Reply to Lord Hakiri Saburo
In Kamakura there are disciples of mine named Chikugobo, Ben Ajari and Daishin Ajari. It would be well if you summoned them, showed them due respect, and held discussions with them. I will tell you in outline my important teachings. They are also fairly well acquainted with the great Law that has never before been propagated in Japan, and therefore you would do well to study under them.
[In your letter, you say in essence:] "As soon as your letter reached me, the doubts that I had previously entertained were swept away, just as when a strong wind blows away the layers of cloud and the bright moon comes into view. However, for persons of the present age, whether they are of high position or low, this doctrine of yours is difficult to believe. The reason is that the Lotus Sutra promises that those who practice the Law of the Buddha 'will enjoy peace and security in this life and good circumstances in the next.' If this is so, then why is it that the priest Nichiren, though he calls himself a votary of the Lotus Sutra, should meet with so many difficulties? People are saying that it must be because his teachings do not accord with the Buddha's will."
However, with regard to these groundless criticisms, [it is clear that the difficulties I encounter] are due to my karma from past existences. Just because I have incurred the wrath of the government authorities, that is no reason for you to suddenly be surprised.
By way of explanation, if you will examine the text of the Lotus Sutra, you will find it stated that, in the Latter Day of the Law, when a person practices the Lotus Sutra just as it teaches, he is bound to meet with many difficulties. This is made perfectly clear in the text, and anyone who has eyes need only look to see what is there.
Thus, for example, the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra says: "Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!" And the fifth volume reads: "In the world at that time the people will resent [the Lotus Sutra] and find it extremely difficult to believe." It also says: "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us, and will attack us with swords and staves, and with rocks and tiles." And it continues: "There will be monks in that evil age [with perverse views...]. Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement....they will preach the Dharma to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six supernatural powers. ...Constantly they will go about among the populace, seeking in this way to slander us. They will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and great patrons of Buddhism as well as the other monks, slandering and speaking evil of us.... Demons will take possession of others and through them curse, revile and heap shame on us.... again and again we will be banished."
The Dainehan Sutra says: "Icchantika, persons of incorrigible disbelief, pretend to be arhats, living in deserted places and speaking slanderously of the Mahayana sutras. When ordinary people see them, they suppose that they are all true arhats and speak of them as great bodhisattvas." It also says: "After the Former Day of the Law has ended and the Middle Day of the Law has begun, there will be monks who will give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline. But they will scarcely ever read or recite the sutras, and instead will crave all kinds of food and drink to nourish their bodies....Though they wear the robes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who narrow their eyes, stalking softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice."
And the Hatsunaion Sutra states: "There are also icchantika who resemble arhats [but who commit evil deeds]."
Now when I hold up this bright mirror [of the sutra texts] and turn it toward the country of Japan, all is reflected there without the slightest obscurity. The "forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement"--who are they? Those who are "respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six supernatural powers"--who are they? "When ordinary people see them, they suppose that they are all true arhats and speak of them as great bodhisattvas"--to whom does this refer? Those who "give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline but scarcely ever read or recite the sutras"--who are they?
As we see from the passages of scripture, Shakyamuni with his Buddha eye observed the situation that would prevail at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. If, when that age has arrived, there were to be no persons of the type that the Buddha describes, then the World-Honored One would be guilty of false and baseless talk. [And if that were to be the case, then] who would put faith in the theoretical and essential teachings of the Lotus Sutra, and in the doctrine of the eternally inherent Buddha nature which was preached in the grove of sal trees?
Now when, in order to prove the truth of the Buddha's words, I, Nichiren, read these sutra passages, applying them to this country of Japan, [I interpret them as follows]. The passage about "forest-dwelling monks" [who are] "living in deserted places" refers to [the priests of] Kencho-ji, Jufuku-ji, Gokuraku-ji, Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji and the other temples of the Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu sects in Japan. These diabolical temples have appeared in the world in order to bring destruction upon the Buddhist temples of Mount Hiei and the other temples of the Hokke [Lotus] or Tendai sect.
Those who "wear clothing of patched rags" and "give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline" are the present-day "observers of the precepts" with their surplices made from five, seven or nine pieces of cloth. Those who are "respected and revered by the world" and "spoken of as great bodhisattvas" are men like Doryu, Ryokan and Shoichi. The "world" that looks up to them refers to the ruler and men of authority of our present age. And the "ignorant people" and "ordinary people" [referred to in these scriptural passages] are all the people of Japan, both high and low.
I, Nichiren, am a common mortal, and therefore I am unable to take faith in the Buddha's teaching. But with regard to what I am saying here, I know the situation as clearly as one knows fire or water when he touches a hand to it.
According to the scripture, if a votary of the Lotus Sutra should appear, he will be cursed and reviled, attacked with swords and staves, and banished. But if one applies this passage of the sutra to the world today, there is not a single person whom it fits. Who then should be looked upon as the votary of the Lotus Sutra?
Could it be that the enemies of the Lotus Sutra have made their appearance, but that there is no one who upholds the sutra? But that would be like saying that there is an east but no west or that heaven exists but earth does not. Were this the case, the words of the Buddha would be no more than lies, would they not?
It may seem like self-praise on my part, but having pondered this, I will give credence to the words of the Buddha. I, the priest Nichiren, am the votary referred to in the scripture.
Moreover, the Buddha, speaking of the events of his past, says in the Fukyo chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]: "At that time there was a bodhisattva named Jofukyo (Never Despising).... They cursed and abused him...Some among the people would beat him with sticks and staves, and stone him with rocks and tiles." In this way, Shakyamuni Buddha cited his own practice in the past to encourage and hearten [the votary of the Lotus Sutra] at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law.
[In the past,] Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten with sticks and staves for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, and was at once able to attain the supreme stage of myogaku. Now I, Nichiren, for the sake of the same sutra, have in my present existence been attacked with swords and staves, and have twice been banished to distant places. Can there be any doubt, therefore, that in the future I shall attain the wonderful fruit of Buddhahood?
After the passing of the Tathagata Shakyamuni, the four ranks of saints appeared in the Former and Middle Days of the Law and worked to propagate the Lotus Sutra, but even at that time they encountered numerous difficulties. Thus among the successors in the line of Shakyamuni's teachings, the twentieth, Bodhisattva Aryadeva, was killed, and the twenty-fifth, the Venerable Aryasimha, had his head cut off. The eighth successor, Buddhamitra, and the thirteenth, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, each carried a red flag and stood before the entrance to the ruler's palace [in hopes of attracting his notice], the former for twelve years and the latter for seven years.
Chu Tao-sheng was banished to a mountain in Su-chou, the priest Fa-tsu was murdered, the Tripitaka Master Fa-tao was branded on the face, and the Dharma Teacher Hui-yuan was berated and accused. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai confronted in debate the leaders of the ten schools of northern and southern China, and the Great Teacher Dengyo refuted the erroneous views of the six sects of Nara.
Depending upon whether these men happened to live in the time of wise rulers or foolish ones, their views were accepted or rejected, but in no case were they untrue to the Buddha's will. Even during the Former and Middle Days of the Law, they encountered such difficulties. How much more likely then is one to meet difficulties in the Latter Day! For the sake of the Lotus Sutra, I have already called down upon myself the anger of the authorities, but I count that as the greatest good fortune. It is like exchanging tiles and rubble for gold and silver.
And yet I cannot help but grieve as I recall the words of the Ninno Sutra: "Once the sages have departed, then the seven disasters are certain to arise." The seven disasters include major droughts and great military uprisings.
The Saishoo Sutra states: "Because evil men are respected and favored and good men are subjected to punishment, the stars and constellations, along with the winds and rains, all fail to move in their proper seasons."
Now who are meant by "evil men [who] are respected and favored"? They are men such as those whom I spoke of earlier. And who is meant by "good men [who] are subjected to punishment"? He is the one whom I mentioned above, who has "again and again been banished." And the passage on the "stars and constellations" refers to the strange and portentous occurrences that have taken place in the skies and on the earth during the past twenty years or so.
If these passages from the sutras are true, then the banishment of Nichiren is a portent that foretells the downfall of the nation. Even before I incurred the displeasure of the authorities, I foresaw that this would happen and stated the reason in the "Rissho Ankoku Ron." Who can doubt that what I say is true? And that is why I grieve.
It has now been 2,222 years since the passing of the Buddha. During the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law, Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu and others acted as the Buddha's envoys, propagating his teachings. However, they propagated only the two teachings of Hinayana and provisional Mahayana and did not propagate the teachings of true Mahayana.
Some five hundred years after the beginning of the Middle Day of the Law, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai appeared in China in order to refute the erroneous views of the schools of the north and south and to establish the correct teaching. In the area of doctrinal study, he propounded the theory of the five periods, and in the realm of meditative practices, he set forth the concept of ichinen sanzen. All of China joined in praising him as a Little Shakyamuni. And yet, [of the three types of learning,] he propounded perfect meditation and perfect wisdom, but he did not spread the perfect precepts.
Then, eighteen hundred years after the passing of the Buddha, the Great Teacher Dengyo appeared in Japan and refuted the erroneous views that had been held by the six sects of Buddhism during the two hundred or more years since the time of Emperor Kimmei. In addition, he propounded the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment that T'ien-t'ai had not spread. These are the great precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment administered at the ordination platform on Mount Hiei.
Nevertheless, in the more than two thousand years since the Buddha's passing, though there have been tens of thousands of temples built in the three lands of India, China and Japan, there have been no temples or pagodas dedicated to the lord of the essential teaching, nor has anyone propagated the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, which were specifically entrusted to the countless bodhisattvas who emerged from the earth. Although there are scriptural passages saying that they should be propagated [in the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law], throughout the entire nation no one has propagated them. Is this because the time and the people's capacity were not yet ripe?
The Buddha, speaking of the future, said: "In the fifth five hundred years after my death, widely declare and spread [the Lotus Sutra] and never allow its flow to cease." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai predicted: "In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic Way shall spread and benefit mankind far into the future." And the Great Teacher Dengyo wrote: "The Former and Middle Days are almost over, and the Latter Day is near at hand. Now indeed is the time when the one vehicle expounded in the Lotus Sutra will prove how perfectly it fits the capacities of all people." These passages from the sutra and its commentaries all refer to events that will take place at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law.
Moreover, a Brahman of India once said, "One hundred years after I pass away, the Buddha will appear in the world.". And a Confucian scholar predicted, "One thousand years from now, Buddhism will be transmitted to China." Thus, even such predictions by ordinary persons are found to tally with the truth. How much more trustworthy, therefore, should be the pronouncements of persons such as Dengyo and T'ien-t'ai, to say nothing of the clear predictions that come from the golden mouths of the Buddhas Shakyamuni and Taho!
Truly you must understand that the time has come for the lord of the essential teaching to make his advent and for the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, which have never before been propagated, to spread throughout the world. Can there be any doubt of it?
However, there are persons who have repeatedly heard these matters from the priest Nichiren and yet, now that I have met with these great difficulties, have abandoned their faith. You, on the other hand, have heard my teachings only once or twice, and then only for an hour or two. And yet I understand that you have not abandoned your faith but continue to stand by it. This cannot be due solely to the causes formed in your present existence. The Great Teacher Miao-lo writes: "Therefore we know that if, in the latter age, one is able to hear the Law even briefly, and if, having heard it, one then arouses faith in it, this comes about because of the seeds planted in a previous existence." And he also says: "Being born at the end of the Middle Day of the Law, I have been able to behold these true words of the sutra. Unless in a previous existence one has planted the seeds of auspicious causation, then it is truly difficult to encounter such an opportunity."
The Lotus Sutra says: "Persons who in past existences have made offerings to tens of billions of Buddhas will be reborn in the realm of human beings and take faith in this Lotus Sutra." And the Nirvana Sutra states that persons who give alms to as many Buddhas as there are sands in the Hranyavati and Ganges rivers will be reborn in a later evil age and take faith in this [Lotus] sutra.
King Ajatashatru was an evil man who killed his father and imprisoned his mother. Nevertheless, when he came to the assembly where the Buddha was preaching the Nirvana Sutra and heard the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, he not only recovered from the sores that had broken out [as a result of his evil deeds] in his present existence, but his life was prolonged by forty years; and, even though he did not originally possess the roots of faith, in the end he reached the first stage of security, obtaining Shakyamuni's prediction that he would attain Buddhahood.
Devadatta was a man of incorrigible disbelief, the worst in the entire world. In all the earlier sutras preached during the lifetime of the Buddha, he was cast aside as hopeless. But with the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, it was predicted that he would eventually attain Buddhahood and become known as the Tathagata Heavenly King.
Judging from these examples, we may conclude that for evil people living in the latter age, the attainment of Buddhahood does not depend upon whether their offenses are slight or grave, but solely upon whether or not they have faith in this sutra.
In your case, you are a member of a warrior family, an evil man who day and night is involved in the business of killing. Since you have not left your household [to be become a priest] but have remained a warrior to the present, by what means can you escape the three evil paths? You should think about this very carefully.
The heart of the Lotus Sutra is the revelation that one may attain the supreme enlightenment in one's present state, without change of original status. This means that, without casting aside one's karmic impediments, one can still attain the Buddha Way. Thus T'ien-t'ai says, "The other sutras predict Buddhahood for the good but not for the evil.... Only this [Lotus] sutra predicts Buddhahood for all." And Miao-lo says, "Only in the perfect teaching are the reverse relationship and the positive relationship ultimately one. In the other three types of teachings, the two relationships are entirely separate."
I perhaps ought to go into the question of whether or not enlightenment can be gained through the various sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, but this is a matter to be discussed with someone thoroughly familiar with Buddhist terms and categories. Nevertheless, there are disciples of mine to whom I have taught the essentials with regard to this point, and so you may summon them and hear the gist of the matter from them. At such a time I will write you further on the subject.
With my deep respect,
The third day of the eighth month in the tenth year of Bun'ei (1273), reverse marker of Jupiter in the sign mizunoto-tori
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page 37.
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