Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment
I deeply appreciate your visit here and
your constant concern over the numerous persecutions which
have befallen me. I have met these great persecutions as
the votary of the Lotus Sutra and do not regret them in
the slightest. No life could be more fortunate than mine,
no matter how many times one might repeat the cycle of birth
and death. [Were it not for these troubles,] I might have
remained in the three or four evil paths. But now, to my
great joy, I am sure to sever the cycle of the sufferings
of birth and death and attain the fruit of Buddhahood.
Tien-tai and Dengyo were subjected
to hate and jealousy merely because they propagated the
doctrine of the theoretical three thousand realms
in a single moment of life of the first half of the
Lotus Sutra. In Japan this doctrine was propagated and handed
down successively by Dengyo, Gishin,1
Jikaku and others. Among the many disciples who followed
the Great Teacher Jie,3
the eighteenth chief priest of the Tendai sect, were Danna,4
At that time the sects teachings were divided in two:
the administrator of monks Danna transmitted the doctrinal
studies while the supervisor of monks Eshin devoted himself
to the meditative practices. Doctrinal studies are comparable
to the moon and meditative practices to the sun. Doctrinal
studies are shallow, while meditative practices are deep.
The teachings expounded by Danna were therefore broad but
shallow, while Eshins teachings were deep but limited.
The teaching that I, Nichiren, am now propagating
may seem limited, but it is actually exceedingly profound.
This is because it goes deeper than the teachings expounded
by Tien-tai and Dengyo. It consists of the three
contained in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching.
To practice only the seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
may appear limited, yet since this Law is the master of
all the Buddhas of the three existences, the teacher of
all the bodhisattvas in the ten directions, and the guide
that enables all living beings to attain the Buddha way,
its practice is incomparably profound.
The sutra states, "The wisdom of the
Buddhas is infinitely profound and immeasurable."9
"The Buddhas" means every Buddha throughout the
ten directions in the three existences. It represents every
single Buddha and bodhisattvas of any sutra or sect whatsoever,
including both the Thus Come One Dainichi of the Shingon
sect and Amida of the Pure Land sect, every Buddha of the
past, the future or the present, including the present Thus
Come One Shakyamuni himself. The sutra refers to the wisdom
of all these Buddhas.
What is meant by the wisdom
of the Buddhas! It is the entity of the true aspect, or
the ten factors, of all phenomena, the entity that leads
all beings to Buddhahood. What then is the entity! It is
nothing other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. A commentary states
that the profound principle of the true aspect is the originally
inherent Law of Myoho-renge-kyo.10
The true aspect of all phenomena indicates the two Buddhas
Shakyamuni and Taho [seated together in the treasure tower].
Taho represents all phenomena and Shakyamuni, the true aspect.
The two Buddhas also indicate the two principles of the
truth as object and the wisdom to grasp it. Taho signifies
the truth , as object and Shakyamuni, the wisdom. Although
these are two, they are fused into one in the Buddhas
These teachings are of prime importance.
They mean that earthly desires are enlightenment and that
the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Even during
the physical union of man and woman, when one chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
then earthly desires are enlightenment and the sufferings
of birth and death are nirvana. Sufferings are nirvana only
when one realizes that life throughout its cycle of birth
and death is neither born nor destroyed. These principles
are what is meant by the following passages. The Fugen
Sutra states, Without cutting off earthly desires
and separating themselves from the five desires,11
they can purify their senses and wipe away their offenses.
It is stated in the Maka shikan that the ignorance
and dust of desires are enlightenment and the sufferings
of birth and death are nirvana. The Juryo chapter
of the Lotus Sutra says, At all times I think to myself:
How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed
way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha? And
the Hoben chapter states, All the characteristics
of the world are eternal. The entity is none other
It was this most august and precious Lotus
Sutra which in past existences I put under my knees, despised,
scowled upon in disgust and refused to believe in. In one
way or another, I maliciously ridiculed people who studied
the Lotus Sutra and who taught it to others, even if only
to a single person, thereby passing on the Law for the future.
In addition, I did everything I could to hinder people from
embracing the sutra by asserting that they should set it
aside for a while because, though it might be suitable for
practice in their next lifetime, it would be too difficult
for them to practice in this lifetime.12
Slanderous acts such as these have now brought on the many
severe persecutions I have suffered in my lifetime. Because
I once disparaged the Lotus Sutra, the highest of all sutras,
I am now looked down upon and my words go unheeded. The
Hiyu chapter states that other people will neither
concern themselves with nor have sympathy for one even though
one sincerely tries to be friendly with them.
As a votary of the Lotus Sutra, you suffered
severe persecutions, yet still you came to my assistance.
In the Hosshi chapter the Buddha states that he will send
the four kinds of believers, magically conjured, monks and
nuns and laymen and laywomen [for the sake of the teachers
of the Law]. If you are not one of these laymen, then to
whom else could the passage possibly refer? You have not
only heard the Law, but have taken faith in it and since
then have followed it without turning aside. How wondrous!
How extraordinary! Then how can there be any doubt that
I, Nichiren, am the teacher of the Lotus Sutra? In other
words, I almost resemble "the envoy of the Thus Come
One"; I am carrying out "the Thus Come Ones
I have propagated the five characters of the daimoku which
were entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo when the two Buddhas
were seated together within the treasure tower. Does this
not indicate that I am an envoy of Bodhisattva Jogyo? Moreover,
following me, you as a votary of the Lotus Sutra also tell
others of this Law. What else could this be but the transmission
of the Law?
Carry through with your faith in the Lotus
Sutra. You cannot strike fire from flint if you stop halfway.
Bring forth the great power of faith and establish your
reputation among all the people of Kamakura and the rest
of Japan as Shijo Kingo of the Hokke sect.14
Even a bad reputation will spread far and wide. A good reputation
will spread even farther, particularly if it is a reputation
for devotion to the Lotus Sutra.
Explain all this to your wife, and work
together like the sun and the moon, a pair of eyes or the
two wings of a bird. With the sun and the moon, how can
you fall into the path of darkness? With a pair of eyes,
how can you fail to behold the faces of Shakyamuni, Taho
and all the Buddhas of the ten directions? With a pair of
wings, you will surely be able to fly in an instant to the
treasure land of Tranquil Light. I will write in more detail
on another occasion.
With my deep respect,
The second day of the fifth month
Reply to Shijo Kingo
- Gishin (781-833): See P. 22, footnote 56.
- Encho (771-836): Second chief priest of Enryaku-ji
temple. He ultimately corrupted the Tendai doctrines by
incorporating into them the esoteric teachings of Shingon.
- Jie (912-985): Eighteenth chief priest of Enryaku-ji
temple, a position he assumed at the age of fifty-five.
As chief priest he fostered many capable diciples and
contributed greatly to the restoration of the Tendai doctrines
and the development of the temple.
- Danna (953-1007): Another name for Kaku'un, the founder
of the Danna school of the Tendai sect. His name derives
from the fact that he lived in Danna-in sub-temple on
Mt. Hiei. Among Jie's disciples, Danna and Eshin were
regarded as the two most distinguished Tendai scholars.
- Eshin (942-1017): Another name for Genshin, the founder
ofthe Eshin school of the Tendai sect. The name Eshin
comes from Eshin-in sub-temple on Mt. Hiei.
- Soga (917- 1003): One of the disciples of Jie. He led
a very humble life in his Buddhist practice, heedless
of fame or personal interest. It is said that he presented
such a shabby, wretched appearance that people mocked
him as a madman. In his later years, however, he
is said to have gained wide respect and fostered many
- Zen'yu: One of the four main disciples of Jie. Details
about him are unknown.
- Three important matters: The Three Great Secret Laws:
the true object of worship, the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
and the high sanctuary.
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
- Source unknown.
- Five desires: Desires arising from the contact of the
five sensory organs (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and
skin) with the five sensory objects (form, sound, smell,
taste, and texture).
- According to the Pure Land sect, the Lotus Sutra is
too profound to be understood by common mortals in the
evil Latter Day of the Law, and it is therefore a waste
of time to embrace it in this lifetime. Rather, they assert,
one should chant the Nembutsu and obtain rebirth in the
Pure Land, where he can then practice the Lotus Sutra
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
- Hokke sect: The orthodox stream of Buddhism. It originally
indicated T'ien-t'ai's teachings which are based on the
Lotus Sutra. Here it refers to the Daishonin's teachings.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol 2.