Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha
Made by Shijo Kingo
In your diary you write that you have fashioned a wooden
image of Shakyamuni Buddha. With regard to the eye-opening
ceremony appropriate for such a statue, the Fugen
Sutra states, "This Mahayana sutra is the treasure
storehouse of all Buddhas, the eye of all Buddhas of the
ten directions and the three existences." It also says,
"This Mahayana sutra is the eye of all Buddhas because,
through its teachings, they acquire the five types of vision."
Concerning the phrase "acquire the five types of vision"
in this sutra, this refers to the eye of common mortals,
the divine eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye of the Law and
the eye of the Buddha. These five types of vision are naturally
acquired by one who upholds the Lotus Sutra, just as the
person who becomes the ruler of a state will naturally be
obeyed by all the people of that state, or as the lord of
the great ocean will as a matter of course be followed by
The Kegon, Agon, Hodo, Hannya and Dainichi
sutras may possess the five types of vision in name, but
they do not possess them in reality. The Lotus Sutra possesses
them in both name and reality. And even if it did not possess
them in name, you may be certain that it would possess them
With regard to the three bodies or properties of a Buddha,
the Fugen Sutra states, "The three enlightened
properties of the Buddha's life arise from the Hodo. This
seal of the great Dharma assures entry into the sea of nirvana.
A Buddha's three pure properties arise from this vast ocean.
These three properties are the fertile field of good fortune
for all human and heavenly beings, and the object most supremely
'worthy of offerings.'"
The three properties or bodies are: first, the Dharma body
of the Tathagata; second, the bliss body of the Tathagata;
and third, the manifested body of the Tathagata. These three
types of Tathagata bodies are invariably possessed by all
Buddhas. If we use the moon as an illustration, we may say
that the moon itself is comparable to the Dharma body, its
light to the bliss body, and its reflection to the manifested
body. Just as a single moon has these three different aspects,
so a single Buddha possesses the virtues of these three
These doctrines of the five types of vision and the three
bodies are not expounded anywhere outside of the Lotus Sutra.
Therefore the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai has said, "The
Buddha, throughout the three existences, consistently possesses
the three bodies. But in the various teachings, he kept
it secret and did not transmit it." In this passage
of commentary, the phrase "in the various teachings"
refers not only to the Kegon, Hodo and Hannya sutras,
but to the entire body of sutras other than the Lotus Sutra.
And the phrase "he kept it secret and did not transmit
it" means that, in the entire body of scripture outside
of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Lord Shakyamuni
concealed this doctrine and nowhere expounded it. Therefore,
in performing the eye-opening ceremony for painted or wooden
Buddha images, the only authority to rely on is the Lotus
Sutra and the Tendai sect.
In addition, the doctrine of ichinen sanzen is based
on the concept of the three realms of existence. The three
realms of existence are: first, the realm of living beings;
second, the realm of the five components; and third, the
realm of the environment. We will set aside the first two
for the moment. The third, the realm of the environment,
refers to the realm of plants and trees. And the realm of
plants and trees includes those plants and trees from which
are produced the five shades of pigment used in painting.
From this pigment, painted images are created, and from
trees, wooden statues are made.
It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that makes it possible
to infuse such paintings and statues with a "soul"
or spiritual property. This was the realization of the Great
Teacher T'ien-t'ai. In the case of living beings, this doctrine
is known as attaining Buddhahood in one's present form;
in the case of painted and wooden images, it is known as
the enlightenment of plants and trees. This is why [the
Great Teacher Chang-an] wrote, "There has never been
anything to compare to the brightness and serenity of shikan-style
meditation," and why [the Great Teacher Miao-lo] stated,
"They are nevertheless shocked and harbor doubts when
they hear for the first time the doctrine that insentient
beings possess the Buddha nature."
This doctrine [of ichinen sanzen] was never heard
of in the ages [before the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai], nor
was it known in the ages that followed. And even if it did
make its appearance, one may be certain that it had been
stolen from him.
However, some two hundred years or more after the time
of T'ien-t'ai, Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung
founded the so-called Shingon sect on the basis of the Dainichi
Sutra. And then, although there is no mention of any such
doctrine in the Dainichi Sutra as the Buddha expounded
it, they stole the doctrine of ichinen sanzen from
the Lotus Sutra and T'ien-t'ai's interpretation thereof,
and proceeded to make it the very heart and core of the
Shingon sect. Moreover, they pretended that the doctrine
had originated in India, and in this way deceived and misled
the latter-day scholars of China and Japan. No one knows
the truth of the matter, but all alike assent to and put
faith in the assertions of the Shingon sect. This has been
going on now for more than five hundred years.
This being the case, the wooden and painted images that
were made and consecrated before the time of the Shingon
sect, [when the T'ien-t'ai practices were followed,] have
manifested extraordinary powers, but those in temples and
pagodas built after Shingon [practices were adopted for
the eye-opening ceremony] produce very little benefit. Since
there are many instances of this, I will not go into detail.
This Buddha of yours, however, is a living Buddha. It differs
in no respect from the wooden image of the Buddha made by
King Udayana, or that fashioned by King Bimbisara. Surely
Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, and the
Four Heavenly Kings will attend you as a shadow accompanies
a body and protect you always. (This is the first point
I wish to make.)
Your diary also indicates that each year, during the ninety
day period from the eighth day of the fourth month through
the fifteenth day of the seventh month, you perform acts
of devotion to the god of the sun. The god of the sun lives
in a palace made of the seven kinds of gems. This palace
occupies an area of 816 ri or 51 yojana. In
the midst of it, the god of the sun dwells, attended by
two consorts, Sho and Musho. To his right and left are ranged
the seven luminaries and the nine luminaries, and in front
of him stands the goddess Marishiten. The god of the sun
rides in a chariot made of the seven gems and drawn by eight
fine horses, and in the space of one day and one night he
circles about the four continents, acting as an eye to all
the living beings who dwell in them.
In the case of the other Buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities,
we hear that they bestow superb blessing, but with our common-mortal
eyes we have yet to see it. In the case of the sun deity,
however, there can be no doubt, for his blessings are before
our very eyes. Were it not for Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings,
how could such blessings as these be bestowed? And were
it not for the power of the wonderful sutra of the one vehicle,
how could such marvels appear before us? It is wondrous
In inquiring how one can repay this deity for his favor,
one finds that, in the ages before the appearance of Buddhism,
people of a discerning nature all bowed before him or presented
offerings, and all of them received evidence of blessings
in return. At the same time, persons who turned against
him were all punished.
Now if we consider what the Buddhist writings have to say,
we may note that the Konkomyo Sutra states: "The
god of the sun and the god of the moon, because they listen
to this sutra, are able to obtain vitality in abundance."
And the Saisho-o Sutra states: "Through the
power of this sutra king, these luminaries are able to circle
around the four continents."
You should understand, therefore, that it is the power
of the Buddhist Law that enables the deities of the sun
and moon to make their rounds of the four continents. The
Konkomyo and Saisho-o sutras are mere expedient
teachings leading to the Lotus Sutra. In comparison to the
Lotus Sutra, they are like milk in comparison to ghee, or
metal in comparison to precious gems. And yet, inferior
as these sutras are, they enable the heavenly deities to
circle the four continents. How much more power can these
deities gain, then, by tasting the sweet ghee of the Lotus
Therefore in the Jo chapter of the Lotus Sutra,
we find that the deities of the sun and moon are ranged
side by side with the god of the stars. And in the Hosshi
chapter, it is predicted that the deity of the sun will
attain the highest level of enlightenment and be known as
the Fire-sustaining Tathagata.
In addition to all this, your late father initiated this
worship of the sun deity, and you have succeeded him in
the second generation, carrying on these ceremonies over
a long period of time. So how could the deity possibly abandon
I, Nichiren, have also put my trust in this deity, and
in this manner have carried on my struggles in Japan over
the past several years. Already I have the feeling that
I have achieved victory. Such clear blessings can only be
attributed to this deity.
There are many other admirable points in your diary, but
I cannot go into them all in this letter.
As for the thing that I admire most: in your letters in
the past you have from time to time mentioned your concern
for your parents. And when I read your present letter, I
could not hold back my tears, so moved was I by pity at
your sorrow over the thought that your parents might perhaps
be in hell.
Among the Buddha's disciples was one called the Venerable
Maudgalyayana. His father was named Kissen Shishi and his
mother was named Shodai-nyo. His mother, after passing away,
fell into the realm of hungry spirits. While Maudgalyayana
was still an ordinary mortal, he was unaware of this fact,
and so had no reason to grieve over it. But after he became
a disciple of the Buddha, he achieved the status of arhat
and, acquiring the divine eye, was able to perceive that
his mother was in the realm of hungry spirits. When he became
aware of this, he made offerings of food and drink to her,
but these only turned into flame and increased her torment.
Thereupon he rushed back to the Buddha and reported what
had happened. Think how he must have felt at that time!
Now you are an ordinary mortal, possessing no more than
the mortal eye, and so you cannot see what realm your parents
now occupy and grieve at the thought that perhaps they are
in hell. This in itself is a manifestation of filial devotion.
Bonten, Taishaku, the deities of the sun and moon, and the
Four Heavenly Kings are certain to look upon you with pity.
The Kegon Sutra says, "Those who do not understand
their obligations will in many cases meet with an untimely
death." And the Kambutsu Sokai Sutra says, "This
[failure to repay a debt of gratitude] is the cause that
leads to rebirth in the Avichi Hell." But now you have
already manifested a sincere concern for your parents, and
the heavenly gods are certain to heed your prayers. (This
is the second point I wish to stress to you.)
In your letter, you also mention certain things which,
on thoroughly considering the heart of the matter, I believe
you ought not to do. I, Nichiren, am hated by the people
of Japan. This is entirely due to the fact that the lord
of Sagami regards me with animosity. I grant that the government
has acted quite without reason, but even before I encountered
my difficulties, I foresaw that troubles of that kind would
occur, and I resolved that, whatever might happen to me
in the future, I must not bear any hatred toward others.
This determination has perhaps acted as a kind of prayer,
for I have been able to come safely through any number of
trials. And now I am faced with no such difficulties.
Whose aid was it that allowed me to escape death from hunger
when I was exiled to the province of Sado, or that makes
it possible for me to recite the Lotus Sutra here in the
mountains as I have up until now? It is your aid alone.
And if we inquire who has made it possible for you to offer
this aid, we would have to say that it is the lord Ema Nyudo.
Though he himself is not aware of this fact, it has undoubtedly
acted as a kind of prayer on my behalf. And if that is so,
then your lord's prayer has also become a kind of prayer
on your behalf as well.
Moreover, it is thanks to your lord that you have been
able to fulfill your obligations to your parents. Regardless
of what might happen, it would not be right to leave the
service of someone to whom you are so indebted. If he repeatedly
rejects you, then there is no help for it. But you yourself
must not abandon him, no matter how your life may be placed
In the passage from the sutra that I quoted above, it says
that those who do not understand their obligations may meet
with an untimely death. Conversely, those who discharge
their filial duties will not meet with such a death.
The bird known as a cormorant is capable of eating iron,
but though its insides can digest iron, they do no harm
to the embryo chicks in the body of the mother. There are
fish that eat pebbles, but this does not kill the unspawned
young in the fish's body. The tree called sandalwood cannot
be burned by fire, and the fire in the heavens of purity
cannot be quenched by water. The body of Shakyamuni Buddha
could not be burned, though thirty-two strong men applied
torches to it, and when fire emanated from the Buddha's
body, the dragon deities of the threefold world all poured
down rain in an effort to put it out, but it would not be
Now you have aided Nichiren in his acts of merit. Therefore,
it will be very difficult for evil persons to do you harm.
And if by chance something should happen to you, then you
may be certain that it is a retribution in this present
life for the hatred that you manifested in some previous
existence toward a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Retribution
of that kind can never be avoided, no matter how deep one
may be within the mountains or how far away at sea. That
is why Bodhisattva Fukyo was attacked with staves and sticks,
and why the Venerable Maudgalyayana was killed by a group
of Brahmans of the Bamboo Staff school. Therefore, what
cause have you to grieve?
To avoid unforeseen troubles, it is best to endure patiently.
After you read this letter, during the hundred days that
follow, you must not heedlessly go out drinking at night
with your associates or others at places besides your own
home. If your lord should summon you during the daytime,
then go to him with all haste. If the summons should come
at night, then plead some sudden illness for the first three
times he calls you. If he persists in calling you more than
three times, then inform your retainers or someone else
and have them watch out for trouble at the crossroads before
you set out to answer the summons.
If you conduct yourself in this circumspect manner, and
the Mongols attack our country in the meantime, then people's
feelings toward you will change from what they were in the
past, and they will no longer think of attacking you as
they would an enemy.
With regard to what you have written me, even if you should
be at fault, you should not think lightly of leaving your
lord's service - even less so if you are guilty of no error.
In that case you must pay no heed, regardless of what others
As for your desire to become a lay priest, there will be
plenty of time to do that later. Even then, if circumstances
should arise that do not suit you in body or mind, evil
influences will again seek to work upon you. These days
there are women who become nuns in order to deceive others,
and men who become lay priests and commit great evil. You
must never become involved in such matters.
Even though you are suffering from no illness, you should
receive moxibustion treatment on one or two places on your
body so that later you can plead illness if it should become
necessary. And if some kind of disturbance should occur,
for the time being send someone else to observe what is
It is difficult to write in detail all that I would like
to tell you. That is why I have not gone into matters of
doctrine here. As for the sutra, I will copy it out for
you when the weather gets a little cooler.
With my deep respect,
The fifteenth day of the seventh month in the second year
of Kenji (1276), cyclical sign hinoe-ne
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
Vol. 6, page 159.