An Outline of the Zokurui and Other Chapters
I have received your offering of seven kan of coins. The essence of the Zokurui (twenty-second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra is as follows. The Buddha, [rising from his seat in the Treasure Tower,] stood in open space and, in order to make a transfer of the Lotus Sutra, stroked no fewer than three times the heads of Bodhisattva Jogyo and his followers, Monju and his followers, Daibonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, the dragon kings, the ten demon daughters and others. They had clustered before the Buddha as thick as dew, crowding the four hundred billion nayuta worlds like the grasses of Musashino or the trees covering Mount Fuji. They knelt close to one another, bending their bodies so that their heads touched the ground and sweating with palms joined together. [Shakyamuni Buddha stroked their heads] just as a mother strokes the hair of her only child. Then, Jogyo, the gods of the sun and moon, and the others received the Buddha's auspicious command and pledged to propagate the Lotus Sutra in the latter age.
As for the Yakuo (twenty-third) chapter: in the past a bodhisattva called Kiken learned the Lotus Sutra from the Buddha Pure Bright Excellence of Sun and Moon. So deeply moved was he by this favor received from his teacher and by the loftiness of the sutra that he exhausted all his precious treasures in offerings. Still unsatisfied, he anointed himself with oil and burned his body as an offering to the Buddha for a period of twelve hundred years, just as today we burn oil by inserting a wick and lighting it. Then, in his next lifetime he made torches of his arms and burned them for seventy-two thousand years as an offering to the Lotus Sutra. So if a woman makes offerings to the Lotus Sutra now in the fifth five-hundred-year period, this bodhisattva's benefits will all be bequeathed to her without exception, just as a wealthy man transfers his entire fortune to his only son.
The Myoon (twenty-fourth) chapter tells of a bodhisattva called Myoon who dwells in the land of the Buddha Wisdom King of the Pure Flower Constellation in the east. In the past, in the age of the Buddha King Cloud Thunder-Sound, he was Lady Jotoku, the wife of King Myoshogon. At that time, Lady Jotoku made offerings to the Lotus Sutra and was reborn as Bodhisattva Myoon. When the Tathagata Shakyamuni expounded the Lotus Sutra in the saha world, this bodhisattva came to attend the ceremony and pledged to protect those women who would embrace the Lotus Sutra in the latter age.
The Kannon (twenty-fifth) chapter is also called the Fumon chapter. The first part describes the merit of those who put faith in Bodhisattva Kanzeon [or Kannon] - so the title Kannon chapter. The latter part expounds the merit of those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, [the teaching of universal enlightenment,] which Bodhisattva Kannon upholds - so the title Fumon [universal gate] chapter.
The Dharani (twenty-sixth) chapter describes how the two saints, the two heavenly gods, and the ten demon daughters will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The two saints are Yakuo and Yuze, and the two heavenly gods are Bishamon and Jikoku. The ten demon daughters are the ten major female demons, the mothers of all demons of the four continents. Moreover, these ten demon daughters have a mother, who is called Kishimojin.
It is the nature of demons to feed on human beings. Human beings are formed of thirty-six elements: excrement, urine, saliva, flesh, blood, skin, bone, the five major internal organs, the six internal organs, the hair of the head, the hair of the body, breath, life, and so forth. Demons of inferior capacity feed upon excrement and the like. Demons of intermediate capacity eat bones and similar parts, while demons of superior capacity live on human vitality. As demons of superior capacity, the ten demon daughters subsist on human vitality. They are the powerful demons who bring about epidemics.
There are two kinds of demons, good and evil. Good demons feed upon enemies of the Lotus Sutra, while evil demons feed upon the sutra's votaries. How should we interpret the great epidemics that have spread throughout Japan both last year and this year? From one view point, they are the work of good demons who are devouring enemies of the Lotus Sutra with the approval of Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings. Yet from another view, they are the work of evil demons who are feeding upon the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra at the urging of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. Good demons devouring enemies of the Lotus Sutra are like government soldiers punishing enemies of the ruler. But evil demons eating votaries of the Lotus Sutra are like robbers and night thieves murdering government soldiers.
For example, when Buddhism was brought to Japan, the chief minister Mononobe no Moriya and others who opposed it were struck down by epidemics, but Soga no Umako and others [who espoused Buddhism] also fell ill. Three successive emperors, Kimmei, Bidatsu and Yomei, believed in Buddhism and Shakyamuni Buddha in their hearts but outwardly worshiped the Sun Goddess and the Kumano shrines, abiding by the traditional rites of the nation. Because their faith in the Buddha and his teachings was weak, while their faith in the gods was strong, these three rulers were pulled by the stronger influence and died in smallpox epidemics.
You should ponder in light of these examples the two kinds of demons mentioned above, as well as the reasons why epidemics spread among the people of the world today and why some among my followers also fall ill and perish. It follows on the one hand that those who commit their lives for the sake of faith will not fall ill, or that even if they should fall ill, they will recover. On the other hand, if they encounter great evil demons, they may be deprived of their lives. Their case will then be like that of Hatakeyama Shigetada, who was finally destroyed by the sheer number of his enemies, though he was the most powerful general in Japan.
Evil demons have possessed all the Shingon teachers in Japan, and because the Zen and Nembutsu priests all oppose Nichiren, these demons are rampant throughout the country. What is more, the followers of Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the ten demon daughters have also swarmed into Japan, and both sides are battling fiercely to defeat one another.
As the ten demon daughters pledged to protect the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in general, one would think they should protect all those who embrace the sutra [but this is not always so]. Even among people who embrace the Lotus Sutra, some are Shingon teachers who read and recite it while asserting the superiority of the Dainichi Sutra. Such people are actually slandering the Lotus Sutra. And the same principle applies as well to [all those who practice it while believing in the superiority of] any other sect.
Even among those who embrace the Lotus Sutra according to its words, there are some who resent the votary of the Lotus Sutra either because of their greed, anger and stupidity, or because of worldly matters, or because of his various actions. Although such people believe in the Lotus Sutra, they will not obtain the benefit of faith but will instead incur retribution. To explain, if a son disobeys his father and mother, he will be acting in an unfilial manner, except in a case where they are plotting a rebellion. Though a father may steal his own son's beloved wife, or a mother may steal her own daughter's beloved husband, if the son or daughter should deviate even in the slightest from the path of filial piety, they will create causes that will lead them to be abandoned by Heaven in this life and to fall into the Avichi Hell in the next. Graver still is the act of going against a worthy ruler, who is superior to a father or mother. And even graver is that of going against a secular teacher, who is a hundred thousand billion times superior to one's parents or sovereign. How grave a matter must it be, then, to go against a Buddhist teacher who has forsaken the secular world; and even more so, the teacher of the Lotus Sutra!
It is said that the Yellow River becomes clear once in a thousand years, and that a sage likewise appears in the world once in a thousand years. A Buddha makes his advent in the world once in countless kalpas. Yet even if one should meet a Buddha, it is far more difficult to encounter the Lotus Sutra. And even if one should encounter the Lotus Sutra, it is rarer still for a common mortal of the latter age to meet the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The reason is that the votary of the Lotus Sutra who expounds it in the latter age surpasses [the Buddhas and bodhisattvas appearing in] the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras and the twelve hundred and more honored ones of the Dainichi Sutra - who did not expound the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo states in his commentary, "Those who make offerings [to the votary of the Lotus Sutra] will have good fortune surpassing that of the ten honorable titles, while those who trouble [him] will have their heads split into seven pieces."
The epidemics that the Japanese nation has suffered since last year, as well as those of the past Shoka era, are totally without precedent in the reigns of the more than ninety emperors who have ruled since the beginning of the imperial era. These calamities appear to stem from the fact that the people hate the presence of a sage in this country. This is exactly what is meant when it is said that a dog that barks at a lion will have its intestines ripped open, and that an asura who tries to swallow the sun and the moon will have his head broken. Two thirds of all the people in Japan have already fallen ill in the epidemics and half of these have perished. The remaining third may not be afflicted in body, but they are afflicted in mind. Visibly or invisibly, their heads have surely been broken.
There are four kinds of punishment - general and individual, inconspicuous and conspicuous. If the people nurture hatred for a sage, general punishment will be visited upon the entire country, extending to the four continents, the six heavens of the world of desire and the four meditation heavens. When enmity is directed toward a worthy man, only those who harbor it will suffer punishment. The epidemics now spreading in Japan are general punishment. Surely the people must have opposed a sage living in this country. Because a mountain contains a jewel, its plants and trees do not wither. Because a country has a sage, that country is protected from ruin. Ignorant people do not realize that plants and trees on a mountain do not wither because of the presence of a jewel. Nor do they realize that a country falls because of enmity toward a sage.
Though the sun and the moon shine, their light will not benefit the blind. Of what use is the sound of voices to the deaf? The people in Japan are all as though blind or deaf. How immense would be the benefit if one could open all these eyes and ears, could cause all the eyes to see and the ears to hear! Who could possibly fathom this benefit? And I may add that although parents may give birth to a child who is endowed with both sight and hearing, if there is no teacher to instruct him, then his eyes and ears will be no better than those of an animal.
Among the ten directions, all the people in Japan aspire to the west. Among all Buddhas, they revere Amida Buddha; and among all practices, they invoke Amida's name. Some make these three concerns their basis yet engage in other practices, while others devote themselves to the Nembutsu alone. In the more than twenty years since the fifth year of the Kencho era (1253) up until the present, I have first clarified the Buddha's lifetime teachings in terms of their relative merit, sequence of preaching, and profundity, and upon that basis, I have asserted the superiority of the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra over the invocation of the name of Amida Buddha. Yet no one, from the ruler on down to the common people, has heeded my words. They have questioned their teachers about me, appealed to their lords, talked with their companions, and spoken to their wives, children and retainers, so that rumors concerning me have spread to every province, district, village and hamlet, as well as to its temples and shrines. As a result, everyone has come to know my name; and they all say that, if one compares the Lotus Sutra to the Nembutsu, the Nembutsu is superior and the Lotus Sutra is no match for it, and that other priests are worthy of respect while I, Nichiren, am contemptible. So, the ruler regards me with hostility, the people have come to hate me, and all Japan has become a great foe of both the Lotus Sutra and its votary. But if I say this, not only the people of Japan in general but also the ignorant among my followers will think that I am inventing groundless falsehoods in an attempt to make people believe me. However, I am saying all this for the benefit of those men and women who believe in the principle of Buddhism, and I will leave it to them to make their own judgment.
The Myoshogonno (twenty-seventh) chapter is especially applicable to women, for it explains how a wife encouraged her husband [to take faith in the Lotus Sutra]. In the latter age as well, though her name may differ, a wife who leads her husband to take faith will enjoy the same benefit as Lady Jotoku. All the more fortunate is a case like yours, in which both wife and husband have faith! It is like a bird possessing two wings or a cart having two wheels. What is there that you two cannot achieve? Because there is a heaven and an earth, a sun and a moon, the sun shines and the rain falls, and the plants and trees of benefit will surely blossom and bear fruit.
Next we come to the Kambotsu (twenty-eighth) chapter. Though there were many monks among the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha, Mahakashyapa and Ananda always accompanied him on his right and left, just like the ministers of the right and left who attend the ruler. This was when the Buddha expounded the Hinayana sutras. Moreover, among all the innumerable bodhisattvas, Fugen and Monju were distinguished as Lord Shakyamuni's ministers of the right and left. It was strange, therefore that Bodhisattva Fugen, one of Shakyamuni's two ministers, should be absent during the eight years when the Buddha expounded the Lotus Sutra, which surpasses all the other sutras of his lifetime teachings, in the ceremony where the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions gathered in numbers exceeding those of the dust particles that comprise the earth. But when the Myoshogonno chapter had been expounded and the preaching of the Lotus Sutra was drawing to a close, Bodhisattva Fugen came hurrying belatedly from the land of the Buddha King Surpassing the Awesome Excellence of Gems in the east, accompanied by the sounds of billions of musical instruments and leading a retinue of countless numbers of the eight kinds of lowly beings. Probably fearing the Buddha's displeasure at his tardy arrival, he assumed a serious expression and pledged in all earnestness to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age. The Buddha, no doubt pleased with Fugen's extraordinary sincerity in vowing to spread the Lotus Sutra throughout the continent of Jambudvipa, thereupon praised him - more warmly, in fact, than he had earlier praised the other bodhisattvas of high rank.
It is no ordinary thing for a woman in the latter age to have resolved to make an offering to each of the twenty-eight chapters of this wonderful Lotus Sutra. At the ceremony of the Hoto (eleventh) chapter, the Tathagatas Taho and Shakyamuni, the Buddhas of the ten directions and all bodhisattvas gathered together. When I ponder where the Hoto chapter is now, I see that it is to be found in the eight-petaled lotus of the heart within the breast of Lady Nichinyo. This is like the lotus seed containing the lotus flower within it or an empress carrying a crown prince in her womb. When someone, having observed the ten good precepts, is destined to be born a crown prince and awaits his birth in the empress's womb, the heavenly gods will protect him. That is why a crown prince is called the Son of Heaven. Each of the 69,384 characters of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra is like a crown prince and is the seed of a Buddha.
There are shadows in the darkness, but people cannot discern them. There are trails in the sky where birds fly, but people cannot recognize them. There are paths in the sea along which fish swim, but people cannot perceive them. All people and things of the four continents are reflected in the moon without a single exception, but people cannot see them. But they are visible to the divine eye. In like manner, common mortals cannot see that the Hoto chapter exists within the body of Lady Nichinyo, but Shakyamuni, Taho and the Buddhas of the ten directions perceive it. I, Nichiren, also presume this to be the case. How worthy of respect!
King Wen of the Chou dynasty was victorious in battle because he took care to provide for elderly people. Toward the end of the thirty-seven reigns spanning eight hundred years that his descendants ruled, there were some incidents of misgovernment, but on the whole the Chou dynasty prospered due to that fundamental virtue. King Ajatashatru, though a most evil man, was able to hold the throne for ninety years owing to the merit of his father, King Bimbisara, who had made offerings to the Buddha for several years. The same principle holds true today. I do not think the present regime will last long, as it opposes the Lotus Sutra. Yet, probably because of the excellent administrations of the late Gon no Tayu and the former governor of Musashi, it appears to be secure for the time being. But in this case, too, the present government will eventually collapse if it continues its enmity toward the Lotus Sutra. The government officials mistakenly think that the Nembutsu priests are friendly to the Lotus Sutra while Nichiren is hostile to the Nembutsu; and they claim to believe in both teachings. I, Nichiren, say in rebuttal: if nothing is vitally wrong with the present government, then why have such unprecedented epidemics, famines and wars broken out? Why have the authorities twice subjected the votary of the Lotus Sutra to grave punishment without allowing him to confront the other sects in open debate? How pitiful!
Even under such circumstances, you as a woman have inherited the life of the Lotus Sutra. In fact you have inherited the life of the parents of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the Buddhas of the ten directions. Is there anyone else in the world who enjoys such good fortune?
With my deep respect,
The twenty-fifth day of the sixth month
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 5, page 263.
Designed by Will Kallander