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The Supremacy of the Law

In China, before Buddhism was introduced, writings by such sages as the Three Rulers and Five Emperors,1 the Three Kings,2 T’ai-kung Wang,3 Tan the Dukeof Chou,4 Lao Tzu and Confucius were called classics or canons. Through these teachings, the people learned propriety and came to understand the debt of gratitude they owed their parents, and a clear distinction was drawn between the ruler and the ruled, so that the country was governed wisely. The people obeyed the leaders who followed these teachings and Heaven answered their prayers. A child who failed to obey them was punished as unfilial, and a subject who violated them was punished as a traitor.

When the Buddhist scriptures were first brought to China from India, some people said that they should be accepted, while others said they should be rejected. A conflict arose, and the ruler summoned the two groups to meet and debate the issue. The adherents of non-Buddhist teachings were defeated by the supporters of Buddhism. After that, whenever the two groups engaged in polemics, the devotees of non-Buddhist scriptures were defeated by the Buddhists as easily as ice melts in the sun or as fire is extinguished by water. Eventually they ceased to offer any effective opposition to Buddhism.

As more Buddhist sutras were brought to China, it became apparent that some were superior in content or more profound than others. They belonged to different categories such as Hinayana and Mahayana, exoteric and esoteric, provisional and true. To illustrate, all stones are invariably inferior to gold, but gold itself is divided into several grades. No gold found in the human world can match the gold mined from the Jambu River.5 But the gold from the Jambu River is in turn far less valuable than the gold stored in the Brahma Heaven. In the same way, all the Buddhist sutras are like gold, but some are finer and more profound than others.

Those sutras which are called Hinayana are like small boats. They can carry two or three passengers, but not a hundred or a thousand. Even with only two or three persons aboard, they must remain close to this shore and cannot cross over to the other shore. They can be loaded with a small amount of cargo, but not with a large amount. In contrast, the Mahayana sutras are like those huge vessels which, carrying ten or twenty people and loaded with large quantities of cargo, can sail from Kamakura as far as Tsukushi Province in the south or Mutsu Province in the north.

But the ship of the true Mahayana sutra is incomparably greater than those ships that are the other Mahayana sutras. Loaded with a hoard of rare treasures and carrying a hundred or a thousand passengers, it can sail all the way to the land of Korea. The Lotus Sutra, the teaching of the one vehicle, is precisely this kind of sutra. Devadatta was the most evil man in the entire world, but the Lotus Sutra predicted that he would become a Buddha called the Tathagata Heavenly King. Although Ajatashatru was a wicked king who killed his own father, he was among those present when the Lotus Sutra was preached and, after hearing only a verse or a phrase, took faith in it and thereby formed a relationship with the sutra. The dragon king’s daughter, a woman with a reptile’s body, attained Buddhahood by listening to Bodhisattva Monjushiri preach the Lotus Sutra. Furthermore, the Buddha designated the evil era of the Latter Day of the Law as the very time for the Lotus Sutra to be propagated, and bequeathed it to the men and women of that impure age. The Lotus Sutra, the teaching of the one vehicle, is then a sutra as great and powerful as the ships of the China trade.

Thus, all the Buddhist sutras are to the non-Buddhist scriptures as gold is to stones. And all the various Mahayana sutras, such as the Kegon, Dainichi Kammuryoju, Amida and Hannya sutras, are to the Lotus Sutra as fireflies are to the sun or the moon, or anthills to Mount Hua.6 Moreover, there is superiority and inferiority not only among the sutras, but also among their adherents. The various teachers of Shingon, who believe in the Dainichi Sutra, are like fire being put out by water or dew being blown away by the wind when confronted in debate by the votary of the Lotus Sutra. People say that if a dog barks at a lion, its intestines will rot. The asura demon who shot an arrow at the sun had his head split into seven pieces. The Shingon teachers are like the dog or the asura, while the votary of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun or the lion.

Before the sun rises, ice is as hard as metal. Fire, when untouched by water. is as hot as molten iron. But even the hardest ice easily melts away in the sun of summer, and even the hottest fire is easily extinguished by water. The various Shingon teachers appear to be most dignified and wise, but they are like one who, forgetful of the sun, expects ice to remain hard forever or who, not taking water into account, thinks that fire will burn indefinitely.

As you know, before the Mongol attack, the arrogance of the people of our day knew no bounds. Since the tenth month of last year, however, none of them has dared to assume a haughty attitude, for, as you have heard, I, Nichiren, alone predicted this foreign invasion. If the Mongols attack our country again, none of the people will have the courage to face them. They will be like a monkey terrified by a dog or a frog cowering before a snake. This is all because the nation has allowed the priests of the Shingon, Nembutsu, Ritsu and other sects to hate Nichiren, who is the votary of the Lotus Sutra and an emissary of Shakyamuni Buddha, and thereby brought harm upon itself. Thus it incurred the wrath of Heaven, with the consequence that all its people have become cowards. In their terror of another Mongol invasion, they are like fire fearful of water, a tree dreading the axe, a pheasant frightened out of its wits at the sight of a hawk, or a mouse threatened by a cat. Not one of them will escape. What will they do then? Soldiers look upon the general as their soul. If the general loses heart, his soldiers will become cowards.

A woman’s soul is her husband. Without him, she has no soul. Nowadays, even married women find it difficult to get along in the world. Though you have no husband, you lead your life more courageously than those who are married. Furthermore, you maintain your faith in the Buddhist gods and continue to worship the Buddha. You are indeed a remarkable woman.

While I was in Kamakura, aside from the evident heresy of the adherents of the Nembutsu and other sects, I had no way of determining whether the faith of individual believers in the Lotus Sutra was deep or shallow. This I came to know only after I had incurred the displeasure of the authorities and had been exiled to Sado. Though no one else came to visit me, you, a woman, not only sent me various offerings but personally made the journey to see me. It was almost too amazing to be true. And in addition, you have now called on me here in Minobu. I know of no words with which to thank you. Certainly the Buddhist gods will protect you and the Ten Goddesses will have compassion for you. The Buddha promised in the Lotus Sutra that, for a woman, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness, as a ship when she crosses the sea, and as a protector when she travels through dangerous places.7

When the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva was carrying the Lotus Sutra to China, the Heavenly King Bishamon8 dispatched a vast number of troops to escort him safely over the Pamirs. When Priest Dosho9 read the Lotus Sutra in the field, innumerable tigers gathered to protect him. There is no reason why you should not be protected in the same way. The thirty-six deities10 on earth and the twenty-eight gods of the constellations11 in the heavens will lend you protection. Furthermore, each person has two heavenly gods who always accompany him, just as the shadow follows the body. One is named Dosho and the other Domyo.12 Perched respectively on one’s left and right shoulders, they report all of his deeds to Heaven. Therefore Heaven never punishes those who have not committed any error, let alone a person of your virtue.

That is why the Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "The stronger one’s faith, the greater the gods’ protection."13So long as one maintains firm faith, he is certain to receive the great protection of the gods. I say this for your sake. I know your faith has always been admirable, but now you must strengthen it more than ever. Only then will the Ten Goddesses lend you greater protection. You need not seek far for an example. Everyone in Japan, from the sovereign on down to the common people, all without exception tried to do me harm, but I have survived until this day. This is because, although I am alone, I have firm faith [in the Lotus Sutra].

If a boat is handled by an unskilled steersman, it may capsize and drown everyone aboard. Likewise, even if someone has great physical strength, if he lacks a resolute spirit, he cannot give full play to his abilities. In this country, there are many wise persons, but they cannot utilize their wisdom because they are governed by foolish leaders.

In the last Mongol invasion, tens of thousands of soldiers as well as civilians, both male and female, in Iki, Tsushima and the nine provinces [Kyushu] were killed, captured, drowned in the sea, or fell from cliffs to their death. If the Mongols attack again, this time they will wreak incomparably greater havoc. Kyoto and Kamakura will meet the same fate as Iki and Tsushima in the past. Prepare in advance and flee to some other place. At that time, those who declared they would not see or listen to me will join their palms together and take faith in the Lotus Sutra. Even the adherents of the Nembutsu and Zen sects will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The Lotus Sutra states that if there are men and women who have firm faith in this sutra, the Buddha will support them on his shoulders and carry them on his back.14 When the Learned Doctor Kumarayana15 traveled [to Kucha], a wooden statue of Shakyamuni carried him on its back by night. When I was about to be beheaded, the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni took my place. It is the same in the present as it was in the past. All of you are my followers, so how could you fail to attain Buddhahood?

No matter whom you may marry, you must not follow him if he is an enemy of the Lotus Sutra. Strengthen your faith more than ever. Ice is made of water, but it is colder than water. Blue dye is produced from indigo, but if something is dyed in it repeatedly, it becomes bluer than the indigo plant itself.16 The Lotus Sutra itself does not change, but as you continue to strengthen your faith in it, you will be filled with more vitality and receive more blessings than other people do.

Wood is vulnerable to fire, but sandalwood cannot be burned. Fire is extinguished by water, but the fire that cremated the Buddha’s remains could not be quenched. Although flowers are scattered by the wind, those that bloom in the five heavens of purity17 do not wither. Water evaporates in a time of great drought, but not if it enters the Yellow River. The wicked king named Dammira did not incur punishment even when he cut off the head of an Indian monk. But when he beheaded the Venerable Aryasimha,18 his sword fell to the ground, and his arm with it. When King Pushyamitra19 burned the Kukkutarama Monastery to ashes, his head was split by the staves of the twelve gods.20

Likewise the people of Japan, by becoming enemies of the Lotus Sutra, bring ruin on themselves and their country. And because I proclaim this, I am called arrogant by those of little understanding. But I do not speak out of arrogance. It is simply that if I did not speak out, I would not be the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, when my words prove later to be true, people will be able to believe all the more readily. And because I write this down now, the people of the future will recognize my wisdom.

[A commentary on the Nirvana Sutra states that]21 the body is insignificant while the Law is supreme, and [that] one should give his life in order to propagate the Law. Because my body is insignificant, I am struck and hated, but because the Law is supreme, it will spread without fail. If the Lotus Sutra spreads, my mortal remains will be respected, and if my remains are respected, they will benefit the people. Then I will come to be revered as highly as the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman is now. You should understand that at that time, the men and women who aided me will be honored as greatly as Takeshiuchi22 and Wakamiya.23

The benefits which come from opening the eyes of even one blind person are beyond description. How then is it possible to describe the benefits that derive from opening the blind eyes of all the Japanese people, and from giving the gift of sight to all human beings throughout Jambudvipa and the other three continents of the earth? In the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra we read, "After the Buddha’s death, those who can comprehend its [the sutra’s] meaning serve as the eyes of all heavenly beings and of the people of the world."24 Those who maintain their faith in the sutra act as the eyes of all gods and people. Therefore, those Japanese who are hostile to me are in effect gouging out the eyes of all heavenly and human beings. As a result, heaven is enraged and day after day rains down disasters, while earth is infuriated and month after month one calamity after another occurs.

Taishaku was a heavenly lord, yet he greatly respected the fox who taught him the Law.25 As a result, he was reborn as the Lord Shakyamuni Buddha. Sessen Doji honored a demon as his teacher and became the lord of the threefold world. Saints and sages of old did not reject the Law, no matter what the appearance of its teachers. I, Nichiren, may be a stupid man, but I am surely not inferior to a fox or a demon. The noblest people in the present age are in no way superior to Taishaku or Sessen Doji, yet because of my low social position, they have rejected my wise words. That is why the country is now on the brink of ruin. How lamentable! And what I find even sadder is that I will be unable to save my disciples who have pitied my sufferings.

Should any calamity befall us, you should immediately come to visit me here, where you will be welcomed wholeheartedly. Should the worst happen, then let us starve together among these mountains. I would imagine your daughter, Oto, has become a fine and intelligent young girl. I will write you again.


The fourth day of the eighth month


  1. Three Rulers and Five Emperors: Legendary rulers of ancient China said to have realized model governments. The Three Rulers are Fu Hsi, Shen Nung and Huang Ti. The Five Emperors are Shao Hao, Chuan Hsu, Ti Kao, T'ang Yao and Yii Shun, who reigned after the Three Rulers.
  2. Three Kings: King (or Emperor) Yui of the Hsia dynasty, King T'ang of the Yin dynasty and King Wen of the Chou dynasty. They are said to have reigned after the Five Emperors.
  3. T'ai-kung Wane: A general who served King Wen and, after the king's death, served Veng 'een's son. He fought valiantly in the battle with Emperor Chou of the Yin dynasty and contributed to the prosperity of the Chou dynasty.
  4. Tan the Duke of Chou: A younger brother of King Wu. After Wu's death, Ch'eng, King Wu's son, was still a child, so Tan adiumistered the affairs of state for him as regent.
  5. Gold mined from the Jambu River: Imaginary gold in ancient India. The Jambu is a legendary river running through groves of jambu trees.
  6. Hua: One of the five sacred mountains in China.
  7. Lotus Sutra, chap. 23.
  8. Bishamon: One of the Four Heavenly Kings, who lives halfway down the northern slope of Mt. Sumeru and protects the north. This god is said to always protect the place where the Buddha preaches and to listen to the Buddha's teachings.  In the Dharani (26th) chapter ofthe Lotus Sutra, he pledges to protect the sutra's votaries. The story of Bishamon dispatching troops to escort Kumarajiva appears in the Hokke Denki.
  9. Dosho (629-700): The founder of the Hosso sect in Japan. The story of tigers gathering to protect Dosho appears in the Nihon Ryoiki (Account of Miraculous Stories in Japan).
  10. Thirty-six deities on earth: Benevolent deities appearing in the Kanjio Sutra, whose role is to protect those who embrace the three treasures - the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood.
  11. Twenty-eight gods of the constellations: Gods of the twenty-eight celestial houses. According to Chinese tradition, the heavens are divided into four houses of seven major heavenly bodies each, corresponding respectively to the four directions and four seasons of east, or spring; south, summer; west, autumn; and north, winter.
  12. Dosho and Domyo: Two gods said to dwell on a person's shoulders from the time of his birth and to record all of his acts, good and evil, to report to King Emma, who judges the dead. They represent the law of cause and effect operating within one's life.
  13. Maka Shikan Bugyoden Guketsu, vol. 8.
  14. Lotus Sutra, chap. 10.
  15. Kumarayana: The father of Kumarajiva, and the son of a chief minister of one of the ancient Indian kingdoms. He was a devout Buddhist, yet his king harbored so much hostility against Buddhism that he had to leave the country. He crossed the Pamir range to the north traveling toward China. When the king of Kucha heard that Kumarayana had forsaken a high position because of his faith in Buddhism, he gave him an official welcome and offered him another high post and the hand of his sister, Jivaka, who also had a deep interest in Buddhism. They were married and named their first son Kumarajiva, combining their names. According to legend, when Kumarayana left India he brought with him a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. It is said that by day he carried the statue, and by night, the statue carried him. This story appears in the Jobutsu Shu.
  16. This is mentioned in the Hsan Tzu, sec. I.
  17. Five heavens of purity: A reference to the five highest heavens in the world of form, where one who reaches the third stage of enlightenment in Hinayana Buddhism ("non-returner") is reborn. It is said that no wind blows in these heavens.
  18. Aryasimha: The last of Shakyamuni's twenty-four successors. He lived in central India during the sixth century. According to the Fuhozo Innen Den, when he was propagating Buddhism in Kashmir,  Kin Dammir (Sanskrit unknown), an enemy of Buddhism, destroyed many Buddhist temples and stupas and murdered a number of priests. He finally beheaded Aryasimha. It is said that instead of blood, pure white milk gushed from his neck.
  19. Pushyamitra: A king in India around the second century B.C. Though a descendant of Ashoka, he became an enemy of Buddhism. He originally served as commander in chief to Brihadratha, the last king ofthe Maurya dynasty, but he murdered Brihadratha and founded the Shunga dynasty ruling northern India from his capital at Pataliputra. He slandered Buddhism, killed many monks, and destroyed the Kukkutarama Monastery, a major center of Buddhism built by Ashoka.
  20. Twelve gods: Generally, twelve heavenly gods who protect the world. The above passage, however, seems to equate them with the two guardian deities of the Kukkutarama Monastery. According to the biography of King Ashoka and other sources, these two deities killed Pushyamitra soldiers when they came to destroy the monastery.
  21. Commentary: The Nehangyo Sho by Chang-an.
  22. Takeshiuchi: A general and statesman of the Yarnato era (300-710) who appears in the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan). He served Emperor Ojin, who was said to have been reborn as Bodhisattva Hachiman.
  23. Wakamiya: Reference to Hachiman of Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura. See also p. 67, n. 31.
  24. Lotus Sutra, chap. 11.
  25. This story is found in the Maka Shikan Bugyoden Guketsu. Once there was a fox on Mt. Shita, India. Chased by a lion, he accidentally fell into a dry well and remained there for three days. on the brink of starvation, he resolved to dedicate himself to the Buddhist Law and recited a verse expressing his desire to expiate his past offenses. When the foxes voice reached the god Taishaku on the summit of Mt. Sumeru, Taishaku rescued him and asked him to preach the Law to him and the other heavenly gods.

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 3, page 193.

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