Letter from Teradomari
I have received the string of coins that you sent. Those resolved to seek the Way should all gather and listen to the contents of this letter.
This month (the tenth month), on the tenth day, we left the village of Echi in Aiko District of the province of Sagami. Along the way we stopped at Kumegawa in the province of Musashi and, after traveling for twelve days, arrived here at the harbor of Teradomari in the province of Echigo. From here we are going to cross the sea to the island province of Sado, but at the moment the winds are not favorable, so I do not know when we will depart.
The hardships along the way were worse than I could have imagined, and indeed more than I can put down in writing. I will leave you to surmise what I endured. But I have been prepared for such difficulties from the outset, so there is no point in starting to complain about them now. I shall accordingly say no more of the matter.
The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: "Since hatred and jealously toward this sutra abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" The fifth volume says: "The people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe." And the thirty-eighth volume of the Nirvana Sutra states: "At that time all the Brahmans spoke to [King Ajatashatru], saying, 'O Great King, at present there is a man of incomparable wickedness, a monk called Gautama. All sorts of evil persons, hoping to gain profit and alms, have flocked to him and become his followers. They do not practice goodness, but instead use the power of spells and magic to win over men like Mahakashyapa, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.'"
This passage from the Nirvana Sutra recounts the evil words which the various Brahman believers spoke against Shakyamuni Buddha because he refuted the scriptures preached by their original teachers, the two deities and the three ascetics.
In the above passages from the Lotus Sutra, however, it is not the Buddha himself who is being looked upon as an enemy. Rather, as T'ien-t'ai explains, it is [the Lotus Sutra which is being opposed by] "the various shravakas and pratyekabuddhas and the bodhisattvas who seek only the Buddha of recent enlightenment." In other words, persons who show no desire to hear or believe in the Lotus Sutra or who say that it does not match their capacity, though they may not actually slander the Law in so many words, are all to be regarded as envious and hostile enemies.
Observing the situation when the Buddha was in the world and comparing it with the situation since his passing, we may say that the scholars of the various sects in the world today are like the Brahmans of the Buddha's time. They too speak of "a man of incomparable wickedness," by which they mean me, Nichiren. They speak of "all sorts of evil persons who have flocked to him," by which they mean my disciples and followers. The Brahman believers, having incorrectly received and transmitted the teachings of the earlier Buddhas, displayed hostility toward the later Buddha, Shakyamuni. The scholars of the various sects today are doing the same sort of thing. In effect, they have let their own way of understanding the Buddha's teachings lead them into heretical views. They are like persons who, dizzy from drink, think that the huge mountain in front of them is spinning round and round. And so we now have these eight sects or ten sects all disputing with one another over their various doctrines.
The eighteenth volume of the Nirvana Sutra sets forth the doctrine of "the precious jewels that ransom life." The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, after studying and pondering this passage, concluded that "life" refers to the Lotus Sutra, and the "precious jewels," to the first three of the four teachings expounded in the Nirvana Sutra. But what then of the fourth or perfect teaching, which the Nirvana Sutra also expounds? This teaching represents a reiteration of the doctrine already expounded in the Lotus Sutra concerning the eternally inherent Buddha nature, and was preached to lead people to the Lotus Sutra from which it originated. The Nirvana Sutra's perfect teaching of the eternally inherent Buddha nature in fact belongs to the Lotus Sutra. The merits unique to the Nirvana Sutra are consequently limited to the first three of the four teachings [and do not include the fourth].
The third volume of T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Gengi states, "The Nirvana Sutra offers precious jewels to ransom the life [of the Lotus Sutra], and thus the hands are clapped and the bargain concluded." The third volume of the Hokke Gengi Shakusen explains this by saying: "The Tendai school cites this metaphor to indicate that the contents of the Nirvana Sutra are to be regarded as precious jewels [that ransom the life of the Lotus Sutra]."
The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, in his work entitled Shi'nenjo, cites the passage in the Lotus Sutra that reads, "Though they may set forth various paths...," and declares that the four flavors [of the Kegon, Agon, Hodo and Hannya sutras] are also to be regarded as precious jewels. If so, then both the Nirvana Sutra, which was preached after the Lotus Sutra, and the other sutras that were preached before, are all to be regarded as precious jewels offered for the sake of the Lotus Sutra.
But the Buddhist scholars in the world today are of the opinion that this interpretation represents a doctrine put forward by the Tendai sect alone, and that none of the other sects accepts it. When I, Nichiren, consider the matter, however, I have this to say. The eight or ten sects we are speaking of all came into existence after the death of the Buddha and are the creation of the various scholars and teachers of the time. But we should not evaluate the sutras that the Buddha preached during his lifetime on the basis of the doctrines of sects established after his death. The judgments put forward by T'ien-t'ai, however, completely accord with the teachings of the various sutras. It is wrong to discard them on the grounds that they represent no more than the opinions of a single sect.
The scholars of the various sects continue to cling to the mistaken opinions of their respective teachers. Therefore, they declare that religious practices must be accommodated to the people's capacities, or they defer to the opinions of their founders or try to persuade the worthy rulers of the time to be their allies. The upshot of all this is that in the end they give themselves up wholly to evil intentions, engage in wrangling and doctrinal disputes, and take delight in inflicting injury upon persons who are guilty of no fault.
Among the various sects, the opinions of the Shingon are particularly distorted. Its founders, Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih, maintained: "The concept of ichinen sanzen is the most important of T'ien-t'ai's principles and the heart and core of the teachings put forward by the Buddha in the course of his lifetime. But setting aside the doctrine that the three thousand realms are encompassed by the mind, which constitutes the foundation of both the exoteric and esoteric teachings, the mudras and mantras form the most crucial part of the Buddhist teachings." The Shingon leaders in later times have used this pronouncement as a pretext to declare that all sutras which do not mention mudras and mantras are to be regarded as inferior and, in fact, as no different from non-Buddhist teachings.
Some of the esoteric teachings assert that the Dainichi Sutra was preached by [Dainichi Buddha], a Buddha other than Shakyamuni Buddha, others declare that it is the highest of all the teachings put forth by the Lord Shakyamuni, while still others say that the same Buddha manifested himself once in the form of Shakyamuni Buddha to preach the exoteric sutras, and on other occasion appeared in the form of Dainichi Buddha to preach the esoteric sutras. Thus, misunderstanding the underlying principles of Buddhism, they produce an endless array of erroneous opinions. They are like a group of people who, unaware of the true color of milk, venture various speculations as to what the color might be, though none are able to surmise it correctly. Or, they are like the blind men in the parable who try to guess the true shape of the elephant. In this connection, the scholars of the various sects should understand that the Dainichi Sutra, if preached before the Lotus Sutra, is on a level with the Kegon Sutra, and if preached after the Lotus Sutra, is on a level with the Nirvana Sutra, [both of which serve only as precious jewels to ransom the life of the Lotus Sutra].
Is it not possible that the Lotus Sutra in India contained descriptions of mudras and mantras, but that those who translated the text into Chinese omitted those sections - Kumarajiva calling his version Myoho-renge-kyo? And is it also not possible that Shan-wu-wei added mudras and mantras and called his version the Dainichi Sutra? For example, there were other versions of the Lotus Sutra, such as the Sho-hokke-kyo, the Tembon-hoke-kyo, the Hokke-zammai-kyo and the Satsuun Fundari-kyo.
In India after the Buddha's passing, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna was the one who truly understood the relationship between the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras, while in China, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai Chih-che was the first to grasp it correctly. Men like Shan-wu-wei of the Shingon school, Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon school, Chia-hsiang of the Sanron school and Tz'u-en of the Hosso school each publicly upheld the doctrines of the school they had established, but in their hearts they were all won over to the teachings of the T'ien-t'ai school. Yet their disciples were ignorant of this fact [and hence developed erroneous opinions]. How can they avoid being guilty of slandering the Law?
Some people criticize me, saying, "Nichiren does not understand the capacities of the people of the time but goes around preaching in a harsh manner - that's why he meets with difficulties." Other people say, "The shakubuku practices described in the Kanji chapter are for bodhisattvas who are far advanced in practice, [not for someone like Nichiren. He ought to follow the shoju methods of] the Anrakugyo chapter, yet he fails to do so." Others say, "I, too, know the Lotus Sutra is supreme, but I say nothing about it." Still others complain that I give all my attention to doctrinal teachings [and say nothing about the observation of the mind].
I am well aware of all these criticisms against me. But I recall the case of Pien Ho, who had his feet cut off, and of Kiyomaro [literally, Pure Man], who was dubbed Kegaremaro [Filthy Man] and almost put to death. All the people of the time laughed at them with scorn, but unlike those two men, those who laughed left no good name behind them. And all the people who level unjust criticisms at me will meet with a similar fate.
The Kanji chapter says: "There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us." I observe my own situation in this passage. Why should it not apply to all of you as well? "They will attack us with swords and staves," the passage continues. I have experienced this passage from the sutra with my own body. Why do my disciples not do likewise? Further on, the passage says, "Constantly they will go about among the populace, seeking in this way to slander us." And, "They will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and great patrons of Buddhism [...slandering and speaking evil of us]." And, "They will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; again and again we will be banished." "Again and again" means time after time. And I, Nichiren, have been repeatedly driven away, and have twice been condemned to exile.
The Lotus Sutra invariably concludes the Dharma preaching of all Buddhas of the three existences. The past events described in the Fukyo chapter I am now experiencing as predicted in the Kanji chapter; thus the present foretold in the Kanji chapter corresponds to the past of the Fukyo chapter. The Kanji chapter of the present will be the Fukyo chapter of the future, and at that time, I, Nichiren, will be its Bodhisattva Fukyo.
The Lotus Sutra consists of a single work in eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters, but I have heard that the sutra as it existed in India was long enough to stretch over a whole yojana. In other words, there must have been many more chapters to it. The twenty-eight chapter version used today in China and Japan represents the most essential portion of an abbreviated version.
Let us set aside for now the revelation section of the sutra. In the following, transmission, section, the three pronouncements of the Hoto chapter are delivered to the assembly gathered at Eagle Peak and present at the Ceremony in the Air. As to the vow made in the Kanji chapter by the twenty thousand, the eighty thousand, and the eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of great bodhisattvas, a man of shallow wisdom like myself cannot comprehend it. But I would note that the phrase "in an age of fear and evil" which appears in the chapter indicates the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. This "age of fear and evil" is later referred to in the Anrakugyo chapter as "in the latter age." And looking at other translations of the sutra, we find that in the Sho-hokke-kyo it appears as "in the latter age hereafter" or "in the latter age to come," while in the Tembon-hoke-kyo it appears as "in an age of fear and evil."
In this latter age that corresponds to our own time, the three types of enemies have appeared, but not a single one of the eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas is anywhere to be seen. It is like a dried-up lake missing its full share of water, or a waning moon that is far from full. If the water is clear, the image of the moon will be reflected on it, and if trees are planted, then birds can nest in them. Therefore I, Nichiren, propagate this sutra in place of the eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas. I ask that those bodhisattvas grant me their aid and protection.
The lay priest who bears this letter tells me that you instructed him to accompany me to the province of Sado. But in view of the expenses of the trip and other difficulties, I am sending him back to you. I already know the depths of your consideration. Please explain to the others what I have written here. I am very much concerned about the priests who are in prison, and I hope you will inform me of their situation at your earliest convenience.
The Hour of the Cock (5:00-7:00 P.M.), the twenty-second day of the tenth month