The Entity of the Mystic Law
- Totaigi Sho -
Question: The lotus of the entity of the
Mystic Law is difficult to understand, and therefore metaphor
is used to make the meaning clear. But is there any example
in the sutras to support such a practice?
Answer: The sutra says: "[They are]
unsoiled by worldly things like the lotus flower in the
water. Emerging from the earth..." Here we see that
the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are the lotus of the entity
of the Mystic Law, and that the lotus is being used here
as a simile. But I will write to you about this again at
some future time.
This teaching represents the ultimate principle
of the entire Lotus Sutra. It is the ultimate purpose of
Shakyamuni Buddhas advent, as well as the heart and
core of the Lotus Sutra, which was entrusted to the great
bodhisattvas who sprang up out of the earth so that they
might spread it widely in the Latter Day of the Law. Only
when the ruler of our nation has shown himself to have faith
may this doctrine be revealed. But until then it should
remain a secret teaching. I have just completed transmitting
it to you, Sairen-bo.
Question: What is the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo?
Answer: All beings and their environments in any of the
Ten Worlds are themselves the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo.
Question: If so, then is it possible to
say that all living beings, such as ourselves, are entities
of the Mystic Law in its entirety?
Answer: Of course. The sutra says: "This
reality [of all phenomena] consists of the appearance, nature...
and their consistency from beginning to end."1
The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this
as follows: "The true entity is invariably revealed
in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably possess the
ten factors. The ten factors invariably function within
the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably entail both
life and its environment."2
Tien-tai comments: "All
phenomena consisting of the ten factors, Ten Worlds and
three thousand realms are the entities of the Lotus Sutra."3
The Great Teacher Nan-yueh says: "Question:
What does Myoho-renge-kyo represent? Answer: Myo
indicates that all living beings are myo or mystic.
Ho indicates that all living beings are ho
or the Law." And Tien-tai also says, "The
Law of all living beings is mystic."4
Question: If the entity of all living beings
is the Mystic Law in its entirety, then are all the actions
and their results that are associated with the nine worlds,
from Hell up to Bodhisattva, in effect the entity of the
Answer: The mystic principle that is the
essential nature of phenomena possesses two aspects, the
defiled aspect and the pure aspect. If the defiled aspect
is operative, this is called delusion. If the pure aspect
is operative, this is called enlightenment. Enlightenment
constitutes the realm of Buddhahood. Delusion constitutes
the realms of common mortals.
These two aspects, the deluded and the
enlightened, are indeed two different phenomena, and yet
both are workings of the one principle, that is, the essential
nature of phenomena, or the true aspect of reality. It is
like a piece of crystal. If the crystal is placed in the
suns rays, it will attract them and produce fire.
But if it is placed in the moons rays, it will produce
water. The crystal is a single entity, but the effects it
produces differ according to the circumstances.
The mystic principle of the true aspect
of reality is like this. The mystic principle of the true
aspect of reality is one, but if it encounters evil influences
it will manifest delusion, while if it encounters good influences
it will manifest enlightenment. Enlightenment means enlightenment
to the essential nature of phenomena, and delusion, ignorance
It is like the case of a person who in
a dream sees himself performing various good and evil actions.
After he wakes up and considers the matter, he realizes
that it was all a dream produced by his own mind. This mind
of his corresponds to the single principle of the essential
nature of phenomena, the true aspect of reality, while the
good and evil that appeared in the dream correspond to enlightenment
and delusion, or ignorance, respectively. When one becomes
aware of this, it is clear that one should discard the ignorance
associated with evil and delusion and take as ones
basis the awakening that is characterized by goodness and
The Daiengaku shutara ryogi Sutra
declares: "The beginningless illusions and ignorance
that beset all living beings are all produced by the perfectly
enlightened mind of the Thus Come Ones."5
The Great Teacher Tien-tai
in his Maka shikan states: "Ignorance and delusion
have as their essence enlightenment. But because of delusion,
ignorance becomes manifest rather than enlightenment."
The Great Teacher Miao-lo comments on this as follows: "Enlightenment
has no separate entity, but is completely dependent upon
ignorance; and ignorance has no separate entity, but is
completely dependent upon enlightenment."6
Ignorance is a state of delusion that must
be cut off, whereas enlightenment is the state that one
must manifest. How then can we say that they are a single
entity? To resolve doubts on this point, one should have
a clear grasp of the passages that have been quoted here.
The example of the dream given in the ninety-fifth volume
of the Daichido ron and the Tendai schools
example7 of the piece
of crystal cited above are very interesting illustrations.
Further proof of the truth that ignorance
and enlightenment are one in entity is found in the passage
in the Lotus Sutra that reads: "All these phenomena
are aspects of an abiding Law, and all the characteristics
of the world are eternal."8
The Daichido ron says: "Enlightenment and ignorance
are not different things, not separate things. To understand
this is what is called the Middle Way."
There are many passages of proof asserting
that the mystic principle of the true aspect of reality
possesses two aspects, the defiled and the pure. But none
can surpass the one in the Kegon Sutra that says,
"The mind, the Buddha and all living beings -- these
three things are without distinction," or the passage
in the Lotus Sutra that describes the true aspect of all
The Great Teacher Nan-yueh says: "The
entity of the mind is endowed with two aspects, the defiled
and the pure. However, it does not have two different forms,
but is single in nature and without distinction."9
And the example of the mirror10
that he gives truly presents a thorough explanation of the
For a more detailed understanding, one
may also refer to his interpretations in the Daijo Shikan.11
Another good explanation is given in the
sixth volume of Miao-los Hokke gengi shakusen,
in the passage that reads: "While the three thousand
realms remain latent [in ordinary beings], they are all
designated by the term ignorance. But when the
three thousand realms all manifest themselves as the result
[of Buddhahood], then they are all designated by the term
eternal happiness! However, because the three
thousand realms themselves remain unchanged, ignorance is
essentially one with enlightenment. Since the three thousand
realms all remain constant, they possess both entity and
function.12 This commentary
makes the matter perfectly clear.
Question: If all living beings are the
entity of Myoho-renge-kyo, then are common mortals like
ourselves who are ignorant and deluded, unenlightened and
dull-witted, also the entity of the Mystic Law?
Answer: Though there are a great many persons
in the world today, they all fall into two categories--those
who believe in the provisional teachings and those who believe
in the true teaching. Those who believe in the provisional
and expedient teachings such as the Nembutsu cannot be called
the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo. But those who believe in
the Lotus Sutra, which is the true teaching, are the entity
of Myoho-renge-kyo, the mystic entity of the true aspect
of reality. The Nirvana Sutra says: "Among all living
beings, those who believe in the Mahayana are called the
The Great Teacher Nan-yueh in his Shianrakugyo
writes: "The Daigo shojin Sutra says: Ordinary
beings and the Thus Come One share a single Dharma body.
Being pure and mystic beyond comparison, it is called Myoho-renge-kyo."
He also says: "Those who practice the Lotus Sutra are
pursuing through this single act of devotion the mind that
is endowed with all manner of fortunate results. These are
present simultaneously and are not acquired gradually over
a long period of time. This is like the blossom of the lotus
which, when it opens, already possesses a large number of
seeds or results. Hence such persons are called the people
of the one vehicle." He also says: "The people
of the two vehicles and the bodhisattvas of inferior capacity
choose to follow the way of expedient means, practicing
methods that assure gradual progress over a long period
of time. But the bodhisattvas of superior capacity honestly
discard expedient means and do not carry out the practice
of gradual progress. If they are able to complete the meditation
based on the Lotus Sutra, then they will thereby possess
all manner of fortunate results. Persons such as these are
called the people of the one vehicle."
The phrase "practice of gradual progress"
that appears in this commentary by Nan-yueh has been interpreted
by the scholars of our time to refer to the specific teaching.
In fact, however, it refers to the way of expedient means,
as opposed to the way of the Lotus Sutra, which is endowed
simultaneously with causes and results. Hence the term "practice
of gradual progress" includes the perfect teachings
preached before the Lotus Sutra, the various Mahayana sutras
preached before the Lotus Sutra, and the Mahayana and Hinayana
sutras that belong to the sudden and gradual teachings.
As proof, we may cite the following passage
in the Muryogi Sutra: "Then I preached the twelve
divisions of the Hodo sutras,13
the Makahannya Sutra and the Kegon teaching
of the ocean-imprint meditation, describing the many kalpas
of practice for bodhisattvas."
But the bodhisattvas of superior capacity
honestly discard expedient means and do not carry out the
practice of gradual progress. They practice the Lotus Sutra,
and when they attain its truth, they simultaneously acquire
all manner of fortunate results. Persons such as these are
called the people of the one vehicle.
When we consider the meaning of these various
passages, we understand that none of the ordinary persons
and sages of the three vehicles, the five vehicles,14
the seven expedient means, the nine worlds or the four flavors
and three teachings can be called Mahayana followers who
are the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo. Though there are Buddhas
in these teachings, they are Buddhas of the provisional
teachings and cannot be called Buddhas in the true sense.
This is because the Buddhas of the provisional teachings
in their three bodies15
have not yet freed themselves from impermanence. How then
could beings in realms other than Buddhahood be called [the
entity of Myoho-renge-kyo]? That is why it is said that
a person of humble station born in the Latter Day of the
Law is more worthy of respect than the kings and high ministers
who lived during the two thousand years of the Former and
Nan-yueh says in his commentary: "All
living beings have within themselves the storehouse of the
Dharma body, and therefore they are in no way different
from the Buddha."16
That is why the Lotus Sutra says: "The pure and ordinary
eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind that one received
at birth from ones father and mother are also like
Nan-yueh also writes: "Question: In
what sutra does the Buddha explain the eyes and the other
sense organs and designate them by the name Thus Come One?
Answer: The Daigo shojin Sutra says: Ordinary
beings and the Thus Come One share a single Dharma body.
Being pure and mystic beyond comparison, it is called Myoho-renge-kyo."18
This comes from a sutra other than the Lotus, but since
the Lotus later clarified the same point, it is all right
to quote it here.
If we take up the word "share"
that is used in this passage of the Daigo shojin
Sutra and apply it in our argument, we may say that those
who share in and believe in the Lotus Sutra are the entity
of that mystic sutra. But those who do not share in it,
such as the Nembutsu believers, are not the entity of the
mystic sutra because their inherent Buddha nature is being
faced away from the Thus Come One of the Dharma body.
In essence, the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo
is the physical body that the disciples and followers of
Nichiren who believe in the Lotus Sutra received from their
fathers and mothers at birth. Such persons, who honestly
discard expedient means, put faith in the Lotus Sutra alone
and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, will transform the three
paths of earthly desires, karma and suffering into the three
virtues of the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation. The
threefold contemplation and the three truths19
will immediately become manifest in their minds, and the
place where they live will become the Land of Eternally
Tranquil Light. The Buddha who is the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo,
of the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching, who
is both inhabiting subject and inhabited realm, life and
environment, body and mind, entity and function, the Buddha
eternally endowed with the three bodies--he is to be found
in the disciples and followers of Nichiren. Such persons
embody the true entity of Myoho-renge-kyo; these are the
meritorious workings that the spontaneous transcendental
powers inherent in it display. Could anyone venture to doubt
it? Indeed it cannot be doubted!
Question: The Great Teacher Tien-tai
has explained that the term Myoho-renge is used in two different
senses, one meaning the entity of Myoho-renge and the other
being figurative in meaning. What are these two kinds of
renge or lotus?
Answer: The figurative renge or
lotus is explained in detail in the three metaphors of the
lotus blossom enfolding the seed, the lotus blossom opening
to reveal the seed inside, and the lotus blossom falling
blossom enfolding the seed, the lotus blossom opening to
reveal the seed inside, and the lotus blossom falling and
the seed ripening, so one should refer to them. The lotus
that is the entity of Myoho-renge is explained in the seventh
volume of the Hokke gengi as follows: "Renge
or lotus is not a symbol; it is the actual name of the entity.
For example, at the beginning of the kalpa of continuance,
the various things in the world had no names. The sage observed
the principles that govern them and on that basis made up
names for them." And he also writes: "Now the
name renge is not intended as a symbol for anything.
It is the teaching expounded in the Lotus Sutra. The teaching
expounded in the Lotus Sutra is pure and undefiled and explains
the subtleties of cause and effect. Therefore, it is called
renge or lotus. This name designates the true entity
that the meditation based on the Lotus Sutra reveals, and
is not a metaphor or figurative term."
The Great Teacher Tien-tai
also writes: "Question: Does the term renge
in fact mean the renge or lotus that is the essence
of the meditation based on the Lotus Sutra? Or does it in
fact mean the ordinary lotus that is a species of plant?"
"Answer: It in fact refers to the
lotus that is the essence of the Lotus Sutra. But because
the essence of the Lotus Sutra is difficult to understand,
the metaphor of the lotus plant is introduced. A person
of sharp faculties will hear the name and immediately grasp
the principle. He has no need to rely upon a metaphor but
can understand the Lotus Sutra directly. But a person of
intermediate or inferior perception will not understand
immediately. Only through the medium of a metaphor will
he be able to understand. Thus the easily understood metaphor
of an actual lotus plant is used to make clear the difficult-to-understand
lotus that is the essence of the Lotus Sutra."
"Thus, in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha
employed three cycles of preaching in accordance with the
respective understanding of those of superior, intermediate
and inferior capacity. For persons of superior capacity,
the renge or lotus that is the name of the Law was
taught. But for persons of intermediate or inferior capacity,
the lotus was used as a metaphor or symbol. As long as one
understands that the word is being used both as a name for
the Law itself and as a metaphor, depending upon which of
the three groups of persons is being addressed, then there
should be no reason to argue over it."20
This passage of commentary means that the
supreme principle [that is the Mystic Law] was originally
without a name. When the sage was observing the principle
and assigning names to all things, he perceived that there
is this wonderful single Law [myoho] which simultaneously
possesses both cause and effect [renge], and he named
it Myoho-renge. This single Law that is Myoho-renge encompasses
within it all the phenomena comprising the Ten Worlds and
the three thousand realms, and is lacking in none of them.
Anyone who practices this Law will obtain both the cause
and the effect of Buddhahood simultaneously.
The sage practiced with this Law as his
teacher and attained enlightenment, and therefore he simultaneously
obtained both the mystic cause and the mystic effect of
Buddhahood, becoming the Thus Come One of perfect enlightenment
and fully realized virtues.
Thus the Great Teacher Dengyo writes: "A
single mind, the entity of Myoho-renge, simultaneously brings
to maturity both the blossom of cause and the calyx of effect.
The three cycles of preaching that the Buddha employed each
contain both the lotus that is the entity and the lotus
that is a metaphor. The Lotus Sutra as a whole consists
of both entity and metaphor. In particular we may note the
seven parables, the three equalities and the ten peerlessnesses,
which each contain the lotus of the entity. And the teaching
that fully sets forth this principle is called Myoho-renge-kyo,
[the Lotus Sutra]."21
The Great Teacher Miao-lo says: "When
interpreting the seven parables, one should understand the
renge or lotus in each of them in terms of the doctrine
of the provisional and true teachings. Why? Because these
lotuses are no more than metaphors for the fact that the
provisional teachings were set forth for the sake of the
true teaching, and that the provisional teachings are opened
in order to reveal the true teaching. All the seven parables
are to be understood in this way."22
In the beginning of the kalpa of continuance,
a plant existed. The sage observed its principle and gave
it the name renge or lotus. The lotus plant resembles
the principle of Myoho-renge in that it simultaneously contains
both cause [blossom] and effect [seed]. Hence the plant
came to bear the same name as the principle. The lotus that
grows in water is the lotus that is a plant, such as the
pink variety or the white variety. When we speak of the
figurative lotus or the lotus that is a metaphor, it is
this lotus plant we mean. This lotus plant is used to help
clarify the difficult concept of Myoho-renge. That is what
the Great Teacher Tien-tai means when he says
that through the use of this metaphor, the difficult-to-understand
Mystic Law is rendered more comprehensible.
Question: Since the beginning of the kalpa
of continuance, has anyone become enlightened to the lotus
that is the entity of the Mystic Law?
Answer: The Shakyamuni Buddha who lived
in a past even more distant than gohyaku-jintengo
became enlightened to the lotus that is the entity of the
Mystic Law. Thereafter, in age after age and lifetime after
lifetime, he declared that he had attained the way and he
revealed the fundamental principle of wisdom and reality.23
In our present world as well he appeared
in the kingdom of Magadha in central India, intending to
reveal this lotus of the Mystic Law. But the people lacked
the proper capacity and the time was not right. Therefore
he drew distinctions regarding this lotus of the single
Law and expounded it as three kinds of flowers, delivering
to the people the provisional teachings of the three vehicles.
For over forty years he guided and led them with these temporary
teachings according to their capacities. During this period,
because the capacities of the persons he addressed were
so varied, he bestowed upon them the various flowers and
plants of the provisional teachings, but he never spoke
of Myoho-renge. That is why, In the Muryogi Sutra,
the Buddha said: "In the past I sat upright in the
place of meditation [for six years] under the bodhi tree
... In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed
But when he preached the Lotus Sutra, he
cast aside the various plants and flowers of the Hinayana
doctrines and the provisional teachings, which correspond
to the expedient means of the four flavors and three teachings,
and explained the unique doctrine of Myoho-renge. When he
opened the three figurative lotuses to reveal the single
lotus of Myoho-renge, the people of the provisional teachings
with their four flavors and three teachings were able to
gain the lotus of the first of the ten stages of security.24
Not until he revealed the lotus of "opening the near
and revealing the distant" were they able to obtain
the lotus of the highest result, advancing to the second
stage of security, the third stage of security, the tenth
stage, the stage of near-perfect enlightenment25
and, finally, the highest stage of perfect enlightenment.
Question: Exactly which passages in which
chapters of the Lotus Sutra expound the lotus that is the
entity of the Mystic Law, and which ones expound the lotus
that is a metaphor?
Answer: If we speak in terms of the three
groups of voice hearers, then we would say that the whole
of the Hoben chapter expounds the lotus that is the
entity, while the Hiyu and Kejoyu chapters
expound the lotus that is a metaphor. However, it cannot
be said that explanations of the figurative lotus are entirely
lacking in the Hoben chapter, nor can it be said
that the other chapters are without explanation of the lotus
as the entity.
Question: If so, then what passage contains
a full elucidation of the entity?
Answer: The passage in the Hoben
chapter that deals with the true aspect of all phenomena.
Question: How do we know that this passage
deals with the lotus that is the entity?
Answer: Because Tien-tai and
Miao-lo quote this passage when they explain the essence
of the Lotus Sutra. And the Great Teacher Dengyo in his
commentary also writes: "Question: What is the essence
of the Lotus Sutra? Answer: Its essence is the true aspect
of all phenomena."26
This passage of commentary clarifies the matter. (Scholars
of the time kept this commentary secret and did not reveal
the name of the entity, but the passage is clearly referring
Furthermore, actual evidence of the entity
is to be found in the examples of the three kinds of Buddhas27
described in the Hoto chapter, the bodhisattvas who
appeared from the earth, and the dragon kings daughter
who attained Buddhahood in her present form. The Bodhisattvas
of the Earth offer actual evidence because, as a passage
of the Lotus Sutra says, "[They are unsoiled by worldly
things] like the lotus flower in the water."28
Thus we learn of the true entity of these bodhisattvas.
And the dragon kings daughter offers actual evidence
because she made her appearance at the gathering at Eagle
Peak, "seated on a thousand-petaled lotus blossom big
as a carriage wheel."29
Moreover, the thirty-four manifestations
of Bodhisattva Myoon and the thirty-three manifestations
of Bodhisattva Kannon constitute further evidence. For,
as the commentary says, "If he had not gained the mysterious
power of perfect freedom of action through the meditation
based on the Lotus Sutra, then how could he manifest these
thirty-three different forms?"30
In addition, there is the sutra passage
that states, "
all the characteristics of the
world are eternal." All these passages are documentary
proofs cited by the scholars of our time. Personally, however,
I prefer to cite the passage in the Hoben chapter
on the true aspect of all phenomena, and the passage in
the Jinriki chapter that refers to "all the
doctrines possessed by the Thus Come One."31
This last passage is also cited by the Great Teacher Tien-tai
in his commentary explaining the five major principles of
the Lotus Sutra. Therefore I feel that this passage in particular
can be cited as certain proof of the entity of the Mystic
Question: The documentary proofs and actual
proofs that you have cited above are particularly compelling.
But why do you place such emphasis upon this one passage
from the Jinriki chapter?
Answer: This passage is profoundly significant,
and that is why it is particularly pertinent.
Question: What is that profound significance?
Answer: In this passage, Shakyamuni Buddha
explains that he is entrusting to the Bodhisattvas of the
Earth, his original disciples, the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo,
which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra. Shakyamuni, who
attained enlightenment countless kalpas in the past, says
elsewhere, "By now the original vows that I made have
already been fulfilled. I have converted all living beings
and caused them all to enter the Buddha way."32
Thus, he has already fulfilled his earlier vow. Then, intending
to charge his disciples with the task of accomplishing widespread
propagation in the fifth five hundred years after his death,33
he called forth the Bodhisattvas of the Earth and entrusted
them with the heart of the sutra, the lotus of the entity
of the essential teaching. This passage represents the ultimate
purpose for which Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in the world,
the secret Law that he attained in the place of meditation.
It is this passage that gives proof of the lotus of the
entity that, for those of us who live in the Latter Day
of the Law, assures the attainment of Buddhahood in both
the present and future.
Accordingly, at the present time in the
Latter Day of the Law, other than the envoy of the Thus
Come One, there can be no one who understands and produces
this passage as proof of the lotus of the entity. Truly
it is a passage of secret meaning. Truly it is a matter
of great concern. Truly it is to be honored and admired.
(This is what is meant by the statement
in the Lotus Sutra that the bodhisattvas of the perfect
teachings preached before the sutra have assembled in a
multitude of eighty thousand, wishing to hear the teaching
of perfect endowment.34)
Question: Concerning the doctrines of our
school, when persons of other sects come and want to know
what passages give proof of the lotus of the entity, what
passages from the Lotus Sutra should be cited?
Answer: You should point to the title Myoho-renge-kyo
that appears at the very beginning of each of the twenty-eight
chapters of the Lotus Sutra.
Question: But how do we know that the title
Myoho-renge-kyo appearing in each chapter is the
lotus of the entity of the Mystic Law? I ask this because,
when the Great Teacher Tien-tai explained the
title of the Lotus Sutra, he interpreted the lotus in a
figurative manner, so that we would have to say that this
is the lotus that is a metaphor, would we not?
Answer: The renge or lotus in the
title of the sutra is explained as both entity and metaphor.
In the interpretation you have just referred to, Tien-tai
is explaining the lotus as a metaphor. This is what he does
in the first volume of the Hokke gengi where he discusses
the six metaphors of the theoretical and essential teachings.
But in the seventh volume of the same work, he interprets
the lotus as the entity of the Mystic Law. Thus Tien
tais doctrine is flawless in that it reveals
both interpretations, explaining the lotus in the title
of the sutra as both entity and metaphor.
Question: How do we know that these two
interpretations can be used and that the title can be taken
as both entity and metaphor? When the Great Teacher Nan-yueh
explained the five characters Myoho-renge-kyo, he said:
"Myo indicates that all living beings are myo
or mystic. Ho indicates that all living beings are
ho or the Law. Renge or lotus is a metaphor
that is employed here."35
It would seem, then, would it not, that both Nan-yueh and
Tien-tai interpreted the lotus as a metaphor?
Answer: Nan-yuehs interpretation
is like that of Tien-tai. While it is not entirely
clear from the sutras that there can be two interpretations,
that is, taking the lotus as both entity and metaphor, Nan-yueh
and Tien-tai discerned these two meanings through
the treatises of Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna.
That is to say, in the Hokke Ron
we read: "The words Myoho-renge have two meanings.
First, they signify the lotus that appears on the surface
of the water .... The way in which the lotus emerges from
the muddy water is used as a metaphor to explain that when
the Thus Come One joins the multitude of listeners, seats
himself on a lotus in the same manner as the various bodhisattvas,
and expounds on the unsurpassed wisdom of the Thus Come
One and on the enlightened state of purity, the various
voice-hearers, hearing this, are able to obtain the secret
storehouse of the Thus Come One. Second, the words Myoho-renge
signify the lotus opening up. [This is a metaphor explaining
that] ordinary beings, though exposed to the Mahayana teachings,
are timid and fearful in mind and incapable of taking faith
in them. Therefore the Thus Come One opens or reveals his
Dharma body in its purity and wonder, awakening in them
the mind of faith."
In this passage, the word "various"
in the phrase "the various bodhisattvas" refers
to the various bodhisattvas of the Mahayana and Hinayana
teachings who, arriving on the scene when the Lotus Sutra
is preached, are able, for the first time, to understand
the lotus of the Buddha. This is clear from the passage
in the Hokke ron just quoted. Therefore we know that
the statement that the bodhisattvas had already gained entrance
[to enlightenment] through the various sutras was no more
than an expedient.
Tien-tai explains this passage
of the Hokke ron as follows: "If we are to explain
the meaning of the treatise, we would say that when the
Thus Come One causes ordinary beings to see the Dharma body
in its purity and wonder, he is showing them the lotus that
opens through a mystic cause. And when the Thus Come One
enters the multitude of listeners and seats himself on a
lotus, he is showing them the lotus that is the realm produced
as a mystic result."36
Again, when Tien-tai wishes
to give a detailed explanation of the dual interpretation
of the lotus as both entity and metaphor, he quotes the
passage in the Daijuku Sutra that reads: "I
now bow in reverence before the lotus of the Buddha,"
and the passage in the Hokke ron that has just been
quoted, to support his argument. As he explains, "According
to the Daijuku Sutra, the lotus is both the cause
and the effect of religious practice. When the bodhisattvas
seat themselves on the lotus, this is the lotus of the cause.
But the lotus of the Buddha that one bows before in reverence
is the lotus of the effect. Or, if we go by the wording
of the Hokke ron, this is the lotus that is the realm
produced as a mystic result. That is, the bodhisattvas,
by practicing the Law of the lotus, are as a result able
to obtain the lotus of the realm. Thus we should understand
that the objective realm and the subjective being who depends
upon it, the cause [which is the bodhisattva and the effect
[which is the Buddha], are all the Law of the renge
or lotus. Therefore, what need is there to employ metaphors?
But because dull-witted people cannot understand the lotus
of the essential nature of phenomena, an ordinary lotus
is introduced as a metaphor to assist them. What harm is
there in that?"37
And elsewhere he says: "If we do not
use a lotus, then what are we to employ as a metaphor for
all the various teachings that have been described above?
It is because the Law and the metaphor are expounded side
by side that we refer to them by the phrase Myoho-renge."38
Next we come to the Daichido ron
of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, which states: "The lotus
represents both the Law itself and a metaphor for it."
The Great Teacher Dengyo, explaining these passages in the
treatises of Vasubandu and Nagarjuna, writes as follows:
"The passage in the Hokke ron says that the
lotus of what is called Myoho-renge-kyo has two meanings.
It does not say that an ordinary lotus has two meanings.
On the whole, what is admirable here is the fact that the
Law and the metaphor that is used for it resemble each other.
If they did not resemble each other, then how could the
metaphor help people understand the meaning? That is why
the Daichido ron says that the lotus is both the
Law itself and a metaphor for it. A single mind, the entity
of Myoho-renge, simultaneously brings to maturity both the
blossom of cause and the calyx of effect. This concept is
difficult to understand, but through the use of a metaphor,
it can be made easy to understand. The teaching that fully
sets forth this principle is called Myoho-renge-kyo."39
These passages from the treatises and their
explanations quoted here will make the matter clear, and
one should therefore examine them carefully. Nothing is
hidden or held back, and hence the dual explanations of
the lotus as both entity and metaphor are fully expounded.
In the final analysis, the meaning of the
Lotus Sutra is that the metaphor is none other than the
entity of the Law, and the entity of the Law is none other
than the metaphor. That is why the Great Teacher Dengyo
in his commentary says: "The Lotus Sutra contains a
great many metaphors and parables. However, when it comes
to the major parables, we find that there are seven of them.
These seven parables are none other than the entity of the
Law, and the entity of the Law is none other than these
metaphors and parables. Therefore there is no entity of
the Law outside of the metaphors and parables, and there
are no metaphors and parables outside of the entity of the
Law. In other words, the entity of the Law refers to the
entity of the truth of the essential nature of phenomena,
while the metaphors and parables represent the entity of
the Mystic Law as manifested in actual phenomena. The manifestations
are none other than the entity of the truth, and the entity
of the truth is none other than the manifestations. Therefore
it can be said that the Law and its metaphors constitute
a single entity. This is why the passages from the treatises
and the annotations by the Tendai school all explain the
lotus as both the Law itself and a metaphor for it."40
This passage is perfectly clear in meaning,
and therefore I need say nothing further.
Question: During the Thus Come Ones
lifetime, who was able to realize the lotus of the entity
of the Law?
Answer: During the period of the four flavors
and three teachings that preceded the Lotus Sutra, there
were persons of the three vehicles, the five vehicles, the
seven expedient means and the nine worlds, and the bodhisattvas
of the provisional perfect teachings, as well as the Buddha
of these teachings. But with the exception of the Buddha
of the Juryo chapter of the ,essential teaching,
neither any of these persons nor the Buddha of the theoretical
teaching had so much as heard the name of the lotus of the
entity expounded in the essential teaching, much less realized
During the first forty and more years of
his teaching life, the Buddha did not make clear the doctrine
of the lotus of unsurpassed enlightenment that reveals the
replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle.
That is why the Muryogi Sutra says: "They will
in the end never gain unsurpassed enlightenment," by
which it means that the lotus of the replacement of the
three vehicles with the one vehicle, which the Buddha revealed
in the theoretical teaching, was never expounded in the
period before the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. Much less,
then, did he reveal the lotus of the entity, that of "opening
the near and revealing the distant," of "the true
identity that is difficult to conceive," of "the
fusion of reality and wisdom," and of "originally
inherent and not created." How could Miroku and the
others, who were taught and converted by the Buddha in his
transient status, have had any understanding of such things?
Question: How do we know that the bodhisattvas
of the perfect teachings expounded before the Lotus Sutra,
or the bodhisattvas of the perfect teaching set forth in
the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, were not enlightened
to the lotus of the entity of the essential teaching?
Answer: The bodhisattvas of the perfect
teachings expounded before the Lotus Sutra did not understand
the lotus of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra,
and the bodhisattvas of the perfect teaching set forth in
the theoretical teaching did not understand the lotus of
the essential teaching.
Tien-tai says: "Even successors
of the Buddha of the provisional teachings do not know persons
who have received instruction from the Buddha who assumed
a provisional status, and persons taught by that Buddha
do not know persons who have received instruction from the
Buddha who revealed his true identity."41
The Great Teacher Dengyo explains, "This is a direct
way, but it is not the great direct way."42
He also says, "Because they have not yet understood
the great direct way to enlightenment."43
The point being made in these passages is clear.
The bodhisattvas of the teachings preached
before the Lotus Sutra or of the theoretical teaching have
in a certain sense eradicated delusion and gained understanding
of truth. Nevertheless, in the light of the essential teaching,
they have gained only a temporary cutting off of delusion,
not the kind that extends beyond a certain dimension. Therefore
it is said that they have in fact not yet cut off delusion.
Thus, although it is said that the bodhisattvas
had already gained entrance [to enlightenment] through the
various sutras, the term "gained entrance" is
simply applied here in a temporary manner as a means of
disparaging the achievement of the people of the two vehicles.
Therefore even the great bodhisattvas of the pre-Lotus Sutra
teachings and the theoretical teaching arrive at the realization
of the lotus of the Buddha only when they are exposed to
the essential teaching, and achieve a true cutting off of
delusion only when they hear the teachings of the Juryo
The Great Teacher Tien-tai,
commenting on the passage in the Yujutsu chapter
in which a period of time measuring fifty small kalpas is,
through the Buddhas supernatural power, made to seem
to the members of the assembly as though it were no more
than half a day, says: "To the awakened ones, what
seemed like a short period of time was understood to be
a long one lasting fifty small kalpas; but to those who
were still deluded, the long period seemed to be as short
as half a day."44
Miao-lo in turn explains this comment by
saying: "The bodhisattvas have already freed themselves
from ignorance, and so they are referred to here as the
awakened ones. The ordinary beings of the assembly,
however, have not yet advanced beyond the rank of worthy
persons,45 and thus
they are referred to as the deluded ones."46
The meaning of these passages is quite
clear. It indicates that the bodhisattvas of the pre-Lotus
Sutra teachings and of the theoretical teaching were in
fact still deluded, and only the Bodhisattvas of the Earth
were worthy of being called awakened ones.
Nevertheless, at the present time there
are certain persons of the Tendai sect who, when they discuss
the essential teaching and the theoretical teaching, declare
that there is no difference between the two, and in interpreting
the passages under discussion, they assert that the persons
taught and converted by the Buddha in his transient status
are to be included in the category of "awakened ones."
This is a gross error of interpretation! Since the meaning
of the sutra passage and the annotations regarding it is
perfectly clear, I do not see how anyone could put forward
such an unreasonable assertion.
If we examine the passage in the Yujutsu
chapter, we see that it states that the Bodhisattvas of
the Earth praised the Thus Come One for a period of fifty
small kalpas, but to the members of the assembly on Eagle
Peak who had been taught by the Buddha in his transient
status, this seemed like no more than half a day.
Tien-tai in his explanation
introduces the terms "awakened ones" and "deluded
ones." He explains that because the assembly members
who had been taught by the Buddha in his transient status
were deluded ones, they accordingly believed that the interval
of time was no more than half a day, though this was a mistaken
interpretation of the facts. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth,
on the other hand, were the awakened ones, and they therefore
viewed the interval of time as being fifty small kalpas
in duration, which was the correct interpretation of the
Miao-lo proceeds to comment on this by
saying that the bodhisattvas who had freed themselves from
ignorance were the awakened ones, and those that had not
yet freed themselves from ignorance were the deluded ones.
It is perfectly clear that this is what the above quotations
mean. There are some scholars who say that some among the
bodhisattvas taught by the Buddha in his transient status
had attained the first stage of security or advanced beyond
it in the course of bodhisattva practice and hence had already
freed themselves from ignorance. They say so because they
were taught that the various sutras that preceded the Lotus
Sutra offer a means of attaining Buddhahood, when in fact
they do not offer any such means.
Those who have received either the teachings
prior to the Lotus Sutra or the theoretical teaching may
in a certain sense attain the stage of perfect enlightenment,
but when seen in terms of the true Buddha of the Juryo
chapter of the essential teaching, such persons are still
in the company of the deluded or in the rank of worthy persons.
The three bodies of the Buddha as they appear in the provisional
teachings have not yet escaped from the realm of impermanence,
and they are therefore in effect phantom Buddhas such as
one would see in a dream.
As long as those who have received the
teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra or the theoretical teaching
have not yet received instruction in the essential teaching,
they are to be described as persons who have not yet extirpated
illusion. But once they have received such a teaching, they
qualify for the first stage of security in their progress
Miao-lo comments as follows: "When
the Buddha proceeds beyond his transient status and reveals
his true identity, all the listeners enter the first stage
This may be contrasted to what has been said above about
such persons being in the rank of worthy persons. Persons
who have received the teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra
or the theoretical teaching are in the category of the deluded.
They are Buddhas and bodhisattvas who have not yet freed
themselves from ignorance. How true! How true!
Therefore we understand that, once the
Juryo chapter of the essential teaching had been
revealed, all the persons in the assembly on Eagle Peak
became enlightened to the lotus of the entity. Those of
the two vehicles, the icchantika or persons of incorrigible
disbelief, and the determinate groups,48
as well as women and evil persons, all gained an awakening
to the lotus of the true Buddha.
The Great Teacher Dengyo, explaining the
lotus of the "one great reason" [why the Buddha
appears in the world], writes: "The one great
matter, the true heart and core of the Lotus Sutra,
is the revelation of the lotus. The word one
signifies that it is the one reality. The word great
signifies that it is broad and all-encompassing in nature.
And the word matter refers to the essential
nature of phenomena. This one great reason or ultimate
matter is the truth, the teaching, the wisdom and
the practice of the perfect teaching, or the Dharma body,
the wisdom and the emancipation of the perfect teaching.
Through this, the persons of the one vehicle, those of the
three vehicles, those of the determinate groups, those of
the indeterminate group, those who believe in Buddhist teachings,
those who believe in non-Buddhist teachings, those who have
no desire to become Buddhas, and those who are unable to
believe in the correct teachings--all of these beings, every
one of them, are brought to the realm of the wisdom penetrating
all phenomena. Thus, this one great reason opens
the door of Buddha wisdom to all beings, shows it, causes
them to awaken to it and induces them to enter into it,
and all of them attain Buddhahood."49
Thus we may say that the so-called evil
persons such as women, persons of incorrigible disbelief,
those of the determinate groups and persons of the two vehicles,
all at Eagle Peak, were able to gain an awakening to the
lotus of the entity of the Mystic Law.
Question: In our present age, the period
of the Latter Day of the Law, who has obtained the lotus
of the entity?
Answer: Observing the situation in the
world today, we would have to say that, although there are
many people who are destined to fall into the great Avichi
hell, there is no one who has obtained the lotus of the
Buddha. The reason is that people put their faith in the
expedient means of the provisional teachings that cannot
lead to enlightenment, and slander the lotus of the truth,
the entity of the Lotus Sutra.
The Buddha states, "If a person fails
to have faith but instead slanders this sutra, immediately
he will destroy all the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this
world.... When his life comes to an end he will enter the
Tien-tai comments on this as
follows: "This [Lotus] sutra opens the seeds of Buddhahood
inherent in the beings of each of the six paths. But if
one slanders the sutra, then the seeds will be destroyed."51
I, Nichiren, would like to say this. The
Lotus Sutra is linked to the seeds of Buddhahood inherent
in the beings of each of the Ten Worlds. But if one slanders
this sutra, then it means that one is destroying the seeds
of Buddhahood in the beings of each of the Ten Worlds. Such
a person is certainly bound to fall into the hell of incessant
suffering. When might he manage to get out of hell again?
But those who follow the teachings of Nichiren
honestly discard the mistaken doctrines of the provisional
teachings and the incorrect theories of the mistaken teachers,
and without hesitation put their faith in the True Law and
the correct doctrines of the correct teacher. Accordingly
they are able to gain the lotus of the entity and to manifest
the mystic principle of the entity of the Land of Eternally
Tranquil Light. This is because they put their faith in
the golden words of the Buddha indicated in the Juryo
chapter of the essential teaching and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Question: The great teachers Nan-yueh,
Tien-tai and Dengyo employed the Lotus Sutra
to spread widely the perfect teaching of the one vehicle,
but they did not recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Why is that?
Does this mean that they did not know about the lotus of
the entity, or that they failed to understand it?
Answer It is said that the Great Teacher
Nan-yueh was an incarnation of Bodhisattva Kannon, and that
the Great Teacher Tien-tai was an incarnation
of Bodhisattva Yakuo.52
If so, then they were present on Eagle Peak when the Buddha
preached the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching,
and at that time they became enlightened to the lotus of
the entity. But when they appeared in the world [as Nan-yueh
and Tien-tai, respectively], they knew it was
not the right time to spread the Mystic Law. Therefore,
for the words "Mystic Law" they substituted the
term "concentration and insight," and instead
engaged in the practice of ichinen sanzen and the
threefold contemplation in a single mind. But even these
great teachers recited Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as their private
practice, and in their hearts they understood these words
to be the truth.
Thus the Great Teacher Nan-yueh in his
employs the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The Great Teacher
Tien-tai employs the words Nam-byodo-daie-ichijo-myoho-renge-kyo,54
And the document57 concerning
the vow taken by the Great Teacher Dengyo on his deathbed
carries the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Question: The evidence you have presented
is perfectly clear. But if these men understood the truth,
as the evidence indicates that they did, then why did they
not spread a knowledge of it abroad?
Answer: There are two reasons. First of
all, the proper time to do so had not yet arrived. Second,
these men were not the persons entrusted with the task of
It is the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo
that constitute the Great Pure Law that will be spread widely
in the Latter Day of the Law. And it is the great bodhisattvas
who sprang up from, the earth in numbers equal to the dust
particles of a thousand worlds who were entrusted with the
task of spreading it abroad. Therefore Nan-yueh, Tien-tai
and Dengyo, though in their hearts they understood the truth,
left it to the leader and teacher of the Latter Day to spread
it widely, while they themselves refrained from doing so.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
- Kongabei ron.
- Source unknown.
- Hokekyo anrakugyo gi.
- Hokke gengi, Vol. 2.
- Hokke gengi shakuset; Vol. I.
- Tendai school's example: This example appears in T'ien-t'ai's
Maka shikan. Hence the expression "Tendai school"
is used to mean T'ien-t'ai, the founder of the Chinese
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
- DaY6 shikan.
- Example of the mirror: This is expounded in the Daiji
shikan (The Method of Concentration and Insight in the
Mahayana), Vol. 2. Through the example of the inseparable
relationship between an object and its image reflected
in the mirror, Nan-yiieh reveals that a living being and
a Buddha are "two but not two" in essence; in
other words, common mortals of the nine worlds are inherently
endowed with Buddhahood.
- Shianrakugyo: This refers to the Hokekyo anrakugyo gi.
- A reference to the teachings that expound the concept
of attaining Buddhahood as a common mortal. But they teach
it in name only with no actual examples of its having
occurred, or postulate various distinctions and exceptions.
- Twelve divisions of the Hodo sutras: A reference to
all the teachings that are included in the Hodo period,
third of the five periods set forth by T'ien-t'ai. The
"twelve divisions" is a classification of the
sutras according to style and content.
- Five vehicles: Three vehicles of voice-hearers, cause-awakened
ones and bodhisattvas plus the human and heavenly realms.
- In sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, the three bodies
were held to exist separately, such as Dainichi in the
Dharma-body aspect and Amida in the bliss-body aspect.
However, on the basis of the doctrine of ichinen sanzen,
T'ien-t'ai maintained that the three bodies are not separate
entities but three integral aspects of one Buddha.
- Hokekyo anrakugyo gi.
- The essential point of the Hosshi kudoku (19th) chapter
of the Lotus Sutra.
- Hokekyo anrakugya gi.
- The "threefold contemplation" and the "three
truths" here mean subjective wisdom and objective
reality, respectively, and the expression that these "will
immediately become manifest in their minds" represents
the fusion of wisdom and reality. See Glossary for Threefold
contemplation and Three truths.
- Source unknown.
- Hokke gengi shakusen, Vol. 1.
- This refers to the Buddha of kuon ganjo-the time described
as "a past even more distant than gohyaku-jintengo"
-who became enlightened to the eternal Law of life.
- Principle of wisdom and reality: See Fusion of reality
and wisdom in Glossary.
- First of the ten stages of security: See First stage
of security in Glossary.
- Near-perfect enlightenment: See Fifty-two stages of
bodhisattva practice in Glossary.
- A summary of a section from the Shugo kokkai Ad.
- Three kinds of Buddhas: Shakyamuni, Taho and all the
other Buddhas who are emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 15.
- Ibid., chap. 12. In this chapter, it states, "Monjushiri
was seated on a thousand-petaled lotus blossom,"
and in the latter part of this chapter it says that the
dragon king's daughter perfected the bodhisattva practice
and appeared in a world to the south called Spotless World,
where she seated herself on a jeweled lotus flower, acquiring
the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics of
a Buddha, and thence proceeded to preach the Lotus Sutra
to all living beings.
- Shikan bugyaden guketsu, Vol. 5.
- Shakyamuni declares to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth,
"All the doctrines possessed by the Thus Come One,
all the freely exercised transcendental powers of the
Thus Come One, the storehouse of all the secret essentials
of the Thus Come One, all the most profound matters of
the Thus Come One-all these are proclaimed, revealed and
clearly expounded in this sutra." After this statement,
he transfers the essence of the Lotus Sutra to Bodhisattva
Jogyo and the other Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
- Fifth five hundred years after his death: See Fifth
five-hundred-year period in Glossary.
- This refers to the Hoben (2nd) chapter ofthe
Lotus Sutra. "The teaching of perfect endowment"
indicates the heart of the sutra, the lotus of the entity
of the essential teaching.
- This is found in the Hokke gengi shakusen.
- Hokke gengi, Vol. 7.
- Shugo kokkai shj.
- Source unknown.
- Possibly a rephrasing of the Hokke mongu ki, Vol.
- Chii muryigikya, Vol. 2, a commentary on the
- Ibid., Vol. 3.
- Hokke mongu, Vol. 9.
- Rank of worthy persons: According to the Tendai school,
this corresponds to the ten stages of faith, the first
ten ofthe fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice.
- Hokke mongu ki, Vol. 9.
- Hokke gengi shakusen, Vol. 1.
- Determinate groups: See Five natures in Glossary.
- Shugo kokkai sho.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 3.
- This appears in the Hokke mongu ki, Vol. 6, a
commentary by Miao-lo.
- According to the Tendai school's tradition, Nan-yach
and T'ien-t'ai were said to have been incarnations of
Kannon and Yakuo, respectively, because they attained
a great awakening through the Kannon (25th) chapter
and the Yakuo (23rd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
- Hokke sempo: "The Lotus Sutra Method of
Repentance." This work, in which the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
appear, was actually authored by T'ien-t'ai.
- These words mean single-minded devotion to the one vehicle,
that is, Myoho-renge-kyo of the great impartially-perceiving
- These words mean "I bow my head before Myoho-renge-kyo."
- These words mean "I dedicate my life to Myoho-renge-kyo."
- A reference to the Shuzen-ji ketsu (Record of
Transmission at Hsiuch'an-ssu Temple).
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.