Establishment of the
Legitimate Teaching for the Protection of the Country
- Rissho Ankoku Ron -
Once there was a traveler who spoke these words in sorrow to his host:
In recent years, there are unusual disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence, all affecting every corner of the empire and spreading throughout the land. Oxen and horses lie dead in the streets, the bones of the stricken crowd the highways. Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and in every family someone grieves.
All the while some put their whole faith in the "sharp sword"1 of the Buddha Amida and intone the name of this lord of the Western Land; others believe that hearing the name of the Buddha Yakushi will "heal all ills,"2 and recite the sutra that describes this Thus Come One of the Eastern Region. Some, putting their trust in the passage in the Lotus Sutra that says, "His illness will be wiped out and he will know neither old age nor death,"3 pay homage to the wonderful words of that sutra; others, relying upon the sutra passage that reads: "The seven disasters vanish, the seven blessings at once appear,"4 conduct ceremonies5 at which a hundred priests expound the sutra at a hundred preaching platforms. There are those who follow the esoteric teachings of the Shingon sect and conduct rituals by filling five jars with water;6 and others who devote themselves entirely to seated meditation and try to perceive the emptiness of all phenomena as clearly as the moon. Some write out the names of the seven guardian spirits7 and paste them on a thousand gates, others paint pictures of the five mighty bodhisattvas8 and hang them over ten thousand thresholds, and still others pray to the heavenly gods and earthly deities in ceremonies9 conducted at the four corners of the capital and on the four boundaries of the nation. The rulers, taking pity on the plight of the common people, carry out government on the national and local levels in a benevolent manner.
But despite all these efforts, they merely exhaust themselves in vain. Famine and epidemics rage more fiercely than ever, beggars are everywhere in sight, and scenes of death fill our eyes. Corpses pile up in mounds like observation platforms, dead bodies lie side by side like planks on a bridge.
If we look about, we find that the sun and moon continue to move in their accustomed orbits, and the five planets10 follow the proper course. The three treasures of Buddhism11 continue to exist, and the period of a hundred reigns has not yet expired12. Then why is it that the world has already fallen into decline and that the laws of the state have come to an end? What is wrong? What error has been committed?
The host then spoke: I have been brooding alone upon this matter, indignant in my heart, but now that you have come, we can lament together. Let us discuss the question at length.
When a man leaves family life and enters the Buddhist way, it is because he hopes to attain Buddhahood through the teachings of the Buddha. But attempts now to move the gods fail to have any effect, and appeals to the power of the Buddhas produce no results. When I observe carefully the state of the world today, I see people who give way to doubt because of the lack of understanding [on the part of eminent priests]. They look up at the heavens and mouth their resentment, or gaze down at the earth and sink deep into anxiety.
I have pondered the matter carefully with what limited resources I possess, and have searched rather widely in the scriptures for an answer. The people of today all turn their backs upon what is right; to a man, they give their allegiance to evil. This is the reason that the benevolent deities have abandoned the nation and departed together, that sages leave and do not return. And in their stead come devils and demons, disasters and calamities that arise one after another. I cannot keep silent on this matter. I cannot suppress my fears.
The guest said: These disasters that befall the empire, these calamities of the nation -- I am not the only one pained by them; the whole populace is weighed down with sorrow. Now I have been privileged to enter your home and to listen to these enlightening words of yours. You speak of the gods and sages taking leave and of disasters and calamities arising side by side -- upon what sutras do you base your views? Could you describe for me the passages of proof?
The host said: There are numerous passages that could be cited and a wide variety of proofs. For example, in the Konkomyo Sutra we read: "[The Four Heavenly Kings said to the Buddha,] Though this sutra exists in the nation, its ruler has never allowed it to be propagated. In his heart he turns away from it, and he takes no pleasure in hearing its teachings. He does not make offerings to it, honor or praise it. Nor is he willing to honor or make offerings to the four kinds of Buddhists13 who embrace the sutra. In the end, he makes it impossible for us and the countless other heavenly beings who are our followers to hear this profound and wonderful teaching. He deprives us of the sweet dew of its words and cuts us off from the flow of the correct teaching, so that our majesty and strength are drained away. Thus the number of beings who occupy the evil paths increases and the number who dwell in the human and heavenly realms decreases. People fall into the river of the suffering of birth and death and turn their backs on the road to nirvana.
" World-Honored One, we, the Four Heavenly Kings, as well as our various followers and the yakshas14 and other beings, observing this state of affairs, have decided to abandon this nation, for we have no heart to protect it. And it is not we alone who cast aside this ruler. All the great benevolent deities who guard and watch over the countless different regions of the country will also invariably reject him. And once we and the others abandon and desert this nation, then many different types of disasters will occur in the country and the ruler will fall from power. Not a single person in the entire population will possess a heart of goodness; there will be nothing but binding and enslaving, killing and injuring, anger and contention. Men will slander each other or fawn upon one another, and the laws will be twisted until even the innocent are made to suffer. Pestilence will become rampant, comets will appear again and again, two suns will come forth side by side and eclipses will occur with unaccustomed frequency. Black arcs and white arcs will span the sky as harbingers of ill fortune, stars will fall, the earth will shake, and noises will issue from the wells. Torrential rains and violent winds will come out of season, there will be constant famine, and grains and fruits will not ripen. Marauders from many other regions will invade and plunder the nation, the people will suffer all manner of pain and affliction, and there will be no place where one may live in safety."
The Daijuku Sutra says: "When the teachings of the Buddha truly become obscured and lost, then people will all let their beards, hair and fingernails grow long, and the laws of the world will be forgotten and ignored. At that time, loud noises will sound in the air and the earth will shake; everything in the world will begin to move as though it were a waterwheel. City walls will split and tumble, and all houses and dwellings will collapse. Roots, branches, leaves, petals and fruits will lose their medicinal properties. With the exception of the heavens of purity, all the regions of the world of desire15 will become deprived of the seven flavors16 and the three kinds of vitality,17 until not a trace of them remains any more. All the good discourses that lead people to emancipation will at this time disappear. The flowers and fruits that grow in the earth will become few and will lose their flavor and sweetness. The wells, springs and ponds will all go dry, the land everywhere will turn brackish and will crack open and warp into hillocks and gullies. All the mountains will be swept by fire and the heavenly beings and dragons will no longer send down rain. The seedlings of the crops will all wither and die, all the living plants will perish, and even the weeds will cease to grow any more. Dust will rain down until all is darkness and the sun and the moon no longer shed their light.
"All the four directions will be afflicted by drought, and evil omens will appear again and again. The ten evil acts18 will increase greatly, particularly greed, anger and stupidity, and people will think no more of their fathers and mothers than does the roe deer. Living beings will decline in numbers, in longevity, physical strength, dignity and enjoyment. They will become estranged from the delights of the human and heavenly realms and all will fall into the paths of evil. The wicked rulers and monks who perform these ten evil acts will curse and destroy my correct teaching and make it difficult for those in the human and heavenly realms to stay there. At that time the benevolent deities and heavenly kings, who would ordinarily take pity on living beings, will abandon this impure and evil nation and all will make their way to other regions."
The Ninno Sutra states: "When a nation becomes disordered, it is the spirits which first show signs of rampancy. Because the spirits become rampant, all the people of the nation become disordered. Invaders come to plunder the country and the common people face annihilation. The ruler, the high ministers, the crown prince, the other princes and the hundred officials all quarrel with each other over right and wrong. Heaven and earth manifest prodigies and strange occurrences; the twenty-eight constellations19, the stars, the sun and the moon appear at irregular times and in irregular positions, and numerous outlaws rise up."
The same sutra also states: "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 that they were able to become emperors and sovereigns. And that also is the reason that all the various sages and arhats are born in their nations and bring great benefits. But if a time should come when the good fortune of these rulers runs out, then all the sages will abandon them and depart. And once the sages have departed, then the seven disasters are certain to arise."
The Yakushi Sutra states: "If disasters and calamities should befall members of the ruling Kshatriya20 class and anointed kings21, such disasters will be as follows: the calamity of disease and pestilence among the populace; the calamity of invasion and plunder from foreign lands; the calamity of revolt within ones own domain; the calamity of irregularities and strange occurrences among the stars and constellations; the calamity of eclipses of the sun and moon; the calamity of unseasonable wind and rain; and the calamity of rain that fails to fall even when the season for it has come and gone."
In the Ninno Sutra, [the Buddha addresses King Prasenajit22 in these words]: "Great King, the region where my teachings now hold sway consists of one billion Sumeru worlds with one billion suns and moons. Each of these Sumeru23 worlds comprises four continents. In the southern continent of Jambudvipa, there are sixteen major countries, five hundred middle-sized countries, and ten thousand small countries. In these countries, there are seven types of fearful disasters that may occur. All the rulers of these countries agree that these are indeed disasters. What, then, are these disasters?
"When the sun and moon depart from their regular courses, when the seasons come in the wrong order, when a red sun or a black sun appears, when two, three, four or five suns appear at the same time24, when the sun is eclipsed and loses its light, or when one, two, three, four or five coronas appear around the sun, this is the first disaster.
"When the twenty-eight constellations do not move in their regular courses, when the Metal Star25, the Broom Star, the Wheel Star, the Demon Star, the Fire Star, the Water Star, the Wind Star, the Ladle Star, the Southern Dipper, the Northern Dipper, the great stars of the Five Garrisons, and all the many stars that govern the ruler, the three high ministers and the hundred other officials -- when each of these stars manifests some peculiar behavior, this is the second disaster.
"When huge fires consume the nation and the people are all burned to death, or when there are outbreaks of demon fire, dragon fire, heavenly fire, mountain god fire, human fire, tree fire or bandit fire26 -- when these prodigies appear, this is the third disaster.
"When huge floods drown the population, when the seasons come out of order and there is rain in winter, snow in summer, thunder and lightning in the winter season, and ice, frost and hail in the sixth month, when red, black or green rain falls, when mountains of dirt and stones come raining down, or when it rains dust, sand or gravel, when the rivers and streams run backward, when mountains are afloat and boulders are washed away-when freakish happenings of this kind occur, this is the fourth disaster.
"When huge winds blow the people to their death and the lands, the mountains and rivers and the trees and forests are all at one time wiped out, when great winds come out of season or when black winds, red winds, green winds, heavenly winds, earthly winds, fire winds and water winds blow -- when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the fifth disaster.
"When heaven and earth and the whole country are stricken by terrible heat so that the air seems to be on fire, when the hundred plants wither and the five kinds of grain27 fail to ripen, when the earth is red and scorched and the inhabitants all perish-when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the sixth disaster.
"When enemies rise up on all four sides and invade the nation, when rebels appear in the capital and the outlying regions, when there are fire bandits, water bandits, wind bandits and demon bandits28, and the population is subjected to devastation and disorder, and fighting and plundering break out everywhere-when prodigies of this type occur, this is the seventh disaster."
The Daijuku Sutra says: "Though the ruler of a state may have for countless existences in the past practiced the giving of alms, observed the precepts and cultivated wisdom, if he sees that my teaching is in danger of perishing and stands idly by without doing anything to protect it, then all the inestimable roots of goodness that he has planted through the practices just mentioned will be entirely wiped out, and his country will become the scene of three inauspicious occurrences. The first is high grain prices, the second is warfare, and the third is epidemics. All the benevolent deities will abandon the country, and although the king may issue commands, the people will not obey them. The country will constantly be invaded and vexed by neighboring nations. Violent fires will rage out of control, fierce winds and rains will abound, the waters will swell and overflow, and the inhabitants will be blown about by winds or swept away by floods. The paternal and maternal relatives of the ruler will join in plotting revolt. Before long, the ruler will fall gravely ill, and after his life has come to an end, he will be reborn in the great hell.... And the same fate will befall the rulers consort, his heir, the high ministers of the state, the lords of cities, the village heads and generals, the magistrates of districts, and the government officials."
The passages I have quoted from these four sutras are perfectly clear -- what person in ten thousand could possibly doubt their meaning? And yet the blind and the deluded recklessly trust to heretical doctrines and fail to recognize the correct teachings. Therefore, throughout the empire these days people are inclined to turn away from the Buddhas and the sutras and no longer endeavor to protect them. Because of this, the benevolent deities and sages abandon the nation and leave their accustomed places. As a result, demons and followers of heretical doctrines create disaster and inflict calamity upon the populace.
The guest thereupon flushed with anger and said: Emperor Ming of the Later Han dynasty, having comprehended the significance of his dream of a golden man, welcomed the teachings [of Buddhism] brought by white horses29. Prince Jogu30, having subjugated the rebellion of Moriya, [an opponent of Buddhism,] proceeded to construct temples and pagodas. Since that time, from the ruler down to the common people, all have worshipped the Buddha images and devoted their attention to the scriptures. As a result, in the monasteries of Mount Hiei31, and of the southern capital at Nara, at the temples of Onjo-ji and To-ji32, throughout the land within the four seas, in the five provinces of the capital area33 and the seven marches, Buddha images and Buddhist scriptures have been ranged like stars in the sky and halls of worship have spread over the land like clouds. Those who belong to the lineage of Shariputra meditate on the moon atop Eagle Peak34, while those who adhere to the traditions of Haklenayashas transmit the teachings of Mount Kukkutapada35. How, then, can anyone say that the teachings of the Buddhas lifetime are despised or that the three treasures of Buddhism have ceased to exist? If there is evidence to support such a contention, I would like to hear all the facts!
The host, anxious to clarify his words, replied: To be sure, Buddhist halls stand rooftop to rooftop and sutra storehouses are ranged eave to eave. Priests are as numerous as bamboo plants and rushes, monks as common as rice and hemp seedlings. The temples and priests have been honored from centuries past, and every day respect is paid them anew. But the monks and priests today are fawning and devious, and they confuse the people and lead them astray. The ruler and his subjects lack understanding and fail to distinguish between the heretical and the correct.
The Ninno Sutra, for example, says: "Evil monks, hoping to gain fame and profit, in many cases appear before the ruler, the crown prince or the other princes and take it upon themselves to preach doctrines that lead to the violation of the Buddhist Law and the destruction of the nation. The ruler, failing to perceive the truth of the situation, listens to and puts faith in such doctrines, and proceeds to create regulations that are perverse in nature and that do not accord with the rules of Buddhist discipline. In this way he brings about the destruction of Buddhism and of the nation."
The Nirvana Sutra states: "Bodhisattvas, have no fear of mad elephants. What you should fear are evil friends! Even if you are killed by a mad elephant, you will not fall into the three evil paths. But if you are killed by an evil friend, you are certain to fall into them."
The Lotus Sutra says:
In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart. Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement, who will claim they are practicing the true way, despising and looking down on all humankind. Greedy for profit and support, they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers36 . Because in the midst of the great assembly they constantly try to defame us, they will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, as well as the other monks, slandering and speaking evil of us, saying, "These are men of perverted views who preach non-Buddhist doctrines!"
In a muddied kalpa, in an evil age there will be many things to fear. Evil demons will take possession of others and through them curse, revile and heap shame on us . The evil monks of that muddied age, failing to understand the Buddhas expedient means, how he preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; again and again we will be banished.
The Nirvana Sutra says: "After I have passed away and countless hundreds of years have gone by, the sages of the four stages37 too will have all passed away. 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 clothes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who, narrowing their eyes, stalk softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice. And constantly they will reiterate these words: I have attained arhatship! Outwardly they will seem to be wise and good, but within they will harbor greed and jealousy. [And when they are asked to preach the teachings,] they will remain silent, like Brahmans who have taken a vow of silence. They are not true monks -- they merely have the appearance of monks. Consumed by their erroneous views, they slander the correct teaching."
When we look at the world in the light of these passages of scripture, we see that the situation is just as they describe it. If we do not admonish the evil priests, how can we hope to do good?
The guest, growing more indignant than ever, said: A wise monarch, by acting in accord with heaven and earth, perfects his rule; a sage, by distinguishing between right and wrong, brings order to the world. The monks and priests of the world today enjoy the confidence of the entire empire. If they were in fact evil monks, then the wise ruler would put no trust in them. If they were not true sages, then worthies and learned men would not look up to them. But now, since worthies and sages do in fact honor and respect them, they must be nothing less than paragons of their kind. Why then do you pour out these wild accusations and dare to slander them? To whom are you referring when you speak of "evil monks"? I would like an explanation!
The host said: At the time of the Retired Emperor Gotoba there was a priest named Honen who wrote a work entitled the Senchaku shu38 or The Nembutsu Chosen above All. He contradicted the sacred teachings of the Buddhas lifetime and brought confusion to people in every direction. The Senchaku shu states: "Regarding the passage in which the Meditation Master Tao-cho39 distinguished between the Sacred Way teachings and the Pure Land teachings40 and urged people to abandon the former and immediately embrace the latter: First of all, there are two kinds of Sacred Way teachings, [the Mahayana and the Hinayana].... Judging from this, we may assume that the esoteric Mahayana doctrines and the true Mahayana teachings are both included in the Sacred Way. If that is so, then the present-day sects of Shingon, Zen, Tendai, Kegon, Sanron, Hosso, Jiron and Shoron41 -- all these eight schools are included in the Sacred Way that is to be abandoned.
"The Dharma Teacher Tan-luan42 in his Ojo ron chu states: I note that Bodhisattva Nagarjunas Jujubibasha ron says: "There are two ways by which the bodhisattva may reach the state of avaivartika or non-retrogression. One is the difficult-to-practice way, the other is the easy-to-practice way."
"The difficult-to-practice way is the same as the Sacred Way, and the easy-to-practice way is the Pure Land Way. Students of the Pure Land sect should first of all understand this point. Though they may previously have studied teachings belonging to the Sacred Way, if they wish to become followers of the Pure Land teachings, they must discard the Sacred Way and give their allegiance to the Pure Land teachings."
Honen also says: "Regarding the passage in which Priest Shan-tao43 distinguished between correct and sundry practices and urged people to abandon the sundry practices and embrace the correct practices: Concerning the first of the sundry practices, that of reading and reciting sutras, with the exception of the recitation of the Kammuryoju Sutra and the other Pure Land sutras, the embracing, reading and recitation of all sutras, whether Mahayana or Hinayana, exoteric or esoteric, is to be regarded as a sundry practice.... Concerning the third of the sundry practices, that of worshipping, with the exception of worshipping the Buddha Amida, the worshipping or honoring of any of the other Buddhas, bodhisattvas or deities of this world is to be regarded as a sundry practice.... In the light of his statement, I declare that one should abandon such sundry practices and concentrate upon the practice of the Pure Land teachings. What reason would we have to abandon the correct practices of the Pure Land teachings, which insure that, out of a hundred persons, all one hundred will be reborn in the Pure Land, and cling instead to the various sundry practices and procedures, which could not save even one person in a thousand? Followers of the Way should ponder this carefully!"
Honen further states: "In the Jogen nyuzo roku44 or Chen-yuan Era Catalogue of the Buddhist Canon we find it recorded that, from the 600 volumes of the Daihannya Sutra45 to the Hojoju Sutra46, the exoteric and esoteric sutras of Mahayana or the great vehicle total 637 works in 2,883 volumes. The phrase [from the Kammuryoju Sutra] of reading and reciting the great vehicle should be applied to all these works. You should understand that, when the Buddha was preaching according to the capacity of his various listeners, he for a time taught the two methods of concentrated meditation and unconcentrated meditation47. But later, when he revealed his own enlightenment, he ceased to teach these two methods. The only teaching that, once revealed, shall never cease to be taught is the single doctrine of the Nembutsu."
Honen also states: "Regarding the passage which says that the practitioner of the Nembutsu must possess three kinds of mind48 : It is found in the Kammuryoju Sutra. In his commentary on that sutra49, [Shan-tao says:] Someone may ask: "If there are those who differ in understanding and practice from the followers of the Nembutsu, persons of heretical and mistaken belief, [how should we confront them?]" I will now make certain that their perverse and differing views will not cause trouble. These persons of evil views with different understanding and different practices are compared to a band of robbers who call back the traveler who has already gone one or two steps along his journey. In my opinion, when this commentary speaks of different understanding, different practices, varying doctrines and varying beliefs, they are referring to the teachings of the Sacred Way."
Finally, in a concluding passage, Honen says: "If one wishes to escape quickly from the sufferings of birth and death, one should confront these two superior teachings and then proceed to put aside the teachings of the Sacred Way and choose those of the Pure Land. And if one wishes to follow the teachings of the Pure Land, one should confront the correct and sundry practices and then proceed to abandon all of the sundry practices and devote ones entire attention to the correct practices."
When we examine these passages, we see that Honen quotes the erroneous explanations of Tan-luan, Tao-cho and Shan-tao, and establishes the categories-the Sacred Way and Pure Land teachings, the difficult-to-practice and easy-to-practice ways. He then takes all the 637 works in 2,883 volumes that comprise the Mahayana sutras of the Buddhas lifetime, including those of the Lotus Sutra and Shingon, along with all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deities of this world, and assigns them all to the categories of the Sacred Way teachings, the difficult-to-practice way and the sundry practices, and urges people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. With these four injunctions, he leads all people astray. And on top of that, he groups together all the sage monks of the three countries50 [of India, China and Japan] as well as the students of Buddhism of the ten directions, and calls them a "band of robbers," causing the people to insult them!
In doing so, he turns his back on the passage in the three Pure Land sutras51, the sutras of his own sect, which contains Amidas vow to save the people "excepting only those who commit the five cardinal sins or who slander the correct teaching.52" At the same time, he shows that he fails to understand the warning contained in the second volume of the Lotus Sutra, the heart and core of the entire body of teachings the Buddha expounded in the five periods of his preaching life53, which reads: "If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra. . . When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell."54
And now we have come to this latter age, when people are no longer sages. Each enters his own dark road, and all alike forget the direct way. How pitiful that no one cures them of their blindness! How painful to see them vainly lending encouragement to these false beliefs! And as a result, everyone from the ruler of the nation down to the common people believes that there are no true sutras outside the three Pure Land sutras, and no Buddhas other than the Buddha Amida with his two attendants.55
Once there were men like Dengyo, Gishin56, Jikaku and Chisho who journeyed ten thousand miles across the waves to China to acquire the sacred teachings, and there visited the mountains and rivers to pay reverence to Buddhist statues [and carry them back]. In some cases they built holy temples on the peaks of high mountains in which to preserve those scriptures and statues; in other cases they constructed sacred halls in the bottoms of deep valleys where such objects could be worshipped and honored. As a result, the Buddhas Shakyamuni and Yakushi57 shone side by side, casting their influence upon present and future ages, while the bodhisattvas Kokuzo and Jizo58 brought benefit to the living and the dead. The rulers of the nation contributed districts or villages so that the lamps might continue to burn bright before the images, while the stewards of the great estates gave their fields and gardens as an offering.
But because of this book by Honen, this Senchaku shu, the lord of teachings, Shakyamuni, is forgotten and all honor is paid to Amida, the Buddha of the Western Land. The transmission of the Law [from Shakyamuni Buddha] is ignored, and Yakushi, the Buddha of the Eastern Region, is neglected.59 All attention is paid to the three Pure Land sutras in four volumes60, and all the other wonderful scriptures that Shakyamuni expounded throughout the five periods of his preaching life are cast aside. If temples are not dedicated to Amida, then people no longer have any desire to support them or pay honor to the Buddhas enshrined there; if monks are not practitioners of the Nembutsu, then people quickly forget all about giving those monks alms. As a result, the halls of the Buddha fall into ruin, scarcely a wisp of smoke rises above their moss-covered roof tiles; and the monks quarters stand empty and dilapidated, the dew deep on the grasses in their courtyards. And in spite of such conditions, no one gives a thought to protecting the Law or to restoring the temples. Hence the sage monks who once presided over the temples leave and do not return, and the benevolent deities who guarded the nation depart and no longer appear. This has all come about because of this Senchaku shu of Honen. How pitiful to think that, in the space of a few decades, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people have been deluded by these devilish teachings and in so many cases confused as to the true teachings of Buddhism. If people favor what is only incidental and forget what is primary, can the benevolent deities be anything but angry? If people cast aside what is perfect and take up what is biased, can the world escape the plots of demons? Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil [doctrine] that is the source of all the trouble!
This time the guest was truly enraged and said: In the ages since our original teacher, the Buddha Shakyamuni, preached the three Pure Land sutras, the Dharma Teacher Tan-luan had originally studied the four treatises61 but abandoned them and put all his faith in the Pure Land teachings. Similarly, the Meditation Master Tao-cho ceased to spread the multifarious doctrines of the Nirvana Sutra62 and devoted all his attention to propagating the practice that leads one to the western Pure Land. Priest Shan-tao discarded the sundry practices and established the single practice of the Nembutsu, and the supervisor of monks Eshin63 collected essential passages from various sutras to form his work64, making the single practice of the Nembutsu the essence of his teaching. Such was the manner in which these men honored and respected the Buddha Amida, and uncountable numbers of people as a result were able to gain rebirth in the Pure Land.
Of particular note was the sage Honen, who as a child entered the monastery on Mount Hiei. By the time he was seventeen, he had worked his way through all sixty volumes of Tendai literature65 and had investigated all the eight sects66 and mastered their essentials. In addition, he had read through the entire body of sutras and treatises seven times, and exhausted all the works of exegesis and biography. His wisdom shone like the sun and moon, and his virtue exceeded that of the earlier teachers.
In spite of all this, he was in doubt as to the proper path to emancipation and could not make out the true meaning of nirvana. Therefore he read and examined all the texts he could, pondered deeply and considered every possibility, and in the end put aside all the sutras and concentrated on the single practice of the Nembutsu. In addition, he received confirmation of his decision when Shan-tao miraculously appeared to him in a dream67 , and he proceeded to spread his doctrines among friends and strangers in all four corners of the land. Thereafter, he was hailed as a reincarnation of Bodhisattva Seishi, or was revered as Shan-tao reborn. In every quarter people of eminent and lowly birth alike bowed their heads in respect, and men and women from all over Japan sought him.
Since that time, the springs and autumns have succeeded each other and the years have accumulated. And yet you insist upon putting aside the venerable teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha [contained in the Pure Land sutras] and willfully speak evil of the passage describing the oath of the Buddha Amida. Why do you try to blame the sacred age of Honen for the disasters of recent years, going out of your way to slander the former teachers of Pure Land doctrines68 and to heap abuse on the sage Honen? You are, as the saying goes, deliberately blowing back the fur and hunting for flaws in the leather, deliberately piercing the skin in hopes of drawing blood. From ancient times to the present, the world has never seen such a speaker of evil! You had better learn a little caution and restraint. When you pile up such grave offenses, how can you hope to escape punishment? I am afraid even to sit here in your company. I must take up my staff and be on my way!
The host, smiling, restrained his guest and said: Insects that live on smartweed forget how bitter it tastes; those who stay long in privies forget how foul the smell is. Here you listen to my good words and think them wicked, point to a slanderer of the Law and call him a sage, mistrust a correct teacher and take him for an evil monk. Your confusion is great indeed, and your offense anything but light. Listen to my explanation of how this confusion arose and let us discuss the matter in detail.
Shakyamuni Buddha expounded the five periods of doctrines, established the order in which they were preached, and divided them into the provisional and the true teachings. But Tan-luan, Tao-cho and Shan-tao embraced the provisional teachings and forgot about the true ones, went by what had been taught in the earlier period of the Buddhas life and discarded what was taught later. They were not the kind of men who delve into the deep places of Buddhist doctrine.
Honen in particular, though he followed the practices advocated by these earlier men, was ignorant as to the source from whence they came. How do we know this? Because he lumped together all the 637 Mahayana scriptures in 2,883 volumes, and along with them all the various Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the deities of this world, and urged people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them, with these four injunctions corrupting the hearts of all people. Thus he poured out perverted words of his own invention and took absolutely no cognizance of the explanations put forth in the Buddhist scriptures. His is the worst kind of baseless talk, a clear case of defamation. There are no words to describe it, no way to censure it that is not too mild. And yet people all put faith in this baseless talk of his, and without exception pay honor to his Senchaku shu. As a consequence, they revere the three sutras of the Pure Land and cast all the other sutras aside; they look up to one Buddha alone, Amida of the Land of Perfect Bliss, and forget about the other Buddhas. A man such as Honen is in truth the archenemy of the Buddhas and the scriptures, and the foe of sage monks and ordinary men and women alike. And now his heretical teachings have spread throughout the eight regions of the country; they have penetrated every one of the ten directions.
You became quite horrified when I blamed an earlier period69 for the disasters that have occurred in recent years. Perhaps I should cite a few examples from the past to show you that you are mistaken in your feelings.
The second volume of the Maka shikan quotes a passage from the Shih chi70 or Records of the Historian which says: "In the closing years of the Chou dynasty, there were persons who let their hair hang down, went about naked to the waist, and did not observe the rites and regulations." The Guketsu, in the second volume, explains this passage by quoting from the Tso chuan or Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals71 as follows: "When King Ping of the Chou first moved his capital to the east, he saw men by the Yi River who let their hair hang down and performed sacrifices in the fields. Someone who had great understanding said: In less than a hundred years the dynasty will fall, for the rites are already neglected. "From this it is evident that the portent appears first, and later the disaster itself comes about.
[The Maka shikan passage goes on to say:] "Juan Chi72 was a man of extraordinary talent, but he let his hair grow like a mass of brambles and left his belt undone. Later, the sons of the aristocracy all imitated him, until those who behaved in a churlish and insulting manner were thought to be acting quite naturally, and those who were restrained and proper in their behavior were ridiculed as mere peasants. This was a sign that the Ssu-ma family [the rulers of the Western Chin dynasty] would meet with their downfall."
Similarly, the Nitto junrei ki or Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law by the Great Teacher Jikaku records that in the first year of the Hui-chang era (841), Emperor Wu-tsung of the Tang dynasty commanded the priest Ching-shuang of Chang-ching-ssu temple to transmit the Nembutsu teachings of the Buddha Amida in the various temples. Ching-shuang spent three days in each temple, going about from one temple to another without ever ceasing.
In the second year of the same era, soldiers from the land of the Uighurs73 invaded the borders of the Tang empire. In the third year of the same era, the regional commander in the area north of the Yellow River suddenly raised a revolt. Later, the kingdom of Tibet once more refused to obey orders from China, and the Uighurs repeatedly seized Chinese territory. On the whole, the conflicts and uprisings were like those that prevailed at the time when the Chin dynasty and the military leader Hsiang Yu were overthrown, and the towns and villages were devastated by fire and other disasters. What was even worse, Emperor Wu-tsung carried out a vast campaign to wipe out Buddhist teachings and destroyed a great many temples and monasteries. He was never able to put down the uprisings, and died in agony shortly after. (This is the essence of Jikakus original passage.)
In view of these events, we should consider the fact that Honen lived in the time of the Retired Emperor Gotoba, around the Kennin era (1201-1204). And what happened to the retired emperor is evident before our very eyes74. Thus Tang China provided an earlier example of the fall of an emperor, and our own country offers similar proof. You should neither doubt this nor consider it strange. The only thing to do now is to abandon the evil ways and take up those that are good, to cut off this affliction at the source, to cut it off at the root!
The guest, looking somewhat mollified, said: Though I have not yet probed deeply into the matter, I believe I understand to some degree what you are saying. Nevertheless, throughout the area from Kyoto, the capital, to Kamakura, the headquarters of the shogun, there are numerous eminent Buddhist leaders and key figures in the clergy. And yet none of them has so far appealed to the shogun concerning this affair or submitted a memorial to the throne. You, on the other hand, a person of humble position, think nothing of spewing out offensive accusations.
Your assertion goes too far and your behavior is unreasonable.
The host said: Though I may be a person of little ability, I have reverently given myself to the study of the Mahayana. A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines around the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet. I was born as the son of the one Buddha, Shakyamuni, and I serve the king of scriptures, the Lotus Sutra. How could I observe the decline of the Buddhist Law and not be filled with emotions of pity and distress?
Moreover, the Nirvana Sutra states: "If even a good monk sees someone destroying the teaching and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then you should realize that that monk is betraying the Buddhas teaching. But if he ousts the destroyer of the Law, reproaches him or punishes him, then he is my disciple and a true voice-hearer."
Although I may not be a "good monk," I certainly do not want to be accused of "betraying the Buddhas teaching." Therefore, in order to avoid such charges, I have cited a few general principles and given a rough explanation of the matter.
Earlier, in the Gennin era (1224-1225), petitions to the throne were submitted time and again by the two temples of Enryaku-ji and Kofuku-ji. And as a result an imperial command and a letter of instruction from the shogunate were handed down, ordering that the woodblocks used in printing Honens Senchaku shu be confiscated and brought to the Great Lecture Hall of Enryaku-ji. There they were burned in order to repay the debt owed to the Buddhas of the three existences. In addition, orders were given that the menials who are attached to the Kanjin-in Shrine should dig up and destroy Honens grave. Then, Honens disciples Ryukan, Shoko, Jokaku, Sassho75 and others were condemned by the imperial court to exile in distant regions, and were never pardoned.
In view of these facts, how can you say that no one has submitted a complaint to the authorities concerning these matters?
The guest, continuing to speak in a mild manner, replied: One could hardly say that Honen is the only one who disparages sutras and speaks ill of other priests, [since you do the same thing yourself]. However, it is true that he takes the 637 Mahayana scriptures in 2,883 volumes, along with all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the deities of this world, and urges people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. There is no doubt that these four injunctions are his very words; the meaning of the passage is quite clear. But you keep harping on this one little "flaw in the jewel" and severely slandering him for it. I do not know whether he spoke out of delusion or out of true enlightenment. Between you and Honen, I cannot tell which is wise and which is foolish, or determine whose assertions are right and whose are wrong.
However, you assert that all the recent disasters are to be traced to the Senchaku shu, speaking quite volubly on that point and elaborating on the meaning of your assertion. Now surely the peace of the world and the stability of the nation are sought by both ruler and subject and desired by all the inhabitants of the country. The nation achieves prosperity through the Buddhist Law, and the Law is proven worthy of reverence by the people who embrace it. If the nation is destroyed and the people are wiped out, then who will continue to pay reverence to the Buddhas? Who will continue to have faith in the Law? Therefore one must first of all pray for the safety of the nation and then work to establish the Buddhist Law. Now if you know of any means whereby disasters can be prevented and troubles brought to an end, I would like to hear about it.
The host said: There is no doubt that I am the foolish one -- I would never dare claim to be wise. However, I would just like to quote some passages from the scriptures and offer some brief thoughts. Concerning the means for insuring order in the nation, there are numerous passages in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts, and it would be difficult to cite them all here. Since taking up the study of Buddhism, however, I have frequently given thought to this matter, and it seems to me that prohibiting those who slander the Law and paying respect to the followers of the correct way is the best way to assure stability within the nation and peace in the world at large.
In the Nirvana Sutra we read: "The Buddha said, With the exception of one type of person, you may offer alms to all kinds of persons and everyone will praise you"
"Chunda76 said, What do you mean when you speak of "one type of person"?'
"The Buddha replied, I mean the type described in this sutra as violators of the precepts.
"Chunda spoke again, saying, I am afraid I still do not understand. May I ask you to explain further?
"The Buddha addressed Chunda, saying: By violators of the precepts I mean the icchantika. In the case of all other types of persons, you may offer alms, everyone will praise you, and you will achieve great rewards.
"Chunda spoke once more, asking, What is the meaning of the term icchantika?
"The Buddha said, Chunda, suppose there should be monks or nuns, lay men or women who speak careless and evil words and slander the correct teaching, and that they should go on committing these grave acts without ever showing any inclination to reform or any sign of repentance in their hearts. Persons of this kind I would say are following the path of the icchantika.
"Again there may be those who commit the four grave offenses77 or are guilty of the five cardinal sins, and who, though aware that they are guilty of serious faults, from the beginning have no trace of fear or contrition in their hearts or, if they do, give no outward sign of it. When it comes to the correct teaching, they show no inclination to protect, treasure and establish it over the ages, but rather speak of it with malice and contempt, their words replete with error. Persons of this kind too I would say are following the path of the icchantika. With the exception of this one group of people called icchantika, however, you may offer alms to all others and everyone will praise you. "
Elsewhere in the same sutra, the Buddha spoke in these words: "When I recall the past, I remember that I was the king of a great state in this continent of Jambudvipa. My name was Senyo, and I loved and venerated the great vehicle scriptures. My heart was pure and good and had no trace of evil, jealousy or stinginess. Good men, at that time I cherished the great vehicle teachings in my heart. When I heard the Brahmans slandering these correct and equal sutras, I had them put to death on the spot. Good men, as a result of that action, I never thereafter fell into hell."
In another passage it says: "In the past, when the Thus Come One was the ruler of a nation and practiced the way of the bodhisattva, he put to death a number of Brahmans."
Again it says: "There are three degrees of killings: the lower, middle and upper degrees. The lower degree constitutes the killing of any humble being, from an ant to any of the various kinds of animals. But the killing of an animal into which a bodhisattva has deliberately chosen to be born [to help other living beings] is excluded. As a result of a killing of the lower degree, one will fall into the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals, and will suffer all the pains appropriate to a killing of the lower degree. Why should this be? Because even the animals and other humble beings possess the roots of goodness, insignificant though those roots may be. That is why a person who kills such a being must suffer full retribution for his offense.
"Killing any person from an ordinary mortal to an anagamin78 constitutes what is termed the middle degree. As a consequence of such an act of killing, one will fall into the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals, and will suffer all the pains appropriate to a killing of the middle degree. The upper degree of killing refers to the killing of a parent, an arhat, a pratyekabuddha or a bodhisattva who has reached the stage of non-retrogression. For such a crime one will fall into the great Avichi hell. Good men, if someone were to kill an icchantika, that killing would not fall into any of the three categories just mentioned. Good men, the various Brahmans that I have said were put to death -- all of them were in fact icchantikas."
In the Ninno Sutra we read: "The Buddha announced to King Prasenajit, Thus I entrust the protection of my teachings to the ruler of the nation rather than to the monks and nuns. Why do I do so? Because they do not possess the kind of power and authority that the king has."
The Nirvana Sutra states: "Now I entrust the correct teaching, which is unexcelled, to the rulers, the ministers, the high officials, and the four kinds of Buddhists. If anyone should vilify the correct teaching, then the ministers and four kinds of Buddhists should reprimand him and bring him to order."
It also states: "The Buddha replied, [Bodhisattva] Kashyapa79, it is because I was a defender of the correct teaching that I have been able to attain this diamond-like body80.... Good man, defenders of the correct teaching need not observe the five precepts81 or practice the rules of proper behavior. Rather they should carry knives and swords, bows and arrows, prongs and lances."
Again the Buddha said: "Even though there may be those who observe the five precepts, they do not deserve to be called practitioners of the great vehicle. But even if one does not observe the five precepts, if one defends the correct teaching, then one may be called a practitioner of the great vehicle. Defenders of the correct teaching ought to arm themselves with knives and swords, weapons and staves. Even though they carry swords and staves, I would call them men who observe the precepts."
The Buddha likewise said: "Good man, in past ages in this very city of Kushinagara a Buddha appeared whose name was the Thus Come One Kangi Zoyaku or Joy Increasing. After this Buddha passed away, the correct teaching that he had taught remained in the world for countless millions of years. Finally, only forty more years were left before the Buddhist teaching was due to come to an end.
"At that time there was a monk named Kakutoku or Realization of Virtue who observed the precepts. There were many monks at this time who violated the precepts, and when they heard this monk preaching, they all conceived evil designs in their hearts and, arming themselves with swords and staves, approached this teacher of the Law.
"At this time the ruler of the kingdom was named Utoku or Possessor of Virtue. He received reports of what was happening, and, in order to defend the teaching, he went at once to the place where the monk was preaching the Law and fought with all his might against the evil monks who did not observe the precepts. As a result, the monk who had been preaching was able to escape grievous injury. But the king received so many wounds from the knives and swords, prongs and lances, that there was not a spot on his body the size of a mustard seed that remained unharmed.
"At this time the monk Realization of Virtue praised the king, saying, Splendid, splendid! You, O king, are now a true defender of the correct teaching. In ages to come, this body of yours will surely become a boundless vessel of the Law!
"At that time, the king had already heard the teaching, and he felt great joy in his heart. Thereupon his life came to an end, and he was reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku, where he became the principal disciple of the Buddha. Moreover, all the military leaders, citizens and associates of the king who had fought beside him or had rejoiced in his effort were filled with an unflagging determination to achieve enlightenment, and when they died, all of them were reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku." Later, the monk Realization of Virtue also died, and he too was reborn in the land of the Buddha Ashuku, where he became second among the Buddhas voice-hearer disciples. Thus, if the correct teaching is about to come to an end, this is the way one ought to support and defend it.
"Kashyapa, the king who lived at that time was I myself, and the monk who preached was the Buddha Kasho82. Kashyapa, those who defend the correct teaching enjoy this kind of boundless reward. As a consequence, I have been able to obtain the distinguishing characteristics that I possess today, to adorn myself with them, and to put on the body of the Law83 that can never be destroyed."
Then the Buddha declared to Bodhisattva Kashyapa: "For this reason, laymen believers and others who wish to defend the Law should arm themselves with swords and staves and protect it in this manner.
"Good man, in the age of impurity and evil after I have passed away, the nation will fall into devastation and disorder, men will plunder and steal from one another, and the common people will be reduced to starvation. Because of hunger, many men at that time will declare their determination to leave their families and become monks. Men such as these may be called shavepates. When this crowd of shavepates see anyone who is attempting to protect the correct teaching, they will chase after him and drive him away, or perhaps even kill him or do him injury. That is why I now give permission for monks who observe the precepts to associate with and keep company with white-robed laymen who bear swords and staves. Even though they carry swords and staves, I would call them men who observe the precepts. But although they may carry swords and staves, they should never use them to take life."
The Lotus Sutra says: "If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra, immediately he will destroy all the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.... When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell."
The meaning of these passages from the sutras is perfectly clear. What need is there for me to add any further explanation? If we accept the words of the Lotus Sutra, then we must understand that slandering the Mahayana scriptures is more serious than committing the five cardinal sins countless times. Therefore one who does so will be confined in the great citadel of the Avichi hell and cannot hope for release for an immeasurable length of time. According to the Nirvana Sutra, even though you may give alms to a person who has committed the five cardinal sins, you must never give alms to a person who has slandered the Law. One who kills so much as an ant will invariably fall into the three evil paths, but one who helps eradicate slander of the Law will ascend to the state from which there can be no retrogression. Thus the passage tells us that the monk Realization of Virtue was reborn as the Buddha Kasho, and that King Possessor of Virtue was reborn as the Buddha Shakyamuni.
The Lotus and the Nirvana sutras represent the very heart of the doctrines that Shakyamuni preached during the five periods of his teaching life. Their warnings must be viewed with the utmost gravity. Who would fail to heed them? And yet those people who forget about the correct way and slander the Law put more trust than ever in Honens Senchaku shu and grow blinder than ever in their stupidity.
Thus some of them, remembering how their master looked in life, fashion wooden sculptures and paintings of him, while others, putting faith in his perverse teachings, carve woodblocks with which to print his ugly words. These writings they scatter about throughout the area within the seas84 , carrying them beyond the cities and into the countryside until, wherever honor is paid, it is to the practices of this school, and wherever alms are given, it is to the priests of this sect.
As a result, we see people cutting off the fingers of the images of Shakyamuni and refashioning them to form the gesture of Amida, or converting the temples formerly dedicated to Yakushi, the Buddha of the Eastern Region, and replacing his statues with those of Amida, the Buddha of the Western Land. Or we find the ceremony of copying the Lotus Sutra, which has been carried out for over four hundred years on Mount Hiei, being suspended and the copying of the three Pure Land sutras substituted in its place, or the annual lectures85 on the doctrines of the Great Teacher Tien-tai being replaced by lectures on the teachings of Shan-tao. Indeed, the slanderous people and their associates are too numerous to count! Are they not destroyers of the Buddha? Are they not destroyers of the Law? Are they not destroyers of the Buddhist order? And all their heretical teachings derive from the Senchaku shu!
Alas, how pitiful, that people should turn their backs on the true words of prohibition spoken by the Thus Come One! How tragic, that they should heed the gross and deluded words of this ignorant monk! If we hope to bring order and tranquillity to the world without further delay, we must put an end to these slanders of the Law that fill the country!
The guest said: If we are to put an end to these people who slander the Law and do away with those who violate the prohibitions of the Buddha, then are we to condemn them to death as described in the sutra passages you have just cited? If we do that, then we ourselves will be guilty of inflicting injury and death upon others, and will suffer the consequences, will we not?
In the Daijuku Sutra, the Buddha says: "If a person shaves his head and puts on clerical robes, then, whether that person observes the precepts or violates them, both heavenly and human beings should give him alms. In doing so, they are giving alms and support to me, for that person is my son. But if men beat that person, they are beating my son, and if they curse and insult him, they are reviling me."
If we stop to consider, we must realize that, regardless of whether one is good or bad, right or wrong, if he is a priest, then he deserves to have alms and nourishment extended to him For how could one beat and insult the son and still not cause grief and sorrow to the father? The Brahmans of the Bamboo Staff school who killed the Venerable Maudgalyayana have for a long time been sunk in the depths of the hell of incessant suffering. Because Devadatta murdered the nun Utpalavarna, he has for a long time gasped in the flames of the Avichi Hell86. Examples from earlier ages make the matter perfectly clear, and later ages fear this offense most of all. You speak of punishing those who slander the Law, but to do so would violate the Buddhas prohibitions. I can hardly believe that such a course would be right. How can you justify that?
The host said: You have clearly seen the sutra passages that I have cited, and yet you can ask a question like that! Are they beyond the power of your mind to comprehend? Or do you fail to understand the reasoning behind them? I certainly have no intention of censuring the sons of the Buddha. My only hatred is for the act of slandering the Law. According to the Buddhist teachings, prior to Shakyamuni slanderous monks would have incurred the death penalty. But since the time of Shakyamuni, or One Who Can Forbear, the giving of alms for slanderous monks is forbidden in the sutra teachings. Now if all the four kinds of Buddhists within the four seas and the ten thousand lands would only cease giving alms to wicked priests and instead all come over to the side of the good, then how could any more troubles rise to plague us or disasters come to confront us?
With this the guest moved off his mat in a gesture of respect, straightened the collar of his robe, and said: The Buddhist teachings vary greatly and it is difficult to investigate each doctrine in full. I have had many doubts and perplexities and have been unable to distinguish right from wrong.
Nevertheless, this work by the sage Honen, the Senchaku shu, does in fact exist. And it lumps together all the various Buddhas, sutras, bodhisattvas and deities and says that one should "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them. The meaning of the text is perfectly clear. And as a result of this, the sages have departed from the nation, the benevolent deities have left their dwelling places, hunger and thirst fill the world, and disease and pestilence spread abroad.
Now, by citing passages from a wide variety of scriptures, you have clearly demonstrated the rights and wrongs of the matter. Therefore I have completely forsaken my earlier mistaken convictions, and my ears and eyes have been opened on point after point.
There can be no doubt that all persons, from the ruler down to the common people, rejoice in and desire the stability of the nation and the peace of the world. If we can quickly put an end to the alms that are given to these icchantikas and insure that continuing support is instead given to the host of true priests and nuns, if we can still these "white waves"87 that trouble the Ocean of the Buddha and cut down these "green groves" that overgrow the Mountain of the Law, then the world may become as peaceful as it was in the golden ages of Fu Hsi and Shen Nung88 , and the nation may flourish as it did under the sage rulers Yao and Shun89. After that, there will be time to dip into the Waters of the Law and to decide which are shallow doctrines and which are deep, and to pay honor to the pillars and beams that support the House of the Buddha.
The host exclaimed with delight: The dove has changed into a hawk, the sparrow into a clam!90 How gratifying! You have transformed yourself through your association with [me,] a friend in the orchid room, just as the mugwort growing in the hemp field becomes straight. If you will truly give consideration to the troubles I have been describing and put entire faith in these words of mine, then the winds will blow gently, the waves will be calm, and in no time at all we will enjoy bountiful harvests. But a persons heart may change with the times, and the nature of a thing may alter with its surroundings. Just as the moon on the water will be tossed about by the waves, or the soldiers in the vanguard will be cowed by the swords of the enemy, so, although at this moment you may say you believe in my words, I fear that later you will forget them completely. Now if we wish first of all to bring security to the nation and to pray for our present and future lives, then we must hasten to examine and consider the situation and take measures as soon as possible to remedy it.
Why do I say this? Because, of the seven types of disasters described in the Yakushi Sutra, five have already occurred. Only two have yet to appear, the calamity of invasion from foreign lands and the calamity of revolt within ones own domain. And of the three calamities mentioned in the Daijuku Sutra, two have already made their appearance. Only one remains, the disaster of warfare.
The different types of disaster and calamity enumerated in the Konkomyo Sutra have arisen one after the other. Only that described as marauders from other regions invading and plundering the nation has yet to materialize. This is the only trouble that has not yet come. And of the seven disasters listed in the Ninno Sutra, six are now upon us in full force. Only one has not yet appeared, the calamity that occurs "when enemies rise up on all four sides and invade the nation."
Moreover, as the Ninno Sutra says, "When a nation becomes disordered, it is the spirits which first show signs of rampancy. Because the spirits become rampant, all the people of the nation become disordered."
Now if we examine the present situation carefully in the light of this passage, we will see that the various spirits have for some time been rampant, and many of the people have perished. If the first predicted misfortune in the sutra has already occurred, as is obvious, then how can we doubt that the later disasters will follow? If, in punishment for the evil doctrines that are upheld, the troubles that have yet to appear should fall upon us one after the other, then it will be too late to act, will it not?
Emperors and kings have their foundation in the state and bring peace and order to the age; ministers and commoners hold possession of their fields and gardens and supply the needs of the world. But if marauders come from other regions to invade the nation, or if revolt breaks out within the domain and peoples lands are seized and plundered, how can there be anything but terror and confusion? If the nation is destroyed and families are wiped out, then where can one flee for safety? If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?
It seems to me that, when people are in this world, they all fear what their lot may be in the life to come. So it is that they put their faith in heretical doctrines, and pay honor to slanderous teachings. It distresses me that they should be so confused about right and wrong, and at the same time I feel pity that, having embraced Buddhism, they should have chosen the wrong kind. With the power of faith that is in their hearts, why must they recklessly give credence to heretical doctrines? If they do not shake off these delusions that they cling to but continue to harbor distorted views, then they will quickly leave this world of the living and surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
Thus the Daijuku Sutra says: "Though the ruler of a state may have for countless existences in the past practiced the giving of alms, observed the precepts and cultivated wisdom, if he sees that my teaching is in danger of perishing and stands idly by without doing anything to protect it, then all the inestimable roots of goodness that he has planted through the practices just mentioned will be entirely wiped out. . . . Before long, the ruler will fall gravely ill, and after his life has come to an end, he will be reborn in the great hell. . . . And the same fate will befall the rulers consort, his heir, the high ministers of the state, the lords of cities, the village heads and generals, the magistrates of districts, and the government officials."
The Ninno Sutra states: "If persons destroy the teachings of the Buddha, they will have no filial sons, no harmony with their six kinds of relatives, and no aid from the heavenly deities and dragons. Disease and evil spirits will come day after day to torment them, disasters will descend on them incessantly, and misfortunes will dog them wherever they go. And when they die, they will fall into the realms of hell, hungry spirits and animals. Even if they should be reborn as human beings, they will be destined to become soldiers or slaves. Retribution will follow as an echo follows a sound or a shadow follows a form. Someone writing at night may put out the lamp, but the words he has written will still remain. It is the same with the effect of the deeds which we carry out for ourselves in the threefold world."
The second volume of the Lotus Sutra says: "If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra . . . When his life comes to an end, he will enter the Avichi hell." And in the Fukyo chapter in the seventh volume, it says: "For a thousand kalpas they underwent great suffering in the Avichi hell."
In the Nirvana Sutra we read: "If a person separates himself from good friends, refuses to listen to correct teachings and instead embraces evil teachings, then as a result he will sink down into the Avichi hell, where the size of his body will become eighty-four thousand yojanas in total length and breadth."
When we examine this wide variety of sutras, we find that they all stress how grave a matter it is to slander the Law. How pitiful, that people should all go out of the gate of the correct teaching and enter so deep into the prison of these heretical doctrines! How stupid, that they should fall one after another into the snares of these evil doctrines, and remain for so long entangled in this net of slanderous teachings! They lose their way in these mists and miasmas, and sink down amid the raging flames of hell. How could we not grieve? How could we not suffer?
Therefore you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? The regions in the ten directions will all become treasure realms, and how could a treasure realm ever suffer harm?
If you live in a country that knows no decline or diminution, in a land that suffers no harm or disruption, then your body will find peace and security and your mind will be calm and untroubled. You must believe my words, heed what I say!
The guest said: Since it concerns both this life and the lives to come, who could fail to be cautious in a matter such as this? Who could fail to agree with you? Now when I examine the passages you have cited from the sutras and see exactly what the Buddha has said, I realize that slandering is a very grave fault indeed, that violating the Law is in truth a terrible offense. I have put all my faith in one Buddha alone, Amida, and rejected all the other Buddhas. I have honored the three Pure Land sutras and set aside the other sutras. But this was not due to any distorted ideas of my own conception. I was simply obeying the words of the eminent men of the past91. And the same is true of all the other persons in the ten directions.
But now I realize that to do so means to exhaust oneself in futile efforts in this life, and to fall into the Avichi hell in the life to come. The texts you have cited are perfectly clear on this point and their arguments are detailed -- they leave no room for doubt. From now on, with your kind instruction to guide me, I wish to continue dispelling the ignorance from my mind. I hope we may set about as quickly as possible taking measures to deal with these slanders against the Law and to bring peace to the world without delay, thus insuring that we may live in safety in this life and enjoy good fortune in the life to come. But it is not enough that I alone should accept and have faith in your words we must see to it that others as well are warned of their errors!
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol. 2, p. 3 - 46.
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