Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain
When a tree has been transplanted, though fierce winds may blow on it, it will not topple if it has a firm stake to hold it up. But even a tree that has grown up in place may fall over if its roots are weak. Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, while a person of considerable strength of character, when alone, may lose his footing on an uneven path.
Moreover, had the Buddha not appeared in the world, then in all the major world system, with the exception of Shariputra and Mahakashyapa, every single person would have sunk into the three evil paths. But through the strong bonds formed by relying upon the Buddha, large numbers of the people have been able to attain Buddhahood. Even wicked persons such as King Ajatashatru or Angulimala, who one would expect could never reach enlightenment but would invariably fall into the Avichi Hell, by encountering the great man, the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, were able to attain Buddhahood.
Therefore, the best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a zenchishiki, or good friend. How far can one's own wisdom take him? If one has even enough wisdom to distinguish hot from cold, he should seek out a good friend.
But encountering a good friend is the hardest possible thing to do. Thus the Buddha likened it to the rarity of a one-eyed turtle finding a floating log with a hollow in it the right size to hold him, or to the difficulty of trying to lower a thread from the Brahma Heaven and pass it through the eye of a needle on the earth. Moreover, in this evil latter age, evil companions are more numerous than the dust particles that comprise the earth, while good friends are fewer than the specks of dirt one can pile on a fingernail.
Bodhisattva Kanzeon of Mount Potalaka acted as a good friend to Zenzai Doji, but though the bodhisattva taught him the two doctrines of the specific and perfect teachings, he did not reveal to him the pure and perfect teaching [of the Lotus Sutra]. Bodhisattva Jotai sold himself as an offering in his quest for a good teacher, whereupon he encountered Bodhisattva Dommukatsu. But from the latter he learned only the three doctrines of the connecting, specific and perfect teachings, and did not receive instruction in the Lotus Sutra. Shariputra acted as a good friend to a blacksmith and gave him instruction for a period of ninety days, but succeeded only in making him into an icchantika. Purna discoursed on the Buddhist doctrine for the space of an entire summer's retreat, but he taught Hinayana doctrines to persons who had the capacity for Mahayana doctrines, and thereby turned them into Hinayana adherents.
Thus even great sages [such as Kannon and Dommukatsu] were not permitted to preach the Lotus Sutra, and even arhats who had obtained the fruit of emancipation [such as Shariputra and Purna] were not always able to gauge people's capacity correctly. From these examples, you may imagine how inadequate are the scholars of this latter, evil age! It is far better to be an evil person who learns nothing [of Buddhism] at all than to put one's faith in such men, who declare that heaven is earth, east is west, or fire is water, or assert that the stars are brighter than the moon or an anthill higher than Mount Sumeru.
In judging the relative merit of Buddhist doctrines, I, Nichiren, believe that the best standards are those of reason and documentary proof. And even more valuable than reason and documentary proof is the proof of actual fact.
In the past, around the fifth year of the Bun'ei era (1268), when the Ezo barbarians were rebelling in the east and the Mongol envoys arrived from the west with their demands, I surmised that these events had come about because people did not put faith in the true Buddhist doctrines. I guessed that prayer rituals would surely be performed to subdue the enemy, and that such rituals would be conducted by the priests of the Shingon sect. Of the three countries of India, China and Japan, I will leave aside India for the moment. But I am certain that Japan, like China, will be undone by the Shingon sect.
The Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei journeyed to China from India in the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the T'ang. At that time there was a great drought, and Shan-wu-wei was ordered to conduct prayers for rain. He succeeded in causing a heavy rain to fall, and as a result everyone from the emperor on down to the common people was overcome with joy. Shortly thereafter, however, a great wind began to blow, wreaking havoc throughout the land, and the people's enthusiasm quickly palled.
During the same reign, the Tripitaka Master Chin-kang-chih came to China from India. He too prayed for rain, and within the space of seven days, a heavy rain fell and people rejoiced as they had earlier. But when a great wind of unprecedented violence arose, the ruler concluded that the Shingon sect was an evil and fearsome doctrine and came near to sending Chin-kang-chih back to India. The latter, however made various excuses and contrived to remain.
Again, in the same reign, the Tripitaka Master Pu-k'ung prayed for rain. Within three days a heavy rain fell, producing the same kind of joy as before. But once more a great wind arose, this time even fiercer than on the two previous occasions, and raged for several weeks before subsiding.
How strange were these occurrences! There is not a single person in Japan, whether wise or ignorant, who knows about them. If anyone wishes to find out, he had better question me in detail and learn about these matters while I am still alive.
Turning to the case of Japan, in the second month of the first year of the Tencho era (824), there was a great drought. The Great Teacher Kobo was requested to pray for rain in the Shinsen'en garden. But a priest named Shubin came forward and, protesting that he had been a member of the priesthood longer and ranked higher than Kobo, asked that he be allowed to conduct the ritual. Shubin was granted permission and carried out the prayers. On the seventh day a heavy rain fell, but it fell only on the capital and not in the surrounding countryside.
Kobo was then instructed to take over the task of praying, but seven days went by without any rain falling, then another seven days, and still another seven days. Finally, the emperor himself prayed for rain and caused it to fall. But the priests of Kobo's temple, To-ji, referred to it as "our teacher's rain." If one wishes for details, he need only consult the records.
This was one of the greatest frauds ever known in our nation. And in addition, there were matters of the epidemic that broke out in the spring of the ninth year of the Konin era (818) and of the three-pronged diamond-pounder, which were also frauds of a most peculiar kind. Word of them should be transmitted verbally.
There was a great drought in China in the period of the Ch'en dynasty, but the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai recited the Lotus Sutra, and in no time at all rain began to fall. The ruler and his ministers bowed their heads, and the common people pressed their palms together in reverence. Moreover, the rain was not torrential, nor was it accompanied by wind; it was a shower of soft rain. The Ch'en ruler sat entranced in the presence of the Great Teacher and forgot all about returning to his palace. At that time, he bowed three times [in acknowledgment to the Great Teacher].
In Japan in the spring of the ninth year of the Konin era, a great drought occurred. Emperor Saga ordered Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu to send a lower-ranking official, Wake no Matsuna, [to the Great Teacher Dengyo to ask him to offer prayers in an appeal for rain]. The Great Teacher Dengyo prayed for rain, reciting the Lotus, Konkomyo and Ninno sutras, and on the third day thin clouds appeared and a gentle rain began falling softly. The emperor was so overjoyed that he gave permission for the building of a Mahayana ordination platform, whose establishment had been the most difficult undertaking in Japan.
Gomyo, the teacher of the Great Teacher Dengyo, was a saintly man, the foremost priest in Nara, the southern capital. He and forty of his disciples joined together in reciting the Ninno Sutra to pray for rain, and five days later rain began to fall. It was certainly splendid that rain fell on the fifth day, but less impressive than if it had fallen on the third day, [as in the case of the Great Teacher Dengyo]. Moreover, the rain was very violent, which made Gomyo's performance inferior. From these examples, you may judge how much more inferior were Kobo's efforts to provide rain.
Thus, the Lotus Sutra is superior, while Shingon is inferior. And yet, as though deliberately to bring about the ruin of Japan, people these days rely exclusively on Shingon.
Considering what had happened in the case of the Retired Emperor of Oki, I believed that if the Shingon practices were used to try to subdue the Mongols and the Ezo barbarians, Japan would surely be brought to ruin. Therefore I determined to disregard my own safety and speak out in warning. When I did so, my disciples tried to restrain me, but in view of the way things have turned out, they are probably pleased at what I did. I was able to perceive what not a single wise man in China or Japan had understood in more than five hundred years!
When Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung prayed for rain, rain fell, but it was accompanied by violent winds. You should consider the reason for this. There are cases of people making rain fall even through the use of non-Buddhist teachings, even those of the Taoists, which are hardly worth discussion. And of course with Buddhist teachings, even though they are only those of Hinayana, if they are correctly applied, then how could rain fail to fall? And how much more so if one uses a text such as the Dainichi Sutra, which, though inferior to the Kegon and Hannya sutras, is still somewhat superior to the Agon sutras [of the Hinayana]! Thus rain did indeed fall, but the fact that it was accompanied by violent winds is an indication that the doctrines being applied were contaminated by grievous errors. And the facts that the Great Teacher Kobo was unable to make rain fall although he prayed for twenty-one days, and that he misappropriated the rain that the emperor had caused to fall and called it his own, are indications that he was evenm ore gravely in error than Shan-wu-wei and the others.
But the wildest falsehood of all is that which the Great Teacher Kobo himself recorded when he wrote: "In the spring of the ninth year of the Konin era (818), when I was praying for an end to the epidemic, the sun came out in the middle of the night." This is the kind of lie this man was capable of! This matter is one of the most important secrets that is entrusted to my followers. They should quote this passage to drive their opponents to the wall. I will not go into the matter of doctrinal superiority here, but simply stress that the matters I have written above are of the utmost importance. They should not be lightly discussed or passed on to others. But because you have shown yourself to be so sincere, I am calling them to your attention.
And what of these admonitions of mine? Because people regard them with suspicion and refuse to heed them, disasters such as those we now face occur. If the Mongols should attack us with great force, I am sure that [the teachings of the Lotus Sutra] will spread far and wide in this present lifetime. At such a time, those persons who have treated me harshly will have reason to regret.
The Brahman teachings date from about eight hundred years before the time of the Buddha. At first they centered around the two deities and the three ascetics, but eventually they split into ninety-five schools. Among the Brahman leaders were many wise men and persons endowed with supernatural powers, but none of them was able to free himself from the sufferings of birth and death. Moreover, the people who gave allegiance to their teachings in one way or another all ending by falling into the three evil paths.
When the Buddha appeared in the world, these ninety-five groups of Brahmans conspired with the rulers, ministers and common people of the sixteen major states of India, some of them reviling the Buddha, others attacking him or slaying his disciples and lay supporters in incalculable numbers. But the Buddha did not slacken his resolve, for he said that, were he to cease preaching the Law because of intimidation from others, then all living beings alike would surely fall into hell. He was deeply moved by pity and had no thought of desisting.
These Brahman teachings came about through a mistaken reading of the various sutras of the Buddhas who preceded Shakyamuni Buddha.
The situation today is much the same. Though many different Buddhist doctrines are being taught in Japan, originally they all derive from the eight sects, the nine sects or the ten sects. Among the ten sects, I will set aside for the moment the Kegon sect and others. Because Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho were deluded as to the relative merits of the Shingon and Tendai sects, the people of Japan have in this life been attacked by a foreign country, and in their next life will fall into the evil paths. And the downfall of China, as well as the fact that its people were destined to fall into the evil paths also came about through the errors of Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung.
Moreover, since the time of Jikaku and Chisho, the priests of the Tendai sect have been constrained by the false wisdom of these men and developed into something quite unlike the original Tendai sect.
Is this really true? some of my disciples may be asking. Does Nichiren really have an understanding superior to that of Jikaku and Chisho? But I am only going by what the Buddha predicted in the sutras.
The Nirvana Sutra states that in the Latter Day of the Law, those persons who slander the Law of the Buddha and fall into the hell of incessant suffering as a result will be more numerous than the dust particles that comprise the earth, while those who uphold the True Law will be fewer than the specks of dirt one can pile on a fingernail. And the Lotus Sutra says that even though there might be someone capable of lifting up Mount Sumeru and hurling it away, it will be hard indeed to find anyone who can preach the Lotus Sutra just as it teaches in the Latter Day of the Law of Shakyamuni Buddha.
The Daijuku, Konkomyo, Ninno, Shugo, Hatsunaion and Saishoo sutras record that when the Latter Day of the Law begins, if there should appear a person who practices the True Law, then those who uphold false teachings will appeal to the ruler and his ministers, and the ruler and his ministers, believing their words, will revile that single person who upholds the True Law or attack him, send him into exile or even put him to death. At that time, King Bonten, Taishaku and all the other innumerable deities and the gods of heaven and earth will take possession of the wise rulers of neighboring countries and cause them to overthrow the nation where these things take place. Doesn't the situation we face today resemble that described in these sutras?
I wonder what good causes formed in your past lives have enabled all of you to visit me, Nichiren! But whatever you might discover in examining your past, I am sure that this time you will be able to break free from the sufferings of birth and death. Shuddhipanthaka was unable to memorize a teaching of fourteen characters even in the space of three years, and yet he attained Buddhahood. Devadatta, on the other hand, had committed to memory sixty thousand sacred texts but fell into the hell of incessant suffering. These examples exactly represent the situation in the world in this present latter age. Never suppose that they pertain only to other people and not to yourselves.
There are many other things that I would like to say, but I will stop here. I do not know how to thank you for all you have done in these troubled times, so I have here outlined for you some important points in our doctrine.
Thank you for the cowpeas and green soybeans.
The twenty-second day of the sixth month
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6 page 109.
Designed by Will Kallander