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The Essence of the Yakuo Chapter


It is thought that Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in 1265, though different views exist regarding this date. The addressee is also uncertain, but because the attainnient of Buddhahood by women is discussed in the latter part of the Gosho, it seems quite likely that it was directed to a woman believer, who may have been the mother of Nanjo Tokimitsu, the steward of Ueno Village in the Fuji area.

Nichiren Daishonin begins by outliming the general structure of the Lotus Sutra and by clarifying the specific role played by the Yakuo (Medicine King), or twenty-third, chapter of the sutra.

He then explains the first four of the ten analogies-the great ocean, mountains, the moon, the sun, the wheel-turning king, the god Taishaku, the god Bonten, persons at the four stages of Hinayana enlightenment and pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas and the Buddha-set forth in this chapter, thereby illustrating the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra over all other sutras and the benefits of belief in the Lotus Sutra.

in mentioning the analogy of the great ocean, the Daishonin refers to the ocean's ten virtues or outstanding characteristics, and to the description found in the Zuiki kudoku (eighteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra concerning the great benefit conferred upon the fiftieth person who rejoices on hearing this sutra.

In this manner, through the four analogies of the great ocean, mountains, the moon and the sun, the Daishonin touches upon various principles of Buddhism and asserts that the benefit of the Lotus Sutra is immeasurable and that the Lotus Sutra is the only scripture enabling all beings to attain Buddhahood in their present form. And he points out that among all the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, only the Juryo (sixteenth) can free human beings from the sufferings of birth and death.

Next the Daishonin explains two analogies from the Yakuo chapter other than the ten analogies: one is the analogy of a ship that carries people across the sea of the sufferings of birth and death, and the other is that of the poor finding riches. Thus, the Daishonin likens the Lotus Sutra respectively to a great ship and to a mountain of riches.

Toward the end of this Gosho, the Daishonin writes of the three obediences and the five obstacles, limitations traditionally believed to bind women in secular and Buddhist thought.

In the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, women are presented as being incapable of attaining Buddhahood. But the Daishonin, discussing this subject in some detail, and citing passages from the Muryogi (Immeasurable Meanings), Lotus and Nirvana sutras, declares that women are indeed able to attain Buddhahood.

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