Reply to Sairen-bo
great care when you come to me after dark. I will explain
to you in detail the teachings regarding the benefits to be
gained by the recipient of the ordination to the highest stage
of Buddhist practice.1
carefully noted the contents of your letter. I have also received
safely the various articles that came from the capital. When
I was living in Kamakura, such articles were a daily sight,
but since having been exiled to this island, I have yet to
encounter them. To come upon articles such as these on this
tiny faraway island is truly a most welcome event.
your letter you mention that you became a disciple of mine
and pledged to follow me at the beginning of the second month,
and that from now on, though you may not measure up to other
persons, you would be most pleased and honored if I would
continue to count you among my disciples.
sutra says: "They were constantly reborn with their teachers
in various Buddha lands.2
And it also says: "If one stays close to the teachers
of the Law, he will speedily gain the bodhisattva way. By
following and learning from these teachers, he will see Buddhas
as numerous as Ganges sands."3
states: "Originally one followed this Buddha and for
the first time conceived the desire to seek the way. And by
following this Buddha again, one will reach the stage where
there is no retrogression."4
Another commentary states: "In the beginning one followed
this Buddha or bodhisattva and formed a bond with him, and
so it will be through this Buddha or bodhisattva that one
will realize ones goal."5
I consider these passages of the sutra and the commentaries,
I wonder if you and I have not been pledged to each other
as teacher and disciple from countless kalpas in the past.
The fact that you and I have been born in this defiled age
of the Latter Day of the Law, in the country of Japan in the
southern continent of Jambudvipa, that with the utmost reverence
we chant with our mouths Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate
reason for which all Buddhas appear in the world, that we
have faith in it in our hearts, embrace it with our bodies
and delight in it with our hands--all of this has come about,
has it not, entirely as a result of some old bond of karma
from the past?
I look at the situation in Japan, I find that the Devil of
the Sixth Heaven has entered into the bodies of people of
wisdom, transforming correct teachers into heretical teachers,
and good teachers into bad teachers. This is what the sutra
means when it says, "Evil demons will take possession
I, Nichiren, am not a man of wisdom, the Devil of the Sixth
Heaven has attempted to take possession of my body. But I
have for some time been taking such great care that he now
no longer comes near me. Therefore, because the power of the
heavenly devil is ineffectual against me, he instead possesses
the ruler and his high officials, or stupid priests such as
Ryokan, and causes them to hate me.
that as it may, one should understand that at present, when
it comes to teachers, there is a difference between correct
teachers and heretical teachers, between good teachers and
bad teachers. One should shun those who are heretical or evil,
and associate with those who are correct and good. Even if
their virtue is known throughout the four seas and their wisdom
is as bright as the sun and moon, one should recognize that
teachers who slander the Lotus Sutra are evil teachers and
heretical teachers, and refrain from drawing near them. A
certain sutra warns us on this point: "If there are slanderers
of the Law, one should not dwell with them. If one draws near
them and dwells with them, one will be bound for the Avichi
matter how honest and upright you may be, or how you may strive
to be known as a worthy person in the secular or the religious
world, if you associate with evil persons, then as a natural
result you will find that, in two or three instances out of
ten, you are following their teachings, and in the end you,
too, will become an evil person. Thus the commentary says:
"Though one may not be evil to begin with, if he associates
with and is friendly with evil persons, he himself is bound
in time to become an evil person, and his evil reputation
will spread throughout the world."8
the end, what we mean by heretical and evil teachers are those
priests in the world today who slander the Lotus Sutra. The
Nirvana Sutra says: "Bodhisattvas, have no fear of mad
elephants. What you should fear are evil friends! Even if
you are killed by a mad elephant, you will not fall into the
three evil paths. But if you are killed by an evil friend,
you are certain to fall into them." And the Lotus Sutra
says: "In that evil age there will be monks with perverse
wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked..."9
I have pointed out so many times in the past, when teachers
such as Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih, Bodhidharma, Huik-ko,
Shan-tao, Honen, Kobo of To-ji, Chisho of Onjo-ji, Jikaku
of Mount Hiei or Ryokan of Kanto read the golden words, "I
... honestly discarding expedient means, [will preach only
the unsurpassed way,]"10
they take them to mean, "honestly discarding the true
teachings, I will preach only the expedient teachings."
When they read the passage that says, "Among the sutras,
it [the Lotus Sutra] holds the highest place,"11
they take it to mean, "Among the sutras, it holds the
lowest place." And when they read, "[Among those
sutras] the Lotus is the foremost,"12
they take it to mean, "The Lotus holds second place,"
or "holds third place." That is why I describe these
various priests as heretical and evil teachers.
that I call correct and good teachers are persons who take
Shakyamuni Buddhas golden words to mean just what they
say, namely, that the other sutras represent expedient means
and the Lotus Sutra represents the truth.
this connection, you should consult the Nyuhokkai chapter,
the seventy-seventh volume of the Kegon Sutra.13
And the Lotus Sutra states: "A good friend is the great
cause and condition by which one is guided and led, and that
enables one to see the Buddha and to conceive the desire for
supreme perfect enlightenment."
the Buddha tells us, we should regard as correct teachers
and good teachers those who honestly discard the doctrines
of the four flavors and three teachings, the Hinayana and
provisional Mahayana sutras that were expounded as expedient
means, as well as the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen and Ritsu sects
and the sutras upon which they rely, and expound Myoho-renge-kyo,
"the one great reason for which the Buddhas appear in
for myself, I, Nichiren, having been born in Japan in the
first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law, have
encountered the three powerful enemies and met with various
types of calamity and trouble, just as the Buddha predicted
would happen. But, without any thought for my person or my
life, I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I ask you to consider with
the utmost care whether I deserve to be called a correct teacher
or a heretical teacher.
of the proponents of the various sects mentioned above declares
that he above all others has grasped the meaning of the Lotus
Sutra and is practicing the Lotus Sutra. But none of them
have been exiled to the province of Izu as I was in the Kocho
era, or exiled to the island of Sado as I was in the Bunei
era, or been led to the place of decapitation at Tatsunokuchi
or faced the countless other difficulties that I have. If
the sutra passages [that predict such difficulties] are true,
then you should realize that I am the correct teacher, the
good teacher, and that the scholars of the other sects are
all heretical teachers and evil teachers.
addition to these, there are a great many other passages in
the sutras and treatises that make clear the distinction between
these two types of teachers, the good and the bad. But I am
sure you are already familiar with them, so I will not go
into them here.
wondrous, that in your letter you say that from now on you
will reject the heretical teachers of our time and will rely
entirely upon me as the correct teacher! When Shakyamuni Buddha,
our original teacher, appeared in the world in order to expound
the Lotus Sutra, like shadows and echoes the Buddhas and bodhisattvas
of the other worlds came forth and assisted him in his efforts
to spread the teachings. And now it seems that they have appeared
here in Japan as envoys of Shakyamuni, Taho and the other
Buddhas of the ten directions to help me in my efforts to
spread the teachings!
sutra says: "I will send persons conjured up by magic
to other lands to gather together assemblies to listen to
the Law. And I will also send [monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen
conjured up by magic to listen to the preaching of the Law.
These persons conjured up by magic will listen to the Law,
believe and accept it,] and abide by it without violation."15
The "monks" who are spoken of in this passage refer
to you. Therefore, when the sutra speaks of persons who "listen
to the Law, believe and accept it, and abide by it without
violation," clearly this is something that you yourself
are living. How can there be any doubt of it?
the sutra speaks of those who are "constantly reborn
with their teachers in various Buddha lands,"16
there are persons like the three groups of voice-hearers who,
after receiving the seeds of Buddhahood, reject the Mahayana,
select the Hinayana and sink into the five paths or the six
paths for a succession of rebirths, but when the time to achieve
Buddhahood arrives, they are able to obtain emancipation,
one after another. How gratifying, to think that you have
now cast aside the heretical doctrines and heretical teachers
of the Nembutsu, Shingon and other sects, and become a disciple
any case, like me, you should condemn the slander of the Law
committed by the followers of the other sects and cause them
to reject the heretical and embrace the correct. Then, when
you arrive in the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light where the
three types of Buddhas17
are seated, and appear before the Buddhas Shakyamuni and Taho,
you will ask, "Were Nichiren and I bound by a promise
to be teacher and disciple from the beginningless past, or
were we not? Was I sent as an envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha to
assist him in his efforts to spread the teachings?" And
when the Buddhas reply, "Just so!" then you, too,
will understand in your own mind why these things happened.
Therefore you must by all means be diligent! You must be diligent!
a matter of course, I began giving you instruction in the
important doctrines around the second month. And as a result,
on the eighth day of the fourth month, late at night in the
Hour of the Tiger (around 4:00 A.M.), I performed for you
the ceremony for ordination in the precept18
of the perfect teaching of the Mystic Law.
could a person who has undergone this ordination fail to become
a Buddha of perfect enlightenment in his present existence?
And if in this life you have attained the level of perfect
enlightenment, then in your next life, how could you have
any reason to regress to the stage of near-perfect enlightenment
and other lower stages of practice? In view of our promise
from the beginningless past and the principle that one will
be constantly reborn with ones teacher, if I, Nichiren,
attain Buddhahood in my present lifetime, then how could it
be possible for you to become separated from me and fall into
the evil realms of existence?
prophecies of the Buddha recorded in the scripture, when viewed
in the light of the Buddhas true intentions, never contain
the slightest falsehood with regard to either secular or religious
matters. Now, in the Lotus Sutra it is stated: "After
I have passed into extinction, one should accept and uphold
this sutra. Such a person assuredly and without doubt will
attain the Buddha way."19
And it also says, "This way one will quickly attain the
unsurpassed Buddha way."20
If these passages of prophecy should be meaningless and if
the prediction that we will attain Buddhahood should be a
lie, then the tongues of all the Buddhas will break apart,
the tower of Taho Buddha will crumble and fall, the place
upon which the two Buddhas [Shakyamuni and Taho] are seated
side by side will be changed into a bed of burning iron in
the hell of incessant suffering, and the three lands21
of Transition, Actual Reward and Eternally Tranquil Light
will be transformed into the three evil realms of hell, hungry
spirits and animals. But how could such a thing be possible?
how certain is the outcome! How certain is the outcome! If
we continue to think in this way, then, though we may be exiles,
we have cause to be joyful in both body and mind!
day and night I ponder the important doctrines, and hour by
hour, moment by moment, I savor the principle that allows
us to attain Buddhahood. And because I pass the time in this
fashion, though months and years go by, it does not seem long
at all, and the hours that have elapsed do not seem like many.
It is similar to the case described in the sutra, when the
two Buddhas Shakyamuni and Taho, seated side by side in the
Treasure Tower, nodded in approval over the wonderful principles
of the Lotus Sutra and although fifty small kalpas had elapsed,
because of the supernatural powers of the Buddha, it seemed
to the great crowd assembled there like no more than half
all the persons since the beginning of our present kalpa who
have incurred the displeasure of their parents or their rulers
and have been exiled to distant islands, there can be none
who overflow with joy as we do. Therefore, wherever we dwell
and practice the single vehicle, that place will be the capital
of Eternally Tranquil Light. And, without having to advance
a step, those who are our disciples and lay supporters can
view Eagle Peak in India and day and night will go to and
from the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light that has existed
for all time. How inexpressibly joyful to think of it!
delightful is the thought that I want now to make a promise
to you. If you should be released quickly from exile and return
to the capital, although the lord of Kamakura23
may continue to refuse pardon to Nichiren, I will call upon
the heavenly deities, and when I have returned to Kamakura,
I will write to you in Kyoto. And if I should be pardoned
first and return to Kamakura, I will call upon the heavenly
gods to make certain that you are able to return to your hometown,
the ancient capital.
my deep respect,
thirteenth day of the fourth month
- Highest stage of
Buddhist practice: A reference to the stage of perfect enlightenment,
the highest of the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice.
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
- Ibid., chap. 10.
- Hokke gengi,
- Hokke mongu ki,
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
Sutra, Vol. 5.
- Shikan bugyaden
guketsu, Vol. 4.
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
- Ibid., chap. 2.
- Ibid., chap. 14.
- Ibid., chap. 10.
- The Nyiihokkai
chapter consists of the sixtieth volume through the
last eightieth volume of the eighty-volume Kegon Sutra.
This chapter relates the story of Zenzai Doji, who visits
a total of fifty-three teachers in search of the Law. in
the seventy-seventh volume, when he meets Tokusho and Utoku,
he learns about the importance of correct and good teachers
and about the benefits to be gained by following them.
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
- Ibid., chap.
- Ibid., chap. 10.
The entire passage is quoted in translation here for clarity,
although only a portion appears in the Japanese original.
- Three types of Buddhas:
Shakyamuni, Taho and the Buddhas of the ten directions.
- Precept: Here the
rule of conduct that one should observe to attain Buddhahood
instantly. It means, simply, to embrace the Mystic Law.
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
- Ibid., chap. 11.
- Three lands: See
Four kinds of lands in Glossary.
- This scene is described
in the Lotus Sutra, chap. 15.
- Lord of Kamakura:
Hojo Tokimune (1251-1284), the eighth regent of the Kamakura
of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.