Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened
- Shogu Mondo Sho -
Having received life, one cannot escape death. Yet though
everyone, from the noblest, the emperor, down to the lowliest
commoner, recognizes this as a fact, not one person in a
thousand or ten thousand truly takes the matter seriously
or grieves over it. Suddenly confronted with evidence of
the impermanence of life, we may be frightened at the thought
that we have remained so distant from Buddhism and lament
that we have been too engrossed in secular affairs. Yet
we assume that those who have preceded us in death are wretched
and that we who remain alive are superior. Busy with that
task yesterday and this affair today, we are helplessly
bound by the five desires of our worldly nature. Unaware
that time passes as quickly as a white colt glimpsed through
a crack in the wall, ignorant as sheep being led to the
slaughter, held hopeless prisoners by our concern for food
and clothing, we fall heedlessly into the snares of fame
and profit and in the end make our way back to that familiar
village in the three evil paths, only to set out on the
road again, reborn time after time in the six paths of existence.
What person of feeling could fail to grieve at such a state
of affairs, or could fail to be moved to sorrow!
Alas! Neither young nor old know what fate awaits them--such
is the way of our saha world. All those who meet
are destined to part again--such is the rule in this floating
world we live in. Although none of this had just struck
me for the first time, [I was appalled at] seeing all those
who took early leave of this world in the beginning of the
Shoka era. Some of them left little children behind them,
while others were forced to abandon their aged parents.
How sad their hearts must have been when, though still in
the prime of life, they were obliged to set off on their
journey to the Yellow Springs. It was painful for those
who departed, and painful for those left behind.
The king of Ch'u's passion for the goddess remained as
a wisp of morning cloud, and Liu's grief at remembering
his meeting with the immortal visitor was consoled by the
sight of his descendants of the seventh generation. But
how can a person like myself win release from sorrow? I
find myself recalling the poet of old who hoped that, because
he was a humble-hearted dweller in the mountains, he might
be free of such sadness. Now, gathering together my thoughts
as the men of Naniwa gather seaweed to extract salt, I give
them form with my writing brush as a memento for people
in later ages.
How sad, how lamentable it is! From the beginningless past,
we have been drunk on the wine of ignorance, reborn again
and again in the six paths of existence and the four forms
of birth. Sometimes we gasp amid the flames of the hell
of burning heat or the hell of great burning heat; sometimes
we are frozen in the ice of the hell of the blood-red lotus
or the hell of the great blood-red lotus. Sometimes we must
endure the hunger and thirst that torment those in the realm
of Hunger, for five hundred lifetimes not so much as hearing
the words "food" or "drink." Sometimes
we suffer being wounded and killed in the realm of Animality,
wounding and killing that occur when the small are swallowed
up by the large or the short engulfed by the long. Sometimes
we face the contention and strife of the realm of Anger;
sometimes we are born as human beings and undergo the eight
sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, death, the pain
of parting from loved ones, the pain of encountering those
whom we hate, the pain of failing to obtain what we desire,
and the pain that arises from the five components of body
and mind. And sometimes we are born in the realm of Heaven
and experience the five signs of decay.
And so we go round and round like a cartwheel in this threefold
world. Even among people once related as father and child,
parents reborn do not know that they were parents or children
that they were children; and though husband and wife re-encounter
one another, they do not know that they have already met.
We go astray as though we had the eyes of sheep; we are
as ignorant as though we had the eyes of wolves. We do not
know our past relationship with the mother who gave us birth,
and we are unaware when we ourselves will succumb to death.
And yet we have obtained birth in the human world, something
difficult to achieve, and have encountered the sacred teachings
of the Buddha, which are rarely to be met. We are like the
one-eyed turtle finding a floating log with a hole in it
that fits him exactly. How regrettable it would be, then,
if we did not take this opportunity to sever the bonds of
birth and death, making no attempt to free ourselves from
the cage of the threefold world!
Then a wise man appeared and addressed the unenlightened
man, saying, "You are quite right to lament as you
do. But those who understand the impermanence of this world
in this way and turn their hearts to goodness are rarer
than ch'i-lin's horns, while those who fail to understand
and instead give themselves to evil thoughts are more numerous
than the hairs on a cow. If you wish to arouse the aspiration
for enlightenment and to quickly free yourself from the
sufferings of birth and death, then I know of the finest
doctrine that there is for such a purpose. If you wish,
I will explain it to you so that you may know of it."
The unenlightened man rose from his seat, pressed his palms
together and said, "For some time now I have been studying
the classics of secular literature and giving all my attention
to matters of poetry, so I have no detailed knowledge of
the Buddhist teachings. I hope that you will be kind enough
to explain them to me, sir."
At that time the wise man said, "You must listen with
the ears of Ling Lun, borrow the eyes of Li Chu, and still
your mind, and I will explain things to you. The sacred
teachings of Buddhism number no less than eighty thousand,
but the father and mother of all the sects, the most important
teaching, is that concerning the precepts and rules of conduct.
In India, the bodhisattvas Vasubandhu and Ashvaghosha and,
in China, the priests Hui-k'uang and Tao-hsuan placed great
emphasis on these. And in our own country, during the reign
of the forty-fifth sovereign, Emperor Shomu, the Chinese
priest Ganjin brought to Japan the teachings of the Ritsu
sect, along with those of the Tendai sect, and established
an ordination platform for administering the precepts at
Todai-ji temple. From that time down to the present, the
precepts have been revered over many long years, and the
honor paid to them increases daily.
"In particular, there is the eminent priest Ryokan
of Gokuraku-ji. Everyone, from the supreme ruler down to
the common people, looks up to him as a living Buddha, and
on observing his conduct, we find that it is indeed in keeping
with such a reputation. He directed charitable activities
at Ijima-no-tsu, collected rice at the Mutsura Barrier and
used the funds to build roads in the various provinces.
He set up barriers along the seven highways, collected a
toll from everyone who passed by, and used the money to
build bridges across a number of rivers. In such acts of
compassion he is equal to the Buddha, and his virtuous deeds
surpass those of the sages of the past. If you wish to quickly
free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death, then
you should observe the five precepts and the two hundred
and fifty precepts, deepen your compassion for others, refrain
from killing any living thing, and, like the eminent priest
Ryokan, engage in building roads and bridges. This is the
finest of all teachings. Are you prepared to embrace it?"
The unenlightened man pressed his palms together more fervently
than ever and said, "Indeed, I want very much to embrace
it! Please explain it to me thoroughly. You speak of the
five precepts and the two hundred and fifty precepts, but
I do not know what they are. Please describe them to me
The wise man said, "Your ignorance is abysmal! Even
a child knows what the five precepts and the two hundred
and fifty precepts are. However, I will explain them for
you. The five precepts comprise, first, the prohibition
against taking life; second, the prohibition against stealing;
third, the prohibition against lying; fourth, the prohibition
against unlawful sexual intercourse; and fifth, the prohibition
against drinking intoxicants. The two hundred and fifty
precepts are numerous, and so I will not go into them here."
At this the unenlightened man bowed low and with the deepest
respect said, "From this day forward, I will devote
myself to this doctrine with all my heart."
This man had an old acquaintance, a lay Buddhist believer
living in retirement, who paid him a visit to cheer him
up. At first the visitor spoke about the affairs of the
past, likening them to a dream that is endless and hazy,
and then he talked of the future, pointing out how vast
and dark it is, how difficult to predict. After he had sought
in this way to divert his listener and explain his own views,
he said, "Most of us who live in this world of ours
find we cannot help thinking about the life to come. May
I ask what kind of Buddhist doctrine you have embraced in
order to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and
death or to pray for the welfare of those who have gone
on to another life?"
The unenlightened man replied, "The other day an eminent
priest called on me and instructed me in the five precepts
and the two hundred and fifty precepts. In truth I am deeply
impressed with his teachings and find them most admirable.
Although I know I can never equal the eminent priest Ryokan,
I have determined to do all I can to repair roads that are
in poor condition and to build bridges over rivers that
are too deep for wading."
Then the lay believer gave him words of advice, saying,
"Your concern for the Way would seem to be admirable,
but your approach is foolish. The doctrine you have just
described to me is the lowly teaching of the Hinayana. That
is why the Buddha has set forth eight analogies and why
Bodhisattva Monju has described seventeen differences between
the Hinayana and the Mahayana. The Buddha has said, for
example, that the Hinayana is like the light of a firefly
compared to the brilliance of the sun, or like plain crystal
compared to emerald. Moreover, the teachers of India, China
and Japan have written not a few treatises refuting the
"Next, concerning your reverence for those who observe
these practices, a teaching is not necessarily worthy of
honor simply because its practitioners are respected. It
is for this reason that the Buddha laid down the principle,
'Rely on the Law and not upon persons.'
"I have heard it said that the sages of ancient times
who observed the precepts could not bear even to utter the
words 'kill' or 'hoard,' but would substitute some pure-sounding
circumlocution, and when they happened to catch sight of
a beautiful woman, they would meditate upon the thought
of a corpse. But if we examine the behavior of the monks
of today who supposedly observe the precepts, we find that
they hoard silks, wealth and jewels and concern themselves
with lending money at interest. Since their doctrines and
their practices differ so greatly, who would think of putting
any faith in them!
"And as for this matter of building roads and constructing
bridges, it only causes people trouble. The charitable activities
at Ijima-no-tsu and the collecting of rice at the Mutsura
Barrier have brought unhappiness to a great many people,
and the setting up of barriers along the seven highways
of the various provinces has imposed a hardship upon travelers.
These are things that are happening right in front of your
eyes. Can't you see what is going on?"
The unenlightened man thereupon flushed with anger and
said, "You with your little bit of wisdom have no cause
to speak ill of that eminent priest and to defame his teachings!
Do you do so knowingly or are you simply a fool? It is a
fearful thing you are doing!"
Then the lay believer laughed and said, "Alas, you
are the foolish one! Let me briefly explain to you the biased
views of that sect. You should understand that when it comes
to the Buddhist teaching, there is the Mahayana division
and the Hinayana division, and that in terms of sects there
are those based upon the provisional teachings and those
based upon the true teaching. Long ago, when the Buddha
taught the Hinayana doctrines in the Deer Park, he was opening
the gate to a phantom city. But later, when the mats were
spread for the teaching of the Lotus Sutra on Eagle Peak,
then those earlier doctrines ceased to be of any benefit."
The unenlightened man looked at the lay believer in perplexity
and said, "Both the documentary evidence and the evidence
of actual fact indeed support what you have said. But then
what kind of Buddhist teaching ought one to embrace in order
to free oneself from the sufferings of birth and death and
quickly attain Buddhahood?"
The other replied, "Although I am only a layman I
have given myself earnestly to the practice of Buddhism,
and from the time of my youth, I have listened to the words
of many teachers and have done a certain amount of reading
in the sacred scriptures. For those of us of this latter
age, who have committed all manner of evil, there is nothing
that can compare with the Nembutsu teachings that lead to
rebirth in the Pure Land. Thus, Supervisor of Monks Eshin
says, 'The teachings and practices that lead to rebirth
in the Land of Perfect Bliss are the eyes and feet for those
who live in this defiled latter age of ours.' The eminent
priest Honen collected the most important passages from
the various sutras and spread the doctrine of exclusive
devotion to the practice of the Nembutsu. In particular,
the original vows of the Buddha Amida surpass the vows of
all other Buddhas in their worth and importance. From the
first vow, that the three evil paths will not exist in his
land, down to the last vow, that bodhisattvas will be enabled
to attain the three types of perception, all of Amida's
compassionate vows are to be greatly welcomed. But the eighteenth
vow is particularly effective on our behalf. In addition,
even those who have committed the ten evil acts or the five
cardinal sins are not excluded, nor is any distinction made
between those who have recited the Nembutsu only one time
and those who have recited it many times. For this reason,
everyone from the ruler down to the common people favors
this sect far above the other sects. And how many countless
people have gained rebirth in the Pure Land as a result
The unenlightened man said, "Truly one should be ashamed
of the small and yearn for the great, abandon the shallow
and embrace the profound. This is not only a principle of
Buddhism but a rule of the secular world as well. Therefore
I would like to shift my allegiance without delay to this
sect you have described. Please explain its principles to
me in greater detail. You say that even those who have committed
the five cardinal sins or the ten evil acts are not excluded
from the Buddha's compassionate vows. What, may I ask, are
the five cardinal sins and the ten evil acts?"
The wise lay believer replied, "The five cardinal
sins are killing one's father, killing one's mother, killing
an arhat, shedding a Buddha's blood, and disrupting the
harmony of the Buddhist Order. As for the ten evil acts,
there are three acts of the body, four acts of the mouth,
and three acts of the mind. The three evil acts of the body
are killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse. The
four evil acts of the mouth are lying, flattery, defaming
and duplicity. The three evil acts of the mind are greed,
anger and stupidity."
"Now I understand them," said the unenlightened
man. "From this day forward, I will place all my trust
in this power of another, of the Buddha Amida, to bring
me to rebirth in the Pure Land."
At that time there was a practitioner of the esoteric sect
who was extraordinarily diligent in upholding its teachings.
He too came to call on the unenlightened man to console
him. At first he spoke only of "wild words and ornate
phrases," but in the end he discoursed on the differences
between the two types of Buddhist teachings, those of the
exoteric sects and those of the esoteric sect. He inquired
of the unenlightened man, "What sort of Buddhist doctrines
are you practicing and what sutras and treatises do you
read and recite?"
The unenlightened man replied, "Recently, in accordance
with the instruction of a lay believer I know, I have been
reading the three Pure Land sutras and have come to put
profound trust in Amida, the lord of the Western Paradise."
The practitioner said, "There are two kinds of Buddhist
teachings, the exoteric teachings and the esoteric teachings.
The most profound doctrines of the exoteric teachings cannot
compare even to the elementary stages of the esoteric teachings.
From what you tell me, it seems that the doctrine you have
embraced is the exoteric teaching put forth by Shakyamuni
Buddha. But the doctrine that I adhere to is the secret
teaching of Dainichi Buddha, the King of Enlightenment.
If you are truly fearful of this burning house that is the
threefold world we live in and long for the wonderful land
of Tranquil Light, then you should cast aside the exoteric
teachings at once and put faith in the esoteric teachings!"
The unenlightened man, greatly startled, said, "I
have never heard of this distinction between exoteric and
esoteric doctrines. What are the exoteric teachings? What
are the esoteric teachings?"
The practitioner replied, "I am a hardheaded and foolish
person and am not learned at all. Nevertheless, I would
like to cite one or two passages and see if I can dispel
your ignorance. The exoteric teachings are the doctrines
preached in response to the request of Shariputra and the
other disciples by a Buddha in the manifested-body aspect.
But the esoteric teachings are those which the Buddha Dainichi,
a Buddha in the Dharma-body aspect, preached spontaneously
out of his boundless joy in the Dharma, with Kongosatta
as his listener. These teachings constitute the Dainichi
Sutra and the others of the three esoteric sutras."
The unenlightened man said, "What you say stands to
reason. I think I should correct my former error and hasten
to embrace these more worthy teachings!"
There was a mendicant priest who drifted about from province
to province like floating grass, who rolled on from district
to district like tumbleweed. Before anyone realized it he
appeared on the scene and stood leaning on the pillar of
the gate, smiling but saying nothing.
The unenlightened man, wondering at this, asked what he
wanted. At first the priest made no reply, but after the
question was repeated he said, "The moon is dim and
distant, the wind brisk and blustery." His appearance
was quite out of the ordinary and his words made no sense,
but when the unenlightened man inquired about the ultimate
principle behind them he found that they represented the
Zen teachings as they are expounded in the world today.
He observed the priest's appearance, listened to his words,
and asked what he considered a good cause for entering the
Buddha Way. The mendicant priest replied, "The teachings
of the sutras are a finger pointing at the moon. Their doctrinal
nets are so much nonsense that has been captured in words.
But there is a teaching that enables you to find rest in
the essential nature of your own mind--it is called Zen."
"I would like to hear about it," said the unenlightened
"If you are truly in earnest," said the priest,
"you must face the wall, sit in Zen meditation, and
make clear the moon of your original mind. That the Zen
lineage of the twenty-eight patriarchs was passed on without
break in India, and that the line of transmission was handed
down through the six patriarchs in China is clear for all
to see. It would be pitiful indeed if you should fail to
understand what they have taught and remain caught in the
nets of doctrine! Since the mind itself is Buddha and Buddha
is none other than the mind, what Buddha could there be
When the unenlightened man heard these words, he began
to ponder various things and to quietly consider the principles
he had heard. He said, "There are a great many different
Buddhist doctrines, and it is very difficult to determine
which are sound and which are not. It is only natural that
Bodhisattva Jotai should have gone east to inquire about
the truth, that
Zenzai Doji should have sought for it in the south, that
Bodhisattva Yakuo burned his arms as an offering, and that
Gyobo Bonji stripped off his skin. A good teacher is truly
difficult to find! Some say that one should go by the teachings
of the sutras, while others say that the truth lies outside
the sutras. In pondering the rights and wrongs of these
doctrines, he who has not yet fathomed the depths of Buddhism
and stands gazing over the waters of the Law is in doubt
as to how deep they may be; he who assesses a teacher does
so with all the anxiety of a person walking on thin ice.
That is why the Buddha has left us those golden words, 'Rely
on the Law and not upon persons,' and why it is said that
those who encounter the True Law are as few as the grains
of earth that can he placed on a fingernail. If there is
someone who knows which of the Buddhist teachings are true
and which are false, then I must seek him out, make him
my teacher and treat him with appropriate respect."
They say that it is as difficult to be born in the realm
of human beings as it is to thread a needle by lowering
the thread from the heavens, and as rare to see and hear
the Buddha's teachings as it is for a one-eyed turtle to
encounter a floating log with a hole just the right size
to hold him. [Having this in mind] and believing that one
must regard the body as insignificant and the Law as supreme,
the unenlightened man climbed numerous mountains, impelled
by his anxiety, going from one temple to another as his
feet would carry him. In time he arrived at a rocky cave
with green mountains rising sheer behind it. The wind in
the pines played a melody of eternity, happiness, true self
and purity, and the emerald stream that bubbled along in
front sent its waves striking against the bank with echoes
of the perfection of these four virtues. The flowers carpeting
the deep valley bloomed with the hue of the true aspect
of the Middle Way, and from the plum blossoms just beginning
to open in the broad meadow wafted the fragrance of the
three thousand realms. Truly it was beyond the power of
words to describe, beyond the scope of the mind to imagine.
One might have thought it the place where the Four White-haired
Recluses of Mount Shang lived, or the site where some ancient
Buddha had walked about after meditation. Auspicious clouds
rose up at dawn, a mysterious light appeared in the evening.
Ah, the mind cannot grasp it nor words set it forth!
The unenlightened man wandered about, pondering what was
before him, now pausing in thought, now resuming his steps.
Suddenly he came upon a sage. Observing his actions, he
saw that the sage was reciting the Lotus Sutra; his voice
stirred the seeker deeply. Peering in at the quiet window
of the sage's retreat, he found that the sage was resting
his elbows on his desk, pondering the sutra's profound meaning.
The sage, divining that the unenlightened man was searching
for the Law, asked in a gentle voice, "Why have you
come to this cave among these far-off mountains?"
The other replied, "Because I attach little importance
to life but great importance to the Law."
"What practices do you follow?" asked the sage.
The unenlightened man answered, "I have lived all
my life amid the dust of the secular world and have not
yet learned how to free myself from the sufferings of birth
and death. As it happened, however, I encountered various
good teachers, from whom I learned first the rules of discipline
and then the Nembutsu, Shingon and Zen teachings. But though
I have learned these teachings, I am unable to determine
their truth or falsity."
The sage said, "When I listen to your words, I find
that it is indeed just as you have said. To hold life lightly
but value the Law is the teaching of the sages of former
times, and one that I myself know well.
"From the realm where there is neither thought nor
no thought above the clouds to the very bottom of hell,
is there any being who receives life and yet succeeds in
escaping death? Thus, even in the unenlightened secular
writings we find it said, 'Though you may set out at dawn
on the journey of life with pride in the beauty of your
rosy cheeks, by evening you will be no more than a pile
of white bones rotting on the moor.' Though you may move
among the most exalted company of court nobles, your hair
done up elegantly like clouds and your sleeves fluttering
like eddies of snow, such pleasures, when you stop to consider
them, are no more than a dream within a dream. You must
come to rest at last under the carpet of weeds at the foot
of the hill, and all your jeweled daises and brocade hangings
will mean nothing to you on the road to the afterlife. The
famed flower-like beauty of Ono no Komachi and Soto'ori
Hime was in time scattered by the winds of impermanence.
Fan K'uai and Chang Liang, in spite of their skill in the
military arts, in the end suffered beneath the staves of
the guardians of hell. That is why men of feeling in former
times wrote poems such as these:
How sad, the evening smoke
from Mount Toribe!
Those who see off the dead one--
how long will they remain?
Dew on the branch tips,
drops on the trunk--
all sooner or later
must vanish from this world.
"This rule of life, that if one does not die sooner
he will surely die later, should not at this late date come
as a surprise to you. But the thing that you should desire
above all is the Way of the Buddha, and that which you should
continually seek are the teachings of the sutras. Now from
what you have told me about the Buddhist doctrines you have
encountered, I can see that some of them belong to the Hinayana
division of Buddhism and some to the Mahayana. But, leaving
aside for the moment the question of which is superior and
which inferior, I can say that, far from bringing you deliverance,
the practice of these teachings will lead to rebirth in
the evil paths of existence."
At this the unenlightened man exclaimed in surprise, "But
were not all the sacred teachings that the Buddha expounded
throughout his lifetime designed to benefit living beings?
From the time of the preaching of the Kegon Sutra
at the seven places and eight assemblies, down to the ceremony
in which the Nirvana Sutra was expounded on the banks of
the Hiranyavati River, all the doctrines were taught by
Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Though one may perhaps be able
to distinguish certain small degrees of relative merit among
them, how could any of them possibly be the cause for rebirth
in the evil paths?"
The sage replied, "The sacred teachings that the Buddha
proclaimed in the course of his lifetime may be divided
into the categories of provisional and true, Hinayana and
Mahayana. In addition, they may be classified according
to the two paths of the exoteric and the esoteric. Thus
they are not all of the same sort. Let me for a moment explain
the general nature of the problem and thus relieve you of
"When Shakyamuni, the lord of the threefold world,
was nineteen years old, he left the city of Gaya, and went
into retreat on the Dandaka Mountain where he carried out
various difficult and painful austerities. He attained enlightenment
at the age of thirty, and at that time instantly banished
the three categories of illusion and brought to an end the
vast night of ignorance. It might appear that he should
at that time have preached the one vehicle of the Lotus
Sutra in order to fulfill his original vow. But he knew
that the people varied greatly in their capacities and that
they did not have the receptivity to understand the Buddha
vehicle. Therefore he devoted the following forty years
or more to developing the people's inherent capacity. Then,
in the last eight years of his life, he fulfilled the purpose
of his advent in the world by preaching the Lotus Sutra.
"Thus it was that when the Buddha was seventy-two
he preached the Muryogi Sutra as an introduction
to the Lotus Sutra and therein stated: 'In the past I sat
upright in the place of meditation under the Bodhi tree
for six years and attained the supreme enlightenment. When
I observed all phenomena with the eye of a Buddha, I knew
that I could not expound my enlightenment just as it was.
Why was that? Because I knew that people differ in their
natures and their desires. And because they differ in their
natures and desires, I expounded the Law in various ways.
Expounding the Law in various ways, I made use of the power
of expedient means. But in these more than forty years,
I have not yet revealed the truth.'
"The meaning of this passage is that, when the Buddha
was thirty years of age and sat in the place of enlightenment
under the Bodhi tree, he observed the inner heart of all
beings with the eye of a Buddha and realized that it was
not the proper time to preach to them the Lotus Sutra, which
reveals the direct way to the attainment of Buddhahood for
all beings. Therefore, as one would wave an empty fist about
to humor a little baby, he resorted to various expedient
means, and for the following forty years or more he refrained
from revealing the truth. Thus he defined the period of
the expedient teachings as clearly as the sun rising in
the blue sky or the full moon coming up on a dark night.
"In view of this passage, why should we, with the
very same faith that could just as easily be directed toward
the Lotus Sutra, cling to the provisional teachings of the
sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra, those doctrines defined
by the Buddha to be empty, and as a result keep returning
to the same old dwelling in the threefold world, with which
we are already so familiar?
"Therefore, in the Hoben chapter in the first
volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha says, 'Honestly discarding
the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme
Way.' This passage indicates that one should honestly discard
the teachings that the Buddha set forth in the various sutras
preached in the previous forty-two years, namely, the Nembutsu,
Shingon, Zen and Ritsu doctrines to which you referred.
"The meaning of this passage is perfectly clear. And
in addition, we have the warning delivered in the Hiyu
chapter in the second volume, 'Desire only to receive and
keep the scripture of the Great Vehicle, not accepting even
a single verse from any of the other sutras.' This passage
is saying that, no matter what year of the Buddha's life
a sutra may have been preached in, one should not accept
even a single verse from any of the sutras other than the
"The varying doctrines of the eight sects are as numerous
as so many orchids and chrysanthemums, and priests and lay
believers differ in appearance, yet they all agree in claiming
to cherish the Lotus Sutra. But how do they interpret these
passages from the Lotus Sutra that I have just cited? These
passages speak of 'honestly discarding' the earlier teachings
and forbid one to accept so much as a single verse from
any of the other sutras. But are the doctrines of Nembutsu,
Shingon, Zen and Ritsu not based on the 'other sutras'?
"Now this sutra of Myoho-renge-kyo I have been
speaking of represents the true reason why all Buddhas make
their advent in the world and teaches the direct way to
the attainment of Buddhahood for all beings. Shakyamuni
Buddha entrusted it to his disciples, Taho Buddha testified
to its veracity, and the various other Buddhas extended
their tongues up to the Brahma Heaven, proclaiming, 'All
that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the truth.'
Every single character in this sutra represents the true
intention of the Buddhas, and every dot of it is a source
of aid to those who repeat the cycle of birth and death.
There is not a single word in it that is untrue.
"Is not he who fails to heed the warnings of this
sutra in effect cutting off the tongues of the Buddhas and
deceiving the worthies and sages? This offense is truly
fearful. Thus, in the second volume it says, 'One who refuses
to take faith in this sutra and instead slanders it immediately
destroys the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world.'
The meaning of this passage is that, if one turns his back
on even one verse or one phrase of this sutra, he is guilty
of a crime equal to that of killing all the Buddhas of the
ten directions in the three existences of past, present
"If we use the teachings of the sutras as a mirror
in which to examine our present world, we will see that
it is a difficult thing to find one who does not betray
the Lotus Sutra. And if we understand the true meaning of
these matters, we can see that even a person who merely
refuses to have faith cannot avoid being reborn in the hell
of incessant suffering. How much more so is this true, then,
for someone like the eminent priest Honen, the founder of
the Nembutsu sect, who urged people to discard the Lotus
Sutra in favor of the Nembutsu! Where, may I ask, in all
the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of sutras is
there any passage that instructs us to discard the Lotus
"The priest Shan-tao, who was revered as a practitioner
who had mastered the Nembutsu meditation and honored as
a living incarnation of Amida Buddha, designated five kinds
of incorrect practices that are to be discarded and said
of the Lotus Sutra that it cannot save 'one in a thousand';
by which he meant that if a thousand people put faith in
that sutra, not a single one of them will attain Buddhahood.
And yet the Lotus Sutra itself says, 'Among those who hear
of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood.'
This indicates that if they hear this sutra, then all beings
in the Ten Worlds, along with their environments, will attain
the Buddha Way. Hence the sutra predicts that Devadatta,
though he has committed the five cardinal sins, will in
the future become a Buddha called Heavenly King, and tells
how the dragon king's daughter, though as a woman subject
to the five obstacles and thought to be incapable of attaining
Buddhahood, was able instantly to achieve enlightenment
in the southern realm. Thus even the dung beetle can ascend
through the six stages of practice and is in no way excluded
from achieving Buddhahood.
"In fact, Shan-tao's words and the passages of the
Lotus Sutra are as far apart as heaven and earth, as different
as clouds from mud. Which one are we to follow? If we stop
to ponder the logic of the matter, we will realize that
Shan-tao is the deadly enemy of all Buddhas and sutras and
the foe of wise priests and humble lay believers alike.
If the words of the Lotus Sutra are true, then how can he
escape the hell of incessant suffering?"
At these words, the unenlightened man flushed with anger
and said, "You are a person of no more than humble
station in life, and yet you dare to utter such ugly accusations!
I find it very difficult to judge whether you speak out
of true understanding or out of delusion, and to tell whether
your words stand to reason or not. It behooves us to remember
that the priest Shan-tao is said to have been a manifestation
of Amida the Well Attained or of his attendant, Bodhisattva
Seishi. And the same is said of the eminent priest Honen,
or that he was a reincarnation of Shan-tao. These were both
outstanding men of antiquity, and in addition they had acquired
extraordinary merit through their religious practices and
commanded the most profound degree of understanding. How
could they possibly have fallen into the evil paths?"
The sage replied, "What you say is quite correct,
and I too had great respect for these men and believed in
them as you do. But in matters of Buddhist doctrine one
cannot jump to conclusions simply on the basis of the eminence
of the person involved. The words of the sutras are what
must come first. Do not make light of a teaching just because
the person who preaches it is of humble station. The fox
of the kingdom of Bima who recited the twelve-character
verse that goes, 'There are those who love life and hate
death; there are those who love death and hate life,' was
hailed as a teacher by the god Taishaku, and the demon who
recited the sixteen-character verse that begins, 'All is
changeable, nothing is constant,' was treated with great
honor by Sessen Doji. This was done, however, not because
the fox or the demon was of such eminence, but simply out
of respect for the doctrines they taught.
"Therefore, in the sixth volume of the Nirvana Sutra,
his final teaching delivered in the grove of sal trees,
our merciful father, Lord Shakyamuni, said, 'Rely on the
Law and not upon persons.' Even when great bodhisattvas
such as Fugen and Monju, men who have returned to the stage
just preceding full enlightenment, expound the Buddhist
teachings, if they do not do so with the sutra text in hand,
then one should not heed them.
"The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai states, 'That which
accords with the sutras is to be accepted and heeded. But
put no faith in anything that in word or meaning fails to
do so.' Here we see that one should accept what is clearly
stated in the text of the sutras but discard anything that
cannot be supported by the text. The Great Teacher Dengyo
says, 'Depend upon the preachings of the Buddha and do not
put faith in traditions handed down orally,' which expresses
the same idea as the passage from T'ien-t'ai's commentary.
And Bodhisattva Nagarjuna says, 'Rely on treatises that
are faithful to the sutra; do not rely on those that distort
the sutra.' This passage may be understood to mean that
even among the various sutras, one should discard the provisional
teachings put forth prior to the Lotus Sutra and put one's
faith in this sutra, the Lotus. Thus both sutras and treatises
make it perfectly clear that one should discard all scriptures
other than the Lotus.
"Nowhere in all the five thousand or seven thousand
volumes of sutras listed in the K'ai-yuan era catalogue
do we find a single scriptural passage that expresses disapproval
of the Lotus Sutra and advises one to discard it or to cast
it aside, nor any passage that says it is to be classified
among the incorrect practices and abandoned. [If you disagree,]
you had better find some reliable passage from the sutras
[that will support your view], so that you may rescue Shan-tao
and Honen from their torments in the hell of incessant suffering.
"The practitioners of the Nembutsu in our present
day, priests as well as ordinary lay men and women, not
only violate the words of the sutras but also go against
the instructions of their own teachers. Shan-tao produced
a commentary in which he described five kinds of incorrect
practices that should be abandoned by practitioners of the
Nembutsu. Speaking of these incorrect practices, the Senchaku
Shu says: 'Concerning the first of the incorrect practices,
that of reading and reciting sutras, he [Shan-tao] states
that with the exception of the recitation of the Kammuryoju
Sutra and the other Pure Land sutras, the embracing, reading
and recitation of all sutras, whether Mahayana or Hinayana,
exoteric or esoteric, is to be regarded as an incorrect
practice.... Concerning the third of the incorrect practices,
that of worshiping, he states that with the exception of
worshiping the Buddha Amida, the worshiping or honoring
of any of the other Buddhas, bodhisattvas or deities of
the heavenly and human worlds is to be regarded as an incorrect
practice. Concerning the fourth of the incorrect practices,
that of calling on the name, he states that with the exception
of calling on the name of the Buddha Amida, calling on the
name of any other Buddha, bodhisattva or deity of the heavenly
and human worlds is to be regarded as an incorrect practice.
Concerning the fifth of the incorrect practices, that of
praising and giving offerings, he states that with the exception
of praises and offerings directed to the Buddha Amida, the
praising of and giving of offerings to any other Buddha,
bodhisattva or deity of the heavenly and human worlds is
to be regarded as an incorrect practice.'
"This passage of commentary is saying that with regard
to the first incorrect practice, that of reading and reciting
sutras, there are fixed rules for priests and lay believers
of the Nembutsu, both men and women, concerning which sutras
are to be read and which are not to be read. Among the sutras
that are not to be read are the Lotus, Ninno, Yakushi,
Daijuku, Hannya Shin, Tennyo Jobutsu
and Hokuto Jumyo sutras, and, in particular, among
the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra, the so-called Kannon
Sutra [actually the Kanzeon Bosatsu Fumon chapter],
which is commonly read by so many people. If one reads so
much as a single phrase or a single verse of these sutras,
then, although he may be a devoted practitioner of the Nembutsu,
he is in fact grouped among those who follow incorrect practices
and cannot be reborn in the Pure Land. Yet now, as I observe
the world with my own eyes, among those who chant the Nembutsu
I see many people who read these various sutras, thus going
against their teachers and thereby committing one of the
seven cardinal sins.
In addition, in the passage concerning the third kind of
incorrect practice, that of worshiping, it is said that
with the exception of the worship of Amida flanked by two
honored bodhisattvas, the worshiping or honoring of any
of the earlier mentioned Buddhas, bodhisattvas or heavenly
deities and benevolent gods is to be regarded as an incorrect
practice and is forbidden to practitioners of the Nembutsu.
But Japan is a land of the gods. It was created by the august
deities Izanagi and Izanami, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami
deigns to have her dwelling here, and the Mimosuso River
for many long ages down to the present has continued to
flow [through the grounds on which her shrine is located].
How could anyone who was born in this country heed such
an erroneous doctrine! In addition, as we have been born
under the all-encompassing sky and enjoy the benefits of
the three kinds of luminous bodies, the sun, the moon and
the stars, it would be a most fearful thing if we should
show disrespect to the gods of these heavenly bodies.
"Again, in the passage concerning the fourth kind
of incorrect practice, that of calling on the name, it says
that there are certain names of Buddhas and bodhisattvas
that the Nembutsu believer is to call on, and certain names
of Buddhas and bodhisattvas that he is not to call on. The
names he is to call on are those of the Buddha Amida and
his two honored attendants. The names he is not to call
on are those of Shakyamuni, Yakushi, Dainichi and the other
Buddhas; those of Jizo, Fugen, Monju, the gods of the sun,
moon and stars; the deities of the shrines in Izu and Hakone,
Mishima Shrine, Kumano Shrine, and Haguro Shrine; the Sun
Goddess Amaterasu Omikami; and the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.
If anyone so much as once recites any of these names, then,
although he may recite the Nembutsu a hundred thousand or
a million times, because he committed the error of calling
on the name of one of these Buddhas, bodhisattvas, the gods
of the sun and moon, and other deities, he will fall into
the hell of incessant suffering and fail to be reborn in
the Pure Land. But when I look about at the world, I find
Nembutsu believers who call on the names of these various
Buddhas, bodhisattvas, heavenly deities and benevolent gods.
Thus, in this matter as well, they are going against the
instructions of their own teachers.
"In the passage concerning the fifth incorrect practice,
that of praising and giving offerings, the Nembutsu believer
is enjoined to make offerings to the Buddha Amida and his
two bodhisattva attendants. But if he should offer even
a little bit of incense or a few flowers to the earlier
mentioned Buddhas, bodhisattvas or heavenly deities and
benevolent gods, then, although the merit he has gained
from the Nembutsu practice may be laudable, because of the
error he has committed, he is condemned to be classified
among those who carry out incorrect practices. And yet,
when I look around the world, I see the Nembutsu believers
paying visits to various shrines and offering streamers
of paper or cloth, or entering various Buddhist halls and
bowing in reverence there. In this, too, they are going
against the instructions of their teachers. If you doubt
what I say, then look at the text of the Senchaku Shu.
It is very clear on these points.
"Again, the Kannen Homon Sutra by the priest
Shan-tao says, 'With regard to intoxicants, meat and the
five strong-flavored foods, one must vow never to lay a
hand on them, never to let his mouth taste them. One must
pledge, "If I should go against these words, then may
foul sores break out on both my body and mouth." The
meaning of this passage is that the Nembutsu believers,
men and women lay believers, nuns and priests alike, must
not drink wine and must not eat fish or fowl. In addition,
they must not eat any of the five strong-flavored foods,
the pungent or strong-smelling foods such as leeks or garlic.
If any Nembutsu believers fail to abide by this rule, then
in their present life they will find foul sores breaking
out on their bodies, and in the next life they will fall
into the hell of incessant suffering. In fact, however,
we find many Nembutsu laymen and laywomen, nuns and priests,
who pay no heed to this prohibition but drink as much wine
and eat as much fish and fowl as they please. They are in
effect swallowing knives with which to wound themselves,
are they not?"
Thereupon the unenlightened man said, "In truth, as
I listen to your description of the doctrine, I can see
that even if the Nembutsu teaching could in fact lead one
to rebirth in the Pure Land, its observances and practices
are very difficult to carry out. And of course, since the
sutras and treatises upon which it is based all belong to
the category of provisional expositions, it is perfectly
clear that it can never lead to rebirth in the Pure Land.
But surely there is no reason to repudiate the Shingon teachings.
The Dainichi Sutra constitutes the secret teaching
of Dainichi Buddha, the King of Enlightenment. It has been
handed down in an unbroken line of transmission from Dainichi
Buddha to Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k'ung. And in Japan the Great
Teacher Kobo spread the teachings concerning the mandalas
of the Diamond World and the Womb World. These are secret
and arcane teachings that concern the thirty-seven honored
ones. Therefore, the most profound doctrines of the exoteric
teachings cannot compare even to the elementary stages of
the esoteric teachings. Hence the Great Teacher Chisho,
of the Later Toin Hall, stated in his commentary, 'Even
the Lotus Sutra cannot compare [to the Dainichi Sutra],
much less the other doctrines.' Now what is your view on
The sage replied, "At first I too placed my trust
in Dainichi Buddha and desired to carry out the teachings
of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism. But when I investigated
the basic doctrines of the sect, I found that they are founded
on views that in fact are a slander of the Law!
"The Great Teacher Kobo of Mount Koya, of whom you
have spoken, was a teacher who lived in the time of Emperor
Saga. He received a mandate from the emperor directing him
to determine and explain the relative profundity of the
various Buddhist teachings. In response, he produced a work
in ten volumes entitled Jojushin Ron. Because this
work is so broad and comprehensive, he made a condensation
of it in three volumes, which bears the title Hizo Hoyaku.
This work describes ten stages in the development of the
mind, from the first stage, the 'mind of lowly man, goatish
in its desire' to the last stage, the 'glorious mind, the
most secret and sacred.' He assigns the Lotus Sutra to the
eighth stage, the Kegon Sutra to the ninth stage,
and the Shingon teachings [of the Dainichi Sutra]
to the tenth stage. Thus he ranks the Lotus Sutra as inferior
even to the Kegon Sutra, and as two stages below
the Dainichi Sutra. In this work, he writes, 'Each
vehicle that is put forward is claimed to be the vehicle
of Buddhahood, but when examined from a later stage, they
are all seen to be mere childish theory.' He also characterizes
the Lotus Sutra as a work of 'wild words and ornate phrases,'
and disparages Shakyamuni Buddha as being lost in the realm
"As a result, Kobo's disciple in a later age, Shokaku-bo,
the founder of the temple Dembo-in, was led to write that
the Lotus Sutra is not fit even to be a sandal-bearer to
the Dainichi Sutra, and that Shakyamuni Buddha is
not worthy to serve as an ox-driver to Dainichi Buddha.
"Still your thoughts and listen to what I say! In
all the five thousand or seven thousand volumes of sutras
that the Buddha preached during his lifetime, or the three
thousand or more volumes of the Confucian and Taoist scriptures,
is there anywhere a passage clearly stating that the Lotus
Sutra is a doctrine of 'childish theory,' or that it ranks
two stages below the Dainichi Sutra, being inferior
to the Kegon Sutra as well, or that Shakyamuni Buddha
was lost in the realm of darkness and is not worthy even
to serve as an ox-driver to Dainichi Buddha? And even if
such a passage did exist, one would certainly have to examine
it with great care!
"When the Buddhist sutras and teachings were brought
from India to China, the manner of translation depended
upon the inclination of the particular translator, and there
were no fixed translations for the sutras and treatises.
Hence the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva of the Later Ch'in dynasty
always used to say, 'When I examine the Buddhist teachings
as they exist in China, I find that in many cases they differ
from the Sanskrit originals. If the sutra translations that
I have produced are free from error, then, after I am dead
and cremated, my body, since it is impure, will no doubt
be consumed by the flames, but my tongue alone [with which
I have expounded the true meaning of the sutras] will not
be burned.' And when he was finally cremated, his body was
reduced to a pile of bones, but his tongue alone remained,
resting on top of a blue lotus blossom and emitting a brilliant
light that outshone the rays of the sun. How wonderful a
"Thus it came about that the translation of the Lotus
Sutra made by the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva in particular
spread easily throughout China. And that is why, when the
Great Teacher Dengyo of Enryaku-ji attacked the teachings
of the other sects, he refuted them by saying, 'We have
proof in the fact that the tongue of the Learned Doctor
Kumarajiva, the translator of the Lotus Sutra, was not consumed
by the flames. The sutras that you rely upon are all in
"Again, in the Nirvana Sutra the Buddha says, 'When
my teachings are transmitted to other countries, many errors
are bound to be introduced.' Even if among sutra passages
we were to find the Lotus Sutra characterized as useless
or Shakyamuni Buddha described as a Buddha who was lost
in the realm of darkness, we should inquire very carefully
to see whether the text that makes such statements belongs
to the provisional or the true teaching, to the Mahayana
or the Hinayana, whether it was preached in the earlier
or the later part of the Buddha's life, and who the translator
"It is said that Lao Tzu and Confucius thought nine
times before uttering a single word, or three times before
uttering a single word. And Tan, the Duke of Chou, was so
eager to receive his callers that he would spit out his
food three times in the course of a meal and wring out his
hair three times in the course of washing it [to show them
the greatest courtesy]. If even the people described in
the shallow, non-Buddhist writings behaved with such care
and circumspection, then how much more so should those who
study the profound doctrines of the Buddhist scriptures!
"Now nowhere in the sutras and treatises do we find
the slightest evidence to support this contention [that
the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi Sutra].
The Great Teacher Kobo's own commentary says that one who
slanders persons and disparages the Law will fall into the
evil paths. A person like Kobo will invariably fall into
hell-there can be no doubt of it."
The unenlightened man seemed to be dazed, and then suddenly
began to sigh. After some time, he said, "The Great
Teacher Kobo was an expert in both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist
writings and a teacher and leader of the masses. In virtuous
practices he excelled the others of his time, and his reputation
was known everywhere. It is said that when he was in China,
he hurled a three-pronged diamond-pounder all the way across
the more than eighty thousand ri of the ocean until
it reached Japan, and that when he expounded the meaning
of the Heart Sutra, so many sufferers from the plague recovered
their health that they filled the streets. Thus he was surely
no ordinary person, but a manifestation of a Buddha in temporal
form. We can hardly fail to hold him in esteem and put faith
in his teachings."
The sage replied, "I at first thought the same way.
But after I entered the path of the Buddha's teachings and
began to distinguish what accords with its principles from
what does not, I realized that the ability to perform miraculous
acts at will does not necessarily constitute a basis for
determining the truth or falsity of Buddhist teachings.
That is why the Buddha laid down the rule that we should
'rely on the Law and not upon persons,' which I mentioned
"The ascetic Agastya poured the Ganges River into
one ear and kept it there for twelve years, the ascetic
Jinu drank the great ocean dry in a single day, Chang Chieh
exhaled fog, and Luan Pa exhaled clouds. But this does not
mean that they knew what is correct and what is not in the
Buddhist teachings, or that they understood the principle
of cause and effect. In China, when the Dharma Teacher Fa-yun
lectured on the Lotus Sutra, in no time at all flowers came
raining down from the heavens. But the Great Teacher Miao-lo
said that although Fa-yun had produced such a response,
his words were not in accord with the truth [of the Lotus
Sutra]. Thus Miao-lo accused him of having failed to understand
the truth of Buddhism.
"The Lotus Sutra rejects the three types of preaching--that
done by the Buddha in the past, the present and the future.
It refutes the sutras preached before it, saying that in
them the Buddha had 'not yet revealed the truth.' It attacks
the sutras of the same period by declaring itself superior
to those 'now being preached,' and repudiates the sutras
expounded later by stating that it excels all those 'to
be preached.' In truth, the Lotus Sutra is first among all
sutras preached in the three categories of past, present
"In the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra, we read,
'Yakuo, I tell you this. Among all the sutras that I preach,
the Lotus Sutra holds first place.' This passage means that
at the gathering on Eagle Peak the Buddha addressed Bodhisattva
Yakuo and told him that, beginning with the Kegon
Sutra and ending with the Nirvana Sutra, there were countless
sutras numbering as many as the sands of the Ganges, but
that among all these, the Lotus Sutra that he was then preaching
held first place. But evidently the Great Teacher Kobo misread
the word 'first' as 'third.'
"In the same volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha
says, 'For the sake of the Buddha Way I have in countless
different lands from the beginning until now widely preached
various sutras, but among them this sutra is foremost.'
This passage means that Shakyamuni Buddha has appeared in
countless lands, taking different names and assuming varying
life spans. And it establishes that, among all the sutras
he has preached in the various forms in which he manifested
himself, the Lotus Sutra holds first place.
"In the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra it is stated
that the Lotus Sutra 'holds the highest place,' making clear
that this sutra stands above the Dainichi, Kongocho,
and all the other countless sutras. But evidently the Great
Teacher Kobo read this as 'holds the lowest place.' Thus
Shakyamuni and Kobo, the Lotus Sutra and the Hizo Hoyaku,
are in fact completely at odds with each other. Do you intend
to reject Shakyamuni and follow Kobo? Or will you reject
Kobo and follow Shakyamuni? Will you go against the text
of the sutra and accept the words of an ordinary teacher?
Or will you reject the words of an ordinary teacher and
honor the golden words of the Buddha? Think carefully before
you decide what to accept and what to reject!
"Furthermore, in the Yakuo chapter in volume
seven, ten similes are offered in praise of the teachings
of the Lotus Sutra. The first simile concerns water, and
in it streams and rivers are likened to the other various
sutras, and the great ocean to the Lotus Sutra. Thus if
anyone should assert that the Dainichi Sutra is superior
and the Lotus Sutra inferior, he is in effect saying that
the great ocean holds less water than does a little stream!
Everyone in the world today understands that the ocean exceeds
the various rivers in size, and yet they fail to realize
that the Lotus Sutra is the first among sutras.
"The second simile concerns mountains. Ordinary mountains
are likened to the other sutras and Mount Sumeru to the
Lotus Sutra. Mount Sumeru measures 168,000 yojana
from top to bottom; what other mountain could compare with
it? To say that the Dainichi Sutra is superior to
the Lotus Sutra is like saying that Mount Fuji is bigger
than Mount Sumeru.
"The third simile deals with the moon and stars. The
other sutras are likened to the stars and the Lotus Sutra
is likened to the moon. Comparing the moon and the stars,
can anyone be in doubt as to which is superior?
"Later on in the series of similes, we read, 'In the
same way, this sutra, the Lotus, holds first place among
all the various sutras and doctrines, whether they were
preached by Buddhas, by bodhisattvas or by shomon
"This passage tells us that the Lotus Sutra is not
only the foremost among all the doctrines preached by Shakyamuni
Buddha in the course of his lifetime, but that it also holds
first place among all the teachings and sutras preached
by Buddhas such as Dainichi, Yakushi or Amida, and by bodhisattvas
such as Fugen or Monju. Therefore, if anyone should assert
that there exists a sutra superior to the Lotus, you must
understand that he is expounding the views of the followers
of non-Buddhist teachings or of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.
"Moreover, as to the identity of Dainichi Buddha,
when Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, who had been
enlightened from remote ages past, for forty-two years dimmed
his light and mingled with the dust of the world, adapting
himself to the capacities of the people of the time, he,
a Buddha who unites the three bodies in one, temporarily
assumed the form of Vairochana. Therefore, when Shakyamuni
Buddha revealed the true aspect of all phenomena, it became
clear that Vairochana was a temporary form that Shakyamuni
had manifested in response to the capacities of the people.
For this reason, the Fugen Sutra says that Shakyamuni
Buddha is given the name Vairochana Pervading Everywhere,
and that the place where that Buddha lives is called Eternally
"Now the Lotus Sutra expounds the doctrines of the
mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, ichinen sanzen,
the unification of the three truths, and the inseparability
of the four kinds of lands. Moreover, the very essence of
all the sacred teachings expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha
in his lifetime--the doctrines that persons of the two vehicles
can achieve Buddhahood and that the Buddha attained enlightenment
in the inconceivably remote past--is found only in this
one sutra, the Lotus. Is there any mention of these most
important matters in the three esoteric sutras you have
been talking about, the Dainichi Sutra, the Kongocho
Sutra and so forth? Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k'ung stole these
most important doctrines from the Lotus Sutra and contrived
to make them the essential points of their own sutras. But
in fact this is a fraud; their own sutras and treatises
contain no trace of these doctrines. You must make haste
and remedy your thinking on this point!
"The fact is that the Dainichi Sutra includes
each of the four types of teachings and expounds the kind
of precepts whose benefit is exhausted when the bodily form
comes to an end. It is a provisional teaching, designated
by Chinese teachers as a sutra belonging to the Hodo category,
the group of sutras which, according to T'ien-t'ai's classification,
were preached in the third period. How shameful [to hold
it above the Lotus]! If you really have a mind to pursue
the Way, you must hurry and repent of your past errors!
In the final analysis, this sutra of Myoho-renge-kyo
sums up all the teachings and meditational practices of
Shakyamuni Buddha's entire lifetime in a single moment of
life, and encompasses all the living beings of the Ten Worlds
and their environments in the three thousand realms."
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 5, page