The Treasure of a Filial Child
I was deeply grieved to hear the news about the nun, the wife of Ko Nyudo. Please tell her that I think very fondly of her.
I have received your various gifts of one kan and five hundred mon of coins, laver, wakame seaweed and dried rice, and have respectfully reported this in the presence of the Lotus Sutra.
The Lotus Sutra says, "Among those who hear of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood." Although this passage consists of but ten characters, to read even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is to read without omission all the sacred teachings preached by Shakyamuni Buddha during his lifetime. Therefore, the Great Teacher Miao-lo says, "If, in propagating the Lotus Sutra, one is to interpret even one of its doctrines, he must take into consideration all the Buddha's lifetime of teachings and master them from beginning to end."
By "beginning" he means the Kegon Sutra, and by "end" he means the Nirvana Sutra. The Kegon Sutra was preached at the time when the Buddha had first gained enlightenment, when the great bodhisattvas Dharma Wisdom, Forest of Merit and others, responding to the request of a bodhisattva called Moon of Emancipation, preached in the Buddha's presence. I do not know in what form this sutra may exist in India, in the dragon king's palace or in the Tushita Heaven, but it has been brought to Japan in a sixty-volume version, an eighty-volume version and a forty-volume version. In the case of the last of the teachings, the Nirvana Sutra, I again do not know in what form it may exist in India or in the dragon king's palace, but in our country it exists in a forty-volume version, a thirty six-volume version, a six-volume version and a two-volume version.
In addition to these sutras, there are the Agon sutras, the Hodo sutras and the Hannya sutras, which run to five thousand or seven thousand volumes. But even though we may not see or hear of any of these various sutras, if we read so much as a single word or phrase of the Lotus Sutra, it is just as though we were reading every word of all these various sutras.
It is like the two characters that compose the name for India, Gasshi, or the name for Japan, Nihon. The two characters that make up the name Gasshi encompass the five regions of India, the sixteen major kingdoms, the five hundred intermediate kingdoms, the ten thousand minor kingdoms and the countless smaller countries like scattered grains of millet, all with their great land areas, great mountains, their plants and trees, and their human inhabitants and domestic animals. Or it is like a mirror, which may be only one inch, two inches, three inches, four inches or five inches in size, but which can reflect the image of a person who is one foot or five feet in height, or of a great mountain that is ten feet, twenty feet, a hundred feet or a thousand feet in size.
Thus when we read the above passage from the Lotus Sutra, we know that all persons who hear of the sutra will, without a single exception, attain Buddhahood.
All the various beings in the nine worlds and the six paths differ from one another in their minds. It is like the case of two people, three people or a hundred or a thousand people: Though all have faces about a foot in length, no two look exactly alike. Their minds differ, and therefore their faces differ, too. How much greater still is the difference between the minds of two people, of ten people and of all the living beings in the six paths and the nine worlds! So it is that some love the blossoming cherry trees and some love the moon, some prefer sour things and some prefer bitter ones, some like little things and some like big. People have various tastes. Some prefer good and some prefer evil. People are of many kinds.
But though they differ from one another in such ways as these, when they enter into the Lotus Sutra, they all become like a single person in body and a single person in mind. This is just like the various rivers that, when they flow into the great ocean, all take on a uniformly salty flavor, or like the different kinds of birds that, when they approach Mount Sumeru, all assume the same [golden] hue. Thus Devadatta, who had committed three of the five cardinal sins, and Rahula, who observed all of the two hundred and fifty precepts, both alike became Buddhas. And both King Myoshogon, who held erroneous views, and Shariputra, who held correct views, equally received predictions that they would attain Buddhahood. This is because, in the words of the passage quoted earlier, "There is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood."
In the Amida and other sutras expounded during the first forty and more years of the Buddha's preaching life, Shariputra is said to have achieved great merit by reciting the name of Amida Buddha a million times in the space of seven days. But since these sutras were repudiated as teachings belonging to the period when the Buddha had "not yet revealed the truth," such recitation is in fact as meaningless as if one were to boil water for seven days and then throw it into the ocean.
Lady Vaidehi, by reading the Kammuryoju Sutra, was able to reach the stage known as the realization of non-birth and non-extinction. But since this sutra was cast aside with the Buddha's words that he would now "honestly discard the provisional teachings," unless Lady Vaidehi were to take faith in the Lotus Sutra, she must revert to her former status as an ordinary woman.
One's acts of great good are nothing to rely on. If he fails to encounter the Lotus Sutra, what can they avail? Nor should one lament that he has committed acts of great evil. For if only he practices the one vehicle, then he can follow in the footsteps of Devadatta [in attaining Buddhahood]. All this is because the sutra passage that declares, "There is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood," was not spoken in vain.
Some may wonder where the spirit of the late Abutsu-bo may be at this moment. But by using the bright mirror of the Lotus Sutra to reflect his image, I, Nichiren, can see him among the assembly on Eagle Peak, seated with the Treasure Tower of Taho Buddha and facing toward the east.
If what I say is not true, then it is no error of mine. Rather the tongue of Shakyamuni Buddha, who said, "The World Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth"; along with the tongue of Taho Buddha, who declared, "The Lotus Sutra ... All that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the truth"; as well as the tongues of all the various Buddhas who are seated side by side in four hundred billion nayutas of lands, as numerous as hemp or rice plants, as stars or stalks of bamboo, lined up with never a gap between them, and who, without a single exception, extended their tongues up to the palace of Daibonten--all these tongues, I say, will in one moment rot away like a whale that has died and decayed, or like a heap of sardines that have rotted. All the Buddhas in the worlds of the ten directions will be guilty of the offense of speaking great falsehoods; the earth of the pure land of Tranquil Light, which is made of gold and emeralds, will suddenly split open; and all these Buddhas will, like Devadatta, plunge headlong into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. Or, as happened to the nun Dharma Lotus Fragrance, fierce flames will shoot out of their bodies because of the great lies they have told, and the flower garden of the Lotus Treasury World, a Land of Actual Reward, will in one instant be reduced to a place of ashes. But how could such things be possible?
If the late Abutsu-bo alone were not admitted to the pure land of Tranquil Light, then all these Buddhas would fall into a realm of great suffering. Leaving all else aside, you should consider the matter in this light. On this basis, you may judge the truth or falsehood of the Buddha's words.
A man is like a pillar, a woman like a crossbeam. A man is like the legs of a person, a woman like the trunk. A man is like the wings of a bird, a woman like the body. If the wings and the body become separated, then how can the bird fly? And if the pillar topples, then the crossbeam will surely fall to the ground.
A home without a man is like a person without a soul. With whom can you discuss matters of business, and to whom can you feed good things? Merely to be separated from your husband for a day or two is cause for uneasiness. And you were parted from your husband on the twenty-first day of the third month of last year, and passed the remainder of the year without seeing his return. Now it is already the seventh month of this year. Even though he himself does not return, why does he not send you some word?
The cherry blossoms, once scattered, have again come into bloom, and the fruit, once fallen, has formed again on the trees. The spring breezes are unchanged, and the scenes of autumn are just as they were last year. How is it that, in this one matter alone, things should be so different from what they were, never to be the same again?
The moon sets and rises again; the clouds disperse and then gather once more. Even Heaven must regret and the earth lament that this man has gone away and will never come again. You yourself must feel the same. Rely upon the Lotus Sutra as provender for your journey, and quickly, quickly set out for the pure land of Eagle Peak so that you can meet him there!
There is a passage in one of the sutras that says that children are one's enemies. "People in this world commit many sins because of their children," it states. In the case of the birds known as the crested eagle and the eagle, though the parents raise their young with compassion, the young turn around and eat their parents. And the bird known as the owl, after it is hatched, invariably devours its mother. Such is the case among the lowly creatures.
Even among human beings, King Virudhaka seized the throne from his father, whom he resented, and King Ajatashatru murdered his father. An Lu-shan killed his foster mother, and An Ch'ing-hsu killed his father, An Lu-shan. An Ch'ing-hsu was killed by Shih Shih-ming, [who was like a son to him,] and Shih Shih-ming was in turn killed by his son, Shih Ch'ao-i. Thus there is good reason why children are spoken of as enemies. The monk named Sunakshatra was a son of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. But he conspired with the non-Buddhist teacher called Achievement through Austerities and attempted time and again to kill his father, the Buddha.
There is also a sutra passage that says that children are a treasure. Accordingly, the sutra states, "Because of the blessings their sons and daughters accumulate through religious practice, a great shining brightness appears, illuminating the realm of hell, and the parents [suffering in hell] are thereby able to awaken a believing mind." But even if the Buddha had not taught [that children are a treasure], you could tell as much simply from the evidence before your eyes.
In India there was once a great ruler, the king of the country called Parthia. This king was inordinately fond of horses and horse-raising. In time, he became so expert in raising them that he could not only turn a worthless horse into one of outstanding merit, but could also transform an ox into a horse. Eventually, he even turned people into horses and rode them. The citizens of his own state were so grieved at this last feat that he confined himself to turning men from other lands into horses. Thus, when a traveling merchant came to his kingdom from another country, he gave the merchant a potion to drink, transformed him into a horse and tied him up in the royal stables.
Even under ordinary circumstances the merchant yearned for his homeland and in particular thought longingly of his wife and child. Thus he found his lot very difficult to bear. But since the king would not allow him to go home, he could not do so. Indeed, even had it been possible, what could he have done there in his present form? So all he could do was bewail his fate morning and evening.
This man had a son who, when his father failed to return at the expected time, began to wonder if he had been killed, or had perhaps fallen ill. Feeling that, as a son, he must find out what had happened to his father, he set out upon a journey. His mother lamented, protesting that her husband had already gone off to another land and failed to return, and that if she were now to be abandoned by her only son as well, she did not know how she could carry on. But the son was so deeply concerned about his father that he nevertheless set off for the country of Parthia in search of him.
[Upon his arrival,] he put up for the night at a small lodging. The master of the house said: "How sad! You are still so young, and I can see from your face and bearing that you are a person of distinction. I had a son once, but he went off to another country and perhaps has died there. At least I do not know what has become of him. When I think of the fate of my own son, I can scarcely bear to look at you. I say this because here in this country we have a cause for great sorrow. The king of this country is so inordinately fond of horses that he ventures to make use of a strange kind of plant. If he feeds one of the narrow leaves of this plant to a person, the person turns into a horse. And if he feeds one of the broad leaves of the plant to a horse, the horse turns into a person. Not long ago a merchant came here from another country. The king fed him some of this plant, turned him into a horse and is secretly keeping him confined in the first of the royal stables."
When the son heard this, he thought that his father must have been transformed into a horse, and he asked, "What color is this horse's coat?"
The master of the house replied, "The horse is chestnut, with white dappling on the shoulders."
After the son had learned all these things, he contrived to approach the royal palace, where he was able to steal some of the broad leaves of the strange plant. When he fed these to his father, who had been changed into a horse, his father changed back into his original form.
The king of the country, marveling at what had happened, handed the father over to the son, since the latter had shown himself to be such a model of filial concern, and after that he never again turned men into horses.
Who but a son would have gone to such lengths to seek out his father? The Venerable Maudgalyayana saved his mother from the sufferings of the realm of hungry spirits, and Jozo and Jogen persuaded their father to give up his heretical views. This is why it is said that a good child is a parent's treasure.
Now the late Abutsu-bo was an inhabitant of a wild and distant island in the northern sea of Japan. Nevertheless, he was anxious about his future existence, so he took religious vows and aspired to happiness in the next life. When he encountered me, Nichiren, an exile to the island, he embraced the Lotus Sutra, and in the spring of last year he became a Buddha. When the fox of Mount Shita encountered the Law of the Buddha, he grew dissatisfied with life, longed for death, and was reborn as the god Taishaku. In the same way, Abutsu Shonin grew weary of his existence in this impure world, and so he became a Buddha.
His son, Tokuro Moritsuna, has followed in his footsteps, becoming a wholehearted votary of the Lotus Sutra. Last year, on the second day of the seventh month, he appeared here at Mount Minobu in Hakiri in the province of Kai, having journeyed a thousand ri over mountains and seas with his father's ashes hung around his neck, and deposited them at the place dedicated to the practice of the Lotus Sutra. And this year, on the first day of the seventh month, he came again to Mount Minobu to pay respects at his father's grave. Surely, there is no treasure greater than a child, no treasure greater than a child! Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The second day of the seventh month
Postscript: I am sending a priestly robe of dyed silk. Please inform Bungo-bo. The teachings of the Lotus Sutra are already spreading throughout the country of Japan. Bungo-bo should undertake to propagate them in the Hokuriku region, but he cannot do so unless he becomes well learned. Tell him to make haste and come here no later than the fifteenth day of the ninth month.
Please send me the various sacred texts as soon as possible by way of Tamba-bo, as you did with the diary. Please send Yamabushi-bo here to me as I instructed earlier. I am delighted to hear that you have been treating him with such kindness.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page 293.
Designed by Will Kallander