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A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life

A sage is one who fully understands the three existences of life-past, present and future. The Three Sovereigns, the Five Emperors1 and the Three Sages referred to in Confucianism2 understood only the present; they knew neither the past nor the future. Brahmanists, however, were able to see eighty thousand kalpas into the past and the future, thus in a small way resembling sages. People of the two vehicles of Hinayana teachings were aware of the law of cause and effect working throughout the past, present and future. Hence they were superior to the Brahmanists.

The Hinayana bodhisattvas passed three asamkhya kalpas3 in their practice; the bodhisattvas of the connecting teaching did as many kalpas as there are dust particles; and the bodhisattvas of the specific teaching spent myriad kotis of kalpas attaining each of the many stages of practice.

In the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha described the period of sanzen-jintengo in the past. This teaching surpasses all the previous ones of his preaching life. Moreover, in the essential teaching of the sutra, the Buddha revealed the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo, all the kalpas since the distant past, as well as matters pertaining to countless kalpas in the future.

From the above it is clear that a thorough understanding of both the past and the future is intrinsic to the nature of a sage. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, accurately predicted the near future, saying that he would enter nirvana in three months’ time. Can there then be any doubt about his prediction for the distant future, that the Lotus Sutra will spread abroad widely in the last five-hundred-year period after his passing! With such perception one can see the distant future by looking at what is close at hand. One can infer what will be from what exists in the present. This is the meaning of [the passage from the Lotus Sutra that says, "This reality consists of] the appearance. . . and their consistency from beginning to end."4

Who should be acknowledged as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the last five-hundred-year period! I did not trust my own wisdom, but because the rebellion and invasion that I had predicted have occurred, I can now trust it. I do not declare this out of pride.

My disciples should know this: I, Nichiren, am the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Since I follow in the footsteps of Bodhisattva Fukyo, those who despise and slander me will have their heads broken into seven pieces,5 whereas those who believe in me will amass good fortune as high as Mount Sumeru.

Question: Why is it that those who slander you have not yet had their heads broken into seven pieces?

Answer: Since ancient times, of all those who slandered sages other than the Buddha, only one or two have suffered punishment by having their heads broken. The offense of defaming Nichiren is not by any means limited to only one or two persons. The entire populace of Japan have in fact [slandered Nichiren and] had their heads broken. What else do you think caused the great earthquake of the Shoka era and the huge comet6 of the Bun’ei era! I am the foremost sage in the entire land of Jambudvipa.

Nevertheless, all people, from the ruler on down to the common people, have despised and slandered me, attacked me with swords and staves,7 and even exiled me.8 That is why Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings incited a neighboring country to punish our land. This is clearly described in the Daijuku and Ninno sutras, the Nirvana Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. No matter what prayers may be offered, if the people fail to heed me, this country will suffer calamities such as those that occurred on Iki and Tsushima.

My disciples, you should believe what I say and watch what happens. These things do not occur because I myself am respectworthy, but because the power of the Lotus Sutra is supreme. If I declare myself before the people, they will think that I am boastful, but if I humble myself before them, they will despise the sutra. The taller the pine tree, the longer the wisteria vine hanging from it. The deeper the source, the longer the stream. How fortunate, how joyful! In this impure land, I alone enjoy true happiness.


  1. Three Pulers and the Five Emperors: See P. 71, footnotes 1, 2.
  2. Three Sages: See P. 75, footnote 22.
  3. Asogi: Asamkhya in Sanskrit, indicating an immeasurable number in ancient India. According to one method of calculation, one asogi is equal to 1011 and one aeon is said to be 16 million minus 2,000 years. Altogether three asogi aeons indicates an inconceivable span of time.
  4. Consistency from beginning to end: A phrase found in the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra indicating the last of the Ten Factors of Life: the appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and the consistency of all these nine factors of life. The Daishonin means here that because there is consistency among the nine factors, from the "appearance," one with the Buddha wisdom can discern the ultimate outcome.
  5. Have their heads broken into seven pieces: Reference to a verse in the Dharani (26th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra which reads: "Whoever resists our spell/And troubles a preacher of the Dharma,/May his head be split in seven pieces/Like the branches of an arjaka tree." It is also said that if one touches an arjaka flower its petals open and fall in seven pieces.
  6. The great quake which flattened the Kamakura area in 1257 prompted the Daishonin to remonstrate with the government in his treatise, "Rissho Ankoku Ron." The huge comet, which appeared in 1264, terrified the people because comets were considered very ominous in those days. Nichiren Daishonin also regarded these extraordinary natural phenomena as portents of the rise of true Buddhism.
  7. Attacked me with sword and staff:  Reference to the Komatsubara and Tatsunokuchi persecutions. On November 11, 1264, a band of Nembutsu followers, led by a local lord named Tojo Kagenobu, ambushed Nichiren Daishonin and his disciples at Komatsubara, killing two of them and injuring others. The Daishonin himself suffered a sword cut on his forehead and had his left hand broken. On September 12, 1271, the government made an unsuccessful attempt to execute the Daishonin at Tatsunokuchi beach near Kamakura.
  8. Even exiled me: Nichiren Daishonin was exiled to the Izu Peninsula from May 12, 1261 through February 22, 1263, and again to Sado Island from October 10, 1271 through March 13, 1274.

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol 2.

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