Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light
I have received your various gifts. Nothing
would please me more than to know that you have communicated
with the late Lord Ueno, but I know that that is impossible.
Perhaps only in a dream or a vision can you see him. Your
late husband must certainly be in the pure land of Eagle
Peak, listening and watching over this saha world
day and night. You, his wife, and your children have only
mortal senses, so you cannot see or hear him, but be assured
that you will eventually be reunited [on Eagle Peak].
Counting all your previous lives, you must
have shared the bonds of matrimony with more men than there
are grains of sand in the ocean. However, the man to whom
you were wed in this life is your true husband. He is the
only one who brought you to practice the teachings of the
Lotus Sutra. You should revere him as a Buddha. While he
was in this world, he was a living Buddha, and now, he is
a Buddha in death. His Buddhahood transcends both life and
death. This is the meaning of the doctrine that is of utmost
importance: attaining Buddhahood in ones present form.
The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: If one
can uphold this [sutra], he will be upholding the Buddhas
Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside
ourselves; both lie within our own hearts. Awakened to this
truth, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, one is
called a common mortal. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth,
and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra will realize that hell
is itself the Land of Tranquil Light.
Even though one may practice the provisional
teachings for immeasurable millions of years, one will only
fall into hell if one turns against the Lotus Sutra. These
are not my own words; they were proclaimed by Shakyamuni
Buddha and confirmed by Taho Buddha and by all the Buddhas
of the ten directions, who are Shakyamunis emanations.
To practice the provisional teachings is to be like a man
scorched by fire who enters deeper and deeper into the flames,
or like a drowning man sinking to the bottom of the deep
waters. Not to embrace the Lotus Sutra is like jumping into
fire or water. Those who rely on such evil teachers as Honen,
Kobo and other slanderers of the Lotus Sutra and believe
in the Amida or Dainichi Sutra are falling farther and farther
into the fire or sinking deeper and deeper toward the bottom
of the water. How can they possibly escape from agony! They
will doubtless fall into the fiery pits-into the hell of
repeated rebirth for torture, the hell of the black cords,
and the hell of incessant suffering1-
and sink to the depths of the ice-to the hell of the blood
red lotus and the hell of the great blood-red lotus.2
The second volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "When his
life comes to an end he will enter the Avichi hell, [be
confined there for a whole kalpa, and when the kalpa ends,
be born there again].
He will keep repeating this cycle for a
countless number of kalpas."
Your late husband has escaped such agonies,
for he was a supporter of Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus
Sutra. A passage from the sutra reads: "If someone
. . . should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn
him.... If one were washed away by a great flood and called
upon his name, one would immediately find oneself in a shallow
passage reads, "It cannot be burned by fire or washed
away by water."4
How reassuring! How encouraging!
You may think of hell, the iron rods of
the guards of hell or the accusing cries of the demon wardens5
as existing way off in some faraway place, but they are
not like that. This teaching is of prime importance, and
yet I will impart it to you just as Bodhisattva Monju revealed
to the dragon kings daughter the secret teaching of
the attainment of Buddhahood in ones present body.
Now that you are about to receive that teaching, strive
even more earnestly in your faith. One who practices still
more earnestly whenever one hears the teachings of the Lotus
Sutra is a true seeker of the way. Tien-tai
states, "From the indigo, an even deeper blue."6
This passage means that something dyed repeatedly with indigo
becomes even bluer than the indigo plant itself. For us
the Lotus Sutra is the indigo plant, and the growing intensity
of our practice is "an even deeper blue."
The word jigoku or "hell"
can be interpreted to mean digging a hole in the ground.
A hole is always dug for one who dies; this is what is called
"hell." The flames that reduce ones body
to ashes are the fires of the hell of incessant suffering.
Ones wife, children and relatives hurrying ones
body to the grave are the guards and wardens of hell. The
plaintive cries of ones family are the voices of the
guards and wardens of hell. Ones two-and-a-half-foot-long
walking stick is the iron rod of torture in hell. The horses
and oxen that carry ones body are the horse-headed
and ox-headed demons, and the grave itself is the great
citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. The eighty-four
thousand earthly desires are eighty-four thousand cauldrons
in hell. Ones body as it leaves home is departing
on a journey to the mountain of death, while the river beside
which ones filial children stand in grief is the river
of three crossings. It is useless to look for hell anywhere
Those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, however,
can change all this. For them, hell changes into the Land
of Tranquil Light, the burning fires of agony change into
the torch of wisdom of the Buddha in his reward body; the
dead person becomes a Buddha in his body of the Law; and
the fiery inferno becomes the "room of great pity and
compassion" where the Buddha in his manifested body
abides.7 Moreover, the
walking stick is transformed into the walking stick of the
true entity or the Mystic Law, the river of three crossings
becomes the ocean of "the sufferings of birth and death
and the mountain of death becomes the towering peak of "earthly
desires are enlightenment." Please think of your husband
in these terms. To realize all this is attain Buddhahood
in ones present form, and to awaken to it is to open
the Buddha wisdom. Devadatta changed the Avichi hell into
the blissful land of tranquil light, and the dragon kings
daughter also was able to attain Buddhahood without changing
her form. Their achievements were none other than the results
of understanding the above truth. This is because the Lotus
Sutra saves both those who oppose and those who follow it.
Such great benefits are contained in the single character
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna states, "[The
Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who changes poison
The Great Teacher Miao-lo states, How can one find
the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light anywhere outside Buddhagaya!
This saha world does not exist outside the Land of
Eternally Tranquil Light. He also says, 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.10
The Lotus Sutra reads, The true entity of all phenomena
[can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This
reality consists of the appearance, nature . . . and] their
consistency from beginning to end. A passage from
the Juryo chapter states, It has been immeasurable,
boundless [hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions
of nayutas of kalpas] since I in fact attained Buddhahood.
Here, I means all beings in the Ten Worlds.
All beings of the Ten Worlds are essentially Buddhas; so
they dwell in the pure land. A passage from the Hoben chapter
reads, All those phenomena are aspects of an abiding
Law, and all the characteristics of the world are eternal.
It is the way of the world that birth and death are the
eternally unchanging characteristics of life throughout
the three existences of the past, present and future. This
is nothing to grieve over or be surprised at. The single
ideogram characteristics represents the eight
characteristics or phases of the Buddhas existence.11
Even these eight phases are subject to the law of birth
and death. The votaries of the Lotus Sutra are enlightened
to all this, thereby attaining Buddhahood in their present
forms. Since your deceased husband was a votary of this
sutra, he doubtless attained Buddhahood as he was. You need
not grieve so much over his passing. But to grieve is natural,
since you are an ordinary person. Even sages are sometimes
sad. Although Shakyamuni Buddhas greatest disciples
had been awakened to the truth of life, they could not help
lamenting his passing. Perhaps they behaved as ordinary
By all means perform as much good as you
possibly can for the sake of your deceased husband. The
words of a wise man of old, Base your heart on the
and carry out your practice on the six consciousnesses,13
are indeed well said.14
This letter contains teachings I have so far kept secret.
Keep them deep within your heart.
The eleventh day of the seventh month
Reply to the wife of the late Lord Ueno
- Takatsu, kokuja and mugen: Metaphorical
descriptions of the lifeconditions experienced by those
in the state of Hell. Descriptions of hell vary according
to the different surras and related treatises. These three
are included among the so-called eight hot hells. Takatsu
is the first of these eight hells, where people are
said to fight each other viciously with iron claws, or
are tortured by guards armed with iron staves and razor-sharp
sabers. Kokuja is the second of the eight hells,
in which people are either sawn in half or slashed by
redhot axes according to whether they are longer or wider
than a red-hot iron measuring rope. Suffering in kokuja
is said to be ten times worse than in tokatsu.
Those who have committed the five cardinal sins are
said to undergo indescribable torture in the last and
severest hell, mugen (the hell of incessant suffering).
- Hells of guren and daiguren: Literally,
"blood-red lotus" and "great blood-red
lotus," two of the eight cold hells. In "Letter
to Niike," Nichiren Daishonin writes: "The
hell of the blood-red lotus is so called because the intense
cold of this hell makes one double over until his back
splits open and the bloody flesh emerges like a crimson
lotus flower. And there are hells even more horrible.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 25.
- Ibid., chap. 23.
- Aborasetsu: (Ski Avoraksas) Jailers in hell, who have
the head of an ox and the hands of human beings. They
are said to cut down evildoers with razor-sharp swords.
- Maka Shikan, vol. 1.
- Property-of-wisdom aspect, property-of-Law aspect and
property-of action aspect: The three enlightened properties
with which Buddha is endowed. See Three properties
of life in the Glossary.
- Daichido Ron.
- Hokke Mongu Ki, Vol. 26.
- Kongabei Ron.
- Eight phases of a Buddha's existence: See p. 122,
- Ninth Consciousness: The fundamental purifying force
that is the essence of our lives-the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
- Six consciousnesses: The first six of nine consciousnesses,
a classification of the spiritual functions of perception.
The first five consciousnesses are the perceptions of
the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
The sixth consciousness enables one to integrate the perceptions
of the five senses and form judgments about them. See
also Nine consciousnesses in the Glossary.
- Source unknown.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol 2.