Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man
- Shogu Mondo Sho -
At this, the unenlightened man looked somewhat mollified and said, "The words of the sutra are clear as
a mirror; there is no room to doubt or question their meaning. But although the Lotus Sutra surpasses all the other sutras
that the Buddha taught before, at the same time, or after, and represents the highest point in his preaching life, still it
cannot compare with the single truth of Zen, which cannot be bound by words or confined in the text of a sutra, and which
deals with the true nature of our minds. In effect, the realm where the countless doctrines are all cast aside and where words
cannot reach is what is called the truth of Zen.
"Thus, on the banks of the Hiranyavati River, in the grove of sal trees, Shakyamuni Buddha stepped out of
his golden coffin, twirled a flower, and when he saw Mahakashyapa's faint smile, entrusted this teaching of Zen to him. Since
then, it has been handed down without any irregularity through a lineage of twenty-eight patriarchs in India, and was widely
propagated by a succession of six patriarchs in China. Bodhidharma is the last of the twenty-eight patriarchs of India and
the first of the six patriarchs of China. We must not allow this transmission to be lost, and founder in the nets of doctrine!
"So in the Daibontenno Mombutsu Ketsugi Sutra, the Buddha says, 'I have a subtle teaching concerning the
Eye and Treasury of the True Law, the Wonderful Mind of Nirvana, the True Aspect of Reality That Is without Characteristics.
It represents a separate transmission outside the sutras, independent of words or writing. I entrust it to Mahakashyapa.'
"Thus we see that this single truth of Zen was transmitted to Mahakashyapa apart from the sutras. All the
teachings of the sutras are like a finger pointing at the moon. Once we have seen the moon, what use do we have for the finger?
And once we have understood this single truth of Zen, the true nature of the mind, why should we concern ourselves any longer
with the Buddha's teachings? Therefore a man of past times has said, 'The twelve divisions of the sutras are all idle writings.'
"If you will open and read the Platform Sutra of Hui-neng, the sixth patriarch of this sect, you will see
that this is true. Once one has heard even a single word and thereby grasped and understood the truth, what use does he have
for the teachings? But how are we to understand this principle?"
The sage replied, "You must first of all set aside the doctrines for the moment and consider the logic of
the matter. Can anyone, without inquiring into the essential meaning of the Buddha's lifetime teachings or investigating the
basic principles of the ten sects, presume to admonish the nation and teach others? This Zen that you are taking about is
something that I have studied exhaustively for some time. In view of the extreme doctrines that it teaches, I must say that
it is a highly distorted affair.
"There are three types of Zen, known respectively as Tathagata Zen, doctrinal Zen, and patriarchal Zen.
What you are referring to is patriarchal Zen, and I would therefore like to give you a general idea of it. So listen, and
understand what it is about.
"It speaks of transmitting something apart from the teachings. But apart from the teachings there are no
principles, and apart from principles there are no teachings. Don't you understand the logic of this, that principles are
none other than teachings and teachings none other than principles? This talk about the twirled flower, the faint smile, and
something being entrusted to Mahakashyapa is in itself a teaching, and the four-character phrase about its being 'independent
of words or writing' is likewise a teaching and a statement in words. This sort of talk has been around for a long while in
both China and Japan. It may appear novel to you, but let me quote one or two passages that will clear up your misconceptions.
"Volume eleven of the Hochu states: 'If one says that we are not to hamper ourselves by the use of verbal
expressions, then how, for even an instant in this saha world, can we carry on the Buddha's work? Do not the Zen followers
themselves use verbal explanations when they are giving instruction to others? If one sets aside words and phrases, then there
is no way to explain the meaning of emancipation, so how can anyone ever hear about it?'
"Farther on, we read: 'It is said that Bodhidarma came from the west and taught the "direct pointing to
the mind of man" and "perceiving one's true nature and attaining Buddhahood." But are these same concepts not found in the
Kegon Sutra and in the other Mahayana sutras? Alas, how can the people of our time be so foolish! You should all put faith
in the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddhas, the Tathagatas, tell no lies!'
"To restate the meaning of this passage: if one objects that we are hampering ourselves with doctrinal writings
and tying ourselves down with verbal explanations, and recommends a type of religious practice that is apart from the teachings
of the sutras, then by what means are we to carry on the Buddha's work and make good causes in this saha world of ours? Even
the followers of Zen, who advocate these views, themselves make use of words when instructing others. In addition, when one
is trying to convey an understanding of the Buddhist Way, he cannot communicate the meaning if he sets aside words and phrases.
Bodhidharma came to China from the west, pointed directly to people's minds, and declared that those minds were Buddha. But
this principle is enunciated in various places even in the provisional Mahayana sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra, such
as the Kegon, Daijuku and Daihannya sutras. To treat it as such a rare and wonderful thing is too ridiculous for words. Alas,
how can the people of our time be so distorted in their thinking! They should put their faith in the words of truth spoken
by the Tathagata of perfect enlightenment and complete reward, who embodies the principle of the Middle Way that is the true
aspect of all things.
"In addition, the Great Teacher Miao-lo in the first volume of his Guketsu comments on this situation by
saying, 'The people of today look with contempt on the sutra teachings and emphasize only the contemplation of truth, but
they are making a great mistake, a great mistake indeed!'
"This passage applies to the people in the world today who put meditation on the mind and the dharmas first
and do not delve into or study the teachings of the sutras. On the contrary, they despise the teachings and make light of
the sutras. This passage is saying that this is a mistake.
"Moreover, I should point out that the Zen followers of the present age are confused as to the teachings
of their own sect. If we open the pages of the Zoku Koso Den, we find that in the biography of the Great Teacher Bodhidharma,
the first patriarch of Zen in China, it states, 'By means of the teachings one can understand the essential meaning.' Therefore,
one should study and practice the principles embodied in the sacred teachings preached by the Buddha in the course of his
lifetime and thereby gain an understanding of the substance of the various doctrines and the nature of the different sects.
"Furthermore, in the biography of Bodhidharma's disciple, Hui-k'o, the second of the six Chinese patriarchs,
it states that the Meditation Master Bodhidharma handed over the four volumes of the Ryoga Sutra to Hui-k'o, saying, 'Observing
this land of China, I find only this sutra to be of real worth. If you base your practice on it, you will be able to bring
salvation to the world.' Here we see that, when the Great Teacher Bodhidharma came from India to China, he brought the four
volumes of the Ryoga Sutra and handed them over to Hui-k'o, saying, 'When I observe the situation in this country, I see that
this sutra is of outstanding superiority. You should abide by it and put it into practice and become a Buddha.'
"As we have just seen, these patriarch-teachers placed primary emphasis on the sutra texts. But if we therefore
say that one must rely on the sutras, then we must take care to inquire whether those sutras belong to the Mahayana or the
Hinayana, whether they are provisional teachings or true teachings.
"When it comes to making use of sutras, the Zen sect relies on such works as the Ryoga Sutra, the Shuryogon
Sutra, and the Kongo Hannya Sutra. These are all provisional teachings that were preached before the Lotus Sutra, doctrines
that conceal the truth.
"These various sutras expound partial truths such as 'the mind itself is Buddha and Buddha is none other
than the mind.' The Zen followers have allowed themselves to be led astray by one or two such sentences and phrases, failing
to inquire whether they represent the Mahayana or the Hinayana, the provisional or the true teachings, the doctrines that
reveal the truth or the doctrines that conceal it. They merely advance the principle of non-duality without understanding
the principle of duality, and commit an act of great arrogance, claiming that they themselves are equal to the Buddha. They
are following in the tracks of the Great Arrogant Brahman of India and imitating the old ways of the Meditation Master San-chieh
of China. But we should recall that the Great Arrogant Brahman, while still alive, fell into the hell of incessant suffering,
and that San-chieh, after he died, turned into a huge snake. How frightful, how frightful indeed!
"Shakyamuni Buddha, with his understanding that had penetrated the three existences, and by the light of
the clear wisdom-moon of perfect enlightenment and complete reward, peered into the future and, in the Zobo Ketsugi Sutra,
made this prediction: 'Among the evil monks there will be those who practice meditation and, instead of relying on the sutras
and treatises, heed only their own view of things, declaring wrong to be right. Unable to distinguish between what is correct
and what is heretical, all they will do is face the clergy and lay believers and declare in this fashion, "I can understand
what is right, I can see what is right." You should understand that it is people like this who will destroy my teachings in
no time at all.'
"This passage is saying that there will be evil monks who put all their faith in Zen and do not delve into
the sutras and treatises. They will base themselves on heretical views and fail to distinguish between false and true doctrines.
Moreover, they will address themselves to men and women believers, monks and nuns, declaring, 'I can understand the doctrines,
but other people do not,' in this way working to spread the Zen teachings. But you should understand that these people will
destroy the True Law of the Buddha. If we examine this passage and observe the state of the world today, we see that the two
match each other as perfectly as do the two pieces of a tally. Be careful! There is much to fear here!
"You spoke earlier of twenty-eight patriarchs of India who orally transmitted this Zen doctrine, but on
what evidence is such a statement based? All the texts I have seen speak of twenty-four or, in some cases, twenty-three persons
who transmitted the Buddha's teachings. Where is the translation that establishes the number of patriarchs as twenty-eight?
I have never seen such a statement. This matter of the persons who were involved in the line of transmission of the Law is
not something that one can simply write about arbitrarily. The Buddha himself left a clear record of what the line of transmission
"Thus in the Fuhozo Den, it states: 'There will be a monk by the name of Aryasimha living in the kingdom
of Kashmir who will strive vigorously to accomplish the Buddha's work. At that time the ruler of the kingdom will be named
Mirakutsu, a man who gives himself up wholly to false views and has no reverence or faith in his heart. Throughout the kingdom
of Kashmir he will destroy Buddhist temples and stupas and slaughter monks. He will take a sharp sword and use it to cut off
Aryasimha's head. But no blood will spurt from his neck; only milk will come flowing out. With this, the line of persons who
transmit the Law will be cut off.'
"To restate this passage: The Buddha says that, after he passes into nirvana, there will be a succession
of twenty-four persons who will transmit his Law. Among these, the last to carry on the line of transmission will be a monk
named Aryasimha, who will work to spread the Buddha's Law throughout the kingdom called Kashmir. The ruler of this state will
be a man named King Dammira. He will be a person of false views and profligate ways, who has no faith in the Buddha's Law
and no reverence for the monks. He will destroy Buddhist halls and stupas and use a sword to cut off the heads of the monks.
And when he cuts off the head of the monk Aryasimha, there will be no blood in his neck; only milk will come flowing out.
The Buddha declares that at this time the line of persons who transmit the Law will be cut off.
"The actual events did not in any way differ from the Buddha's predictions; the Venerable Aryasimha's head
was in fact cut off. And as his head fell to the ground, so too did the arm of the king.
"It is a gross error to speak of twenty-eight patriarchs. This is the beginning of the errors of the Zen
sect. The reason that Hui-neng lists twenty-eight patriarchs in his Platform Sutra is that, when he decided to treat Bodhidharma
as the first patriarch of Chinese Zen, he found that there were too many years between the time of Aryasimha and that of Bodhidharma.
He therefore arbitrarily inserted the names of three Zen teachers to fill up the interval, so that he could make it seem as
though the Law had been transmitted from India to China without any break or irregularity in the line of transmission. It
was all a fabrication designed to make people respect the Zen teachings.
"This deception was put forth long ago in China. Thus, the eleventh volume of the Hochu states: 'In our
[T'ien-t'ai] school, we recognize a transmission through twenty-three patriarchs. How could there be any error in this view?
Concerning the claim that there were twenty-eight patriarchs, we can find no translation of a source that supports such a
view. Recently Zen priests have even produced carvings in stone and woodblock engravings, each with a sacred verse attached,
which represent the seven Buddhas and the twenty-eight patriarchs, handing these down to their disciples. Alas, how can there
be such blatant falsehoods! If persons of understanding have any power at all, they should do everything they can to correct
"This text is saying that to assert a transmission through a line of twenty-eight patriarchs and to produce
stone carvings and woodblock engravings of them to indicate the line of transmission are highly mistaken undertakings, and
that anyone who understands this should work to correct such errors. This is why I say that patriarchal Zen is a gravely erroneous
"Earlier, you quoted a passage from the Daibontenno Mombutsu Ketsugi Sutra to prove your contention that
Zen is 'a separate transmission outside the sutras.' But by quoting a sutra passage you were already contradicting your own
assertion. Moreover, this sutra represents the provisional teachings, and, in addition, it is not listed either in the K'ai-yuan
or the Chen-yuan era catalogues of Buddhist works. Thus we see that it is a work unlisted in the catalogues and a provisional
teaching as well. Hence the scholars of our time do not refer to it; it cannot be used to prove anything.
"Coming now to the Lotus Sutra, we should note the groups which benefited when it was preached. When the
doctrine of the hundred worlds and the thousand factors, or ichinen sanzen, was expounded in the theoretical teaching, the
people of the two vehicles, who had been likened to rotten seeds [that can never put forth shoots], had the seeds of Buddhahood
sprout. In the previous forty-two years of the Buddha's preaching, these persons had been despised because it was thought
that 'never would they attain Buddhahood.' In every gathering and assembly, they heard nothing but curses and slander spoken
against them and were shunned by all those of the human and heavenly realms, until it seemed that they were destined to die
of hunger. But now, when the Lotus Sutra was preached, it was predicted that Shariputra would become the Flower Light Tathagata,
that Maudgalyayana would become the Tamalapattra Sandalwood Fragrance Tathagata, that Ananda would become the Mountain Sea
Wisdom Unrestricted Power King Buddha, that Rahula would become the Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers Tathagata, that the
five hundred arhats would become Universal Brightness Tathagatas, and that the two thousand shomon disciples would become
Treasure Form Tathagatas. And on the day when the Buddha's life span from the time he attained enlightenment in the remote
past was revealed, the bodhisattvas who were as countless as particles of dust increased in their understanding of the Way,
discarded their still remaining illusions, and attained the last stage before the level of supreme enlightenment.
"Now if we examine the commentary of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, it states: 'The other sutras tell us
that, although the bodhisattvas may become Buddhas, those persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku can never do so.
Good people can become Buddhas, we are told, but there is no indication that evil ones can do likewise. Men, it is said, can
become Buddhas, but women are branded as emissaries from hell. Persons in the human or heavenly realms can attain Buddhahood,
but it is nowhere stated that nonhuman creatures can do so. And yet, in this sutra, it is stated that all of these beings
can attain Buddhahood.'
"What a wonderful thing this is! Though we have been born in the impure world in the Latter Day of the Law,
we have committed neither the five cardinal sins nor the three cardinal sins as Devadatta did. And yet it was predicted that
even Devadatta would in time become the Heavenly King Tathagata, so how much more should it be possible for persons like us,
who have committed no such sins, to attain Buddhahood! And the eight-year-old dragon king's daughter, without changing her
reptilian form, attained the wonderful fruit of Buddhahood in the southern realm. Therefore, how much more likely is it that
women who have been born into the human realm should be able to do so!
"It is most difficult to be born in human form, and extremely rare to encounter the True Law. Now, if you
want to rid yourself quickly of erroneous beliefs and adhere to what is correct, transform your status as a common mortal
and attain that of Buddhahood, then you should abandon the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu teachings and embrace this wonderful
text of the single vehicle. If you do so, you will without a doubt be able to shake off the dust and defilement of delusion
and impurity, and manifest yourself as a pure embodiment of enlightenment."
Then the unenlightened man said, "Listening to the teachings and admonitions of a sage like you, I find
that the misunderstandings I have labored under in recent days are all suddenly dispelled. It is as though inherent wisdom
had awakened within me. When right and wrong are made so clear, who could fail to take faith?
"And yet, when I look at the world around me, I find that, from the supreme ruler on down to the numberless
common people, all place deep trust in the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu teachings. Since I have been born in this land,
how could I go against the example of the ruler?
"Moreover, my parents and ancestors all put their faith in the principles of the Nembutsu and other teachings,
and in that faith they ended their lives and vanished into the clouds of the other world.
"Here in Japan, there are, to be sure, a great many people, both eminent and humble. Yet, while those who
adhere to the provisional teachings and the sects based upon them are numerous, I have yet to hear the name of a single individual
who puts faith in the teachings that you have been explaining. Therefore, leaving aside the question of which teachings will
lead to good places in the next life and which will lead to bad ones, and not attempting to inquire which teachings are true
and which false, we find that the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of the Buddhist scriptures and the three thousand
or more volumes of the Confucian and Taoist writings all emphasize the importance of obeying the orders of the ruler and complying
with the wishes of one's parents.
"In India, Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, expounded the principles of carrying out filial conduct and
repaying one's obligations, and in China, Confucius set forth the way of giving loyal service to the ruler and honoring one's
parents as filial offspring should. A person who is determined to repay the debt of gratitude he owes his teacher would not
hesitate to slice off a piece of his own flesh or cast his body away. Among those who were aware of the debt of gratitude
they owed to their lords, Hung Yen cut open his stomach, and Yu Jang fell on his sword. And among those who were truly mindful
of their obligations to their parents, Ting Lan fashioned a wooden image of his deceased mother, and Han Po-yu wept [upon
realizing how feeble his aged mother had become] when she beat him with her staff. Though Confucianism, Brahmanism and Buddhism
all differ in their doctrines, they are alike in teaching one to repay debts of kindness and give thanks for favors received.
"Thus if I were to be the first one to place faith in a doctrine that neither the ruler, my teacher, nor
my parents put faith in, I would surely be guilty of the charge of turning against them, would I not? At the same time, the
passages from the sutras that you have quoted make perfectly clear the truth of this doctrine, and all my doubts about it
have been resolved. And if I do not prepare myself for the life hereafter, then in my next existence I will find myself submerged
in suffering. Whether I try to go forward or to retreat, my way is beset by difficulties. What am I to do?"
The sage replied, "You understand this doctrine, and yet you can say a thing like that! Have you failed
to comprehend the logic of the matter? Or is it simply beyond your understanding?
"Ever since I began to study the Law handed down from Shakyamuni Buddha and undertook the practice of the
Buddhist teachings, I have believed it is most important to understand one's obligations to others, and made it my first duty
to repay such debts of kindness. In this world, we owe four debts of gratitude. One who understands this is worthy to be called
human, while one who does not is no more than a beast.
"As I wish to help my father and mother in their next existence and repay the debt that I owe to my country,
I am willing to lay down my life, simply because I understand the debt that I owe them and for no other reason.
"Now let me ask you to close your eyes, still your mind, and apply your thoughts to the logic of the matter.
If, knowing the best path, one sees his parents or sovereign taking an evil path, can he fail to admonish them? If a fool,
crazed with wine, is about to drink poison, can one, knowing this, not try to stop him? In the same way, if one understands
the truth of the Buddhist teachings and knows the sufferings of fire, blood and swords, can he fail to lament at seeing someone
to whom he owes a debt of gratitude about to fall into the evil paths? Rather he should cast away his body and lay down his
life in an effort to save such a person. He will never grow weary of admonishing him, nor will there be limits to his grief.
"The sufferings that meet our eyes in this present world are lamentable enough. How much more lamentable
are those that one will encounter on the long road of death! How can we fail to be pained at the thought of it? A thing to
be boundlessly feared is the life hereafter; a matter of greatest concern is the existence to come!
"And yet you say that, without inquiring into what is right and what is wrong, you will follow your parents'
orders; without attempting to determine what is correct and what is erroneous, you will obey the words of the sovereign. To
a fool, such conduct may appear to be loyal and filial, but in the opinion of a wise man, there can be no greater disloyalty,
no greater departure from filial piety!
"Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, was a descendant of wheel-turning kings, the grandson of King
Simhahanu, and the heir of King Shuddhodana, and should by rights have become a great ruler of the five regions of India.
But he awakened to the truth of the impermanence of life and grew to abhor the world, desiring a way to escape this realm
of suffering and attain emancipation. King Shuddhodana, grieving at this, cleverly contrived to have the sights of the four
seasons displayed to their best advantage in the four directions so that the prince might be diverted from his intention.
"First, in the east, where a break appeared in the trailing mist, he pointed out the wild geese crying as
they made their way back north; the plums blooming by the window, their fragrance wafting through the beaded blinds; the entrancing
hues of the flowers; the countless calls of the bush warblers; and the other sights of spring.
"In the south he showed him the crystal colors of the fountains, the deutzia flowers blooming beside the
clear-flowing streams, the cuckoos of Shindoda forest, and the other signs of summer.
"In the west there were the autumn-reddened leaves mingling with the evergreens to weave a pattern of brocade,
the breezes blowing gently over the reed flowers, or the stormy winds that swept wildly through the pines. And as if to remind
one of the departed summer, there were the fireflies glimmering by the swampside, so numerous that one might mistake them
for the stars in the heavens, and the repeated voices of the pine cricket and the bell cricket, bringing one to tears.
"And in the north, before one knew it, there was the melancholy color of withered fields, the rims of the
ponds sealed with ice, and the sad sound of the little streams in the valley.
"Not only did the king attempt to console his son's mind by presenting the world to him in this way, he
also assigned five hundred soldiers to guard each of the four gates of the palace. But, in the end, when the prince was nineteen,
at midnight on the eighth day of the second month, he summoned his groom Chandaka, ordered him to saddle his horse, Kanthaka,
and made his way out of the city of Gaya.
"He entered the Dandaka Mountain, where for twelve years he gathered firewood on the high slopes, drew water
in the deep valleys, and performed various austerities and difficult practices. At the age of thirty he attained the wonderful
fruit of enlightenment, becoming the only one worthy of honor in the threefold world and the lord of all the teachings that
he expounded throughout his life. He brought salvation to his father and mother and opened the way for all living beings.
Could such a man be called unfilial?
"The ninety-five schools of Brahman believers were the ones who accused the Buddha of being unfilial. But
by disobeying the command of his father and mother and entering the realm of the unconditioned, he was, on the contrary, able
to lead his father and mother to salvation, thus demonstrating that he was in fact a model of filial piety.
"King Myoshogon, the father of Jozo and Jogen, adhered to the teachings of the Brahmans and turned his back
on the Law of the Buddha. His two sons and heirs disobeyed their father's orders and became disciples of Unraionno Buddha,
but in the end they were able to guide their father so that he became a Buddha called Sharajuo, or King of Sal Trees. Could
anyone say, then, that these were unfilial sons?
"There is a passage in the sutras that says, 'By renouncing one's obligations and entering nirvana one can
truly repay those obligations in full.' Thus we see that he who casts aside all bonds of indebtedness and love in this present
life and enters into the true path of Buddhism is the one who really understands the meaning of obligations.
"Moreover, I know the depth of the obligation owed to one's ruler far better than you do. If you really
wish to show that you understand your debt of gratitude, then you should admonish the ruler from the depths of your heart
and forcefully advise him. To follow his orders even when these are contrary to what is right is the act of an utter sycophant
and the height of disloyalty!
"King Chou of the Yin dynasty was an evil ruler, and Pi Kan, his loyal minister. When Pi Kan saw that the
king was going against what was right in ruling the nation, he vigorously admonished him. As a result Pi Kan's breast was
ripped open, but after his death, King Chou was overthrown by the king of the Chou. To the present day, Pi Kan has been known
as a loyal minister, and King Chou as an evil ruler.
"When Kuan Lung-p'eng admonished his sovereign, King Chieh of the Hsia dynasty, he was beheaded. But King
Chieh has come to be known as an evil ruler, and Kuan Lung-p'eng as a loyal minister. We are taught that, if one admonishes
his sovereign three times and still his advice is not heeded, then he should retire to the mountain forests. Why do you nevertheless
remain silent while the ruler commits misdeeds in your full view?
"I have gathered together a few examples of worthy men of ancient times who did in fact retire from the
world to dwell in the mountain forests. Open your foolish ears and listen a moment! During the Yin dynasty, T'ai-kung Wang
hid himself in a valley called P'o-ch'i; in the Chou dynasty, Po I and Shu Ch'i hid themselves on Mount Shou-yang; Ch'i Li-chi
of the Ch'in dynasty retired to Mount Shang-lu; Yen Kuang of the Han dynasty lived in a solitary lodge; and Chieh Tzu-sui
of the state of Chin became a recluse on Mount Mien-shang. Are we to call these men disloyal? Anyone who would do so is a
fool! If you understand what it means to be loyal, you will admonish your sovereign, and if you want to be filial, you must
"Earlier you said that those who adhere to the provisional teachings and to the sects based on them are
very numerous, while those who adhere to the sect I have been recommending are few, and you ask why one would abandon the
teachings favored by many and take up those favored by few. But the many are not necessarily worthy of honor, nor the few,
deserving of contempt.
"People of wisdom and goodness are rare indeed, while fools and evil persons are numerous. A ch'i-lin is
the finest of beasts and a phoenix the finest of birds, yet they are very few in number. On the other hand, cows and sheep,
crows and pigeons are among the lowlier and commoner of creatures, and yet they are extremely plentiful. If the many are always
worthy while the few are to be despised, should one then cast aside a ch'i-lin in favor of cows and sheep, or pass over a
phoenix and instead select crows and pigeons?
"The mani jewel and the diamond are the most wondrous of all precious stones. These gems are rare, while
broken tiles and shards, clods of earth and common stones are the most useless of objects, and at the same time abound. Now
if one follows your advice, ought he to discard the precious jewels and instead content himself with broken tiles and shards?
How pitiful and meaningless that would be!
"A sage ruler is a rare thing, appearing only once in a thousand years, while a worthy minister appears
once in five hundred years. The mani jewel is so rare that we have only heard of it, and who, for that matter, has ever actually
seen a ch'i-lin or a phoenix? In both secular and religious realms, as is plain to see, good persons are rare while evil persons
are numerous. Why, then, do you insist upon despising the few and favoring the many? Dirt and sand are plentiful, but rice
and other grains are rare. The bark of trees is available in great quantities, but hemp and silk fabrics are hard to come
by. You should put the truth of the teaching before everything else; certainly you should not base your judgment on the number
The unenlightened man thereupon moved off his mat in a gesture of respect, straightened his sleeves, and
said, "I have heard what you stated about the principles of the sacred teachings. Truly it is more difficult to be born as
a human being than it is to lower a thread from the heavens above and pass it through the eye of a needle at the bottom of
the sea, and it is rarer for one to be able to hear the Law of the Buddha than it is for a one-eyed turtle to encounter a
floating log [with a hollow in it that fits him exactly]. Now I have already obtained birth in the human realm, something
difficult to achieve, and have had the privilege of hearing the Buddhist teachings, which are seldom encountered. If I should
pass my present life in idleness, then in what future life could I possibly free myself from the sufferings of birth and death
and attain enlightenment?
"Though in the course of a kalpa the bones I have left behind in successive existences may pile up higher
than a mountain, to this day I have not yet sacrificed so much as a single bone for the sake of the Buddha's Law. And though,
in the course of these many lifetimes, I have shed more tears over those I loved or was indebted to than there is water in
the sea, I have never spilled so much as a single tear for the sake of my future existences. I am the most stupid of the stupid,
truly a fool among fools! Though I may have to cast aside my life and destroy this body of mine, I am determined to hold life
lightly and to enter the path of the Buddha's teachings, to assist in bringing about the enlightenment of my father and mother
and to save my own person from the bonds of hell. Please teach me exactly how I should go about it! How should one practice
if he takes faith in the Lotus Sutra? Of the five practices, which one should I concentrate on first? Please give me careful
instruction in your worthy teachings!"
The sage replied, "You have been imbued with the fragrance of your orchid-room friend; you have become upright
like mugwort growing in a field of hemp. Truly, the bare tree is not really bare: once spring comes, it bursts into blossom.
The withered field is not really withered: with the coming of summer, it turns fresh and green again! If you have repented
of your former errors and are ready to adhere to the true doctrine, then without doubt you can swim in the calm and quiet
deeps [of nirvana], and dwell at ease in the palace of the unconditioned.
"Now in widely propagating the Buddhist teachings and bringing salvation to all people, one must first take
into consideration the teaching, the capacity of the people, the time, the country, and the sequence of propagation. The reason
is as follows. In terms of the time, there are the periods of the Former, the Middle and the Latter Days of the Law, and in
terms of the teachings, there are the Hinayana and the Mahayana doctrines. In terms of the practices to be adopted, there
are shoju and shakubuku. It is a mistake to practice shakubuku at a time when shoju is called for, and equally erroneous to
practice shoju when shakubuku is appropriate. The first thing to be determined, therefore, is whether the present period is
the time for shoju or the time for shakubuku.
"Shoju is to be practiced when throughout the entire country only the Lotus Sutra has spread, and when there
is not even a single misguided teacher expounding erroneous doctrines. At such a time, one may retire to the mountain forests,
practice the meditation on the dharmas, or carry out the five, the six or the ten practices. But the time for shakubuku is
very different from this. It is a time when many different sutras and teachings spring up here and there like so many orchids
and chrysanthemums, when the various sects command a large following and enjoy renown, when truth and error stand shoulder
to shoulder, and when Mahayana and Hinayana dispute which is superior. At such a time, one must set aside all other affairs
and devote one's attention to rebuking slander of the Law. This is the practice of shakubuku.
"If, failing to understand this principle, one were to practice shoju or shakubuku at an inappropriate time,
then not only would he be unable to attain Buddhahood, but he would fall into the evil paths. This is firmly laid down in
the Lotus and Nirvana sutras, and is also clearly stated in the commentaries by T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo. It is, in fact, an
important principle of Buddhist practice.
"We may compare these two ways of practice to the two types of measures, the civil and the military, used
in governing a nation. There is a time when military measures should take precedence, and a time when civil measures ought
to be emphasized. When the world is at peace and calm prevails within the country, then civil measures should take precedence.
But when the barbarian tribes to the east, west, north and south, fired by wild ambitions, rise up like hornets, then military
measures should come first.
"Though one may understand the importance of both civil and military arts, if he does not understand the
time, donning armor and taking up weapons when all countries are calm and peaceful and there is no trouble anywhere throughout
the world, then his actions will be wrong. On the other hand, one who lays aside his weapons on the battlefield when enemies
are marching against his ruler and instead takes up a writing brush and inkstone is likewise failing to act in accordance
with the time.
"The methods of shoju and shakubuku are also like this. When the True Law alone is propagated and there
are no erroneous doctrines or misguided teachers, then one may enter the deep valleys and live in quiet contentment, devoting
his time to reciting and copying the sutra and to the practice of meditation. This is like taking up a writing brush and inkstone
when the world is at peace. But when there are provisional sects or slanderers of the Law in the country, then it is time
to set aside other matters and devote oneself to rebuking slander. This is like taking up weapons on the battlefield.
"Therefore the Great Teacher Chang-an in his commentary on the Nirvana Sutra states: 'In past times the
age was peaceful and the Law spread throughout the country. At that time it was proper to observe the precepts and not to
carry staves. But now the age is perilous and the Law is overshadowed. Therefore it is proper to carry staves and to disregard
the precepts. If both past and present were perilous times, then it would be proper to carry staves in both periods. And if
both past and present were peaceful times, then it would be proper to observe the precepts in both of them. You should distinguish
between the shoju and the shakubuku methods and never adhere solely to one or the other.' The meaning of this passage of commentary
is perfectly clear.
"In past times the world was honest, people were upright, and there were no erroneous teachings or erroneous
doctrines. Therefore one could behave in a dignified manner and carry out his religious practices peacefully and amicably.
There was no need to take up staves and berate others, no occasion to attack erroneous teachings.
"But the present age is a defiled one. Because the minds of people are warped and twisted, and provisional
teachings and slander alone abound, the True Law cannot prevail. In times like these, it is useless to practice the reading,
reciting and copying [of the Lotus Sutra] or to devote oneself to the methods and practices of meditation. One should practice
only shakubuku, and if he has the capacity, use his influence and authority to destroy slander of the Law, and his knowledge
of the teachings to refute erroneous doctrines.
"As we have seen, it is said that one should distinguish between the shoju and the shakubuku methods and
never adhere solely to one or the other. Therefore, we must look at the world today and consider whether ours is a country
in which only the True Law prevails, or a country in which erroneous doctrines flourish.
"In answering this we should note that Honen of the Pure Land sect says that one should 'discard, close,
ignore and abandon' the Lotus Sutra in favor of the Nembutsu. And Shan-tao in his writings calls the Lotus Sutra an 'incorrect
practice,' saying that 'not one in a thousand' can be saved by it, by which he means that if a thousand people take faith
in it not a single one of them will gain enlightenment.
"Kobo of the Shingon sect states in his writings that the Lotus Sutra is inferior even to the Kegon Sutra
and ranks two steps beneath the Dainichi Sutra, designating it a piece of 'childish theory.' And Shokaku-bo of the same sect
declares that the Lotus Sutra is not fit even to serve as the sandal-bearer of the Dainichi Sutra, and that Shakyamuni Buddha
is not worthy to be an ox-driver to Dainichi Buddha.
"The priests of the Zen sect disparage the Lotus Sutra by calling it so much saliva that has been spit out
of the mouth, a finger pointing at the moon, or a net of doctrine [that serves only to entangle]. The priests of the Ritsu,
a Hinayana sect, call the Lotus Sutra an erroneous teaching and label it the preaching of the Devil.
"Are persons such as these not slanderers of the Law? One can never be too severe in condemning them, or
admonish them too strongly!"
The unenlightened man said, "Throughout the more than sixty provinces of Japan, there are many kinds of
people and a variety of Buddhist doctrines. What with the Nembutsu believers, the Shingon teachers, and the followers of Zen
or the Ritsu teachings, there is truly hardly a single person who does not slander the Law. But then, why should I criticize
other people? My task, it seems to me, is simply to cherish deep faith within my own heart and to look on other people's errors
as no concern of mine."
The sage replied, "What you say is quite true, and I would be inclined to hold the same opinion. But when
we examine the sutras, we find that they tell us not to begrudge our lives [for the sake of the Law], and also say that [one
should spread the Buddha's teachings] even though it may cost him his life. The reason they speak in this way is because,
if one does not hesitate on account of others but propagates the principles of Buddhism just as they are set forth in the
sutras, then in an age when there are many people who slander the Law, three types of enemies will invariably appear and in
many cases deprive him of life. But if, as the sutras tell us, one observes deviations from the Buddhist Law and yet fails
to censure them or to appeal to the ruler to take measures against them, then he is being untrue to the teachings and is not
worthy to be looked on as a disciple of the Buddha.
"The third volume of the Nirvana Sutra says, 'If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and
disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism.
But if he takes the slanderer severely to task, drives him off or punishes him, then he is my disciple and one who truly understands
"The meaning of this passage is that, if a person striving to propagate the True Law of the Buddha should
hear others propounding the teachings of the sutras in a mistaken manner and fail to reproach them himself or, lacking the
power to do that, fail to appeal to the sovereign and in this way take measures to correct them, then he is an enemy of the
Buddha's Law. But if, as the sutras direct, he is not afraid of others but censures these slanderers himself and appeals to
the sovereign to take measures against them, then he may be called a disciple of the Buddha and a true priest.
"Being therefore determined to avoid the charge of 'betraying Buddhism,' although I have incurred the hatred
of others, I have dedicated my life to Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra, extending compassion to all living beings and
rebuking slanders of the Law. Those who cannot understand my heart have tightened their lips and glared at me with furious
eyes. But if you are truly concerned about your future existence, you should think lightly of your own safety and consider
the Law above all. Thus the Great Teacher Chang-an states, '[The sutra says, "...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." This means that one's body is insignificant
while the Law is supreme. One should give his life in order to propagate the Law.'
"This passage is saying that, even if one must give up his life, one should not conceal the True Law; this
is because one's body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. Though one's body be destroyed, one should strive to propagate
"How sad is this lot of ours, that all who are born must perish! Though one may live to a great age, in
the end he cannot escape this impermanence. In this world or ours, life lasts a hundred years or so at most. When we stop
to think of it, it is a mere dream within a dream. Even in the heaven where there is neither thought nor no thought, where
life lasts eighty thousand years, no one escapes the law of mutability, and in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, too, where life lasts
a thousand years, it is swept away at last by the winds of change and decay. How much sadder, then, is the lot of the human
beings living on this continent of Jambudvipa, whose life is more fleeting than the dew, more fragile than the plantain leaf,
more insubstantial than bubbles or foam! Like the moon reflected in the water, one is not even certain whether he exists or
not; like the dew on the grass, he may vanish at any moment.
"Anyone who grasps this principle should know that it is of utmost importance to take thought for the existence
to come. In the latter age of the Buddha Kangi, the monk Kakutoku propagated the True Law. Countless monks who were guilty
of violating the precepts deeply resented this votary and attacked him, but the ruler, King Utoku, determined to protect the
True Law, fought with these slanderers. In the end, he lost his life and was reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku, where
he became the foremost disciple of that Buddha. Similarly King Sen'yo, because he honored the Mahayana teachings and punished
the slander of five hundred Brahmans, was able to reach the stage of non-regression. How reassuring, that those who respect
the monks of the True Law and admonish those who are evil and in error receive such blessings as these!
"But if, in our present age, one were to practice shoju [rather than shakubuku], then without doubt that
person would fall into the evil paths together with those who slander the True Law. The Great Teacher Nan-yueh in his Shi
Anrakugyo states, 'If there should be a bodhisattva who protects evil persons and fails to chastise them ... then when his
life comes to and end, he will fall into hell along with those evil persons.'
"The meaning of this passage is that, if a practitioner of Buddhism should fail to chastise evil persons
who slander the Law but give himself up entirely to meditation and contemplation, not attempting to distinguish between correct
or incorrect doctrines, provisional or true teachings, but rather pretending to be a model of compassion, then such a person
will fall into the evil paths along with the other doers of evil. Now a person who fails to correct the Shingon, Nembutsu,
Zen and Ritsu adherents who are slanderers of the Law and instead pretends to be a model of compassion will meet just such
a fate as this."
Thereupon the unenlightened man, cherishing his resolve in mind, spoke out in these words: "To admonish
one's sovereign and set one's family on the correct course is the teaching of the worthies of former times and is clearly
indicated in the texts you have cited. The non-Buddhist writings all emphasize this point, and the Buddhist scriptures are
in no way at variance with it. To see evil and fail to admonish it, to be aware of slander and not combat it, is to go against
the words of the sutras and to disobey the Buddhist patriarchs. The punishment for this offense is extremely severe, and therefore,
from now on, I will devote myself to faith.
"But it is truly difficult to put this sutra, the Lotus, into practice. If there is some essential point
to be observed, could you explain it to me?"
The sage replied, "I can tell that your aspiration for the Way is very earnest and sincere. The essential
thing needed for attaining the enlightenment of all Buddhas is nothing other than the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.
It was solely because of these five characters that King Dan relinquished his jeweled throne [and attained Buddhahood], and
the dragon king's daughter transformed her reptilian characteristics [into those of a Buddha].
"When we stop to consider it, we find that the sutra itself says, concerning how much or how little of it
is to be embraced, that a single verse or phrase is sufficient, and, concerning the length of practice [necessary to reach
enlightenment], that one who rejoices even for a moment on hearing it [is certain to become a Buddha]. The eighty thousand
teachings in their vast entirety and the many words and phrases of the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra were all expounded
simply in order to reveal these five characters. When Shakyamuni Buddha in the clouds above the Sacred Mountain, in the mists
of Eagle Peak, summed up the essence of the doctrine and entrusted it to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, what do you suppose
that teaching was? It was nothing other than these five characters, the essential law.
"The six thousand leaves of commentary by T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo, like strings of jewels, and the several
scrolls of exegesis by Tao-sui and Hsing-man, like so much gold, do not go beyond the meaning of this teaching. If you truly
fear the realm of birth and death and yearn for nirvana, if you carry out your faith and thirst for the Way, then the sufferings
of change and impermanence will become no more than yesterday's dream, and the awakening of enlightenment will become today's
reality. If only you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to
come? This is the truth, and it is of great profundity. You should believe and accept it."
The unenlightened man, pressing his palms together and kneeling respectfully, said, "These priceless words
of yours have moved me deeply, and your instruction has awakened my mind. And yet, in light of the principle that superior
things encompass those that are inferior, it would seem that the broad should also encompass the narrow and the many should
take in the few. However, when we examine the matter, we find that these five characters you have mentioned are few, while
the words in the sutra text are many, and that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is narrow, while its eight scrolls are very
broad. How then can the two be equal in the blessings that they bring?"
The sage said, "How foolish you are! Your attachment to this belief that one should abandon the few in favor
of the many towers higher than Mount Sumeru, and your conviction that the narrow should be despised and the broad honored
is deeper than the vast ocean! In the course of our discussion, I have already demonstrated that something is not necessarily
worthy of honor simply because it is many in number or despicable simply because it is few. Now I would like to go a step
farther and explain how the small can actually encompass the great, and the one be superior to the many.
"The seed of the nyagrodha tree, though one-third the size of a mustard seed, can conceal five hundred carts
within itself. Is this not a case of the small containing the large? The wish-granting jewel, while only one in number, is
able to rain down ten thousand treasures without a single thing lacking. Is this not a case of the few encompassing the many?
The popular proverb says that 'one is the mother of ten thousand.' Do you not understand the principle behind these matters?
The important thing to consider is whether or not a doctrine conforms with the principle of the true aspect of reality. Do
not be blindly attached to the question of many or few!
"But since you are so extremely foolish, let me give you an analogy. Myoho-renge-kyo is the Buddha nature
of all living beings. The Buddha nature is the Dharma nature, and the Dharma nature is enlightenment. The Buddha nature possessed
by Shakyamuni, Taho and all the Buddhas of the ten directions; by Jogyo, Muhengyo and the other Bodhisattvas of the Earth;
by Fugen, Monju, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the others; by Bonten and Taishaku; by the deities of the sun, the moon, the
morning star, the seven stars in the Big Dipper in the northern sky, the twenty-eight constellations and the countless other
stars; by the heavenly gods, the earthly deities, the dragon deities, the eight kinds of lowly beings, and the human and heavenly
beings who gathered in the great assembly to hear the Buddha's preaching; by King Emma--in short, by all living beings from
the realm where there is neither thought nor no thought above the clouds down to the flames in the lowest depths of hell--the
Buddha nature that all these beings possess is called by the name Myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, if you recite these words of
the daimoku once, then the Buddha nature of all living beings will be summoned and gather around you. At that time the three
properties of the Dharma nature within you--the properties of the Law, of wisdom, and of action--will be drawn forth and become
manifest. This is called attaining Buddhahood. To illustrate, when a caged bird sings, the many birds flying in the sky all
gather around him at once; seeing this, the bird in the cage strives to get out."
The unenlightened man said, "You have now explained to me in detail the benefits of the daimoku and the
significance of the Mystic Law. But I would like to ask whether these matters are explained in this manner in the sutra."
The sage replied, "Since you have already understood the principle involved, there is really no need to
go on and inquire what scriptural passages it is based on. However, I will cite a passage from the sutra as you request.
"In the eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra, in the Dharani chapter, the Buddha says, 'If only you protect
those persons who receive and embrace the name of the Lotus Sutra, you will enjoy good fortune beyond measure.' In this passage,
the Buddha is praising Kishimojin and her ten daughters for their vow to protect the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. He is saying:
'You have taken a vow to protect those who embrace the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra. The blessings that you will receive as
a result are beyond even the power of the Buddha wisdom, which completely comprehends the three existences, to fathom.' While
by rights nothing should be beyond the grasp of the Buddha wisdom, the Buddha says here that the blessings that accrue from
receiving and embracing the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra are the one thing it cannot measure.
"The blessings of the entire Lotus Sutra are all contained solely within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.
While the words in the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra differ according to the contents of the twenty-eight chapters, the
five characters of the daimoku remain the same throughout. To illustrate, within the two characters Nihon, or Japan, are included
the more than sixty provinces and two islands [Iki and Tsushima]. Are there any districts or provinces that are not contained
within this name?
"If one uses the term 'birds,' people know that one is talking about creatures that fly in the sky; if one
says 'beasts,' people understand that one is referring to animals that run over the ground. In all things, names are of great
importance precisely because they can convey general meanings in this way. This is what the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai meant
when he said that names convey the basic nature of a thing while phrases describe how it differs from other things, or when
he said that names designate the fundamental character of a thing.
"In addition, names have the virtue of being able to summon the things to which they refer, and things as
a matter of function respond to the name that refers to them. In similar fashion, the name or daimoku of the Lotus Sutra has
the power [to summon the Buddha nature to which it refers]."
The unenlightened man said, "If it is as you say, then the blessings of the daimoku are very great indeed.
But these blessings must differ according to whether or not one understands the significance of the daimoku. I am a man who
carries a bow and arrows and devotes himself to the profession of arms. I have no understanding of the true nature of the
Buddhist teachings. How could a person such as I gain any great amount of good fortune?"
The sage replied, "According to the principle of the perfect and immediate enlightenment, there is no essential
difference between the earlier and later stages of practice, and the blessings of the advanced stages are inherent in the
initial stages as well. To carry out one practice is to carry out all practices, and there is no blessing that is not included
"If the situation were as you say and one could not obtain good fortune until after he had understood the
truth of Buddhism, then no one, from the bodhisattvas who have all but attained enlightenment on down to those who understand
the teachings only in terms of names and words, would be able to obtain any good fortune at all. This is because, as the Lotus
Sutra says, '[The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared] between Buddhas.'
"In the Hiyu chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha declares: 'Even you, Shariputra, where this sutra is
concerned, gained entrance through faith. How much more is this the case for the other shomon disciples!'
"This passage is saying that even Shariputra, who was known for his great wisdom, was, with respect to the
Lotus Sutra, able to gain entry through faith and not through the power of his wisdom and understanding. How much more so,
therefore, does this hold true with the other shomon disciples!
"Thus, with the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, Shariputra, because he had faith, was able to rid himself
of the name of one who would never be able to attain Buddhahood and was told that he would in time become the Flower Light
"It is like the case of a baby being given milk to drink. Even though the baby may not understand the flavor
of milk, the milk naturally nurtures the baby's growth. Similarly, if a doctor gives medicine to a patient, even though the
patient may not know the origin and nature of the medicine, if he takes it, then in the natural course of events his illness
will be cured. But if he objects that he does not know the origin of the medicine that the doctor gives him and for that reason
declines to take it, do you think his illness will ever be cured? Whether he understands the medicine or not, so long as he
takes it, he will in either case be cured.
"The Buddha has already been called an excellent physician, and the Law has been likened to beneficial medicine
and all living beings to people suffering from illness. The Buddha took the teachings that he had preached in the course of
his lifetime, ground and sifted them, blended them together and compounded an excellent medicine, the pill of the Mystic Law.
Regardless of whether one understands it or not, so long as he take the pill, can he fail to be cured of the illness of delusion?
Even though the patient may not understand the medicine or even know the nature of the disease from which he suffers, if he
takes the medicine, he is bound to recover.
"It is the same way with the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. Though he may not understand the principles
of Buddhism and may not know that he is suffering from delusion, if only he has faith, then without a doubt he will be able
to free himself simultaneously from the illnesses of the three categories of illusion--illusions of thought and desire, illusions
innumerable as particles of dust and sand, and illusions about the true nature of existence. He will reach the lands of Actual
Reward and Tranquil Light and cause the three properties of the Buddha that he inherently possesses to shine.
"Therefore, the Great Teacher Dengyo says: 'Neither teachers nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas
of austere practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the Lotus Sutra they can do so in their present form.'
This means that both the teacher who expounds the principles of the Lotus Sutra and the disciple who receives his teachings
will, in no long time, together attain Buddhahood through the power of the Lotus Sutra.
"The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai produced the Hokke Gengi, Hokke Mongu, and Maka Shikan, thirty volumes of
commentary on the Lotus Sutra. And the Great Teacher Miao-lo in addition produced the thirty volumes of the Hokke Gengi Shakusen,
Hokke Mongu Ki and Maka Shikan Bugyoden Guketsu as annotations on T'ien-t'ai's works. Together these works are known as 'the
sixty volumes of the Tendai school.'
"In the Hokke Gengi, T'ien-t'ai established the five major principles of name, entity, quality, function
and teaching, and in their light explained the power and efficacy of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. In the section
on the third of the five major principles, that dealing with the quality of the Lotus Sutra, he writes, 'When one pulls on
the main cord of a net, there are no meshes that do not move, and when one raises a single corner of a robe, there are no
threads in the robe that are not lifted up.' The meaning of this passage is that, when one carries out the single practice
of exercising faith in Myoho-renge-kyo, there are no blessings that fail to come to one, and no good karma that does not begin
to work on one's behalf. It is like the case of a fishing net: though the net is composed of innumerable small meshes, when
one pulls on the main cord of the net, there are no meshes that do not move. Or it is like a garment: though the garment is
comprised of countless tiny threads, when one pulls on a corner of the garment, there are no threads that are not drawn along.
"In the Hokke Mongu, T'ien-t'ai explains all the various words and phrases in the Lotus Sutra, from the
opening words, 'Thus have I heard,' to the final words, '...they bowed and departed.' He explains them in terms of four categories,
namely, causes and circumstances, correlated teachings, the theoretical and essential teachings, and the observation of the
"Next, in the Maka Shikan, he expounds the meditation on the region of the unfathomable, namely on the three
thousand realms within a single mind, based on his thorough understanding of the Lotus Sutra. This is a practice that derives
from the Buddha's original enlightenment and represents a principle of truth inherent in one's being. I shall not go into
it in detail here.
"What an occasion for rejoicing! Though born into an evil age that is stained with the five impurities,
we have been able to hear the true words of the one vehicle. We read that a person who has planted roots of good fortune equal
in number to the sands of the Hiranyavati or the Ganges River is able to encounter this sutra and take faith in it. Now you
have aroused the mind that rejoices in faith. Thus without a doubt, just as a box and its lid fit together, so will your own
faith evoke the Buddha's compassionate response, and the two will unite as one."
The unenlightened man bowed his head, pressed his palms together and said: "From now on I will receive and
embrace this king of the sutras, the Lotus of the one truth, and revere the Buddha, who in the threefold world is alone worthy
of honor, as my true teacher. From my present body as a common mortal until the time when I attain the body of a Buddha, I
will never venture to turn aside from this faith. Though the clouds of the five cardinal sins should hang heavy above me,
I will strive to emulate the example of Devadatta in attaining Buddhahood. Though the waves of the ten evil acts should buffet
me, I will desire to be like those who formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra by listening to the princes' preaching."
The sage said, "The human heart is like water that assumes the shape of whatever vessel it occupies, and
the nature of beings is like the reflection of the moon undulating on the waves. Now you insist that you will be firm in this
faith, but another day you are bound to waver. Though devils and demons may come to tempt you, you must not allow yourself
to be distracted. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven hates the Buddha's Law, and the non-Buddhist believers resent the path of
the Buddhist teachings. But you must be like the golden mountain that glitters more brightly when scraped by the wild boar,
like the sea that encompasses all the various streams, like the fire that burns higher when logs are added, or like the gura
insect that grows bigger when the wind blows. If you follow such examples, then how can the outcome fail to be good?"