The Supremacy of the Law
In China, before Buddhism was introduced, writings by such sages as the Three Rulers and Five Emperors,
the Three Kings, T’ai-kung Wang, Tan the Dukeof Chou, Lao Tzu and Confucius were called classics or canons. Through
these teachings, the people learned propriety and came to understand the debt of gratitude they owed their parents, and a
clear distinction was drawn between the ruler and the ruled, so that the country was governed wisely. The people obeyed the
leaders who followed these teachings and Heaven answered their prayers. A child who failed to obey them was punished as unfilial,
and a subject who violated them was punished as a traitor.
When the Buddhist scriptures were first brought to China from India, some people said that they should be
accepted, while others said they should be rejected. A conflict arose, and the ruler summoned the two groups to meet and debate
the issue. The adherents of non-Buddhist teachings were defeated by the supporters of Buddhism. After that, whenever the two
groups engaged in polemics, the devotees of non-Buddhist scriptures were defeated by the Buddhists as easily as ice melts
in the sun or as fire is extinguished by water. Eventually they ceased to offer any effective opposition to Buddhism.
As more Buddhist sutras were brought to China, it became apparent that some were superior in content or
more profound than others. They belonged to different categories such as Hinayana and Mahayana, exoteric and esoteric, provisional
and true. To illustrate, all stones are invariably inferior to gold, but gold itself is divided into several grades. No gold
found in the human world can match the gold mined from the Jambu River.5 But the gold from the Jambu River is in turn far
less valuable than the gold stored in the Brahma Heaven. In the same way, all the Buddhist sutras are like gold, but some
are finer and more profound than others.
Those sutras which are called Hinayana are like small boats. They can carry two or three passengers, but
not a hundred or a thousand. Even with only two or three persons aboard, they must remain close to this shore and cannot cross
over to the other shore. They can be loaded with a small amount of cargo, but not with a large amount. In contrast, the Mahayana
sutras are like those huge vessels which, carrying ten or twenty people and loaded with large quantities of cargo, can sail
from Kamakura as far as Tsukushi Province in the south or Mutsu Province in the north.
But the ship of the true Mahayana sutra is incomparably greater than those ships that are the other Mahayana
sutras. Loaded with a hoard of rare treasures and carrying a hundred or a thousand passengers, it can sail all the way to
the land of Korea. The Lotus Sutra, the teaching of the one vehicle, is precisely this kind of sutra. Devadatta was the most
evil man in the entire world, but the Lotus Sutra predicted that he would become a Buddha called the Tathagata Heavenly King.
Although Ajatashatru was a wicked king who killed his own father, he was among those present when the Lotus Sutra was preached
and, after hearing only a verse or a phrase, took faith in it and thereby formed a relationship with the sutra. The dragon
king’s daughter, a woman with a reptile’s body, attained Buddhahood by listening to Bodhisattva Monjushiri preach
the Lotus Sutra. Furthermore, the Buddha designated the evil era of the Latter Day of the Law as the very time for the Lotus
Sutra to be propagated, and bequeathed it to the men and women of that impure age. The Lotus Sutra, the teaching of the one
vehicle, is then a sutra as great and powerful as the ships of the China trade.
Thus, all the Buddhist sutras are to the non-Buddhist scriptures as gold is to stones. And all the various
Mahayana sutras, such as the Kegon, Dainichi Kammuryoju, Amida and Hannya sutras, are to the Lotus Sutra as fireflies are
to the sun or the moon, or anthills to Mount Hua. Moreover, there is superiority and inferiority not only among the sutras,
but also among their adherents. The various teachers of Shingon, who believe in the Dainichi Sutra, are like fire being put
out by water or dew being blown away by the wind when confronted in debate by the votary of the Lotus Sutra. People say that
if a dog barks at a lion, its intestines will rot. The asura demon who shot an arrow at the sun had his head split into seven
pieces. The Shingon teachers are like the dog or the asura, while the votary of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun or the lion.
Before the sun rises, ice is as hard as metal. Fire, when untouched by water. is as hot as molten iron.
But even the hardest ice easily melts away in the sun of summer, and even the hottest fire is easily extinguished by water.
The various Shingon teachers appear to be most dignified and wise, but they are like one who, forgetful of the sun, expects
ice to remain hard forever or who, not taking water into account, thinks that fire will burn indefinitely.
As you know, before the Mongol attack, the arrogance of the people of our day knew no bounds. Since the
tenth month of last year, however, none of them has dared to assume a haughty attitude, for, as you have heard, I, Nichiren,
alone predicted this foreign invasion. If the Mongols attack our country again, none of the people will have the courage to
face them. They will be like a monkey terrified by a dog or a frog cowering before a snake. This is all because the nation
has allowed the priests of the Shingon, Nembutsu, Ritsu and other sects to hate Nichiren, who is the votary of the Lotus Sutra
and an emissary of Shakyamuni Buddha, and thereby brought harm upon itself. Thus it incurred the wrath of Heaven, with the
consequence that all its people have become cowards. In their terror of another Mongol invasion, they are like fire fearful
of water, a tree dreading the axe, a pheasant frightened out of its wits at the sight of a hawk, or a mouse threatened by
a cat. Not one of them will escape. What will they do then? Soldiers look upon the general as their soul. If the general loses
heart, his soldiers will become cowards.
A woman’s soul is her husband. Without him, she has no soul. Nowadays, even married women find it
difficult to get along in the world. Though you have no husband, you lead your life more courageously than those who are married.
Furthermore, you maintain your faith in the Buddhist gods and continue to worship the Buddha. You are indeed a remarkable
While I was in Kamakura, aside from the evident heresy of the adherents of the Nembutsu and other sects,
I had no way of determining whether the faith of individual believers in the Lotus Sutra was deep or shallow. This I came
to know only after I had incurred the displeasure of the authorities and had been exiled to Sado. Though no one else came
to visit me, you, a woman, not only sent me various offerings but personally made the journey to see me. It was almost too
amazing to be true. And in addition, you have now called on me here in Minobu. I know of no words with which to thank you.
Certainly the Buddhist gods will protect you and the Ten Goddesses will have compassion for you. The Buddha promised in the
Lotus Sutra that, for a woman, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness, as a ship when she crosses the sea, and
as a protector when she travels through dangerous places.
When the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva was carrying the Lotus Sutra to China, the Heavenly King Bishamon dispatched
a vast number of troops to escort him safely over the Pamirs. When Priest Dosho read the Lotus Sutra in the field, innumerable
tigers gathered to protect him. There is no reason why you should not be protected in the same way. The thirty-six deities
on earth and the twenty-eight gods of the constellations in the heavens will lend you protection. Furthermore, each person
has two heavenly gods who always accompany him, just as the shadow follows the body. One is named Dosho and the other Domyo.
Perched respectively on one’s left and right shoulders, they report all of his deeds to Heaven. Therefore Heaven never
punishes those who have not committed any error, let alone a person of your virtue.
That is why the Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "The stronger one’s faith, the greater the gods’
protection." So long as one maintains firm faith, he is certain to receive the great protection of the gods. I say this
for your sake. I know your faith has always been admirable, but now you must strengthen it more than ever. Only then will
the Ten Goddesses lend you greater protection. You need not seek far for an example. Everyone in Japan, from the sovereign
on down to the common people, all without exception tried to do me harm, but I have survived until this day. This is because,
although I am alone, I have firm faith [in the Lotus Sutra].
If a boat is handled by an unskilled steersman, it may capsize and drown everyone aboard. Likewise, even
if someone has great physical strength, if he lacks a resolute spirit, he cannot give full play to his abilities. In this
country, there are many wise persons, but they cannot utilize their wisdom because they are governed by foolish leaders.
In the last Mongol invasion, tens of thousands of soldiers as well as civilians, both male and female, in
Iki, Tsushima and the nine provinces [Kyushu] were killed, captured, drowned in the sea, or fell from cliffs to their death.
If the Mongols attack again, this time they will wreak incomparably greater havoc. Kyoto and Kamakura will meet the same fate
as Iki and Tsushima in the past. Prepare in advance and flee to some other place. At that time, those who declared they would
not see or listen to me will join their palms together and take faith in the Lotus Sutra. Even the adherents of the Nembutsu
and Zen sects will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The Lotus Sutra states that if there are men and women who have firm faith in this sutra, the Buddha will
support them on his shoulders and carry them on his back. When the Learned Doctor Kumarayana traveled [to Kucha], a wooden
statue of Shakyamuni carried him on its back by night. When I was about to be beheaded, the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni took my
place. It is the same in the present as it was in the past. All of you are my followers, so how could you fail to attain Buddhahood?
No matter whom you may marry, you must not follow him if he is an enemy of the Lotus Sutra. Strengthen your
faith more than ever. Ice is made of water, but it is colder than water. Blue dye is produced from indigo, but if something
is dyed in it repeatedly, it becomes bluer than the indigo plant itself. The Lotus Sutra itself does not change, but as you
continue to strengthen your faith in it, you will be filled with more vitality and receive more blessings than other people
Wood is vulnerable to fire, but sandalwood cannot be burned. Fire is extinguished by water, but the fire
that cremated the Buddha’s remains could not be quenched. Although flowers are scattered by the wind, those that bloom
in the five heavens of purity do not wither. Water evaporates in a time of great drought, but not if it enters the Yellow
River. The wicked king named Dammira did not incur punishment even when he cut off the head of an Indian monk. But when he
beheaded the Venerable Aryasimha, his sword fell to the ground, and his arm with it. When King Pushyamitra burned the Kukkutarama
Monastery to ashes, his head was split by the staves of the twelve gods.
Likewise the people of Japan, by becoming enemies of the Lotus Sutra, bring ruin on themselves and their
country. And because I proclaim this, I am called arrogant by those of little understanding. But I do not speak out of arrogance.
It is simply that if I did not speak out, I would not be the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, when my words prove later
to be true, people will be able to believe all the more readily. And because I write this down now, the people of the future
will recognize my wisdom.
[A commentary on the Nirvana Sutra states that] the body is insignificant while the Law is supreme, and
[that] one should give his life in order to propagate the Law. Because my body is insignificant, I am struck and hated, but
because the Law is supreme, it will spread without fail. If the Lotus Sutra spreads, my mortal remains will be respected,
and if my remains are respected, they will benefit the people. Then I will come to be revered as highly as the Great Bodhisattva
Hachiman is now. You should understand that at that time, the men and women who aided me will be honored as greatly as Takeshiuchi
The benefits which come from opening the eyes of even one blind person are beyond description. How then
is it possible to describe the benefits that derive from opening the blind eyes of all the Japanese people, and from giving
the gift of sight to all human beings throughout Jambudvipa and the other three continents of the earth? In the fourth volume
of the Lotus Sutra we read, "After the Buddha’s death, those who can comprehend its [the sutra’s] meaning serve
as the eyes of all heavenly beings and of the people of the world." Those who maintain their faith in the sutra act as the
eyes of all gods and people. Therefore, those Japanese who are hostile to me are in effect gouging out the eyes of all heavenly
and human beings. As a result, heaven is enraged and day after day rains down disasters, while earth is infuriated and month
after month one calamity after another occurs.
Taishaku was a heavenly lord, yet he greatly respected the fox who taught him the Law. As a result, he was
reborn as the Lord Shakyamuni Buddha. Sessen Doji honored a demon as his teacher and became the lord of the threefold world.
Saints and sages of old did not reject the Law, no matter what the appearance of its teachers. I, Nichiren, may be a stupid
man, but I am surely not inferior to a fox or a demon. The noblest people in the present age are in no way superior to Taishaku
or Sessen Doji, yet because of my low social position, they have rejected my wise words. That is why the country is now on
the brink of ruin. How lamentable! And what I find even sadder is that I will be unable to save my disciples who have pitied
Should any calamity befall us, you should immediately come to visit me here, where you will be welcomed
wholeheartedly. Should the worst happen, then let us starve together among these mountains. I would imagine your daughter,
Oto, has become a fine and intelligent young girl. I will write you again.
The fourth day of the eighth month