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A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering

When I asked him about what you told me the other day, I found it to be exactly as you said. You should therefore strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Listen with the ears of Shih K'uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou.1

In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn't a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers run to the sea, but does its fullness make the rivers flow backward? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; neither does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As T'ien-t'ai stated, "All rivers flow to the sea, and logs make a fire roar."2

You must realize that it is because of a deep karmic relationship from the past that you can teach others even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra reads, "It is extremely difficult to save those who are deaf to the True Law."3 The "True Law" means the Lotus Sutra.

A passage from the Hosshi chapter reads, "If there is someone, whether man or woman, who secretly teaches to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let it be known that he is the envoy of the Buddha." This means that anyone who teaches others even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is clearly the Buddha's envoy, whether he be priest or nun, lay man or woman. You are a lay believer and one of those described in the sutra. One who hears even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra and cherishes it deep in his heart may be likened to a ship which navigates the sea of suffering. The Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "Even a single phrase cherished deep in one's heart will without fail help him reach the opposite shore.4 To ponder one phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation..."5

A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, "...as though one had found a ship to make the crossing."6 This "ship" might be described as follows: The Lord Buddha, a shipbuilder of infinitely profound wisdom, gathered the lumber of the four tastes and eight teachings, planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and assembled the planks, using both right and wrong,7 and completed the craft by driving home the spikes of the one, supreme teaching. Thus he launched the ship upon the sea of suffering. Unfurling the sails of the three thousand conditions on the mast of the Middle Way doctrine, driven by the fair wind of "all phenomena reveal the true entity,"8 the vessel surges ahead, carrying all believers who can enter Buddhahood by their pure faith. Shakyamuni Buddha is the helmsman, Taho Buddha mans the sails, and the four Bodhisattvas led by Jogyo strain in unison at the creaking oars. This is the ship in "a ship to make the crossing," the vessel of Myoho-renge-kyo. Those who board it are the disciples and followers of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly. When you visit Shijo Kingo, please have an earnest talk with him. I will write you again.

With my deep respect,

The twenty-eighth day of the fourth month


  1. Shih K'uang and Li Lou: Legendary figures in China famed, respectively for their extraordinary hearing and vision.
  2. Maka Shikan, vol. 5
  3. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2
  4. The opposite shore: It represents the shore of enlightenment or nirvana, while this shore where we live represents that of illusion.
  5. This quotation from the Hokke Mongu Ki is followed by the sentence, "Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to cross the sea of suffering." But a sentence to the same effect appears at the beginning of the next page and, if translated literally, it will interrupt the flow of meaning. This is why the sentence is omitted here.
  6. Lotus Sutra, chap. 23
  7. Using both right and wrong: Both good and evil are eternally inherent in life. Provisional sutras hold that wicked people cannot attain enlightenment, but the Lotus Sutra reveals that no matter how evil one's life, he simultaneously possesses the Buddha nature.
  8. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol 1. p. 9.

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