pure Law will become obscured and lost." But that which is to come after
"the Pure Law has become obscured and lost" is the Great Pure Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart and core of the Lotus
Sutra. This is what should be propagated and spread throughout the continent of Jambudvipa -- with its eighty thousand kingdoms,
their eighty thousand rulers, and the ministers and countless subjects in the domain of each ruler -- so that it may be chanted
by all persons, just as the name of Amida is now chanted by the mouths of the monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen throughout
Question: What passages can you cite to prove this?
Answer: The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra says, "In the fifth five hundred years after my death,
accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease." This indicates that "worldwide kosen-rufu" will be accomplished
in the time after "the Pure Law becomes obscured and lost," as the Daijuku Sutra puts it.
Again, the sixth volume speaks of "one who is able to uphold this sutra in the evil age of the Latter
Day of the Law," and the fifth volume talks of "the latter age when the Law is on the point of disappearing." The fourth volume
states, "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it
be in the world after his passing?" And the fifth volume says, "The people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely
difficult to believe." And the seventh volume, speaking of the fifth five-hundred-year period which is the age of conflict,
says, "Do not allow the devil, the devil’s people, or the deities, dragons, yakshas, kumbhandas or their kind to seize
The Daijuku Sutra says, "Quarrels and disputes will arise among the adherents to my teachings." And
the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra similarly says, "There will be monks in that evil age...," "Or there will be forest-dwelling
monks...," and, "Demons will take possession of others..."
These passages describe the following situation. During the fifth five-hundred-year period, eminent
priests who are possessed by demons will be found everywhere throughout the country. At that time, a single wise man will
appear. The eminent priests who are possessed by demons will deceive the ruler, his ministers and the common people into slandering
and abusing this man, attacking him with sticks, staves, tiles and stones, and condemning him to exile or death. At that time,
Shakyamuni, Taho and the Buddhas of the ten directions will speak to the great bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth,
and the great bodhisattvas will in turn report to Bonten Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings.
As a result, strange occurrences and omens will appear in abundance in the heavens and on earth.
If the rulers of the various countries fail to heed this warning, then the Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas
will order neighboring countries to censure those evil rulers and the evil priests of their countries. Then great struggles
and disputes such as have never been known in the past will break out in the world.
At that time, all the people living in the four continents illuminated by the sun and moon, fearing
the destruction of their nation or the loss of their lives, will pray to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas for help. And if there
is no sign that their prayers will be answered, they will put their faith in this single humble priest whom they earlier despised.
Then all the countless eminent priests, the great rulers of the eighty thousand countries and the numberless common people
will all bow their heads to the ground, press their palms together, and in one voice will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It will
be like that occasion during the Buddha’s demonstration of his ten mystic powers, described in the Jinriki chapter of
the Lotus Sutra, when all the beings in the worlds of the ten directions, without a single exception, turned toward the saha
world and cried out together in a loud voice, Namu Shakyamuni Buddha, Namu Shakyamuni Buddha, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!
Question: The sutra passages you have cited clearly prove your point. But are there any prophecies in
the writings of T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo or Dengyo that would support your argument?
Answer: Your process of questioning is backwards! If I had cited passages from the commentaries of men
such as T’ien-t’ai and the others and you had then asked whether there were sutra passages to support them, that
I could understand. But since I have already cited passages from the sutras that clearly prove the argument, it is hardly
necessary to ask if there are similar passages in the commentaries. If by chance you found that the sutras and the commentaries
disagreed, would you then discard the sutras and follow the commentaries?
Question: What you say is perfectly true. Nevertheless, we ordinary persons have only a very remote
idea of what the sutras mean, while the commentaries are more accessible and easier to understand. If there are clear passages
of proof in such relatively understandable commentaries, then citing them might help us have greater faith in your argument.
Answer: I can see that you are very sincere and earnest in your questioning, so I will cite a few passages
from the commentaries. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai states, "In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic Way shall
spread and benefit mankind far into the future." The Great Teacher Miao-lo says, "The beginning of the Latter Day of the Law
will not be without inconspicuous benefit."
The Great Teacher Dengyo declares, "The Former and Middle Days are almost over, and the Latter Day is
near at hand. Now indeed is the time when the One Vehicle expounded in the Lotus Sutra will prove how perfectly it fits the
capacities of all people. How do we know this is true? Because the Anrakugyo chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, ‘In
the latter age when the Law is on the point of disappearing, [the Lotus Sutra will be expounded far and wide].’" And
Dengyo further states, "The propagation of the true teaching will begin in the age when the Middle Day of the Law ends and
the Latter Day opens, in a land to the east of T’ang and to the west of Katsu, 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 during the
lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?’ There is good reason for this statement."
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in the Kalpa of Continuance, in the ninth kalpa of decrease, when the span
of human life was diminishing and measured a hundred years. The period when the span of human life diminishes from a hundred
years to ten years accordingly falls within the period represented by the fifty years of the Buddha’s preaching life,
the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law that follow his passing, and the ten thousand years of the
Latter Day of the Law that follow that. During this period, the Lotus Sutra was destined to be propagated and spread widely
on two occasions. The first was the last eight years of the Buddha’s life [when he preached the Lotus Sutra], and the
second is the five hundred years at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law.
T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo were not born early enough to be present when the Buddha
was in the world and preached the Lotus Sutra, nor were they born late enough to be present in the Latter Day of the Law.
To their regret, they were born in the interval between these two times, and it is clear from their writings that they looked
forward with longing to the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. Theirs was like the case of the hermit-sage Asita who,
when he viewed the newborn Prince Siddhartha, the future Shakyamuni Buddha, remarked in sorrow, "I am already over ninety,
so I will not live to see this prince attain enlightenment. After my death, I will be reborn in the world of formlessness,
so I cannot be present during the fifty years when he preaches the Law, nor can I be reborn in this world during the Former,
Middle or Latter Day of the Law!" Such was his lament.
All those who are determined to attain the Way should take note of these examples and rejoice! Those
concerned about their next life would do better to be common people in this, the Latter Day of the Law, than be mighty rulers
during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law. Why won’t people believe this? Rather than be
the chief priest of the Tendai sect, it is better to be a leper who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo! As Emperor Wu of the Liang
dynasty said in his vow, "I would rather be Devadatta and sink into the hell of incessant suffering than be the non-Buddhist
sage Udraka Ramaputra!"
Question: Do the scholars Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu say anything about the Great Pure Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?
Answer: Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu knew about it in their hearts, but they did not expound it in words.
Question: Why did they not expound it?
Answer: There are many reasons. For one, the people of their day did not have the capacity to understand
it. Second, it was not the proper time. Third, these men were bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching and hence had not been
entrusted with the task of expounding it.
Question: Could you explain the matter in greater detail?
Answer: The Former Day of the Law began on the sixteenth day of the second month, the day after the
Buddha’s passing. The Venerable Mahakashyapa received the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings and propagated
them for the first twenty years. For the next twenty years, this task fell to the Venerable Ananda, for the next twenty years
to Shanavasa, for the next twenty years to Upagupta, and for the next twenty years to Dhritaka. By that time a hundred years
had passed. But the only teachings that were spread abroad during this period were those of the Hinayana sutras. Even the
titles of the Mahayana sutras failed to receive mention, so the Lotus Sutra, needless to say, was not propagated at this time.
Men such as Mikkaka, Buddhananda, Buddhamitra, Parshva and Punyayashas then inherited the teachings,
and, during the remainder of the first five hundred years after the Buddha’s passing, the doctrines of the Mahayana
sutras began little by little to come to light, although no particular effort was made to propagate them. Attention was concentrated
on the Hinayana sutras alone. All this transpired during the period mentioned in the Daijuku Sutra as the first five hundred
years, which constitute the age of enlightenment.
During the latter part of the Former Day of the Law, six hundred to a thousand years after the Buddha’s
passing, there appeared such men as Ashvaghosha, Kapimala, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Rahulata, Samghanandi, Samghayashas, Kumarata,
Jayata, Vasubandhu, Manorhita, Haklena and Aryasimha. These ten or more teachers started out as adherents of non-Buddhist
doctrines. Following that, they made a thorough study of the Hinayana sutras, and still later, they turned to the Mahayana
sutras and used them to disprove and demolish the doctrines of the Hinayana sutras.
But although these great men used the Mahayana sutras to refute the Hinayana, they did not fully clarify
the superiority of the Lotus Sutra in comparison to the other Mahayana sutras. Even though they did touch somewhat on this
question, they did not make clear such vitally important doctrines as the ten mystic principles of the theoretical and the
essential teachings, the fact that persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku can attain Buddhahood, the fact that the
Buddha attained enlightenment countless aeons in the past, the fact that the Lotus Sutra is the most difficult of all the
sutras preached in the past, present or future, or the doctrines of the hundred worlds and thousand factors and of ichinen
They did no more than point a finger at the moon, as it were, or touch on some parts of the Lotus Sutra.
But they said nothing at all about whether or not the process of instruction is revealed from beginning to end, whether or
not the original relationship between master and disciple is clarified, or which teachings would lead to enlightenment and
which would not. Such, then, were the developments in the latter five hundred years of the Former Day of the Law, the time
noted in the Daijuku Sutra as the age of meditation.
By some time after the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, Buddhist teachings had spread throughout
the entire land of India. But in many cases, Hinayana doctrines prevailed over those of the Mahayana, or provisional sutras
were permitted to overshadow and efface the sutra of the true teaching. In a number of respects, Buddhism was in a chaotic
condition. Gradually, the number of persons attaining enlightenment declined, while countless others, though adhering to Buddhist
doctrines, fell into the evil paths of existence.
Fifteen years after the beginning of the Middle Day of the Law which followed the thousand years of
the Former Day Buddhism spread eastward and was introduced into the land of China. During the first hundred years or more
of the first half of the Middle Day of the Law, the Buddhist doctrines introduced from India were vigorously disputed by the
Taoist teachers of China, and neither side could win a clear victory. Though it appeared at times as though the issue had
been decided, those who embraced Buddhism were as yet lacking in deep faith. Therefore, if it had become apparent that the
sacred teachings of Buddhism were not a unified doctrine but were divided into Hinayana and Mahayana, provisional and true,
and exoteric and esoteric teachings, then some of the believers might have had doubts and turned instead to the non-Buddhist
teachings. It was perhaps because the Buddhist monks Kashyapa Matanga and Chu-fa-lan feared such a result that they made no
mention of such divisions as Mahayana and Hinayana or provisional and true teachings when they brought Buddhism to China,
though they were perfectly aware of them.
During the five dynasties that followed, the Wei, Chin, Sung, Ch’i and Liang, disputes took place
within Buddhism over the differences between the Mahayana and Hinayana, provisional and true, and exoteric and esoteric teachings,
and it was impossible to determine which was correct. As a result, from the ruler on down to the common people, there were
many people who had doubts about the doctrine.
Buddhism thus became split into ten different schools, the three schools of southern China and seven
schools of northern China. In the south there were the schools that divided the Buddha’s teachings into three periods,
into four periods, and into five periods, while in the north there were the five-period school, the school that recognized
incomplete-word and complete-word teachings, the four-doctrine school, five-doctrine school, six-doctrine school, the two-Mahayana-doctrine
school and the "one-voice" school.
Each of these schools clung fiercely to its own doctrines and clashed with the others like fire encountering
water. Yet in general they shared a common view. Namely, among the various sutras preached during the Buddha’s lifetime,
they put the Kegon Sutra in first place, the Nirvana Sutra in second place, and the Lotus Sutra in third place. They admitted
that, in comparison to such sutras as the Agon, Hannya, Vimalakirti and Shiyaku, the Lotus Sutra represents the truth, a "complete
teaching" sutra that sets forth correct views. But they held that, in comparison to the Nirvana Sutra, it represents a doctrine
of non-eternity, an "incomplete-teaching" sutra that puts forth heretical views.
From the end of the fourth through the beginning of the fifth hundred years following the introduction
of Buddhism in the Later Han dynasty, in the time of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties, there lived a humble priest named
Chih-i, the man who would later be known as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che. He refuted the mistaken doctrines
of the northern and southern schools and declared that among the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime, the Lotus Sutra
ranks first, the Nirvana Sutra second, and the Kegon Sutra third. This is what occurred in the first five hundred years of
the Middle Day of the Law, the period corresponding to that described in the Daijuku Sutra as the age of reading, reciting
During the latter five hundred years of the Middle Day of the Law, in the reign of Emperor T’ai-tsung
at the beginning of the T’ang dynasty, the Learned Doctor Hsuan-tsang journeyed to India, spending nineteen years visiting
temples and pagodas in the one hundred and thirty states of India and meeting with numerous Buddhist scholars. He investigated
all the profound doctrines contained in the twelve divisions of the scriptures and the eighty thousand sacred teachings of
Buddhism and encountered therein the two schools of the Hosso and the Sanron.
Of these two, the Mahayana Hosso doctrine was said to have been taught long ago by Miroku and Asanga
and in more recent times by the scholar Shilabhadra. The latter transmitted it to Hsuan-tsang, who brought it to China and
taught it to Emperor T’ai-tsung.
The heart of the Hosso doctrine lies in its assertion that Buddhist teachings should accord with the
capacities of the listeners. If people have the capacity to understand the doctrine of the one vehicle, then the doctrine
of the three vehicles can be no more than an expedient to instruct them, and the doctrine of the one vehicle, the only true
way of enlightening them. For people such as these, the Lotus Sutra should be taught. On the other hand, if they have the
capacity to understand the three vehicles, then the one vehicle can be no more than an expedient to instruct them, and the
three vehicles, the only true way of enlightening them. For people such as these, the Jimmitsu and Shrimala sutras should
be taught. This, say the proponents of the Hosso school, is a principle that T’ien-t’ai failed to understand.
Emperor T’ai-tsung was a very wise ruler whose name was known throughout the world and who was
said to have surpassed in virtue the Three Rulers and Five Emperors of antiquity. He not only reigned over the entire land
of China, but also extended his influence to more than eighteen hundred foreign countries ranging from Kao-ch’ang in
the west to Koguryo in the east. He was regarded as a ruler who had mastered both Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachings. And
since Hsuan-tsang was first in the favor and devotion of this wise ruler, there was none among the leaders of the Tendai school
who ventured to risk losing his head by challenging him, and the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra were neglected and forgotten
throughout the country.
During the reigns of T’ai-tsung’s heir, Emperor Kao-tsung, and Kao-tsung’s stepmother,
Empress Wu, there lived a priest called Fa-tsang. He observed that the Tendai school was under attack from the Hosso school
and took this opportunity to champion the Kegon Sutra, which T’ien-t’ai had relegated to a lower place, declaring
that the Kegon Sutra should rank first, the Lotus Sutra second, and the Nirvana Sutra third among the sutras preached during
the Buddha’s lifetime.
In the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung, the fourth ruler following T’ai-tsung, in the fourth year
of the K’ai-yuan era (716), the Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei came to China from the western land of India, and in the
eighth year of the same era (720), the learned doctors Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung also came to China from India. These
men brought with them the Dainichi, Kongocho and Soshitsuji sutras and founded the Shingon school. This school declares that
there are two types of Buddhist teachings: the exoteric teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, which are expounded in the Kegon,
Lotus and similar sutras, and the esoteric teachings of Dainichi or Mahavairochana, Buddha, which are expounded in the Dainichi
and similar sutras. The Lotus Sutra holds first place among the exoteric teachings. But although its fundamental principles
somewhat resemble those of the esoteric teachings expounded by Dainichi Buddha, it contains no description whatsoever of the
mudras and mantras to be used in religious rituals. It fails to include any reference to the three mysteries of body, mouth
and mind and hence is to be regarded as an "incomplete teaching."
Thus all of these three schools mentioned above, the Hosso, Kegon and Shingon, attacked the Tendai school
and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Perhaps because none of the members of the Tendai school could measure up to the stature
of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, though they were aware of the falsity of these other teachings, they did not
attempt to speak out against them in public as T’ien-t’ai had. As a result, everyone throughout the country, from
the ruler and high ministers on down to the common people, was led astray from the true teachings of Buddhism, and no one
any longer came to attain enlightenment. Such were the events of the first two hundred years or more of the latter five-hundred-year
period of the Middle Day of the Law.
Some four hundred years or more after the beginning of the Middle Day of the Law, the sacred scriptures
of Buddhism were brought to Japan from the kingdom of Paekche in Korea, along with a wooden statue of the Buddha Shakyamuni,
and also priests and nuns. At this time the Liang dynasty in China was coming to an end, to be replaced by the Ch’en
dynasty, while in Japan, Emperor Kimmei, the thirtieth sovereign since Emperor Jimmu, was on the throne.
Emperor Kimmei’s son, Emperor Yomei, had a son named Prince Jogu who not only worked to spread
the teachings of Buddhism but also designated the Lotus Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra and Shrimala Sutra as texts that would insure
the protection of the nation.
Later, in the time of the thirty-seventh sovereign, Emperor Kotoku, the teachings of the Sanron and
Jojitsu schools were introduced to Japan by Kanroku, a priest from Paekche. During the same period, the priest Dosho, who
had been to China, introduced the teachings of the Hosso and Kusha schools.
In the reign of Empress Gensho, the forty-fourth sovereign, a monk from India named Shan-wu-wei, already
mentioned earlier, brought the Dainichi Sutra to Japan, but he returned to China, where he had been residing, without spreading
its teachings abroad in Japan.
In the reign of Emperor Shomu, the forty-fifth sovereign, the Kegon school was introduced from the Korean
kingdom of Silla by a priest of that state called the Preceptor Shinjo. The Administrator of Monks Roben inherited its teachings
and in turn introduced them to Emperor Shomu. He also helped to construct the great image of the Buddha at Todai-ji temple.
During the time of the same emperor, the priest Ganjin came from China, bringing with him the teachings
of the Tendai and Ritsu schools. But although he spread the Ritsu teachings and built a Hinayana ordination platform at Todai-ji
he died without even so much as mentioning the name of the Hokke school.
Eight hundred years after the beginning of the Middle Day of the Law, in the reign of the fiftieth sovereign,
Emperor Kammu, there appeared a young priest without reputation named Saicho, who was later to be known as the Great Teacher
Dengyo. At first he studied the doctrines of the six sects -- Sanron, Hosso, Kegon, Kusha, Jojitsu and Ritsu -- as well as
the Zen teaching, under the Administrator of Monks Gyohyo and others. Later he founded a temple called Kokusho-ji, which in
time came to be known as Hiei-zan or Mount Hiei. There he pored over the sutras and treatises of the six sects, as well as
the commentaries written by their leaders. But he found that these commentaries often contradicted the sutras and treatises
upon which these sects relied and were replete with one-sided opinions. It became apparent to him that if people were to accept
such teachings, they would all fall into the evil paths of existence. In addition, though the leaders of each of the different
sect proclaimed that they had understood the true meaning of the Lotus Sutra and praised their own particular interpretation,
none of them had in fact understood its teachings correctly. Saicho felt that, if he were to state this opinion openly, it
would surely lead to quarrels and disputes. But if he remained silent, he would be going against the spirit of the Buddha’s
vow. He agonized over what course to take, but in the end, fearful of violating the Buddha’s admonition, made known
his views to Emperor Kammu.
Emperor Kammu, startled at his declaration, summoned the leading authorities of the six sects to engage
in debate. At first these scholars in their pride were similar to banners raised aloft like mountains, and their evil minds
worked like poisonous snakes, but in the end they were forced to bow in defeat in the presence of the ruler, and each and
every person of the six sects and the seven major temples of Nara acknowledged himself a disciple of Saicho.
It was like that earlier occasion when the Buddhist scholars of northern and southern China gathered
in the palace of the Ch’en dynasty and, having been bested in debate by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, became
his disciples. But [of the three types of learning] T’ien-t’ai had employed only perfect meditation and perfect
wisdom. The Great Teacher Dengyo, by contrast, attacked the Hinayana specific ordination for administering the precepts, which
T’ien-t’ai had failed to controvert, and administered the Mahayana specific ordination described in the Bommo
Sutra to eight eminent priests of the six sects. In addition, he established on Mount Hiei a specific ordination platform
for administering the precepts of the perfect and immediate enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra. Thus the specific ordination
in the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment at Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei was not only the foremost ordination ceremony
in Japan, but a great ordination in the precepts of Eagle Peak such as had never been known either in India or China or anywhere
else in the world during the eighteen hundred or more years since the Buddha’s passing. This ceremony of ordination
had its beginning in Japan.
If we examine the merit achieved by the Great Teacher Dengyo, we would have to say that he is a sage
who surpasses Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu and who excels both T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo. If so, then what priest in
Japan today could turn his back on the perfect precepts of the Great Teacher Dengyo, whether he belongs to To-ji, Onjo-ji,
or the seven major temples of Nara, whether he is a follower of one of the eight sects or of the Jodo, Zen or Ritsu sect in
whatever corner of the land? The priests of the nine regions of China became the disciples of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
with respect to the perfect meditation and perfect wisdom that he taught. But since no ordination platform for universally
administering the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment was ever established in China, some of them might not have
become his disciples with regard to the precepts. In Japan, however, [because Dengyo in fact established such an ordination
platform] any priests who fail to become disciples of the Great Teacher Dengyo can only be regarded as heretics and men of
As to the question of which of the two newer sects brought from China is superior, the Tendai or the
Shingon, the Great Teacher Dengyo was perfectly clear in his mind. But he did not demonstrate which was superior in public
debate, as he had done previously with regard to the relative merit of the Tendai sect in comparison to the six older sects.
Perhaps on that account, after the death of Dengyo, Toji, the seven major temples of Nara, Onjo-ji and other temples throughout
the provinces of Japan all began proclaiming that the Shingon sect is superior to the Tendai sect, until everyone from the
ruler on down to the common people believed that such was the case.
Thus the true spirit of the Tendai-Hokke sect really flourished only during the lifetime of the Great
Teacher Dengyo. Dengyo lived at the end of the Middle Day of the Law, during the period described in the Daijuku Sutra as
the age of building temples and stupas. The time had not yet arrived when, as the Daijuku Sutra says, "Quarrels and disputes
will arise among the adherents to my teachings, and the Pure Law will become obscured and lost."
Now more than two hundred years have passed since we entered the Latter Day of the Law, a time of which,
as the Daijuku Sutra records, the Buddha predicted that "quarrels and disputes will arise among the adherents to my teachings,
and the Pure Law will become obscured and lost." If these words of the Buddha are true, it is a time when the whole world
will without doubt be embroiled in quarrels and disputes.
Reports reaching us say that the entire land of China, with its 360 states and 200 or more provinces,
has already been conquered by the kingdom of the Mongols. The Chinese capital was conquered some time ago, and the two rulers
Emperor Hui-tsung and Emperor Ch’in-tsung were taken captive by the northern barbarians and ended their days in the
region of Tartary. Meanwhile, Hui-tsung’s grandson, Emperor Kao-tsung, driven out of the northern capital, established
his residence in the countryside at the temporary palace at Lin-an, and for many years now he has not seen the capital.
In addition, the six hundred or more states of Koryo and the states of Silla and Paekche on the Korean
Peninsula have all been conquered by the great kingdom of the Mongols, and in like manner the Mongols have even attacked the
Japanese territories of Iki, Tsushima and Kyushu. Thus the Buddha’s prediction concerning the occurrence of quarrels
and disputes has proved anything but false. It is like the tides of the ocean that never fail to come when the time arrives.
In view of the accuracy of his prediction, can there be any doubt that, after this period described
in the Daijuku Sutra when "the Pure Law will become obscured and lost," the Great Pure Law of the Lotus Sutra will be spread
far and wide throughout Japan and all the other countries of the world?
Among the Buddha’s various teachings, the Daijuku Sutra represents no more than an exposition
of provisional Mahayana doctrine. In terms of teaching the way to escape from the sufferings of birth and death, it belongs
to the period when the Buddha had "not yet revealed the truth," and so cannot lead to enlightenment those who have not yet
formed any connection with the Lotus Sutra. And yet in what it states concerning the six paths, the four forms of birth, and
the three existences of life, it does not display the slightest error.
How, then, could there be any error in the Lotus Sutra, of which the Buddha said that he "now must reveal
the truth"? Taho Buddha likewise testified to its truth, and the Buddhas from the ten directions put forth their long broad
tongues until they reached the Brahma Heaven as a sign of testimony. And Shakyamuni Buddha also extended his tongue, which
is incapable of telling falsehoods, until it reached the Akanishtha Heaven, saying that in the fifth five-hundred-year period
after his passing, when the entire body of Buddhist doctrine would be about to disappear, Bodhisattva Jogyo would come forward
with the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo and administer them as good medicine to those afflicted with white leprosy --
those persons of incorrigible disbelief and those who slander the Law. And he charged Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun
and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the dragon deities to act as that bodhisattva’s protectors. How could these golden
words of his be false? Even if the great earth were to turn upside down, a high mountain crumble and fall, summer not follow
spring, the sun move eastward, or the moon fall to earth, this prediction could never fail to come true!
If that is so, then, in this time of "quarrels and disputes," how can the ruler, the ministers and the
common people of Japan hope to escape harm when they vilify and abuse the envoy of the Buddha who is attempting to spread
the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, send him into exile and attack and beat him, or inflict all kinds of trouble upon his
disciples and followers? And stupid and ignorant persons must surely think when I say this that I am merely calling down curses
upon the people.
A person who spreads the teaching of the Lotus Sutra is father and mother to all the living beings in
Japan. For, as the Great Teacher Chang-an says, "He makes it possible for the offender to rid himself of evil, and thus he
acts like a parent to the offender." If so, then I, Nichiren, am the father and mother of the present emperor of Japan, and
the teacher and lord of the Nembutsu believers, the Zen followers and the Shingon priests.
And yet, from the ruler on down to the common people, all treat me with enmity. How, then, can the sun
and moon go on shining down on their heads, and how can the gods of the earth continue to bear up their feet? When Devadatta
attacked the Buddha, the earth shook and trembled and flames shot out of it. When King Dammira cut off the head of the Venerable
Aryasimha, his own right hand that held the sword dropped off and fell to the ground. Emperor Hui-tsung branded the face of
the priest Fa-tao and exiled him south of the Yangtze, but before half a year had passed, the emperor was taken prisoner and
carried off by the barbarians. And these attacks of the Mongols are occurring for the same reason. Though one may gather together
as many soldiers as there are in the five regions of India and build one’s fortress in the Iron-wheel Mountain, it will
do no good. The people of Japan are certain to encounter the calamity of war.
From this situation one should understand that I am in fact the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Shakyamuni
Buddha stated that, if anyone should abuse or curse someone who is spreading the teaching of the Lotus Sutra in the evil times
of the later age that person would be guilty of a crime that is a hundred a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand times
greater than if he had been an enemy of the Buddha for the space of an entire kalpa. And yet nowadays the ruler and the people
of Japan, following their personal whims, seem to hate me even more intensely than they would an enemy of their own parents
or one who had been a foe from their previous lifetime or upbraid me even more severely than they would a traitor or a murderer.
I wonder that the earth does not open up and swallow them alive, or that thunder does not come down from heaven and tear them
Or am I perhaps not the votary of the Lotus Sutra after all? If not, then I am wretched indeed! What
a miserable fate, in this present life to be hounded by everyone and never know so much as a moment of peace, and in the next
life to fall into the evil paths of existence! If in fact I am not the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then who will uphold the
one vehicle, the teaching of the Lotus Sutra?
Honen ordered people to discard the Lotus Sutra, Shan-tao said, "Not one person in a thousand can reach
enlightenment through its teachings!" and Tao-ch’o said, "Not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood through that
sutra!" Are these men, then, the votaries of the Lotus Sutra? Kobo Daishi said that one who practices the teaching of the
Lotus Sutra is following "a childish theory." Is he perhaps the votary of the Lotus Sutra?
The Lotus Sutra speaks of a person who "is able to uphold this sutra’’ or who "is able to
preach this sutra. What does it mean when it speaks of someone who "is able to preach" this sutra? Does it not mean someone
who will proclaim, in the words of the Lotus Sutra itself, that "among the sutras, it holds the highest place," and who will
maintain its superiority over the Dainichi Kegon, Nirvana, Hannya and other sutras? Is this not the kind of person the sutra
means when it speaks of "the votary of the Lotus Sutra"? If these passages from the sutra are to be believed, then in the
seven hundred years and more since Buddhism was introduced to Japan, there has never been a single votary of the Lotus Sutra
other than the Great Teacher Dengyo and I, Nichiren.
Again and again I wonder that the persons who attack me do not, as the Lotus Sutra says, suffer the
punishment of having their "heads split into seven pieces’’ or their "mouths closed and stopped up," but I realize
there are reasons. Such punishments are no more than trivial penalties fit to be inflicted where there are only one or two
offenders. But I, Nichiren, am the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra for the entire world. Therefore, people who ally themselves
with those who slander me or treat me with malice deserve to meet with the greatest difficulties in the world, such as the
great earthquake that rocked Japan in the Shoka era, or the great comet that appeared as a punishment upon the entire world
in the Bun’ei era. Just look at these happenings! Though in the centuries since the Buddha’s passing there have
been other practitioners of Buddhism who were treated with malice, great disasters such as these have never been known before.
That is because there has never before been anyone who taught the people at large to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo! With respect
to this virtue, is there anyone in the whole world who dares to face me and say he is my equal, anyone within the four seas
who dares to claim he can stand side by side with me?
Question: During the Former Day of the Law, the capacities of the people may have been somewhat inferior
to those of the people who lived when the Buddha was in the world. And yet they were surely much superior to those of the
people in the Middle and Latter Days of the Law. How then can you say that in the early years of the Former Day of the Law,
the Lotus Sutra was ignored? It was during the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law that such men as Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna,
Aryadeva and Asanga appeared. Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, who is known as the "scholar of a thousand works," wrote the Hokke Ron
or Treatise on the Lotus Sutra, in which he declared that the Lotus is first among all the sutras. The Learned Doctor Paramartha,
in describing the transmission of the Lotus Sutra, says that in India there were more than fifty scholars who spread the teachings
of the Lotus Sutra and that Vasubandhu was one of them. Such was the situation in the Former Day of the Law.
Turning to the Middle Day of the Law that followed, we find that the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
appeared in China around the middle of the period and wrote the Hokke Gengi, Hokke Mongu and Maka Shikan in thirty volumes,
in which he explored all the depths of meaning in the Lotus Sutra. At the end of the Middle Day of the Law, the Great Teacher
Dengyo appeared in Japan. He not only transmitted to our country the two doctrines of perfect wisdom and perfect meditation
expounded by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, but also established a great ordination platform of the perfect and
immediate enlightenment on Mount Hiei. Thus the perfect precepts were acknowledged throughout Japan, and everyone from the
ruler on down to the common people looked up to Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei as his guide and teacher. How then can you
say that in the Middle Day of the Law, the teachings of the Lotus Sutra were not widely disseminated and spread abroad?
Answer: It is a commonly accepted assertion among the scholars of our times that the Buddha’s
teachings are invariably fitted to the capacities of his listeners. But in fact this is not what the Buddha truly teaches.
If it were true that the greatest doctrines were always preached for the persons with the most superior capacities and understanding,
then why, when the Buddha first achieved enlightenment, did he not preach the Lotus Sutra? Why, during the first five hundred
years of the Former Day of the Law, were the teachings of the Mahayana sutras not spread abroad? And if it were true that
the finest doctrines are revealed to those who have a particular connection with the Buddha, then why did Shakyamuni Buddha
preach the Kambutsu Zammai Sutra for his father, King Shuddhodana, and the Maya Sutra for his mother, Queen Maya, [rather
than the Lotus Sutra]? And if the reverse were true, namely, that secret doctrines should never be revealed to evil persons
having no connection with the Buddha nor to slanderers of Buddhism, then why did the monk Kakutoku teach the Nirvana Sutra
to all the countless monks who were guilty of breaking the precepts? Or why did Bodhisattva Fukyo address the four kinds of
people, who were slanderers of the Law, and propagate to them the teachings of the Lotus Sutra?
Thus we can see that it is a great mistake to assert that the teachings are invariably expounded according
to the listeners’ capacities.
Question: Do you mean to say that Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu and the others did not teach the true doctrines
of the Lotus Sutra?
Answer: That is correct. They did not teach them.
Question: Then what doctrines did they teach?
Answer: They taught the doctrines of provisional Mahayana, the various exoteric and esoteric teachings
such as the Kegon, Hodo, Hannya, Dainichi and other sutras, but they did not teach the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra.
Question: How do you know that this is so?
Answer: The treatises written by Bodhisattva Nagarjuna run to some three hundred thousand verses. Not
all of them have been transmitted to China and Japan, so it is difficult to make statements about their true nature. However,
examining the ones that have been transmitted to China such as the Jujubibasha Ron, Chu Ron and Daichido Ron, we may surmise
that the treatises remaining in India are of a similar nature.
Question: Among the treatises remaining in India, are there any that are superior to the ones transmitted
Answer: There is no need for me to make pronouncements of my own on the subject of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna.
For the Buddha himself predicted that after he had passed away, a man called Bodhisattva Nagarjuna would appear in southern
India, and that his most important teachings would be found in a treatise called the Chu Ron.
Such was the Buddha’s prediction. And accordingly we find that there were some seventy scholars
in India who followed in the wake of Nagarjuna, all of them major scholars. And all of these seventy scholars took the Chu
Ron as the basis of their teachings. The Chu Ron is a work in four volumes and twenty-seven chapters, and the core of its
teachings is expressed in a four-phrase verse that describes the nature of phenomena arising from dependent origination. This
four-phrase verse sums up the four teachings and three truths contained in the Kegon, Hannya and other sutras. It does not
express the three truths as revealed and unified in the Lotus Sutra.
Question: Is there anyone else who thinks the way you do in this matter?
Answer: The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai says, "Do not presume to compare the Chu Ron [to the
teachings of the Lotus Sutra]." And elsewhere he says, "Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna clearly perceived the truth in their hearts,
but they did not teach it. Instead, they preached the provisional Mahayana teachings, which were suited to their times." Miao-lo
remarks, "For demolishing false opinions and establishing the truth, nothing can compare to the Lotus Sutra." And Ts’ung-i
states, "Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu cannot compare with T’ien-t’ai."
Question: In the latter part of the T’ang dynasty, the Learned Doctor Pu-k’ung introduced
to China a treatise in one volume entitled Bodaishin Ron, whose authorship he ascribed to Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. Kobo
Daishi says of it, "This treatise represents the heart and core of all the one thousand treatises of Nagarjuna.’’
What is your opinion on this?
Answer: This treatise consists of seven leaves. There are numerous places in it that could not be the
words of Nagarjuna. Therefore in the catalogues of Buddhist texts it is sometimes listed as a work of Nagarjuna and sometimes
as a work of Pu-k’ung. The matter of its authorship has never been resolved. In addition, it is not a summation of the
lifetime teachings of the Buddha, and contains many loose statements. To begin with, a vital passage, the one asserting that
the Shingon teachings constitute the only way to Buddhahood, is in error, since it denies the fact that the Lotus Sutra enables
one to attain Buddhahood in one’s present form, a fact well attested by both scriptural passages and actual events.
Instead it asserts that the Shingon sutras enable one to attain Buddhahood in one’s present form, an assertion for which
there is not the slightest proof in scriptural passages or actual events. And that one word "only" in the assertion that the
Shingon teachings constitute the only way to Buddhahood is the greatest error of all.
In view of the facts, it seems likely that the work was written by Pu-k’ung himself who, in order
to ensure that the people of the time would regard it with sufficient gravity, attributed it to Nagarjuna.
Pu-k’ung makes a number of other errors as well. Thus, in his translation Kanchi Giki, which deals
with the Lotus Sutra he defines the Buddha of the Juryo chapter as the Buddha Amida, an obvious and glaring mistake. He also
claims that the Dharani chapter of the Lotus Sutra should follow immediately after the Jinriki chapter and that the Zokurui
chapter should come at the very end, views that are not even worth discussing.
And that is not all. He stole the Mahayana precepts from the Tendai school and, obtaining support in
the form of a command from Emperor T’ai-tsung, established them in the five temples on Mount Wu-t’ai. And he decreed
that the classification of doctrinal tenets used by the Tendai school should be adopted for the Shingon school as well. On
the whole, he did many things to confuse and mislead the world. It is acceptable to use translations of sacred texts by other
persons, but translations of sutras or treatises from the hand of Pu-k’ung are not to be trusted.
When both old and new translations are taken into consideration, we find that there are 186 persons
who have brought sutras and treatises from India and introduced them to China in translation. With the exception of one man,
the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva, all of these translators have made errors of some kind. But among them, Pu-k’ung is remarkable
for the large number of his errors. It is clear that he deliberately set out to confuse and mislead others.
Question: How do you know that the translators other than Kumarajiva made errors? Do you mean not only
to destroy the Zen, Nembutsu, Shingon and the others of the seven major sects, but to discredit all the works of the translators
that have been introduced to China and Japan?
Answer: This is a highly confidential matter and I should discuss it in detail only when I am face to
face with the inquirer. However, I will make a few comments here. Kumarajiva himself said, "When I examine the various sutras
in use in China I find that all of them differ from the Sanskrit originals. How can I make people understand this? I have
only one great wish. My body is unclean, for I have taken a wife. But my tongue alone is pure and could never speak false
words concerning the teachings of Buddhism. After I die, make certain that I am cremated. If at that time my tongue is consumed
by the flames then you may discard all the sutras that I have translated." Such were the words that he spoke again and again
from his lecture platform. As a result, everyone from the ruler on down to the common people hoped they would not die before
Kumarajiva, so that they might see what happened.
Eventually Kumarajiva died and was cremated, and his impure body was completely reduced to ashes. Only
his tongue remained, resting atop a blue lotus that had sprung up in the midst of the flames. It sent out shining rays of
five-colored light that made the night as bright as day and in the daytime outshone the rays of the sun. This, then, is why
the sutras translated by all the other scholars came to be held in little esteem, while those translated by Kumarajiva, particularly
his translation of the Lotus Sutra, spread rapidly throughout China.
Question: That tells us about the translators who lived at the time of Kumarajiva or before. But what
about later translators such as Shan-wu-wei or Pu-k’ung?
Answer: Even in the case of translators who lived after Kumarajiva, if their tongues burned up when
they were cremated, it means that there are errors in their work. The Hosso sect in earlier times enjoyed great popularity
in Japan. But the Great Teacher Dengyo attacked it, pointing out that, though the tongue of Kumarajiva was not consumed by
the flames, those of Hsuan-tsang and Tz’u-en burned along with their bodies. Emperor Kammu, impressed by his argument,
transferred his allegiance to the Tendai-Hokke sect.
In the third and ninth volumes of the Nirvana Sutra, we find the Buddha predicting that, when his teachings
were transmitted from India to other countries, many errors would be introduced into them, and the chances for people to gain
enlightenment through them would be reduced. Therefore the Great Teacher Miao-lo remarks, "Whether or not the teachings are
grasped correctly depends upon the persons who transmit them. It is not determined by the sage’s original pronouncements."
He is saying that, no matter how the people of today may follow the teachings of the sutras in hopes
of a better life in the hereafter, if the sutras they follow are in error, then they can never attain enlightenment. But that
is not to be attributed to any fault of the Buddha.
In studying the teachings of Buddhism, apart from the distinctions between Hinayana and Mahayana, provisional
and true, and exoteric and esoteric teachings, this question of the reliability of the sutra translation is the most important
Question: You say that during the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, scholars knew in their
hearts that the truth of the Lotus Sutra far surpassed the teachings of the other exoteric and esoteric sutras, but that they
did not proclaim this fact to others, merely teaching the doctrines of the provisional Mahayana. I find it difficult to agree
with you, but I think I understand what you are saying.
Around the middle of the thousand years of the Middle Day of the Law, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
Chih-che appeared. In the ten volumes or thousand leaves of his Hokke Gengi he discussed in detail the meaning of the five
characters composing the title of the Lotus Sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo. In the ten volumes of his Hokke Mongu, he discussed each
word and phrase of the sutra, from the opening words, "Thus I heard," through the very last words, "...they bowed and departed."
He interpreted them in the light of four guidelines, namely, causes and circumstances, correlated teachings, the theoretical
and essential teachings, and the observation of the mind, once more devoting a thousand leaves to the discussion.
In the twenty volumes composing these two works, the Hokke Gengi and Hokke Mongu, he likened the teachings
of all the other sutras to streams and rivers and the Lotus Sutra to the great ocean. He demonstrated that the waters that
make up the Buddhist teachings of all the worlds of the ten directions flow, without the loss of a single drop, into that
great ocean of the Myoho-renge-kyo. In addition, he examined all the doctrines of the great scholars of India, not overlooking
a single point, as well as the doctrines of the ten teachers of northern and southern China, refuting those that deserved
to be refuted and adopting those that were worthy of acceptance. In addition to the works just mentioned, he also expounded
the Maka Shikan in ten volumes, in which he summed up the Buddha’s lifetime teachings on meditation in the concept of
ichinen, and encompassed all the living entities and their environments of the Ten Worlds in the concept of sanzen.
The pronouncements found in this work of T’ien-t’ai surpass those of all the scholars who
lived in India during the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, and are superior to the commentaries of the teachers
who lived in China during the five hundred years preceding T’ien-t’ai. Therefore the Great Teacher Chi-tsang of
the Sanron school wrote a letter urging a hundred or more of the leaders and elders of the schools of northern and southern
China to attend the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai’s lectures on the sutras. "That which happens only once in
a thousand years, that which takes place only once in five hundred years, has happened today," he wrote. "Nan-yueh with his
superior sageness, T’ien-t’ai with his clear wisdom -- long ago they received and upheld the Lotus Sutra with
body, mouth and mind, and now they have appeared once again as these two honored teachers. Not only have they caused the sweet
dew of amrita to fall in the land of China, but indeed, they have made the drums of the Law thunder even as far away as India.
They possess the mystic enlightenment that comes with inborn understanding, and their expositions of the sacred texts truly
are unparalleled since the time of the Wei and Chin dynasties. Therefore I wish to go with a hundred or more priests of the
meditational practice and beg to receive the lectures of the Great Teacher Chih-che."
The Discipline Master Tao-hsuan of Mount Chung-nan praised the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
by saying, "His thorough understanding of the Lotus Sutra is like the noonday sun shining down into the darkest valley; his
exposition of the Mahayana teachings is like a powerful wind roaring at will through the great sky. Though the teachers of
words and phrases might gather by the thousands and attempt to inquire into his wondrous arguments, they could never understand
them all. . . . His teachings are as clear as a finger pointing at the moon, . . . and their essence returns to the ultimate
The Dharma Master Fa-tsang of the Kegon school praised T’ien-t’ai in these words: "Men like
Nan-yueh and T’ien-t’ai can understand the truth through intuition, and in practice have already ascended to the
first stage of security. They recall the teachings of the Law as they heard them on Eagle Peak and present them that way today."
There is an account of how Pu-k’ung of the Shingon school and his disciple Han-kuang both abandoned
the Shingon school and became followers of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai. "The Koso Den or Biographies of Eminent
Priests states, ‘When Han-kuang together with Pu-k’ung was traveling in India, a monk said to him, "In the land
of China there are the teachings of T’ien-t’ai, which are most suitable in helping to distinguish truth from falsehood
and illuminating what is partial and what is perfect. Would it not be well to translate these writings and bring them here
to this country?"’"
This story was related by Han-kuang to the Great Teacher Miao-lo. When he heard the story, Miao-lo exclaimed,
"Does this not mean that Buddhism has been lost in India, the country of its origin, and must now be sought in the surrounding
regions? But even in China there are few people who recognize the greatness of T’ien-t’ai’s teachings. They
are like the people of Lu."
Now if there had been any major treatises in India that could compare to these three works in thirty
volumes by T’ien-t’ai, then why would the Indian monk have asked that T’ien-t’ai’s commentaries
be brought from China? In view of all this, how can you deny that during the Middle Day of the Law, the true meaning of the
Lotus Sutra was made clear and that the widespread proclamation and propagation of its teachings (kosen-rufu) was accomplished
throughout the entire world?
Answer: The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai preached and spread throughout China a perfect meditation
and perfect wisdom surpassing the lifetime teachings of the Buddha that had never been preached previously by any of the scholars
in the fourteen hundred or more years since the Buddha’s death, that is, in the thousand years of the Former Day of
the Law and the first four hundred years of the Middle Day. His fame even reached as far as India. This would seem to resemble
the widespread proclaiming and propagating of the Lotus Sutra that we have talked about earlier. But at this time an ordination
platform of the perfect and immediate enlightenment had not yet been established. Instead, men followed the Hinayana precepts,
which were grafted onto the perfect wisdom and perfect meditation -- a rather ineffectual combination. It was like the sun
in eclipse or the moon when it is less than full.
Whatever you may say, the time of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai corresponds to the period
described in the Daijuku Sutra as the age of reading, reciting and listening. The time had not yet come for kosen-rufu, or
broadly proclaiming and propagating the Lotus Sutra.
Question: The Great Teacher Dengyo was born in Japan in the time of Emperor Kammu. He refuted the mistaken
beliefs that had held sway in Japan for the two hundred or more years since the time of Emperor Kimmei and declared his support
for the perfect wisdom and perfect meditation taught by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai. In addition, he repudiated
as invalid the ordination platforms that had been established at three places in Japan to confer the Hinayana precepts brought
over by the priest Ganjin and instead set up a Mahayana specific ordination platform of the perfect and immediate enlightenment
on Mount Hiei. This was the most momentous event that had ever taken place in India, China, Japan, or anywhere else in the
world during the eighteen hundred years following the Buddha’s death.
I do not know whether the Great Teacher Dengyo’s inner enlightenment was inferior or equal to
that of Nagarjuna and T’ien-t’ai, but I am convinced that in calling upon all Buddhist believers to adhere to
a single doctrine, he showed himself to be superior to Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu and surpassed even Nan-yueh and T’ien-t’ai.
In general, we may say that during the eighteen hundred years following the death of the Buddha, these
two men, T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, were the true votaries of the Lotus Sutra. Thus Dengyo writes in his work Hokke
Shuku: "The Lotus Sutra says, ‘To seize Mount Sumeru and fling it far off to the measureless Buddha lands -- that is
not difficult . . . But in the evil times after the Buddha’s passing to be able to preach this sutra -- that is difficult
indeed!’ In commenting on this passage, I have this to say: Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but
the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound requires courage. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
trusted and obeyed Shakyamuni Buddha and worked to uphold the Hokke school, spreading its teachings throughout China. We of
Mount Hiei inherited the doctrine from T’ien-t’ai and work to uphold the Hokke school and to disseminate its teachings
The meaning of this passage of commentary is as follows: From the time of the Buddha’s advent
in the Wise Kalpa in the ninth kalpa of decrease, when the human life span was diminishing and had shrunk to a hundred years,
through the fifty years of his preaching life as well as during the eighteen hundred or more years after his death, there
might actually have been a small person only five feet in height who could nevertheless lift a gold mountain 168,000 yojana
or 6,620,000 ri in height and hurl it over the Iron-wheel Mountain faster than a sparrow flies, just as he might take a one-
or two-inch tile and toss it a distance of one or two cho. But even if there should have been such a person, it would be rarer
still for someone to appear in the Latter Day of the Law who could expound the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha did. Yet the Great
Teacher T’ien-t’ai and the Great Teacher Dengyo were just such persons, able to teach it in a manner similar to
The scholars in India never attained the truth of the Lotus Sutra. In China in the period before T’ien-t’ai,
some of the teachers realized the truth but did not go so far as to announce that it is revealed in the Lotus Sutra, and others
did not even realize it. As for later men such as Tz’u-en, Fa-tsang or Shan-wu-wei, they were the kind who say that
east is west or declare that heaven is earth. And these are not opinions that the Great Teacher Dengyo put forward merely
to enhance his own worth.
On the nineteenth day of the first month of the twenty-first year of the Enryaku era (802), Emperor
Kammu paid a visit to the temple at Mount Takao. He summoned more than ten eminent priests from the six sects and seven major
temples of Nara, including Zengi, Shoyu, Hoki, Chonin, Kengyoku, Ampuku, Gonso, Shuen, Jiko, Gen’yo, Saiko, Dosho, Kosho
and Kambin, to come to the temple to debate with the Dharma Master Saicho. But they became tongue-tied after their first words
and could not speak a second or third time. Instead, all bowed their heads as one and pressed their palms together in a gesture
of awe. The Sanron teachings concerning the two types of teachings, the teachings of the three periods, and the thrice-turned
wheel of the Law the Hosso doctrines concerning the teachings of the three periods and the five natures; and the Kegon doctrines
of the four teachings, the five teachings, the root teaching and the branch teachings, the six forms and the ten mysteries
-- all their frameworks were utterly refuted. It was as though the beams and rafters of a great edifice had broken and collapsed,
and the ten and more eminent priests were like once-proud banners dipped in token of defeat.
At that time the emperor was greatly amazed at the proceedings, and on the twenty-ninth day of the same
month he dispatched Wake no Hiroyo and Otomo no Kunimichi as imperial envoys to question the men of the seven temples and
six sects at greater length. All of them in turn submitted a memorial acknowledging that they had been defeated in the debate
and won over by Dengyo’s arguments. "When we privately examine the Hokke Gengi and other commentaries by T’ien-t’ai,
we find that they sum up all the teachings expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha in his lifetime. The full purport of the Buddha’s
doctrines is made clear, without a single point being left unexplained. The Tendai sect surpasses all other sects, and is
unique in pointing out the single way for all to follow. The doctrines that it expounds represent the most profound mystic
truth and are something that we, students of the seven major temples and six sects, have never before heard of, and never
before seen. Now at last the dispute that has continued so long between the Sanron and Hosso sects has been resolved as dramatically
as though ice had melted. The truth has been made abundantly clear, as though clouds and mist had parted to reveal the light
of the sun, moon and stars. In the two hundred or more years since Crown Prince Shotoku spread the Buddhist teachings in this
country, a great many sutras and treatises have been lectured upon and their principles have been widely argued, but until
now, many doubts still remained to be settled. Moreover, the lofty and perfect doctrine of the Lotus Sutra had not yet been
properly explained and made known. Was it that the persons who lived during this period were not yet qualified to taste its
"In our humble view, the ruler of our sacred dynasty has received the charge given long ago by Shakyamuni
Buddha and has undergone profound instruction in the pure and perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra, so that the doctrines of
the unique and wonderful truth that it expounds have for the first time been explained and made clear. Thus we, the scholars
of the six sects, have for the first time understood the ultimate truth. From now on, all the beings in this world who are
endowed with life will be able to embark in the ship of the wonderful and perfect truth and quickly reach the opposite shore.
Zengi and the others of our group have met with great good fortune because of karmic bonds and have been privileged to hear
these extraordinary words. Were it not for some profound karmic tie, how could we have been born in this sacred age?"
In China in past times Chia-hsiang assembled some hundred other priests and, together with them, acknowledged
the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai to be a true sage. And later in Japan, the two hundred or more priests of the seven
temples of Nara proclaimed the Great Teacher Dengyo to be worthy of the title of sage. Thus, during the two thousand years
and more after the passing of the Buddha, these two sages appeared in the two countries of China and Japan respectively. In
addition, the Great Teacher Dengyo established on Mount Hiei an ordination platform for conferring the great precepts of perfect
and immediate enlightenment, precepts which even the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai had never propagated. How then can
you deny that in the latter part of the Middle Day of the Law, the "wide proclamation and propagation" (kosen-rufu) of the
Lotus Sutra was achieved?
Answer: As I have explained in my earlier discussion, a great truth that was not spread abroad by Mahakashyapa
or Ananda was in time propagated by Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva and Vasubandhu. And as I have also explained in my discussion
there was a great truth that was not fully made known by Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu and the others but was propagated by the Great
Teacher T’ien-t’ai. And, as I have further explained it remained for the Great Teacher Dengyo to establish an
ordination platform of the great precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment which were not spread abroad by the Great
Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che.
And, unbelievable as it may seem, there clearly appears in the text of the Lotus Sutra a True Law that
is supremely profound and secret, one which, though expounded in full by the Buddha, in the time since his passing has never
yet been propagated by Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga or Vasubandhu, nor even by T’ien-t’ai
or Dengyo. And the most difficult and perplexing question is whether or not this profound Law can be broadly proclaimed and
propagated throughout the world now at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, the fifth of the five five-hundred-year
periods following the Buddha’s death.
Question: What is this secret Law? First, tell me its name and then I want to hear its meaning. If what
you say is true then perhaps Shakyamuni Buddha will appear in the world once more, or Bodhisattva Jogyo will once again emerge
from the earth. Speak quickly, for pity’s sake!
They say that the Learned Doctor Hsuan-tsang, after dying and being reborn six times, was finally able
to reach India, where he spent nineteen years. But he claimed that the one vehicle doctrine of the Lotus Sutra was a mere
"expedient teaching" and that the Agon sutras of Hinayana Buddhism represent the true doctrine. And the Learned Doctor Pu-k’ung,
when he paid a return visit to India, his homeland, announced that the Buddha of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra is Amida!
This is like saying that east is west or calling the sun the moon. They drove their bodies in vain, and exerted their minds
to no avail.
But we have been fortunate enough to be born in the Latter Day of the Law and can advance in our faith
without making a single false step. We need not spend three asogi kalpas in practice or feed our heads to tigresses in order
to obtain the invisible crown of the Buddha’s head.
Answer: This Law is revealed in the text of the Lotus Sutra, so it is an easy matter for me to explain
it to you. But first, before clarifying this Law, there are three important concerns that I must mention. It is said that,
no matter how vast the ocean, it will not hold within it the body of a dead person, and no matter how thick the crust of the
earth, it will not support one who is undutiful to his parents. According to the Buddhist teaching, however, even those who
commit the five cardinal sins may be saved, and even those who are unfilial may gain salvation. It is only the icchantika
or men of incorrigible disbelief, those who slander the Law and those who pretend to uphold the precepts, ranking themselves
above all others, who cannot be forgiven.
The three sources of difficulty mentioned above are the Nembutsu sect, the Zen sect and the Shingon
sect. The first, the Nembutsu sect, has spread throughout Japan, and the Nembutsu is on the lips of the four kinds of people
[namely, monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen]. The second, the Zen sect, has produced arrogant monks who talk of their "three
robes and one begging bowl" and who fill the area within the four seas, regarding themselves as the enlightened leaders of
the whole world. The third, the Shingon sect, is in a class by itself. It receives support from Mount Hiei, Toji, the seven
temples of Nara and Onjo-ji as well as from the high priestly officials including the chief priest of Mount Hiei, Omuro, the
chief official of Onjo-ji, and supervisors of the various temples and shrines. Since the sacred mirror kept in the imperial
palace was destroyed by fire, the precious mudra of the Shingon Buddha Dainichi has been regarded as a mirror of the Buddha
to take its place; and since the precious sword was lost in the western sea, the five great deities of Shingon have been looked
upon as capable of cutting down the enemies of the Japanese nation. So firmly entrenched are these beliefs that, though the
stone that marks the duration of a kalpa might be worn completely away, it would seem that they would never be overthrown,
and though the great earth itself might turn upside down, people would never question them.
When the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai defeated in debate the leaders of the other schools of
northern and southern China the Shingon teachings had not yet been introduced to that country, and when the Great Teacher
Dengyo won victory over the six sects of Japan, the Shingon doctrines escaped refutation. On several occasions they have managed
to evade their powerful enemies, and on the contrary have succeeded in overshadowing and imperiling the great Law of the Lotus
Sutra. In addition, Jikaku Daishi, who was a disciple of the Great Teacher Dengyo, went so far as to adopt the doctrines of
the Shingon sect and introduce them to Mount Hiei, the headquarters of the Tendai sect, thus obscuring Tendai doctrines and
turning the entire sect into a sphere of Shingon influence. But who could effectively oppose a person of such authority as
Thus, helped on by prejudiced views, the false doctrines of Kobo Daishi continued to escape condemnation.
It is true that the priest Annen did voice a certain opposition to Kobo.
But all he did was to demote the Kegon Sutra from second place and substitute the Lotus Sutra for it,
he still ranked the Lotus Sutra as inferior to the Dainichi Sutra. He was nothing more than an arranger of worldly compromises.
Question: In what way are these three sects in error?
Answer: Let us first consider the Jodo or Nembutsu sect. In China in the time of the Ch’i dynasty
there was a priest named T’an-luan. He was originally a follower of the Sanron school, but when he read the treatise
by Nagarjuna entitled Jujubibasha Ron, he espoused the two categories of the difficult-to-practice way and the easy-to-practice
way. Later there was a man called the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o, who lived during the T’ang dynasty. Originally
he had given lectures on the Nirvana Sutra, but when he read T’an-luan’s account of his conversion to faith in
the Jodo or Pure Land teachings, Tao-ch’o abandoned the Nirvana Sutra and likewise changed over to the Pure Land faith,
establishing the two categories of the Sacred Way teachings and the Pure Land teachings. In addition, Tao-ch’o had a
disciple named Shan-tao who posited two types of religious practice which he called incorrect practices and correct practices.
In Japan some two hundred years after the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, in the reign of Emperor
Gotoba, there lived a man named Honen. Addressing his words to all priests and lay believers, he stated: "Buddhist teachings
are based upon the capacities of the people of the period. The Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra, the doctrines of the eight
or nine sects including the Tendai and Shingon, the teachings of the Buddha’s life time -- the Mahayana and Hinayana,
the exoteric and esoteric, provisional and true teachings -- as well as the sects based on them, were all intended for people
of superior capacities and superior wisdom who lived during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law.
Now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, no matter how diligently one may practice such teachings, they will bring
no benefit. Moreover, if one mixes such practices with the practice of the Nembutsu addressed to the Buddha Amida, then the
Nembutsu will be rendered ineffective and will not lead the believer to rebirth in the Pure Land.
"This is not something that I have taken it upon myself to declare. Bodhisattva Nagarjuna and the Dharma
Master T’an-luan both designate such practices as the difficult-to-practice way. Tao-ch’o says that not a single
person ever attained enlightenment through them, and Shan-tao affirms that not one person in a thousand can be saved by them.
"These persons whom I have quoted were all leaders of the Jodo sect, and so you may be inclined to question
their word. But there is the late eminent priest Eshin, unsurpassed by any wise priests of the Tendai or Shingon sect in the
Latter Day of the Law. He stated in his work entitled Ojo Yoshu that the doctrines of exoteric and esoteric Buddhism are not
the kind of Law that can free us from the sufferings of birth and death. Moreover, the work entitled Ojo Juin by Yokan of
the Sanron sect states the same opinion. Therefore, if people will abandon the Lotus Sutra, Shingon, and other teachings,
and devote themselves entirely to the Nembutsu, then ten persons out of ten and a hundred persons out of a hundred will be
reborn in the Pure Land."
These pronouncements of Honen precipitated debates and disputes with the priests of Mount Hiei, To-ji,
Onjo-ji and the seven major temples of Nara. But Eshin’s words in the preface to his Ojo Yoshu appeared to be so compelling
that in the end Kenshin, the chief priest of the temple on Mount Hiei, surrendered to the Nembutsu doctrine and became a disciple
In addition to that, even persons who were not disciples of Honen began to recite the Nembutsu to Amida
Buddha far more often than they paid reverence to any other Buddha, their mouths continually murmuring it, their minds constantly
occupied with it, until it seemed that everyone throughout the country of Japan had become a follower of Honen.
In the past fifty years, every person within the four borders of the nation has become a follower of
Honen. And if everyone has become a follower of Honen, then every person in the country of Japan is a slanderer of the Law.
Now, if a thousand sons or daughters should band together to murder one parent, then all one thousand of them would be guilty
of committing one of the five cardinal sins. And if one of them as a result should fall into the hell of incessant suffering,
then how could the others escape the same fate?
In the end, it would seem as though Honen, angry at having been condemned to exile, turned into an evil
spirit and took possession of the ruler and the priests of Mount Hiei and Onjo-ji who had earlier persecuted him and his followers,
causing these persons to plot rebellion or to commit other evil acts. As a result, they were almost all destroyed by the Kamakura
authorities in eastern Japan. The few priests of Mount Hiei or To-ji who managed to survive are treated with contempt by ordinary
men and women. They are like performing monkeys that are laughed at by the crowd or subjugated barbarians who are despised
even by children.
The men of the Zen sect, taking advantage of this situation, pronounced themselves "observers of the
precepts," deceiving the eyes of the people and putting on such lofty airs that, no matter what false doctrines they presumed
in their madness to put forward, these doctrines were not recognized as erroneous.
This sect called Zen claims to represent a "special transmission outside the sutras," which was not
revealed by the Buddha in the numerous sutras preached during his lifetime but was whispered in secret to the Venerable Mahakashyapa.
Thus the proponents of this sect maintain that, if one studies the various sutras without understanding the teachings of the
Zen sect, he will be like a dog trying to bite at a clap of thunder or a monkey trying to grasp the moon’s reflection
in the water.
Zen is a false doctrine that appeals to the kind of persons in Japan who have been abandoned by their
fathers and mothers because of their lack of filial devotion or dismissed from service by their lords and masters because
of their outrageous conduct, to young priests who are too lazy to apply themselves to their studies, and to the disreputable
nature of prostitutes. Even though its followers have all embraced the precepts, they are no more than swarming locusts feeding
upon the people of the nation. That is why Heaven glares down in anger and the gods of the earth shudder.
The Shingon sect is a far greater source of trouble than the other two sects I have discussed above,
a major form of heresy, and I would therefore like to discuss it in outline here.
In the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the T’ang dynasty, Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung
brought the Dainichi, Kongocho and Soshitsuji sutras from India and introduced them to China. The teachings of these three
sutras are very clearly set forth. If we look for the basic principle, we find that it consists in unifying the two vehicles
of Learning and Realization in the one vehicle of Bodhisattva and repudiating the two vehicles to reveal the one vehicle.
As far as practices go, the sect employs mudras and mantras.
Such a doctrine cannot compare even with the one vehicle of Buddhahood which is one as opposed to three,
as set forth in the Kegon and Hannya sutras, nor is it even as profound as the specific teaching or the perfect teaching that
preceded the Lotus Sutra, as clarified by the Tendai sect. In its basic meaning at least, it corresponds merely to the two
lower types of teachings, the Tripitaka teaching and the connecting teaching.
Shan-wu-wei no doubt realized that, if he were to expound the teachings set forth in these sutras, he
would be ridiculed by the men of the Kegon and Hosso sects and laughed at by those of the Tendai sect. And yet, since he had
gone to all the trouble of bringing these works from India, probably he did not feel inclined simply to remain silent on the
At this time there was a priest of the Tendai school called the Meditation Master I-hsing, a perverse
man. Shan-wu-wei went to him and questioned him on the Buddhist doctrines taught in China. The Acharya I-hsing, deceived as
to his motives, not only revealed to Shan-wu-wei the main principles of the Sanron, Hosso and Kegon doctrines, but even explained
the teachings of the Tendai school to him.
Shan-wu-wei realized that the Tendai teachings were even finer than he had supposed when he had heard
of them in India, and that the doctrines of the three sutras he had brought could never compete with them. But he set about
to deceive I-hsing, saying, "My good priest, you are one of the cleverest men of China, and the Tendai school has a truly
profound and wonderful teaching. But the Shingon school whose teachings I have brought to China excels it in the fact that
it employs mudras and mantras."
I-hsing appeared to find this reasonable, and Shan-wu-wei then said to him, "Just as the Great Teacher
T’ien-t’ai wrote commentaries on the Lotus Sutra, so I would like to compose a commentary on the Dainichi Sutra
in order to propagate the Shingon teachings. Could you write it down for me?" I-hsing replied, "That would be easy enough."
But in what way should I-hsing write? The Tendai school was unassailable, and though each of the other
sects of Buddhism had competed in trying to refute its doctrines, none had gained the slightest success because of a single
point. That point was the fact that in the Muryogi Sutra, an introductory teaching to the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha had declared
that in the various sutras that he had preached during the previous forty years or more, he had not yet revealed the truth,
thus invalidating the doctrines based upon those various sutras. And in the Hosshi and Jinriki chapters of the Lotus Sutra,
the Buddha stated that no sutras that would be preached in later times could ever equal the Lotus Sutra. In the passage of
the Hosshi chapter concerning the comparison of the Lotus Sutra and others preached at the same time, he also made clear the
superiority of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore I-hsing asked Shan-wu-wei to which of these three categories -- the sutras preached
before the Lotus Sutra, those preached contemporaneously with it, or those preached later -- the Dainichi Sutra should be
At that point, Shan-wu-wei hit upon an exceedingly cunning idea. "The Dainichi Sutra," he explained
to I-hsing, "begins with a chapter called the Jushin chapter. Just as in the case of the Muryogi Sutra, which refutes all
the sutras that had been preached in the previous forty or more years, this Jushin chapter invalidates all other sutras. The
remaining chapters of the Dainichi Sutra, from the Nyumandara chapter through the end, became known in China in two versions,
the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra, though in India they constituted a single sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha, addressing Shariputra
and Miroku, preached the Dainichi Sutra, which he called the Lotus Sutra, but he omitted the explanations of the mudras and
mantras and expounded only the doctrines. This is the work that Kumarajiva introduced to China and which the Great Teacher
T’ien-t’ai employed. At the same time, however, Mahavairochana or Dainichi Buddha, addressing Vajrasattva or Kongosatta,
preached the Lotus Sutra, which he called the Dainichi Sutra. This is the work now called the Dainichi Sutra, a work that
I often saw when I was in India. Therefore I want you to explain that the Dainichi Sutra and Lotus Sutra are to be savored
as works that are essentially the same in flavor, like water and milk. If you do so, then the Dainichi Sutra can stand superior
to all the other sutras preached in the past present and future in the same way that the Lotus Sutra does.
"As to the mudras and mantras, if they are used to adorn the doctrine of the mind which is expressed
in the term ichinen sanzen, this will constitute a secret teaching in which the three mysteries are provided. And with this
doctrine containing the three mysteries, the Shingon will prove superior to the Tendai school, which speaks only of the mystery
of the mind. Shingon is like a general of the first rank who dons armor slings his bow and arrows over his shoulder, and fastens
a sword at his waist. But the Tendai school, with nothing but the mystery of the mind, is like a general of the first rank
who is stark naked."
The Acharya I-hsing wrote all this down just as Shan-wu-wei dictated it.
Throughout the 360 states of China, there was no one who knew about this ruse. At first there were some
disputes over the relative merits of the Tendai and Shingon teachings. But Shan-wu-wei was the kind of person who was able
to command a great deal of respect, whereas the men of the Tendai school were regarded lightly. Moreover, at this time there
were no men of wisdom such as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai had been. Thus day by day the Tendai school lost more
ground to the Shingon, and finally all debate ceased.
As more and more years have gone by, these fraudulent beginnings of the Shingon school have become completely
obscured and forgotten. When the Great Teacher Dengyo of Japan went to China and returned with the teachings of the Tendai
school, he also brought back the Shingon teachings. The Tendai school he recommended to the emperor of Japan but the Shingon
teachings he turned over to the eminent priests of the six sects to study. Dengyo had already established the superiority
of the Tendai teachings over those of the six sects before he went to China. After he came back from China he attempted to
establish an ordination platform for conferring the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment, but this involved him
in a great deal of controversy. He had many enemies and probably felt that establishing the ordination platform would be difficult
enough to accomplish even if he devoted all his efforts to it. Or perhaps he felt that the refutation of the Shingon teachings
should be left until the Latter Day of the Law. In any event, he did not discuss the Shingon teachings in the presence of
the emperor, nor make any clear pronouncement on the matter to his disciples. However, he did leave a one-volume secret work
entitled Ebyo Shu in which he describes how various priests of the seven sects were won over to the Tendai teachings. In the
preface to that work, he mentions the fraudulence of the Shingon teachings.
Kobo Daishi went to China during the Enryaku era, when the Great Teacher Dengyo went. There he studied
the teachings of the Shingon school under Hui-kuo of the temple called Ch’ing-lung-ssu. After returning to Japan, he
pronounced judgment on the relative merits of the doctrines preached by Shakyamuni in the course of his life, declaring that
the Shingon teachings ranked first, the Kegon second, and those of the Lotus Sutra third.
Kobo Daishi enjoys a quite unusual amount of respect among the people of our time. However, although
I hesitate to touch on such matters, in questions of the Buddhist teaching, he committed a rather unusual number of errors.
If we stop to consider the matter in general, it would appear that when he went to China, he merely learned the ritual mudras
and mantras that are used by the Shingon school and introduced these to Japan. But he does not seem to have delved into the
doctrines of the school to any great extent. After he returned to Japan and observed the situation at the time, he saw that
the Tendai sect was flourishing to an unusual degree, and he concluded that it would be difficult to propagate the Shingon
doctrines that he himself adhered to. Therefore, he adopted the viewpoint of the Kegon sect, whose doctrines he had studied
earlier in Japan, declaring [as the Kegon sect does of its own teachings] that the Shingon doctrines were superior to the
Lotus Sutra. But he realized that if he simply asserted the supremacy of his own sect’s teachings over the Lotus Sutra
in the same manner as the Kegon sect, people would not be likely to pay much heed to his words. He consequently gave a new
twist to the Kegon doctrine, declaring that his argument represented the true intent of the Dainichi Sutra, the Bodaishin
Ron by Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, and the Shingon authority Shan-wu-wei, thus bolstering his position with absurd falsehoods.
And yet the followers of the Tendai sect failed to speak out strongly against him.
Question: In his Jujushin Ron, Hizo Hoyaku and Ben Kemmitsu Nikyo Ron, Kobo Daishi makes such statements
as: "Each vehicle that is put forward is claimed to be the true vehicle, but when examined from a later stage, they are all
seen to be mere childish theory"; "[Shakyamuni Buddha] is in the region of darkness, not in the position of enlightenment";
"[The various exoteric Mahayana sutras such as the Lotus Sutra] are comparable to the fourth flavor, that of butter"; and,
"The Buddhist scholars of China have vied with one another to steal the ghee of the Shingon and claim that it is the possession
of their own sect." What are we to make of such statements put forth in these commentaries?
Answer: I have been greatly astonished at the statements in these commentaries and have accordingly
searched through the various sutras, including the three attributed to the Buddha Dainichi. But I do not find a single word
or phrase in the sutras to indicate that, in comparison to the Kegon and Dainichi sutras the Lotus Sutra is "mere childish
theory," that with regard to the Rokuharamitsu Sutra T’ien-t’ai acted as a thief, or that the Shugo Sutra describes
Shakyamuni Buddha as being "in the region of darkness." These are all utterly ridiculous assertions. And yet for the past
three or four hundred years, a sufficiently large number of intelligent persons in Japan accepted them, so that they have
now come to be looked upon as perfectly reasonable and well founded. I would like for a moment therefore to discuss some of
the more patently false opinions put forth by Kobo and point out other absurdities in his thinking.
It was during the period of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties that the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
likened the Lotus Sutra to ghee the finest of the five flavors. It was some two centuries later, in the middle years of the
T’ang dynasty, that the Learned Doctor Prajna translated the Rokuharamitsu Sutra and introduced it to China. Only if
the Rokuharamitsu Sutra -- which places the dharani teachings in the fifth or highest category, comparing them to ghee --
had existed in China during the Ch’en and Sui dynasties would it make any sense to claim that the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai
"stole the ghee of the Shingon."
A similar example exists in the case of the priest Tokuichi of Japan. He bitterly criticized the Great
Teacher T’ien-t’ai for rejecting the doctrine of the teachings of the three periods that is set forth in the Jimmitsu
Sutra, declaring that T’ien-t’ai had used his three-inch tongue to destroy the Buddha’s five-foot body.
The Great Teacher Dengyo in turn attacked Tokuichi, pointing out that the Jimmitsu Sutra was first introduced to China by
Hsuan-tsang in the early decades of the T’ang dynasty. In other words, it was brought to the country a number of years
after T’ien-t’ai, who lived during the Ch’en and Sui, had already passed away. How then could he have rejected
a doctrine that was not introduced to China until the period after his death? Faced with such an argument, Tokuichi was not
only reduced to silence, but his tongue broke into eight pieces, and he died.
But this is nothing compared to the evil accusations made by Kobo. In his writings he labels as thieves
Fa-tsang of the Kegon school, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron, Hsuan-tsang of the Hosso, and T’ien-t’ai, as well as
other various Buddhist leaders of northern and southern China, and in fact all the learned doctors and teachers who have lived
since the time when Buddhism was first introduced to China in the Later Han.
In addition, it should be noted that likening the Lotus Sutra to ghee was by no means a comparison invented
by T’ien-t’ai on his own initiative. The Buddha himself said in the Nirvana Sutra that the Lotus Sutra was like
ghee, and later Bodhisattva Vasubandhu wrote that the Lotus Sutra and Nirvana Sutra were comparable to ghee. And Bodhisattva
Nagarjuna terms the Lotus Sutra a "wonderful medicine." If anyone who compares the Lotus Sutra to ghee is to be labeled a
thief, then are Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten directions, along with Bodhisattvas Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu,
all to be branded as thieves?
Though Kobo’s disciples and the Shingon priests of To-ji temple in Japan may be so poor-sighted
that they cannot distinguish black from white with their own eyes, they should trust the sight of others and recognize the
misfortunes invited by their own faults! Moreover, where are the precise passages in the Dainichi and Kongocho sutras that
refer to the Lotus Sutra as a "childish theory"? Let them produce them! Even if these sutras should perhaps refer to the Lotus
Sutra in those terms, it may quite possibly be an error in translation. Such matters should be examined with great care and
attention before they are put forward.
We are told that Confucius thought nine times before saying one word, and that Tan, the Duke of Chou,
would bind up his hair three times in the course of washing it and spit out his food three times in the course of a meal in
order not to keep callers waiting. Thus we see that even among the men depicted in the non-Buddhist writings who study ephemeral
worldly affairs, those who are wise proceed with great caution. How then can men like Kobo be so careless and shallow in judgment
in matters pertaining to the Law?
Such erroneous views of Kobo’s were handed down until they reached Shokaku-bo, the founder of
the temple called Dembo-in, who stated in his Shariko Shiki: "The figure worthy of true respect is the Buddha of the Nondual
Mahayana. The three-bodied donkey- or ox-Buddha is not even fit to draw his carriage. The truly profound doctrines are the
teachings of the twofold mandala. The teachers of the four doctrines of the exoteric vehicles are not worthy even to tend
the shoes of those who teach the mandala!"
By the teachers of the "four doctrines of the exoteric vehicles," he means those who teach the Hosso,
Sanron, Kegon and Lotus Sutra doctrines, and by the "three-bodied donkey or ox Buddha," he means the Buddha of the four sutras
of the Lotus, Kegon, Hannya and Jimmitsu. He is saying that this Buddha and these monks are not even worthy to act as ox-drivers
or sandal-bearers for the teachers of Shingon doctrine such as Kobo or Shokaku-bo himself.
There was a man in India known as the Great Arrogant Brahman who was born with innate wisdom and was
widely read. Both the exoteric and the esoteric teachings of Buddhism were stored up in his breast, and he had both the Buddhist
and the non-Buddhist writings in the palm of his hand. Even the king and his ministers bowed their heads before him, and the
common people looked up to him as a teacher and guide. But in the excess of his arrogance, he went so far as to make himself
a dais supported by four legs representing the deities Maheshvara, Vishnu and Narayana, along with Shakyamuni Buddha, four
sages whom the world holds in great honor, seating himself on it when he expounded his doctrines. He was like the Shingon
priests of our time when they spread their mandala with its representations of Shakyamuni and the other various Buddhas and
perform their ceremony of anointment, or like the Zen priests when they declare that the teachings of their sect represent
a great Law that steps upon the head of the Buddha.
At this time there was a humble monk called the scholar Bhadraruchi who declared that the Brahman should
be corrected, but neither the ruler and high ministers nor the common people would listen to such a suggestion. In the end,
the Brahman charged his disciples and lay followers to go about spreading countless falsehoods and abusing and beating Bhadraruchi.
But Bhadraruchi, disregarding the danger to his life, continued to denounce the Brahman until the ruler, coming to hate Bhadraruchi,
arranged for him to debate with the Brahman in hopes of silencing him. Contrary to his expectations, however, the Brahman
was the one defeated in the debate.
The king looked up to heaven, then threw himself upon the ground lamenting, and said, "I have been privileged
to hear your words on this matter firsthand and to free myself from my erroneous views. But my father, the former king, was
completely deceived by this man and by now has probably fallen into the hell of incessant suffering!" So saying, he clung
to the knees of the scholar Bhadraruchi and wept in sorrow.
At Bhadraruchi’s suggestion, the Brahman was placed on the back of a donkey so that he might be
led in disgrace throughout the five regions of India and shown to all. But the evil in his heart only grew stronger than ever,
and in his living form he fell into the hell of incessant suffering. Was he any different from the men of the Shingon and
Zen sects in the world today?
The Chinese Meditation Master San-chieh stated that the Lotus Sutra, which represents the teachings
of the Buddha Shakyamuni, is a doctrine suited for the first and second stages of Buddhism, which correspond to the Former
and Middle Days of the Law. For the Latter Day of the Law, however, he asserted that one should adopt the "universal teaching"
that he himself had set forth. He declared that if one should try to practice the Lotus Sutra in these present times of the
Latter Day of the Law, he would surely fall into the great Avichi Hell of the ten directions, because its teachings do not
accord with the nature and capabilities of the people of the Latter Day.
He carried out prostration’s and penance’s at the proper hours six times each day and observed
the four daily meditation periods, conducting himself like a living Buddha. Many people paid him honor and his disciples numbered
more than ten thousand. But one young woman dared to recite the Lotus Sutra and to censure him for his doctrines. As a result,
he lost his voice on the spot and was reborn as a huge snake that devoured a number of his disciples and lay supporters, as
well as girls and young women. And now Shan-tao and Honen, with their pernicious doctrine that not one person in a thousand
can be saved by the Lotus Sutra, are just like this man San-chieh.
Many years have passed now since these great sources of trouble, the Nembutsu, Zen and Shingon teachings,
came into existence, and one should not underestimate their influence. But I feel that if I speak out against them in this
way, there will perhaps be those who will heed my words.
And yet there is something that is more evil than these three teachings, so evil that it is countless
times more difficult to believe. Though Jikaku Daishi was the third disciple of the Great Teacher Dengyo, everyone from the
ruler on down to the common people believed him to be a more outstanding person than Dengyo himself. He made an exhaustive
study of the teachings of the Shingon sect and of the Hokke sect, and stated in his writings that the Shingon teachings are
superior to those of the Lotus Sutra. As a result, the community of priests on Mount Hiei, which numbered three thousand,
as well as the Buddhist scholars in every province throughout Japan, all came to accept his opinion on this matter.
The followers of Kobo had thought that, although he was their teacher, he had perhaps gone too far when
he declared the Lotus Sutra inferior to the Kegon Sutra. But when they saw that Jikaku Daishi put forth a similar opinion
in his exegetical writings, they took it as an accepted fact that the Shingon teachings were indeed superior to the Lotus
Mount Hiei, the headquarters of the Tendai sect, ought to have been the staunchest opponent to this
opinion established in Japan that the Shingon teachings are superior to the Lotus Sutra. Yet Jikaku silenced the mouths of
the three thousand priests of Mount Hiei and prevented them from speaking out, and as a result, the Shingon sect was able
to have its way. In effect, Jikaku Daishi was the foremost ally of To-ji, the leading Shingon temple in the Kyoto area!
Though the Jodo and Zen sects may have flourished in other countries, they would never have been able
to spread throughout Japan in countless kalpas if Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei had not given its assent. But the priest
Annen, known as the first worthy of Mount Hiei, wrote a work called the Kyojijo Ron in which he ranked the nine sects of Buddhism
in the order of their superiority, placing the Shingon sect in the first place, the Zen sect in the second, the Tendai-Hokke
sect in the third, the Kegon sect in the fourth, etc. Because of this egregious error in interpretation, the Zen sect has
been able to spread its teachings throughout Japan, bringing the country to the brink of ruin. And Honen was able to propagate
the teachings of the Jodo or Nembutsu sect and similarly imperil the nation as a result of the opinions first put forth by
Eshin in the preface to his Ojo Yoshu. The Buddha tells us that the lion’s flesh will be consumed by worms within the
body of the lion himself. How true are those words!
The Great Teacher Dengyo spent a period of fifteen years in Japan studying the Tendai and Shingon doctrines
on his own. He was endowed by nature with a wonderful degree of understanding, and without the aid of a teacher realized the
truth. But in order to dispel the doubts of the world, he journeyed to China, where he received instruction in the teachings
of the Tendai and Shingon schools. The scholars in China held various opinions, but Dengyo believed in his heart that the
Lotus Sutra was superior to the Shingon teachings. Therefore he did not use the word "sect" when referring to the teachings
of Shingon, but simply spoke of the Shikan and Shingon practices of the Tendai sect. He decreed that two monks should be ordained
each year and should spend a period of twelve years in study on Mount Hiei. In addition, he received an imperial edict designating
the Lotus, Konkomyo and Ninno sutras as the three scriptures for the protection of the nation and decreeing that they be read
and recited in the Shikan-in. It went on to liken these three sutras to the three treasures of the imperial household, the
eternal and foremost treasures of the Japanese nation, which are the sacred jewel, the sacred sword and sacred mirror. After
Dengyo’s death, the first chief priest of the Tendai sect on Mount Hiei, the priest Gishin, and the second chief priest,
the Great Teacher Encho, carried on Dengyo’s intentions without any deviation.
The third chief priest, Jikaku Daishi, also went to China where he spent ten years studying the relative
merits of the exoteric and esoteric teachings under eight distinguished priests. He also studied under priests of the Tendai
school such as Kuang-hsiu and Wei-chuan. But in his heart he believed that the Shingon school was superior to the Tendai school.
He felt that his teacher, the Great Teacher Dengyo had not gone into the matter in sufficient detail, that he had not remained
for an extended period in China and hence had acquired only a rough understanding of the Shingon doctrines.
After Jikaku returned to Japan, he founded a great lecture hall called Soji-in west of the Shikan-in
in the Todo area on Mount Hiei, in which he established Dainichi Buddha of the Diamond World as an object of worship. In front
of this image he composed, on the basis of Shan-wu-wei’s commentary on the Dainichi Sutra, a seven-volume commentary
on the Kongocho Sutra and a seven-volume commentary on the Soshitsuji Sutra, making a total of fourteen volumes.
The essence of these commentaries is as follows: "There are two types of teachings. One is called the
exoteric, which corresponds to the doctrine of the three vehicles; in this, worldly truth and the superior truth of Buddhism
are not completely fused. The other is called esoteric, which corresponds to the doctrine of the one vehicle; in this, worldly
truth and the superior truth of Buddhism are fused together into a single entity. In turn, there are two types of esoteric
teachings. One is called the esoteric teachings of theory; these are the doctrines found in works such as the Kegon, Hannya,
Vimalakirti, Lotus and Nirvana sutras. But these, though they teach the nondualism of worldly truth and the superior truth,
say nothing about mantras and mudras. The second is called the esoteric teachings of both theory and practice; these are the
doctrines found in the Dainichi, Kongocho and Soshitsuji sutras. These teach the nondualism of worldly truth and the superior
truth, and also explain mantras and mudras."
This essentially means that, in regard to the relative superiority of the Lotus Sutra and the three
Shingon sutras just mentioned, they agree in principle, both teaching the doctrine of ichinen sanzen, but mudras and mantras
are not mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra thus represents the esoteric teachings of theory, while the three Shingon
sutras represent the esoteric teachings of both theory and practice. They are hence as far apart as heaven and earth, or clouds
and mud, say the commentaries. Moreover, Jikaku insists that this is no private interpretation of his own, but represents
the essential view put forward by the Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei in his commentary on the Dainichi Sutra.
But perhaps he felt that the relative worth of the Tendai and Shingon sects was still a matter of doubt,
or perhaps he hoped to dispel the misgivings of others. In any event, the biography of Jikaku Daishi states as follows: "After
the great teacher had completed writing his commentaries on the two sutras and thus accomplished his aim, he wondered to himself
whether or not his commentaries conformed to the will of the Buddha, for he believed that if they did not conform to the Buddha’s
will, they should never be widely circulated in the world. He therefore placed the commentaries before the image of the Buddha
and determined to spend seven days and seven nights earnestly praying and endeavoring to make clear the validity of his purpose.
On the fifth day, early in the morning at the time of the fifth watch, he dreamt that it was high noon and the sun was shining
in the sky. Looking up, he took a bow and shot an arrow at it. The arrow struck the sun, which immediately began to roll over
and over. After he woke from his dream, he realized that his views were profoundly in accord with the will of the Buddha,
and he determined to transmit his commentaries to future ages."
While Jikaku Daishi was in Japan, he made a thorough study of the teachings of both Dengyo and Kobo,
and he spent a period of ten years in China studying under the eight distinguished priests mentioned earlier, including the
Learned Doctor Pao-yueh of southern India, studying all the loftiest and most secret doctrines. On this basis, he completed
his commentaries on the two sutras. In addition, he prayed to the image of the Buddha, and awoke from dreaming that he had
seen the arrow of wisdom strike the sun of the Middle Way. So great was his joy that he requested Emperor Nimmyo to issue
an edict acknowledging Mount Hiei as a center of Shingon practice.
Though he was the chief priest of the Tendai sect, he virtually became a Shingon prelate, declaring
that the three Shingon sutras were the works that would ensure peace and protection of the nation. It has now been more than
four hundred years since he spread these doctrines. The eminent leaders who have accepted them are as numerous as rice and
hemp seedlings, and the fervent believers who have embraced them are as plentiful as bamboo plants and rushes.
As a result, of all the temples established throughout Japan by Emperor Kammu and the Great Teacher
Dengyo, there is not one that has not become a propagator of the Shingon doctrine. Both courtiers and warriors alike invite
Shingon priests to attend to their religious needs, look up to them as their teachers, confer offices upon them and place
them in charge of temples. And in the ceremony carried out at the consecration of Buddhist images or paintings, the "opening
of the eyes," the priests of all the eight sects of Buddhism now use the mudras and mantras associated with the eyes of the
Question: When it comes to those who maintain that the Lotus Sutra is superior to the Shingon teachings,
should they try to make use of these commentaries by Jikaku, or should they reject them?
Answer: Shakyamuni Buddha laid down a rule for future conduct when he said that we should "rely on the
Law and not upon persons." Bodhisattva Nagarjuna says, "Do not rely on treatises that distort the sutras; rely only on those
that are faithful to the sutras." The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai states, "That which accords with the sutras is
to be accepted and heeded. But put no faith in anything that in word or meaning fails to do so." And the Great Teacher Dengyo
says, "Depend upon the preachings of the Buddha and do not put faith in traditions handed down orally."
If one attends to such statements in the sutras, treatises and commentaries, then he should not make
dreams a basis for evaluating the Buddhist teachings. Rather, he should pay particular attention to those sutras and treatises
that make clear the relative superiority of the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra.
As for the assertion that the "opening of the eyes" ceremony for Buddhist paintings and statues cannot
be carried out without the use of Shingon mudras and mantras, this is the sheerest nonsense! Are we to suppose that, before
Shingon appeared on the scene, Buddhist paintings and statues could not be consecrated? In the period before the appearance
of Shingon, there were paintings and statues in India, China and Japan that walked about or preached the Law or spoke aloud.
It would rather appear that since people have begun to use Shingon mudras and mantras in consecrating the Buddha’s images,
the effectiveness of the ceremony has been completely lost!
This is a generally acknowledged point. I would merely like to say that, when it comes to determining
the truth of Jikaku’s assertions, there is no need for me, Nichiren, to cite any outside evidence to refute them. We
have only to examine Jikaku’s own interpretations to understand the truth of the matter.
Question: How do we come to understand it?
Answer: We understand it when we realize that the source of Jikaku’s delusion was the dream that
he had after he had written his commentaries asserting that the Shingon teachings are superior to the Lotus Sutra. If his
dream had been an auspicious one, then we would have to conclude that Jikaku was correct in claiming that Shingon is superior.
But can a dream of shooting the sun be called auspicious? Just try to find anywhere in all the five thousand or seven thousand
volumes of Buddhist scriptures or in the three thousand and more volumes of non-Buddhist literature, any evidence suggesting
that to dream of shooting the sun is an auspicious occurrence!
Let us look at a few pieces of evidence. King Ajatashatru dreamt that the moon was falling out of the
sky. When he consulted his high minister Jivaka, the latter said, "This is a sign of the Buddha’s passing." And when
Subhadra also dreamt that the sun was falling from the sky, he said to himself, "This is a sign of the Buddha’s passing!"
When the asura demons fought with the deity Taishaku, they first of all shot arrows at the sun and moon. The evil rulers King
Chieh of the Hsia dynasty and King Chou of the Yin dynasty in ancient China are both said to have repeatedly shot arrows at
the sun, and both destroyed themselves and brought an end to their dynasties.
Queen Maya dreamt that she conceived the sun, and thereafter gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, who in
time became the Buddha Shakyamuni. For this reason, the Buddha’s name as a child was Sun Seed. Japan or Nihon [meaning
"source of the sun"] is so called because it is the land of Tensho Daijin, the Sun Goddess. In light of these examples, Jikaku’s
dream must mean that he used his two commentaries as arrows to shoot at the Sun Goddess Tensho Daijin, the Great Teacher Dengyo,
Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra. I, Nichiren, am a foolish and ignorant man and I know nothing about the sutras and
treatises. But I do know this much any man who would conclude from such a dream that the Shingon teachings are superior to
the Lotus Sutra will surely in this present life destroy his nation and ruin his family, and after his death will fall into
the Avichi Hell.
We in fact have a piece of evidence to settle the matter. If, when Japan and the Mongol forces engaged
in combat, the prayers of the Shingon priests had proved effective and Japan had won victory on that account, then we might
be persuaded that Shingon is worthy of respect. But at the time of the hostilities in the Jokyu era, though a considerable
number of Shingon priests prayed for the victory of the imperial forces and invoked curses on the forces of the Kamakura shogunate,
the leader of the latter, the Gon no Tayu, emerged victorious. As a result, the Retired Emperor Gotoba was exiled to the island
of Oki, and his sons were exiled to the island of Sado and to another province. Such was the effect of the Shingon prayers
for victory. In the end, the Shingon prayers were like the cries of the fox that give him away, and the curses, as the Lotus
Sutra says, "returned to the originators." The three thousand priests of Mount Hiei were also attacked by the Kamakura troops
and forced to submit.
Now the Kamakura government is at the height of power. Therefore, the Shingon priests of Toji, Mount
Hiei, Onjo-ji and the seven major temples of Nara, along with those priests of the Hokke sect who have forgotten the teachings
of their own sect and instead slander the Law, have all made their way east to the Kanto region, where they bow their heads,
bend their knees, and seek in various ways to win over the hearts of the warriors. They are in turn assigned positions as
superintendents or chief officials of various temples and mountain monasteries, where they proceed to follow the same evil
doctrines that earlier brought about the downfall of the imperial forces, using them to pray for the peace and safety of the
The shogun and his family, along with the samurai who are in their service, very likely believe that
as a result of such prayers, the nation will actually become peaceful and secure. But so long as they employ the services
of priests who invite grave disaster by ignoring the Lotus Sutra, the nation will in fact face certain destruction.
When I think how pitiful it would be if the nation were to be destroyed, and how lamentable would be
the loss of life involved, I feel that I must risk my own life in order to make the truth of the situation clear. If the ruler
desires the security of the nation, he should question the manner in which things are proceeding and try to discern the truth.
But instead, all he does is listen to the calumnies of others and in one way or another treat me with animosity.
In past ages, when there were those who slandered the Law, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and
moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the deities of the earth, all of whom have sworn to defend the Lotus Sutra, would look on
with disapproval. But because there was no one to proclaim the matter aloud, they would be forgiving, as one would be with
an only child who misbehaves, at times pretending not to notice such slander, at times administering a mild reproof. Now that
I am present to make clear the matter, however, I can only be amazed that the ruler should continue to listen to persons who
slander the Law. Yet he does so, and on the contrary even goes so far as to persecute the rare individual who attempts to
enlighten him and rescue him from error. Not for just one or two days, one or two months, or even one or two years, but for
a number of years on end now, I have met with greater difficulties than the sticks and staves that Bodhisattva Fukyo was obliged
to face, and have encountered more fearful opposition than the murderous attacks inflicted on the monk Kakutoku.
During this period, the two great deities Bonten and Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four
Heavenly Kings the gods of stars and the deities of the earth have manifested their anger in various ways and again and again
have delivered reprimands. And yet the attacks on me have only worsened. Finally, Heaven in its wisdom has made the situation
known to the sages of neighboring countries, enlisting them to add to the reprimands, and has caused the great demon spirits
to invade the nation and deceive the people’s hearts, inciting them to rebel against their own rulers.
It is only reasonable to assume that, whether good or evil, the greater the portents, the greater will
be the occurrences to follow. Now we have seen huge comets of a magnitude never known before in the 2,230 or more years since
the Buddha’s passing, and have experienced earthquakes such as were never encountered before during that time. In China
and Japan in the past, sages of outstanding wisdom and ability have from time to time appeared. But none, as an ally of the
Lotus Sutra, has faced such powerful enemies within his country as have I, Nichiren. From the facts present before your very
eyes, it should be apparent that Nichiren is the foremost person in the entire world.
In the seven hundred and more years since Buddhism was first introduced to Japan, there have been five
thousand or seven thousand volumes of sutras read, and eight or ten sects propounded. The men of wisdom who have appeared
have been as numerous as rice and hemp seedlings, and those who have spread the teachings abroad have been as plentiful as
bamboo plants and rushes. And yet of all the various Buddhas, there is none more highly revered, and none whose name is more
widely called upon, than the Buddha Amida.
This practice of invoking the name of the Buddha Amida was advocated by Eshin in his work Ojo Yoshu,
and, as a result, one third of the people of Japan became believers in the Nembutsu, the calling on the name of Amida. When
Yokan wrote the Ojo Juin and the Ojoko Shiki, two thirds of all the people of this country became followers of the Nembutsu.
And when Honen wrote his Senchaku Shu, then everyone alike in this nation of ours became a Nembutsu devotee. Thus those people
who chant the name of the Buddha Amida these days are by no means disciples of only one person.
This thing called the Nembutsu is a daimoku or chant based on the Muryoju, Kammuryoju and Amida sutras,
which are provisional Mahayana sutras. If the daimoku of provisional Mahayana sutras is widely propagated and spread abroad,
it must be a prelude to the propagation of the daimoku of the true Mahayana sutra, must it not? People who have a mind for
such concerns should consider this matter carefully. If the provisional sutras are spread abroad, then the true sutra will
surely be spread abroad. If the daimoku of the provisional sutras is spread abroad, then the daimoku of the true sutra will
also surely be spread abroad.
In all the seven hundred and more years from the time of Emperor Kimmei to the present emperor, such
a thing has never been seen or heard of, namely, a wise man who says let us chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, who urges others to
chant it and chants it himself.
When the sun rises, the stars go into hiding. When a wise king appears, foolish kings perish. When the
true sutra is spread abroad, the provisional sutras will cease to circulate, and when a man of wisdom chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
those ignorant of it will follow after him as shadows follow a form and echoes follow a sound.
There can be no room to doubt that I, Nichiren, am the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in all of
Japan. Indeed, from this we may assume that, even in China and India and throughout the entire world, there is no one who
can stand side by side with me.
Question: The great earthquake of the Shoka era, the huge comet of the Bun’ei era -- what caused
these to appear?
Answer: In the Tendai teachings it is said, "Wise men can see omens and what they foretell, as snakes
know the way of snakes."
Question: What do you mean by that?
Answer: When Bodhisattva Jogyo appeared from beneath the earth, the other bodhisattvas such as Miroku,
Monjushiri, Kanzeon and Yakuo, though they had severed themselves from the first forty-one of the forty-two levels of ignorance,
had not yet severed themselves from the last one, or fundamental darkness. Hence they were in effect ignorant persons, and
consequently failed to understand that this bodhisattva, Jogyo, had been summoned so that he might widely propagate Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
of the Juryo chapter in the Latter Day of the Law.
Question: Is there anyone in Japan, China or India who understands this matter?
Answer: Even the great bodhisattvas who have eradicated the illusions of thought and desire and severed
themselves from the forty-one levels of ignorance cannot understand such a thing. How then could persons who have not rid
themselves of even one iota of delusion be expected to do so?
Question: But if there is no wise man who understands why these calamities have arisen, then how can
proper steps be taken to deal with them? If one does not understand the origin of an illness, though he may try to treat the
sick person, the treatment will surely fail and the patient will die. Now if the people resort to prayers without understanding
the basic cause of these disasters, can there be any doubt that the nation will in time face ruin? Ah, how dreadful to think
Answer: They say that snakes know seven days in advance when a heavy rain is going to occur, and that
crows know what lucky or unlucky events are going to take place in the course of a whole year. This must be because snakes
are followers of the great dragons who make the rains fall, and crows have for a long time studied such matters of divination.
Now I, Nichiren, am only a common mortal, and therefore have no understanding of the cause of these disasters. Nevertheless,
I believe I can generally instruct you concerning this matter.
In the time of King P’ing of the Chou dynasty, persons appeared who let their hair hang down and
went about naked. A court official named Hsin Yu divined on the basis of this and said, "Within a hundred years, this dynasty
will come to an end." In the time of King Yu of the Chou, the mountains and rivers collapsed and were destroyed and the earth
shook. A courtier named Po Yang, observing this, said, "Within twelve years our great ruler will meet with some dire happening."
Now the great earthquake and the huge comet that have appeared are calamities brought about by Heaven,
which is enraged because the ruler of our country hates Nichiren and sides with the Zen, Nembutsu and Shingon priests who
preach doctrines that will destroy the nation!
Question: How can I believe that?
Answer: The Saishoo Sutra says, "Because evil men are respected and favored and good men are subjected
to punishment, the stars and constellations, along with the winds and rains, all fail to move in their proper seasons."
If this passage from the sutra is correct, then there can be no doubt that there are evil men in this
country of ours and that the ruler and his ministers put their trust in such men. Moreover, there can be no doubt that there
is a wise man in this country, and that the ruler of the nation hates and treats him as an enemy.
The same sutra also says, "The deities of the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods will all feel rage in
their hearts, and strange and unusual shooting stars will fall to earth, two suns will come out at the same time, marauders
will appear from other regions and the people of the country will meet with death and disorder."
Already in this country we have had strange happenings in the heavens as well as earthly prodigies,
and the men of a foreign country have come to attack us. Can there be any doubt that the thirty-three heavenly gods are angry?
The Ninno Sutra states, "Evil monks, hoping to gain fame and profit, in many cases appear before the
ruler, the heir apparent or the other princes and take it upon themselves to preach doctrines that lead to the violation of
the Buddhist Law and the destruction of the nation. The ruler, failing to perceive the truth of the situation, listens to
and puts faith in such doctrines."
The same work also refers to a time "when the sun and moon depart from their regular courses, when the
seasons come in the wrong order, when a red sun or a black sun appears, when two, three, four or five suns appear at the same
time, when the sun is eclipsed and loses its light, or when one, two, three, four or five coronas appear around the sun."
These passages mean that if evil monks fill the nation and deceive the ruler, the heir apparent and
the other princes, preaching doctrines that lead to the violation of the Buddhist Law and the downfall of the nation, and
if the ruler and the other men in high positions allow themselves to be deceived by these monks and come to believe that such
doctrines will in fact ensure the protection of the Buddhist Law and the nation, and act accordingly, then the sun and the
moon will behave strangely, and great winds, rains and fires will make their appearance. Next will come internal disorder,
relatives and kin turning against each other and bringing about armed revolt. Many allies and supporters of the ruler and
other men in high positions will be struck down, and then invaders will come from other nations to attack them, until they
are forced to commit suicide or are captured alive or obliged to surrender. This will come about entirely because they heed
doctrines that lead to the destruction of the Buddhist Law and cause the downfall of the nation.
The Shugo Sutra says, "The Law taught by Shakyamuni Buddha cannot be in the least bit harmed by the
various devils of heaven, or by the non-Buddhists, or by evil men, or by hermit-sages who have attained the five supernatural
powers. And yet it can be so thoroughly destroyed by those evil monks who are monks in name and appearance only that nothing
whatsoever remains of it. In this respect it is like Mount Sumeru. Though one might gather all the grass and wood from the
major world system and pile it up as fuel and burn it for a long period of time, Mount Sumeru would not suffer the least degree
of injury. But when the conflagration that marks the end of the world breaks out and fire appears from within the mountain
itself, then in an instant the whole mountain will be consumed by the flames and not even ashes will remain."
The Rengemen Sutra says, "The Buddha said to Ananda, ‘It is like the case of a lion who has died.
No creature that lives in the air, in the soil, in water or on land will venture to eat the flesh of the dead lion. Only the
worms that are born from the body of the lion itself will feed on the lion’s flesh. In the same way, Ananda, the Buddha’s
Law cannot be destroyed by outside forces. But the evil monks who exist within the body of my Law -- they are the ones who
will destroy this Law that the Buddha has labored over and worked to establish for a period of three great asogi kalpas!’"
What do these passages from the sutras mean? In the past the Buddha Kasho described to King Kiriki the
Latter Day of the Law of the Buddha Shakyamuni and revealed what sort of people would destroy Shakyamuni’s teachings.
Evil men might appear such as King Mihirakula, who burned all the Buddhist halls and monasteries of the five regions of India
and murdered all the monks and nuns of the sixteen major states, or Emperor Wu-tsung of China, who destroyed more than 4,600
temples and pagodas in the nine provinces of China and forced 260,500 priests and nuns to return to lay life. But such men
could not destroy the Law preached by Shakyamuni Buddha. It is the priests themselves, who wrap their bodies in the three
robes permitted to them, hang a single begging bowl about their necks, store up in their minds the eighty thousand teachings
and with their mouths recite the twelve divisions of the sutras -- they are the ones who will destroy the Buddha’s Law.
It is like the case of Mount Sumeru, the golden mountain. Though one might gather all the grass and
wood in the major world system and pile it up until it completely filled the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings as well as
the others of the six heavens of the world of desire, and burned it for one year, two years, or ten thousand billion years,
the mountain would not suffer the slightest injury. But when the time comes for the great fire that ends the world, a tiny
flame no bigger than a bean will break out at the base of the mountain, and not only will Mount Sumeru be consumed, but the
entire major world system will likewise be destroyed.
If the Buddha’s predictions are to be believed, then it would appear that the Buddhist priests
of the ten sects or the eight sects of our country will be the ones to burn up the Mount Sumeru of the Buddha’s teaching.
The priests of the Hinayana sects of Kusha, Jojitsu and Ritsu will be the flames of anger that burn with jealous hatred of
the Mahayana sects. And priests such as Shan-wu-wei of the Shingon school, San-chieh of the Zen school, and Shan-tao of the
Jodo school are the worms that are born from the flesh of the lion that is the Buddha’s teaching.
The Great Teacher Dengyo in his writings described the eminent scholars of the Sanron, Hosso, Kegon
and other sects of Japanese Buddhism as six kinds of worms. I, Nichiren, would dub the founders of the Shingon, Zen and Jodo
sects the three worms, and Jikaku, Annen and Eshin of the Tendai sect the three worms who devoured the lion-body of the Lotus
Sutra and the Great Teacher Dengyo!
So long as Nichiren, who is working to expose the root of these great slanders against the Law, is treated
with animosity, the heavenly deities will withhold their light, the gods of the earth will be angered, and omens and calamities
will appear in great numbers. You must understand that, because I speak concerning the most important matter in the entire
world, my words are accompanied by portents of the first magnitude. How tragic, how pitiful, that all the people of this nation
of Japan should fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering! But how fortunate, how joyous, to think that,
with this unworthy body, I have received in my heart the seed of Buddhahood!
Just see how it will be! When tens of thousands of armed ships from the great kingdom of the Mongols
come over the sea to attack Japan, everyone from the ruler on down to the multitudes of common people will turn their backs
on all the Buddhist temples and all the shrines of the gods and will raise their voices in chorus, crying Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo! They will press their palms together and say, "Priest Nichiren, Priest Nichiren, save us!"
In India King Mihirakula was obliged to press his palms together in submission before King Baladitya,
and in Japan Taira no Munemori was forced to pay reverence to Kajiwara Kagetoki. This is in accord with the principle that
men of great arrogance should end by bowing before their enemies.
Those vicious and arrogant monks described in the Lotus Sutra in the beginning armed themselves with
sticks and staves and used them to belabor Bodhisattva Fukyo. But later they pressed their palms together and repented of
their error. Devadatta inflicted an injury on Shakyamuni Buddha that drew blood, but when he was on his deathbed, he cried
out "Namu [Devotion]!" If only he had been able to cry, "Namu Buddha [Devotion to the Buddha]!" he would have been spared
the fate of falling into hell. But so grave were the deeds he had committed that he could only utter the word "Namu" and could
not pronounce the word "Buddha" before he died.
And soon the eminent priests of Japan will no doubt be trying to cry out, "Namu Nichiren Shonin [Devotion
to the sage Nichiren]!" But most likely they will only have time enough to utter the one word, "Namu!" How pitiful, how pitiful!
In the secular texts it is said, "A sage is one who knows those things that have not yet made their
appearance." And in the Buddhist texts it says, "A sage is one who knows the three existences of life -- past, present and
Three times now I have gained distinction by having such knowledge. The first time was the first year
of the Bunno era (1260), when the reverse marker of Jupiter was in the sector of the sky with the cyclical sign kanoe-saru,
on the sixteenth day of the seventh month, when I presented my "Rissho Ankoku Ron" to His Lordship, the lay priest of Saimyo-ji,
by way of Yadoya Nyudo. At that time, I said to Yadoya Nyudo, "Please advise His Lordship that devotion to the Zen sect and
the Nembutsu sect should be abandoned. If this advice is not heeded, trouble will break out within the Hojo family, and the
nation will be attacked by a foreign power."
The second time was the twelfth day of the ninth month of the eighth year of the Bun’ei era (1271),
at the Hour of the Monkey (3:00 - 5:00 P.M.), when I said to the magistrate Hei no Saemon, "Nichiren is the pillar and beam
of Japan. If you lose me, you will be toppling the pillar of Japan! Immediately we will face the disaster of ‘internal
strife,’ or conflict within the realm, and also ‘foreign invasion.’ Not only will the people of our nation
be put to death by foreign invaders, but many of them will also be taken prisoner. All the Nembutsu and Zen temples such as
Kencho-ji, Jufuku-ji, Gokuraku-ji, Daibutsu-den and Choraku-ji should be burned to the ground and their priests taken to Yui
beach to have their heads cut off! If this is not done, then Japan is certain to be destroyed!"
The third time was the eighth day of the fourth month of last year, or the eleventh year of the Bun’ei
era (1274), when I said to Hei no Saemon, "Since I have been born in the ruler’s domain, I must follow him in my actions.
But I need not follow him in the beliefs of my heart. There can be no doubt that the Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant
suffering, and that the Zen sect is the work of devils. And the Shingon sect in particular is a great plague to this nation
of ours. The task of praying for victory over the Mongols should not be entrusted to the Shingon priests! If so grave a matter
is entrusted to them, then the situation will only worsen rapidly and our country will face destruction!"
Hei no Saemon then asked, "When do you think the Mongols will attack?"
I replied, "The sacred scriptures do not indicate the time. But the signs show that Heaven is more than
a little angry. It would appear that the attack is imminent and will probably occur before this year has ended!"
Yet it was not I, Nichiren, who made these three important pronouncements. Rather it was in all cases
the spirit of Shakyamuni Buddha that had entered into my body. And at having personally experienced this, I am beside myself
This is the all-important doctrine of ichinen sanzen taught in the Lotus Sutra. What does the Lotus
Sutra mean when it says, "This reality consists of appearance, . . ."? "Appearance," the first of the ten factors of life,
is the most important of them all; this is why the Buddha appeared in the world. Wise men can see omens and what they foretell,
just as snakes know the way of snakes.
Little streams come together to form the great ocean, and tiny particles of dust accumulate to form
Mount Sumeru. When I, Nichiren, first took faith in the Lotus Sutra, I was like a single drop of water or a single particle
of dust in all the country of Japan. But later, when two people, three people, ten people, and eventually ten thousand billion
people, come to recite the Lotus Sutra and transmit it to others, then they will form a Mount Sumeru of wonderful enlightenment,
a great ocean of nirvana! Seek no other path by which to attain Buddhahood!
Question: At the time of your second pronouncement on the twelfth day of the ninth month of the eighth
year of the Bun’ei era, when you incurred the displeasure of the authorities, how did you know that if harm was done
to you, rebellion would break out and the country would also be attacked by armies from abroad?
Answer: The fiftieth volume of the Daijuku Sutra states: "There may perhaps be various kings of the
kshatriya class who act in a way contrary to the Dharma, causing anguish to the shomon disciples of the World-Honored One.
Perhaps they may curse and revile them or beat and injure them with swords and staves, or deprive them of their robes and
begging bowls and the other things they need. Or perhaps they may arrest or persecute those who give alms to the disciples.
If there should be those who do such things, then we will see to it that their enemies in foreign lands rise up suddenly of
their own accord and march against them, and we will cause uprisings to break out within their states. We will bring about
pestilence and famine, unseasonable winds and rains, and contention, wrangling and slander. And we will make certain that
those rulers do not last for long, but that their nations are brought to destruction."
There are many passages such as this in the sutras, but I have chosen this one because it is particularly
pertinent to the times and to my own position. In this passage, the persons who are speaking are all the deities of the threefold
world, including Bonten, Taishaku, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, and
all the dragons. These eminent beings appeared before the Buddha and took a vow, declaring that, after the Buddha’s
death, in the Former, Middle and Latter Days of the Law, if there should be monks of heretical belief who complain to the
ruler concerning one who practices the True Law, and if those who are close to the ruler or who are loyal to him should simply
accept the word of these monks because of respect for them and, without inquiring into the truth of the matter, heap abuse
and slander on this wise man, then they, the deities, would see to it that though there may have been no reason for such an
occurrence, major revolt would suddenly break out within that country, and in time the nation would also be attacked by enemies
from abroad, so that both the ruler and his state would be destroyed.
On the one hand, I am delighted to think that my prophecies shall come true, yet on the other hand,
it pains me deeply. I have not committed any fault in my present existence. All I have done is try to repay the debt I owe
to the country of my birth by endeavoring to save it from disaster. That my advice was not heeded was certainly a cause of
great regret to me.
Not only was it not heeded, but I was summoned before the authorities, and the scroll of the fifth volume
of the Lotus Sutra was snatched from the breast of my robe and I was harshly beaten with it. In the end, I was arrested and
paraded through the streets of the city. At that time, I called out, "You gods of the sun and moon up in the sky, here is
Nichiren meeting with this great persecution. If you are not ready to risk your lives to aid me, does this mean, then, that
I am not the true votary of the Lotus Sutra? If that is so, then I should correct my mistaken belief at once. If, on the other
hand, Nichiren is the true votary of the Lotus Sutra, then you should send some sign of that fact to this country at once!
If you do not do so, then you, the gods of the sun and moon and all the other deities, will be no more than great liars who
have deceived Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions. Devadatta was guilty of falsehood and deception
and Kokalika was a great liar, but you deities are guilty of telling lies that are ten thousand billion times greater!"
I had no sooner uttered these words than the nation was suddenly faced with internal revolt. Since the
country has fallen into grave disorder, then, although I may be a mere common mortal of no social standing, so long as I uphold
the Lotus Sutra I deserve to be called the foremost Great Man in all Japan at this time.
Question: In the delusion that is arrogance, there are different types of arrogance such as the seven
types, the nine types and the eight types. But your arrogance is ten thousand billion times greater than the greatest degree
of arrogance defined in the Buddhist teachings.
The scholar Gunaprabha refused to bow before Bodhisattva Miroku, and the Great Arrogant Brahman made
himself a dais supported by four legs representing the sages Maheshvara, Vishnu and Narayana, along with Shakyamuni Buddha.
Mahadeva, though only a common mortal, declared that he was an arhat, and the scholar Vimalamitra proclaimed himself foremost
within all the five regions of India. These men were all guilty of faults that condemned them to the hell of incessant suffering.
How, then, do you dare to claim that you are the wisest man in the entire world? Will you not fall into hell like the others?
What a frightful thing to do!
Answer: Have you really understood the meaning of the seven types of arrogance, or of the nine types
or the eight types? Shakyamuni Buddha, the World-Honored One, declared, "I am the foremost throughout the threefold world!"
All the non-Buddhist leaders predicted that Heaven would surely punish him immediately, or that the earth would open up and
swallow him. [But no such thing happened.]
The three hundred or more priests of the seven major temples of Nara asserted that the priest Saicho
[the Great Teacher Dengyo] was an incarnation of Mahadeva or of the Iron Belly Brahman. Nevertheless, Heaven did not punish
him, but on the contrary protected him in various ways, and the earth did not open up and swallow him but remained as hard
as a diamond. The Great Teacher Dengyo founded a temple on Mount Hiei and became the eyes of all people. In the end, the priests
of the seven major temples acknowledged their fault and became his disciples, and the people of the various provinces throughout
the country became his lay supporters. Thus, when someone who is superior declares that he is superior, it may sound like
arrogance, but that person will in fact receive great benefits [because he is actually praising the Law which he embraces].
The Great Teacher Dengyo said, "The Tendai-Hokke sect is superior to the other sects because of the
sutra that it is founded on. Therefore, in declaring its superiority, it is not simply praising itself and disparaging others."
The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "Just as Mount Sumeru is the highest among the various
mountains, so this Lotus Sutra holds the highest position among all the sutras." The sutras which the Buddha preached earlier
such as the Kegon, Hannya and Dainichi sutras, the Muryogi Sutra which he preached at the same time as the Lotus Sutra, and
the Nirvana Sutra which he was to preach later, altogether amounting to the five thousand or seven thousand volumes, as well
as the sutras of the land of India, the dragon king’s palace, the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings, the Trayastrimsha
Heaven and the sun and the moon, and those of all the worlds in the ten directions, are lesser mountains such as the Earth
Mountain the Black Mountain, the lesser Iron-wheel Mountain, or the greater Iron-wheel Mountain in comparison to this Lotus
Sutra which has been brought to Japan, for it is comparable to Mount Sumeru.
The seventh volume also says, "He who can accept and uphold this sutra will be like this too -- he will
be the first among all the multitude of living beings."
Let us consider what this passage means. The other sutras have their supporters. Thus, the Kegon Sutra
is upheld by the bodhisattvas Fugen, Gedatsugatsu, Nagarjuna and Ashvaghosha, the Great Teacher Fa-tsang, the Teacher of the
Nation Ch’ing-liang, Empress Tse-t’ien, the Preceptor Shinjo, the Administrator of Monks Roben, and Emperor Shomu.
The Jimmitsu and Hannya sutras have as their supporters Bodhisattva Shogisho, the Venerable Subhuti, the Great Teacher Chia-hsiang,
the Learned Doctor Hsuan-tsang, the emperors T’ai-tsung and Kao-tsung, the priests Kanroku and Dosho and Emperor Kotoku.
Upholding the Dainichi Sutra of the Shingon sect are the bodhisattvas Kongosatta or Vajrasattva, Nagarjuna and Nagabodhi,
King Satavahana, the learned doctors Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung, the emperors Hsuan-tsung and Tai-tsung,
Hui-kuo, Kobo Daishi, and Jikaku Daishi. And upholding the Nirvana Sutra are Bodhisattva Kasho Doji, the fifty-two types of
beings, and the Learned Doctor Dharmakshema. Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu temple and the ten eminent priests, three from southern
China and seven from northern China, also embraced sutras other than the Lotus Sutra.
But if, in contrast to all these, the common mortals of the evil age that is the Latter Day of the Law,
persons who do not observe a single one of the precepts and who appear to others to be icchantika or persons of incorrigible
disbelief, firmly believe, as the sutra states, that there is no path to Buddhahood outside of the Lotus Sutra, which surpasses
all other sutras preached before, at the same time, or after it -- then such persons, though they may not have a particle
of understanding, are ten thousand billion times superior to those great sages who uphold the other sutras. That is what this
passage from the Lotus Sutra is saying.
Among the supporters of the other sutras, there are some who encourage other people to uphold such sutras
temporarily as a step toward leading them to the Lotus Sutra. There are others who continue to cling to the other sutras and
never move on to the Lotus Sutra. And there are still others who not only continue to uphold the other sutras, but are so
intensely attached to them that they even declare the Lotus Sutra to be inferior to such sutras.
But the votary of the Lotus Sutra should now keep the following in mind. The Lotus Sutra says, "Just
as the ocean is foremost among all bodies of water such as rivers and streams, so one who upholds the Lotus Sutra will likewise
be foremost." It also says, "Just as the god of the moon is foremost among all the heavenly bodies [shining in the night sky],
so one who upholds the Lotus Sutra will likewise be foremost." Keep these passages in mind. All of the wise men of Japan at
the present time are like the host of stars, and I, Nichiren, am like the full moon.
Question: Is there anyone from times past who has spoken the way you have just done?
Answer: The Great Teacher Dengyo states, "One should understand that the sutras on which the other sects
base their teachings are not the first among the sutras, and those persons who uphold such sutras are not the first among
the multitude. But the Lotus Sutra, which is upheld by the Tendai-Hokke sect, is the foremost of all the sutras, and therefore
those who embrace the Lotus Sutra are first among the multitude. This is borne out by the words of the Buddha himself. How
could it be mere self-praise?"
A tick that attaches itself to the tail of a ch’i-lin can race a thousand ri in one day, and a
worthless mortal who accompanies a wheel-turning king can circle in an instant about the four continents of the world. Who
would question the truth of such matters? Dengyo’s words, "How could it be mere self praise?" should be kept in mind.
If what he says is correct, then a person who upholds the Lotus Sutra just as it teaches must be superior
to the deity Bonten and more worthy than the deity Taishaku. If you have the asura demons to help you, you can lift and carry
even Mount Sumeru. If you have dragons in you employ, you can drain all the water in the ocean until it runs dry.
The Great Teacher Dengyo says, "Those who praise him [the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai] will
receive blessings that will pile up as high as Mount Sumeru, while those who slander him will be committing a fault that will
condemn them to the hell of incessant suffering." And the Lotus Sutra states, "They will despise, hate, envy and bear grudges
against those who read, recite, transcribe and embrace this sutra ...After they die, they will fall into the hell of incessant
If these golden words of Shakyamuni Buddha are true, if the testimony to their truth given by Taho Buddha
is not false, and if the sign of assent given by the Buddhas of the ten directions when they extended their tongues is to
be trusted, then there can be no doubt that all the persons in Japan at the present time are destined to fall into the hell
of incessant suffering.
The eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra says, "If in future ages there should be one who accepts and upholds,
reads and recites this sutra, . . . his wishes shall not be in vain, and he will receive his reward of good fortune in his
present life." And it also says, "If there should be someone who makes offerings to a votary of this sutra and praises him,
then he will have manifest reward for it in his present life."
In these two passages are the words "he will receive his reward of good fortune in his present life"
and "he will have manifest reward for it in his present life." If these words, which comprise sixteen characters in the original,
are meaningless, and if Nichiren does not receive some great reward in this present life, then these golden words of the Buddha
will be in the same category as the empty lies of Devadatta, and the testimony of Taho Buddha which guaranteed their truth
will be no different from the baseless assertions of Kokalika. Then none of the persons who slander the True Law will ever
be condemned to the hell of incessant suffering, and the Buddhas of the three existences of life do not exist! But could such
a thing be possible?
Therefore I say to you, my disciples, try practicing as the Lotus Sutra teaches, exerting yourselves
without begrudging your lives! Test the truth of Buddhism! Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!
Question: In the Lotus Sutra we find this passage: "We do not hold our own lives dear. We value only
the supreme Way." And the Nirvana Sutra says, "For example, if an envoy who is skilled in discussion and knows how to employ
clever expedients should be sent to a foreign country to carry out a mission for his sovereign, it is proper that he should
relate the words of his ruler without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life. And a wise man should
do the same in teaching Buddhism, going out among the common run of people, willing to give up his life, and proclaim without
fail the Buddha’s secret teaching as it is contained in the Mahayana sutras, namely, that all beings possess the Buddha
nature." But under what circumstances should one be prepared to sacrifice one’s life and safety? I would like you to
explain the matter to me in detail.
Answer: When I first embarked upon the Buddhist practice, I supposed that the statement, "We do not
hold our own lives dear," meant receiving the imperial command and traveling to China the way men like Dengyo, Kobo, Jikaku
and Chisho did, or that it meant setting out from China as Hsuan-tsang did, traveling all the way to India, dying six times
in the attempt and striving again with each reincarnation. Or I thought that it meant throwing away one’s life the way
Sessen Doji did in order to learn the second half of a verse, or burning one’s elbows as an offering for seventy-two
thousand years the way Bodhisattva Yakuo did. But if we go by the passages of scripture that you have quoted, these are not
the kind of thing that is meant.
As to this passage in the sutra, "We do not hold our own lives dear," the sutra earlier describes the
three powerful enemies who will vilify and attack one with swords and staves and in all likelihood deprive one of life and
safety. And to understand the passage in the Nirvana Sutra that speaks of carrying out one’s duty "even though it may
cost him his life," we should look at the passage later on in the same sutra that says, "There are persons called icchantika,
persons of incorrigible disbelief. They pretend to be arhats, living in deserted places and speaking slanderously of the Mahayana
sutras. When ordinary people see them, they suppose that they are all true arhats and speak of them as great bodhisattvas."
Speaking of the third of the three powerful enemies, the Lotus Sutra says, "Or there will be forest-dwelling
monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement ... They will be respected and revered by the world as though
they were arhats who possess the six supernatural powers." And the Hatsunaion Sutra says, "There are also icchantika who resemble
arhats but who commit evil deeds."
These passages from the sutras speak of powerful enemies of the True Law. And such enemies are to be
found not so much among evil rulers and evil ministers, or among non-Buddhists and devil kings, or among monks who disobey
the precepts. Rather they are those great slanderers of the Law who are to be found among the eminent monks who appear to
be upholders of the precepts and men of wisdom.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo, speaking of such men, says, ". . . the third is the most formidable of all.
This is because the second is harder to recognize for what it really is, and the third is even harder to recognize."
The fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra says, "This Lotus Sutra is the secret storehouse of Buddhas. Among
the sutras, it holds the highest place." In this passage we should note the words "holds the highest place." If we are to
believe this passage, then we must say that the true votary of the Lotus Sutra is one who proclaims the Lotus Sutra to be
foremost among all the sutras.
Let us suppose now that there are many persons who are held in great respect throughout the nation,
and that these persons claim that there are other sutras superior to the Lotus Sutra, disputing with the votary of the Lotus
Sutra on this point. These persons enjoy the trust and support of the ruler and his ministers, while the votary of the Lotus
Sutra has no influential supporters and has few believers; therefore the whole nation joins in heaping abuse on him. If at
that time he conducts himself in the manner of Bodhisattva Fukyo or the scholar Bhadraruchi and continues to assert the superiority
of the Lotus Sutra, he will almost certainly lose his life. To practice with such resolve in the face of this threat is the
most important thing of all.
Now I, Nichiren, am confronting just such a situation. Though I am an ordinary and humble man, I have
proclaimed that Kobo Daishi, Jikaku Daishi, Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k’ung and others of their kind are potent
enemies of the Lotus Sutra and that, if the words of the sutra are to be trusted, they have without doubt fallen into the
hell of incessant suffering. To proclaim such a thing as this is a very grave step. It would be easier to walk naked into
a raging fire, easier to take up Mount Sumeru in one’s hands and toss it away, easier to hoist a great stone on one’s
back and walk across the ocean, than to do what I have done. To establish the True Law in this country of Japan is indeed
a difficult thing.
If Shakyamuni Buddha of the pure land of Eagle Peak, Taho Buddha of the land of Treasure Purity, the
Buddhas of the ten directions who are Shakyamuni Buddha’s emanations, the innumerable bodhisattvas who sprang up out
of the earth, Bonten and Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings do not, conspicuously or inconspicuously,
give me their protection and lend me aid, then they will never know a single day or a single hour of peace and safety!