- Ho-on Sho -
The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was
born; the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from Mao Pao.
If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how much more
should human beings! Thus Yu Jang, a worthy man of old, fell on his
sword in order to repay the debt he owed his lord Chih Po, and the
minister Hung Yen for similar reasons cut open his stomach and inserted
the liver of his dead lord, Duke Yi of Wei. What can we say, then, of
persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely they should not
forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers,
and their country.
But if one intends to repay these great debts of
gratitude, he can hope to do so only if he studies and masters the
Buddhist teachings, becoming a person of wisdom. If he does not, he will
be like a man who attempts to lead a company of the blind over bridges
and across rivers when he himself has sightless eyes. Can a ship steered
by someone who cannot even tell the direction of the wind ever carry the
traveling merchants to the mountains where treasure lies?
If one hopes to study and master the Buddhist
teachings, then he cannot do so without devoting time to the task. And
if he wants to have time to spend on the undertaking, he cannot continue
to wait on his parents, his teachers, and his sovereign. Until he
attains the road that leads to emancipation, he should not defer to the
wishes and feelings of his parents and teachers, no matter how
reasonable they may be.
Many people may think that counsel such as this runs
counter to secular virtues and also fails to accord with the spirit of
Buddhism. But in fact secular texts such as the Classic of Filial
Piety make clear that there are times when one can be a loyal
minister or a filial child only by refusing to obey the wishes of one's
sovereign or parents. And in the sacred scriptures of Buddhism it is
said, "By renouncing one's obligations and entering nirvana one can
truly repay those obligations in full." Pi Kan refused to go along with
his sovereign's wishes and thereby came to be known as a worthy man.
Crown Prince Siddhartha disobeyed his father King Shuddhodana and yet
became the most outstanding filial son in all the threefold world. These
are examples of what I mean.
Once I had understood this and prepared to cease
deferring to my parents and teachers and instead to delve into the
truths of Buddhism, I found that there are ten bright mirrors that
reflect the sacred doctrines of the Buddha's lifetime of teachings.
These are the ten sects of Buddhism known as the Kusha, Jojitsu, Ritsu,
Hosso, Sanron, Shingon, Kegon, Jodo, Zen, and Tendai-Hokke sects.
Scholars today believe that, with these ten sects as enlightened
teachers, one should understand the heart of all the sacred scriptures,
and claim that these ten mirrors all in an accurate manner reflect the
path of the Buddha's teachings. However, we may set aside for now the
three Hinayana sects [Kusha, Jojitsu, and Ritsu]. They are like a
message that is somehow sent to a foreign country by a private citizen
and therefore lacks authority.
But the seven Mahayana sects are a great ship that can
carry us across the vast sea of suffering and take us to the shore of
the pure land. By studying and understanding them, we can save ourselves
and at the same time lead others to salvation. When, with this thought
in mind, I began to examine them, I found that each of the seven
Mahayana sects sings its own praises, saying, "Our sect and our sect
alone represents the very heart of the Buddha's lifetime of teaching!"
There are men such as Tu-shun, Chih-yen, Fa-tsang, and
Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon sect; Hsuan-tsang, Tz'u-en, Chih-chou and
Chisho of the Hosso sect; Hsing-huang and Chia-hsiang of the Sanron
sect; Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung, Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho of
the Shingon sect; Bodhidharma, Hui-k'o and Hui-neng of the Zen sect; and
Tao-ch'o, Shan-tao, Huai-kan and Genku [Honen] of the Jodo sect. Basing
themselves on the particular sutras and treatises favored by their
respective sects, these leaders of the various sects all claim that "our
sect" understands all of the myriad sutras, that "our sect" has grasped
the innermost meaning of the Buddha's teachings.
Thus, some of these men claim, "The Kegon Sutra
is first among all the sutras; other sutras such as the Lotus and the Dainichi are its underlings." Again, the leaders of the Shingon sect
claim, "The Dainichi or Great Sun Sutra is first among all the
sutras; the other sutras are like crowds of little stars." The men of
the Zen sect say, "The Ryoga Sutra is first among all the
sutras." And so forth for the men of the various other sects. The many
Buddhist teachers whose names I have listed above are honored by the
people of our time, who pay reverence to them in the way that all the
heavenly deities pay reverence to the god Taishaku and follow them in
the way the hosts of stars follow the sun and the moon.
For ordinary people like us, whomever we may take as
our teacher, if we have faith in him, then we will not think him
inadequate in any way. But though others may still revere and believe
[in the teachers of their respective sects], I, Nichiren, have found it
difficult to dispel my doubts.
When we look at the world, we find each of the various
sects saying, "We are the one, we are the one!" But within a nation,
there can be only one man who is sovereign. If two men try to be
sovereign, the country will know no peace. Likewise, if one house has
two masters, it will surely face destruction. Must it not be the same
with the sutras?
Among the various sutras, there must be one which is
the monarch of all. Yet the ten sects and seven sects I have mentioned
all argue with each other over which of the sutras it is and can reach
no consensus. It is as though seven men or ten men were all trying to be
the monarch of a single nation, thus keeping the populace in constant
Wondering how to resolve this dilemma, I made a vow. I
decided that I would not heed the claims of these eight or ten sects,
but would do as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai did and let the sutras
themselves be my sole teacher, in this way determining which of the
various teachings of the Buddha's lifetime are superior and which are
inferior. With this in mind, I began to read through all the sutras.
In a scripture called the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha
says, "Rely on the Law and not upon persons." Relying on the Law here
means relying on the various sutras. Not relying upon persons means not
relying on persons other than the Buddha, such as Bodhisattvas Fugen and
Monjushiri or the various Buddhist teachers I have enumerated earlier.
In the same sutra, the Buddha also says, "Rely on the
sutras that are complete and final and not on those which are not
complete and final." When he speaks of the "sutras that are complete and
final," he is referring to the Lotus Sutra, and when he speaks of "those
which are not complete and final," he means the Kegon, Dainichi, Nirvana and other sutras preached before, during, and
after the preaching of the Lotus Sutra.
If we are to believe these dying words of the Buddha,
we must conclude that the Lotus Sutra is the only bright mirror we
should have, and that through it we can understand the heart of all the
Accordingly, let us turn to the text of the Lotus
Sutra itself. There we find it stated that "This Lotus Sutra [is the
secret storehouse of Buddhas]. Among the sutras, it holds the highest
place." If we accept these words of the sutra, then, like Taishaku
dwelling on the peak of Mount Sumeru, like the wish-granting jewel that
crowns the wheel-turning kings, like the moon that dwells above the
forest of trees, like the fleshy protuberance that tops the head of a
Buddha, so the Lotus Sutra stands like a wish-granting jewel crowning
the Kegon, Dainichi, Nirvana and all the other sutras.
If we set aside the pronouncements of the scholars and
teachers and rely upon the text of the sutra, then we can see that the
Lotus Sutra is superior to the Dainichi, Kegon and all the
other sutras as plainly and as easily as a sighted person can
distinguish heaven form earth when the sun is shining in a clear blue
And if we examine the texts of the Dainichi, Kegon, and the other sutras, we will find that there is not a word
or even a dot in them that resembles the above-cited passage of the
Lotus Sutra. True, at times they speak about the superiority of the
Mahayana sutras as compared to the Hinayana sutras, or of the Buddhist
truth as opposed to secular truth, or they praise the truth of the
Middle Way as opposed to the various views that phenomena are
non-substantial or that they have only provisional existence. But in
fact they are like the rulers of petty kingdoms who, when addressing
their subjects, speak of themselves as great kings. It is the Lotus
Sutra that, in comparison to these various rulers, is the true Great
The Nirvana Sutra alone of all the sutras has passages
that resemble those of the Lotus Sutra. For this reason, the Buddhist
scholars who preceded T'ien-t'ai in both northern and southern China
were led astray into declaring that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the
Nirvana Sutra. But if we examine the text of the Nirvana Sutra itself,
we will find that, as in the Muryogi Sutra, the comparison is
being made between the Nirvana Sutra and the sutras of the Kegon, Agon,
Hodo and Hannya periods that were expounded during the first forty or
more years of the Buddha's preaching life. It is in comparison to these
earlier sutras that the Nirvana Sutra declares itself to be superior.
Moreover, the Nirvana Sutra, comparing itself with the
Lotus Sutra, says, "When this [Nirvana] sutra was preached,... the
prediction had already been made in the Lotus Sutra that the eight
thousand shomon disciples would attain Buddhahood, a prediction
which was like a great harvest. Thus, the autumn harvest was over and
the crop had been stored away for winter [when this Nirvana Sutra was
expounded], and there was nothing left for it [but a few gleanings]."
This passage from the Nirvana Sutra is saying that the Nirvana Sutra is
inferior to the Lotus Sutra.
The above passages [from the Lotus and Nirvana sutras]
are perfectly clear on this point. Nevertheless, even the great scholars
of northern and southern China went astray, so students of later ages
should take care to examine them very thoroughly. For the passage [from
the Lotus Sutra] not only establishes the superiority of the Lotus Sutra
over the Nirvana Sutra, but indicates its superiority over all other
sutras in the worlds of the ten directions.
Earlier, there were those who were misled concerning
these passages, but after such great teachers as T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo,
and Dengyo had clearly indicated their meaning, one would suppose that
any person with eyes would understand them. Nevertheless, even such men
as Jikaku and Chisho of the Tendai sect failed to understand these
passages correctly, so what can one expect from the members of the other
Someone might doubt my words, saying that, although
the Lotus Sutra is the finest among all the sutras that have been
brought to China and Japan, in India and in the realms of the dragon
kings, the Four Heavenly Kings, the sun and the moon, the Trayastrimsha
Heaven, or the Tushita Heaven, there are as many sutras as there are
sands in the Ganges. Among these, may there not be one that is superior
to the Lotus Sutra?
I would reply that by looking at one thing, you can
surmise ten thousand. This is what is meant by the statement that you
can come to know all under heaven without ever going out of your garden
gate. But a fool will have doubts, saying, "I have seen the sky in the
south, but I have not seen the sky in the east or west or north. Perhaps
the sky in those other three directions has a different sun in it from
the one I know." Or he will see a column of smoke rising up beyond the
hills, and, although the smoke is in plain sight, because he cannot see
the fire itself, he will conclude that the fire may not really exist.
Such a person is my questioner, an icchantika or man of
incorrigible disbelief, no different from a man with sightless eyes!
In the Hosshi chapter of the Lotus Sutra,
Shakyamuni Buddha, uttering words of absolute sincerity from his golden
mouth, establishes the relative superiority of the various sutras he
expounded during the fifty or more years of his preaching life, saying,
"The scriptures I preach number in the countless millions. Among all
those I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is
the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand."
Though this scripture, the Lotus Sutra, was preached
by a single Buddha, Shakyamuni, all the bodhisattvas from the stage of togaku on down should honor it and have faith in it. For the
Buddha Taho came from the east and testified to the truth of the sutra,
and all other Buddhas assembled from the ten directions and stretched
their long, broad tongues up to the Brahma Heaven just as Shakyamuni
did. Afterward, they all returned to their respective lands.
The words "have preached, now preach and will preach"
include not only the sutras preached by Shakyamuni in his fifty years of
teaching, but all the sutras preached by all the Buddhas of the ten
directions and three existences without setting aside a single character
or even a single dot. It is in comparison to all of these that the Lotus
Sutra is proclaimed to be superior. At that time all the Buddhas of the
ten directions indicated their agreement. If, after they had returned to
their respective lands, they had told their disciples that there was in
fact a sutra that is superior to the Lotus Sutra, do you suppose their
disciples would ever have believed them?
If there are those who, though they have not seen it
with their own eyes, nevertheless suspect that there may be a sutra
superior to the Lotus Sutra somewhere in India or in the palaces of the
dragon kings, the Four Heavenly Kings, or the gods of the sun and moon,
I would say this. Were not Bonten and Taishaku, the gods of the sun and
moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the dragon kings present when
Shakyamuni preached the Lotus Sutra? If the sun and the moon and the
other deities should say, "There is a sutra superior to the Lotus Sutra;
you merely do not know about it," then they would be a sun and moon who
speak great falsehoods!
In that case, I would berate them, saying, "Sun and
moon, you dwell up in the sky rather than on the ground as we do, and
yet you never fall down--this is because of the power you gain by
observing most strictly the precept of never telling a lie. But now if
you tell this great lie by saying there is a sutra superior to the Lotus
Sutra, I am certain that, even before the Kalpa of Decline arrives, you
will come plummeting down to earth. What is more, you will not stop
falling until you have reached the depths of the great citadel of the
hell of incessant suffering which is surrounded by solid iron! Beings
who tell such great lies should not be allowed to remain a moment longer
in the sky, circling above the four continents of the earth!" That is
how I would berate them.
Yet such men of great wisdom, such great teachers and
learned doctors as Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon sect or Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih,
Pu-k'ung, Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho of the Shingon sect, proclaim that the Kegon and Dainichi sutras are superior to the Lotus Sutra.
Though it is not for me to judge in such matters, I would say that, in
the light of the higher principles of Buddhism, such men would appear to
be archenemies of the Buddhas, would they not? Beside them, evil men
such as Devadatta and Kokalika are as nothing. In fact they are in a
class with Mahadeva and the Great Arrogant Brahman. And those who put
faith in the teachings of such men--they too are a fearful lot indeed.
Question: Do you really proclaim that Ch'eng-kuan of
the Kegon sect, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron sect, Tz'u-en of the Hosso
sect, and Shan-wu-wei and the others of the Shingon sect on down to
Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho are the enemies of the Buddha?
Answer: This is a very important question, a matter of
the gravest concern to the Buddhist Law. Yet, on examining the text of
the sutra, I find that if someone should declare that there is a sutra
superior to the Lotus Sutra, then, regardless of who that person may be,
he cannot escape the charge of slandering the Law. Therefore, if we go
by what the sutra says, then persons such as this must be regarded as
enemies of the Buddha. And if out of fear I fail to point out this fact,
then the distinctions of relative merit made among the various sutras
will all have been made in vain.
If, out of awe of these great teachers of the past, I
should simply point at their latter-day followers and call them enemies
of the Buddha, then these latter-day followers of the various sects
would say, "The assertion that the Dainichi Sutra is superior to
the Lotus Sutra is not something that we ourselves invented on their
own. It is the doctrine taught by the patriarchs of our sect. Though we
may be no match for them in observing the precepts, in wisdom and
understanding, or in status, when it comes to the doctrines that they
taught, we never diverge from them in the slightest." And in that case,
one would have to admit that they are guilty of no fault.
Nevertheless, if I know that this assertion is false
and yet, out of fear of others, I fail to say so, then I will be
ignoring the stern warning of the Buddha, who said, "He should never
hold back any of the teachings, even though it may cost him his life."
What am I to do? If I speak up, I face fearful
opposition from the world at large. But if I am silent, I can hardly
escape the condemnation of failing to heed the Buddha's stern warning.
Forward or backward, my way is blocked.
Yet perhaps it is only to be expected. For, as 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?" Again elsewhere, "The people will be full of
hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe."
When Shakyamuni Buddha had been conceived by his
mother Queen Maya, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven gazed down into Queen
Maya's womb and said, "My archenemy, the sharp sword of the Lotus Sutra,
has been conceived. Before the birth can take place, I must do something
to destroy it!" Then the devil transformed himself into a learned
physician, entered the palace of King Shuddhodana and said, "I am a
learned physician and I have brought some excellent medicine that will
insure the safe delivery of the child." In this way he attempted to
poison the queen.
When the Buddha was born, the devil caused stones to
rain down on him and mixed poison in his milk. Later, when the Buddha
left the palace to enter the religious life, the devil changed himself
into a black venomous serpent and tried to block his way. In addition,
he entered the bodies of such evil men as Devadatta, Kokalika, King
Virudhaka and King Ajatashatru, inciting them to hurl a great stone at
the Buddha which injured him and drew blood, or to kill many of the
Shakyas, the Buddha's clansmen, or murder his disciples.
These great persecutions were planned long ago,
schemes that were designed to prevent the Buddha, the World-Honored One,
from preaching the Lotus Sutra. It is persecutions such as these that
the sutras mean when it says, "Hatred and jealousy ... abound even
during the lifetime of the Buddha."
In addition to these troubles arising long before the
Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra, there were others that occurred later
when he expounded the sutra itself. [These were the doubts that arose
when Shakyamuni revealed that] for forty-some years, Shariputra,
Maudgalyayana and the great bodhisattvas had in fact been among the
archenemies of the Lotus Sutra.
But the sutra says, "How much worse will it be in the
world after his passing?" By this we know that, in a latter age after
the death of the Buddha, there are bound to be persecutions and
difficulties even greater and more fearful than those that occurred
during his lifetime. If even the Buddha had difficulty bearing up under
such persecutions, how can ordinary human beings be expected to bear
them, particularly when these troubles are destined to be even greater
than those that occurred during the Buddha's lifetime?
Though one might wonder what great persecutions could
possibly be more terrible than the huge rock thirty feet long and
sixteen feet wide that Devadatta rolled down on the Buddha or the
drunken elephant that King Ajatashatru sent charging after him, if
persecutions greater than those that arose during the Buddha's lifetime
keep occurring again and again to someone who is not guilty of the
slightest fault, then one should realize that that person is a true
votary of the Lotus Sutra in the age after the Buddha's passing.
The successors of the Buddha were among the four ranks
of bodhisattvas; they were messengers of the Buddha. Yet Bodhisattva
Aryadeva was killed by a Brahman, the Venerable Aryasimha had his head
cut off by King Dammira, Buddhamitra had to stand for twelve years under
a red flag before he could attract the notice of the ruler, and
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna had to stand for seven years under a similar flag.
Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha was sold to an enemy country for the sum of
three hundred thousand coins, and the scholar Manoratha died of chagrin.
These are examples of troubles that took place in the thousand years of
the Former Day of the Law.
We come now to a time five hundred years after the
beginning of the Middle Day of the Law or one thousand five hundred
years after the death of the Buddha. At that time in China there was a
wise man who was at first known as Chih-i and later as the Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai Chih-che. He determined to spread the teachings of the Lotus
Sutra in their true form. There had been thousands and thousands of wise
men who preceded T'ien-t'ai, and they had held various opinions
concerning the teachings set forth by the Buddha in his lifetime, but in
general, they were grouped into ten schools or traditions, the so-called
three schools of southern China and seven schools of northern China. Of
these, one school emerged as foremost among them. This was the third of
the three southern schools, the school of the Dharma Teacher Fa-yun of
the temple called Kuang-che-ssu.
Fa-yun divided the teachings of the Buddha's lifetime
into five periods. From among the teachings of these five periods, he
selected three sutras, the Kegon, the Nirvana and the Lotus. He
declared that, among all the sutras, the Kegon Sutra ranks first
and is comparable to the monarch of a kingdom. The Nirvana Sutra ranks
second and is like the regent or prime minister, while the Lotus Sutra
ranks third and is like one of the court nobles. All the other sutras
are inferior to these and are comparable to the common people.
Fa-yun was by nature a man of outstanding wisdom. Not
only did he study under such great teachers as Hui-kuan, Hui-yen,
Seng-jou and Hui-tz'u, but he refuted the doctrines of various teachers
of the northern and southern schools, and retired to the seclusion of
the mountain forest, where he devoted himself to the study of the Lotus,
Nirvana and Kegon sutras.
As a result, Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty summoned
him to court and had a temple called Kuang-che-ssu built for him within
the palace grounds, paying him great honor. When Fa-yun lectured on the
Lotus Sutra, flowers fell down from the heavens just as they had done
when Shakyamuni Buddha first preached it.
In the fifth year of the T'ien-chien era (A.D. 506),
there was a great drought. The emperor had the Dharma Teacher Fa-yun
lecture on the Lotus Sutra, and when he reached the verses in the Yakusoyu chapter that read, "The rain, spread equally,/in all four
directions comes down," soft rain began to fall from the sky. The
emperor was so overwhelmed with admiration that he appointed Fa-yun on
the spot to the rank of Administrator of Monks (sojo), and he
served him in person as the various deities serve the god Taishaku and
as the common people look up in awe to their sovereign. In addition, it
was revealed to someone in a dream that Fa-yun had been lecturing on the
Lotus Sutra ever since the time of the Buddha named Nichigatsu Tomyo in
the distant past.
Fa-yun wrote a commentary in four volumes on the Lotus
Sutra. In this commentary he stated, "This sutra is not truly eminent,"
and spoke of it as "an unusual expedient." By this he meant that the
Lotus Sutra does not fully reveal the truth of Buddhism.
Was it because Fa-yun's teachings met with the
approval of the Buddha that the flowers and the rain came down on him
from the sky? In any event, as a result of the wonderful and unusual
things that happened to him, the people of China came to believe that
the Lotus Sutra was in fact perhaps inferior to the Kegon and
Nirvana sutras. This commentary by Fa-yun disseminated to the kingdoms
of Silla, Paekche and Koguryo in Korea and to Japan, where people in
general came to hold the same opinion as that prevalent in China.
Shortly after the death of Fa-yun, in the latter years
of the Liang dynasty and the early years of the Ch'en, there appeared a
young priest known as the Dharma Teacher Chih-i. He was a disciple of
the Great Teacher Nan-yueh, but perhaps because he wished to clarify his
understanding of his teacher's doctrines, he entered the storehouse
where the scriptures were kept and examined the texts again and again.
He singled out the Kegon, Nirvana and Lotus sutras as worthy of
special attention, and of these three, he lectured on the Kegon Sutra in particular. In addition, he compiled a book of devotional
exercises in honor of the Buddha Vairochana of the Kegon Sutra
and day after day furthered his understanding of this sutra. The people
of his time supposed that he did this because he considered the Kegon Sutra to be the foremost of all sutras. In fact, however, he did it
because he had grave doubts about Fa-yun's assertion that the Kegon Sutra was to be ranked first, the Nirvana Sutra second, and the Lotus
Sutra third, and he therefore wished to make a particularly close
examination of the Kegon Sutra.
After he had done so, he concluded that, among all the
sutras, the Lotus Sutra was to be ranked first, the Nirvana Sutra
second, and the Kegon Sutra third. He also announced in sorrow
that, although the sacred teachings of the Buddha had spread throughout
the land of China, they had failed to bring benefit to its inhabitants
but on the contrary caused people to stray into the evil states of
existence. This, he concluded, was due to the errors of their teachers.
It was as though the leaders of the nation had told
the people that east is west, or that heaven is earth, and the common
people had accepted their assertions and believed accordingly. Later, if
some person of humble stature should come forward and tell them that
what they called west was really east, or that what they called heaven
was really earth, they would not only refuse to believe him, but they
would curse and attack him in order to ingratiate themselves with their
Chih-i pondered what to do about the situation. He
felt that he could not remain silent, and he therefore spoke out in
severe condemnation of Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu temple, asserting that,
because of his slanders against the True Law, he had fallen into hell.
With that, the Buddhist teachers of the north and south rose up like
angry hornets and descended on him like a flock of crows.
Some proposed that Chih-i should have his head
smashed; others, that he should be driven out of the country. The ruler
of the Ch'en dynasty, hearing of what was going on, summoned a number of
Buddhist leaders from north and south and had them appear in his
presence along with Chih-i so that he could listen to the proceedings.
There were such monks as Hui-yung, a disciple of Fa-yun, and Fa-sui,
Hui-k'uang and Hui-heng, over a hundred men, all of the rank of
Supervisor of Monks (sozu), Administrator of Monks or higher.
They struggled to outdo each other in speaking ill of Chih-i, raising
their eyebrows and glaring angrily, or clapping their hands in an
Chih-i, though he was seated in a humble position far
below the others, showed no sign of emotion and made no slip of speech.
Instead, with quiet dignity he took notes on each of the charges and
assertions made by the other monks and succeeded in refuting it. Then he
began to attack his opponents, saying, "According to the teachings of
Fa-yun, the Kegon Sutra ranks first, the Nirvana Sutra second,
and the Lotus Sutra third. In what sutra is the proof of this to be
found? Please produce a passage that gives clear and certain proof of
this!" Pressed in this way, the other monks all lowered their heads and
turned pale, unable to say a word in reply.
He continued to press them, saying, "In the Muryogi Sutra, the Buddha mentions how he 'then preached the twelve
divisions of the Hodo sutras, the Makahannya Sutra, and
the Kegon Sutra deriving from the [Buddha's] ocean-imprint
meditation.' Thus the Buddha himself mentions the Kegon Sutra by
name and denies its worth, saying that in these sutras preached before
the Muryogi Sutra, 'I have not yet revealed the truth.' If in the Muryogi Sutra, which is inferior to the Lotus Sutra, the Kegon Sutra is attacked in this way, then what grounds could there be for
asserting that the Kegon Sutra represents the highest achievement
of the Buddha's preaching life? Gentlemen, if you wish to show your
loyalty to your teacher, then please produce some scriptural passage
that will refute and override this passage I have cited from the Muryogi Sutra and vindicate your teacher's doctrines!
"And on what passage of scripture do you base your
assertion that the Nirvana Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra? In the
fourteenth volume of the Nirvana Sutra, there is a discussion of the
relative merit of the Nirvana Sutra in comparison to the sutras of the
Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods, but no mention whatsoever of its
merit in comparison to the Lotus Sutra.
"Earlier in the same sutra, however, in the ninth
volume, the relative merits of the Nirvana and Lotus sutras are made
abundantly clear. The passage states, 'When this [Nirvana] sutra was
preached,... the prediction had already been made in the Lotus Sutra
that the eight thousand shomon disciples would attain Buddhahood,
a prediction which was like a great harvest. Thus, the autumn harvest
was over and the crop had been stored away for winter [when this Nirvana
Sutra was expounded], and there was nothing left for it [but a few
"This passage makes clear that the other sutras were
the work of spring and summer, while the Nirvana and Lotus sutras were
like a ripening or fruition. But while the Lotus Sutra was like a great
fruition in which the harvest is gathered in autumn and stored away for
winter, the Nirvana Sutra was like the gleaning of the fallen grain that
takes place at the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.
"In this passage, the Nirvana Sutra is in effect
acknowledging that it is inferior to the Lotus Sutra. And the Lotus
Sutra speaks about the sutras that have already been preached, are
presently being preached, and are to be preached in the future. By this,
the Buddha is indicating that the Lotus Sutra is not only superior to
the sutras preached before it as well as those preached at the same
time, but is also superior to those he will preach afterward.
"If the Lord Shakyamuni laid it down so clearly, what
room could there be for doubt? Nevertheless, because he was concerned
about what might happen after his passing, he determined to have Taho
Buddha of the land of Treasure Purity in the east act as a witness to
the truth of his words. Therefore, Taho Buddha sprang forth from out of
the earth and testified to the verity of the Lotus Sutra, saying, 'All
that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the truth.' In addition,
various Buddhas from the ten directions who were emanations of
Shakyamuni Buddha gathered around and put forth their long, broad
tongues until the tips reached to the Brahma Heaven, as did
Shakyamuni's, in witness to the truth of the teachings.
"After that, Taho Buddha returned to the land of
Treasure Purity, and the various Buddhas who were emanations of
Shakyamuni returned to their respective lands in the ten directions.
Then, when neither Taho Buddha nor the emanations were present, Lord
Shakyamuni preached the Nirvana Sutra. If he had claimed that he Nirvana
Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra, would his disciples in fact have
believed such a thing?"
This was the way Chih-i, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai,
chided them. He was like the brilliant light of the sun and moon
striking the eyes of the asuras, or the sword of the King of Han
pressing against the necks of his barons, and his opponents accordingly
closed their eyes tightly and let their heads droop. In his appearance
and manner, T'ien-t'ai was like the lion king roaring at foxes and
rabbits, or like a hawk or an eagle swooping down on doves and
As a result, the fact that the Lotus Sutra is superior
to the Kegon and Nirvana sutras became known not only throughout
the whole of China, but word of it also spread to the five regions of
India. There the Indian treatises of both the Mahayana and Hinayana
divisions of Buddhism were inferior to T'ien-t'ai's doctrine, and the
people there praised him, wondering if the Lord Shakyamuni had appeared
in the world once again, or whether Buddhism would now have a second
In time the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai passed away, and
the Ch'en and Sui dynasties came to an end and were replaced by the
T'ang dynasty. T'ien-t'ai's successor, the Great Teacher Chang-an, also
passed away, and there were few who continued to study the type of
Buddhism taught by T'ien-t'ai.
Then, in the reign of Emperor T'ai-tsung, there
appeared a monk named the Learned Doctor Hsuan-tsang. He journeyed to
India in the third year of the Chen-kuan era (629) and returned in the
nineteenth year of the same era (645). During his journey, he conducted
a thorough investigation of Buddhism in India and on his return
introduced to China the school known as Hosso.
This school is to the T'ien-t'ai or Tendai sect as
fire is to water. Hsuan-tsang brought with him works such as the Jimmitsu Sutra, the Yuga Ron and the Yuishiki Ron that
were unknown to T'ien-t'ai, and claimed that, although the Lotus Sutra
is superior to the other sutras, it is inferior to the Jimmitsu Sutra. Since this was a text that T'ien-t'ai had never seen, his
followers in these later times, shallow as they were in wisdom and
understanding, seemed inclined to accept this allegation.
Moreover, Emperor T'ai-tsung was a wise ruler, but he
placed extraordinary faith in the teachings of Hsuan-tsang. As a result,
though there were those who might have wished to speak out in protest,
they were, as is too often the case, awed by the authority of the throne
and held their peace. Thus, regrettable as it is to relate, the Lotus
Sutra was thrust aside. Hsuan-tsang taught that if people have the
capacity to understand the three vehicles, then the one vehicle can be
no more than an expedient to instruct them, and the three vehicles, the
only true way of enlightening them, along with the theory of the five
natures into which all beings are inherently divided.
Though these new teachings came from India, the home
of Buddhism, it was as though the non-Buddhist teachings of India had
invaded the land of China. The Lotus Sutra was declared to be a mere
expedient teaching, and the Jimmitsu Sutra, the embodiment of the
truth. Thus the testimony given by Shakyamuni, Taho and the other
Buddhas of the ten directions was totally ignored, and instead
Hsuan-tsang and his disciple Tz'u-en were looked upon as living Buddhas.
Later, during the reign of Empress Wu, a monk called
the Dharma Teacher Fa-tsang appeared who, in order to vent his anger
over the attacks that had been made earlier by the Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai on the Kegon Sutra, founded a new school called the
Kegon school. In doing so, he utilized a new translation of the Kegon Sutra that had recently been completed, using it to supplement the older
translation of the Kegon Sutra that had been the target of
T'ien-t'ai's attack. This school proclaimed that the Kegon Sutra
represents the "root teaching" of the Buddha, while the Lotus Sutra
represents the "branch teachings."
To sum up, the teachers in northern and southern China
[such as Fa-yun who preceded T'ien-t'ai] ranked the Kegon Sutra
first, the Nirvana Sutra second, and the Lotus Sutra third. T'ien-t'ai
ranked the Lotus first, the Nirvana second, and the Kegon third.
And the newly founded Kegon school ranked the Kegon first, the
Lotus second, and the Nirvana third.
Later, in the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung, the
Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei journeyed to China from India, bringing with
him the Dainichi and Soshisuji sutras. In addition, the
Learned Doctor Chin-kang-chih appeared with the Kongocho Sutra.
Moreover, Chin-kang-chih had a disciple named the Learned Doctor
These three men were all Indians who not only came
from very distinguished families but who were in character quite
different from the priests of China. The doctrines that they taught
appeared highly impressive in that they included mudras and mantras, something that had never been known in China since the
introduction of Buddhism in the Later Han. In the presence of this new
Buddhism, the emperor bowed his head and the common people pressed their
palms together in reverence.
These men taught that, whatever the relative merits of
the Kegon, Jimmitsu, Hannya, Nirvana and Lotus sutras might be,
they were all exoteric teachings, the various preachings of Shakyamuni
Buddha. The Dainichi Sutra which they had newly introduced, on
the other hand, represented the royal pronouncements of Dainichi or
Mahavairochana, the Dharma King. The other sutras were the multiple
sayings of the common people; this sutra was the unique pronouncement of
the Son of Heaven. Works such as the Kegon and Nirvana sutras
could never hope to reach as high as the Dainichi Sutra even with
the help of a ladder. Only the Lotus Sutra bears some resemblance to the Dainichi Sutra.
Nevertheless, the Lotus Sutra was preached by
Shakyamuni Buddha and thus represents merely the truth as spoken by a
commoner, whereas the Dainichi Sutra represents the truth as
spoken by the Son of Heaven. Hence, although the words resemble each
other, the persons who spoke them are as far apart as the clouds in the
sky and the mud on the earth. The difference between them is like the
moon that is reflected in muddy water on the one hand and in clear water
on the other. Both alike are reflections of the moon, yet the nature of
the water that catches the reflection is vastly different.
Such were the assertions put forth by these men, and
no one attempted to examine them carefully or make clear their true
nature. Instead, the other schools of Buddhism all bowed down and
acknowledged themselves subservient to this new school called the
After Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih died, Pu-k'ung
made a trip to India and brought back to China a treatise entitled Bodaishin Ron, and the Shingon school grew all the more influential.
In the Tendai school, however, there appeared a priest
known as the Great Teacher Miao-lo. Though he lived more than two
hundred years after the time of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, he was
extremely wise and had a clear understanding of the teachings of
T'ien-t'ai. Thus he perceived, from the heart of T'ien-t'ai's
interpretations, that the Lotus Sutra is superior to the Jimmitsu Sutra and the Hosso school--which had been introduced to China after
T'ien-t'ai's time--as well as to the Kegon school and the Shingon school
with its Dainichi Sutra, both schools which had first been
established in China.
Up until then, either because T'ien-t'ai's followers
lacked the wisdom to see what was wrong, or because they feared others
or were in awe of the ruler's power, no one had spoken out. It was clear
that a correct understanding of the teachings of T'ien-t'ai was about to
be lost, and that the errors and heresies that were rife surpassed even
those that had prevailed in northern and southern China in the period
before the Ch'en and Sui dynasties. Therefore Miao-lo compiled
commentaries on T'ien-t'ai's works in thirty volumes, the writings known
as Guketsu, Shakusen and Shoki. These thirty volumes of
commentary served not only to eliminate passages of repetition in
T'ien-t'ai's works and to elucidate points that were unclear, but at the
same time in one stroke they refuted the Hosso, Kegon and Shingon
schools, which had escaped T'ien-t'ai's censures because they did not
exist in China during his lifetime.
Turning now to Japan, we find that in the reign of the
thirtieth sovereign Emperor Kimmei, on the thirteenth day of the tenth
month in the thirteenth year of his reign (552), cyclical sign mizunoe-saru, a copy of the Buddhist scriptures and a statue of
Shakyamuni Buddha were brought to Japan from the Korean kingdom of
Paekche. And in the reign of Emperor Yomei, Crown Prince Shotoku began
the study of Buddhism. He dispatched a court official named Wake no
Imoko to go to China and bring back a copy of the Lotus Sutra in one
volume that had belonged to him in a previous life, and expressed his
determination to honor and protect the sutra.
Later, by the reign of the thirty-seventh sovereign
Emperor Kotoku, the Sanron, Kegon, Hosso, Kusha and Jojitsu sects were
introduced to Japan, and in the time of the forty-fifth sovereign
Emperor Shomu, the Ritsu sect was introduced, thus making a total of six
sects. But during the time from Emperor Kotoku to the reign of the
fiftieth sovereign Emperor Kammu, a period of over 120 years during
which fourteen sovereigns reigned, the Tendai and Shingon sects had not
yet been introduced.
During the reign of Emperor Kammu, there was a young
priest named Saicho who was a disciple of the Administrator of Monks
Gyohyo of Yamashina-dera temple. He made a thorough study of Hosso and
the others of the six sects mentioned above, but he felt that he had yet
to reach a true understanding of Buddhism. Then he came upon a
commentary which the Dharma Teacher Fa-tsang of the Kegon school had
written on the Kishin Ron, and in it were quotations from the
works of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai.
These works of T'ien-t'ai seemed to be worthy of
special attention, but Saicho did not even know whether they had yet
been brought to Japan or not. When he questioned someone about this, the
person replied that there had been a priest named Ganjin of the temple
called Lung-hsing-ssu in Yang-chou in China who had studied the
T'ien-t'ai teachings and had been a disciple of the Discipline Master
Tao-hsien. In the latter part of the Tempyo-Shoho era (753), he came to
Japan, where he worked to spread a knowledge of the Hinayana rules of
monastic discipline. He had brought with him copies of the works of
T'ien-t'ai, but had not attempted to disseminate them. All this took
place, Saicho was told, during the time of the forty-fifth sovereign
When Saicho asked if he could see these writings, they
were brought out and shown to him. On his first perusal of them, he felt
as though he had been awakened from all the delusions of birth and
death. And when he began to consider the basic doctrines of the six
sects of earlier Buddhism in the light of what he found in these
writings, it became apparent that each of the sects was guilty of
Immediately he vowed to do something about the
situation, saying, "Because the people of Japan are all patrons of those
who are slandering the True Law, the nation will surely fall into
chaos!" He thereupon expressed his criticisms of the six sects, but when
he did so, the great scholars of the six sects and the seven major
temples of Nara rose up in anger and flocked to the capital, until the
nation was in an uproar.
These men of the six sects and seven major temples
were filled with the most intense animosity toward Saicho. But as it
happened, on the nineteenth day of the first month of the twenty-first
year of the Enryaku era (802), Emperor Kammu paid a visit to the temple
called Takao-dera, and he summoned fourteen eminent priests--namely,
Zengi, Shoyu, Hoki, Chonin, Kengyoku, Ampuku, Gonso, Shuen, Jiko, Gen'yo,
Saiko, Dosho, Kosho and Kambin--to come to the temple and debate with
These various men of the Kegon, Sanron, Hosso and
other sects expounded the teachings of the founders of their respective
sects just as they had learned them. But Saicho took notes on each point
put forward by the men of the six sects and criticized it in the light
of the Lotus Sutra, the works of T'ien-t'ai, or other sutras and
treatises. His opponents were unable to say a word in reply, their
mouths as incapable of speech as if they were noses.
The emperor was astounded and questioned Saicho in
detail on various points. Thereafter he handed down an edict criticizing
the fourteen men who had opposed Saicho.
They in turn submitted a memorial acknowledging their
defeat and apologizing, in which they said, "We, students of the seven
major temples and six sects,... have for the first time understood the
They also said, "In the two hundred or more years
since Crown Prince Shotoku spread the Buddhist teachings in this
country, a great many sutras and treatises have been lectured upon and
their principles have been widely argued, but until now, many doubts
still remained to be settled. Moreover, the lofty and perfect doctrine
of the Lotus Sura had not yet been properly explained and made known."
They also said, "Now at last the dispute that has
continued so long between the Sanron and Hosso sects has been resolved
as dramatically as though ice had melted. The truth has been made
abundantly clear, as though clouds and mist had parted to reveal the
light of the sun, moon and stars."
Saicho, in his appraisal of the teachings of his
fourteen opponents, wrote as follows: "You each lecture upon the single
scripture [of your own sect], and though you sound the drums of the
Dharma within the deep valleys, both lecturer and hearers continue to go
astray on the paths of the three vehicles. Though you fly the banners of
doctrine from lofty peaks and both teachers and disciples have broken
free from the bonds of the threefold world, you still persist on the
road of the enlightenment that takes countless kalpas to achieve, and
confuse the three kinds of carts with the great white ox cart outside
the gate. How could you possible attain the first stage of security and
reach enlightenment in this world that is like a house on fire?"
The two officials Wake no Hiroyo and his younger
brother Matsuna [who were present at the debate] commented as follows:
"Through Nan-yueh, the Mystic Law of Eagle Peak was made known, and
through T'ien-t'ai, the wonderful enlightenment of Mount Ta-su was
opened up. But one regrets that the single vehicle of the Lotus is
impeded by provisional teachings, and one grieves that the unification
of the three truths has yet to be made manifest."
The fourteen priests commented as follows: "Zengi and
the others of our group have met with great good fortune because of
karmic bonds and have been privileged to hear these extraordinary words.
Were it not for some profound karmic tie, how could we have been born in
this sacred age?"
These fourteen men had in the past transmitted the
teachings of the various Chinese and Japanese patriarchs of their
respective sects such as Fa-tsang and Shinjo of the Kegon sect,
Chia-hsiang and Kanroku of the Sanron sect, Tz'u-en and Dosho of the
Hosso sect, or Tao-hsuan and Ganjin of the Ritsu sect. Thus, although
the vessel in which the water of doctrine was contained had changed from
generation to generation, the water remained the same.
But now these fourteen men abandoned the erroneous
doctrines that they had previously held and embraced the teachings of
the Lotus Sutra as expounded by Saicho, the Great Teacher Dengyo.
Therefore, how could anyone in later times assert that the Kegon,
Hannya or Jimmitsu Sutra surpasses the Lotus Sutra?
These fourteen men had of course studied the doctrines
of the three Hinayana sects, [Jojitsu, Kusha and Ritsu]. But since the
three Mahayana sects [of Kegon, Sanron and Hosso] had suffered a
doctrinal defeat, we need hardly mention the Hinayana sects. However,
there are some persons today who, being unaware of what actually
happened, believe that one or another of the six sects did not suffer a
doctrinal defeat. They are like blind men who cannot see the sun and
moon, or deaf men who cannot hear the sound of thunder, and who
therefore conclude that there are no sun and moon in the heavens, or
that the skies emit no sound.
With regard to the Shingon sect, during the reign of
the forty-fourth sovereign Empress Gensho, Shan-wu-wei brought the Dainichi Sutra to Japan, but returned to China without spreading a
knowledge of it. Moreover, Gembo brought back from China a commentary on
the Dainichi Sutra, the Dainichikyo Gishaku in fourteen
volumes, as did the Preceptor Tokusei of Todai-ji.
These works were studied by the Great Teacher Dengyo,
but he had doubts about what they said concerning the relative worth of
the Dainichi and Lotus sutras. Therefore, in the seventh month of
the twenty-third year of the Enryaku era (804), he went to China, where
he met the priests Tao-sui of Hsi-ming-ssu temple and Hsing-man of
Fo-lung-ssu, and received the Shikan teachings and the great precepts
for perfect and immediate enlightenment. He also met the priest Shun-hsiao
of Ling-kan-ssu and received instruction in the Shingon teachings. He
returned to Japan in the sixth month of the twenty-fourth year of
Enryaku (805). He was granted an audience with Emperor Kammu, and the
emperor thereupon issued an edict instructing the students of the six
sects to study the Shikan and Shingon teachings and to preserve them in
the seven major temples of Nara.
In China there were various theories concerning the
relative superiority of these two teachings, the Shikan and the Shingon.
Moreover, the Dainichikyo Gishaku claims that, though they are
equal in terms of principle, the Shingon is superior in terms of
The Great Teacher Dengyo, however, realized that this
was an error on the part of Shan-wu-wei and understood that the Dainichi Sutra is inferior to the Lotus Sutra. Therefore he did not
establish the Shingon teachings as an eighth sect, but instead
incorporated them into the teachings of the seventh sect, the Hokke
sect, after removing from them the label "Shingon sect." He declared
that the Dainichi Sutra is to be regarded as a supplementary
sutra of the Hokke-Tendai sect and ranked it along with the Kegon,
Daibon Hannya and Nirvana sutras. However, at the time there was
much dispute over whether or not a vitally important Mahayana specific
ordination platform of perfect and immediate enlightenment should be
established in Japan. Perhaps because of the trouble that arose on this
account, it seems that the Great Teacher Dengyo did not give his
disciples clear instructions concerning the relative superiority of the
Shingon and Tendai teachings.
In a work called the Ebyo Shu, however, he
clearly states that the Shingon school stole the correct doctrines of
the Hokke-Tendai school and incorporated them into its interpretation of
the Dainichi Sutra, thereafter declaring that the two schools
were equal in terms of principle. Thus the Shingon school had in effect
surrendered to the Tendai school.
This is even more evident when we consider that, after
the death of Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih, the Shingon patriarch
Pu-k'ung went to India, where he met Bodhisattva Nagabodhi. Nagabodhi
informed him that there were no treatises or commentaries in India that
made clear the Buddha's intent, but that in China there was a commentary
by a man named T'ien-t'ai that enabled one to distinguish correct from
incorrect teachings and to understand the difference between partial
doctrines and those that are complete. He exclaimed this in admiration
and repeatedly begged that a copy of the work be brought to India.
This incident was reported to the Great Teacher
Miao-lo by Pu-k'ung's disciple Han-kuang, as is recorded at the end of
the tenth volume of Miao-lo's Hokke Mongu Ki. It is also recorded
in Dengyo's Ebyo Shu. From this it is perfectly evident that the
Great Teacher Dengyo believed the Dainichi Sutra to be inferior
to the Lotus Sutra.
Thus it becomes apparent that Shakyamuni Buddha, the
Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, the Great Teacher Miao-lo and the Great
Teacher Dengyo were of one mind in regarding the Lotus Sutra as the
greatest of all the sutras, including the Dainichi Sutra.
Moreover, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, who is regarded as the founder of the
Shingon sect, held the same opinion, as becomes obvious if we carefully
examine his Daichido Ron. Unfortunately, however, the Bodaishin Ron produced by Pu-k'ung is full of errors and has led
everyone astray, bringing about the present condition.
We come now to the disciple of the Administrator of
Monks Gonso of Iwabuchi named Kukai, known in later ages as Kobo Daishi
or the Great Teacher Kobo. On the twelfth day of the fifth month in the
twenty-third year of Enryaku (804), he set out for China. After arriving
there, he met the priest Hui-kuo, whose teacher belonged to the third
generation of the Shingon lineage beginning with Shan-wu-wei and
Chin-kang-chih. From Hui-kuo he received the transmission of the two
Shingon mandalas. He returned to Japan on the twenty-second day of the
tenth month in the second year of Daido (807).
It was then the reign of Emperor Heizei, Emperor Kammu
having passed away a short time before. Kukai was granted an audience
with Emperor Heizei, who placed great confidence in him and embraced his
teachings, valuing them above all. Not long after (809), Emperor Heizei
ceded the throne to Emperor Saga, with whom Kukai likewise ingratiated
himself. The Great Teacher Dengyo passed away on the fourth day of the
sixth month of the thirteenth year of Konin (822), during the reign of
Emperor Saga. From the fourteenth year of the same era (823), Kukai
served as teacher to the sovereign. He established the Shingon sect, was
given supervision of the temple known as To-ji, and was referred to as
the Shingon Priest. Thus Shingon, the eighth sect of Buddhism in Japan,
had its start.
Kukai commented as follows on the relative merit of
the teachings of the Buddha's lifetime: "First is the Dainichi Sutra of the Shingon sect, second is the Kegon Sutra, and third
are the Lotus and Nirvana sutras.
"In comparison to the Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras, the Lotus is a true sutra, but from the point of view of the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, it is a doctrine of childish
"Though the Lord Shakyamuni was a Buddha, in
comparison to the Buddha Dainichi or Mahavairochana, he was still in the
region of darkness. The latter is as exalted as an emperor; the former,
by comparison, is as lowly as a subjugated barbarian.
"The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai is a thief. He stole the
ghee of the Shingon and claimed that the Lotus Sutra is ghee."
This is the sort of thing that Kukai, or Kobo Daishi,
wrote. As a result, though people may previously have believed that the
Lotus is the greatest of all sutras, after hearing of Kobo, they no
longer regarded it as worthy of notice.
I will set aside the heresies propounded by Brahmans
in India. But these pronouncements of Kukai are certainly worse than
those put forward by the priests of northern and southern China who
declared that, in comparison to the Nirvana Sutra, the Lotus Sutra is a
work of heretical views. They go even farther than the assertions of
those members of the Kegon school who stated that, in comparison to the Kegon Sutra, the Lotus Sutra represents the "branch teachings."
One is reminded of that Great Arrogant Brahman of India who fashioned a
tall dais with the deities Maheshvara, Narayana and Vishnu, along with
Shakyamuni Buddha, as the four legs to support it, and then climbed up
on it and preached his fallacious doctrines.
If only the Great Teacher Dengyo had still been alive,
he would surely have had a word to say on the subject. But how could his
disciples Gishin, Encho, Jikaku and Chisho have failed to question the
matter more closely? That was a great misfortune to the world!
Jikaku Daishi went to China in the fifth year of Jowa
(838) and spent ten years there studying the doctrines of the Tendai and
Shingon schools. With regard to the relative merit of the Lotus and Dainichi sutras, he studied under Fa-ch'uan, Yuan-cheng and others,
eight Shingon teachers in all, and was taught by them that, although the
Lotus and Dainichi sutras are equal in principle, the latter is
superior in terms of practice. He also studied under Chih-yuan,
Kuang-hsiu and Wei-chuan of the Tendai school, and was taught that the Dainichi Sutra belongs to the Hodo group of sutras [which are
inferior to the Lotus Sutra].
On the tenth day of the ninth month in the thirteenth
year of Jowa (846), he returned to Japan, and on the fourteenth day of
the sixth month of the first year of Kajo (848), an imperial edict was
handed down [permitting him to conduct the Shingon initiation
ceremonies]. Perhaps because he had had difficulty determining the
relative merit of the Lotus and Dainichi sutras when he was
studying in China, he proceeded to write a seven-volume commentary on
the Kongocho Sutra and a seven-volume commentary on the Soshitsuji Sutra, making a total of fourteen volumes. The gist of
these commentaries is that the doctrines set forth in the Dainichi,
Kongocho and Soshitsuji sutras and the doctrines expounded in
the Lotus Sutra ultimately indicate the same principle, but because of
the ritual use of mudras and mantras associated with the
former, the three Shingon sutras just mentioned are superior to the
In essence, this agrees exactly with the view of
Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung set forth in their commentary
on the Dainichi Sutra. But perhaps Jikaku still had doubts in his
mind, or perhaps, having resolved his own doubts, he wished to clear up
the doubts of others. In any event, he placed his fourteen volumes of
commentary before the object of worship in the temple where he resided
and made this appeal in prayer: "Though I have written these works, the
Buddha's intention is very difficult to determine. Are the Dainichi Sutra and the other two Shingon sutras associated with it superior? Or
are the Lotus Sutra and the two sutras associated with it to be ranked
While he was earnestly praying in this manner, on the
fifth day, early in the morning at the time of the fifth watch, a sign
suddenly came to him in a dream. He dreamed that the sun was up in the
blue sky, and that he took an arrow and shot at it. The arrow flew up
into the sky and struck the sun. The sun began to roll over and over,
and when it had almost fallen to the earth, Jikaku woke from his dream.
Delighted, he said, "I have had a very auspicious
dream. These writings, in which I have declared that Shingon is superior
to the Lotus Sutra, are in accord with the Buddha's will!" He then
requested that an imperial edict be issued to this effect, and he
disseminated his teaching throughout the country of Japan.
But the edict that was handed down as a result of this
request says in effect, "It has at last become known that the Shikan
doctrines of the Tendai sect and the doctrines of the Shingon sect are
in principle in perfect agreement." Jikaku had prayed to confirm that
the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi Sutra, but the edict
that was issued says that the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra
are the same!
Chisho Daishi in his youth in Japan was a disciple of
the priest Gishin, Encho Daishi, the Superintendent Kojo and Jikaku.
Thus he received instruction in both the exoteric and esoteric doctrines
as they were taught in Japan at the time. But presumably because he was
in doubt as to the relative superiority of the Tendai and Shingon sects,
he journeyed to China. He arrived in China in the second year of Ninju
(852), where he studied under the Shingon priests Fa-ch'uan and
Yuan-cheng. In general, their teachings accorded with the view held by
Jikaku, namely that the Dainichi Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are
equal in terms of principle but that the former is superior in terms of
Chisho also studied under the priest Liang-hsu of the
Tendai school, who taught him that, with regard to the relative merit of
the Shingon and Tendai schools, the Dainichi Sutra of the Shingon
school cannot compare with the Kegon and Lotus sutras.
After spending seven years in China, Chisho returned
to Japan on the seventeenth day of the fifth month in the first year of
In his commentary on the Dainichi Sutra
entitled the Dainichikyo Shiiki, Chisho states: "Even the Lotus
Sutra cannot compare [to the Dainichi Sutra], much less the other
doctrines." In this commentary, therefore, he argues that the Lotus
Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi Sutra. On the other hand, in
another work, the Juketsu Shu, he states: "The doctrines of Shingon and
Zen ... can at best serve as a kind of introduction to the Kegon,
Lotus and Nirvana sutras." And he repeats this same view in his Fugenkyo Ki and Hokke Ron Ki.
On the twenty-ninth day, the day of the cyclical sign mizunoe-saru, of the fourth month of the eighth year of Jogan,
the year hinoe-inu (866), an imperial edict was handed down which
stated: "We have heard that the two sects, Shingon and Tendai, and their
teachings are both worthy to be called the ghee of Buddhism, and to be
described as profound and recondite."
Again, on the third day of the sixth month, an edict
proclaimed: "Ever since the Great Teacher Dengyo in former times
established the two disciplines as the proper way for the Tendai sect,
the successive heads of the sect in generation after generation have all
followed this practice and transmitted both types of doctrines. Why then
should their successors in later times depart from this old and
"And yet we hear that the priests of Mount Hiei do
nothing but turn against the teachings of the patriarch Dengyo and
instead follow the prejudices and inclinations of their own hearts. It
would appear that they give themselves almost entirely to promulgating
the doctrines of other sects and make no attempt to restore the old
disciplines of the Tendai sect.
"On the path inherited from the master, one cannot
neglect either the Shikan or the Shingon teachings. In diligently
transmitting and spreading the doctrine, must not one be proficient in
both types of teachings? From now on, only a person who is thoroughly
familiar with both teachings shall be appointed as head of the Tendai
sect at Enryaku-ji, and this shall become a regular practice for future
These two men, Jikaku and Chisho, as we have seen,
were disciples of Dengyo and Gishin, and in addition they journeyed to
China and met eminent teachers of the Tendai and Shingon schools there.
And yet it appears that they could not make up their minds as to the
relative merit of these two sects. Sometimes they declared that the
Shingon is superior, sometimes that the Lotus Sutra is superior, and
sometimes they said that the two are equal in terms of principle but
that the Shingon is superior in terms of practice. Meanwhile, an edict
warned that anyone attempting to argue the relative merit of the two
sects would be judged guilty of violating the imperial decree.
These pronouncements of Jikaku and Chisho were clearly
inconsistent, and it would appear that the followers of the other sects
placed no trust in them whatsoever. Nevertheless, an imperial edict, as
we have seen, states that the two sects are equal, putting this forward
as the doctrine of the Tendai patriarch, the Great Teacher Dengyo. But
in what work of the Great Teacher Dengyo is this view to be found? This
is something that must be looked into carefully.
For me, Nichiren, to be challenging Jikaku and Chisho
because of doubts over a matter pertaining to the Great Teacher Dengyo
is like a person confronting his parents and arguing with them over who
is older, or a person confronting the god of the sun and claiming that
his own eyes shine more brilliantly. Nevertheless, those who would
defend the views of Jikaku and Chisho must produce some sort of clear
scriptural of evidence to support their case. Only if they do so can
they hope to gain credence for such views.
The Learned Doctor Hsuang-tsang had been to India and
seen a copy of the Daibibasha Ron there, but that did not prevent
him from being criticized by the Dharma Teacher Fa-pao, who had never
been to India. The Learned Doctor Dharmaraksha saw a copy of the Lotus
Sutra in India, but that did not prevent a man of China from pointing
out that the Zokurui chapter was out of place in the translation
he made of it, though that man had never seen the original text.
In like manner, though Jikaku may have studied under
the Great Teacher Dengyo and received instruction from him, and though
Chisho may have obtained the oral transmission from the priest Gishin,
if they go against the teachings recorded in the authentic writings of
Dengyo and Gishin, then how can they help but incur suspicion?
The work entitled Ebyo Shu by Dengyo is the
most secret of his writings. In the preface to that work, he writes:
"The school of Shingon Buddhism that has recently been brought to Japan
deliberately distorts its teachings to suit its purposes, while the
Kegon school that was introduced earlier attempts to disguise the fact
that it was influenced by the doctrines of T'ien-t'ai. The Sanron sect,
which is so infatuated with the concept of Emptiness, has forgotten
Chia-hsiang's humiliation, and conceals the fact that he was completely
won over to the T'ien-t'ai teachings by Chang-an. The Hosso sect, which
clings to the concept of being, denies that its leader Chih-chou was
converted to the teachings of the Tendai school, and that Liang-p'i used
those teachings in interpreting the Ninno Sutra ... Now with all
due circumspection I have written this work entitled Ebyo Shu in
one volume to present to wise men of later times who share my
convictions. The time is the reign of the fifty-second sovereign of
Japan, the seventh year of the Konin era, the year hinoe-saru (816)."
Farther on, in the main text of the same work, he
writes: "There was an eminent monk in India who had heard that the
teachings of the T'ang priest T'ien-t'ai were most suitable for
distinguishing correct from incorrect doctrines, and expressed a longing
to become better acquainted with them."
He continues: "Does this not mean that Buddhism has
been lost in India, the country of its origin, and must now be sought in
the surrounding regions? But even in China there are few people who
recognize the greatness of T'ien-t'ai's teachings. They are like the
people of Lu."
This work, as may be seen from these quotations,
criticizes the Hosso, Sanron, Kegon and Shingon sects. Now if the Great
Teacher Dengyo believed that the Tendai and Shingon sects are of equal
worth, then why would he criticize the latter? Furthermore, he compares
the Shingon patriarch Pu-k'ung and others to the ignorant people of the
state of Lu. If he really approved of the Shingon teachings as
formulated by Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung, then why would
he speak ill of these men by comparing them to the people of Lu? And if
the Shingon teachings of India were identical with or superior to the
teachings of the Tendai sect, then why did the eminent monk of India
question Pu-k'ung about them and say that the True Law had been lost in
Be that as it may, these two men, Jikaku and Chisho,
in words claimed to be the disciples of the Great Teacher Dengyo, but at
heart they were not. That is why Dengyo wrote in the preface to his
work, "Now with all due circumspection I have written this work entitled Ebyo Shu in one volume to present to wise men of later times who
share my convictions." The words "who share my convictions" mean in
effect "those who share my conviction that the Shingon sect is inferior
to the Tendai sect."
In the edict quoted earlier, which Jikaku himself had
requested, it says that they "do nothing but turn against the teachings
of the patriarch Dengyo and instead follow the prejudices and
inclinations of their own hearts." It also states, "On the path
inherited form the master, one cannot neglect either the Shikan or the
Shingon teachings." But if we are to accept the words of the edict, we
would have to say that Jikaku and Chisho themselves are the ones who
have turned against their teacher Dengyo. It is with grave trepidation
that I make charges of this kind, but if I do not do so, then the
relative merit of the Dainichi and Lotus sutras will continue to
be misunderstood as it is at present. That is why I risk my life to
bring these charges.
[Since they themselves were mistaken,] it is
altogether natural that these two men, Jikaku and Chisho, did not
venture to accuse Kobo Daishi of doctrinal error. Instead of wasting all
those supplies and making work for other people by insisting upon
traveling all the way to China, they should have made a more careful and
thorough study of the doctrines of the Great Teacher Dengyo, who was
their own teacher!
It was only in the time of the first three leaders of
the Tendai sect, the Great Teacher Dengyo, the priest Gishin, and the
Great Teacher Encho, that the True Law was taught on Mount Hiei.
Thereafter the chief priests of the Tendai sect were transformed into
Shingon leaders. The area continued to be called Mount Tendai, but was
presided over by a Shingon master.
Jikaku and Chisho, as we have seen, contradict the
passage in the Lotus Sutra concerning all the sutras that the Buddha
"has preached, now preaches, and will preach." And having contradicted
that passage of the scripture, are they not to be regarded as the
archenemies of Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten
directions? One might have thought that Kobo was the foremost slanderer
of the Law, but Jikaku and Chisho taught errors that far surpass those
When an error is as far from the truth as water is
from fire or the earth from the sky, people will refuse to believe it,
and such errors will have no chance of acceptance. Thus, for example,
the doctrines of Kobo Daishi are so full of such errors that even his
own disciples would not accept them. As for the practices and ceremonies
of the sect, they accepted his instructions, but they could not bring
themselves to accept his doctrines concerning the relative merits of the
sutras. Therefore, they substituted for them the doctrines of
Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung, Jikaku and Chisho. It is the
doctrine of Jikaku and Chisho that declares the Shingon and Tendai sects
to be identical in principle, and all the people have accepted that
Recognizing this situation, even followers of the
Tendai sect, hoping to be asked to perform the "opening of the eyes"
ceremony for the dedication of Buddhist paintings or statues, adopt the mudras and mantras in which the Shingon sect is believed
to excel. Thus in effect the whole of Japan goes over to the Shingon
sect, and the Tendai sect is left without a single follower.
A monk and a nun, a black object and a dark blue
object, are so easily confused that a person with poor eyesight might
well mistake one for the other. But a priest and a layman, or a white
object and a red object, even a person with poor eyesight would never
confuse, much less someone with good eyes. Now the doctrines of Jikaku
and Chisho are as easy to mistake for the truth as a monk is for a nun,
or a black object for a dark blue one. Therefore, even wise men are led
astray, and the ignorant fall into error. As a result, for the past four
hundred years and more, on Mount Hiei, in Onjo-ji and To-ji temples, in
Nara, the five provinces surrounding the capital, the seven outlying
regions, and indeed throughout the whole land of Japan, all the people
have been turned into slanderers of the Law.
In the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha
states: "Monjushiri, this Lotus Sutra is the secret storehouse of
Buddhas. Among the sutras, it holds the highest place."
If this passage of the scripture is to be believed,
then the Lotus Sutra must represent the True Law that dwells supreme
above the Dainichi and all the numerous other sutras. How then,
one wonders, would Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung, Kobo, Jikaku
and Chisho interpret this passage in the sutra and reconcile it with
Again, the seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states:
"He who can accept and uphold this sutra will be like this too--he will
be the first among the multitude of living beings." If this passage of
the sutra is to be believed, then the votary of the Lotus Sutra must be
like the great sea as compared to the various rivers and streams, like
Mount Sumeru among the host of mountains, like the god of the moon amid
the multitude of stars, like the great god of the sun amid the other
shining lights, like the wheel-turning kings [among all minor kings],
like the god Taishaku [among the thirty-three gods] and the great god
king Bonten among all various kings.
The Great Teacher Dengyo in his work entitled Hokke
Shuku writes: "This sutra is like this too ... it is first among all
the sutras. He who can accept and uphold this sutra will be like this
too--he will be the first among all the multitude of living beings."
After quoting this passage from the Lotus Sutra,
Dengyo notes a passage from the work entitled Hokke Gengi by
T'ien-t'ai [which interprets] the same passage of scripture, and
explains its meaning as follows: "One should understand that the sutras
on which the other sects base their teachings are not the first among
the sutras, and those persons who uphold such sutras are not the first
among the multitude. But the Lotus Sutra, which is upheld by the
Tendai-Hokke sect, is the foremost of all the sutras, and therefore
those who embrace the Lotus Sutra are first among the multitude. This is
borne out by the words of the Buddha himself. How could it be mere
Later in the work just mentioned, Dengyo says,
"Detailed explanations concerning the texts on which the various sects
base their teachings are given in a separate work." The separate work he
is referring to, the Ebyo Shu, states: "Now the founder of our
sect, the Great Teacher T'ien-T'ai, preached the Lotus Sutra and
interpreted the Lotus Sutra in a way that placed him far above the
crowd; in all of China, he stood alone. One should clearly understand
that he was a messenger of the Buddha. Those who praise him will receive
blessings that will pile up as high as Mount Sumeru, while those who
slander him will be committing a fault that will condemn them to the
hell of incessant suffering."
If we go by the Lotus Sutra and the interpretations of
it put forward by T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo, then, in Japan at the
present time, there is not a single votary of the Lotus Sutra!
In India, when Shakyamuni Buddha was preaching the
Lotus Sutra as described in the Hoto chapter, he summoned all the
various Buddhas and had them take their seats upon the ground. Only
Dainichi Buddha was seated within the Treasure Tower, on the lower seat
to the south, while Shakyamuni Buddha was seated on the upper seat to
This Dainichi Buddha is the master of the Dainichi of
the Womb World described in the Dainichi Sutra, and of the
Dainichi of the Diamond World described in the Kongocho Sutra.
This Dainichi or Taho Buddha, who has as his vassals the Dainichi
Buddhas of the two worlds just mentioned, is in turn surpassed by
Shakyamuni Buddha, who sits in the seat above him. This Shakyamuni
Buddha is a true votary of the Lotus Sutra. Such was the situation in
In China, in the time of the Ch'en emperor [Shu-pao],
the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai defeated in debate the Buddhist leaders of
northern and southern China, and was honored with the title of Great
Teacher while still alive. As Dengyo says of him, he was "far above the
crowd; in all of China, he stood alone."
In Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyo defeated in debate
the leaders of the six sects and became the founder and first leader of
the Tendai sect in Japan.
In India, China and Japan, these three persons alone--Shakyamuni,
T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo--were what the Lotus Sutra calls "the first among
all the multitude of living beings."
Thus the Hokke Shuku by Dengyo states: "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 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."
In the eighteen hundred years or more since the
passing of the Buddha, there has been only one votary of the Lotus Sutra
in China and one in Japan. If Shakyamuni himself is added to the number,
that makes a total of three persons.
The secular classics of China claim that a sage will
appear once every thousand years, and a worthy man once every five
hundred. In the Yellow River where the Ching and Wei rivers flow into
it, the flow of the two tributary rivers remains separate. But it is
said that once every five hundred years, one side of the river will flow
clear, and once every thousand years, both sides of the river will flow
clear. [In the same way, sages and worthy men appear at fixed
In Japan, as we have seen, only on Mount Hiei in the
time of the Great Teacher Dengyo was there a votary of the Lotus Sutra.
Dengyo was succeeded by Gishin and Encho, the first and second chief
priests of the sect, respectively. But only the first chief priest
Gishin followed the ways of the Great Teacher Dengyo. The second chief
priest Encho was half a disciple of Dengyo and half a disciple of Kobo.
The third chief priest, Jikaku, at first acted like a
disciple of the Great Teacher Dengyo. But after he went to China at the
age of forty, though he continued to call himself a disciple of Dengyo
and went through the motions of carrying on Dengyo's line, he taught a
kind of Buddhism that was wholly unworthy of a true disciple of Dengyo.
Only in the matter of the precepts for perfect and immediate
enlightenment established by Dengyo did he conduct himself like a true
He was like a bat, for a bat resembles a bird yet is
not a bird, and resembles a mouse yet is not a mouse. Or he was like an
owl or a hakei beast. He ate his father the Lotus Sutra, and
devoured his mother, those who embrace the Lotus Sutra. When he dreamed
that he shot down the sun, it must have been a portent of these crimes.
And it must be because of these acts that, after his death, no grave was
set aside for him.
The temple Onjo-ji, representing Chisho's branch of
the Tendai sect, fought incessantly with the temple Enryaku-ji on Mount
Hiei, which represented Jikaku's branch of the sect, the two going at
each other like so many asuras and evil dragons. First Onjo-ji
would be burned down, then the buildings on Mount Hiei. As a result, the
image of Bodhisattva Miroku that had been the special object of worship
of Chisho was burned, and the special object of worship of Jikaku, as
well as the great lecture hall on Mount Hiei, were likewise burned. The
monks of the two temples must have felt as though they had fallen into
the hell of incessant suffering while they were still in this world.
Only the Main Hall on Mount Hiei remained standing.
The lineage of Kobo Daishi has likewise ceased to be
what it should have been. Kobo left written instructions that no one who
had not received the precepts at the ordination platform [established by
Ganjin] at Todai-ji should be allowed to become head of To-ji temple.
The Retired Emperor Kampyo, however, founded a temple [in Kyoto] called
Ninna-ji and moved a number of monks from To-ji to staff it, and he also
issued a decree clearly stating that no one should be allowed to reside
in Ninna-ji unless he had received the precepts for perfect and
immediate enlightenment at the ordination platform on Mount Hiei. As a
result, the monks of To-ji are neither disciples of Ganjin, nor are they
disciples of Kobo. In terms of the precepts, they are Dengyo's
disciples. However, they do not behave like true disciples of Dengyo.
They turn their backs on the Lotus Sutra, which Dengyo considered to be
Kobo died on the twenty-first day of the third month
in the second year of the Jowa era (835), and the imperial court sent a
representative to offer prayers at his funeral. Later, however, his
disciples gathered together and, bent on deception, announced that he
[had not died at all but] had entered a state of deep meditation, and
some of them even claimed that they had had to shave his head [because
his hair had grown long]. Others asserted that while he was in China, he
had hurled a three-pronged diamond-pounder all the way across the ocean
to Japan; that in answer to his prayers, the sun had come out in the
middle of the night; that he was an incarnation of Dainichi Buddha; or
that he had instructed the Great Teacher Dengyo in the eighteen paths of
esoteric Buddhism. Thus by enumerating their teachers's supposed virtues
and powers, they hoped to make him appear wise, in this way lending
support to his false doctrines and deluding the ruler and his ministers.
In addition, on Mount Koya there are two main temples,
the original temple and the Dembo-in. The original temple, which
includes the great pagoda, was founded by Kobo and is dedicated to the
Buddha Dainichi [of the Womb World]. The temple called Dembo-in was
founded by Shokaku-bo and is dedicated to the Dainichi of the Diamond
World. These two temples fight with each other day and night, in the
same way as Onjo-ji at the foot of Mount Hiei and Enryaku-ji on top of
Mount Hiei. Was it the accumulation of deceit that brought about the
appearance in Japan of these two calamities, [these quarrelsome temples
of Mount Koya and Mount Hiei]?
You may pile up dung and call it sandalwood, but when
you burn it, it will give off only the fragrance of dung. You may pile
up a lot of great lies and call them the teachings of the Buddha, but
they will never be anything but a gateway to the great citadel of the
hell of incessant suffering.
The stupa built by the non-Buddhist leader Nigantha
Nataputta over a period of several years conferred great benefit upon
living beings, but when Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha bowed to it, it suddenly
collapsed. The Brahman Devil Eloquence taught from behind a curtain and
for a number of years succeeded in fooling others, but Bodhisattva
Ashvaghosha attacked him and exposed his falsehoods. The Brahman leader
Uluka turned himself into a stone and remained in that form for eight
hundred years, but when Bodhisattva Dignaga berated him, he turned into
water. The Taoist priests for several hundred years deceived the people
of China, but when they were rebuked by the Buddhist monks Kashyapa
Matanga and Chu-fa-lan, they burned their own scriptures that purported
to teach the way of the immortals.
Just as Chao Kao seized control of the country and
Wang Mang usurped the position of emperor, so the leaders of the Shingon
sect deprived the Lotus Sutra of the rank it deserves and declared that
its domain belongs instead to the Dainichi Sutra. If the monarch
of the Law has been deprived of his kingdom in this manner, can the
monarch of men hope to remain peaceful and unharmed?
Japan today is filled with followers of Jikaku, Chisho
and Kobo--there is not a single person who does not slander the Law!
If we stop to consider the situation, it is very much
like that which prevailed in the Latter Day of the Buddha Daishogon or
the Latter Day of the Law of the Buddha Issai Myoo. In the Latter Day of
the Law of the Buddha Ionno, even though people repented of their
wrongdoings, they still had to suffer for a thousand kalpas in the
Avichi Hell. What, then, of the situation today? The Shingon priests,
the people of the Zen sect and the followers of the Nembutsu show not
the slightest sign of repentance in their hearts. Can there be any doubt
that, as the Lotus Sutra says, "In this way they will be reborn again
and again [in hell] for kalpas without number"?
Because Japan is a country where the Law is slandered,
Heaven has abandoned it. And because Heaven has abandoned it, the
various benevolent deities that in the past guarded and protected the
nation have burned their shrines and returned to the City of Tranquil
Now there is only Nichiren who remains behind,
announcing and giving warning of these things. But when I do so, the
rulers of the nation treat me like an enemy. People by the hundreds
curse me and speak ill of me, attack me with staves and sticks, swords
and knives. Door after door is closed to me, house after house drives me
away. And when the authorities find that even such treatment does not
stop me, they intervene in the matter. Twice they sent me into exile,
and once, on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of
Bun'ei (1271), they very nearly cut off my head.
The Saishoo Sutra says, "Because evil men are
respected and favored and good men are subjected to punishment,...
marauders will appear from other regions and the people of the country
will meet with death and disorder."
The Daijuku Sutra states, "There may perhaps be
various kings of the kshatriya class who act in a way contrary to
the Dharma, causing anguish to the shomon disciples of the
World-Honored One. Perhaps they may curse and revile them or beat and
injure them with swords and staves, or deprive them of their robes and
begging bowls and the other things they need. Or perhaps they may
restrain and persecute those who give alms to the disciples. If there
should be those who do such things, then we [the benevolent deities]
will see to it that their enemies in foreign lands rise up suddenly of
their own accord and march against them, and we will cause uprisings to
break out within their states. We will bring about pestilence and
famine, unseasonable winds and rains, and contention, wrangling [and
slander]. And we will make certain that those rulers do not last for
long, but that their nations are brought to destruction."
As these passages from the sutras indicate, if I,
Nichiren, were not here in Japan, then one might suppose that the Buddha
was a teller of great lies for making such predictions and that he could
not escape falling into the Avichi Hell.
On the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth
year of Bun'ei, I stood in the presence of Hei no Saemon and several
hundred others and declared, "Nichiren is the pillar of Japan! If you
lose Nichiren, you will be toppling the pillar that supports Japan!"
The passages of scripture I have quoted indicate that
if the rulers, heeding the slanders of evil monks or the vicious talk of
others, should inflict punishment on men of wisdom, then warfare will
immediately break out, great winds will blow, and attackers will appear
from foreign lands. In the second month of the ninth year of Bun'ei
(1272), fighting did in fact break out between two factions of the Hojo
family; in the fourth month of the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274), there
were violent winds; and in the tenth month of the same year, the Mongol
forces attacked Japan. Has not all of this come about because of the
treatment that has been given to me, Nichiren? This is exactly what I
have been predicting from times past. Can anyone be in doubt about the
The errors preached by Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho have
for many long years been spread about the country, and then on top of
them have come the confusions propagated by the Zen and Nembutsu sects.
It is as though, in addition to adverse winds, one should be visited by
huge waves and earthquakes as well. With all this, the nation has been
brought to the verge of destruction.
In the past the grand minister of state and lay priest
Taira no Kiyomori usurped the power of government, and after the Jokyu
Disturbance the imperial court ceased to exercise its rule and the seat
of authority shifted east to Kamakura. But these were no more than
internal disturbances; the nation as yet had not faced invasion from
Moreover, though at that time there were those who
slandered the Dharma, there were also a few persons who continued to
uphold the True Law of the Tendai sect. And in addition, at that time no
wise man had appeared who would attempt to remedy the situation. As a
result, things were relatively peaceful.
If the lion is sleeping and you do not wake him, he
will not roar. If the current is swift but you do not pull against it
with your oar, no waves will rise up. If you do not accuse the thief to
his face, he will remain unruffled; if you do not add fuel to the fire,
it will not blaze up. In the same way, though there may be those who
slander the Law, if no one comes forward to expose their error, then the
government will continue for the time being on its regular course and
the nation will remain undisturbed.
For example, when the Buddhist Law was first
introduced to Japan, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. But later,
when Mononobe no Moriya began burning Buddhist statues, seizing monks
and putting the torch to Buddhist halls and pagodas, then fire rained
down from heaven, smallpox broke out in the nation, and there were
repeated military clashes.
But the situation now is far worse. Today those who
slander the Law fill the entire country, and I, Nichiren, attack them,
strong in my determination to uphold what is right and just. We battle
no less fiercely than the asura demons the god Taishaku, or the
Buddha and the Devil King.
The Konkomyo Sutra states, "There will be times
when enemies among the neighboring states will begin to have thoughts as
follows: 'We must call out all our four types of troops and destroy that
country [where the slanderers of the Law live.]'"
The same sutra also says, "There will be times when
the rulers of neighboring states, observing the situation and mobilizing
their four types of troops, will make ready to set out for the country
[where the slanderers of the Law live], determined to subdue it. At that
time we [the great deities] will instruct all the countless, limitless
numbers of yakshas and other deities who are our followers to
assume disguises and protect these rulers, causing their enemies to
surrender to them without difficulty."
The Saishoo Sutra states the same thing, as do
the Daijuku and Ninno sutras. According to the statements
of these various sutras, if the ruler of a state persecutes those who
practice the True Law and instead sides with those who practice
erroneous teachings, then the heavenly kings Bonten and Taishaku, the
gods of the sun and the moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings will enter the
bodies of the wise rulers of neighboring states and will attack his
state. For example, King Krita was attacked by King Himatala, and King
Mihirakula was overthrown by King Baladitya. Kings Krita and Mihirakula
were rulers in India who attempted to eradicate Buddhism. In China, too,
all those rulers who tried to destroy Buddhism were attacked by worthy
But the situation in Japan today is much worse. For
here the rulers appear to be supporters of the Buddhist Law, but they
assist the priests who are destroying Buddhism and persecute the votary
of the True Law. As a result, ignorant people all fail to realize what
is happening, and even wise persons, if they are no more than moderately
wise, have difficulty grasping the situation. Even the lesser deities of
heaven, I suspect, do not understand. For this reason, the confusion and
depravity in Japan today are even greater than those in India or China
in the past.
In the Hometsujin Sutra the Buddha speaks as
follows: "After I have entered nirvana, in the troubled times when the
five cardinal sins prevail, the way of the Devil will flourish. The
Devil will appear in the form of Buddhist monks and attempt to confuse
and destroy my teachings.... Those who do evil will become as numerous
as the sands of the ocean, while the good will be extremely few, perhaps
no more than one or two persons."
And the Nirvana Sutra says, "In this way, those who
believe in the Nirvana Sutra will take up no more land than can be
placed on top of a fingernail.... those who do not believe in the sutra
will occupy all the lands in the ten directions."
These passages from the scriptures are extremely apt,
considering the times we live in, and they are deeply etched in my mind.
Nowadays in Japan one hears people everywhere declaring, "I believe in
the Lotus Sutra," and "I, too, believe in the Lotus Sutra." If we took
them at their word, we would have to conclude that there is not a soul
who slanders the Law. But the passage from the sutra which I have just
quoted says that in the Latter Day, the slanderers of the Law will
occupy all the lands in the ten directions, while those who uphold the
True Law will take up no more land than can be placed on top of a
fingernail. What the sutra says and what the people of the world today
say are as different as fire is from water. People these days say that
in Japan, Nichiren is the only one who slanders the Law. But the sutra
says that there will be more slanderers of the Law than the great earth
itself can hold.
The Hometsujin Sutra says that there will be
only one or two good persons, and the Nirvana Sutra says that the
believers can fit into the space of a fingernail. If we accept what the
sutras say, then in Japan Nichiren is the only good person, the one who
fits into the space of a fingernail. Therefore I hope that people who
are seriously concerned about the matter will consider carefully whether
they want to accept what the sutras say, or what the world says.
Someone might object that the passage in the Nirvana
Sutra speaks about the votaries of the Nirvana Sutra being so few that
they can fit into the space of a fingernail, while I am talking about
the Lotus Sutra. I would reply to this as follows.
The Nirvana Sutra defines itself as being contained in
the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo says, "The great sutra is
itself pointing to the Lotus Sutra and saying that it is the ultimate."
The words "the great sutra" here refer to the Nirvana Sutra. The Nirvana
Sutra is calling the Lotus Sutra the ultimate. Therefore, when followers
of the Nirvana sect state that the Nirvana Sutra is superior to the
Lotus Sutra, it is the same as calling a retainer a lord or a servant a
To read the Nirvana Sutra means to read the Lotus
Sutra. For the Nirvana Sutra is like a worthy man who rejoices to see
another holding his sovereign in esteem even when he himself is treated
with contempt. Thus the Nirvana Sutra would despise and regard as its
enemy anyone who tried to demote the Lotus Sutra and praise the Nirvana
With this example in mind, one must understand the
following point. If there are likewise those who read the Kegon Sutra, the Kammuryoju Sutra, the Dainichi Sutra, or some
other sutra, and they do so thinking that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to
those sutras, then they are doing violence to the very heart of those
sutras! One must also understand the following point. Even though one
reads the Lotus Sutra and appears to believe in it, if he thinks that he
may also attain enlightenment through any other sutra as well, then he
is not really reading the Lotus Sutra!
For example, the Great Teacher Chia-hsiang wrote a
work in ten volumes entitled the Hokke Genron in which he praised
the Lotus Sutra. But Miao-lo criticized the work, saying, "There are
slanders in it--how can it be regarded as true propagation and praise?"
Chia-hsiang was in fact an offender against the Lotus
Sutra. Thus, when he was defeated by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai and
served him, he no longer lectured on the Lotus Sutra. "If I were to
lecture on it," he said, "I could not avoid falling back into the paths
of evil." And for seven years, he made his own body a bridge for
T'ien-t'ai to walk on.
Similarly, the Great Teacher Tz'u-en wrote a work in
ten volumes entitled the Hokke Genzan in which he praised the
Lotus Sutra, but the Great Teacher Dengyo criticized it, saying, "Even
though he praises the Lotus Sutra, he destroys its heart."
If we consider these examples carefully, we will
realize that, among those who read the Lotus Sutra and sing its praises,
there are many who are destined for the hell of incessant suffering.
Even men like Chia-hsiang and Tz'u-en were actually slanderers of the
one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. And if such can be said of them, it
applies even more to men like Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho, who displayed
open contempt for the Lotus Sutra.
There are those like Chia-hsiang, who ceased giving
lectures, dispersed the group of disciples that had gathered around him,
and became a disciple of T'ien-t'ai, even making his body into a bridge
for his teacher. But in spite of these actions, the offense of his
earlier slanders of the Lotus Sutra was not, I expect, so easily wiped
out. The crowd of people who despised and attacked Bodhisattva Fukyo,
although they later came to believe in his teachings and became his
followers, still carried the burden of their former actions and had to
spend a thousand kalpas in the Avichi Hell as a result.
Accordingly, if men like Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho had
lectured on the Lotus Sutra, even if they had repented of their errors,
they would still have had difficulty making up for their former grave
offenses. And of course, as we know, they never had any such change of
heart. On the contrary, they completely ignored the Lotus Sutra and
spent day and night carrying out Shingon practices and morning and
evening preaching Shingon doctrine.
The bodhisattvas Vasubandhu and Ashvaghosha were both
on the point of cutting out their tongues because of the offense they
had committed [in their younger days] by adhering to Hinayana doctrines
and criticizing Mahayana. Vasubandhu declared that, although the Agon sutras of the Hinayana were the words of the Buddha, he would not let
his tongue utter them even in jest. And Ashvaghosha, as an act of
penance, wrote the Kishin Ron in which he refuted the Hinayana
Chia-hsiang in time went to the Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai and begged for his lectures. In the presence of a hundred or
more distinguished Buddhists, he threw himself on the ground, and, with
sweat pouring from every part of his body and tears of blood streaming
from his eyes, he declared that from then on he would not see his
disciples any more and would no longer lecture on the Lotus Sutra. For,
as he said, "If I were to go on facing my disciples and lecturing on the
Lotus Sutra, they might suppose that I have the ability to understand
the sutra correctly, when in fact I do not."
Chia-hsiang was both older and more eminent than
T'ien-t'ai, and yet, in the presence of others, he deliberately put his
teacher T'ien-t'ai on his back and carried him across a river. Whenever
T'ien-t'ai was about to ascend the lecture platform, Chia-hsiang would
take him on his back and carry him up to the platform. After
T'ien-t'ai's death, when Chia-hsiang was summoned into the presence of
the emperor of the Sui dynasty, he is said to have wept and dragged his
feet like a little child whose mother has just died.
When one examines the work entitled Hokke Genron by Chia-hsiang, one finds that it is not the kind of commentary that
speaks slanderously of the Lotus Sutra. It merely says that, although
the Lotus Sutra and the other Mahayana sutras differ in the profundity
of their teachings, they are at heart one and the same. Is this
statement perhaps the source of the charge that the work slanders the
Both Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon school and Shan-wu-wei
of the Shingon school declared that the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra reveal the same principle. Therefore, if Chia-hsiang is to be
blamed for the statement I have just referred to, then Shan-wu-wei can
hardly escape being blamed as well.
Shan-wu-wei in his youth was the ruler of a kingdom in
central India. But he abdicated the throne and traveled to other lands,
where he met two men named Shusho and Shodai from whom he received
instruction in the Lotus Sutra. He built a thousand stone stupas, and
appeared to be a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Later, however, after he had
received instruction in the Dainichi Sutra, he seems to have
concluded that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi Sutra.
He did not insist on this opinion at first, but came to do so later when
he went to China and became a teacher to Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the
Perhaps because he was consumed by jealousy of the
Tendai school, he died very suddenly and found himself bound with seven
cords of iron and dragged by two guardians of hell to the court of Emma,
the king of hell. But he was told that his life span had not yet reached
its conclusion and therefore was sent back to the world of men.
While in hell, he suspected that he had been brought
before Emma because he had slandered the Lotus Sutra, and he therefore
quickly set aside all his Shingon mudras, mantras and methods of
concentration and instead chanted the passage from the Lotus Sutra that
begins, "Now this threefold world is all my [the Buddha's] domain,"
whereupon the cords that bound him fell away and he was returned to
On another occasion, he was ordered by the imperial
court to recite prayers for rain and rain did in fact suddenly begin to
fall, but a huge wind also rose up and did great damage to the country.
Later, when he really did die, his disciples gathered
around his deathbed and praised the remarkable way in which he died, but
in fact he fell into the great citadel of the hell of incessant
suffering. You may ask how I know that this is so. I would reply that,
if you examine his biography, you will find it stated, "Looking now at
Shan-wu-wei's remains, one can see that they are gradually shrinking,
the skin is turning blackish and the bones are exposed.
Shan-wu-wei's disciples perhaps did not realize that
this was a sign that after his death he had been reborn in hell, but
supposed that it was a manifestation of his virtue. Yet in describing
it, the author of the biography exposed Shan-wu-wei's guilt, recording
that after his death his body gradually shrank, the skin turned black
and the bones began to show.
We have the Buddha's own golden word for it that, if a
person's skin turns black after he dies, it is a sign that he has done
something that destined him for hell. What was it, then, that Shan-wu-wei
did that would destine him for hell? In his youth he gave up the
position of ruler, showing that he had an incomparable determination to
seek the Way. He traveled about to more than fifty different lands in
India in the course of his religious practice, and his unbounded
compassion even led him to visit China. The fact that the Shingon
teachings have been transmitted throughout India, China, Japan and the
other lands of the world and numerous practitioners ring bells in prayer
is due to the merit of this man, is it not? Those who are concerned
about their own destiny after death should inquire carefully as to the
reason why Shan-wu-wei fell into hell.
Then there was Chin-kang-chih, who was a son of the
ruler of a kingdom in southern India. He introduced the Kongocho Sutra to China, and his virtue was similar to that of Shan-wu-wei. He
and Shan-wu-wei acted as teachers to one another.
Chin-kang-chih received an imperial order to conduct
prayers for rain. Within the space of seven days, rain did in fact fall,
and the Son of Heaven was very pleased. Suddenly, however, a violent
wind arose, and the ruler and his ministers, much disillusioned, sent
men to drive Chin-kang-chih out of the country, though in the end he
managed to remain in China under one pretext or another.
Sometime later, when one of the emperor's favorite
daughters lay dying, he was ordered to pray for her recovery. He
selected two seven-year-old girls who had served at the court to be
substitutes for the dying lady and had piles of firewood lighted all
around them, so that they burned to death. It was indeed a cruel thing
to do. Moreover, the emperor's daughter failed to return to life.
Pu-k'ung came to China together with Chin-kang-chih.
But, perhaps because his suspicions were aroused by the happenings I
have just mentioned, after Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih died, he
returned to India and studied Shingon doctrine all over again, this time
under Nagabodhi. In the end, he became a convert to the teachings of the
T'ien-t'ai school. But although he acknowledged allegiance to these
teachings in his heart, he would never do so in his outward actions.
Pu-k'ung, too, was ordered by the emperor to pray for
rain, and within three days, rain did in fact fall. The emperor was
pleased and dispensed rewards with his own hand. But shortly after, a
huge wind descended from the sky, buffeting and damaging the imperial
palace and toppling the quarters of the upper noblemen and high
ministers until it seemed that not a building would be left standing.
The emperor, astounded, issued an imperial command for prayers that the
wind be stopped. But though it would stop for a little, it would start
blowing again and again, until in the end it blew uninterrupted for a
space of several days. Eventually, messengers were dispatched to drive
Pu-k'ung out of the country, and then at last the wind subsided.
The evil winds of these three men have become the huge
wind of the Shingon leaders that blows throughout all of China and
Japan! And if that is so, then the great gale that arose on the twelfth
day of the fourth month in the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274) must have
been an adverse wind brought about by Kaga Hoin of the Amida Hall, one
of the most eminent monks of To-ji temple, when he was praying for rain.
We must conclude that the evil teachings of Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih
and Pu-k'ung have been transmitted without the slightest alteration.
What a strange coincidence indeed!
Let us turn now to Kobo Daishi. At the time of the
great drought in the second month of the first year of Tencho (824), the
emperor first ordered Shubin to pray for rain, and within seven days
Shubin was able to make rain fall. But the rain fell only in the capital
and did not extend to the countryside.
Kobo was then ordered to take over the prayers for
rain, but seven days passed and there was no sign of it. Another seven
days passed and there still were no clouds. After seven more days had
passed, the emperor ordered Wake no Matsuna to go and present offerings
in the Shinsen'en garden, whereupon rain fell from the sky for a period
of three days. Kobo and his disciples thereupon proceeded to appropriate
this rain and claim it as their own, and for more than four hundred
years now, it has been known as "Kobo's rain."
Jikaku said he had a dream in which he shot down the
sun. And Kobo told a great falsehood, claiming that, in the spring of
the ninth year of the Konin era (818), when he was praying for an end to
the great epidemic, the sun came out in the middle of the night.
Since the Kalpa of Formation, when the earth took
shape, down to the ninth kalpa of decrease in the Kalpa of Continuance,
twenty-nine kalpas have passed by, but in all that time, the sun has
never been known to come out at night! And as to Jikaku's dream of the
sun, where in all the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of the
Buddhist scriptures or the three thousand or more volumes of the secular
classics is it recorded that to dream of shooting the sun is auspicious?
The king of the asuras, angered at the deity Taishaku, shot an
arrow at the sun god, but the arrow came back and struck the king
himself in the eye. Chou, the last ruler of the Yin dynasty, used the
sun as a target for his arrows, and in the end he was destroyed.
In Japan, in the reign of Emperor Jimmu, the emperor's
elder brother Itsuse no Mikoto engaged in battle with the chieftain of
Tomi, Nagasunebiko, and Itsuse no Mikoto was wounded in the hand by an
arrow. He said, "I am a descendent of the sun deity. But because I have
drawn my bow while facing the sun, I have incurred this punishment from
the sun deity."
In India, King Ajatashatru renounced his earlier
mistaken views and became a follower of the Buddha. He returned to his
palace and lay down to sleep, but later rose up in alarm and said to his
ministers, "I have dreamed that the sun has left the sky and fallen to
the earth!" His ministers said, "Perhaps this means the passing away of
the Buddha." Subhadra also had the same kind of dream just before the
Buddha passed away.
It would be particularly inauspicious to dream, [as
Jikaku claims he did,) of shooting the sun in Japan, since the supreme
deity in Japan is Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, and the name of the
country, Japan, means "the Land of the Rising Sun." In addition,
Shakyamuni Buddha is called the "Sun Seed" because his mother Queen Maya
dreamed that she conceived the sun and in time gave birth to this child,
the crown prince, [who later became the Buddha].
Jikaku Daishi established Dainichi Buddha as the
object of worship on Mount Hiei and rejected Shakyamuni Buddha. He paid
honor to the three Shingon sutras and acted as an enemy to the Lotus
Sutra and its two companion sutras. That was no doubt the reason why he
dreamed this dream of shooting the sun.
On the subject of dreams, there is also the case of
the priest Shan-tao in China. In his youth he met a priest named
Ming-sheng of Mi-chou and received instruction in the Lotus Sutra.
Later, however, when he met Tao-ch'o, he threw aside the Lotus Sutra and
put all his trust in the Kammuryoju Sutra. He even wrote a
commentary on this sutra, which asserted that with the Lotus Sutra, not
one person in a thousand can be saved, whereas the Nembutsu practice
insures that ten persons out of ten or a hundred persons out of a
hundred will be reborn in the Pure Land. In order to prove his point, he
prayed before Amida Buddha to confirm whether or not his views accorded
with the Buddha's intent. His commentary says, "Every night in a dream a
priest would appear and tell me what to write," and, "Therefore this
commentary should be regarded with the same respect as the sutra
itself." It also says, "The Kannen Homon should also be revered
as though it was a sutra."
The Lotus Sutra says, "Among those who hear of this
Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood." But Shan-tao
says that not one in a thousand will be saved. The Lotus Sutra and
Shan-tao are as different as fire is from water. Shan-tao says that the Kammuryoju Sutra can save ten persons out of ten, or a hundred
persons out of a hundred. But in the Muryogi Sutra the Buddha
says that in the Kammuryoju Sutra, "I have not yet revealed the
truth." The Muryogi Sutra and this priest of the Willow Cloister
are as far apart as heaven and earth.
In view of this, can we really believe that Amida
Buddha took on the form of a priest and appeared to Shan-tao in dreams
to assure him that his commentary represented the truth? Was not Amida
among those present when the Lotus Sutra was preached, and did he not
extend his tongue along with the others and testify to the truth of the
sutra? Were his attendants, the bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi, not also
present when the Lotus Sutra was preached? The answers to these
questions are obvious, and in like manner, if we stop to think of it, we
can see that Jikaku's dream was a portent of evil.
Question: Kobo Daishi in his Shingyo Hiken or
Secret Key to the Heart Sutra writes: "In the spring of the ninth year
of Konin (818), the empire was troubled by a great plague. Thereupon the
emperor in person dipped his writing brush in gold, took a piece of dark
blue paper in his hand, and wrote out a copy of the Hannya Shin,
or Heart, Sutra, in one roll. I had been appointed by the ruler to
lecture on the Heart Sutra. Having compiled my explanations of its
meaning, I [was delivering the lecture but] had not yet reached my
concluding remarks, when those who had recovered from the plague began
to fill the streets of the capital. Moreover, when night came, the sun
continued to shine bright and red.
"This was certainly not the result of any virtuous
observance of the precepts on the part of an ignorant person like
myself, but was due rather to the power of faith manifested by the
sovereign as the gold-wheel-turning king. Nevertheless, those who go to
pray at the shrines of the gods should recite this commentary of mine.
For I was present long ago at Eagle Peak when the Buddha preached the
Heart Sutra, and I personally heard him expound its profound doctrines.
How, then, could I fail to understand its meaning?"
Again in the work entitled Kujakukyo no Ongi,
or Annotations on the Peacock Sutra, we read: "After Kobo Daishi
returned from China, he desired to establish the Shingon sect in Japan,
and representatives of all the various sects were summoned to the
imperial court. But many of them had doubts about the Shingon doctrine
of the attaining of Buddhahood in one's present form. Kobo Daishi
thereupon formed his hands in the wisdom mudra and faced south.
Suddenly his mouth opened and he turned into the golden-colored Buddha
Mahavairochana--that is, he reverted to his original form. In this way
he demonstrated that the Buddha is present in the individual and the
individual is present in the Buddha, and that one can immediately attain
Buddhahood in this very existence. On that day, all doubts concerning
the matter were completely resolved, and from that time the Shingon or
Yuga sect with its doctrines of secret mandalas was established."
The same work also says, "At this time the leaders of
the other sects all bowed to the opinion of Kobo Daishi and for the
first time received instruction in Shingon, sought its benefit and
practiced it. Dosho of the Sanron sect, Gennin of the Hosso sect, Doo of
the Kegon sect, and Encho of the Tendai sect were all among those who
In addition, the biography of Kobo Daishi states: "On
the day when he set out by ship from China, he voiced a prayer, saying,
'If there is a spot that is particularly suitable for the teaching of
these doctrines that I have learned, may this three-pronged pounder land
there!' Then he faced in the direction of Japan and threw the pounder up
into the air. It sailed far away and disappeared among the clouds. In
the tenth month, he returned to Japan."
The same work states, "He journeyed to the foot of
Mount Koya and determined to establish his place of meditation there
.... and later it was discovered that the three-pronged pounder which he
had thrown out over the sea was there on the mountain."
It is clear from these two or three incidents that
Kobo Daishi was a person of inestimable power and virtue. Since he was a
person of such great power, why do you say that one should not believe
in his teachings, and that anyone who does so will fall into the Avichi
Answer: I, too, admire and believe in these various
accomplishments of his. There are other men of old who possessed such
uncanny powers. But the possession of such power does not indicate
whether that person's understanding of the Buddhist Law is correct or
not. Among the Brahman believers of India there have been men who could
pour the water of the Ganges River into their ear and keep it there for
twelve years, who could drink the ocean dry, grasp the sun and moon in
their hands, or change the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha into oxen or
sheep. But such powers only made them more arrogant than ever and caused
them to create further karma to suffer in the realm of birth and death.
It is men like these whom T'ien-t'ai is referring to when he says, "They
seek after fame and profit and increase their illusions of thought and
The Chinese priest Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu temple
could make it rain suddenly or cause flowers to bloom immediately, but
Miao-lo writes of him, "Though he could bring about a response in this
way, his understanding still did not accord with the truth [of the Lotus
Sutra]." When the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai read the Lotus Sutra, soft
rain began to fall in an instant, and the Great Teacher Dengyo caused
the rain of amrita to fall within the space of three days.
However, they did not say that because of such powers their
understanding of the truth coincided with that of the Buddha.
Regardless of what unusual powers Kobo may have had,
he described the Lotus Sutra as a doctrine of childish theory, and wrote
that Shakyamuni Buddha was still in the region of darkness. Men of
wisdom and understanding should have nothing to do with such writings!
Say what you may, there are surely doubtful points in
the accounts of Kobo's powers you have just cited. The text says, "In
the spring of the ninth year of Konin (818), the empire was troubled by
a great plague." But spring is ninety days long. On which day of which
month of spring did this happen? This is the first doubtful point.
Secondly, was there in fact an outbreak of plague in
the ninth year of Konin?
Thirdly, the text says, "When night came, the sun
continued to shine bright and red." If it really did so, then this is an
occurrence of major importance. During the ninth year of Konin, Emperor
Saga reigned. But did the court historians of the left and right record
any such event?
Even if they had, it would be difficult to believe.
During the twenty kalpas of the Kalpa of Formation, as well as nine
kalpas of the Kalpa of Continuance, a total of twenty-nine kalpas, never
once has such a thing occurred. What then is this about the sun
appearing in the middle of the night? In all the teachings expounded by
Shakyamuni Buddha during his lifetime, there is no mention of any such
thing. And in the Three Records and Five Canons of China
which describe the three sovereigns and five emperors of antiquity,
there is no prediction that at some future date the sun will come out in
the middle of the night. In the scriptures of Buddhism, we are told that
in the Kalpa of Decline, two suns, three suns, or even seven suns will
appear, but these will appear in the daytime, not at night. And if the
sun should appear at night in our own region, the continent of
Jambudvipa in the south, then what about the other three regions of the
east, west and north?
Regardless of what the Buddhist scriptures or the
secular works may have to say about such an event, if in fact there were
some entry in the diaries of the courtiers, the other families of the
capital, or the priests of Mount Hiei saying that in the spring of the
ninth year of Konin, in such and such a month, on such and such a day,
at such and such an hour of the night the sun appeared, then we might
perhaps believe it. [But no such record exists.]
Later, the text says, "I was present long ago at Eagle
Peak when the Buddha preached the Heart Sutra, and I personally heard
him expound its profound doctrines." This is surely a wild falsehood
that is intended to make people have faith in his commentary. If not,
are we to believe that at Eagle Peak the Buddha announced that the Lotus
Sutra was a piece of "childish theory" and that the Dainichi Sutra represented the truth, and that Ananda and Monju were simply
mistaken in saying that the Lotus Sutra represents the truth?
As for making it rain, even a promiscuous woman and a
breaker of the precepts were able by their poems to cause rain to fall.
Yet Kobo prayed for twenty-one days and still it did not rain, so what
sort of powers could he have possessed? This is the fourth doubtful
The Kujakukyo no Ongi states, "Kobo Daishi
thereupon formed his hands in the wisdom mudra and faced south.
Suddenly his mouth opened and he turned into the golden-colored Buddha
Mahavairochana." Now in what year of the reign of what ruler did this
In China from the time of the Chien-yuan era (140-134
B.C.), and in Japan from the time of the Taiho era (701-704), among the
records of events kept by priests and the laity, those of important
occurrences have always been accompanied by the name of the era in which
they took place. With an event as important as that described, why then
is there no mention of who the ruler was, who his high ministers were,
what the name of the era was, or what day and hour the event took place?
The passage goes on to list "Dosho of the Sanron sect,
Gennin of the Hosso sect, Doo of the Kegon sect, and Encho of the Tendai
sect" [as those who learned the Shingon doctrines from Kobo]. Encho is
known posthumously as Jakko Daishi and was the second chief priest of
the Tendai sect. Now at that time, why were Gishin, the first chief
priest, or the Great Teacher Dengyo, the founder of the sect, not
invited to be present? Encho, the second chief priest of the Tendai
sect, was a disciple of the Great Teacher Dengyo and also became a
disciple of Kobo. Rather than inviting a disciple or rather than
inviting men of the Sanron, Hosso and Kegon sects, why did Kobo not
invite the two most important men of the Tendai sect, Dengyo and Gishin?
Speaking of the time when these men were invited, the Kujakukyo no Ongi states, "From that time the Shingon or Yuga
sect with its doctrines of secret mandalas was established." This would
seem to refer to a time when both Dengyo and Gishin were still alive.
From the second year of Daido (807), in the reign of Emperor Heizei,
until the thirteenth year of Konin (822) [when Dengyo died], Kobo was
very active in spreading the Shingon doctrines, and during this period
both Dengyo and Gishin were still alive. Moreover, Gishin lived on until
the tenth year of Tencho (833). Is it possible that Kobo waited until
after then before trying to introduce his Shingon teachings to a leader
of the Tendai sect? The whole matter is very strange.
The Kujakukyo no Ongi was written by Shinzei, a
disciple of Kobo, and therefore it is difficult to trust what it says.
Is it likely that a person of such deluded views would have troubled to
read the writings of the courtiers, the other important families, or
Encho on which to base his account? One should also check the writings
of Dosho, Gennin and Doo to see if they have anything to say on the
The text says, "Suddenly his mouth opened and he
turned into the golden-colored Buddha Mahavairochana." What does it mean
by the expression "his mouth opened"? The writer probably intended to
write miken, meaning "the area between the eyebrows," but he
mistakenly wrote "mouth" instead. Because he wrote a book of
fabrications, he quite likely made mistakes of this kind.
The whole passage says, "Kobo Daishi thereupon formed
his hands in the wisdom mudra and faced south. Suddenly his mouth
opened and he turned into the golden-colored Buddha Mahavairochana."
Now in the fifth volume of the Nirvana Sutra we read:
"Mahakashyapa spoke to the Buddha, saying, 'World-Honored One, I will no
longer depend upon the four ranks of saints. Why is this? Because in the
Ghoshila Sutra that the Buddha preached for the sake of Ghoshila, it is
said that the devil king in heaven, because he is determined to try to
destroy the Buddhist Law, will turn himself into the likeness of a
Buddha. He will have all the thirty-two features and eighty
characteristics of a Buddha, will be solemn and imposing in appearance,
and a round halo of light will radiate from him ten feet in all
directions. His face will be round and full like the moon at its fullest
and brightest, and the white curl in the area between his eyebrows will
be whiter than snow.... From his left side will come water, and from his
right side will come fire.'"
Again, in the sixth volume of the Nirvana Sutra, it is
recorded, "The Buddha announced to Mahakashyapa, 'After I have passed
into nirvana,... this Devil of the Sixth Heaven and other devils will in
time try to destroy this True Law of mine ... He will change himself
into the form of an arhat or of a Buddha. The devil king, though still
subject to illusion, will assume the form of one who has been freed from
illusion, and will try to destroy this True Law of mine.'"
Kobo Daishi declared that, in comparison with the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, the Lotus Sutra was a piece of
"childish theory." And this same man, we are told, appeared in the form
of a Buddha. He must be the devil who, as the Nirvana Sutra states, will
change his shape, that is still subject to illusion, into that of a
Buddha and attempt to destroy the True Law of Shakyamuni.
This "True Law" referred to in the Nirvana Sutra is
the Lotus Sutra. Therefore we find later on in the Nirvana Sutra the
statement, "It has already been a long time since I attained
Buddhahood." The text also says that the sutra itself is contained in
the Lotus Sutra.
Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten
directions declared with regard to the various sutras that the Lotus
Sutra represents the truth; the Dainichi and all the other sutras
do not represent the truth. Yet Kobo appeared in the form of a Buddha
and announced that, compared to the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, the Lotus Sutra is a piece of "childish theory." If the words of
the Buddha are true, then Kobo must be none other than the Devil of the
Sixth Heaven, must he not?
Again, this matter of the three-pronged pounder
appears to be particularly suspicious. It would be difficult to believe
even if a Chinese [who had not known the circumstances] had come to
Japan and happened to dig up the pounder. Surely someone must have been
sent earlier to bury it in that particular spot. Since Kobo was a
Japanese, he could have arranged such a thing. There are many such wild
and absurd stories associated with his name. Such incidents hardly lend
support to the assertions that his teachings accord with the will of the
Thus the doctrines of the Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu
sects spread and prospered in Japan. Eventually, Takanari, the Retired
Emperor of Oki [the eighty-second emperor Gotoba], began making efforts
to overthrow the Gon no Tayu. Since he was the sovereign, the leader of
the nation, people supposed that, even without assistance, it would be
as easy as a lion pouncing on a rabbit or a hawk seizing a pheasant.
Moreover, for a period of several years appeals had been made at Mount
Hiei, the temples of To-ji, Onjo-ji and the seven major temples of Nara,
as well as to the Sun Goddess, the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, and the
deities of the Sanno, Kamo and Kasuga shrines, asking that the emperor's
enemies be subdued and that the gods lend their aid. Yet, when war broke
out, the imperial forces were not able to hold out for more than two or
three days. In the end, the three retired emperors were exiled to the
islands of Sado and Oki and the province of Awa, respectively, where
they ended their lives.
Moreover, Omuro, who was leading the prayers to subdue
the enemies of the court, was not only driven out of To-ji temple, but
his favorite, the page Setaka, who was as dear to him as his very eyes,
was beheaded. Thus, as the Lotus Sutra says, the curses in the end
"returned to the originators."
But this is a trifling matter compared to what is to
come. Hereafter, I have no doubt that the court officials and the
countless common people of Japan will without exception suffer a fate
like that of heaps of dry grass to which a torch has been set, like huge
mountains crumbling and valleys being filled up, for our country will be
attacked by enemies from abroad.
I, Nichiren, am the only one in the whole country of
Japan who understands why these things will happen. But if I speak out,
I will be treated as King Chou of the Yin dynasty treated Pi Kan,
tearing open his chest; as King Chieh of the Hsia dynasty treated
Lung-feng, cutting off his head; or as King Dammira treated Aryasimha,
beheading him. I will be banished like the priest Chu Tao-sheng, or
branded on the face like the Learned Doctor Fa-tao.
In the Lotus Sutra, however, it is written, "We do not
hold our own lives dear. We value only the supreme Way." And the Nirvana
Sutra warns, "He should never hold back any of the teachings, even
though it may cost him his life."
If in this present existence I am so fearful for my
life that I fail to speak out, then in what future existence will I ever
attain Buddhahood? Or in what future existence will I ever be able to
bring salvation to my parents and my teacher? With thoughts such as
these uppermost in my mind, I decided that I must begin to speak out.
And, just as I had expected, I was ousted, I was vilified, I was
attacked, and I suffered wounds. Finally, on the twelfth day of the
fifth month in the first year of the Kocho era (1261), the year with the
cyclical sign kanoto-tori, having incurred the displeasure of the
authorities, I was banished to Ito in the province of Izu. Eventually,
on the twenty-second day of the second month of the third year of Kocho
(1263), the year with the cyclical sign mizunoto-i, I was
pardoned and allowed to return.
After that, I became more determined than ever to
attain enlightenment and continued to speak out. Accordingly, the
difficulties I encountered became increasingly severe, like great waves
that rise up in a gale. I experienced with my own body the kind of
attacks with sticks and staves that Bodhisattva Fukyo suffered in
ancient times. It would seem that even the persecutions suffered by the
monk Kakutoku in the latter age after the death of the Buddha Kangi
Zoyaku could not compare to my trials. Nowhere in all the sixty-six
provinces and the two offshore islands of Japan, not for a day, not for
an hour, could I find a place to rest in safety.
Even sages who persevere in their practice as
earnestly as did Rahula in ancient times, strictly observing all the two
hundred and fifty precepts, or men who are as wise as Purna, speak evil
of Nichiren when they encounter him. Even worthy men who are as honest
and upright as the officials Wei Cheng or Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, when
they see Nichiren, forsake reason and treat him unjustly.
How much more so is this the case with the ordinary
people of the day! They behave like dogs who have seen a monkey, or
hunters in pursuit of a deer. Throughout the whole of Japan there is not
a single person who says, "Perhaps this man has some reason for his
But that is only to be expected. For whenever I come
upon a person who recites the Nembutsu, I tell him that those who put
their faith in the Nembutsu will fall into the hell of incessant
suffering. Whenever I come upon a person who honors the Shingon
teachings, I tell him that Shingon is an evil doctrine that will destroy
the nation. And to [Hojo Tokimune,] the ruler of the nation, who honors
the Zen sect, I, Nichiren, declare that Zen is the creation of devils.
Since I willingly bring these troubles upon myself,
when others vilify me, I do not rebuke them. Even if I wanted to rebuke
them, there are too many of them. And even when they strike me, I feel
no pain, for I have been prepared for their blows from the very
And so I went about with ever increasing vigor and
ever less concern for my safety, trying to persuade others to change
their ways. As a result, several hundred Zen priests, several thousand
Nembutsu believers, and even more Shingon teachers went to the
magistrate or the men of powerful families, or to their wives or their
widows who had taken holy orders, and filled their ears with endless
slanders concerning me.
Finally, all were convinced that I was the gravest
offender in the entire nation, for it was said that in my capacity as a
priest, I was saying prayers and spells for the destruction of Japan,
and that I had reported that the deceased officials Hojo Tokiyori and
Hojo Shigetoki had fallen into the hell of incessant suffering. Their
widows insisted that investigation was unnecessary; rather, I should
have my head cut off, and my disciples should likewise be beheaded or
exiled to distant lands or placed in confinement. So infuriated were
they that their demands for punishment were immediately carried out.
On the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month in
the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), the year with the cyclical sign kanoto-hitsuji, I was to have been beheaded at Tatsunokuchi in the
province of Sagami. But for some reason the execution was postponed and
that night I was taken to a place called Echi. On the night of the
thirteenth day, people made a great uproar, saying I had been pardoned.
But, again for reasons that are unclear, I was ordered into exile on the
island of Sado.
While people speculated from one day to the next if I
would be beheaded, I passed four years on Sado. Then, on the fourteenth
day of the second month in the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274), the year
with the cyclical sign Jupiter kinoe-inu, I was pardoned. On the
twenty-sixth day of the third month of the same year, I returned to
Kamakura, and on the eighth day of the fourth month I had an interview
with Hei no Saemon. I reported on various matters and informed him that
the Mongols would certainly invade Japan within that year. Then on the
twelfth day of the fifth month, I left Kamakura and came to this
mountain where I am now living.
All these things I have done solely in order to repay
the debt I owe to my parents, the debt I owe to my teacher, the debt I
owe to the three treasures of Buddhism, and the debt I owe to my
country. For their sake, I have been willing to destroy my body and to
give up my life, though as it turns out, I have not been put to death
If a wise man makes three attempts to warn the leaders
of the nation and they still refuse to heed his advice, then he should
retire to a mountain forest. This has been the custom from ages past,
and I have accordingly followed it.
I am quite certain that the merit I have acquired
through my efforts is recognized by everyone from the three treasures of
Buddhism on down to Bonten, Taishaku and the gods of the sun and moon.
Through this merit I will surely lead to enlightenment my parents and my
teacher, the late Dozen-bo.
But there are certain doubts that trouble me.
Maudgalyayana, a disciple of the Buddha, attempted to save his mother
Shodai-nyo, but he could not do so, and she remained in the realm of
hungry spirits. The monk Sunakshatra was a son of the World-Honored One,
and yet he fell into the Avichi Hell. Thus, although one may exert one's
full effort to save others, it is very difficult to save them from the
karmic retribution that they have brought upon themselves.
The late Dozen-bo treated me as one of his favorite
disciples, so I cannot believe that he bore any hatred toward me. But he
was a timid man, and he could never bring himself to give up his
position at the temple where he lived, Seicho-ji. Moreover, he was
fearful of what Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of the region, might do if he
gave ear to my teachings. And at Seicho-ji he had to live in the midst
of priests like Enchi and Jitsujo, who were as evil as Devadatta or
Kokalika, and to put up with their intimidations, so that he became even
more fearful than ever. As a result, he turned a deaf ear to the
disciple he had been fondest of, one who had followed him for many
years. One wonders what will become of such a man in the next life.
There is one thing to be thankful for. Kagenobu, Enchi
and Jitsujo all died before Dozen-bo did, and that was something of a
help. These men all met an untimely death because of the chastisement of
the Ten Goddesses who protect the Lotus Sutra. After they died, Dozen-bo
began to have some faith in the Lotus Sutra. But it was rather like
obtaining a stick after the fight is over, or lighting a lamp at
midday--the proper time had already passed.
In addition, I cannot keep from thinking that,
whatever happens, one ought to feel pity and concern for one's own
children or disciples. Dozen-bo was not an entirely helpless man, and
yet, though I was exiled all the way to the island of Sado, he never
once tried to visit me. This is hardly the behavior of one who believes
in the Lotus Sutra.
In spite of all that, I thought a great deal of him,
and when I heard the news of his death, I felt as though, whether I had
to walk through fire or wade through water, I must rush to his grave,
pound on it, and recite a volume of the Lotus Sutra for his sake.
However, it often happens with worthy men that,
although they do not think of themselves as having retired from the
world, other people assume that they have, and therefore, if they were
to come rushing out of retreat for no good reason, people would suppose
that they had failed to accomplish their purpose. For this reason, no
matter how much I might wish to visit his grave, I feel that I cannot do
Now you two, Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, were my teachers in
my youth. You are like the Administrators of Monks Gonso and Gyohyo who
were the teachers of the Great Teacher Dengyo, but later, on the
contrary, became his disciples. When Tojo Kagenobu was bent on harming
me and I decided that I must leave Mount Kiyosumi [on which Seicho-ji is
located], you helped me escape in secret. You have performed an
unrivaled service for the Lotus Sutra. There can be no doubt about the
reward that awaits you in your next rebirth.
Question: Within the eight volumes and twenty-eight
chapters that constitute the entirety of the Lotus Sutra, what part
represents the true heart of the work?
Answer: The heart of the Kegon Sutra is the
title Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra. The heart of the Agon sutras is the title Bussetsu Chu-agon Sutra. The heart of the Daijuku Sutra is the title Daihodo Daijuku Sutra. The heart
of the Hannya Sutra is the title Makahannya Haramitsu Sutra. The heart of the Muryoju Sutra is the title Bussetsu
Muryoju Sutra. The heart of the Kammuryoju Sutra is the title Bussetsu Kammuryoju Sutra. The heart of the Amida Sutra is
the title Bussetsu Amida Sutra. The heart of the Nirvana Sutra is
the title Daihatsunehan Sutra. It is the same with all the
sutras. The daimoku or title of the sutra, which appears before the
opening words nyoze gamon or "Thus have I heard," is in all cases
the true heart of the sutra. This is true whether it is a Mahayana sutra
or a Hinayana sutra. As for the Dainichi Sutra, the Kongocho Sutra, the Soshitsuji Sutra and so forth--in all cases the title
constitutes the heart.
The same is true of the Buddhas. Dainichi Buddha,
Nichigatsu Tomyo Buddha, Nento Buddha, Daitsuchisho Buddha, Unraionno
Buddha--in the case of all these Buddhas, the name itself contains
within it all the various virtues that pertain to that particular
The same, then, applies to the Lotus Sutra. The five
characters Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo that appear before the opening words
"Thus have I heard" comprise the true heart of the eight volumes of the
work. Moreover, they are the heart of all the sutras, as well as the
True Law that stands above all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the people
of the two vehicles, and all the heavenly deities and human beings, asuras and dragon gods.
Question: If one person should chant
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo without understanding its meaning, and another
person should chant the words Namu Daihokobutsu Kegonkyo without
understanding their meaning, would the merit acquired by the two persons
be equal, or would one acquire greater merit than the other?
Answer: One would acquire greater merit than the
Question: Why do you say so?
Answer: A small river can accommodate the water
flowing into it from dew, brooks, wells, ditches and little streams, but
it cannot accommodate the water from a big river. A big river can
accommodate the water from a small river with its dew, brooks and so
forth, but it cannot accommodate the water from the great ocean. Now the Agon sutras are like the small river with its wells, streams,
brooks and dew, while the Hodo sutras, the Amida Sutra,
the Dainichi Sutra and the Kegon Sutra are like the big
river that accommodates the small river. But the Lotus Sutra is like the
great ocean that can hold all the water from dew, brooks, wells,
streams, small rivers, big rivers and the rains from heaven, without
losing a single drop.
Suppose that a person is burning with fever. If he
sits down beside a large body of cold water and stays there for a while,
his fever will abate, but if he lies down beside a little body of water,
he will continue to suffer as before. In the same way, if an icchantika or person of incorrigible disbelief, who has committed
the five cardinal sins and has slandered the Law, should try to cool
himself beside the little bodies of water that are the Agon, Kegon,
Kammuryoju and Dainichi sutras, the raging fever caused by
his great offenses would never be dispelled. But if he should lie down
on the great snowy mountain that is the Lotus Sutra, then the raging
fever caused by the five offenses, his slander of the Law, and his
incorrigible disbelief, would be dispelled instantly.
Therefore, ignorant people should by all means have
faith in the Lotus Sutra. For although one may think that all the titles
of the sutras are the same in effect and that it is as easy to chant one
as another, in fact the merit acquired even by an ignorant person who
chants the title of the Lotus Sutra is as far superior to that acquired
by a wise man who chants some other title as heaven is to earth!
To illustrate, even a person with great strength
cannot break a strong rope with his bare hands. But if one has a little
knife, then even a person of meager strength can sever the rope with
ease. Even a person with great strength cannot cut through a piece of
hard stone with a dull sword. But if one has a sharp sword, then even a
person of meager strength can cut the stone in two.
Or, to give another example, even though one may not
know what is in the medicine, if one takes a dose of it, he can cure his
illness. But if he takes only ordinary food, his illness will never be
cured. Or to give yet another example, a medicine with supernatural
properties can actually increase one's life span, whereas ordinary
medicine, though it can cure illness, can never prolong one's life.
Question: Of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus
Sutra, which is the heart, which is the most essential?
Answer: Some would say that each chapter is essential
to the matter that it deals with. Some would contend that the Hoben and Juryo chapters are the heart, others that the Hoben alone is the heart, or that the Juryo alone is the heart. Some
would say that the passage, "to awaken in all beings the Buddha wisdom,
to reveal it, to let all beings know it and enter into it," is the
heart, others that the "true entity" is the heart.
Question: What is your opinion?
Answer: I believe that the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
constitute the heart.
Question: What is your proof?
Answer: The fact that Ananda, Monju and the others
wrote, "Thus have I heard."
Question: What do you mean by that?
Answer: Over a period of eight years, Ananda, Monju
and the others listened to the innumerable principles of the Lotus
Sutra, never missing a single sentence, a single verse, a single word.
Yet, after the Buddha had passed away, at the time of the compilation of
his teachings, when the 999 arhats took up their writing brushes and
dipped them in ink, they first of all wrote the words Myoho-renge-kyo,
and after that they intoned the words, "Thus have I heard." Therefore
these five words Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo must be the heart of the eight
volumes and twenty-eight chapters that compose the work, must they not?
Therefore the Dharma Teacher Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu
temple, who is said to have lectured on the Lotus Sutra ever since the
distant age of Nichigatsu Tomyo Buddha, states: "The words 'Thus have I
heard' indicate that one is going to transmit the doctrines he has heard
preached. The title, which precedes these words, sums up the sutra as a
The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, who was present on Eagle
Peak when the Lotus Sutra was preached and heard it in person, writes,
"The word 'thus' indicates the essence of a doctrine heard from the
Buddha." And the Great Teacher Chang-an writes, "The transcriber
[Chang-an] comments on [T'ien-t'ai's explanation of the title of the
Lotus Sutra], saying, 'Hence [his explanation of the title in] the
preface conveys the profound meaning of the sutra as a whole, and the
profound meaning indicates the heart of the work.'"
In this passage, the words "heart of the work" signify
that the daimoku or title of the work is the heart of the Lotus Sutra.
As the Great Teacher Miao-lo states, "It is the heart of the Lotus Sutra
that encompasses all the doctrines preached by the Buddha in the course
of his lifetime."
India comprises seventy states, but they are known
collectively by the name Gasshi [the Land of the Moon], or India. Japan
comprises sixty provinces, but they are known collectively by the name
Nihon [the Land of the Sun], or Japan. Within the name India are
contained all the seventy states, as well as all their people, animals,
treasures, and so forth. Within the name Japan are contained all the
sixty-six provinces. The feathers sent as tribute from Dewa, the gold of
Oshu, and all the other treasures of the nation, as well as the people
and animals, temples and shrines, are all contained within the two
characters that form the name Ni-hon or Japan.
One who possesses the Heavenly Eye can look at the two
characters of the name Japan and see all the sixty-six provinces along
with their people and animals. One who possesses the Dharma Eye can see
all the people and animals now dying in one place, now being born in
It is like hearing someone's voice and knowing what
the person must look like, or seeing someone's footprints and judging
whether the person is large or small. Or it is like estimating the size
of a pond by looking at the lotuses that grow in it, or imagining the
size of the dragons by observing the rain that they cause to fall. Each
of these examples illustrates the principle that all things are
expressed in one.
It might appear from this that the daimoku or title of
any Agon sutra must contain all the teachings of the Buddhas, but
in fact it contains only one Buddha, the Shakyamuni of the Hinayana
teachings. It might also appear that the titles of the Kegon,
Kammuryoju and Dainichi sutras must contain all the teachings
of the Buddhas, but in fact they do not include the doctrine concerning
the attainment of Buddhahood by people in the two realms of shomon and engaku, or the Shakyamuni Buddha who gained enlightenment in
the far distant past. They are like flowers that bloom but are followed
by no fruit, thunder that rolls but brings no rain, a drum that has no
sound, eyes that cannot see, a woman who bears no child, or a person who
has no life or spirit in him.
The mantras associated with the Buddhas
Dainichi, Yakushi and Amida and Bodhisattva Kannon are of the same
nature. Though in the various sutras containing these mantras they are said to be like a great king, Mount Sumeru, the sun and moon,
good medicine, a wish-granting jewel or a sharp sword, they are as far
beneath the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra as mud is beneath the clouds.
Not only are they vastly inferior, but all of them
have lost their respective inherent functions. When the sun comes up,
the light of the crowds of stars is completely eclipsed; when bits of
iron are placed near a magnet, they lose their property. When a great
sword is exposed to even a small fire, it ceases to be of any use; when
cow's milk or donkey's milk comes into the presence of lion king's milk,
it turns to water. A pack of foxes will forget all their tricks if they
meet up with a dog; a band of dogs will all quake with fright if they
encounter a small tiger.
In the same way, if one chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
then the power of the words Namu Amida Butsu, the power of the mantras invoking Dainichi, the power of Bodhisattva Kannon, and the
power of all the Buddhas, all the sutras and all the bodhisattvas will
without exception vanish before the power of Myoho-renge-kyo.
Unless these other sutras manage to borrow the power
of Myoho-renge-kyo, they will all become worthless things. This is a
fact that stands before our very eyes in the present age.
Because I, Nichiren, chant and spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
the power of Namu Amida Butsu will be like a moon waning, a tide running
out, grass withering in autumn and winter, or ice melting in the sun.
Watch and see!
Question: If this Law that you have been describing is
in fact so wonderful, why is it not better known? Why have not
Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Nan-yueh,
T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo spread it abroad the way Shan-tao spread
the practice of Namu Amida Butsu throughout China or the way Eshin,
Yokan and Honen spread it in Japan, turning the whole country into
worshipers of Amida Buddha?
Answer: This is an old criticism, not by any means one
that is raised here for the first time.
Bodhisattvas Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna were great
scholars who lived, respectively, six hundred and seven hundred years
after the death of the Buddha. When these men appeared in the world and
began spreading the doctrines of the Mahayana sutras, the various
followers of the Hinayana raised objections.
"Mahakashyapa and Ananda," they said, "lived on for
twenty or forty years after the death of the Buddha, preaching the True
Law. Presumably they conveyed the heart of all the teachings that the
Buddha had propounded during his lifetime. Now we find that what these
two men emphasized were simply the concepts of suffering, emptiness,
impermanence and non-self. Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna may be very wise,
but are we to suppose that they are superior to Mahakashyapa and Ananda?
This is our first objection.
"Mahakashyapa obtained his enlightenment through
direct encounters with the Buddha. But these two men, Ashvaghosha and
Nagarjuna, have never encountered the Buddha. This is our second
"The Brahman philosophers who preceded the Buddha
taught that life is permanent, joyful, endowed with self and pure.
Later, when the Buddha appeared in the world, he declared that life is
marked by suffering, emptiness, impermanence and non-self. Now
Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna insist that it is permanent, joyful, endowed
with self and pure. This being so, we must suppose that, since both the
Buddha and Mahakashyapa have passed away from the world, the Devil of
the Sixth Heaven has taken possession of these two men and is trying to
overthrow the teachings of Buddhism and replace them with the teachings
of the Brahman heretics.
"If that is so, then these men are the enemies of
Buddhism! We must smash their skulls, cut off their heads, put an end to
their lives, see that they get no more to eat! Let us drive them from
Such were the declarations of the Hinayana believers.
And Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna, being two men alone, were forced day and
night to listen to these shouts of calumny, and morning and evening to
bear the attacks of sticks and staves.
But these two men were in fact messengers of the
Buddha. For in the Maya Sutra, it is predicted that Ashvaghosha will
appear six hundred years, and Nagarjuna, seven hundred years, after the
Buddha's death. The same prediction is also recorded in the Ryoga Sutra, and of course in the Fuhozo Sutra as well.
But the Hinayana believers would not heed these
predictions, and instead attacked the Mahayanists blindly and without
reason. "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of
the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?"
says the Lotus Sutra. Looking at the time of Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna,
one begins to have a little understanding of what these words of the
sutra really mean. Moreover, Bodhisattva Aryadeva was killed by a
Brahman, and the Venerable Aryasimha had his head cut off. These events,
too, give one cause for thought.
Then, some fifteen hundred years or more after the
death of the Buddha, in the country of China, which lies east of India,
the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai appeared in the world during the years of
the Ch'en and Sui dynasties. He declared that among the sacred teachings
put forth by the Buddha, there were the Mahayana and the Hinayana, the
exoteric and the esoteric, the provisional and the true. Mahakashyapa
and Ananda had concentrated on spreading the Hinayana teachings, he
explained. Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu had spread the
provisional Mahayana teachings. But with regard to the true Mahayana
teaching of the Lotus Sutra, they had merely touched on it briefly but
concealed its meaning, or had described the surface meaning of the sutra
but failed to discuss the differences that mark the Buddha's teachings
expounded throughout his lifetime. Or they had described the theoretical
teaching but not the essential teaching, or they had understood the
theoretical and essential teachings but not kanjin, or the method
for observing the mind.
When the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai expounded these
views, the millions of followers of the ten schools of Buddhism, three
in southern China and seven in northern China, all with one accord gave
a great laugh of derision.
"Here in these latter days, a truly amazing priest has
made his appearance among us!" they exclaimed. "Though there have at
times been persons who adhered to biased views and opposed us, never has
there been anyone who maintained that all the 260 or more learned
doctors and teachers of Buddhism who have lived since the introduction
of Buddhism in the tenth year of the Yung-p'ing era (A.D. 67) of the
Later Han, the year with the cyclical sign hinoto-u, down to
these present years of the Ch'en and Sui, were ignorant. And on top of
that, he says that they are slanderers of the Law who are destined to
fall into the evil states of existence. Such is the kind of person that
"He is so insane that he even maintains that the
Learned Doctor Kumarajiva, the man who introduced the Lotus Sutra to
China, was an ignorant fool! Whatever he may say about the men of China,
imagine his saying that the great scholars of India such as Nagarjuna
and Vasubandhu and the several hundred others, all of them bodhisattvas
of the four ranks, did not teach the true doctrine! Anyone who killed
this man would be doing no more than killing a hawk! In fact he would be
more praiseworthy than someone who kills a demon!"
This was the way they railed at the Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai. And later, in the time of the Great Teacher Miao-lo, when
the Hosso and Shingon doctrines were introduced from India and the Kegon
school was first established in China, Miao-lo spoke out against these
teachings and was met with a similar uproar.
In Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyo made his appearance
1,800 years after the Buddha had passed away. After examining the
commentaries of T'ien-t'ai, he began to criticize the six sects of
Buddhism that had flourished in Japan in the 260 or more years since the
time of Emperor Kimmei. People in turn slandered him, saying that the
Brahmans who lived in the time of the Buddha or the Taoists of China
must have been reborn in Japan.
Dengyo also proposed to set up an ordination platform
for administering the great precepts of perfect and immediate
enlightenment, such as had never existed in India, China or Japan in the
1,800 years since the Buddha's death. Indeed he went further than this,
declaring that the ordination platform at Kannon-ji temple in the
western region of Tsukushi, the ordination platform at Ono-dera temple
in the eastern province of Shimotsuke, and the ordination platform at
Todai-ji temple in the central province of Yamato all stank with the
foul odor of the Hinayana precepts and were as worthless as broken tile
and rubble. And the priests who upheld such precepts, he said, were no
better than foxes and monkeys.
In reply, his critics exclaimed, "Ah, how amazing!
This thing that looks like a priest must in fact be a great swarm of
locusts that has appeared in Japan and is about to gobble up the tender
shoots of Buddhism in one swoop. Or perhaps the tyrant Chou of the Yin
dynasty or Chieh of the Hsia has been reborn in Japan in the shape of
this priest. Perchance Emperor Wu of the Later Chou and Emperor Wu-tsung
of the T'ang have reappeared in the world. At any moment now, Buddhism
may be wiped out and the nation overthrown!"
As for the ordinary people, they clapped their hands
in alarm and waggled their tongues, saying, "Whenever the priests of
these two types of Buddhism, Mahayana and Hinayana, appear together,
they fight like Taishaku and the asuras, or like Hsiang Yu and
Kao-tsu disputing possession of the kingdom!"
Dengyo's opponents continued to revile them, saying,
"In the time of the Buddha, there were two ordination platforms, one
belonging to the Buddha and the other to Devadatta, and a number of
people were killed in the dispute over them. This man may well defy the
other sects, but he declares that he must set up an ordination platform
for administering the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment
such as even his mater, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, was unable to
establish. How strange! And how frightening, how frightening!"
But Dengyo had his passages of scripture to support
him, and as you know, the Mahayana ordination platform was eventually
set up and has been in existence for some time now on Mount Hiei.
Thus, although their enlightenment may have been the
same, from the point of view of the teaching which they propagated,
Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna were superior to Mahakashyapa and Ananda,
T'ien-t'ai was superior to Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna, and Dengyo
surpassed T'ien-t'ai. In these latter times, people's wisdom becomes
shallow, while Buddhism becomes more profound. To give an analogy, a
mild illness can be cured with ordinary medicine, but a severe illness
requires a medicine with supernatural properties. A man who is weak must
have strong allies to help him.
Question: Is there a True Law that was not propagated
even by T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo?
Answer: Yes, there is.
Question: What sort of teaching is it?
Answer: It consists of three things. It was left
behind by the Buddha for the sake of those who live in the Latter Day of
the Law. It is the True Law that was never propagated by Mahakashyapa or
Ananda, Ashvaghosha or Nagarjuna, T'ien-t'ai or Dengyo.
Question: What form does it take?
Answer: First, in Japan and all the other countries
throughout the world, the object of worship should in all cases be the
Lord Shakyamuni of true Buddhism. The Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha
who appear in the Treasure Tower, as well as all other Buddhas, along
with the four bodhisattvas including Jogyo, shall act as attendants to
this Buddha. Second, there is the high sanctuary of true Buddhism.
Third, in Japan, China, India and all the other countries of the world,
every person, regardless of whether he is wise or foolish, shall set
aside other practices and join in the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
This teaching has never been taught before. Here in the world, in all
the 2,225 years since the passing of the Buddha, not a single person
chanted it. Nichiren alone, without sparing his voice, now chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
The size of the waves depends upon the wind that
raises them, the height of the flames depends upon how much firewood is
piled on, the size of the lotuses depends upon the pond in which they
grow, and the volume of rain depends upon the dragons that make it fall.
The deeper the roots, the more prolific the branches. The farther the
source, the longer the stream.
The Chou dynasty lasted for seven hundred years
because of the propriety and filial devotion of its founder, King Wen.
The Ch'in dynasty, on the other hand, lasted hardly any time at all,
because of the perverse ways of its founder, the First Emperor of the
Ch'in. If Nichiren's compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity, for it
has the beneficial power to open the blind eyes of every living being in
the country of Japan, and it blocks off the road that leads to the hell
of incessant suffering. Its benefit surpasses that of Dengyo and
T'ien-t'ai, and is superior to that of Nagarjuna and Mahakashyapa.
A hundred years of practice in the Land of Perfect
Bliss cannot compare to the benefit gained from one day's practice in
this impure world. Two thousand years of propagating Buddhism during the
Former and Middle Days of the Law are inferior to an hour of propagation
in this, the Latter Day of the Law. This is in no way because of
Nichiren's wisdom, but simply because the time makes it so. In spring
the blossoms open, in autumn the fruit appears. Summer is hot, winter is
cold. The season makes it so, does it not?
"In the fifth five hundred years after my death,
accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to
cease. And do not allow the devil, the devil's people, or the deities,
dragons, yakshas, kumbhandas or their kind to seize the
If [the Buddha's prophecy expressed in] this passage
of the Lotus Sutra should prove to be in vain, then Shariputra will
never become the Flower Light Tathagata, the Venerable Mahakashyapa will
never become the Light Bright Tathagata, Maudgalyayana will never become
the Tamalapattra Sandalwood Fragrance Buddha, Ananda will never become
the Mountain Sea Wisdom Unrestricted Power King Buddha, the nun
Mahaprajapati will never become the Beheld with Joy by All Sentient
Beings Buddha, and the nun Yashodhara will never become the Form
Resplendent with Ten Million Lights Buddha. All the talk of sanzen-jintengo is then likewise mere nonsense, and gohyaku-jintengo, too, is a lie. Very likely the Lord Shakyamuni has
fallen into the hell of incessant suffering, Taho Buddha is gasping amid
the flames of the Avichi Hell, the Buddhas of the ten directions have
their home now in the eight major hells, and all the various
bodhisattvas are being forced to suffer in the 136 hells.
But how could such a thing ever be? Since the sutra's
prediction was not made in vain, then it is certain that all the people
of Japan will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!
Thus the flower will return to the root, and the
essence of the plant will remain in the earth. The benefit that I have
been speaking of will surely accumulate in the life of the late
Dozen-bo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Written on the twenty first day, seventh month of the
second year of Kenji (1276), Jupiter in the cyclical sign hinoe-ne.
Respectfully sent from Mount Minobu, Hakiri Village,
in Koshu, to Joken-bo and Gijo-bo of Mount Kiyosumi, district of Tojo,
province of Awa.
I have received your letter. One should never speak of
matters pertaining to the Buddhist doctrine to someone who has no faith,
regardless of whether the person is a close friend or relation or a
stranger. This is something you should keep in mind.
I have inscribed the Gohonzon for you. Even more in
the years after the passing of the Buddha than during his lifetime, even
more during the Middle Day of the Law than during the Former Day, and
even more now in the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law than during
the Middle Day, the enemies of this Lotus Sutra are bound to grow in
power. If you understand this, you as well as anyone else will realize
that there is no one in Japan other than myself who is a true votary of
the Lotus Sutra.
A sketchy report of the death of Dozen-bo reached me
last month. I felt that I should go in person as quickly as possible, as
well as sending the priest who bears this letter, Niko. However, though
I do not think of myself as one who has retired from the world, other
people seem to look at me in that way, and so I make it a rule not to
leave this mountain.
This priest Niko informed me of private reports from
various people that there are likely to be doctrinal debates with the
other sects in the near future. I have therefore been sending people to
a number of temples in the different provinces in order to search out
sutras and doctrinal writings from all over the country. I had sent this
priest Niko on such a mission to the province of Suruga, and he has just
now returned [so I am sending him with this letter].
In the enclosed treatise, I have written matters of
the utmost gravity. It would be wrong, therefore, to make the contents
known to persons who do not understand the essence of Buddhism. And even
if they are make known only to persons who do, if there are too many
people involved, then word of the contents is likely to reach the ears
of outsiders. That would not be conducive to your welfare, nor to mine.
Therefore, I ask that just the two of you, you and
Gijo-bo, have the work read aloud two or three times at the summit of
Kasagamori, with this priest Niko to do the reading. Please have him
read it once before the grave of the late Dozen-bo as well. After that,
leave it in the possession of Niko and have him read it to you
repeatedly. If you listen to it again and again, I believe you will come
to understand and appreciate its meaning.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-sixth day of the seventh month
To the priest of Kiyosumi