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The Teaching in Accordance with the Buddha's Own Mind

You have kindly sent me three koku of rice. I immediately placed it as an offering before the Lotus Sutra, the single vehicle, and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo just once. I have done this so that your beloved son may "assuredly and without doubt" be escorted to the pure land of Eagle Peak.

The nature of cause and effect is like the relationship of flower to fruit. Or it is like the case of a single flame, no bigger than the light of a firefly, which, when applied to a thousand-ri plain of dried grass, in the space of an instant burns first one blade of grass, then two, then ten, a hundred, a thousand and ten thousand, so that the grass and trees over an area of ten or twenty cho are consumed all at once. A dragon who places one small drop of water in its hands and ascends to the heavens can cause rain to fall upon the major world system. When performed as an offering to the Lotus Sutra, even a small act of goodness produces benefits that are equal in magnitude to these.

One hundred years after the passing of the Buddha, there was a ruler in India known as King Ashoka, who reigned over one quarter of the eighty-four thousand states that make up the continent of Jambudvipa. He was attended by the dragon kings and summoned the spirits to serve him, and, with sixty thousand arhats as his teachers, he vowed to erect eighty-four thousand stone stupas and make offerings of tens of billions of gold pieces to the Buddha. Such was the stature of this great ruler. But if we inquire as to what meritorious deeds from past existences allowed him to achieve such greatness, we find that he had done no more than offer a single mudpie to Shakyamuni Buddha.

Shakyamuni Buddha had an uncle named King Dronodana, and this king’s son was known as Aniruddha. This prince was born with a bowl in his hand, and the bowl had rice in it. When the rice was eaten, more rice appeared in the bowl, and kept on appearing, so that there was never a time when the bowl was empty of rice. As a result, when he was a child the prince was given the name At Will, and through the power of the Lotus Sutra he became a Buddha known as Universal Brightness. If we inquire what cause from a previous existence brought all this about, we find that it was because, in a time of famine, he offered a meal of millet to a monk who was a pratyekabuddha.

If one can gain benefits such as these even from making an offering to a pratyekabuddha, then the benefits gained by giving an offering to the votary of the Lotus Sutra are infinitely greater, exceeding even those gained by making offerings to countless Buddhas.

Nichiren is an inhabitant of the country of Japan. Within the 7,000-yojana area that constitutes the southern continent of Jambudvipa, there are 84,000 countries. Among these, there are 16 major countries, 500 middle-sized countries, 10,000 small countries and a countless number of tiny countries scattered about like grains of millet. India is a major country, comprised of five regions. In the midst of the ocean to the east of it there is a little island, which is the country of Japan. Japan is situated over 100,000 ri to the east of the central region of India.

During the 1,000 years following the passing of the Buddha, known as the Former Day of the Law, Buddhism remained within the confines of India and was not transmitted to other countries. But after the 1,000 years of the Former Day of the Law had ended and the world was 15 years into the Middle Day of the Law, Buddhism was transmitted to the land of China. Three hundred years after it was introduced to China, it was transmitted to the country of Paekche [on the Korean Peninsula]. And after it had been in Paekche for 100 years and 1,415 years had elapsed since the passing of the Buddha, a bronze gilt statue of Shakyamuni Buddha and copies of various scriptures were for the first time introduced to Japan, in the reign of the thirtieth human sovereign, Emperor Kimmei.

Since that time, over 700 years have passed. The great collection of scriptures that has reached Japan during this period has increased to more than 5,000 or 7,000 volumes, and the number of sects has grown to eight, nine and then ten. In the country of Japan there are sixty-six provinces and two islands, over 3,000 shrines dedicated to the gods and over 10,000 Buddhist temples. Half the men and women of the country are priests and nuns, and the Buddhist teachings flourish here in a manner that surpasses that of China and India.

But within the world of Buddhist teachings, various controversies have arisen. The adherents of the Pure Land sect look upon Amida Buddha as their object of worship and the adherents of Shingon worship Dainichi Buddha, while the people of the Zen sect, ignoring both sutras and Buddhas, take Bodhidharma as their object of worship. As for the adherents of the other sects, they for the most part are influenced by and follow the Nembutsu proponents and the Shingon advocates. And though they do not necessarily regard either of these sects as superior, they are swayed by the more powerful and influenced by the larger of the two, and hence take Amida Buddha as their principal object of worship.

Rejecting Shakyamuni Buddha, who is the sovereign, teacher and parent of our present world, they pray to escape to another world that is located ten billion worlds away and that belongs to Amida Buddha, a complete stranger. This Amida Buddha is neither our parent, nor our sovereign, nor our teacher, but merely someone who, in a certain sutra, made forty-eight false vows. And yet, foolish persons, believing these vows to be true, madly clang out a rhythm on bells and dance and leap about, reciting the name of Amida Buddha. But though they abandon the world of their parent in disgust, Amida Buddha, who has promised to come to welcome them, does not appear. They lose their way in the sky while in an indeterminate state between death and life, and the karma that comes from slandering the Law pulls them downward, plunging them into the prison of the three evil paths. Then the fearful demon wardens of hell pounce upon them with delight, binding them and subjecting them to endless torments.

When, based on the sutras, I speak in general terms of such matters, only 1, of all the 4,994,828 men and women in Japan, am thought strange, and the other 4,994,827 persons all regard me as their enemy. Strangely enough, they do not follow Shakyamuni, who is their sovereign, teacher and parent. And, what is more, they curse and strike me, drive me away, and, by resorting to slander, cause me to be sentenced to exile or execution. It is the way of the world that the poor fawn upon the rich, the lowly revere the eminent, and the few follow the many. So even those persons who chanced to put their faith in the Lotus Sutra are intimidated by society and fear others, and many of them fall into hell. This is most pitiful.

But, perhaps because of Nichiren’s ignorant outlook or some past karma, when I read the statements that "[among those sutras] the Lotus is the foremost," that "among the sutras I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand," and that "I am the only person who can rescue and protect others," I take them to be the golden words of the Buddha himself. They are not my own words at all.

The people of today, however, believe the pronouncements of their own teachers to be the golden words of the Buddha.

Thus, they place such pronouncements on the same level as the Lotus Sutra, considering the two to be of equal authority; or they regard these teachings as superior to the Lotus Sutra; or they reason that, though their teacher’s pronouncements are inferior, they are well suited to the capacity of the people.

One should understand that, of the sacred teachings of the Buddha, there are those known as zuitai, which are preached "in accordance with the minds of others," and those known as zuijii, which are preached "in accordance with the Buddha’s own mind." Thus, if a parent yields to the will of his or her child, that is a case of zuitai. But if the child complies with the will of the parent, that is zuijii. All the other sutras are examples of zuitai, because when preaching them the Buddha adjusted himself to the minds of all other living beings. But the Lotus Sutra is an example of zuijii, because in it the Buddha had all living beings comply with his own mind.

The various other sutras represent the teachings of the Buddha, but if one puts faith in them, then one is simply following the minds of ordinary people and will never be able to attain Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra is both the teaching of the Buddha and the embodiment of the Buddha wisdom. If one puts sincere faith in each character and brushstroke in it, then one will become a Buddha in one’s present form. For example, a piece of white paper becomes black when dipped in black ink, and black lacquer turns white when white liquid is poured into it. Just as poison turns into medicine, so do ordinary individuals change into Buddhas. Accordingly we call it the wonderful teaching.

And yet, the people of today, both the distinguished and the lowly, look with contempt upon Shakyamuni Buddha, their father in the present world, and instead revere Amida or Dainichi, who are strangers to them, persons with whom they have no connection at all. In doing so, are they not lacking in filial piety? Are they not slanderers of the Law? When I say this, however, all the people of Japan join together in reviling me.

And it is quite natural that they should, for the crooked piece of wood hates the straightness of the carpenter’s string, and the dishonest man is not pleased with the honest administration of government.

During the reigns of the ninety-one human sovereigns of our country, there have been twenty-six persons who committed treason. Among them were men such as Prince Oyama and Oishi no Omaru, as well as Masakado, Sumitomo and the Evil Minister of the Left. When these men concealed themselves in the mountain forests of Yoshino, or of the Totsu River, of went into hiding in the waters around Tsukushi and Chinzei, the natives of every island in the region and the warriors in every village around set out to attack them. But the distinguished sages, as well as the priests, nuns and women of the various mountains, temples and shrines, did not regard them as their particular enemies. In the case of myself, however, men and women of high and low station, as well as nuns, priests and distinguished sages, all look upon me as their particular enemy.

The reason is this. All people are concerned about their next lifetime, but the priests and nuns, who would appear to ponder more deeply about this than other men and women, in fact set aside the matter of rebirth in the pure land and act as intermediaries in helping people get along well in this present lifetime. Wise persons and sages are also given to insisting that they are correct and superior to others, that they are heirs to the teachings of a certain founder and that they have legitimate claim to a certain domain. They place great emphasis upon fame and personal gain, and give little thought to any kind of serious search for the way.

And so, when I, neither hesitating to speak out nor fearing others, tell them frankly that they are stupid persons who have misunderstood the true meaning of the Buddhist teachings, and that they are slanderers of the Law; when I deliver a sharp rebuke to them, mindful of the Buddha’s golden words "then that monk is betraying Buddhism" and trusting in the passage of scripture that reads, "We will be envoys of the World Honored One, facing the assembly without fear"; when I do this, censuring those who "suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart," then how can they fail to turn upon me with hatred and jealousy?

Thus, throughout the seven reigns of the heavenly deities, the five reigns of the earthly deities, and the reigns of the more than ninety human sovereigns of Japan, no one can match me in the degree to which, for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, I am detested by the three types of enemies. It was no ordinary connection that led you to visit such a man, one who is hated by all persons of both high and low station. Perhaps it is because you were my parent in a previous existence or my brother sometime in the past that you were moved to visit me. Or perhaps it is because you established profound ties with the Lotus Sutra in the past, and the seeds that will lead to your attainment of Buddhahood have reached maturity in this present age, that, busy as you are in your capacity as a lay member of society, you have found time from your public duties to give thought to me.

In addition, your journey from the province of Totomi to Mount Minobu here in the village of Hakiri in Kai Province is over three hundred ri, and the lodgings along the way must have been wretched. Ascending the ridges, you came out into the light of the sun or the moon, but descending into the ravines, you must have felt as though you were entering a pit. The current in the rivers is as swift as an arrow, and the huge stones carried along in them prevent men and horses from crossing. Boats are as perilous as scraps of paper cast on the water. The men one encounters in such a journey are rough woodcutters, and the women are like female mountain demons. The trail is as narrow as a rope, and the trees are as dense as grass. What ties from past existences could have led you to pay me a visit in such a place as this? Shakyamuni Buddha must have led you by the hand, with Taishaku as the horse you rode on, Bonten as your companion, and the sun and moon acting as your eyes along the way. Thank you, thank you for your extraordinary efforts!

There are many other things I would like to say, but I have caught a cold and am feeling quite miserable, so I will end here.


The second day of the fifth month in the second year of Koan (1279), cyclical sign tsuchinoto-u

Reply to Lord Niike

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.

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