White Horses and White Swans
the letter you wrote from Utsubusa you say that the ninth
day of the eighth month will mark the hundredth-day anniversary
of your fathers passing and that, as an offering, you
present ten kan of coins with deep respect.
the declaration you sent for the memorial service, you say
that you have read and recited the entire Lotus Sutra once,
the Hoben and Juryo chapters thirty times each
and the Jigage three hundred times, and have chanted the daimoku
of Myoho-renge-kyo fifty thousand times. In the same document
you say that you recall gratefully how, when your deceased
father was still alive, you, my disciple, journeyed a thousand
ri over mountains and rivers [to this distant place],
receiving in person from me the daimoku of the Mystic Law,
and how, less than thirty days later, your fathers life
came to an end. You say that although, alas, he has now become
mere white bones in the dew garden of Jambudvipa,1
though he has turned to dust and earth, you believe that his
departed spirit will surely blossom into a flower of enlightenment
in the land of Eagle Peak.
declaration is signed, "Respectfully yours, the woman
disciple of the Onakatomi clan, third year of the Kaan era
we consider the matter, we realize that although in India
the Lotus Sutra, the single vehicle, is so voluminous that
it can fill a whole city one yojana square, the version
that has been transmitted to Japan consists of only eight
volumes. In the past, there have been many examples of people
who, praying to receive benefit in their present or future
existences, have achieved their desires by reciting and praising
all eight volumes, or merely one volume, or the Hoben and
Juryo chapters, or the Jigage alone. I will say no
more about these examples here.
your declaration you speak of reciting the daimoku of Myoho-renge-kyo
fifty thousand times. With regard to this statement, I have
tried to think of earlier examples of such a practice, but
they seem to be very few. Although there may have been some
who recited this daimoku once or twice and gained benefit,
I have never heard of anyone who recited it fifty thousand
phenomena have their respective names, and the name in each
case indicates the particular virtue or property inherent
in that thing. For example, the person known as General Stone
Tiger was so called because he was capable of penetrating
a stone tiger with an arrow. And the Target Piercing Minister2
was given that name because he could shoot an arrow through
a target made of iron. In both cases, the name indicates the
qualities of the person.
the case of the Lotus Sutra, the virtues and benefits of its
eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters are all contained
within the five characters that make up its title; it is like,
for instance, the wonderful wish-granting jewel that contains
ten thousand different jewels within it. This is what is meant
by the doctrine that the three thousand realms are all contained
within a single particle of dust.
word namu expresses feelings of reverence and a sense
of compliance. Therefore, the Venerable Ananda placed namu
above the two characters nyoze that he wrote at the
beginning of all the sutras. The Great Teacher Nan-yueh employed
the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the Great Teacher Tien-tai
the words Keishu-nam-myoho-renge-kyo.3
Venerable Ananda was the son of King Dronodana and a disciple
of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. Sixty days after
Shakyamuni passed away, Mahakashyapa and the other disciples,
a thousand persons in all, along with Monju and the other
eighty thousand bodhisattvas, all gathered together in the
Great Lecture Hall to lament the passing of the Buddha. They
conferred among themselves, saying: "Even we, who attended
upon the Buddha for so many years, lament our parting from
him after only sixty days. What, then, of all the people who
live a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now,
or in the Latter Day of the Law? What means will they have
to cherish his memory?
six teachers of the non-Buddhist doctrines preserve the four
Vedas and the eighteen major scriptures that the two deities4
and the three ascetics5
preached and left behind eight hundred years ago, so that
the words left by their teachers might be transmitted to later
ages. Should we not likewise write down the various teachings
that we have heard the Buddha preach to the voice-hearers
and the great bodhisattvas over the course of fifty years,
so that they may serve as an eye to the people of the future?"
concurring, they invited the Venerable Ananda to ascend to
the highest seat and looked up to him in reverence in the
same way they would the Buddha, while they themselves sat
in the lower seats. Then Bodhisattva Monjushiri recited the
words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the Venerable Ananda, in response
to this, replied nyoze gamon, "This is what I
heard." The 999 other great arhats then all dipped their
brushes in ink and wrote down the words that were spoken.
is precisely because all the benefits represented by the eight
volumes and twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra are contained
within these five characters that Bodhisattva Monjushiri recited
them. The Venerable Ananda responded by saying, "Yes,
indeed!" And the twelve thousand voice-hearers, the eighty
thousand great bodhisattvas, and all the various other listeners
from the two worlds and eight groups,6
since that agreed with what they had heard previously, signified
sage known as the Great Teacher Tien-tai Chih-che
wrote about the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the
ten volumes and thousand pages of his work Hokke gengi.
The gist of this work is that the eighty volumes or sixty
volumes or forty volumes of the Kegon Sutra, the several
hundred volumes of the Agon sutras, the scores of volumes
of the Daijuku hodo Sutra, the forty volumes or six
hundred volumes of the Daibon hannya Sutra, the forty
volumes or thirty-six volumes of the Nirvana Sutra, and all
the countless sutras in India, in the palaces of the dragon
kings, in the heavens and in the worlds of the ten directions,
which are as numerous as the particles of dust on the earth,
are all servants and followers of the single word kyo
(sutra) of Myoho-renge-kyo.
the Great Teacher Miao-lo wrote a work in ten volumes entitled
Hokke gengi shakusen, in which he declared that all
the sutras that were brought to China after the time of Tien-tai,
including the sutras known as the new translations,7
are all servants and retainers of the Lotus Sutra. And in
Japan, the Great Teacher Dengyo likewise established that
the Dainichi Sutra and the other sutras of the Shingon
sect, which are among the new translations, are all servants
and retainers of the Lotus Sutra. Kobo, Jikaku, Chisho and
others, however, put forth opinions that were as different
from this teaching as fire is from water. I will outline these
opinions later in this letter.
illustrate, without a single exception the five regions around
the capital, the seven marches, the sixty-six provinces, the
two islands, and all the districts, manors, villages, fields,
plots, persons, cows and horses, gold, silver and other things
in Japan are all contained within the three characters that
make up the words "country of Japan."
character "king" is written with three horizontal
lines and one vertical line.8
The three horizontal lines represent heaven, earth and humanity,
and the single vertical line represents the ruler. Like Mount
Sumeru, which rises up out of the great earth and never sways,
one whose presence pervades the realms of heaven, earth and
humanity and does not waver in the slightest is called the
are always two kinds of rulers, the first type being the petty
rulers. Minor sovereigns in the realms of human and heavenly
beings would be considered petty rulers. The second kind are
the great rulers; the heavenly king Daibonten would be classified
as such. In the case of Japan, the sovereign of the entire
country would be considered a great ruler, while the governors
of the various provinces would be petty rulers.
the same way, sutras such as those of the Kegon, Agon, Hodo
and Hannya periods, the Dainichi Sutra, the Nirvana
Sutra and all the various other sutras preached before, simultaneously
with or after the Lotus Sutra are petty rulers. They are like
the governors of the various provinces of Japan.
Lotus Sutra, however, is comparable to a great ruler, a Son
of Heaven. Hence, the persons of the Kegon sect, the Shingon
sect and the various other sects are like the subjects and
followers of the ruler of the nation. But when persons who
in social rank are no more than subjects living in the various
provinces attempt to divest the Son of Heaven of his virtue,
then it is as if inferiors are overthrowing superiors, as
if the people are turning their backs on superiors and heeding
inferiors, or as if the inferiors have overcome the superiors
and are rioting and creating disturbances.
matter how much one may hope to bring about order in the world
under such circumstances, the result will only be confusion
within the state and the downfall of the persons involved.
One might as well try to move the roots of a tree without
disturbing the peace of the branches and leaves, or hope that
a ship could sail peacefully when the waves of the sea have
risen in fury.
the priests of the Kegon, Shingon and Nembutsu sects as well
as those of the Ritsu and Zen teachings claim to possess great
wisdom and eminence, strictly abiding by the precepts and
conducting themselves honestly, their status is that of persons
born into families who engage in the overthrow of superiors
by inferiors, and as such they are archenemies of the Lotus
Sutra. Can they hope to escape falling into the great citadel
of the Avichi hell? Among the adherents of the ninety-five
different types of non-Buddhist schools,9
there were no doubt many who were honest and wise, and yet,
because they subscribed to the heretical doctrines handed
down from the two deities and the three ascetics, they could
not escape being reborn in the evil paths of existence.
the world today, however, those persons who recite Namu Amida
Butsu laugh at those who recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or try
to deceive them. To use secular comparisons, this is like
millet disliking rice, or a landowner detesting his own fields.
They are like bandits when the leaders of the army are not
present, supposing that they will not be punished for their
night raids or acts of burglary, or like moles before the
sun has come up, believing that they are as safe as they would
be underground. But when Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is like
the leader of an army or the sun, appears, they disappear
as quickly as raging flames vanish under water, or as monkeys
cower when they encounter dogs. Today, when the reciters of
Namu Amida Butsu hear voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
the color drains from their faces and their eyes glare with
anger, their wits desert them and their bodies begin to quake.
Great Teacher Dengyo said that when the sun comes up the stars
hide themselves, and that when true skill appears clumsiness
becomes known.10 Bodhisattva
Nagarjuna stated that erroneous words are easily dismissed,
and that mistaken opinions are hard to support.11
Bodhisattva Gunamati said: "On her face there was the
color of death and mourning and in her words there was the
sound of sorrow and resentment."12
And Fa-sui said: "Those who were formerly the tigers
of assertion are now the deer of assent."13
One should consider these opinions and understand their intent.
us openly and clearly proclaim the virtues of Myoho-renge-kyo!
Just as poisonous compounds are changed into medicine, so
these five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo change evil into
good. The Spring of Jewels is so called because, in this spring,
stones are changed into jewels.14
In the same way, these five characters can change ordinary
human beings into Buddhas. Therefore, because your beloved
departed father chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while he was alive,
he was a person who attained Buddhahood in his present form,
in the same way that stones change into jewels.
actions you have taken, then, are the very height of filial
piety and concern. Therefore it says in the Lotus Sutra: "These
two sons of mine have carried out the Buddhas work"
and also "These two sons have been good friends to me."15
ago in the past there lived a great ruler named King Rinda.
As long as this ruler could listen to the neighing of white
horses, his color remained healthy, he had great strength
and vigor, and he was satisfied without being offered food.
Even his enemies in neighboring countries doffed their helmets
and pressed their palms together in admiration.
the white horses neighed only when they could catch sight
of white swans. And because the rulers manner of governing
was faulty, or perhaps because of some evil karma from his
past, all the white swans disappeared until there was not
a single bird left. As a result, the white horses no longer
neighed. And when the white horses ceased to neigh, the kings
complexion faded, his strength drained away, his body grew
thin and withered, and his plans for government became shallow
the nation was in a state of chaos. Lamenting over what to
do if soldiers from neighboring nations should rush to attack
his country, the king issued a proclamation in which he said:
"In our nation, many people follow the non-Buddhist teachings,
all of which enjoy our patronage and support. The same is
true of the Buddhist teaching. But the non-Buddhists and Buddhists
are on bad terms with each other. Now whichever of these two
groups can succeed in making the white horses neigh will have
its teaching made the object of our faith, while the others
teaching will be banished from the nation."
this time all the non-Buddhist leaders gathered together and
tried their best to make the white swans appear and the white
horses neigh, but no swans appeared. Although in the past
these leaders had shown themselves capable of causing clouds
to appear and fog to come rolling in, of calling forth winds
and stirring up waves, of causing fire or water to appear
from their bodies, of changing men into horses or horses into
men, and of performing any acts that they pleased, for some
reason on this occasion they could not make the swans appear.
this time there was a disciple of the Buddha known as Bodhisattva
Ashvaghosha or Horse Neigh. When he prayed to the various
Buddhas of the ten directions, the white swans immediately
came forth and the white horses began to neigh. When the king
heard the sound, his color began to improve somewhat, his
strength returned, and his skin took on a fresh look. More
white swans appeared, and still more, until a thousand birds
had come forth, and a thousand white horses neighed all at
the same time like cocks crowing at dawn. When the king heard
this sound, his complexion became as bright as the sun, his
skin as fresh-looking as the moon, his strength as powerful
as the god Naraen, and his plans for government as sagacious
as those of the god Bonten.
because the silken words of the ruler were as irreversible
as the emission of sweat, all the temples belonging to the
non-Buddhist leaders were converted into Buddhist temples.
country of Japan today resembles the story of King Rinda.
This country began with the era of the gods. As it gradually
approached the latter age, however, the views of its people
became warped, and greed, anger and stupidity grew stronger.
The gods became shallow in their understanding, their authority
and power waned, and they began to have difficulty extending
their protection even to their devotees.
the teachings of the great doctrine known as Buddhism were
introduced to the country and gradually spread. The people
once again became honest and straightforward in their outlook,
and the gods were restored to power and authority. But many
erroneous opinions appeared in connection with the Buddhist
beliefs, and because of these the situation in the country
Great Teacher Dengyo traveled to China and there carried out
an investigation into all the various sacred teachings of
Japan, China and India. He discarded those that were inferior
and selected those that were worthy, examining each without
prejudice or favor. In the end he singled out the Lotus Sutra
and two other sutras,16
designating them as the three sutras that would ensure the
protection of the nation.
sages, however, such as the Great Teacher Kobo, the Great
Teacher Jikaku and the Great Teacher Chisho, claiming to base
their ideas on teachings from China or India, proceeded to
demote the Lotus Sutra to second or third rank among the sutras,
declaring it to be a work of "childish theory"17
or claiming that it belonged to "the region of darkness."18
In place of the Lotus Sutra, they elevated the three sutras
of the Shingon teaching19
to the position of highest honor.
the age gradually became one in which inferiors overthrow
superiors, and these mistaken doctrines spread throughout
the entire country. Hence many people have fallen into the
evil paths of existence, and the gods have little by little
lost their authority, again finding it difficult to protect
even their own devotees. As a result, we see that the five
rulers of the nation,20
from the eighty-first to the eighty-fifth sovereign, either
drowned in the western ocean or were abandoned on islands
in the four seas. They were treated like demons while they
were alive, and after their demise they fell into the hell
of incessant suffering.
because there was no one who understood this situation, it
has been impossible to remedy it. I am generally aware of
these matters, and therefore try to repay the debt of gratitude
I owe my country [by speaking the truth], but people only
hate me for it.
I will say no more about that. Instead I would like to say
that your beloved father is comparable to King Rinda, and
you yourself are comparable to Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha. The
white swans are the Lotus Sutra, the white horses are Nichiren,
and the neighing of the white horses is the sound of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
And so, in the same way that when King Rinda hears the sound
of the horses, his complexion brightens and his strength increases,
when your beloved deceased father hears the sound of your
voice chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he will delight in his
fourteenth day of the eighth month in the third year of Koan
Reply to the lady
garden: A metaphorical expression meaning that all things
in this continent of jambudvipa where we live are as fleeting
in nature as the dew in the garden, which will quickly vanish
in the morning sun.
- Target Piercing
Minister: Ikuwa no Toda no Sukune, a fourth-century Japanese
court official. The Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan),
vol. ii, relates how he pierced an iron shield with an arrow.
One's reverence for and devotion to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Keishu means to prostrate oneself on the ground in
an act of obeisance.
- Two deities: Two
Brahman deities, Shiva and Vishnu.
- Three ascetics:
Kapila, Ulaka and Rishabha. Kapila and Ulaka were the respective
founders of the Sdmkhya and Vaisheshika schools, two of
the six philosophical schools of ancient India. Rishabha's
teachings are said to have prepared the way for Jainism.
- Listeners from the
two worlds and eight groups: Beings assembled at the ceremony
of the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. The two worlds-the
world of desire and the world of form-are two of the three
worlds that make up the threefold world. The eight groups
refer to the gods of the world of desire, the gods of the
world of form, the dragon kings and their followers, the
kimnara kings and their followers, the gandharva kings and
their followers, the asura kings and their followers, the
garuda kings and their followers, and the king of the human
world (Ajdtashatru) and his followers.
- New translations:
Chinese translations of the Indian scriptures completed
by or after Hsiian-tsang (6o2-664). Those done before Hsaan-tsang
are called old translations.
- The Chinese character
for "king" discussed here is written as follows:
- Ninety-five different
types of non-Buddhist schools: Schools said to have existed
in Shakyamuni's time. Their names and particular doctrines
- This statement is
found in the Tendai hokke-shii demb6ge (Verse-form
Record of the Lineage of the Tendai-Hokke Sect).
- Source unknown.
- According to the
Daito saiiki ki (Records of the Western Region),
Gunamati and Midhava, a non-Buddhist scholar famed for his
learning, debated each other in the presence of the king
of Magadha. Madhava was defeated and died six days later,
but his wife, in order to avenge her husband's defeat, concealed
his death and attempted to enter the debate against Gunamati
as his representative. Recognizing from her expression that
her husband must be dead, Gunamati said to her, "I
have already defeated one more skilled than you," whereupon
she realized that he had discovered her scheme and decided
to give up her attempt to debate him. The statement by Gunamati
in the text was his response then the king asked him how
he knew that Midhava had died.
- The Zui tendai
chisha daishi betsuden (Biography of the Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai of the Sui Dynasty) relates that when T'ien-t'ai
lectured on the title of the Lotus Sutra, Fa-sui, an eminent
sixth-century Chinese monk, was struck by his deep understanding
of the sutra. This passage represents the words Fa-sui used
to express his impressions at that time, although the original
passage refers to "dragons" rather than "tigers."
- Source unknown.
- Both quotes are
from the Lotus Sutra, chap. 27. These words were spoken
by King My6sh6gon, a believer in Brahmanism who was led
to Buddhism by his two sons.
- Two other sutras:
The Konkimya Sutra and the Ninna Sutra.
- This statement appears
in K6ba's Nikya ron.
- This statement appears
in K6b6's Hizi hayaku.
- Three sutras of
the Shingon teaching: The Dainichi, Kong5cha and
- Five rulers: The
emperors Antoku, Gotoba, Tsuchimikado,juntoku and Chiiky6.
See also p. 299, n. 15.
of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.