- Kito Sho -
Nichiren, the shramana of Japan
Question: Of the types of prayer that one offers based upon the teachings of the Kegon sect, the Hosso sect,
the Sanron sect, the three Hinayana sects, the Shingon sect or the Tendai sect, which type is effective?
Answer: Since they represent the preaching of the Buddha, they can all in some sense be considered prayer.
But prayers that are based upon the Lotus Sutra are certain to be true prayers.
Question: What is the reason for that?
Answer: The persons of the two vehicles, though they spent kalpas numerous as the dust particles of
the earth practicing the sutras that correspond to the first four flavors, could never attain Buddhahood. But by listening
to the Lotus Sutra for just an instant they became Buddhas. For this reason, Shariputra, Mahakashyapa and the others who make
up the twelve hundred persons and the twelve thousand persons, and all the other persons of the two vehicles who attained
Buddhahood, will certainly respond to the prayers of those who practice the Lotus Sutra. And they will take upon themselves
the pains of such practitioners.
Therefore it is stated in the Shinge chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]:
The World-Honored One in his great mercy makes use of a rare thing,
in pity and compassion teaching and converting,
bringing benefit to us.
in numberless millions of kalpas who could ever repay him?
Though we offer him our hands and feet,
bow our heads in respectful obeisance,
and present all manner of offerings,
none of us could repay him.
Though we lift him on the crown of our heads,
bear him on our two shoulders,
for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands
reverence him with all our hearts;
though we come with delicate foods,
with countless jeweled robes,
with articles of bedding,
various kinds of potions and medicines;
with ox-head sandalwood and all kinds of rare gems,
construct memorial towers and spread the ground with jeweled robes;
though we were to do all this by way of offering for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands,
still we could not repay him.
In this passage from the sutra, the four great voice-hearers, having heard the message of the Hiyu chapter
and learned how they can become Buddhas, are expounding on how difficult it is to repay one’s debt of gratitude to the
Buddha and to the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, we can understand that, to persons of the two vehicles, the practitioners of this
sutra are more important than a father or a mother, than a beloved child, than their own two eyes or their body and life itself.
Though I do not think that the great voice-hearers such as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana would actually
cast aside a practitioner who praised any of the teachings put forth by the Buddha in the course of his lifetime, still it
is likely that they feel a small degree of resentment toward the various sutras that were preached previous to the Lotus Sutra.
This is because a strong warning has been given that "Within the Buddha’s teachings ... they are like seeds that have
already been spoiled." But now these voice-hearers have become the Buddha Flower Glow, the Buddha Rare Form and the Buddha
Universal Brightness, a most unexpected stroke of good fortune. They must feel as though the K’un-lun Mountains had
crumbled apart and they were able to enter those mountains of jewels. That is why the passage of appreciation says: "This
cluster of unsurpassed jewels has come to us unsought."
So there can be no doubt that all persons of the two vehicles will protect the practitioner of the Lotus
Sutra. Even lowly creatures know enough to repay a debt of gratitude. Thus the bird known as the wild goose will invariably
carry out its filial duty to the mother bird when she is about to die. And the fox never forgets its old hillock. If even
creatures such as these will do so, then how much more so a human being?
A man named Wang Shou was traveling along a road when he became hungry and weary. Beside the road was
a plum tree that was loaded with fruit. Wang Shou ate the fruit and thereby satisfied his hunger. But he said to himself,
"I have eaten the fruit of this plum tree and thus restored my strength and spirits. It would not be right if I failed to
repay this debt of gratitude." So saying, he took off his robe and hung it on the plum tree before going on his way.
A man named Wang Yin was traveling along a road when he became thirsty for a drink of water. Crossing
a river, he drank some of the water, and then he tossed a coin into the river as payment for the water he had drunk.
A dragon will invariably protect a monk who is wearing a Buddhist surplice. The reason is that a dragon
once received a Buddhist surplice from the Buddha and, placing it around its beloved child in the dragon palace, was able
to prevent the child from being eaten by garuda birds.
A garuda bird will invariably protect a person who carries out his filial duty toward his parents. Dragons
would eat the beloved chicks of the garuda bird after shaking them off Mount Sumeru. But the Buddha instructed the garuda
bird to take the offerings of rice that Buddhist monks set aside from the alms given them by filial persons, and to place
these offerings on top of Mount Sumeru. In this way, the garuda bird was able to prevent its chicks from being eaten by dragons.
Heaven will invariably protect a person who observes the precepts and practices good. If persons who
are born into the human realm do not observe the precepts or practice good, then when these persons in the human realm die,
they will in most cases be reborn in the realm of the asura. And if the persons in the realm of the asura become very numerous,
they will grow arrogant and will inevitably offend against heaven.
However, if persons who are born into the human realm observe the precepts and practice good, when they
die they will invariably be reborn in the realm of heavenly beings. And if those in the realm of heavenly beings become very
numerous, the asuras will be frightened and will not dare to offend against heaven. That is the reason why heaven invariably
protects persons who observe the precepts and practice good.
Persons of the two vehicles are more excellent in the virtue gained from their observance of the precepts
and more astute in wisdom than ordinary persons in the six paths. Therefore, how could they possibly ever abandon those who
practice the Lotus Sutra, since the Lotus Sutra is the means that has enabled them to attain Buddhahood?
Moreover, none of the bodhisattvas and ordinary persons, though in order to become a Buddha they practiced
the teachings of the various sutras preached in the forty and more years previous to the Lotus Sutra for a period of countless
kalpas, could ever succeed in attaining Buddhahood. But by practicing the Lotus Sutra, they were able to attain Buddhahood.
And now these Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions are endowed with the thirty-two distinctive features and eighty
characteristics that distinguish a Buddha, and are looked up to by persons in the other nine realms just as the stars cluster
about the moon, as the eight mountains surround Mount Sumeru, as the persons of the four continents look up to the sun, or
as the common people look up to the wheel-turning king. And the fact that these Buddhas are looked up to in this manner is
due, is it not, to the benefit and blessing bestowed by the Lotus Sutra?
Therefore, in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha gives this warning: "There is no need to enshrine the relics
of the Buddha there." And the Nirvana Sutra says: "What the Buddhas take as their teacher is the Law. Therefore the Buddhas
honor, respect and make offerings to it." In the passage from the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha is saying that his relics need not
be enshrined in the stupa alongside the Lotus Sutra. And the passage from the Nirvana Sutra indicates that the Buddhas should
honor, respect and make offerings to the Lotus Sutra.
The Buddhas, because they were enlightened by the Lotus Sutra, were able to attain Buddhahood. Therefore,
if they should fail to preach the sutra to others, they would be withholding from others the seeds of Buddhahood and would
be committing a fault. For this reason, Shakyamuni Buddha made his appearance in this saha world and prepared to preach it.
But the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, who is a manifestation of fundamental darkness, entered into the bodies of all the various
people and caused them to hate the Buddha and impede his preaching.
Thus the king known as Virudhaka killed five hundred persons of the Shakya clan; Angulimala chased after
the Buddha; Devadatta rolled a huge stone down on him; and Chincha, the daughter of a Brahman, tied a bowl to her belly and
claimed to be pregnant with the Buddha’s child.
The lord of a Brahman city proclaimed that a fine of five hundred ryo of gold should be levied against
anyone who invited the Buddha into the city. As a result, the people of the city blocked the road with thorns, threw filth
into the wells, built a barricade of spikes at the gate, and put poison in the Buddha’s food, all because of their hatred
The nun Utpalavarna was murdered, Maudgalyayana was killed by the Brahmans of the Bamboo Staff school,
and Kalodayin was buried in horse dung, all because of animosity toward the Buddha.
Nevertheless, the Buddha managed to survive these various ordeals, and, at the age of seventy-two, forty-two
years after he first began preaching the Buddhist Law, at a mountain called Gridhrakuta northeast of the city of Rajagriha
in central India, he began to preach the Lotus Sutra. He preached it for a period of eight years. Then, on the bank of the
Ajitavati River at the city of Kushinagara in eastern India, in the middle of the night on the fifteenth day of the second
month, when he was eighty years of age, he entered nirvana.
But before that, he had revealed his enlightenment in the form of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, the words
of this sutra are indeed the very soul of Shakyamuni Buddha. And since every single word constitutes the soul of the Buddha,
Shakyamuni Buddha will protect persons who practice this sutra as though he were protecting his very own eyes. He will accompany
such persons just as a shadow accompanies a body. How then could the prayers of such persons not be answered?
During the first forty and more years of the Buddha’s teaching life, the various bodhisattvas
had tried to attain Buddhahood through the sutras beginning with the Kegon Sutra, but they were unable to do so. But when
the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra was preached, announcing the concise replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle,
The bodhisattvas seeking to be Buddhas in a great force of eighty thousand, as well as the wheel-turning
kings [who] come from ten thousands of millions of lands, all press their palms and with reverent minds wish to hear the teaching
of perfect endowment.
And when, in response to this desire, they heard the expanded replacement of the three vehicles with
the one vehicle, then, we are told, "When the bodhisattvas hear this Law, they will be released from all entanglements of
After that, bodhisattvas from this world and from other regions gathered round like clouds and were
ranged in ranks like stars. And when the Hoto chapter was preached, the Buddhas of the ten directions gathered round, each
accompanied by countless numbers of bodhisattvas.
Monju appeared from the sea accompanied by countless bodhisattvas, and in addition there were the eighty
myriads of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas, and the bodhisattvas who were more numerous than the sands of eight Ganges
rivers, and the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of one thousand worlds who emerged from the earth, and in the
Fumbetsu kudoku chapter, the bodhisattvas numerous as the sands of the six hundred and eighty myriads of millions of nayutas
of Ganges rivers, the bodhisattvas multiplied a thousand times, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a world,
the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a major world system, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of
an intermediate world system, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a minor world system, the bodhisattvas numerous
as the dust particles of four four-continent worlds, or the dust particles of three four-continent worlds, two four-continent
worlds or one four-continent world and the persons numerous as the dust particles of eight worlds.
There were the eighty-four thousand bodhisattvas of the Yakuo chapter; the eighty-four thousand bodhisattvas
and the forty-two thousand heavenly sons of the Myoon chapter; the eighty-four thousand persons of the Fumon chapter; the
sixty-eight thousand persons of the Dharani chapter; the eighty-four thousand persons of the Myoshogonno chapter; and the
bodhisattvas numerous as the Ganges sands and the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a major world system of the
If we were to count up all these bodhisattvas, they would be as numerous as the dust particles of the
worlds of the ten directions, as the plants and trees in the worlds of the ten directions, as the stars in the worlds of the
ten directions, or as the drops of rain in the worlds of the ten directions. And all of these beings attained Buddhahood through
the Lotus Sutra, and are dwelling on the earth, under the earth or in the sky of this present major world system.
The Venerable Mahakashyapa lives on Mount Kukkutapada, Monjushiri lives on Mount Clear and Cool, Bodhisattva
Jizo lives on Mount Kharadiya, Kannon lives on Mount Potalaka, Bodhisattva Miroku lives in the Tushita heaven, Nanda and the
countless other dragon kings and asura kings live at the bottom of the sea or at the seaside, Taishaku lives in the Trayastrimsha
heaven, Bonten lives in the Summit of Being heaven, Makeishura lives in the sixth heaven of Freely Enjoying Things Conjured
by Others, the Four Heavenly Kings live on the slopes of Mount Sumeru, and the, sun, the moon and the crowds of stars appear
before our eyes and shine over our heads. The river gods, the stream gods and the mountain gods were all among the honored
ones present at the assembly when the Lotus Sutra was preached.
It has now been over twenty-two hundred years since the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra. Human beings
have a short life span, and therefore there are no persons alive today who have seen the Buddha with their own eyes. But in
the heavenly realm the span of a day is long and the beings there have long lives, and, as a result, there are uncountably
numerous heavenly beings still alive who have seen the Buddha and listened to him preach the Lotus Sutra.
Fifty years in the life of a human being is equivalent to no more than one day and one night in the
lives of beings in the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings. And these heavenly beings, passing such days and nights, with thirty
such days to a month and twelve such months to a year, live to be five hundred years old. Therefore, twenty-two hundred or
more years in the lives of human beings will be equivalent to only forty-four days in the lives of beings in the Heaven of
the Four Heavenly Kings.
Hence from the point of view of the deities of the sun and the moon and the heavenly king Bishamon,
it has been only forty-four days, or less than two months, since the Buddha passed away. And from the point of view of Taishaku
and Bonten, not even a month, not even a brief period has passed since the Buddha departed. In such a short time, how could
these heavenly beings have forgotten the vow that they took in the presence of the Buddha, or the debt of gratitude they owe
to the sutra that allowed them to attain Buddhahood, and thus abandon the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra? When we think
of it in this way, we can feel greatly assured.
Therefore we know that the prayers offered by a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will be answered just
as an echo answers a sound, as a shadow follows a form, as the reflection of the moon appears in clear water, as a mirror
collects dewdrops, as a lodestone attracts iron, as amber attracts particles of dust, or as a bright mirror reflects the color
of an object.
Concerning the ways of the ordinary world, though a person may not be inclined to a certain act, if
he is urged to it by his parents, his sovereign, his teachers, his wife and children, or his close friends, and if he is a
person of conscience, he will overlook his own inclinations and will sacrifice his name and profit, and even his life, in
order to perform the act. How much more earnest will he be, then, if the act is something that springs from his own heart.
In such a case, even the restraints of his parents, his sovereign or his teachers cannot prevent him from carrying out the
Thus it was that a worthy man named Fan Yu-ch’i cut off his own head so that it could be presented
to Ching K’o, and Chi-cha, having pledged to present his sword to the lord of Hsu, hung it on the lord’s grave.
Similarly, at the gathering on Eagle Peak, the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood in her
present form. In the Hinayana sutras women were despised because they are hindered by the thick clouds of the five obstacles
and bound by the strong chords of the three obediences; and in the Mahayana sutras expounded in the first forty and more years
of the Buddha’s preaching, women were rejected, since they were thought to be incapable of carrying out religious practice
over many kalpas. Or, though it had been stated that "The first time they conceive the desire to do so, they can attain enlightenment,"
this was indicated as a possibility in name only, with no actual examples to support it. So, in effect, the attainment of
Buddhahood by women was denied.
Thus, even a woman who was in the realm of human or heavenly beings had no hope of ever finding the
way to become a Buddha. How much less hope was there for this woman [described in the Lotus Sutra], a humble being born among
the creatures known as dragons, who had not yet reached maturity but was only eight years old. And yet, contrary to all expectations,
through the instruction of Monju, in the short space of time between the Hosshi and Devadatta chapters when the Buddha was
preaching the Hoto chapter, in the midst of the ocean she attained Buddhahood. This was a most wonderful happening! If it
had not been for the power of the Lotus Sutra, the foremost among all the teachings of the Buddha’s lifetime, how could
such a thing have come about?
Therefore, Miao-lo remarks of the event: "Practice is shallow but the results are profound, which is
evidence of the power of the sutra." And because the dragon girl was able to attain Buddhahood through this sutra, even if
she had not been admonished against it by the Buddha, how could she ever abandon someone who is a practitioner of the Lotus
Sutra? Therefore, in the verse that she uttered in praise of the Buddha, she stated: "I unfold the doctrines of the great
vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering."
Her oath was the oath taken by her retinue, or all the creatures known as dragons, whose number is so
vast that "it can be neither expressed by the mouth nor fathomed by the mind." The dragon king Sagara, though only a lowly
creature, cared profoundly for his daughter. Therefore he took the finest treasure in all the great ocean, a wish-granting
jewel, and had his daughter present it to the Buddha as alms, in recognition of the fact that she had attained Buddhahood
in her present form. This jewel was equivalent in value to a major world system.
Devadatta was the grandson of King Simhahanu, the son of Shakyamuni Buddha’s uncle, King Dronodana,
and an elder brother of the Venerable Ananda. His mother was a daughter of the rich man Suprabuddha. He was thus a member
of the family of a wheel-turning king and held a high social position in the southern continent of Jambudvipa.
While he was still an ordinary member of society, the woman he had intended to marry, Yashodhara, was
taken away by Prince Siddhartha, and he thereafter looked upon him as he would an enemy from a past existence.
Later, he broke his ties with his family and joined the Buddhist order, but when there were large gatherings
of human beings and heavenly beings, the Buddha would censure him, calling him a fool or one who eats others’ spit.
In addition, being a man who cared deeply about fame and personal profit, he envied the attention that /was paid to the Buddha.
He then began observing the five ascetic practices in an attempt to appear more admirable than the Buddha. He pounded iron
to make a thousand-spoked wheel pattern to imprint on his feet, gathered together fireflies to form a tuft of white hair between
his eyebrows, and committed to memory sixty thousand and eighty thousand jeweled teachings. He erected an ordination platform
on Mount Gayashirsha and lured many of the Buddha’s disciples over to his side. He painted his fingernails with poison
and attempted to smear the poison on the feet of the Buddha. He beat the nun Utpalavarna to death, and rolled a huge rock
down on the Buddha, injuring the latter on the toe. He was guilty of committing three of the cardinal sins, and in the end
gathered about him all the evil men of the five regions of India and strove to harm the Buddha and his disciples and lay supporters.
King Bimbisara was the foremost of the Buddha’s lay supporters. Each day he dispatched five hundred
wagons, day after day supplying alms to the Buddha and his disciples. But Devadatta, driven by his intense jealousy, talked
to Prince Ajatashatru, and in time persuaded him to attack his father, King Bimbisara, whereupon he killed his father by pinning
him down with seven foot-long nails.
In the end, the earth in front of the northern gate of the capital city of Rajagriha split open and
Devadatta fell into the great citadel of the Avichi hell. There was not a single being in the entire major world system who
did not witness the event.
One would suppose that as a result, he would never be able to escape from the great citadel of incessant
suffering, even though as many kalpas should pass as there are particles of dust on the earth. And yet, amazing as it is,
and admirable as well, in the Lotus Sutra he became a Buddha called Heavenly King. And if Devadatta can become a Buddha, then
all the countless other evil persons who were enticed by him, since they shared with him the same karmic cause and effect,
must surely have been able to escape from the pains of the hell of incessant suffering.
This is entirely due to the benefit and blessing of the Lotus Sutra. Thus Devadatta and all the
persons who attended him now can dwell in the house of the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra [in order to protect them]. What
a comforting thought!
The various bodhisattvas, who were as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth, had advanced to
the level of near-perfect enlightenment, which means they had freed themselves of everything but their fundamental darkness.
When they were fortunate enough to encounter Shakyamuni Buddha, they thought that they would be able to smash this great boulder
of fundamental darkness. But in the first forty and more years of his preaching life Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, explained
that while he could expound on the causes of enlightenment, he could not expound on its effects. Therefore he did not make
clear to them the benefits of perfect enlightenment. Hence not a single one of them was able to advance to the stage of perfect
enlightenment. This was contrary to their expectations.
But during the eight years when he preached at Eagle Peak, the Buddha expounded on the effects of enlightenment,
which are called the one vehicle of Buddhahood. All the bodhisattvas were then able to advance to the stage of perfect enlightenment,
so that their enlightenment was equal to that of Shakyamuni Buddha. It was as though they had climbed to the very top of Mount
Sumeru and could see in all four directions. All became bright and clear, as though the sun had appeared in the midst of a
long night. Even if the Buddha had not instructed them to do so, could they have failed to resolve to spread the teachings
of the Lotus Sutra, or to take upon themselves the sufferings of its practitioners?
Therefore, they made a vow, saying, "We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for
the unsurpassed way," "We… never begrudging our bodies or lives," or "We will preach this sutra far and wide."
Furthermore, Shakyamuni Buddha, who is like a kind father, and Taho Buddha, who is like a loving mother,
and the Buddhas of the ten directions, who had appeared in order to add their testimony and who are like affectionate parents,
were ranged together in the assembly, so that it was as though two moons had come together or two suns had appeared side by
At that time the Buddha spoke three times in warning, saying: "So I say to the great assembly: After
I have passed into extinction, who can guard and uphold, read and recite this sutra? Now in the presence of the Buddha let
him come forward and speak his vow!"
Then the great bodhisattvas who filled four hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of worlds in each
of the eight directions bent their bodies, bowed their heads, pressed their palms together, and all raised their voices in
unison, saying, "We will respectfully carry out all these things just as the World-Honored One has commanded." Three times
they cried out, not sparing their voices. How then could they fail to take upon themselves the sufferings of the practitioner
of the Lotus Sutra?
Fan Yu-ch’i gave his head to Ching K’o, and Chi-cha hung his sword on the grave of the lord
of Hsu; in both cases they acted so as not to go back on promises that had been made. If even these persons, foreigners in
the far-off land of China, could, because of a promise made to a friend, sacrifice their own lives or hang on a grave a sword
that meant more to them than life itself, then how much more can one expect from the great bodhisattvas, who from the first
have been beings of great compassion and have taken profound vows to undergo suffering on behalf of others? Even if the Buddha
had not admonished them against such action, how could they ever cast aside the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra?
What is more, it was through the Lotus Sutra that these bodhisattvas attained Buddhahood, and the Buddha
fervently admonished them concerning it, so that they took solemn vows in the presence of the Buddha. There can be no doubt,
therefore, that they will aid its practitioner.
The Buddha is the sovereign of the human and heavenly realms and the parent of all living beings. Moreover,
he is the teacher who leads and opens the way. Though a person may be a parent if he is of humble social position, he cannot
at the same time fulfill the function of sovereign. And though one may be a sovereign, if he is not also a parent, he will
inspire only awe and fear. And though one may be both a parent and a sovereign, he cannot be a teacher as well.
The various Buddhas [other than Shakyamuni], since they are known as World-Honored Ones, may be regarded
as sovereigns. But since they do not make their appearance in this saha world, they are not teachers. Nor do they declare
that "… the living beings in it [this threefold world] are all my children." Thus Shakyamuni Buddha alone fulfills the
three functions of sovereign, teacher and parent.
Nevertheless, during the first forty and more years of his preaching life, Shakyamuni cursed Devadatta,
censured the various voice-hearers and refused to teach the bodhisattvas the doctrines pertaining to the fruits of enlightenment.
Though people did not actually say so to others, they sometimes wondered in their hearts whether this Buddha was not in fact
the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, or Papiyas, so greatly did he trouble them.
They continued to harbor these doubts for forty and more years, until the preaching of the Lotus Sutra
began. But then, during the eight years at Eagle Peak, the Treasure Tower appeared in the air with the two Buddhas seated
side by side in it like the sun and the moon. The various other Buddhas ranged themselves over the ground like so many great
mountains gathered together, the bodhisattvas, numerous as the dust particles of one thousand worlds, who had emerged from
the earth ranged themselves in the air like so many stars, and the Buddha revealed the blessings that the various Buddhas
enjoy as the result of their enlightenment. It was as though a storehouse of treasures had been unlocked and the contents
presented to poor people, as though the K’un-lun Mountains, with all their riches, had broken open.
During these eight years, the hearts of the persons who were present at the assembly were filled with
awe when they observed these rare and wonderful events, as if they were gathering up nothing but treasures. The bodhisattvas,
unbegrudging of their lives, unstinting with their words, vowed to do as the Buddha had encouraged them. And then, in the
Zokurui chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha emerged from the Treasure Tower and closed its doors. The various other Buddhas thereupon
returned to their respective lands, and the bodhisattvas who had appeared with them followed along in company with the Buddhas.
The people were feeling increasingly lonely, when the Buddha announced, "Three months from now I will
enter nirvana." The announcement astounded them and made them even more depressed.
Ever since the various bodhisattvas, persons of the two vehicles, and human and heavenly beings had
heard the Lotus Sutra, they had all been imbued with a heartfelt sense of the benefit and blessing bestowed on them by the
Buddha, and yearned to show the Buddha how willing they were to sacrifice their bodies and lives for the sake of the Lotus
Sutra. How terrible it would be, they thought, their hearts in a turmoil, if the Buddha would really enter nirvana as he had
said he would!
At that time, on the fifteenth day of the second month, during the Hour of the Tiger and the Hour of
the Hare (3:00 to 7:00 A.M.), when the Buddha was eighty years old, on the bank of the Ajitavati River at the city of Kushinagara
in the country of Shravasti- in eastern India, the Buddha’s voice was heard, announcing that he would pass into extinction.
His voice radiated upward as far as the Summit of Being heaven, and echoed abroad throughout the entire major world system.
Eyes grew dim and hearts sank.
Throughout the five regions of India, its sixteen major states, its five hundred middle-sized states,
its ten thousand smaller states and its countless tiny states, the people gathered together, no one having the time to prepare
clothing or food, and regardless of higher or lower social rank. Oxen and horses, wolves and dogs, eagles and vultures, gnats
and gadflies, to the number of fifty-two different species, gathered together. The number of any one species was more than
the particles of dust on the earth, to say nothing of the number of all fifty-two species together.
All these different species of beings brought flowers, incense, clothing and food as their final offerings
to the Buddha. Their voices resounded, crying out that the jeweled bridge for all living beings was about to break, that the
eye of all living beings was about to be put out, that the parent, sovereign and teacher of all living beings was about to
die. Not only did their hair stand on end, but their tears flowed. Not only did their tears flow, but they beat their heads,
pressed their hands to their chests, and cried aloud, not sparing their voices. The blood of their tears and the blood of
their sweat fell upon Kushinagara more heavily than a torrential rain and flowed more abundantly than a mighty river. All
this they did solely because the Lotus Sutra had opened for them the way to Buddhahood, and they could never repay the debt
of gratitude they owed the Buddha.
Even in this scene of such grief, there were those who declared angrily that the enemies of the Lotus
Sutra should have their tongues cut out, that they should never be allowed to sit with the others in the assembly. The bodhisattva.
Kasho Doji vowed that he would appear in the form of frost and hail in the lands of the enemies of the Lotus Sutra. At that
time the Buddha raised himself slightly from his reclining position and praised him, saying happily, "Well spoken! Well spoken!"
The other bodhisattvas, guessing where the Buddha’s wishes lay, supposed that if they declared
their intention to attack the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, this might prolong the Buddha’s life a little, and one by
one they vowed to do so. In this way the bodhisattvas and the heavenly and human beings called upon the enemies of the Lotus
Sutra to appear, hoping that if they could fulfill the oath they had taken in the presence of the Buddha, then Shakyamuni
Buddha as well as Taho and the other Buddhas and Thus Come Ones would understand that, faithful to the vow they had made before
the Buddha, they would begrudge neither their reputations nor their lives in defense of the Lotus Sutra.
One may ask why the results of these vows should be so long in appearing. And yet, though one might
point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun
rise up from the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.
If the bodhisattvas, the human and heavenly beings, the eight kinds of nonhuman beings, the two sages, the two heavenly deities
and the ten demon daughters would by some unlikely chance fail to appear and protect the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra,
then they would be showing disdain for Shakyamuni and the other Buddhas above, and below they would be guilty of deceiving
the beings of the nine realms.
It makes no difference if the practitioner himself is lacking in worth, defective in wisdom, impure
in his person and lacking in virtue derived from observing the precepts. So long as he chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they will
invariably protect him. One does not throw away gold because the bag that holds it is dirty, one does not ignore the sandalwood
trees because of the foul odor of the eranda trees around them, and one does not refuse to gather lotuses because the pond
in the valley where they grow is filthy. If they ignore the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, they will be going against their
Now that the Former and Middle Days of the Law are over, persons who observe the precepts are as rare
as tigers in a marketplace, and men of wisdom are harder to find than the horns of a ch’i-lin. While waiting for the
moon to rise, one must rely upon a torch, and when there are no true gems or treasures at hand, gold and silver must serve
for treasures. The debt of gratitude one owes to the white crow may be repaid to the black crow, and the debt one owes to
the holy priest may be repaid to the ordinary priest. So if you earnestly pray that blessings be given to you without delay,
how can your prayers fail to be answered?
Question: When I examine the reasoning and the textual proofs you have presented above, I would have
to say that, if there are a sun and a moon in the sky, if there are plants and trees on the earth, if there are day and night
in this country of ours, then so long as the earth fails to turn upside down and the tides of the ocean continue to ebb and
flow, there can be no doubt that the prayers of the person who puts his faith in the Lotus Sutra will be answered in this
world, and that in his next existence he will enjoy good circumstances.
Nevertheless, during the past twenty years and more the eminent Tendai and Shingon leaders have in many
cases offered prayers regarding important matters of state, but such prayers have by no means proved effective. Indeed, the
efforts of these priests would seem to be even less efficacious than those of persons who support the teachings of non-Buddhist
scriptures. This sets me to wondering if the pronouncements of the [Lotus] sutra are in some way false, if the actions of
the practitioners of the sutra are to blame, or if the time or the people’s capacity is not appropriate for such actions.
And this puts me in doubt regarding my future existence.
But leaving that point aside for the moment, I am told that you were a disciple of the priests of Mount
Hiei. They say that the offenses of the fathers are visited upon the sons, and those of the teachers are visited upon the
disciples. When the priests of Mount Hiei burned the halls and pagodas of Onjo-ji temple and of the mountain temple, along
with thousands and tens of thousands of Buddhist images and sutras, those were terrible deeds! They threw the people of the
time into turmoil and turned them against Mount Hiei. What is your opinion? I have heard a little about these events in the
past, but I would like now to hear you speak in greater detail. I am full of questions. When priests behave in such an evil
manner, it seems to me that they are no longer acting in accord with the spirit of the three treasures and that heaven and
earth should no longer lend them shelter. I would suppose, therefore, that their prayers would not be answered. What is your
Answer: I have touched on this matter in the past, but this time I will summarize the issues. This is
a matter of vital concern to the country of Japan, and because many people fail to understand it, they create negative karma
through their words.
First of all, as to the origin of the temple on Mount Hiei, it was founded by the Great Teacher Dengyo
in the reign of Emperor Kammu, some two hundred years after Buddhism was introduced to this country. Earlier, Prince Shotoku
had declared that Kyoto, which was later to become the capital, appeared to be highly suitable for the royal residence. But
the actual founding of the capital at that location was delayed until after the Tendai school had been introduced to Japan.
According to the records of Prince Jogu, or Shotoku, the prince stated: "Two hundred or more years after my passing, the Buddhist
Law will spread throughout Japan." Later, in the Enryaku era, the Great Teacher Dengyo founded the temple on Mount Hiei, and
Emperor Kammu established the capital Heiankyo. Thus the prophecy of Prince Shotoku was fulfilled.
In this way the mountain temple and the royal house were like the pine and the cypress, and resembled
the orchids and the grasses. When the pine withers, the cypress is bound to wither, too, and when the orchids wilt, the grasses
wilt as well. Thus it seemed that the prosperity of the royal reign brought joy to the mountain temple, and that the decline
of royal power brought sadness to the mountain. And now that the world has changed and power has passed to the government
in the Kanto region, what must be their thoughts?
In the third year of the Jokyu era (1221), the year with the cyclical sign kanoto-mi, on the nineteenth
day of the fourth month-around the time of the disturbance between the court and the barbarian warriors --by command of the
Retired Emperor of Oki, altars were set up and the fifteen secret ceremonies were carried out for the first time by forty-one
practitioners of such secret ceremonies in an attempt to overcome the Kanto government through the power of incantation.
These ceremonies included the one-character gold-wheel ceremony (carried out by the Tendai chief priest
Jien, the administrator of monks, and twelve attendant priests at the command of Imperial Regent Motomichi); the ceremony
of the Four Heavenly Kings (carried out by the imperial administrator of monks of Joko-ji temple [Shinsho] with eight attendant
priests at the Hirose Palace at the command of Lady Shumeimon’in); the ceremony of Fudo Myoo (carried out by the administrator
of monks Joho and eight accompanying priests at the command of Lord Kazan’in Zemmon [Fujiwara Tadatsune]); the ceremony
of Daiitoku (carried out by the administrator of monks Kangon with eight accompanying priests at the command of Lady Shichijoin);
the ceremony of the wheelturning king (carried out by the administrator of monks Joken with eight accompanying priests at
the command of the same person as above); the ten-altar ceremony of Daiitoku (carried out by the ten priests--the administrator
of monks Kakucho, the Dharma seal Shunsho, the Dharma seal Eishin, the Dharma seal Goen, the supervisor of monks Yuen, the
administrator of monks Jiken, the supervisor of monks Kenjo, the supervisor of monks Senson, the supervisor of monks Gyohen
and the Dharma eye Jikkaku--along with six attendant priests each, carried out for the most part at the main temple-building);
the ceremony of Nyoirin (carried out by the administrator of monks Myokoin with eight accompanying priests at the command
of Lady Gishumon’in); and the ceremony of Bishamon (carried out by the administrator of monks Jojuin [Roson] of Mii
with six accompanying priests at the command of Shichin).
And there were also objects of worship that were fashioned in a single day. The secret ceremonies based
on them included the ceremony of Aizen’o of the prescribed method (carried out by the head of Ninna-ji temple in the
Shishin-den palace from the third day of the fifth month and for the following fourteen days); the ceremony of the Buddha
eye (carried out by the administrator of monks Daijo for twenty-one days); the ceremony of the six characters (carried out
by the supervisor of monks Kaiga); the ceremony of Aizen’o (carried out by the administrator of monks Kangon for seven
days); the ceremony of Fudo (carried out by Kanju-ji temple’s administrator of monks with eight accompanying priests,
all holding supervisory posts in the priesthood); the ceremony of Daiitoku (carried out by the administrator of monks Aki);
and the ceremony of Kongo Doji (carried out by the same person). This completes the list of the fifteen ceremonies performed
On the fifteenth day of the fifth month, Iga Taro Hogan Mitsusue was attacked and defeated in the capital.
On the nineteenth day of the same month, word of this reached Kamakura. When the news arrived in the capital that a large
force of troops had been dispatched on the twenty-first day to attack the capital, the remainder of the ceremonies were performed,
beginning on the eighth day of the sixth month. These consisted of the ceremony of the Honorable Star King (Performed by the
administrator of monks Kakucho), the ceremony of Taigen (Performed by the supervisor of monks Zou), the ceremony of the five
altars (performed by the administrator of monks Daijo, the Dharma seal Eishin, the supervisor of monks Zenson, the supervisor
of monks Yuen and the supervisor of monks Gyohen), and the ceremony of the Shugo Sutra (presided over by the head of Ninna-ji,
it was the second time this ceremony was performed in our country).
On the twenty-first day of the fifth month, the governor of Musashi started for the capital on the Tokaido
road, while the leader of the Genji clan of Kai set out on the Tosando road, and Lord Shikibu advanced via the Hokuriku road.
On the fifth day of the sixth month the defending forces at Otsu were defeated by the Genji of Kai, and on the thirteenth
and fourteenth days of the sixth month the two sides engaged in battle at the Uji Bridge. On the fourteenth the defenders
of the capital suffered defeat, and on the fifteenth of the same month the governor of Musashi entered the Rokujo headquarters
along with his followers.
On the eleventh day of the seventh month the Retired Emperor Gotoba was banished to the island province
of Oki, the Retired Emperor Tsuchimikado was banished to the province of Awa, and the Retired Emperor Juntoku was banished
to the island province of Sado. In addition, seven members of the court were put to death.
The great evil doctrine of these ceremonies over the years steadily made its way to the Kanto region,
where it was embodied in the form of the superintendents or attendant priests of various temples who repeatedly performed
these ceremonies. The performers of these ceremonies from the beginning could not distinguish between correct and heretical
teachings, between superior and inferior doctrines, but assumed that it was sufficient merely to revere the three treasures.
So without a thought they employed these ceremonies. And now not only the provinces of Kanto but the chief priests and superintendents
of Mount Hiei, To-ji and Onjo-ji have all come under the jurisdiction of the Kanto authorities, so that as a result, the latter
are in the position of supporting these ceremonies.
Question: Why do you insist upon referring to the Shingon teaching as a heretical doctrine?
Answer: The Great Teacher Kobo has stated: "The Dainichi Sutra is first, the Kegon Sutra is second,
and the Lotus Sutra is third." But one should examine this ranking carefully. In what sutra did the Buddha discuss the relative
worth of these three sutras and deliver this judgment? If there is in fact a sutra that declares that the Dainichi Sutra ranks
first, the Kegon Sutra second, and the Lotus Sutra third, then we should accept that statement as true. But if there is no
such passage, then it is not possible to accept this assertion.
The Lotus Sutra states: "Yakuo, now I say to you, I have preached various sutras, and among those sutras
the Lotus is the foremost!" Here the Buddha is referring to all the teachings that he has expounded and stating that among
these the Lotus ranks in first place. The Buddha’s preaching of the Law and the writings of the Great Teacher Kobo are
as much at variance with each other as fire and water. We must investigate and clarify this matter.
Over a period of several hundred years, ordinary priests and high-ranking priests have studied the writings
of Kobo, and eminent and humble, high and low, have put their faith in them and honored the Dainichi Sutra as the foremost
among all the sutras, which does not accord with the intention of the Buddha. Persons who are concerned at heart about this
should examine the matter with great care. For if we put faith in writings that do not accord with the intention of the Buddha,
how can we hope to attain Buddhahood? And if we follow such writings in offering prayers for the nation, how can we fail to
bring about misfortune?
Moreover, Kobo writes: "The Buddhist teachers of China have vied with one another to steal the ghee."
The meaning of this statement is that the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai and others stole the ghee of the Shingon teaching
and called it the ghee of the Lotus Sutra. This statement is the most important point.
When the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai applied the simile of ghee to the Lotus Sutra, basing
himself on a passage in the Nirvana Sutra, he declared that among all the sutras the Lotus Sutra is worthy to be compared
to ghee. The Shingon teaching was introduced to China from India some two hundred years or more after the time of T’ien-t’ai.
How then could T’ien-t’ai possibly have stolen the ghee of the Shingon teaching and called it the ghee of the
Lotus Sutra? Of all strange events, this would be the strangest!
What evidence is there then for calling persons who lived two hundred years or more before the Shingon
teaching was even introduced to China thieves? Are we to put faith in these writings of the Great Teacher Kobo? Or are we
to put faith in the Nirvana Sutra where the Buddha likens the Lotus Sutra to ghee?
If we are to regard the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai as a thief, then how are we to interpret
the passage in the Nirvana Sutra? And if we accept the passage in the Nirvana Sutra as reliable and conclude that the writings
of Kobo are heretical in nature, then what are we to think of persons who put faith in such heretical teachings? All I can
say is that one should compare the writings of the Great Teacher Kobo and the pronouncements of the Buddha concerning the
Law, and then put one’s faith in the one that proves to be correct.
Question: I am still in doubt. The Dainichi Sutra represents the teaching as expounded by Dainichi Buddha.
And if that is so, then to use the teaching as expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha to attempt to controvert the teaching as expounded
by Dainichi Buddha is surely not at all in accord with reason, is it?
Answer: Who were the parents of Dainichi Buddha, and in what country did he appear when he expounded
the Dainichi Sutra? If he had no parents but simply appeared in the world, then in what sutra is it recorded that such a Buddha
will appear in the world to expound the teaching during the 5,670 million years between the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha and
the appearance of Miroku, the honored one of compassion? If there are no passages of proof, then who would put faith in such
an assertion? The Shingon doctrines are full of mistaken assertions of this kind, which is why I spoke of them as a heretical
The list of errors is all but inexhaustible. I have done no more than give one or two examples. In addition
to Shingon, the authorities rely on the Zen and Nembutsu sects. These doctrines all represent provisional teachings of the
type set forth before the truth had been fully revealed. They are not the tenets that lead to the attainment of Buddhahood,
but rather will create karma that condemns one to the hell of incessant suffering. Persons who practice them are guilty of
slandering the Law, so how could their prayers possibly be answered?
One who is a ruler of a nation has become so because in the past he upheld the correct teaching and
served the Buddha. It is through the calculations of the heavenly kings Bonten and Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon,
the Four Heavenly Kings and others that all rulers, great and small, succeed in acquiring their districts and domains. Thus
the sutra says: "Now when I use the five types of vision to clearly perceive the three existences, I see that all the kings
in their past existences served five hundred Buddhas, and that is the reason they were able to become emperors and sovereigns."
But if one turns his back on the Lotus Sutra and follows the heretical teachers of Shingon, Zen and
Nembutsu, then although he may carry out all kinds of good deeds, these will never accord with the will of the Buddha and
will go against the intention of the gods. One should give very careful thought to this matter.
It is a rare thing to be born as a human being. And if, having been born as such, you do not do your
best to distinguish between the correct doctrine and the heretical so that in the future you may attain Buddhahood, then you
are certainly not fulfilling your true worth as a human being.
Moreover, after the Great Teacher Jikaku had visited China, he turned against the doctrines of his original
teacher, the Great Teacher Dengyo, and worked to spread the Shingon doctrines on Mount Hiei. In order to do so, he offered
up prayers, and claimed that as a result he had had a dream in which he shot an arrow at the sun and caused the sun to roll
over and over. For four hundred or more years now, the people have all looked upon this as an auspicious dream. But in a country
such as Japan, it is in fact a dream of a particularly ill-omened nature. King Chou of the Yin dynasty shot an arrow at the
sun, and as a result he perished. Although this dream may be recounted by a provisional manifestation of a Buddha, one should
ponder it very carefully.
I have only touched upon a small fraction of the matters that I could speak about--like a single hair
from among nine cows.