The Workings of Bonten and Taishaku
I received on the fourteenth day of the fifth
month the horse-load of taros which you took the trouble to
send me. Considering the labor involved in digging them, taros
today are as precious as jewels or medicine. I will comply
with the request you made in your letter.
Once there was a man named Yin Chi-fu. He
had an only son, whose name was Po-chi. The father was
wise, and so was the son. One would have thought that no one
would try to estrange them, but Po-chis stepmother
frequently slandered him to her husband. However, Chi-fu would
not listen to her. Undaunted, she continued for several years
to contrive a variety of plots against her stepson. In one
such scheme, she put a bee into her bosom, rushed to Po-chi
and had him remove the insect, making sure as she did so that
her husband would observe the scene. Then, in an attempt to
have her stepson killed, she accused him of having made advances
A king named Bimbisara was a wise ruler and
the greatest patron of the Buddha within the continent of
Jambudvipa. Moreover, he reigned over Magadha, the state where
the Buddha intended to preach the Lotus Sutra. Since the king
and the Buddha were thus united in mind, it seemed certain
that the Lotus Sutra would be expounded in Magadha. A man
named Devadatta wished to prevent this by any means possible,
but all his attempts ended in failure. After much thought,
he spent several years befriending King Bimbisaras son,
Prince Ajatashatru, and gradually obtained his confidence.
Then he set out to estrange father and son. He deceived the
prince into killing his own father, King Bimbisara.
Now that Ajatashatru, the new king, had become
of the same mind as Devadatta and the two had banded together,
Brahmans and evil people from all five regions of India swarmed
like clouds or mist gathering into Magadha. Ajatashatru flattered
them and won them over by giving them land and treasures.
Thus the king of the state became an archenemy of the Buddha.
Seeing this, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven,
who dwells atop the world of desire, descended with his innumerable
minions to Magadha and possessed the bodies of Devadatta,
Ajatashatru and the six ministers. Therefore, although these
people were human in appearance, they wielded the power of
the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. They were more boisterous,
frightful and alarming than a high wind flattening the grasses
and trees, a gale agitating the surface of the sea, a great
temblor jolting the earth, or a conflagration devouring one
house after another.
A king named Virudhaka, incited by Ajatashatru,
put hundreds of people of Shakyamuni Buddhas clan to
the sword. King Ajatashatru unleashed a herd of drunken elephants
and let them trample to death countless disciples of the Buddha.
He also had many other disciples killed by concealing his
soldiers in ambush at the roadside, defiling well water with
excrement, or persuading women to bring false charges against
them. Shariputra and Maudgalyayana were severely persecuted.
Kalodayin was buried in horse dung. The Buddha was forced
to survive for ninety days, one whole summer, on horse fodder.
People thought that perhaps not even the
Buddhas power could match that of those evil persons.
Even those who believed in him swallowed their words and said
nothing, and closed their eyes so that they might not see.
They could only fold their arms helplessly, speechless with
dismay. Finally, Devadatta beat to death Shakyamunis
foster mother, the nun Utpalavarna, and then caused the Buddhas
body to bleed. Accordingly, there was no one who would side
with the Buddha.
And yet somehow, despite all these many persecutions,
the Buddha at length managed to preach the Lotus Sutra. A
passage from this sutra states, "Since hatred and jealousy
toward this sutra abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha,
how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?"
This passage means that even while the Buddha was alive, the
enemies of the Lotus Sutra offered fierce opposition; all
the more will they harass those who, in the Latter Day of
the Law, preach and believe in a single characters or even
a single dot in the Lotus Sutra.
In light of this passage, it would seem that
no one, during the more than 2,220 years since the Buddha
expounded the Lotus Sutra, has lived it as the Buddha himself
did. Only when one encounters great persecutions can we know
that he has truly mastered the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teachers
Tien-tai and Dengyo would appear to have been
votaries of the Lotus Sutra, but they did not meet persecution
as severe as the Buddha did in his lifetime. They encountered
only minor opposition - Tien-tai from the three
schools of southern China and seven schools of northern China,
and Dengyo from the seven major temples of Nara. Neither of
them was persecuted by the ruler of the state, attacked by
the people brandishing swords, or abused by the entire nation.
[According to the Lotus Sutra,] those who believe in the Lotus
Sutra after the Buddhas passing will suffer obstacles
more terrible than those of the Buddha. Yet neither Tien-tai
nor Dengyo met oppression as harsh as the Buddha did, let
alone persecutions that were greater or more numerous.
When a tiger roars, gales blow; when a dragon
intones, clouds gather. Yet a hares squeak or a donkeys
bray causes neither winds nor clouds to arise. As long as
the foolish read the Lotus Sutra and the wise lecture on it,
the country will remain quiet and undisturbed. It seems however,
that when a sage emerges and preaches the Lotus Sutra exactly
as the Buddha did, the nation will be thrown into an uproar
and persecutions arise that are greater than those during
the Buddhas lifetime.
Now I, Nichiren, am not a worthy, let alone
a sage. I am the most perverse person in the world. However,
my actions seem to be in exact accord with what the sutra
teaches. Therefore, whenever I meet great difficulties, I
am more delighted than if my deceased parents had returned
to life, or than one who sees the person he hates meet with
some mishap. I am overjoyed that I, a foolish man, should
be regarded as a sage by the Buddha. There are wise persons
who strictly observe the two hundred and fifty precepts and
are revered by the entire nation more than Taishaku is by
all heavenly beings. Yet what if, in the eyes of Shakyamuni
Buddha and the Lotus Sutra, they are as sinister as Devadatta?
They may appear respectworthy to others now, but what horrors
await them in their next life!
If the rumor spreads that you seem to be
a votary of the Lotus Sutra, both those who are close to you
and those who are not will respond adversely and admonish
you as if they were your true friends, saying, "If you
believe in the priest Nichiren, you will surely be misled.
You will also be in disfavor with you lord." Then you
will certainly abandon your faith in the Lotus Sutra. What
is dreadful even for those of worth are the stratagems people
devise. So it is advisable that you do not carelessly let
it be known that you are a believer. Those possessed by a
great devil will, once they succeed in persuading a believer
to recant, use him as a means for making many others abandon
Shofu-bo, Noto-bo and Nagoe-no-ama were once
Nichirens disciples. Greedy, cowardly and ignorant,
they nonetheless let themselves pass for wise people. When
persecutions befell me, they took advantage of these to convince
many of my followers to drop out. If you allow yourself to
be so persuaded, those in Suruga who seem to believe in the
Lotus Sutra, as well as the others who are about to take faith
in it, will all discard the sutra without exception. There
are a few in this province of Kai who have expressed their
desire to take faith. Yet I make it a rule not to permit them
to join us unless they remain steadfast in their resolve.
Some people, despite their shallow understanding, pretend
staunch faith and speak contemptuously to their fellow believers.
Thus they often disrupt the faith of others. Leave such people
strictly alone. The time will certainly come when, by the
workings of Bonten and Taishaku, the entire Japanese nation
will simultaneously take faith in the Lotus Sutra. At that
time, I am convinced, many people will insist that they too
have believed since the very beginning.
If you faith is firm, then you should single-mindedly
resolve: "I maintain faith not for the sake of other
people but for the benefit of my deceased father. Others will
not perform memorial services for him; because I am his son,
I am the one who must pray for his repose. I govern one village.
I will spend one half of my revenue making offerings for the
sake of my deceased father, and use the other half to feed
my wife, children and clansmen. Should an emergency arise,
I will give my life for my lord." Speak in a mild manner,
no matter what the circumstances.
If anyone should try to weaken your belief
in the Lotus Sutra, consider that your faith is being tested.
Say to him sardonically, "I deeply appreciate your warning.
However, you should save your admonishment for yourself. I
know well that our superiors do not approve of my faith. The
idea of your threatening me in their name is simply absurd.
I was contemplating visiting you and giving you some advice,
but you came here before I could carry out my plan. You will
surely join your palms together and beseech me for help when
you, along with your beloved wife and children, are dragged
out before Emma, the king of hell."
What you say about Niida may well be true.
I have also heard about the people at Okitsu. Should the occasion
arise, you should behave exactly as they did. When those of
rank reproach you for your faith, think of them as worthy
adversaries of the Lotus Sutra. Consider it an opportunity
as rare as the blossoming of the udumbara plant or the blind
turtle encountering a floating sandalwood log, and reply to
them firmly and resolutely.
There have been instances in which those
who governed a thousand or ten thousand acres of land had
their lives summarily taken and their estates confiscated
over trifling matters.
If you give your life now for the sake of
the Lotus Sutra, what is there to regret? Bodhisattva Yakuo
burnt his own body for twelve hundred years and became a Buddha.
King Suzudan made a bed of his own body for his master for
a thousand years; as a result, he was reborn as Shakyamuni
Do not make a mistake. If you abandon your
faith in the Lotus Sutra now, you will only make yourself
the laughing stock of your foes. Shamelessly pretending friendship,
they will try to maneuver you into recanting, with the intention
of later laughing at you and letting others ridicule you as
well. Let them say all they have to say. Then tell them, "Instead
of advising me in the presence of many people, why dont
you admonish yourselves first?" With this remark, abruptly
rise from your seat and depart.
Please let me know in a day or two what happened
since you wrote. There are so many things I want to say that
I cannot write all of them here. I will do so in my future
With my deep respect,
The fifteenth day of the fifth month in the third year of
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
Vol. 3, page 219.