How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way Can
Attain Buddhahood Through the Lotus Sutra
Question: Of the eight sects, the nine sects or the ten
sects, which is the true sect founded by Shakyamuni Buddha?
Answer: The Hokke [Lotus] sect is the sect founded by Shakyamuni.
We know this because of the statement that, of all the sutras
he "had preached, now preaches and would preach"
in the future, the Lotus Sutra was foremost. These words
were spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Therefore [the
sect based on] the Lotus Sutra is known as the Buddha-founded
sect, and is also called the Hokke sect. It is also known
as the Tendai sect.
For this reason, the Great Teacher Dengyo states in his
commentary, "The Hokke sect, which T'ien-t'ai elucidated,
represents the sect founded by Shakyamuni, the World-Honored
One." In none of the sutras other than the Lotus does
one find a passage concerning [the relative superiority
of] all the sutras that the Buddha "has preached, now
preaches and will preach." Here, the sutras that the
Buddha "has preached" refer to the various sutras
expounded by the Buddha in the more than forty years before
he preached the Lotus Sutra. Those he "now preaches"
refer to the Muryogi Sutra. Those he "will preach"
refer to the Nirvana Sutra. The Buddha thus firmly decreed
that, transcending these three categories of sutras, the
Lotus Sutra alone constitutes the sect that assures the
attainment of Buddhahood.
The various other sects were founded by bodhisattvas or
teachers in the period after the Buddha had entered nirvana.
Should we now turn our backs upon the Buddha's decree and
follow the sects established by the bodhisattvas and teachers?
Or should we ignore the words of the bodhisattvas and teachers
and follow the sect established by the Buddha? Or should
we entrust ourselves to either course as the feeling strikes
us, and uphold whatever sutra or doctrine suits our inclination?
The Buddha knew long ago that we would have doubts of this
kind, and therefore he clearly designated the sutra to be
embraced by persons who are truly aspiring to the Way in
this defiled and evil age of the Latter Day of the Law.
A sutra says: "Rely on the Law and not upon persons.
Rely on the meaning [of the teaching] and not upon the words.
Rely on wisdom and not upon discriminative thinking. Rely
on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that
are not complete and final." The meaning of this passage
is that one should rely not upon the words of the bodhisattvas
and teachers, but should heed what was established by the
Buddha. It further means that one should rely not upon the
teachings of the Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu sects, which
are based upon the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya
sutras, but uphold the sutras that are complete and final.
And by relying upon "sutras that are complete and final,"
it means upholding the Lotus Sutra.
Question: Observing Japan at the present time, one can
see that the obstacles presented by the five impurities
are very grave, that quarrels and disputes occur incessantly,
and that people's minds are consumed with anger and their
thoughts filled with jealousy. In such a country and at
such a time as this, what sutra ought to be propagated?
Answer: This is a country in which the Lotus Sutra should
be propagated. Therefore the Lotus Sutra itself says: "I
will cause this sutra to spread widely throughout the continent
of Jambudvipa and never allow it to perish."
The Yuga Ron states that there is a small country
situated to the northeast where the Mahayana teachings of
the Lotus Sutra should be spread. And the Eminent Priest
Annen states, "This refers to our country of Japan."
From the point of view of India, Japan is indeed situated
to the northeast.
Moreover, the Supervisor of Monks Eshin states in his Ichijo
Yoketsu: "Throughout Japan, all people share the
same capacity to attain Buddhahood through the perfect teaching,
and therefore those in the countryside as well as those
at court, the far as well as the near, should alike take
faith in the one vehicle. Priests and lay believers, the
eminent and the lowly, may all thereby look forward to the
attainment of Buddhahood."
The meaning of this passage is that the people of Japan,
whether they live in Kyoto, Kamakura, Tsukushi, Chinzei
or Michinoku, whether they live nearby or far away, are
endowed with the capacity to attain Buddhahood solely through
the one-vehicle teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and that Japan
is therefore a country where high and low, eminent and humble,
those who observe the precepts and those who break them,
men and women alike, will all be able to attain Buddhahood
through the Lotus Sutra. Just as no ordinary stones will
be found in the K'un-lun Mountains and no poisons in the
mountain island of P'eng-lai, so Japan is purely and wholly
a country of the Lotus Sutra.
And yet we find people who, while declaring with their
mouths that the Lotus is inherently a wonderful sutra and
that no one could therefore refuse to take faith in it,
nevertheless spend night and day, morning and evening, reciting
the name of Amida Buddha. They are like people who sing
the praises of a particular medicine and yet morning and
evening dose themselves on poison. Or there are those who
declare that the Nembutsu and the Lotus Sutra are essentially
one. They are like persons who claim that ordinary stones
are the same as gems, senior monks identical to junior monks,
and poison equivalent to medicine.
In addition, there are many persons who hate, envy, are
hostile to, slander, despise and look down on the Lotus
Sutra. The sutra says, "In the world at that time the
people will resent [the Lotus Sutra] and find it extremely
difficult to believe." And it also says "Since
hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during
the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in
the world after his passing!" These predictions of
the sutra have come about without the slightest deviation.
Therefore the Great Teacher Dengyo writes in his commentary:
"If we speak about the age, the propagation of the
true teaching will begin when the Middle Day of the Law
ends and the Latter Day opens. If we inquire about the land,
it will be to the east of T'ang and to the west of Katsu.
If we ask about the people [among whom it will spread],
they will be beings stained by the five impurities who live
in a time of conflict. The sutra says, 'Since hatred and
jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime
of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after
his passing!' There is good reason for this statement."
From these passages of the sutras and commentaries, one
should know the following: In Japan, in one mountain monastery
after another, in temple after temple, at court and in the
countryside, in both near and distant regions, though scriptural
teachings other than the Lotus Sutra, such as those of the
Shingon, Zen, Ritsu and Nembutsu sects, are being propagated,
these are not doctrines that suit the country or that conform
to the Buddha's true intention, nor can they free us from
the sufferings of birth and death.
Question: The Kegon sect propounds the doctrine of the
five teachings and declares all the other sutras to be inferior,
and the Kegon Sutra, superior. The Shingon sect puts
forth the doctrine of the ten stages of mind, declaring
that all the other sutras, being exoteric teachings, are
inferior, while the Shingon sect, because it represents
the esoteric teachings, is superior. The Zen sect rejects
all the sutras as belonging to the realm of written teachings
and asserts "a separate transmission outside the sutras,
independent of words or writing." Because enlightenment,
they say, is gained merely by sitting and facing the wall,
the Zen sect alone is superior. The Pure Land sect sets
forth two kinds of practices, correct and sundry. The Lotus
Sutra and the various other sutras are rejected as belonging
to the category of sundry practices, and hence one is urged
to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" them.
The three Pure Land sutras, on the other hand, they claim
are adapted to the people's capacity and are wonderful sutras
belonging to the realm of correct practices. Thus each sect
in its conceit maintains its own one-sided attachment. But
which one represents the true intention of Shakyamuni Buddha?
Answer: Each sect declares its own sutra to be superior,
all other sutras being dismissed as inferior, and on this
basis labels itself the correct sect. But their arguments
are based merely upon the words of the teachers of doctrine
and not upon the Buddha's teaching. Only the Lotus Sutra
was proclaimed superior by the Buddha himself when he expounded
the simile of the five flavors, likening them to the teachings
of the five periods. He also declared that of all the various
sutras that he "has preached, now preaches and will
preach," in terms of the path of attaining Buddhahood,
none could rival the Lotus Sutra. These statements are in
truth the Buddha's own golden words.
Therefore, when people declare that their own sutra surpasses
the Lotus Sutra, or that their own sect is superior to the
Hokke sect, they are like persons of inferior rank calling
someone of high rank a commoner, or retainers whose families
have for generations been in the service of a certain lord
turning against him and declaring him to be their servant.
How can they escape grave retribution?
On the other hand, the assertion that the various other
sutras rank below the Lotus Sutra is not based upon the
words of the teachers of doctrine, but is plainly stated
in the text of the sutra itself. In this respect, it is
like a ruler asserting that he is superior to his subjects,
or a samurai calling a menial a person of low rank. What
fault is committed thereby? This sutra, the Lotus, represents
the true intention of the Buddha and the prime concern of
T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo.
Question: The teachings of the Buddha's lifetime were all
intended to benefit the people. And because the people differ
from one another in their innate nature, he expounded the
various teachings. Nevertheless, his basic intention in
all cases was simply to enable everyone to attain the Way.
Therefore [people reason as follows:] the sutra that is
pertinent to oneself may be quite irrelevant to other persons,
while the sutra that is pertinent to them will be irrelevant
to oneself. Thus, for example, for persons who can attain
the Way through the Nembutsu teachings of the sutras other
than the Lotus Sutra, the Kammuryoju and related
sutras will be of greatest benefit while the Lotus Sutra
will be of no help. Conversely, for those who can reach
Buddhahood and attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra, the
other sutras will be irrelevant while the Lotus Sutra will
be of greatest benefit. When the Buddha said, "In these
more than forty years, I have nor yet revealed the truth,"
when he said, "Though they [the Buddhas] may set forth
various paths, they do so in truth for the sake of the Buddha
vehicle", or when he said, "Honestly discarding
the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme
Way," he was addressing persons with the capacity to
attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra. Everyone in the
world agrees that this argument is logical. How should we
understand this matter? If this view is correct, then there
is really no difference between the Mahayana and the Hinayana,
and no real lack of similarity between the provisional and
true teachings. Thus I find myself in great doubt as to
which sutra the Buddha defined as representing his true
intention, and which in fact he proclaimed to be the teaching
for attaining Buddhahood.
Answer: From the very beginning, the Buddha's intention
in appearing in the world was to preach the wonderful Law
[of the Lotus Sutra]. But because the people differed so
greatly in their capacity and were not ripe to receive it,
the Buddha first pondered for a period of three weeks, then
spent the following forty years and more preparing and readying
the people, and then finally preached this wonderful Law.
The Buddha said, "If I merely praise the Buddha vehicle,
the people, being sunk in misery, will not be able to believe
in this Law and, lacking faith, will slander it and thus
fall into the three evil paths." And he also said,
"The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines
and now must reveal the truth."
The meaning of these passages is that the Buddha from the
very beginning intended to preach this doctrine of the Buddha
vehicle. But he knew that the people, having no inclination
to hear the Buddha's Law, would not put their faith in it,
but on the contrary would undoubtedly slander it. Therefore,
in order to elevate the people's capacities to the same
level, he first spent a period of forty or more years preaching
the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras, and
then at the very last preached the Lotus Sutra. At that
time, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the others of the twelve
thousand shomon disciples, or voice hearers; Monju,
Miroku and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas;
the billions of wheel-turning kings; as well as Bonten,
Taishaku and the countless other heavenly deities, who had
all been present during the Buddha's more than forty years
of preaching, each exclaimed with regard to the teachings
they had heard before, "We failed to receive the Tathagata's
immeasurable wisdom and insight!" But when they heard
him preach the Lotus Sutra, they rejoiced, exclaiming, "We
have gained the supreme cluster of jewels without expecting
it!" Therefore they said, "From past times we
have often heard the World-Honored One preach, but we have
never before heard such a profound and wonderful superior
Dharma!" And they also said, "The Buddha has preached
a rare Dharma, one that we have never heard before."
The intent of these passages is to praise the Lotus Sutra
by saying that, though the members of the assembly had heard
the Buddha preach a considerable number of times during
the preceding forty-two years and more, they had never heard
anything like the Law of the Lotus Sutra, and that the Buddha
had never before preached a doctrine such as this.
The doctrines heard by the assembly in the preceding forty-two
years cannot in any way be compared with those of this sutra
they were now hearing. Therefore it is a grave error to
assert that this sutra was preached for the sake of persons
who can attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra, but that
it is useless for persons who can gain the Way through the
sutras preached earlier. In the case of the sutras preached
during the previous forty-two years, since they were provided
as expedient means for individuals each with a particular
capacity or karmic affinity, one can perhaps speak of them
as being relevant to some persons but not to others. But
in the case of the Lotus Sutra, the different capacities
that had enabled individuals to benefit from hearing one
or another of the earlier sutras were all drawn together
and readied so that they became identical and pure; the
sutra was preached to such people. Therefore there can be
no question of it being relevant to some persons and irrelevant
How lamentable that the distinctions between Mahayana and
Hinayana, or between provisional and true teachings, should
become confused in this manner, so that the purpose of the
Buddha's advent has been lost, and people go about declaring
that the Lotus Sutra is useless for persons with the capacity
to attain the Way through the earlier sutras. One should
guard against and fear such errors! In past times there
was a man known as the Great Teacher Tokuichi who taught
just this sort of doctrine to others and fully believed
it in his own mind, reading the Lotus Sutra in the light
of such an interpretation. But the Great Teacher Dengyo
attacked him, saying, "Even though he praises the Lotus
Sutra, he destroys its heart." After that, the Great
Teacher Tokuichi's tongue split into eight pieces and he
Question: In a commentary by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai,
we find it stated that [although persons of the two vehicles
can attain enlightenment through the Lotus Sutra,] bodhisattvas
are assured of attaining it through various of the earlier
sutras. From this it must follow that the Lotus Sutra was
preached merely for the sake of persons of the two vehicles
and not for bodhisattvas, since the bodhisattvas were already
assured of enlightenment by the earlier sutras. If so, then
one should understand that the words of the Buddha, "I
have not yet revealed the truth," "Honestly discarding
the provisional teachings, [I will expound only the supreme
Way,]" and all the pronouncements found in the eight
volumes of the Lotus Sutra, must have been spoken entirely
for the sake of persons of the two vehicles and are not
relevant to even a single bodhisattva. Is this correct?
Answer: The doctrine that the Lotus Sutra was preached
solely for the sake of persons of the two vehicles and not
for bodhisattvas was expounded in China in the time before
that of T'ien-t'ai by the ten leading scholars representing
the three schools to the south and the seven schools to
the north. But T'ien-t'ai refuted this doctrine and put
an end to it, so that it is no longer propagated today.
If you say that there are no bodhisattvas who profit from
the Lotus Sutra, then how do you account for the passage
that says, "When the bodhisattvas hear this Law, the
nets of their doubt will all be swept away"? In view
of this, can you possibly say that bodhisattvas derive no
benefit from the sutra?
Or perhaps you will argue that the Lotus Sutra can benefit
the bodhisattvas of dull faculties, as it does persons of
the two vehicles, but that the bodhisattvas of keen faculties
have already received sufficient benefit from the earlier
sutras. If so, then how do you account for the passage in
the sutra that says, "Whether they are sharp-witted
or dull, I shower the rain of the Law on them equally,"
or the passage that says, "The perfect enlightenment
of all bodhisattvas in every case belongs to this sutra"?
The meaning of these passages is that, regardless of whether
their faculties are sharp or dull, whether they abide by
the precepts or break them, whether they are of exalted
birth or humble, all bodhisattvas, all ordinary common mortals,
and all persons of the two vehicles shall become Buddhas
and attain the Way through the Lotus Sutra.
If you say that those bodhisattvas who have attained the
Way through the Lotus Sutra are all persons of dull faculties,
are you then prepared to say that Fugen, Monju, Miroku,
Yakuo and all the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas
are of dull faculties? And if you maintain that the bodhisattvas
of keen faculties had already attained the Way through the
sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, then just who
are those clever bodhisattvas?
Moreover, this enlightenment attained by bodhisattvas through
the earlier sutras--is it the same as the enlightenment
attained through the Lotus Sutra? If so, then it is the
enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra and does not belong to
the earlier sutras. And if it is an enlightenment other
than that of the Lotus Sutra, then among which of the sutras
that the Buddha "has preached, now preaches and will
preach" in the future is it contained? In any event,
if it is not the enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra, then
it can only be a kind of limited enlightenment and not true
Therefore the Muryogi sutra states, "For this
reason, the enlightenment attained by the beings is characterized
by differences of degree." And it also says, "[If
one cannot hear of this sutra...,] in the end he will never
attain supreme enlightenment." In these passages the
Buddha is saying that the people attained different degrees
of enlightenment through the sutras expounded prior to the
Lotus Sutra, but in the end they did not attain the supreme
enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra itself.
Question: Some 2,230 years and more have now passed since
Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana. Among all the various
sutras, which sutra is fitted for an age like this, and
will spread and benefit all living beings?
The Daijuku Sutra speaks of five successive five-hundred-year
periods, of which our present age corresponds to the fifth
period. This fifth of the five-hundred-year periods is described
as an "age of conflict" when "the Pure Law
will become obscured and lost." The Buddha here is
saying that at that time people's hearts will be contentious
and evil, and they will be overwhelmed with greed and anger,
so that strife and battle alone flourish, and, among the
various Buddhist doctrines, those that had earlier spread
widely such as the Pure Law of the Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu
sects and of those who observe the precepts will become
obscured and lost.
If we observe the first, second, third and fourth of the
five-hundred-year periods, we will see that, although [the
teachings that spread in these ages were those in which]
"the truth had not yet been revealed" concerning
the way of attaining Buddhahood, the state of things in
the world in each of the four periods did not differ from
the Buddha's predictions even in the slightest. Considered
in this light, his golden words about our present time being
an "age of conflict" when "the Pure Law will
become obscured and lost" could not possibly be false.
Yet, if that is so, are we then to assume that, now in
the Latter Day of the Law, none of the Buddhist doctrines
are of any efficacy, or that none of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas
can benefit the people? Are we then to do nothing and pay
no homage to any Buddha or bodhisattvas? Are we to practice
no teaching whatsoever but to be left with nothing at all
to turn to? How are we to make provision for the existences
that are to come?
Answer: Now, the Latter Day of the Law, is the time when
the seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo--the heart of
the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra that Shakyamuni
Buddha who achieved enlightenment in the remote past, along
with the bodhisattvas Jogyo, Muhengyo and the others, is
to propagate--will alone spread throughout this country,
bringing advantage and benefit to all persons, and the blessings
of Bodhisattva Jogyo will flourish greatly. This will happen
because it is clearly stated in the sutra. Those who are
firm in their aspiration for the Way and sincere in their
seeking mind should investigate this matter in detail and
seek instruction concerning it.
The people of the Pure Land sect claim that "in the
ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law, all the
other sutras will perish, and only the single teaching of
the Buddha Amida will remain." They also say that "the
present time, the Latter Day of the Law, is an evil age
marked by the five impurities, when only the single doctrine
of the Pure Land provides a road that leads to salvation."
Though they falsely attribute these statements to the Daijuku
Sutra, no such passages appear in that sutra. Moreover,
there is no reason why they should. It is logically apparent
that, while he was in the world, the Buddha would have had
no reason for declaring that in the present, Latter Day
of the Law, an evil age marked by the five impurities, only
the Pure Land teachings would constitute the road to salvation.
Their basic sutra states, "In the age to come, the
scriptural path will perish,... I [Shakyamuni] leave this
one sutra, which shall endure a hundred years." But
nowhere does it state that those hundred years fall within
the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law. Moreover,
if we examine the Byodogaku Sutra and the Dai
Amida Sutra, it appears that the hundred year period
referred to represents the hundred years that follow the
first millennium after the Buddha's passing. But people
all regard Shan-tao's mistaken interpretation as quite reasonable,
though in fact they are all in error.
Right-thinking people should consider the matter in the
light of everyday reason. In a time of severe drought, is
it the great ocean that dries up first, or is it the little
streams? The Buddha himself explained this, likening the
Lotus Sutra to the great ocean, and the Kammuryoju
Sutra, Amida Sutra and similar texts to little streams.
Therefore the Pure Law of the little streams that are the
Nembutsu and similar teachings will surely disappear first,
as a sutra passage states. When the Daijuku Sutra
says that, in the fifth of the five five-hundred-year periods,
"the Pure Law will become obscured and lost,"
and when the Muryoju Sutra says that "the scriptural
path will perish...," they are simply saying the same
thing. Therefore we are to understand that in the Latter
Day of the Law, the scriptural path will perish beginning
with the Muryoju Sutra and sutras of that type. "The
scriptural path will perish" means that the sutras
will lose their power to benefit the beings. It does not
mean that the actual scrolls of the sutras will cease to
exist. At present, more than two hundred years have passed
since the time began when the scriptural path is to perish.
In this period, the Lotus Sutra alone can benefit people
and lead them to enlightenment.
This being the case, it becomes obvious that one ought
to embrace this sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In
the Yakuo chapter, the Buddha states: "In the
fifth five hundred years after my death, widely declare
and spread [the Lotus Sutra] and never allow its flow to
cease." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai comments on this
by saying, "In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic
Way shall spread and benefit mankind far into the future."
And the Great Teacher Miao-lo further says, "It is
the time when the great teaching will be propagated."
All these passages indicate that during the fifth five hundred
years, the Lotus Sutra will be propagated, and thereafter
will continue to exist throughout the world and never disappear.
In the Anrakugyo chapter we read: "In the latter
age when the Law is on the point of disappearing, one who
accepts and upholds, reads and recites this sutra..."
And the Jinriki chapter says: "At that time
the Buddha addressed Jogyo and the great host of bodhisattvas,
saying, '...Even if, [by means of these mystic powers, I
were for countless unlimited hundreds of trillions of asogi
kalpas] to expound the benefits of this sutra to ensure
its propagation, I could never explain them fully. I have
briefly described in this sutra all the laws of the Buddha,
all the invincible mystic powers of the Buddha, all the
secret storehouses of the Buddha and all the profound practices
of the Buddha.'"
The meaning of these various passages is that, whether
one speaks of it as the fifth five-hundred-year period following
the Buddha's passing, or calls it the future age, or the
defiled and evil age, it is apparent that at the present
time, when the two thousand years of the Former and Middle
Days of the Law have ended and we are two hundred years
or more into the Latter Day, only the Lotus Sutra should
be propagated. The reason for this is that, in this age,
the people's minds have become twisted, and the teachings
of the Law produce no actual effect. The Buddhas and gods
no longer manifest their awesome powers, and prayers for
this life and for future existences go unanswered. At such
a time the devil king, or the Devil of the Sixth Heaven,
will take advantage of the situation and come rampaging,
and the nation will be troubled by constant famine and drought.
Disease and plague will rage everywhere, and we will suffer
the disasters of invasion from abroad and internal revolt,
our nation being constantly at war within, and later invaded
by forces coming from a foreign country to assault us. In
such an "age of conflict," when the Pure Law of
the other sutras ceases to be effective, the wonderfully
efficacious medicine of the Lotus Sutra will provide the
cure for all these grave disasters.
If one uses the Lotus Sutra to pray for the welfare of
the land, it will prove to be a Great Pure Law for the safety
and protection of the nation, insuring joy and prosperity
to everyone from the ruler on down to the common people.
King Ajatashatru and King Ashoka started out as evil rulers.
But the former heeded the counsel of his high minister Jivaka,
while the latter put faith in the guidance of the Venerable
Yasha, and as a result both were able to leave behind them
a reputation as worthy monarchs. Likewise the emperor of
the Ch'en dynasty, who cast aside the three southern schools
and the seven northern schools and relied on the Dharma
Teacher Chih-i, and Emperor Kammu, who spurned the eminent
priests of the six sects and instead heeded the Dharma Teacher
Saicho, are known to this day as worthy rulers. The Dharma
Teacher Chih-i is the man who was later honored with the
title of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, while the Dharma
Teacher Saicho later became known as the Great Teacher Dengyo.
The present ruler of Japan is in a position to do the same.
If he will put his faith in this Great Pure Law, which insures
"peace and security in this life and good circumstances
in the next," and propagate it throughout the nation,
then he will be looked up to by all the other nations, and
his name will be handed down in later ages as that of a
worthy man. Indeed, he may come to be regarded as a manifestation
of Bodhisattva Muhengyo. And the wise man who works to propagate
the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, no matter how lowly
his station, should be looked upon as a manifestation of
Bodhisattva Jogyo, or perhaps as an envoy of Shakyamuni
The bodhisattvas Yakuo, Yakujo, Kannon and Seishi, on the
other hand, were envoys of the Buddha during the two thousand
years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law. Because
their turn has already passed, they can no longer benefit
people as they did in that time of high antiquity. Just
observe what happens when prayers are offered to them at
present! All such prayers go unanswered. Now, in the present
age, the Latter Day of the Law, it is the turn of the bodhisattvas
Jogyo, Muhengyo and the others.
Only when one understands all this clearly and has faith
in it can the power of the Law be manifested and the Buddhas
and bodhisattvas bring benefit to the people. To illustrate,
in kindling a fire, three things are needed: a good piece
of steel, a good flint and good tinder. The same is true
of prayer. Three things are required--a good teacher, a
good believer and a good doctrine--before the prayers can
be effective and disasters banished from the land.
A "good teacher" is a priest who is innocent
of any wrongdoing in secular affairs, who never fawns upon
others even in the slightest, who has few desires and is
satisfied with little, and who is compassionate, a priest
who trusts to the scriptures, reads and upholds the Lotus
Sutra and also encourages others to embrace it. Such a priest
the Buddha has praised by calling him, among all priests,
the finest teacher of the Dharma.
A "good believer" is one who does not depend
upon persons of eminence nor despise persons of humble station,
who does not rely on the backing of his superiors nor look
down on his inferiors, who, not relying upon the opinions
of others, upholds the Lotus Sutra among all the various
sutras. Such a person the Buddha has called the best of
As for a "good doctrine," the Buddha has told
us that this sutra, the Lotus, represents the foremost among
all doctrines. Among all the sutras the Buddha "has
preached," among those he "now preaches,"
and among those he "will preach," this sutra is
designated as foremost, and therefore it is a "good
The scriptural doctrines of the Zen, Shingon and other
sects stand in second or third place by comparison, and
indeed, the doctrines of the Shingon sect in particular
deserve to be put in seventh place! And yet in Japan, these
second-rate, third-rate, or even seventh-rate doctrines
are used as the basis for prayers and supplications, though
any proof of their efficacy has yet to be seen.
This wonderful Law [of the Lotus Sutra], which is foremost
and unexcelled, should in fact be the basis of prayers.
The Buddha himself has declared that "honestly discarding
the provisional teachings, I will expound only the supreme
Way," and that "only this one teaching is true."
Who, then, could have doubts in the matter?
Question: If ignorant persons should come and ask what
path leads to emancipation from the sufferings of birth
and death, what teachings of which sutras should one explain
for them? What has the Buddha taught concerning this point?
Answer: You should teach them the Lotus Sutra. Thus, for
example, the Hosshi chapter says: "If someone
should ask you which persons in a future age will be able
to attain Buddhahood, you should show him that these very
persons in a future age will surely be able to attain Buddhahood."
And the Anrakugyo chapter says: "If one should
be closely questioned, one should not reply by means of
the doctrines of the lesser vehicle, but explain solely
by means of the teachings of the great vehicle." The
meaning of these passages is that, if someone should ask
what kind of persons are capable of attaining Buddhahood,
you should reply that persons who embrace the Lotus Sutra
are certain to attain Buddhahood. This represents the Buddha's
Here a question may arise: "People differ widely in
their capacity and inclination. Some will want to hear the
Nembutsu teachings, while others will want to hear the Lotus
Sutra. If one expounds the Lotus Sutra to those who want
to hear about the Nembutsu, what benefit will they derive
from it? If someone has come and specifically asked to hear
about the Nembutsu, should one insist on teaching that person
the Lotus Sutra? The true intention of the Buddha was to
preach the Law in accordance with people's capacities so
that they could gain benefit thereby, was it not?"
If someone should raise objections of this kind, one should
explain as follows. As a matter of principle, in the world
of the Latter Day of the Law, without considering whether
or not it conforms to the capacity of ignorant persons,
one should go ahead and teach them the five characters that
compose the title of the Lotus Sutra and enable them to
As for the reason, when Shakyamuni Buddha spread the Lotus
Sutra long ago as a bodhisattva named Fukyo, the laymen
and laywomen, the nuns and the monks, all refused to heed
his words. On the contrary, he was cursed and reviled, beaten
and driven away, being subjected to numerous types of persecution.
But though he was hated and envied, he did not allow it
to daunt him in the slightest, but kept on assertively preaching
the Lotus Sutra, and for that reason he appeared in our
present world as Shakyamuni Buddha. The persons who had
cursed Bodhisattva Fukyo did not find their mouths twisting
out of shape, and those who had beaten him likewise suffered
no stiffening of their arms. [After death, they fell into
hell, but eventually were able to take faith in the Lotus
The Venerable Aryasimha, who inherited Shakyamuni's teachings,
was murdered by a Brahman, and the Tripitaka Master Fa-tao
was branded on the face and exiled to the region south of
the Yangtze River. How much more so, in the Latter Day of
the Law, will an insignificant monk who attempts to propagate
the Lotus Sutra encounter such difficulties! Indeed, the
sutra makes this very clear. Therefore, although the people
may not heed it or may say that it does not suit their capacity,
one should nevertheless persist in expounding to them the
five-character title of the Lotus Sutra, because there is
no other way apart from it to attain Buddhahood.
Again, someone might raise objections, saying, "Rather
than to insist upon preaching the Lotus Sutra when it does
not accord with the people's capacity, and thus cause them
to slander it so that they fall into the evil paths, it
would be better to preach the Nembutsu, which does suit
their capacity, and thus awaken in them the aspiration for
enlightenment. If someone not only fails to bring benefit
to others but on the contrary causes them to commit slander
and fall into hell, he is no votary of the Lotus Sutra but
rather a person of false views."
In reply to such objections, one should point out that
in the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha states that whatever the
people's capacity may be, in the Latter Day of the Law,
one should persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra. Ask the
questioner how he interprets that injunction. Does he claim
that Shakyamuni Buddha, Bodhisattva Fukyo, T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo
and Dengyo are "persons of false views" or non-Buddhists?
Then again, with regard to persons of the two vehicles,
who will not fall into the evil paths and have also escaped
from rebirth in the threefold world, the Buddha declares
that it is better to arouse the mind of a dog or a fox than
to have the mentality of the two vehicles. He also warns
that it is better to commit the five cardinal sins or the
ten evil acts and fall into hell than to have the mind of
the two vehicles. Not falling into the evil paths might
appear to be a considerable benefit, but the Buddha did
not regard this as his true intention. Even if one should
fall into hell [as a result of slandering the Lotus Sutra],
because one has heard the Lotus Sutra, which enables the
attainment of Buddhahood, one has thereby received the seed
of Buddhahood and will invariably become a Buddha.
Thus, T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo, following this principle,
state in their commentaries that one should persist in preaching
the Lotus Sutra. It is like the case of a man who stumbles
and falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up
from the ground to rise to his feet again. In the same way,
though persons [who slander the Lotus Sutra] may fall into
hell, they will quickly rise up again and attain the state
The people of today in any event already reject the Lotus
Sutra, and because of that error they will undoubtedly fall
into hell. Therefore one should by all means persist in
preaching the Lotus Sutra and causing them to hear it. Those
who put their faith in it will surely attain Buddhahood,
while those who slander it will establish a "poison-drum
relationship" with it and will likewise attain Buddhahood.
In any event, the seeds of Buddhahood exist nowhere apart
from the Lotus Sutra. If it were possible to attain Buddhahood
through the provisional teachings, then why would the Buddha
have said that one should insist on preaching the Lotus
Sutra, and that both those who slander it and those who
put faith in it will benefit? Or why would he say, "We
do not hold our own lives dear. [We value only the supreme
Way]"? Persons who have set their minds upon the Way
should clearly understand these matters.
Question: If ignorant persons put faith in the Lotus Sutra,
can even they attain Buddhahood in their present form? And
in what pure land will they be reborn?
Answer: In embracing the Lotus Sutra, of those who profoundly
grasp the sutra's essence, practice the seated meditation
described in the Maka Shikan, and concentrate on
the meditative disciplines pertaining to the three thousand
realms in a single moment of life, the ten objects and the
ten meditations there may be some who indeed attain Buddhahood
in their present form and achieve enlightenment. As for
other types of people, it would appear that even if they
do not understand the heart of the Lotus Sutra and are ignorant
but have a mind of earnest faith, then they will invariably
be reborn in a pure land. For it says in the Lotus Sutra,
"They will be reborn in the presence of all the Buddhas
of the ten directions," and "She shall directly
go to the tranquil and happy land." These passages
give clear proof that one who has faith in the Lotus Sutra
will be reborn in a pure land.
Someone may raise objections, saying, "Since one is
only one person, I do not understand how one can be reborn
in the presence of the Buddhas of all the ten directions.
Surely one is limited to one direction. Therefore, which
direction should I trust to and be reborn in?"
To this one would reply that there is a very good reason
why the sutra speaks of ten directions and does not specify
which one. This is because, when the life of one who believes
in the Lotus Sutra comes to an end, among all the worlds
of the ten directions, that person will be reborn in the
land of a Buddha who is preaching the Lotus Sutra, and will
never be reborn in a pure land where the other sutras, such
as the Kegon, Agon, Hodo or Hannya sutras,
are being preached.
There are many pure lands in the ten directions. There
are pure lands where the way of the shomon disciple
is preached, pure lands where the way of the pratyekabuddha
is preached, and pure lands where the way of the bodhisattva
is preached. Those who have faith in the Lotus Sutra will
never be reborn in any of these, but will at once be reborn
in a pure land where the Lotus Sutra is being preached.
They will take their seats among the assembly, listen to
the Lotus Sutra and as a result become Buddhas.
Yet in spite of this, there are those who urge others to
set aside the Lotus Sutra in this lifetime, saying that
it is not suited to their capacity, and that they will master
its teachings when they are reborn in the western pure land.
It is obvious, however, that such persons will never master
the Lotus Sutra even in Amida's pure land, nor will they
be reborn in any of the other pure lands of the ten directions.
Rather, because the offense of turning one's back upon the
Lotus Sutra is a grave one, they will fall into hell and
remain there for a long time. The sutra is referring to
such people when it says, "After they die, they will
fall into the Avichi Hell."
Question: The sutra states, "She shall directly go
to the tranquil and happy land where Amida Buddha dwells..."
In this passage, the Buddha is saying that a woman who embraces
the Lotus Sutra will be reborn in the pure land of Amida
Buddha. It is said that by reciting the Nembutsu, one will
also be reborn in the pure land of Amida Buddha. Since one
is reborn in the pure land in either case, may we not assume
that the Nembutsu and the Lotus Sutra are equivalent?
Answer: The Kammuryoju Sutra belongs to the provisional
teachings, while the Lotus Sutra represents the true teaching.
In no way can they be equivalent. The reason is that, when
the Buddha appeared in the world, though he spent forty
years and more preaching various doctrines, he had a great
aversion to persons of the two vehicles, to evil persons
and to women, and said not a single word about the possibility
of their attaining Buddhahood. In this one sutra, [the Lotus,]
however, he stated that even those persons of the two vehicles,
for whom the seeds of Buddhahood had rotted; Devadatta,
who had committed three of the [five] cardinal sins; and
women, who are ordinarily hindered by the five obstacles,
could all become Buddhas. This is clearly stated in the
text of the sutra.
The Kegon Sutra 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." The Gonjikinyo Sutra says that even
though the eyes of the Buddhas of the three existences should
come out and fall to the ground, the women of the world
could never attain Buddhahood. Another sutra says, "Women
are great demon spirits who devour all people." And
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna in his Daichido Ron says that
just looking upon a woman once forms the karma to fall into
hell for a long time. Thus, although I do not know if it
is true or not, it is said that the priest Shan-tao, though
he was a slanderer of the Law, spent his entire lifetime
without ever looking at a woman. And Narihira was comparing
women to demons in his poem:
My horror of that ruined,
Is because, even briefly,
It swarms with demons!
Moreover, women are burdened with the five obstacles and
the three obediences, and so their sins are said to be profound.
The five obstacles mean that first, a woman cannot become
a Bonten; second, she cannot become a Taishaku; third, she
cannot become a devil king; fourth, she cannot become a
wheel-turning king; and fifth, she cannot become a Buddha.
The three obediences mean that when a woman is young, she
cannot follow her own desires but must obey her parents.
When she reaches maturity, she cannot follow her own desires
but must obey her husband. And when she is old, she cannot
follow her own desires but must obey her sons. Thus, from
the time she is a child until she becomes an old woman,
she cannot do as she pleases, but must obey these three
categories of persons. She cannot say what she thinks, she
cannot see what she wants to see, she cannot hear what she
wants to hear. This is what is meant by the three obediences.
For this reason, Jung Ch'i-ch'i numbered among his "three
pleasures" the fact that he had not been born a woman.
Women are thus despised in both the inner and outer scriptures.
And yet, in the case of this sutra [the Lotus], even though
they neither read nor copy the text, women who receive and
uphold it in body, mouth and mind, and in particular chant
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with their mouths, will be able to attain
Buddhahood readily, as did the dragon king's daughter or
Gautami and Yashodhara, who lived at the same time as the
Buddha. This is the meaning of the passage [you have cited]
from the sutra.
Moreover, concerning the phrase "the tranquil and
happy land," all the various pure lands are indicated
by the words "tranquil and happy." And again,
the Amida Buddha spoken of here is not the Amida Buddha
of the Kammuryoju Sutra. The Amida Buddha of the
Kammuryoju Sutra was originally a monk named Hozo,
the master of forty-eight vows and a Buddha who attained
the Way ten kalpas in the past. In the Lotus Sutra, the
Amida mentioned in the theoretical teaching was the ninth
son among the sixteen princes who were sons of Daitsuchisho
Buddha, an Amida Buddha who made a great vow to propagate
the Lotus Sutra. The Amida who appears in the essential
teaching is an emanation of Shakyamuni Buddha. Therefore
the commentary says, "One should understand that this
does not refer to [the Amida of] the Kammuryoju and
Question: The Lotus Sutra says, "[The portal to this
wisdom] is difficult to understand and difficult to enter."
The persons of our time cite this passage to argue that
the Lotus Sutra is not fitted to the capacities of the people,
and this seems to me very reasonable. What is your opinion?
Answer: Such an assertion is quite unfounded. The reason
is because it is put forward by persons who have not grasped
the true meaning of this sutra.
The sutras that were preached prior to the Lotus Sutra
were indeed difficult to understand and difficult to enter.
But when we come to the assembly where the Lotus Sutra was
preached, then we can say that the Buddha's teaching became
easy to understand and easy to enter. For this reason, the
Great Teacher Miao-lo says in his commentary: "The
sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra did not fully reveal
the Buddha's meaning, and therefore it is said that they
are difficult to understand. But in this present teaching,
it is indicated that all persons whosoever can in fact enter
the realm of truth. Hence the teaching is easy to understand."
The meaning of this passage is that, in the case of the
sutras preached previous to the Lotus Sutra, because the
people's capacity was inferior, these sutras were difficult
to understand and difficult to enter. But by the time the
Buddha preached the present sutra, the Lotus, the people's
capacity had become sharper, and therefore the teaching
was easy to understand and easy to enter.
In addition, if those sutras that declare themselves to
be difficult to understand and difficult to enter do not
fit the people's capacity, then you ought first of all to
abandon the Nembutsu teaching. I say this because in the
Muryoju Sutra we read, "[To embrace this sutra
is] the most difficult of difficult things. Nothing is more
difficult than this." And the Amida Sutra speaks
of itself as a doctrine that is "difficult to believe."
The meaning of these passages is that to receive and uphold
these sutras is the most difficult of difficult things,
that nothing could in fact be more difficult, and that their
doctrines are difficult to believe.
Question: A sutra passage reads, "In these more than
forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." And
another sutra passage reads, "[If one cannot hear of
this sutra...,] in the end he will never attain supreme
enlightenment, even after the lapse of countless, limitless,
inconceivable asogi kalpas." Just what are these passages
Answer: The meaning of these passages is that, among the
various doctrines that Shakyamuni Buddha expounded in the
fifty years of his preaching life, he did not expound the
truth in the Kegon Sutra, which represents his first
teaching, nor did he expound the truth in the Hodo
and Hannya sutras that he preached later on. For
this reason, people who carry out the practice taught by
the Zen and Nembutsu sects or who uphold the precepts will
never attain Buddhahood, even though countless and limitless
kalpas may pass.
After the Buddha had spent forty-two years preaching, he
then expounded the Lotus Sutra, and in that sutra he said,
"The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines
and now must reveal the truth." When they heard and
understood these words of the Buddha, Shariputra and the
others of the twelve hundred arhats, the twelve thousand
shomon disciples, Miroku and the others of the eighty
thousand bodhisattvas, Bonten, Taishaku and the others of
the billions of heavenly beings, and King Ajatashatru and
the countless and innumerable other kings said, "From
past times we have often heard the World-Honored One preach,
but we have never before heard such a profound and wonderful
superior Dharma!" Thus they declared that, although
they had constantly attended the Buddha and heard him preach
various doctrines over forty-two years, they had never heard
anything like this wonderful Lotus Sutra.
How can people in the world so misunderstand such clear
passages as to think that the Lotus Sutra and the other
sutras are equal? Not only that, but they say that the Lotus
Sutra, because it does not suit the people's capacity, is
like brocade worn in the dark of night or like last year's
calendar. When they happen to encounter someone who upholds
the sutra, they look on him with scorn and contempt, hate
and envy, and purse their lips in disapproval of him. This
is nothing less than slander of the Law. How then could
they be reborn in the Pure Land and attain Buddhahood? It
appears that such persons will surely fall into the hell
of incessant suffering.
Question: Generally speaking, people who have a correct
understanding of the Buddhist teachings and who act in accordance
with the Buddha's will are looked up to by the world and
respected by all. And yet in our present age, in the case
of persons who uphold the Lotus Sutra, the world joins in
hating and envying them, treats them with contempt and scorn,
sometimes driving them away, sometimes condemning them to
exile, never dreaming of giving them alms but rather hating
them as though they were deadly enemies. It would almost
seem as though the followers of the Lotus Sutra were evil-minded
persons who were going against the Buddha's will and interpreting
the Buddhist teachings in a distorted manner. How is this
explained in the sutras?
Answer: According to the sutra text, the votaries of the
Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law who are so faithful
in upholding the sutra that they are hated by others are
the true priests of the Mahayana. They are the teachers
of the Dharma who will propagate the Lotus Sutra and bring
benefit to others. As for priests who are thought well of
by others, who go along with other people's desires and
so come to be revered, one should regard them as the enemies
of the Lotus Sutra and as evil teachers to the world. A
sutra passage likens persons of this type to a hunter who
spies sharply about him as he stalks a deer, or to a cat
who hides its claws as it creeps up on a mouse. In just
such a way, we are told, do they flatter, deceive and mislead
the men and women lay believers.
In addition, the Kanji chapter mentions three groups
of people who are enemies of the Lotus Sutra. The first
group consists of laymen and laywomen. These lay men and
women will hate and curse the votaries of the Lotus Sutra,
beat them, put them to the sword, drive them from their
dwellings or slander them to the authorities so that they
are exiled to distant places. They behave toward them with
The second group consists of monks. These men are arrogant
at heart, and though they have little true understanding,
they pretend to be very wise and are looked upon by the
people of the world as great authorities. When these men
see the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, they hate and envy
them, treat them with contempt and scorn, and speak evil
of them to others, as if they were inferior to dogs or foxes.
In their opinion, they alone have truly understood the Lotus
The third group is made up of monks living in secluded
places. These monks have all the outward signs of being
very worthy men. They possess only the prescribed three
robes and one begging bowl, and live in seclusion in a quiet
spot in a mountain forest, so that everyone looks up to
them as though they were the arhats living at the time of
Shakyamuni Buddha, and all people revere them as though
they were Buddhas. When these men see the monks who read
and uphold the Lotus Sutra in accordance with its teachings,
they hate and envy them, calling them great fools or holders
of grave heretical views, claiming that they are completely
lacking in compassion and that they preach doctrines that
do not belong to Buddhism. And because the ruler looks up
to such men and believes what they say, everyone on down
to the common people gives alms to them as though they were
Buddhas. Thus the Buddha taught that persons who read and
uphold the Lotus Sutra in accordance with its teachings,
will invariably be hated by these three types of enemies.
Question: Is there any evidence to indicate that one should
in particular embrace the name of the Lotus Sutra in the
same way that people embrace the name of a particular Buddha?
Answer: The sutra states, "The Buddha addressed the
demon daughters saying, 'Excellent! Excellent! Merely by
protecting those who receive and uphold the name of the
Lotus Sutra, you will enjoy good fortune beyond measure.'"
The meaning of this passage is that, when the ten demon
daughters made a vow to protect those who embrace the title
of the Lotus Sutra, the Greatly Enlightened World-Honored
One praised them, saying, "Excellent! Excellent! The
blessings you will enjoy for protecting those who receive
and uphold Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will be impossible to fathom!
They will be splendid blessings! Truly wonderful!"
This passage implies that we human beings, whether we are
walking, standing, sitting or lying down, should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
As for the meaning of Myoho-renge-kyo: The Buddha nature
inherent in us, ordinary beings; the Buddha nature of Bonten,
Taishaku and the other deities; the Buddha nature of Shariputra,
Maudgalyayana and the other shomon disciples; the
Buddha nature of Monju, Miroku and the other bodhisattvas;
and the Mystic Law that is the enlightenment of all the
Buddhas of the three existences, are one and identical;
this principle is called Myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, when
once we chant Myoho-renge-kyo, with just that single sound
we summon forth and manifest the Buddha nature of all Buddhas;
all dharmas; all bodhisattvas; all shomon disciples;
all the deities such as Bonten, Taishaku, King Emma; the
sun, the moon, the myriad stars, the heavenly gods and earthly
deities, on down to hell-dwellers, hungry spirits, beasts,
asuras, humans, gods and all other living beings.
This blessing is immeasurable and boundless.
When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life
as the object of worship, the Buddha nature within us is
summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo;
this is what is meant by "Buddha." To illustrate,
when a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky
are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds
flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives
to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law,
our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.
The Buddha nature of Bonten and Taishaku, being called,
will protect us, and the Buddha nature of the Buddhas and
bodhisattvas, being summoned, will rejoice. This is what
the Buddha meant when he said, "One who embraces it
[the Lotus Sutra] even for a short time will delight me
and all other Buddhas."
All Buddhas of the three existences, too, attain Buddhahood
by virtue of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. These
five characters are the reason why the Buddhas of the three
existences make their advent in the world; they are the
Mystic Law whereby all living beings can attain the Buddha
Way. You should understand this matter thoroughly, and,
on the path of attaining Buddhahood, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
without arrogance or attachment to biased views.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page