"Thus I Heard"
received the scroll of the entire Myoho-renge-kyo that you
copied in small characters, as well as two quilted robes,
ten kan of coins and a hundred folding fans as offerings
for consecrating the sutra.
the first volume of the Hokke Mongu we find a passage which
states, "The word thus [of thus I heard]
indicates the essence of a doctrine heard from the Buddha."
And the first volume of the Hokke Mongu Ki states,
"If thus does not indicate the teaching which
surpasses the eight categories, then how can it be the teaching
of the Lotus Sutra?"
Kegon Sutra begins: "Daihokobutsu Kegon Sutra.
Thus I heard." The Hannya Sutra begins: "Makahannya
Haramitsu Sutra. Thus I heard." The Dainichi Sutra
begins: "Daibirushana Jimbenkaji Sutra. Thus I
heard." What does "thus" indicate in these
and all other sutras? It refers to the title of each sutra.
When the Buddha expounded a sutra, he put a title to it, revealing
its ultimate truth. After the Buddhas death, when his
listeners such as Ananda, Monju and Kongosatta compiled the
Buddhas teachings, they first stated the title of a
sutra and then, "Thus I heard."
essence of each sutra is contained in its title. For example,
the land of India has seventy states and its borders measure
ninety thousand ri, yet the people, animals, plants,
mountains, rivers and earth within them are all included in
the single word, India. All things that exist on the four
continents of the world are clearly reflected on the face
of the moon without exception. In like manner, the teachings
of a sutra are encompassed in its title.
titles of the Agon sutras, for instance, explain the
conclusion of these sutras, which is that all things are impermanent.
These titles are a hundred million times superior to the two
characters meaning existence and nonexistence which are used
in the titles of Brahman sutras. Followers of all the ninety-five
schools of Brahmanism, hearing the titles of the Agon sutras,
abandoned their erroneous views and converted to the truth
of impermanence. Those who hear the titles of the Hannya sutras
realize the three teachings that all things are non-substantial
in themselves (taiku), that the Middle Way is independent
of non-substantiality and temporary existence (tanchu),
and that it is inseparably united with them (futanchu).
Those who hear the title of the Kegon Sutra perceive
either of the last two of the above teachings.
who hear the titles of the Dainichi, Hodo and Hannya
sutras understand that all things, when analyzed, prove to
be without substance (shakku) or that all things are
non-substantial in themselves; that non-substantiality is
independent of the Middle Way and temporary existence (tanku)
or that it is inseparable from them (futanku); that
the Middle Way is independent of non-substantiality and temporary
existence or that it is inseparably united with them. However,
those who listen to the titles of such provisional sutras
are unable to realize the teachings of the mutual possession
of the Ten Worlds, the hundred worlds and thousand factors,
or the three thousand realms, which contain the benefit of
sutras other than the Lotus Sutra do not expound this ultimate
conclusion and so their followers are like common mortals
of ri-soku [the stage at which one is ignorant of his
own Buddha nature]. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas who appear
in those sutras cannot equal common mortals of myoji-soku
who have just embraced the Lotus Sutra, let alone approach
the stage of kangyo-soku [in which ones actions accord
with his understanding,] for they do not even chant the title
of the Lotus Sutra. This is why the Great Teacher Miao-lo
states in the Hokke Mongu Ki, "If thus does
not indicate the teaching which surpasses the eight categories,
then how can it be the teaching of the Lotus Sutra?"
The titles of the provisional sutras fall within the eight
categories. These titles are like the meshes of a fishing
net, while the title of the Lotus Sutra is like the rope which
gathers the meshes of the eight categories. Those who chant
Myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the Lotus Sutra, even without
understanding its meaning, realize not only the heart of the
Lotus Sutra but also the essence of all the Buddhas
prince who is only one, two or three years old will, when
he ascends the throne, reign over the empire and be obeyed
by the regent and ministers, although he is presently unaware
of this. A baby has no conscious understanding but, taking
the mothers breast, grows naturally. In contrast, an
arrogant minister who belittles a young crown prince will
bring about his own downfall, as did Chao Kao of the Chin
dynasty. The scholars of the other sutras and sects who, as
Chao Kao did, look down upon the prince who chants only the
title of the Lotus Sutra, will eventually fall into the hell
of incessant suffering. However, if a votary of the Lotus
Sutra who chants its title without knowing its meaning is
frightened by the learned priests of other sects into forsaking
his faith, then he is like the young puppet emperor Hu Hai
who [replaced the crown prince but] was intimidated and killed
by Chao Kao.
is not only the heart of all the Buddhas teachings but
also the heart, entity and essence of the Lotus Sutra. Yet
as wonderful as this teaching is, no one has spread it during
the more than 2,220 years since the Buddhas passing.
The twenty-four successors of the Buddha in India did not
propagate it, nor did Tien-tai or Miao-lo of China,
nor Prince Shotoku or the Great Teacher Dengyo of Japan. Therefore,
when I expounded it, people refused to believe it, thinking
that it must be a false teaching. This is perfectly understandable.
For example, if a lowly soldier had announced that he had
seduced the beautiful court lady, Wang Chao-chun, no one would
have believed it. Similarly, people cannot believe that a
priest of such lowly birth could expound Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
the heart of the Lotus Sutra, which even Tien-tai
and Dengyo, who ranked as highly as ministers and court nobles,
did not propagate.
may not know this, but the crow, the most despised of birds,
can recognize omens of good and evil events that will occur
during the year, which the eagle and the hawk cannot. A snake
is no match for a dragon or an elephant, but it can foresee
the coming of a flood seven days in advance. Even if Nagarjuna
and Tien-tai had not known the teaching which
I propagate, if it is stated clearly in the sutra, one should
not doubt it. If one holds me, Nichiren, in contempt and does
not chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he is like a baby who doubts
its mothers milk and refuses the breast, or a patient
who is suspicious of his doctor and rejects the medicine prescribed
for him. Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu realized this teaching but
did not propagate it perhaps because they knew that the time
was not right and that the people of their day had no capacity
to understand it. Others most probably did not spread it because
they were ignorant of it. Buddhism spreads according to the
time and the peoples capacity. Although I may not be
worthy of this teaching, I expound it because the time is
contemporaries think of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo
only as a name, but this is not correct. It is the entity,
that is, the heart of the Lotus Sutra. Chang-an, [commenting
on Tien-tais explanation of the title of
the Lotus Sutra as set forth in the Hokke Gengi,] states,
"Hence [his explanation of the title in] the preface
conveys the profound meaning of the sutra as a whole, and
the profound meaning embodies the heart of the work."
According to this interpretation, Myoho-renge-kyo is neither
the scriptural text nor its meaning but the heart of the entire
sutra. Those who seek the heart of the sutra apart from its
title are as foolish as the turtle who sought the monkeys
liver outside the monkey, or the monkey who left the forest
and sought fruit on the seashore.
twenty-eighth day of the eleventh month in the third year
of Kenji (1277)
Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 3, page 243.