On the Buddha's Prophecy
- Kembutsu Mirai Ki -
Nichiren, the Shramana of Japan
The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "In the fifth five hundred years after my death, accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease." On the one hand, it is deplorable to me that more than twenty-two hundred and twenty years have already passed since the Buddha's death. What evil karma prevented me from being born in his lifetime? Why couldn't I have seen the four ranks of saints in the Former Day of the Law, or T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo in the Middle Day? On the other hand, I rejoice at whatever good fortune enabled me to be born in the fifth five hundred years and read these words of the Buddha.
Even if I had been born in the Buddha's lifetime, it would have served no purpose, for those who embraced the first four tastes of teachings had not yet heard of the Lotus Sutra. Again, my being born in either the Former or Middle Day of the Law would have been meaningless, for neither the scholars of the three sects to the south or the seven sects to the north of the Yangtze River, nor those of the Kegon, Shingon or any other sects, believed in the Lotus Sutra.
The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai said, "In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic Way shall spread and benefit mankind far into the future." Doesn't this describe the time of kosen-rufu? The Great Teacher Dengyo said, "The Former and Middle Days are almost over, and the Latter Day is near at hand." These words reveal how he longed to live at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. When one compares the rewards of living in the three different periods, it is clear that mine surpass not only those of Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, but those of T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo.
Question: You are not the only person living in this five-hundred-year period; why are you in particular so overjoyed to be living now?
Answer: The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai stated, "It will be 'much worse' in the future because the Lotus Sutra is so hard to teach." The Great Teacher Miao-lo explained, "T'ien-t'ai calls the Lotus Sutra 'hard to teach' to let us know how hard it is to enable people to understand it." Priest Chih-tu stated, "It is said that good medicine tastes bitter. Similarly, this sutra dispels attachments to the five vehicles and establishes the one supreme teaching. It reproaches common mortals and censures saints, denies Mahayana and refutes Hinayana... All those who are repudiated persecute the believers in the Lotus Sutra." The Great Teacher Dengyo said, "The propagation of the true teaching will begin in the age when the Middle Day of the Law ends and the Latter Day opens, in a land to the east of T'ang and to the west of Katsu, among people stained by the five impurities who live in a time of conflict." The sutra says, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?' There is good reason for this statement." The Great Teacher Dengyo wrote as though describing his own day, but actually, he was referring to the present time. That is what gives such profound meaning to his words, "The Former and Middle Days are almost over, and the Latter Day is near at hand."
The sutra states, "Devils, people under their influence, spirits of the heavens and seas, sinister demons called Yasha, demons which drain human vitality and others will seize the advantage." Another portion of the sutra details these "others": "Yasha, nimble demons, hungry demons, demons of filth, vengeful demons, red, orange, black, and blue demons, and so on." These passages explain that those who in previous lifetimes embraced the four tastes or the three teachings, Brahmanism, or the doctrines of Humanity and Heaven appear in this life as devils, spirits or human beings who persecute the votary of the true and perfect teaching when they see or hear of him.
Question: In comparing the Former and Middle days with the Latter Day of the Law, it seems to me that the first two periods were far superior in terms of both time and the people's inborn capacity. Why are these factors of time and capacity ignored in the Lotus Sutra which refers exclusively to this age?
Answer: The Buddha's thoughts are difficult to fathom. Indeed, even I am still unable to do so. We may attempt to understand, however, by taking Hinayana Buddhism as a point of clarification. During the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, Hinayana was fully endowed with teaching, practice and proof. In the subsequent thousand years of the Middle Day, teaching and practice still remained, but no longer was there any proof. Now in the Latter Day of the Law, the teaching remains, but there is neither practice nor proof. To examine this from the standpoint of the Lotus Sutra: In the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, those who possessed all three had most probably formed a bond of faith with the Lotus Sutra during the Buddha's lifetime. They were born again in the Former Day and were able to obtain the proof of Hinayana through its teaching and practice. Those born in the Middle Day had not developed strong ties to the Lotus Sutra during the Buddha's lifetime and were therefore unable to attain proof through Hinayana. They turned instead to provisional Mahayana and were thus able to be born in pure lands throughout the universe. In the Latter Day of the Law, there is no longer any benefit to be gained from either Mahayana or Hinayana. Hinayana retains nothing but its teaching; it has neither practice nor proof. Mahayana still has its teaching and practice but no longer provides any benefit whatsoever, either conspicuous or inconspicuous.
Furthermore, the sects of Hinayana and provisional Mahayana established during the Former and Middle Days of the Law cling all the more stubbornly to their doctrines as they enter the Latter Day. Those who espouse Hinayana reject Mahayana, and those who espouse provisional teachings attack the true teachings, until the country is overrun with people who slander. Those who fall into the evil paths because of their mistaken practice of Buddhism outnumber the dust particles which comprise the earth, while those who attain Buddhahood by practicing the true teachings are fewer than the dust specks you can hold on a fingernail. The gods have now abandoned the country, and only demons remain, possessing the minds and bodies of the ruler, his subjects, priests and nuns, and causing them to vilify and humiliate the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
If, however, in this time period after the Buddha's death, one renounces his attachments to the four tastes and three teachings and converts to faith in the Lotus Sutra which is true Mahayana, all the gods and countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth will protect him as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Under their protection, he will establish the true object of worship represented by the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo and bring it to the entire world.
It was the same with Bodhisattva Fukyo who lived in the Middle Day of the Buddha Ionno's Law. He propagated the teaching of twenty-four characters which begins, "I deeply respect...," and was persecuted and attacked with staves. The words of the twenty-four characters of Fukyo are different from the five characters of Nichiren, but their spirit is the same. The method of propagation is also exactly the same both at the end of the Buddha Ionno's Middle Day and now at the beginning of the Latter Day. Bodhisattva Fukyo was a person of shozuiki and Nichiren is a common mortal of myoji-soku, which are both the initial stages of practice.
Question: How can you be certain that you are the votary of the Lotus Sutra prophesied to appear at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law?
Answer: A passage from the Lotus Sutra states, "...how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" Another passage reads, "There are many ignorant people who will vilify and attack us, the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, with swords and staves." A third passage says, "We will be banished again and again." A fourth reads, "The people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe." A fifth reads, "They will stone him and beat him with staves." A sixth reads, "Devils, people under their influence, spirits of the heavens and seas, sinister demons called Yasha, demons which drain human vitality and others will seize the advantage."
That the people might believe in the Buddha's words, I have sought throughout Japan, among the sovereign and his subjects, among priests and nuns, lay men and women, for one who has fulfilled these explicit predictions, but I can find none other than myself. Now is most certainly the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, but had Nichiren not appeared, the Buddha's predictions would be false.
Question: You are an extremely arrogant priest--even more arrogant than Mahadeva or Sunakshatra. Is this not so?
Answer: Slandering Nichiren is a sin even graver than those of Devadatta or Vimalamitra. My words may sound arrogant, but my sole purpose is to fulfill the Buddha's predictions and reveal the truth of his teachings. In all Japan, who but Nichiren can be called the votary of the Lotus Sutra? By denouncing Nichiren, you will make lies of all the Buddha's prophecies. Are you not then an extremely evil man?
Question: You certainly fit the Buddha's prophecies. But are there perhaps not other votaries of the Lotus Sutra in India or China?
Answer: There cannot be two suns in the world. Can there be two sovereigns in one country?
Question: What proof do you have of this?
Answer: The moon appears in the west and gradually shines eastward, while the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west. The same is true of Buddhism. It spread from west to east in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, but will travel from east to west in the Latter Day. The Great Teacher Miao-lo said, "Buddhism has been lost in India, and they are seeking it abroad." Thus there is no Buddhism in India anymore. One hundred fifty years ago in China, during the reign of Emperor Kao-tsung, barbarians from the north invaded the Eastern Capital and put an end to what little was left of both Buddhism and the political order there. Now, not one Hinayana sutra remains in China and most Mahayana sutras have also been lost. Even when Jakusho and other priests set out from Japan to take some sutras to China, there was no one there to whom these sutras could be taught. Their efforts were as meaningless as trying to teach Buddhism to wooden or stone statues garbed in priests' robes and carrying mendicants' bowls. That is why Tsun-shih said, "Buddhism was first transmitted from the west, just as the moon first appears in the west. Now Buddhism returns from the east like the sun rising in the east." The words of Miao-lo and Tsun-shih make it clear that Buddhism is lost in both India and China.
Question: Now I can see there is no Buddhism in either India or China, but how do you know there is no Buddhism in the other three lands--to the east, west and north?
Answer: The eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "After the Buddha's death, I will spread this sutra within the entire southern land and never allow it to perish." The word "within" indicates that the other three lands were excluded.
Question: You have fulfilled the Buddha's prophecy; now what do you yourself predict?
Answer: There can be no doubt that the fifth five-hundred-year period has already begun as prophesied by the Buddha. I say that, without fail, Buddhism shall arise and flow forth from the east, from the land of Japan. Omens will occur in the form of natural disasters of a magnitude greater than ever before witnessed in the Former or Middle Day of the Law. When the Buddha was born, when he turned the wheel of doctrine, and also when he entered nirvana, the omens, both auspicious and inauspicious, were greater than any ever observed. The Buddha is the teacher of all saints. The sutras describe how, at the time of his birth, five colors of light shone forth in all directions, and the night became as bright as noon. At the time of his death, twelve white arcs crossed the sky from north to south, the sun's light was extinguished, and the day became as dark as midnight. There followed the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law; saints, some Buddhist and some not, were born and died, but never were there any omens of such magnitude.
However, from the beginning of the Shoka period through this year, there have been tremendous earthquakes and extraordinary phenomena in the heavens, exactly like the signs which marked the Buddha's birth and death. Know that a saint like the Buddha has been born. A great comet crossed the sky, but for which sovereign or subject did this omen come? The earth tilted, and gaping fissures opened three times, but for which saint or sage did this occur? You should realize that these great omens, both good and bad, are of no ordinary significance. They are signs that the Great Pure Law is ascending and the Pure Law is in decline. T'ien-t'ai stated, "By observing the fury of the rain, we can tell the greatness of the dragon that caused it, and by observing the flourishing of the lotus flowers, we can tell the depth of the pond they grow in." Miao-lo said, "Wise men can see omens and what they foretell, as snakes know the way of snakes."
Twenty-one years ago I, Nichiren, understood what was to come. Since then I have suffered persecution day after day and month after month. In the last two or three years, among other things, I was almost put to death. The chances are one in ten thousand that I will survive the year or even the month. If anyone questions these things, let him ask my disciples for details. What joy is ours to expiate in one lifetime our slanders from the eternal past! How fortunate to serve the Buddha who has never been known until now! I pray that before anything else I can guide to the truth the sovereign and those others who persecuted me. I will tell the Buddha about all the disciples who have aided me, and before they die, I will share the great blessings of this faith with my parents who gave me life. Now as if in a dream I understand the heart of the Hoto chapter, which reads, "To hurl Mount Sumeru into countless Buddha lands would not be difficult...but to spread this sutra in the evil age after the Buddha's death is difficult." The Great Teacher Dengyo stated, "Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound requires courage." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai practiced in a manner true to Shakyamuni's teachings and spread the Hokke sect throughout China. Dengyo and his followers received the doctrine from T'ien-t'ai and disseminated it throughout Japan. Nichiren of Awa Province inherited the lineage of Buddhism from these three teachers and propagated the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. Together they should be called "the four masters of Buddhism in the three countries." Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The eleventh day of the fifth intercalary month in the tenth year of Bun'ei (1273)
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1.
Designed by Will Kallander