The Pure and Far-reaching Voice
The ruler known as Duke Huan of Ch'i loved to wear purple garments [and as a result the people of his state all did likewise]. The ruler known as King Chuang of Ch'u disliked women with thick waists, and as a result all the courtesans in the state strove to acquire slim waists, and many of them starved to death in the process. Thus what pleased one man, the ruler, was followed by all the people in the country, even though it did not necessarily accord with their own personal tastes. To give an analogy, the ruler is like a great wind that bends the grass and trees, or a great ocean that draws to itself all the rivers and streams. If the grass and trees do not bend before the wind, will they not be broken and toppled? And if the little streams do not find their destination in the great ocean, what other destination will they find?
The ruler of a state is someone who in his former existence far excelled other people in keeping the great precepts, and as a result Heaven and Earth and the various deities gave their permission for him to become a ruler. The degree of merit that he acquired through the keeping of the precepts determines what country he rules. Two or three persons are not chosen to be ruler, [but only one,] and the deity kings of Earth and Heaven, the oceans and the mountains, all gather around and protect him. How then could the people of that state turn their backs on their sovereign?
Even if the ruler should commit evil or perverse deeds, the first, second or third time he does so, the deities will refrain from punishing him. But if he carries out acts that are displeasing to the heavenly gods and other deities, then they will at first cause prodigies and strange happenings to appear in the sky and on the earth in order to reprimand him. And if he goes too far in his misdeeds, the heavenly gods and other benevolent deities will abandon and depart from his state. Or, if the merit that the ruler has acquired by observing the precepts should be entirely exhausted, then when the time comes his state may simply perish. Or, again, if his crimes and evil deeds pile up in excessive numbers, then his state may be overthrown by a neighboring kingdom. And whether for good or evil, the people of the state will invariably share the same fate as the ruler.
Such is the way of the world. And such, too, is the way with Buddhism. The Buddha long ago entrusted [the protection of] his teachings to the ruler. Therefore, even though wise men who are sages or worthies may appear, if they do not abide by the authority of the ruler, they will not be able to carry out the propagation of Buddhism. And even if it should later be propagated, it will without fail meet with great obstacles.
King Kanishka lived some four hundred years or more after the passing of the Buddha and ruled according to his will in the kingdom of Gandhara. He gathered five hundred arhats around him and paid honor to them, and he caused the Daibibasha Ron to be compiled in two hundred fascicles. But all the believers in the kingdom were followers of the Hinayana teachings, and it was very difficult for the Mahayana teachings to make any progress there. Moreover, King Pushyamitra led the five regions of India in wiping out the teachings of the Buddha and cutting off the heads of Buddhist monks, and no one, no matter how wise, could oppose him.
Emperor T'ai-tsung was a very worthy ruler. He acknowledged the Learned Doctor Hsuan-tsang as his teacher and embraced the teachings of the Hosso school, and none of his subjects ventured to do otherwise. The Hosso school is a branch of Mahayana, but it teaches the doctrine of five distinct natures, which represents a grave calamity within the realm of Buddhism. This is an evil doctrine, worse than any of the fallacious teachings expounded by non-Buddhist religions, and should never have gained approval in any of the three countries of India, China and Japan. In the end, it was discredited in Japan by the Great Teacher Dengyo. And yet, though the Hosso school was greatly in error, Emperor T'ai-tsung put faith in its teachings, and no one opposed his example.
The Shingon sect bases itself upon the Dainichi, Kongocho and Soshitsuji sutras. These are known as the three sutras of Dainichi. In the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung, the Learned Doctors Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih brought them to China from India. Emperor Hsuan-tsung held these sutras in the highest respect and regarded them as superior to the teachings of the Tendai and Kegon schools. Moreover, he believed them to surpass the Hosso and Sanron teachings as well. As a result, everyone in China came to believe that the Dainichi Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra. And in Japan, too, down to the present time, people have believed that the Tendai sect is inferior to the Shingon sect. The eminent priests of To-ji and of the Tendai sect, who pursue the Shingon teachings, are guilty of arrogance, surpassing arrogance, in what they do!
If one places the Dainichi and Lotus sutras side by side and examines them without partiality or prejudice, he will see that the Dainichi Sutra is like the light of a firefly, while the Lotus Sutra is like the full moon; that the teachings of the Shingon sect are like the crowds of little stars, while those of the Tendai sect are like the shining sun. A person who is prejudiced in the matter will say, "You have not fully understood the profound principles of the Shingon sect, and so you go on endlessly speaking ill of it." But more than six hundred years have passed since the Shingon sect was brought to China, and more than four hundred years since it spread to Japan, and I have generally acquainted myself with the various attacks and rebuttals that have been made by teachers during that time. The Great Teacher Dengyo was the only person who truly grasped the fundamental nature of this sect's teachings. Nevertheless, this sect today is the foremost offender in all of Japan. What is superior it takes to be inferior, and what is inferior it takes to be superior, and that is the reason why now, when its prayers are being used in an attempt to ward off the Mongol invaders, such prayers are on the contrary about to bring the invaders down upon us.
The Kegon sect was founded by the Dharma Master Fa-tsang. Because Empress Tse-t'ien had placed her faith in that sect, it enjoyed such great favor that none of the other sects could compete with it. Thus it would seem that the relative merit of the sects has been determined by the power and authority of the ruler, and not by the doctrines that they teach.
Even scholars and teachers who have realized the profound meaning of Buddhism cannot prevail over the ruler's authority. Those who on occasion attempted to do so met with great persecution. The Venerable Aryasimha was beheaded by King Dammira, Bodhisattva Aryadeva was murdered by a Brahman, Chu Tao-sheng was forced to withdraw to a mountain in Su-chou, and the Learned Doctor Fa-tao was branded on the face and banished to the region south of the Yangtze.
I, Nichiren, am not worthy to be called a votary of the Lotus Sutra, nor to be counted among the members of the Buddhist priesthood. Moreover, I once followed along with the other people of my time in calling on the name of the Buddha Amida. The priest Shan-tao, who was reputed to be a reincarnation of the Buddha Amida, said, "[Of those who call on the name of the Buddha Amida,] ten persons out of ten and a hundred persons out of a hundred will be reborn in the Pure Land. However, not one in a thousand can be saved [by the Lotus and other sutras]." The priest Honen, who was revered as a reincarnation of Bodhisattva Seishi, interpreted this statement, saying, "In the latter age, of those who chant the Nembutsu but mix it with other practices such as devotion to the Lotus Sutra, not one person in a thousand will be saved. But of those who embrace the Nembutsu alone, ten persons out of ten will be reborn in the Pure Land."
For the past fifty years or more, all people throughout this country of Japan, both wise men and foolish, have honored this doctrine and placed faith in it, and not a one has questioned it. Only I, Nichiren, differ from all the others in that I point out that the Buddha Amida, in his original vow, pledged to save everyone "excepting only those who commit the five cardinal sins or who slander the True Law." And I also point out that, according to the Lotus Sutra, "One who refuses to take faith in this sutra and instead slanders it immediately destroys the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.... After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell." These statements show Shan-tao and Honen to be slanderers of the True Law, and therefore they have surely been abandoned by the Buddha Amida upon whom they rely. And since they themselves have already rejected all the other Buddhas and sutras, they cannot possibly look to them for salvation. Just as the Lotus Sutra states, there can be no doubt that they are destined to fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
But since all the people throughout Japan are disciples of Shan-tao and Honen, I naturally cannot escape suffering such a great hardship [ when I make such statements]. This is the reason why people hate me and ceaselessly plot in secret to do me injury.
I will leave aside the various persecutions that I suffered earlier and merely mention that last year, on the twelfth day of the ninth month, I incurred the wrath of the government authorities, and on the night of the same day was to have been beheaded. Somehow or other, I lived to see the morning, and came instead to this island province of Sado, where I have been residing ever since. I have been abandoned by the world, abandoned by the Law of the Buddha, and Heaven shows me no pity. I am one who has been cast aside by both secular and Buddhist realms.
And yet you have had the sincerity to send your messenger all the way here to me, along with offerings for the third annual memorial service for your beloved mother, a matter of utmost importance in your lifetime. For the past two or three days I have felt as if I were dreaming. I feel like the Temple Administrator of Hossho-ji who, in exile on the island of Iogashima, was suddenly confronted by the youth who had long served him. When Yang Kung, the barbarian of the north, had been taken captive in China and was being brought south, he saw the wild geese crossing the sky and, [thinking that they must have come from his homeland in the north,] he sighed with emotion. Yet his feelings on that occasion could scarcely have equaled mine.
It is stated in the Lotus Sutra: "If there is someone, whether man or woman, who in the time after my passing secretly teaches to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let it be known that he is the envoy of the Buddha, sent to carry out the Buddha's work." One who recites even one word or phrase of the Lotus Sutra and who speaks about it to another person is the emissary of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. And I, Nichiren, humble person though I am, have received Lord Shakyamuni's royal command and come to this country of Japan. Thus it is apparent from the sutra that anyone who speaks a word of slander against me will be committing a crime that will condemn him to the hell of incessant suffering, and anyone who offers so much as a word or a phrase on my behalf will acquire greater blessings than if he had made offerings to countless Buddhas.
Shakyamuni Buddha is the lord of all Buddhist teachings, the leader and teacher of all human beings. The eighty thousand teachings he expounded are all of them golden words; the twelve divisions of the sutras are all of them true. The prohibition against the speaking of falsehoods that he observed over countless millions of kalpas has produced this entire body of sutras. Thus there can be no doubt about the truth of any of them.
However, this represents the general view. Analyzed more specifically, the teachings that issued from the Buddha's golden mouth may be divided into the various categories of Hinayana and Mahayana, exoteric teachings and esoteric teachings, and provisional and true sutras. The Lotus Sutra says, "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, [I will expound only the supreme Way]." It also says, "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth." In view of these pronouncements, who could doubt [that the Lotus Sutra represents the ultimate truth]? And to this was added the testimony of Taho Buddha, and all the other Buddhas extended their tongues to the Brahma Heaven as further proof.
Thus the entire text of this sutra is in fact three texts, each phrase is three phrases, and each word is three words, for the benefit of the Lotus Sutra is such that even a single word of it embodies the threefold blessings of Shakyamuni, Taho, and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions.
To illustrate, it is like the wish-granting jewel. One such jewel is the same as a hundred such jewels. One jewel can rain down countless treasures, and a hundred jewels can likewise produce inexhaustible treasures. Or it is like grinding up a hundred medicinal plants to make a pill, or to make a hundred pills. Whether it be one pill or a hundred, in either case, the medicine will have the power to cure sickness. Or, again, it is like the great sea: each drop contains all the various streams that pour into the ocean, and the ocean itself contains the flavors of all the streams that flow into it.
Myoho-renge-kyo is a general name, while the twenty-eight chapters each have their particular names. Similarly, Gasshi is the general name for India, while, more specifically, India is divided into five regions. Or we speak of Japan, which is a general name, or name the sixty-six provinces when we wish to be more specific.
The wish-granting jewels are the relics of Shakyamuni Buddha. The dragon kings received them and carried them on their heads, and Taishaku held them in his hand and caused treasures to rain down. The reason why the body and bones of the Buddha can become wish-granting jewels is because the great precept he observed over a period of innumerable kalpas imbued his body with its fragrance and permeated his bones, so that they became jewels capable of saving all beings.
People say that a dog's fangs will dissolve when they come in contact with the bones of a tiger, or that a fish's bones will melt in the breath of a cormorant. Or they say that if one uses the sinews of a lion to make strings for a koto and plucks them, then strings made from the sinews of other animals will automatically snap, even though no one cuts them. The Buddha's preaching of the Law is called the lion's roar, and the Lotus Sutra is the foremost roar of the lion.
A Buddha has thirty-two features. Each of these features is adorned with a hundred blessings that he has acquired. The protuberant knot of flesh on the crown of his head, the tuft of white hair between his eyebrows and the other features are like fruit, while the practices that the Buddha has carried out in the past are like flowers that produce so many blessings; in this way, the thirty-two features come to appear in the body of the Buddha.
One feature of the Buddha is the unseen crown of his head. Shakyamuni Buddha's body was sixteen feet in height, but a Brahman known as the Bamboo Staff was unable to measure it. When he attempted to see the top of Shakyamuni's head he was unable to do so. Bodhisattva Oji likewise was unable to see the top of the Buddha's head, and so was the deity Daibonten. If one inquires as to the reason, he will find that in the past the Buddha bowed his head to the ground in order to pay reverence to his parents, his teacher and his sovereign, and he acquired this feature as a result.
The foremost among the Buddha's thirty-two features is his pure and far-reaching voice. Lesser kings, great kings, and wheel-turning kings all possess this feature in some degree. Therefore, a single word from one of these kings is able to destroy the kingdom or to insure order within it. The edicts handed down by rulers represent a type of pure and far-reaching voice. Ten thousand words spoken by ten thousand ordinary subjects cannot equal one word spoken by a king. The works known as the Three Records and the Five Cannons represent the words of lesser kings.
That which brings order to this small kingdom of Japan, which enables the deity Daibonten to command the inhabitants of the threefold world, and which enables the Buddha to command Daibonten, Taishaku and the other deities, is none other than this pure and far-reaching voice. The Buddha's utterances have become the works that compose the body of sutras and bring benefit to all living beings. And among the sutras, the Lotus Sutra is a manifestation is writing of Shakyamuni Buddha's intent; it is his voice set down in written words. Thus the Buddha's mind is embodied in these written words. To illustrate, it is like seeds that sprout, grow into plants and produce rice. Though the form of the rice changes, its essence remains the same.
Shakyamuni Buddha and the written words of the Lotus Sutra are two different things, but their heart is one. Therefore, when you cast your eyes upon the words of the Lotus Sutra, you should consider that you are beholding the living body of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
Shakyamuni Buddha is already aware that you have sent offerings all the way here to the province of Sado. It was in truth a most loyal and devoted thing for you to do.
With my deep respect,
The ninth year of Bun'ei (1272)
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 5, page 135.
Designed by Will Kallander