The Supremacy of the Law
China, before Buddhism was introduced, writings by such sages
as the Three Rulers and Five Emperors,1
the Three Kings,2 Tai-kung
Wang,3 Tan the Dukeof
Chou,4 Lao Tzu and Confucius
were called classics or canons. Through these teachings, the
people learned propriety and came to understand the debt of
gratitude they owed their parents, and a clear distinction
was drawn between the ruler and the ruled, so that the country
was governed wisely. The people obeyed the leaders who followed
these teachings and Heaven answered their prayers. A child
who failed to obey them was punished as unfilial, and a subject
who violated them was punished as a traitor.
the Buddhist scriptures were first brought to China from India,
some people said that they should be accepted, while others
said they should be rejected. A conflict arose, and the ruler
summoned the two groups to meet and debate the issue. The
adherents of non-Buddhist teachings were defeated by the supporters
of Buddhism. After that, whenever the two groups engaged in
polemics, the devotees of non-Buddhist scriptures were defeated
by the Buddhists as easily as ice melts in the sun or as fire
is extinguished by water. Eventually they ceased to offer
any effective opposition to Buddhism.
more Buddhist sutras were brought to China, it became apparent
that some were superior in content or more profound than others.
They belonged to different categories such as Hinayana and
Mahayana, exoteric and esoteric, provisional and true. To
illustrate, all stones are invariably inferior to gold, but
gold itself is divided into several grades. No gold found
in the human world can match the gold mined from the Jambu
River.5 But the gold from
the Jambu River is in turn far less valuable than the gold
stored in the Brahma Heaven. In the same way, all the Buddhist
sutras are like gold, but some are finer and more profound
sutras which are called Hinayana are like small boats. They
can carry two or three passengers, but not a hundred or a
thousand. Even with only two or three persons aboard, they
must remain close to this shore and cannot cross over to the
other shore. They can be loaded with a small amount of cargo,
but not with a large amount. In contrast, the Mahayana sutras
are like those huge vessels which, carrying ten or twenty
people and loaded with large quantities of cargo, can sail
from Kamakura as far as Tsukushi Province in the south or
Mutsu Province in the north.
the ship of the true Mahayana sutra is incomparably greater
than those ships that are the other Mahayana sutras. Loaded
with a hoard of rare treasures and carrying a hundred or a
thousand passengers, it can sail all the way to the land of
Korea. The Lotus Sutra, the teaching of the one vehicle, is
precisely this kind of sutra. Devadatta was the most evil
man in the entire world, but the Lotus Sutra predicted that
he would become a Buddha called the Tathagata Heavenly King.
Although Ajatashatru was a wicked king who killed his own
father, he was among those present when the Lotus Sutra was
preached and, after hearing only a verse or a phrase, took
faith in it and thereby formed a relationship with the sutra.
The dragon kings daughter, a woman with a reptiles
body, attained Buddhahood by listening to Bodhisattva Monjushiri
preach the Lotus Sutra. Furthermore, the Buddha designated
the evil era of the Latter Day of the Law as the very time
for the Lotus Sutra to be propagated, and bequeathed it to
the men and women of that impure age. The Lotus Sutra, the
teaching of the one vehicle, is then a sutra as great and
powerful as the ships of the China trade.
all the Buddhist sutras are to the non-Buddhist scriptures
as gold is to stones. And all the various Mahayana sutras,
such as the Kegon, Dainichi Kammuryoju, Amida and Hannya sutras,
are to the Lotus Sutra as fireflies are to the sun or the
moon, or anthills to Mount Hua.6
Moreover, there is superiority and inferiority not only among
the sutras, but also among their adherents. The various teachers
of Shingon, who believe in the Dainichi Sutra, are like fire
being put out by water or dew being blown away by the wind
when confronted in debate by the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
People say that if a dog barks at a lion, its intestines will
rot. The asura demon who shot an arrow at the sun had his
head split into seven pieces. The Shingon teachers are like
the dog or the asura, while the votary of the Lotus Sutra
is like the sun or the lion.
the sun rises, ice is as hard as metal. Fire, when untouched
by water. is as hot as molten iron. But even the hardest ice
easily melts away in the sun of summer, and even the hottest
fire is easily extinguished by water. The various Shingon
teachers appear to be most dignified and wise, but they are
like one who, forgetful of the sun, expects ice to remain
hard forever or who, not taking water into account, thinks
that fire will burn indefinitely.
you know, before the Mongol attack, the arrogance of the people
of our day knew no bounds. Since the tenth month of last year,
however, none of them has dared to assume a haughty attitude,
for, as you have heard, I, Nichiren, alone predicted this
foreign invasion. If the Mongols attack our country again,
none of the people will have the courage to face them. They
will be like a monkey terrified by a dog or a frog cowering
before a snake. This is all because the nation has allowed
the priests of the Shingon, Nembutsu, Ritsu and other sects
to hate Nichiren, who is the votary of the Lotus Sutra and
an emissary of Shakyamuni Buddha, and thereby brought harm
upon itself. Thus it incurred the wrath of Heaven, with the
consequence that all its people have become cowards. In their
terror of another Mongol invasion, they are like fire fearful
of water, a tree dreading the axe, a pheasant frightened out
of its wits at the sight of a hawk, or a mouse threatened
by a cat. Not one of them will escape. What will they do then?
Soldiers look upon the general as their soul. If the general
loses heart, his soldiers will become cowards.
soul is her husband. Without him, she has no soul. Nowadays,
even married women find it difficult to get along in the world.
Though you have no husband, you lead your life more courageously
than those who are married. Furthermore, you maintain your
faith in the Buddhist gods and continue to worship the Buddha.
You are indeed a remarkable woman.
I was in Kamakura, aside from the evident heresy of the adherents
of the Nembutsu and other sects, I had no way of determining
whether the faith of individual believers in the Lotus Sutra
was deep or shallow. This I came to know only after I had
incurred the displeasure of the authorities and had been exiled
to Sado. Though no one else came to visit me, you, a woman,
not only sent me various offerings but personally made the
journey to see me. It was almost too amazing to be true. And
in addition, you have now called on me here in Minobu. I know
of no words with which to thank you. Certainly the Buddhist
gods will protect you and the Ten Goddesses will have compassion
for you. The Buddha promised in the Lotus Sutra that, for
a woman, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness,
as a ship when she crosses the sea, and as a protector when
she travels through dangerous places.7
the Learned Doctor Kumarajiva was carrying the Lotus Sutra
to China, the Heavenly King Bishamon8
dispatched a vast number of troops to escort him safely over
the Pamirs. When Priest Dosho9
read the Lotus Sutra in the field, innumerable tigers gathered
to protect him. There is no reason why you should not be protected
in the same way. The thirty-six deities10
on earth and the twenty-eight gods of the constellations11
in the heavens will lend you protection. Furthermore, each
person has two heavenly gods who always accompany him, just
as the shadow follows the body. One is named Dosho and the
other Domyo.12 Perched
respectively on ones left and right shoulders, they
report all of his deeds to Heaven. Therefore Heaven never
punishes those who have not committed any error, let alone
a person of your virtue.
is why the Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "The stronger
ones faith, the greater the gods protection."13So
long as one maintains firm faith, he is certain to receive
the great protection of the gods. I say this for your sake.
I know your faith has always been admirable, but now you must
strengthen it more than ever. Only then will the Ten Goddesses
lend you greater protection. You need not seek far for an
example. Everyone in Japan, from the sovereign on down to
the common people, all without exception tried to do me harm,
but I have survived until this day. This is because, although
I am alone, I have firm faith [in the Lotus Sutra].
a boat is handled by an unskilled steersman, it may capsize
and drown everyone aboard. Likewise, even if someone has great
physical strength, if he lacks a resolute spirit, he cannot
give full play to his abilities. In this country, there are
many wise persons, but they cannot utilize their wisdom because
they are governed by foolish leaders.
the last Mongol invasion, tens of thousands of soldiers as
well as civilians, both male and female, in Iki, Tsushima
and the nine provinces [Kyushu] were killed, captured, drowned
in the sea, or fell from cliffs to their death. If the Mongols
attack again, this time they will wreak incomparably greater
havoc. Kyoto and Kamakura will meet the same fate as Iki and
Tsushima in the past. Prepare in advance and flee to some
other place. At that time, those who declared they would not
see or listen to me will join their palms together and take
faith in the Lotus Sutra. Even the adherents of the Nembutsu
and Zen sects will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Lotus Sutra states that if there are men and women who have
firm faith in this sutra, the Buddha will support them on
his shoulders and carry them on his back.14
When the Learned Doctor Kumarayana15
traveled [to Kucha], a wooden statue of Shakyamuni carried
him on its back by night. When I was about to be beheaded,
the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni took my place. It is the same in
the present as it was in the past. All of you are my followers,
so how could you fail to attain Buddhahood?
matter whom you may marry, you must not follow him if he is
an enemy of the Lotus Sutra. Strengthen your faith more than
ever. Ice is made of water, but it is colder than water. Blue
dye is produced from indigo, but if something is dyed in it
repeatedly, it becomes bluer than the indigo plant itself.16
The Lotus Sutra itself does not change, but as you continue
to strengthen your faith in it, you will be filled with more
vitality and receive more blessings than other people do.
is vulnerable to fire, but sandalwood cannot be burned. Fire
is extinguished by water, but the fire that cremated the Buddhas
remains could not be quenched. Although flowers are scattered
by the wind, those that bloom in the five heavens of purity17
do not wither. Water evaporates in a time of great drought,
but not if it enters the Yellow River. The wicked king named
Dammira did not incur punishment even when he cut off the
head of an Indian monk. But when he beheaded the Venerable
Aryasimha,18 his sword
fell to the ground, and his arm with it. When King Pushyamitra19
burned the Kukkutarama Monastery to ashes, his head was split
by the staves of the twelve gods.20
the people of Japan, by becoming enemies of the Lotus Sutra,
bring ruin on themselves and their country. And because I
proclaim this, I am called arrogant by those of little understanding.
But I do not speak out of arrogance. It is simply that if
I did not speak out, I would not be the votary of the Lotus
Sutra. Moreover, when my words prove later to be true, people
will be able to believe all the more readily. And because
I write this down now, the people of the future will recognize
commentary on the Nirvana Sutra states that]21
the body is insignificant while the Law is supreme, and [that]
one should give his life in order to propagate the Law. Because
my body is insignificant, I am struck and hated, but because
the Law is supreme, it will spread without fail. If the Lotus
Sutra spreads, my mortal remains will be respected, and if
my remains are respected, they will benefit the people. Then
I will come to be revered as highly as the Great Bodhisattva
Hachiman is now. You should understand that at that time,
the men and women who aided me will be honored as greatly
as Takeshiuchi22 and Wakamiya.23
benefits which come from opening the eyes of even one blind
person are beyond description. How then is it possible to
describe the benefits that derive from opening the blind eyes
of all the Japanese people, and from giving the gift of sight
to all human beings throughout Jambudvipa and the other three
continents of the earth? In the fourth volume of the Lotus
Sutra we read, "After the Buddhas death, those
who can comprehend its [the sutras] meaning serve as
the eyes of all heavenly beings and of the people of the world."24
Those who maintain their faith in the sutra act as the eyes
of all gods and people. Therefore, those Japanese who are
hostile to me are in effect gouging out the eyes of all heavenly
and human beings. As a result, heaven is enraged and day after
day rains down disasters, while earth is infuriated and month
after month one calamity after another occurs.
was a heavenly lord, yet he greatly respected the fox who
taught him the Law.25
As a result, he was reborn as the Lord Shakyamuni Buddha.
Sessen Doji honored a demon as his teacher and became the
lord of the threefold world. Saints and sages of old did not
reject the Law, no matter what the appearance of its teachers.
I, Nichiren, may be a stupid man, but I am surely not inferior
to a fox or a demon. The noblest people in the present age
are in no way superior to Taishaku or Sessen Doji, yet because
of my low social position, they have rejected my wise words.
That is why the country is now on the brink of ruin. How lamentable!
And what I find even sadder is that I will be unable to save
my disciples who have pitied my sufferings.
any calamity befall us, you should immediately come to visit
me here, where you will be welcomed wholeheartedly. Should
the worst happen, then let us starve together among these
mountains. I would imagine your daughter, Oto, has become
a fine and intelligent young girl. I will write you again.
fourth day of the eighth month
- Three Rulers and Five Emperors:
Legendary rulers of ancient China said to have realized
model governments. The Three Rulers are Fu Hsi, Shen Nung
and Huang Ti. The Five Emperors are Shao Hao, Chuan Hsu,
Ti Kao, T'ang Yao and Yii Shun, who reigned after the Three
- Three Kings: King (or Emperor)
Yui of the Hsia dynasty, King T'ang of the Yin dynasty and
King Wen of the Chou dynasty. They are said to have reigned
after the Five Emperors.
- T'ai-kung Wane: A general
who served King Wen and, after the king's death, served
Veng 'een's son. He fought valiantly in the battle with
Emperor Chou of the Yin dynasty and contributed to the prosperity
of the Chou dynasty.
- Tan the Duke of Chou: A
younger brother of King Wu. After Wu's death, Ch'eng, King
Wu's son, was still a child, so Tan adiumistered the affairs
of state for him as regent.
- Gold mined from the Jambu
River: Imaginary gold in ancient India. The Jambu is a legendary
river running through groves of jambu trees.
- Hua: One of the five sacred
mountains in China.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 23.
- Bishamon: One of the Four
Heavenly Kings, who lives halfway down the northern slope
of Mt. Sumeru and protects the north. This god is said to
always protect the place where the Buddha preaches and to
listen to the Buddha's teachings. In the Dharani
(26th) chapter ofthe Lotus Sutra, he pledges to protect
the sutra's votaries. The story of Bishamon dispatching
troops to escort Kumarajiva appears in the Hokke Denki.
- Dosho (629-700): The founder
of the Hosso sect in Japan. The story of tigers gathering
to protect Dosho appears in the Nihon Ryoiki (Account
of Miraculous Stories in Japan).
- Thirty-six deities on earth:
Benevolent deities appearing in the Kanjio Sutra, whose
role is to protect those who embrace the three treasures
- the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood.
- Twenty-eight gods of the
constellations: Gods of the twenty-eight celestial houses.
According to Chinese tradition, the heavens are divided
into four houses of seven major heavenly bodies each, corresponding
respectively to the four directions and four seasons of
east, or spring; south, summer; west, autumn; and north,
- Dosho and Domyo: Two gods
said to dwell on a person's shoulders from the time of his
birth and to record all of his acts, good and evil, to report
to King Emma, who judges the dead. They represent the law
of cause and effect operating within one's life.
- Maka Shikan Bugyoden
Guketsu, vol. 8.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 10.
- Kumarayana: The father
of Kumarajiva, and the son of a chief minister of one of
the ancient Indian kingdoms. He was a devout Buddhist, yet
his king harbored so much hostility against Buddhism that
he had to leave the country. He crossed the Pamir range
to the north traveling toward China. When the king of Kucha
heard that Kumarayana had forsaken a high position because
of his faith in Buddhism, he gave him an official welcome
and offered him another high post and the hand of his sister,
Jivaka, who also had a deep interest in Buddhism. They were
married and named their first son Kumarajiva, combining
their names. According to legend, when Kumarayana left India
he brought with him a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. It is
said that by day he carried the statue, and by night, the
statue carried him. This story appears in the Jobutsu
- This is mentioned in the
Hsan Tzu, sec. I.
- Five heavens of purity:
A reference to the five highest heavens in the world of
form, where one who reaches the third stage of enlightenment
in Hinayana Buddhism ("non-returner") is reborn.
It is said that no wind blows in these heavens.
- Aryasimha: The last of
Shakyamuni's twenty-four successors. He lived in central
India during the sixth century. According to the Fuhozo
Innen Den, when he was propagating Buddhism in Kashmir,
Kin Dammir (Sanskrit unknown), an enemy of Buddhism, destroyed
many Buddhist temples and stupas and murdered a number of
priests. He finally beheaded Aryasimha. It is said that
instead of blood, pure white milk gushed from his neck.
- Pushyamitra: A king in
India around the second century B.C. Though a descendant
of Ashoka, he became an enemy of Buddhism. He originally
served as commander in chief to Brihadratha, the last king
ofthe Maurya dynasty, but he murdered Brihadratha and founded
the Shunga dynasty ruling northern India from his capital
at Pataliputra. He slandered Buddhism, killed many monks,
and destroyed the Kukkutarama Monastery, a major center
of Buddhism built by Ashoka.
- Twelve gods: Generally,
twelve heavenly gods who protect the world. The above passage,
however, seems to equate them with the two guardian deities
of the Kukkutarama Monastery. According to the biography
of King Ashoka and other sources, these two deities
killed Pushyamitra soldiers when they came to destroy the
- Commentary: The
Nehangyo Sho by Chang-an.
- Takeshiuchi: A general
and statesman of the Yarnato era (300-710) who appears in
the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan). He served
Emperor Ojin, who was said to have been reborn as Bodhisattva
- Wakamiya: Reference to
Hachiman of Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura. See
also p. 67, n. 31.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 11.
- This story is found in
the Maka Shikan Bugyoden Guketsu. Once there was
a fox on Mt. Shita, India. Chased by a lion, he accidentally
fell into a dry well and remained there for three days.
on the brink of starvation, he resolved to dedicate himself
to the Buddhist Law and recited a verse expressing his desire
to expiate his past offenses. When the foxes voice reached
the god Taishaku on the summit of Mt. Sumeru, Taishaku rescued
him and asked him to preach the Law to him and the other
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
Vol. 3, page 193.