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Major Writings II - Nichiren Daishounin

A Comparison of the Lotus Sutra and Other Sutras
A Comparison of the Lotus Sutra and Other Sutras
A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering
Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment
Clear Sake Gosho
Letter to Niike
Letter to Domyo Zemmon
Letter to Akimoto
Letter from Sado
Reply to Nichigon-ama
Roots of Good Fortune
Reply to Jibu-bo
No Safety in the Threefold World - Nichiren Daishounin
Letter to Horen - Nichiren Daishounin
King Rinda - Nichiren Daishounin
Jozo and Jogen - Nichiren Daishounin
Bodhisattva Hachiman - Nichiren Daishounin
On Prayer - Nichiren Daishounin
The Opening of the Eyes Part I
The Opening of the Eyes Part II
Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man
Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man Part II
Establishment of the Legitimate Teaching for the Protection of the Country
How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can Attain Buddhahood Through the Lotus Sutra
The Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei
The Entity of the Mystic Law
The Pure and Far-reaching Voice
Reply to Takahashi Nyudo
The Teaching, Capacity, Time, and Country
The Doctrine of Attaining Buddhahood in One's Present Form
Encouragement to a Sick Person
The Essence of the Yakuo Chapter
The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra
The Supreme Leader of the World
The Treasure of a Filial Child
The Supremacy of the Law
Reply to Nii-ama
The Workings of Bonten and Taishaku
The Story of Ohashi no Taro
The Teaching in Accordance with the Buddha's Own Mind
The Treatment of Illness and the Points of Difference between Mahayana and Hinayana and Provisional
Repaying Debts of Gratitude
On Practicing the Buddha's Teachings
On the Urabon
Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji
Letter to Nichimyo Shonin
Letter to Shomitsu-bo
Questions and Answers on Embracing the Lotus Sutra
Reply to Sairen-bo
Rationale for Submitting the Rissho Ankoku Ron
Persecution by Sword and Staff
Rebuking Slander of the Law and Eradicating Sins
Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters
Reply to Lord Hakiri Saburo
Reply to Yasaburo
Letter to Ichinosawa Nyudo
Letter to Myomitsu Shonin
Reply to Hoshina Goro Taro
Wu-lung and I-lung
White Horses and White Swans
The Sutra of True Requital
The Kalpa of Decrease
The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream
The Third Doctrine
The One-eyed Turtle and the Floating Sandalwood Log
Letter to Nakaoki Nyudo
General Stone Tiger
The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
Lessening the Karmic Retribution
Letter to the Brothers
Hell is the Land of Tranquil Delight
On Prolonging Life
On the Buddha's Behavior
On the Buddha's Prophecy
On the Treasure Tower
Propagation by the Wise
The Embankments of Faith
The Dragon Gate
Strategy of the Lotus Sutra
Reply to Kyo-o
The Person and the Law
The One Essential Phrase
The Gift of Rice
The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon
Letter of Petition from Yorimoto
Introduction and Preface to the Ongi Kuden: Namu Myoho Renge Kyo [Devotion to the Lotus Sutra]
Muryogi Sutra [Sutra of Innumerable Meanings]
Chapter 3: Simile and Parable [Hiyu]
Chapter 4: Faith and Understanding [Shinge]
Chapter 6: Prediction [Juki]
Chapter 7: Phantom City [Kejoyu]
Chapter 8: Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples [Gohyaku Deshi Juki]

A Comparison of the Lotus Sutra and Other Sutras

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

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

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

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

Question: Can you explain what he meant by that?

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

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

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

Question: What is the value of knowing them?

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

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

Question: Is there any evidence to support this contention?

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

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

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

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

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

With my deep respect,


The twenty-sixth day of the fifth month


The True Entity of Life
The One Essential Phrase
The Essence of the Juryo Chapter
The True Object of Worship
The Selection of the Time
The Problem to Be Pondered Night and Day
Reply to the Mother of Lord Ueno
The Bodies and Minds of Ordinary Beings
Teaching, Practice, and Proof
On Omens
On Persecutions Befalling the Buddha
The Votary of the Lotus Sutra Will Meet Persecution
Thus I Heard
The Izu Exile
The Origin of the Urabon
The Royal Palace
The Meaning of Faith
The Third Day of the New Year
Reply to the Followers
The Causal Law of Life
The Swords of Good and Evil
The Teaching for the Latter Day
The Unmatched Fortune of the Law
Easy Delivery of a Fortune Child
Letter to Konichi-bo
Letter to Misawa
An Outline of the Zokurui and Other Chapters
Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha Made by Shijo Kingo
Curing Karmic Disease
Admonitions Against Slander
Bestowal of the Mandala of the Mystic Law
The Receipt of New Fiefs
The Unity of Husband and Wife
Letter to Ko-no-ama Gozen
Winter Always Turns to Spring
On Filial and Unfilial Conduct
A Father Takes Faith
A Warning against Begrudging One's Fief
The Mongol Envoys
Reply to Tokimitsu
Reply to Myoho Bikuni Gozen
Beneficial Medicine for All Ills
A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life
The Proof of the Lotus Sutra
Letter to Jakunichi-bo
Aspiration for the Buddha Land
Reply to Lord Shijo Kingo
The Universal Salty Taste
Good Fortune in This Life
The Wealthy Man Sudatta
Letter to Gijo-bo
New Year's Gosho
Persecution at Tatsunokuchi
Easy Delivery of a Fortune Child
Reply to Lord Matsuno's Wife
The Birth of Tsukimaro
Banishment to Sado
Great Evil and Great Good
Happiness In This World
Letter from Echi
Letter to Endo Saemon-no-jo
Letter to Priest Nichiro in Prison
On Flowers and Seeds
On Itai Doshin
Postscript to the Rissho Ankoku Ron
Reply to a Believer
Reply to Ko Nyudo
Reply to Lady Onichi-nyo
Reply to Lord Matsuno
Rissho Ankoku Ron
The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith
The Offering of a Summer Robe
The Property of Rice
The Wonderful Means of Surmounting Obstacles
Unseen Virtue and Visible Reward
Upholding Faith in the Gohonzon
The Drum at the Gate of Thunder