Repaying Debts of Gratitude
- Ho-on Sho -
The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was born;
the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from
Mao Pao. If even lowly creatures know enough to do this,
then how much more should human beings! Thus Yu Jang, a
worthy man of old, fell on his sword in order to repay the
debt he owed his lord Chih Po, and the minister Hung Yen
for similar reasons cut open his stomach and inserted the
liver of his dead lord, Duke Yi of Wei. What can we say,
then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism?
Surely they should not forget the debts of gratitude they
owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country.
But if one intends to repay these great debts of gratitude,
he can hope to do so only if he studies and masters the
Buddhist teachings, becoming a person of wisdom. If he does
not, he will be like a man who attempts to lead a company
of the blind over bridges and across rivers when he himself
has sightless eyes. Can a ship steered by someone who cannot
even tell the direction of the wind ever carry the traveling
merchants to the mountains where treasure lies?
If one hopes to study and master the Buddhist teachings,
then he cannot do so without devoting time to the task.
And if he wants to have time to spend on the undertaking,
he cannot continue to wait on his parents, his teachers,
and his sovereign. Until he attains the road that leads
to emancipation, he should not defer to the wishes and feelings
of his parents and teachers, no matter how reasonable they
Many people may think that counsel such as this runs counter
to secular virtues and also fails to accord with the spirit
of Buddhism. But in fact secular texts such as the Classic
of Filial Piety make clear that there are times when
one can be a loyal minister or a filial child only by refusing
to obey the wishes of one's sovereign or parents. And in
the sacred scriptures of Buddhism it is said, "By renouncing
one's obligations and entering nirvana one can truly repay
those obligations in full." Pi Kan refused to go along
with his sovereign's wishes and thereby came to be known
as a worthy man. Crown Prince Siddhartha disobeyed his father
King Shuddhodana and yet became the most outstanding filial
son in all the threefold world. These are examples of what
Once I had understood this and prepared to cease deferring
to my parents and teachers and instead to delve into the
truths of Buddhism, I found that there are ten bright mirrors
that reflect the sacred doctrines of the Buddha's lifetime
of teachings. These are the ten sects of Buddhism known
as the Kusha, Jojitsu, Ritsu, Hosso, Sanron, Shingon, Kegon,
Jodo, Zen, and Tendai-Hokke sects. Scholars today believe
that, with these ten sects as enlightened teachers, one
should understand the heart of all the sacred scriptures,
and claim that these ten mirrors all in an accurate manner
reflect the path of the Buddha's teachings. However, we
may set aside for now the three Hinayana sects [Kusha, Jojitsu,
and Ritsu]. They are like a message that is somehow sent
to a foreign country by a private citizen and therefore
But the seven Mahayana sects are a great ship that can
carry us across the vast sea of suffering and take us to
the shore of the pure land. By studying and understanding
them, we can save ourselves and at the same time lead others
to salvation. When, with this thought in mind, I began to
examine them, I found that each of the seven Mahayana sects
sings its own praises, saying, "Our sect and our sect
alone represents the very heart of the Buddha's lifetime
There are men such as Tu-shun, Chih-yen, Fa-tsang, and
Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon sect; Hsuan-tsang, Tz'u-en, Chih-chou
and Chisho of the Hosso sect; Hsing-huang and Chia-hsiang
of the Sanron sect; Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung,
Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho of the Shingon sect; Bodhidharma,
Hui-k'o and Hui-neng of the Zen sect; and Tao-ch'o, Shan-tao,
Huai-kan and Genku [Honen] of the Jodo sect. Basing themselves
on the particular sutras and treatises favored by their
respective sects, these leaders of the various sects all
claim that "our sect" understands all of the myriad
sutras, that "our sect" has grasped the innermost
meaning of the Buddha's teachings.
Thus, some of these men claim, "The Kegon Sutra
is first among all the sutras; other sutras such as the
Lotus and the Dainichi are its underlings."
Again, the leaders of the Shingon sect claim, "The
Dainichi or Great Sun Sutra is first among all the
sutras; the other sutras are like crowds of little stars."
The men of the Zen sect say, "The Ryoga Sutra
is first among all the sutras." And so forth for the
men of the various other sects. The many Buddhist teachers
whose names I have listed above are honored by the people
of our time, who pay reverence to them in the way that all
the heavenly deities pay reverence to the god Taishaku and
follow them in the way the hosts of stars follow the sun
and the moon.
For ordinary people like us, whomever we may take as our
teacher, if we have faith in him, then we will not think
him inadequate in any way. But though others may still revere
and believe [in the teachers of their respective sects],
I, Nichiren, have found it difficult to dispel my doubts.
When we look at the world, we find each of the various
sects saying, "We are the one, we are the one!"
But within a nation, there can be only one man who is sovereign.
If two men try to be sovereign, the country will know no
peace. Likewise, if one house has two masters, it will surely
face destruction. Must it not be the same with the sutras?
Among the various sutras, there must be one which is the
monarch of all. Yet the ten sects and seven sects I have
mentioned all argue with each other over which of the sutras
it is and can reach no consensus. It is as though seven
men or ten men were all trying to be the monarch of a single
nation, thus keeping the populace in constant turmoil.
Wondering how to resolve this dilemma, I made a vow. I
decided that I would not heed the claims of these eight
or ten sects, but would do as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai
did and let the sutras themselves be my sole teacher, in
this way determining which of the various teachings of the
Buddha's lifetime are superior and which are inferior. With
this in mind, I began to read through all the sutras.
In a scripture called the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha says,
"Rely on the Law and not upon persons." Relying
on the Law here means relying on the various sutras. Not
relying upon persons means not relying on persons other
than the Buddha, such as Bodhisattvas Fugen and Monjushiri
or the various Buddhist teachers I have enumerated earlier.
In the same sutra, the Buddha also says, "Rely on
the sutras that are complete and final and not on those
which are not complete and final." When he speaks of
the "sutras that are complete and final," he is
referring to the Lotus Sutra, and when he speaks of "those
which are not complete and final," he means the Kegon,
Dainichi, Nirvana and other sutras preached before,
during, and after the preaching of the Lotus Sutra.
If we are to believe these dying words of the Buddha, we
must conclude that the Lotus Sutra is the only bright mirror
we should have, and that through it we can understand the
heart of all the sutras.
Accordingly, let us turn to the text of the Lotus Sutra
itself. There we find it stated that "This Lotus Sutra
[is the secret storehouse of Buddhas]. Among the sutras,
it holds the highest place." If we accept these words
of the sutra, then, like Taishaku dwelling on the peak of
Mount Sumeru, like the wish-granting jewel that crowns the
wheel-turning kings, like the moon that dwells above the
forest of trees, like the fleshy protuberance that tops
the head of a Buddha, so the Lotus Sutra stands like a wish-granting
jewel crowning the Kegon, Dainichi, Nirvana
and all the other sutras.
If we set aside the pronouncements of the scholars and
teachers and rely upon the text of the sutra, then we can
see that the Lotus Sutra is superior to the Dainichi,
Kegon and all the other sutras as plainly and as
easily as a sighted person can distinguish heaven form earth
when the sun is shining in a clear blue sky.
And if we examine the texts of the Dainichi, Kegon,
and the other sutras, we will find that there is not a word
or even a dot in them that resembles the above-cited passage
of the Lotus Sutra. True, at times they speak about the
superiority of the Mahayana sutras as compared to the Hinayana
sutras, or of the Buddhist truth as opposed to secular truth,
or they praise the truth of the Middle Way as opposed to
the various views that phenomena are non-substantial or
that they have only provisional existence. But in fact they
are like the rulers of petty kingdoms who, when addressing
their subjects, speak of themselves as great kings. It is
the Lotus Sutra that, in comparison to these various rulers,
is the true Great King.
The Nirvana Sutra alone of all the sutras has passages
that resemble those of the Lotus Sutra. For this reason,
the Buddhist scholars who preceded T'ien-t'ai in both northern
and southern China were led astray into declaring that the
Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Nirvana Sutra. But if we
examine the text of the Nirvana Sutra itself, we will find
that, as in the Muryogi Sutra, the comparison is
being made between the Nirvana Sutra and the sutras of the
Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya periods that were expounded
during the first forty or more years of the Buddha's preaching
life. It is in comparison to these earlier sutras that the
Nirvana Sutra declares itself to be superior.
Moreover, the Nirvana Sutra, comparing itself with the
Lotus Sutra, says, "When this [Nirvana] sutra was preached,...
the prediction had already been made in the Lotus Sutra
that the eight thousand shomon disciples would attain
Buddhahood, a prediction which was like a great harvest.
Thus, the autumn harvest was over and the crop had been
stored away for winter [when this Nirvana Sutra was expounded],
and there was nothing left for it [but a few gleanings]."
This passage from the Nirvana Sutra is saying that the Nirvana
Sutra is inferior to the Lotus Sutra.
The above passages [from the Lotus and Nirvana sutras]
are perfectly clear on this point. Nevertheless, even the
great scholars of northern and southern China went astray,
so students of later ages should take care to examine them
very thoroughly. For the passage [from the Lotus Sutra]
not only establishes the superiority of the Lotus Sutra
over the Nirvana Sutra, but indicates its superiority over
all other sutras in the worlds of the ten directions.
Earlier, there were those who were misled concerning these
passages, but after such great teachers as T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo,
and Dengyo had clearly indicated their meaning, one would
suppose that any person with eyes would understand them.
Nevertheless, even such men as Jikaku and Chisho of the
Tendai sect failed to understand these passages correctly,
so what can one expect from the members of the other sects?
Someone might doubt my words, saying that, although the
Lotus Sutra is the finest among all the sutras that have
been brought to China and Japan, in India and in the realms
of the dragon kings, the Four Heavenly Kings, the sun and
the moon, the Trayastrimsha Heaven, or the Tushita Heaven,
there are as many sutras as there are sands in the Ganges.
Among these, may there not be one that is superior to the
I would reply that by looking at one thing, you can surmise
ten thousand. This is what is meant by the statement that
you can come to know all under heaven without ever going
out of your garden gate. But a fool will have doubts, saying,
"I have seen the sky in the south, but I have not seen
the sky in the east or west or north. Perhaps the sky in
those other three directions has a different sun in it from
the one I know." Or he will see a column of smoke rising
up beyond the hills, and, although the smoke is in plain
sight, because he cannot see the fire itself, he will conclude
that the fire may not really exist. Such a person is my
questioner, an icchantika or man of incorrigible
disbelief, no different from a man with sightless eyes!
In the Hosshi chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni
Buddha, uttering words of absolute sincerity from his golden
mouth, establishes the relative superiority of the various
sutras he expounded during the fifty or more years of his
preaching life, saying, "The scriptures I preach number
in the countless millions. Among all those I have preached,
now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most
difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand."
Though this scripture, the Lotus Sutra, was preached by
a single Buddha, Shakyamuni, all the bodhisattvas from the
stage of togaku on down should honor it and have
faith in it. For the Buddha Taho came from the east and
testified to the truth of the sutra, and all other Buddhas
assembled from the ten directions and stretched their long,
broad tongues up to the Brahma Heaven just as Shakyamuni
did. Afterward, they all returned to their respective lands.
The words "have preached, now preach and will preach"
include not only the sutras preached by Shakyamuni in his
fifty years of teaching, but all the sutras preached by
all the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences
without setting aside a single character or even a single
dot. It is in comparison to all of these that the Lotus
Sutra is proclaimed to be superior. At that time all the
Buddhas of the ten directions indicated their agreement.
If, after they had returned to their respective lands, they
had told their disciples that there was in fact a sutra
that is superior to the Lotus Sutra, do you suppose their
disciples would ever have believed them?
If there are those who, though they have not seen it with
their own eyes, nevertheless suspect that there may be a
sutra superior to the Lotus Sutra somewhere in India or
in the palaces of the dragon kings, the Four Heavenly Kings,
or the gods of the sun and moon, I would say this. Were
not Bonten and Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the
Four Heavenly Kings and the dragon kings present when Shakyamuni
preached the Lotus Sutra? If the sun and the moon and the
other deities should say, "There is a sutra superior
to the Lotus Sutra; you merely do not know about it,"
then they would be a sun and moon who speak great falsehoods!
In that case, I would berate them, saying, "Sun and
moon, you dwell up in the sky rather than on the ground
as we do, and yet you never fall down--this is because of
the power you gain by observing most strictly the precept
of never telling a lie. But now if you tell this great lie
by saying there is a sutra superior to the Lotus Sutra,
I am certain that, even before the Kalpa of Decline arrives,
you will come plummeting down to earth. What is more, you
will not stop falling until you have reached the depths
of the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering
which is surrounded by solid iron! Beings who tell such
great lies should not be allowed to remain a moment longer
in the sky, circling above the four continents of the earth!"
That is how I would berate them.
Yet such men of great wisdom, such great teachers and learned
doctors as Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon sect or Shan-wu-wei,
Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung, Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho of the
Shingon sect, proclaim that the Kegon and Dainichi
sutras are superior to the Lotus Sutra. Though it is not
for me to judge in such matters, I would say that, in the
light of the higher principles of Buddhism, such men would
appear to be archenemies of the Buddhas, would they not?
Beside them, evil men such as Devadatta and Kokalika are
as nothing. In fact they are in a class with Mahadeva and
the Great Arrogant Brahman. And those who put faith in the
teachings of such men--they too are a fearful lot indeed.
Question: Do you really proclaim that Ch'eng-kuan of the
Kegon sect, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron sect, Tz'u-en of the
Hosso sect, and Shan-wu-wei and the others of the Shingon
sect on down to Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho are the enemies
of the Buddha?
Answer: This is a very important question, a matter of
the gravest concern to the Buddhist Law. Yet, on examining
the text of the sutra, I find that if someone should declare
that there is a sutra superior to the Lotus Sutra, then,
regardless of who that person may be, he cannot escape the
charge of slandering the Law. Therefore, if we go by what
the sutra says, then persons such as this must be regarded
as enemies of the Buddha. And if out of fear I fail to point
out this fact, then the distinctions of relative merit made
among the various sutras will all have been made in vain.
If, out of awe of these great teachers of the past, I should
simply point at their latter-day followers and call them
enemies of the Buddha, then these latter-day followers of
the various sects would say, "The assertion that the
Dainichi Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra is
not something that we ourselves invented on their own. It
is the doctrine taught by the patriarchs of our sect. Though
we may be no match for them in observing the precepts, in
wisdom and understanding, or in status, when it comes to
the doctrines that they taught, we never diverge from them
in the slightest." And in that case, one would have
to admit that they are guilty of no fault.
Nevertheless, if I know that this assertion is false and
yet, out of fear of others, I fail to say so, then I will
be ignoring the stern warning of the Buddha, who said, "He
should never hold back any of the teachings, even though
it may cost him his life."
What am I to do? If I speak up, I face fearful opposition
from the world at large. But if I am silent, I can hardly
escape the condemnation of failing to heed the Buddha's
stern warning. Forward or backward, my way is blocked.
Yet perhaps it is only to be expected. For, as the Lotus
Sutra states, "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?"
Again elsewhere, "The people will be full of hostility,
and it will be extremely difficult to believe."
When Shakyamuni Buddha had been conceived by his mother
Queen Maya, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven gazed down into
Queen Maya's womb and said, "My archenemy, the sharp
sword of the Lotus Sutra, has been conceived. Before the
birth can take place, I must do something to destroy it!"
Then the devil transformed himself into a learned physician,
entered the palace of King Shuddhodana and said, "I
am a learned physician and I have brought some excellent
medicine that will insure the safe delivery of the child."
In this way he attempted to poison the queen.
When the Buddha was born, the devil caused stones to rain
down on him and mixed poison in his milk. Later, when the
Buddha left the palace to enter the religious life, the
devil changed himself into a black venomous serpent and
tried to block his way. In addition, he entered the bodies
of such evil men as Devadatta, Kokalika, King Virudhaka
and King Ajatashatru, inciting them to hurl a great stone
at the Buddha which injured him and drew blood, or to kill
many of the Shakyas, the Buddha's clansmen, or murder his
These great persecutions were planned long ago, schemes
that were designed to prevent the Buddha, the World-Honored
One, from preaching the Lotus Sutra. It is persecutions
such as these that the sutras mean when it says, "Hatred
and jealousy ... abound even during the lifetime of the
In addition to these troubles arising long before the Buddha
preached the Lotus Sutra, there were others that occurred
later when he expounded the sutra itself. [These were the
doubts that arose when Shakyamuni revealed that] for forty-some
years, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the great bodhisattvas
had in fact been among the archenemies of the Lotus Sutra.
But the sutra says, "How much worse will it be in
the world after his passing?" By this we know that,
in a latter age after the death of the Buddha, there are
bound to be persecutions and difficulties even greater and
more fearful than those that occurred during his lifetime.
If even the Buddha had difficulty bearing up under such
persecutions, how can ordinary human beings be expected
to bear them, particularly when these troubles are destined
to be even greater than those that occurred during the Buddha's
Though one might wonder what great persecutions could possibly
be more terrible than the huge rock thirty feet long and
sixteen feet wide that Devadatta rolled down on the Buddha
or the drunken elephant that King Ajatashatru sent charging
after him, if persecutions greater than those that arose
during the Buddha's lifetime keep occurring again and again
to someone who is not guilty of the slightest fault, then
one should realize that that person is a true votary of
the Lotus Sutra in the age after the Buddha's passing.
The successors of the Buddha were among the four ranks
of bodhisattvas; they were messengers of the Buddha. Yet
Bodhisattva Aryadeva was killed by a Brahman, the Venerable
Aryasimha had his head cut off by King Dammira, Buddhamitra
had to stand for twelve years under a red flag before he
could attract the notice of the ruler, and Bodhisattva Nagarjuna
had to stand for seven years under a similar flag. Bodhisattva
Ashvaghosha was sold to an enemy country for the sum of
three hundred thousand coins, and the scholar Manoratha
died of chagrin. These are examples of troubles that took
place in the thousand years of the Former Day of the Law.
We come now to a time five hundred years after the beginning
of the Middle Day of the Law or one thousand five hundred
years after the death of the Buddha. At that time in China
there was a wise man who was at first known as Chih-i and
later as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai Chih-che. He determined
to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in their true
form. There had been thousands and thousands of wise men
who preceded T'ien-t'ai, and they had held various opinions
concerning the teachings set forth by the Buddha in his
lifetime, but in general, they were grouped into ten schools
or traditions, the so-called three schools of southern China
and seven schools of northern China. Of these, one school
emerged as foremost among them. This was the third of the
three southern schools, the school of the Dharma Teacher
Fa-yun of the temple called Kuang-che-ssu.
Fa-yun divided the teachings of the Buddha's lifetime into
five periods. From among the teachings of these five periods,
he selected three sutras, the Kegon, the Nirvana
and the Lotus. He declared that, among all the sutras, the
Kegon Sutra ranks first and is comparable to the
monarch of a kingdom. The Nirvana Sutra ranks second and
is like the regent or prime minister, while the Lotus Sutra
ranks third and is like one of the court nobles. All the
other sutras are inferior to these and are comparable to
the common people.
Fa-yun was by nature a man of outstanding wisdom. Not only
did he study under such great teachers as Hui-kuan, Hui-yen,
Seng-jou and Hui-tz'u, but he refuted the doctrines of various
teachers of the northern and southern schools, and retired
to the seclusion of the mountain forest, where he devoted
himself to the study of the Lotus, Nirvana and Kegon
As a result, Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty summoned him
to court and had a temple called Kuang-che-ssu built for
him within the palace grounds, paying him great honor. When
Fa-yun lectured on the Lotus Sutra, flowers fell down from
the heavens just as they had done when Shakyamuni Buddha
first preached it.
In the fifth year of the T'ien-chien era (A.D. 506), there
was a great drought. The emperor had the Dharma Teacher
Fa-yun lecture on the Lotus Sutra, and when he reached the
verses in the Yakusoyu chapter that read, "The
rain, spread equally,/in all four directions comes down,"
soft rain began to fall from the sky. The emperor was so
overwhelmed with admiration that he appointed Fa-yun on
the spot to the rank of Administrator of Monks (sojo),
and he served him in person as the various deities serve
the god Taishaku and as the common people look up in awe
to their sovereign. In addition, it was revealed to someone
in a dream that Fa-yun had been lecturing on the Lotus Sutra
ever since the time of the Buddha named Nichigatsu Tomyo
in the distant past.
Fa-yun wrote a commentary in four volumes on the Lotus
Sutra. In this commentary he stated, "This sutra is
not truly eminent," and spoke of it as "an unusual
expedient." By this he meant that the Lotus Sutra does
not fully reveal the truth of Buddhism.
Was it because Fa-yun's teachings met with the approval
of the Buddha that the flowers and the rain came down on
him from the sky? In any event, as a result of the wonderful
and unusual things that happened to him, the people of China
came to believe that the Lotus Sutra was in fact perhaps
inferior to the Kegon and Nirvana sutras. This commentary
by Fa-yun disseminated to the kingdoms of Silla, Paekche
and Koguryo in Korea and to Japan, where people in general
came to hold the same opinion as that prevalent in China.
Shortly after the death of Fa-yun, in the latter years
of the Liang dynasty and the early years of the Ch'en, there
appeared a young priest known as the Dharma Teacher Chih-i.
He was a disciple of the Great Teacher Nan-yueh, but perhaps
because he wished to clarify his understanding of his teacher's
doctrines, he entered the storehouse where the scriptures
were kept and examined the texts again and again. He singled
out the Kegon, Nirvana and Lotus sutras as worthy
of special attention, and of these three, he lectured on
the Kegon Sutra in particular. In addition, he compiled
a book of devotional exercises in honor of the Buddha Vairochana
of the Kegon Sutra and day after day furthered his
understanding of this sutra. The people of his time supposed
that he did this because he considered the Kegon
Sutra to be the foremost of all sutras. In fact, however,
he did it because he had grave doubts about Fa-yun's assertion
that the Kegon Sutra was to be ranked first, the
Nirvana Sutra second, and the Lotus Sutra third, and he
therefore wished to make a particularly close examination
of the Kegon Sutra.
After he had done so, he concluded that, among all the
sutras, the Lotus Sutra was to be ranked first, the Nirvana
Sutra second, and the Kegon Sutra third. He also
announced in sorrow that, although the sacred teachings
of the Buddha had spread throughout the land of China, they
had failed to bring benefit to its inhabitants but on the
contrary caused people to stray into the evil states of
existence. This, he concluded, was due to the errors of
It was as though the leaders of the nation had told the
people that east is west, or that heaven is earth, and the
common people had accepted their assertions and believed
accordingly. Later, if some person of humble stature should
come forward and tell them that what they called west was
really east, or that what they called heaven was really
earth, they would not only refuse to believe him, but they
would curse and attack him in order to ingratiate themselves
with their leaders.
Chih-i pondered what to do about the situation. He felt
that he could not remain silent, and he therefore spoke
out in severe condemnation of Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu temple,
asserting that, because of his slanders against the True
Law, he had fallen into hell. With that, the Buddhist teachers
of the north and south rose up like angry hornets and descended
on him like a flock of crows.
Some proposed that Chih-i should have his head smashed;
others, that he should be driven out of the country. The
ruler of the Ch'en dynasty, hearing of what was going on,
summoned a number of Buddhist leaders from north and south
and had them appear in his presence along with Chih-i so
that he could listen to the proceedings. There were such
monks as Hui-yung, a disciple of Fa-yun, and Fa-sui, Hui-k'uang
and Hui-heng, over a hundred men, all of the rank of Supervisor
of Monks (sozu), Administrator of Monks or higher.
They struggled to outdo each other in speaking ill of Chih-i,
raising their eyebrows and glaring angrily, or clapping
their hands in an impatient rhythm.
Chih-i, though he was seated in a humble position far below
the others, showed no sign of emotion and made no slip of
speech. Instead, with quiet dignity he took notes on each
of the charges and assertions made by the other monks and
succeeded in refuting it. Then he began to attack his opponents,
saying, "According to the teachings of Fa-yun, the
Kegon Sutra ranks first, the Nirvana Sutra second,
and the Lotus Sutra third. In what sutra is the proof of
this to be found? Please produce a passage that gives clear
and certain proof of this!" Pressed in this way, the
other monks all lowered their heads and turned pale, unable
to say a word in reply.
He continued to press them, saying, "In the Muryogi
Sutra, the Buddha mentions how he 'then preached the
twelve divisions of the Hodo sutras, the Makahannya
Sutra, and the Kegon Sutra deriving from the [Buddha's]
ocean-imprint meditation.' Thus the Buddha himself mentions
the Kegon Sutra by name and denies its worth, saying
that in these sutras preached before the Muryogi
Sutra, 'I have not yet revealed the truth.' If in the Muryogi
Sutra, which is inferior to the Lotus Sutra, the Kegon
Sutra is attacked in this way, then what grounds could there
be for asserting that the Kegon Sutra represents
the highest achievement of the Buddha's preaching life?
Gentlemen, if you wish to show your loyalty to your teacher,
then please produce some scriptural passage that will refute
and override this passage I have cited from the Muryogi
Sutra and vindicate your teacher's doctrines!
"And on what passage of scripture do you base your
assertion that the Nirvana Sutra is superior to the Lotus
Sutra? In the fourteenth volume of the Nirvana Sutra, there
is a discussion of the relative merit of the Nirvana Sutra
in comparison to the sutras of the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and
Hannya periods, but no mention whatsoever of its merit in
comparison to the Lotus Sutra.
"Earlier in the same sutra, however, in the ninth
volume, the relative merits of the Nirvana and Lotus sutras
are made abundantly clear. The passage states, 'When this
[Nirvana] sutra was preached,... the prediction had already
been made in the Lotus Sutra that the eight thousand shomon
disciples would attain Buddhahood, a prediction which was
like a great harvest. Thus, the autumn harvest was over
and the crop had been stored away for winter [when this
Nirvana Sutra was expounded], and there was nothing left
for it [but a few gleanings].'
"This passage makes clear that the other sutras were
the work of spring and summer, while the Nirvana and Lotus
sutras were like a ripening or fruition. But while the Lotus
Sutra was like a great fruition in which the harvest is
gathered in autumn and stored away for winter, the Nirvana
Sutra was like the gleaning of the fallen grain that takes
place at the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.
"In this passage, the Nirvana Sutra is in effect acknowledging
that it is inferior to the Lotus Sutra. And the Lotus Sutra
speaks about the sutras that have already been preached,
are presently being preached, and are to be preached in
the future. By this, the Buddha is indicating that the Lotus
Sutra is not only superior to the sutras preached before
it as well as those preached at the same time, but is also
superior to those he will preach afterward.
"If the Lord Shakyamuni laid it down so clearly, what
room could there be for doubt? Nevertheless, because he
was concerned about what might happen after his passing,
he determined to have Taho Buddha of the land of Treasure
Purity in the east act as a witness to the truth of his
words. Therefore, Taho Buddha sprang forth from out of the
earth and testified to the verity of the Lotus Sutra, saying,
'All that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the
truth.' In addition, various Buddhas from the ten directions
who were emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha gathered around
and put forth their long, broad tongues until the tips reached
to the Brahma Heaven, as did Shakyamuni's, in witness to
the truth of the teachings.
"After that, Taho Buddha returned to the land of Treasure
Purity, and the various Buddhas who were emanations of Shakyamuni
returned to their respective lands in the ten directions.
Then, when neither Taho Buddha nor the emanations were present,
Lord Shakyamuni preached the Nirvana Sutra. If he had claimed
that he Nirvana Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra, would
his disciples in fact have believed such a thing?"
This was the way Chih-i, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai,
chided them. He was like the brilliant light of the sun
and moon striking the eyes of the asuras, or the
sword of the King of Han pressing against the necks of his
barons, and his opponents accordingly closed their eyes
tightly and let their heads droop. In his appearance and
manner, T'ien-t'ai was like the lion king roaring at foxes
and rabbits, or like a hawk or an eagle swooping down on
doves and pheasants.
As a result, the fact that the Lotus Sutra is superior
to the Kegon and Nirvana sutras became known not
only throughout the whole of China, but word of it also
spread to the five regions of India. There the Indian treatises
of both the Mahayana and Hinayana divisions of Buddhism
were inferior to T'ien-t'ai's doctrine, and the people there
praised him, wondering if the Lord Shakyamuni had appeared
in the world once again, or whether Buddhism would now have
a second beginning.
In time the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai passed away, and the
Ch'en and Sui dynasties came to an end and were replaced
by the T'ang dynasty. T'ien-t'ai's successor, the Great
Teacher Chang-an, also passed away, and there were few who
continued to study the type of Buddhism taught by T'ien-t'ai.
Then, in the reign of Emperor T'ai-tsung, there appeared
a monk named the Learned Doctor Hsuan-tsang. He journeyed
to India in the third year of the Chen-kuan era (629) and
returned in the nineteenth year of the same era (645). During
his journey, he conducted a thorough investigation of Buddhism
in India and on his return introduced to China the school
known as Hosso.
This school is to the T'ien-t'ai or Tendai sect as fire
is to water. Hsuan-tsang brought with him works such as
the Jimmitsu Sutra, the Yuga Ron and the Yuishiki
Ron that were unknown to T'ien-t'ai, and claimed that,
although the Lotus Sutra is superior to the other sutras,
it is inferior to the Jimmitsu Sutra. Since this
was a text that T'ien-t'ai had never seen, his followers
in these later times, shallow as they were in wisdom and
understanding, seemed inclined to accept this allegation.
Moreover, Emperor T'ai-tsung was a wise ruler, but he placed
extraordinary faith in the teachings of Hsuan-tsang. As
a result, though there were those who might have wished
to speak out in protest, they were, as is too often the
case, awed by the authority of the throne and held their
peace. Thus, regrettable as it is to relate, the Lotus Sutra
was thrust aside. Hsuan-tsang taught that if people have
the capacity to understand the three vehicles, then the
one vehicle can be no more than an expedient to instruct
them, and the three vehicles, the only true way of enlightening
them, along with the theory of the five natures into which
all beings are inherently divided.
Though these new teachings came from India, the home of
Buddhism, it was as though the non-Buddhist teachings of
India had invaded the land of China. The Lotus Sutra was
declared to be a mere expedient teaching, and the Jimmitsu
Sutra, the embodiment of the truth. Thus the testimony given
by Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten directions
was totally ignored, and instead Hsuan-tsang and his disciple
Tz'u-en were looked upon as living Buddhas.
Later, during the reign of Empress Wu, a monk called the
Dharma Teacher Fa-tsang appeared who, in order to vent his
anger over the attacks that had been made earlier by the
Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai on the Kegon Sutra, founded
a new school called the Kegon school. In doing so, he utilized
a new translation of the Kegon Sutra that had recently
been completed, using it to supplement the older translation
of the Kegon Sutra that had been the target of T'ien-t'ai's
attack. This school proclaimed that the Kegon Sutra
represents the "root teaching" of the Buddha,
while the Lotus Sutra represents the "branch teachings."
To sum up, the teachers in northern and southern China
[such as Fa-yun who preceded T'ien-t'ai] ranked the Kegon
Sutra first, the Nirvana Sutra second, and the Lotus Sutra
third. T'ien-t'ai ranked the Lotus first, the Nirvana second,
and the Kegon third. And the newly founded Kegon
school ranked the Kegon first, the Lotus second,
and the Nirvana third.
Later, in the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung, the Learned
Doctor Shan-wu-wei journeyed to China from India, bringing
with him the Dainichi and Soshisuji sutras.
In addition, the Learned Doctor Chin-kang-chih appeared
with the Kongocho Sutra. Moreover, Chin-kang-chih
had a disciple named the Learned Doctor Pu-k'ung.
These three men were all Indians who not only came from
very distinguished families but who were in character quite
different from the priests of China. The doctrines that
they taught appeared highly impressive in that they included
mudras and mantras, something that had never
been known in China since the introduction of Buddhism in
the Later Han. In the presence of this new Buddhism, the
emperor bowed his head and the common people pressed their
palms together in reverence.
These men taught that, whatever the relative merits of
the Kegon, Jimmitsu, Hannya, Nirvana and Lotus sutras
might be, they were all exoteric teachings, the various
preachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. The Dainichi Sutra
which they had newly introduced, on the other hand, represented
the royal pronouncements of Dainichi or Mahavairochana,
the Dharma King. The other sutras were the multiple sayings
of the common people; this sutra was the unique pronouncement
of the Son of Heaven. Works such as the Kegon and
Nirvana sutras could never hope to reach as high as the
Dainichi Sutra even with the help of a ladder. Only
the Lotus Sutra bears some resemblance to the Dainichi
Nevertheless, the Lotus Sutra was preached by Shakyamuni
Buddha and thus represents merely the truth as spoken by
a commoner, whereas the Dainichi Sutra represents
the truth as spoken by the Son of Heaven. Hence, although
the words resemble each other, the persons who spoke them
are as far apart as the clouds in the sky and the mud on
the earth. The difference between them is like the moon
that is reflected in muddy water on the one hand and in
clear water on the other. Both alike are reflections of
the moon, yet the nature of the water that catches the reflection
is vastly different.
Such were the assertions put forth by these men, and no
one attempted to examine them carefully or make clear their
true nature. Instead, the other schools of Buddhism all
bowed down and acknowledged themselves subservient to this
new school called the Shingon.
After Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih died, Pu-k'ung made
a trip to India and brought back to China a treatise entitled
Bodaishin Ron, and the Shingon school grew all the
In the Tendai school, however, there appeared a priest
known as the Great Teacher Miao-lo. Though he lived more
than two hundred years after the time of the Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai, he was extremely wise and had a clear understanding
of the teachings of T'ien-t'ai. Thus he perceived, from
the heart of T'ien-t'ai's interpretations, that the Lotus
Sutra is superior to the Jimmitsu Sutra and the Hosso
school--which had been introduced to China after T'ien-t'ai's
time--as well as to the Kegon school and the Shingon school
with its Dainichi Sutra, both schools which had first
been established in China.
Up until then, either because T'ien-t'ai's followers lacked
the wisdom to see what was wrong, or because they feared
others or were in awe of the ruler's power, no one had spoken
out. It was clear that a correct understanding of the teachings
of T'ien-t'ai was about to be lost, and that the errors
and heresies that were rife surpassed even those that had
prevailed in northern and southern China in the period before
the Ch'en and Sui dynasties. Therefore Miao-lo compiled
commentaries on T'ien-t'ai's works in thirty volumes, the
writings known as Guketsu, Shakusen and Shoki.
These thirty volumes of commentary served not only to eliminate
passages of repetition in T'ien-t'ai's works and to elucidate
points that were unclear, but at the same time in one stroke
they refuted the Hosso, Kegon and Shingon schools, which
had escaped T'ien-t'ai's censures because they did not exist
in China during his lifetime.
Turning now to Japan, we find that in the reign of the
thirtieth sovereign Emperor Kimmei, on the thirteenth day
of the tenth month in the thirteenth year of his reign (552),
cyclical sign mizunoe-saru, a copy of the Buddhist
scriptures and a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha were brought
to Japan from the Korean kingdom of Paekche. And in the
reign of Emperor Yomei, Crown Prince Shotoku began the study
of Buddhism. He dispatched a court official named Wake no
Imoko to go to China and bring back a copy of the Lotus
Sutra in one volume that had belonged to him in a previous
life, and expressed his determination to honor and protect
Later, by the reign of the thirty-seventh sovereign Emperor
Kotoku, the Sanron, Kegon, Hosso, Kusha and Jojitsu sects
were introduced to Japan, and in the time of the forty-fifth
sovereign Emperor Shomu, the Ritsu sect was introduced,
thus making a total of six sects. But during the time from
Emperor Kotoku to the reign of the fiftieth sovereign Emperor
Kammu, a period of over 120 years during which fourteen
sovereigns reigned, the Tendai and Shingon sects had not
yet been introduced.
During the reign of Emperor Kammu, there was a young priest
named Saicho who was a disciple of the Administrator of
Monks Gyohyo of Yamashina-dera temple. He made a thorough
study of Hosso and the others of the six sects mentioned
above, but he felt that he had yet to reach a true understanding
of Buddhism. Then he came upon a commentary which the Dharma
Teacher Fa-tsang of the Kegon school had written on the
Kishin Ron, and in it were quotations from the works
of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai.
These works of T'ien-t'ai seemed to be worthy of special
attention, but Saicho did not even know whether they had
yet been brought to Japan or not. When he questioned someone
about this, the person replied that there had been a priest
named Ganjin of the temple called Lung-hsing-ssu in Yang-chou
in China who had studied the T'ien-t'ai teachings and had
been a disciple of the Discipline Master Tao-hsien. In the
latter part of the Tempyo-Shoho era (753), he came to Japan,
where he worked to spread a knowledge of the Hinayana rules
of monastic discipline. He had brought with him copies of
the works of T'ien-t'ai, but had not attempted to disseminate
them. All this took place, Saicho was told, during the time
of the forty-fifth sovereign Emperor Shomu.
When Saicho asked if he could see these writings, they
were brought out and shown to him. On his first perusal
of them, he felt as though he had been awakened from all
the delusions of birth and death. And when he began to consider
the basic doctrines of the six sects of earlier Buddhism
in the light of what he found in these writings, it became
apparent that each of the sects was guilty of doctrinal
Immediately he vowed to do something about the situation,
saying, "Because the people of Japan are all patrons
of those who are slandering the True Law, the nation will
surely fall into chaos!" He thereupon expressed his
criticisms of the six sects, but when he did so, the great
scholars of the six sects and the seven major temples of
Nara rose up in anger and flocked to the capital, until
the nation was in an uproar.
These men of the six sects and seven major temples were
filled with the most intense animosity toward Saicho. But
as it happened, on the nineteenth day of the first month
of the twenty-first year of the Enryaku era (802), Emperor
Kammu paid a visit to the temple called Takao-dera, and
he summoned fourteen eminent priests--namely, Zengi, Shoyu,
Hoki, Chonin, Kengyoku, Ampuku, Gonso, Shuen, Jiko, Gen'yo,
Saiko, Dosho, Kosho and Kambin--to come to the temple and
debate with Saicho.
These various men of the Kegon, Sanron, Hosso and other
sects expounded the teachings of the founders of their respective
sects just as they had learned them. But Saicho took notes
on each point put forward by the men of the six sects and
criticized it in the light of the Lotus Sutra, the works
of T'ien-t'ai, or other sutras and treatises. His opponents
were unable to say a word in reply, their mouths as incapable
of speech as if they were noses.
The emperor was astounded and questioned Saicho in detail
on various points. Thereafter he handed down an edict criticizing
the fourteen men who had opposed Saicho.
They in turn submitted a memorial acknowledging their defeat
and apologizing, in which they said, "We, students
of the seven major temples and six sects,... have for the
first time understood the ultimate truth."
They also said, "In the two hundred or more years
since Crown Prince Shotoku spread the Buddhist teachings
in this country, a great many sutras and treatises have
been lectured upon and their principles have been widely
argued, but until now, many doubts still remained to be
settled. Moreover, the lofty and perfect doctrine of the
Lotus Sura had not yet been properly explained and made
They also said, "Now at last the dispute that has
continued so long between the Sanron and Hosso sects has
been resolved as dramatically as though ice had melted.
The truth has been made abundantly clear, as though clouds
and mist had parted to reveal the light of the sun, moon
Saicho, in his appraisal of the teachings of his fourteen
opponents, wrote as follows: "You each lecture upon
the single scripture [of your own sect], and though you
sound the drums of the Dharma within the deep valleys, both
lecturer and hearers continue to go astray on the paths
of the three vehicles. Though you fly the banners of doctrine
from lofty peaks and both teachers and disciples have broken
free from the bonds of the threefold world, you still persist
on the road of the enlightenment that takes countless kalpas
to achieve, and confuse the three kinds of carts with the
great white ox cart outside the gate. How could you possible
attain the first stage of security and reach enlightenment
in this world that is like a house on fire?"
The two officials Wake no Hiroyo and his younger brother
Matsuna [who were present at the debate] commented as follows:
"Through Nan-yueh, the Mystic Law of Eagle Peak was
made known, and through T'ien-t'ai, the wonderful enlightenment
of Mount Ta-su was opened up. But one regrets that the single
vehicle of the Lotus is impeded by provisional teachings,
and one grieves that the unification of the three truths
has yet to be made manifest."
The fourteen priests commented as follows: "Zengi
and the others of our group have met with great good fortune
because of karmic bonds and have been privileged to hear
these extraordinary words. Were it not for some profound
karmic tie, how could we have been born in this sacred age?"
These fourteen men had in the past transmitted the teachings
of the various Chinese and Japanese patriarchs of their
respective sects such as Fa-tsang and Shinjo of the Kegon
sect, Chia-hsiang and Kanroku of the Sanron sect, Tz'u-en
and Dosho of the Hosso sect, or Tao-hsuan and Ganjin of
the Ritsu sect. Thus, although the vessel in which the water
of doctrine was contained had changed from generation to
generation, the water remained the same.
But now these fourteen men abandoned the erroneous doctrines
that they had previously held and embraced the teachings
of the Lotus Sutra as expounded by Saicho, the Great Teacher
Dengyo. Therefore, how could anyone in later times assert
that the Kegon, Hannya or Jimmitsu Sutra surpasses
the Lotus Sutra?
These fourteen men had of course studied the doctrines
of the three Hinayana sects, [Jojitsu, Kusha and Ritsu].
But since the three Mahayana sects [of Kegon, Sanron and
Hosso] had suffered a doctrinal defeat, we need hardly mention
the Hinayana sects. However, there are some persons today
who, being unaware of what actually happened, believe that
one or another of the six sects did not suffer a doctrinal
defeat. They are like blind men who cannot see the sun and
moon, or deaf men who cannot hear the sound of thunder,
and who therefore conclude that there are no sun and moon
in the heavens, or that the skies emit no sound.
With regard to the Shingon sect, during the reign of the
forty-fourth sovereign Empress Gensho, Shan-wu-wei brought
the Dainichi Sutra to Japan, but returned to China
without spreading a knowledge of it. Moreover, Gembo brought
back from China a commentary on the Dainichi Sutra,
the Dainichikyo Gishaku in fourteen volumes, as did
the Preceptor Tokusei of Todai-ji.
These works were studied by the Great Teacher Dengyo, but
he had doubts about what they said concerning the relative
worth of the Dainichi and Lotus sutras. Therefore,
in the seventh month of the twenty-third year of the Enryaku
era (804), he went to China, where he met the priests Tao-sui
of Hsi-ming-ssu temple and Hsing-man of Fo-lung-ssu, and
received the Shikan teachings and the great precepts for
perfect and immediate enlightenment. He also met the priest
Shun-hsiao of Ling-kan-ssu and received instruction in the
Shingon teachings. He returned to Japan in the sixth month
of the twenty-fourth year of Enryaku (805). He was granted
an audience with Emperor Kammu, and the emperor thereupon
issued an edict instructing the students of the six sects
to study the Shikan and Shingon teachings and to preserve
them in the seven major temples of Nara.
In China there were various theories concerning the relative
superiority of these two teachings, the Shikan and the Shingon.
Moreover, the Dainichikyo Gishaku claims that, though
they are equal in terms of principle, the Shingon is superior
in terms of practice.
The Great Teacher Dengyo, however, realized that this was
an error on the part of Shan-wu-wei and understood that
the Dainichi Sutra is inferior to the Lotus Sutra.
Therefore he did not establish the Shingon teachings as
an eighth sect, but instead incorporated them into the teachings
of the seventh sect, the Hokke sect, after removing from
them the label "Shingon sect." He declared that
the Dainichi Sutra is to be regarded as a supplementary
sutra of the Hokke-Tendai sect and ranked it along with
the Kegon, Daibon Hannya and Nirvana sutras. However,
at the time there was much dispute over whether or not a
vitally important Mahayana specific ordination platform
of perfect and immediate enlightenment should be established
in Japan. Perhaps because of the trouble that arose on this
account, it seems that the Great Teacher Dengyo did not
give his disciples clear instructions concerning the relative
superiority of the Shingon and Tendai teachings.
In a work called the Ebyo Shu, however, he clearly
states that the Shingon school stole the correct doctrines
of the Hokke-Tendai school and incorporated them into its
interpretation of the Dainichi Sutra, thereafter
declaring that the two schools were equal in terms of principle.
Thus the Shingon school had in effect surrendered to the
This is even more evident when we consider that, after
the death of Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih, the Shingon
patriarch Pu-k'ung went to India, where he met Bodhisattva
Nagabodhi. Nagabodhi informed him that there were no treatises
or commentaries in India that made clear the Buddha's intent,
but that in China there was a commentary by a man named
T'ien-t'ai that enabled one to distinguish correct from
incorrect teachings and to understand the difference between
partial doctrines and those that are complete. He exclaimed
this in admiration and repeatedly begged that a copy of
the work be brought to India.
This incident was reported to the Great Teacher Miao-lo
by Pu-k'ung's disciple Han-kuang, as is recorded at the
end of the tenth volume of Miao-lo's Hokke Mongu Ki.
It is also recorded in Dengyo's Ebyo Shu. From this
it is perfectly evident that the Great Teacher Dengyo believed
the Dainichi Sutra to be inferior to the Lotus Sutra.
Thus it becomes apparent that Shakyamuni Buddha, the Great
Teacher T'ien-t'ai, the Great Teacher Miao-lo and the Great
Teacher Dengyo were of one mind in regarding the Lotus Sutra
as the greatest of all the sutras, including the Dainichi
Sutra. Moreover, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, who is regarded
as the founder of the Shingon sect, held the same opinion,
as becomes obvious if we carefully examine his Daichido
Ron. Unfortunately, however, the Bodaishin Ron
produced by Pu-k'ung is full of errors and has led everyone
astray, bringing about the present condition.
We come now to the disciple of the Administrator of Monks
Gonso of Iwabuchi named Kukai, known in later ages as Kobo
Daishi or the Great Teacher Kobo. On the twelfth day of
the fifth month in the twenty-third year of Enryaku (804),
he set out for China. After arriving there, he met the priest
Hui-kuo, whose teacher belonged to the third generation
of the Shingon lineage beginning with Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih.
From Hui-kuo he received the transmission of the two Shingon
mandalas. He returned to Japan on the twenty-second day
of the tenth month in the second year of Daido (807).
It was then the reign of Emperor Heizei, Emperor Kammu
having passed away a short time before. Kukai was granted
an audience with Emperor Heizei, who placed great confidence
in him and embraced his teachings, valuing them above all.
Not long after (809), Emperor Heizei ceded the throne to
Emperor Saga, with whom Kukai likewise ingratiated himself.
The Great Teacher Dengyo passed away on the fourth day of
the sixth month of the thirteenth year of Konin (822), during
the reign of Emperor Saga. From the fourteenth year of the
same era (823), Kukai served as teacher to the sovereign.
He established the Shingon sect, was given supervision of
the temple known as To-ji, and was referred to as the Shingon
Priest. Thus Shingon, the eighth sect of Buddhism in Japan,
had its start.
Kukai commented as follows on the relative merit of the
teachings of the Buddha's lifetime: "First is the Dainichi
Sutra of the Shingon sect, second is the Kegon Sutra,
and third are the Lotus and Nirvana sutras.
"In comparison to the Agon, Hodo and Hannya
sutras, the Lotus is a true sutra, but from the point of
view of the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, it
is a doctrine of childish theory.
"Though the Lord Shakyamuni was a Buddha, in comparison
to the Buddha Dainichi or Mahavairochana, he was still in
the region of darkness. The latter is as exalted as an emperor;
the former, by comparison, is as lowly as a subjugated barbarian.
"The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai is a thief. He stole
the ghee of the Shingon and claimed that the Lotus Sutra
This is the sort of thing that Kukai, or Kobo Daishi, wrote.
As a result, though people may previously have believed
that the Lotus is the greatest of all sutras, after hearing
of Kobo, they no longer regarded it as worthy of notice.
I will set aside the heresies propounded by Brahmans in
India. But these pronouncements of Kukai are certainly worse
than those put forward by the priests of northern and southern
China who declared that, in comparison to the Nirvana Sutra,
the Lotus Sutra is a work of heretical views. They go even
farther than the assertions of those members of the Kegon
school who stated that, in comparison to the Kegon Sutra,
the Lotus Sutra represents the "branch teachings."
One is reminded of that Great Arrogant Brahman of India
who fashioned a tall dais with the deities Maheshvara, Narayana
and Vishnu, along with Shakyamuni Buddha, as the four legs
to support it, and then climbed up on it and preached his
If only the Great Teacher Dengyo had still been alive,
he would surely have had a word to say on the subject. But
how could his disciples Gishin, Encho, Jikaku and Chisho
have failed to question the matter more closely? That was
a great misfortune to the world!
Jikaku Daishi went to China in the fifth year of Jowa (838)
and spent ten years there studying the doctrines of the
Tendai and Shingon schools. With regard to the relative
merit of the Lotus and Dainichi sutras, he studied
under Fa-ch'uan, Yuan-cheng and others, eight Shingon teachers
in all, and was taught by them that, although the Lotus
and Dainichi sutras are equal in principle, the latter
is superior in terms of practice. He also studied under
Chih-yuan, Kuang-hsiu and Wei-chuan of the Tendai school,
and was taught that the Dainichi Sutra belongs to
the Hodo group of sutras [which are inferior to the Lotus
On the tenth day of the ninth month in the thirteenth year
of Jowa (846), he returned to Japan, and on the fourteenth
day of the sixth month of the first year of Kajo (848),
an imperial edict was handed down [permitting him to conduct
the Shingon initiation ceremonies]. Perhaps because he had
had difficulty determining the relative merit of the Lotus
and Dainichi sutras when he was studying in China,
he proceeded to write a seven-volume commentary on the Kongocho
Sutra and a seven-volume commentary on the Soshitsuji
Sutra, making a total of fourteen volumes. The gist of these
commentaries is that the doctrines set forth in the Dainichi,
Kongocho and Soshitsuji sutras and the doctrines
expounded in the Lotus Sutra ultimately indicate the same
principle, but because of the ritual use of mudras
and mantras associated with the former, the three
Shingon sutras just mentioned are superior to the Lotus
In essence, this agrees exactly with the view of Shan-wu-wei,
Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung set forth in their commentary
on the Dainichi Sutra. But perhaps Jikaku still had
doubts in his mind, or perhaps, having resolved his own
doubts, he wished to clear up the doubts of others. In any
event, he placed his fourteen volumes of commentary before
the object of worship in the temple where he resided and
made this appeal in prayer: "Though I have written
these works, the Buddha's intention is very difficult to
determine. Are the Dainichi Sutra and the other two
Shingon sutras associated with it superior? Or are the Lotus
Sutra and the two sutras associated with it to be ranked
While he was earnestly praying in this manner, on the fifth
day, early in the morning at the time of the fifth watch,
a sign suddenly came to him in a dream. He dreamed that
the sun was up in the blue sky, and that he took an arrow
and shot at it. The arrow flew up into the sky and struck
the sun. The sun began to roll over and over, and when it
had almost fallen to the earth, Jikaku woke from his dream.
Delighted, he said, "I have had a very auspicious
dream. These writings, in which I have declared that Shingon
is superior to the Lotus Sutra, are in accord with the Buddha's
will!" He then requested that an imperial edict be
issued to this effect, and he disseminated his teaching
throughout the country of Japan.
But the edict that was handed down as a result of this
request says in effect, "It has at last become known
that the Shikan doctrines of the Tendai sect and the doctrines
of the Shingon sect are in principle in perfect agreement."
Jikaku had prayed to confirm that the Lotus Sutra is inferior
to the Dainichi Sutra, but the edict that was issued
says that the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra
are the same!
Chisho Daishi in his youth in Japan was a disciple of the
priest Gishin, Encho Daishi, the Superintendent Kojo and
Jikaku. Thus he received instruction in both the exoteric
and esoteric doctrines as they were taught in Japan at the
time. But presumably because he was in doubt as to the relative
superiority of the Tendai and Shingon sects, he journeyed
to China. He arrived in China in the second year of Ninju
(852), where he studied under the Shingon priests Fa-ch'uan
and Yuan-cheng. In general, their teachings accorded with
the view held by Jikaku, namely that the Dainichi
Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are equal in terms of principle
but that the former is superior in terms of practice.
Chisho also studied under the priest Liang-hsu of the Tendai
school, who taught him that, with regard to the relative
merit of the Shingon and Tendai schools, the Dainichi
Sutra of the Shingon school cannot compare with the Kegon
and Lotus sutras.
After spending seven years in China, Chisho returned to
Japan on the seventeenth day of the fifth month in the first
year of Jogan (859).
In his commentary on the Dainichi Sutra entitled
the Dainichikyo Shiiki, Chisho states: "Even
the Lotus Sutra cannot compare [to the Dainichi Sutra],
much less the other doctrines." In this commentary,
therefore, he argues that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to
the Dainichi Sutra. On the other hand, in another
work, the Juketsu Shu, he states: "The doctrines of
Shingon and Zen ... can at best serve as a kind of introduction
to the Kegon, Lotus and Nirvana sutras." And
he repeats this same view in his Fugenkyo Ki and
Hokke Ron Ki.
On the twenty-ninth day, the day of the cyclical sign mizunoe-saru,
of the fourth month of the eighth year of Jogan, the year
hinoe-inu (866), an imperial edict was handed down
which stated: "We have heard that the two sects, Shingon
and Tendai, and their teachings are both worthy to be called
the ghee of Buddhism, and to be described as profound and
Again, on the third day of the sixth month, an edict proclaimed:
"Ever since the Great Teacher Dengyo in former times
established the two disciplines as the proper way for the
Tendai sect, the successive heads of the sect in generation
after generation have all followed this practice and transmitted
both types of doctrines. Why then should their successors
in later times depart from this old and established tradition?
"And yet we hear that the priests of Mount Hiei do
nothing but turn against the teachings of the patriarch
Dengyo and instead follow the prejudices and inclinations
of their own hearts. It would appear that they give themselves
almost entirely to promulgating the doctrines of other sects
and make no attempt to restore the old disciplines of the
"On the path inherited from the master, one cannot
neglect either the Shikan or the Shingon teachings. In diligently
transmitting and spreading the doctrine, must not one be
proficient in both types of teachings? From now on, only
a person who is thoroughly familiar with both teachings
shall be appointed as head of the Tendai sect at Enryaku-ji,
and this shall become a regular practice for future times."
These two men, Jikaku and Chisho, as we have seen, were
disciples of Dengyo and Gishin, and in addition they journeyed
to China and met eminent teachers of the Tendai and Shingon
schools there. And yet it appears that they could not make
up their minds as to the relative merit of these two sects.
Sometimes they declared that the Shingon is superior, sometimes
that the Lotus Sutra is superior, and sometimes they said
that the two are equal in terms of principle but that the
Shingon is superior in terms of practice. Meanwhile, an
edict warned that anyone attempting to argue the relative
merit of the two sects would be judged guilty of violating
the imperial decree.
These pronouncements of Jikaku and Chisho were clearly
inconsistent, and it would appear that the followers of
the other sects placed no trust in them whatsoever. Nevertheless,
an imperial edict, as we have seen, states that the two
sects are equal, putting this forward as the doctrine of
the Tendai patriarch, the Great Teacher Dengyo. But in what
work of the Great Teacher Dengyo is this view to be found?
This is something that must be looked into carefully.
For me, Nichiren, to be challenging Jikaku and Chisho because
of doubts over a matter pertaining to the Great Teacher
Dengyo is like a person confronting his parents and arguing
with them over who is older, or a person confronting the
god of the sun and claiming that his own eyes shine more
brilliantly. Nevertheless, those who would defend the views
of Jikaku and Chisho must produce some sort of clear scriptural
of evidence to support their case. Only if they do so can
they hope to gain credence for such views.
The Learned Doctor Hsuang-tsang had been to India and seen
a copy of the Daibibasha Ron there, but that did
not prevent him from being criticized by the Dharma Teacher
Fa-pao, who had never been to India. The Learned Doctor
Dharmaraksha saw a copy of the Lotus Sutra in India, but
that did not prevent a man of China from pointing out that
the Zokurui chapter was out of place in the translation
he made of it, though that man had never seen the original
In like manner, though Jikaku may have studied under the
Great Teacher Dengyo and received instruction from him,
and though Chisho may have obtained the oral transmission
from the priest Gishin, if they go against the teachings
recorded in the authentic writings of Dengyo and Gishin,
then how can they help but incur suspicion?
The work entitled Ebyo Shu by Dengyo is the most
secret of his writings. In the preface to that work, he
writes: "The school of Shingon Buddhism that has recently
been brought to Japan deliberately distorts its teachings
to suit its purposes, while the Kegon school that was introduced
earlier attempts to disguise the fact that it was influenced
by the doctrines of T'ien-t'ai. The Sanron sect, which is
so infatuated with the concept of Emptiness, has forgotten
Chia-hsiang's humiliation, and conceals the fact that he
was completely won over to the T'ien-t'ai teachings by Chang-an.
The Hosso sect, which clings to the concept of being, denies
that its leader Chih-chou was converted to the teachings
of the Tendai school, and that Liang-p'i used those teachings
in interpreting the Ninno Sutra ... Now with all
due circumspection I have written this work entitled Ebyo
Shu in one volume to present to wise men of later times
who share my convictions. The time is the reign of the fifty-second
sovereign of Japan, the seventh year of the Konin era, the
year hinoe-saru (816)."
Farther on, in the main text of the same work, he writes:
"There was an eminent monk in India who had heard that
the teachings of the T'ang priest T'ien-t'ai were most suitable
for distinguishing correct from incorrect doctrines, and
expressed a longing to become better acquainted with them."
He continues: "Does this not mean that Buddhism has
been lost in India, the country of its origin, and must
now be sought in the surrounding regions? But even in China
there are few people who recognize the greatness of T'ien-t'ai's
teachings. They are like the people of Lu."
This work, as may be seen from these quotations, criticizes
the Hosso, Sanron, Kegon and Shingon sects. Now if the Great
Teacher Dengyo believed that the Tendai and Shingon sects
are of equal worth, then why would he criticize the latter?
Furthermore, he compares the Shingon patriarch Pu-k'ung
and others to the ignorant people of the state of Lu. If
he really approved of the Shingon teachings as formulated
by Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung, then why would
he speak ill of these men by comparing them to the people
of Lu? And if the Shingon teachings of India were identical
with or superior to the teachings of the Tendai sect, then
why did the eminent monk of India question Pu-k'ung about
them and say that the True Law had been lost in India?
Be that as it may, these two men, Jikaku and Chisho, in
words claimed to be the disciples of the Great Teacher Dengyo,
but at heart they were not. That is why Dengyo wrote in
the preface to his work, "Now with all due circumspection
I have written this work entitled Ebyo Shu in one
volume to present to wise men of later times who share my
convictions." The words "who share my convictions"
mean in effect "those who share my conviction that
the Shingon sect is inferior to the Tendai sect."
In the edict quoted earlier, which Jikaku himself had requested,
it says that they "do nothing but turn against the
teachings of the patriarch Dengyo and instead follow the
prejudices and inclinations of their own hearts." It
also states, "On the path inherited form the master,
one cannot neglect either the Shikan or the Shingon teachings."
But if we are to accept the words of the edict, we would
have to say that Jikaku and Chisho themselves are the ones
who have turned against their teacher Dengyo. It is with
grave trepidation that I make charges of this kind, but
if I do not do so, then the relative merit of the Dainichi
and Lotus sutras will continue to be misunderstood as it
is at present. That is why I risk my life to bring these
[Since they themselves were mistaken,] it is altogether
natural that these two men, Jikaku and Chisho, did not venture
to accuse Kobo Daishi of doctrinal error. Instead of wasting
all those supplies and making work for other people by insisting
upon traveling all the way to China, they should have made
a more careful and thorough study of the doctrines of the
Great Teacher Dengyo, who was their own teacher!
It was only in the time of the first three leaders of the
Tendai sect, the Great Teacher Dengyo, the priest Gishin,
and the Great Teacher Encho, that the True Law was taught
on Mount Hiei. Thereafter the chief priests of the Tendai
sect were transformed into Shingon leaders. The area continued
to be called Mount Tendai, but was presided over by a Shingon
Jikaku and Chisho, as we have seen, contradict the passage
in the Lotus Sutra concerning all the sutras that the Buddha
"has preached, now preaches, and will preach."
And having contradicted that passage of the scripture, are
they not to be regarded as the archenemies of Shakyamuni,
Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten directions? One might
have thought that Kobo was the foremost slanderer of the
Law, but Jikaku and Chisho taught errors that far surpass
those of Kobo.
When an error is as far from the truth as water is from
fire or the earth from the sky, people will refuse to believe
it, and such errors will have no chance of acceptance. Thus,
for example, the doctrines of Kobo Daishi are so full of
such errors that even his own disciples would not accept
them. As for the practices and ceremonies of the sect, they
accepted his instructions, but they could not bring themselves
to accept his doctrines concerning the relative merits of
the sutras. Therefore, they substituted for them the doctrines
of Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Pu-k'ung, Jikaku and Chisho.
It is the doctrine of Jikaku and Chisho that declares the
Shingon and Tendai sects to be identical in principle, and
all the people have accepted that declaration.
Recognizing this situation, even followers of the Tendai
sect, hoping to be asked to perform the "opening of
the eyes" ceremony for the dedication of Buddhist paintings
or statues, adopt the mudras and mantras in
which the Shingon sect is believed to excel. Thus in effect
the whole of Japan goes over to the Shingon sect, and the
Tendai sect is left without a single follower.
A monk and a nun, a black object and a dark blue object,
are so easily confused that a person with poor eyesight
might well mistake one for the other. But a priest and a
layman, or a white object and a red object, even a person
with poor eyesight would never confuse, much less someone
with good eyes. Now the doctrines of Jikaku and Chisho are
as easy to mistake for the truth as a monk is for a nun,
or a black object for a dark blue one. Therefore, even wise
men are led astray, and the ignorant fall into error. As
a result, for the past four hundred years and more, on Mount
Hiei, in Onjo-ji and To-ji temples, in Nara, the five provinces
surrounding the capital, the seven outlying regions, and
indeed throughout the whole land of Japan, all the people
have been turned into slanderers of the Law.
In the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha states:
"Monjushiri, this Lotus Sutra is the secret storehouse
of Buddhas. Among the sutras, it holds the highest place."
If this passage of the scripture is to be believed, then
the Lotus Sutra must represent the True Law that dwells
supreme above the Dainichi and all the numerous other
sutras. How then, one wonders, would Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih,
Pu-k'ung, Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho interpret this passage
in the sutra and reconcile it with their beliefs?
Again, the seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "He
who can accept and uphold this sutra will be like this too--he
will be the first among the multitude of living beings."
If this passage of the sutra is to be believed, then the
votary of the Lotus Sutra must be like the great sea as
compared to the various rivers and streams, like Mount Sumeru
among the host of mountains, like the god of the moon amid
the multitude of stars, like the great god of the sun amid
the other shining lights, like the wheel-turning kings [among
all minor kings], like the god Taishaku [among the thirty-three
gods] and the great god king Bonten among all various kings.
The Great Teacher Dengyo in his work entitled Hokke
Shuku writes: "This sutra is like this too ...
it is first among all the sutras. He who can accept and
uphold this sutra will be like this too--he will be the
first among all the multitude of living beings."
After quoting this passage from the Lotus Sutra, Dengyo
notes a passage from the work entitled Hokke Gengi
by T'ien-t'ai [which interprets] the same passage of scripture,
and explains its meaning as follows: "One should understand
that the sutras on which the other sects base their teachings
are not the first among the sutras, and those persons who
uphold such sutras are not the first among the multitude.
But the Lotus Sutra, which is upheld by the Tendai-Hokke
sect, is the foremost of all the sutras, and therefore those
who embrace the Lotus Sutra are first among the multitude.
This is borne out by the words of the Buddha himself. How
could it be mere self-praise?"
Later in the work just mentioned, Dengyo says, "Detailed
explanations concerning the texts on which the various sects
base their teachings are given in a separate work."
The separate work he is referring to, the Ebyo Shu,
states: "Now the founder of our sect, the Great Teacher
T'ien-T'ai, preached the Lotus Sutra and interpreted the
Lotus Sutra in a way that placed him far above the crowd;
in all of China, he stood alone. One should clearly understand
that he was a messenger of the Buddha. Those who praise
him will receive blessings that will pile up as high as
Mount Sumeru, while those who slander him will be committing
a fault that will condemn them to the hell of incessant
If we go by the Lotus Sutra and the interpretations of
it put forward by T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo, then,
in Japan at the present time, there is not a single votary
of the Lotus Sutra!
In India, when Shakyamuni Buddha was preaching the Lotus
Sutra as described in the Hoto chapter, he summoned
all the various Buddhas and had them take their seats upon
the ground. Only Dainichi Buddha was seated within the Treasure
Tower, on the lower seat to the south, while Shakyamuni
Buddha was seated on the upper seat to the north.
This Dainichi Buddha is the master of the Dainichi of the
Womb World described in the Dainichi Sutra, and of
the Dainichi of the Diamond World described in the Kongocho
Sutra. This Dainichi or Taho Buddha, who has as his
vassals the Dainichi Buddhas of the two worlds just mentioned,
is in turn surpassed by Shakyamuni Buddha, who sits in the
seat above him. This Shakyamuni Buddha is a true votary
of the Lotus Sutra. Such was the situation in India.
In China, in the time of the Ch'en emperor [Shu-pao], the
Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai defeated in debate the Buddhist
leaders of northern and southern China, and was honored
with the title of Great Teacher while still alive. As Dengyo
says of him, he was "far above the crowd; in all of
China, he stood alone."
In Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyo defeated in debate the
leaders of the six sects and became the founder and first
leader of the Tendai sect in Japan.
In India, China and Japan, these three persons alone--Shakyamuni,
T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo--were what the Lotus Sutra calls "the
first among all the multitude of living beings."
Thus the Hokke Shuku by Dengyo states: "Shakyamuni
taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound
is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound
requires courage. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai trusted and
obeyed Shakyamuni Buddha and worked to uphold the Hokke
school, spreading its teachings throughout China. We of
Mount Hiei inherited the doctrine from T'ien-t'ai and work
to uphold the Hokke school and to disseminate its teachings
In the eighteen hundred years or more since the passing
of the Buddha, there has been only one votary of the Lotus
Sutra in China and one in Japan. If Shakyamuni himself is
added to the number, that makes a total of three persons.
The secular classics of China claim that a sage will appear
once every thousand years, and a worthy man once every five
hundred. In the Yellow River where the Ching and Wei rivers
flow into it, the flow of the two tributary rivers remains
separate. But it is said that once every five hundred years,
one side of the river will flow clear, and once every thousand
years, both sides of the river will flow clear. [In the
same way, sages and worthy men appear at fixed intervals.]
In Japan, as we have seen, only on Mount Hiei in the time
of the Great Teacher Dengyo was there a votary of the Lotus
Sutra. Dengyo was succeeded by Gishin and Encho, the first
and second chief priests of the sect, respectively. But
only the first chief priest Gishin followed the ways of
the Great Teacher Dengyo. The second chief priest Encho
was half a disciple of Dengyo and half a disciple of Kobo.
The third chief priest, Jikaku, at first acted like a disciple
of the Great Teacher Dengyo. But after he went to China
at the age of forty, though he continued to call himself
a disciple of Dengyo and went through the motions of carrying
on Dengyo's line, he taught a kind of Buddhism that was
wholly unworthy of a true disciple of Dengyo. Only in the
matter of the precepts for perfect and immediate enlightenment
established by Dengyo did he conduct himself like a true
He was like a bat, for a bat resembles a bird yet is not
a bird, and resembles a mouse yet is not a mouse. Or he
was like an owl or a hakei beast. He ate his father
the Lotus Sutra, and devoured his mother, those who embrace
the Lotus Sutra. When he dreamed that he shot down the sun,
it must have been a portent of these crimes. And it must
be because of these acts that, after his death, no grave
was set aside for him.
The temple Onjo-ji, representing Chisho's branch of the
Tendai sect, fought incessantly with the temple Enryaku-ji
on Mount Hiei, which represented Jikaku's branch of the
sect, the two going at each other like so many asuras
and evil dragons. First Onjo-ji would be burned down, then
the buildings on Mount Hiei. As a result, the image of Bodhisattva
Miroku that had been the special object of worship of Chisho
was burned, and the special object of worship of Jikaku,
as well as the great lecture hall on Mount Hiei, were likewise
burned. The monks of the two temples must have felt as though
they had fallen into the hell of incessant suffering while
they were still in this world. Only the Main Hall on Mount
Hiei remained standing.
The lineage of Kobo Daishi has likewise ceased to be what
it should have been. Kobo left written instructions that
no one who had not received the precepts at the ordination
platform [established by Ganjin] at Todai-ji should be allowed
to become head of To-ji temple. The Retired Emperor Kampyo,
however, founded a temple [in Kyoto] called Ninna-ji and
moved a number of monks from To-ji to staff it, and he also
issued a decree clearly stating that no one should be allowed
to reside in Ninna-ji unless he had received the precepts
for perfect and immediate enlightenment at the ordination
platform on Mount Hiei. As a result, the monks of To-ji
are neither disciples of Ganjin, nor are they disciples
of Kobo. In terms of the precepts, they are Dengyo's disciples.
However, they do not behave like true disciples of Dengyo.
They turn their backs on the Lotus Sutra, which Dengyo considered
to be supreme.
Kobo died on the twenty-first day of the third month in
the second year of the Jowa era (835), and the imperial
court sent a representative to offer prayers at his funeral.
Later, however, his disciples gathered together and, bent
on deception, announced that he [had not died at all but]
had entered a state of deep meditation, and some of them
even claimed that they had had to shave his head [because
his hair had grown long]. Others asserted that while he
was in China, he had hurled a three-pronged diamond-pounder
all the way across the ocean to Japan; that in answer to
his prayers, the sun had come out in the middle of the night;
that he was an incarnation of Dainichi Buddha; or that he
had instructed the Great Teacher Dengyo in the eighteen
paths of esoteric Buddhism. Thus by enumerating their teachers's
supposed virtues and powers, they hoped to make him appear
wise, in this way lending support to his false doctrines
and deluding the ruler and his ministers.
In addition, on Mount Koya there are two main temples,
the original temple and the Dembo-in. The original temple,
which includes the great pagoda, was founded by Kobo and
is dedicated to the Buddha Dainichi [of the Womb World].
The temple called Dembo-in was founded by Shokaku-bo and
is dedicated to the Dainichi of the Diamond World. These
two temples fight with each other day and night, in the
same way as Onjo-ji at the foot of Mount Hiei and Enryaku-ji
on top of Mount Hiei. Was it the accumulation of deceit
that brought about the appearance in Japan of these two
calamities, [these quarrelsome temples of Mount Koya and
You may pile up dung and call it sandalwood, but when you
burn it, it will give off only the fragrance of dung. You
may pile up a lot of great lies and call them the teachings
of the Buddha, but they will never be anything but a gateway
to the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
The stupa built by the non-Buddhist leader Nigantha Nataputta
over a period of several years conferred great benefit upon
living beings, but when Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha bowed to
it, it suddenly collapsed. The Brahman Devil Eloquence taught
from behind a curtain and for a number of years succeeded
in fooling others, but Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha attacked
him and exposed his falsehoods. The Brahman leader Uluka
turned himself into a stone and remained in that form for
eight hundred years, but when Bodhisattva Dignaga berated
him, he turned into water. The Taoist priests for several
hundred years deceived the people of China, but when they
were rebuked by the Buddhist monks Kashyapa Matanga and
Chu-fa-lan, they burned their own scriptures that purported
to teach the way of the immortals.
Just as Chao Kao seized control of the country and Wang
Mang usurped the position of emperor, so the leaders of
the Shingon sect deprived the Lotus Sutra of the rank it
deserves and declared that its domain belongs instead to
the Dainichi Sutra. If the monarch of the Law has
been deprived of his kingdom in this manner, can the monarch
of men hope to remain peaceful and unharmed?
Japan today is filled with followers of Jikaku, Chisho
and Kobo--there is not a single person who does not slander
If we stop to consider the situation, it is very much like
that which prevailed in the Latter Day of the Buddha Daishogon
or the Latter Day of the Law of the Buddha Issai Myoo. In
the Latter Day of the Law of the Buddha Ionno, even though
people repented of their wrongdoings, they still had to
suffer for a thousand kalpas in the Avichi Hell. What, then,
of the situation today? The Shingon priests, the people
of the Zen sect and the followers of the Nembutsu show not
the slightest sign of repentance in their hearts. Can there
be any doubt that, as the Lotus Sutra says, "In this
way they will be reborn again and again [in hell] for kalpas
Because Japan is a country where the Law is slandered,
Heaven has abandoned it. And because Heaven has abandoned
it, the various benevolent deities that in the past guarded
and protected the nation have burned their shrines and returned
to the City of Tranquil Light.
Now there is only Nichiren who remains behind, announcing
and giving warning of these things. But when I do so, the
rulers of the nation treat me like an enemy. People by the
hundreds curse me and speak ill of me, attack me with staves
and sticks, swords and knives. Door after door is closed
to me, house after house drives me away. And when the authorities
find that even such treatment does not stop me, they intervene
in the matter. Twice they sent me into exile, and once,
on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year
of Bun'ei (1271), they very nearly cut off my head.
The Saishoo Sutra says, "Because evil men are
respected and favored and good men are subjected to punishment,...
marauders will appear from other regions and the people
of the country will meet with death and disorder."
The Daijuku Sutra states, "There may perhaps
be various kings of the kshatriya class who act in
a way contrary to the Dharma, causing anguish to the shomon
disciples of the World-Honored One. Perhaps they may curse
and revile them or beat and injure them with swords and
staves, or deprive them of their robes and begging bowls
and the other things they need. Or perhaps they may restrain
and persecute those who give alms to the disciples. If there
should be those who do such things, then we [the benevolent
deities] will see to it that their enemies in foreign lands
rise up suddenly of their own accord and march against them,
and we will cause uprisings to break out within their states.
We will bring about pestilence and famine, unseasonable
winds and rains, and contention, wrangling [and slander].
And we will make certain that those rulers do not last for
long, but that their nations are brought to destruction."
As these passages from the sutras indicate, if I, Nichiren,
were not here in Japan, then one might suppose that the
Buddha was a teller of great lies for making such predictions
and that he could not escape falling into the Avichi Hell.
On the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year
of Bun'ei, I stood in the presence of Hei no Saemon and
several hundred others and declared, "Nichiren is the
pillar of Japan! If you lose Nichiren, you will be toppling
the pillar that supports Japan!"
The passages of scripture I have quoted indicate that if
the rulers, heeding the slanders of evil monks or the vicious
talk of others, should inflict punishment on men of wisdom,
then warfare will immediately break out, great winds will
blow, and attackers will appear from foreign lands. In the
second month of the ninth year of Bun'ei (1272), fighting
did in fact break out between two factions of the Hojo family;
in the fourth month of the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274),
there were violent winds; and in the tenth month of the
same year, the Mongol forces attacked Japan. Has not all
of this come about because of the treatment that has been
given to me, Nichiren? This is exactly what I have been
predicting from times past. Can anyone be in doubt about
The errors preached by Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho have for
many long years been spread about the country, and then
on top of them have come the confusions propagated by the
Zen and Nembutsu sects. It is as though, in addition to
adverse winds, one should be visited by huge waves and earthquakes
as well. With all this, the nation has been brought to the
verge of destruction.
In the past the grand minister of state and lay priest
Taira no Kiyomori usurped the power of government, and after
the Jokyu Disturbance the imperial court ceased to exercise
its rule and the seat of authority shifted east to Kamakura.
But these were no more than internal disturbances; the nation
as yet had not faced invasion from abroad.
Moreover, though at that time there were those who slandered
the Dharma, there were also a few persons who continued
to uphold the True Law of the Tendai sect. And in addition,
at that time no wise man had appeared who would attempt
to remedy the situation. As a result, things were relatively
If the lion is sleeping and you do not wake him, he will
not roar. If the current is swift but you do not pull against
it with your oar, no waves will rise up. If you do not accuse
the thief to his face, he will remain unruffled; if you
do not add fuel to the fire, it will not blaze up. In the
same way, though there may be those who slander the Law,
if no one comes forward to expose their error, then the
government will continue for the time being on its regular
course and the nation will remain undisturbed.
For example, when the Buddhist Law was first introduced
to Japan, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. But later,
when Mononobe no Moriya began burning Buddhist statues,
seizing monks and putting the torch to Buddhist halls and
pagodas, then fire rained down from heaven, smallpox broke
out in the nation, and there were repeated military clashes.
But the situation now is far worse. Today those who slander
the Law fill the entire country, and I, Nichiren, attack
them, strong in my determination to uphold what is right
and just. We battle no less fiercely than the asura
demons the god Taishaku, or the Buddha and the Devil King.
The Konkomyo Sutra states, "There will be times
when enemies among the neighboring states will begin to
have thoughts as follows: 'We must call out all our four
types of troops and destroy that country [where the slanderers
of the Law live.]'"
The same sutra also says, "There will be times when
the rulers of neighboring states, observing the situation
and mobilizing their four types of troops, will make ready
to set out for the country [where the slanderers of the
Law live], determined to subdue it. At that time we [the
great deities] will instruct all the countless, limitless
numbers of yakshas and other deities who are our
followers to assume disguises and protect these rulers,
causing their enemies to surrender to them without difficulty."
The Saishoo Sutra states the same thing, as do the
Daijuku and Ninno sutras. According to the
statements of these various sutras, if the ruler of a state
persecutes those who practice the True Law and instead sides
with those who practice erroneous teachings, then the heavenly
kings Bonten and Taishaku, the gods of the sun and the moon,
and the Four Heavenly Kings will enter the bodies of the
wise rulers of neighboring states and will attack his state.
For example, King Krita was attacked by King Himatala, and
King Mihirakula was overthrown by King Baladitya. Kings
Krita and Mihirakula were rulers in India who attempted
to eradicate Buddhism. In China, too, all those rulers who
tried to destroy Buddhism were attacked by worthy rulers.
But the situation in Japan today is much worse. For here
the rulers appear to be supporters of the Buddhist Law,
but they assist the priests who are destroying Buddhism
and persecute the votary of the True Law. As a result, ignorant
people all fail to realize what is happening, and even wise
persons, if they are no more than moderately wise, have
difficulty grasping the situation. Even the lesser deities
of heaven, I suspect, do not understand. For this reason,
the confusion and depravity in Japan today are even greater
than those in India or China in the past.
In the Hometsujin Sutra the Buddha speaks as follows:
"After I have entered nirvana, in the troubled times
when the five cardinal sins prevail, the way of the Devil
will flourish. The Devil will appear in the form of Buddhist
monks and attempt to confuse and destroy my teachings....
Those who do evil will become as numerous as the sands of
the ocean, while the good will be extremely few, perhaps
no more than one or two persons."
And the Nirvana Sutra says, "In this way, those who
believe in the Nirvana Sutra will take up no more land than
can be placed on top of a fingernail.... those who do not
believe in the sutra will occupy all the lands in the ten
These passages from the scriptures are extremely apt, considering
the times we live in, and they are deeply etched in my mind.
Nowadays in Japan one hears people everywhere declaring,
"I believe in the Lotus Sutra," and "I, too,
believe in the Lotus Sutra." If we took them at their
word, we would have to conclude that there is not a soul
who slanders the Law. But the passage from the sutra which
I have just quoted says that in the Latter Day, the slanderers
of the Law will occupy all the lands in the ten directions,
while those who uphold the True Law will take up no more
land than can be placed on top of a fingernail. What the
sutra says and what the people of the world today say are
as different as fire is from water. People these days say
that in Japan, Nichiren is the only one who slanders the
Law. But the sutra says that there will be more slanderers
of the Law than the great earth itself can hold.
The Hometsujin Sutra says that there will be only
one or two good persons, and the Nirvana Sutra says that
the believers can fit into the space of a fingernail. If
we accept what the sutras say, then in Japan Nichiren is
the only good person, the one who fits into the space of
a fingernail. Therefore I hope that people who are seriously
concerned about the matter will consider carefully whether
they want to accept what the sutras say, or what the world
Someone might object that the passage in the Nirvana Sutra
speaks about the votaries of the Nirvana Sutra being so
few that they can fit into the space of a fingernail, while
I am talking about the Lotus Sutra. I would reply to this
The Nirvana Sutra defines itself as being contained in
the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo says, "The
great sutra is itself pointing to the Lotus Sutra and saying
that it is the ultimate." The words "the great
sutra" here refer to the Nirvana Sutra. The Nirvana
Sutra is calling the Lotus Sutra the ultimate. Therefore,
when followers of the Nirvana sect state that the Nirvana
Sutra is superior to the Lotus Sutra, it is the same as
calling a retainer a lord or a servant a master.
To read the Nirvana Sutra means to read the Lotus Sutra.
For the Nirvana Sutra is like a worthy man who rejoices
to see another holding his sovereign in esteem even when
he himself is treated with contempt. Thus the Nirvana Sutra
would despise and regard as its enemy anyone who tried to
demote the Lotus Sutra and praise the Nirvana Sutra instead.
With this example in mind, one must understand the following
point. If there are likewise those who read the Kegon
Sutra, the Kammuryoju Sutra, the Dainichi
Sutra, or some other sutra, and they do so thinking that
the Lotus Sutra is inferior to those sutras, then they are
doing violence to the very heart of those sutras! One must
also understand the following point. Even though one reads
the Lotus Sutra and appears to believe in it, if he thinks
that he may also attain enlightenment through any other
sutra as well, then he is not really reading the Lotus Sutra!
For example, the Great Teacher Chia-hsiang wrote a work
in ten volumes entitled the Hokke Genron in which
he praised the Lotus Sutra. But Miao-lo criticized the work,
saying, "There are slanders in it--how can it be regarded
as true propagation and praise?"
Chia-hsiang was in fact an offender against the Lotus Sutra.
Thus, when he was defeated by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai
and served him, he no longer lectured on the Lotus Sutra.
"If I were to lecture on it," he said, "I
could not avoid falling back into the paths of evil."
And for seven years, he made his own body a bridge for T'ien-t'ai
to walk on.
Similarly, the Great Teacher Tz'u-en wrote a work in ten
volumes entitled the Hokke Genzan in which he praised
the Lotus Sutra, but the Great Teacher Dengyo criticized
it, saying, "Even though he praises the Lotus Sutra,
he destroys its heart."
If we consider these examples carefully, we will realize
that, among those who read the Lotus Sutra and sing its
praises, there are many who are destined for the hell of
incessant suffering. Even men like Chia-hsiang and Tz'u-en
were actually slanderers of the one vehicle of the Lotus
Sutra. And if such can be said of them, it applies even
more to men like Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho, who displayed
open contempt for the Lotus Sutra.
There are those like Chia-hsiang, who ceased giving lectures,
dispersed the group of disciples that had gathered around
him, and became a disciple of T'ien-t'ai, even making his
body into a bridge for his teacher. But in spite of these
actions, the offense of his earlier slanders of the Lotus
Sutra was not, I expect, so easily wiped out. The crowd
of people who despised and attacked Bodhisattva Fukyo, although
they later came to believe in his teachings and became his
followers, still carried the burden of their former actions
and had to spend a thousand kalpas in the Avichi Hell as
Accordingly, if men like Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho had lectured
on the Lotus Sutra, even if they had repented of their errors,
they would still have had difficulty making up for their
former grave offenses. And of course, as we know, they never
had any such change of heart. On the contrary, they completely
ignored the Lotus Sutra and spent day and night carrying
out Shingon practices and morning and evening preaching
The bodhisattvas Vasubandhu and Ashvaghosha were both on
the point of cutting out their tongues because of the offense
they had committed [in their younger days] by adhering to
Hinayana doctrines and criticizing Mahayana. Vasubandhu
declared that, although the Agon sutras of the Hinayana
were the words of the Buddha, he would not let his tongue
utter them even in jest. And Ashvaghosha, as an act of penance,
wrote the Kishin Ron in which he refuted the Hinayana
Chia-hsiang in time went to the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai
and begged for his lectures. In the presence of a hundred
or more distinguished Buddhists, he threw himself on the
ground, and, with sweat pouring from every part of his body
and tears of blood streaming from his eyes, he declared
that from then on he would not see his disciples any more
and would no longer lecture on the Lotus Sutra. For, as
he said, "If I were to go on facing my disciples and
lecturing on the Lotus Sutra, they might suppose that I
have the ability to understand the sutra correctly, when
in fact I do not."
Chia-hsiang was both older and more eminent than T'ien-t'ai,
and yet, in the presence of others, he deliberately put
his teacher T'ien-t'ai on his back and carried him across
a river. Whenever T'ien-t'ai was about to ascend the lecture
platform, Chia-hsiang would take him on his back and carry
him up to the platform. After T'ien-t'ai's death, when Chia-hsiang
was summoned into the presence of the emperor of the Sui
dynasty, he is said to have wept and dragged his feet like
a little child whose mother has just died.
When one examines the work entitled Hokke Genron
by Chia-hsiang, one finds that it is not the kind of commentary
that speaks slanderously of the Lotus Sutra. It merely says
that, although the Lotus Sutra and the other Mahayana sutras
differ in the profundity of their teachings, they are at
heart one and the same. Is this statement perhaps the source
of the charge that the work slanders the Law?
Both Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon school and Shan-wu-wei of
the Shingon school declared that the Lotus Sutra and the
Dainichi Sutra reveal the same principle. Therefore,
if Chia-hsiang is to be blamed for the statement I have
just referred to, then Shan-wu-wei can hardly escape being
blamed as well.
Shan-wu-wei in his youth was the ruler of a kingdom in
central India. But he abdicated the throne and traveled
to other lands, where he met two men named Shusho and Shodai
from whom he received instruction in the Lotus Sutra. He
built a thousand stone stupas, and appeared to be a votary
of the Lotus Sutra. Later, however, after he had received
instruction in the Dainichi Sutra, he seems to have
concluded that the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Dainichi
Sutra. He did not insist on this opinion at first, but came
to do so later when he went to China and became a teacher
to Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the T'ang dynasty.
Perhaps because he was consumed by jealousy of the Tendai
school, he died very suddenly and found himself bound with
seven cords of iron and dragged by two guardians of hell
to the court of Emma, the king of hell. But he was told
that his life span had not yet reached its conclusion and
therefore was sent back to the world of men.
While in hell, he suspected that he had been brought before
Emma because he had slandered the Lotus Sutra, and he therefore
quickly set aside all his Shingon mudras, mantras
and methods of concentration and instead chanted the passage
from the Lotus Sutra that begins, "Now this threefold
world is all my [the Buddha's] domain," whereupon the
cords that bound him fell away and he was returned to life.
On another occasion, he was ordered by the imperial court
to recite prayers for rain and rain did in fact suddenly
begin to fall, but a huge wind also rose up and did great
damage to the country.
Later, when he really did die, his disciples gathered around
his deathbed and praised the remarkable way in which he
died, but in fact he fell into the great citadel of the
hell of incessant suffering. You may ask how I know that
this is so. I would reply that, if you examine his biography,
you will find it stated, "Looking now at Shan-wu-wei's
remains, one can see that they are gradually shrinking,
the skin is turning blackish and the bones are exposed.
Shan-wu-wei's disciples perhaps did not realize that this
was a sign that after his death he had been reborn in hell,
but supposed that it was a manifestation of his virtue.
Yet in describing it, the author of the biography exposed
Shan-wu-wei's guilt, recording that after his death his
body gradually shrank, the skin turned black and the bones
began to show.
We have the Buddha's own golden word for it that, if a
person's skin turns black after he dies, it is a sign that
he has done something that destined him for hell. What was
it, then, that Shan-wu-wei did that would destine him for
hell? In his youth he gave up the position of ruler, showing
that he had an incomparable determination to seek the Way.
He traveled about to more than fifty different lands in
India in the course of his religious practice, and his unbounded
compassion even led him to visit China. The fact that the
Shingon teachings have been transmitted throughout India,
China, Japan and the other lands of the world and numerous
practitioners ring bells in prayer is due to the merit of
this man, is it not? Those who are concerned about their
own destiny after death should inquire carefully as to the
reason why Shan-wu-wei fell into hell.
Then there was Chin-kang-chih, who was a son of the ruler
of a kingdom in southern India. He introduced the Kongocho
Sutra to China, and his virtue was similar to that of Shan-wu-wei.
He and Shan-wu-wei acted as teachers to one another.
Chin-kang-chih received an imperial order to conduct prayers
for rain. Within the space of seven days, rain did in fact
fall, and the Son of Heaven was very pleased. Suddenly,
however, a violent wind arose, and the ruler and his ministers,
much disillusioned, sent men to drive Chin-kang-chih out
of the country, though in the end he managed to remain in
China under one pretext or another.
Sometime later, when one of the emperor's favorite daughters
lay dying, he was ordered to pray for her recovery. He selected
two seven-year-old girls who had served at the court to
be substitutes for the dying lady and had piles of firewood
lighted all around them, so that they burned to death. It
was indeed a cruel thing to do. Moreover, the emperor's
daughter failed to return to life.
Pu-k'ung came to China together with Chin-kang-chih. But,
perhaps because his suspicions were aroused by the happenings
I have just mentioned, after Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih
died, he returned to India and studied Shingon doctrine
all over again, this time under Nagabodhi. In the end, he
became a convert to the teachings of the T'ien-t'ai school.
But although he acknowledged allegiance to these teachings
in his heart, he would never do so in his outward actions.
Pu-k'ung, too, was ordered by the emperor to pray for rain,
and within three days, rain did in fact fall. The emperor
was pleased and dispensed rewards with his own hand. But
shortly after, a huge wind descended from the sky, buffeting
and damaging the imperial palace and toppling the quarters
of the upper noblemen and high ministers until it seemed
that not a building would be left standing. The emperor,
astounded, issued an imperial command for prayers that the
wind be stopped. But though it would stop for a little,
it would start blowing again and again, until in the end
it blew uninterrupted for a space of several days. Eventually,
messengers were dispatched to drive Pu-k'ung out of the
country, and then at last the wind subsided.
The evil winds of these three men have become the huge
wind of the Shingon leaders that blows throughout all of
China and Japan! And if that is so, then the great gale
that arose on the twelfth day of the fourth month in the
eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274) must have been an adverse
wind brought about by Kaga Hoin of the Amida Hall, one of
the most eminent monks of To-ji temple, when he was praying
for rain. We must conclude that the evil teachings of Shan-wu-wei,
Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung have been transmitted without
the slightest alteration. What a strange coincidence indeed!
Let us turn now to Kobo Daishi. At the time of the great
drought in the second month of the first year of Tencho
(824), the emperor first ordered Shubin to pray for rain,
and within seven days Shubin was able to make rain fall.
But the rain fell only in the capital and did not extend
to the countryside.
Kobo was then ordered to take over the prayers for rain,
but seven days passed and there was no sign of it. Another
seven days passed and there still were no clouds. After
seven more days had passed, the emperor ordered Wake no
Matsuna to go and present offerings in the Shinsen'en garden,
whereupon rain fell from the sky for a period of three days.
Kobo and his disciples thereupon proceeded to appropriate
this rain and claim it as their own, and for more than four
hundred years now, it has been known as "Kobo's rain."
Jikaku said he had a dream in which he shot down the sun.
And Kobo told a great falsehood, claiming that, in the spring
of the ninth year of the Konin era (818), when he was praying
for an end to the great epidemic, the sun came out in the
middle of the night.
Since the Kalpa of Formation, when the earth took shape,
down to the ninth kalpa of decrease in the Kalpa of Continuance,
twenty-nine kalpas have passed by, but in all that time,
the sun has never been known to come out at night! And as
to Jikaku's dream of the sun, where in all the five thousand
or seven thousand volumes of the Buddhist scriptures or
the three thousand or more volumes of the secular classics
is it recorded that to dream of shooting the sun is auspicious?
The king of the asuras, angered at the deity Taishaku,
shot an arrow at the sun god, but the arrow came back and
struck the king himself in the eye. Chou, the last ruler
of the Yin dynasty, used the sun as a target for his arrows,
and in the end he was destroyed.
In Japan, in the reign of Emperor Jimmu, the emperor's
elder brother Itsuse no Mikoto engaged in battle with the
chieftain of Tomi, Nagasunebiko, and Itsuse no Mikoto was
wounded in the hand by an arrow. He said, "I am a descendent
of the sun deity. But because I have drawn my bow while
facing the sun, I have incurred this punishment from the
In India, King Ajatashatru renounced his earlier mistaken
views and became a follower of the Buddha. He returned to
his palace and lay down to sleep, but later rose up in alarm
and said to his ministers, "I have dreamed that the
sun has left the sky and fallen to the earth!" His
ministers said, "Perhaps this means the passing away
of the Buddha." Subhadra also had the same kind of
dream just before the Buddha passed away.
It would be particularly inauspicious to dream, [as Jikaku
claims he did,) of shooting the sun in Japan, since the
supreme deity in Japan is Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, and
the name of the country, Japan, means "the Land of
the Rising Sun." In addition, Shakyamuni Buddha is
called the "Sun Seed" because his mother Queen
Maya dreamed that she conceived the sun and in time gave
birth to this child, the crown prince, [who later became
Jikaku Daishi established Dainichi Buddha as the object
of worship on Mount Hiei and rejected Shakyamuni Buddha.
He paid honor to the three Shingon sutras and acted as an
enemy to the Lotus Sutra and its two companion sutras. That
was no doubt the reason why he dreamed this dream of shooting
On the subject of dreams, there is also the case of the
priest Shan-tao in China. In his youth he met a priest named
Ming-sheng of Mi-chou and received instruction in the Lotus
Sutra. Later, however, when he met Tao-ch'o, he threw aside
the Lotus Sutra and put all his trust in the Kammuryoju
Sutra. He even wrote a commentary on this sutra, which asserted
that with the Lotus Sutra, not one person in a thousand
can be saved, whereas the Nembutsu practice insures that
ten persons out of ten or a hundred persons out of a hundred
will be reborn in the Pure Land. In order to prove his point,
he prayed before Amida Buddha to confirm whether or not
his views accorded with the Buddha's intent. His commentary
says, "Every night in a dream a priest would appear
and tell me what to write," and, "Therefore this
commentary should be regarded with the same respect as the
sutra itself." It also says, "The Kannen Homon
should also be revered as though it was a sutra."
The Lotus Sutra says, "Among those who hear of this
Law, there is not one who shall not attain Buddhahood."
But Shan-tao says that not one in a thousand will be saved.
The Lotus Sutra and Shan-tao are as different as fire is
from water. Shan-tao says that the Kammuryoju Sutra
can save ten persons out of ten, or a hundred persons out
of a hundred. But in the Muryogi Sutra the Buddha
says that in the Kammuryoju Sutra, "I have not
yet revealed the truth." The Muryogi Sutra and
this priest of the Willow Cloister are as far apart as heaven
In view of this, can we really believe that Amida Buddha
took on the form of a priest and appeared to Shan-tao in
dreams to assure him that his commentary represented the
truth? Was not Amida among those present when the Lotus
Sutra was preached, and did he not extend his tongue along
with the others and testify to the truth of the sutra? Were
his attendants, the bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi, not
also present when the Lotus Sutra was preached? The answers
to these questions are obvious, and in like manner, if we
stop to think of it, we can see that Jikaku's dream was
a portent of evil.
Question: Kobo Daishi in his Shingyo Hiken or Secret
Key to the Heart Sutra writes: "In the spring of the
ninth year of Konin (818), the empire was troubled by a
great plague. Thereupon the emperor in person dipped his
writing brush in gold, took a piece of dark blue paper in
his hand, and wrote out a copy of the Hannya Shin,
or Heart, Sutra, in one roll. I had been appointed by the
ruler to lecture on the Heart Sutra. Having compiled my
explanations of its meaning, I [was delivering the lecture
but] had not yet reached my concluding remarks, when those
who had recovered from the plague began to fill the streets
of the capital. Moreover, when night came, the sun continued
to shine bright and red.
"This was certainly not the result of any virtuous
observance of the precepts on the part of an ignorant person
like myself, but was due rather to the power of faith manifested
by the sovereign as the gold-wheel-turning king. Nevertheless,
those who go to pray at the shrines of the gods should recite
this commentary of mine. For I was present long ago at Eagle
Peak when the Buddha preached the Heart Sutra, and I personally
heard him expound its profound doctrines. How, then, could
I fail to understand its meaning?"
Again in the work entitled Kujakukyo no Ongi, or
Annotations on the Peacock Sutra, we read: "After Kobo
Daishi returned from China, he desired to establish the
Shingon sect in Japan, and representatives of all the various
sects were summoned to the imperial court. But many of them
had doubts about the Shingon doctrine of the attaining of
Buddhahood in one's present form. Kobo Daishi thereupon
formed his hands in the wisdom mudra and faced south.
Suddenly his mouth opened and he turned into the golden-colored
Buddha Mahavairochana--that is, he reverted to his original
form. In this way he demonstrated that the Buddha is present
in the individual and the individual is present in the Buddha,
and that one can immediately attain Buddhahood in this very
existence. On that day, all doubts concerning the matter
were completely resolved, and from that time the Shingon
or Yuga sect with its doctrines of secret mandalas was established."
The same work also says, "At this time the leaders
of the other sects all bowed to the opinion of Kobo Daishi
and for the first time received instruction in Shingon,
sought its benefit and practiced it. Dosho of the Sanron
sect, Gennin of the Hosso sect, Doo of the Kegon sect, and
Encho of the Tendai sect were all among those who did so."
In addition, the biography of Kobo Daishi states: "On
the day when he set out by ship from China, he voiced a
prayer, saying, 'If there is a spot that is particularly
suitable for the teaching of these doctrines that I have
learned, may this three-pronged pounder land there!' Then
he faced in the direction of Japan and threw the pounder
up into the air. It sailed far away and disappeared among
the clouds. In the tenth month, he returned to Japan."
The same work states, "He journeyed to the foot of
Mount Koya and determined to establish his place of meditation
there .... and later it was discovered that the three-pronged
pounder which he had thrown out over the sea was there on
It is clear from these two or three incidents that Kobo
Daishi was a person of inestimable power and virtue. Since
he was a person of such great power, why do you say that
one should not believe in his teachings, and that anyone
who does so will fall into the Avichi Hell?
Answer: I, too, admire and believe in these various accomplishments
of his. There are other men of old who possessed such uncanny
powers. But the possession of such power does not indicate
whether that person's understanding of the Buddhist Law
is correct or not. Among the Brahman believers of India
there have been men who could pour the water of the Ganges
River into their ear and keep it there for twelve years,
who could drink the ocean dry, grasp the sun and moon in
their hands, or change the disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha
into oxen or sheep. But such powers only made them more
arrogant than ever and caused them to create further karma
to suffer in the realm of birth and death. It is men like
these whom T'ien-t'ai is referring to when he says, "They
seek after fame and profit and increase their illusions
of thought and desire."
The Chinese priest Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu temple could
make it rain suddenly or cause flowers to bloom immediately,
but Miao-lo writes of him, "Though he could bring about
a response in this way, his understanding still did not
accord with the truth [of the Lotus Sutra]." When the
Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai read the Lotus Sutra, soft rain
began to fall in an instant, and the Great Teacher Dengyo
caused the rain of amrita to fall within the space
of three days. However, they did not say that because of
such powers their understanding of the truth coincided with
that of the Buddha.
Regardless of what unusual powers Kobo may have had, he
described the Lotus Sutra as a doctrine of childish theory,
and wrote that Shakyamuni Buddha was still in the region
of darkness. Men of wisdom and understanding should have
nothing to do with such writings!
Say what you may, there are surely doubtful points in the
accounts of Kobo's powers you have just cited. The text
says, "In the spring of the ninth year of Konin (818),
the empire was troubled by a great plague." But spring
is ninety days long. On which day of which month of spring
did this happen? This is the first doubtful point.
Secondly, was there in fact an outbreak of plague in the
ninth year of Konin?
Thirdly, the text says, "When night came, the sun
continued to shine bright and red." If it really did
so, then this is an occurrence of major importance. During
the ninth year of Konin, Emperor Saga reigned. But did the
court historians of the left and right record any such event?
Even if they had, it would be difficult to believe. During
the twenty kalpas of the Kalpa of Formation, as well as
nine kalpas of the Kalpa of Continuance, a total of twenty-nine
kalpas, never once has such a thing occurred. What then
is this about the sun appearing in the middle of the night?
In all the teachings expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha during
his lifetime, there is no mention of any such thing. And
in the Three Records and Five Canons of China
which describe the three sovereigns and five emperors of
antiquity, there is no prediction that at some future date
the sun will come out in the middle of the night. In the
scriptures of Buddhism, we are told that in the Kalpa of
Decline, two suns, three suns, or even seven suns will appear,
but these will appear in the daytime, not at night. And
if the sun should appear at night in our own region, the
continent of Jambudvipa in the south, then what about the
other three regions of the east, west and north?
Regardless of what the Buddhist scriptures or the secular
works may have to say about such an event, if in fact there
were some entry in the diaries of the courtiers, the other
families of the capital, or the priests of Mount Hiei saying
that in the spring of the ninth year of Konin, in such and
such a month, on such and such a day, at such and such an
hour of the night the sun appeared, then we might perhaps
believe it. [But no such record exists.]
Later, the text says, "I was present long ago at Eagle
Peak when the Buddha preached the Heart Sutra, and I personally
heard him expound its profound doctrines." This is
surely a wild falsehood that is intended to make people
have faith in his commentary. If not, are we to believe
that at Eagle Peak the Buddha announced that the Lotus Sutra
was a piece of "childish theory" and that the
Dainichi Sutra represented the truth, and that Ananda
and Monju were simply mistaken in saying that the Lotus
Sutra represents the truth?
As for making it rain, even a promiscuous woman and a breaker
of the precepts were able by their poems to cause rain to
fall. Yet Kobo prayed for twenty-one days and still it did
not rain, so what sort of powers could he have possessed?
This is the fourth doubtful point.
The Kujakukyo no Ongi states, "Kobo Daishi
thereupon formed his hands in the wisdom mudra and
faced south. Suddenly his mouth opened and he turned into
the golden-colored Buddha Mahavairochana." Now in what
year of the reign of what ruler did this happen?
In China from the time of the Chien-yuan era (140-134 B.C.),
and in Japan from the time of the Taiho era (701-704), among
the records of events kept by priests and the laity, those
of important occurrences have always been accompanied by
the name of the era in which they took place. With an event
as important as that described, why then is there no mention
of who the ruler was, who his high ministers were, what
the name of the era was, or what day and hour the event
The passage goes on to list "Dosho of the Sanron sect,
Gennin of the Hosso sect, Doo of the Kegon sect, and Encho
of the Tendai sect" [as those who learned the Shingon
doctrines from Kobo]. Encho is known posthumously as Jakko
Daishi and was the second chief priest of the Tendai sect.
Now at that time, why were Gishin, the first chief priest,
or the Great Teacher Dengyo, the founder of the sect, not
invited to be present? Encho, the second chief priest of
the Tendai sect, was a disciple of the Great Teacher Dengyo
and also became a disciple of Kobo. Rather than inviting
a disciple or rather than inviting men of the Sanron, Hosso
and Kegon sects, why did Kobo not invite the two most important
men of the Tendai sect, Dengyo and Gishin?
Speaking of the time when these men were invited, the Kujakukyo
no Ongi states, "From that time the Shingon or
Yuga sect with its doctrines of secret mandalas was established."
This would seem to refer to a time when both Dengyo and
Gishin were still alive. From the second year of Daido (807),
in the reign of Emperor Heizei, until the thirteenth year
of Konin (822) [when Dengyo died], Kobo was very active
in spreading the Shingon doctrines, and during this period
both Dengyo and Gishin were still alive. Moreover, Gishin
lived on until the tenth year of Tencho (833). Is it possible
that Kobo waited until after then before trying to introduce
his Shingon teachings to a leader of the Tendai sect? The
whole matter is very strange.
The Kujakukyo no Ongi was written by Shinzei, a
disciple of Kobo, and therefore it is difficult to trust
what it says. Is it likely that a person of such deluded
views would have troubled to read the writings of the courtiers,
the other important families, or Encho on which to base
his account? One should also check the writings of Dosho,
Gennin and Doo to see if they have anything to say on the
The text says, "Suddenly his mouth opened and he turned
into the golden-colored Buddha Mahavairochana." What
does it mean by the expression "his mouth opened"?
The writer probably intended to write miken, meaning
"the area between the eyebrows," but he mistakenly
wrote "mouth" instead. Because he wrote a book
of fabrications, he quite likely made mistakes of this kind.
The whole passage says, "Kobo Daishi thereupon formed
his hands in the wisdom mudra and faced south. Suddenly
his mouth opened and he turned into the golden-colored Buddha
Now in the fifth volume of the Nirvana Sutra we read: "Mahakashyapa
spoke to the Buddha, saying, 'World-Honored One, I will
no longer depend upon the four ranks of saints. Why is this?
Because in the Ghoshila Sutra that the Buddha preached for
the sake of Ghoshila, it is said that the devil king in
heaven, because he is determined to try to destroy the Buddhist
Law, will turn himself into the likeness of a Buddha. He
will have all the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics
of a Buddha, will be solemn and imposing in appearance,
and a round halo of light will radiate from him ten feet
in all directions. His face will be round and full like
the moon at its fullest and brightest, and the white curl
in the area between his eyebrows will be whiter than snow....
From his left side will come water, and from his right side
will come fire.'"
Again, in the sixth volume of the Nirvana Sutra, it is
recorded, "The Buddha announced to Mahakashyapa, 'After
I have passed into nirvana,... this Devil of the Sixth Heaven
and other devils will in time try to destroy this True Law
of mine ... He will change himself into the form of an arhat
or of a Buddha. The devil king, though still subject to
illusion, will assume the form of one who has been freed
from illusion, and will try to destroy this True Law of
Kobo Daishi declared that, in comparison with the Kegon
and Dainichi sutras, the Lotus Sutra was a piece
of "childish theory." And this same man, we are
told, appeared in the form of a Buddha. He must be the devil
who, as the Nirvana Sutra states, will change his shape,
that is still subject to illusion, into that of a Buddha
and attempt to destroy the True Law of Shakyamuni.
This "True Law" referred to in the Nirvana Sutra
is the Lotus Sutra. Therefore we find later on in the Nirvana
Sutra the statement, "It has already been a long time
since I attained Buddhahood." The text also says that
the sutra itself is contained in the Lotus Sutra.
Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten directions
declared with regard to the various sutras that the Lotus
Sutra represents the truth; the Dainichi and all
the other sutras do not represent the truth. Yet Kobo appeared
in the form of a Buddha and announced that, compared to
the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, the Lotus Sutra
is a piece of "childish theory." If the words
of the Buddha are true, then Kobo must be none other than
the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, must he not?
Again, this matter of the three-pronged pounder appears
to be particularly suspicious. It would be difficult to
believe even if a Chinese [who had not known the circumstances]
had come to Japan and happened to dig up the pounder. Surely
someone must have been sent earlier to bury it in that particular
spot. Since Kobo was a Japanese, he could have arranged
such a thing. There are many such wild and absurd stories
associated with his name. Such incidents hardly lend support
to the assertions that his teachings accord with the will
of the Buddha.
Thus the doctrines of the Shingon, Zen and Nembutsu sects
spread and prospered in Japan. Eventually, Takanari, the
Retired Emperor of Oki [the eighty-second emperor Gotoba],
began making efforts to overthrow the Gon no Tayu. Since
he was the sovereign, the leader of the nation, people supposed
that, even without assistance, it would be as easy as a
lion pouncing on a rabbit or a hawk seizing a pheasant.
Moreover, for a period of several years appeals had been
made at Mount Hiei, the temples of To-ji, Onjo-ji and the
seven major temples of Nara, as well as to the Sun Goddess,
the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, and the deities of the Sanno,
Kamo and Kasuga shrines, asking that the emperor's enemies
be subdued and that the gods lend their aid. Yet, when war
broke out, the imperial forces were not able to hold out
for more than two or three days. In the end, the three retired
emperors were exiled to the islands of Sado and Oki and
the province of Awa, respectively, where they ended their
Moreover, Omuro, who was leading the prayers to subdue
the enemies of the court, was not only driven out of To-ji
temple, but his favorite, the page Setaka, who was as dear
to him as his very eyes, was beheaded. Thus, as the Lotus
Sutra says, the curses in the end "returned to the
But this is a trifling matter compared to what is to come.
Hereafter, I have no doubt that the court officials and
the countless common people of Japan will without exception
suffer a fate like that of heaps of dry grass to which a
torch has been set, like huge mountains crumbling and valleys
being filled up, for our country will be attacked by enemies
I, Nichiren, am the only one in the whole country of Japan
who understands why these things will happen. But if I speak
out, I will be treated as King Chou of the Yin dynasty treated
Pi Kan, tearing open his chest; as King Chieh of the Hsia
dynasty treated Lung-feng, cutting off his head; or as King
Dammira treated Aryasimha, beheading him. I will be banished
like the priest Chu Tao-sheng, or branded on the face like
the Learned Doctor Fa-tao.
In the Lotus Sutra, however, it is written, "We do
not hold our own lives dear. We value only the supreme Way."
And the Nirvana Sutra warns, "He should never hold
back any of the teachings, even though it may cost him his
If in this present existence I am so fearful for my life
that I fail to speak out, then in what future existence
will I ever attain Buddhahood? Or in what future existence
will I ever be able to bring salvation to my parents and
my teacher? With thoughts such as these uppermost in my
mind, I decided that I must begin to speak out. And, just
as I had expected, I was ousted, I was vilified, I was attacked,
and I suffered wounds. Finally, on the twelfth day of the
fifth month in the first year of the Kocho era (1261), the
year with the cyclical sign kanoto-tori, having incurred
the displeasure of the authorities, I was banished to Ito
in the province of Izu. Eventually, on the twenty-second
day of the second month of the third year of Kocho (1263),
the year with the cyclical sign mizunoto-i, I was
pardoned and allowed to return.
After that, I became more determined than ever to attain
enlightenment and continued to speak out. Accordingly, the
difficulties I encountered became increasingly severe, like
great waves that rise up in a gale. I experienced with my
own body the kind of attacks with sticks and staves that
Bodhisattva Fukyo suffered in ancient times. It would seem
that even the persecutions suffered by the monk Kakutoku
in the latter age after the death of the Buddha Kangi Zoyaku
could not compare to my trials. Nowhere in all the sixty-six
provinces and the two offshore islands of Japan, not for
a day, not for an hour, could I find a place to rest in
Even sages who persevere in their practice as earnestly
as did Rahula in ancient times, strictly observing all the
two hundred and fifty precepts, or men who are as wise as
Purna, speak evil of Nichiren when they encounter him. Even
worthy men who are as honest and upright as the officials
Wei Cheng or Fujiwara no Yoshifusa, when they see Nichiren,
forsake reason and treat him unjustly.
How much more so is this the case with the ordinary people
of the day! They behave like dogs who have seen a monkey,
or hunters in pursuit of a deer. Throughout the whole of
Japan there is not a single person who says, "Perhaps
this man has some reason for his behavior."
But that is only to be expected. For whenever I come upon
a person who recites the Nembutsu, I tell him that those
who put their faith in the Nembutsu will fall into the hell
of incessant suffering. Whenever I come upon a person who
honors the Shingon teachings, I tell him that Shingon is
an evil doctrine that will destroy the nation. And to [Hojo
Tokimune,] the ruler of the nation, who honors the Zen sect,
I, Nichiren, declare that Zen is the creation of devils.
Since I willingly bring these troubles upon myself, when
others vilify me, I do not rebuke them. Even if I wanted
to rebuke them, there are too many of them. And even when
they strike me, I feel no pain, for I have been prepared
for their blows from the very beginning.
And so I went about with ever increasing vigor and ever
less concern for my safety, trying to persuade others to
change their ways. As a result, several hundred Zen priests,
several thousand Nembutsu believers, and even more Shingon
teachers went to the magistrate or the men of powerful families,
or to their wives or their widows who had taken holy orders,
and filled their ears with endless slanders concerning me.
Finally, all were convinced that I was the gravest offender
in the entire nation, for it was said that in my capacity
as a priest, I was saying prayers and spells for the destruction
of Japan, and that I had reported that the deceased officials
Hojo Tokiyori and Hojo Shigetoki had fallen into the hell
of incessant suffering. Their widows insisted that investigation
was unnecessary; rather, I should have my head cut off,
and my disciples should likewise be beheaded or exiled to
distant lands or placed in confinement. So infuriated were
they that their demands for punishment were immediately
On the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month in the
eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), the year with the cyclical
sign kanoto-hitsuji, I was to have been beheaded
at Tatsunokuchi in the province of Sagami. But for some
reason the execution was postponed and that night I was
taken to a place called Echi. On the night of the thirteenth
day, people made a great uproar, saying I had been pardoned.
But, again for reasons that are unclear, I was ordered into
exile on the island of Sado.
While people speculated from one day to the next if I would
be beheaded, I passed four years on Sado. Then, on the fourteenth
day of the second month in the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274),
the year with the cyclical sign Jupiter kinoe-inu,
I was pardoned. On the twenty-sixth day of the third month
of the same year, I returned to Kamakura, and on the eighth
day of the fourth month I had an interview with Hei no Saemon.
I reported on various matters and informed him that the
Mongols would certainly invade Japan within that year. Then
on the twelfth day of the fifth month, I left Kamakura and
came to this mountain where I am now living.
All these things I have done solely in order to repay the
debt I owe to my parents, the debt I owe to my teacher,
the debt I owe to the three treasures of Buddhism, and the
debt I owe to my country. For their sake, I have been willing
to destroy my body and to give up my life, though as it
turns out, I have not been put to death after all.
If a wise man makes three attempts to warn the leaders
of the nation and they still refuse to heed his advice,
then he should retire to a mountain forest. This has been
the custom from ages past, and I have accordingly followed
I am quite certain that the merit I have acquired through
my efforts is recognized by everyone from the three treasures
of Buddhism on down to Bonten, Taishaku and the gods of
the sun and moon. Through this merit I will surely lead
to enlightenment my parents and my teacher, the late Dozen-bo.
But there are certain doubts that trouble me. Maudgalyayana,
a disciple of the Buddha, attempted to save his mother Shodai-nyo,
but he could not do so, and she remained in the realm of
hungry spirits. The monk Sunakshatra was a son of the World-Honored
One, and yet he fell into the Avichi Hell. Thus, although
one may exert one's full effort to save others, it is very
difficult to save them from the karmic retribution that
they have brought upon themselves.
The late Dozen-bo treated me as one of his favorite disciples,
so I cannot believe that he bore any hatred toward me. But
he was a timid man, and he could never bring himself to
give up his position at the temple where he lived, Seicho-ji.
Moreover, he was fearful of what Tojo Kagenobu, the steward
of the region, might do if he gave ear to my teachings.
And at Seicho-ji he had to live in the midst of priests
like Enchi and Jitsujo, who were as evil as Devadatta or
Kokalika, and to put up with their intimidations, so that
he became even more fearful than ever. As a result, he turned
a deaf ear to the disciple he had been fondest of, one who
had followed him for many years. One wonders what will become
of such a man in the next life.
There is one thing to be thankful for. Kagenobu, Enchi
and Jitsujo all died before Dozen-bo did, and that was something
of a help. These men all met an untimely death because of
the chastisement of the Ten Goddesses who protect the Lotus
Sutra. After they died, Dozen-bo began to have some faith
in the Lotus Sutra. But it was rather like obtaining a stick
after the fight is over, or lighting a lamp at midday--the
proper time had already passed.
In addition, I cannot keep from thinking that, whatever
happens, one ought to feel pity and concern for one's own
children or disciples. Dozen-bo was not an entirely helpless
man, and yet, though I was exiled all the way to the island
of Sado, he never once tried to visit me. This is hardly
the behavior of one who believes in the Lotus Sutra.
In spite of all that, I thought a great deal of him, and
when I heard the news of his death, I felt as though, whether
I had to walk through fire or wade through water, I must
rush to his grave, pound on it, and recite a volume of the
Lotus Sutra for his sake.
However, it often happens with worthy men that, although
they do not think of themselves as having retired from the
world, other people assume that they have, and therefore,
if they were to come rushing out of retreat for no good
reason, people would suppose that they had failed to accomplish
their purpose. For this reason, no matter how much I might
wish to visit his grave, I feel that I cannot do so.
Now you two, Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, were my teachers in
my youth. You are like the Administrators of Monks Gonso
and Gyohyo who were the teachers of the Great Teacher Dengyo,
but later, on the contrary, became his disciples. When Tojo
Kagenobu was bent on harming me and I decided that I must
leave Mount Kiyosumi [on which Seicho-ji is located], you
helped me escape in secret. You have performed an unrivaled
service for the Lotus Sutra. There can be no doubt about
the reward that awaits you in your next rebirth.
Question: Within the eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters
that constitute the entirety of the Lotus Sutra, what part
represents the true heart of the work?
Answer: The heart of the Kegon Sutra is the title
Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra. The heart of the Agon
sutras is the title Bussetsu Chu-agon Sutra. The
heart of the Daijuku Sutra is the title Daihodo
Daijuku Sutra. The heart of the Hannya Sutra
is the title Makahannya Haramitsu Sutra. The heart
of the Muryoju Sutra is the title Bussetsu Muryoju
Sutra. The heart of the Kammuryoju Sutra is the title
Bussetsu Kammuryoju Sutra. The heart of the Amida
Sutra is the title Bussetsu Amida Sutra. The heart
of the Nirvana Sutra is the title Daihatsunehan Sutra.
It is the same with all the sutras. The daimoku or title
of the sutra, which appears before the opening words nyoze
gamon or "Thus have I heard," is in all cases
the true heart of the sutra. This is true whether it is
a Mahayana sutra or a Hinayana sutra. As for the Dainichi
Sutra, the Kongocho Sutra, the Soshitsuji
Sutra and so forth--in all cases the title constitutes the
The same is true of the Buddhas. Dainichi Buddha, Nichigatsu
Tomyo Buddha, Nento Buddha, Daitsuchisho Buddha, Unraionno
Buddha--in the case of all these Buddhas, the name itself
contains within it all the various virtues that pertain
to that particular Buddha.
The same, then, applies to the Lotus Sutra. The five characters
Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo that appear before the opening
words "Thus have I heard" comprise the true heart
of the eight volumes of the work. Moreover, they are the
heart of all the sutras, as well as the True Law that stands
above all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the people of the
two vehicles, and all the heavenly deities and human beings,
asuras and dragon gods.
Question: If one person should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
without understanding its meaning, and another person should
chant the words Namu Daihokobutsu Kegonkyo without
understanding their meaning, would the merit acquired by
the two persons be equal, or would one acquire greater merit
than the other?
Answer: One would acquire greater merit than the other.
Question: Why do you say so?
Answer: A small river can accommodate the water flowing
into it from dew, brooks, wells, ditches and little streams,
but it cannot accommodate the water from a big river. A
big river can accommodate the water from a small river with
its dew, brooks and so forth, but it cannot accommodate
the water from the great ocean. Now the Agon sutras
are like the small river with its wells, streams, brooks
and dew, while the Hodo sutras, the Amida
Sutra, the Dainichi Sutra and the Kegon Sutra
are like the big river that accommodates the small river.
But the Lotus Sutra is like the great ocean that can hold
all the water from dew, brooks, wells, streams, small rivers,
big rivers and the rains from heaven, without losing a single
Suppose that a person is burning with fever. If he sits
down beside a large body of cold water and stays there for
a while, his fever will abate, but if he lies down beside
a little body of water, he will continue to suffer as before.
In the same way, if an icchantika or person of incorrigible
disbelief, who has committed the five cardinal sins and
has slandered the Law, should try to cool himself beside
the little bodies of water that are the Agon, Kegon,
Kammuryoju and Dainichi sutras, the raging fever
caused by his great offenses would never be dispelled. But
if he should lie down on the great snowy mountain that is
the Lotus Sutra, then the raging fever caused by the five
offenses, his slander of the Law, and his incorrigible disbelief,
would be dispelled instantly.
Therefore, ignorant people should by all means have faith
in the Lotus Sutra. For although one may think that all
the titles of the sutras are the same in effect and that
it is as easy to chant one as another, in fact the merit
acquired even by an ignorant person who chants the title
of the Lotus Sutra is as far superior to that acquired by
a wise man who chants some other title as heaven is to earth!
To illustrate, even a person with great strength cannot
break a strong rope with his bare hands. But if one has
a little knife, then even a person of meager strength can
sever the rope with ease. Even a person with great strength
cannot cut through a piece of hard stone with a dull sword.
But if one has a sharp sword, then even a person of meager
strength can cut the stone in two.
Or, to give another example, even though one may not know
what is in the medicine, if one takes a dose of it, he can
cure his illness. But if he takes only ordinary food, his
illness will never be cured. Or to give yet another example,
a medicine with supernatural properties can actually increase
one's life span, whereas ordinary medicine, though it can
cure illness, can never prolong one's life.
Question: Of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra,
which is the heart, which is the most essential?
Answer: Some would say that each chapter is essential to
the matter that it deals with. Some would contend that the
Hoben and Juryo chapters are the heart, others
that the Hoben alone is the heart, or that the Juryo
alone is the heart. Some would say that the passage, "to
awaken in all beings the Buddha wisdom, to reveal it, to
let all beings know it and enter into it," is the heart,
others that the "true entity" is the heart.
Question: What is your opinion?
Answer: I believe that the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo constitute
Question: What is your proof?
Answer: The fact that Ananda, Monju and the others wrote,
"Thus have I heard."
Question: What do you mean by that?
Answer: Over a period of eight years, Ananda, Monju and
the others listened to the innumerable principles of the
Lotus Sutra, never missing a single sentence, a single verse,
a single word. Yet, after the Buddha had passed away, at
the time of the compilation of his teachings, when the 999
arhats took up their writing brushes and dipped them in
ink, they first of all wrote the words Myoho-renge-kyo,
and after that they intoned the words, "Thus have I
heard." Therefore these five words Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo
must be the heart of the eight volumes and twenty-eight
chapters that compose the work, must they not?
Therefore the Dharma Teacher Fa-yun of Kuang-che-ssu temple,
who is said to have lectured on the Lotus Sutra ever since
the distant age of Nichigatsu Tomyo Buddha, states: "The
words 'Thus have I heard' indicate that one is going to
transmit the doctrines he has heard preached. The title,
which precedes these words, sums up the sutra as a whole.
The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, who was present on Eagle
Peak when the Lotus Sutra was preached and heard it in person,
writes, "The word 'thus' indicates the essence of a
doctrine heard from the Buddha." And the Great Teacher
Chang-an writes, "The transcriber [Chang-an] comments
on [T'ien-t'ai's explanation of the title of the Lotus Sutra],
saying, 'Hence [his explanation of the title in] the preface
conveys the profound meaning of the sutra as a whole, and
the profound meaning indicates the heart of the work.'"
In this passage, the words "heart of the work"
signify that the daimoku or title of the work is the heart
of the Lotus Sutra. As the Great Teacher Miao-lo states,
"It is the heart of the Lotus Sutra that encompasses
all the doctrines preached by the Buddha in the course of
India comprises seventy states, but they are known collectively
by the name Gasshi [the Land of the Moon], or India. Japan
comprises sixty provinces, but they are known collectively
by the name Nihon [the Land of the Sun], or Japan. Within
the name India are contained all the seventy states, as
well as all their people, animals, treasures, and so forth.
Within the name Japan are contained all the sixty-six provinces.
The feathers sent as tribute from Dewa, the gold of Oshu,
and all the other treasures of the nation, as well as the
people and animals, temples and shrines, are all contained
within the two characters that form the name Ni-hon or Japan.
One who possesses the Heavenly Eye can look at the two
characters of the name Japan and see all the sixty-six provinces
along with their people and animals. One who possesses the
Dharma Eye can see all the people and animals now dying
in one place, now being born in another place.
It is like hearing someone's voice and knowing what the
person must look like, or seeing someone's footprints and
judging whether the person is large or small. Or it is like
estimating the size of a pond by looking at the lotuses
that grow in it, or imagining the size of the dragons by
observing the rain that they cause to fall. Each of these
examples illustrates the principle that all things are expressed
It might appear from this that the daimoku or title of
any Agon sutra must contain all the teachings of
the Buddhas, but in fact it contains only one Buddha, the
Shakyamuni of the Hinayana teachings. It might also appear
that the titles of the Kegon, Kammuryoju and Dainichi
sutras must contain all the teachings of the Buddhas, but
in fact they do not include the doctrine concerning the
attainment of Buddhahood by people in the two realms of
shomon and engaku, or the Shakyamuni Buddha
who gained enlightenment in the far distant past. They are
like flowers that bloom but are followed by no fruit, thunder
that rolls but brings no rain, a drum that has no sound,
eyes that cannot see, a woman who bears no child, or a person
who has no life or spirit in him.
The mantras associated with the Buddhas Dainichi,
Yakushi and Amida and Bodhisattva Kannon are of the same
nature. Though in the various sutras containing these mantras
they are said to be like a great king, Mount Sumeru, the
sun and moon, good medicine, a wish-granting jewel or a
sharp sword, they are as far beneath the daimoku of the
Lotus Sutra as mud is beneath the clouds.
Not only are they vastly inferior, but all of them have
lost their respective inherent functions. When the sun comes
up, the light of the crowds of stars is completely eclipsed;
when bits of iron are placed near a magnet, they lose their
property. When a great sword is exposed to even a small
fire, it ceases to be of any use; when cow's milk or donkey's
milk comes into the presence of lion king's milk, it turns
to water. A pack of foxes will forget all their tricks if
they meet up with a dog; a band of dogs will all quake with
fright if they encounter a small tiger.
In the same way, if one chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then
the power of the words Namu Amida Butsu, the power of the
mantras invoking Dainichi, the power of Bodhisattva
Kannon, and the power of all the Buddhas, all the sutras
and all the bodhisattvas will without exception vanish before
the power of Myoho-renge-kyo.
Unless these other sutras manage to borrow the power of
Myoho-renge-kyo, they will all become worthless things.
This is a fact that stands before our very eyes in the present
Because I, Nichiren, chant and spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
the power of Namu Amida Butsu will be like a moon waning,
a tide running out, grass withering in autumn and winter,
or ice melting in the sun. Watch and see!
Question: If this Law that you have been describing is
in fact so wonderful, why is it not better known? Why have
not Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga,
Vasubandhu, Nan-yueh, T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo spread
it abroad the way Shan-tao spread the practice of Namu Amida
Butsu throughout China or the way Eshin, Yokan and Honen
spread it in Japan, turning the whole country into worshipers
of Amida Buddha?
Answer: This is an old criticism, not by any means one
that is raised here for the first time.
Bodhisattvas Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna were great scholars
who lived, respectively, six hundred and seven hundred years
after the death of the Buddha. When these men appeared in
the world and began spreading the doctrines of the Mahayana
sutras, the various followers of the Hinayana raised objections.
"Mahakashyapa and Ananda," they said, "lived
on for twenty or forty years after the death of the Buddha,
preaching the True Law. Presumably they conveyed the heart
of all the teachings that the Buddha had propounded during
his lifetime. Now we find that what these two men emphasized
were simply the concepts of suffering, emptiness, impermanence
and non-self. Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna may be very wise,
but are we to suppose that they are superior to Mahakashyapa
and Ananda? This is our first objection.
"Mahakashyapa obtained his enlightenment through direct
encounters with the Buddha. But these two men, Ashvaghosha
and Nagarjuna, have never encountered the Buddha. This is
our second objection.
"The Brahman philosophers who preceded the Buddha
taught that life is permanent, joyful, endowed with self
and pure. Later, when the Buddha appeared in the world,
he declared that life is marked by suffering, emptiness,
impermanence and non-self. Now Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna
insist that it is permanent, joyful, endowed with self and
pure. This being so, we must suppose that, since both the
Buddha and Mahakashyapa have passed away from the world,
the Devil of the Sixth Heaven has taken possession of these
two men and is trying to overthrow the teachings of Buddhism
and replace them with the teachings of the Brahman heretics.
"If that is so, then these men are the enemies of
Buddhism! We must smash their skulls, cut off their heads,
put an end to their lives, see that they get no more to
eat! Let us drive them from the country!"
Such were the declarations of the Hinayana believers. And
Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna, being two men alone, were forced
day and night to listen to these shouts of calumny, and
morning and evening to bear the attacks of sticks and staves.
But these two men were in fact messengers of the Buddha.
For in the Maya Sutra, it is predicted that Ashvaghosha
will appear six hundred years, and Nagarjuna, seven hundred
years, after the Buddha's death. The same prediction is
also recorded in the Ryoga Sutra, and of course in
the Fuhozo Sutra as well.
But the Hinayana believers would not heed these predictions,
and instead attacked the Mahayanists blindly and without
reason. "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during
the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in
the world after his passing?" says the Lotus Sutra.
Looking at the time of Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna, one begins
to have a little understanding of what these words of the
sutra really mean. Moreover, Bodhisattva Aryadeva was killed
by a Brahman, and the Venerable Aryasimha had his head cut
off. These events, too, give one cause for thought.
Then, some fifteen hundred years or more after the death
of the Buddha, in the country of China, which lies east
of India, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai appeared in the world
during the years of the Ch'en and Sui dynasties. He declared
that among the sacred teachings put forth by the Buddha,
there were the Mahayana and the Hinayana, the exoteric and
the esoteric, the provisional and the true. Mahakashyapa
and Ananda had concentrated on spreading the Hinayana teachings,
he explained. Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu
had spread the provisional Mahayana teachings. But with
regard to the true Mahayana teaching of the Lotus Sutra,
they had merely touched on it briefly but concealed its
meaning, or had described the surface meaning of the sutra
but failed to discuss the differences that mark the Buddha's
teachings expounded throughout his lifetime. Or they had
described the theoretical teaching but not the essential
teaching, or they had understood the theoretical and essential
teachings but not kanjin, or the method for observing
When the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai expounded these views,
the millions of followers of the ten schools of Buddhism,
three in southern China and seven in northern China, all
with one accord gave a great laugh of derision.
"Here in these latter days, a truly amazing priest
has made his appearance among us!" they exclaimed.
"Though there have at times been persons who adhered
to biased views and opposed us, never has there been anyone
who maintained that all the 260 or more learned doctors
and teachers of Buddhism who have lived since the introduction
of Buddhism in the tenth year of the Yung-p'ing era (A.D.
67) of the Later Han, the year with the cyclical sign hinoto-u,
down to these present years of the Ch'en and Sui, were ignorant.
And on top of that, he says that they are slanderers of
the Law who are destined to fall into the evil states of
existence. Such is the kind of person that has appeared!
"He is so insane that he even maintains that the Learned
Doctor Kumarajiva, the man who introduced the Lotus Sutra
to China, was an ignorant fool! Whatever he may say about
the men of China, imagine his saying that the great scholars
of India such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu and the several
hundred others, all of them bodhisattvas of the four ranks,
did not teach the true doctrine! Anyone who killed this
man would be doing no more than killing a hawk! In fact
he would be more praiseworthy than someone who kills a demon!"
This was the way they railed at the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai.
And later, in the time of the Great Teacher Miao-lo, when
the Hosso and Shingon doctrines were introduced from India
and the Kegon school was first established in China, Miao-lo
spoke out against these teachings and was met with a similar
In Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyo made his appearance
1,800 years after the Buddha had passed away. After examining
the commentaries of T'ien-t'ai, he began to criticize the
six sects of Buddhism that had flourished in Japan in the
260 or more years since the time of Emperor Kimmei. People
in turn slandered him, saying that the Brahmans who lived
in the time of the Buddha or the Taoists of China must have
been reborn in Japan.
Dengyo also proposed to set up an ordination platform for
administering the great precepts of perfect and immediate
enlightenment, such as had never existed in India, China
or Japan in the 1,800 years since the Buddha's death. Indeed
he went further than this, declaring that the ordination
platform at Kannon-ji temple in the western region of Tsukushi,
the ordination platform at Ono-dera temple in the eastern
province of Shimotsuke, and the ordination platform at Todai-ji
temple in the central province of Yamato all stank with
the foul odor of the Hinayana precepts and were as worthless
as broken tile and rubble. And the priests who upheld such
precepts, he said, were no better than foxes and monkeys.
In reply, his critics exclaimed, "Ah, how amazing!
This thing that looks like a priest must in fact be a great
swarm of locusts that has appeared in Japan and is about
to gobble up the tender shoots of Buddhism in one swoop.
Or perhaps the tyrant Chou of the Yin dynasty or Chieh of
the Hsia has been reborn in Japan in the shape of this priest.
Perchance Emperor Wu of the Later Chou and Emperor Wu-tsung
of the T'ang have reappeared in the world. At any moment
now, Buddhism may be wiped out and the nation overthrown!"
As for the ordinary people, they clapped their hands in
alarm and waggled their tongues, saying, "Whenever
the priests of these two types of Buddhism, Mahayana and
Hinayana, appear together, they fight like Taishaku and
the asuras, or like Hsiang Yu and Kao-tsu disputing
possession of the kingdom!"
Dengyo's opponents continued to revile them, saying, "In
the time of the Buddha, there were two ordination platforms,
one belonging to the Buddha and the other to Devadatta,
and a number of people were killed in the dispute over them.
This man may well defy the other sects, but he declares
that he must set up an ordination platform for administering
the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment such
as even his mater, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, was unable
to establish. How strange! And how frightening, how frightening!"
But Dengyo had his passages of scripture to support him,
and as you know, the Mahayana ordination platform was eventually
set up and has been in existence for some time now on Mount
Thus, although their enlightenment may have been the same,
from the point of view of the teaching which they propagated,
Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna were superior to Mahakashyapa
and Ananda, T'ien-t'ai was superior to Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna,
and Dengyo surpassed T'ien-t'ai. In these latter times,
people's wisdom becomes shallow, while Buddhism becomes
more profound. To give an analogy, a mild illness can be
cured with ordinary medicine, but a severe illness requires
a medicine with supernatural properties. A man who is weak
must have strong allies to help him.
Question: Is there a True Law that was not propagated even
by T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo?
Answer: Yes, there is.
Question: What sort of teaching is it?
Answer: It consists of three things. It was left behind
by the Buddha for the sake of those who live in the Latter
Day of the Law. It is the True Law that was never propagated
by Mahakashyapa or Ananda, Ashvaghosha or Nagarjuna, T'ien-t'ai
Question: What form does it take?
Answer: First, in Japan and all the other countries throughout
the world, the object of worship should in all cases be
the Lord Shakyamuni of true Buddhism. The Shakyamuni Buddha
and Taho Buddha who appear in the Treasure Tower, as well
as all other Buddhas, along with the four bodhisattvas including
Jogyo, shall act as attendants to this Buddha. Second, there
is the high sanctuary of true Buddhism. Third, in Japan,
China, India and all the other countries of the world, every
person, regardless of whether he is wise or foolish, shall
set aside other practices and join in the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
This teaching has never been taught before. Here in the
world, in all the 2,225 years since the passing of the Buddha,
not a single person chanted it. Nichiren alone, without
sparing his voice, now chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The size of the waves depends upon the wind that raises
them, the height of the flames depends upon how much firewood
is piled on, the size of the lotuses depends upon the pond
in which they grow, and the volume of rain depends upon
the dragons that make it fall. The deeper the roots, the
more prolific the branches. The farther the source, the
longer the stream.
The Chou dynasty lasted for seven hundred years because
of the propriety and filial devotion of its founder, King
Wen. The Ch'in dynasty, on the other hand, lasted hardly
any time at all, because of the perverse ways of its founder,
the First Emperor of the Ch'in. If Nichiren's compassion
is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will
spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity,
for it has the beneficial power to open the blind eyes of
every living being in the country of Japan, and it blocks
off the road that leads to the hell of incessant suffering.
Its benefit surpasses that of Dengyo and T'ien-t'ai, and
is superior to that of Nagarjuna and Mahakashyapa.
A hundred years of practice in the Land of Perfect Bliss
cannot compare to the benefit gained from one day's practice
in this impure world. Two thousand years of propagating
Buddhism during the Former and Middle Days of the Law are
inferior to an hour of propagation in this, the Latter Day
of the Law. This is in no way because of Nichiren's wisdom,
but simply because the time makes it so. In spring the blossoms
open, in autumn the fruit appears. Summer is hot, winter
is cold. The season makes it so, does it not?
"In the fifth five hundred years after my death, accomplish
worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to
cease. And do not allow the devil, the devil's people, or
the deities, dragons, yakshas, kumbhandas or their
kind to seize the advantage."
If [the Buddha's prophecy expressed in] this passage of
the Lotus Sutra should prove to be in vain, then Shariputra
will never become the Flower Light Tathagata, the Venerable
Mahakashyapa will never become the Light Bright Tathagata,
Maudgalyayana will never become the Tamalapattra Sandalwood
Fragrance Buddha, Ananda will never become the Mountain
Sea Wisdom Unrestricted Power King Buddha, the nun Mahaprajapati
will never become the Beheld with Joy by All Sentient Beings
Buddha, and the nun Yashodhara will never become the Form
Resplendent with Ten Million Lights Buddha. All the talk
of sanzen-jintengo is then likewise mere nonsense,
and gohyaku-jintengo, too, is a lie. Very likely
the Lord Shakyamuni has fallen into the hell of incessant
suffering, Taho Buddha is gasping amid the flames of the
Avichi Hell, the Buddhas of the ten directions have their
home now in the eight major hells, and all the various bodhisattvas
are being forced to suffer in the 136 hells.
But how could such a thing ever be? Since the sutra's prediction
was not made in vain, then it is certain that all the people
of Japan will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!
Thus the flower will return to the root, and the essence
of the plant will remain in the earth. The benefit that
I have been speaking of will surely accumulate in the life
of the late Dozen-bo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Written on the twenty first day, seventh month of the second
year of Kenji (1276), Jupiter in the cyclical sign hinoe-ne.
Respectfully sent from Mount Minobu, Hakiri Village, in
Koshu, to Joken-bo and Gijo-bo of Mount Kiyosumi, district
of Tojo, province of Awa.
I have received your letter. One should never speak of
matters pertaining to the Buddhist doctrine to someone who
has no faith, regardless of whether the person is a close
friend or relation or a stranger. This is something you
should keep in mind.
I have inscribed the Gohonzon for you. Even more in the
years after the passing of the Buddha than during his lifetime,
even more during the Middle Day of the Law than during the
Former Day, and even more now in the beginning of the Latter
Day of the Law than during the Middle Day, the enemies of
this Lotus Sutra are bound to grow in power. If you understand
this, you as well as anyone else will realize that there
is no one in Japan other than myself who is a true votary
of the Lotus Sutra.
A sketchy report of the death of Dozen-bo reached me last
month. I felt that I should go in person as quickly as possible,
as well as sending the priest who bears this letter, Niko.
However, though I do not think of myself as one who has
retired from the world, other people seem to look at me
in that way, and so I make it a rule not to leave this mountain.
This priest Niko informed me of private reports from various
people that there are likely to be doctrinal debates with
the other sects in the near future. I have therefore been
sending people to a number of temples in the different provinces
in order to search out sutras and doctrinal writings from
all over the country. I had sent this priest Niko on such
a mission to the province of Suruga, and he has just now
returned [so I am sending him with this letter].
In the enclosed treatise, I have written matters of the
utmost gravity. It would be wrong, therefore, to make the
contents known to persons who do not understand the essence
of Buddhism. And even if they are make known only to persons
who do, if there are too many people involved, then word
of the contents is likely to reach the ears of outsiders.
That would not be conducive to your welfare, nor to mine.
Therefore, I ask that just the two of you, you and Gijo-bo,
have the work read aloud two or three times at the summit
of Kasagamori, with this priest Niko to do the reading.
Please have him read it once before the grave of the late
Dozen-bo as well. After that, leave it in the possession
of Niko and have him read it to you repeatedly. If you listen
to it again and again, I believe you will come to understand
and appreciate its meaning.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-sixth day of the seventh month
To the priest of Kiyosumi