The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra
Nichiren, follower of the Great Teacher Dengyo
Question: Is it possible, without understanding the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but merely by chanting the five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day, once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths, and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression?
Answer: Yes, it is.
Question: You may talk about fire, but unless you put your hand in a flame, you will never burn yourself. You may say "water, water!" but unless you actually drink it, you will never satisfy your thirst. Then how, just by chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo without understanding what it means, can you escape from the evil paths of existence?
Answer: They say that if you play a koto strung with a lions sinews, then all the other kinds of strings will snap. And if you so much as hear the words "pickled plum," your mouth will begin to water. Even in everyday life there are such wonders, so how much greater are the wonders of the Lotus Sutra!
We are told that parrots, simply by twittering the four noble truths of the Hinayana teachings, were able to be reborn in heaven, and that men, simply by respecting the three treasures, were able to escape being swallowed by a huge fish. How much more effective, then, is the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, which is the very heart of all the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Buddhism and the eye of the countless Buddhas! How can you doubt that, by chanting it, you can escape from the four evil paths?
The Lotus Sutra, wherein the Buddha honestly discarded all provisional teachings, says that one may "gain entrance through faith." And the Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the grove of sal trees on the last day of his life, states, "Although there are innumerable practices which lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith, then that includes all those practices."
Thus faith is the basic requirement for entering the way of the Buddha. In the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice, the first ten stages, dealing with faith, are basic, and the first of these ten stages is that of arousing pure faith. Though a person has no knowledge of Buddhism, if he has pure faith, then even though he may be dull-witted, he is to be reckoned as a man of correct views. But even though one has some knowledge of Buddhism, if he is without faith, then he is to be considered a slanderer and an icchantika or person of incorrigible disbelief.
The monk Sunakshatra observed the two hundred and fifty precepts, mastered the four stages of meditation, and was versed in all the twelve types of sutras while Devadatta learned the sixty thousand non-Buddhist teachings and the eighty thousand Buddhist teachings and could manifest eighteen miraculous powers with his body. And yet it is said that these men, because they had knowledge but no faith, are now in the great citadel of the Avichi Hell. Mahakashyapa and Shariputra on the other hand lacked knowledge but had faith, and the Buddha accordingly predicted that they would become the Buddhas Light Bright and Flower Light respectively. The Buddha stated, "One who gives way to doubt and does not have faith will surely fall into the evil paths." These words refer to those who have knowledge but are without faith.
And yet contemporary scholars ask, "How is it possible simply by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with faith but no understanding, to avoid the evil paths of existence?" If we accept the words of the sutras, these scholars themselves can hardly avoid falling into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell.
Thus, as we have seen, even if a person lacks understanding, so long as he chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he can avoid the evil paths. This is like the lotus blossom that turns in the direction of the sun, though the lotus has no mind to direct it, or like the plantain that grows with the rumbling of thunder, though this plant has no ears to hear it. Now we are like the lotus or the plantain, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun or the thunder.
People say that if you tie a piece of living rhinoceros horn to your body and enter the water, the water will not come within five feet of you. They also say that if one leaf of the sandalwood tree unfurls, it can eradicate the foul odor of the eranda trees for a distance of forty yojana. In this case, our evil karma may be likened to the eranda trees or the water, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra may be likened to the living horn of the rhinoceros or the leaf of the sandalwood tree.
Diamonds are so hard that almost no substance will cut them, and yet they can be cut by a sheeps horn or a turtles shell. The limbs of the nyagrodha tree are so stout that the largest birds can perch on them without breaking them, and yet they are vulnerable to the tailorbird, which is so tiny it could almost build its nest on the eyelashes of a mosquito.
Here, our evil karma is analogous to the diamond or the nyagrodha tree, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, to the sheeps horn or the tailorbird. Amber draws dust and a lodestone attracts iron particles; here our evil karma is like the dust or iron, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is like the amber or the lodestone. If we consider these analogies, we can see why we should always chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The first volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "Throughout numberless and incalculable kalpas it will be a difficult thing to hear this Law." And the fifth volume says, "As for this Lotus Sutra, throughout countless numbers of countries one cannot even hear the name of it." Thus it is an extremely rare thing to hear the name of the Lotus Sutra. Though the Buddhas Shusenda and Taho made their appearance in the world, they did not utter so much as the name of the Lotus Sutra. And though Shakyamuni Buddha made his advent expressly for the purpose of preaching the Lotus Sutra, during a period of forty-two years, he kept the name of that sutra secret and never referred to it. It was only when he reached the age of seventy-two that he first began to intone the title of the sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo. However, the people of faraway countries such as China and Japan were unable to hear of it at that time. It was over a thousand years before China heard so much as the name of the sutra, and another three hundred fifty years or more before it was heard in Japan.
Thus, encountering this sutra is as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara flower, which occurs but once in three thousand years, or the one-eyed turtle finding a floating piece of sandalwood, which happens only once in innumerable aeons.
Suppose one were to stick a needle in the earth point up and throw down tiny mustard seeds at it from the palace of King Bonten in the sky. One could sooner impale a mustard seed on the point of the needle than encounter the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra. Or suppose one were to place a needle upright on top of the Mount Sumeru in one world and then, standing atop the Mount Sumeru of another world on a very windy day, were to try to cast a thread so that it reached the other mountain and passed through the eye of the needle. One could sooner thread a needle in this way than encounter the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
Therefore, when you chant the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra you should be aware that it is a more joyful thing than for one who was born blind to gain his eyesight and see his father and mother, and a rarer thing than for one who has been seized by a powerful enemy to be released and reunited with his wife and children.
Question: What passages of proof can be cited to show that one should chant only the daimoku?
Answer: The eighth volume of the Myoho-renge-kyo states, "One who receives and embraces the name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy good fortune beyond measure." The Sho-hokke-kyo says, "If one hears this sutra and proclaims and embraces its title, he will enjoy blessings beyond measure." And the Tembon-hoke-kyo says, "One who receives and embraces the name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy good fortune beyond measure." These passages indicate that the good fortune one receives from simply chanting the daimoku is beyond measure.
To embrace, read, recite, take delight in and protect all the eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra is called the comprehensive practice. To receive and protect the Hoben and Juryo chapters is called the abbreviated practice. And simply to chant one four-phrase verse or the daimoku, and to protect those who do so, is called the essential practice. Hence among these three kinds of practice, the comprehensive, the abbreviated and the essential, the daimoku is defined as the essential practice.
Question: How great are the blessings contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo?
Answer: The great ocean contains all the numerous rivers that flow into it, the great earth contains all sentient and insentient beings, the wish-granting jewel is capable of showering down innumerable treasures, and the heavenly king Bonten rules over all the threefold world. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are comparable to all these. All beings of the nine worlds, as well as those in the world of Buddhahood, are contained within them. And since all beings of the Ten Worlds are contained within them, so are their environments.
Let us first examine the fact that the five characters, Myoho-renge-kyo, contain within them all teachings. The single character kyo or "sutra" is the king of all sutras, and all the various other sutras are encompassed by it. The Buddha appeared in the world and over a period of fifty years and more preached eighty thousand sacred teachings. At that time the life span of human beings is said to have been one hundred years. The Buddha passed away in the middle of the night on the fifteenth day of the second month of the year with the cyclical sign mizunoe-saru (949 B.C.). Thereafter, during some ninety days of summer, or the period from the eighth day of the fourth month until the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the same year, one thousand arhats gathered at the Chamber of the First Council and set down all the sutras.
After that, during the one thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, all these various sutras spread throughout the five regions of India, but they did not reach as far as China. It was only in the fifteenth year of the Middle Day of the Law, or 1,015 years after the Buddhas death, that Buddhist statues and sutras were first introduced to China. This was in the year with the cyclical sign hinoto-u (AD. 67), the tenth year of the Yung-ping era in the reign of Emperor Ming the Filial of the Later Han dynasty. From that time until the year with the cyclical sign kanoe-uma (AD. 730), the eighteenth year of the Kai-yuan era of the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the Tang dynasty, a total of 176 translators went to China, taking with them 1,076 sutras, works on discipline and treatises comprising 5,048 volumes contained in 480 scroll-cases. All of these sacred writings are followers of the single character kyo, or sutra, of the Lotus Sutra.
Among the sutras that the Buddha preached during the forty or more years before he expounded Myoho-renge-kyo, there is one called the Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra. This sutra is preserved in the dragon kings palace in three versions. The first version contains as many chapters as there are dust particles in ten major world systems. The second version contains 498,800 verses, and the third version contains 100,000 verses in forty-eight chapters. Outside of these three versions, only the eighty-volume and sixty-volume versions are preserved in China and Japan.
In addition, there are the Hinayana sutras such as the Agon sutras, and the various Mahayana sutras of the Hodo and Hannya categories. Among the latter, the Sanskrit text of the Dainichi Sutra devotes a total of 3,500 verses simply to the explanation of the five characters of the mantra Avarahakha, to say nothing of the countless verses it uses to describe the "seeds," august forms and samayas of the various Buddhas. In China, however, the text exists in a mere six or seven volume form. The Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the sal grove on his last day, is preserved in China in a version that is only forty volumes long, though in this case, too, the Sanskrit versions of the text have many more volumes. All these various sutras are followers of the Lotus Sutra, the heart of Shakyamuni Buddhas teachings. In addition, all the sutras expounded by the seven Buddhas of the past, the thousand Buddhas, or the Buddhas of countless aeons ago, as well as those expounded by the Buddhas presently living in the ten directions, are all followers of the single character kyo of the Lotus Sutra.
Thus, in the Yakuo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha addresses the bodhisattva named Shukuoke, saying in essence, "It [the Lotus Sutra] is like the ocean, which is foremost among all bodies of water such as rivers and streams; like Mount Sumeru, which is foremost among all mountains, or like the god of the moon, which is foremost among all the heavenly bodies [shining in the night sky]." The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this by saying, "[It] is foremost among all the sutras the Buddha has preached, now preaches and will preach."
Within this single character kyo are contained all the sutras in the entire universe. It is like the wish-granting jewel that contains within it all manner of treasures, or the vastness of space that encompasses all phenomena. And because this single character kyo of Myoho-renge-kyo is the supreme achievement of the Buddhas lifetime of teaching, the other four characters, Myo-ho-ren-ge, likewise surpass all the other eighty thousand doctrines that the Buddha taught.
Coming now to the character myo, [meaning "mystic" or wonderful,"] the Lotus Sutra says, "This sutra opens the door of expedient teachings and reveals the true aspect of reality." The Great Teacher Chang-an comments on this as follows: "Myo means to reveal the depths of the secret storehouse." And the Great Teacher Miao-lo says of this, "To reveal means to open." Hence the character myo means to open.
If there is a storehouse full of treasures but no key, then it cannot be opened, and if it cannot be opened, then the treasures inside cannot be seen. The Buddha preached the Kegon Sutra, but he did not give the kind of explanation that would be a key to open this sutra. Likewise, in the forty or more years that followed, he preached other sutras such as the Agon, Hodo, Hannya and Kammuryoju sutras, but he did not reveal their meaning. Their doors remained closed, and therefore no one could understand these sutras. Even though people thought they understood, they in fact had only a distorted view.
But then the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra and in this way opened the storehouses of the sutras. And for the first time in more than forty years, all the people of the nine worlds were able to view the treasures that lay within. To give an analogy, even though there are people and animals, plants and trees on the earth, without the light of the sun or moon, even those who have eyes cannot make out their shapes and colors. Only when the sun or moon rises can one discern for the first time what they are really like. The sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra were shrouded in the darkness of a long night, and the essential and theoretical teachings of the Lotus Sutra were like the sun and the moon.
Among the bodhisattvas with their two good eyes, the cross-eyed men of the two vehicles, common mortals with their blind eyes, or those of incorrigible disbelief who have been blind since birth, there were none who could make out the true color or shape of things by means of the earlier sutras. But when the Lotus Sutra was preached and the moon of the theoretical teaching came forth, then the bodhisattvas with their two good eyes first gained enlightenment, to be followed by the cross-eyed men of the two vehicles. Next the blind eyes of the common mortals were opened, and then even the persons of incorrigible disbelief, who had been blind from birth were able to establish a relationship with the Lotus Sutra that assured them that their eyes would one day open. All this was due entirely to the virtue of the single character myo.
There are two myo or mystic principles expounded in the Lotus Sutra, one in the first fourteen chapters, which constitute the theoretical teaching, and one in the latter fourteen chapters, which constitute the essential teaching. From another point of view there are twenty mystic principles, ten in the theoretical teaching and ten in the essential teaching, or there are sixty mystic principles, thirty in the theoretical teaching and thirty in the essential teaching. From yet other points of view, forty mystic principles may be discerned in each half of the Lotus Sutra. By adding these to the forty mystic principles concerning the observation of the mind the single character myo will be found to contain fully one hundred and twenty myo or mystic principles.
One fundamental myo or mystic principle underlies every one of the 69,384 characters that make up the Lotus Sutra. Hence the Lotus Sutra comprises a total of 69,384 mystic principles.
The character myo is rendered in Sanskrit by the word sad, and in Chinese is pronounced miao. Myo means "fully endowed," which in turn has the meaning of "perfection." Each word and each character of the Lotus Sutra contains within it all the 69,384 characters that compose the sutra. To illustrate, one drop of the great ocean contains within it the waters of all the various rivers that flow into the ocean, and the wish-granting jewel, though no bigger than a mustard seed, is capable of showering down all the treasures that one could wish for.
To give another analogy, plants and trees are withered and bare in autumn and winter, but when the sun of spring and summer shines on them, they put forth branches and leaves, and then flowers and fruit. Before the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, the people in the nine worlds were like plants and trees in autumn and winter. But when the single character myo of the Lotus Sutra shone on them like the spring and summer sun, then the flower of the aspiration for enlightenment blossomed and the fruit of Buddhahood emerged.
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his Daichido Ron says, "[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who changes poison into medicine." This quotation occurs in a passage in the Daichido Ron that explains the virtues inherent in the character myo of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "Because it can cure that which is thought to be incurable, it is called myo or mystic."
In general, there are four kinds of people who have great difficulty in attaining Buddhahood. First are those predestined for the realms of Learning and Realization, second are those of incorrigible disbelief, third are those who cling to the doctrine of void, and fourth are those who slander the True Law. But through the Lotus Sutra, all of these people are able to attain Buddhahood. That is why the Lotus Sutra is called myo.
Devadatta was the eldest son of King Dronodana and a nephew of King Shuddhodana, [the father of the Buddha Shakyamuni,] which made him the Buddhas cousin. He was also the elder brother of the Buddhas disciple, the Venerable Ananda. He was thus by no means a person of low station in the continent of Jambudvipa. He became a disciple of the monk Sudaya and entered the religious life. From Ananda he learned the eighteen miraculous powers, and he committed to memory the sixty thousand teachings of the non-Buddhist schools and the eighty thousand teachings of Buddhism. He observed the five practices and appeared almost more saintly than the Buddha himself. Thinking to make himself a leader like the Buddha, he dared to commit the crime of disrupting the Buddhist Order by establishing his own ordination platform on Mount Gaya and inviting the Buddhas disciples over to his side. He confided to Crown Prince Ajatashatru, "I intend to kill the Buddha and become the new Buddha. You must kill your father, King Bimbisara, and become the new king in his place!"
After Crown Prince Ajatashatru had in fact killed his father, Devadatta kept watch on the Buddhas activities and with a large stone succeeded in wounding him to the extent that blood flowed. He also struck and killed the nun Utpalavarna who had reached the state of arhat. Thus he committed three of the five cardinal sins.
In addition, with Kokalika as his disciple and King Ajatashatru as his patron, Devadatta began to attract followers from everywhere, until, throughout the five regions of India with its sixteen great states and five hundred medium-sized states, every soul guilty of one, two or three of the cardinal sins was a member of his group. They gathered about him as the various rivers gather in the great ocean, or as plants and trees gather on a great mountain. As wise men gathered about Shariputra, and those of occult powers flocked to Maudgalyayana, so did men of evil bent throw in their lot with Devadatta.
As a result, the great earth, which is 168,000 yojana thick and rests on a windy circle as hard as a diamond, nevertheless split open, plunging Devadatta alive into the hell of incessant suffering. His leading disciple Kokalika also fell into hell alive, as did the female Brahman Chinchamanavika, King Virudhaka and Sunakshatra the monk. Moreover, the people of the five regions of India with its sixteen great states, five hundred medium-sized states and ten thousand small states all observed this. Those in the six heavens of the world of desire and in the four meditation heavens, all beings in both the worlds of form and formlessness, including Bonten, Taishaku, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven and King Emma, likewise witnessed their fate.
All the beings throughout the major world system and the entire universe heard about this, and unanimously concluded that, even though as many kalpas should pass as there are dust particles on the earth, Devadatta and the others would never escape from the hell of incessant suffering, and though the stone that marks the duration of a kalpa might be worn completely away, they would continue to suffer in the great citadel of the Avichi Hell. How astounding, then, that in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni should reveal that Devadatta was his teacher in a past existence and should predict that he would attain enlightenment in the future as a Buddha called Heavenly King! If the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra are true, then the Lotus Sutra must be an outrageous lie. But if the Lotus Sutra is true, then the previous sutras must be guilty of perpetrating the wildest deceptions.
If Devadatta, who committed three of the five cardinal sins, and in addition was guilty of countless other grave offenses, could become the Buddha Heavenly King, then there can be no doubt that the other evildoers who committed only one or two of the cardinal sins will surely attain enlightenment as well. For if something is capable of overturning the great earth itself, then it can surely overturn mere plants and trees. And if something can crush the hardest stone, it can certainly bend the pliant grasses. Therefore the Lotus Sutra is called myo.
Coming now to the subject of women, we find that they are strongly condemned in both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist writings. The works known as the Three Records and Five Canons of the Three Rulers and Five Emperors of ancient China depict them as fawning and perverse. For this reason, disaster is said to have come about because of the three evil women of antiquity. Thus women are identified as the cause of the downfall of a nation and its people.
The Kegon Sutra, the first great Buddhist doctrine that the Buddha preached following his enlightenment states: Women are messengers of hell who can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood. They may look like bodhisattvas, but at heart they are like yaksha demons." And the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddhas last teaching which he delivered in the grove of sal trees, says, "All rivers and streams are invariably winding and devious, and all women are invariably fawning and perverse." And it also says, "If all the desires and delusions of all the men throughout the major world system were lumped together, they would be no greater than the karmic impediment of one single woman."
When the Kegon Sutra says that women "can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood," it means that they scorch and burn up the seeds that would otherwise allow them to attain Buddhahood. When cloud masses form in the sky during a time of great drought and heavy rain falls on the earth, then countless withered plants and trees everywhere will put forth blossoms and bear fruit. But this is not true of seeds that have been scorched. They will never sprout; rather the heavy rain makes them rot.
Now the Buddha is like the masses of clouds, his teachings are like the heavy rain, and the withered plants and trees are like all living beings. When they are watered by the rain of the Buddhist teachings and observe the five precepts, the ten good precepts and the meditational practices, all of which bring merit, then they will put forth blossoms and bear fruit. But the scorched seeds never sprout even though the rain falls on them, but instead rot. They are comparable to women who, though they encounter the Buddhist teachings, cannot free themselves from the sufferings of birth and death but instead turn away from the truth of Buddhism and fall into the evil paths. This is what the sutra means when it says that women "can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood."
The passage in the Nirvana Sutra cited above says that, just as all rivers and streams twist and wind, so too are women perverse and devious. Because water is a fluid substance, block its path with some hard object such as a rock or a mountain, and it will split into two streams or turn aside, flowing now this way, now that. Women are the same, their minds are soft and weak. Though they may believe that a certain course is right, if they come up against the strong will of a man and find their way blocked, then they will turn in some direction quite different from the one they originally intended.
Again, though you may trace pictures on the surface of the water, nothing of what you have drawn will remain. Women are the same, for lack of steadfastness is their basic character. Hence they will think a certain way at one moment, and then a moment later have quite a different view. But the basic character of a Buddha is honesty and straightforwardness. Hence women, with their devious ways, can never become Buddhas.
Women are doomed to the five obstacles and the three types of obedience. Hence the Gonjikinyo Sutra says, "Though the eyes of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future were to fall to the ground a woman could still never become a Buddha."
And the Daichido Ron says, "You could sooner catch the wind than grasp the mind of a woman."
Yet though all female beings were so despised in the various sutras, when Bodhisattva Monjushiri spoke the single character myo, a woman was instantly able to become a Buddha. So extraordinary was this occurrence that Bodhisattva Chishaku, the foremost disciple of Taho Buddha in the world of Treasure Purity, and Shariputra, who was known among Shakyamuni Buddhas disciples as the foremost in wisdom, protested. They said that according to all the Mahayana and Hinayana sutras that the Buddha had preached in the previous forty years and more, the dragon kings daughter could not possibly become a Buddha. And yet in the end their arguments were of no avail and in fact she did become a Buddha.
Thus the passage in the Buddhas first sutra declaring that women "can destroy the seeds of Buddhahood," and that in his final sermon in the sal grove about how "all rivers and streams are invariably winding and devious," were utterly contradicted, and the mirror or diviners tortoise shell of the Gonjikinyo Sutra and the Daichido Ron were proven to be nonsense. Chishaku and Shariputra were obliged to still their tongues and shut their mouths, while all the human and heavenly beings present at the great gathering where the Lotus Sutra was preached pressed their palms together in an excess of joy. All this was due entirely to the virtue of the single character myo.
In the continent of Jambudvipa in the southern region of the world, there are 2,500 rivers, and every single one of them is winding. They are devious like the minds of the women of Jambudvipa. And yet there is one river called the Shabaya that follows a course as straight as a taut rope, flowing directly into the western sea. A woman who has faith in the Lotus Sutra will be like this river, proceeding directly to the Pure Land in the west. Such is the virtue inherent in the single character myo.
Myo means to revive, that is, to return to life. This is like the yellow cranes chick. It is said that though the chick may die, if the mother crane calls the name of Tzu-an, then the dead chick will come back to life again. Or it is like the case of the fish and shellfish that have been killed because a poisonous secretary bird has entered the water. If they are touched with a rhinoceros horn, we are told, they will all be brought back to life. Similarly, persons of the two vehicles, those of incorrigible disbelief and women were described in the sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra as having scorched and killed the seeds that would have allowed them to attain Buddhahood. But by holding fast to this single character myo, they can revive the scorched seeds of Buddhahood.
Tien-tai says, "The icchantika 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." Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "The reason that the other sutras are called dai or great but not myo is simply that it is easy to cure those who have a mind, but difficult to cure those who are without a mind. Because it [the Lotus Sutra] can cure that which is thought to be incurable, it is called myo or mystic."
These passages refer to the fact that sutras such as the Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra, Daijuku Sutra, Daibon Hannya Sutra and Dainehan Sutra all have the character dai in their titles but not the character myo. This is because they can cure only the living but cannot cure the dead. The Lotus Sutra, however, can cure the dead as well as the living, and therefore it has the character myo in its title.
Thus, with the other sutras, persons who should become Buddhas are unable to do so. But with the Lotus Sutra, even those who would ordinarily find it impossible to do so can attain Buddhahood, not to mention those for whom it is relatively easy. This being the case, in the time since the Lotus Sutra was preached, there ought not to be a single person who puts faith in the other sutras.
Now the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law have passed, and we have entered the Latter Day of the Law. In such an age, it is ten billion times more difficult for ordinary people to attain Buddhahood than it was for even the persons of the two vehicles or those of incorrigible disbelief who lived when the Buddha was alive. And yet people nowadays think that by relying on the Kammuryoju Sutra or some other of the sutras preached in the forty-odd years before the Lotus Sutra, they can escape the sufferings of birth and death. How futile, how utterly futile!
Women, whether they live at the time of the Buddha or in the Former, Middle or Latter Day of the Law cannot attain Buddhahood through any teaching but the Lotus Sutra. None of the other sutras expounded by any of the Buddhas anywhere can help them. The Great Teacher Tien-tai, who heard the Buddhas teachings at Eagle Peak and later attained an awakening in the place of meditation, has stated unequivocally: "The other sutras predict Buddhahood for men only and not for women. Only this sutra predicts Buddhahood for all."
Shakyamuni Buddha, in the presence of Taho Buddha and the other Buddhas of the ten directions, preached the Lotus Sutra over a period of eight years at the place called Eagle Peak northeast of Rajagriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. The Great Teacher Tien-tai was present and heard him preach. "During my fifty or more years of teaching," said the Buddha, "I have preached various sacred doctrines, all in order to bring benefit to living beings. In the sutras of the first forty-two years, I taught that it was not possible for women to attain Buddhahood. But now with the Lotus Sutra I declare that women can become Buddhas."
Northeast of Eagle Peak, at a distance of some 108,000 ri beyond the mountains and seas, there is a country called Mahachina in Sanskrit. We know it as China. Some fifteen hundred years after the Buddhas passing, there appeared in this country a messenger of the Buddha called the Great Teacher Tien-tai who declared that women could never attain Buddhahood through any teaching other than the Lotus Sutra.
Three thousand ri to the east of China there is a country called Japan. Some two hundred years after the Great Teacher Tien-tai passed away, he was reborn in this country and bore the name of the Great Teacher Dengyo. He then wrote a work entitled Hokke Shuku in which he stated: "Neither teachers nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the Lotus Sutra they can do so in their present form." Thus he made clear why the dragon kings daughter was able to become a Buddha.
It may seem somewhat difficult for women of the age we live in to attain Buddhahood without changing their present form. But if they put their trust in the Lotus Sutra, there is no doubt that they will be reborn in the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss when they die. They will reach it more readily than the rivers and streams flowing into the great ocean, or more swiftly than the rain falling from the sky.
And yet we find that the women throughout Japan do not chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Instead they put their faith in works such as the Muryoju Sutra or the Kammuryoju Sutra, which can never lead women to the Pure Land or to Buddhahood. They intone the name of the Buddha Amida sixty thousand or a hundred thousand times a day. Amida is indeed the name of a Buddha, and to invoke it would seem to be a laudable practice. But because the women who do so are relying upon sutras that deny that women can ever attain Buddhahood, they are in effect merely counting other peoples riches. And this comes about solely because they are led astray by evil teachers. The women throughout Japan face an enemy more fearful than tigers or wolves, mountain bandits or pirates at sea, their parents foes or their husbands concubines. Their real enemies are the persons who, instead of teaching them to rely on the Lotus Sutra, teach them the Nembutsu!
Women who put their faith in the Lotus Sutra should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo sixty thousand, a hundred thousand, or even ten million times a day, and after that, if they still have some time to spare, they may now and then murmur to themselves the name of Amida or one of the other Buddhas. But women these days spend their whole lives constantly reciting the name of Amida and busying themselves with matters that concern the Nembutsu. They never recite the Lotus Sutra or give alms for its sake. True, there are a few of them who have the Lotus Sutra read by priests who follow its teachings. But they look up to the Nembutsu priests as though they were their parents or brothers, and treat the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra with less respect than they would their retainers or followers. And yet they claim that they are believers in the Lotus Sutra!
By contrast, Lady Jotoku gave permission for her sons, the two princes, to enter the Buddhist Order and encouraged them to propagate the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, the dragon kings daughter took a vow, saying, "I will reveal the teachings of the Great Vehicle and bring release to suffering beings." These women surely took no vow to practice only the teachings of the other sutras and to neglect the practice of the Lotus Sutra. Nevertheless, that is what the women of today do, paying all their attention to the practice of other sutras and none to that of the Lotus Sutra. You must change your ways immediately. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Completed at the Hour of the Sheep (2:00 P.M.) at Seicho-ji temple on the sixth day of the first month of the third year of Bunei (1266), the year with the cyclical sign hinoe-tora.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 3.
Designed by Will Kallander