The Votary of the Lotus Sutra Will Meet Persecution
To Kawanobe and his people, Priest Yamato Ajari and the others, and all of my disciples and my followers Saburo Zaemon-no-jo and Toki
Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu were both scholars of a thousand works. However, they expounded only the provisional Mahayana teachings. Though they understood [the meaning of] the Lotus Sutra in their hearts, they did not declare it in words. (An oral transmission exists concerning this.) T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo went so far as to expound it, but they left unrevealed the object of worship of the essential teaching, the four bodhisattvas, the high sanctuary and the five characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Their reasons were, first, because the Buddha had not transferred these teachings to any of them, and second, because the time was not ripe and the people's capacity had not yet matured. Now the time has arrived, and the four bodhisattvas will surely make their advent. I, Nichiren, was the first to understand this. It is said that the flight of a bluebird heralds the appearance of the Queen Mother of the West, and that the singing of a magpie foretells the arrival of a guest. [In the same way, there are omens announcing the advent of the four bodhisattvas.] All those who consider themselves my disciples should know that now is the time for the four bodhisattvas to appear. Therefore, even if it should cost your lives, you must never discard your faith.
Toki, Saburo Zaemon-no-jo, Kawanobe, Yamato Ajari and the rest of you, gentlemen and priests, should read this letter to one another and listen. In this defiled age, you should always talk together and never cease to pray for your next life.
The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!" The fifth volume says: "The people will resent [the Lotus Sutra] and find it extremely difficult to believe." The thirty-eighth volume of the Nirvana Sutra states, "At that time there were countless Brahmans...Their hearts gave rise to fury." It also says, "At that time there were a countless number of Brahmans who plotted together and went in a body to King Ajatashatru of Magadha and said, 'At present there is a man of incomparable wickedness, a monk called Gautama. O King, you have never examined him, and this arouses much fear in us. All sorts of evil persons hoping to gain profit and alms, have flocked to him and become his followers. [They do not practice goodness, but instead use the power of spells and magic to win over men like] Mahakashyapa, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.'" This well illustrates the meaning of the passage: "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha..."
The Monk of Great Virtue Tokuichi reviled the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai Chih-che, saying: "See here, Chih-i, whose disciple are you? With a tongue less than three inches long you slander the teachings that come from the Buddha's long, broad tongue!" Tokuichi also said, "Surely he [T'ien-t'ai] must be perverse and insane." More than three hundred priests, including the high-ranking prelates of the seven major temples in Nara such as the Supervisor of Monks Gomyo and the Discipline Master Keishin, hurled abuse at the Great Teacher Dengyo, saying, "Just as in the Western Hsia land of Central Asia there was an evil Brahman named Devil Eloquence who deceived people, now in this eastern realm of Japan there is a shave-pated monk who spits out crafty words. Demons like this will attract to themselves those who are of like mind and will deceive and mislead the world."
However, Dengyo states in his Hokke Shuku: "Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound requires courage. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai trusted and obeyed Shakyamuni Buddha and worked to uphold the Hokke [Lotus] school, spreading its teachings throughout China. We of Mount Hiei inherited the doctrine from T'ien-t'ai and work to uphold the Hokke school and to disseminate its teachings throughout Japan."
During the entire lifetime of the Buddha as well as the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law that followed after his death, there were only three votaries of the Lotus Sutra. They were Shakyamuni Buddha himself, T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo. By contrast, Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k'ung of the Shingon school, Tu-shun and Chih-yen of the Kegon school, and the teachers of the Sanron and Hosso schools all interpreted the sentences of the sutra of the true teaching so that they accorded with the meaning of the provisional sutras. Scholars such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu inwardly grasped [the meaning of] the Lotus Sutra but did not outwardly speak of it. Not even the four ranks of saints in the Former Day of the Law could compare with T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo when it came to propagating the Lotus Sutra just as it teaches.
If the Buddha's prediction is true, there must be a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, and the great difficulties that he encounters will surpass those that occurred during the Buddha's lifetime. The Buddha himself underwent nine great ordeals. He was slandered by Sundari; he was offered stinking rice gruel; he was forced to eat horse fodder; King Virudhaka massacred the greater part of the Shakya clan; he went begging but his bowl remained empty; Chinchamanavika slandered him; Devadatta dropped a boulder from atop a hill [in an attempt to kill him]; and the cold wind forced him to seek robes for protection. And in addition, he was denounced by all the Brahmans, as I mentioned earlier. If we go by the prediction in the sutra [that hatred and jealousy will be "much worse" after the Buddha's passing], then T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo did not fulfill the Buddha's prophecy. In view of all this, it must be that a votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, just as the Buddha predicted.
In any event, on the seventh day of the twelfth month in the tenth year of Bun'ei (1273), a letter from Hojo Nobutoki, the former governor of Musashi Province, reached the province of Sado. The letter, to which he had set his seal, read:
We have heard a rumor that Nichiren, the priest exiled to Sado, is leading his disciples in plotting some evil action. His scheme is nothing short of outrageous. From now on, those who follow that priest are to be severely punished. Should there be those who nevertheless still violate this prohibition, their names are to be reported. This is an official order.
The seventh day of the twelfth month in the tenth year of Bun'ei.
To Echi-no Rokuro Zaemon-no-jo
This letter reads that I am "plotting some evil action." Brahmans slandered the Buddha, saying that Gautama was an evil man. I, Nichiren, have personally suffered each of the nine great ordeals. Among them, Virudhaka massacring the Shakya clan, going begging but being left with an empty bowl, and being forced to seek robes for protection from the cold wind have been great trials far surpassing those that occurred during the Buddha's lifetime. These are hardships that T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo never met. Truly you should know that, adding Nichiren to the other three, there is now a fourth votary of the Lotus Sutra, who has appeared in the Latter Day of the Law. How glad I am to fulfill the words of prophecy from the sutra: "How much worse will it be in the world after his passing!" How sad I feel that all the people of this country will fall into the Avichi Hell! I will not go into detail here, or this letter will become too involved. You should think this through seriously for yourselves.
The fourteenth day of the first month in the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274), cyclical sign kinoe-inu
Postscript: All my disciples and followers should read and listen to this letter. Those who are in earnest should discuss it with one another.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page 77.
Designed by Will Kallander