- Kito Sho -
Nichiren, the shramana of Japan
Question: Of the types of prayer that one offers based upon the teachings of the Kegon sect, the Hosso sect, the Sanron sect, the three Hinayana sects,1 the Shingon sect or the Tendai sect, which type is effective?
Answer: Since they represent the preaching of the Buddha, they can all in some sense be considered prayer. But prayers that are based upon the Lotus Sutra are certain to be true prayers.
Question: What is the reason for that?
Answer: The persons of the two vehicles, though they spent kalpas numerous as the dust particles of the earth practicing the sutras that correspond to the first four flavors,2 could never attain Buddhahood. But by listening to the Lotus Sutra for just an instant they became Buddhas. For this reason, Shariputra, Mahakashyapa and the others who make up the twelve hundred persons3 and the twelve thousand persons, and all the other persons of the two vehicles who attained Buddhahood, will certainly respond to the prayers of those who practice the Lotus Sutra. And they will take upon themselves the pains of such practitioners.
Therefore it is stated in the Shinge chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]:
The World-Honored One in his great mercy makes use of a rare thing, in pity and compassion teaching and converting, bringing benefit to us. in numberless millions of kalpas who could ever repay him? Though we offer him our hands and feet, bow our heads in respectful obeisance, and present all manner of offerings, none of us could repay him. Though we lift him on the crown of our heads, bear him on our two shoulders, for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands reverence him with all our hearts; though we come with delicate foods, with countless jeweled robes, with articles of bedding, various kinds of potions and medicines; with ox-head sandalwood and all kinds of rare gems, construct memorial towers and spread the ground with jeweled robes; though we were to do all this by way of offering for kalpas numerous as Ganges sands, still we could not repay him.
In this passage from the sutra, the four great voice-hearers, having heard the message of the Hiyu chapter and learned how they can become Buddhas, are expounding on how difficult it is to repay ones debt of gratitude to the Buddha and to the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, we can understand that, to persons of the two vehicles, the practitioners of this sutra are more important than a father or a mother, than a beloved child, than their own two eyes or their body and life itself.
Though I do not think that the great voice-hearers such as Shariputra and Maudgalyayana would actually cast aside a practitioner who praised any of the teachings put forth by the Buddha in the course of his lifetime, still it is likely that they feel a small degree of resentment toward the various sutras that were preached previous to the Lotus Sutra. This is because a strong warning has been given that "Within the Buddhas teachings ... they are like seeds that have already been spoiled."4 But now these voice-hearers have become the Buddha Flower Glow, the Buddha Rare Form and the Buddha Universal Brightness,5 a most unexpected stroke of good fortune. They must feel as though the Kun-lun Mountains had crumbled apart and they were able to enter those mountains of jewels. That is why the passage of appreciation says: "This cluster of unsurpassed jewels has come to us unsought."6
So there can be no doubt that all persons of the two vehicles will protect the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. Even lowly creatures know enough to repay a debt of gratitude. Thus the bird known as the wild goose will invariably carry out its filial duty to the mother bird when she is about to die. And the fox never forgets its old hillock.7 If even creatures such as these will do so, then how much more so a human being?
A man named Wang Shou was traveling along a road when he became hungry and weary. Beside the road was a plum tree that was loaded with fruit. Wang Shou ate the fruit and thereby satisfied his hunger. But he said to himself, "I have eaten the fruit of this plum tree and thus restored my strength and spirits. it would not be right if I failed to repay this debt of gratitude." So saying, he took off his robe and hung it on the plum tree before going on his way.
A man named Wang Yin was traveling along a road when he became thirsty for a drink of water. Crossing a river, he drank some of the water, and then he tossed a coin into the river as payment for the water he had drunk.
A dragon will invariably protect a monk who is wearing a Buddhist surplice. The reason is that a dragon once received a Buddhist surplice from the Buddha and, placing it around its beloved child in the dragon palace, was able to prevent the child from being eaten by garuda birds.8
A garuda bird will invariably protect a person who carries out his filial duty toward his parents. Dragons would eat the beloved chicks of the garuda bird after shaking them off Mount Sumeru. But the Buddha instructed the garuda bird to take the offerings of rice that Buddhist monks set aside from the alms given them by filial persons, and to place these offerings on top of Mount Sumeru. In this way, the garuda bird was able to prevent its chicks from being eaten by dragons.9
Heaven will invariably protect a person who observes the precepts and practices good. If persons who are born into the human realm do not observe the precepts or practice good, then when these persons in the human realm die, they will in most cases be reborn in the realm of the asura. And if the persons in the realm of the asura become very numerous, they will grow arrogant and will inevitably offend against heaven.
However, if persons who are born into the human realm observe the precepts and practice good, when they die they will invariably be reborn in the realm of heavenly beings. And if those in the realm of heavenly beings become very numerous, the asuras will be frightened and will not dare to offend against heaven. That is the reason why heaven invariably protects persons who observe the precepts and practice good.
Persons of the two vehicles are more excellent in the virtue gained from their observance of the precepts and more astute in wisdom than ordinary persons in the six paths. Therefore, how could they possibly ever abandon those who practice the Lotus Sutra, since the Lotus Sutra is the means that has enabled them to attain Buddhahood?
Moreover, none of the bodhisattvas and ordinary persons, though in order to become a Buddha they practiced the teachings of the various sutras preached in the forty and more years previous to the Lotus Sutra for a period of countless kalpas, could ever succeed in attaining Buddhahood. But by practicing the Lotus Sutra, they were able to attain Buddhahood. And now these Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions are endowed with the thirty-two distinctive features and eighty characteristics that distinguish a Buddha, and are looked up to by persons in the other nine realms just as the stars cluster about the moon, as the eight mountains surround Mount Sumeru, as the persons of the four continents look up to the sun, or as the common people look up to the wheel-turning king. And the fact that these Buddhas are looked up to in this manner is due, is it not, to the benefit and blessing bestowed by the Lotus Sutra?
Therefore, in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha gives this warning: "There is no need to enshrine the relics of the Buddha there."10 And the Nirvana Sutra says: "What the Buddhas take as their teacher is the Law. Therefore the Buddhas honor, respect and make offerings to it." In the passage from the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha is saying that his relics need not be enshrined in the stupa alongside the Lotus Sutra. And the passage from the Nirvana Sutra indicates that the Buddhas should honor, respect and make offerings to the Lotus Sutra.
The Buddhas, because they were enlightened by the Lotus Sutra, were able to attain Buddhahood. Therefore, if they should fail to preach the sutra to others, they would be withholding from others the seeds of Buddhahood and would be committing a fault. For this reason, Shakyamuni Buddha made his appearance in this saha world and prepared to preach it. But the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, who is a manifestation of fundamental darkness, entered into the bodies of all the various people and caused them to hate the Buddha and impede his preaching.
Thus the king known as Virudhaka killed five hundred persons of the Shakya clan; Angulimala chased after the Buddha; Devadatta rolled a huge stone down on him; and Chincha, the daughter of a Brahman, tied a bowl to her belly and claimed to be pregnant with the Buddhas child.
The lord of a Brahman city proclaimed that a fine of five hundred ryo of gold should be levied against anyone who invited the Buddha into the city. As a result, the people of the city blocked the road with thorns, threw filth into the wells, built a barricade of spikes at the gate, and put poison in the Buddhas food, all because of their hatred of him.
The nun Utpalavarna was murdered,11 Maudgalyayana was killed by the Brahmans of the Bamboo Staff school,12 and Kalodayin was buried in horse dung,13 all because of animosity toward the Buddha.
Nevertheless, the Buddha managed to survive these various ordeals, and, at the age of seventy-two, forty-two years after he first began preaching the Buddhist Law, at a mountain called Gridhrakuta northeast of the city of Rajagriha in central India, he began to preach the Lotus Sutra. He preached it for a period of eight years. Then, on the bank of the Ajitavati River at the city of Kushinagara in eastern India, in the middle of the night on the fifteenth day of the second month, when he was eighty years of age, he entered nirvana.
But before that, he had revealed his enlightenment in the form of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, the words of this sutra are indeed the very soul of Shakyamuni Buddha. And since every single word constitutes the soul of the Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha will protect persons who practice this sutra as though he were protecting his very own eyes. He will accompany such persons just as a shadow accompanies a body. How then could the prayers of such persons not be answered?
During the first forty and more years of the Buddhas teaching life, the various bodhisattvas had tried to attain Buddhahood through the sutras beginning with the Kegon Sutra, but they were unable to do so. But when the Hoben chapter of the Lotus Sutra was preached, announcing the concise replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle,14 then:
The bodhisattvas seeking to be Buddhas in a great force of eighty thousand, as well as the wheel-turning kings [who] come from ten thousands of millions of lands, all press their palms and with reverent minds wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment.
And when, in response to this desire, they heard the expanded replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, then, we are told, "When the bodhisattvas hear this Law, they will be released from all entanglements of doubt."15
After that, bodhisattvas from this world and from other regions gathered round like clouds and were ranged in ranks like stars. And when the Hoto chapter was preached, the Buddhas of the ten directions gathered round, each accompanied by countless numbers of bodhisattvas.
Monju appeared from the sea accompanied by countless bodhisattvas,16 and in addition there were the eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas,17 and the bodhisattvas who were more numerous than the sands of eight Ganges rivers,18 and the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of one thousand worlds who emerged from the earth,19 and in the Fumbetsu kudoku chapter, the bodhisattvas numerous as the sands of the six hundred and eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges rivers, the bodhisattvas multiplied a thousand times, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a world, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a major world system, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of an intermediate world system, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a minor world system, the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of four four-continent worlds, or the dust particles of three four-continent worlds, two four-continent worlds or one four-continent world and the persons numerous as the dust particles of eight worlds.
There were the eighty-four thousand bodhisattvas of the Yakuo chapter; the eighty-four thousand bodhisattvas and the forty-two thousand heavenly sons of the Myoon chapter; the eighty-four thousand persons of the Fumon chapter; the sixty-eight thousand persons of the Dharani chapter; the eighty-four thousand persons of the Myoshogonno chapter; and the bodhisattvas numerous as the Ganges sands and the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust particles of a major world system of the Kambotsu chapter.
If we were to count up all these bodhisattvas, they would be as numerous as the dust particles of the worlds of the ten directions, as the plants and trees in the worlds of the ten directions, as the stars in the worlds of the ten directions, or as the drops of rain in the worlds of the ten directions. And all of these beings attained Buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra, and are dwelling on the earth, under the earth or in the sky of this present major world system.
The Venerable Mahakashyapa lives on Mount Kukkutapada, Monjushiri lives on Mount Clear and Cool, Bodhisattva Jizo lives on Mount Kharadiya, Kannon lives on Mount Potalaka, Bodhisattva Miroku lives in the Tushita heaven, Nanda and the countless other dragon kings and asura kings live at the bottom of the sea or at the seaside, Taishaku lives in the Trayastrimsha heaven, Bonten lives in the Summit of Being heaven, Makeishura lives in the sixth heaven of Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the Four Heavenly Kings live on the slopes of Mount Sumeru, and the, sun, the moon and the crowds of stars appear before our eyes and shine over our heads. The river gods, the stream gods and the mountain gods were all among the honored ones present at the assembly when the Lotus Sutra was preached.
It has now been over twenty-two hundred years since the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra. Human beings have a short life span, and therefore there are no persons alive today who have seen the Buddha with their own eyes. But in the heavenly realm the span of a day is long and the beings there have long lives, and, as a result, there are uncountably numerous heavenly beings still alive who have seen the Buddha and listened to him preach the Lotus Sutra.
Fifty years in the life of a human being is equivalent to no more than one day and one night in the lives of beings in the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings. And these heavenly beings, passing such days and nights, with thirty such days to a month and twelve such months to a year, live to be five hundred years old. Therefore, twenty-two hundred or more years in the lives of human beings will be equivalent to only forty-four days in the lives of beings in the Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Hence from the point of view of the deities of the sun and the moon and the heavenly king Bishamon, it has been only forty-four days, or less than two months, since the Buddha passed away. And from the point of view of Taishaku and Bonten, not even a month, not even a brief period has passed since the Buddha departed. In such a short time, how could these heavenly beings have forgotten the vow that they took in the presence of the Buddha, or the debt of gratitude they owe to the sutra that allowed them to attain Buddhahood, and thus abandon the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra? When we think of it in this way, we can feel greatly assured.
Therefore we know that the prayers offered by a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will be answered just as an echo answers a sound, as a shadow follows a form, as the reflection of the moon appears in clear water, as a mirror collects dewdrops,20 as a lodestone attracts iron, as amber attracts particles of dust, or as a bright mirror reflects the color of an object.
Concerning the ways of the ordinary world, though a person may not be inclined to a certain act, if he is urged to it by his parents, his sovereign, his teachers, his wife and children, or his close friends, and if he is a person of conscience, he will overlook his own inclinations and will sacrifice his name and profit, and even his life, in order to perform the act. How much more earnest will he be, then, if the act is something that springs from his own heart. In such a case, even the restraints of his parents, his sovereign or his teachers cannot prevent him from carrying out the action.
Thus it was that a worthy man named Fan Yu-chi cut off his own head so that it could be presented to Ching Ko, and Chi-cha, having pledged to present his sword to the lord of Hsu, hung it on the lords grave.
Similarly, at the gathering on Eagle Peak, the dragon kings daughter attained Buddhahood in her present form. In the Hinayana sutras women were despised because they are hindered by the thick clouds of the five obstacles and bound by the strong chords of the three obediences; and in the Mahayana sutras expounded in the first forty and more years of the Buddhas preaching, women were rejected, since they were thought to be incapable of carrying out religious practice over many kalpas. Or, though it had been stated that "The first time they conceive the desire to do so, they can attain enlightenment,"21 this was indicated as a possibility in name only, with no actual examples to support it. So, in effect, the attainment of Buddhahood by women was denied.
Thus, even a woman who was in the realm of human or heavenly beings had no hope of ever finding the way to become a Buddha. How much less hope was there for this woman [described in the Lotus Sutra], a humble being born among the creatures known as dragons, who had not yet reached maturity but was only eight years old. And yet, contrary to all expectations, through the instruction of Monju, in the short space of time between the Hosshi and Devadatta chapters when the Buddha was preaching the Hoto chapter, in the midst of the ocean she attained Buddhahood. This was a most wonderful happening! If it had not been for the power of the Lotus Sutra, the foremost among all the teachings of the Buddhas lifetime, how could such a thing have come about?
Therefore, Miao-lo remarks of the event: "Practice is shallow but the results are profound, which is evidence of the power of the sutra."22 And because the dragon girl was able to attain Buddhahood through this sutra, even if she had not been admonished against it by the Buddha, how could she ever abandon someone who is a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra? Therefore, in the verse that she uttered in praise of the Buddha, she stated: "I unfold the doctrines of the great vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering."23
Her oath was the oath taken by her retinue, or all the creatures known as dragons, whose number is so vast that "it can be neither expressed by the mouth nor fathomed by the mind."24 The dragon king Sagara, though only a lowly creature, cared profoundly for his daughter. Therefore he took the finest treasure in all the great ocean, a wish-granting jewel, and had his daughter present it to the Buddha as alms, in recognition of the fact that she had attained Buddhahood in her present form. This jewel was equivalent in value to a major world system.
Devadatta was the grandson of King Simhahanu, the son of Shakyamuni Buddhas uncle, King Dronodana, and an elder brother of the Venerable Ananda. His mother was a daughter of the rich man Suprabuddha. He was thus a member of the family of a wheel-turning king and held a high social position in the southern continent of Jambudvipa.
While he was still an ordinary member of society, the woman he had intended to marry, Yashodhara, was taken away by Prince Siddhartha, and he thereafter looked upon him as he would an enemy from a past existence.
Later, he broke his ties with his family and joined the Buddhist order, but when there were large gatherings of human beings and heavenly beings, the Buddha would censure him, calling him a fool or one who eats others spit. In addition, being a man who cared deeply about fame and personal profit, he envied the attention that was paid to the Buddha. He then began observing the five ascetic practices in an attempt to appear more admirable than the Buddha. He pounded iron to make a thousand-spoked wheel pattern25 to imprint on his feet, gathered together fireflies to form a tuft of white hair between his eyebrows,26 and committed to memory sixty thousand and eighty thousand jeweled teachings.27 He erected an ordination platform on Mount Gayashirsha and lured many of the Buddhas disciples over to his side. He painted his fingernails with poison and attempted to smear the poison on the feet of the Buddha. He beat the nun Utpalavarna to death, and rolled a huge rock down on the Buddha, injuring the latter on the toe. He was guilty of committing three of the cardinal sins,28 and in the end gathered about him all the evil men of the five regions of India and strove to harm the Buddha and his disciples and lay supporters.
King Bimbisara was the foremost of the Buddhas lay supporters. Each day he dispatched five hundred wagons, day after day supplying alms to the Buddha and his disciples. But Devadatta, driven by his intense jealousy, talked to Prince Ajatashatru, and in time persuaded him to attack his father, King Bimbisara, whereupon he killed his father by pinning him down with seven foot-long nails.
In the end, the earth in front of the northern gate of the capital city of Rajagriha split open and Devadatta fell into the great citadel of the Avichi hell. There was not a single being in the entire major world system who did not witness the event.
One would suppose that as a result, he would never be able to escape from the great citadel of incessant suffering, even though as many kalpas should pass as there are particles of dust on the earth. And yet, amazing as it is, and admirable as well, in the Lotus Sutra he became a Buddha called Heavenly King. And if Devadatta can become a Buddha, then all the countless other evil persons who were enticed by him, since they shared with him the same karmic cause and effect, must surely have been able to escape from the pains of the hell of incessant suffering.
This is entirely due to the benefit and blessing of the Lotus Sutra. Thus Devadatta and all the countless persons who attended him now can dwell in the house of the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra [in order to protect them]. What a comforting thought!
The various bodhisattvas, who were as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth, had advanced to the level of near-perfect enlightenment,29 which means they had freed themselves of everything but their fundamental darkness. When they were fortunate enough to encounter Shakyamuni Buddha, they thought that they would be able to smash this great boulder of fundamental darkness. But in the first forty and more years of his preaching life Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, explained that while he could expound on the causes of enlightenment, he could not expound on its effects. There fore he did not make clear to them the benefits of perfect enlightenment. Hence not a single one of them was able to advance to the stage of perfect enlightenment. This was contrary to their expectations.
But during the eight years when he preached at Eagle Peak, the Buddha expounded on the effects of enlightenment, which are called the one vehicle of Buddhahood. All the bodhisattvas were then able to advance to the stage of perfect enlightenment, so that their enlightenment was equal to that of Shakyamuni Buddha. it was as though they had climbed to the very top of Mount Sumeru and could see in all four directions. All became bright and clear, as though the sun had appeared in the midst of a long night. Even if the Buddha had not instructed them to do so, could they have failed to resolve to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, or to take upon themselves the sufferings of its practitioners?
Therefore, they made a vow, saying, "We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way,"30 "We never begrudging our bodies or lives,"31 or "We will preach this sutra far and wide."32
Furthermore, Shakyamuni Buddha, who is like a kind father, and Taho Buddha, who is like a loving mother, and the Buddhas of the ten directions, who had appeared in order to add their testimony and who are like affectionate parents, were ranged together in the assembly, so that it was as though two moons had come together or two suns had appeared side by side.
At that time the Buddha spoke three times in warning, saying: "So I say to the great assembly: After I have passed into extinction, who can guard and uphold, read and recite this sutra? Now in the presence of the Buddha let him come forward and speak his vow!"33
Then the great bodhisattvas who filled four hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of worlds in each of the eight directions bent their bodies, bowed their heads, pressed their palms together, and all raised their voices in unison, saying, "We will respectfully carry out all these things just as the World-Honored One has commanded."34 Three times they cried out, not sparing their voices. How then could they fail to take upon themselves the sufferings of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra?
Fan Yu-chi gave his head to Ching Ko, and Chi-cha hung his sword on the grave of the lord of Hsu; in both cases they acted so as not to go back on promises that had been made. if even these persons, foreigners in the far-off land of China, could, because of a promise made to a friend, sacrifice their own lives or hang on a grave a sword that meant more to them than life itself, then how much more can one expect from the great bodhisattvas, who from the first have been beings of great compassion and have taken profound vows to undergo suffering on behalf of others? Even if the Buddha had not admonished them against such action, how could they ever cast aside the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra?
What is more, it was through the Lotus Sutra that these bodhisattvas attained Buddhahood, and the Buddha fervently admonished them concerning it, so that they took solemn vows in the presence of the Buddha. There can be no doubt, therefore, that they will aid its practitioner.
The Buddha is the sovereign of the human and heavenly realms and the parent of all living beings. Moreover, he is the teacher who leads and opens the way. Though a person may be a parent if he is of humble social position, he cannot at the same time fulfill the function of sovereign. And though one may be a sovereign, if he is not also a parent, he will inspire only awe and fear. And though one may be both a parent and a sovereign, he cannot be a teacher as well.
The various Buddhas [other than Shakyamuni], since they are known as World-Honored Ones, may be regarded as sovereigns. But since they do not make their appearance in this saha world, they are not teachers. Nor do they declare that " the living beings in it [this threefold world] are all my children."35 Thus Shakyamuni Buddha alone fulfills the three functions of sovereign, teacher and parent.
Nevertheless, during the first forty and more years of his preaching life, Shakyamuni cursed Devadatta, censured the various voice-hearers and refused to teach the bodhisattvas the doctrines pertaining to the fruits of enlightenment. Though people did not actually say so to others, they sometimes wondered in their hearts whether this Buddha was not in fact the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, or Papiyas,36 so greatly did he trouble them.
They continued to harbor these doubts for forty and more years, until the preaching of the Lotus Sutra began. But then, during the eight years at Eagle Peak, the Treasure Tower appeared in the air with the two Buddhas37 seated side by side in it like the sun and the moon. The various other Buddhas ranged themselves over the ground like so many great mountains gathered together, the bodhisattvas, numerous as the dust particles of one thousand worlds, who had emerged from the earth ranged themselves in the air like so many stars, and the Buddha revealed the blessings that the various Buddhas enjoy as the result of their enlightenment. It was as though a storehouse of treasures had been unlocked and the contents presented to poor people, as though the Kun-lun Mountains, with all their riches, had broken open.
During these eight years, the hearts of the persons who were present at the assembly were filled with awe when they observed these rare and wonderful events, as if they were gathering up nothing but treasures. The bodhisattvas, unbegrudging of their lives, unstinting with their words, vowed to do as the Buddha had encouraged them. And then, in the Zokurui chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha emerged from the Treasure Tower and closed its doors. The various other Buddhas thereupon returned to their respective lands, and the bodhisattvas who had appeared with them followed along in company with the Buddhas.
The people were feeling increasingly lonely, when the Buddha announced, "Three months from now I will enter nirvana."38 The announcement astounded them and made them even more depressed.
Ever since the various bodhisattvas, persons of the two vehicles, and human and heavenly beings had heard the Lotus Sutra, they had all been imbued with a heartfelt sense of the benefit and blessing bestowed on them by the Buddha, and yearned to show the Buddha how willing they were to sacrifice their bodies and lives for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. How terrible it would be, they thought, their hearts in a turmoil, if the Buddha would really enter nirvana as he had said he would!
At that time, on the fifteenth day of the second month, during the Hour of the Tiger and the Hour of the Hare (3:00 to 7:00 A.M.), when the Buddha was eighty years old, on the bank of the Ajitavati River at the city of Kushinagara in the country of Shravasti- in eastern India, the Buddhas voice was heard, announcing that he would pass into extinction. His voice radiated upward as far as the Summit of Being heaven, and echoed abroad throughout the entire major world system.39 Eyes grew dim and hearts sank.
Throughout the five regions of India, its sixteen major states, its five hundred middle-sized states, its ten thousand smaller states and its countless tiny states, the people gathered together, no one having the time to prepare clothing or food, and regardless of higher or lower social rank. Oxen and horses, wolves and dogs, eagles and vultures, gnats and gadflies, to the number of fifty-two different species, gathered together. The number of any one species was more than the particles of dust on the earth, to say nothing of the number of all fifty-two species together.
All these different species of beings brought flowers, incense, clothing and food as their final offerings to the Buddha. Their voices resounded, crying out that the jeweled bridge for all living beings was about to break, that the eye of all living beings was about to be put out, that the parent, sovereign and teacher of all living beings was about to die. Not only did their hair stand on end, but their tears flowed. Not only did their tears flow, but they beat their heads, pressed their hands to their chests, and cried aloud, not sparing their voices. The blood of their tears and the blood of their sweat fell upon Kushinagara more heavily than a torrential rain and flowed more abundantly than a mighty river. All this they did solely because the Lotus Sutra had opened for them the way to Buddhahood, and they could never repay the debt of gratitude they owed the Buddha.
Even in this scene of such grief, there were those who declared angrily that the enemies of the Lotus Sutra should have their tongues cut out, that they should never be allowed to sit with the others in the assembly. The bodhisattva. Kasho Doji vowed that he would appear in the form of frost and hail in the lands of the enemies of the Lotus Sutra. At that time the Buddha raised himself slightly from his reclining position and praised him, saying happily, "Well spoken! Well spoken!"
The other bodhisattvas, guessing where the Buddhas wishes lay, supposed that if they declared their intention to attack the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, this might prolong the Buddhas life a little, and one by one they vowed to do so. In this way the bodhisattvas and the heavenly and human beings called upon the enemies of the Lotus Sutra to appear, hoping that if they could fulfill the oath they had taken in the presence of the Buddha, then Shakyamuni Buddha as well as Taho and the other Buddhas and Thus Come Ones would understand that, faithful to the vow they had made before the Buddha, they would begrudge neither their reputations nor their lives in defense of the Lotus Sutra.
One may ask why the results of these vows should be so long in appearing. And yet, though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise up from the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered. If the bodhisattvas, the human and heavenly beings, the eight kinds of nonhuman beings, the two sages,40 the two heavenly deities41 and the ten demon daughters would by some unlikely chance fall to appear and protect the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, then they would be showing disdain for Shakyamuni and the other Buddhas above, and below they would be guilty of deceiving the beings of the nine realms.42
It makes no difference if the practitioner himself is lacking in worth, defective in wisdom, impure in his person and lacking in virtue derived from observing the precepts. So long as he chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they will invariably protect him. One does not throw away gold because the bag that holds it is dirty, one does not ignore the sandalwood trees because of the foul odor of the eranda trees around them, and one does not refuse to gather lotuses because the pond in the valley where they grow is filthy. If they ignore the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, they will be going against their vow.
Now that the Former and Middle Days of the Law are over, persons who observe the precepts are as rare as tigers in a marketplace, and men of wisdom are harder to find than the horns of a chi-lin.43 While waiting for the moon to rise, one must rely upon a torch, and when there are no true gems or treasures at hand, gold and silver must serve for treasures. The debt of gratitude one owes to the white crow may be repaid to the black crow,44 and the debt one owes to the holy priest may be repaid to the ordinary priest.45 So if you earnestly pray that blessings be given to you without delay, how can your prayers fail to be answered?
Question: When I examine the reasoning and the textual proofs you have presented above, I would have to say that, if there are a sun and a moon in the sky, if there are plants and trees on the earth, if there are day and night in this country of ours, then so long as the earth fails to turn upside down and the tides of the ocean continue to ebb and flow, there can be no doubt that the prayers of the person who puts his faith in the Lotus Sutra will be answered in this world, and that in his next existence he will enjoy good circumstances.
Nevertheless, during the past twenty years and more the eminent Tendai and Shingon leaders have in many cases offered prayers regarding important matters of state, but such prayers have by no means proved effective. Indeed, the efforts of these priests would seem to be even less efficacious than those of persons who support the teachings of non-Buddhist scriptures. This sets me to wondering if the pronouncements of the [Lotus] sutra are in some way false, if the actions of the practitioners of the sutra are to blame, or if the time or the peoples capacity is not appropriate for such actions. And this puts me in doubt regarding my future existence.
But leaving that point aside for the moment, I am told that you were a disciple of the priests of Mount Hiei. They say that the offenses of the fathers are visited upon the sons, and those of the teachers are visited upon the disciples. When the priests of Mount Hiei burned the halls and pagodas of Onjo-ji temple and of the mountain temple,46 along with thousands and tens of thousands of Buddhist images and sutras, those were terrible deeds! They threw the people of the time into turmoil and turned them against Mount Hiei. What is your opinion? I have heard a little about these events in the past, but I would like now to hear you speak in greater detail. I am full of questions. When priests behave in such an evil manner, it seems to me that they are no longer acting in accord with the spirit of the three treasures and that heaven and earth should no longer lend them shelter. I would suppose, therefore, that their prayers would not be answered. What is your opinion?
Answer: I have touched on this matter in the past, but this time I will summarize the issues. This is a matter of vital concern to the country of Japan, and because many people fail to understand it, they create negative karma through their words.
First of all, as to the origin of the temple on Mount Hiei, it was founded by the Great Teacher Dengyo in the reign of Emperor Kammu, some two hundred years after Buddhism was introduced to this country. Earlier, Prince Shotoku had declared that Kyoto, which was later to become the capital, appeared to be highly suitable for the royal residence. But the actual founding of the capital at that location was delayed until after the Tendai school had been introduced to Japan. According to the records of Prince Jogu, or Shotoku, the prince stated: "Two hundred or more years after my passing, the Buddhist Law will spread throughout Japan."47 Later, in the Enryaku era, the Great Teacher Dengyo founded the temple on Mount Hiei, and Emperor Kammu established the capital Heiankyo. Thus the prophecy of Prince Shotoku was fulfilled.
In this way the mountain temple and the royal house were like the pine and the cypress, and resembled the orchids and the grasses. When the pine withers, the cypress is bound to wither, too, and when the orchids wilt, the grasses wilt as well. Thus it seemed that the prosperity of the royal reign brought joy to the mountain temple, and that the decline of royal power brought sadness to the mountain. And now that the world has changed and power has passed to the government in the Kanto region,48 what must be their thoughts?
In the third year of the Jokyu era (1221), the year with the cyclical sign kanoto-mi, on the nineteenth day of the fourth month-around the time of the disturbance between the court and the barbarian warriors --by command of the Retired Emperor of Oki,49 altars were set up and the fifteen secret ceremonies were carried out for the first time by forty-one practitioners of such secret ceremonies in an attempt to overcome the Kanto government through the power of incantation.
These ceremonies included the one-character gold-wheel ceremony (carried out by the Tendai chief priest Jien, the administrator of monks,50 and twelve attendant priests at the command of Imperial Regent Motomichi); the ceremony of the Four Heavenly Kings (carried out by the imperial administrator of monks of Joko-ji temple [Shinsho] with eight attendant priests at the Hirose Palace at the command of Lady Shumeimonin); the ceremony of Fudo Myoo (carried out by the administrator of monks Joho and eight accompanying priests at the command of Lord Kazanin Zemmon [Fujiwara Tadatsune]); the ceremony of Daiitoku (carried out by the administrator of monks Kangon with eight accompanying priests at the command of Lady Shichijoin); the ceremony of the wheelturning king (carried out by the administrator of monks Joken with eight accompanying priests at the command of the same person as above); the ten-altar ceremony of Daiitoku (carried out by the ten priests--the administrator of monks Kakucho, the Dharma seal Shunsho, the Dharma seal Eishin, the Dharma seal Goen, the supervisor of monks Yuen, the administrator of monks Jiken, the supervisor of monks Kenjo, the supervisor of monks Senson, the supervisor of monks Gyohen and the Dharma eye Jikkaku--along with six attendant priests each, carried out for the most part at the main temple-building); the ceremony of Nyoirin (carried out by the administrator of monks Myokoin with eight accompanying priests at the command of Lady Gishumonin); and the ceremony of Bishamon (carried out by the administrator of monks Jojuin [Roson] of Mii with six accompanying priests at the command of Shichin).
And there were also objects of worship that were fashioned in a single day. The secret ceremonies based on them included the ceremony of Aizeno of the prescribed method (carried out by the head of Ninna-ji temple in the Shishin-den palace from the third day of the fifth month and for the following fourteen days); the ceremony of the Buddha eye (carried out by the administrator of monks Daijo for twenty-one days); the ceremony of the six characters (carried out by the supervisor of monks Kaiga); the ceremony of Aizeno (carried out by the administrator of monks Kangon for seven days); the ceremony of Fudo (carried out by Kanju-ji temples administrator of monks with eight accompanying priests, all holding supervisory posts in the priesthood); the ceremony of Daiitoku (carried out by the administrator of monks Aki); and the ceremony of Kongo Doji (carried out by the same person). This completes the list of the fifteen ceremonies performed before altars.
On the fifteenth day of the fifth month, Iga Taro Hogan Mitsusue was attacked and defeated in the capital. On the nineteenth day of the same month, word of this reached Kamakura. When the news arrived in the capital that a large force of troops had been dispatched on the twenty-first day to attack the capital, the remainder of the ceremonies were performed, beginning on the eighth day of the sixth month. These consisted of the ceremony of the Honorable Star King (Performed by the administrator of monks Kakucho), the ceremony of Taigen (Performed by the supervisor of monks Zou), the ceremony of the five altars (performed by the administrator of monks Daijo, the Dharma seal Eishin, the supervisor of monks Zenson, the supervisor of monks Yuen and the supervisor of monks Gyohen), and the ceremony of the Shugo Sutra (presided over by the head of Ninna-ji, it was the second time this ceremony was performed in our country).
On the twenty-first day of the fifth month, the governor of Musashi51 started for the capital on the Tokaido road, while the leader of the Genji clan of Kai52 set out on the Tosando road, and Lord Shikibu53 advanced via the Hokuriku road. On the fifth day of the sixth month the defending forces at Otsu were defeated by the Genji of Kai, and on the thirteenth and fourteenth days of the sixth month the two sides engaged in battle at the Uji Bridge. On the fourteenth the defenders of the capital suffered defeat, and on the fifteenth of the same month the governor of Musashi entered the Rokujo headquarters along with his followers.
On the eleventh day of the seventh month the Retired Emperor Gotoba was banished to the island province of Oki, the Retired Emperor Tsuchimikado was banished to the province of Awa, and the Retired Emperor Juntoku was banished to the island province of Sado. In addition, seven members of the court were put to death.
The great evil doctrine of these ceremonies over the years steadily made its way to the Kanto region, where it was embodied in the form of the superintendents or attendant priests of various temples who repeatedly performed these ceremonies. The performers of these ceremonies from the beginning could not distinguish between correct and heretical teachings, between superior and inferior doctrines, but assumed that it was sufficient merely to revere the three treasures. So without a thought they employed these ceremonies. And now not only the provinces of Kanto but the chief priests and superintendents of Mount Hiei, To-ji and Onjo-ji have all come under the jurisdiction of the Kanto authorities, so that as a result, the latter are in the position of supporting these ceremonies.
Question: Why do you insist upon referring to the Shingon teaching as a heretical doctrine?
Answer: The Great Teacher Kobo has stated: "The Dainichi Sutra is first, the Kegon Sutra is second, and the Lotus Sutra is third."54 But one should examine this ranking carefully. In what sutra did the Buddha discuss the relative worth of these three sutras and deliver this judgment? If there is in fact a sutra that declares that the Dainichi Sutra ranks first, the Kegon Sutra second, and the Lotus Sutra third, then we should accept that statement as true. But if there is no such passage, then it is not possible to accept this assertion.
The Lotus Sutra states: "Yakuo, now I say to you, I have preached various sutras, and among those sutras the Lotus is the foremost!" Here the Buddha is referring to all the teachings that he has expounded and stating that among these the Lotus ranks in first place. The Buddhas preaching of the Law and the writings of the Great Teacher Kobo are as much at variance with each other as fire and water. We must investigate and clarify this matter.
Over a period of several hundred years, ordinary priests and high-ranking priests have studied the writings of Kobo, and eminent and humble, high and low, have put their faith in them and honored the Dainichi Sutra as the foremost among all the sutras, which does not accord with the intention of the Buddha. Persons who are concerned at heart about this should examine the matter with great care. For if we put faith in writings that do not accord with the intention of the Buddha, how can we hope to attain Buddhahood? And if we follow such writings in offering prayers for the nation, how can we fail to bring about misfortune?
Moreover, Kobo writes: "The Buddhist teachers of China have vied with one another to steal the ghee."55 The meaning of this statement is that the Great Teacher Tien-tai and others stole the ghee of the Shingon teaching and called it the ghee of the Lotus Sutra. This statement is the most important point.
When the Great Teacher Tien-tai applied the simile of ghee to the Lotus Sutra, basing himself on a passage in the Nirvana Sutra,56 he declared that among all the sutras the Lotus Sutra is worthy to be compared to ghee. The Shingon teaching was introduced to China from India some two hundred years or more after the time of Tien-tai. How then could Tien-tai possibly have stolen the ghee of the Shingon teaching and called it the ghee of the Lotus Sutra? Of all strange events, this would be the strangest!
What evidence is there then for calling persons who lived two hundred years or more before the Shingon teaching was even introduced to China thieves? Are we to put faith in these writings of the Great Teacher Kobo? Or are we to put faith in the Nirvana Sutra where the Buddha likens the Lotus Sutra to ghee?
If we are to regard the Great Teacher Tien-tai as a thief, then how are we to interpret the passage in the Nirvana Sutra? And if we accept the passage in the Nirvana Sutra as reliable and conclude that the writings of Kobo are heretical in nature, then what are we to think of persons who put faith in such heretical teachings? All I can say is that one should compare the writings of the Great Teacher Kobo and the pronouncements of the Buddha concerning the Law, and then put ones faith in the one that proves to be correct.
Question: I am still in doubt. The Dainichi Sutra represents the teaching as expounded by Dainichi Buddha. And if that is so, then to use the teaching as expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha to attempt to controvert the teaching as expounded by Dainichi Buddha is surely not at all in accord with reason, is it?
Answer: Who were the parents of Dainichi Buddha, and in what country did he appear when he expounded the Dainichi Sutra? If he had no parents but simply appeared in the world, then in what sutra is it recorded that such a Buddha will appear in the world to expound the teaching during the 5,670 million years between the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha and the appearance of Miroku, the honored one of compassion? If there are no passages of proof, then who would put faith in such an assertion? The Shingon doctrines are full of mistaken assertions of this kind, which is why I spoke of them as a heretical teaching.
The list of errors is all but inexhaustible. I have done no more than give one or two examples. In addition to Shingon, the authorities rely on the Zen and Nembutsu sects. These doctrines all represent provisional teachings of the type set forth before the truth had been fully revealed. They are not the tenets that lead to the attainment of Buddhahood, but rather will create karma that condemns one to the hell of incessant suffering. Persons who practice them are guilty of slandering the Law, so how could their prayers possibly be answered?
One who is a ruler of a nation has become so because in the past he upheld the correct teaching and served the Buddha. It is through the calculations of the heavenly kings Bonten and Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and others that all rulers, great and small, succeed in acquiring their districts and domains. Thus the sutra says: "Now when I use the five types of vision to clearly perceive the three existences, I see that all the kings in their past existences served five hundred Buddhas, and that is the reason they were able to become emperors and sovereigns."57
But if one turns his back on the Lotus Sutra and follows the heretical teachers of Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu, then although he may carry out all kinds of good deeds, these will never accord with the will of the Buddha and will go against the intention of the gods. One should give very careful thought to this matter.
It is a rare thing to be born as a human being. And if, having been born as such, you do not do your best to distinguish between the correct doctrine and the heretical so that in the future you may attain Buddhahood, then you are certainly not fulfilling your true worth as a human being.
Moreover, after the Great Teacher Jikaku had visited China, he turned against the doctrines of his original teacher, the Great Teacher Dengyo, and worked to spread the Shingon doctrines on Mount Hiei. In order to do so, he offered up prayers, and claimed that as a result he had had a dream in which he shot an arrow at the sun and caused the sun to roll over and over. For four hundred or more years now, the people have all looked upon this as an auspicious dream. But in a country such as Japan, it is in fact a dream of a particularly ill-omened nature. King Chou of the Yin dynasty shot an arrow at the sun, and as a result he perished. Although this dream may be recounted by a provisional manifestation of a Buddha, one should ponder it very carefully.
I have only touched upon a small fraction of the matters that I could speak about--like a single hair from among nine cows.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.
Designed by Will Kallander