The Treatment of Illness and the Points of Difference between Mahayana and Hinayana and Provisional and
I have received the summer robe you sent me through the offices of Shijo Kingo. Please inform all those
who sent me various offerings that I have received everything he listed. I also wish to acknowledge receipt of the various
offerings from Ota Nyudo shown on the list you made. The teachings I will be discussing in this letter have already been explained
in part in one of my letters to Shijo Kingo. I hope you will ask him to show it to you.
Your letter says that the epidemics are raging all the more fiercely. The illnesses of human beings may
be divided into two general categories, the first of which is illness of the body. Physical diseases comprise one hundred
and one disorders of the earth element, one hundred and one imbalances of the water element, one hundred and one disturbances
of the fire element and one hundred and one disharmonies of the wind element, a total of four hundred and four maladies. These
illnesses do not require a Buddha to cure them. Skilled physicians such as Jisui, Rusui, Jivaka and Pien Ch’ueh prescribed
medicines which never failed to heal physical sickness.
The second category is illness of the mind. These illnesses arise from the three poisons of greed, anger
and stupidity and are of eighty-four thousand kinds. They are beyond the healing power of the two Brahman deities, the three
ascetics, or the six non-Buddhist teachers. Medicines prescribed by Shen Nung and Huang Ti are even less effective.
Illnesses of the mind differ greatly in severity. The three poisons and their eighty-four thousand variations
that afflict common mortals of the six paths can be treated by the Buddha of Hinayana and his teachings in the Agon sutras,
or by the scholars and teachers of the Kusha, Jojitsu, and Ritsu sects. However, if these Hinayana believers, in following
their teachings, should turn against the Mahayana, [the people will suffer from various diseases.] Or, even though they may
not oppose Mahayana Buddhism, if the Hinayana countries think themselves equal to the Mahayana countries, their people will
be plagued by sickness. If one attempts to cure such illnesses with Hinayana Buddhism, they will only become worse. They can
be treated only by the votaries of the Mahayana sutras. [Even within the Mahayana,] if many followers of the Kegon, Jimmitsu,
Hannya, Dainichi and other provisional Mahayana sutras, confusing the inferior with the superior, insist that the teachings
of their sects are equal to or even surpass the Lotus Sutra, and if the ruler and others in high positions come to accept
their assertion, then the three poisons and eighty-four thousand illnesses will all arise. Then, if those followers should
try to cure these illnesses with the provisional Mahayana sutras on which they rely, the sicknesses will become all the more
serious. Even if they try to use the Lotus Sutra, their efforts will fail because, although the sutra itself is supreme, the
practitioners are persons who hold distorted views.
Further, the Lotus Sutra itself is divided into two categories, the theoretical teaching and the essential
teaching. One is as different from the other as fire is from water or heaven from earth. The difference is even greater than
that between the Lotus Sutra and the sutras that preceded it. These sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra
are certainly different, but still they have some points of similarity. Among the eight teachings expounded by the Buddha,
the engyo or perfect teaching of the earlier sutras and that of the theoretical teaching are similar to each other. When the
Buddha expounded the pre-Lotus Sutra and the theoretical teachings, he assumed different guises such as the inferior manifested
body, the superior manifested body, the bliss body and the Dharma body, yet he invariably depicted himself as having attained
enlightenment for the first time in this world.
The difference between the theoretical and the essential teachings, however, is exceedingly great. Whereas
in the former the Buddha is described as having first attained enlightenment during his lifetime, in the latter he is the
Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past. The difference is like that between a one-hundred-year-old man and a
one-year-old baby. The disciples of these two teachings are also as different as fire is from water, to say nothing of the
difference between their lands. One who confuses the essential teaching with the theoretical teaching would not have the sense
to distinguish fire from water. The Buddha drew a distinct line between the two in his preaching, but during the more than
two thousand years since his death, no one in the three countries of India, China and Japan--or for that matter, in the entire
world--has clearly understood the difference. Only T’ien-t’ai in China and Dengyo in Japan generally differentiated
between the two. And the precept of the perfect and immediate enlightenment, in which the essential teaching is distinguished
from the theoretical, still remained to be clarified. In the final analysis, T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo perceived it
in their hearts but did not reveal it for three reasons: first, the proper time had not yet come; second, the people had no
capacity to accept it; and third, neither had been entrusted with the mission of expounding it. It is today, in the Latter
Day of the Law, that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth will appear and propagate it.
The Latter Day of the Law is the proper time for the spread of the essential teaching, so the followers
of the Hinayana, provisional Mahayana and the theoretical teachings will receive no benefit from their teachings, even though
they are not guilty of any fault. These teachings can be likened to medicines compounded for use in springtime, which are
ineffective if taken in the fall, or at least not as effective as they are in spring or summer. What is worse, these people
are deluded as to the relative superiority of Hinayana and Mahayana or of the provisional and the true teachings. But the
rulers of Japan in ancient times believed in the sutras they espoused, and erected temples and donated fields and farmland
to their sects. Were these people to admit the truth of my assertion that their teachings are inferior, they would have no
way to justify themselves and would in consequence lose the support of the ruler. For this reason, they become enraged, slandering
the sutra of the true teaching and doing harm to its votary. The ruler, too, accepting the groundless accusations of these
followers, persecutes the votary, because he wishes to side with the majority, because he cannot bear to abandon the teachings
honored by the rulers of ancient times, because he is simply stupid and ignorant, or because he despises the votary of the
true teaching. As a result, the gods who guard the true teaching, such as Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon or
the Four Heavenly Kings, punish the country, and the three calamities and seven disasters occur on an unprecedented scale.
Hence the epidemics which have broken out this year as well as last year and in the Shoka era.
Question: If, as you have stated, the gods inflict punishment on this country because it does harm to the
votary of the Lotus Sutra, then epidemics should attack only the slanderers. Why is it that your own disciples also fall ill
Answer: Your question sounds reasonable. But you are aware of only one side of the situation and not the
other. Good and evil have been inherent in life since time without beginning. According to the provisional teachings and the
sects based on them, both good and evil remain in one’s life through all the stages of the bodhisattva practice up to
the stage of togaku. Hence the people at the stage of togaku or below have faults of some kind, [but not those at the highest
stage]. In contrast, the heart of the Hokke sect is the principle of ichinen sanzen, which reveals that both good and evil
are inherent even in those at the highest stage, that of myogaku or enlightenment. The fundamental nature of enlightenment
manifests itself as Bonten and Taishaku, whereas the fundamental darkness manifests itself as the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.
The gods hate evildoers, and demons hate good people. Because we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, it is natural that
demons should be everywhere in the country, just like tiles, stones, trees and grasses. Benevolent spirits are few because
sages and worthies are rare in this world. One would therefore expect to find more victims of the epidemic among Nichiren’s
followers than among the believers of Nembutsu, teachers of Shingon or priests of the Zen and Ritsu sects. For some reason,
however, there is less affliction and death among Nichiren’s followers. It is indeed mysterious. Is this because we
are few in number, or because our faith is strong?
Question: Has there ever in the past been such a terrible outbreak of epidemics in Japan?
Answer: During the reign of Emperor Sujin, the tenth ruler after Emperor Jimmu, epidemics swept throughout
Japan, claiming the lives of more than half the populace. But when Emperor Sujin had the people in each province worship the
Sun Goddess and other deities, the epidemics ceased completely. Hence the name Sujin, which literally means "worshipping the
gods." That was before Buddhism had been introduced to the country. The thirtieth, thirty-first and thirty-second rulers in
the imperial line, along with many of their ministers, died of smallpox and other epidemic diseases. Prayers were once more
offered to the same deities, but this time it was to no avail.
During the reign of the thirtieth ruler, Emperor Kimmei, Buddhist sutras, treatises and priests were sent
from the state of Paekche on the Korean Peninsula to Japan, as well as a gilded bronze statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. Soga no
Sukune urged that the statue be worshipped. But Mononobe no Omuraji and other ministers, along with the common people, joined
in opposing the worship of the Buddha, saying that if honor were paid to him, it would enrage the native deities who then
would bring ruin upon Japan. The emperor was still trying to decide which opinion to follow when the three calamities and
seven disasters struck the nation on a scale never known before, and great numbers of the populace died of disease.
Mononobe no Omuraji seized this opportunity to appeal to the emperor, and as a result, not only were the
Buddhist priests and nuns subjected to shame, but the gilded bronze statue of the Buddha was placed over charcoal and destroyed,
and the Buddhist temple was likewise burned. At that time, Mononobe no Omuraji contracted a disease and died, and the emperor
also passed away. Soga no Sukune, who worshipped the Buddha’s statue, also fell ill.
Omuraji’s son, the minister Mononobe no Moriya, declared that three successive emperors as well as
his own father had died in the epidemic solely because homage had been paid to the Buddha. "Let it be known," he declared,
"that Prince Shotoku, Soga no Umako, and the others who revere the Buddha are all enemies of my father and of the deceased
emperors!" Hearing this, the Imperial Princes Anabe and Yakabe, along with their ministers and thousands of retainers, all
joined forces with Moriya. Not only did they burn images of the Buddha and their temples, but a battle broke out, and Moriya
was killed in the fighting. For a period of thirty-five years after Buddhism had first been brought to this country, not a
year passed without seeing the three calamities and seven disasters, including epidemics. But after Mononobe no Moriya was
killed by Soga no Umako and the gods were overpowered by the Buddha, the disasters abruptly ceased.
Outbreaks of the three calamities and seven disasters that occurred thereafter were for the most part due
to confusion within Buddhism itself. But these would affect only one or two persons or one or two provinces, one or two clans
or one or two areas. Such disasters occurred because of the anger of the gods, because Buddhism was slandered, or because
of the people’s distress.
The three calamities and seven disasters of these past thirty years or more, however, are due solely to
the fact that the entire country of Japan hates me, Nichiren. In province after province, district after district, and village
after village, everyone from the ruler on down to the common people seethes in such anger against me as the world has never
seen. This is the first time that the fundamental darkness has erupted in the lives of common mortals caught in the illusions
of thought and desire. Even if they pray to the gods, the Buddha or the Lotus Sutra, these calamities will only be aggravated.
But it is different when the votary of the Lotus Sutra offers prayers to the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. In the
final analysis, unless we demonstrate that this teaching is supreme, these disasters will continue unabated.
The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in his Maka Shikan described the ten objects of meditation and
the ten meditations, but no one after him practiced them. In the days of Miao-lo and Dengyo some people practiced them to
a certain extent but encountered few difficulties because there were no powerful opponents. The three obstacles and four devils
described in the Maka Shikan will not arise to obstruct those who practice the provisional sutras. But now each and every
one has risen to confront me. They are even more powerful than the three obstacles and four devils that T’ien-t’ai,
Dengyo and others had to face.
There are two ways of perceiving ichinen sanzen. One is theoretical and the other, actual. The ichinen sanzen
of T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo was theoretical, but that which I practice now is actual. Because the way that I practice
is superior, the difficulties attending it are that much greater. The practice of T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo was the
ichinen sanzen of the theoretical teaching while mine is that of the essential teaching. These two are as different as heaven
is from earth. You should bear this in mind when the time comes to face death.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-sixth day of the sixth month