True Entity of Life
- Shoho Jisso Sho -
Question: In the Hoben chapter of Volume One of the Lotus Sutra is the passage: "The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature...and their consistency from beginning to end." What does this passage mean?
Answer: It means that all beings and their environments in any of the Ten Worlds, from Hell at the lowest to Buddhahood at the highest, are, without exception, the manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. Where there is an environment, there is life within it. Miao-lo states, "Both life (shoho) and its environment (eho) always manifest Myoho-renge-kyo."1 He also states, "The true entity is invariably revealed in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably possess the Ten Factors. The Ten Factors invariably function within the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably entail both life and its environment"2 And, "Both the life and environment of Hell exist within the life of Buddha. On the other hand, the life and environment of Buddha do not transcend the lives of common mortals."3 Such precise explanations leave no room for doubt. Thus, all life in the universe is clearly Myoho-renge-kyo. Even the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Taho, are the functions of Myoho-renge-kyo who appeared to bestow its blessings upon mankind. They manifested themselves as the two Buddhas and, seated together in the Treasure Tower, nodded in mutual agreement.
No one but Nichiren has ever revealed these teachings. T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo knew in their hearts but did not declare them aloud. There was reason for their silence: The Buddha had not entrusted them with this mission, the time had not yet come, and they had not been the Buddha's disciples from ages past. No one but Jogyo, Muhengyo and the other leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth can appear during the first five hundred years of the Latter Day to spread the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo. Only they are qualified to inscribe the object of worship which physically manifests the ceremony of the two Buddhas seated together in the Treasure Tower. This is because both the Law and the object of worship are the reality of ichinen sanzen revealed in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching.
The two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Taho, are merely functions of the true Buddha, while Myoho-renge-kyo actually is the true Buddha. The sutra explains this as "the Tathagata's secret and his mystic power."4 The "secret" refers to the entity of the Buddha's three properties and the "mystic power" to their functions. The entity is the true Buddha and the function, a provisional Buddha. The common mortal is the entity of the three properties, or the true Buddha. The Buddha is the function of the three properties, or a provisional Buddha. Shakyamuni is thought to have possessed the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent for the sake of us common mortals, but on the contrary, it is the common mortal who endowed him with the three virtues.
T'ien-t'ai explains the Tathagata as follows: "Nyorai is the title of the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences, of the two Buddhas5 and the three Buddhas,6 and of all the Buddhas, true and provisional."7 Here the "true Buddha" is the common mortal, whereas "provisional Buddhas" means the Buddha. Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between a Buddha and a common mortal, in that a common mortal is deluded while a Buddha is enlightened. The common mortal fails to realize that he himself possesses both the entity and the function of the Buddha's three properties.
"All phenomena" in the sutra refers to the Ten Worlds, and the "true entity" is what permeates the Ten Worlds. Reality8 is another expression for Myoho-renge-kyo; hence Myoho-renge-kyo is manifest in all phenomena. Hell appears hellish; that is the reality of Hell. When Hunger emerges, the reality of Hell is no longer present. A Buddha exhibits the reality of a Buddha, and a common mortal, that of a common mortal. All phenomena are themselves manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. This is the meaning of "all phenomena reveal the true entity." T'ien-t'ai states, "The profound principle of 'true entity' is the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo,"9 thus identifying the phrase "true entity" with the theoretical teaching and "the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo" with the essential teaching. You should ponder this passage deep in your heart.
Although not worthy of the honor, Nichiren was nevertheless the first to spread the Mystic Law entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo for propagation in the Latter Day of the Law. Nichiren was also the first to inscribe the Gohonzon, which is the embodiment of the Buddha from the remote past as revealed in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching, of Taho Buddha who appeared when the Hoto chapter of the theoretical teaching was preached, and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who emerged with the Yujutsu chapter. No matter how people may hate Nichiren, they cannot possibly alter the fact of his enlightenment.
To have exiled Nichiren to this remote island is therefore a sin that can never be expiated, even with the passing of countless aeons. A passage from the Hiyu chapter reads, "Not even an aeon would be time enough to explain the full gravity of this sin." On the other hand, not even the wisdom of the Buddha can fathom the blessings one will obtain by giving alms to Nichiren and by becoming his disciple. The Yakuo chapter reads, "Not even with the Buddha's wisdom can one measure these benefits."
Nichiren alone began to carry out the task of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He may even be one of them. If Nichiren should be a Bodhisattva of the Earth, then so must his disciples. The Hosshi chapter states, "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, sent to carry out the Buddha's work." Who else but us can this possibly refer to?
When one is praised highly by others, he feels there is no hardship he cannot bear. Such is the courage which springs from words of praise. The votary born in the Latter Day of the Law who propagates the Lotus Sutra will encounter the three powerful enemies, who will cause him to be exiled and even sentence him to death. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha will enfold in his robe of mercy those who nonetheless persevere in propagating. All gods will make them offerings, support them with their shoulders and carry them on their backs. They possess supreme good fortune and qualify as leaders of all mankind. Thus extolled by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all of the other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the seven ranks of heavenly gods and five ranks of earthly gods,10 Kishimojin and her ten daughters, the Four Heavenly Kings, Bonten, Taishaku, King Emma, the gods of the waters and winds, the gods of the seas and mountains, Dainichi Buddha, Bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju and the gods of the sun and the moon, Nichiren has been able to endure countless harsh trials. When praised, one does not consider his personal risk, and when criticized, he can recklessly cause his own ruin. Such is the way of common mortals.
No matter what, maintain your faith as a votary of the Lotus Sutra, and forever exert yourself as Nichiren's disciple. If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth. And since you are a Bodhisattva of the Earth, there is not the slightest doubt that you have been a disciple of the Buddha from the remotest past. The Yujutsu chapter states, "I have taught these people since the remotest past." There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku. Only I, Nichiren, at first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three and a hundred followers, chanting and teaching others. Likewise, propagation will unfold, this way in the future. Doesn't this signify "emerging from the earth?" At the time of kosen-rufu, the entire Japanese nation will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target.
But now you must build your reputation as a votary of the Lotus Sutra and devote yourself to it. Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha, seated in the Treasure Tower in the air, surrounded by all other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, nodded in agreement. What they decided upon was solely for the perpetuation of the True Law throughout the Latter Day. Taho Buddha had offered Shakyamuni Buddha a place beside him, and when they unfurled the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo, the two leaders of the entire multitude made their decision together. Could there have been anything false in their decision? Their ultimate purpose in meeting was to provide a way for all of us ordinary people to attain Buddhahood.
Although I was not at that ceremony, in looking at the sutra, this is crystal-clear. On the other hand, I may have been at the ceremony, but since I am a common mortal, it is beyond my power to know the past. There is no doubt, however, that in the present life I am the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and that in the future I will therefore reach the seat of enlightenment. Judging the past from this point of view, I must have been at the ceremony in the air. There can be no discontinuity between past, present and future.
Because I view things in this way, I feel immeasurable delight even though I am now an exile. Joy as well as sorrow brings us to tears. Tears express our feeling for both blessings and misfortune. The one thousand arhats shed tears in memory of the Buddha, and in tears Bodhisattva Monju chanted Myoho-renge-kyo. From among those one thousand arhats, the venerable Ananda replied in tears, "Thus I heard." Thereupon the tears of all the others fell, wetting their inkstones, and they wrote "Myoho-renge-kyo" followed by "Thus I heard." I, Nichiren, now feel exactly as they did. I am now in exile because I spread the teaching of Myoho-renge-kyo. I spread this teaching because I, too, "heard thus": Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha left Myoho-renge-kyo for the Japanese and all people in the future.
I cannot hold back my tears when I think of the great persecution confronting me now, or when I think of the joy of attaining Buddhahood in the future. Birds cry, but never shed tears. I, Nichiren, do not cry, but my tears flow ceaselessly. I shed my tears not for worldly affairs but solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. So indeed, they must be tears amrita.12
The Nirvana Sutra states that while the tears one sheds throughout his many existences on the death of his parents, brothers, sisters, wives, children and followers may surpass the quantity of water in all the seas, he weeps not a drop for Buddhism. One becomes a votary of the Lotus Sutra by virtue of his practice in past existences. It is karmic relationships that determine which among so many of the same kind of trees are made into images of Buddha. It is also because of karma that some Buddhas are born as provisional ones.
In this letter, I have written my most important teachings. Grasp their meaning and make them part of your life. Believe in the Gohonzon, the supreme object of worship in the world. Forge strong faith and receive the protection of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas. Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
With my deep respect,
The seventeenth day of the fifth month
Postscript: I have already passed on to you many of my important teachings. Those I have revealed to you in this letter are especially important. Is there not a mystic bond between us? Are you not the embodiment of one of the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth headed by Jogyo who led bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands of the sixty thousand Ganges Rivers? There must be some profound reason for our relationship. I have given you some of the most important teachings relating to my own life and practice. Nichiren may be one of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth, for I have been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo out of my desire to guide all the men and women in Japan. Hence the phrase of the sutra: "Among the bodhisattvas are four who led the entire multitude: The first is called Jogyo; [the second, Muhengyo; the third, Jyogyo; and the fourth, Anryugyo.] They are the four highest leaders."13 Our deep relationship in the past has made you one of my disciples. By all means keep these matters to yourself. Nichiren has herein committed to writing the teachings of his own enlightenment. I will end here.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol. I, page 89.
Designed by Will Kallander