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On Omens

Strange occurrences in the heavens frighten all people, and calamities on earth disturb everyone. When the Buddha was about to expound the Lotus Sutra, he caused the five omens and the six omens to appear. Of these, the omen of the earth shaking indicates that the earth trembled in six different ways. Interpreting these in the third volume of his Hokke Mongu, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states: "[One of the six is that] the east rises and the west falls. The eastern quarter corresponds to the color green and governs the liver, which in turn governs the eyes. The western quarter corresponds to the color white and governs the lungs, which in turn govern the nose. Hence, the east rising and the west falling indicates that the benefit of the eyes appear, and in response, the earthly desires of the nose disappear. Similarly, when the benefits of the nose appear, in response, the earthly desires of the eyes disappear. In like manner, the rise and fall of the other directions signify the appearance of benefit and the disappearance of earthly desires with respect to the other sensory organs."

Concerning this, the Great Teacher Miao-lo says: "The directions signify the six sense organs. It is already established that the eyes and the nose represent, respectively, east and west. It follows, then, that the ears and the tongue correspond, respectively, to north and south. The center corresponds to the mind, while the four directions indicate the body. The body is endowed with the four sense organs, and the mind is connected to all four. Hence the mind induces rise or fall with respect to [the sensory functions of] the body."

The ten directions are "environment" (eho), and sentient beings are "life" (shoho). Environment is like the shadow, and life, the body. Without the body there can be no shadow. Similarly, without life, environment cannot exist, even though life is supported by its environment. The eyes correspond to the eastern quarter. From this we also know that the tongue corresponds to the southern quarter, the nose to the western quarter, the ears to the northern quarter, the body to all four quarters, and the mind to the center. Therefore, when the people's five sense organs are disordered, the four quarters as well as the center will be startled and shaken, and as signs of the consequent destruction of the land, mountains will collapse, grasses and trees wither and rivers run dry. When the people's eyes, ears and other sense organs are confused and disturbed, extraordinary changes occur in the heavens, and when their minds are agitated, the earth quakes.

What sutra was ever preached without the earth trembling in six different ways? This phenomenon invariably occurred each time the Buddha expounded a sutra. However, when the Buddha, about to expound the Lotus Sutra, caused the earth to quake in six different ways, the people were especially astounded. Bodhisattva Miroku asked a question about this phenomenon and Bodhisattva Monjushiri answered. This was because the omen was greater in both magnitude and duration than when the other sutras were preached, and the people's questions were therefore much more difficult to resolve. Thus Miao-lo states: "No Mahayana sutra was ever preached without multitudes of people gathering, without the Buddha emitting a ray of light from his forehead, without flowers raining down from heaven or without the earth quaking. However, never before had the people been as greatly mystified as they were now." This means that omens had heralded the preaching of all the other sutras as well, but none had ever been as awesome [as those which occurred when the Lotus Sutra was expounded]. For this reason the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states, "People say that when a spider weaves its web, it means that some happy event is near, and that if a magpie chatters, it foretells the coming of a guest. Even such trifles are presaged by some sign. How then could great affairs be without omens? By means of the near, the distant is revealed." Thus the Buddha manifested great portents never before seen during his more than forty years of preaching when he expounded the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

However, the omens that heralded the essential teaching far exceeded the signs preceding the theoretical teaching, even more so than these had in turn surpassed the omens presaging the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. A magnificent treasure tower sprang up from the ground, and then multitudes of bodhisattvas emerged from beneath the earth. The great quakes on these occasions were like gales blowing over the ocean, creating waves the size of mountains which toss a small ship about like a reed leaf, engulfing even its sails. Therefore, while Miroku had inquired of Monju about the omens that appeared in the Jo chapter, concerning those great portents that occurred in the Yujutsu chapter he directly questioned the Buddha himself. Miao-lo explains this by saying, "Since the theoretical teaching concerns matters which are shallow and comparatively recent, Monju could be relied upon to answer him. On the other hand, the Buddha's original enlightenment in the remote past was so difficult to comprehend that none but the Buddha himself could be depended on for an explanation." The Buddha did not trouble to explain the omens of the theoretical teaching, but Monju knew generally what they signified. The omens of the essential teaching, however, he could not even begin to fathom. And these omens concerned only events occurring in Shakyamuni's lifetime.

Then, when the Buddha came to preach the Jinriki chapter, he displayed ten mystic powers. They were incomparably more wondrous than either the omens of the Jo chapter or those of the Hoto and Yujutsu chapters. The beam of light which the Buddha had emitted [from his forehead] at the time of the Jo chapter illuminated only eighteen thousand worlds to the east, but that which he emitted [from his entire body] at the time of the Jinriki chapter encompassed all the worlds of the ten directions. While the quaking of the earth in the Jo chapter was limited to the worlds of the major world systems, in the Jinriki chapter the worlds of the Buddhas of the ten directions all trembled in six different ways. And the signs which have appeared in our own time are equally astounding. The great omens of the Jinriki chapter foretold that the essence of the Lotus Sutra would spread after the Buddha's death when the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law had passed and the Latter Day of the Law had begun. A passage from the sutra states, "Because [there will be those who] faithfully uphold this sutra after the Buddha's passing, all the Buddhas rejoice and display their limitless mystic powers." It also speaks of "[one who is able to uphold this sutra] in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law,..."

Question: All omens, whether good or bad, foretell something that will occur in an hour or two, a day or two, a year or two, or in seven or twelve years at the most. How could there be any omens that foretell what will take place more than two thousand years later?

Answer: The event presaged by omens which appeared during the reign of King Chao of the Chou dynasty became a reality after a thousand and fifteen long years. King Kiriki's dream came true no less than twenty-two thousand years later. How, then, can you doubt that there are omens which portend something more than two thousand years before it actually happens?

Question: Why were the omens presaging the time after Shakyamuni Buddha's passing greater than those which concerned his lifetime?

Answer: The earth trembles in response to the agitation of the people's six sense organs. Depending on the extent of this agitation, the six different ways in which the earth quakes will vary in intensity. The pre-Lotus Sutra teachings seem to extinguish people's earthly desires [associated with their six sense organs], but in reality they do not. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra conquers the fundamental darkness [from which all earthly desires originate]. Hence the earth trembles violently. Moreover, there are many more evil persons in this latter age than during the Buddha's lifetime. It was for these reasons that, for the Latter Day, the Buddha caused far greater omens to appear than those concerning his own time.

Question: What proof can you offer [that the number of evil persons is greater in the Latter Day]?

Answer: The sutra states, "Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even during the Buddha's lifetime, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" Setting aside the seven reigns of heavenly gods and the five reigns of earthly gods, in the more than two thousand years of the ninety reigns of human rulers, the great earthquake of the Shoka era and the extraordinary phenomena which appeared in the heavens during the Bun'ei era were prodigies unprecedented in Japan. If the people are filled with joy, auspicious omens will appear in the heavens, and quakes caused by the god Taishaku will shake the earth. On the other hand, if their minds are obsessed with evil, there will be ominous changes in the heavens and terrible calamities on earth. The magnitude of sinister occurrences in the heavens varies according to the degree of the people's anger; the same holds true of disasters on earth. Japan today is filled with people, from the ruler on down to the common citizens, whose minds are possessed by great evil. This evil is born of their hatred for me, Nichiren.

There is a sutra entitled Shugo Kokkai, a scripture which came after the Lotus Sutra. It relates how King Ajatashatru went to the Buddha and asked, "Every year, my country has been beset by great droughts, violent gales, floods, famine and pestilence. Moreover, we have been attacked by another nation. Why should all these disasters occur, when this is the very country in which the Buddha made his advent?"

The Buddha replied, "Splendid, splendid! It is admirable of you, O great king, to have asked this question. But you have committed many wrongs and evils. Among them, you killed your own father and, taking Devadatta as your teacher, you did me injury. Because these two offenses are so serious, your country is beset by innumerable disasters." The sutra goes on to quote the Buddha as saying, "After my death, in the Latter Day of the Law, when monks like Devadatta fill the land, a single monk will appear who embraces the True Law. Those evil monks will exile and put to death this man of the True Law. They will violate not only the kings's consort but the daughters of the common people as well, thereby filling the country with the seed of slanderers. For this reason, the nation will suffer various calamities and will later be invaded by a foreign country."

The followers of Nembutsu in the world today are exactly like the evil monks mentioned in the above sutra. Moreover, the conceit of the Shingon teachers exceeds that of Devadatta ten billion times. Let me briefly describe the bizarre conduct of the Shingon sect. Its priests paint a picture of the nine honored ones seated on a eight-petaled lotus in the center of the Womb World. Then they climb onto this picture and, stepping on the faces of the Buddhas, conduct their ceremony of anointment. It is as if they were trampling on the faces of their own parents or treading on the emperor's head. Such priests as these fill the entire country, becoming the teachers of both high an low. No wonder the nation faces ruin!

What I have stated earlier is the most important of my teachings. I will explain it again on another occasion. I have written to you a little about this matter before, but do not tell it to others indiscriminately. You have sent me expression of your sincerity not only once or twice but whenever the opportunity presented itself. I can find no words [to express my appreciation].

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 4, page 145.

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