True Entity of Life
- Shoho Jisso Sho -
Question: In the Hoben chapter of Volume
One of the Lotus Sutra is the passage: "The true entity
of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between
Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature...and
their consistency from beginning to end." What does this
Answer: It means that all beings and their
environments in any of the Ten Worlds, from Hell at the lowest
to Buddhahood at the highest, are, without exception, the
manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. Where there is an environment,
there is life within it. Miao-lo states, "Both life (shoho)
and its environment (eho) always manifest Myoho-renge-kyo."1
He also states, "The true entity is invariably revealed
in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably possess the
Ten Factors. The Ten Factors invariably function within the
Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably entail both life
and its environment"2 And,
"Both the life and environment of Hell exist within the
life of Buddha. On the other hand, the life and environment
of Buddha do not transcend the lives of common mortals."3
Such precise explanations leave no room for doubt. Thus, all
life in the universe is clearly Myoho-renge-kyo. Even the
two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Taho, are the functions of Myoho-renge-kyo
who appeared to bestow its blessings upon mankind. They manifested
themselves as the two Buddhas and, seated together in the
Treasure Tower, nodded in mutual agreement.
No one but Nichiren has ever revealed these
teachings. T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo knew in their hearts
but did not declare them aloud. There was reason for their
silence: The Buddha had not entrusted them with this mission,
the time had not yet come, and they had not been the Buddha's
disciples from ages past. No one but Jogyo, Muhengyo and the
other leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth can appear
during the first five hundred years of the Latter Day to spread
the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo. Only they are qualified to inscribe
the object of worship which physically manifests the ceremony
of the two Buddhas seated together in the Treasure Tower.
This is because both the Law and the object of worship are
the reality of ichinen sanzen revealed in the Juryo
chapter of the essential teaching.
The two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Taho, are
merely functions of the true Buddha, while Myoho-renge-kyo
actually is the true Buddha. The sutra explains this as "the
Tathagata's secret and his mystic power."4
The "secret" refers to the entity of the Buddha's
three properties and the "mystic power" to their
functions. The entity is the true Buddha and the function,
a provisional Buddha. The common mortal is the entity of the
three properties, or the true Buddha. The Buddha is the function
of the three properties, or a provisional Buddha. Shakyamuni
is thought to have possessed the three virtues of sovereign,
teacher and parent for the sake of us common mortals, but
on the contrary, it is the common mortal who endowed him with
the three virtues.
T'ien-t'ai explains the Tathagata as follows:
"Nyorai is the title of the Buddhas of the ten
directions and three existences, of the two Buddhas5
and the three Buddhas,6 and
of all the Buddhas, true and provisional."7
Here the "true Buddha" is the common mortal,
whereas "provisional Buddhas" means the Buddha.
Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between a Buddha
and a common mortal, in that a common mortal is deluded while
a Buddha is enlightened. The common mortal fails to realize
that he himself possesses both the entity and the function
of the Buddha's three properties.
"All phenomena" in the sutra refers
to the Ten Worlds, and the "true entity" is what
permeates the Ten Worlds. Reality8 is
another expression for Myoho-renge-kyo; hence Myoho-renge-kyo
is manifest in all phenomena. Hell appears hellish; that is
the reality of Hell. When Hunger emerges, the reality of Hell
is no longer present. A Buddha exhibits the reality of a Buddha,
and a common mortal, that of a common mortal. All phenomena
are themselves manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. This is
the meaning of "all phenomena reveal the true entity."
T'ien-t'ai states, "The profound principle of 'true entity'
is the original law of Myoho-renge-kyo,"9
thus identifying the phrase "true entity"
with the theoretical teaching and "the original law of
Myoho-renge-kyo" with the essential teaching. You should
ponder this passage deep in your heart.
Although not worthy of the honor, Nichiren
was nevertheless the first to spread the Mystic Law entrusted
to Bodhisattva Jogyo for propagation in the Latter Day of
the Law. Nichiren was also the first to inscribe the Gohonzon,
which is the embodiment of the Buddha from the remote past
as revealed in the Juryo chapter of the essential teaching,
of Taho Buddha who appeared when the Hoto chapter of
the theoretical teaching was preached, and the Bodhisattvas
of the Earth who emerged with the Yujutsu chapter.
No matter how people may hate Nichiren, they cannot possibly
alter the fact of his enlightenment.
To have exiled Nichiren to this remote island
is therefore a sin that can never be expiated, even with the
passing of countless aeons. A passage from the Hiyu
chapter reads, "Not even an aeon would be time enough
to explain the full gravity of this sin." On the other
hand, not even the wisdom of the Buddha can fathom the blessings
one will obtain by giving alms to Nichiren and by becoming
his disciple. The Yakuo chapter reads, "Not even
with the Buddha's wisdom can one measure these benefits."
Nichiren alone began to carry out the task
of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He may even be one of them.
If Nichiren should be a Bodhisattva of the Earth, then so
must his disciples. The Hosshi chapter states, "If
there is someone, whether man or woman, who secretly teaches
to one person even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let
it be known that he is the envoy of the Buddha, sent to carry
out the Buddha's work." Who else but us can this possibly
When one is praised highly by others, he feels
there is no hardship he cannot bear. Such is the courage which
springs from words of praise. The votary born in the Latter
Day of the Law who propagates the Lotus Sutra will encounter
the three powerful enemies, who will cause him to be exiled
and even sentence him to death. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha will
enfold in his robe of mercy those who nonetheless persevere
in propagating. All gods will make them offerings, support
them with their shoulders and carry them on their backs. They
possess supreme good fortune and qualify as leaders of all
mankind. Thus extolled by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and
all of the other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the seven ranks
of heavenly gods and five ranks of earthly gods,10
Kishimojin and her ten daughters, the Four Heavenly
Kings, Bonten, Taishaku, King Emma, the gods of the waters
and winds, the gods of the seas and mountains, Dainichi Buddha,
Bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju and the gods of the sun and the
moon, Nichiren has been able to endure countless harsh trials.
When praised, one does not consider his personal risk, and
when criticized, he can recklessly cause his own ruin. Such
is the way of common mortals.
No matter what, maintain your faith as a votary
of the Lotus Sutra, and forever exert yourself as Nichiren's
disciple. If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must
be a Bodhisattva of the Earth. And since you are a Bodhisattva
of the Earth, there is not the slightest doubt that you have
been a disciple of the Buddha from the remotest past. The
Yujutsu chapter states, "I have taught these people
since the remotest past." There should be no discrimination
among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo
in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they
not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku.
Only I, Nichiren, at first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but
then two, three and a hundred followers, chanting and teaching
others. Likewise, propagation will unfold, this way in the
future. Doesn't this signify "emerging from the earth?"
At the time of kosen-rufu, the entire Japanese nation
will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed
at the earth cannot miss the target.
But now you must build your reputation as
a votary of the Lotus Sutra and devote yourself to it. Shakyamuni
Buddha and Taho Buddha, seated in the Treasure Tower in the
air, surrounded by all other Buddhas and bodhisattvas, nodded
in agreement. What they decided upon was solely for the perpetuation
of the True Law throughout the Latter Day. Taho Buddha had
offered Shakyamuni Buddha a place beside him, and when they
unfurled the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo, the two leaders of
the entire multitude made their decision together. Could there
have been anything false in their decision? Their ultimate
purpose in meeting was to provide a way for all of us ordinary
people to attain Buddhahood.
Although I was not at that ceremony, in looking
at the sutra, this is crystal-clear. On the other hand, I
may have been at the ceremony, but since I am a common mortal,
it is beyond my power to know the past. There is no doubt,
however, that in the present life I am the votary of the Lotus
Sutra, and that in the future I will therefore reach the seat
of enlightenment. Judging the past from this point of view,
I must have been at the ceremony in the air. There can be
no discontinuity between past, present and future.
Because I view things in this way, I feel
immeasurable delight even though I am now an exile. Joy as
well as sorrow brings us to tears. Tears express our feeling
for both blessings and misfortune. The one thousand arhats
shed tears in memory of the Buddha, and in tears Bodhisattva
Monju chanted Myoho-renge-kyo. From among those one thousand
arhats, the venerable Ananda replied in tears, "Thus
I heard." Thereupon the tears of all the others fell,
wetting their inkstones, and they wrote "Myoho-renge-kyo"
followed by "Thus I heard." I, Nichiren, now feel
exactly as they did. I am now in exile because I spread the
teaching of Myoho-renge-kyo. I spread this teaching because
I, too, "heard thus": Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho
Buddha left Myoho-renge-kyo for the Japanese and all people
in the future.
I cannot hold back my tears when I think of
the great persecution confronting me now, or when I think
of the joy of attaining Buddhahood in the future. Birds cry,
but never shed tears. I, Nichiren, do not cry, but my tears
flow ceaselessly. I shed my tears not for worldly affairs
but solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. So indeed, they
must be tears amrita.12
The Nirvana Sutra states that while the tears
one sheds throughout his many existences on the death of his
parents, brothers, sisters, wives, children and followers
may surpass the quantity of water in all the seas, he weeps
not a drop for Buddhism. One becomes a votary of the Lotus
Sutra by virtue of his practice in past existences. It is
karmic relationships that determine which among so many of
the same kind of trees are made into images of Buddha. It
is also because of karma that some Buddhas are born as provisional
In this letter, I have written my most important
teachings. Grasp their meaning and make them part of your
life. Believe in the Gohonzon, the supreme object of worship
in the world. Forge strong faith and receive the protection
of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas. Exert yourself
in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and
study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere
yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study
arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability,
even if only a single sentence or phrase. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
With my deep respect,
The seventeenth day of the fifth month
Postscript: I have already passed on to
you many of my important teachings. Those I have revealed
to you in this letter are especially important. Is there not
a mystic bond between us? Are you not the embodiment of one
of the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth headed by Jogyo who
led bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands of the sixty
thousand Ganges Rivers? There must be some profound reason
for our relationship. I have given you some of the most important
teachings relating to my own life and practice. Nichiren may
be one of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth, for I have
been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo out of my desire to guide
all the men and women in Japan. Hence the phrase of the sutra:
"Among the bodhisattvas are four who led the entire multitude:
The first is called Jogyo; [the second, Muhengyo; the third,
Jyogyo; and the fourth, Anryugyo.] They are the four highest
leaders."13 Our deep relationship
in the past has made you one of my disciples. By all means
keep these matters to yourself. Nichiren has herein committed
to writing the teachings of his own enlightenment. I will
- Hokke Mongu Ki, vol. 10.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 16.
- Two Buddhas: These indicate a Buddha
in his true, original state and a Buddha in the form
in which he makes his advent to save the people.
- Three Buddhas: These refer to the Buddha's
three properties: the property of the Law, the property
of wisdom and the property of action.
- Hokke Mongu, vol. 9.
- Reality: Another translation for the
"true entity" of all phenomena.
- Source unknown.
- Seven ranks of heavenly gods and five
ranks of earthly gods: Japanese deities are said to
have existed from before the time of the first emperor,
Jinmu. Buddhism regards them as natural functions of
- Thus I heard: A phrase that commonly
opens many sutras. "I" indicates the person
who recites what the Buddha taught so that it could
be put into the sutra.
- Amrita: According to ancient legend,
amrita was the sweet-tasting drink of immortality.
Sutra, chap. 15.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol.
I, page 89.