Lessening the Karmic Retribution
There were two brothers called Suri and Handoku1.
Both of them answered to the name Suri Handoku. You three
believers are like them. When any one of you comes, I feel
as though all three of you were with me.
The Nirvana Sutra teaches the principle of lessening karmic
retribution. If one's heavy karma from the past is not expiated
within this lifetime, he must undergo the sufferings of
hell in the future, but if he experiences extreme hardship
in this life, the sufferings of hell will vanish instantly.
When he dies, he will obtain the blessings of Rapture and
Tranquillity, as well as those of the three vehicles and
the supreme vehicle. Bodhisattva Fukyo was not abused and
vilified, stoned and beaten with staves without reason.
He had probably slandered the True Law in the past. The
phrase "after expiating his sins"2
indicates that because Bodhisattva Fukyo met persecution,
he could eradicate his sins from previous lifetimes.
The twenty-four successors3
were all emissaries from the Buddha, who had predicted their
advent. Of these, the fifteenth, Bodhisattva Kanadeva, was
killed by a Brahman, and the twenty-fourth, Aryasinha, was
beheaded by King Danmira. Buddhamitra and Bodhisattva Nargarjuna
also suffered many persecutions. Yet others propagated Buddhism
under the protection of devout kings, without encountering
persecution. This would seem to show that there are both
good and evil countries in the world, and accordingly there
are two ways of propagation, shoju and shakubuku. Persecutions
occurred even in the Former and Middle Days of the Law --
even in India, the center of Buddhism. Now is the beginning
of the Latter Day, and this country is far away from India.
I therefore expected that persecutions would arise, and
I have long been awaiting them.
I expounded this principle a long time ago; so it should
not be new to you. Kangyo-soku is one of the six stages
of practice in the perfect teaching. It means that one does
as he speaks and speaks as he does. Those at the stages
of ri-soku and myoji-soku believe in the perfect teaching,
but even though they praise it, their actions fail to reflect
their words. For example, many people study the books of
the Three Great Rulers4
and the Five Emperors, but there is not one case in ten
million where society is governed as those ancient Chinese
sages taught. Thus it is very difficult to establish peace
in society. One may be letter-perfect in reciting the Lotus
Sutra, but it is far more difficult to practice as it teaches.
The Hiyu chapter states, "They will despise, hate,
envy and bear grudges against those who read, recite, transcribe
and embrace this sutra." The Hosshi chapter reads,
"Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime
of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after
his passing?" The Kanji chapter reads, "They will
attack us with swords and staves...we will be banished again
and again." The Anrakugyo chapter states, "The
people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely
difficult to believe." These quotations are from the
sutra, but there is no way of knowing when these prophecies
will be fulfilled. In the past, Bodhisattva Fukyo and Priest
Kakutoku read and lived these passages. But aside from the
Former and Middle Days of the Law, now in the Latter Day,
in all Japan only Nichiren seems to have done so. From my
present situation, I can well imagine how followers, relatives,
disciples and believers must have grieved when so many of
their saints met persecution in the ancient days of evil
Nichiren has now read the entirety of the Lotus Sutra.
Even a single phrase or passage will assure one's Enlightenment;
since I have read the entire sutra, my benefits will be
far greater. Though I may sound presumptuous, my most fervent
wish is to enable the whole nation to attain enlightenment.
However, in an age when none will heed me, it is beyond
my power. I will close now to keep this brief.
The fifth day of the tenth month in the eighth year of
- Suri and Handoku: Sons of a Brahman
family in Shakyamuni's time, said to be so stupid
that they were unable to distinguish between each
other; both would come running when one was called.
The Daishonin compares their closeness to the staunch
unity of the three believers from Shimousa.
Sutra, chap. 20.
- The number and ordering of the Buddha's
successors differs slightly according to different
documents. The translation here is based on the Daishonin's
full list of them which appears in page 1103 of the
- Books of the Three Great Rulers
and Five Emperors: Writings popularly ascribed to
eight legendary emperors of ancient China. Confucius
is traditionally thought to have incorporated them
into his work, the Book of Documents, one of his Five
Classics. Little is known about the contents of these
works, but the legendary emperors are said to have
realized a model government.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol. 1, pp. 17-19.