The Teaching for the Latter Day
I have received a quarter-sack1 of polished rice, a horse-load of taro and five strips of konnyaku2 which you took the trouble to send me.
First of all, regarding the daughter of Ishikawa no Hyoe Nyudo. She often sent me letters, and in one that reached me on the night of the fourteenth or fifteenth day of the third month, she wrote, "When I observe the world around me, it seems that even healthy people will be unable to survive this year. I have been ill for a long time, but my illness has suddenly worsened, and I imagine that this will be my last letter to you." So she has already passed away!
Most people believe that those who chant Namu Amida Butsu3 at the moment of their death are sure to be reborn in the Pure Land, for this is what the Buddha taught. For some reason, however, the Buddha surprisingly reversed his statement and said, "[For the past more than forty years,] I have not yet revealed the truth,"4 and "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, [I will expound only the Supreme Way.]"5 I, Nichiren, have been teaching as the Buddha advocated, but all Japan has become enraged and denounced my words as groundless fabrications.
There were other occasions when the Buddha unexpectedly reversed an earlier teaching. In the Hinayana sutras he taught that there is no Buddha other than himself in any of the ten directions and that living beings do not possess the Buddha nature. But in the Mahayana sutras he taught that there are Buddhas throughout the ten directions and that the Buddha nature dwells in every living being. How then can there be anyone who still employs the Hinayana sutras? All people have since come to place their faith in the Mahayana sutras.
Moreover, we find that there are even more unfathomable distinctions which Shakyamuni Buddha drew between the sutras. In the Lotus Sutra, he suddenly refuted all the other sutras that he had preached, now preached and would preach in the future, and declared that only the Lotus Sutra was true. But his disciples would not believe him. At that time, Taho Buddha came to bear witness to what the Buddha had said, and all the Buddhas of the ten directions added their testimony to his, extending their tongues until they reached the Brahma Heaven.
After Taho Buddha had closed the door of the Treasure Tower and the other Buddhas had returned to their original lands, not even Shakyamuni Buddha himself could have denied the Lotus Sutra, whatever other sutras he might have expounded in an effort to do so, because the other Buddhas had all joined in affirming its truth. That is why the Fugen6 and Nirvana sutras, which follow the Lotus Sutra, praise it and in no way disparage it.
Nevertheless, priests like Shan-wu-wei of the Shingon sect and the founders of the Zen sect repudiate the Lotus Sutra, and the entire Japanese nation has now taken faith in their teachings, just like those who were deceived by the rebels Masakado7 and Sadato.8 Japan is now on the brink of ruin because it has for many years been the archenemy of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions, and in addition, the person who denounces these heresies is persecuted. Because such offenses are thus accumulated one on top of another, our nation will soon incur the wrath of heaven.
Perhaps because of karma from past lives or some other reason, the daughter of Ishikawa no Hyoe Nyudo chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at the moment of her death. This is as rare as the one-eyed turtle9 finding a suitable hollow in a floating sandalwood log, or a thread lowered from the heavens passing through the eye of a needle on the earth. How wondrous!
The sutras clearly show that those who believe in the Nembutsu are destined to fall into the hell of incessant suffering, but since people are not aware of this, they all think that it is my own fabrication. People can see neither their own eyebrows, which are so close, nor the heavens in the distance,10 as the saying goes. Had my teaching been false, the nun, Ishikawas daughter, could not have died with a correct and steadfast mind.
Among my disciples, those who think themselves well versed in Buddhism are the ones who make errors. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the heart of the Lotus Sutra. It is like the soul of a person. To revere another teaching as its equal is to be like an empress who is married to two emperors or who secretly commits adultery with a minister or a humble subject. It can only be the cause for disaster. This teaching was not propagated in the Former or Middle Day of the Law because the other sutras had not yet lost the power of benefit. Now in the Latter Day of the Law, neither the Lotus Sutra nor the other sutras lead to enlightenment. Only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can do so. And this is not merely my own opinion. Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions as well as the innumerable Bodhisattvas of the Earth have so determined. To mix other practices with this Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a grave error. A lamp will be useless after the sun rises. How can dewdrops be beneficial once the rain falls? Should one feed a newborn baby with anything other than its mothers milk? Good medicine works by itself; there is no need to add other medicine. Somehow Ishikawas daughter remained true to this principle and continued to uphold her faith until the last moment of her life. How admirable!
With my deep respect,
The first day of the fourth month in the first year of Koan (1278)
Major Writings of Nichiren Dashonin, Vol. 3, pp. 263-266.
Designed by Will Kallander