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Major Writings II - Nichiren Daishounin

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

Questions and Answers on Embracing the Lotus Sutra
 
Question: I have been born a human being--something rarely achieved--and have had the good fortune to encounter Buddhism. But there are shallow teachings and there are profound teachings, and some people rank high in capacity while others rank low. Now what teachings ought I to practice in order to attain Buddhahood as quickly as possible? I beg you to instruct me on this point.
 

Answer: Each family has its respected elders, and each province, its men of honored station. But although people all look up to their particular lord and pay honor to their own parents, could anyone stand higher than the ruler of the nation?
 

In the same way, confrontations between the Mahayana and the Hinayana or between the provisional and true teachings are comparable to disputes among rival houses, but among all the sutras expounded during the lifetime of the Buddha, the Lotus Sutra alone holds the position of absolute superiority. It is the guidepost that points the way to the immediate attainment of perfect wisdom, the carriage that takes us at once to the place of enlightenment.
 

Question: As I understand it, a teacher is someone who has grasped the central meaning of the sutras and treatises and who writes commentaries explaining them. If that is so, then it is only natural that the teachers of the various sects should each formulate doctrines according to his understanding, and on that basis write his commentaries, establish principles, and dedicate himself to the attainment of perfect wisdom. How could such an undertaking be in vain? To insist that the Lotus Sutra alone holds the position of absolute superiority is to adopt too narrow a view, I believe.
 

Answer: If you think that to proclaim the absolute superiority of the Lotus Sutra is to take too narrow a view, then one would have to conclude that no one in the world was more narrow-minded than Shakyamuni Buddha. I am afraid you are greatly mistaken in this matter. Let me quote to you from one of the sutras and one of the schools of commentary and see if I can resolve your confusion.
 

The Muryogi Sutra says: "[Because people differ in their natures and desires,] I expounded the Law in various ways. Expounding the Law in various ways, I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth."
 

Hearing this pronouncement, Bodhisattva Daishogon and the other eighty thousand bodhisattvas replied in unison, voicing their understanding that "[If one cannot hear of this sutra...] in the end he will never attain supreme enlightenment, even after the lapse of countless, limitless, inconceivable asogi kalpas."
 

The point of this passage is to make clear that, no matter how much one may aspire to the Buddha Way by calling upon the name of Amida Buddha or by embracing the teachings of the Zen sect--relying on the sutras of the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods preached by the Buddha during the previous forty years and more--he will never succeed in attaining supreme enlightenment, even though a countless, limitless, inconceivable number of asogi kalpas should pass.
 

And this is not the only passage of this type. The Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra states: "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth." It also says, "[In the Buddha lands of the ten directions,] there is the Dharma of only one vehicle. There are not two, nor are there three." These passages mean that only this Lotus Sutra represents the truth.
 

Again, in the second volume it says, "I [Shakyamuni] alone can save them." And it speaks of "desiring only to receive and keep the scripture of the Great Vehicle, not accepting even a single verse from any of the other sutras.
 

It also says, "One who refuses to take faith in this sutra and instead slanders it immediately destroys the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.... After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell."
 

Examining these passages, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai concluded that it was statements such as these that had prompted the words, "Is this not a devil who has taken on the Buddha's form?" If we merely rely upon the commentaries of the various teachers, and do not follow the statements of the Buddha himself, then how can we call our beliefs Buddhism? To do so would be the height of absurdity!
 

Therefore, the Great Teacher Chisho stated in his commentary, "If one claims that there is no division of Mahayana and Hinayana among the sutras and no distinction of partial and perfect among revelations of the truth, and therefore accepts all the words of the various teachers, then the preachings of the Buddha will have been to no purpose."
 

T'ien-t'ai has asserted, "That which has a profound doctrine and accords with the sutras is to be accepted and heeded. But put no faith in anything that in word or meaning fails to do so." And he also says, "All assertions that lack scriptural proof are to be branded as false." How do you interpret such statements?
 

Question: What you have just said may apply to the commentaries of the teachers. But what about the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra that state, "This is the foremost sutra" or "This is the king of sutras"? If one were to go by what you have said, then he would have to reject these pronouncements, which are the words of the Buddha himself. Is this not so?
 

Answer: Although these earlier sutras may include such statements as "this is the foremost sutra" or "this is the king of sutras," they are all nevertheless provisional teachings. One is not to rely on such pronouncements. The Buddha himself commented on this point when he said, "Rely on the sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final." And the Great Teacher Miao-lo states in his commentary: "Though other sutras may call themselves the king among sutras, there is none that announces itself as foremost among all the sutras preached in the past, now being preached, or to be preached in the future. Thus one should understand them according to the principle of 'combining, excluding, corresponding and including.'" This passage of commentary is saying in essence that, even if there should be a sutra that calls itself the king of sutras, if it does not also declare itself superior to those sutras that have been preached before and those that shall be preached after, then one should know that it is a sutra belonging to the category of expedient teachings.
 

It is the way of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra to say nothing concerning the sutras that were to be preached in the future. Only in the case of the Lotus Sutra, because it is the ultimate and highest statement of the Buddha's teachings, do we find a clear pronouncement that this sutra alone holds the place of absolute superiority among "all the sutras I have preached, now preach, and will preach."
 

Hence Miao-lo's commentary states: "Only when he came to preach the Lotus Sutra did the Buddha explain that his earlier teachings were provisional, and make clear that his present teaching in the Lotus Sutra represents the truth." Thus we may see that, in the Lotus Sutra, the Tathagata gave definite form both to his true intention and to the methods to be used in teaching and conferring benefit.
 

It is for this reason that T'ien-t'ai states: "After the Tathagata attained enlightenment, for forty years and more he did not reveal the truth. With the Lotus Sutra he for the first time revealed the truth." In other words, for forty years and more after the Tathagata went out into the world, he did not reveal the true teaching. In the Lotus Sutra, he for the first time revealed the true Way that leads to the attainment of Buddhahood.
 

Question: I understand what you say about the Lotus Sutra being foremost among all the sutras that the Buddha "has preached, now preaches, and will preach." But there is a certain teacher who asserts that the statement "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth" is meant to apply only to the shomon disciples, who were enabled to achieve Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra. It does not apply to the bodhisattvas, who had already gained the benefit of enlightenment through the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra. What is your opinion on this matter?
 

Answer: You are referring to the view that the Lotus Sutra was preached for the benefit of persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku and not for persons in the realm of Bodhisattva, and that the words "I have not yet revealed the truth" therefore apply only to persons of the two vehicles. This was the opinion put forth by the Great Teacher Tokuichi, a priest of the Hosso sect. It has been repudiated by the Great Teacher Dengyo, who wrote: "There is at present a certain feeder on lowly food who has composed several volumes of spurious writings, slandering the Law and slandering persons. How can he possibly escape falling into hell!" As a result of these words of censure directed at him, Tokuichi's tongue split into eight pieces and he died.
 

Be that as it may, the assertion that the statement "I have not yet revealed the truth" was made for the sake of those in the two realms of shomon and engaku is in itself completely reasonable. The reason is that, from the very beginning, the fundamental purpose of the Tathagata's preaching was to open the way to enlightenment for persons in these two realms. And the methods of instruction used throughout his teaching life, as well as the skillful means exhibited in his three cycles of preaching, were chiefly employed for their sake.
 

In the Kegon Sutra, beings dwelling in hell are deemed able to become Buddhas, but those of shomon and engaku are condemned as incapable of doing so. In the Hodo sutras, it is stated that, just as lotus flowers cannot grow on the peak of a mountain, so those in the two realms [can never attain enlightenment, because they] have scorched the seeds of Buddhahood. And in the Hannya sutras, we read that persons who have committed the five cardinal sins can attain Buddhahood, but that those of the two vehicles are rejected as unable to do so. The Tathagata now declared as his true intention that these pitiful, abandoned persons in the two realms could indeed attain Buddhahood, using this as a standard to demonstrate the superiority of the Lotus Sutra.
 

Therefore, T'ien-t'ai has stated: "Neither the Kegon nor the Daibon Sutra could cure [the plight of these persons in the two realms of shomon and engaku]. The Lotus Sutra alone was able to produce the roots of goodness in those who have nothing more to learn, and to make it possible for them to attain the Buddha Way. Therefore, the sutra is called myo or 'mystic.' Again, the icchantika or persons of incorrigible disbelief nevertheless have minds, and so it is still possible for them to attain Buddhahood. But persons of the two vehicles have annihilated consciousness, and therefore cannot arouse the mind which aspires to enlightenment. And yet the Lotus Sutra can cure them, which is why it is called myo."
 

There is no need for me to explain in detail the import of this passage. One should understand once and for all that even the Dharma medicine offered by the Kegon, Hodo and Daibon sutras cannot cure the grave illness that afflicts persons in these two realms of shomon and engaku. Moreover, in the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra, even guilty persons who are condemned to inhabit the three evil paths are regarded as bodhisattvas [and therefore capable of attaining Buddhahood], but no such recognition is accorded to the persons of the two vehicles.
 
With regard to this point, the Great Teacher Miao-lo states: "In the various sutras, it is taught that all other beings may attain Buddhahood, but there is absolutely no such hope offered to persons in the two realms. Therefore [in the Lotus Sutra] the six lower realms are grouped with the realm of Bodhisattva [as being assured of Buddhahood], and [the power of the sutra] is set forth with respect to those of the two realms of shomon and engaku, for whom Buddhahood is most difficult to achieve." Indeed, T'ien-t'ai establishes that the attainment of Buddhahood by those in the two realms of shomon and engaku is proof that all persons without exception can become Buddhas.
 

Could one think it difficult for an asura to cross the great ocean? Could one possibly think it easy for a little child to overthrow a sumo wrestler? In like manner, in the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra, it is explained that persons who have the seeds of the Buddha nature may attain Buddhahood, but nowhere is it stated that those whose seeds are hopelessly scorched can ever do so. It is only the good medicine of the Lotus Sutra that can readily cure this grave affliction.
 

Now, if you wish to attain Buddhahood, you have only to lower the banners of your arrogance, cast aside the staff of your anger, and devote yourself exclusively to the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. Worldly fame and profit are mere baubles of your present existence, and arrogance and prejudice are ties that will fetter you in a future one. Ah, you should be ashamed of them! And you should fear them, too!
 

Question: Since, by means of a single instance, one may surmise the nature of all, on hearing your brief remarks about the Lotus Sutra, I feel that my ears and eyes have been clearly opened for the first time. But how can one understand the Lotus Sutra, so as to quickly reach the shore of enlightenment?
 
I have heard it said that only one for whom the sun of wisdom shines unclouded in the great sky of ichinen sanzen, and for whom the water of wisdom in the broad pond of isshin sangan is clear and never muddied, has the capacity to carry out the practice of this sutra. But I have never exerted myself to study the various schools of the Southern Capital [of Nara], and so I know nothing of the doctrines of the Yuga Ron and Yuishiki Ron, and my eyes are equally unopened with respect to the teachings of the Northern Peak [Mount Hiei], and so I am quite confused about the significance of the Maka Shikan and Hokke Gengi. With regard to the Tendai and Hosso sects, I am comparable to a person who has a pot over his head and stands with his face to a wall. It would seem, therefore, that my capacity is not equal to the Lotus Sutra. What am I to do?
 

Answer: It is the way of scholars these days to assert that only those who possess superior wisdom and strenuously exert themselves in the practice of meditation have the capacity to benefit from the Lotus Sutra, and to discourage persons who lack wisdom from even trying. But this is in fact an utterly ignorant and erroneous view. The Lotus Sutra teaches that all people, whoever they may be, can attain the Buddha Way. Therefore, the persons of superior faculties and superior capacity should naturally devote themselves to meditating on the mind and the dharmas. But for persons of inferior faculties and inferior capacity, the important thing is simply to have a mind of faith. Hence the Lotus Sutra states: "Those who with a pure mind believe and revere this doctrine, without giving way to doubt or confusion, will not fall into the realm of Hell, Hunger or Animality, but will be reborn in the presence of the Buddhas of the ten directions." One should have complete faith in the Lotus Sutra and look forward to being reborn in the presence of the Buddhas.
 
To illustrate, suppose that a person is standing at the foot of a tall embankment and is unable to ascend. And suppose that there is someone on top of the embankment who lowers a rope and says, "If you take hold of this rope, I will pull you up to the top of the embankment." If the person at the bottom begins to doubt that the other has the strength to pull him up, or wonders if the rope is not too weak and therefore refuses to put forth his hand and grasp it, then how is he ever to get to the top of the embankment? But if he follows the instructions, puts out his hand and takes hold of the rope, then he can climb up.
 

If one doubts the strength of the Buddha when he says, "I alone can save them"; if one is suspicious of the rope held out by the Lotus Sutra when its teachings declare that one can "gain entrance through faith"; if one fails to chant the Mystic Law which guarantees that "[concerning this man's attainment of Buddhahood,] there can assuredly be no doubt," then the Buddha's power cannot reach him and it will be impossible for him to scale the embankment of enlightenment.
 

Lack of faith is the basic failing that causes one to fall into hell. Therefore, the Lotus Sutra states: "One who gives way to doubt and does not have faith will surely fall into the evil paths."
 

When one has had the rare good fortune to be born a human being, and the further good fortune to encounter the teachings of Buddhism, how can he waste this opportunity? If one is going to take faith at all, then among all the various teachings of the Mahayana and the Hinayana, provisional and true doctrines, he should take faith in the one vehicle, the true purpose for which the Buddhas come into this world and the direct path to attaining enlightenment for all living beings.
 

If the sutra that one embraces is superior to all other sutras, then the person who can uphold its teachings must likewise surpass other people. That is why the Lotus Sutra states: "He who can uphold this sutra will also be first among all the multitude of living beings." There can be no question about these golden words of the great sage, the Buddha. And yet people fail to understand this principle or to examine the matter, but instead seek worldly reputation or give way to suspicion and prejudice, thus forming the basis for falling into hell.
 

All that is desired is that one embrace this sutra and cast his name upon the sea of the vows made by the Buddhas of the ten directions, that he entrust his honor to the heaven that is the compassion of the bodhisattvas of the three existences. When a person thus embraces the Lotus Sutra, he will cause the gods, dragons, and the others of the eight kinds of lowly beings, as well as all the great bodhisattvas, to become his followers. Not only that, but his physical body, which is still in the course of achieving Buddhahood, will acquire the Buddha eye of one who has perfected that course; and this common flesh, that exists in the realm of the conditioned, will put on the holy garments of the unconditioned. Then he need never fear the three paths or tremble before the eight difficulties. He will ascend to the peak of the mountain of the seven expedients and sweep away the clouds of the nine worlds. In the garden of undefiled ground the flowers will bloom, and in the sky of the Dharma nature the moon will shine brightly. One can rely on the passage that promises, "Concerning this man's attainment of Buddhahood, there can assuredly be no doubt," and there is no question about the Buddha's pronouncement that "I alone can save them."
 

The blessings gained by arousing even a single moment of faith in and understanding of the Lotus Sutra surpass those of practicing the five paramitas; and the benefit enjoyed by the fiftieth person who rejoices on hearing the Law is greater than that acquired by giving alms for eighty years. The doctrine of the immediate attainment of enlightenment far outshines the doctrines of other scriptures; and the pronouncements concerning the revelation of the Buddha's original enlightenment and the immeasurable duration of his life as the Buddha are never found in any of the other teachings.
 

Thus it was that the eight-year-old daughter of the dragon king was able to come out of the vast sea and in an instant give proof of the power of this sutra, and Bodhisattva Jogyo of the essential teaching emerged from beneath the great earth and demonstrated the unfathomably long life span of the Buddha. This, the Lotus, is the king of sutras, defying description in words, the wonderful Law that is beyond the mind's power to comprehend.
 

To ignore the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra and to assert that other sutras stand on a par with it is to commit the worst possible slander of the Law, a major offense of the utmost gravity. No analogy could suffice to illustrate it. The Buddhas, for all their powers of magical transformation, could never finish describing its consequences, and the bodhisattvas, with all the wisdom at their command, could not fathom its immensity. Thus, the Hiyu chapter of the Lotus Sutra says: "Not even an aeon would be time enough to explain the full gravity of this sin." This passage means that if one were to describe the offense of a person who acts against the Lotus Sutra even once, he could exhaust a whole kalpa and never finish describing its seriousness.
 

For this reason, someone who commits this offense will never be able to hear the teaching of the Buddhas of the three existences, and will be cut off from the doctrines of the Tathagatas, who are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Such a person will move from darkness into greater darkness. How could he escape the pains and sufferings of the great citadel of the Avichi Hell? Could any person of feeling fail to dread the prospect of lengthy kalpas of woe?
 

Thus the Lotus Sutra states: "They will despise, hate, envy and bear grudges against those who read, recite, transcribe and embrace this sutra.... After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell." Who could help but tremble before these golden words of the great sage? And who could doubt the clear-cut pronouncement of the Buddha when he said, "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, [I will expound only the supreme Way]"?
 

However, people all turn their backs on these sutra passages, and the world as a whole is completely confused with regard to the principles of Buddhism. Why do you persist in following the teachings of evil friends? The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai in his commentary has said that to accept and to put faith in the doctrines of evil teachers is the same as drinking poison. You must beware of this! You must beware indeed!
 

Taking a careful look at the world today, we see that, although people declare that the Law is worthy of respect, they all express hatred for the person [who champions it]. You yourself seem to be very much confused as to the source from which the Law springs. Just as all the different kinds of plants and trees come forth from the earth, so all the various teachings of the Buddha are spread by persons. As the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai has said, "Even during the Buddha's lifetime, the Law was revealed by people. How, then, in the latter age, can one say that the Law is worthy of respect but that the person [who champions it] is to be despised?"
 

Hence, if the Law that one embraces is supreme, then the person who embraces it must accordingly be foremost among all others. And if that is so, then to speak ill of that person is to speak ill of the Law, just as to show contempt for the son is to show contempt for the parents who bore him.
 

You should realize from this that the people of today speak words that in no way match what is in their hearts. It is as though they were to beat their parents with a copy of the Classic of Filial Piety. When they know that, unseen by others, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are observing them, how can they fall to be ashamed of such actions! The pains of hell are frightful indeed. Beware of them! Beware of them!
 

When you look at those of superior capacity, do not disparage yourself. The Buddha's true intention was that no one, even those of inferior capacity, be denied enlightenment. Conversely, when you compare yourself with persons of inferior capacity, do not be arrogant and overproud. Even persons of superior capacity may be excluded from enlightenment if they do not devote themselves wholeheartedly.
 

One may think fondly of his native village, but, as he pays no visit there and no particular reason to go presents itself, in time he gives up the idea of returning. Or one may pine for a particular person, but, with no hope of winning that person's love and having exchanged no vows, he abandons the thought of continuing to wait. So in like manner we neglect to journey to the pure land of Eagle Peak, though it surpasses in grandeur the palaces of nobles and high ministers, and moreover is quite easy to reach. We fail to behold the gentle and benign figure of the Buddha, who has declared, "I am your father," though we ought surely to present ourselves before him. Should not one grieve at this, until his sleeves are drenched with tears and his heart consumed by regret?
 

The color of the clouds in the sky as twilight falls, the waning light of the moon when dawn is breaking--these things make us ponder. In the same way, whenever events remind us of life's uncertainty, we should fix our thoughts on the existence to come. When we view the blossoms of spring or the snow on a winter morning, we should think of it, and even on evenings when winds bluster and gathering clouds tumble across the sky, we should not forget it even for an instant.
 

Life lasts no longer than the interval between the drawing of one breath and the exhaling of another. At what time, what moment, should we ever allow ourselves to forget the compassionate vow of the Buddha, whose "constant thought" is of our salvation? On what day or month should we permit ourselves to be without the sutra that says, "[Among those who hear of this Law,] there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood"?
 

How long can we expect to live on as we have, from yesterday to today or from last year to this year? We may look back over our past and count how many years we have accumulated, but who can for certain number himself among the living for another day or even for an hour? Yet, though one may know that the moment of his death is already at hand, he clings to his arrogance and prejudice, his worldly fame and profit, and fails to devote himself to chanting the Mystic Law. Such an attitude is futile beyond description! Even though the Lotus Sutra is called the teaching by which all can attain the Buddha Way, how could a person such as this actually attain it? It is said that even the moonlight will not deign to shine on the sleeve of an unfeeling person.
 

Moreover, as life does not go beyond the moment, the Buddha expounded the blessings that come from a single moment of rejoicing [on hearing the Lotus Sutra]. If two or three moments were required, this could no longer be called the original vow of the Buddha of great undifferentiating wisdom, the single vehicle of the teaching of immediate enlightenment that enables all beings to attain Buddhahood.
 

As for the time of its propagation, the Lotus Sutra spreads during the latter age, when the Buddha's Law disappears. As for what capacity of persons it is suited to, it can save even those who commit the five cardinal sins or who slander the Law. Therefore, you must be guided by the intent of [the Lotus Sutra, which is] the immediate attainment of enlightenment and never give yourself up to the mistaken views suggested to you by doubts or attachments,
 

How long does a lifetime last? If one stops to consider, it is like a single night's lodging at a wayside inn. Should one forget that fact and seek some measure of worldly fame and profit? Though you may gain them, they will be mere prosperity in a dream, a delight scarcely to be prized. You would do better simply to leave such matters to the karma formed in your previous existences.
 
Once you awaken to the uncertainty and transience of this world, you will find endless examples confronting your eyes and filling your ears. Vanished like clouds or rain, the people of past ages have left nothing but their names. Fading away like dew, drifting far off like smoke, our friends of today too disappear from sight. And should one suppose that he alone can somehow remain forever like the clouds over Mount Mikasa? The spring blossoms depart with the wind; the maple leaves turn red in the autumn showers. All are proof that no living being can stay for long in this world. Therefore, the Lotus Sutra counsels us: "Nothing in this world is firm or secure; all is like foam on the water or a wisp of flame."
 

"[This is my constant thought:] how I can cause all living beings to gain entry to the highest Way." These words express the Buddha's deepest wish to enable both those who accept the True Law and those who oppose it to attain Buddhahood. Because this is his ultimate purpose, those who embrace the Lotus Sutra for even a short while are acting in accordance with his will. And if one acts in accordance with the Buddha's will, he will be repaying the debt of gratitude he owes to the Buddha. The words of the sutra, that are as full of compassion as a mother's love, will then find solace, and the cares of the Buddha, who said, "I alone can save them," will likewise be eased. Not only will Shakyamuni Buddha rejoice, but, because the Lotus Sutra is the ultimate purpose for the advent of all Buddhas, the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three existences will likewise rejoice. "[One who embraces it even for a short time] will delight me and all other Buddhas," said Shakyamuni. And not only will the Buddhas rejoice, but the gods also will join in their delight. Thus, when the Great Teacher Dengyo lectured on the Lotus Sutra, the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman presented him with a purple robe, and when the priest Kuya recited the Lotus Sutra, the great deity of Matsuo Shrine was able to gain protection from the cold wind.
 

For this reason, when praying that "the seven difficulties vanish, the seven blessings at once appear," this sutra, the Lotus, is the most effective of all. That is because it promises that one "will enjoy peace and security in this life." And when offering prayers to avert the disasters of foreign invasion and internal revolt, nothing can surpass this wonderful sutra, because it promises that persons who embrace it will be protected "for as far as a hundred yojana away, so that they shall suffer no decline or distress."
 

But the method of offering prayers in our present age is the exact opposite of what it ought to be. Prayers are based upon the provisional teachings, which were intended for propagation in previous ages, rather than upon the secret Law of the highest truth, which is intended for propagation in the latter age. To proceed in this way is like trying to make use of last year's calendar, or to employ a crow for the kind of fishing that only a cormorant can do.
 

This situation has come about solely because the error-bound teachers of the provisional teachings are accorded high honor, while the teacher enlightened to the true teaching has not been duly recognized. How sad to think that this rough gem, such as was presented by Pien Ho to kings Wen and Wu, should find no place of acceptance! How joyful, though, that I have obtained in this life the priceless gem concealed in the topknot of the wheel-turning king, for which Shakyamuni made his advent in this world!
 

What I am saying here has been fully attested to by the Buddhas of the ten directions and is no mere idle talk. Therefore, knowing that the Lotus Sutra says, "In the world at that time the people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe," how can you retain even a trace of disbelief and refuse to become a Buddha, of which promise "there can assuredly be no doubt"?
 

Up until now you have merely suffered in vain the pains of countless existences since the remotest past. Why do you not, if only this once, try planting the mystic seeds that lead to eternal and unchanging enlightenment? Though at present you may taste only a tiny fraction of the everlasting joys that await you in the future, surely you should not spend your time thoughtlessly coveting worldly fame and profit, which are as fleeting as a bolt of lightning or the morning dew. As the Tathagata has taught us, "There is no safety in this threefold world; it is like a burning house." And in the words of a bodhisattva, "All things are like a phantom, like a magically conjured image."
 

Outside the city of Tranquil Light, everywhere is a realm of suffering. Once you leave the haven of inherent enlightenment, what is there that can bring you joy? I pray you will embrace the Mystic Law, which guarantees that one "will enjoy peace and security in this life and good circumstances in the next." This is the only glory that you need seek in your present lifetime, and is the action that will draw you toward Buddhahood in your next existence. Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
 

Nichiren
 

  

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

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