The Doctrine of Attaining Buddhahood in One's
Question: In the country of Japan, there are
the six sects, the seven sects and the eight sects. Among these,
which sect teaches the attainment of Buddhahood in ones
Answer: According to the Great Teacher Dengyo,
this doctrine is found only in the Lotus Sutra, while according
to the Great Teacher Kobo, it is found only in the Shingon teachings.
Question: What proof can you show to support
Answer: The Great Teacher Dengyo states in his
Hokke shuku: "You should understand that, among the
sutras that the other sects rely upon, there are none that teach
the doctrine of entering [Buddhahood] in ones present form.
Although a part of them appears to teach this doctrine, they limit
such attainment to those who have reached the eighth of the ten
stages of development1 or
higher. They do not acknowledge [the attainment of Buddhahood
in] the form of a common mortal. Only the Tendai-Hokke sect clearly
teaches this doctrine of entering [Buddhahood] in ones present
The Hokke shuku also declares: "Neither
teacher nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere
practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the
Lotus Sutra they can do so in their present form."
It also says: "You should understand that
this passage [in the Lotus Sutra] is inquiring whether there are
any persons who have attained Buddhahood, and so intends to manifest
the great power and authority of this sutra."2
The purpose of these passages of commentary is
to clarify that the attainment of Buddhahood in ones present
form is limited to the Lotus Sutra alone.
Question: What evidence can you show that would
indicate the opinion of the Great Teacher Kobo?
Answer: In his Nikyo ron, the Great Teacher
Kobo states: "The Bodaishin ron says: Only in
the Shingon teachings can one attain Buddhahood in ones
present form, because these teachings expound the practice of
samadhi meditation. No such exposition is to be found in
the other types of teachings. I would like to point out
that this treatise represents the secret storehouse, the heart
and core, of all the thousand treatises written by the great sage
Nagarjuna. In the passage just quoted, the phrase other
types of teachings refers to the various doctrines expounded
by the body of beneficence3
and by the various transformation bodies.4
These are all doctrines of the exoteric teachings. But the words
these teachings expound the practice of samadhi meditation
refer to the teaching expounded by the body whose nature is the
Dharma and to the samadhi practice carried out in the esoteric
teachings of Shingon. These are set forth in the hundred thousand
verses of praise in the Kongocho Sutra and other texts."
Question: The opinions put forward by these two
great teachers are as incompatible as water and fire. Which one
are we to believe?
Answer: These two great teachers were both outstanding
sages. They went to China in the same year, and there both alike
received instruction in the Shingon esoteric teachings. The Great
Teacher Dengyo had as his teacher in the two mandalas5
the eminent priest Shun-hsiao. The Great Teacher Kobo had as his
teacher in the two mandalas the eminent priest Hui-kuo.
Both Shun-hsiao and Hui-kuo were disciples of
Pu-kung. And the Tripitaka Master Pu-kung was sixth
in a direct line of succession from the Buddha Dainichi. Thus
from the standpoint of both the transmission they had inherited
and their own accomplishments, the great teachers Dengyo and Kobo
were valued by the people of the time as though they were the
sun and moon. They were looked up to as if they were the minister
of the left and the minister of the right. For a person of shallow
learning to try to decide which is right and which is wrong is
difficult indeed. [Were I to do so,] I would surely gain an evil
reputation throughout the land and call down great difficulties
upon myself. Nevertheless, I will attempt to examine their doctrines
with a critical eye and clarify their truth or falsehood.
Question: When the Great Teacher Kobo says that
the doctrine of attaining Buddhahood in ones present form
is found only in the Shingon teachings, what sutras or treatises
is he relying on?
Answer: The Great Teacher Kobo is relying on
the Bodaishin ron of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna.
Question: What proof do you have of this?
Answer: In his Nikyo ron, the Great Teacher
Kobo cites the passage from the Bodaishin ron that reads:
"Only in the Shingon teachings [can one attain Buddhahood
in ones present form,]... No such exposition is to be found
in the other types of teachings."6
Question: Is there any sutra text to support
Answer: In his Sokushin jobutsu gi, the
Great Teacher Kobo states: "The six great elements interpenetrate
without obstruction and are constantly harmonized. The four types
of mandalas are not disassociated from one another, When the Buddha
bestows the three mysteries and one responds with ones own
three mysteries, Buddhahood will become manifest immediately.
The aspect that is infinitely and mutually reflecting, like the
jewels of Indras net, is what is referred to as present
form. The Buddha is naturally endowed with all-embracing
More numerous than dust particles are those possessing
the fundamental entity of the mind and its attendant mental functions.
Each is endowed with the five kinds of wisdom, with boundless
wisdom. When the power of the round-mirror wisdom7
functions perfectly, this is the true wisdom of awakening.8
Question: I am somewhat in doubt as to what sutra
this passage of commentary is based on. Answer: It is based on
the Kongocho and Dainichi sutras.
Question: May I ask what passages in the sutras?
Answer: The Great Teacher Kobo cites as his proof
the following passage: "The person who practices this samadhi
can immediately attain the Buddhas enlightenment."9
He also cites this passage: "Without casting off this body,
one can attain the supernatural power of being anywhere at will.
Strolling in the realm of the Great Void, he masters the mystery
of the body."10 And this
passage: "I [Dainichi] realized that I am originally unborn."
And this: "All phenomena are from the beginning unborn."11
Question: I would like to make an objection.
These passages are indeed from the Dainichi and Kongocho
sutras. But one of them refers to Dainichi Buddhas attainment
of enlightenment; another asserts that the practitioner of Shingon
can acquire the five transcendental powers12
in his present body; and a third describes how the bodhisattva
in the ten stages of devotion13
may in his present body move on to the next stage, the stage of
joy.14 But these still do
not explain how one can in ones present form gain awareness
of the non-birth and non-extinction of all phenomena, much less
how one can attain Buddhahood in ones present form.
Moreover, the Bodaishin ron [on which
Kobo bases his argument] is not even a sutra. To base ones
arguments on a treatise is to commit the error of turning ones
back on what is superior and following what is inferior. It also
violates the Buddhas teaching that one should "rely
on the Law and not upon persons."15
But the Shingon priests of To-ji temple speak
ill of Nichiren, saying, "You are only an ordinary man, whereas
the Great Teacher Kobo was a bodhisattva who had reached the third
stage of development.16 You
have not yet reached the state of realizing the non-birth and
non-extinction of all phenomena in your present form, while the
Great Teacher Kobo attained Buddhahood in his present form before
the emperors very eyes.17
And moreover, because you have not yet received any imperial edict
[bestowing such a title upon you], you are not a Great Teacher.18
Therefore you do not qualify as a teacher of the country of Japan!
(This is their first point.)
"The Great Teacher Jikaku was a disciple
of Dengyo and Gishin; the Great Teacher Chisho was a disciple
of Gishin and Jikaku; and the eminent priest Annen was a disciple
of the eminent priest Anne. These three men have declared that
the Hokke-Tendai sects doctrine of attaining Buddhahood
in ones present form represents only the esoteric doctrines,
while the Shingon sects teaching of attaining Buddhahood
in ones present form represents the esoteric doctrines and
practices. The great teachers Dengyo and Kobo were neither of
them stupid men. In addition, sages show no partiality, and thus,
the three teachers Jikaku, Chisho and Annen, though they lived
in the mountain temple founded by Dengyo, concurred in their teachings
with the intent of Kobo of To-ji temple. Accordingly, in Japan
for the past four hundred years or more, no one has disputed their
doctrines. Now, what do you, an unworthy person, mean by coming
forward with these evil doctrines of yours!" (This is their
Answer: If you simply speak rudely and adopt
an abusive attitude, I will not discuss the matter with you. I
will discuss it only if you sincerely desire to hear the truth.
But with people like you, if one makes no reply, then you suppose
him to be incapable of responding. Therefore I will answer you.
But rather than adopting an abusive attitude or using rude language,
you had better produce some clear passage from the sutras to support
the assertions of the Great Teacher Kobo in whom you put such
trust. In view of your abusive language and attitude, it would
seem that in fact there is no sutra passage [substantiating the
Shingon doctrine] of attaining Buddhahood in ones present
As for the matter of Jikaku, Chisho and Annen,
the great teachers Jikaku and Chisho embraced the doctrines of
the Great Teacher Dengyo while they were still in Japan. But after
they journeyed to China, they adopted the doctrines of such teachers
as Yuan-cheng and Fa-chuan and in their hearts discarded
the doctrines of the Great Teacher Dengyo. Thus, although they
lived in the mountain temple founded by Dengyo, they proved unfaithful
to his teachings.19
Question: What led you to this conclusion?
Answer: The commentary by the Great Teacher Dengyo
states, "You should understand that this passage is inquiring
whether there are any persons who have attained Buddhahood, and
so intends to manifest the great power and authority of this sutra."
This section is related to a passage he quoted earlier in this
commentary from the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra
[in which Monjushiri says], "When I was in the ocean [I constantly
expounded the Lotus Sutra alone]."20
The point of Dengyos comment is that, no matter how much
people may talk about attaining Buddhahood in ones present
form, unless there are actual examples of persons who have done
so, one should not heed their doctrine. It stands to reason that,
unless based on the sutra of the single truth that is pure and
perfect, there can be no attainment of Buddhahood in ones
present form. And in the Shingon scriptures such as the Dainichi
and Kongocho sutras, no examples of such persons are to
Moreover, when we examine these Shingon sutras,
we see that they clearly belong to the categories of "combining,
excluding, corresponding and including." They do not teach
that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, nor do
they even suggest anywhere that Shakyamuni actually attained Buddhahood
in the inconceivably remote past.
Were Jikaku and Chisho perhaps deceived by the
commentaries of Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-kung?
Jikaku and Chisho appear to have been worthy men and sages, and
yet they tended to honor what was distant and to despise what
was close at hand.21 They
were bewitched by the fact that the three Shingon sutras contained
mudras and mantras, and completely forgot about the all-important
path of attaining Buddhahood in ones present form.
Thus, although the persons on Mount Hiei at present
seem to be propounding the Lotus Sutras doctrine of attaining
Buddhahood in ones present form, they are in fact propounding
the attainment of Buddhahood in ones present form as put
forward by the Great Teacher Jikaku, Annen and the others. The
attainment of Buddhahood in ones present form put forward
by these persons is an attainment of Buddhahood in name but not
in reality. The doctrines of such people are utterly at variance
with those of the Great Teacher Dengyo.
According to the Great Teacher Dengyo, regardless
of whether or not people have cast aside the body subject to transmigration
through delusion with differences and limitations,22
the intent of the Lotus Sutra is that they attain Buddhahood in
their present form. But according to the doctrines of the Great
Teacher Jikaku, if one casts aside the body subject to transmigration
through delusion with differences and limitations, then this cannot
be called attaining Buddhahood, in ones present form. However,
people who propound such a view have no understanding of what
attaining Buddhahood in ones present form really means.
Question: The Great Teacher Jikaku knew the Great
Teacher Dengyo personally, studied directly under him and inherited
his teachings. You, on the other hand, are separated [from Dengyo]
by more than four hundred years. Is this not so?
Answer: Are persons who have received the teachings
directly from their teacher invariably free from error, while
those who appear in later ages and examine and come to a perfect
understanding are to be regarded as worthless? If so, then should
we throw away the sutras and instead rely upon the four ranks
of bodhisattvas? Should a person throw away the deed of transfer
received from his father and mother and instead depend upon oral
transmissions? Are the written commentaries of the Great Teacher
Dengyo so much trash, and the oral traditions handed down from
the Great Teacher Jikaku the only guide to truth?
In the Hokke shuku, the Great Teacher
Dengyo lists ten points that are not found in any sutra [other
than the Lotus]. As the eighth of these, it names the sutras
"superiority in leading people to attain Buddhahood in their
present form." Later on, the commentary states: "You
should understand that this passage is inquiring whether there
are any persons who have attained Buddhahood, and so intends to
manifest the great power and authority of this sutra.... You should
understand that, among the sutras that the other sects rely upon,
there are none that teach the doctrine of entering [Buddhahood]
in ones present form."
Are we to turn our backs upon this passage of
commentary and instead endorse the doctrine of attaining Buddhahood
in ones present form based on the Dainichi Sutra,
which the Great Teacher Jikaku says represents the esoteric doctrines
Question: Among the commentaries of the Great
Teacher Dengyo, are there any that do not recognize the word "only"
in the Bodaishin rons statement [that "only
in the Shingon teachings can one attain Buddhahood in ones
Answer: The Hokke shuku states: "Neither
teacher nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere
practice in order to attain Buddhahood Through the power of the
Lotus Sutra they can do so in their present form." Thus,
as you can see, this commentary does not recognize the word "only"
in the Bodaishin rons statement.
Question: If one rejects the Bodaishin ron,
is he not then rejecting Nagarjuna?
Answer: It is more likely that the translator
distorted the meaning according to his personal views.
Question: If you reject any translator, then
should you not also reject Kumarajiva, the translator of the Lotus
Answer: In the case of Kumarajiva, there is actual
proof [attesting to the validity of his translations]. But no
such proof exists in the case of Pu-kung.
Question: May I ask what proof you refer to?
Answer: I refer to the fact that Kumarajivas
tongue23 remained unburned.
You should inquire about the details.
Question: Were Jikaku and Chisho ignorant of
Answer: These two men put their trust in the
doctrines of the Tripitaka masters such as Shan-wu-wei. That is
probably the reason they rejected the correct teachings of the
Great Teacher Dengyo. They are examples of men who relied upon
persons and turned their backs upon the Law.
Question: Up until now, there has never been
anyone in Japan who controverted the teachings of Jikaku, Chisho
and Annen. How do you explain that?
Answer: Do the followers of the Great Teacher
Kobo accept the teachings of Jikaku and Chisho? Do the followers
of Jikaku and Chisho accept the teachings of the Great Teacher
Question: Although the two teaching lines may
differ somewhat, they are not, as your teachings would be, as
incompatible as fire and water. And neither do they criticize
others as slanderers of the True Law, do they?
Answer: But how exactly should we describe slander
of the True Law? When the followers of non-Buddhist religions
attack the Buddhist teachings, when followers of Hinayana attack
Mahayana, when followers of provisional Mahayana look down on
the teachings of true Mahayana, or when true Mahayana attempts
to join forces with provisional Mahayana -- in the final analysis,
when what is superior is designated inferior -- such acts go against
the Law and are therefore termed slander of the Law.
Where is there any scriptural evidence to support
the Great Teacher Kobos contention that the Dainichi
Sutra is superior to the Lotus and Kegon sutras? The Lotus
Sutra, on the other hand, contains passages clearly stating that
it surpasses the Kegon and Dainichi sutras. This
is the meaning, for example, of the statement that among all the
sutras the Buddha "has preached, now preaches and will preach"24
in the future, [the Lotus Sutra stands supreme]. Though Kobo is
highly honored, he can hardly escape the grave charge of contradicting
Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions,
who are Shakyamunis emanations!
Now, rather than appealing to the authorities
in an attempt to browbeat me, why do you not simply produce some
reliable passage of scriptural proof? You people look to human
beings to be your allies. But I, Nichiren, make the gods of the
sun and moon, Taishaku and Bonten, my allies. Gods of the sun
and moon, open your divine eyes and look at what is happening!
In the palaces of the sun and moon there are surely copies of
the Lotus, Dainichi and Kegon sutras. Compare them
and see what the truth is! Whose teachings deserve the higher
place, those of Kobo, Jikaku, Chisho and Annen, or those of Nichiren?
If in the doctrines I put forth there is one
part in a hundred or a thousand that accords with true principles,
then how can these heavenly beings withhold their aid from me?
And if the teachings of Kobo and the others are in fact false,
then all the people in this country of Japan will suffer the retribution
of being born without eyes.25
Will not the heavenly beings then think of them with great pity?
I, Nichiren, have twice been banished,26
and at one point was almost beheaded.27
Those responsible were in effect attempting to cut off the heads
of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions!
There is only one god of the sun and one god
of the moon, but these two are the eyes and the life of all the
living beings of the four continents. It is written in the sutras
that the sun and moon feed upon the Law of the Buddha and thereby
increase their brilliance and power. Persons who destroy the flavor
of the Buddhist Law are in effect depriving the sun and moon of
their strength. They are enemies of all living beings. How can
the sun and moon go on shining upon the heads of such persons,
giving them long life and sustaining them with clothing and food?
When the disciples of those three great teachers
[ -- Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho -- ] slander the Lotus Sutra, is
it simply because the minds of the gods of the sun and moon have
entered into them and are causing them to commit slander? Or,
if that is not the case and I myself am at fault, then the god
of the sun must show me so! Let those disciples be summoned to
debate with me, and if I am bested in the argument and yet refuse
to change my views, then the gods may take away my life!
But that is not what happens. Instead, they unreasonably
hand me over to my enemies, like a baby monkey entrusted to a
dog or a baby mouse presented to a cat, to be attacked and tortured
without mercy, and yet mete out no punishment to my tormentors.
That is what I cannot countenance! As far as the gods of the sun
and moon are concerned, I suppose I am a deadly foe. When I find
myself in the presence of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings,
I will surely press charges against them. At that time, you gods
must bear me no resentment!
You gods of the sun and the moon, as well as
you gods of the earth and the sea, hear my words! And, you gods
who protect and guard Japan, hear me! I have not the slightest
Therefore, you must hasten to respond in an appropriate
manner. And if you delay until it is too late, you must bear me
no grudge! Nam-myoho-renge-kyo! Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!
The fourteenth day of the seventh month
Reply to Myoichi-nyo
- Ten stages of development:
See Fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice in Glossary.
- This refers to a passage
of the Devadatta (12th) chapter, in which Bodhisattva
Chishaku. asks Monjushiri if, among those to whom he has taught
the Lotus Sutra, there is anyone who has put the sutra into
practice and gained Buddhahood. Monjushiri replies that the
dragon king's daughter has attained the stage of non-regression
and is capable of achieving the supreme Buddha wisdom. Then
she appears and, in the presence of the assembly, attains Buddhahood
in her dragon form.
- Body of beneficence:
This refers to the Buddha who appears in accordance with the
wish of human beings, and who enables them to enjoy the benefits
of the Law.
- Transformation bodies:
Various bodies that Buddhas and bodhisattvas manifest in order
to instruct and save people.
- Two mandalas: Mandalas
depicting the Diamond and Womb worlds, realms described in the
Kongicha Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra, respectively.
See Diamond World and Womb World mandalas in Glossary.
- According to Shingon
tradition, the transmission of the esoteric teachings passed
in succession from Dainichi Buddha to Kongosatta, Nigarjuna,
Ndgabodhi, Vajrabodhi and Pu-k~ung.
- Round-mirror wisdom:
The great round mirror wisdom. See Five kinds of wisdom
- Kongochi Sutra.
- Dainichi Sutra,
- Ibid., Vol. 2.
- KongocW Sutra.
- Five transcendental
powers: The first five of the six transcendental powers (see
- Ten stages of devotion:
See Fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice in Glossary.
- Stage of joy: The stage
in which one rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth.
This represents the first of the ten stages of developMent.
- Nirvana Sutra, vol.
- Third stage of development:
The third of the ten stages of development. it is called the
stage of the emission of light, in which one radiates the light
- Kobo is said to have
transformed himself into Dainichi Buddha by chanting a spell
at a religious ceremony presided over by Emperor Saga in 813.
- The honorific title
"Great Teacher K6W was posthumously granted in 921 by Emperor
- Tendai esotericism defines
the Lotus and Kegon sutras as esoteric, but because they
explain nothing about mantras and mudras, which can be described
as esoteric practice in its concrete form, they are considered
to be merely teachings of esoteric doctrine. In contrast, the
Dainichi, Kongacha and Soshitsuji sutras, which
describe the mudras and mantras, are considered to be teachings
not only of esoteric doctrine but also of practice.
- In response to this
statement of Monjushiri's, Bodhisattva Chishaku poses his question
(see n. 2). Dengyo's commentary regards the dragon girl
as an actual example of the attainment of Buddhahood in one's
present form through the power of the Lotus Sutra.
- That is Jikaku and Chisho
honored the three Shingon teachers but slighted their own teacher
Dengyo, who was closer to them in both place and time.
- This refers to the transmigration
of unenlightened beings through the six paths. In this repeating
cycle of rebirth through the six lower deluded worlds, living
beings are reborn with limited spans of life and in different
forms in accordance with their karma.
- According to tradition,
when Kumirajiva's body was cremated, his tongue remained unburned
as a sign of the accuracy with which he had explained the meaning
of the Buddhist teachings.
- This refers to a passage
of the Hosshi (10th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
- I.e., for their lack
of discrimination in embracing erroneous teachings.
- The Izu Exile from 1261
to 1263, and the Sado Exile from 1271 through 1274.
- The unsuccessful attempt
to execute the Daishonin at Tatsunokuchi near Kamakura in 1271.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol.