The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra
Nichiren, follower of the Great Teacher
Question: Is it possible, without understanding
the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but merely by chanting the
five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day,
once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once
in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious
acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths,
and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression?
Answer: Yes, it is.
Question: You may talk about fire, but
unless you put your hand in a flame, you will never burn
yourself. You may say "water, water!" but unless
you actually drink it, you will never satisfy your thirst.
Then how, just by chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
without understanding what it means, can you escape from
the evil paths of existence?
Answer: They say that if you play a koto
strung with a lions sinews, then all the other kinds
of strings will snap. And if you so much as hear the words
"pickled plum," your mouth will begin to water.
Even in everyday life there are such wonders, so how much
greater are the wonders of the Lotus Sutra!
We are told that parrots, simply by twittering
the four noble truths of the Hinayana teachings, were able
to be reborn in heaven, and that men, simply by respecting
the three treasures, were able to escape being swallowed
by a huge fish. How much more effective, then, is the daimoku
of the Lotus Sutra, which is the very heart of all the eighty
thousand sacred teachings of Buddhism and the eye of the
countless Buddhas! How can you doubt that, by chanting it,
you can escape from the four evil paths?
The Lotus Sutra, wherein the Buddha honestly
discarded all provisional teachings, says that one may "gain
entrance through faith." And the Nirvana Sutra, which
the Buddha preached in the grove of sal trees on the last
day of his life, states, "Although there are innumerable
practices which lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith,
then that includes all those practices."
Thus faith is the basic requirement for
entering the way of the Buddha. In the fifty-two stages
of bodhisattva practice, the first ten stages, dealing with
faith, are basic, and the first of these ten stages is that
of arousing pure faith. Though a person has no knowledge
of Buddhism, if he has pure faith, then even though he may
be dull-witted, he is to be reckoned as a man of correct
views. But even though one has some knowledge of Buddhism,
if he is without faith, then he is to be considered a slanderer
and an icchantika or person of incorrigible disbelief.
The monk Sunakshatra observed the two hundred
and fifty precepts, mastered the four stages of meditation,
and was versed in all the twelve types of sutras while Devadatta
learned the sixty thousand non-Buddhist teachings and the
eighty thousand Buddhist teachings and could manifest eighteen
miraculous powers with his body. And yet it is said that
these men, because they had knowledge but no faith, are
now in the great citadel of the Avichi Hell. Mahakashyapa
and Shariputra on the other hand lacked knowledge but had
faith, and the Buddha accordingly predicted that they would
become the Buddhas Light Bright and Flower Light respectively.
The Buddha stated, "One who gives way to doubt and
does not have faith will surely fall into the evil paths."
These words refer to those who have knowledge but are without
And yet contemporary scholars ask, "How
is it possible simply by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with
faith but no understanding, to avoid the evil paths of existence?"
If we accept the words of the sutras, these scholars themselves
can hardly avoid falling into the great citadel of the Avichi
Thus, as we have seen, even if a person
lacks understanding, so long as he chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
he can avoid the evil paths. This is like the lotus blossom
that turns in the direction of the sun, though the lotus
has no mind to direct it, or like the plantain that grows
with the rumbling of thunder, though this plant has no ears
to hear it. Now we are like the lotus or the plantain, and
the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun or the thunder.
People say that if you tie a piece of living
rhinoceros horn to your body and enter the water, the water
will not come within five feet of you. They also say that
if one leaf of the sandalwood tree unfurls, it can eradicate
the foul odor of the eranda trees for a distance of forty
yojana. In this case, our evil karma may be likened
to the eranda trees or the water, and the daimoku of the
Lotus Sutra may be likened to the living horn of the rhinoceros
or the leaf of the sandalwood tree.
Diamonds are so hard that almost no substance
will cut them, and yet they can be cut by a sheeps
horn or a turtles shell. The limbs of the nyagrodha
tree are so stout that the largest birds can perch on them
without breaking them, and yet they are vulnerable to the
tailorbird, which is so tiny it could almost build its nest
on the eyelashes of a mosquito.
Here, our evil karma is analogous to the
diamond or the nyagrodha tree, and the daimoku of
the Lotus Sutra, to the sheeps horn or the tailorbird.
Amber draws dust and a lodestone attracts iron particles;
here our evil karma is like the dust or iron, and the daimoku
of the Lotus Sutra is like the amber or the lodestone. If
we consider these analogies, we can see why we should always
The first volume of the Lotus Sutra states,
"Throughout numberless and incalculable kalpas it will
be a difficult thing to hear this Law." And the fifth
volume says, "As for this Lotus Sutra, throughout countless
numbers of countries one cannot even hear the name of it."
Thus it is an extremely rare thing to hear the name of the
Lotus Sutra. Though the Buddhas Shusenda and Taho made their
appearance in the world, they did not utter so much as the
name of the Lotus Sutra. And though Shakyamuni Buddha made
his advent expressly for the purpose of preaching the Lotus
Sutra, during a period of forty-two years, he kept the name
of that sutra secret and never referred to it. It was only
when he reached the age of seventy-two that he first began
to intone the title of the sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo. However,
the people of faraway countries such as China and Japan
were unable to hear of it at that time. It was over a thousand
years before China heard so much as the name of the sutra,
and another three hundred fifty years or more before it
was heard in Japan.
Thus, encountering this sutra is as rare
as the blossoming of the udumbara flower, which occurs but
once in three thousand years, or the one-eyed turtle finding
a floating piece of sandalwood, which happens only once
in innumerable aeons.
Suppose one were to stick a needle in the
earth point up and throw down tiny mustard seeds at it from
the palace of King Bonten in the sky. One could sooner impale
a mustard seed on the point of the needle than encounter
the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra. Or suppose one were to place
a needle upright on top of the Mount Sumeru in one world
and then, standing atop the Mount Sumeru of another world
on a very windy day, were to try to cast a thread so that
it reached the other mountain and passed through the eye
of the needle. One could sooner thread a needle in this
way than encounter the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
Therefore, when you chant the daimoku of
the Lotus Sutra you should be aware that it is a more joyful
thing than for one who was born blind to gain his eyesight
and see his father and mother, and a rarer thing than for
one who has been seized by a powerful enemy to be released
and reunited with his wife and children.
Question: What passages of proof can be
cited to show that one should chant only the daimoku?
Answer: The eighth volume of the Myoho-renge-kyo
states, "One who receives and embraces the name of
the Lotus Sutra will enjoy good fortune beyond measure."
The Sho-hokke-kyo says, "If one hears this sutra
and proclaims and embraces its title, he will enjoy blessings
beyond measure." And the Tembon-hoke-kyo says,
"One who receives and embraces the name of the Lotus
Sutra will enjoy good fortune beyond measure." These
passages indicate that the good fortune one receives from
simply chanting the daimoku is beyond measure.
To embrace, read, recite, take delight
in and protect all the eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters
of the Lotus Sutra is called the comprehensive practice.
To receive and protect the Hoben and Juryo chapters
is called the abbreviated practice. And simply to chant
one four-phrase verse or the daimoku, and to protect those
who do so, is called the essential practice. Hence among
these three kinds of practice, the comprehensive, the abbreviated
and the essential, the daimoku is defined as the essential
Question: How great are the blessings contained
within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo?
Answer: The great ocean contains all the
numerous rivers that flow into it, the great earth contains
all sentient and insentient beings, the wish-granting jewel
is capable of showering down innumerable treasures, and
the heavenly king Bonten rules over all the threefold world.
The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are comparable to
all these. All beings of the nine worlds, as well as those
in the world of Buddhahood, are contained within them. And
since all beings of the Ten Worlds are contained within
them, so are their environments.
Let us first examine the fact that the
five characters, Myoho-renge-kyo, contain within them all
teachings. The single character kyo or "sutra"
is the king of all sutras, and all the various other sutras
are encompassed by it. The Buddha appeared in the world
and over a period of fifty years and more preached eighty
thousand sacred teachings. At that time the life span of
human beings is said to have been one hundred years. The
Buddha passed away in the middle of the night on the fifteenth
day of the second month of the year with the cyclical sign
mizunoe-saru (949 B.C.). Thereafter, during some ninety
days of summer, or the period from the eighth day of the
fourth month until the fifteenth day of the seventh month
of the same year, one thousand arhats gathered at the Chamber
of the First Council and set down all the sutras.
After that, during the one thousand years
of the Former Day of the Law, all these various sutras spread
throughout the five regions of India, but they did not reach
as far as China. It was only in the fifteenth year of the
Middle Day of the Law, or 1,015 years after the Buddhas
death, that Buddhist statues and sutras were first introduced
to China. This was in the year with the cyclical sign hinoto-u
(AD. 67), the tenth year of the Yung-ping era in the
reign of Emperor Ming the Filial of the Later Han dynasty.
From that time until the year with the cyclical sign kanoe-uma
(AD. 730), the eighteenth year of the Kai-yuan era
of the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the Tang dynasty,
a total of 176 translators went to China, taking with them
1,076 sutras, works on discipline and treatises comprising
5,048 volumes contained in 480 scroll-cases. All of these
sacred writings are followers of the single character kyo,
or sutra, of the Lotus Sutra.
Among the sutras that the Buddha preached
during the forty or more years before he expounded Myoho-renge-kyo,
there is one called the Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra.
This sutra is preserved in the dragon kings palace
in three versions. The first version contains as many chapters
as there are dust particles in ten major world systems.
The second version contains 498,800 verses, and the third
version contains 100,000 verses in forty-eight chapters.
Outside of these three versions, only the eighty-volume
and sixty-volume versions are preserved in China and Japan.
In addition, there are the Hinayana sutras
such as the Agon sutras, and the various Mahayana sutras
of the Hodo and Hannya categories. Among the latter, the
Sanskrit text of the Dainichi Sutra devotes a total of 3,500
verses simply to the explanation of the five characters
of the mantra Avarahakha, to say nothing of the countless
verses it uses to describe the "seeds," august
forms and samayas of the various Buddhas. In China,
however, the text exists in a mere six or seven volume form.
The Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the sal
grove on his last day, is preserved in China in a version
that is only forty volumes long, though in this case, too,
the Sanskrit versions of the text have many more volumes.
All these various sutras are followers of the Lotus Sutra,
the heart of Shakyamuni Buddhas teachings. In addition,
all the sutras expounded by the seven Buddhas of the past,
the thousand Buddhas, or the Buddhas of countless aeons
ago, as well as those expounded by the Buddhas presently
living in the ten directions, are all followers of the single
character kyo of the Lotus Sutra.
Thus, in the Yakuo chapter of the
Lotus Sutra, the Buddha addresses the bodhisattva named
Shukuoke, saying in essence, "It [the Lotus Sutra]
is like the ocean, which is foremost among all bodies of
water such as rivers and streams; like Mount Sumeru, which
is foremost among all mountains, or like the god of the
moon, which is foremost among all the heavenly bodies [shining
in the night sky]." The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments
on this by saying, "[It] is foremost among all the
sutras the Buddha has preached, now preaches and will preach."
Within this single character kyo are contained
all the sutras in the entire universe. It is like the wish-granting
jewel that contains within it all manner of treasures, or
the vastness of space that encompasses all phenomena. And
because this single character kyo of Myoho-renge-kyo is
the supreme achievement of the Buddhas lifetime of
teaching, the other four characters, Myo-ho-ren-ge, likewise
surpass all the other eighty thousand doctrines that the
Coming now to the character myo,
[meaning "mystic" or wonderful,"] the Lotus
Sutra says, "This sutra opens the door of expedient
teachings and reveals the true aspect of reality."
The Great Teacher Chang-an comments on this as follows:
"Myo means to reveal the depths of the secret storehouse."
And the Great Teacher Miao-lo says of this, "To reveal
means to open." Hence the character myo means
If there is a storehouse full of treasures
but no key, then it cannot be opened, and if it cannot be
opened, then the treasures inside cannot be seen. The Buddha
preached the Kegon Sutra, but he did not give the kind of
explanation that would be a key to open this sutra. Likewise,
in the forty or more years that followed, he preached other
sutras such as the Agon, Hodo, Hannya and Kammuryoju sutras,
but he did not reveal their meaning. Their doors remained
closed, and therefore no one could understand these sutras.
Even though people thought they understood, they in fact
had only a distorted view.
But then the Buddha preached the Lotus
Sutra and in this way opened the storehouses of the sutras.
And for the first time in more than forty years, all the
people of the nine worlds were able to view the treasures
that lay within. To give an analogy, even though there are
people and animals, plants and trees on the earth, without
the light of the sun or moon, even those who have eyes cannot
make out their shapes and colors. Only when the sun or moon
rises can one discern for the first time what they are really
like. The sutras that preceded the Lotus Sutra were shrouded
in the darkness of a long night, and the essential and theoretical
teachings of the Lotus Sutra were like the sun and the moon.
Among the bodhisattvas with their two good
eyes, the cross-eyed men of the two vehicles, common mortals
with their blind eyes, or those of incorrigible disbelief
who have been blind since birth, there were none who could
make out the true color or shape of things by means of the
earlier sutras. But when the Lotus Sutra was preached and
the moon of the theoretical teaching came forth, then the
bodhisattvas with their two good eyes first gained enlightenment,
to be followed by the cross-eyed men of the two vehicles.
Next the blind eyes of the common mortals were opened, and
then even the persons of incorrigible disbelief, who had
been blind from birth were able to establish a relationship
with the Lotus Sutra that assured them that their eyes would
one day open. All this was due entirely to the virtue of
the single character myo.
There are two myo or mystic principles
expounded in the Lotus Sutra, one in the first fourteen
chapters, which constitute the theoretical teaching, and
one in the latter fourteen chapters, which constitute the
essential teaching. From another point of view there are
twenty mystic principles, ten in the theoretical teaching
and ten in the essential teaching, or there are sixty mystic
principles, thirty in the theoretical teaching and thirty
in the essential teaching. From yet other points of view,
forty mystic principles may be discerned in each half of
the Lotus Sutra. By adding these to the forty mystic principles
concerning the observation of the mind the single character
myo will be found to contain fully one hundred and
twenty myo or mystic principles.
One fundamental myo or mystic principle
underlies every one of the 69,384 characters that make up
the Lotus Sutra. Hence the Lotus Sutra comprises a total
of 69,384 mystic principles.
The character myo is rendered in
Sanskrit by the word sad, and in Chinese is pronounced miao.
Myo means "fully endowed," which in turn has the
meaning of "perfection." Each word and each character
of the Lotus Sutra contains within it all the 69,384 characters
that compose the sutra. To illustrate, one drop of the great
ocean contains within it the waters of all the various rivers
that flow into the ocean, and the wish-granting jewel, though
no bigger than a mustard seed, is capable of showering down
all the treasures that one could wish for.
To give another analogy, plants and trees
are withered and bare in autumn and winter, but when the
sun of spring and summer shines on them, they put forth
branches and leaves, and then flowers and fruit. Before
the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, the people in the nine
worlds were like plants and trees in autumn and winter.
But when the single character myo of the Lotus Sutra
shone on them like the spring and summer sun, then the flower
of the aspiration for enlightenment blossomed and the fruit
of Buddhahood emerged.
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his Daichido Ron
says, "[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician
who changes poison into medicine." This quotation occurs
in a passage in the Daichido Ron that explains the virtues
inherent in the character myo of the Lotus Sutra.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "Because
it can cure that which is thought to be incurable, it is
called myo or mystic."
In general, there are four kinds of people
who have great difficulty in attaining Buddhahood. First
are those predestined for the realms of Learning and Realization,
second are those of incorrigible disbelief, third are those
who cling to the doctrine of void, and fourth are those
who slander the True Law. But through the Lotus Sutra, all
of these people are able to attain Buddhahood. That is why
the Lotus Sutra is called myo.
Devadatta was the eldest son of King Dronodana
and a nephew of King Shuddhodana, [the father of the Buddha
Shakyamuni,] which made him the Buddhas cousin. He
was also the elder brother of the Buddhas disciple,
the Venerable Ananda. He was thus by no means a person of
low station in the continent of Jambudvipa. He became a
disciple of the monk Sudaya and entered the religious life.
From Ananda he learned the eighteen miraculous powers, and
he committed to memory the sixty thousand teachings of the
non-Buddhist schools and the eighty thousand teachings of
Buddhism. He observed the five practices and appeared almost
more saintly than the Buddha himself. Thinking to make himself
a leader like the Buddha, he dared to commit the crime of
disrupting the Buddhist Order by establishing his own ordination
platform on Mount Gaya and inviting the Buddhas disciples
over to his side. He confided to Crown Prince Ajatashatru,
"I intend to kill the Buddha and become the new Buddha.
You must kill your father, King Bimbisara, and become the
new king in his place!"
After Crown Prince Ajatashatru had in fact
killed his father, Devadatta kept watch on the Buddhas
activities and with a large stone succeeded in wounding
him to the extent that blood flowed. He also struck and
killed the nun Utpalavarna who had reached the state of
arhat. Thus he committed three of the five cardinal sins.
In addition, with Kokalika as his disciple
and King Ajatashatru as his patron, Devadatta began to attract
followers from everywhere, until, throughout the five regions
of India with its sixteen great states and five hundred
medium-sized states, every soul guilty of one, two or three
of the cardinal sins was a member of his group. They gathered
about him as the various rivers gather in the great ocean,
or as plants and trees gather on a great mountain. As wise
men gathered about Shariputra, and those of occult powers
flocked to Maudgalyayana, so did men of evil bent throw
in their lot with Devadatta.
As a result, the great earth, which is
168,000 yojana thick and rests on a windy circle
as hard as a diamond, nevertheless split open, plunging
Devadatta alive into the hell of incessant suffering. His
leading disciple Kokalika also fell into hell alive, as
did the female Brahman Chinchamanavika, King Virudhaka and
Sunakshatra the monk. Moreover, the people of the five regions
of India with its sixteen great states, five hundred medium-sized
states and ten thousand small states all observed this.
Those in the six heavens of the world of desire and in the
four meditation heavens, all beings in both the worlds of
form and formlessness, including Bonten, Taishaku, the Devil
of the Sixth Heaven and King Emma, likewise witnessed their
All the beings throughout the major world
system and the entire universe heard about this, and unanimously
concluded that, even though as many kalpas should pass as
there are dust particles on the earth, Devadatta and the
others would never escape from the hell of incessant suffering,
and though the stone that marks the duration of a kalpa
might be worn completely away, they would continue to suffer
in the great citadel of the Avichi Hell. How astounding,
then, that in the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra,
Shakyamuni should reveal that Devadatta was his teacher
in a past existence and should predict that he would attain
enlightenment in the future as a Buddha called Heavenly
King! If the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra are
true, then the Lotus Sutra must be an outrageous lie. But
if the Lotus Sutra is true, then the previous sutras must
be guilty of perpetrating the wildest deceptions.
If Devadatta, who committed three of the
five cardinal sins, and in addition was guilty of countless
other grave offenses, could become the Buddha Heavenly King,
then there can be no doubt that the other evildoers who
committed only one or two of the cardinal sins will surely
attain enlightenment as well. For if something is capable
of overturning the great earth itself, then it can surely
overturn mere plants and trees. And if something can crush
the hardest stone, it can certainly bend the pliant grasses.
Therefore the Lotus Sutra is called myo.
Coming now to the subject of women, we
find that they are strongly condemned in both the Buddhist
and non-Buddhist writings. The works known as the Three
Records and Five Canons of the Three Rulers and Five Emperors
of ancient China depict them as fawning and perverse. For
this reason, disaster is said to have come about because
of the three evil women of antiquity. Thus women are identified
as the cause of the downfall of a nation and its people.
The Kegon Sutra, the first great Buddhist
doctrine that the Buddha preached following his enlightenment
states: Women are messengers of hell who can destroy the
seeds of Buddhahood. They may look like bodhisattvas, but
at heart they are like yaksha demons." And the Nirvana
Sutra, the Buddhas last teaching which he delivered
in the grove of sal trees, says, "All rivers and streams
are invariably winding and devious, and all women are invariably
fawning and perverse." And it also says, "If all
the desires and delusions of all the men throughout the
major world system were lumped together, they would be no
greater than the karmic impediment of one single woman."
When the Kegon Sutra says that women "can
destroy the seeds of Buddhahood," it means that they
scorch and burn up the seeds that would otherwise allow
them to attain Buddhahood. When cloud masses form in the
sky during a time of great drought and heavy rain falls
on the earth, then countless withered plants and trees everywhere
will put forth blossoms and bear fruit. But this is not
true of seeds that have been scorched. They will never sprout;
rather the heavy rain makes them rot.
Now the Buddha is like the masses of clouds,
his teachings are like the heavy rain, and the withered
plants and trees are like all living beings. When they are
watered by the rain of the Buddhist teachings and observe
the five precepts, the ten good precepts and the meditational
practices, all of which bring merit, then they will put
forth blossoms and bear fruit. But the scorched seeds never
sprout even though the rain falls on them, but instead rot.
They are comparable to women who, though they encounter
the Buddhist teachings, cannot free themselves from the
sufferings of birth and death but instead turn away from
the truth of Buddhism and fall into the evil paths. This
is what the sutra means when it says that women "can
destroy the seeds of Buddhahood."
The passage in the Nirvana Sutra cited
above says that, just as all rivers and streams twist and
wind, so too are women perverse and devious. Because water
is a fluid substance, block its path with some hard object
such as a rock or a mountain, and it will split into two
streams or turn aside, flowing now this way, now that. Women
are the same, their minds are soft and weak. Though they
may believe that a certain course is right, if they come
up against the strong will of a man and find their way blocked,
then they will turn in some direction quite different from
the one they originally intended.
Again, though you may trace pictures on
the surface of the water, nothing of what you have drawn
will remain. Women are the same, for lack of steadfastness
is their basic character. Hence they will think a certain
way at one moment, and then a moment later have quite a
different view. But the basic character of a Buddha is honesty
and straightforwardness. Hence women, with their devious
ways, can never become Buddhas.
Women are doomed to the five obstacles
and the three types of obedience. Hence the Gonjikinyo Sutra
says, "Though the eyes of all the Buddhas of the past,
present and future were to fall to the ground a woman could
still never become a Buddha."
And the Daichido Ron says, "You could
sooner catch the wind than grasp the mind of a woman."
Yet though all female beings were so despised
in the various sutras, when Bodhisattva Monjushiri spoke
the single character myo, a woman was instantly able
to become a Buddha. So extraordinary was this occurrence
that Bodhisattva Chishaku, the foremost disciple of Taho
Buddha in the world of Treasure Purity, and Shariputra,
who was known among Shakyamuni Buddhas disciples as
the foremost in wisdom, protested. They said that according
to all the Mahayana and Hinayana sutras that the Buddha
had preached in the previous forty years and more, the dragon
kings daughter could not possibly become a Buddha.
And yet in the end their arguments were of no avail and
in fact she did become a Buddha.
Thus the passage in the Buddhas first
sutra declaring that women "can destroy the seeds of
Buddhahood," and that in his final sermon in the sal
grove about how "all rivers and streams are invariably
winding and devious," were utterly contradicted, and
the mirror or diviners tortoise shell of the Gonjikinyo
Sutra and the Daichido Ron were proven to be nonsense. Chishaku
and Shariputra were obliged to still their tongues and shut
their mouths, while all the human and heavenly beings present
at the great gathering where the Lotus Sutra was preached
pressed their palms together in an excess of joy. All this
was due entirely to the virtue of the single character myo.
In the continent of Jambudvipa in the southern
region of the world, there are 2,500 rivers, and every single
one of them is winding. They are devious like the minds
of the women of Jambudvipa. And yet there is one river called
the Shabaya that follows a course as straight as a taut
rope, flowing directly into the western sea. A woman who
has faith in the Lotus Sutra will be like this river, proceeding
directly to the Pure Land in the west. Such is the virtue
inherent in the single character myo.
Myo means to revive, that is, to return
to life. This is like the yellow cranes chick. It
is said that though the chick may die, if the mother crane
calls the name of Tzu-an, then the dead chick will come
back to life again. Or it is like the case of the fish and
shellfish that have been killed because a poisonous secretary
bird has entered the water. If they are touched with a rhinoceros
horn, we are told, they will all be brought back to life.
Similarly, persons of the two vehicles, those of incorrigible
disbelief and women were described in the sutras that preceded
the Lotus Sutra as having scorched and killed the seeds
that would have allowed them to attain Buddhahood. But by
holding fast to this single character myo, they can
revive the scorched seeds of Buddhahood.
Tien-tai says, "The icchantika
nevertheless have minds, and so it is still possible for
them to attain Buddhahood. But persons of the two vehicles
have annihilated consciousness, and therefore cannot arouse
the mind which aspires to enlightenment. And yet the Lotus
Sutra can cure them, which is why it is called myo."
Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "The reason that
the other sutras are called dai or great
but not myo is simply that it is easy to cure those
who have a mind, but difficult to cure those who are without
a mind. Because it [the Lotus Sutra] can cure that which
is thought to be incurable, it is called myo or mystic."
These passages refer to the fact that sutras
such as the Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra, Daijuku Sutra,
Daibon Hannya Sutra and Dainehan Sutra all have the character
dai in their titles but not the character myo.
This is because they can cure only the living but cannot
cure the dead. The Lotus Sutra, however, can cure the dead
as well as the living, and therefore it has the character
myo in its title.
Thus, with the other sutras, persons who
should become Buddhas are unable to do so. But with the
Lotus Sutra, even those who would ordinarily find it impossible
to do so can attain Buddhahood, not to mention those for
whom it is relatively easy. This being the case, in the
time since the Lotus Sutra was preached, there ought not
to be a single person who puts faith in the other sutras.
Now the two thousand years of the Former
and Middle Days of the Law have passed, and we have entered
the Latter Day of the Law. In such an age, it is ten billion
times more difficult for ordinary people to attain Buddhahood
than it was for even the persons of the two vehicles or
those of incorrigible disbelief who lived when the Buddha
was alive. And yet people nowadays think that by relying
on the Kammuryoju Sutra or some other of the sutras preached
in the forty-odd years before the Lotus Sutra, they can
escape the sufferings of birth and death. How futile, how
Women, whether they live at the time of
the Buddha or in the Former, Middle or Latter Day of the
Law cannot attain Buddhahood through any teaching but the
Lotus Sutra. None of the other sutras expounded by any of
the Buddhas anywhere can help them. The Great Teacher Tien-tai,
who heard the Buddhas teachings at Eagle Peak and
later attained an awakening in the place of meditation,
has stated unequivocally: "The other sutras predict
Buddhahood for men only and not for women. Only this sutra
predicts Buddhahood for all."
Shakyamuni Buddha, in the presence of Taho
Buddha and the other Buddhas of the ten directions, preached
the Lotus Sutra over a period of eight years at the place
called Eagle Peak northeast of Rajagriha, the capital of
the kingdom of Magadha. The Great Teacher Tien-tai
was present and heard him preach. "During my fifty
or more years of teaching," said the Buddha, "I
have preached various sacred doctrines, all in order to
bring benefit to living beings. In the sutras of the first
forty-two years, I taught that it was not possible for women
to attain Buddhahood. But now with the Lotus Sutra I declare
that women can become Buddhas."
Northeast of Eagle Peak, at a distance
of some 108,000 ri beyond the mountains and seas,
there is a country called Mahachina in Sanskrit. We know
it as China. Some fifteen hundred years after the Buddhas
passing, there appeared in this country a messenger of the
Buddha called the Great Teacher Tien-tai who
declared that women could never attain Buddhahood through
any teaching other than the Lotus Sutra.
Three thousand ri to the east of
China there is a country called Japan. Some two hundred
years after the Great Teacher Tien-tai passed
away, he was reborn in this country and bore the name of
the Great Teacher Dengyo. He then wrote a work entitled
Hokke Shuku in which he stated: "Neither teachers 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 he made clear why the dragon kings daughter was
able to become a Buddha.
It may seem somewhat difficult for women
of the age we live in to attain Buddhahood without changing
their present form. But if they put their trust in the Lotus
Sutra, there is no doubt that they will be reborn in the
Pure Land of Perfect Bliss when they die. They will reach
it more readily than the rivers and streams flowing into
the great ocean, or more swiftly than the rain falling from
And yet we find that the women throughout
Japan do not chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Instead they put
their faith in works such as the Muryoju Sutra or the Kammuryoju
Sutra, which can never lead women to the Pure Land or to
Buddhahood. They intone the name of the Buddha Amida sixty
thousand or a hundred thousand times a day. Amida is indeed
the name of a Buddha, and to invoke it would seem to be
a laudable practice. But because the women who do so are
relying upon sutras that deny that women can ever attain
Buddhahood, they are in effect merely counting other peoples
riches. And this comes about solely because they are led
astray by evil teachers. The women throughout Japan face
an enemy more fearful than tigers or wolves, mountain bandits
or pirates at sea, their parents foes or their husbands
concubines. Their real enemies are the persons who, instead
of teaching them to rely on the Lotus Sutra, teach them
Women who put their faith in the Lotus
Sutra should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo sixty thousand, a
hundred thousand, or even ten million times a day, and after
that, if they still have some time to spare, they may now
and then murmur to themselves the name of Amida or one of
the other Buddhas. But women these days spend their whole
lives constantly reciting the name of Amida and busying
themselves with matters that concern the Nembutsu. They
never recite the Lotus Sutra or give alms for its sake.
True, there are a few of them who have the Lotus Sutra read
by priests who follow its teachings. But they look up to
the Nembutsu priests as though they were their parents or
brothers, and treat the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra
with less respect than they would their retainers or followers.
And yet they claim that they are believers in the Lotus
By contrast, Lady Jotoku gave permission
for her sons, the two princes, to enter the Buddhist Order
and encouraged them to propagate the Lotus Sutra. Moreover,
the dragon kings daughter took a vow, saying, "I
will reveal the teachings of the Great Vehicle and bring
release to suffering beings." These women surely took
no vow to practice only the teachings of the other sutras
and to neglect the practice of the Lotus Sutra. Nevertheless,
that is what the women of today do, paying all their attention
to the practice of other sutras and none to that of the
Lotus Sutra. You must change your ways immediately. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
Completed at the Hour of the Sheep (2:00
P.M.) at Seicho-ji temple on the sixth day of the first
month of the third year of Bunei (1266), the year
with the cyclical sign hinoe-tora.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,