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The One Essential Phrase

First, for you to ask a question about the Lotus Sutra is a rare source of good fortune. In this age of the Latter Day of the Law, those who ask about the meaning of even one phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra are much fewer than those who can hurl great Mount Sumeru to another land like a stone, or those who can kick the entire galaxy away like a ball. They are even fewer than those who can embrace and teach countless other sutras, thereby enabling the priests and laymen who listen to them to obtain the six mystic powers. Equally rare is a priest who can explain the meaning of the Lotus Sutra and clearly answer questions concerning it. The Hoto chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra sets forth the important principle of six difficult and nine easy acts. Your asking a question about the Lotus Sutra is among the six difficult acts. This is a sure indication that if you embrace the Lotus Sutra, you will certainly attain Buddhahood. Since the Lotus Sutra defines our life as the Buddha's life, our mind as the Buddha's wisdom and our actions as the Buddha's behavior, all who embrace and believe in even a single phrase or verse of this sutra will be endowed with these three properties. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is only one phrase, but it contains the essence of the entire sutra. You asked whether one can attain Buddhahood only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and this is the most important question of all. It is the heart of the entire sutra and the substance of its eight volumes.

The spirit within one's body may appear in just his face, and the spirit within his face may appear in just his eyes. Included within the word Japan is all that is within the country's sixty-six provinces: all of the people and animals, the rice paddies and other fields, those of high and low status, the nobles and the commoners, the seven kinds of gems and all other treasures. Similarly, included within the title, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is the entire sutra consisting of all eight volumes, twenty-eight chapters and 69,384 characters without exception. Concerning this, Po Chu-i stated that the title is to the sutra as eyes are to the Buddha. In the eighth volume of his Hokke Mongu Ki, Miao-lo stated that T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Gengi explains only the title, but that the entire sutra is thereby included. By this he meant that, although the text was omitted, the entire sutra was contained in the title alone. Everything has its essential point, and the heart of the Lotus Sutra is its title, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Truly, if you chant this in the morning and evening, you are correctly reading the entire Lotus Sutra. Chanting daimoku twice is the same as reading the entire sutra twice, one hundred daimoku equal one hundred readings of the sutra, and a thousand daimoku, a thousand readings of the sutra. Thus if you ceaselessly chant daimoku, you will be continually reading the Lotus Sutra. The sixty volumes of the T'ien-t'ai doctrine present exactly the same interpretation. A law this easy to embrace and this easy to practice was taught for the sake of all mankind in this evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, "During the Latter Day of the Law, if one wishes to teach this sutra, he should employ the mild way of propagation." Another reads, "In the Latter Day when the Law is about to perish, a person who embraces, reads and recites this sutra must abandon feelings of envy and deceit." A third states, "In the Latter Day of the Law, one who embraces this sutra will be carrying out all forms of service to the Buddha." A fourth reads, "In the fifth five hundred years after my death, accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease." The intent of all these teachings is the admonition to embrace and believe in the Lotus Sutra in this Latter Day of the Law. The heretical priests in Japan, China and India have all failed to comprehend this obvious meaning. The Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu sects follow either the Hinayana or the provisional Mahayana teachings but have discarded the Lotus Sutra. They misunderstand Buddhism, but they do not realize their mistakes. Because they appear to be true priests, the people trust them without the slightest doubt. Therefore, without realizing it, both these priests and the people who follow them have become enemies of the Lotus Sutra and foes of Shakyamuni Buddha. From the viewpoint of the sutra, it is certain that not only will all their wishes remain unfulfilled, but their lives will be short and, after this life, they will be doomed to the hell of incessant suffering.

Even though one neither reads nor studies the sutra, chanting the title alone is the source of tremendous good fortune. The sutra teaches that women, evil men, and those in the realms of Animality and Hell--in fact, all the people of the Ten Worlds--can attain Buddhahood. We can comprehend this when we remember that fire can be produced by a stone taken from the bottom of a river, and a candle can light up a place that has been dark for billions of years. If even the most ordinary things of this world are such wonders, then how much more wondrous is the power of the Mystic Law. The lives of human beings are fettered by evil karma, earthly desires and the inborn sufferings of life and death. But due to the three inherent potentials of Buddha nature--innate Buddhahood, the wisdom to become aware of it, and the action to manifest it--our lives can without doubt come to reveal the Buddha's three properties. The Great Teacher Dengyo declared that the power of the Lotus Sutra enables anyone to manifest Buddhahood. He stated this because even the Dragon King's daughter was able to attain Buddhahood through the power of the Lotus Sutra. Do not doubt this in the least. Let your husband know that I will explain this in detail when I see him.


The third day of the seventh month in the first year of Koan (1278).

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