Wu-lung and I-lung
I have received one horseload of polished rice (four to1)
and a bale of taros and respectfully chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Myoho-renge-kyo is likened to
the lotus. The mahamandara flower2
in heaven and the cherry blossom in the human world are both
celebrated flowers, but the Buddha chose neither to compare
to the Lotus Sutra. Of all the flowers, he selected the lotus
blossom to symbolize the Lotus Sutra. There is a reason for
this. Some plants first flower and then produce fruit, while
in others fruit comes forth before flowers. Some bear only
one flower but many fruit, others send forth many flowers
but only one fruit, and still others produce fruit without
flowering. Thus there are all manner of plants, but the lotus
is the only one which bears flowers and fruit3
simultaneously. The benefit of all the other sutras is uncertain,
because they teach that one must first make good causes and
only then can one become a Buddha at some later time. The
Lotus Sutra is completely different. A hand which takes it
up immediately attains enlightenment, and a mouth which chants
it instantly enters Buddhahood, just as the moon is reflected
in the water the moment it appears from behind the eastern
mountains, or as a sound and its echo arise simultaneously.
It is for this reason that the sutra states, "Among those
who hear of this Law, there is not one who shall not attain
This passage means that if there are a hundred or a thousand
people who embrace this sutra, without a single exception
all one hundred or one thousand of them will become Buddhas.
In your letter you mention the
anniversary of the death of you father, Matsuno Rokuro Zaemon
Nyudo. You say, "Since he left many sons behind, memorial
services for him will be conducted in as many different ways.
I fear, however, that such ceremonies will be slanderous unless
strictly based on the Lotus Sutra." Shakyamuni Buddha's
golden teaching states, "The World-Honored One has long
expounded his doctrines and must now reveal the truth."5
Taho Buddha gave testimony, declaring that all the teachings
of Myoho-renge-kyo are true. And all the Buddhas of
the ten directions gave credence to the sutra's verity by
extending their tongues6
to the Brahma Heaven.
To the southwest across the
ocean from Japan, there is a country named China. In that
country, some people believe in the Buddha but not in gods,
while others believe exactly the opposite. Perhaps a similar
situation existed in the early days of our own country. Be
that as it may, in China there once lived a calligrapher named
Wu-lung. In his art he was without peer in the entire country,
just as was Tofu or Kozei7
in Japan. He hated Buddhism and vowed that he would never
transcribe any Buddhist scriptures. As he approached his end,
he fell seriously ill. On his deathbed he expressed his last
wishes to his son, saying, "You are my son. Not only
have you inherited my skill but you write with an even better
hand than I. No matter what evil influence may work upon you,
you must not copy the Lotus Sutra." Thereupon blood spurted
like fountains from his five sense organs.8
His tongue split into eight pieces, and his body fell apart
in ten directions. Yet his relatives, ignorant of the three
evil paths, did not realize that this was an omen that he
would fall into hell.
The son's name was I-lung. He,
too, proved to be the best calligrapher in China. Obedient
to his father's will, he pledged that he would never transcribe
the Lotus Sutra. The king of the time was Ssu-ma9
by name. He believed in Buddhism and held the Lotus Sutra
in especially high regard. He desired to have this sutra transcribed
by an excellent calligrapher--none but the most skilled in
all the country--so that he could have a copy of his own.
So he summoned I-lung. I-lung explained that his father's
will forbade him from doing so and beseeched the king to excuse
him from the task. Hearing this, the king called another calligrapher
and had him transcribe the entire sutra. The result, however,
was far from satisfying.
The king sent again for I-lung
and said to him, "Since you say your father's will forbids
you, I will not compel you to copy the sutra. I do insist,
however, that you at least obey my command to write the titles
of its eight volumes." I-lung begged repeatedly to be
excused. The king, now furious, said, "Your father was
as much my subject as you are. If you refuse to write the
titles for fear of being unfilial to him, I will charge you
with disobedience of a royal decree." In this way the
king repeated his strict order. I-lung, though unwilling to
be unfilial, realized that he could no longer disobey the
royal command, so he wrote the titles [of the eight volumes]10
of the Lotus Sutra and presented his work to the king.
Returning home, I-lung faced
his father's grave and, shedding tears of blood, reported,
"The ruler commanded me so strictly that, against your
will, I wrote the titles of the Lotus Sutra." In his
grief that he could not escape the offense of being unfilial,
he remained by the graveside for three days on end, fasting
until he was on the verge of death. At the Hour of the Tiger11
on the third day, he was almost dead and felt as if he were
dreaming. He looked up at the sky and saw a heavenly being,
who looked like Taishaku in a painting and whose multitude
of followers filled both heaven and earth. I-lung asked him
who he was. The heavenly being replied, "Do you not recognize
me? I am your father, Wu-lung. While I was in the human world,
I adhered to non-Buddhist scriptures and harbored enmity toward
Buddhism, particularly toward the Lotus Sutra. For this reason,
I fell into the hell of incessant suffering.
"Each day I had my tongue
wrenched out several hundred times. Now I was dead, now I
was alive again. I kept crying in agony, alternately looking
up to heaven and flinging myself to the ground, but there
was no one to heed my screams. I wanted to tell the human
world of my anguish, but there was no means of communication.
Whenever you insisted upon adhering to my will, your words
would either turn into flames and torment me or be transformed
into swords which rained down from heaven upon me. Your behavior
was unfilial in the extreme. However, since you were acting
thus in order to abide by my will. I knew I could not entertain
a grudge against you, for I was only receiving the retribution
for my own deeds.
"While I was thinking thus,
a golden Buddha suddenly appeared in the hell of incessant
suffering and declared, 'Even those who have destroyed enough
good causes to fill the universe, if they hear the Lotus Sutra
even once, they will never fail to attain enlightenment.'12
When this Buddha entered the hell of incessant suffering,
it was as if a deluge of water had been poured over a great
fire. As my agony subsided a little, I joined my palms together
in prayer and asked him what kind of Buddha he was. The Buddha
replied, "I am the character myo, one of the sixty-four
characters which compose the titles [of the eight volumes]
of the Lotus Sutra, which your son, I-lung, is now writing."
As eight characters form the title of each of the eight volumes,13
a total of sixty-four Buddhas appeared and shone like sixty-four
full moons, and the utter darkness of the hell of incessant
suffering was instantly transformed into a dazzling brilliance.
Moreover, in accordance with the principle that any place
is, without changing its characteristics, in and of itself
a Buddha land,14
the hell of incessant suffering immediately became the capital
of Eternally Tranquil Light.15
I as well as all the other inmates became Buddhas seated on
lotus blossoms, and we are now ascending to the inner court
of the Tushita Heaven.16
This I am reporting to you before anyone else."
I-lung said, "It was my
hand that wrote the titles. How could you have been saved?
Moreover, I did not write them with sincerity. How could it
possibly have helped you?" His father replied, "How
ignorant you are! Your hand is my hand, and your body is my
body. Your act of writing characters equals my doing so. Although
you had no faith in your heart, you nevertheless wrote the
titles with your hand. Therefore, I have already been saved.
Think of a child who sets fire to something and, without the
least intention of doing so, causes it to be burned. The same
holds true with the Lotus Sutra. If one professes faith in
it, he will surely become a Buddha, even though he may not
expect it in the least. Now that you understand this principle,
never slander the Lotus Sutra. However, since you are among
the laity, you are in a better position to repent of my past
slanderous words, no matter how grave they may have been."
I-lung reported all this to
the king. The king said, "My wish has been answered with
splendid results." From then on, I-lung basked increasingly
in the royal favor, and the entire populace of the country
came to revere the Lotus Sutra.
The late Goro17
and Lord Matsuno were, respectively your son and father. You
are the lord's daughter. I believe, therefore, that he must
at this very moment be in the inner court of the Tushita Heaven.
will explain this to you. Since I wrote in haste, it was impossible
to furnish details.
With my deep respect,
The fifteenth day of the eleventh
A volume unit of measure. One to is equal to about
flower: One of the four kinds of exquisite flowers said
to bloom in heaven, according to Indian tradition. It emits
a beautiful fragrance and delights those who see it.
refers to the lotus's seedpod.
- Lotus Sutra, Chap.
- A Buddha is said to possess an extremely
long and broad tongue-one of his thirty-two distinguishing
features. According to an ancient Indian belief, the length
of the tongue projected when one spoke indicated the profundity
of the truth uttered. The Buddhas extending their tongues
to the Brahma Heaven is described in the Jinriki (21st)
chapter of the Lotus
or Kozei: Ono no Tofu (894-966) and Fujiwara no Kozei
(972-1027), two of the three most outstanding Japanese calligraphers
of their time, along with Fujiwara no Sukemasa.
sense organs: The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body,
which preform the five corresponding sensory functions of
sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
A ruler of Ping-chou in the northern part of China. Ssu-ma
was probably an official title. Further details about him
means that I-lung wrote the titles on separate paper to
be used on the covers of the eight scrolls of which the
of the Tiger: One of the twelve horary signs used in
China and Japan to measure time of day by dividing it into
two-hour intervals. This indicates the hours between 3:00
and 5:00 in the morning.
Denki, vol. 8.
- The title of each volume of the Lotus
Sutra comprises eight Chinese characters: the five
characters of the title, myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo, and
the three characters indicating the volume number.
Daishonin here borrows the wording of the Hokke
Gengi Shakusen, which states that living beings in
any of the nine worlds can attain Buddhahood just as they
are without changing their individual characteristics .
The Daishonin applies the same principle to the insentient
Tranquil Light: A name for the land where the Buddha
Heaven: "Heaven of Satisfaction" the fourth
of the six heavens in the world of desire. It is said that
bodhisattvas are reborn there just before their last rebirth
in the world when they attain Buddhahood. Bodhisattva Miroku
is said to reside in the inner court of this heaven.
(1265-1280): Nanjo Shichiro Goro, the fifth son of Ueno-ama
Gozen and a younger brother of Nanjo Tokimitsu. Although
he showed splendid promise, he died at the age of sixteen.
(1246-1333): Hoki-bo Nikko, the Buddhist name that Nikko
Shonin received in 1258 on becoming Nichiren Daishonin's
Major Writings of Nichiren
Daishonin, Vol. 4, page 305.